Unabridged Me

JUST ANOTHER WRITER

Writing and Rejection

April 4, 2018

It’s inevitable. Rejection is a way of life for authors.

Once in awhile an author has an amazing, unbelievable debut novel that blows everyone out of the water. These novels are published immediately to great acclaim. I can’t think of one now, but I don’t want to exclude the possibility.

However, for most of us writing means rejection.

Last week writers around the world received results in Round 1 of a short story contest. I entered, along with 4000+ other writers. And all but 700 received news they would not be moving forward.

Me included.

During the six weeks between submission and results, I vacillated between absolute certainty I would get into Round 2 and complete belief I would not progress. The second belief proved accurate.

I won’t lie; I was devastated at first.

After talking with friends who write, and people who care, I slowly processed my disappointment. I worked my way through the pain of hearing you are good, but not good enough.

The contest provides feedback from the judges, giving an opportunity for growth and development. The additional information gave me data points of strengths, as well as ways I can make the story stronger.

Also, I came face to face with an aspect of me. My perfectionism gets in the way of trying, of putting myself out there. Constantly. In turn, I am sensitive to critical feedback and rejection of my writing.

Critical feedback and rejection will be an aspect of my life for as long as I write.

There is no going back regarding the choice to write, so I will have to grow up a little. Work on my sensitive nature. Review rejection stats until they are ingrained in my head.

That will take some time.

The important piece is to keep bitterness at bay, remaining open to any opportunity. For now I will look for more contests and continue on my WIP: a short story collection.

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What It Is to Be Abused

October 5, 2017

Ghosts are scratching my brain tonight.

The topic has been on the edges of my periphery for awhile, swirling the drain of my consciousness.  And maybe it’s time I talk because to not do so is just sticking my head in the sand.

I was in an abusive relationship for 6 years, from my early to mid twenties.

I’m not talking about Hollywood stereotypical woman with a black eye, cigarette and baby acting nasty to her husband.  Hollywood does not have the right of it, in any fashion.

Physical abuse was part of it, to be sure.  Particularly in the early years.

But I was a college student.  Then college graduate.  Then professional.  The surface of my life appeared to be following in standard mid-America fashion, though I was a bit weird and definitely introverted.

The hows and whens of getting into this relationship are not necessary to share.  I had moments of intuition, to be sure.  I had moments of doubt.  But what people need to understand is abuse does not start out the gate as beating someone up.

No, the first step is emotional engagement and manipulation.  The first portion of our relationship was him learning my buttons by way of wooing and earning my trust.  Don’t get me wrong.  Not a smart man.  Just very manipulative and wise to navigating human nature.

I want to take a moment to point out lying and manipulating are not the same thing.

I had childhood injuries used against me, sandwiched with the repeated message of the only person who understands you is me.  The only one who gets you is me.  The only one who will always be there for you is me.

It was by far the easiest button to push.  A lonely introverted child who was not close to her family at this time, in an attempt to extricate herself from perceived childhood misery.

Repress and run, that is my standard M.O.

By the time I felt the urge to run, I was tightly wrapped in his reality.  A reality where he was nearly suicidal any time he felt me slipping away.  A reality where drinking, and cutting, and midnight runs to the ER became David Lynch nights to my college days.

I wanted to save him.

We were about six months into the relationship before the first fist flew.  He was drunk.  Blacked out drunk.  Made it easier for me to accept, I think.  Not being in his right mind.  Along with the teary eyed, nevergonnadoitagain apology.

And he didn’t.  Not in that fashion.

Looking back, I hadn’t even seen the war I was losing before the first bruises.  It was a 3 prong attack:  isolating me, convincing me he was a victim who just needed my love to do something with his life, and exposing me to the world of night most people do not realize exists when they are at home sleeping in their beds.

The emotional abuse and sexual abuse were a majority of my reality.

If you loved me, you would…

People who love each other…

The physical abuse was used as punishment for when I pushed hard enough and he agreed to do something.  Like going out with one of my friends. The night would end with my head meeting a wall, or his head.  Punishment for wanting anyone but him in my life.

Or in the early years when I fought back.

A weird thing started happening to me.  I mean, beyond the surreal hell I was living.

He only worked for the first few months of our relationship.  During the grooming period, when he was still trying to ingratiate himself into my life.

Once he was sure of my sympathy towards his upbringing and horrible childhood, he promptly quit with big plans of all the amazing things he was going to do.

So I was going to college and supporting the both of us.  I was operating in an upward trending fashion, as if I was heading towards a Suburbian middle class life.  I was taking psychology classes.  I was an intelligent, self directed, independent individual.

Until I got home.  Then emotional reality stepped in, and I had no control over what was happening to me.  But a part of my mind stood apart, whispering to me.  My brain maintained it’s own monologue of how fucked up the situation really was.

In the sober moments.

We spent a large portion of time drinking.  He was running from the ghosts of his childhood, I was running from the ghosts of my current life.

In general I avoid conversations about domestic violence.  Repress and run.  But also because there is no way for anyone not in the situation to understand the situation.  And not every situation is the same.

What is the same is abuse is not about anger management.  It is not about being pissed off, or stressed, or a case of kick the dog syndrome.

Abuse is about control.

I was his mother.  I was his plaything.  I was his accomplice to the quagmire that was his mental illness.  The femme fatale and angel to his real life noir.

I am one of the lucky few.  I’m out.

I descended to the depths of my own mental illness, made choices that my voice told me at the time were going to land me exactly where I landed, yet was lucky enough to have support and therapy to recover some form of life.

My  life with him didn’t just scar me or break my bones.  It shattered me.  I was lucky to have professionals who picked me up piece by piece and superglued me back together.  I was lucky to have an amazing family who, despite my horrid treatment of them at his hands, rallied behind me and gave me undying love.

But I’m not really out, mentally.  I never will be, I don’t think.  Even as I write this, I feel the compulsion to put in details about how it was my fault.  How I saw the signs, or how friends tried to warn me, or how I had the means why didn’t I just get up and leave…

I have no words to describe the anguish I feel when I think those things.  How I had zero control over my emotional life.  How impossible it will always be to get others to understand.

Still I cry in torment because I can’t be angry with him.  I can’t blame him.  I will forever see him as a product of an awful childhood, someone worthy of my sympathy.  Despite the rapes.  Despite the trauma.  Despite my body never feeling quite my own.

I used to live in fear I would see him at a bus stop.  Or I would pull up to a stoplight and he would be staring at me from the next car over.  Or I would look behind me and find him following me.  Nearly ten years later, that has diminished mostly.

Except when I’m stressed, or exhausted, or worn down by life.  I start looking at bus stops again.

The purpose of me sharing this is two fold, and partially selfish.  I can’t live with the ghosts haunting me anymore.  I need to get this out, and I have no other medium to do so.

But I need to stop hiding from this.  I need to stop pretending this horror didn’t happen to me.  Because every time I do, it reinforces mainstream misunderstanding.  That they can leave whenever they want, or they asked for it, or they participated in what became their reality.

It’s not as simple as just leave him.  And no one outside will ever understand that.

Nor will anyone ever understand how my relationships continue to be defined by him.  Unless I’ve had a chance to watch you, study you, learn about you I will not trust you.  I don’t handle physical touch well unless I trust you.  I keep my thoughts and my emotions to myself.

Until recently I had successfully made myself invisible.  But people change and grow, and it’s time for me to be seen.

And the writer in me apologizes for the rough writing, but I have to hit send before my nature takes over.  No time for editing.

Life with a Mood Disorder

September 22, 2017

Vivian:  I don’t like this day.
Me:  Ditto.

While Vivian’s comment came from anger for not doing something the way she wanted, my feeling is a bit more pervasive.

I make no secret I have a mood disorder.  Check out my bio page, I’m pretty open about the chemical imbalances and subsequent diagnosis I have been assigned.  But despite being open about my brain, I still think people don’t get it.

Our society has plenty of information about it, right?  Brain chemistry, awareness, medications…  but that is not the experience of what it is to live with a mood disorder.

There aren’t words for me to describe the experience for those who don’t live it.  So instead here’s some points on how to help and not hurt someone going through this.

Don’t tell me it/I will be okay.

That is the equivalent of a patronizing pat on the head and a shoo away.  The lack of emotional investment in what I might be attempting to share merely reinforces the isolation.  If you aren’t going to try and sit with me, don’t bother stopping.  It will make things worse.

I get to say I will be okay.  Why me and not you?  Because I live this.  I have survived and will continue to survive.  In fact, I manage to thrive most times in spite of this.  I have a healthy and mostly balanced life because I embrace, understand, and work through this.

I know it will be okay.

Don’t force me to hang out in public or be social.

Right now my brain is interfering with my ability to attach and engage with physical reality.  Forcing me out will only make it worse.  We’ve all learned from society and our parents that when unhappy, distract.  When Vivian is having a tantrum, I distract her.

This is not a tantrum.  This is not a break up, or a sad movie, or wanting attention.  I am locked in my brain and cannot see things the way you want me to see them, or even as they are.

If you force me out, I will make both of us miserable.  I will be incapable of engaging, and it will have the opposite effect you intended. My sense of isolation will be worse, and it may even prompt leaking of the eyes because I will be aware of my lacking in social regards.

Don’t ask if there are meds I can take

There are.  We all know there are a plethora of chemical changing, mind altering drugs.  Both prescription and alternative.

I choose to not take meds.  And for those who are taking meds, they are already on them.  Asking me if there is something I can take for this reinforces I am not normal in your mind.

I get enough reinforcement from society I am different.  I already combat marketing and mainstream expectations.  I consistently feel isolated and alone, more so when I am struggling.  Don’t remind me my choices regarding my body are not the easy answer.

I know this already.

Do listen and process with me

If you are a lucky one in a billion people I open up to when I’m here, please help me process.

Wait, this is chemical right?  What’s to process?

While the mood disorder is chemical, most of us have life experiences that have laid triggers and trauma on top of the chemical imbalance.  Either due to choices I’ve made, or traumas I’ve experienced, the imbalance creates a cyclone of thoughts in my head picking up speed every time they pass by.

It’s never one single thought, either.  Usually two or three minimum.  It could be a memory of bloody fights, or feelings of inadequacies, or even a generalized fear of being vulnerable and letting people close.

By listening and responding, helping me to see a different reality of the thoughts pile driving my brain, the ruminations can stop.  It helps, believe me.

If you are not going to listen, or if you are going to trivialize my experience, my feelings, or my thoughts, don’t bother.  You will no longer be one in a billion.

Give me a hug

First, disclaimer.  I do not like most people touching me.  Wait for me to initiate.  Unless you are one in a billion, you are not to touch me unsolicited.

If you are one in a billion, and you can see where I am mentally, please reach out and give a hug.  That small reminder there is a physical reality, containing someone who cares, can give me a moment to sit rather than fight.

And sometimes sitting in the quagmire of my mind and not fighting to be normal is all I need to start pulling myself out.  Embracing myself stops the anguish.  You embracing me reminds me I am worth embracing.

Be patient

At the end of the day, this is a reoccurring cycle regardless what is happening in my life.  I have chosen to not medicate, opting for more cognitive options, but that does not lessen my need for patience.

This will pass.  I will relish in awe of the small details of life, raising my face to the sun as breezes kiss my cheeks at some point.  In fact, I will be more appreciative of the beauty around me, for once again I have run my hero’s course through Hades and have emerged.

Here’s the kicker 

Most people won’t know I’m struggling.  It’s likely you will look at me and think I’m maybe a bit more tired than usual, or haven’t had my coffee yet.

So my last suggestion, in general:  don’t judge what someone else might be going through at any given minute.  Unless you are one in a billion, you don’t know me.

Self-Doubt, Let’s Fight

May 24, 2017

(Originally written May 24, 2017)

Traffic has got to be the worst time for anyone with an overactive internal reality. Sitting there in a car among hundreds and hundreds of cars emitting waves of heat into the air, monotone and blah, leaves the mind way too much time and space to push on cracks and fissures ignored the rest of the day.

Currently my commute consists of 19 miles each way which, when combined with regular stop lights, erratic drivers, and overall general congestion of an ever increasing population, usually equates to about 1 – 1.5 hours of my day.

Way too much time to sit alone with my brain and no way to vent it out in a productive way.

Until my recent  and entirely unexpected reality shift, which brought about a) the desire to be a SAH working mom and b) accepting the blessing-curse that is my calling, compulsion, and overall being, I filled the space and time with listening to talk radio or music, depending on what type of touch I needed with the collective conscious.

Of course, that all changed last Wednesday.

​​Now my drives to and fro consist of an entirely different type of gymnastics. I run the course of a practical, business minded, revenue driving strategic mindset to an emotional, irrational, someone kicked the hive in my chest cyclone.

The worst of the latter is self-doubt. Self-doubt is water slowly undercutting dirt and sand which makes the road base of my thoughts.

Driving along at top speed, everything is looking clear as my wheels of creativity and intellect are humming on smooth asphalt when…

Bam.

I’m in a sink hole 6 feet deep.

Wait, what?

The sudden halt in speed gives my awareness whiplash as the wet heavy blanket of panic tightens around my chest.

Well, shit.

Creativity has ground to a halt as self-doubt finds its voice.

You have nothing to say. What makes you think you can do it? You are delusional. You will never be more than average, and average does not pay the bills.

I yank myself in front of my psyche’s mirror and say, knock that pathetic shit off. Self-doubt has always been here, and it’s never stopped the journey before. Just drive around.

You were driving on someone else’s map following a road you didn’t create.

My brain is lit with words and possibilities.  My reality is so altered there is no going back.  I have a taste of fulfillment with happiness.

Possibilities don’t put food on the table, clothing on your baby’s back, or heat the house in the middle of winter.  Happiness does not get traded on Wall Street.

And so goes the internal fight, until something yanks me out of my mind, reminds me reality does exist beyond my brain, and my resolve is further hardened.

​​This morning was one of those mornings. I felt I was opening my eyes into a sand storm with everything grating roughly on my senses. We were able to get dressed and going decently smooth enough, mostly because my daughter is a very sweet and caring child who can read when mommy is about at her break point.

Yet both of us were on the verge of an emotional Vesuvius.

The drive was filled with too bright of sunlight, and when we pulled up her school had a slightly vacant air with art projects and window ads having been taken down. Certainly no human is super awesome at change they didn’t create, and I am no different.

My tone was a little more harsh than it needed to be when Vivian accidentally broke my makeup compact she was using as a phone. In the short 5 seconds it took me to come around to her side of the car, she was crying hysterically at my meanness.

I don’t even wear makeup.

I calm her down, I apologize, I kiss her head and the tears stop. For now. Until we get inside. The rooms look empty, the windows are bare, she is resistant to me leaving.

I give her my standard five minutes of count down cuddle time that usually helps my little one adjust, and we are slightly perked up and ready to sit for cereal. And not let go of my hand.

I kiss, I hug, I remind her I always come back.

I pull my hand away as a teacher moves in to cuddle. As I leave I hear my baby girl scream her mommy-something-is-really-hurting sobs, and I can barely see where I am walking.

To this self-doubt can’t compete. My resolve at changing our reality has grown and hardened into Zeus in my mind, ready to strike down anything that impedes my pathway forward.

Even if I am broken and bleeding, I will claw myself out of self-doubt’s sink hole before I give in.

There will be days when the road is rough, full of sink holes and washboard ruts. Just as there will be days when the asphalt is newly paved, the sun is shining, and I am the only one on the road.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is who can inch forward when the road is rough, the car is broken, and each breath is completed in a waterboard of panic.

I will succeed.