Sleepless Nights

What happened is not OK.
It is not my fault.
I am brave.
I am strong.
I will not cower with fear.
I will not slump with guilt.
I will not cry out in tears.
It is not my fault.

I am not a coward.
I am not ashamed.
I am not broken.
I will survive.
I will succeed.
I will sleep through the night.
Maybe.
But it is not my fault

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Welcome Home

Going away to college is a big deal where I come from. Most people who grow up here, never leave. Most people who leave, end up coming back. Today was the first time my group of girlfriends from high school got together this summer and I was dreading the reunion. Why should I have been so concerned about seeing the people I grew up with? I felt crazy. And maybe I am a little bit.

Growing up here means that everyone knows who you are and you are held at the same standard your entire life. People see you as this molding and the idea of breaking that image is unheard of. Therefore, I have always been the quirky, awkward one in my group of friends. I don’t exactly have the best conversation starters and people laugh at my jokes more out of being polite than anything. However, it’s how life had always been and I didn’t really mind. It was who I was and they still loved me for it.

I went to college though three states away from my home state going south while mostly everyone else went more north. I didn’t have any friends from high school at this university and I saw it as my fresh start. Instead of being the quirky, awkward girl, I became the quiet girl. It made life so much easier to just have people think that I didn’t have much to say. If only they knew that I had plenty to say but was too afraid to speak up in case I would embarrass myself just like I did at home.

So for two years, I have developed this new reputation that I have come to really enjoy. I prefer to be quiet so I’m able to hear everything. But today I was so scared to see my old friends because they wouldn’t expect me to be quiet. They would expect the old me. And I didn’t want to go back to that. It made me uncomfortable.

A few hours before I was supposed to leave, my heart began to race, my chest became tight, my head was pounding and I felt like every muscle in my body had stopped working. I was stuck. I never feel as vulnerable and scared as I do during these panics and it is a hopeless feeling. I try to control them but sometimes they just spiral out of control which it did today.

My dad came into my room to find me curled up in a ball and sobbing because I had to go see my friends tonight. People I love! And I was scared. I was anxious and nervous and worried. However, my dad just held me until I stopped crying and told me something very important.

He told me that the words that I don’t say tonight will not be remembered ten years from now. However, the memories I make of enjoying their presence will stick in my head for years to come. He told me that it doesn’t matter if I don’t say anything as long as they see that I care about what they say. They weren’t going to force me to talk because they’ll have plenty to talk about themselves.

He also told me that as important as it is to care for other people and their lives, I must take care of my needs first. I shouldn’t be selfish but I shouldn’t change who I am just to please others. He told me that I was strong enough to stick to my roots and be who I am. Not what someone else tells me or expects me to be.

I’m writing this because I’ve struggled with this for many years. I’ve always looked at myself as I think others see me instead of just looking at myself and being happy with my image. Its a hard road to go down if you aren’t on that journey already. I know I have quite some ways to go.

Remember this though: you are made to be you. Never try to be someone else because that role is already taken. You have a responsibility to play your part and not steal someone else’s lines. Then you just have an awkward silence in the middle of the play where you’re supposed to be. You have a purpose in this world and it is just as important as anyone else’s.

The show must go on!

Keep to your roots,
Southern Charm

Confessions of Depression II

The last “confession” was sort of an introduction to what my blog is mainly about-dealing with depression and anxiety. However, what I hope to gain out of this myself and for readers is the realization that I can do more than just deal and survive with depression and anxiety but that I can succeed from it as well. However, this confession is going to be my own personal story. This is the story of how I came to be who I am. For the most part, this story is going to be only my struggles and won’t include the many blessings that accompany these struggles. However, I want you all to understand where I come from, who I am, and that maybe I am a little more like you than you first thought. 

I grew up in a small town with only 3300 people currently living in it. It’s grown significantly over the years. I hardly remember what the town looked like before when it was mostly cornfields. We even have our own Wal-Mart now. With small towns, there typically comes along with it big and close families which I do have. I have both of my parents, two older brothers, and a sister-in-law who has been around for as long as I can remember (my brother and her were high school sweethearts). It really is a charming life here and I couldn’t ask for more. 

Unfortunately, when I was younger, about eight years old, I was sexually abused. I didn’t exactly realize what was going on at the time because it was only little things that I couldn’t possibly understand were going to haunt me the rest of my life. However, the acts seemed so innocent and the person who hurt me was so kind, that it went on for quite some time before I realized that this man was not a nice man at all. From that point on, I refused to think about. I didn’t address it for years and even managed to forget about it. Repression, they called it. I didn’t even think that was a real thing until my sophomore year of high school. That was when the nightmares began. Then the flashbacks. And then the pain. 

Also at the same time period of growing up, I was going through small acts of bullying. With a stutter and my inability to pronounce the “r” sound, my classmates were unforgiving. Having an “r” in my own name, caused for them to chant my name incorrectly as I entered the cafeteria with the embarrassment of having the teachers quiet them down with me standing there in tears. At sleepovers with girls who I thought were my friends, they tore me down and told me how I shouldn’t wear tight clothes because I was too fat to wear them. Even in middle school, the lunch table I sat at decided that “blistering” me would be a good way to teach me how to stand up for myself. This called for them to make fun of me every day until I learned to fight back. I didn’t fight back for months. 

As all of this continued, there was nothing I could control. I had to go to school. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it in fear that they couldn’t be trusted. People who I thought were my friends were the exact opposite. I promised myself that I would never be the little girl that those people could criticize anymore. I was going to be perfect in every way I could be. 

Because of the nightmares and the pain of remembering the abuse, I didn’t sleep much during high school. Instead, I dedicated that time to studying. I was determined to get my grades and test scores high enough so that I could get out of that small town and get a full ride far, far away. I fixed my stutter by practicing my speeches in the mirror. Other than that, I just stopped talking altogether. I became a listener. I knew everything there was to know about anyone. The only thing that I couldn’t control was my diet. 

When I came home from school, I would sneak food into my room. I was too embarrassed for anyone to see me eat at school so I gorged on snacks when no one was home. Then, looking in the mirror and realizing what I had done, I would sprint for as long as i could on the treadmill then throw up from the exertion. I had become what is known as a bulimic. I couldn’t have been happier. I was losing weight and I was finally in control of my life. No one was hurting me. Until I realized that I was hurting me. 

July of 2010, I became very ill. I couldn’t hold down any food. I was in constant pain in my esophagus, my stomach, and my intestines. It felt like my body was on fire. I had horrible headaches and the chills. My emotions were absolutely everywhere. Many days, I would cry on the kitchen floor in absolute despair. I would spend days in my room asleep as I couldn’t go to school but the doctors had no answers for me. All they knew was that my esophagus and stomach lining was damaged but they didn’t know why. No one knew that it was because of the constant throwing up I was doing because they didn’t know I was doing it. 

In January of 2012, my gallbladder began to fail and I had it removed. I had also developed a hole in my diaphragm and my stomach now pushes through it. I am at high risk for esophageal and stomach cancer-I am blessed that I do not have it already. In October of 2012, I met someone who understood my pain and saw the signs of what I was doing to myself. That person probably saved my life as she got me the help that I needed. I thank God for her every single day. 

However, that desire to be perfect and the despair of not being able to obtain it was still there. I was still getting sick on a weekly basis. I still felt helpless, lost, and alone. I had few friends, I was miles away from home, and I spent most nights in my dorm room alone. The number of mascara stains on my pillows were countless but only on one side so I could hide them. I refused to let anyone know how I weak I was. I refused to give anyone any power over me to hurt me again. On the outside, I was a happy but shy girl who just liked her books. On the inside, I was falling apart more and more. 

I returned home in May of 2013 with transfer forms in hand. I was too sick and too tired to continue school so far away from the doctors. I had to have constant appointments to make sure I hadn’t developed ulcers or worse. I still would have periods of not being able to hold down food and was growing weak and tired. There was no hope. 

In July of 2013, I got in my car and drove. I drove to the edge of town. I drove out of town. I drove out of the state. I drove and drove until I couldn’t think anymore. And then I came to a bridge. I began to think about how I could end it all right then and there; I could end the pain, the sadness, the disrespect I had for myself, the shame I caused my family, and I could just stop thinking. My car headed towards the side rails and when I scraped the sides of them, I swerved right back on to the road, pulled over, and sobbed. I didn’t want to die- I wanted the pain to end. I wanted to have a future of happiness. Death is taking away that possibility, not giving it to me. 

I went home that night and went to bed in tears. The next morning, I was still sick and I was still tired. However, the next time I went to the doctor, I demanded answers and if she couldn’t give them to me, I asked to be referred to someone else. I knew I had caused this pain myself, but I refused to live with it any longer. So we searched. 

In December of 2013, I heard of an article about a woman who had hormone problems which caused a variety of problems for her health. In January of 2013, we had my hormones tested and we became very aware that I was depressed and anxious. My cortisol levels were higher than I could have imagined. I began to take medication but I also began writing. I began meditation and healthy exercise routines. I even made friends with people who are similar to me at the university which I returned to. I did not drop out or transfer. I finished my second year there a couple weeks ago. 

And most days, I get to end them with my mom asking me how my day was. More importantly, I get to answer them with “good.” This time, I could answer that question honestly. I have good days now. Of course, I have bad days every now and then but I have my support group to get me through them. I have my family, my friends, my teachers, my church, my counselors, and whether you believe in Him or not, my God. Before, I thought pain came from having people in your life. Now, I realize that pain comes from having no one. There are times when people believe they have no one, but if you look hard enough, someone is around to listen. Even if it is readers on WordPress who have nothing better to do on a Thursday night but listen to me rant about life. (You people are awesome by the way). You’re never alone, I promise. 

The last post was about talking to someone if you need help. This post, I included something very important to me. “I wanted to have a future of happiness. Death is taking away that possibility, not giving it to me.” Death is not an escape from a bad past. There’s nothing you can do to change the past. However, death does take away from the possibility of a better future. That better future is what I lived for and I hope that if you are debating this topic, you live for it, too. I found my happiness and I believe everyone else in this world can too. Whatever you believe in, you were put on this Earth for a reason. I still don’t know my reason but I know I have a purpose at some point in this life. You do too, because you are important. 

I’m going to end my story there for now. Every day, it becomes easier and easier to share. I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me and thank you for letting me share it with you. Thank you for reading. 

Keep to your roots,

Southern Charm

Confessions of Depression

Usually, I can control my emotions pretty well-especially after the diagnosis. Once I knew why I was always feeling hopeless, guilty, and alone, I was able to learn how to manage it and turn off “the bad thoughts”. However, sometimes you just can’t turn them off-they stick in your head, circling and circling until you feel like you’ll never feel happy again. For the most part, mine center around the need to be perfect all of the time. No matter how much I believe it is impossible to be perfect, I constantly feel like a failure because of the tiniest of mistakes. Last night, the clouds came in and no matter how much I wrote in my journal or meditated, I knew that the only way I was going to clear my head was to talk to someone. Unfortunately, there’s a little side effect of having anxiety, depression, and the constant need to be perfect. You don’t like to talk about your feelings. At least I don’t. 

In my family history, I know of one other person who suffered from depression. There are numerous occasions of anxiety disorders but only my grandfather suffered from the sadness. However, I can’t possibly talk to him since he committed suicide forty years ago. Lucky for me, I have some incredibly stubborn friends who like to check up on me from time to time. Even though they can’t understand what I, and countless other people, are going through, they are truly a blessing as they sit and listen. Last night, I was picked up and was driven around in a car until I was ready to talk. Even though it took and hour of pointless chit chat to get me to finally open up, once I did, it helped incredibly. It isn’t even like he gave me world-changing words of wisdom or opened my eyes up to the light. He just sat and listened while I was able to get my thoughts in order, out in the open, and no longer tumbling through my head. 

This sounds a little like a diary entry, I know. However, for those who share in my problems of having that need to talk to someone but just can’t bring yourself to do it, you should know that you’re not alone. I always felt like if I shared my problems with someone, they might tell someone and people would start to think I’m broken. I worried about putting too much on my friends’ shoulders to bear as it isn’t any of their problem to have to deal with me. I thought about breaking up my feelings among many people so no one would know too much but that would require trusting a lot of people which isn’t something I do. Why not go to a therapist? That can be expensive and as helpful as one can be, I don’t think I’m ready for that step yet. I’ve hardly even accepted the fact that I have these “issues” but I’m surviving. 

What I do know is this: when my friends found out I was suffering on my own, they felt guilty that they hadn’t noticed. They asked “Why didn’t you tell me?” and “Is there anything I can do?” They told me that I should have come to them. Only a few know that I almost took things to a point of no return, they cried and I realized that I had hurt them by not trusting them. Last night, when I thanked him for listening to me, he responded only with “anytime, it’s what friends are for, right?” I almost cried right then and there. Some people really do care, and once you find them, you better hold on tight and never let them go. Friendship really is a beautiful thing. 

Keep to your roots,

Southern Charm

A Shy Hello

Have you ever thought about the dozens of ways there are to greet someone? As a race and multitude of cultures, we have developed the wave, the handshake, the nod and even the fist bump just to name a few. However, I quickly learned that my greeting skills were sub par as I moved from the north to the south. There is a very different way of life between the two. Growing up, I did not talk to strangers-I barely even looked at strangers as it was considered rude.

However, I was having a discussion with a professor of mine a couple weeks ago and she was fascinated by how intimidated I felt during those first few weeks in the South. I had never felt like I was being watched more in my life. It wasn’t even like I was anything special. People just make eye contact on the street and greet you even though they could hardly guess as to what your name was!

This got me wondering why we don’t go out and meet other people in our communities. Has our world really gone so sour that we have this belief that every stranger is dangerous? Now I by no means believe it is safe to have a handful of strangers over for dinner, but what is wrong with sharing a table with someone new at coffee shop? Why would we rather be alone?

For someone with social anxiety, I have struggled with the act of meeting new people for as long as I can remember. Luckily, being from a small town, you just sort of knew everyone and you don’t remember how you met. It was just expected that we were friends because we were both stuck with the 3300 people in our town.

When I moved to a college campus though with 75,000 students who had their own lives-especially going to a campus where I knew absolutely no one- I was a complete wreck. My freshman year, I probably had maybe two good friends I talked to on a weekly basis. I hardly left my room except for class and I spoke to no one when I was in class. It was one of the worst years of my life and I was one copy of paperwork away from dropping out.

However, on the first day of sophomore year, I was sitting at a table outside by myself when this big-headed confident boy who obviously knew he was beautiful (you know the type I’m talking about) comes over and sits down. Then, with that thick southern accent of his, he says to me “you know, people don’t talk to strangers enough anymore.” He has been my best friend ever since. From that day, he forced my out of my shell and I have not been happier or known as many people as I do now.

So my challenge is this: meet a stranger. Even a shy hello is better than no hello.

Keep to your roots,
Southern Charm

A Skinny Thought

When I was little, I was not the most popular little girl in the classroom. I went to three different elementary schools and I had my fair share of problems growing up-everyone does. Kids are cruel, right? However, not only did I have a stutter and couldn’t produce the “r” sound, but I was also overweight. It was just baby fat but that didn’t keep the other kids from saying things. It didn’t keep my mom from saying things either. Just the phrase “chubby” can go from cute to humiliating in 2 seconds flat. So I became determined to be thin. The speech problems could be fixed, so why not my weight?

However, I’ve learned throughout the years as I’ve been on this journey of becoming a “skinny” girl that it doesn’t matter what size you are, those cruel kids turn into cruel teenagers who then turn into cruel adults. There will always be an imperfection for something to criticize and I have learned that that imperfection can be something like being TOO thin. I am 5’2″ and 110 pounds and should be happy with my body. I should be able to celebrate the time I spent at the gym and the desserts I skipped out on but, for some reason, I am still not good enough for everyone. 

I shouldn’t care about what people think though, right? That’s a load of bull to me. It doesn’t matter how comfortable with you body you are, every now and then, even the strongest person might have a few words slip through and scrape their self-esteem. There are a few key comments people have made that make me self-conscious about my own body despite that fact that I should be proud of it. People comment about the lack of food I eat or when I do eat a full plate, they comment about how they cannot believe that I ate it all. I’m sorry but I eat when I am hungry and the feeling of bursting from too much food is not pleasant to me. I enjoy food-it is a very wonderful thing. I savor my bites. However, when people start commenting on the amount of food I eat either too much or too little, it ruins the experience. It turns enjoying a meal with my friends into what feels like a judgment zone. 

The other day, I was shopping with my two of my friends who both happen to be bigger than me. One commented when I tried on a pair of size 5 pants, “Congratulations! You’re moving up in the world!” I didn’t realize that my usual size 3 jeans made me any less of a person. Another friend became irritated with me when I said I wished I was taller because she didn’t believe I had any reason to complain about my body after she had spent the day making comments about how she wish she looked different. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know I have many reasons to love my body and be grateful for it. My point is that it doesn’t matter what size someone is, words hurt. There are so many people who are uncomfortable with themselves despite what they look like. Someone could be incredibly thin but still only see how much they wished they had more muscle to shape them. Self-esteem and confidence are lacking in most women and that is mostly due to other women. Stop judging each other and more importantly, stop judging yourself. I know I have plenty of work to do on my part- I have said my own fair share of words to my friends. It doesn’t make me any better and it probably makes me for the worse. There’s a reason people love us and that is what truly makes us beautiful. 

Well this is new.

I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always written little things on everything. Quotes I love, thoughts I have, lyrics that I can’t get out of my head. But I’ve never done something that feel so public like this. Sure, I  have plenty of journals lying around but there is some privacy in knowing that at least people know not to open them. Here, I’m sharing my thoughts for anyone to see-I must admit it is a little strange. However, I think this may help me and hopefully help others.

See, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety disorder about six months ago, but honestly, I’ve probably been experiencing symptoms for quite some time now. I didn’t say anything though, because I am definitely not the type of person that people would think would have depression or anxiety-and now I have both! I’m the girl who sat in the middle of the lunch table in high school. While at college, I have found my place with a good group of friends. Why should I have anything to be depressed or anxious about? Well, I do and recently, I’ve come to the realization that there is nothing wrong with it. If I can help just one person realize that too, it would be amazing.

I don’t really know how to “blog” exactly, so if you’re reading this and it is just absolutely boring, I apologize. Hopefully, I’ll get better. But before I finish this up and leave you to ponder my life-changing comments (insert sarcasm here), I want to leave with you my favorite bible verse. Not because it is something that is super Christian or shows how amazing God is (even though he is) but because when I was in my darkest of days, it got me through it. This verse gave me something to aspire to and represented the type of woman I want to one day become. Now, I even carry it with me permanently on my ribs.

Proverbs 31:25 says “She is clothed in strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the days to come.” There is hope in this verse that I hope you will one day share with me because no matter what background you come from, or what you have done, you can be strong and dignified and brave. These are qualities that I may not possess as of yet, but I am going to get there one day. If you aren’t there yet, I know you will too.

Keep to your roots,

Southern Charm