shadows

by jasmine

There’s a narrative in my head that keeps being recited over and over again.

I dislike that narrative.

Today I’m going to write it down and get it out of my head.

I was probably maybe 5 years old when I was told to “don’t say anything unless you have something good to say”. I took that to heart, very very much. I started to shy away from people when I was a child, and would looked at the floor instead. Then came the next hit, “are you looking for gold on the floor?” Well, that compounded the first statement, probably explains why I’m really quiet at times. Why I can’t be read at moments. Why I have a resting bitch face. I was brought up thinking that my thoughts and feelings were meant to be kept to myself.

Especially feelings.

I remember being at home alone very much, for many years from nine or ten years old onwards ’til polytechnic days. With nobody at home but a grandfather with whom I didn’t manage to communicate very well with, the only solace I had was online blogging and I have very many old private entries filled with sadness and anger, so much anger directed at the world, anything and everything.

When hormones and puberty were added into the system, I suppose that’s when the emotions get even more wild and rampant.

I’ll freely admit that I’m emotionally-stunted when it comes to expressing my feelings, much less in a mature way that enables solutions to be worked out. I grew up not being allowed to have negative feelings. If I felt sad and wanted to cry, I was not allowed not do it openly. I had to run off to the toilet to do it. I was not allowed to express anger too. I didn’t really know what to do with them at all besides swallow it all up.

So, I became good friends with the toilet at home, in school and at work. They’ve all probably seen me cry more than my family has.

I dislike crying. I dislike losing control of my emotions. I don’t allow myself to feel anger and when I do feel it, it soon gives way to guilt because I was conditioned to think that that it was never good to be angry cause that’s not what a “good girl” or a better person would do. They’d rise above that anger. When guilt sets in, that’s when I cry because I didn’t think I was a good, better or kind person.

I’m not kind to myself. Not very much. Many times I tell myself to be kind to others, instead of being right, but I can’t even accord that to myself. So I end up punishing myself, on top of not accepting or validating my own emotions.

I will emotionally binge-eat for a meal, feel guilty afterwards and then start berating myself. I’ll end up wanting to diet, by which I mean eating even lesser than I already do, because I have a bad body image. I’ll avoid things I enjoy and start skipping meals. I vaguely remember starting to skip meals when I was in primary school. Thankfully, I didn’t turn bulimic or anorexic, as I’m writing this now, I think I have enough issues already.

So, as you can tell, I just really didn’t know how to negate all the negative emotions away healthily. I didn’t know what it meant to have self-mastery over esteem and emotions at all. I avoid being open with my issues at times, shut my feelings off and shut up, to avoid conflict, and refuse to embrace vulnerability. When I grew up being controlled by all the permissions I needed to ask for, and all the red tape I had to walk around, I wanted to regain control in some way, any way.

Many of the things that I may do well, or people noticed me for, may have been born out of necessity into becoming my coping mechanisms.

I am competitive, since kindergarten. I’d want all the As and get all the top placements. I based my self-worth on how I performed in school and thought that those were the only ways I could get attention at home. Everything I wanted back in those days, I had to work for it. Toys, books, new stuff; I needed grades and discipline to study to obtain anything. So I can perform well in studies. I feel claustrophobic and trapped every so often, by expectations to perform and get good academic grades.

I think the first moment I ever felt free, was when I decided to break away from normal stream and chose to study design instead of heading to JC. That was possibly the most empowering moment in my life. It’s also a decision I don’t regret. I have after all, loved art since I was a child.

I am artistic, I am creative, only because that was the only way I could express anything at all. The arts were my escape, where it was and still is sensorial, visual, experiential and experimental. No one to tell me how I was to do it, no one to say I was misbehaving; no proper grading or standards to bow down to. I didn’t need to ask anyone for permission to do it. Alas, it’s a form of escapism still, the issues were all there, laying beneath, and slipping out through the cracks, colours and strokes of my pieces. Losing control in art, because I felt that I’ve lost control in life… hardly heals.

I am organised and efficient, because it takes more effort to clean up the effects of being lazy. I’m even lazier you see. If I constantly picked up after myself, I don’t have to deal with the massive load of mess if I didn’t do so. Do it now and not later, cause the later it is, the more trouble. Whenever I’m under stress and feel like life is spiralling out of control, that’s when I obsessively start to reorganise, clean and cut.

I clean out my closet, shoes, belongings and even friends list on Facebook and people I follow on social media. I rename files and sort digital folders, I also begin to delete the social media platforms I’m on. I didn’t want all that clutter, and I wanted to exert control over my life. Cut this and that out of my life, cut my hair at the same time too. The less I have, the happier I ought to be right? …. right?

That’s not the case though.

In my mid-twenties, when I first started dating… I was still messed up in some way. It had to take a few heart-crushing breakups, evenings spent crying in the shower, on the cold tiles of the bedroom floor and into my pillow into sleep that made me rethink who, what, why and how I was as a person. For three decades, I didn’t know what love – universal generous and kindly love was, and spent my life chasing it in all the wrong ways.

I didn’t know what self-esteem, self-worth or self-love was at all, until the last decade or so. I didn’t even know what forms unconditional love takes or know what it meant to be loved in the way I wanted to be loved until recently. I made peace with myself for a time, and embraced all the light, joy and freedom that comes with realising that I wasn’t out of control and acknowledging that I am a lovable person, worth loving and that I am capable of loving as well.

I have issues. But I still function fully. That’s what I thought.

Until recently.

While intrusive thoughts may be normal and okay (as long as you don’t act on them!) A month ago, I was crossing a road and thought to myself, “How nice it would be, if a car knocked me down right now.”

That was a slap back into reality for me. (Don’t worry, I’m not seeking death.) I knew I was spiralling down for a while, what with the added stressors at work, and this time, it seemed even harder to get up. I really needed to take a good hard look at my state of life and affairs.

I’m fatigued and my mind’s a blank some days. It’s difficult to breathe, even with moments stolen for meditation. I’ve stopped working out regularly, my body’s been getting all sorts of chronic pains; I clench my jaw and grind my teeth when I sleep. Today I broke down two times at work. I felt like I was losing control again. I’ve been going to work feeling anxious and on the edge of panic attacks. I’ve been staring at my screen, willing myself to work but finding it hard to even move at times. I’m caught up in all the minutiae of life, failing to see bigger pictures. I worry about the future, about everything I can’t control.

My mood has been dark, really dark for a while. I want to post passive aggressive status updates everywhere to lash at something, someone, anything, anyone. I’m neglecting all the healthy practices and traded them for a twisted paradigm.

These are all symptoms of an even bigger issue.

I’m surrounded by people, by noise, by stimuli every day, all day for so many years and I have yet to find a single quiet moment to myself for a while now. Every time my plan and schedule works fine, and several spanners get thrown my way and I have to play catch and try to juggle all those spontaneous changes. No autonomy, privacy and so, my boundaries get blown away and I’ve been burning my candle low and lower still. I don’t feel too great, I don’t feel creative at all.

I’ve been enduring and  browning out the whole course of my life and I find myself struggling with this crisis, and it makes me inflate the proportion of how bad I ought to be feeling every day now. I’ve taken so many steps, only to find myself way way behind on my journey. I don’t know what I’m doing, how I’m living anymore.They say depression is anger turned inwards. I’m just enduring and getting by. I’m not hearing myself, or feeling with clarity. I’m not being heard.

Essentially, I’m tired of feeling tired.

I’m writing this all, not seeking for advice, nor is it for attention or pity. I’m writing to get it all out of my system. This tiring narrative I’ve been feeding myself for the past 3 decades, because I know for a fact that I am all that I have written about, but I am more than all of it. I am more than this negative drill, rant and sob story tragedy I made such a big fuss over and keep holding onto.  I don’t want to look for someone, something to blame anymore because i know what and who they are. Blame and shame, anger and resentment; they’re thoughts that invade my mind, feelings and thoughts every waking moment for far, far too long.

How many times can I tell my sob story to myself, before I get tired of it?

This is basically my “fuck you” to the whole load of things, thoughts and emotions I’ve been holding onto, because I accept that it’s all in my past, my childhood trauma, formative years and blooming youth. They’ve made me far too bitter, too mired in depression at moments and stuck in stirring my own shit. I want to own the shit I’m in and throw it far behind where it belongs and keep moving forward.

I want solutions, I want to mature. I want to feel better. I want balance, equilibrium and equanimity.

And I shall have it.

Life isn’t fair, life isn’t predictable. It isn’t rosy all the time, nor is it sad all the time either. People will be people, they are beyond my control, and hence all resentment directed at people should be wiped clean.

But me? I may not have total control over everything in life but I always have options, choices of how I want to act and feel. I always have the choice to set boundaries between the situation and who I am. I always have the choice to be kind to myself, to love myself and see myself clearly, and to celebrate the better parts, the small victories of life.

Celebrate:
• mornings where I don’t want to curl up foetal and cry.
• moments where I choose to eat and ignore my mood-induced loss of appetite.
• every meal I truly enjoyed, without feeling guilty after.
• the bigger meanings, values and purpose of projects I’m involved in.
• with laughter, humour, joy and gratitude.

These all sound fine and dandy in words, and intellectually I understand what I’ve typed so far and what I want to achieve. Emotionally and spiritually, I think I have so catching up to do. But the crux of it all, really, is not to doubt myself anymore; not to think or feel that it’s all out of reach and it’s a distant destination to travel (the bad thoughts will creep back in along the way). But rather, to realise that I have arrived, and I have realised all I want to be; be aware of how I am mindfully, and constantly choose kindness and love in every moment.

Tonight, I’m not entirely okay. But I have offered peace.

Tomorrow I’m going to be okay.

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