The Detriment of Hanging onto Bitterness

In the past, I categorized myself as someone who can’t hold onto a grudge. If you do me wrong today, I’ll most likely be over it by tomorrow. It’s not a quality I have worked tirelessly to achieve – in fact, there are situations in which I desperately want to hold a grudge against someone because of the extent to which they hurt me, but I just can’t. Try I have, I can assure you, but it’s a quality I was born with and, objectively, am grateful for.

Upon talking with a friend recently, however, I have realized that perhaps that category isn’t as perfectly fitting as I once thought it to be. There is one particular grudge, one overwhelming sense of bitterness that has lingered with me for a few many months that I never saw to be a problem. Spoiler alert: grudges and bitterness are always┬áproblems.

I joined acrobatic gymnastics (acro for short) when I was eight years old or so and stuck with it until I was in the later part of my sixteenth year, about seven months ago. I loved the sport wholeheartedly until the last two years I was a part of it. These years were tougher than the first many because I was on a different team than I had been on for eight years, but it did happen to be the same team I began on and then left after my first year. I remember my coach leading stretching and being able to do the splits when I first joined the sport, and I was extremely intimidated by him because I thought guys weren’t supposed to be able to do the splits. This intimidation didn’t go away the second time I was a part of his team, although it was for a different reason this time around.

This coach is Bulgarian, and back in the day, they were the best of the best in acro. He won many medals at multiple World Championships, so he knew a thing or two about being successful in acro. The thing is, in Europe, coaches believe that physical and mental abuse bring out the best in an athlete. Personally, I don’t believe a desired result is worth a detrimental journey to get there, but I digress. For him, it led to success, so I believe he held onto portions of that mentality when he became a coach in the States. I say portions because he never physically abused me, and from stories I hear from athletes that were under his coaching longer than I was, the worst he had done was throw a shoe at someone and break a clipboard. From my experience, however, I felt emotionally abused.

I struggle saying that I was emotionally abused by this coach because I feel that many of my teammates would disagree. Am I weaker than them? Can I not handle criticism? Am I just bitter because I didn’t progress as far in the sport as some of them? Am I unable to see the value in his style of coaching? I don’t think any of these things are true. The few people I have admitted this fact to have felt the same way, probably because I am careful to not admit it to those that would undermine my perception of what I went through. A part of my life this consequential demands support and understanding rather than dismissal.

Over these two years, I experienced a lot of heartbreak, from constantly being moved around in partnerships to rejection from the World Team, from downright embarrassing competitions to a leg injury that had me in a boot for three months and limping around a few months before that. All of these experiences left me sobbing, but nothing stuck with me as long as the effects of having a tough-love kind of coach.

The first year I rejoined his team, he paid no mind to me or my partner group at all. He had obvious favorites, the athletes destined to go to Worlds, and I was not one of them. Considering how many years of my life I had dedicated to this sport, I was crushed believing that I wasn’t worthy of help or attention. I felt worthless, like all of the sacrifices I had made for this sport amounted to nothing because of my lack of “natural” talent. The second consecutive year he was my coach, however, he finally began to coach my new partner and I. “Ignorance is bliss” is a saying I normally disagree with, but as soon as my coach started paying attention to me, I began to agree with it a bit. He compared me to other athletes often, adding to the jealousy problem I already had. He told my partner and I that he wasn’t going to coach us anymore because we were having trouble with a skill one day. He judged me completely based on my performance and not my work ethic. In his mind, if you were truly hard-working, you’d perform well. He constantly pulled me aside to have “talks” that lasted nearly an hour. During these talks, he’d tell me multiple times how I wasn’t working hard enough and how I’d never make it to Worlds with the way I was practicing, and at the end of them, he’d have the audacity to make me hug him as I silently sobbed. If I was ever off task for even one second, he’d yell at me. When I had a broken leg, I felt pressured to get back to working 100% as fast as possible because it was obvious he was frustrated with my injury. In general, he was a negative force in the gym. Even the other coaches were afraid of standing up to him or even just politely sharing a different opinion than his because he was incredibly stubborn and wouldn’t hear any indication of him being wrong in some way. He even bought a microphone so everyone could hear when he called someone out.

All of my coach’s antics were made worse because I had developed anxiety a few months into being a part of his gym again. The entire negative atmosphere had me feeling trapped in a dark routine day after day for hours on end. At a certain point, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I completely broke down. I would cry at least once a day, usually multiple times a day. My coach didn’t understand and used that as an excuse to yell at me more, calling me a drama queen. Telling me to be positive, as if it was a simple task in his presence. My last practice ever, he gave me a correction, and I completely lost it and had to go to the bathroom, my safe haven, to gather myself. When I came back, he looked confused and defensive and told me that all he did was give me a correction. I knew this full well, but any negativity that came from his mouth sent me into a spiral of hyperventilation, fear, and self-deprecation. At this point, I felt as though I had PTSD. Just being near him, being in the gym, absolutely terrified me. I’m still affected by anxiety to this day. While I’ve healed a lot, I still cry over very minute events. I have panic attacks when I work out. When my friends cheer me on during a workout, I replace their voices with my past coach’s yelling that I’m not good enough, that I’ll never get anywhere, that I need to be perfect to be worthy of his approval, and I break down crying, confusing everyone around me.

Yes, I am very privileged. Yes, I could have had it much worse. Denying the pain I went through, however, denies the impact that part of my life still has on me to this day. It, essentially, denies a part of me. I came to accept this part of me while I was still in acro, and I absolutely resented it. I resented my coach for making me this way. I resented his success. All I wanted was for him to fail in his career. I wanted everyone around me to see how awful of a person he was. Even after quitting, I felt this way. I didn’t see the negative impact this grudge was having on my life. I had so many nightmares about rejoining acro. Any time his name was mentioned, I felt a rage bubble up inside of me, something completely unnatural to me. I saw his success growing, and I wanted to scream. I hated him. This hate forced him to still be a controlling factor in my life. He controlled the way I reacted to negative situations. He controlled the way I reacted to yelling, even if it was just my dad yelling at football players on TV. He controlled my panic attacks. Everything causing me problems in my life was his fault. At least, these were my beliefs. I felt that if I moved on from his negativity, that would mean he won. That none of this ever really happened, that my pain was unjustified, that I was weak for having anxiety. Then, I was crying during a relatively easy workout. My friend pulled me aside and asked me why I was crying. I told her this entire story, about where my anxiety came from. She suggested that hanging onto this bitterness was the cause of much of my anxiety now rather than my belief that he had altered me forever and still controlled my reactions to situations.

This was an epiphany to me. I never really thought my resentment towards my old coach was a problem, but after this talk, I realized that I was in the midst of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believed my coach to be a controlling factor in my life, and so he was. I knew I had to get rid of this grudge I was hanging onto. To do this, I had to accept how his words and actions affected me and realize that that will never change. Allowing myself to move on was not dismissing what had occurred. Then, I had to recognize my coach as a person who thought differently from me. The way he was raised affected his coaching style, a style that happened to work for some people even though it didn’t for me. He was not a soulless being. He, in fact, was much more understanding towards the end of our time together. He yelled a lot less and recognized my anxiety as a very real problem in my life that needed to be accommodated to at times. Although we didn’t click, he was still a human just trying to be as successful as possible in the only way he knew how. Finally, I needed to let the past be the past. While my anxiety is still a part of me today, it doesn’t have to affect me the way it used to. I can work on improving my ability to handle it. When I have panic attacks, I can objectively analyze why it’s occurring without letting it consume me for multiple days. I can accept the love offered by those around me instead of shutting down and pushing people away out of shame and embarrassment.

This post was a little bit everywhere because I’m still trying to sort this part of my life out a bit, and I haven’t talked about it this analytically before, but to conclude, holding onto past grudges only hurts you. It doesn’t impede the success of the one who wronged you. It only serves as a negative controlling factor in your life. Forgiveness will set you free from the implications of the past. By releasing bitterness, you regain control of your actions and the direction of your life.

 

 

A Poem Called “The Five Senses”

Finally,

There’s nothing.

Pounding vibrations shake my core and shatter my essence

As other soulless bodies sway to the same soundless beats.

I hear nothing.

Smoke swells in my chest,

Engulfing everything in its path from the inside out.

I smell nothing.

Black is periodically pierced by paralyzing white,

Momentarily searing into my skin the somethings I’m trying to escape until I’m relieved with the absence of light.

I see nothing.

Shards of glass bottles slip across my cracked lips

As liquid amnesia slides down my throat and around my thoughts.

I taste nothing.

Sweaty skin suctions to mine,

And I am reminded that physical proximity and emotional confinement are directly related.

I touch nothing.

 

I’m willing to pay the price,

A lack of senses for a life unfelt.

I feel nothing.

I am

Nothing.

I’m collateral damage in the war for sanity.

I (Don’t) See the Light

“What’s the matter, you don’t have enough rain to make up a storm? Whatcha look so sad for? Where’s that light I used to know?” (Song: Slip; Artist: Elliot Moss)

I didn’t know how to start this post because my feelings are everywhere right now. Or maybe they’re just in one place, but I can’t pinpoint where that is. Either way, I was listening to calming, sad songs, as I do when I’m feeling this way, and these lyrics spoke to me. I don’t have the mental capacity to formulate my indeterminate feelings into deep metaphors and flashy poetry right now; I want to write my thoughts as they come to me: literal, real, vulnerable, immediate, unfiltered. That’s how I figure out my feelings best: just writing it out.

Elliot Moss must’ve crawled inside of my brain, stole my inner dialogue, and put it in a song (Elliot…can I call you that? If you’re reading this, I want compensation). Let’s break it down:

“What’s the matter, you don’t have enough rain to make up a storm?” This is putting into words a fear of mine. My life these past seven months or so have been the best of my life, and I’ve been terrified of that until recently. Two questions: 1. Why is an improved life terrifying? Well, I fear it regressing back to the life I was living. I was an acrobat, and I was emotionally abused daily by my coach and by myself. This caused me to develop anxiety, and almost everyday, I would uncontrollably sob. No, no little cry; I would be in the corner, hyperventilating. I hated my life, and I hated myself. I finally quit seven months ago, and that’s when my life started improving. When my happiness reached a certain level, I finally recognized it, and it was the oddest feeling to me. I hadn’t felt happiness more than in a fleeting moment for about two years, and all of a sudden, my baseline emotion was joy rather than depression. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t need to cry myself to sleep every night. I didn’t have to force myself out of bed. I didn’t have to struggle through the torturous day. And I was terrified. I had gotten so used to, and dare I say comfortable with, being depressed that I didn’t recognize myself when I wasn’t. I just knew it had to come back. I knew it was lurking around the corner, waiting for my guard to be down so it could hit me at full force. Any time I had a moment of anxiety, I panicked, believing fully that one little mishap would send me down a dark spiral headed straight back to where I was seven months ago. 2. Why am I not terrified of an improved life anymore? Honestly, it’s because it hasn’t been so great recently. I guess this is what I’ve been waiting for. Heartbreak, panic attacks, depression, lack of sleep, self-loathing – all these and more melded together to create a poison not quite lethal, but strong enough to make me feel like shit until it becomes lethal. So, the lyric – when I’m happy, I fear not being who I’ve pictured myself as: a depressed person with plenty of rain to make up a storm. When I’m depressed, I feel as though my problems are too weak to be classified as a fully-fledged storm.

“Whatcha look so sad for?” I’m terrible at hiding my emotions, so recently, I’m sure I’ve looked like a walking dark cloud from one of those anti-depressant commercials.

“Where’s that light I used to know?” I wish knew, Elliot. If anyone finds it, let me know. I can’t get out of bed, I ‘m obsessing over past mistakes, I’m panicking during workouts again, I’m unconfident in my looks but at the same time don’t care enough to wear more than a t-shirt and yoga pants, I’m bs-ing all of my schoolwork and couldn’t care less about my grades, I’m feeling extremely close to being peer pressured into doing things I don’t want to do, I’m paranoid that everyone around me hates me…so, that light. It’s been a bit diminished lately. God, and I just had it in my grasp.

I think, though, that the light has just barely moved out of my peripheral, because from time to time, it likes to play a little game of peek-a-boo, even in this downward slope on my progress timeline. I was afraid of my happiness being temporary, but now I know that pain is, too. Honestly, I had forgotten happiness existed, such as when a hospital-bound patient forgets the warmth of sunlight kissing their skin. Now that I have been reminded, I want to experience it again, even if I have to battle the fears my depression and anxiety create to hinder me from finding a new comfort zone rooted in joy.

A Poem Called “A Premonition”

You found me in my best state

Joyful, confident, unafraid

A state that you’ve helped craft

Like I’m a piece of clay and you’re the pottery-maker

Running your hands along my sides

Smoothing out all the bumps and bruises with a simple touch

But smoothing isn’t healing

And my scars run deeper than the surface

Eventually you’ll have to sculpt the inside

Where shards of abuse and nails of self-loathing are found

Don’t ignore the DO NOT ENTER signs

Their brilliant red will transfer to your hands

And blood will trickle down your arms

Where you used to hold me

But where you now wipe clean

The truth you didn’t foresee

 

Just as you smoothed my surface

You cleanse your own

 

You’ll leave me in my best state

Smiling, understanding, still caring

As my shards and nails sink deeper

To make room for more

A Poem Called “A Knot Around My Finger”

I was given a key in a bathroom stall.

A strange hand reached out to me, my back flat against porcelain at the sight,

Only turning so tears could turn to vomit before hitting the water below,

My face so close I could see a reflection,

But it wasn’t my own.

 

Fingers stretching, palms soft,

Unfamiliar, inviting,

I couldn’t stop myself.

I reached back.

In a moment, my fingers desperately clung to her wrist,

And as she placed the key in the center of my hand and guided me to accept what I hadn’t in so long,

Unintentionally, but willingly,

Warmth traveled from her fingertips through my veins,

A surge of light I had forgotten existed.

 

After further inspection, I noticed

A heart carved into the center of the key

Open

I laced a chain through it and around my neck,

Putting the heart on display for more strange hands to grope,

Some kind, others not,

But you can’t have one without the other.

 

Before the key,

There was a lock,

But before the lock,

There wasn’t need for a key.

No magnifying glass, no scalpel, no detective nor doctor necessary,

Watchful eyes blinded and prodding hands punctured,

Shocked out of existence by the freedom I granted my story.

 

Open then and open now,

But now there’s more spilling out.

Without a sleeve strong enough to carry my ever-bleeding heart,

I use that key instead,

Resilient by the warmth given to it on the day I was reminded of a feeling called

Hope.

Poetry, Late Night Thoughts, and Life Experiences, all from the Perspective of a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl

Hello, my name is Christina, and I’m already regretting revealing that I am, in fact, a seventeen-year-old girl. As someone who often spends time with people considerably older than me, preconceived notions about me because of my age and gender are my downfall. My hardships are automatically discredited, only perceived worthy of that label by me because of my overly-emotional instincts and lack of “real” life experiences. My innocence is placed on a pedestal, something that must be protected at all costs, and inclusion is on the price tag. My intelligence (not to be confused with knowledge) is severely doubted to the point where I doubt it myself. My learning is scoffed at by those who have forgotten what it’s like to be new to something (which, by the way, is a feeling that should never be unfamiliar, but that’s for an entirely separate blog post).

So, why did I reveal my age in the title of my very first blog post?

I enjoy a good challenge.

I want to challenge your beliefs, even and especially if they are incognizant, about young girls. We are not incompetent, irrational creatures using our looks and emotions to manipulate our way through our dramatized, effortless lives. We are capable. We are intelligent. We’re individuals, all unique with our share of hardships, experiences, characteristics, and talents (all of which are valid). We don’t fit into a stereotype (Highlight? Like, a book? I LOVE ANNOTATING BOOKS. Wait, highlighting your face? Isn’t that toxic?). We are people, and what we have to say is worth listening to.

I want to challenge my beliefs about myself. Others’ doubts about me somehow find their way into the mix of self-deprecating thoughts my mind uses against me as arsenal, and every time the trigger is pulled, the more my confidence bleeds out, leaving me immobile. Well, no more. I’m patching myself up, walking on two feet (or on particularly rough days, I’ll hop on one foot), and if need be, I’m going to the hospital and accepting help from others. My age, my gender, my whatever, will not hold me back from attempting success.

So yes, I am, in fact, a seventeen-year-old girl, but no, that does not mean I am immature. Yes, I am a seventeen-year-old girl, but no, that does not mean my life has not yet begun. Yes, I am a seventeen-year-old girl, but no, that does not mean my words are meaningless.

While all of these statements are true, don’t take my word for it. Allow me to prove it to you through the poems, late night thoughts, and life experiences I will fill this blog with.

Without further ado, welcome to my blog; I hope you enjoy your stay.