Processing Pain

It’s been a long time since you’ve invaded my dreams. Perhaps that’s because it’s been a long time since you’ve been in my life in a positive, tangible way.

From the day you left, your presence imbedded itself into my mind. I didn’t know it’d be the last time I saw you for over six months, but it didn’t matter. Even when you were by my side, I never stopped thinking about you, so remembering you after your sudden departure was simple. In hindsight, it was a bit obsessive and a lot unhealthy. But if it had worked out, if we had worked out, maybe that same behavior would be seen as a side effect of love. But now that obsession plagues my mind. It’s a habit I have yet to entirely unlearn.

I have improved. Instead of seeing life through the lens of your lips, I began to merely think about you constantly. That eventually became an hourly passing, which turned into a daily reminder. Nowadays, I can go a day or a few without replaying your lies in my head. You can always talk to me about anything. I care about you. I’ll always be honest with you. I love you. It’s all bullshit.

People tell me stories about you. About your life now. At first I was saddened but hopeful. A few months passed. You didn’t change, didn’t come back. Hope dwindled into despair and sadness morphed into anger. You left me, a crazy bundle of anxiety. It’d be understandable if you hadn’t promised to be there for me. But you did. Nobody else had. They took advantage of their lack of commitment and left. I guess I should have expected the same from you. I guess I see more value in a promise than there really is.

You came back. Not to me; you had already moved onto someone else. Easy to do when you never really loved, let alone cared about, the girl you strung along only a few months earlier. But I saw you. I guess. It was hard to tell underneath your insecurity and defeated demeanor. I can only hope those were there because you were ashamed of your new and not-so-improved self-destructive lifestyle. If it was, then it wasn’t powerful enough to make you change.

Your body was back, but your being was not. Is not. Where is your passion to improve your own craft while helping others improve theirs? Where is your drive to succeed? Where is your leadership? Where is your love for others? Where is your joy?

Maybe they all drowned in the alcohol you’re dousing them in.

So I dreamed about you today. We kissed. You then asked me to wash your dishes and loan you money. I thought I was safe in my dreams, but even there you find a way to make me trust you and then use me. Yes, these are silly examples of use, but seemingly meaningless dreams still have much to say.

I forgive you. Even almost a year later, I’m hurt, but I forgive you. I want you to get better. I want to see you succeed. I want to meet again the person I knew before you left. Genuinely.

Thank you. You gave me confidence when I had none. You accepted me right where I was at even when you didn’t understand my struggles. You checked on me when you knew I wasn’t okay. You weren’t afraid of my baggage, my pain. You bared it with me.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’m so angry at you. I know you’ve been through a lot, and I should be accepting of your struggles even though I don’t understand them. ¬†I shouldn’t have put you on a pedestal or expected so much from you. I shouldn’t have been so terrified of standing up for myself, of asking questions. Now I’m forced to deal with the agony of “what if?” and “why?” But that’s on me.

In my dream, I didn’t wash your dishes. I didn’t give you money. The next time you asked me to come over, I said no. I knew you would use me again. Hurt me again. I can forgive you, appreciate you, and apologize to you, but I don’t have to say yes to you anymore. Not in my dreams, not in real life. You’re not the only one who’s changed. I have a voice now. Correction: I’ve always had one; I’m just now learning how to use it. And I’m using it to say no.

 

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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¬†problems.

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.

 

 

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.

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.