Bravery takes time

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about the lessons that I’ve learned from my negative relationship experiences. It took me a while to share this post on social media, partly because I was worried about coming across as damaged and bitter in some way, and partly because I was worried about how the people who I was friends with at the time of said relationships would judge me for sharing the information that I shared publicly. Then with a push from my friend, and fellow writer, Naben Ruthnum, I stopped worrying.

I tried to write a really honest account of some of my most painful mishaps and pitfalls, and how they helped me to learn and grow as a human. I was not prepared for the response that it elicited.  It didn’t GO VIRAL or anything, but it did receive over 500 more page views than any other thing that I had ever written, and I also received so many kind messages, or distressed messages, or thoughtful messages from different friends and acquaintances thanking me for writing it and telling me how much some of the things that I wrote had resonated with them.

One of the other things that people said to me was that I was brave for having written and shared this, which is such a nice thing to hear. Who doesn’t want to hear that they are brave and courageous? While I agree that it was a little bit brave – just like sharing anything personal and creative is brave – what I want to say about this is that all of the bravery in the world would not have mattered, if I hadn’t also done an incredible amount of work on myself over the past few years. This has involved therapy, yoga, meditation, forcing myself to do things that challenge me even if they are terrifying, and taking a really serious look at the behaviours and habits that have manifested unhealthy relationships in my life. And I’m still putting in more work all the time.

I grew up in an extremely unhealthy environment (which I’ll leave for a whole other series of blog posts, and likely one day a book), and it took so many years to even admit to myself how deeply this had impacted my ability to have real healthy intimate relationships with other humans. But more importantly, it has taken me even longer to recognize my own value in relationships with other humans. All of these steps and lessons learned from my marriage, and other relationships that followed, were actually steps along the path to believing that I was worth it. I sought out emotionally draining relationships with people who weren’t present or available, because I just did no believe that I deserved anything better. I threw myself into one-sided relationships in which my feelings were regularly undermined, because deep down I believed that if I could win the affections of someone who was largely uncaring, that this meant that I was finally enough. I didn’t have “daddy issues”, but I did (do…) have “family issues”. And these issues meant that the more I had to work to win over and woo someone who was emotionally distant, the more inherent value I had. I simply did not believe that an already whole, healthy, kind, creative, smart, attractive, ambitious person who I was really impressed by and swoony over would ever be able to show even a tiny glimmer of interest in me. So in order to find love, I would have to go through the back door; I’d have to wade through drama and damaging behaviour; I’d have to put in my time as non-girlfriend therapist. Only then, when I had paid my dues in some wreck of a relationship, would I finally have earned my keep. Because if I proved myself to that person at their worst, then I would have earned the value to be with them when they became their best. Only what if that person never became their best? Or what if they never would have been the best for you in the first place? Of what if they DID become their best, only I’d taught them for so long that I was not worth the time and respect to treat well, so that the closer they were to their best, the more likely they were to leave me behind?

Anyways… I guess what I am trying to say is thank-you, but also that bravery takes time to build. There were a million sappy sad sac blog posts before this one, and a million journal entries exploring my feelings, and a million lonely moments where I wished that there was someone out there who could tell me what was wrong with me. And so as a writer, I can’t not share. And if the response to my original blog post made one thing clear, it’s that we need more sharing like this happening all the time. Because it is too easy to feel so alone. And there’s no reason why we can’t feel and work through that aloneness together.

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Mental health and community

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Photo by Academy of Lions

Thank god for community.

If you’ve read through a few of my blog posts, you probably know that I am a person who lives with a generalized anxiety disorder. And that every now and then, this is also coupled with depression.

Under usual circumstances, I am very careful about balancing my life so that I can mitigate the negative effects of these mental health issues. But over the winter, I was unemployed, and broke, I let my gym membership lapse, I got a month long severe sinus cold – which further interfered with seeing friends and physical activity – and I fell into a depression.

For me, and I’m sure for many people, my anxiety and depression manifest themselves as a complete withdrawal from the things that matter the most to me, and incredible amounts of insecurity and self doubt. From a logical standpoint, I know that the things that I am thinking about myself are irrational and untrue, but this doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

When I’m in the depths of depression, every venture outside of my house feels like a farce. Every interaction with anyone who matters (whether friend or colleague) feels like I am putting on a one woman show of “someone who is ok”. And when I do let it slip that I am not coping all that well, I get so incredibly nervous that I am coming across as needy/incompetent/a mess, that I completely fumble my thoughts and words, so that I am met with confused head tilts, which only makes matters worse.

I wouldn’t consider myself spiritual, and I don’t believe in THE SECRET, but I have had enough experiences where “the universe” gives me exactly what I need, that I do believe in serendipity, and also the general goodness of the humans around me.

I was sitting at home yesterday thinking to myself, I NEED TO GET A REGULAR WORKOUT SCHEDULE AGAIN, OR MY MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE GOING TO BURY ME. Then later that afternoon, I got an email letting me know that Academy of Lions would now be offering Community Classes; I immediately signed up for three this week. Just knowing that I would be having a solid workout in a gym that I really love, and that I would be able to access classes regularly even in my incredibly broke state, took such a burden off my shoulders. I went to class that afternoon, and a few minutes in, I could already feel the fog lifting. For me, really serious exercise is not an option – it is literally what keeps me alive.

Once I get working again on a regular rotation, I will be very happy to pay my monthly gym fee to go and work out. But while I am going through this transition, I am so incredibly thankful that community classes are a thing that exist, and that my community offers them.

So if you’re a gym owner, or yoga studio manager, or whatever, I know that it might seem counterintuitive to offer regular free classes when you could simply be registering paying clients, but the loyalty and positive word of mouth that you will garner from giving back will be well worth your while. And in the process, you might actually save someone’s life.