Does That Make Me Crazy?
I'm afraid of the dark. I need to be in control. I can't bear the thought of hurting someone's feelings. I talk to myself. I go out of my way to make people like me. I get defensive easily. I make everything a math equation because I like things to be even. I'm terrible at math. I get overwhelmed in crowds. I'm a people pleaser to a fault. I like all my ducks in a row. I park in the same aisle at Target every single time so I'm not the idiot wandering around looking for my car. I think out loud. I can't stand feeling stupid. I feel anxious without a plan. I can't wear earplugs at night because I want to hear what's coming for me. My feelings get hurt easily. I have trouble retaining information. I don't trust anyone. I change my outfit three times before throwing on workout clothes and walking out the door. I have a ton of fears and phobias. I make color coded schedules. I read instructions over and over again. I check and recheck timers, alarms, flight info, directions, meetings and calendar events. Sometimes I think I don't know what I'm doing even when I do.
I was raised in a typical dysfunctional family. Divorced parents. A string of so-called stepdads. Alcohol, drugs, abuse. I would lie awake at night listening to them fight. Objects crashing against the wall. Skin hitting skin. Bad words being screamed at each other. Nothing ever felt safe. We moved a lot, sometimes without any notice. In the middle of 6th grade, I transferred to yet another school. That would be my eighth. Nobody liked the new girl getting all the attention so I was bullied a lot. I felt different. I was sure nobody had a family like mine. There were five kids in our house, all from different combinations of parents. My mom was in over her head. There were piles of laundry. A sink full of dishes. Too many mouths to feed. I always felt in the way. I'm guessing we were the reason she drank. She was hungover all the time. She spent most days in bed. She yelled a lot like it was our fault. She was always criticizing me. "What are you crying about now?" she would say. What I heard was, "you are not normal. Stop having feelings. Something is wrong with you."
When I started dating, I seemed to be drawn to a certain type. Good looking, charming, popular, outgoing, smart and extremely cocky. The guys that seemed so confident. What I always failed to realize is that they were actually insecure. But they would cover it up with arrogance. I always felt a little out of my league. Like I had to try so hard to get their attention. They would string me along. They would act like they cared. They would see other girls behind my back. I would get suspicious. I would snoop around. I would find evidence. And when confronted, it was always the same reaction. "I don't know what you're talking about. I can't believe you don't trust me. You're so insecure. You are overreacting. Wow. You are psycho."
I had a boyfriend once that I really wanted to be the one. As we started to get serious, I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to tell him everything and have a connection with him. One night we were talking over a few beers and I brought up my past. I told him about how I grew up and how hard it was for me. It was absolutely not my fault, but I made it mean something was wrong with me. It felt like a secret. Like something I had to hide. Something I didn't want people to know about me. I was testing him. His response was, "why do I always end up with girls with issues?" And there it was. Confirmation that I was broken. I cried my eyes out that night. Then I spent the next eight years with him because I didn't think I deserved any better.
When my husband died, I couldn't just grieve like other widows. I had complicated grief. It was as though his suicide opened a floodgate of feelings I had been pushing down for years. I had PTSD. I had depression. My hair was all over my bathroom floor. I felt pain in my body. I felt panic. I thought I was dying all the time. I had acid reflux and new food sensitivities. I had anxiety all the time. I was so angry I could hardly see straight. I was mad at everyone. I envied women who lost their husbands to illnesses and accidents. I kept trying to solve the mystery not accepting there was no answer why. Nobody understood. I felt alone. I blamed him for every challenge along the way. It took almost two years to find some forgiveness and finally let the sadness come in. Mourning his loss felt a lot less like grief and more like I was losing my mind.
I've learned that we tell ourselves stories and I've been telling mine for years. I'm crazy. I'm different. I am not enough. It's how I describe myself. It's the armor I put up. It's the excuse I use. I've said it so many times to myself, and everyone else, that I started to believe it was a fact. But none of it is true. Don't get me wrong. I have my days. Sometimes I get overwhelmed. Sometimes I have a lot of self-doubt. Sometimes I want to throw myself down on the ground and scream and cry and throw a complete toddler tantrum in the middle of the produce aisle. I never do, but I really want to. I've been through a lot of heavy shit. It doesn't have to define me. I have thoughts and feelings like everybody else. We are all a lot more alike than we think. And the new story I choose to tell is that I'm a fucking fighter. I have had a lot of experiences in my life. Some were wonderful. Some were traumatic. But I get to decide who I am.
I am organized. I am thoughtful. I like to make new friends. I am methodical. I am cautious. I love to make people laugh. I'm more street smart than I am book smart and I love to learn new things. I'm a talker. I have a great smile. I kick ass at crossword puzzles. I love to spend Sunday mornings reading on the beach. I'm a fun mom. I am generous. I'm a planner. I need confirmation before I can do anything. I prefer to sleep in my own bed but I'll take a high end resort with room service any day. I'm considerate. I'm helpful. I enjoy my own company. I watch pregnancy announcement and engagement videos and cry for people I don't even know. I'm sensitive. I love deeply. I'm a rule follower most of the time. I am resilient. I can do hard things. I am learning. I am growing. I am healing. And I am human.