Thursday, May 25, 2017

A cold and broken Hallelujah...

I'm pretty positive that I have PTSD.

I have never been officially diagnosed with that, but I have had lots of therapy and I lived with someone who had severe PTSD for 15 years, so I'm confident in saying that PTSD is among the side effects of my divorce.

This post is really not about that, though.

This post is about my life these past 2 years, about what pulled me out of a spiral that nearly killed me. I am writing this particular post because all I wanted to know when my world crumbled was what to do. I asked anyone that I knew who was divorced, "How did you handle this?" "What happens now?" "Please tell me how to fix this, how to live this, how to be divorced." Because, like I hope all people who vow to love someone forever, I had no intention of having that end. I felt so at sea, so lost as to where to even begin to piece my life back together.

I'm still piecing it together, of course.

But I have, mostly through sheer trial and error, figured out some things that helped. And I feel compelled to share that on here, just in case someone stumbles across this blog that needs to hear any of this. That scared girl that I was 2 years ago-this is what she wanted to hear, to know, to feel in her bones, just so that she would know that things would be okay. Hard as it is to believe, Joy Elizabeth, we are still alive and breathing and figuring life out.

The absolute most aching time in this whole process was the very beginning. And I knew that even at the time, in that scary fog that I was operating in, I kept saying to myself, "This part sucks. But the next part will be better." I had no idea if that was true, but I needed to believe it. My main coping mechanism has been to just pretend that I'm okay until I actually feel okay. But this was the hardest part-I was down a dark hole, barely able to function at all, unable to eat, unable mostly to even get out of bed.

Somehow, and I so wish that I could remember how this happened because I sadly do not, I managed to get up out of bed. I forced myself to eat once a day until I had anything of an appetite.

And when I emerged from that particular black hole, I was pretty skinny.

It was the first thing that people noticed. I got a lot of positive feedback because of it. And that is the one thing that I genuinely wish for anyone who has to go through a terribly dark period, because it felt good to hear, "Well, you look great."

Now, naturally, starving is not a good thing to do to yourself.

However, the hard part was done. What was left for me to do was maintain a smaller body in a healthy way. And that is what I have managed to do for these 2 years so far. I gave up bread, I eat lots of vegetables and fruits, and I eat some protein with every meal in order to maintain muscle.

I work out every day. I do a combination of yoga and abdominal work and I lift weights. I'm never going to be a cut, lean body builder. But I do find that starting my day with exercise clears my head. I call it eating my frog. One of my co-workers went to a training once where they told you, if there is something that you need to do every day that you don't particularly want to do, do it first. And then you will have "eaten the frog" for the day.

Trust me, this was not a panacea. For almost a year, I couldn't bear to think that anyone saw even the smallest flaw in my appearance. It came from a very deep seeded belief that if someone saw a flaw-any blemish at all -they would see immediately that I was a girl who was so unperfect her husband had to abandon his family to get away from her.

I have slowly begun to make my peace with that.

I'm trying to allow myself the space to allow my scars to show, the space to feel crazy and different and who I am, inside of a body that is as unperfect as the rest of me. I'm not going to lie, it's hard. What if I gain weight and no one ever asks me out again? What if all I have from the past two years of struggling to move forward is that I look better? It's complicated and tricky. Yes, I know that I am much more than my body. Yes, I know that looks are superficial. But I can't really overstate how important it is to me that I look different.

It's like a baptism by fire. This process burned away all of these parts of me that were clouded in self-doubt, these parts of me that believed that somehow just being as passive as is humanly possible was a positive character trait. I want to look like a different person because I am a different person. The old Joy is still inside of me, scars and all. But who I am is fundamentally different and I can't go back. And that, in my experience, is the hallmark of a PTSD survivor. It's hard to describe, there aren't words that I can get my arms around to adequately explain that sharp before and after to my life.

I am a person slowly (oh, so slowly) coming into her own as a fully functioning adult. I don't have all the answers. I feel ashamed that I fell so far apart over losing my marriage because there are people in this world who have lost far more than me. I'm a blessed person and I know that with every beat of my heart. But I absolutely have to own that shame, and that sadness, because I want to be able to say, here is a small step that will help. Here is a tiny speck of hope. Even if the only person that I am truly writing this for is that scared girl that I was 2 years ago, unsure of how to begin to emerge from that dark abyss.

Friday, May 12, 2017

My dearest Anne...

I hate change.

I'm sure that this is not surprising to you. Heavens, the focus of this blog has become my snail-like pace of healing over my divorce-in fact, I don't write on the blog all that much precisely because I feel like it's nothing new to read about the most small little steps that I have managed.

Anyway, I hate change and therefore most of the things that I most adore are from my childhood. If I lived in a perfect world, I would go home to late 1980s/early 1990s music, television, movies, clothes, you name it. I know in my head that it has been 20 years since I graduated from high school, and in those 20 years the world has changed in amazing and most wonderful ways. I can remember reading a review for The Net when it came out and the reviewer saying, "You can't actually order a pizza online." And I think about how basically my entire world is online now, and it has made shopping so easy, and I can connect with people that I actually know in real life and people that I have never met but now love beyond recognition, like Jamie Golden, who is just perhaps the funniest person ever in the world.

But in my heart, which is, as we know, an entirely different beast, I long for my Wilson Phillips tapes and my pegged jeans and for TV movies about proms that aren't in any way ironic. Thus, I am none too jazzed about this remix of Anne of Green Gables on Netflix. I love my Anne in giant puff sleeves, I love my Gilbert mooning over Anne in an obsessed manner but not so sissy that I can't see his appeal, and there is only one Marilla Cuthbert, and that is Colleen Dewhurst.

I don't want Anne to be gritty. I don't want Anne to be someone that I, as a middle American white girl with two living parents, cannot relate to. My Anne is, was, and always shall be Megan Follows.

I watched the CBC Anne of Green Gables well before I read the book. This book, I might add, is what I will answer if you ask my favorite book ever of all time. And yet-I love the miniseries more. That is how hard I fell for this magical production that would turn up on PBS every pledge season like clockwork.

I read Anne (all eight books) to Betsy a few years ago and I was struck at the time by how much I truly love the miniseries considering all of the liberties Kevin Sullivan took with things that I genuinely love in the book. I forgive Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables Part II, if you are in Canada) its many missteps because I love the character of Emmaline, who I do realize I resemble far more than Anne, and I love Morgan Harris, and I love that Anne utters my most favorite line of all human time, which sadly is not in the actual book, "I discovered that it's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it."

Anne came into my life at the most precious time, when I was forming who I am and what I bring to the world. And she encouraged me to create-to think that what I had to say has merit.

And I have been writing ever since. There are many times that my writing, especially on this blog, just seems like the same drum beat again and again. I long for a day to be able to write a blog post about a change in my life, about a new person and a new love and everything that goes with it. But I just can't quite get there. I try-I have been asked out, I have even been on dates, I attempt to flirt with people, which is frankly just a lot of me being awkward, but my practice person at least seems somewhat okay with it.

For now though-for now I am learning what it is to be myself, which is a kind of wicked cool thing to do as a grown adult. And my touchpoint for who the heck it is that I am, that's Anne Shirley. She never loses hope, she never looks at life as a struggle but as an adventure.

She is my true north. And she's in a 1980s puff sleeve concoction that may seem dated and silly in this gritty, real 2017. She is who I long to be.