So I've finished the novel - about 80,000 words - and I've given it to my biggest fan of all time (also known as my awesome mother) and a few close friends to take a peek and give feedback if they are so inclined. I've got novel number two bubbling away, plans for seven books total, and I am beginning to think I've been doing life wrong for a long time.
I was having one of those little moments of anxiety which pop up every so often - all of the worries and doubts and flashbacks and mental noise had been simmering under the surface, as they always do, and so yesterday I reached the point where it all had to spill out of me. My fabulous husband sat with me as I poured it all out, and I had calmed down a little, and then we were talking about what the future might look like, if I publish, what I want out of life - and he said, "We moved here because of my work. If you need to move because of work, we can do that."
And I started crying, hands over my face, mumbling, "Why had that never occurred to me?"
It never had.
I never thought that what I wanted or needed might be that important.
I've automatically thought that I've had to bend myself around the people in my life, accommodating their needs so that they might love me.
It's kind of a scary thing, thinking about that. Thinking about the things I might want which might be different - might throw a spanner into the works. But so many bits of me have been needling under my skin; I've been pushing them down, hiding them, not wanting to make a fuss, because at my root I think that, if I am myself, I am unlovable. I've talked a heck of a lot about being true to myself and done very little to prove it.
And it's complicated. Having a mental illness (or three) has given me a sense of inferiority, like I should just be grateful to be noticed at all. Accepted. Like I have to work harder than "normal" people - like I have to hide. And in hiding I have downplayed my enormous successes - here I am, bipolar disorder, anxiety, C-PTSD, and I'm living, and I'm writing; I am married, I'm a big sister; I am in treatment, I am sober, I have friends. None of those achievements are things I should ignore.
But biology aside, there's another element - the nurture counterpart to the nature - which has kept me low for so long. And it's not particularly nice, but I'll lay out a little bit.
As a child, my needs were not met by all of the adults responsible for my care. I'm not talking about toys, or designer clothes, or lots of money; I'm not talking about buckets of extra-curricular activities, the nicest backpack. I am talking about food insecurity, inadequate housing, lack of physical and emotional support, lack of a clean and safe environment. Some of that was due to my guardians' low wages - most of it was not. I started drinking with a parent when I was fourteen, but my first glass of beer was in elementary school. My childhood bedroom was so cold - and it was only my bedroom - that I slept in my coat. Winter after winter, the chills so bad that I couldn't stop shaking. I went into my guardians' bedroom, terrified that I was having a seizure; years later they had both forgotten.
Other children have had it far worse.
But I didn't know that I deserved any better.
Now, I am 33 years old, and I'm having these conversations with my husband, and I'm thinking, my God, I never figured it out, it's never made any sense to me that everyone, even me, deserves better. And I've pushed off my dreams - I've been stuck in limbo, I've put up with abusive behavior, I've had no faith in my value - and here I am.
I'm writing now, and it's fantastic. I love what I'm doing. I'm thinking, hey, I might be good at this, and, this is what I've wanted to do this whole time. And I'm also thinking that I've never wanted to live in this country; I'm thinking that I was too scared to explore my sexuality and gender (turns out I'm a little bit of everything) and maybe I'm not too old, now; I'm thinking that I don't like it when we watch too much television, for goodness' sake. It's all - it's all coming up, and over the past two months of writing I've been so angry, so cranky, so resentful.
It's been hard. Really hard. I've been doing my best to keep that all in, to keep it from spilling out - but that's the problem. I did keep it all in and have done since before I can remember. And I am so unbelievably lucky because I've got the partner of my dreams who will listen to me, who wants to know who I am. Who would move for me. Who makes sure the house is warm.
I mean, I'm pretty sure I'd need a solid career which allowed us to move to Ireland, but maybe I can let myself - let myself believe I can do that. Whether or not we move, it would be good to think that my actions, my desires... mattered.
I've had this sense - as outlined in a previous post about this age, my early 30s - that something has been missing.
It turns out that what's been missing has been me.
So now - I'm removing myself from damaging situations. I'm learning how not to damage myself. I'm trying to talk, to write, to share, to dream; I'm not taking any more nastiness from anyone. Ever. I'm really, really working on being honest.
Cards on the table - my score on the Adverse Childhood Experiences quiz is a seven out of ten, which means that without treatment I am statistically more likely to die twenty years too soon (what a great number, ugh). But I am in treatment, and I do have a good life, and I'm going to write and write and keep living and the heck with this idea that if I am authentic, I am unlovable.
I'm going to dream big. I'm going to laugh loudly and dress oddly and be queer and artistic and silly and me. Me. And at the end of the day, people can choose to love me, or not.
I won't bend anymore.
I won't hide.
And my bedroom is toasty warm.