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Monday, September 23, 2013
On Being Transparent
I was at work recently when I received an unexpected message from a childhood friend on Facebook. I hadn't talked to her in a while when she started to ask me questions. She opened up to me about her struggles with the mind and confessed that she felt really low about herself and didn't know if I really liked or accepted her. She felt rejected because of her condition. Instead of encouraging her and offering her a nice quote to wrap up the conversation, I shared of my own experiences struggling with depression, unwanted thoughts, and anxiety. She was genuinely surprised that I too struggled to some degree with her issues. I offered her a book called Battlefield of the Mind by preacher Joyce Meyer, since it helped me tremendously years ago. She thanked me and said she would check it out. I promised to pray for her. After our conversation I thought about how important it is to empathize with others who struggle. We live in a very dark world where people struggle every day to make sense of what is happening while coping with their stresses and pain. We all hurt in some way, some more than others. But I'll tell you this, there is nothing like feeling like you are not alone in your pain. When I was a young girl I always believed that there was something "wrong" with me. Because my early childhood was filled with trauma, stress, and personal loss, I grew up with a lot of fear and I was constantly watching my back. I never truly felt safe as a child. When you grow up feeling unsafe it is difficult to know how to open up to people and truly trust that the world is going to treat you well. I had a lot of anxiety growing up, that I mostly kept to myself because there was really no one to speak to about them. My family wasn't exactly the kind that sat at the dinner table and talked about feelings. Because there was no one to open up to I learned early on to keep things to myself. I escaped through music, writing, and I'd spend hours in front of a mirror pretending that I was being interviewed by Oprah or Barbara Walters (one of my favorite shows as a kid was 20/20). It's no wonder that I have a passion for media and film. I think even God felt for me and decided to make it a calling. I'm a voice over artist. :-) I often had two recurring dreams as a little girl. One was that my permanent teeth were falling off. The other was that I was lost. I remember dreaming that I was lost in my own neighborhood. I'm no psychologist, but I believe that this was due to the fact that I didn't always feel at home in my own home. I often felt like an outsider. The books that I read provided a visual way of escape and the stories I wrote were the cries of my soul that were unspoken. It's no wonder that my favorite book at 10 years old was The Giver. A story about a boy who lives in a community of sameness who is given the gift of seeing and learning what the world was before everything became the same. As a child, I too felt like I carried the world on my shoulders. I was a peacemaker in my family. Humor was the best way that I knew how to cope since I never learned how to cry or express feelings in a healthy manner. I was not in touch with feelings or emotions. When you grow up in troubled situations, there is a lens from which you view life and people. Therefore I carried fear in my pocket which resulted in quiet anxiety. I call it quiet because I never let anyone know that I was terrified to the point of hyperventilating. I would freeze when it came time to read out loud in class. Anything that required vulnerability scared me. It still does at times. And even in graduate school, I walked out of a class when the teacher announced we were doing improv. I wasn't prepared for it and it scared me. It wasn't that I wasn't talented. It's just that fear always got in my way. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being laughed at and judged. Fear of being applauded. I grew to detest the word fear. It would take years for me to find myself beyond the ugliness of fear. To learn who I was beyond my childhood trauma. To see myself as more than a peacemaker and fixer. At 30, I learned for the first time that I am meant for more in life and that I deserve to be happy. I am still working on accepting all that comes with that. So back to the conversation with my friend, I smiled because I knew that in that very brief conversation, I was letting her know that she wasn't alone. I told her I knew what it was like to struggle with overwhelming anxiety and thoughts that become almost empirical. I too have had demons I've had to battle (literally). And in sharing some of my pain with her I understood the importance of being vulnerable with others. It is so much more freeing to be honest with oneself and others than to pretend like we have it all together, when we clearly don't. I am still working through this. Sometimes fear's little uglier sister gets in my way. Her name is shame. I hope this post will be an encouragement to someone out there too. You are not alone.