It has been two weeks since my essay, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men from My Past, went viral, and I have experienced a serious internal shift.
Two weeks ago, I shared my biggest secret with the world, and a change has occurred within me. I feel different. I look in the mirror and I look different to myself. I'm not sure I can give this change a name, but I can give you a few examples of what's happening:
I stopped crying. I cried multiple times a day, everyday, in the month leading up to my essay. The day I posted it, I was in tears as I hit the publish button, and then again each time someone commented, shared or sent me a message. As the support came in and women started sharing their own stories, I knew that I had done the right thing. I cried a little here and there over the days that followed, but then, all of a sudden, I stopped. Maybe I was just cried out, but I don't think so.
Something happened within me when the men started sending me messages. They were saying the most beautiful, supportive things to me, and they were expressing gratitude to have new tools to use while talking to their own children. All of my hesitation and fear lifted. The men had my back and the women were holding me in their arms. I, for the first time in my life, felt like I had a place in the world and that all the fear that I had been holding onto had actually stopped me from truly engaging with life, and that time was over.
My anxiety is easier to shut down than it used to be. My normal run of the mill anxiety attacks were like slow rolling trains. They started slow and gained speed over a day or two and then barreled down upon me. It would take everything in my arsenal to get them to go away. Usually that would mean a few days of practicing extreme, disciplined self care before the train would finally crawl to a stop.
Now, I'm finding that when the anxiety creeps in, I am quickly reminded that I have already told my deepest darkest secret. There is nothing left to hide from. There are no other skeletons remaining for people to find out. That thing that I was the most afraid of, and felt the most shame around, is out. Not only am I being supported, but I'm being told that I am not alone and that I don't have to feel shame anymore. As soon as I remember that, the anxiety lifts and I am left with a clarity that I have never felt prior.
The trolls don't bother me. These fuckers. I am one of the most sensitive people I know, who has historically taken EVERYTHING personally. One reason I was terrified to share my secret is that I wasn't sure that I would be able to handle any negative feedback that I received. In the past two weeks I have been called a whore, told that I am the worst kind of person, and that I've most likely already ruined my daughter's life.
Funny thing is that I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. The trolls actually make me laugh because they think they're hurting me. The fact is, what they have been throwing at me is nothing compared to the horrible way that I used to talk to myself. Sorry trolls...you haven't even scraped the surface of what my self-hate sounded like. Good luck topping that.
"The men had my back and the women were holding me in their arms."
As cliche as it sounds, I feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted. Fear has been greatly reduced. Negative self talk has stopped. Sure, I still feel doubts about my decision, but I realize that is just habitual fear creeping in. When I think about my new found clarity and the response to my essay from others, that fear dissipates.
We've all heard before that the truth will set you free, and I think I believed that. I mean, once I admitted to being an alcoholic, I felt what power the truth can have. But this feeling...it's as if the root of all my anxiety and self loathing was revealed. It had been hiding deep inside me, entangled in a jungle of denial, humiliation and complacency. All I had to do was tell that part of myself that it was ok to come out. Maybe over the past five years since I quit drinking, I have been building up the strength. I'm not sure. It was just time.
There have been moments in life when everything shifts, and an internal power is shown. I have been given permission to reclaim my power and now, that power is creating change. I am finally getting to know my true self, and for the first time, I am able to understand and forgive myself. I realize the root of my feeling like I could never do enough and that everything was always my fault, was based on me feeling that I was 100% responsible for my promiscuity during my teen years. Crazy, huh?
I would like to say that I believe I do hold some responsibility for my past behaviors, but I have worked very hard, for quite a while, to understand what exactly that means and how I can make amends. I now know that the person I needed to make amends with the most, was myself. My essay was the path for me to do that.
And now, I am feeling verklempt, and so for the first time in a few weeks, I shall excuse myself for a good cry. This time it's tears of joy, freedom and gratitude. The other kind of tears have had their time and that time is over now. I will not waste anymore time talking to myself like I'm a horrible person. I will no longer sit and feel as though I am the most worthless person in the room, all the while hiding behind a smile and feeling afraid that I'm going to be "found out". No more will I think to myself that I don't deserve anyone or anything good in my life. That's all bullshit. I am finally welcoming myself to my life. It's about time I showed up.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Join me on this crazy beautiful artventure to receive early access to my December Pop Up Shop where I'll be offering some paintings from my Reclaimed Hearts series, one of which is seen above (in progress).