• Ashlyn

i'm loved.

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

I cannot think of a clever subtitle for this one because sometimes, I'm just not very clever.

We real cute.

I often discuss the innate loneliness associated with my anxiety and depression, the cavernous, penetrating isolation that, for so long, was impossible to escape. I sleep weird hours, when I sleep at all. I ignore established social boundaries because of my relentless curiosity—or nosiness, as Kyle says, with boundless love, I’m sure. I struggle to navigate how others will receive me because, let’s be honest, I am weird af. I withdraw into myself because it can be hard to connect in a meaningful way, which often means I don’t care to connect at all.

But these connections are incredible. They are vital. Life’s hurricanes have shaken my foundation. The beams have trembled, and the sheet rock crumbled around me. I am rocked and swayed by the power of anxiety’s aggressive presence in my life this year. My identity snapped in ways I didn’t truly understand, ways I didn’t really want to, if I’m being honest. It’s already so painful to explore how my mental health impacts my choices, the invisible limits I’ve put on myself, that it’s been difficult to address the deeper changes to my very personhood.

How often do we focus on the positive parts of our loved ones without fostering the loving parts of ourselves?

Last week, I visited Maine with a group of close friends. We ate too much and drank too much and laughed just the right amount. I watched them all excel at Phase 10 while I went SIX rounds without making it past Phase 1. Honestly, gtfo with that nonsense. I literally screamed in utter anguish before tossing down my cards like a child and promptly saying I wasn’t going to play anymore. It was one of my more mature moments as an adult woman. Who knew you could have a full on toddler temper tantrum on the front side of 30?

As dawn broke on my last day there, we asked each other questions pulled from some ridiculous corner of the internet—some silly, some poignant, some very, very uncomfortable.

“What is one of your favorite smells?”

“What are the three most significant numbers in your life?”

“What are three things you like about yourself and why?”

As so rarely happens with me, I was stunned into silence. I floundered for the right words, but I couldn’t think of anything. Blank space where there should’ve been something. Why did I struggle to find three measly things I like about myself? After dedicating my time so diligently to my own mental health and to fostering others’, shouldn’t I feel worthy of the self love I preach from my digital pulpit?

The problem with (stupidly) putting yourself on a pulpit is the steep precipice just above the gaping fall. I’ve realized I can’t set myself on the altar of wisdom without the danger of losing my balance and tumbling off. And falling sucks. I know. I fell off a frat house piano once. It hurt. I assume. Honestly, I don’t really know. I was very, very drunk. Also, why did a frat house have a grand piano? Who on earth was playing it? Also also, why was I on top of it? What was I doing up there in high heels? Sadly, these are questions to which we will never have answers.

But as is so often the case, my dear friends were there to catch me, to confront the ridiculous notion that there’s nothing about me worth loving. I love how well I communicate. I love that I can often see dark humor in the shitty parts of life. I love the color of my eyes, the exact same frosted blue as my dad’s and my nephew’s, a navy band surrounding each of our irises, small flecks of copper sprinkled throughout. THREE THINGS, you guys! I did iiiitttttt!

Anxiety and depression have incredible dominance over my self worth, and lemme tell you, it fucking suUuUuUcks. And I know I’m not alone. How often do we focus on the positive parts of our loved ones without fostering the loving parts of ourselves? It’s much easier to pinpoint each and every flaw, zero in on everything we desperately wish we could change about ourselves. I know for me personally, there are many things I would change if given the opportunity.

The world does not always make space for people who don’t fit its narrow vision of normal.

My marriage has suffered the burdens of my faulty wiring this year. As have my friendships. And my family. Hell, even poor strangers are forced into servitude for the sake of my anxiety, she says as she winks knowingly at her audience. There is no part of my life that this has not touched, no person I love who doesn’t bear its bruises or scars. It’s even carved its presence on my face, ensuring I can never truly hide who I am. My eyes have grown more sunken, the bags purplish and angry. My nasolabial folds have etched deeper than ever before, a product of the persistent pursing of my lips. The wrinkle between my eyebrows that I’ve battled for eternity has finally settled firmly into place. It cackles in the face of my vanity’s dismay.

My husband—sweet, precious, tolerant man that he is—has endured what’s probably been a nightmarish hellscape in the last year. His psychotic wife has subjected him to, what can only be termed, a bevy of different and daily challenges. If it’s not a brand new terminal illness, it’s the incessant need to ensure that he’s breathing adequately while he sleeps. I don’t exactly use dulcet tones when I shake him awake at 3AM because he could actually be dead. It’s more of a shrill banshee scream followed by aggressive jabbing, something to which all my married friends can likely relate.

I obsess over his every skin change, each unexplained bruise, persuaded it’s cancer or hemophilia or something even I haven’t thought of. I count his beers. I time his trips home. A mere two minutes late, and I’ve convinced myself he’s been arrested or t-boned. It’s fucking exhausting. For me. For him, I can only imagine the constant mental gymnastics he must practice not to actually murder me every single minute of every day. Realistically, there’s a zero percent chance he’s a serial killer because if he were, I’d definitely be stuffed behind the drywall by now. Honestly, he probably needs his own therapist just to discuss me. But he can’t have Phil. Phil’s mine.

Despite this onslaught of legitimate diagnosed insanity, he continues to support me, unquestionably and unfailingly. He researches ways to expand my digital reach. He takes seemingly endless photos of me doing absurd things to provide content for this blog. He washes dishes. He wakes up early. He makes me laugh and listens when I cry. He lets me lose my mind within the safety net of his love and understanding.

My insecurities are a manifestation of my deep distrust in myself. I implicitly trust others when they provide feedback. I’m secure that all the people I love will be honest in their criticisms and their compliments. But I’ve been betrayed time and again by my faulty wiring, been told by my brain that my contribution is worthless. The world does not always make space for people who don’t fit its narrow vision of normal. But listen, normal people are awfully suspicious, don’t you think? Everyone thought Ted Bundy was normal, and it turns out he was an actual psychopath. If you work that hard to pretend your life is all rainbows and unicorns, I’m just gonna think you’re full of shit and possibly also a serial killer. Sorry. But also not sorry.

I discussed this with Phil today because I’ve recently done a lot of ruminating on what is a clear gap in my self esteem. And I saw reflected in him the pride I should feel in myself. Phil has a very specific proud smile, and I gotta tell you, it makes me feel all the feelings when I see it.

I am so well loved because I am, in fact, lovable.

My husband married me not because he’s some sort of psychotic masochist (I assume), but because I add value to his life. In what way, I can’t tell you. I’m terrible at keeping our house clean, and he absolutely can’t play golf as much as he’d like because that would be every. damn. day. It’s probably just that I’ve given him such a steady sugar rush for the last decade that his blood sugar drops dangerously low every time I leave, and he assumes that it’s a manifestation of his love for me. In reality, he’s just hangry.

But in choosing to disconnect with others, to protect myself from their potential judgment, I’ve also disconnected from myself in many ways. But that connection is incredible, vital. In choosing to intentionally love myself, every part of myself (Listen—I know what you’re thinking, and that’s not what I mean. So stop it, ya perv.) the way that so many others love me, I’m building a new identity to match my newly formed face, someone that more than just Phil can take pride in. To become someone other than *just* anxious or depressed. And not to be cheesy or anything, but I love that about myself, the reasons why being obvious.

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