Inside Out

“The structural decision to do without a villain, and ultimately to do without one of the easiest elements to make entertaining and marketable, means that the process Riley is undergoing — adolescence — is visualized as … normal. Her mind is not a space that’s been invaded by something that must be driven out, but a new environment to be mastered. And if other kids’ stories are there to teach kids how to be brave when they see witches and giants, Inside Out is there, maybe, to teach them how to be brave when there’s no witch and no giant, but things can feel broken anyway.”

Linda Holmes, NPR

Today, Robby and I saw Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, go see it.

Seriously.

I’ll wait.

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.

.

So, assuming that you watched it, I’m now going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it, go see it now, cause otherwise I’m going to blow the plot for you.

*Spoilers*

In the movie, a young pre-teen girl (Riley) starts to realize that her days aren’t just filled with joy any more. That she is growing up. But her mom–in an off-hand manner–asks her to keep being her ‘happy little girl’. So when Riley starts struggling, she begins to hide it, and that’s when her emotions get out of whack.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Through all sorts of adventures by her little inner-emotion cartoons, Riley starts to lose parts of who she used to be. When those pieces of herself start to be lost, she stops being goofy, she withdraws from her parents, she cuts off her friends, and she abandons the sport she has loved her whole life. In a desperate attempt to try and find herself again, she decides to run away, back to a place where she was happy.

Through all of this, Joy has been desperately trying to keep Sadness at bay, to keep Riley from being sad, but Riley is so mixed up that she ends up not being able to feel anything.

She goes numb.

Until Sadness steps in.

When she was a child, Joy had always been able to cheer Riley up, but she can’t go from feeling numb to feeling joyful. She has to feel the sadness. The pain.

Because it’s part of life. It’s normal.

It’s not fun, but it’s normal. And as she realizes that the different emotions can mix and form new emotions, Riley rebuilds the pieces of herself.

Riley’s Personality Islands at the beginning of the movie

To be honest, I cried a lot during this movie. I remember those days of joy as a kid, and I remember feeling my world fall to pieces. And going numb. Except that I was numb for years. I didn’t get to rebuild thepieces of myself right away like Riley did. I didn’t start learning about those ‘new emotions’ until I was in my twenties.

And seeing the childhood that most people had, the emotions that they went through just hurt so much. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair what I lost, what I missed. My personality ‘islands’ broke and I was just blank for years.

Riley’s Personality Islands falling apart

My ‘Friendship Island’ turned into ‘Distrustful Island’. I shut down my ‘Athletic Island’ because people kept making fun of me whenever I would do anything athletic. And my “Girlie Island’ was completely buried under self-loathing and fear of attention. I used to love to wear pretty dresses and jewelry, and having my make-up put on for dance recitals was so much fun, but once that island broke, I ran from all of that. I couldn’t bring myself to be a little girl anymore. I hid behind baggy boys clothes in dark colors. Nothing bright, nothing that would draw attention.

And I want to open those islands back up. I don’t necessarily want to dance on a stage like I did when I was 5, but I’d like to have the confidence to take a Zumba class now and then, because I genuinely enjoy it. I don’t want to be so afraid of ridicule that I don’t go to the gym on the off-chance that other people will be

Riley’s re-built personality islands at the end of the movie

there. And I’d love to be girlie sometimes. Maybe wear a pretty hair clip. I’ve always wanted to dye streaks of color, like blue or purple, into my hair, but I’ve never had the courage to do it, because it draws attention, and that’s something I am so afraid of.

I know that life isn’t all Joy, and that’s okay. I just want to rebuild myself.

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Crying in Steak n Shake

We went out to breakfast yesterday morning and I told Rob all about what I realized at Lori’s.

And when I finished talking, I looked at him through my tears and he said the most perfect thing he could have. “I never thought that for a second” And he said it with this look of shock in his eyes, this almost startled blankness that you get when you are so caught off-guard, that I knew it was true.

And the tears just rolled down my face.

“For the longest time I felt that it was my fault. That I didn’t take good enough care of you and Jamie”

I never expected him to say that, so I’m sure I had the same dumb-founded look on my face when I said “I never thought that for a second”

And we held hands and cried in Steak n Shake, because that’s what we do.

 

Things I’m Thinking

I haven’t written in forever. Part of me thinks I haven’t wanted to write. It takes too much introspection. And I’m kind of scared of the introspection. To find out if I’m truly happy.

I’m happy with most things. I like my job. It has it’s bumps and it’s aggravations, but I like what I’m doing. I love my husband and our kitties are great. I have good friends but I do with I could see them more often.

I’m frustrated with some of the personal stuff. Our day-to-day. I wish we had more time than just a few hours in the morning. I wish we did more things together. I wish Robby would be more proactive about some things, like his therapy and helping with things around the house. I wish I had the chance (and the drive) to go to the gym.

I think the main thing, the thing that all these wishes have in common, is that I wish I didn’t have to be in charge all the time. I feel like I have to take the lead. I have to be the rock. I feel like I give more than 50% of this relationship. I know that relationships are supposed to be 100%-100%, and I truly feel like I give 100%, but I guess I don’t feel like I get that back. I’m really curious to see what that survey Lori gave us reveals (more about that later).

I guess I just want to feel taken care of.

At the beginning of our relationship, when we were dating, Robby did everything he could to take care of me. And any time I’ve ever struggled with the PTSD, he has been beyond caring, and I love that. I just want him to be caring and supportive all the time. He doesn’t have to do everything for me, and I don’t want to be treated like I’m made of glass, I just want to feel as though I’m in his arms, not like he’s standing by while I live in the relationship.

Little ‘T’ Trauma

Lori and I have been talking about my need to protect myself for the last few weeks, and my view on why I feel the need to protect myself, and she thinks that I am suffering from something called “Little ‘T’ (t) Trauma”.

Big T trauma (Trauma) is a horrific event. A person who is gang raped, someone who survived the 9/11 attacks, being in war. Something that would be horrifying to anyone. Something that you would expect anyone to get counseling for.

Little T trauma (trauma) is an ongoing scarring event. Being bullied your entire childhood, an overly critical parent, living in a household with an alcoholic or addict. Something that causes your reactions to become ingrained overtime into the very nature of you, so much so that you don’t even realize that you’re different.

Lori thinks–and it makes sense now that I look at it–that the extreme bullying and ostracization I experienced from 2nd grade on developed into a case of Little T trauma and I have never really recovered from it. It’s why sharing things about myself makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe. Why I don’t like to talk about myself, especially my struggles. Why I always feel as though I have to keep everyone at arms length and even have a hard time opening up to my husband and my family. Why I can’t for the life of me ask for help even when I know someone is treating me in a damaging way. Why I have this overwhelming fear of telling people what I need. Why I am terrified of showing any kind of weakness or flaw, because a part of me is just waiting for someone to turn that against me.

And I always thought that the kids who turned on me just liked him better. I thought they looked at my story (the truth: he abused me) and his story (the lie: I made up the story that he abused me to get him into trouble because I was ‘mad at him’ for him ‘breaking up’ with me in 1st grade) and just decided to take his side.

I thought it was a normal kid argument. You see it all the time: Kid A and Kid B argue, A says one thing, B says the opposite. The class takes sides. A few days (or hours) later, it’s all over and everyone is friends again.

But they never got over it.

They never decided to be my friends again.

I kept thinking ‘maybe this is the day they’ll be my friends’. Maybe this time they’ll include me. Maybe this time they won’t tease me. Maybe this time I won’t be the brunt of the joke. Maybe this time when I trust them, they won’t torture me. Maybe this time, maybe this time.

But this time never came.

Ever.

And I could never figure out why. I didn’t make sense. And I kept trying. For years. I know it sounds pathetic, but I just kept thinking that somehow, someday, I would discover the right thing to do, to say, something, anything to make it all go away. But it just never happened. They were always against me. It never got better, I just moved away.

And as I talked to Lori and told her that I could tie the bullying to the very day that I came to school and the kids had all turned against me because they believed him, she pointed out something I had never realized before. They only ever heard the lie.

After I told my parents what he had done to me, they held me out of school for a day. From what I know, they contacted the school and he was sent to a counseling session. I can clearly remember being terrified to go back to school. I didn’t want to face him. I didn’t want to face anyone. They were all going to judge me. I was convinced everyone would hate me. I know he had told me that everyone would hate me if I told, but my parents didn’t hate me, so I don’t know why I was so scared to go back to school, but man was I scared. I don’t remember if they kept me out a second day, or just part of a day, or what, but I remember them telling me that I didn’t have to tell anyone why I wasn’t there or what had happened. That it was nobody’s business but mine, and they didn’t need to know. That the teacher’s weren’t going to tell the students, and that he shouldn’t tell anyone either, so there was no reason to be scared to go back to school. So I went. But the moment I walked into the classroom, everything was different. I could feel the difference in the room, and I remember seeing the kids across the room whispering together and I immediately felt afraid. The girl–who until that day was my best friend–came up to me and said (in an extremely superior and condescending voice) “He told us what you did” and swear I could feel the world drop from under my feet. What I did?

What I did?! I had never been more confused in my life.

I asked her what she meant and that was when she told me. That he has told everyone that I made up the story that he had abused me just to get even with him because he had broken up with me the year before. I tried to tell her that I didn’t make up anything, but she didn’t believe me. She walked away and I remember standing there at my little yellow locker, just fighting down the panic and the sorrow.

I always figured that somehow the truth had gotten out and he had panicked and tried to counter it with the lie he told, and they chose him and the lie. But, as Lori pointed out, they probably never heard the truth. Other than that one little girl, I never talked to anyone. They never heard the truth. So, to them, his lie was fact. In the minds of all those kids, I was a vicious liar just trying to hurt their friend. I hate that anyone could think that I was capable of purposely hurting someone. Because the exact opposite is true. He hurt me. I was just trying to get help. It feels like he was punishing me for trying to get help.

And he didn’t even need to tell that lie. No one would have known why he was pulled out of school. There was no reason to do that other than to be malicious. He went to everyone before I was even back at school and told this giant lie just to purposefully hurt me. How can someone be that evil? I can accept that the abuse was a reaction to him being abused, but telling that lie was more damaging to me than anything else, and that was just done out of spite.

He cost me my childhood. I didn’t have a childhood, I barely survived it. And I can never get that back. And I just have to keep trying to heal, trying to recover from what he did to me. And it’s just so unfair because there is no justice. I never did anything wrong and I am left to pay the consequences. I am suffering. I have to work to heal, fight to heal, pay to heal. My life has been damaged, broken, and all I can do is live with it. More than anything, I just want justice and I feel like I will never get it.

Because I’m still living in this trauma. Still expecting everyone to be against me. Still feeling like it’s not safe to trust anyone, because the second I do, they’re going to turn on me. And legally there is no way to get justice. It’s past the statute of limitations. It doesn’t matter that he sexually abused me, it’s been too long. And in any case, there is no documentation because no case was ever opened (which makes me wonder if the school believed him). And I highly doubt there would be a way to get justice for the bullying that was caused because of his lie, even if I had reported it at the time. I hate knowing that he did these horrible things to me and got away with them.

I hate that the more I understand what happened to me the more broken I feel.

 

My Post Secrets

Few people know I was abused.

Fewer know that almost everyone believed his story that I was lying, causing me to lose all my friends.

Hardly anyone knows that I’m writing a book about the abuse, the lies, the bullying, and my recovery.

No one knows that I’m scared to try and find a publisher for my book because I’m afraid people will still believe his story.

And I’m a little afraid of what that says about my recovery.

How I Want To Feel About Myself

This afternoon was a pretty typical day at work. I helped some kids with homework, had a few kids act up, the usual. A little bit of frustration, but nothing that I couldn’t shake off. In fact, I was contemplating the idea of bringing Rob home a cupcake that one of the other teachers had leftover, just as a little treat to brighten both of our days, when I noticed that the trash bag I had just dragged down the hall was leaking chocolate milk.

Ugh.

The kids know they aren’t supposed to put milk in the trash. They know this. We tell them this every day when they (inevitably) try and sneak the half-empty milk carton or cereal bowl into the trash can simply to avoid having to deal with the mess. But it was too late, and now I had a mess to clean up. And I was frustrated.

Super frustrated.

It didn’t take all that long to clean up, maybe an extra 5-10 minutes, but for some reason it put me over the edge (probably because it meant I was now leaving work late, sweaty, and annoyed that the kids couldn’t throw the freaking milk away (!) ), and instead of processing it and just taking it in stride, I stress ate a cupcake to make myself feel better.

Then I had this moment where I realized what I had done. And I immediately felt worse.

I just ate a cupcake because there was some milk on the floor.

How immature of an attitude towards food is that? I know what a body needs to survive. I know how different types of food are broken down by our body and processed, and how each type is beneficial in its own way. I know how to count calories, fat, fiber, and anything else that can be counted (except carbs, never got that one down). I can explain the difference between white and wheat, wheat and whole grain. But when it comes to relating to food, I am like a four year old who wants ice cream because her balloon floated away.

I don’t think I ever truly learned how to relate to food. To me, food was a safe haven. It was a distraction from the awful reality I was facing. A comfort. A band-aid. Over the years it has grown into something that neighbors, or even mirrors my feelings.  There have been times in my life when things were so awful that I just couldn’t eat. I would go days, or even weeks with eating maybe the equivalent of 1 meal a day. And even then I would have to force myself to eat. Or Rob would check to make sure that I ate. More commonly, there are times when I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not actually hungry, I just want to eat. That my anxiety or nerves are so bad that all I want is one more mouthful of comfort. And even though I know that my body doesn’t need the food, I can’t convince my emotions that that is true.

I’ve always known that I’ve had a problem with food. That my habits weren’t quite ‘right’. Maybe they will be, someday.

Maybe someday I won’t want to eat because I’m depressed about how overweight I am.

Losing Myself

I hate feeling like I’m losing myself.

I used to be able to process things and work through them, now I have to shove them aside so that I don’t burst into tears. Then I come home and burst into tears. I’m not able to remain in control like I used to. I don’t have the confidence or the surety that I once had, and I hate that I’ve lost that. I know that it’s temporary, but in a way, it’s worse to know that I had it and now it’s (temporarily) gone. I feel as though I’ve become helpless. I know I used to be worse, but I never had a ‘better’ to compare it to. I never knew what I was missing.

And now I do, so while I’m trying to hold it together and make myself work through the situation, I also feel as if the former, stronger, part of me is trying to hold on but is slipping and can’t figure out why. It’s like losing the ability to do something you could always do. I’m losing that part of me that made me feel free. And that scares me more than I can put words to. And I hate that after all the work I have put in, it’s already slipping away. That I’m already slipping away. I’m so heartbroken.

I know this can be fixed, and that in time it will be fixed, but it’s just so hard. And I’m so tired of it being hard. I knew there would be some regression, but I didn’t think it would be this drastic, that it would hurt this much.

How Much Do I Share?

For so long I never shared anything with anybody, and to be honest I didn’t want to. But now I’m starting to want to share. To bond. When I first started wanting to share with my friends, I was terrified. I had no idea how to share. That was actually part of why I started this blog. I wanted to share myself but from a distance. Sharing myself through a blog with people I didn’t know just felt safer. It was a medium I could control.

Since starting EMDR I have been wanting more and more to share myself with the people in my life, but I haven’t known how. I’ve bonded with a few new people and told them the truth about my past. I’ve even shared pieces of my past at GIRL Time, but I’ve remained guarded. I’ve had the constant fear that sharing myself will cause someone to reject me, judge me or even use it as a reason to be against me. I’ve been afraid of meeting the same reactions I got when I was a child and not having the strength to withstand it, just like I couldn’t back then.

You see, I’m still developing my sense of self. When those kids rejected me, I couldn’t see that their reaction wasn’t because of who I was, and so I absorbed it. I took all the hate, judgement, and blame and turned it inside myself. I truly believed that I caused their reactions. That their reactions were an indicator of who I was, and they were simply reacting to that. Since they treated me like a dirty unworthy person, I believed that that was who I was. And I carried that with me. For years, I truly believed that I was an unworthy person. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of praise. Unworthy of any positive reaction from anybody. I still struggle with the idea that I deserve praise for my achievements, even when I know–on some level–that I truly have done a good job.

But through the EMDR I have started to get to know myself. I have started to strip away the words those children thrust onto me and I’m starting to see the person that has been trapped all these years. But I’m still growing in myself. Instead of being a young woman, confident in who she is, I am still learning who I am. I am still protecting myself, learning to be proud of who I am, be sure of who I am. Because I want to share. I want to open up. I know that not everyone I open up to is going to love me, or even like me, and that is okay. I don’t need that. I don’t need their approval. All I need is to have the confidence to stand firm in who I am, and if a day comes when someone reacts poorly to what I share, I won’t backslide and lose myself. Instead, I will have the strength, the knowledge, and the self-confidence to know that their reaction belongs to them alone.

It does not define me.

Thinking about Work

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is work. I left my last job in October of 2011 because my PTSD had gotten so severe (now that I think of it, I think I was in a ‘self-neglect’ phase) that I was almost suicidal.

My job had started off really well. I was a bookseller at Half-Price Books and I was really loving it for the first few months. For the first time I had a full time job that I was enjoying and I was even making friends. My boss really seemed to like me and she and the other managers had been giving me good reviews. I was highly optimistic about my future there.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong or when. We were dealing with a ton during that time. Rob had just been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and we were adjusting to the new life that comes with that diagnosis. In addition to having to learn to manage the bi-polar, Rob was also taking full-time classes AND working full time. I was trying to help Rob as best as I could adjust and was helping him with his classes to lighten his load. With both of us working full time we hardly ever saw each other, especially because we often ended up working opposite shifts or having different days off. Also, we moved in July and in August my parents said they couldn’t take care of my dog anymore so he needed to come live with us, but a few days after him getting here the apartment people told us he wasn’t allowed so I had to make hurried arrangements to move him back to my parents house and pay for them to care for him. Oh, and also sometime during all that we had to battle fleas.

So I slowly started slipping into my ‘self-neglect’ phase, but I was trying so hard to fight it. I started seeing Sheila every week and that seemed to help for a while, but I guess not enough. My boss-Ginny- started treating me oddly. She switched my schedule, along with a few other workers, around to shifts that she knew we didn’t want. She stopped talking to me in the break room. Anytime I spoke to her she was curt and seemed irritated with me. I had no idea what was going on. I tried to give her space and just do my work. Then she started criticizing everything I did. When a customer was rude she scolded me for not being a better employee, even when the same customer had given several other employees problems just moments before. Things like that just kept happening. And I had no idea why.

I asked some of my co-workers who I was (am) friends with, and they said that Ginny just did that sometimes. She just seemed to go through stages where she tried to get rid of people and to just hang in there, she would stop eventually. That it had happened to them.

But it hurt, I felt like I was being singled out for no reason. I felt bullied. One day she called me into her office and said that my attendance had been poor and if I called in again I would be put on probation (oh, I forgot to mention that during this time my migraines were changing and I was being heavily monitored by my doctor, and my grandmother had been suddenly admitted to the hospital for heart failure and was not expected to make it through the night so I rushed to see her. Surprisingly she is still alive today.) I really think that conversation was the final straw for me. I went on my lunch break and cried hysterically in my car for the entire hour. I felt awful. I knew that my attendance wasn’t exemplary and I needed to do better, but the PTSD immediately made me feel trapped. I just wanted to do my job, but every second was a struggle.

I fought through the next week, minute to minute, crying most of the day even while working. Trying desperately to hide it from my co-workers and the customers. Trying desperately to shove my feelings down. But they just got worse. Every day I walked into the store I felt more like a caged animal, starting to go insane, wanting to scream and tear at the bars. One night I talked to Rob and told him how bad it had gotten. I had been keeping a lot from him, especially about Ginny’s treatment of me, because I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to admit how bad it was. But I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I told him I needed to quit. I didn’t want to, but I needed to. I finally got my courage up to tell Rob how broken I was and that I had let it get too bad. So bad that I needed to leave my job. That I was sorry, that I wanted to fix it, but I felt the only course of action was to quit and regroup.

He listened to me. He asked if he could do anything to help. He was supportive but I could tell he was antsy about me quitting. Later that night I came downstairs to see him crying. It felt like I had been stabbed. I felt like I had let him down. I knew that I had made a mistake. I knew I shouldn’t have let things get as bad as they had, that I should have said something sooner, but it was too late and I had to deal with things as they were. And I knew he was worried about money. But I couldn’t go back. But I couldn’t hurt him either.

I hugged him and told him I was sorry. That I would make it work. To forget what I had said. And I tried to bury it. To push it down.

And the next day I went to work.

I cried most of the day in the back room while working with the stock. I had to take a Lorazepam just to walk into the store, then another one at lunch. I think I took another 1 or maybe 2 during the day too. I know it was a ridiculous amount of medicine. And I was still on the verge of a panic attack the entire day.

After work I dropped something off to Rob at his work and I mentioned to him again that I needed to quit my job. I told him my day was awful and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what he said but the gist was that we couldn’t swing it. I nodded and as I started to drive away I burst into tears. When I got home I took off my work clothes and threw them on the floor by the door. I wanted to be as far from my job as possible. In my underwear, I went upstairs and crawled into bed where I sobbed, literally sobbed, until I got a text. And then another.

They were from Sheila and my mom. I guess Rob had seen my face as I drove away, because he immediately got in touch with them, letting them know he was worried about me and that they should contact me. It was good he did. I wasn’t planning anything, but I felt so trapped. I didn’t feel as if I had a way out of my life. I texted with Sheila and talked to my mom, and when Rob got home we decided that quitting Half-Price was the right thing. I called the next morning and quit. My mom came up and returned my name badge so I didn’t have to go to the store, and I spent the day crying and trying to pull myself together.

That was my last job. I had thought that it would be impossible to keep a job with the PTSD, that eventually they would all make me feel trapped. But now I have the possibility of a future without PTSD. I could have a job. But I’m still scared. I know that some (most?) of that is residual from Half-Price.

Sheila and Lori have suggested taking the job thing in little steps. One step that I thought of is to make a list of things that I want from a job. Here is what I have so far.

My Job Should

  1. have a greater purpose than money
  2. not fill more time than my time with Robby
  3. still allow me to go to church

Basically, I want a job that means something. I don’t want a job just to have a job. I’ve worked at Kroger and Walmart just to earn money and it didn’t work out. I want to go to work each day and feel that what I do is important and makes a positive impact on the world. I would love to teach somewhere.

The second requirement is harder to explain. I don’t mind working. Rob already works 40hrs a week, so I don’t see him then anyways. I just don’t want to work opposite hours of him all the time because then we would never see each other and our relationship would suffer. Ideally, I would only work 1-2 shifts opposite him.

Finally, I want to be able to attend church. If not every week, then at least most weeks. Church is very important to me and I love not only going, but teaching there as well. I don’t want to lose that from my life. I think it is something I really need.

I don’t think my list should be too hard to fulfil, and I hope that it helps me find the right job. Because I do want to work. I just want to find the right work.

Trying to Let It Go

It has been several months since I last wrote.

EMDR has been going well. Hard, but well, and I’ve been feeling extremely overwhelmed. We’ve been dealing with a multitude of very heavy subjects, from adoption decisions to financial struggles, and it has really worn me down. I know I haven’t been taking care of myself like I should, and not writing falls into that category. Ironically, the things that help me cope, like writing, are the first things I let slip when I am struggling. I will withdraw withing myself while simultaneously neglecting my personal needs. Usually, I will just keep slipping, slowly going downhill until I reach a breaking point before I can finally break out of the negative cycle.

But I am trying to remedy that.

I want to heal. That’s why I started this entire blog. This entire journey, the EMDR, all of it. And I guess part of healing is learning to recognize and address my negative cycles, and I think the first step is starting to write again. When I get to the ‘self-neglect’ stage, it’s like I come up against this inner block. It’s not that I don’t want to write, because I do. Desperately. But there is just this wall I seem to hit inside that won’t let me feel anymore. Like I’ve reached my feeling quotient and I have to stop.

Have you seen the movie Frozen? Elsa is trying to run from something inside of her and she says “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”. When Rob and I saw that movie in theaters I had to work really hard not to cry because her words were exactly what I have been feeling. I don’t want to, but it’s as if I am full and can’t take anymore, and so I just start to shut down.

But I need to do what Elsa does and let it go. I need to be okay with the fact that people know that I am a broken person. It’s part of what makes me who I am, and I want to be (am trying to be) proud to share who I am. Because I want to see what I can do. I want to let it go.