Musings

I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

Musings

Creativity in Hindsight

Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.penandink

When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.

But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood,  that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.

Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Musings

Odd Child

I was an odd child. Ever since I was very young, I have wrestled with existential issues.

Birthdays have always been torture. Parties would often both begin and end with me crying in my bedroom, trying to forget that everyone there was focusing on me, so eventually I didn’t have them anymore. It bothered me to get older, even when I was small. I was aware of the “normal”achievements of a child valuemy age and it bothered me that I was behind. I’m six years old and I can’t read. I’ve done nothing with my life. Great, another year and no progress. Why are we celebrating my survival of another trip around the sun? It’s not that big of a deal.

But I’ve decided I’m not doing that this year. This has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve been depressed for most of it. I’ve changed more than I ever thought I could. There have been so many times when I just wanted to give up. When I felt nothing and the numbness was overwhelmingly cold and the only hope was that of an afterlife. There have been times when I felt far too much, but the emotions didn’t feel real until I gave them a physical manifestation; a physical pain to mirror and validate the emotional pain. There have been times when I was terrified for no discernible reason. I started having panic attacks. Dots connected that painted a heartbreaking picture and all I wanted to do was forget. But I survived.

I’ve learned more about myself and my tastes. I’ve had crushes for the first time in my life. I’ve been incredibly confused about said crushes. I’ve grown as a writer and a person. I’ve gotten to act and sing. I’ve been published. I’ve connected with people. I’ve learned some things I need to do to take care of myself.

I’m not over my depression or self harm. It’s a constant fight. I’m not done by any means, but I’m learning to accept my feelings as valid without needing a reason or explanation.

For now, I’m going to celebrate surviving another year.

Musings

Vampire Legs

A purple striped tank top hung from a pipe in the steamy laundry room. At the top of a stack of shorts lay a matching purple pair. “Why can’t I wear them anymore?” She was young. All she knew was that purple was far superior to pink, and short clothes were much cooler in the summer. The green shorts could go. Blue too. But why did the purple ones have to be gone. “They aren’t modest. A boy could look at you and think about not nice things if he sees too much of your skin.” Modesty wasn’t a concept she really understood, but she didn’t want anyone to think of bad things when they looked at her body.

Face down on the couch, matted brown hair clinging to her sweaty neck. Her legs and feet, propped up on the armrest, were covered in a layer of dust. “Why couldn’t I have been a boy? I should have been a boy.” She adjusts a new, uncomfortable, sports bra. Boys don’t have to wear stupid bras. Boys can wear whatever they want. Even her name was better for a boy.

In a closet consisting of tshirts and men’s jeans, the only indicators that this isn’t the wardrobe of a teenage boy are two denim skirts and a few worn out sports bras. If clothes are meant to cover your shame, they should also obscure every indicator of what type of body is hidden underneath. Tight could be more revealing than low cut, after all.

“You didn’t bring any shorts? I could get you some when I go to walmart later.” A young woman hikes through the woods with her camp counselor on a muggy June day. “No, I like jeans. They protect your legs from thorns and keep ticks off.”

Thud. Squish. Mud makes the trail slick, but that’s what the walking stick is for. She lead a group of young girls down through the woods. It had been cool and raining nearly constantly all week, so her one pair of knee length cut-off shorts hadn’t made an appearance until today. “You have vampire legs.” One girl remarks about the utter paleness of the young woman’s legs.

A group of young people sit around a table discussing fundraising ideas. “What about a car wash? It’s cliche, but we could have the girls wear bikinis– and the guys could wear speedos if they wanted.” She lets out a mirthless laugh “Trust me, no one wants to see this.

A few college friends stand around outside a movie theater. It’s warm, but not uncomfortably so. Summer has just begun and already she has a slight tan on her shoulders, there’s even some warmth on her legs. “What are you talking about? You have great legs.” She blushes and scoffs, but doesn’t refute the complement. The idea of any of her body parts being “good” is still a foreign concept, but she’s learning the language.

She sits and looks at the clothes draped over the ubiquitous “laundry chair.” Are there any shirts with sleeves left? Only a couple that fit. It’s funny how the clothes can change, but the mentality of shame can stay around even when it hasn’t been fed in years.

Hey asshole. There’s no room for you here. The food’s all gone, the party’s over. Go home. I have new friends now and none of us need you. You and your squad convinced us we couldn’t live without you, but you were wrong. Everything you had to offer was a lie. Now we can see you for what you are; a dirty, soul-sucking parasite. Hell bent on making us weak enough to look for strength and then convincing us that you had the answers. But guess what. Despite your best efforts to convince us that our bodies and everything about our personhood was worthless and shameful, we stand together and spit in your face.

Get the hell out of my life.

Kaythanxbi.

Farm and Family, Musings

Pieces: Big Fur Coat

TW: self harm, self hate

Depression’s like a big fur coat,
It’s made of dead things but it keeps me warm ~ Iodine, Icon for Hire

(Internal monologue) No, you don’t need to tell anyone about this. It will only make them feel bad, or ashamed, or remember their own pain. It’s not that big of a deal. No, you do need to talk about it. Isn’t that reluctance a sign that it needs to be out in the open? Some people may not understand the thought process behind it, and they need to know that it can be nearly invisible. And I need people to know this about me. Deep breath.

I struggle with depression and self harm. I don’t remember not hating myself. As a small child I hated that I couldn’t learn to read or ride a bike. As a preteen I hated that I was a girl, that I had feelings that I couldn’t understand or express, and that I had night terrors. As a teen I had successfully turned off all handflowersemotions except hate and anger, but it wasn’t acceptable to express those, so I aimed them at myself as best as I could. I wasn’t always successful in this though, so my self loathing grew stronger. I couldn’t keep up with all of the things I was supposed to do as a good Christian girl. If I couldn’t even function in this obviously basic lifestyle, of what value was I?

I called a friend the other day and cried for a couple of hours. I had never told anyone about my depression or self harm. It wasn’t very visible. I was ashamed of my feelings. The feelings of loathing and worthlessness were so huge that they would fill me, and I had to find a physical manifestation. I wanted to cut, but I was so scared that someone would find out if I did anything that looked so deliberate. So I got very clumsy. I am naturally a clumsy person, I think it has something to do with the combination of being tall and having tiny duck feet. But this was purposeful. I would punch brick walls and “rap my knuckles.” I would kick brick walls and “stub my toe.” I would hit my head on, yeah, brick walls and “have a headache” (I often did have headaches). The closest I got to cutting was biting my fingers. I always hated how my hands looked, so I didn’t care if there were scars or scabs. Those could be explained away easily too. I love climbing trees and working with my hands, stuff happens.

Learning to love myself has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t control my urges to act on my feelings. I couldn’t keep up with my “Christian disciplines.” I couldn’t do enough to make a difference in the world. My self worth was based on what I did or didn’t do. It wasn’t until someone told me that I was good enough and in control that I even considered either of those to be possibilities. When someone else told me that I had beautiful hands I laughed in their face, but it was another mile marker.

I’m still learning to see the good in myself. I love my hair and my eyes. I’ve figured out some things that make me feel not just like a girl, but pretty. I am a good writer. I have deep, poetic thoughts, and people like to hear them sometimes. I have accepted these things about myself, but what’s harder to accept is the fact that they aren’t consistent. Not everything I write has to be perfect, and that’s ok. My hair is a mess a lot of the time, but it has so much personality I love it anyway.

I wish I could say that I am past self harm. And I was for a while. But I have relapses. I slip back into patterns that should never have been in the first place. Part of me doesn’t want to write about it until I’m healed. But then, part of me thinks that sharing about my pain may be part of my healing. It’s just so damn hard to trust anyone when those closest to you are the ones that hurt you.

Farm and Family, Musings

Pieces: What Was That?

We throw tantrums like parties
We’re not happy ’til everyone knows we’re sick
And that’s just how we like it
We’ve hurt bad enough, right, we’ve earned it ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. I’ve been thinking about it for months. I haven’t been able to write anything because it’s been in the forefront of my mind, taking up all of the space. I hate writing about things that aren’t resolved. You write what you know, not what you don’t know. But sometimes we don’t know what the thesis statement is for a period of our lives.

I want to start out by saying that I love my parents. They were tricked by people who they viewed as authorities, who themselves had been tricked. But I can’t let that love keep me from telling my story.

Illusion_by_nondani

I read a website called Homeschoolers Anonymous. I would say I enjoy reading it, but that sounds wrong. It is full of stories of former homeschool students who have escaped the fundamentalist environment where they were abused, and how transitioning to life on the outside has been. It’s sick. It’s demented. The things that have been done in the name of Christ are abhorrent.

I read it for the same reason they write it. To validate our past experiences. Sometimes the stories are almost identical to my own, but not usually. They are usually much more abusive and extreme. There are aspects that I can relate to, but the intensity of it makes my empathy ache.

For a time this contrast made me question my analysis of my childhood. Was it really that bad? Was that really abuse? I mean, I only remember one short period of time when any of my siblings were bruised from spanking. I was only hit a handful of times because I was older when we started following a fundamentalist lifestyle. But then, if it wasn’t abuse, why do I still show signs of an abuse survivor? Why do I feel so validated by songs like Get Well by Icon for Hire or Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling? Why do I still have such a hard time letting myself have platonic relationships, let alone harbor the thought of a long term romantic relationship? Trust issues and self harm don’t just happen without a reason.

A dear friend told me the other day, “Just because someone else had it worse doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to hurt.” This is hard to believe sometimes. I don’t want to marginalize the experience of others. But I have to remind myself that it’s not a contest. Just because I was never beaten doesn’t mean I wasn’t abused. Emotional abuse can be very invisible, but have the same results as a belt. My parents didn’t hit me, but the way they made me feel lead me to hit myself.

Don’t tell the others but it’s all getting old
I mean how many more times must our stories be told?
And being lonely’s only fun in a group
It sort of loses it’s charm when it’s true ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

Books and Movies, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Saying “No” Isn’t Weak

Volumes of Rows is the only story I’ve ever finished, and I only finished it because it had to get out of my head. I came up with it as I was shelving in the library one day. Have you ever compressed a stack of paper and then let it go really fast? It makes this ominous creak that almost sounds like breathing. Now, our library isn’t all that large, so I knew I was nearly always in sight of the circulation desk, were something to happen. But what if I was alone? What if that creak actually was the books coming to life, but since someone can always see them, they can’t move? I came home that day and wrote down what played out in my head. The next week I had a gut check when I noticed that someone had left the large quilt book out.

After I finished trying to trip my sister, Meg, as she was learning to walk, I decided to torture her by other means. I attempted to convince her that aliens were going to come in our nearly two story high window, turn her brains to oatmeal and eat them with a straw. Now Meg, being very level headed and logical, had no reason to believe in aliens. I, on the other hand… have always had a very vivid imagination. I convinced myself of what I failed to convince my sister.

LimitsFor the past two years I have spent the weekends of October working at a corn maze. If you’ve ever been to a corn maze, you probably realise that there is a lot more to the attraction than a maze of maize. This particular maze features several rides and playthings, including a fairly tall zip-line. This year I worked the top of the line. I will admit, I wouldn’t have ridden this thing when I was little. I’ve never liked heights. As you can probably imagine, there were a lot of kids who would take one look and opt for the much shorter version. Most of the time the parents would suggest that they try the big line anyway. I loved it when a child who was scared at first grew to love the ride. You enjoy something so much more when you work for it. Seeing children overcoming obstacles is one of my favorite things. There’s a nearly visible shine on their faces.

Then there were the Shamers. The parents who would say some variation of “Don’t be a baby,” “He’s braver than you are,” or “Don’t be a sissy.” Some of these kids would eventually give in to their parents jeering. But some didn’t, and I applaud them all. The ones who did try because they faced their fears and the ones who didn’t because they took a stand. They didn’t give into name calling and pressuring. They ruled themselves and made their own decisions, even when those decisions weren’t popular. They set limits they were comfortable with. They had the strength to say “no.” Of course, they may later regret not riding. But, that’s part of growing up and making choices. You can allow yourself to be haunted by the Might’aves and the Should’aves, or you can learn from the experience.

My mind can be an eerie place. Because of this I have to be careful about reading or watching paranormal sci-fi or horror. If I give it the wrong encouragement, my imagination will run rampant and I can quickly lose control. There are times when I prefer movies to books, simply because my mind isn’t confined to a screen like a film is. I miss out on some things because I don’t enjoy certain types of entertainment. But I’m ok with that. To live a healthy life, you have to recognise your limits.