I just got off the phone with my dad, who recently turned a very young seventy-three. He's been a font of wisdom for the book I'm working on now, even though some of the questions I ask are super strange. But I don't try to explain things, especially about this book, because the only way anyone could follow my train of thought on it is by listening to me talk about it for a solid hour, or two, or reading it. Which means I need to write it.
At the end of our conversation, he told me that he and my mom had watched the video post I put up about my worst New Year's ever, and he was worried because he thought I sounded sad still, after all these years.
First of all, collective AWWWWW! because that is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard.
Secondly, it kicked off a conversation about the things I share publicly, and why.
I'm as authentic as I can be, in person and online. Authenticity is important to me. I don't just want to show you the happy shiny things that happen in my life, I want to share the not so awesome things as well. Sometimes, because professionalism is also important to me, I can't or won't share those things. But other times, like when I'm talking about that boy that dumped me when I was nineteen? I can share ALL THE THINGS.
Flashback. It was just a really terrible time. My heart was broken. I was already skinny, but every time I saw him, even from far off, I had to throw up. I got down to about 85 pounds. I also had this zit that MOVED IN on my right cheek and didn't want to go away. I had a little scar there for years. (It's gone now, and is the one case in which gravity has treated me kindly.)
I don't know if it was a result of the break up, or just the beginning of a lifelong (so far) battle, but it was around this time I had my first serious depressive episode. That's back when people didn't talk about those things, but my roommate and friends knew something was wrong. Even my teachers knew something was wrong. I was in a (don't laugh) Human Sexuality class that semester (okay laugh) that was given by one of the psych teachers, and one day he asked if he could talk to me privately.
He'd noticed the weight loss, and the bags under my eyes, and probably the fact that my sassy mouth had taken a vacation. A looooooong vacation. He recommended me to the school psychologist.
I guess part of me should have been horrified that my sadness was so apparent, but y'all, I just remember being so relieved. I saw the counselor, and the main thing I learned from him is that I'm not responsible for other people's emotions and reactions. I'm responsible for MINE. It took a while, but things got better.
It was a break up. Not that big of a deal in hindsight. But at the time, for ME, it was the most catastrophic thing that could've happened.
Flashforward to my convo with my dad. I explained to him that since I write about teens, I mine from my own teen experiences. My life worked out exactly the way it was supposed to, and I have a husband I love and two boys I adore and a career I used to dream about. It's all good up in here.
But if I can take an experience, remember the sadness and brokenness, and look at the process that got me through, and then LAUGH about it? Or better yet, make YOU laugh about it? Then I truly believe I am doing what I was created to do.
It doesn't matter what you're going through, or how it compares to things others around you are going through, it's your experience. It shapes you. For me, that experience gave my depression a name, and a way to cope with it. It gave me the tools I needed to see it coming when it happened again.
It also let me know that I could most certainly come out swinging, and laughing, on the other side of a bad experience.
And you know what? So can you.