On Living Out Loud

I used to be shy.

At kindergarten open house, I was so terrified of the newness surrounding me that I clung to my mom’s waist, pulling down her skirt in the process. My kindergarten photo is of me sitting in a corner, with a pouty lip, refusing to look at the camera. This is the photo that is splashed over the majority of my artwork and projects from that year.

As time passed, I came out of my shell as far as socializing. But I still wasn’t a very forthcoming person. I liked to hide my vulnerabilities and pass it off as if everything was OK, even if it was anything but. Letting my walls down wasn’t ever something I excelled at. It’s hard to believe, but I used to be fairly private when it came to the tough parts of life.

So when I came out of the sobriety closet over four years ago, it took a hell of a lot of courage. I initially opened up for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to carry the weight of a secret anymore. With each day that passed, I felt like I was being dragged further and further down by hiding this enormous part of myself from the people in my life.

When I made the choice to be vocal about my sobriety, I made the choice to put it all out there. In the time since, I’ve made that same choice with my relationship, with my depression and anxiety, with my body image struggles. In fact, I can be a bit of an oversharer. I know this. Yet I continue to share.

Each time I write something in which I am vulnerable, each time I post something personal on Facebook, I have to work myself up to it. It still doesn’t come naturally, even after four years of being that way. I still constantly wonder what people think of me. I wonder if they think I’m ridiculous for sharing as much as I do. I wonder if they dislike me for being a vocal person.

And all those fears come true each time someone says something negative about what I share. I wish it didn’t get to me, but it does. Recently someone accused me of only sharing what I share because I want attention. That comment stung. If I wanted attention, I’d have a lot of other ways to go about it. Faking becoming an alcoholic or faking a mental health struggle is far from the top of my list of ways to get attention. In fact, I so often wish I wasn’t an alcoholic, that I didn’t struggle with depression or anxiety. I often wish I was a normal, level-headed person who could go out and have a beer with dinner. But I’m not.

Because of small comments like these, I’ve backed off social media a little bit for the past few weeks (yes, I know, I’ve still posted more frequently than most people. I’m trying though!) I’ve found myself wishing that I had never started being so public in my struggles because it opens me up to hurtful comments. When one person voices something negative, I convince myself that everyone else thinks the way that person does.

But in stepping back a little bit, I’ve realized that speaking out about my struggles, whether with alcohol or depression or my relationships,  has become an integral part of the human being I am today. When I’m not honest with other people, I tend not to be honest with myself. And I need to be honest with myself, or I find myself slipping back into a not good state of mind.

But it’s more than that, too.  I enjoy being honest with other people because it makes a difference to them. I receive messages almost daily from people seeking advice on sobriety, wanting to know how to cope with anxiety, looking for motivation to better their physical selves. And for some ridiculous reason, I let one person’s negative comments overshadow the evidence that people do appreciate the honesty.

The bottom line is that I’m not going to stop sharing about the topics close to me, the good and the bad aspects.

If someone I love dies, I’ll talk about it.

If I relapse, I’ll talk about it.

If I struggle with infertility someday, I’ll talk about it.

If I lose the love of my life, I’ll talk about it.

If I lose sight of my physical health, I’ll talk about it.

If I get fired, I’ll talk about it.

I’m not going to stop talking just because a few people don’t want to listen. And to all of you who do listen, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

 

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