There is real power in repeated mantras. There is real power in saying out loud the thing you have trouble believing on the inside. There is real power in writing down the truths you know you should believe, but your heart needs convincing. I know all of this because I live it all the time. I live it when I talk to myself alone in the car talking myself out of an anxiety spiral, I live it when I tell my reflection I’m a human worthy of value no matter my size, I live it when I write positive messages to myself in my bullet journal, I live it when I write on this blog openly about normalizing mental health.
And yet…my internal voices are still a bunch of fucked of monsters who tear me down and beat me up constantly.
When the world was talking about Adele’s weight loss I spent a lot of time on a well-crafted Facebook post reminding my circle of influence that discussions of stranger’s weight loss are no better than discussions of weight gain. That the only way we can counter the messages of the dozens of industries that make money off us hating our bodies is to never discuss them in that way. Because every woman who sees/hears someone talking about how AMAZING she looked and how PROUD they were with her weight loss (without knowing her personal story) gives themselves 30 lashes of self-hatred for not doing the same.
And yet, deep inside my soul, I find myself terrified that people are constantly noticing and discussing my weight gain. I preach the talk about resisting the messaging of the industries of profit off self-hate and yet under those mantras I hate myself still. Maybe not as much as 5 years ago? But definitely not as little as I make it seem on the outside.
If I had a dollar for every tweet or instagram or Facebook or blog post that I wrote about normalizing mental health care I’d be rich. I’m such a fount of that kind of messaging that I’m the person people come too when they’re trying to find mental health treatment. I have given dozens of people guidance and instructions in how to navigate mental health care, what to look for, and to never feel shame about not sticking with a therapist they don’t click with. My Facebook friends and the people who read my blog have read my many words about the ups and downs of anxiety and depression and the dark places I have found myself and the ways I’ve struggled to find the light.
And yet? I still feel immense shame talking about the reality of it all to my immediate family. I think I absolve myself by saying, “Well, I mean, they could read it on my blog if they wanted…” but, you know, I don’t encourage anyone in my immediate family to read my blog. I preach the “NORMALIZE MENTAL HEALTH!” message from the mountaintops of social media, but I only hint about the truths using whispered voices when discussing it in my own home.
I yell to the rooftops about how domestic chores and parenting responsibilities should not rest solely on the shoulders of the female and yet I get all defensive when my husband sweeps the floor and in my head I’m constantly saying, “Why is he doing that? Does he think I don’t do a good enough job? Does he think I’m lazy?” I am constantly talking about how the most important job we have as anti-racist white people is to call out racism in our immediate circle and yet my 14-year old daughter is bolder in those type of conflicts than I am. I rant constantly about people in my neighborhood who don’t put out monthly recycling, and yet when I’m feeling desperate or lazy I just throw a bottle in the nearby garbage instead of carrying it home with me.
I’ve always kinda prided myself on not posting perfectly poised photos on instagram. I show my blotchy skin and my messy counters and my frizzy hair and think I’m being real because I have honestly muted women on instagram before who post pictures who make me hate myself. And I don’t want to be that woman. But it hit me recently…that I’m still very different deep down from who I try to be on the outside. Part of this is my efforts to try to manifest those changes by saying the things out loud that I want to believe all the way to my core. Part of this is because I can curate the external messaging when the internal is outside my control. Those voices just pop up with their own messages without letting me proof them for accuracy first.
A blogger I adore recently posted an instagram post about how she was going back to therapy because her internal voices are telling her she’s terrible and I just crumbled on the inside because…well…I didn’t know that about her. She is truly someone I admire and look to for inspiration and to know…deep down inside…she has those evil voices, it just made me so sad.
But then I realized, there’s a huge disconnect between my external voice and my internal voice as well. It’s deliberate in the sense that I want to use the notes I write in my bullet journal and the words I put on my blog and the social media posts to help re-program a lot of my internal voices. And it does help, I’ve seen my internal voices change quite a bit over the years. (Something I’m deeply reminded of simply reading my posts from 2004.) But there’s still a disconnect. I’m still a fucking mess on the inside. When I’m alone in the car I’m talking to myself, trying to talk myself down off of self-hatred ledges. I still have to shut down the voices that shame me in the shower because I have fat-roll chaffing. I still temper all of my personal discussions of my mental health with immediately family with jokes and reassurances because I don’t want the truth to scare them and I’m ashamed I can’t be the whole person on the inside they depend on on the outside.
I guess I just wanted to document it somewhere: I AM STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS. I am still trying to take all of my tools learned in therapy and from my psychiatrist to work on the internal voices that like to beat me up. I’m still trying to shut down the corrupt messaging from a misogynist culture and industries profiting off my despair. I’m still working to get rid of the shame around my own anxiety and depression. I’m still trying to be brave deep in my heart like I publicly demand of the world around me. I am still – 20 times a day – yelling at the voices deep inside my soul telling me I’m useless, I’m cruel, I’m hideous, I’m selfish, everyone I love deserves better.
I’m still trying to believe the words I preach to the world.