Is That it?

Overnight, the stretch marks appeared with the presence of breasts, hips, and a deeply rooted sense of fear. I, like many women do, became the object of sexual fantasy and gratification from one day to the next. Overnight, my body was no longer my own. Everyone had a comment. Days of running and playing carefree were gone.

The first time I felt afraid and powerless was when I was fifteen. When boys- boy my age- felt it was okay to grab me or pin me down. In the dressing room. By my mother’s car. On a school field trip. Young boys. The ones who were taught that a woman’s body was theirs to explore and command. He touched me and said “juicy.” A state of shock and stillness overcame me, then I laughed. He pinned me down in a room full of friends, put my arms over my head and got on top. Both fully clothed. Both kids. I tried to move and couldn’t budge. My muscles weak. He leapt across the room when he heard the door handle turn. My mom was a chaperone. They all laughed. I laughed. Two of them grabbed my arms. Unable to move. My wrist hurt. My mom walked back from pumping gas. They stopped. They laughed. 

Is that it?

Since being ushered into womanhood, the fear hasn’t stopped. But it wasn’t a big deal. None of it was. School trip hotel rooms turned into parties. Parties turned into dance clubs and bars. Bars into sidewalks. Bruises come and go as a result of being handled like a toddler’s favorite toy. Dancing is not an invitation to be grabbed and groped. When Whitney Houston came on, it wasn’t an invitation to have you leave a black and blue imprint on my body for days to come. When the music ends, the dance is done. It’s over when I stop the music.

But did he actually hurt you though?

A deep sense of shame and self-loathing comes with being looked at for one thing. I desperately wanted a smaller chest and to change the way I move my hips as I walk because a Latina’s hips are like a welcome mat, calling to so many of you. Instead I gained weight and kept it on. My attire, though always quirky, became overcome with graphic tees. They’re looking at what’s on my shirt, not what’s under it. While it kept some boys away, it brought on a new set of problems- you’d be prettier if you lost some weight. Why don’t you have a boyfriend? My worth, still determined by my proximity to man.

Didn’t you like him?

Blame. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? It’s funny because not once did I blame these boys (or the countless others) because they’re good guys. Some of them really are. Some of them I don’t know but maybe they are and they just made a mistake.

If only I hadn’t dressed like that.

If only I hadn’t joked like that.

If only I hadn’t challenged him like that.

If only I didn’t have that last drink.

If only I could remember.

If only I left 10 minutes earlier.
Not all guys are like that.

Social media is a beast because it makes it harder to separate them. A casual chat turned to unwanted advances turned to being called “aggressive” and “condescending” when all I wanted was to turn down sexual advances. His entitlement and misunderstanding of how to speak to a woman respectfully left him feeling cheated. I owed him something. Freshman year of college, a guy bought me coffee and a bagel. I owed him something. Fast forward five years, a guy bought me a drink. I owed him something.

Since then, this old friend has gone on to apologize profusely. I thanked him. He’s one of the good ones. To the guys that meet such acts as this (or the Weinstein scandal or Woody Allen or a seeing a friend being grabbed without consent or or or) with silence, I’m sorry we are not enough. Maybe you’ll get it when you have a daughter. I hear you get a handbook at the first clubhouse meeting.

And while I’ve always had a good group of guy friends- some of which I never knew if they wanted to fuck me or friend me- I looked to them a lot to “save” me. In order to keep from being harassed at a club, I tend to grab my nearest dude and pretend we’re together. Because a guy won’t fuck with another guy’s girl. That’s called respect.

If growing up in this highly misogynistic and patriarchal society has taught me anything, it’s that women are everything. And then some. I used to think more women equals more targets. I used to be teased by other women for being friends with some of the actual good guys. We are not in competition. We are not here for them. We are resilient and triumphant. We are intelligent and funny. We are beautiful and sexy (on our own terms). We are supportive and kind. We don’t need to share our stories to be warriors. We don’t need to keep quiet to be strong. We are in this together. We save ourselves. We will smack the shit out of guys in a club together and walk out hand in hand. We will fight day in and day out. We are better together. We are not asking for it. We are worthy of love. We are enough. 

Her. Him. Them. We. Me too.

 

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Car Troubles

Hi. Hello. I know it’s been awhile- a couple months to be moderately exact. And to the two readers out there (bless your heart), I am deeply sorry. I want to be good and consistent but I suck at this. I can say I’ve been busy and that I just haven’t had time but we both know that’s bullshit. I mean, it’s true in the sense that my free time comes in the form of throwing myself on my bed with my work clothes on but it’s still a stupid excuse. Fear is the real culprit here and there’s no dancing around it. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Here’s a quick life update: got three jobs, lost my mind for a little bit, quit one of them just this week, got into a car accident, had a lot of mirror pep talks and been listening to podcasts as of late.

Before work, I’ll fire up Spotify as I get ready and when I get home, instead of sitting and writing something to share, I’ll turn on my computer, write something abhorrent, watch I Love Lucy and eat the quickest consumable crap I can conjure up. Then I usually go through my social media feeds and eat my feelings in refined sugars while internally wailing “why is my life so shitty in comparison? Wah wah wah!” You know, the usual. When I first moved to Austin, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Eating better, working, and steadily dropping some packed on college lbs. I went to see free comedy and though, I never joined a troupe, I looked into it seriously and couldn’t afford it. During these absent months however, I’ve gained weight, quick and plentiful, and cried. A lot. Then I get up the next morning and do it all over again. The going out is less frequent and even the remote possibility of joining a social group, diminished.

On one morning commute this week, while listening to the Unqualified podcast, which is delightful by the way, I slowly turned down the volume and started to cry. Not one of the “everything sucks, woe is me” kind of cries. There was laughter.

I just thought, why am I doing this? Why am I so tired all the goddamn time? On the surface it’s for a chance to move out of my sister’s place and not have to go back to my hometown but more than that, it’s for the opportunity to find home. Something I can call my own. I don’t mean an apartment or a car but a passion- a life outside of what I’ve grown too comfortable with. I’m working in hopes that one day my passion can pay the bills- something that won’t happen at the expense of that passion. It’s cyclical. And so, I quit one of the three gigs in hopes that the fodder for my soul doesn’t sit on the back burner anymore. The extra cash isn’t worth the stress and creative depravity. Step one to living a better, more balanced lifestyle semi-complete. 

When I’m not working, I’m really good at finding flaws in my personal life and coming up with dramatic, negative opinions of me pseudo presented by anyone with a pulse. While some people may actually think I’m garbage (s/o to the haters that choose to read this *besos*), there are people who either have absolutely no opinion of me or think I’m pretty alright. Which is really weird because [when I’m not in a depressive state] I know I’m fucking bomb.

And yet, I still care more about how I’m perceived. Below you will find some daily thoughts:

  • Did that person realize I was being sarcastic when I opened my mouth?
  • I wonder if my co-workers just laugh out of pity. Maybe they don’t know how else to react.
  • Oh man, I’ve got a really funny joke.
  • Just say it, you idiot.
  • Moment’s passed.
  • That tweet was fucking stupid.
  • If I delete it, I’ll look lame.
  • Leave it.
  • No.
  • Fuuuuck.
  • I say fuck too much.
  • USE YOUR BLINKER
  • Fuck.

Groundbreaking, I know. If getting words and ideas onto the paper is the most important part, then why have I written seven different blog posts and refrained from posting a single one? That feeling of not “being enough” has taken on a bit of a snowball effect these past few weeks. Even into something as simple as a blog post that no one will read. Because of some recent life events- quitting two jobs in less than 6 months being one of those things- I’ve decidedly halted putting myself out there in every sense of the phrase.

Back to that epiphany though. So I’m sitting there at a red light, in my dented Corolla, crying and grinning with the soft whisper of Anna Faris’ voice in the background when I tell myself- wow, Aimee, you beautiful idiot, grow the fuck up. Also, be selfish for once. To the drivers on either side of me, watching said event occur, you had a good story to tell your friends at the bar that night and for that, you are very welcome.

Sure I’ve experienced a lot of life changes in less than a year. It’s called post-grad. And being a woman. And living with anxiety. And aspiring to be an artist. And being broke. And having a moral compass. And and and. Every single person has/is/will be going through the same exact thing as you in some fashion or another. You are not the only person that needs to experience and emote with this big dramatic affair. While I recognize my feelings are valid, I also acknowledge just how normal this is. The human experience, while individual and unique for us all, is shared. We all come to a crossroads in our life at one point where you have to seriously- and in some cases tearfully- ask yourself, what do you want?

Then you fight like hell for it.

I can tell you that I want to be happy. I want to be fearless and not let the opinions of others keep me from chasing after doing what I love. I want to love the body I’m in because it’s the only one I have. I want to make at least one person smile and make their day a little better. I want people to feel good about themselves because they are sunshine personified. I want to commit to battling the trolls in my head and on the internet. I want to be a little selfish as a 22 year old and not worry about other people, even if for a little bit. I want to not feel bad for choosing to stay in. I want to be good at something. I want to leave the world a little better than I found it.

I’ve gotten candid with my struggles because I know I’m not the only one going through this, nor will I be the last. If you’re feeling a little lost or scared or sad like I’ve been, know you are not alone. I’m here for the long haul. While I can’t guarantee this is the last sentimental post- I’m a young artsy type with emotions, OKAY?- it’s definitely a marker of change and *hopefully* prosperity.

And if not, it is now documented that I lost my shit at a stoplight while listening to Anna Faris. So at least there’s that.

Routine

You wake up thinking, today is going to be a good day. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You think yourself into the best of moods- everything is unicorns and rainbows and butterflies. You think today I will do all the things on my to-do list, today I will be a mothafuckin Khaleesi. You lay in bed and plan out your day, bit by bit, imagining how each scenario will go, assuring yourself today will be undoubtedly bad ass.

Suddenly, the winds outside your window pick up. You flinch, yet continue in preparation for your day. You brush your teeth, wash your face- shit, the face wash you use is almost out, why didn’t I get some more? You keep going about your routine, turning on your “go to” power house playlist. Just as you start to get into that anthem, your connection gets lost. So you sing acapella.

Just kidding, your coffee is now cold because you spent the longest time trying to fix the shitty connection that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Somewhere in those precious minutes, the voices you worked to quell down as you laid in bed, the voices of “not enough” and “are you sure?” have found their way back to the surface. And yet, you still have to get the things done on your to-do list. You still have to go to work. You still have to be in a good mood because no one likes a negative Nancy- except Jonathan and Steve. You drink the cold caffeinated life source and do it all anyways. You’ve become excruciatingly good at the facade.

This is my reality. A reality where something so minute can alter the course of the day. The reality of living with anxiety. Some days I wake up with the confidence of Amy Poehler or the infectious joy of Jimmy Fallon, ready to conquer the world and even if something goes unplanned, I laugh and go about a different way. But some days, some days I wake up only to be triggered by the smallest misstep or dent in my routine. Those days are manageable, practiced. Then there are the days where it’s hard to get out of bed at all. The ones where food is of no importance, only a box of kleenex.

Even so, I am a mothafuckin queen.

I share this to not garner pity but to shed some light on the fickle flick of the mind tied to a person with anxiety. You wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman she’s fat or a Jedi that you’ve never seen Star Wars. You definitely wouldn’t tell an individual with a physical disability, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’ll get over it.” And if you knew about me or the millions of others suffering fighting, I’m sure you would be compassionate and understanding because I believe in the human spirit.

So, how can you do your part as a citizen, a friend, or a loved one of a person coping with anxiety, depression or any other stigmatized mental health battle?

Be there like the cast of Friends, only better. You don’t have to coddle them. If there’s anything to NOT do, it’s coddle because there is nothing worse than being babied or pitied for something you’re trying daily to control. You can literally just sit there in silence and that is more of a comfort than you will ever know.

Be genuine. If you don’t get it, that’s totally cool. I don’t expect you to. But please don’t pretend to know “exactly” how I feel, then give an anecdote that unintentionally belittles the situation. We all have our shit. Mine is absolutely not more important than yours. But we are different. Let’s understand one another and have an open and honest relationship.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of times, I may not have the answers but I will always do my best. As I mentioned before, we can learn together.

Please, do not take it personally. It’s really, really not you. Sometimes, we’re just in it.

Unapologetically, live your life (and let me live mine). I’ve found that people with anxiety are some of the most passionate and intense individuals I know. Meaning, we feel. We emote. Often times, we don’t just like something, rather it manifests itself more intensely than that. When I love a film, I will IMDB the shit out of it and watch it way more than deemed the normal viewing requirement. The pure joy and excitement in those 112 minutes or so is often times a respite for me. It seems small, but don’t rain on my parade if you think something is weird and I won’t rain on yours. This also goes for life in general. Let people do what makes them happy and don’t be a douche about it.

Now, I’m not going to wear a banner or tell every person I see about myself, because my anxiety doesn’t define me. I do everything you do. However, I do feel as though we should open our eyes a bit and see that there are so many people living with unseen and unheard mental illnesses and by being a helping hand- an ear, a voice, a love unconditional- you can make the difference.

For those of you who are like me and like millions of other humans, it takes time. It takes support and understanding to not only end the stigma of mental illness, but to also find the correct path to healing and fighting. When I realized these horrible, heart stopping, hyperventilating events were panic attacks, I sought out help. It wasn’t easy. I fought with myself and my family. It’s not something that anyone had *openly* experienced in my life. So, was I just dealing with repressed teen angst? It had to just be a phase, right? I mustered up the courage and off I went.

The medical professional I went to see gave me a prescription within the first fifteen minutes of meeting me. This race to medication before we had even had our first date really messed with my head for a while. I didn’t take it but should I? Was I really that fucked that he noticed right away? Medication and antidepressants can be absolutely wonderful, life-saving even, but it is your body and your choice and if it doesn’t seem right in that moment, then don’t go for it. Trust yourself. I didn’t take it. And for me, it was the right decision at the time. The professional that followed wasn’t bad, we just didn’t mesh well and that’s okay. It takes time and patience for you to find the best fit, like a relationship or a pair of jeans- don’t rush that shit.

In the meantime surround yourself with loving, supportive and funny individuals who make, even the darkest of days a little bit brighter.* Find something you love and never let anyone shame you for it. But most importantly, live like the Khaleesi (or John Snow) that you truly are.

 

*You can always reach out to me if we’re friends but also if we aren’t real life friends just yet, check that contact form out. Here if you need an ear, a smile and/or a support system because we’re all in this together. Also, here are a couple of quick resources:

If it’s an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or if you need immediate assistance go to:  http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call their number 1-800-273-8255

Some tips on day-to-day anxiety management: https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

Let’s learn: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2016/feature1

A dose of cuteness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg