But I am a whole, made of good and bad, confident and anxious, calm and angered, sober and excited. I deserve to be loved as a whole, to have all aspects of me honoured, kept safe and taken care of. Dealing with me requires patience, which I will not apologise
for. I will not put myself in boxes to please others, especially those I choose to let into my intimate circle. This is necessary for my mental health, and more and more for my physical integrity too. I am not an embarrassement to be hidden, I am not my illness.
I am a whole. More than the sum of my (partially defective) parts. And isn’t that who you love? I expect to be loved, not changed. This is not to say I will not change and improve, but that it is a process, aided by love and not a question of clicking fingers
and becoming the perfect woman. Every day I am the best version of me in the context I am given. If you love me, you can believe that.
Today I write. Pick up my pen, later I’ll type, and get to show you a piece of my mind. I write; this is my power, my craft. I am empowered – by words, but also by my mind, my body – as by my choices, my struggles and my skills. All this I have had to learn – tread my own path, pause, return to understand, and inch forward, on and on, slowly, yet, now I know, surely.
I am a woman, and yes, it matters. While I used to think it was more important to find/be my unembodied self, my essence, my soul…now I see how valid, and valuable, my body is. Not something to be brushed aside while I try to make my mind shine. No, I have a body, a physicality, which I choose to use to enhance my performance of myself as Lila.
With this realisation, another is truly vital: my body ismine.And oh how I regret not owning it sooner. It started with pulling my hair into clean, tidy rows, to hide its “kinks”, “unruly” curls, and “unkemptness”. No. My hair will not answer your expectations and beauty “standards” anymore. Let these curls bounce around my face and reflect the complexity of my soul. I am unashamed.
Next comes the pain my body goes through and the blind eye I turned on its needs. No longer will I force my cramp-wracked self to get on trains, to write out tests, to function as if I were a result-oriented machine. When I bleed, I will take my time, and let the world go on while I observe my own essential cycles. We are allowed times of rest, times of reflection and of self-developement.
In my relationships with others, I will no longer hide or aim to melt into the background. I will use my voice, whether on stage, at your dinner table, in class or in the doctor’s office. You will no longer forget me; my presence will be heard. My thoughts are to be shared or kept to myself ifIso choose. My opinions are worthy of acknowledgement. Whether silent or loud, noisy, even “too out there”, I have arrived.
Finally, there are questions of the flesh. I aimed to please, realise others’ desires. I let myself be taken and I gave up ownership of myself. I even ignored rape, telling myself it was my duty, a normal, common compromise to make. The tides have turned. I nearly drowned, but held on, to tell the tale. The hurt is real, the scars visible – these I will not hide either. Used to catering to a partner’s needs, my own are now screaming back. In no hoarse voice, my desires speak their hunger, unafraid to lie back, spread out, grab by the horns or refuse to let in. They are recognised and legitimised. I will continue to explore, choose my bedfellows and revel in the freedom of consent.
I said “finally”, but I’m not done. The state of affairs in my mind is far from settled. You have seen me burst into tears – that was loss, death. You heard about the hospital – that was wanting to die,envisioning suicide. Perhaps you’ve seen me swallow pills – that’s for anxiety, keeping vertigo at bay, to stop being scared. You know my sisters, see my parents – maybe guess at the weight of responsibility I feel, the pain I felt at keeping silent. My mental health is far from trivial, it calls to be shared.
I am a woman, and I’m still learning. This here is in no way anexplanationof my flaws, difficulties and bumpy journey. It is aproclamation. To you, reader, I declare my existence, take pride in its complexity and in my resulting self. I ask for help in keeping up, for challenges to my reasoning, I ask to hear your stories, to share your plight. As I look up to Yoncé, take interest in Gaga, read Adichie, write about Butler, follow Laverne Cox and dream of still-silent sheroes, I know I exist at a magical, rich, awesome time. I need not keep back or be afraid. I am a woman, and it matters.
What a strange, warped world, where knowing better is just not the way. Being stupid and slow will save you, being sharp and aware just damn you. Whatever protocols keep these walls standing are built from absurdities and flimsy “certitudes”. Where is the wholsesome place we need? We bruised souls unfit for combat. They herd us in, lock the gate and think we’ll heal. Now why do they believe that cut off from life is how to deal? These brutish beds, yellow walls, airless windows…is that the answer? Rather than my cocoon, painstakingly built, feather by feather, plush by plush. That’s where I need to be.
It’s been six weeks. Seven now. From skin-burning, “I’m dying” sleepless nights to this – better? Chemicals running through me, but still I’m not sure.
I’m on antidepressants.
Is this right? Or could I do this on my own? No. It’s not the gig on Friday, it’s not exams. Not money, not housekeeping, not my love life. So… what? So…I’ve had help, for years, and now it’s come to this. Pills to keep me going, to stay out of the darkest depths and keep the fear in my stomach at bay. For six weeks, now seven, it’s worked. I’ve taken it all in my stride, risen to the challenge and gone back to class. Started discussions, mulled it over and loved my job(s). And things are better, more under control, I feel fine. And happy.
But I’m also tied to them. These pills, if I stop, could give me withdrawals. I depend on them, they keep me going. Or do they? I’d like to think I am whole, on my own. But still…the fear. Like tonight, through all the music, the lights, the fun – that sinking feeling was back. I had to halve the dose and so I’m unsettled again. Shakes, tears, falling, waves of fear. The anxiety is back.
So thank you for bearing with me. For sticking by, for reading me, for hugs and smiles. Thank you for the music, the trust and the love. And let’s talk about it! Our struggles, our pains and fears. Let’s talk about medication and antidepressants and how they work, or don’t. There’s nothing to hide or be ashamed of, it happens – this is the world we’re in. Together I’m stronger. We all are.
It’s 2016, and I feel ready to set myself objectives…and follow them through. There are various reasons for this, but mainly – 2016 is the clean start of all clean starts.
This year has started on my own terms – my place, my future, my health, my body, my man, my money (nnyeaah…maybe not always but I’m working hard towards it). Having finally finished part (B)A of my studies, I have a qualification and somehow that makes me feel like I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. Also, 9 months after moving away from home and now in my own place, I get up, get back and go to bed when I like. This kind of freedom has been a long time coming and I intend to fully appreciate it in 2016. It comes with great responsibilities too, but I’ve already started learning – school nights are school nights, fresh foodstuffs must be present in abundance and sometimes, I have to cut myself some slack. No more stressing over nothing. Relax and take time for yourself; the washing, cleaning and tidying can, must and will have to wait.
Having struggled with mental health for most of my BA studies (which took a considerable 6 and a half years to complete), leaving this chapter behind is something that brings me hope. The things that tied I felttied up in, the constant guilt I brought myself down with and the multitude of fears that plagued me are hopefully confined to times now past. Starting my MA will be a means of grounding the new me in more fertile soil. But still, health, mental and not, has to be a priority, something I will always have to be (a)w(e)ar(y/e) (read aware or weary, both apply) of. So 2016 will also be a quest for greater stability and control over my body and mind.
All in all – more paper, less smartphone, more fresh air, less mindless TV, lots of cooking, creating, singing and playing the guitar. But also progress in Vlaams, get my Deutsch C1 certificate, run 10k in well under 1h and read, read, read. Oh and get a new job.
But what about? And who for? Who will read me? Why?
Well, to be honest, I have no “niche”. (Yet.) I feel like writing about books, recipes, sharing pictures, talking about my day, my fears and my achievements. These everyday things that we as communicative beings all need to discuss, repeat, embellish or whisper in the dead of night.
So, who do I usually share these things with?
This has lead me to my (hopefully solid) concept –
Big sister – documenting the highs, the lows, the hiccups and the smooth runs in life – whether you like it or not.
I think of it as me sharing my insights and daily challenges – so that you might not have to repeat the same mistakes (like shaving off all your boyfriend’s hair on a single strip of scalp, and letting him go to work in that state for a week because he just doesn’t care…for example). So whether you are wondering what gadget to buy next, looking for a nice place for lunch in some faraway city or wondering what to do with your life, I hope all will find something interesting to read, to discuss further or to give me much needed advice on.
Welcome to Wield Words, happy 2016 and here’s to sharing it all.