On Anniversaries and a Right to Anger

February is my one year anniversary of what I am affectionately calling "my nervous breakdown."

"Nervous breakdown" is easier to say than "I became the subject of vicious rumors and gossip, terrible things happened, the bottom fell out of my life, I developed severe social anxiety and depression and most days I wanted to die."

So nervous breakdown it is...

A year ago I was planning a fundraiser for the charity that I had founded and was president of. I was also helping to plan a fundraiser for our local humane society. I didn't even know this was the anniversary of my breakdown until I was back here, helping to plan the same humane society fundraiser.

I mentioned to someone who is on the committee with me, that last year at this time, I was barely holding it together. She said that it was to my credit that she couldn't tell.

I can't believe that she couldn't tell.

I remember sitting in my therapist's office and she kept referencing the saying, "if you throw me to the wolves, I will come back leading the pack."

And I remember thinking, "I cannot lead a pack. The wolves have ripped me apart from limb to limb. I am dying."

It has been a year. I have fallen. I was kicked while I was down. I tried to get back up and I stumbled. I was kicked again. The wolves tore at every part of my being. There is no one who hasn't seen me cry.

My body became lumpy and misshapen because I didn't get out of bed for a year. I avoided mirrors.

I walked with my head down, my chin firmly planted in my chest, I stuttered when I spoke, I avoided eye contact. And still the wolves came and ripped me apart, knocking me to the ground with such ferocity that I could barely breathe.

I remember thinking, "When does this stop? When will you decide that my life is no longer worth destroying? When will you decide to stop lying?"

And the answer is ... never. It will never stop.

If you are a person who believes in truth, honesty, and integrity and you have the willingness to jump into things that are horribly uncomfortable because you believe that the outcome is worth the discomfort, it will never stop.

If you are successful, people will come for you.

If you speak the truth and you speak it loudly, people will come for you.

If you are willing to wade into discomfort and don't run from conflict, people will come for you.

People will come for you. They just will. And when they knock you down, you can stay there in the dirt, wondering why, wondering if they will stop, wondering why they do what they do, wondering why it hurts so much, questioning and suffering and writhing in pain...

Or you can get up. Because whether you are standing tall or face down in the dirt, people will come for you.

So I got back up. And I got really angry. And people told me not to be angry. They told me that it was important to let go of anger. They also told me that I shouldn't care what people think...except that I should definitely care what they think.

Brene Brown mentions that we should be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. This passage in particular speaks volumes to me:

I spent a lot of time in the arena getting my ass kicked. I led an organization that did so much good and got so much attention that another organization formed just to take us out. Specifically, to take me out. And this new organization did such a great job hurling mean spirited criticisms and put-downs and lies, that I resigned from the organization that I led and founded. I thought that if I stepped down, then all of those people who hated me so much would stop fighting the good work that our organization was doing, and would instead, join forces with it, for the greater good of our entire community.

I was wrong. My critics never worked toward the good of the community. They worked for their own interests and against the interests of the community as a whole. And the organization that I resigned from suffered as a result of my leaving. I know this. I saw it. I still see it today.

This past year took its toll and as a result, my husband and I made some big decisions and some major life changes.  One of those decisions was to close our business and move on to something that wasn't so exhausting. Something that would allow us to be happier. Something that would give us some peace.

People who were cruel or who abandoned us in this past year have now come out to say that our leaving is a loss to the community. That we should stay. That our presence is important.

And this is when the anger comes in...

Because you cannot sit in the cheap seats and hurl your mean spirited criticisms and your put-downs and your lies and then come out publicly and lament the loss of the very thing that you worked so hard to take down.

And then tell me I should let go of my anger.

Let me be very clear:

My anger is justified.
I have a right to my anger.
My anger is healthy.

However, I will not use my anger to be destructive. I will not use my anger to tear people down. My anger is fuel for me to chase my own happiness. My anger is fuel for me to love. My anger is fuel for me to fight for what I believe. My anger is fuel for me to say this:

If it is important to you, get in the arena and fight. Do not stand on the sidelines and claim that you are too busy or that you are worried about what people think of you, because here is the thing:

Everyone is too busy.
People will always come for you.

They just will. And the world does not need more people who are willing to sit on the sidelines and only cheer for their team when they're winning or when it's safe. The world needs people to get in the arena and fight. Change is uncomfortable. Progress takes work. The work is hard.

Get in the damn arena. Get angry. Get out on the floor, get your ass kicked. And when the people on the sidelines start booing and hurling their bullshit at you...or get up and leave the arena because it's really uncomfortable....those people in the very cheap seats...look around for the people who are on the floor with you. Even if there are just a few. Shut out the sounds of the crowd in the cheap seats and let the people on the floor, who are fighting with you, help pull you up.

Jessica Benassi

Those are your people. That's your tribe. Pay no mind to the people in the cheap seats. They are not for you.

Great things have never been accomplished by the people who stayed in their seats. 
Great things have never been accomplished by those who only craft criticisms.

Showing up is your power.
Truth is your song.
I believe in you.
You can do great things.
Get up.
Your people will pick you up when you fall.
And you will fall.
But you will also rise.

Before I was me...

"I have social anxiety."

This is a thing I say a lot, now. Before 2015, it was not anything I ever would have said. I loved people. I wanted to help them and love them and be around them and get to know them and dance and sing and laugh loudly...

I was "a people person."

And then 2015. 

This is me in 6th grade. This is what I feel like all of the time, now.

Some people can't tell you why they have social anxiety. They just have it.

I can tell you exactly why I have it.

Today, I went to my favorite coffee shop and saw one person who had started rumors about me standing with another person who had heard a rumor about me (and then left me rude online comments about what he had heard that I had done) and I ducked my head and just tried to move past them. In the process, I swung my computer bag and nearly knocked one of them over.

Shit. Shit. Shitshitshit. This looks bad. They're going to say I did it on purpose. Will he say that I attacked him? What will they say about me? What will they tell people?

Because...the thing is...I never cared what people thought about me...until the rumors started. Until they gained steam and resulted in online bullying, a loss in business, a loss in financial security, losses in friendship, a loss of faith in humanity, a loss of faith in people, a loss of faith in myself...

A few well placed lies and my brain is now completely rewired. Because I know now that people are far more interested in gossip than the truth. I know that people are far too willing to provide an audience for gossip. I know that people lie just to try and destroy someone's life.

I know that you can't ever prove what you did not do, so your reputation will never recover.

I know that people who start and spread rumors will never say that they are sorry, so you will never have any closure.

So I have social anxiety. People freak me right the fuck out. And the triggers for social anxiety?

People. And accidentally running into someone can throw off your entire day.

So that's fun.

This is fun.

It's especially fun when you try your hardest to be the person you once were, a person who could love people without fear, and instead your mind is basically like, " Fuck this shit, we're out of here." And then you get all teary eyed and you're embarrassed because once again you're crying in public, and you're awkward and weird and it's really not them, it's you, and people are probably so sick of this because why can't you just get over it already except I CAN'T BECAUSE THESE EVENTS BROKE MY BRAIN.

My brain is so broken.

I mean... it's not all doom and gloom. The people I've met at church continue to be amazing and kind and loving and my husband and family and close friends have been amazing and kind and loving and I am definitely healing. It's just...just because people can find healing and some time doesn't make what happened ok. I'm still affected. It's still painful. It changed who I am and I still struggle with this everyday. One tiny thing like accidentally bumping into somebody and I'm just derailed. I want to go home. I want to avoid the entire world. I am consumed with worry.

So nice. What you say matters. What you put out into the world has to land somewhere. Make it something good so that it lands softly.

Also, on a lighter note, silly putty is really useful if you find that you have to be in a social situation. I'm so serious about this. Most of the time when I find myself explaining why I have the silly putty, it opens up some really great conversations about anxiety...and I usually end up giving half of the silly putty away.