Sometime in mid-April of this year, I began to notice an interesting trend that had been going on for a while in my personal use of social media. When I felt at my lowest and I used it as a tool to reach out for help, even, and almost ESPECIALLY, people I didn’t even know all that well were there all nearly every hour of the day or night to lift me up out of the darkness, to encourage me, and cheer me on in the brighter moments too in ways that people that were physically near me seemed unable to. But what excited me the most about this realization was that, combined with idea that you can literally be whoever you want to be on the internet, there existed this potential to be completely myself in a space where I could be supported by others in that. As an introverted, quirky and creative gay girl who grew up in a pretty conservative area of the Midwest, that’s something that even at 37 years old I don’t think I ever have allowed myself a chance to experience. I began to wonder what it might be like to be able to just be completely myself for once, including not just the shiny happy bits people normally include on social media, but also the dark and lonely and hopeless moments too. So when my immediate supervisor at my fairly new full time job made a comment to me that people around me were curious to get to know me better, I did what any slightly insecure writer and amateur social scientist might do: I decided to launch it as an experiment to chronicle my life on social media for a month and deliberately post things about myself that made me uncomfortable to share which, when you are as introverted as I am, is basically everything. I would write something every day, no matter how small, and post it across three platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to give people an opportunity to learn more about me and also to push myself outside of this comfort zone I have built around myself.
See, I try to project this image of myself that I am what people seem to expect me to be: that I have it all together, that my marriage is wonderful, that I am bright and healthy and successful and financially secure here on my 2.5 acres in the bucolic and slightly rural suburbs and also the perfect parent to by amazing daughter who is now 15 years old (though she IS really an amazing kid). The truth, however, is a little different than that. In reality, I am overweight, probably sleep too much, eat things I know I shouldn’t too often, and struggle with my body image. I don’t really like my house that much, but mostly because I’ve been too broke since even before we bought it to properly maintain it or improve it to be what I would like, and often feel spread too thin by all the work a place this size entails. As far as my career goes, I’ve had quite a few different jobs in different roles in different places, even launching my own side businesses twice that never took off, but I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I never finished college and was in debt up to my eyeballs and really felt deeply lonely, as if all these people might know OF me, but didn’t understand one bit of what mattered to me or care. And then there is the fact that, although I had always previously identified as bisexual, I have been married to the same man for 16 years that I know cares deeply for me but with whom I am never intimate (because, ahem, he’s male and I’m really all about the ladies it turns out) and often barely speak about anything that really matters. Oh- and I struggle with depression and anxiety that I have chosen to manage without the help of a therapist (for financial reasons) or medication. I have trouble verbalizing how I feel in conversation and ordering my thoughts sometimes unless I write them down, especially on short notice, and I often feel very hopeless, spiritually disconnected, and lonely. And, when it all gets to be too much, I periodically burst into tears at the most inopportune moments, usually at work when I am getting feedback about something for some reason, even if it is positive.
Have it all together? Hardly.
My usual MO has always been to be what is expected of me in order to avoid any discomfort or the awkwardness that comes from disappointing people I care about. Doing this though leads to a complete loss of who you really are and suddenly you look around and realize that where is you are is not what you want, which feels so horribly hopeless and overwhelming.
So here it is, laid out in all it’s glory for you to enjoy: a (fairly) uncensored look at life inside my head and heart. This project is about me, in all my messiness and confusion, chronicling my discovery, however late in life, of who I really am, what it’s like navigating life with a mental illness, and my journey to discover what makes me happy and live authentically, even if it means being vulnerable.
Welcome to my Vulnerability Project.