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the courage to be disliked and stand alone

a few weeks ago, a book titled the courage to be disliked sprang up on a facebook ad for me. i was so moved by just the title alone, that i posted it to my instagram stories immediately.

the message became louder and louder over the course of that day and the days that followed. signs appeared on my path in an uncannily steady stream:

a few hours later, a friend with some extra audible credits made an offer to gift some folks an audio book of their choice. i looked up the top 10 audible books, which happened to include brené brown’s dare to lead. i reviewed her other recent titles and came across braving the wilderness. the premise: “belonging” by belonging to yourself first— especially when it means sometimes standing alone in order to fully rest in your truth. naturally, i knew which title i was supposed to request.

that evening, an article on arundhati roy came up on my facebook feed. the article was titled as a direct quote from roy: the point of a writer is to be unpopular

late that night / the following morning, i ended up in an interaction that prompted me posting a series of instagram stories about boundaries when people want access to your contacts and/or resources. this is a topic i’d been dragging my feet to speak on for a year in fear of anyone feeling offended, singled out, or triggered. sharing these thoughts definitely required channeling my personal courage to be disliked. interestingly enough, these posts ended up being some of my most popular posts on stories— by far. they also potentially resulted in some unfollows. my previous blog post shares more about the topic if you’re interested.

that afternoon, while searching for something unrelated in a facebook group, i came across the courage to be disliked once again— this time, as part of a recommendation someone was making. casual.

the next day, i found a piece of paper in my purse— it was from a discussion i’d facilitated a couple weeks prior at the wing. at the close of the discussion, i prompted guests to write down a commitment to themselves. we mixed up all the bits of paper in a bowl and on their way out, folks pulled out a random person’s commitment. here’s what i found:

“i will acknowledge my whole being— stop disowning parts of myself just to save the discomfort of someone else.”

my takeaways here:

i need to stand in my truth (sometimes alone)— even and especially when it’s scary.

and i think i’m here to tell you that if this all resonates, you do, too.

<3

i don’t owe anyone my inner world

upon deciding that i wanted to talk a bit about my depression that consumed the second half of my 2017, it took me a moment to realize that my previous post was in part about the bliss i was able to connect with earlier in that same year. i also recalled how the bliss itself was borne in response to pain. all around, the duality of that year was profound.

over the course of 2018, i couldn’t quite comprehend what the fuck 2017 was. because 2018 was confusing as all hell on its own; it was this extended sense of being suspended in transience, which i was aware of the whole time and simultaneously knew that it wasn’t something i could control or fight. i just had to be in this long ass incubation period of what felt like a whole lot of nothingness.

i still don’t have enough distance from 2018 to have much clarity on what quite happened— but my sense is that my system was integrating the rollercoaster of transformational experiences and deaths/rebirths that 2016 and 2017 brought me.

now having some distance from 2017, however, i can see what an important example of duality it was. it’s fascinating to know that what we view as opposite or polar are never too far apart— particularly with the recognition that duality itself is a construct. the only thing that is actually true and real is oneness.

i remember being awe struck by the daoist view of impermanence and the ever-changing nature of what we view to be opposite or contrasting; for example, light is not light but light-becoming-dark and dark is not dark but dark-becoming-light. because everything is constantly shifting, a static assumption or prescription upon anything is essentially inaccurate and moot. it’s deep and something i’m still unpacking.

existential interlude aside, i want to share a couple stories related to my experience with depression— particularly within the framework of vulnerability, authenticity, and personal boundaries.

to first offer some foundational context: i was on and off depressed from 15-25, then was totally in the pits from 25-27, and started therapy at 27 in 2010. i felt the depression pretty much fully lift after my first eight months of therapy and my first two months of a naturopathic regimen for my neurotransmitter imbalances. since then, i’ve had depressive dips for a week or two on a handful of occasions over the years and one few month long very low point around early 2013.

what i experienced in 2017 was the longest and most nuanced, shape-shifting, unrelenting depressive period i’ve experienced since what brought me to therapy in 2010. shit was real as fuck. basically, a succession of deeply traumatic and very unpleasant challenging things happened back to back to back— it took me out and knocked me all the way off center.

thankfully, i had my awareness tools to keep from completely going off the deep end, but i was literally teetering on the very edge of that hole for months. it took all my energy to at least just stay teetering and not fall in. after several months, i got two steps away from the hole— my awareness allowed me to measure that— and it took everything in me for another several months to maintain those two steps away from the hole. sometime in the first quarter of 2018, i felt like i got beyond two steps and finally was able to feel more grounded and self-possessed.

in fall 2016, i started sharing my poem-quote things and occasional reflective thoughts on instagram; some people decided i was wise and woke and zen and shit. i am, thanks. i’m also human and have eccentricities and quirks and seeming inconsistencies and personal boundaries. though that may be confusing for some, i get to contain all of that and still be authentic and in integrity.

in fall 2017, during the peak of the aforementioned deep depressive period, i ran into an acquaintance at an event.

she asked me how i was and before i could answer, she said something to the effect of, “and i know you being you, you’re gonna keep it real and not just be like, ‘i’m great!’ if you’re not.” i know she meant to be complimentary, but it was not what i needed to hear in the moment.

in those months, my whole life had been consumed around salvaging my mood the best i possibility could; my own thoughts on ‘how i was doing’ were already encroaching on my space in my alone time. i had decided in advance to do my best to act as if i was okay during this event— because that’s what i needed; i needed a goddamn break.

i got extremely uncomfortable and began wondering if i was inauthentic because i didn’t want to put energy on naming that i wasn’t well. i wanted to answer that i was good and move on to some other type of conversation that i could actually enjoy.

i told myself that saying “good” was true in a sense; because ultimately, i am always alright. and at that time, i was simply experiencing an ebb of my human experience.

i think my discomfort with her remark and my ensuing internal conflict blew my cover; i’m quite certain she felt my reservation and unease when i said “good.” it changed the vibe. and i mostly didn’t care. i wasn’t there to cater to her vision of me.

i chose my self-preservation. and that’s what i’ll choose in the vast majority of cases. i know how useless and even harmful i can be when i’m unwell and not tending to my needs. when i’m real low, any filter i’ve got to maintain a semblance of normalcy and civility with the outside world is paper thin— i know this.

i don’t think we need to feel obligated to say we’re feeling unwell while we are still amidst that experience; it doesn’t help my healing to put energy on a given challenging thing that i’m already working on for the sake of updating someone— especially an acquaintance—perfectly truthfully.

when i’m not intentionally going into my shadow to do work, i want to focus on light to help raise my vibration. note, there is a distinction between mindfully raising my vibration and avoidance/distraction.

online and on social media, there’s a  pressure to name our precise reality while we are still inside of a challenging time— in the spirit of “vulnerability” and “authenticity.” nah.

internet and instagram vulnerability culture has distorted our vision on boundaries and what actually constitutes healthy sharing. this culture, which can also be beautiful, has also somehow allowed certain folks to think that they have license to our inner worlds.

our own vulnerability isn’t supposed to harm us. and it isn’t a service to others if we are self-sacrificing our health to share before we feel ready.

important: vulnerability online isn’t a replacement for professional help if you think you might need that. no shame in it— i’ve been in some form of therapy or another for a decade.

some things are only meant for specific people and specific communities in my life. and even then, that doesn’t mean i ever owe *anyone* anything i don’t feel called to share. for more introverted folk like me, certain things may be meant for us alone (and perhaps a therapist or healer, if inclined).

basically, we don’t owe the internet shit— least of all our bleeding hearts. <3