Friday, December 13, 2013


Hey friends. I have a lot to say today (something new and different for me!) but really wanted to lead with this quote by one of my heroes (thanks Mary Foster), Glennon Melton. Glennon is the author of a love-promoting "mom blog" she cleverly dubbed Momastery. Yes, it's a mom blog, but it's so much more than that. I can say this with certainty because frankly, I read a lot of mom blogs. I'm pretty excited about being a mom in the distant future, and my friend Merrill said it best: "I think we should at least do as much research about having our children as we do about a new car we are hoping to buy." OMG I'm getting distracted already. Anyway, Glennon and I have pretty similar life stories and I relate to about 110% of what she says 110% of the time. This quote really struck me yesterday:
"I became bulimic when I was 8 and an alcoholic at 18. In retrospect - I can see that what you folks call "depression" and "anxiety" led to all of that.  
But as a writer- words are really important to me and so I refer to myself not as depressed but as “extra feely” and not as anxious but as “extra thinky” and not as addicted but as “extra passionate about things that may or may not eventually cause me great harm and maybe to actually die.” 
So, to be specific my name is Glennon Melton and I am extra feely, extra thinky, and extra passionate. 
I promise I’m not trying to brag. I don’t want you to feel sad if you are not these "extra" things. I know plenty of folks who are not depressed or anxious OR addicted and a few of them have gone on to make decent lives for themselves. Nothing spectacular, to be fair, but decent and there is nothing wrong with decent, folks."
Don't you just LOVE her?! I could probably write a whole blog post about how wonderful she is, but instead I'll direct you to her TedTalk. If you ever wanted to know more about me, um, just watch that.

The reason I led with that quote is because I have been feeling extra feely, extra thinky, and maybe even a little bit extra passionate these days. I have never held back about any of my "issues" and I don't plan on starting now.

I have always thought that I just felt more than others. In elementary school, I would get bullied and it would just crush me. I had about a 0% resilience rate. In middle school, I tried incredibly hard to be "popular" which at the time meant I kissed a lot of boys. They would inevitably break my little middle school heart, and I would swear that I felt it more than most people. And high school, oh my goodness, high school. I'm pretty sure most people had at best a tumultuous experience in high school, but I was convinced it was worse for me. Teasing had me weeping. Bad days had me slitting my wrists. Breakups had me suicidal, and when that didn't work, I drank. A lot.

Drinking got boring by the time I got to college, so I started to get, er, "extra passionate" about other more exciting things (“that may or may not eventually cause me great harm and maybe to actually die.”). I spent a good amount of time around fraternity house toilets. And beds. I transferred after two years to another party school, which probably wasn't my most excellent choice to date. The behavior continued.

If you've read my writing in the past, you may remember me referring to October 2011. This was inarguably the worst time of my life. I didn't get out of bed. My boyfriend at the time actually spoon fed me. I skipped classes and made 0's on tests. I watched seasons upon seasons of Skins (UK) and pretended that the intense feelings of the characters were my own. I cried when they cried and broke when they broke. Of course, I was already broken, but it was easier to feel the pain of the characters than my own. Finally, my saintly boyfriend forced me to go to a therapist.

I will never forget that therapist stamping my paperwork with a big red stamp that said: URGENT: SUICIDE WATCH. There is actually a red stamp that says that somewhere on the campus of the University of South Carolina. More importantly than that stamp though, was the one the psychiatrist ultimately gave me. "Major Depression. Generalized Anxiety."

I imagine not everyone has the same reaction that I did when they get those stamps. Frankly, I was expecting one that said "bipolar" too. That's still up for debate. But when I saw those labels; depression and anxiety, I think I breathed for the first time in months. It was cathartic. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was a beautiful moment for me. Finally, after all those years of being "extra feely and extra thinky and extra passionate," there was an explanation for it.

That was all I really ever wanted. I just wanted to know why everything was so much harder for me. I didn't even necessarily want it to get less hard. I just wanted to know why I couldn't deal with things that other people blew off so easily.

I'm so thankful for that diagnosis. And I'm so thankful for Glennon's simple but poignant use of "extra." It made me feel understood. Isn't that what we all want? To be understood?

That's why I write, I think. I write to give people a peek into my dark and twisty soul. I want people to understand me, because I want to understand people. I love learning about why people tick, and for those who are interested, I love to share why I am.

Like I mentioned, I've been feeling lots of those extras these days. The typhoon brought up a lot of these feelings. Survivor's guilt, if you will. Being so close to such an immense tragedy just broke me. Shelby leaving also brought up a lot of these feelings.

There are a lot of things I have been struggling with in Mabinay. I love this beautiful little Philippine town, but it has provided some intense challenges for me. First and foremost, I don't have a job. I came here to volunteer and to serve, and fortunately (for them) they don't really need me! The school I thought I'd be teaching at is fully staffed and functions like a well-oiled machine.

This means I spend my days on the internet, reading, and writing, which is fine for a little while, but not for another 9 months. This year is supposed to be about transformation and change and social justice and honestly so far it has pushed me into a very very dark place. Not doing anything is making me lose my mind.

I cry a lot. I eat my feelings a lot. I miss home a lot. I feel alone a LOT. I have watched season 8 of How I Met Your Mother about a dozen times. It's not Skins, but I'm starting to resemble that shadow of me that I was in October 2011.

Fortunately, there is a bit of an answer. It's a bittersweet one, as I'll be incredibly sad to leave my host family in Mabinay, but it's necessary. In January, I'll be moving down to Dumaguete (a very Chattanooga-esque coastal college town) to live with my fellow YAV, Mallory. There I'll have an actual J.O.B., which is about the most exciting thing in the world. I'll be able to go to church in English, which is huge for me. I'll be cooking my own food and making my own food choices, which is very important for me.

None of these are promises that I will get out of this slump, but I am taking steps in the right direction to help myself. Acknowledging the negatives that are sparking behavior of past-Abby are really important. My time here has made me incredibly self-reflective and self-aware, which is something I desperately needed. I don't regret it at all, nor do I feel that anyone in Mabinay, my site coordinators, or the YAV program have failed me. If anything, everyone has been very supportive and helping me to take these steps toward a better quality of life.

I also feel like I need to say that I will always be extra feely, extra thinky, and extra passionate. The comparison has oft been made about mental disorders/ illnesses and diabetes: if you have diabetes, you treat it. It doesn't go away, but you learn to live with it and you treat it. It is a part of you forever.

I, like Glennon, have learned to embrace these "extras" of mine. I guess I am a true Southern gal, because I'm pretty sure I exemplify this quote:

So here's to you, Depression and Anxiety. I'd give ya a cocktail if I could. It would probably help a bit. But for now, I'm going to breathe. I'm going to survive these next 9 days until my parents arrive in the Philippines for Christmas. I'm going to start anew next year, but I'm not going to fight you anymore. I'm going to acknowledge you, get to know you better, and continue learning to live with you. I'm going to live.

This was taken in October 2011 at USC. Sorry mama, but this tattoo will be my first stop back home.
I need it. I will always need it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you can realize and share your feelings. Thanks for that. Don't worry about your mom and the tat...I am SURE there are things she has done that you will never know. Be brave lil' friend and BREATHE!!