From the Outside Looking In

(When you can’t sleep and you HAVE to write stuff down at 1AM so your finger swipes upwards publishing things prematurely, that’s just obnoxious. I apologize to anyone who got an email with all of  the fragment of a sentence.)

ANYWAY. MOVING ON.

For the last year or two, I’ve been practicing not looking back on the past too much. As it has been pointed out to me from a place of truth over and over again, looking back doesn’t serve me, my future, or the moment I am in right now. So, I’ve been doing the best I can to be more present and to keep looking ahead. Looking and moving forward is like walking into a room filled floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall with sunlight. There’s such a gratitude for life in that room of warmth, but still there are days when the door to that room is locked and it seems as if I’m alone in a never-ending darkened hallway. This is the can of worms that was opened this week.

Remember when I said I was in a creative drought? Well, it seems to have manifested into more of a life drought. Granted, most of it is due to situations out of my control and I sit here and fixate on things I can control… But I think in that case, it just seemed to make things worse.

I created one thing all summer. Just one thing, during my internet hiatus when a project dropped itself in my lap and I spent a whole month devoted to it away from everything. You want to know what happened next? Nothing. It didn’t accomplish what I set out for it to accomplish. (More detail on this specifically another time.) I knew going into it this outcome was an enormous possibility, I was ok with that and did it anyway, then when it came down to it, when it didn’t go how I’d hoped, I got really discouraged. I think as the cloud of failure formed and hovered above me, it started to affect everything else going on around me. But like I said, the rest of it has been completely out of my control.

Around mid-August, B got a second job unexpectedly and we are nearly in October and still trying to work out her schedule with me. The schedule changes every week, and most of the time it changes daily, so the shake up and lack of routine is really getting to me. Every day it’s like someone comes in here and flips my world upside-down. Like I’m living in Wonderland with nothing but a handful of nonsense. The situation is giving me crazy amounts of anxiety and I’m not so sure what to do about it. I know you’re probably thinking, if it’s that stressful, let her go. I can’t do that though, I wish you all could see how good she is for me. I am better because I have her help. I just need to figure out a way for a sense of normalcy and stability to return to me.

Aside from this, it feels like there is not a single human around me with the ability to follow through with their words into actions these days. It’s quite simple, right? If you say you’re going to do something, you should probably do it; or don’t loosely commit to anything at all. When someone doesn’t follow through, it makes me feel like I’m not worth enough or good enough and I’m not doing enough. I beat myself up. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s what happens and then I go back to the fact that I can only depend on myself.

The other night ALL of these things collided together and in a moment of shame, I fell apart. I reached out and told my Kyla that I was struggling and I needed some help navigating a way out from under the pile of pressure and stress I was buried underneath. She told me what it was like watching me carve out a life for myself the last few years. (Using the most epic Wizard of Oz analogy ever to exist…) I told her how I felt like I’d never be enough or doing enough and I felt like I hadn’t done anything at all. I told her how it feels like I can’t ever catch a break. So what was her response? She wished I could see my life right now from the outside looking in, so she gave me an assignment. She said to me, “Write your story five years ago; then write your story now. Read them both.”

Okay then, let’s give this a shot, shall we?

Five years ago: September 2010: I’d grown restless of living with abusive, neglectful chain smokers where I seemed to be sick all the time. I ran away from that situation over that summer. I moved in with old friends in Orange County because we wanted to be able to help each other. I was truly happy there, until one day several months later it caught up to me and I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with reality. When you run, you don’t take the time to pay attention to the lessons life is trying to teach you. But now I wonder, how could I be of any kind of help to anyone if I couldn’t even help myself? I lost friendships that were family to me then. I will always love them and deeply cherish our time together. At the time I took it incredibly hard so the fact that I ended up back where I started was devastating to me. I lost myself for longer than I care to admit. I’m so grateful to every little thing that kept me afloat.

Now: September 2015: I live alone with my cat in my own apartment. I have a team of people who work with and for me to help me navigate adulthood. I may have had to grow up at a very young age, but it’s true what my pal Cady says — when you aren’t taught the simple things growing up you don’t know how to do them as an adult because no one took the time to show you. Now people show me those things. I may not have nearby friends, but I have a massive encouragement and support system that spans all across the world. I am creating again, even if Creativity and I may be on a break at the moment. I have a huge creative endeavor in the works with my sisters that could really be something special. I am going out and doing things because I want to. I am planning a family reunion with my heart family. I am going back to physical therapy for the first time since I was a toddler. I do my physical therapy every day at home.  I am starting aquatic therapy next week. I am seeing doctors. I am trying to be patient and gentle with my body as it adjusts to everything I’m doing to make it stronger and healthier. I am talking to every social worker who steps into my apartment without a shred of anxiety. I am doing everything I can to help myself be the best I can be in every way possible. Maybe it’s not as broken as I think it is. All that matters is that I give this moment the attention it’s asking for and then I must continue moving forward.

Ah, Kyla, I see what you did there. Once I got into this part of this post, I let go and just let my fingers type whatever they needed to. I am pretty sure you did not mean for me to post those on my blog, but I wanted you to see that I did it. I also felt like posting them publicly holds me more accountable. So, you were right. From the outside looking in, I’ve done more than I ever imagined I could. Nor am I finished changing the landscape of my life and then the world.

Inhale. Exhale. It’s all ok. Take another step, Kimmie.

Summer Stuff

It seems I can’t go an entire summer these last few years without losing my hearing at least once. My doctor looked at my ears two weeks ago after I told her of this issue and everything looked good. My ears are just that damn sensitive and now here I am on Labor Day weekend not able to hear anything. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday cannot get here soon enough. So let’s do some writing about the summer, shall we? BECAUSE I CAN STILL WRITE. I’m all about being grateful for what I CAN do.

I spent December of last year all the way through the entire month of July fighting my medical insurance and ultimately I won. So this was both an uneventful summer, but it has also been a summer of getting stuff done. I have a new social worker, a new doctor, and a physical therapist now. Currently working on getting an optometrist and a dentist. My doctor has given me medication for things every other doctor I’ve ever had would not. Thanks to that, I am already feeling much better. This doctor is not messing around. I like her.

I had my physical therapy evaluation last week. I have two exercises I do at home for now and my first regular appointment is next Friday. To be honest, I am a little (ok, more than a little) afraid for my therapist to work with me. I had PT until I was three years old and my parents stopped taking me because my old therapist tore the Achilles tendon in my left foot. I may have been very small at the time, but I remember that day and that pain like it just happened yesterday. I’ve made the new therapist aware that happened so I’m going to be spending this week telling myself I’ll be safe with this person and it’s her job to help me. I’m sure it will be just fine. I am so grateful to even have this help. I’ve wanted PT my entire life and I’m so on top of it. Even though my ears are causing me to feel not so great at the moment, I’ve been doing my exercises every day. I’m so excited about all of it. And yes everyone who has said “take it slow” — I promise I’ll never overdo it. I’ve never been that person.

On the summer fun side of things, here’s a list…

 – I took a social media break and spent an entire month just writing. And reading. Mostly writing.
– If you’re a creative type, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” podcast on iTunes. Trust me. Just do it.
– I’m obsessed with Inside Out because sometimes I am a child. Well done, Disney/Pixar.
– Bianca and I took the train to LA to see my Kristin get a star on the Walk of Fame. It was worth the longest, hottest day if only to hug KC on her birthday, truly. Also, Carol Burnett was one of the guest speakers and that really doesn’t suck either.
– There is now a couch in my living room. My Person is good to me and I am grateful.
– Speaking of My Person, Janice was back in LA for the month of August. We took the nieces out to play. We had our favorite tacos. We went to our favorite vegan restaurant. I was introduced to shaved ice. Basically, when Janice is home, we eat.
– My Jessica from Orlando booked her flight to come visit me for a week in November. Happy Birthday to me!
– I randomly won free tickets to see Kristian Bush and Rita Wilson in LA last week. That man’s music is soul-changing. And Rita Wilson is pretty classy too. Her new album is going to be fantastic. (Side note, B is now kicking herself for not telling Tom Hanks when we saw him that she played Woody at Disney World. I am just amused over it.)
– I am now mourning the loss of the mango black tea lemonade at Starbucks. Damn you, pumpkin spice latte… It’s barely September!
– I have the best cat on the face of the planet. Just a reminder.
– Playing House is the funniest show on television.

All is well. I need a nap.

Mental illness, suicide and living for the life in the light

When I was a kid and my mother would do something stupid, my dad would put on one of Robin Williams’ films to make me laugh or to give me a sense of comfort.  Like so much of the world, he was like the father I always wanted and somehow my dad knew he wasn’t capable of being that at the same time.  It’s a strange thing.  It’s been over a week and I’m still coping with this, which somehow feels wrong, but I know it’s not.  I don’t think I’ve been affected by a celebrity death in this way before, honestly. 

The loss of Robin Williams has the whole world shaken up.  However, in loss it has created a much needed dialogue on mental illness, suicide and addiction.  A dialogue that should have been a lot more prominent long ago, but alas here we are now.  It took me a little over a week to articulate my thoughts, but I have some things to say and will hopefully bring in some light as well.

When we lost Robin Williams, social media was immediately flooded with helpline numbers for suicide and depression — words on the screen screaming GET HELP at anyone who scrolled down their feeds.  Here’s the thing, there’s an unspoken truth to suffering with a mental illness or addiction — the sufferer has to WANT to get help.  We know the help is there, but we need to be in a place where we feel safe enough to accept the help.  The other unspoken truth is, it’s an internal battle.  When you’re on that precipice in that dark place, no amount of screaming GET HELP at someone is going to save them.  We get to that place because life is so lonely we feel like we have nothing and no one to live for, and living for ourselves has become too exhausting.  So when that voice tells us to just give up, the end looks inviting.  As human beings, we all go through some sort of mental illness in our lifetime.  We are fragile.  Be careful how you push someone who is struggling.  The effect the struggle has on each person is different, so what has helped you will most likely NOT be the same thing that helps someone else.  Always keep that in mind.

I have severe depression, anxiety and PTSD.  My life has been one trauma after another since I was a child.  Often I feel like I’ve never had a break.  I can feel everything around me and I am easily triggered.  I’m so sensitive I cant even watch or read the news anymore, it sends me into a downward spiral. I’ve been in that dark suicidal place several times in my life.  A weird thing that happens when I’m in that place is, I flashback to this one specific time it happened when I was in eighth grade.  My brother’s best friend went through our house and removed every sharp or harmful object he could find. He just gathered it all up and walked out the front door. Someone who didn’t even really know me, did everything he could to save me.  I think of that day and somehow my unconditional belief in something bigger than you and me pulls me back.  My faith is the reason I could never end my life.  I was not given life to give up on it, no matter how hard it gets.  I’m not in charge of my time to say goodbye and I know that.  Basically what I’ve learned is, if you are still breathing, there is a reason for it.  That doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t want to call out a day on life because the struggle is too much.  There have been many times my illness has made me want to cancel plans and tell someone I just can’t give them my time because the struggle is overpowering me that day.  I try not to do that.

In 2006 when I was given my family, it was like there was a crack in the sky, the light came in and the whole universe opened up.  I could breathe.  It was made clear to me almost instantly, that my illness is most significantly triggered by my surroundings.  When I’m stuck at home for weeks or months at a time, it’s bad,  but if I have a reason to be out, I’m just fine.  I’ve had people want me to promise them I’ll get help, or promise them I’ll go get medication, but the thing is I don’t want the medication.  I know that once I’m physically in a different place I’ll be fine.  And that’s why I’m doing everything I can to work on that.  The bad days are already starting to become few and far between.  I’m blessed.  I’m blessed because I’ve seen the life outside of the darkness and I’m going after it.  I’m blessed because even if I have a bad day, I know I have someone I could call to spend time with me away or at the very least someone to get on Skype or FaceTime to keep me company.  If you ask me, Skype and FaceTime in a world of long distance interaction is one of the only blessings of technology. Those moments of companionship, no matter how they come about are why I am here.  A quote I like, from The Hours, is:

“That is what people do; they stay alive for each other.”

So, I thought I’d end this post by balancing it out with just a small list of the things I live for.  If you are struggling, I encourage you to give this a try.

In no particular order, I live for:

  • Happiness.
  • Laughter.
  • Love
  • Knowing I can feel.
  • Knowing I’ve come this far and that’s not for nothing.
  • Music.
  • Art.
  • My heart family.
  • Watching my nieces and nephews grow up.
  • The strong women in my life who empower me.
  • Loving all the people I’ve had the opportunity to love in my life, even if they’ve left me.
  • Growing in strength, faith and spirit.
  • Opportunities to learn new things.
  • Seeing the world through different perspectives.
  • Traveling.
  • Being able to help other people.
  • My Disneyland adventures.
  • Getting creative and crafty.
  • Forming a connection with someone else.
  • The way that I feel when seeing live theatre and concerts.
  • Peace and relaxation.
  • Genuine understanding.
  • Being able to use my imagination.
  • Having the ability to express myself.
  • Sunshine.

The list is longer, but I’ll stop there.  Have you ever really thought about what you live for? Do it. Make a list. Put it up somewhere where you can see it.  When you feel like there’s no way out and no reason to be here, read it repeatedly.  This conversation is so much bigger than me, but I am here.  I can’t fix it, but I can make the best of it.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  Grateful you made me laugh — in darkness you were always a part of all the good for as long as I can remember.  Thank you for that.

Happy Birthday, Kimmie.

Today is my first birthday.

My sister Jamie has dubbed May 8th my birthday.  Why?  One year ago today, I walked into a social worker’s office and I asked for help.  I’ve done this before, but this time it took the stripping away of my dignity and someone telling me they just wanted me to be comfortable to push me over the edge.  I deserved to be comfortable.  I deserved so much more than what I had.

I was terrified.

It’s been exactly one year.  I am still terrified.

However, this is a completely different kind of terrified.  One year ago I was terrified to ask for help because I thought someone would hurt me.  And though the weeks following that first meeting were some of the most difficult I’ve had to endure, I’m still here.  One year later and tomorrow, May 9th, I am signing the lease on my very first (accessible!) apartment on my own.

The difference now?  I’m terrified AND excited.

I’ve had a lot of deep and meaningful conversations about this journey with my heart sisters.  I’ve thought about all of the things that have happened to get me here, and all of the people who have pulled me through it.  Jamie and I were talking specifically about my earth angels the other day (because we were discussing how Cady McClain and her memoir swooped in there right at the end) and she said something that is true.  She said: “Kristin gave you strength.  Susan gave you wisdom.  And Cady has given you peace.”

She’s right… But you know what?  I did this.  I did all of this and I did it by myself.  Though I am always told that I am a survivor and I am strong, I’ve never really realized how strong I actually am until this point.  Maybe it’s because I have just become so self-aware of my surroundings to the point where I can acknowledge what’s not okay and what is.  I’ve finally learned that I deserve everything I never grew up with as a child and everything I should already know as an adult.  I’m sure all of this isn’t going to hit me full-force until I am sitting alone in my living room, or cooking in my kitchen, but I am going to take every second and be grateful that I survived.  I survived for this.

I haven’t stopped smiling since I got the news the apartment was mine.

I have so much more I need to do in this world.  I guess it’s true that “nobody but me is gonna change my story” as Matilda would say… and I definitely showed everyone how big my brave is.  Thanks, Sara Bareilles for that anthem that got me through every single second for the last year.

And then there’s my friends — who are my family — you render me speechless.  You’ve been the biggest blessings ever given to me in this life.  Whether you listened when I needed a shoulder to cry on when it got hard, or took me out to have fun because you know how much I need positive companionship, or sent me things so my apartment isn’t completely empty or donated to my gofundme page  among other things… You’re incredible.  I would not be here without you.  I cherish each and every one of you and will never forget what you’ve done for me.  Thank you.  I love you.

In the photo above, I was one month old.  I look at that precious preemie baby girl before she was shattered and damaged by the people who were supposed to love her most on the planet and I just want to tell her now that she is not broken beyond repair.  I want to tell her that it may take decades, but there is something worth fighting for, and people who will love her, protect, empower and uplift her are waiting in the light.  The light at the end of the tunnel is here.  It’s over.  You’re safe, sweet baby girl.  And you’ve given yourself that gift.  You should be proud of yourself.  They can’t hurt you anymore.

Happy Birthday, Kimmie.  Make a wish on a glittery blue star.

Life lately…

Apparently a lot can happen in the three months since I’ve posted.  Life has had the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  So, life lately… what’s been going on?  A bullet list:

  • I saw Audra McDonald in concert for the second time.  She is not human.  She is an angel of voice.
  • I won tickets to a private Sara Bareilles concert in October and it just aired on PBS this past weekend.
  • My Person, Nicki and Steph gave me a birthday worth something in November.
  • Megan Hilty sings pretty too.  Saw her sing at Catalina’s.  Missed her so very much.
  • My pal Georgia played a nun in The Sound of Music Live.  We had fun playing “Spot the Stitt!”
  • My Kyla flew to LA to surprise me as an early Christmas present.  I still can’t believe she did that.
  • Frozen has become a pretty unhealthy obsession.  Elsa is my favorite.  Ever.
  • Anne and Annie were here for eleven days for Christmas and New Year’s and I got to be with them all but two of those days.
  • We sang Christmas Carols at Walt Disney Concert Hall with The Queen of Everything… Julie Andrews.
  • Saving Mr. Banks is magical.
  • Anne and Annie surprised me with tickets to see Celine Dion in Vegas.  It was the first time I’ve seen her live. I wept openly through the entire concert.
  • We saw my Kristin on New Year’s Eve in Vegas.  Because you only live once, right?  We got to love on her too which made all of our hearts happy.
  • I had my Christmas at Disneyland day on the last weekend of the season with Stephanie and Tiffany.  It was beautiful.
  • I went to the Mary Poppins sing-a-long at the El Capitan where Richard Sherman (composer of Mary Poppins) played the music for us.  It was one of the most magical experiences of my life.
  • My Person moved to NYC.  I miss her every single day.  So much.
  • I had emergency surgery to have my gallbladder removed.  Turns out this has been the cause of ALL the health issues I had no answers for.  The surgeon said it needed to come out SEVEN years ago.  Glad I have answers and got it fixed.
  • Not glad about how much this recovery sucks.
  • I had an interview for an accessible apartment.  I should be hearing if I got it very soon.
  • I got an air purifier so I can breathe in this chimney.
  • There are nine people living in this house right now and I’d like to jump out a window.
  • I’m really struggling right now and really grateful for the handful of people that have been here for me.  I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s dark down here.

More substantial post when I go back to normal.  I just thought it might help me write this all down because I’m emotionally overwhelmed.  It helped.

Angels and answered prayers.

The theatre is dark and cold.
She sits alone, perched at the edge of the stage.
Staring into the abyss of empty velvet seats.
Tap, tap, tap… the sound of her feet as they dangle below her.
And make contact.
The piano sounds, ever so faintly.
Breaking the silence.
She sings in a whisper.
With each note, a little light is let in.
She sings of bloom and grow, love and hope.
That’s the prayer that He hears.
And sends the angels to dry her tears.
You are safe.
Life takes shape from a dream.
Awaken.

These words have been tumbling around in my head this week.  I’ve had such an overwhelming urge to write them down.  Pick them apart.  My brain coping with the abundance of feeling and emotion my heart has been weighed down with.  Especially this week.

My computer has died.  So I’ve been mostly cut off from the world.  Maybe it was better this way, because over the last few months, the Lord had put me to the biggest test and hardest struggle.  There’s something really terrifying when a doctor tells you they need to do a bunch of blood tests because they think you might have a life-threatening disease.  The seconds tick louder, each one more precious than the one before.  I fell into an empty shell.  I didn’t tell people.  I didn’t want to worry them.  I knew I was fine, but what if I wasn’t?  I didn’t care.  I was just trying to hold on.

I spent the last three months praying.  And crying.  Wondering if I could handle such a fight if it came down to it.  But not alone, I couldn’t, so the people I let in I could count on one hand.  Specialists, special tests, it was a lot of waiting and worrying.  I had distractions, visitors, plans that filled my time.  This was the life.  This is all that matters.

This week the empty shell broke open into euphoria.  I sat in the balcony of a theatre with my big sister and faraway friends and watched as my blonde angel emerged from her own struggle and showed us she was where she was supposed to be, continuing to fulfill her life’s purpose to inspire.  The tears streamed down my face, silent sobs between breaths and my big sister held me close, calming me into comfort.  I knew then that I was going to be okay.  Sister turned angel.  Blonde angel  giving me her light.  The two biggest protections in my life.  I prayed in their safety net, and they prayed with me, holding me in His glory.

The sigh of relief – I am fine.  No scary disease – it was a false alarm.  Life goes back to normal now, but not before it shifts perspective a few million times in merely a second.  Everything is beautiful.  Just how it has always been.  And now I slowly unravel the weight back to calmness.  Somewhere quiet.  Where I know I can breathe.

My thirty-first birthday is exactly one week away.  I have never felt more grateful and blessed to be alive.  Thank you.

I’m just going to leave this here, too.  Do yourself a favor and watch it.