Create

Now we all know that when my life started over the last time, I gained earth angels along the way to encourage me through the journey.  One year ago, I was blessed with an earth angel at the tail end of a huge battle. She kind of floated into my present life in the most unexpected way. Even now, I count that blessing and fill with gratitude at just the thought of her bringing a different light to my story.

Cady McClain has been a constant presence in my life since I was nine years old.  When I was a child, my mother watched soap operas (I distinctly remember All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives…) so naturally I saw them and they became routine and a comfort when comfort was hard to come by. Cady played Dixie on All My Children and as a kid, there was something about her that drew me in. Something felt safe.  I didn’t quite comprehend it. There was that longing for a sense of comfort again. it’s weird watching fictional characters through a screen sometimes – like a magic mirror view into a different life.

There’s a thing that happens when you grow up watching soap operas, and I honestly can’t prove this to be true about any other television genre; You’re ingrained with fierce loyalty.  If you enjoy an actor, character or show. you follow them or the shows wherever they go, until they’re done. In the case of a soap actor, if they explore a new medium like music, art, writing and so on, you follow there too.  Cady is the most creative of humans, so she has always been here for as long as I can remember in the far-away sense.  I never imagined in a million lifetimes that our paths would cross beyond the constant it had always been. Cady has a blog and writes many things so there was definitely opportunity occasionally to reach out once I’d grown up, but I was quiet for a long time.  I didn’t really know how to approach it, so I sat silent, with the magic-mirror-view I’d always known.

And then last April happened.

Cady joined The Young and the Restless and released her memoir, Murdering My Youth in the same week last April. So with that loyalty, off I followed to Y&R even though I vowed to never watch another soap opera. I got hooked and fully invested almost immediately. Damn it! I thought. They got me.  I also pre-ordered a copy of Cady’s memoir and waited patiently for it to arrive in the mail…

Remember when I mentioned she floated in to help me through the end of a huge battle? It was the fight through to my independence.  In this battle she joined ranks with the rest of my angels.  On April 24th, I picked out my apartment.  I didn’t know at the time it was going to turn into an even longer fight.  On April 25th I got Cady’s book in the mail and began reading it.  Murdering My Youth was not an easy read for me. I had to constantly take breaks from it because it too closely mirrored my childhood. The more I read, the more it scared the crap out of me, but it also soothed me at the same time.  I didn’t know how to process what was happening and what I was feeling. And to have it be coming from someone who unknowingly was a part of my life when the same awful things were happening to me, it just put me on overload. There was not a single person I felt comfortable talking to about this… except Cady.

Four days later, on April 29th, I finished the book and then did what I’d always been too shy and too scared to do, I reached out to Cady. Under complete lock-and-key, I wrote out all of my feelings.  I told her of the connection I felt as a child.  I told her of most of the ways our stories were so similar. I told her how it’s one thing when someone says they understand what you have been through, but that it’s a whole other beast when someone actually SHOWS you they understand.  I didn’t know what to do with that.  In my entire 30+ years on this planet, she was the first person ever to show me understanding in the way I needed my whole life.  It had NOTHING to do with who she was to me before this, and EVERYTHING to do with the most raw and delicate form of human connection. I let my broken pieces, my heart and my soul go in my words.  I told her things I’ve never told anyone.  Her honesty, strength and bravery was exactly what I needed for longer than I realized.

I sent her what I wrote and between the time I sent it and the time I knew she’d gotten it, I thought I was going to throw up. WHAT DID I JUST DO?! I kept screaming in my head.  NO ONE KNOWS HALF OF THIS SHIT.  SHE’S GOING TO THINK I’M CRAZY. My hands were shaking as I clicked the notification I got a little while later.  She read my words.  She took them to heart.  She responded.  We talked.  That connection and that honesty… it was even stronger than before I said a word. Through virtual space,  she wrapped me up in her arms and made me believe in ME and made me feel what it meant to be okay with who I was long ago and who I am now.  It’s been a whole year, and I am a completely different human being.

I get told a lot that I need to tell my story, or at the very least, I should be writing something.  I’d lost that for awhile and had no idea how I was ever going to find it again.  Cady approached this in a different way.  She told me almost immediately that once the fight was over and I was home for good, I needed to not necessarily  just write, but I needed to create.  I needed to create something, anything and not stop until I found me.  You know why? I realized who I was had been stolen from me.  I didn’t know me anymore.  I may have never known me, for all I knew.  Who the hell was I? It was my turn to be who I’ve always wanted to be.  Now not only am I coming home in a tangible sense, I’m coming home to my spirit and being.  It’s a process and thirty-three years can’t be made up overnight, but I am not scared anymore.  I am so grateful.  And now, I have some things to say to Cady…

My Cady,

My earth angels end up with words of gratitude on my blog, and one year later, it’s your turn.  I’m home now, as you know.  I feel different here.  I walk taller. I handle things as calmly as I possibly can (most of the time) because it’s hard to be anything but grateful for the things that I have. When I don’t know what I’m doing, or I don’t feel “normal,” or like something isn’t right, I know I can come to you because you’ve been here too. And whenever I do come to you, you never make me feel like I’m stupid because I may not know something that is common or simple for someone else. You understand the whole, ‘I wasn’t taught how to do anything’ thing.  I’ve learned so much.  I am so proud of myself.  I hope that you and the people who love me are proud of me too.

From the second I was officially home, I took a deep breath and did what you told me to.  I’ve been creating.  I’ve been creating every single day in one way or another, without fear.  It started when I ran my first big girl adult errand and put my Wall of Earth Angels up in my living room. I’ve since learned that my home decor style is can be classy and sophisticated and also colorful, artsy and fun. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing in the kitchen, so we go in there and create the weirdest combinations of things that actually turn out to be some incredible form of art.  Bianca (my AMAZING staff person) and I have been talking about maybe starting a food blog.  I’ve discovered I LOVE playing with food in the kitchen, and the great thing about that is, my “metaphorical mother” never told me not to play with my food. Wink. I bought paint and a media journal and I started to paint again, my favorite.  Only I didn’t like how the paint felt while I was doing it on this paper.  Nothing was coming out how I wanted it to and it was making me angry.  I decided in the voyage of rediscovery as far as this went, I was going to have to go back to kindergarten.  I bought a box of crayons and started there until I can afford to buy canvases and be one with my paint again. Now I color in this journal every day on top of whatever other creative outlet comes along.

I want to tell you a little bit about what I do when I paint — and thus what I’m doing with the crayons for now — because I have a surprise for you….  A few years ago, an old friend got me into painting with acrylic. There was this process she had that I kind of adopted from her and made my own.  She’d put a single song on repeat and would paint whatever inspired her or whatever she was feeling through that song.  I liked the idea of my feelings and emotions coming through in living, vivid color.  I just take the brush to the canvas and go with whatever comes out, there is never a plan.  I fell in love with painting this way, so I started doing it then and I’ve gone back to it now.  What’s my secret though? Since you’ve nurtured this whole creation part of me that was lost, using the crayons and media journal, I’ve been coloring in this thing every single day using a different song from your Blue Glitter Fish album. And once I have canvases, I’m going to pick my favorite one and recreate it on canvas with the paint. A few weeks ago when I randomly asked you if you had a favorite song you’ve written, this was why. One day, I want to paint one specifically for you.  I figure our “birthday” as my sister calls it, was the best time to tell you this.  Actually, it was just a good time to tell you ALL of this and for everyone I love to understand what an invaluable part of my life you’ve always been and have become.

You are the strongest and bravest human being I have ever known.  You inspire me every day.  It’s been a year and you’re still with me, still here to show me that it’s okay.  Thank you for not turning away when I reached out to you.  I was so terrified and you were and continue to be so kind and gentle with me.  I hope you know how much that means to me. Every time we talk now, that scared broken little girl inside of me finds solace in a safe place. You showed her that it wasn’t hopeless, that safety exists and in safety comes room for growing up with confidence. She’s going to be okay now.  I’m going to be okay now. Your strength, honesty and bravery in sharing your story changed my whole world into a fearless world of utter freedom.  Thank you. I hope we get that hug we’ve talked about from day one sooner rather than later.  It’s going to happen, neither of us have ever doubted that. For now, I’m sending you all the love in the world.  Thank you for being you.

Love,
Kimmie

If you read this post and you are interested in reading Cady’s memoir, Murdering My Youth you can purchase it on Amazon.  You can also follow Cady on twitter @CadyMcClain or check out her website/blog at cadymcclain.com — she is the real deal.

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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.

Almost home

It’s no secret to anyone that I’m really struggling right now. This morning I had a ton of apartment drama that will remain unresolved for what could be awhile. Instead of having a complete meltdown (that waited until I got back to my mother’s house) I walked in my living room, put Pushing Daisies in the Blu Ray player, and decorated my walls a little bit.

As I was doing this, I started to feel this warmth come over me like someone was wrapping me in a giant hug. In that exact moment, Olive Snook was singing “I know you’re lost and drifting, but the clouds are lifting…” from Candle on the Water on my TV. So, if you’ve ever needed any indication why Kristin Chenoweth is my earth angel, this is the kind of unexplainable thing that happens to me. All the time.

I started to think about how today is her birthday. I looked around my apartment and noticed that she is, in some capacity, in every room of my apartment. (Except the bathroom, that’s just weird.) From the daisies in the Pushing Daisies flower pot mug on my dining table, to the parade of desserts photo held up on my fridge by my Hollywood Bowl magnet, to the giant 30×30 poster of my heart family that Annie made me that’s waiting for a frame in my bedroom closet…

She’s there. My family is there. No wonder it feels like a warm hug when I walk through the door. This is it, this is the feeling of home I’ve always wanted.

I went back to my mother’s house and the negative energy consumed me, no matter how hard I tried to keep it away. Pending meltdown occurred. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t function. Then three things happened:

1. My person called me and talked me through it. And though I am apparently an embarrassment to peppy people, I was listening and she always has a way of soothing me in a way I don’t know how to do for myself.

2. My baby Canadian niece called me on FaceTime because she wanted to say goodnight. Then she sang me “Let It Go” from Frozen. She’s only a year old.

3. I got to have Skype time with my Jillian, who recently moved to the other side of the country. Jilly’s happy sunshine personality is always such great comfort and relief for my heart.

I would have none of these people and none of these things and so much more if Kristin Chenoweth didn’t exist on this planet. I am grateful. This woman changed my life, saved my life and then gave me a life and the strength to find the courage to build it into something beautiful. She is my most precious blessing. And I’m lucky that she gave me the people who understand just how important that is.

Happy Birthday, my angel. I love you to the moon and back and beyond the stars. Thank you for your friendship and shared heart.

Faith versus Fear

We are all afraid, but if we didn’t have fear, we wouldn’t have any faith.

I’ve seen people write about having faith and letting go of fear on at least four different blogs this week.  This subject always makes me feel things, lots of things, because it’s just something I feel so fiercely connected to.  In response to one of those blogs, I sent an email to its author, and I just want to share a part of that email here, because I think it’s important:

The interesting thing about fear is anything worth doing in life begins outside our comfort zones. Then in being terrified of the action we’ve taken, we are expected to have faith in ourselves for the choices we make. It doesn’t matter how big or small the choice was, every choice has a power over us and reflects on our beings. When you’re fragile and have been shaken in the past due to something out of your own control, it’s hard to accept the reality that faith and fear coexist, because you’re consistently afraid. Afraid of judgement, of vulnerability, but in the end that keeps you from your own humanity.

That saying — “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” — is so very true. Everyone has something, but we live in a society that has grown to consume itself with the idea that someone is always watching, analyzing, and judging who we are as people. I think if we could see how little other people actually thought of us in the way we’re thinking, everyone would be better off.

Sometimes the faith feels just nonexistent, because broken and healing souls have so little of it to spare in the first place. But it is always there, in little places you’d never expect. You can see it in the things most people don’t see past the end of their own noses… a blooming flower in the spring, the way the sun reflects on the ocean, a tiny child giggling at their own imagination… All of these things offer a tangible hope, a faith that life is beautiful no matter what we are going through at any given moment, be it joyous or sad. So, faith and fear are a tricky balancing act for some of us, but there comes a point where it gets so much easier for the the faith to win in the end.

Maybe I’m completely off the mark, or maybe that doesn’t make any sense to anyone but me, but this is just how I see it.  Everything just seems so simple.  And this is how I survive.

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.

What is this freedom you speak of?

So, remember in my last post when I said I had an interview for an accessible apartment?  Well, I got accepted and picked out a unit.  Here’s a tour:

 

This whole moving thing is happening SO fast.  I am scheduled to move in on Thursday.  I have an assessment so I can hire a staff on Wednesday.  I don’t have anything done because my debit card has been stolen twice this month and I’m seriously stressing out.  I know it’s going to be okay, but I really don’t know how people do this.

Anyway, people have been asking how they can help.  I have some options:

I’m at least trying to get things together that I need because I don’t have anything but a bed and a TV.  A dear friend of mine has offered to take me shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond and is going to buy me $300 worth of stuff.  I am grateful for such an incredible kindness and still a little speechless, to be honest.  She suggested I get my friends to sign up on BedBathandBeyond.com, because apparently they send you coupons and things and it would make her budget go even farther if we were those people that use a bajillion offers. So, if you wouldn’t mind signing up and then sending me your coupons so we can use them, that would be wonderful.

Or my friend Stephanie made me a gofundme page (because I am only allowed to have a certain amount of money in my bank account) and anything donated there will go to things I need as well.  The link to that page can be found here, or in the sidebar on my blog.

Lastly, you can always find my Amazon wish list here.

Thank you everyone for your help, love and support.  It means the world.

This is it.  It’s almost over.