Growth through Learning

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It is a brave person that can reach down deep within themselves and create something to be seen in public, knowing full well they will be unable to stand beside it and explain the heart behind what they’ve created. Instead, they are left with the task of trusting people not to use that painting, that drawing, that poem, that novel, that music, that story, that life against them.

This is true vulnerability.
This is my story.

The strong one. The dependable one. The one who makes her own drum beat. The calm one. The one who will always be okay. The quick learner. The girl who’s gut and heart should be trusted, because they’re rarely wrong. The adaptable one. The one who takes the hard, sharp, jagged things life has given her and transforms them into soft, warm, gentle things.

The one who shows others that living can be hell, but it’s still worth living.

These are the things the people closest to me – those that truly know me – have engraved on me over the years, and on most days, these are the things I’ve learned to say to myself. These words have a way of forcing out the voice of self-deprecating malice that has grown a little too comfortable in my mind. Before these people and these words, the sorrow and anguish that rattled me since I was 9 years old was unspeakable.

Literally.

I had no idea what was going on inside my head and not the slightest clue how to communicate whatever it was. I was under the impression that this was how everybody thought. Everyone had a dark corner in their mind that grew and grew every morning until their thoughts were not thoughts, just blurs and shadows drifting from edge to dreary edge, threatening to make me jump.

Apparently I wasn’t you’re typical nine year old.

Don’t get me wrong, I did notice a difference. I perceived most of my teachers and peers to be not being nearly as somber as I was and just like any kid, I wanted to be as outgoing and as engaging as my friends. But as hard as I tried, I could never quite fit the mold. If I’m being totally honestly, it was probably for the best. I would prefer to be the balding, quiet, pensive kid you’d find reading the dictionary or Shirley Jackson than to be the balding, loud, boisterous kid who outwardly craved attention.

Balding.
Yes, you read that right. No, it was not a typo.

When I was 9 years old, I was diagnosed with Trichotillomania, or “Trich” for short. It’s like OCD, PTSD, BFRB (body focused repetitive behaviors), a little too much grey matter, and maybe even a gene called SLITRK1, was thrown into my blender of existence and somehow causes me to pull out my hair. My case of Trich is classified as “severe.”

No, it doesn’t hurt. No, Trichsters can’t help it (believe me, if we could stop on our own, we would). And no, it’s not a form of self harm (although I’ve had my bouts with that too).

Because of Trich, I’ve spent most of my life hiding. I’ve hidden from the not-so-kind comments people make when they when they see someone more insecure in their body than themselves, or when they just simply don’t understand. While most of these comments came from unthinking strangers, I found myself prone to stabbing remarks from even my own family.

So I learned to hide.

It became so instinctual for me that everything else fell easily into my little box of hidden things. If you opened it, you might find some gems, like the reasons behind my emotions, my hopes and dreams, my sexuality, all tuck away and hidden from everyone – even myself.

All of this dishonesty with myself- and some whacked out brain chemistry- led to those blurry shadow monsters taking control. They tried to convince me to jump more than a dozen times, and yes, I gave them the time of day. I would listen to those monsters most of all because they screamed until I couldn’t hear any other voices. I couldn’t hear my friends tell me they loved me – and they did. All I could hear were vague forms of words through layer after layer of fog – losing all meaning by the time they hit something to rest on.

It didn’t help that the loudest voices outside those monsters came from those telling me who they thought I should be, deciding for themselves how I fit into this world, yet giving me so little guidance to figure out who I was outside of the pain that had become my constant companion. No one was able to see me outside the Southern, cookie-cutter Christian culture; outside the AP class taking, honor roll making student; outside the All-State level musician.

If someone were to ask me who I was back then, I would have listed these “whats” without even thinking to tell them “who.” Who was I? I should have told them that I was patient, caring, considerate. That I loved easily. That what I feared the most was myself. That the thing that made me laugh the most, was when a friend would sneakily untie my shoelaces from the other side of a prop during marching band practices.

I am a who I am. I am not what I am. I learned this the hard way, but I learned.

I’ve learned to listen to my heart in regard to myself. I’ve learned to appreciate my body. I’ve learned to take the good with the bad, instead of just taking the bad and trying to cover it up. I’ve learned to take better care of myself through eating better, exercise, journaling, and socializing. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a long hard road on the way to self care. I moved out when I was 17, dropped out of two different colleges, moved to Michigan, moved back to Georgia, couch surfed, lived in a camper, created a more intimate friendship than I ever had, had to let go of said friendship, and make thousands of seemingly insignificant decisions to make myself a better human- not just for others, but for myself.

And as much as I had to fight in every “insignificant” decision, as much as I’ll have to continue fighting, it is worth it because I am worth it.

Now, at 23, I have not one, not two, but three amazing jobs that are all flexible and enriching. I have my own roof over my head, an adorable cuddly fur baby named Major Tom, amazingly supportive friends to share life with (and the fog is often lifted more than enough for me to hear them when they say they love me), and most importantly, a state of mind that lets me fight for myself and for others. I have hopes, goals, aspirations, and the drive to accomplish them. I’m comfortable with my sexuality – yes, I still hide it sometimes, but not from myself or from friends.

As for the Trich, it’s still an issue, but I’m hopeful. I’ve been shaving my head for about 3 years now. I can’t pull it out if it isn’t there, right? Lucky for me, lesbians with crazy short hair aren’t “unusual”. I’m hopeful that I can kick it the Trich – someday, somehow.

Life is messy. It’s messy and frustrating and it sometimes, it sucks more than it’s good. If you’ve made it through reading my story and life is pretty great for you at the moment, I’m so grateful. Hold on to these moments in the downward swing. If you’re reading this and your life sucks right now, stick it out a little longer. You owe yourself the chance to see who you might become.

My name is Morgan. I’m kind, hopeful, considerate, and understanding. I’d love to get to know you too – not your what, but your who. Feel free to find me on Instagram and we can talk about who we are becoming.

Story Submitted By Morgan