#getyourshittogethergirl

Note: In case you found this in a different avenue — I want to share the “preamble” I added to my Facebook post:

Please take the time to click on this link and read something very important to me, that really has to do with you too — my Facebook friends inclusive of such varied people in my life but to whom I am in some way connected.
I have to add, beyond all that is important and dear and terrifying to me contained in this post, that the writing is a piece of it. I’ve slowly tiptoed into this adoption of understanding that this is a piece of what I’m meant to do. And quiet-to-notso-quietly began putting that out there. I’ve started talking about it. I’ve invested time and energy into it. But I haven’t taken many risks. I can’t even really imagine going all-in. But I can (obviously) imagine going MORE in. Putting the writing out there — and acknowledging that it’s important and honest and I think beautiful and powerful — is a big piece of it too. And I don’t want to miss that in this.
I also believe I can reach people. I feel it. I’ve been told it. But it is scary as hell to own and put effort into that. So I want to acknowledge that this post is public, because I’m ready for that. And I’d like to sincerely ask that you a) read it (please! it’s about the most important thing to me, after life and my loved ones) and b) share if that feels safe for you (The safety piece is really important. Social media can be a really unsafe space. And people reading this from someone who shared — that was something brave! That was an act of courage! Tell them so! Show them you saw that; you read this; they affected you. Dialogue. Acknowledge. Connect. It’s what we’re here for.)

#getyourshittogethergirl

(from the Oasis song “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt”)

September 12th, 2015–5am

I’ve written countless words that have made their way onto the internet in a multitude of public to quasi-private forums. I’ve blogged for long stretches in three separate places. I’ve nurtured the social media outlets I engage in as safe-enough spaces for me to represent the most authentic view of myself, my family, my experiences with this whole crazy thing we’re all in together — life.

Hi, My name is Ashley. This is my family. My husband Tony and I and our daughters Ali (8) and Emmy (4.5). Our Malshi pup is at home in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

There’s a lot that it’s really tricky to say on social media. There’s a lot it’s really tricky to say in person or via text or to the faces of people whom you love dearly. So things inevitably go unsaid.

Sometimes the unsaid things pile up and interfere with your life, happiness, ability to love and connect, etc. That happened to me this past year.

I think that I still can’t say, unabashedly and publicly, exactly all that I want to say — which is the whole of my truth. Not here and not now. And please know I struggle so very greatly with that. In fact I’ve been waiting for these words, this moment, for quite awhile.

And while they aren’t all the words I’d like to say, today they will be enough.

One of the really vulnerable pieces about myself and my story, that I’ve always shared, is a serious and debilitating six year struggle with bulimia in my teens and early twenties — with stints of depression, self injury, a suicide attempt, and eventually numbing with any substance that could make it all hurt a little less, or allow me to function just that much more normally for an hour or a day.

And then I met Tony, got sober, got pregnant, learned to eat again, and started the long road back toward life (because it was easy-peasy like that, right?). I wrote and shared some about sobriety, what it was like to be in recovery (for all the things) in your early twenties, what that meant for us as a young couple, as a new family, etc. What the benefits were and how I/we navigated life that way.

I got real normal about food too. Normal. Whatever the hell that means.

I also tried to show as best I could the process from a person using the system, to a person being schooled to work as a professional in the system, to a “professional” working in the system, to a person passing as a professional with a lot of privilege and some power in the overall functioning of said system.

All of this is to say, that when I lost/“lost” my way — I put it out there. I didn’t know it at the time — but maybe you saw? Honestly, it’s been a recent heartbreak of mine to have multiple people tell me they saw/knew/wondered and not a one asked, in the moment. Not just not one of them. Not one of any of you.

(please know, there’s not [much] blame or resentment here — we are all new to this social media thing and maybe we aren’t very good at caretaking for others through it yet. Though I think it’s where people will continue to turn. So we should try to learn.)

I put it out there when I started eating Paleo — and how it made me feel like a million bucks. I put it out there when I saw incredible changes in my body. I put it out there when I saw improvements in my strength or fitness. I put it out there when I began telling my story in that context too. I put it out there when I got a tummy tuck, and when I got into incredible shape before and after (in fact I created a separate — and public — instagram account (@mytummytuck) that revolved around this…and evolved into my personal (still public) instagram account (@robust_ly).

I put it out there before I realized the cage of control was closing me in. Had closed me in.

I say “I put it out there” almost like it’s a somewhat passive thing that stops with me. I don’t believe that at all. We are all so inter-connected here. The ideas and thoughts and feelings we consume affect us. Even the messages and images we scroll blindly by infiltrate our subconscious. We are so bombarded daily. And I became a piece of the noise.

Incredible and heartfelt shoutout here to one specific and amazing woman who one time walked up to me and told me how my projections of myself affected her feelings about herself. That is one of the most breathtaking moments of pure bravery I’ve witnessed to date in this life.

I was holding others up to the high bar I have/had for myself. I was short-sighted — and sometimes exceptionally long-sighted — in my priorities (i.e. over-prioritizing current body, or living in good health for 100 years) to the detriment of that which I actually hold most dear: family, connection, love, community (to name a few).

It was sometimes hard for me to piece out the inklings of uncertainty because our society appreciates so loudly the aesthetic. So loves the strong-willed and self-controlled. And tends to get real quiet about the rest.

The problem with me, specifically, becoming a piece of the noise is that I have a strong voice. I always have. I think I have influence that I’ve never fully understood. And may never understand. It was a weight I felt but couldn’t articulate. It was a truth I ran from when things got hard.

It’s my use of that voice — and my projection of that life/body as both desirable and attainable — that has brought me back to a statement like this, over and over and over again the past few months. The more the realizations and eye-openings come to me, the more the urge inside grows until it starts spilling out and I can hardly hold it back.

This needs to be said.

I was off track. I fucked up at the “recovery” I’d touted pretty loudly for a long time — and then got quiet about it. And loud about something else.

The truth I can share here is: I’ve been renegotiating what recovery means for me, with myself and those close to me, for the past 3–4 years (and just for the MSW/government employee that I am: this is in no way implying/admitting/acknowledging criminal or otherwise unethical behavior). I’ve found it to be a process littered with outer messages I’ve come to inwardly carry and crushing but so frustratingly dichotomous societal/professional expectations.

And trauma.

For me there’s a lot of trauma. I think we do a disservice when we don’t talk about the trauma of being addicted. When we separate the pieces of the people who most desperately want to be integrated. When we treat from a power-over or “fixing” perspective. When to save the life you so desperately cling to (and run from), you first have to accept yourself as hopelessly defective — and powerless.

And base a life on that.

And if that voice deep within you doesn’t agree?

Call it an addict and disconnect. Anything questioning the doctrine is a personal defect to be reckoned with.

It was not easy to be in A.A. at nineteen.

I feel like when I was spinning in my own shit, I may have spun up some stuff in other people. Maybe some feeling of not being enough, or doing enough, or having enough: will or motivation or time or resources or support. Or interest.

I think body dissatisfaction is contagious and I’ve been sick for awhile.

And I’m sorry.

I’m embarrassed and hesitant and self-conscious.

I’m also unwavering in my knowing that the way forward for me is to share this. To own this. To show it, as much as I can. I’ve been immersing myself in Brene Brown (if you’re just starting, start with her TEDxHouston talk on Vulnerability).

And right now, that means Rising Strong. I’ve been doing it in pieces, but without this piece — without the opening up and the actual owning — it may as well be vague-booking. Ugh.

And I’ll say too, it’s been interesting to see the responses to the pieces thus far. Everyone wants to congratulate on the highs but we really don’t know how to show up in the lows.

I hold onto this idea that maybe seeing is enough. Maybe if people are witnessing and invested in my life — even if it’s just for the pictures of my kids, or their own practice of comparison-as-a-recipe-for-discontent, or because they’ve come this far with me — maybe my sharing, my living and being, can alter a perspective even a little. Maybe it can dismantle one little piece of oppressive thinking/acting/being. Maybe my words will trigger your conversation.

Meanwhile, I’ll step up to my responsibility of putting supports in place so I can continue to do/be…this. So the weight of the silence doesn’t hold me down. So I’m no longer attached to your response (or spinning in what my head creates in the expanse of the unsaid), and instead secure in my own presence and reactions. Or trying to be. You know.

Maybe the space from that will create room for an outbreak of openness.

I’m trying to make a lot of things right at the moment. My head and my heart, first and foremost. My body second. And then my family, my close people, my many pipelines (of future close people, of adventure, of creativity, of hope, of possibility, of change, etc.). For the first time in a long time I have space to focus on my values and intentions and this breathtaking process of stripping down enough to re-align them.

And I’ve come back time and time again to social media. It’s a strong piece of my story. It always has been. I posted my suicide note on Livejournal in 2001. It’s a tenuous relationship and I don’t always know how best to manage.

But I’m thinking no one else does either. We’ve never grown up on social media before. We haven’t gone from angsty teen to total fuck-up to gritty early recovery to the American dream to a breakdown in the emptiness of that (deep breath) in such a public — yet intimate — way before.

I don’t have to listen to the fear of those that think it will break us.

I choose to step into the bright spotlight of vulnerability and believe that the truth will set us free.

Because it’s doing so for me. And I’m unwilling to halt that process by holding back what my very being screams needs to be said.

In May of this year I began writing for myself again. The first thing I wrote I posted on my blog anyway. The next thing I wrote, I kept to myself for months. Two weeks ago I shared it:

The writing changed everything. It helped me find my way back to my voice. My unedited voice. My less traumatized voice. The voice I know needs to be shared.

Because I think we all have a voice within us.

And I think mine might speak to [some of] yours.

Following is the next thing I wrote. That I’ve been itching to share. I think I’ve felt physical and emotional pain about holding it — and all that has followed — back.

Because I don’t want to see/know this stuff by myself. I want us all to be in general understanding about it. At least you all, my people. Whomever you all are out there.

Beautifully Broken — 5.24.15
I think we’re all cracked and scarred and some of us maybe even have a chasm or two or four. Some of us are more tuned into our landscape. Maybe a few have put together a road map of trauma and triggers. Days and distances and despair to be avoided.
I find myself tripping over the same cracks I identified over a decade ago. Are these the markings that create the unique current of my life? Is this a sign of hardheadedness, weakness, unresolved turmoil, emotional instability, and/or old habits dying hard? Is it something more clinical?
Is tripping even a problem? Is there a steady cadence in this life? And if so, what kind of life is that associated with? Would it leave me happy and fulfilled? Would it leave me looking for a little crazy?
I don’t mind the trips. I worry about a fall.
Fall from grace. (saving face)
I worry about making decisions based on appearance. I worry about losing credibility. I worry about living a lie. I worry about the consequences of the truth. I worry about faking perfect and I worry about false hope and expectations and I worry about finding comfort in the downfall. I worry about awakening the voices within that scream so loudly and so cruelly. I worry about once again relinquishing control and how to even begin to contemplate arriving at that place. I worry about addiction and depression and diagnosis. I worry about the mental health system and societal stigma and professional appropriateness. I worry about running. I worry about change. I worry about being back to that powerless place that I don’t think I have the strength to survive again. I worry about falling apart.
I worry. I worry when what I really want is to be free. What I really want is to be thoughtful, intentional, peaceful, and positive.
Pretending is a prison sentence to me. A chasm of mine that separates me from you and from [nearly?] everyone. I want to show you my cage. I want to show you my strength. I want to show you the depths of my denial, the cracks in my façade, the errors in my thinking, the sorrow and shame settled into my soul. I want to show you the million ways I’ve devised to make it work, to make it better, to be in the here and now and have the great privilege of presenting as normally as I elect on a given day or season.
I want to be free and I don’t know how to get there without being true. Without baring all. How can you accept what you do not know? I want to push back. I want to go all in.
I’m stopped by the sacrifice. The vulnerability. The critique and criticism. Misgivings.
But I can’t be still.
And so I spin a little. Circles. Cycles. I spin with my brokenness and my cracks and my sorrows and I hold them close. I don’t hide them but neither do I stop long enough for you to catch a good look. I talk openly, but it’s calculated. I assume my appropriate persona and occasionally allude to the depths below my surface.
It helps to be dizzy. It helps to stay busy. It helps to take a vacation. It helps to stay in crisis. It helps to place blame. It helps to sink into the drama. It helps to arm myself with excuses. It helps to look at the big picture.
But I’m still broken. And I don’t mind to be.
I just want you to see it too. We’re alone in this together

#getyourshittogethergirl #letsdothis