The past ten years, part two: You gotta heal.

 The shirt I'm wearing in this photo from 2014 is where the name Flannelkimono was born. This was my favorite flannel shirt from high school. I bought it at the Hills Department Store directly across from Rolling Acres Mall. My best friend Kim worked back in the layaway department, so I would go up there and hang out with her. I lived in this flannel my entire senior year, and probably the two years following it. There are quite a few pictures of me from the early nineties wearing this flannel.

When my mom got sick, I was tasked with going over and cleaning her house, and cleaning a lot of the bullshit she had stuffed into every corner of her house. When I was cleaning out her closet, I found my beloved flannel. When I slipped it on, I was immediately shocked by how oversized it was. At the time, I was at least 80 pounds heavier than I had been in high school, and I could wrap the damn thing around me. I laughed and told my sister "it's kind of like wearing a flannel kimono."

It also felt like slipping back into my old teenage depression, which to be honest, that's where I was at that time in 2014. I had returned from a disastrous trip to visit a friend who ended up drugging my drink and assaulting me. I didn't report it, and my friends got me out of there and home safely. My mom was super sick. I wasn't working. I spent most of my time numbing myself with drugs and food. I started seeing a therapist again, and also somehow met the guy who would end up becoming my husband in 2016, but not after years of dating guys who were full of self loathing and unable to love another person, just like me.

It was a lot. But that instant connection with Kurt was something I had never experienced. We were a team right away, and to this day, remain the best goddamned team I've ever been a part of. Having access to that kind of love and safety enabled me to do what I needed to do:

I started trauma therapy, once a week. After a few weeks, I started group therapy, too. So, I was in my feelings and my deepest trauma twice a week. All triggers up and open and ready to attack, at any time. I had a complete nervous breakdown and ended up losing my job. Instead of totally giving up, I gave myself a few weeks of decompression time, where I slept a lot, and then I kept up with therapy twice a day, since I had the time and space to focus on myself. I had to try and figure out what was keeping me so afraid and alone and self destructive, and deal with it once and for all.

I did a deep dive into my family shit. I had to. I grew up in a very toxic home. My parents did the best with where they came from and the resources they had available, but I also realize now that it wasn't enough for me. I was a bright kid. Creative. Funny. Outgoing. And by the time I was at an age where I could present that person to the world, I had had all of my shine abused out of me. I was afraid, constantly asking myself if I was too much, or not enough, or if I even deserved to be alive. Some people are given cool family hand-me-downs; I just got the roster of my parent's anxieties and fears, on top of some good old fashioned neglect and verbal abuse. It was neverending at times; other times, I'd walk away from the worst offender of it, just to scrape through my daily life of Job I Hate, People I Hate, and Hating Myself.

Only, I don't actually hate myself. I never have. Surrounding myself with terrible people through the years (in the form of relationships, friendships, and work) was because that's what I felt that I deserved. Before I met my husband, I went through a stint of dating men I was embarrassed to be seen with in public. I had disappointing sex with men who hated themselves more than I hated myself. I was with them because I wanted to love anyone except myself. My friendships at the time were mostly based in substance abuse; I either hung out with really drunk people, people with eating disorders, or both at the same time (like me; i'm an overachiever).

My home became my sanctuary. I decorated the place in bright colors, and spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine like a cat. I also got a new cat while going through the darkest parts of therapy and my mom's illness, which gave me something that needed me, but in a healthier way. I also went to a doctor about my weight, because I was tired of wearing my depression on the outside, and also tired of not knowing how to do anything beyond eating to abuse myself. I slowly started losing weight, and now I'm in a body that is totally foreign to me, but I feel better and I'm learning to adjust.

There was lots of music and tons of travel during this time. I also found my way back to my camera, and started shooting every day, and posting every day to Instagram. I became very interested in malls, and spent lots of time researching it.

I also started to do things that mattered to me. I was working gigs here and there, but I also found time to volunteer my time with community organizations. I eventually found my way into a part time remote gig working for an all women owned business. I also decided to work more with social media marketing, only to find that I'm great at it, but the clients generally aren't great to deal with. I dropped my last paid social gig late this year, and immediately started doing marketing for my own endeavors. I've made more reselling things I already own than I did working a second gig.

I found my way back to writing, finally. The guy I left at the beginning of the decade had beat it into my head that my story didn't matter, and nobody was reading my writing, so why even write? I realized years after that this was a person who didn't have much of an education beyond high school. During our four years together, I don't think I ever saw him crack a book. He wasn't articulate, and I never had any semblance of an intelligent conversation with him. So, why did his voice still matter? Oh right, it didn't, and it never did. I kicked off my return to writing by giving a talk about mental health and photography for 300 people back in April. Currently, I'm working on launching a website about malls and getting a podcast going with one of the funniest guys I know.

The only thing that has mattered over the years is what I thought of myself, and how I treated myself. It finally happened, but it took me years to love myself and be gentle with myself. I learned how to cheer myself on, even through the small victories. I learned how to unravel myself from a family that by all accounts is still dysfunctional, but still stay involved, because I do love them. As my opinion of myself changed, everything around me changed. I'm going into 2020 with a solid marriage, great friends, a job I like, a hobby that I love, and most of all, loving and trusting myself and the process, whatever that may be.

My past is also finally just that: my past. I don't want to revisit it, at least in any public forum. The past 10 years has been full of fucked up people and situations. Looking back it only keeps me sick, and I don't want to do that anymore. 2020 will be the year that I mostly leave Facebook, and I quit checking in on my Facebook memories. Leaving Facebook will also keep me from looking at profiles of people I don't like or want in my life, because we all do that. It's usually done under the guise of being curious, but for me, is just a way for me to feel bad about something that has already happened and by all accounts, will never happen again.

2020 is the year that I'm starting out with an epic trip out west with my husband. I'm hoping to travel more this year, with and without my husband. I want to see a bunch of malls and roadside attractions. I can't wait to show my husband Las Vegas, the city I fell in love with at the beginning of 2018 after spending a week there with my sister.

And  I'm going to keep healing. I owe it to myself, and to the people I love.

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