A Beautiful Mess

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Life is Sweet series this year continues to amaze and inspire me. I love that given the parameters of a blog post for a series called Life is Sweet about mental health and loss, people can go in an infinite number of directions with what they choose to writer about and share. I'm so stoked to have Emily on the blog today with a whole lot of honesty. 

I'm here to tell you that it's okay to feel bad, and it's okay to be totally open about how bad you feel. Oh, and an early PS: I am one of those people who will always call it like it is.

I spent a lot of time and a few drafts thinking about what to write for this guest post: I could talk about my experiences with suicide and self-harm, I could talk about the science of happiness (I love brains and I love talking neuroscience), I could talk about the onset of my PTSD and anxiety after an abusive ex-boyfriend and getting wrongfully arrested for reporting him for domestic violence, I could talk at length about how pop culture treats mental illnesses and ply you with a bunch of quotes... in short, I am no stranger to unhappiness, or to being verbose.

After a somewhat upsetting recent experience, I decided it would be most important to do what I do best – call out something that's NOT working in our society, and once it's stripped naked for all to see, let's change it so that we can start to feel better in our own skin.

This is going to come in two (okay, maybe three) parts. First off, let's talk about what bullshit image crafting is, and why it's got to stop. I'm sure you know what I mean – those happy statuses from friends where all they ever talk about is how great their life is, how great their partner is, how great their job is... and don't even get me started on all the half-naked (or more!) photos out there, of people vying for attention and comments on how attractive they are.

When you're already down, or have put on an extra few pounds, or feel like you're unlovable and perpetually single – this kind of shit is poison for your eye sockets, heart, and brain. When you're alone on a Friday night in your pyjamas and can't stop crying, the last thing you need to see is how damned happy everyone else around you seems to be. It's so easy to believe that you're worthless or unlovable or just plain doomed when you can't seem to form the kind of friendships that you see documented on Facebook, or when people don't respond to your Tweets or texts but converse with everyone else. I have been there. Everyone has. Whether or not they have the balls to admit it is a different story.

The blunt truth is that the people who consistently indulge in image crafting are likely just as insecure and emotionally fragile as you are, no matter how well put together they may outwardly seem. Don't let their happy outward appearance fool you. Since you wouldn't knowingly eat poison, why do you let your eyes, brain, and heart consume it? The bigger blunt truth here is that you are NOT any less attractive, lovable, or worthy than these people who are indulging in their own form of insanity. Don't let yourself get sucked into a self-doubt spiral through unfair comparisons – your private rehearsals of existence versus their larger-than-life perpetual opening nights. Goddamn it, you are pretty and worthy of love. Yes, I mean YOU, who is reading this right now.

What's maybe worse than image crafters are the people who seem to think that you should only use social media to post happy thoughts. You know what? That's bullshit too. The people who want to judge you or bring you down for expressing all sides of yourself are, quite frankly, not worth your time or attention or loyalty or respect. More than once, I've been accused of being an over-sharer, or seeming “unprofessional”, or going against other people's “values” by posting personal things that were less than happy and shiny. To me, that just weeds out the people who don't understand me and my shoot-from-the-heart ways. If people are going to judge you for expressing yourself as a whole person, with varying moods and ideas and ALL THE FEELINGS – well, then it's like Marilyn Monroe said: “if you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best.”

If you express “I'm sad”, the people who respond with “how can I help?” are the ones who are worth their weight in gold. As a society, we are still told far too often to keep our emotions in check, to make sure we “appear to be socially acceptable, and don't you dare step a toe across that line or we'll de-friend you.” It's utterly ridiculous. We are not robots with a default setting of 'happy' wherein the broken models have their settings stuck elsewhere. As we evolve into organisms that interact more and more via the Internet and technology, rather than in person or via paper letters or telephone calls, the way we express ourselves needs to evolve as well.

I'm here to empower and reassure you that it's okay to be open about who you are: you beautiful, tangled, complex mess of a person. I know this because I'm a beautiful mess too. It's taken me a long time to realize it and to be able to advocate for myself, but I am the furthest thing from normal-brained, at the best of days. People will tell me “wow, you're so organized and busy”. I tend to laugh at these well-meaning but misguided folks who don't know firsthand about the sleepless nights I spend, the anxiety attacks when I can't deal with doing the stacks of laundry that seem to double when I'm not looking, or how I have spent more time than I care to admit at home in my pyjamas aimlessly surfing Facebook or playing Candy Crush instead of doing the work I should be doing.

Emotions are messy and complicated. At the core, we still have our lovely lizard brains controlling the show – the part of our brain who just wants to know if we can eat, have sexytimes with, or will have to fight new stimulus (or people) that come into our lives. Emotions are volatile; just like a bundle of explosives, sometimes they can't be contained. Don't be afraid to explode if you need to. The people who are your true friends will be there to help you put the pieces back together.

It's okay to be angry, and it's okay to be sad, just as much as it's okay to be happy. It's okay to talk about what's making you feel this way – even if you don't know exactly what or why – and it's okay to reach out for support when you need it. If you want to talk about what you're feeling, please please please always go for it. Post some sad song lyrics, send a friend a text, write a screaming status update in all capital letters. Whatever works best for you. Do it when you're happy AND do it when you're sad. Blog it, vlog it, scream your feelings from the rooftops. I wish more people would.

Never censor yourself for the benefit of other people. They don't know what's happening in your heart. And, if needed, you've always got an understanding ear and a big comforting hug here.


Your Sister of Perpetual “Oversharing” 

Emily Schooley is an accomplished creative professional who loves crossing genres and boundaries. She has been known to work as an actor and filmmaker, along with offering personal coaching and a handful of other talents through her biz that make her a bonafide Girl Friday. You can check out her offerings for YOU at http://laughingcat.ca and https://www.facebook.com/LaughingCatInc, or find her performance work at http://emilyschooley.com and https://www.facebook.com/EmilySchooley.

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