Yes, my story is real, and the strength I have gained from my experiences in life is very real. But, my story…my trauma, my anxiety…they don’t define me. I DON’T HAVE anxiety, I live my life despite it. I am NOT a victim, I have survived through trauma. There is a huge difference, and for a long time, I let both define me. What I learned is that you get stuck in those definitions and it becomes who you are. It was incredibly freeing when I learned that I didn’t have to be defined by these labels.
Growing up I was a bit of a trouble maker. Just ask my parents or my sister, especially my dad. Boy did I know how to push his buttons. I was a happy kid. I had friends in the neighborhood. We were usually bouncing from playground to playground. I loved spinning on the tire swing, at the playground behind our house, and looking up at the sky as we spun really fast. And the regular swings. Remember trying to swing so high you went all the way around the top bar? We tried, but never succeeded. I used to ride my bike down big hills with my hands to the side, feeling the wind rip through my hair. And I would steal kitchen spoons so I could dig to China in the backyard. I never quite made it. I would have always preferred bare feet to my tennis shoes. But my parents always caught me. And dancing, oh how I loved to dance. I enjoyed the feel of the bass as it ran through my body.
My sister and I would build blanket forts. They were always amazing. We would build forts with separate rooms in them. We used so many blankets. But the minute my sister made me mad, I would yank that fort down. When we went to the local elementary school to play tennis, I would pound my racket on the ground if I wasn’t winning. In elementary school, my friends and I would walk to school. But we usually walked the way our parents told us not to. In school, there were many times I was removed from the classroom because I was causing trouble.
On the weekends, my friends and I would watch scary movies. My hands would be in front of my face and I would be plugging my ears at the same time. But we loved scary movies. I was me and I never apologized for that. I always wanted to be outside and, in the summers, I would stay out as late as I could, until my mom put the front lights on. I was a free spirit. It had a way of getting me in trouble. I didn’t like rules. But, when I look back, I really like who I was.
I let my fear of what others thought of me get in the way for a very long time. I let my anxiety define me. I let myself play the role of the victim and expected others to nurture me and take care of me. I thought that was who I was. I let my experiences define me. I stopped watching horror films because they increased my anxiety. I stopped trying to dig to China and I stopped trying to make that swing flip over the bar. And…I stopped dancing. Oh how I missed dancing.
When I started living on my own, I realized, who the hell cares what others think of me. I liked the kid I was growing up. Maybe not everything was perfect about her, but she was actually pretty awesome, and she was a force to be reckoned with. I started taking yoga. While I was no longer trying to flip that swing over the bar, I was doing some incredible poses that I thought I would be way too old to do. And, I got to be barefoot while doing it. Growing up, I knew exactly how to push people’s buttons. I believe some of that was because I could read people pretty well. I do not try to push buttons anymore. Instead, I use my ability to read people to support them and put a smile on their faces. I don’t try to dig to China, but I feel very excited about my new love for travel and hope I get to take a ton of trips. I enjoy watching scary movies again (just not by myself). And dancing…I love to dance again. I go out and dance, I stay home and dance, I cook dinner and I dance. I am the person that I am and I make absolutely no apologies. If I offend someone, it’s okay. They don’t have to like me. But I won’t apologize.
This is the real me. Not my trauma, not my anxiety. I returned to the person I used to be, only, more grown up. I like who I am now. I am more than happy to share my story with others, but I realized it was important for you all to know who I really am. I do understand that a lot of my strength comes from my experiences and I don’t discount them. I live with anxiety and I am a survivor, but really, I am so much more than that.