Friday, August 27, 2010

Finding Hope

Sometimes you have to look really hard to find hope.

Hope likes to hide in unseen places where you really wouldn't think to look, but more than likely, you find it hiding in a part of yourself you've just not found or when you've not found the value in yourself yet.

It's hard to find hope when someone who's approval means the world to you calls you and basically relays that your life as you know it is worthless, that in their opinion, everything you do is basically wrong, but they mask it under, the whole "I believe in you" or "I'm only telling you this because I love you" excuse so they can just line you up on a tee and pretend they're a one-wood, purposefully sending you and your self-esteem straight into a very deep hole in the ground.  When that happens, it destroys every single last bit of self-esteem you've worked so hard to build.  It also makes hope incredibly hard to find. 

When you have debilitating depression that you have no idea how to come out of, then the person who supposedly "loves" you comes along and effectively makes your depression worse, how are you supposed to recover?  When they tell you that you have no right to become defensive, when the simple facts are, you're being defensive to try to keep yourself from mental harm, what do you do with that?

Then hope slips further away.  You find yourself with your sheets pulled up over your head and wishing to die because not only is your depression kicking your ass, but you've got people who are supposedly trying to "support" you doing more damage than good.  At that point, things look pretty hopeless and your persevering spirit decides to vanish in a wave of tears from the pain you're in.

I remember when someone else in my immediate family's world came crashing down around her ankles.  She became unhinged and she absolutely had every right to cry and be upset with what happened to her.  I remember the day I saw her after her whole world was destroyed and all I did was comfort her.  I didn't say anything that would hurt her, I just held her as she cried.  I never told her that what had happened to her was of her own doing, recriminating her for everything she did wrong in her marriage.  No.  I just held her and told her everything was going to be okay, because I know you don't play "tough love" with people in that situation.  What the hell is "tough love" anyway, just an excuse to be a bitch and express your inadequacy issues on someone that is in pain?  Making someone else hurt worse than they are so you can feel better about yourself?

When the same thing happened to me, the same person I comforted with gentle words and nothing but love in my heart, they turned around and recriminated me for everything they thought I did wrong and how screwed up I was to them.  They spoke about things that they had no idea what really happened in the 10 years of my life I was married.  No, I got the "tough love" speech and dressed down in seven different ways, from my lack of a job, how I use my computer too much, that my parents were on the verge of divorce because of me and that everything that everyone was going through, that was ancillary to what was actually happening to me, was my fault.  Put succinctly, I gave her support when she needed it, when I needed it, she gave me a vicious kick in the gut, ranting at me on the phone for a solid 45 minutes, not even giving me the chance to defend myself.  Then she got pissed when I wanted to take aspirin because of the splitting headache she was giving me and I was denying myself the nice bottle of valium that my doctor prescribed for me just for moments like that so that I don't have anxiety and I'm able to cope with being told I'm a sack of shit without having my depression leave me bedridden for days.  I hung up the phone, looked at it and said something to the effect of 'jump off a bridge', but let me tell you, it wasn't as nice as that and contained some very harsh explicatives.

After that phone call, I said "to hell with it", took a valium to calm down and called my father.  I just broke down and cried, needing the one person in my immediate family who I knew would back me up.  Since he's still recovering from knee surgery, he sent my mother over to my house and the support I needed vanished in glares and looks that said she didn't even understand the ramifications of the phone call berating me like that and worse, she left the overall impression that I deserved what I had gotten.  She helped me pack pieces of the apartment, taking things over to her house because at that time things were still in the air as to where I would be going, supposedly, I'd be going to her house, so into the back of her SUV some of my belongings went, and she did me the favor of taking some of my old clothes over to Goodwill to be donated on her way home.  She spent all of about two hours with me, then left, leaving me in an ambivalent valium-enduced haze to survive the ordeal that had victimized me that day.

But then, it got even more fun a few days later.  Apparently, someone I don't even know who they are is calling my parents house looking for me.  I don't give out my parents phone number.  The people who need to get a hold of me know how, they're all equipped with my cell phone number.  The last time someone called my parents looking for me, my mother described them as "high as a kite", ok, the person could have just been jubilant and Mom would probably call them "high".  When I tried to tell her that I didn't know who it was, she made me feel like a criminal, like I knew who it was but I was lying about it.  Ok, so what do we have?  Me telling the truth that I have no idea who is calling there, and I'm being treated like a criminal and a liar.

Yeah, the hole got pretty deep right around then.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  My living situation was in the air, I had no idea where I was going to go, but put simply, moving back in with my parents became a non-option.  I was not going to go back into a home where I'm belittled, mentally abused, treated like a criminal and robbed of my self-esteem on a daily basis because I live my life on a different plane of existence that isn't understood. 

Here's where the differences are: I don't believe in tearing people down.  I believe in lifting them up.  I have a very short attention span for people who are so self-righteous, have the view-through-a-soda-straw, are materialistic, spiritually bankrupt, or small in their worldview.  The world is too big and far too diverse in experiences to be small in your perception of the world.  You have to open up and breathe it in, let it permeate your soul and let it give you wings so that you can fly.  So, much less to say, the circumstances have changed.

After the verbal ass-ripping I got, then the whole criminal thing came down, I called the ex in tears.  I was ready to OD.  I knew if I had to spend a single night under my parents roof again, I wouldn't make it through the night.  I had lost all care of my own person.  It didn't matter what anyone else said or did, I had lost all fear of death and realized that I was on the precipice.  It was the very cliché "Live free or die" because I would rather die on my own terms rather than ever be abused again.  In between sniffles and tears involuntarily streaming down my cheeks, I calmly asked him how he wanted his furniture stored until he could arrange to have it moved to where he was.  I told him how I was doing and that time was short, so we needed to act accordingly.  When I described everything to him and where I was mentally, he got pissed to put it mildly.  He told me not to listen to a single word of what I was being told, that he was immediately going to make arrangements for me to move to a small one-bedroom apartment, that I wouldn't be spending a single night under my parents roof.  He told me that he'd call me the following Monday with a plan.

The ex came through.  I don't know how, but he did.  He spoke to the apartment complex manager and made possible to be able to transfer apartments, eliminating the need to move back to my parents house.

Then, things started becoming more miraculous.  The 50-hour-a-week job, that was robbing me of being able to go to school, became a distant memory as I found out that I had been denied entry into UNLV for the fall semester.  I called my admissions counselor in desperation.  He said the only chance I had to make it into school for the fall is to go through the appeals process.  The UNLV appeals process is simple, you provide a written statement as to why your academic performance in the past wasn't what it should have been.  Then you have to provide two letters of recommendation to the appeals board telling them that you're an outstanding student and give reasons why you should be admitted to school.  After hanging up from the call to my admissions adviser, I immediately penned my written statement for my appeal.  I wrote my heart out and gave the brass tacks as to what happened to me.  I have to say, the letter in itself was powerful.  It told of a young woman at 18 who had no idea where she was going, but 20 years later, how I have a clear view of where I want to go and who I want to be.  Then it was on to the recommendation letters.  I already had one recommendation letter written by a friend for the last time I faced the prospect of going through the appeals process, but then I needed a second, so I called in a marker.  I contacted my favorite professor, Doc T.  Y'all know how much I love him, he's just the kitten's whiskers to me.  Well, the man came through in an epic way.  I cried when I read his recommendation letter for me.  It felt so good to have someone believe in me in a way no one else ever has, reading about how he thought that I was an extraordinary student and he said it was remarkable how I was always trying to improve myself to become a better person and how he saw that I used every single bit of advice he and others had given me.   It was so uplifting.  What got me was at the end of the e-mail he sent me with the recommendation letter attached, it was three simple sentences:

Take care, Sheri.  Don't let the bastards of the world get you down.  
Remember: you're better than them.

After a few nervous days, I was surprised when the phone rang last Friday morning, just seven days ago...

"Hi, this is Stephanie at UNLV Admissions.  I just wanted to call you to let you know, you won your appeal.  You're a Rebel."

I stopped her.  I thought I was dreaming.  I wasn't ready for this.  Things were so bleak!  How could there be a light at the end of the tunnel?  How was it possible? 

I asked her to repeat herself.  She said, "You heard me right, you're in!  You got accepted!"  I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone.

I later called my mother and told her the news, so excited.  I got the monotone reply, "Oh.  So, that means you're going to school?"  I sat in shock that what I want most in my life, to finish my education, means so little to one of the people who should be the most proud of me in that moment.  I hung up the phone completely drained of joy when it should have been one of the happiest moments in my life.

Then I called the ex and gave him the news.  The one sentence that should have come out of my mother came out of my ex, which was a very excited, "Oh my god!  That's great!  Fantastic!  I am so very happy for you.  Well done!" 

My life has become a series of events making me realize that the people who should be supporting me most,  aren't.  I was raised with the axiom: "At the end of the day, all you have is family."  I'm finding out that's very untrue.  At the end of the day, all you have is you.

I scrambled all last weekend putting together my financial aid paperwork, then searching for classes that weren't already full to the brim, finding time to clean out a few more things before the move.

I began classes this week.  This semester, the tales I'll be sharing with you are from Introduction to Environmental Science, also known as ENV 101; Critical Analysis of the Mass Media, also known as Journalism (JOUR) 101; and News Writing and Reporting, also known as JOUR 102.   

I'm in school.  I've got job prospects that will allow me to go to school and work at the same time and on top of that, I'm living my life the way I want to live it.  I've realized those who want to give me "tough love" have no place in my universe and now are (after a lifetime of strikes against them) officially exiled from the beauty, joy and love I bring along with being excluded from the amazing events of my life.  Burn me once, shame on you, burn me over and over and over again, over the course of a lifetime, shame on me, and it WILL NOT be happening again.  I can only give someone so many chances to redeem themselves, after that, it's toxic to me, and I'm not going to let someone else's inferiority complexes, jealousy and martyr complexes screw up my life.  That's their problems not mine.  I've got my own issues to solve.  Call me selfish if you'd like, but please, don't ever call me again if you feel the need to dole out some fucked up version of support called "tough love".

Amongst the hottest of fires, the heartiest of steel is forged.  And somehow, along the way, I found hope.  I found that all of my external influences are paying off and making me realize that the darkest moments are followed by bathing in the light and soaking up the feeling of it shining on your shoulders, looking up and appreciating it for what it is.  Hope. 

Today, I took down the check from my personal bank account to the apartment complex manager and laid out all of the plans to get moved into my own space.

My own apartment.

Not mine and my ex's.

Not mine and my parents.

Not mine and anyone else's.

My own space.

Moving day is September 4th.  

Hope lives and breathes, it's in me when I thought I'd never have it again...

In that spirit, enjoy today's song of the day:

One Republic's "Good Life".  Pick it up on iTunes.  (If it sounds familiar, it's on the trailer for "Eat Pray Love".)


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