Speaking My Truth is What Saved Me

It wasn’t therapy. It wasn’t psychiatric medication. It wasn’t my divorce. It wasn’t moving to the country… Authenticity is what saved me.

I’m betting we’ve all met some truly authentic people. You know, those people whose self-awareness and confidence is palpable. They always seem grounded and honest—they carry themselves with an assurance that belies a solid understanding of who they are and what they’re doing. They’re the people who start movements, who pursue their passions, who have a glowing energy, and who seem legitimately happy in their lives, despite their struggles and stresses. They are the people we want to be around and the people we want to emulate.

I think deep down we all know who our authentic self is. Deep down, we know what’s true about ourselves. And deep down, we’re aware of what we need and what we want and why, but we rarely act on this knowledge or understanding.

Why do so many of us sacrifice our authentic selves? Why do we hide our authenticity and keep our needs and wants private? Why have so many of us lost the ability to recognize and act on what we really need in order to be fulfilled?

I can’t speak for other people. I mean, I can guess at things, but really I have no idea how other people think and what they need in order to be happy; those things are going to be different for everybody.

I can tell you this, though: speaking my truth absolutely saved me.

My parents tell stories of me as a toddler where it’s clear that in my youngest years I had no problem communicating what I wanted. I’m pretty sure I just bit whoever wouldn’t listen and smacked other kids if I didn’t get my way. I was an adorable child, to be sure.

Something changed as I got older, though—I learned to turn that energy inward. I learned that it was unacceptable to lose my temper, or to bite and hit (kudos Mom and Dad!).

Unfortunately, my self-regulation skills morphed into a practice of self-sacrifice and passivity. I learned to deny my needs for the sake of keeping the peace and to focus solely on making sure that the other people around me were happy instead of myself. This skill for self-deprecation, that I honed in my childhood and my youth, led me into some really damaging relationships. In not speaking up, in not having the language or the tools to make my authentic-self known, I lost touch with my needs and I let other people take advantage of me. I developed a deep sense of insecurity, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, and despair.

This blog is the product of my experience of emotional abuse and me coming to terms with the unhealthy habits I formed that led to the unhealthy relationships I experienced. A few years ago, my life felt like a prison. I remember resolving myself to face at least 40 more years of unhappiness because of the commitment I felt to my partner and the life we had together. I remember wanting to completely disappear; to evaporate, to dissolve, to press my body up against a wall and seep into the paint and become nothing.

It was a very dark time in my life.

And then something changed: my marriage hit a breaking point and I saw an opportunity for escape. Something happened that made me feel justified in leaving my life as I knew it and moving on, despite how scary and foreign the future looked. I finally spoke up and it saved me.

Authenticity saved my sanity. It gave me strength and courage; it bolstered support from the people around me who cared to listen. It got me medical help. It brought me to my counsellors. It secured a healthier future for me and my children. It saved me from other harmful relationships. It allowed me to find meaningful, engaging work. It got my creative juices flowing again, it led me to make more music, to write this blog, and to self-publish my poetry!

Authenticity saved my life!

It was a catalyst for all the positive changes I’ve experienced these last two years. Sure, I’ve had an intense amount of counselling and therapy. I’ve started and followed a strict mental health treatment plan that includes mood-stabilizing drugs. I’ve moved to a beautiful, rural home, I’ve been exercising and eating better, I’ve got a dog and some cats, and my kids are a couple of years older and more independent now… Sure, all of those things have happened! But they wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t being authentic.

So I want to ask you, what do you need? What do you want? Who the hell are you and what does your authenticity look like?

I can pretty much guarantee that you will feel happier and healthier living authentically. Although, I can also guarantee that it’s not a magic cure for what ails you. There’s no lifestyle change, no medicine, no treatment, no herbal beverage, mantra, yoga flow, detox diet, religion, or amount of money that will stop stress from being in your life. But you will feel better and everyone around you will notice when you start to live your truth. Even the most selfish of us should want that!

Authenticity doesn’t have to be poetic. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering or beautiful or eloquent: it just needs to be real. That’s the key.

And now I’m done sounding like a cheesy motivational article from a teen magazine…“10 Steps to Finding the REAL you! Plus, 10 Cool Outfits to Let Your Personality Shine!” Ugh, gag me! Bleh.

I just want to tell you that authenticity is the key to life, and I’ll swear by that. Literally: it’s the fucking bomb. Authenticity is where it is AT and you can fucking quote me on that. It saved my life. It can save yours. And then we can meet up and have a delicious fucking potluck and bask in the authentic glow of our gorgeous, real selves being exactly who we need to be and doing exactly what we need to do.

I’ll bring the casserole, you just bring an appetite for authenticity.

xxJ

2018-05-19 14.41.26-1
Take it from my 7-year-old: your beautiful, authentic self is in within you. Pinky-promise.

Story Time: Blue Bic Pen

I love being a story-teller and I have this idea that it would be rad to share some of the significant experiences I’ve had using a narrative format. I want to tell stories about things that connect with the purpose of head/strong—abuse, mental health, life, love… I want to engage people in conversations about these things in creative ways, so settle in everyone; it’s story time.

xxJ

P.S. Obviously privacy is important, so names will always be changed, but the stories are otherwise true.


I’m 15-years-old and, along with 30 or so other kids, I’m sitting in a cold and musty portable for my Grade 10 English class with Miss Lee.  This week we’re studying media literacy and today we’re starting a group assignment looking at the messages and imagery advertisers use to promote their products. We’re a few minutes into the class, groups have been assigned, and we’ve be given most of the period to work on our presentations.

My group is gathered close to the front of the portable. I remember seeing the chalkboard directly ahead of me—it was filled with our teacher’s neat, curly, cursive writing. I stand up to retrieve the package of assignment guidelines, printed on blue copier paper, from the teacher’s desk at the front of the class.

As I return to my group and begin to sit down on my chair, something jabs me between my legs. Shocked, I look behind me and I see, grinning up at me, the face of a boy in my group. In his hand is a blue, Bic pen, poised vertically on the seat of my chair.

I sort of register what’s happened, but I don’t know what to say… So I blush, I hold back embarrassed and confused tears, and I force myself to start the work with my group. But, through my thin, Jockey underwear and the jeans I stole from my older sister, I feel bruised and tingly. In fact, my shock makes it impossible for me to feel anything else until the bell rings and I’m shaken into the present moment.

As my classmates file out of the portable, I decide that I’m going to say something to my teacher. I wait for the classroom to empty and then I head over to Miss Lee’s desk.

I am so embarrassed and I can barely get the words out, but Miss Lee is young and friendly, she has a kind and approachable face.

“Brian stuck his pen up between my legs at the beginning of class.”

She asks me to repeat what I just told her, so I do. My cheeks burn with embarrassment and shame for not understanding what happened and for not just ignoring it like I’m sure most other girls would. Miss Lee asks me a few more questions, which I do my best to answer before stumbling out of the portable.

Later that day, my parents get a phone call from my school. Miss Lee has talked to the administrators, and Brian and his parents have had a meeting with them; Brian denied everything. I tell my parents what I know happened and I resolve to face Brian at school the next day. Where this courage comes from, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t last, because when I show up at Miss Lee’s portable for my second-period English class I’m met with nasty taunts from Brian and his friends, who are standing outside the portable’s door. They call me a liar and a slut. They say I just want attention. They make me cry.

I uncharacteristically skip Miss Lee’s class that day.

Time passes and the incident quickly blows over. I mean, it’s not really that big of a deal, right? Boys will be boys? Maybe it didn’t even happen…did I make it all up? 

No, I didn’t.

In Miss Lee’s grade 10 English class, I learned that advertisers use women’s bodies to sell everything from cigarettes to shoes. I also learned that boys can shove Bic pens between girls’ legs and it’s not called sexual assault. I learned that I should feel shame for something that made me feel violated and that I should just get over it, because most people don’t think it’s a big deal, especially not Brian.

But I don’t ever really get over it, and the truth is, I still feel that pen sometimes.

I still feel that pen.

xxJ

7f4116f15474f0a9af4d03849d8d21f0
“Beautifully smooth” eh? I wonder what Miss Lee would have said about Bic For Her; it certainly makes me cringe.