My Life with Bipolar Disorder and Depression

When the phone rang that night, I was asleep. It was probably 1 am or so, and my 10-year-old body wasn’t used to being pulled from slumber at such an unreasonable hour. I closed my eyes and willed myself to slip into unconsciousness again. The voice in the back of my head told me I shouldn’t sleep; that I should get up and find my sister and whichever parent had kept watch with us that night, and listen to what they had to tell me. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to hear what they were going to say. If I went back to sleep, it’d be a dream; a terrible, awful, nightmare. The phone call would be a figment of my imagination.

I woke up again, when it was light outside, to my mother’s sobbing tearing through the walls. Sharp sobs. Unearthly wails. I can’t describe the grief and the overwhelming anger and helplessness that I could hear in her voice. She was in the bathroom with the door shut, but nothing was hidden from me and my seven-year-old sister. We sat up in our hideaway couch bed and I saw my father sitting at the little table across the room from me, with tears in his eyes, but his demeanor calm.

I knew the words that were coming next. The phone call hadn’t been a dream, and my willful ignorance had been pointless. I started crying. My sister got scared and started crying, too, not really understanding what was going on.

“Sara went to be with your sister last night.”

Angry sobs. Uncontrollable tears. Cursing God. Hadn’t I prayed hard enough? Losing Kristin was hell on my parents… and now Sara’s gone, too?

It was three weeks before her fourth birthday.

head-is-bad

Image from STYLEGERMS

 

My dance teacher threw up her hands, exasperated.

“Why don’t you even try?” she asked. I was half her height and couldn’t look her in the eyes. We stood in front of a wall-sized mirror, where she scrutinized my form as I practiced a section of my dance routine in a trance-like state.

“I am,” I said. We stared at one another for a moment, our eyes locking in the glass, and then she turned and went to assist one of my classmates. I wanted to leap through the glass like Alice, and escape from the inanity of memorizing a simplistic, boring dance routine. What did it matter, anyway? The only people who cared were my parents. They were the only ones who showed up to watch their kids prance around on a stage like clumsy little mannequins, wearing far too much makeup for their own good and hair sprayed into place like a tiny Texas beauty queen. Who else cared? I couldn’t think of a single person.

But my mom paid for classes. And I had to keep everyone happy.

I forced myself to move again. If you squinted, it looked sort of like dancing.

“We need to talk,” my piano teacher said, looking at me while I let my fingers slump from the keys and into my lap, knowing what was coming. “You haven’t been practicing, and you seem very… sad.”

I refused to make eye contact and just stared at the keys, tears welling up in my eyes as I tried to choke out some kind of answer. Words weren’t coming.

“Is it because of your sister?”

Yes, it is because I have a gaping hole in my life where her little bald head should be. Her adorable, round eyes and her singing and dancing and hilarious jokes. She should have been free of her illness, and don’t you think I am angry that such a sweet little person had to suffer so greatly? I hear her voice when I try to sleep, and my chest hurts so bad that I feel my heart will tear itself apart.

I have her drawings of our family together. It will never be the same. I have a mother who won’t stop crying, a father who gets the brunt of her uncontrollable wrath. A younger sister who is clearly struggling to process death and is doing worse than I am. I pretend I can’t hear the arguing and get angry with myself for being such a failure at everything instead.

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

She understood. She said I had to keep trying. I was trying. I was. Why did everyone think I wasn’t trying? I was reaching for something in the distance, but I never seemed to get any closer. Reaching was all I could do.

 

Or pursuing a writing career. Onion, you are spot on.

Or pursuing a writing career. Onion, you are spot on.

Image from TheOnion.com

“Girls, come in here,” my dad called. My sister and I were in the family room, and he and my mom had been fighting in the bedroom for what seemed like hours. I knew what was coming. We stepped into the room and they looked at us with somber, controlled expressions. I crossed my arms.

“Your mom and I love you two very much…” my dad choked out, then trailed off.

“You’re getting divorced, aren’t you?” I asked. He shook his head.

“We’re just going to try being separated for a while. I’m going to get an apartment and you can come stay with me every other weekend.”

I was so mad I was just numb. When the “conversation” was over, I left, and felt like crying, but it was the anger that was growing more than anything else. I hated my life more and more with each passing day. I didn’t know what normal was anymore.

...

“I think this sounds like you,” my friend said, pointing to the phrase BIPOLAR DISORDER on our worksheet. “You’re like, happy some days, and so sad the next that no one knows what to do around you.” I stared at it, then looked at her. Learning about psychology had apparently made our class into a bunch of 12-year-old mental health professionals. Still, something about all the symptoms made sense. I lagged behind my friends now that we’d started middle school. Boys terrified me. Doing anything physical in front of anyone terrified me. Going to church on Sundays terrified me. I hated everyone and everything, and had thought repeatedly about dying that week to escape from the misery of hormones, schoolwork, depressing home life, and practicing activities that brought me no joy whatsoever.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, and went back to doodling on my notebook. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that maybe there was a name for how I felt. I walked up to the teacher after class and I told her I thought I had it. She looked at me strangely and said, “You should talk to someone about this.”

So I told my mom.

She said I didn’t have it, and demanded I go apologize to the teacher and clarify before they started to think I’m crazy.

I looked at the bottle of painkillers and wondered. If I ate them all, would it stop? I thought of my sister and of my parents. Well, maybe I’d just take a few and see if it helped me be in a dreamworld or something. I took 10 and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning as usual. I was disappointed.

It continued throughout high school. I could never focus. I hated most things and most places. And most people. I watched my close friends get picked on and plotted revenge against those who would hurt the few I did care for. I was just a girl, though, and the bullies were guys and totally unthreatened by my stature. Go figure. But some people thought I might be crazy, and many definitely found me strange, and that scared them. I began to channel severe rage episodes into art and writing, finding new ways of killing off characters who were quite thinly-veiled representations of the awful bullies in my life. But it was all written off as being a hormonal teenage girl.

On one occasion, I confronted a bully and threatened him, wanting so badly to tear him to shreds mentally and physically for picking on a harmless, shy friend of mine whose only crime was to draw too many anime girls on her notebooks. His mother was friends with my mother, but I didn’t care. I made him feel like the tiny, insecure little prick that he was, and I felt good about my meanness for once. But it was a short-lived victory. I still cried at night, not just because I was sad, but because I was angry. Because I didn’t want to deal with any of it any longer.

When I went home at night, my mom would keep her hawk eyes on me. I could never go anywhere unless she’d planned it about a week in advance. I understood her fears. I enabled them. I told her everything to keep her calm and as happy as she could be. She was petrified of losing another child; how could I be so selfish to be away? Especially when my younger sister, who was on the verge of a very serious transition in her life, was being picked on at school for being eccentric? It was my job to hold it all together. My burden I placed on my own damn shoulders.

 

 

Fucking love Emilie Autumn

 

I didn’t start cutting until I was about twenty. I was slow to arrive at the rodeo, I guess. My boyfriend had been watching so much porn on my computer that it was all buggy and gross, and I was livid about it. I told him how much it hurt me that he wouldn’t touch me, but he wanted the faceless girls on the internet; he apologized to me and he promised he’d stop. He never did. Not once in our nine-year relationship (in which we eventually got married) did he ever tell me the truth about his intentions. He just kept doing it and telling me he wasn’t. I got so good at catching him that I reveled in the fact that I was smarter than he was. But I felt so worthless and ugly after knowing what he did that I would cut myself out of anger. Punishing myself for being… me. For being not good enough. Because how fuckable he found me was apparently the only self-worth I could see inside of myself. I didn’t realize how unhealthy these thoughts were until our marriage fell apart.

He told me he’d been in love with one of my best friends for years when we’d been married for a year and a half–I was 27 at the time, living in a state far away from any of my friends or family. He wouldn’t stop drinking until he was an obnoxious asshole who sneered at people and blamed me for everything wrong in his life. He’d watch porn ON THE TOILET IN THE MORNING and completely ignore me while day drinking at his job that I GOT HIM. I’d started detaching myself from the relationship already, which was not the nicest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I was mentally and physically exhausted. When he told my poor friend of his true feelings (while smashed, of course), she was floored and didn’t know how to respond. This girl was one of the friends who was picked on in high school–we’d known one another for 13 years–one of the girls I’d wanted to protect.

For months after this, I switched back and forth from uncontrollable anger to severe depression. Body wracked with pain, mind completely blank, heart utterly shattered kind of depression. I went to therapy immediately, but did not see major improvements until I went to a psychiatrist and asked him to please help me by putting me on medication. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and chronic clinical depression. I also have body dysmorphic disorder and extreme anxiety when it comes to certain pornographic materials (just about on par with PTSD, but I don’t like saying that because I feel my case doesn’t merit the title. I was sexually assaulted and emotionally abused, but so many people go through so much more than I have and I feel PTSD isn’t the proper term for me–I’ve seen my soldier friends with it and I just can’t bring myself to use that terminology.)

depression_motivational_poster_by_quantuminnovator-d6dwgk8Image by QuantumInnovator on DeviantArt.

 

I’m turning 30 this week. Mental illness has nearly destroyed my life. I once contemplated killing myself when I turned 30 if my life was as miserable as it had been for so long. But before you get all panicky, I’m happy to say that while I’m sad about this milestone and being “behind” my goals, I’m here to stay, and I’m recovering more and more each year.

These stories don’t include the struggles my one surviving sister has; those which my mother has dealt with; my father’s huge emotional and spiritual journey; the impact of an attempted rape (I just can’t write about it in this context) and an (unrelated) unplanned pregnancy; nor does it cover the impact that a building autoimmune disease and undiagnosed genetic syndrome have had on my life. But what I want to say is this:

If you have ever wondered whether mental illness was one of the following:

  • A phase everyone goes through
  • Something someone just needs to “pull themselves out of”
  • Hysterics
  • Something you need to just “get over” or “snap out of”
  • Attention-seeking or selfishness
  • Stupid or unwarranted, given the person’s status
  • Not justified in your eyes (i.e., someone rich or someone very attractive suffers from depression and you think it’s just them being stupid)
  • Something you should be able to get over without the use of pharmaceuticals or therapy
  • Something only for damaged people who are likely to be a threat to themselves or others
  • Something you can discriminate against because those who have it are “crazy”

You’re a moron. Okay, scratch that–you might be naive, but you’ve also got no handle on the reality of mental illness. Someone in your life may be afflicted with an invisible, awful, alienating disease such as clinical depression. As in, right now. When you pretend these things aren’t serious, or when you push away someone who is suffering, you’re doing them a disservice. You may not be a therapist, but you can be the one to reach out your hand and tell them they’re not alone. That you won’t judge them or shun them for asking for help. Many sufferers just need to know that someone cares.

Oh, and never fucking tell a mentally ill person that if they ate a better diet or took some herbal bullshit supplements that they’d cure themselves. That’s not how it works.

 

robin williams headshot

Robin Williams passed away today from apparent suicide at age 63.

 

Visit this site if you’ve had thoughts of ending your life. Cliche, but here it is.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

I wrote this today after reading the discussions surrounding the death and apparent suicide of Robin Williams. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and it’s a fucking tragedy that it took the life of someone who has touched so many hearts with his successful career. My story is just one of many stories that could and should be told. I wanted to share just bits and pieces of my struggle so that people could see that it’s very real. It’s very dangerous. And I’m here today because of the support of friends and family, and because of medication and therapy.

If you need help, I’m here to tell you you’re not alone. Fight this shit. Fight it as hard as you can. And change the discussion surrounding mental illness. We need to remove the stigma and push for more affordable, accessible care.

If you like, you can watch a tribute video I made for my sisters below, and you can read the story I wrote about Sara’s death here.

 

 

You can also read my writing here under my pen name Deina Furth.

Art continues to help me and heal me in ways I can’t anticipate. I appreciate your support. ❤

hang-in-there

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My Own Worst Enemy.

I want to write about the next events of my journey from being married to being… well, not married.  But I want to talk a little bit about fear before that.

Fear is that dark, looming presence that goads anxiety into tightening its grip on you. You think you’ve conquered your fear?  Well, how about anxiety?  One always follows the other around.

Fear is that feeling in the pit of your stomach, the one that tells you that if you do this or that, you’ll end up regretting it.  You’ll be alone.  You’ll be scorned.  You’ll be blamed or tormented or laughed at.  For every earnest fan and glowing review, you’ll get shit on by some troll, or read a bad review about something you were very proud of, crushing you. How could you do better? You tried your best.

Speaking of, fear is also knowing that some bad things inevitably need to happen in order for you to be successful: If you never act in spite of your fears, you’ll never succeed.  But once you try to succeed, you open yourself up for people to tear at the things you’ve poured your heart into, shredding them into unrecognizable scraps of fabric from the quilt you lovingly stitched together.  And you open yourself up to the possibility of failure, which is a fear that holds far too many people back from chasing their dreams.

Fear is not knowing how to deal with these things.  And Anxiety is worrying yourself to the point of inactivity.  Bitterness seeps in, poisoning your creativity, your passion, your love.  That dark cloud settles, just as if you were a real-life Eeyore, and seems to follow you wherever you go.  You don’t know how to get away.  A new enemy has reared its head: Depression.

Depression locks Fear and Anxiety together in a marriage of destruction.  Gone are the days of doing things for fun, of enjoying yourself simply because you’re glowing in the fervor of happiness. Depression isn’t just the absence of that happiness.  It’s been forged over a long period of time, feeding off your fears, your anxiety, your shortcomings and perceived failures.  It isn’t built from nothing, or the lack of something better.  It’s an incredible force to overcome, because it’s a unique combination of your own personal worst nightmares.

I am conquering my fear of opening up. Of writing and creating, of criticism, and mostly of myself.  I defeat myself before I begin, so I don’t have to suffer at the hands (or mouths, or words) of others.  Depression is an enemy made from within.  I can’t expect anyone but myself to slay the beast.  And I’m certainly sick of enabling it, so it can continue to feed Fear and Anxiety.

Part I: The Wedding

Just after I quit my job to pursue the things I loved, and just after my family left sunny southern California to return to the frozen Minnesotan lakes, my marriage completely fell apart. Somewhere between my husband’s propensity to consume a day’s wages in booze nearly every day of the week, and his obvious lack of concern for my worsening depression and stress-related issues, I simply ceased to care about what became of our vows. I wanted out. It was a short run, but looking back, I can’t remember a time when we didn’t struggle with some kind of issue. I want to go through the events of our marriage and separation, but it will take a few posts. In this post, I will cover the marriage event itself, and how my body image issues and depression affected every choice I made. If you’re struggling with any type of mental illness, you know how debilitating they can be. For me, writing about it does seem to help. So with that said, I hope you’ll enjoy the story.

We were married in June of 2010. My wedding wasn’t anything spectacular, by any means. A small ceremony in Vegas with minimal planning, it fit right into our travel-heavy schedule at the time, and coincided with friends’ vacations, so we even had a few attendees. I got that pink, gorgeous hand-made dress from Etsy. I had it tailored to fit my body. I never had fairytale dreams about weddings or marriage, but I was excited to celebrate and get dressed up. I thought that by choosing everything from the music to the vows myself (with input from my husband, of course), and by trying to stick to my feminist values and goals, things would turn out great. I thought that a wedding was supposed to be about me, and my husband. But more on that later.

I know we all wanted to be drunk, party, and live the crazy, carefree life in Vegas for a few days. We stayed in the gorgeous, yet expensive Encore, and one of the first things my husband did was complain about the cost. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “I’ll cover this.” We did agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so it wasn’t terrible to spend the money. However, the complaints started up again after some booze. I’m pretty sure he spent as much paying for our friends’ drinks and food as I did on the hotel. But I decided to say nothing, because I just wanted everyone to be happy, and it wasn’t worth fighting about. My car got hit by a drunk driver trying to park, and the hotel couldn’t locate the footage on their roaming cameras. So now my driver’s side mirror was destroyed, and we had to cover it. Then we drove over a broken wine bottle while parking our second night there. My husband replaced the tire, thankfully, even though he was pretty angry about it. Again, I tried not to complain, because I didn’t want to make it worse. I now felt terrible about the choice of hotel, even though I’d defended it earlier. “Why’d I have to choose this place? Why’d we have to drive? If only I’d chosen to fly.” The nagging, insecure voice inside my head was already ruining everything. But it was about to get much, much worse.

We went to see our professional photos the day after the ceremony. We were already irritated with the heat, the stupid car problems we’d run into, and his parents complaining about every food choice we made (it’s Vegas; everything is expensive). The lady we were meeting had this nice, elaborate slideshow ready of all the pictures – and there were so many of them. Like 200 of them. I knew she was going to try to upsell some packages, but again, I just wanted something simple. The wedding package I’d paid for included six poses, so I was determined not to make it more expensive or complicated than it had to be.

Now, I have never been a fan of photos, especially of me. But I was not prepared for this. I took one look at them and almost had to leave the room. First of all, my husband had cut his own hair before the ceremony and messed it all up. He looked completely unlike himself, but I wasn’t too concerned about that (although I knew he was pretty embarrassed). No, what I was focused on was myself. Like most wedding photographers, the greatest attention is lavished upon the bride. Photo after photo of me getting ready and making weird faces at myself in the mirror while I concentrated, me bending over to adjust my shoes (which had actually caused my feet to bleed) and my fat cleavage hanging out, my stomach looking plump as I tried to get the damn corset lacing as tight as it could go, my arms looking as wide as my head in nearly every shot, and my keratosis pilaris ruddy and obvious on my arms, because I’d picked at it out of nervousness. (“Don’t worry,” both the photographer and the saleslady assured me, “we can edit the redness out.”) That fake, forced smirk-smile I do when I’m told to smile for a photo. That squint I make when I’m outside, causing my face to look rounder and even pudgier. My pale white skin nearly blending in with the pale pink dress. And to add the cherry on top: The stupid poses that they wanted me to do: Having him lean me back for a kiss so my back fat looks more prominent, me leaning my head on him like I’m some kind of frail flower who wants him to pet my hair. It was all foreign to me. This was us? I paid for this? I was hoping we’d look moderately cute. At least, I’d felt moderately cute. But here it was, the truth, in my mind: I was some fat, pasty Midwesterner marrying another fat, pasty Midwesterner. Hallelujah, pass the deep-fried cheese balls.

Now, I don’t think that fat, pasty Midwesterners don’t deserve love and happiness. In fact, they represent the body shape of so many Americans today, and everybody who wants to be in a relationship deserves to be happy with someone who loves them, no matter their race, sexual orientation, weight, physical or mental issues, or their financial situation. Hypocritically enough, though, I didn’t want to be that person. In my head, it meant I was less than. I was hideous, and I did not deserve nice things ™. And now it had been commemorated forever. I watched in horror as my mom bought all the worst, most unflattering shots. I would have to look at these every time I saw her. She would show them to her friends, and they would try to think of something “nice” to say. “Oh, your daughter got married? How, um, nice for her. Oh, her hair sure looks pretty.” There’s nothing like Minnesota Nice to let you know when someone’s just trying their hardest to be polite. I managed to pick out six where you couldn’t see me very well and hurriedly signed some papers. The second I was done, I left the room, and immediately burst into tears. Why did I think that I could ever look pretty? My thoughts wandered back to the ceremony, where my mother couldn’t resist making that comment about how much I was “built” like her as she watched me get ready. That old backhanded compliment. My mom has complained about how fat and ugly she is her whole life. Then she draws a direct comparison between our body types. I know what she’s saying. I get it.

A month later we visited our families for the reception. Our mothers had taken the reins on the planning here, an event they seemed to enjoy a lot. I gave my feedback for many of their suggestions, but they did the lion’s share of the planning. The reception was scheduled in Fargo, North Dakota, because I knew most of our friends and family members couldn’t afford to go to Las Vegas for the ceremony. My mom also wanted photos of the reception, so she’d hired a professional photographer for this event. I tried to tell her no repeatedly out of fear, but she didn’t listen. She assured me this person would do a much better job. So I brought the dreaded dress again and prepared for round two of my self-esteem being crushed into nothingness. But before I continue, allow me to tell you how my family affairs have always functioned.

My parents divorced when I was 12, which led us to have two separate holidays and celebrations for every event in our lives. This was fine, because at the time, our parents didn’t get along very well and my sister and I would rather just not deal with any drama at two events, rather than try to force two people who seemed infinitely angry at each other in the same room for obligatory pleasantries. However, this has continued into adult years. Everyone has their own version of events. Mom has her parties, Dad has his, even my grandparents have theirs. Add in extended families, and my husband’s families, and this gets to be too much. So I asked that everyone who couldn’t make it to Vegas come to Fargo for the reception. If there’s one day I can ask people to get along in the name of love and peace, it should be a wedding reception, right?

Photos came first. I arrived on time so my mom could do my hair. She wanted this to be a mother-daughter bonding moment, and I wanted her to have this. I sat in my sweatpants, talking to her while she took her curling iron and started working. She immediately tried to tease my hair a la Beauty Pageant participant. I told her to just leave it down in pretty curls. “That’ll look bad in photos.” But I’d worn my hair down before. “No, it will look better like this.” I fought with her. So much for my mother-daughter moment. Needing a break from her trying to pull my hair and make me look completely ridiculous, I went to the bathroom to talk to my sister. I had to put on my dress before she finished my hair, anyway. So I put on my shapewear that I bought, thinking it would help. But I saw myself in the mirror, and started to panic. Oh my god, I look hideous. Fat. I have to go out there like this. People will see me like this; they’re going to want to take pictures of me. I nervously picked at my nails without thinking about it, and chipped some of the polish. Oh, shit. I called a friend and asked her to bring nail polish remover with her. I returned to my mother, where she finally got fed up with my bangs and I simply pinned them back with a bobby pin.

A few of my friends began to trickle in. Even though they hadn’t been present at the wedding, I wanted them to be in the reception photos, as if I’d had bridesmaids. They all had different body types, so I told them to buy green dresses, whatever kind they’d feel confident in. One had opted for a taffeta prom dress, another for an empire-waist silky dress. We all mismatched and I loved it – my mom did not. But she was just plain mad at this point. She was fuming about my hair, my nails, and my friends’ dresses. She was angry at my sister because she had dreads, and dreads are not proper wedding hair. “You better take those out!” She told my sister, who kind of laughed and offered to wear a hat. My sister also feels extremely uncomfortable in dresses, so I’d helped her pick out a suit with a matching green shirt (which she had worn to the wedding, and my mother was quite upset with her for this as well). I don’t remember what she had to wear for the reception, but my sister mysteriously couldn’t find her suit when it came time to get dressed.
When we were all ready, we went to take the photos around the Avalon in downtown Fargo. It doubles as a dinner theatre and event hall. It’s actually a very beautiful building, but since Fargo is not very big, many wedding photography sessions take place here. So it’s not the most unique setting to those familiar with the city, but the photos still turn out nice and with a bit of an antique flair. In fact, I had taken a camera out during my college days and photographed many of the old buildings in this area; there is a lot of history there. I clung to this idea, hoping the scenery would be vintage and dreamy. I have no idea how they turned out. My mom never told me.

At the actual reception event, we were going to do dinner first, followed by a dance. I’d made sure to provide vegetarian and vegan options as well as meat. A whole buffet of food came out, looking absolutely delicious. I was very happy with this moment, because everyone just talked, ate, and seemed to enjoy themselves. It was as close to normal as it could be. But my husband’s father and brother left abruptly after the dinner, barely saying hi. My dad showed up briefly after the dining, but my stepbrother was ill, he said. I know it was hard for him to be there in the midst of my mother and her meticulously-planned event, but it still disappointed me. The moms were doing okay, until after most people had eaten. “Oh, I don’t think there’s enough food.” “Oh, there’s too much food!” “Why isn’t everyone eating?” “They won’t let us take home the extra food!” “What a waste of money.” “I wish I’d planned this somewhere else.”

I’d also specifically requested NOT to do a special dance. I just wanted to mingle and try my best to have fun. But of course I was made to do it because it’s “traditional” and I’d opted out of pretty much everything else, so, being put on the spot, I did it to make my mother happy. Thankfully they invited other couples out on the floor about 30 seconds in, so it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d imagined, but it was a very long 30 seconds for someone who can’t tolerate being looked at. “What if I trip? Are they all watching me? I want them to stop looking at me, I know I look terrible. Oh, they’re taking pictures, that’s great. More pictures I won’t want to see.” Trust me, I know you’re annoyed with me at this point. I get annoyed with that voice, too. But for some reason, it never ceases to tell me how terrible I am. I wished I could feel happy and enjoy the moment, but I was filled with dread and wanted to run away, to a place where no one would make me do these superfluous things.

Over the course of the night I drank quite a bit. I wasn’t completely drunk, but close. It was the only way to stop my self-consciousness from ruining everything. I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted to go hang out with friends and be myself. I didn’t want to put on this spectacular show of gender performance, of being the beautiful bride that the little girls all wanted to be. I wanted to be a badass that the little girls wanted to be. I never changed my last name, and made it very obvious that I wasn’t planning on doing it, and yet I was repeatedly referred to as “Mrs. Husband’s Firstname, Husband’s Last name.” What, I don’t even get to keep my first name now? Gee, thanks, guys. But most of all, I wanted my mom to respect my wishes about what I wanted this event to be.

But you know what? A wedding, with as much attention as they put on the bride, isn’t about her. It’s not “her” day. It’s a day for the parents, really. It’s about performing senseless rituals that are outdated, steeped in sexism and female ownership, and defended as tradition, in order to prove to the older generation that you have successfully navigated to this marker of a “normal” life. Other markers will include having children, owning a home, having well-paying and “respectable” jobs, and writing stupid Christmas letters to people that you’d otherwise never talk to, and that ultimately, no one bothers to read. Okay, that last part was glib, but the rest is true. It was the night I realized that as hard as I fought to have secular vows, to retain my identity, to respect my sister’s gender fluidity and to include everyone in a way they felt comfortable but to still appease my mother, that I failed to grasp what the whole event means to others. People will always see me as an extension of the man I married, and to some extent, that I have certain duties I am now required to fulfill simply because I chose to take part in the ceremony of marriage. If I’d planned the wedding between my husband and myself alone, I could have a certain level of satisfaction with my choices. But because I wanted everyone to be happy, I was not happy myself, and it became about everyone else.

If you made it this far, I’m surprised. I wanted to retell basic events of my wedding and reception because mentally, I am not calibrated to deal with the kinds of things that undoubtedly will arise with matrimony. But I also wanted to tell you this because I am twenty-seven years old and I have been married and separated already. I have dealt with severe body image issues and depression, and I am finally learning how to navigate through these things now that I am free from a toxic relationship. I’ll write more about the relationship in another post, which will hopefully come soon.