Today a doctor put a scalpel to the skin beneath my left bicep. She removed another birth control method, the last I will try for a while. And although the implant was the best I’ve had, after about six months, it interfered with a cycle that should come natural, and the consequences no longer seemed worth it.
Oh the things we women must endure.
But this isn’t just about reproductive rights for women. It’s about the child I am not ready to bring into this world. I am a Type 1 diabetic. I would not take reproduction lightly normally, but with a chronic disease that could do irreparable developmental damage if I’m not monitoring it carefully enough, I especially do not take it lightly.
After the application of a burning numbing agent, the doctor pierced my skin and opened the wound. I watched with a side view anxious to have this hole repaired. I knew I was making the right decision for myself and my body but I couldn’t help but be abhorred by the whole procedure. What was I doing to myself?
She used her gloved fingers to dig around beneath the skin, and what seemed like seconds turned into minutes. How big is this thing? She asked for help from her assistant. Is it stuck inside me? Will I never be free of this thing that can’t be more than the size of a blunt razor blade? But then I realized she was removing scar tissue from the implant. After all, it had been in my body for almost a year.
And then it was out. As thin as a paper clip, it was no bigger than my pinky finger. And to think of all the hassle that tiny strip caused. Incredible.
About a year ago I wrote about failing DC on this blog. By far it’s been one of my most-read blog posts ever. And I wondered why. I put myself out there admitting some of my biggest insecurities, but I also felt I was on the up and up. I thought I had overcome the worst of it.
But I hadn’t.
The year since that blog post has been wonderful in its own right, but it has also been one of the toughest, at least emotionally and mentally. And maybe the reason that blog post resonated with so many of you is because each of us struggles with failures of our own? If you are my age then you came into the world during the economic fallout and then tried to find jobs. It was a difficult time for all of us.
So maybe the millennials are misperceived as narcissistic because we realized that the path the generations before us had taken was no longer secure? The best we could do was reach for our full potential and hope it carried us somewhere new. We were grasping for straws. But the problem is growing up thinking you’re special, and then entering the real world and realizing you’re maybe not so special, does some serious psychological damage.
Are We Special?
I never thought I was special. But I hoped one day someone would see how special I was and provide me with the golden ticket. I criticized myself to better my own perfection, and I never praised myself so as to appear humble around others. Although maybe I had good intentions in not following the paths of my narcissistic peers, my actions and thoughts had some devastating self-esteem effects.
I’ve worked hard to overcome my limitations. I gave up a decent career to follow my happiness and creative writing dreams. I’ve forsaken relationships for the betterment of the self. And I’ve made sacrifices to improve my financial circumstances. Most would consider me a strong, independent, confident woman.
Except one person.
I am my biggest limitation.
I am also my biggest asset.
Over the past year I have wandered down this road of self-discovery. I took on a mentorship role with fellow colleagues. I established a career development program for young professionals. I dated a few guys. I made amends with certain family members. I improved my living situation. I set aside time for my creative writing (and I started submitting pieces again). I became what I thought was the best person I could be.
But I was only becoming the best person I thought I should be. The anxiety attacks got worse. The emotional breakdowns persisted. The insomnia increased, and the depression lingered. There was a moment when that scalpel touched skin, and I realized I could continue digging for something that may not exist, or I could just remove the pain altogether.
I decided to keep digging.
What is Failure, Really?
I hired a life coach, and with her help I have unearthed the scars preventing me from being not the person I thought I should be, but the person I have always been. It sounds cheesy, I know, and I admit I used to be that person who looked down on having a life coach. These are challenges I’ve always overcome myself. I don’t need someone to tell me what I already know.
Except I do. I recognized that even though I am still in the driver’s seat, I need someone rooting for me on the sidelines. I need someone to encourage me and keep me grounded when I sway the wrong way. My life coach once told me she was impressed I had come this far and been as successful as I had been with all the weight and worry I carry around.
I was successful? I admitted failure was my greatest fear. And even though I knew my logic was irrational, I legitimately believed under all the confidence I may carry that I had failed this life. I was not writing. I was not publishing. I was not financially stable. I was not married. I was not making a difference, and if I died tomorrow, only a few people would notice.
But those are such superficial things to dwell on. And in fact I have accomplished everything I set out to do at this age. I’ve published a book. I’ve moved to a different city. I’ve been in more than one long-term relationship. I have traveled overseas. I am financially independent and stable. I am surviving with diabetes. And I have opportunity.
It seems so obvious, right? But often to the person living with low self-esteem and depression, those realities do not seem so obvious. We struggle in this bubble we’ve created for ourselves. For all that I’ve worked for, I still maintained these hidden insecurities. I was still taking the easy route because I so heavily feared that if I stepped outside my bubble, I would utterly fail.
But what is failure, really?
I once told my life coach that failure, for me, is not meeting others’ expectations but rather failure is not meeting my own expectations. But as she’s emphasized time and time again, I have control over those expectations. I can change them.
Implant the World
Over the past few months, the pieces have started to fall together. A year ago I knew something was off with the path I had put myself on. And now I know why. Because what I had set out to do and what I thought mattered did not make me happy. It did not make me fulfilled.
It seems so obvious now, but when that scalpel touches the skin, even with the numbing agent, all we can feel is the pain. We don’t know what we’re looking for. We just want the emptiness to stop.
I think I may have found a way to stop the emptiness. But I can’t share what that is until I know for sure, until I have a plan, and until I figure out this direction for myself. All I know is the exploration and the idea of it makes me phenomenally excited and happy.
In addition I am starting to become more comfortable with myself (even around strangers). I am no longer hiding inside that bubble. My life coach once asked me why I thought I felt the need to be so invisible among crowds and colleagues. I admitted that I was afraid if I showed my true self, they would see me for who I was and no longer see the value in having me on board.
Sad, right? That revelation was exceptionally depressing, and I knew as soon as I said it that I needed to do something to change it.
I live in DC, a city of change. I’m not ready to give up on it, but more importantly, I’m not ready to give up on myself. I may not be special, but I know I have more to give, and giving is what fulfills me. It’s what makes me a wonderful friend and daughter. It’s what makes me give so much of myself to a relationship while depleting from my own resources.
But I’ve got to take care of myself, too. I never intended to be a married woman with children. And I never intended that route because I wanted to dedicate my time to a meaningful cause, to something that would make a difference for generations to come.
I don’t know how long I’ll be on this Earth. I don’t know how long we’ll be on this Earth. But for the first time in a long time, I have removed the scalpel because I know exactly who I want to be.
Like Iris after the storm, she’s been there all along.