I have a deep desire to reach the world with goodness and hope, but right now I’m trying to reach me.
As I navigate my fifties I find myself falling deeper into the realm of feeling invisible, unattractive, over the hill and unwanted. Let me explain.
In my twenties I had a day job I loved. Alongside that I also taught self-improvement part-time at a modelling agency. I was a size 4-6, had decent clothes and quality makeup. Women jokingly told me they “hated” me because I was thin. Men hit on me – married and single alike – even though I myself was married. Some of them I should have reported for sexual harassment, but didn’t. I don’t think I knew I could. Or should.
The man I married was a classic narcissist who demanded my full attention, and would regularly insist I drop my friends and any extra-curricular activities I enjoyed to prove my undying love for him. I worked two jobs but had to ask if I could buy myself anything, which was a bit of an oxymoron given the expectation that I look ‘good’.
When my marriage finally disintegrated, I was 28 years old and a size 0. Friends were afraid for my life but hey, I was beautiful and skinny, so I should have no problem finding someone else. True story, those thoughts were expressed.
Much of my self-worth was, unfortunately, wrapped up in body image and looks, and it was reinforced as I entered a new phase, a new life. Whether I actually believed I was attractive was another story in itself.
After three years of single life, I remarried and shortly thereafter found myself hosting a daily tv program. Again, my appearance was important, but I hit a wall financially and couldn’t afford to keep my hair up properly. I had roots. I actually received a letter from a lady saying she couldn’t continue to watch the show if I didn’t do something about my hair because it was too distracting. Yup, another true story. Thankfully, we had sponsorship for my makeup or who knows what comments might have followed! It was in the days before social media so people had to make a concerted effort to be mean.
What I didn’t know going into this marriage was that he too expected me to maintain my figure, and that after babies I would be rejected because my body changed and I was no longer desirable to him. Another affirmation that how I looked was what made me lovable – or not.
As you can well imagine, it messed me up. I felt ugly every day. I felt unwanted, discarded, unworthy of love. It had been bred into me my entire adult life, and although I knew my value shouldn’t be based on such vanity, the war inside my brain was ongoing and exhausting. I couldn’t seem to rise above it.
We faced extensive and repeated trauma, eventually leading to the breakdown of our marriage. I’d never loved like I loved him, so it was extremely painful. By this stage though, my kids were first and foremost, so looking after myself wasn’t necessarily at the top of mind. I did okay for a while, but it didn’t last.
Having been a personal development junkie for all of these years, you’d expect I would know how to navigate this societal norm, how to inherently beat the system. Not so much. I mentally applied what I learned as a quest for perfection. If I honed my strengths and eliminated my weaknesses, maybe I’d be liked more for my personality or intellect. The other motivation was to help others build their lives and self-worth. Another oxymoron, right? How could I give what I didn’t have myself?
Fast forward a few years. I experienced a devastating concussion – a TBI (traumatic brain injury) – and was thrust into significant post concussion syndrome. I gained 35 pounds in a matter of months, had a foggy brain, and suffered migraines, memory loss, and depression. Unbeknownst to my doctor until a year later and following an MRI, I had bleeding and bruising still present! I was also entering into that new phase of life women experience, so it wasn’t at all helpful trying to sort out the healing process.
In the four years since the concussion and weight gain, I’ve aged. A lot. Unlike others who have embraced, and even love this stage of life, I do not enjoy the aging process. In trying to be vulnerable and transparent with my thoughts, I get told that I should be happy I’m alive and have the privilege of aging. I get it. I’ve lost people close to me who haven’t been able to experience a full, long life, but it does not negate my own experiences or emotions, or my struggle to find my own way to age ‘gracefully’.
I’ve worked to maintain a positive outlook. For years I was known as the eternal optimist. I’ve told countless people they’re never too old to dream a new dream. It’s just I haven’t quite convinced myself of the same. I’m working on it.
My social media profile photos are my most recent favourite pics from four years ago. I painstakingly avoid being in photos. If I do allow pics it’s usually for special occasions and it takes everything in me to look at them or to post them. I do occasionally take photos with my kids, for their memories and life markers.
I am at the point, however, where I want to stop struggling with myself internally. I want to accept myself as I am, full stop. Take pics, create lasting memories, share my heart instead of continuing the shut down process.
I want to reach the deepest part of who I am, who I was created to be, to accept where I am at. Regardless of what was, I know full well I am paying a price by not living fully, joyfully, in the body and brain I now exist in.
It’s the cry of my heart.
I want to reach me. I want to reach my world.
When I became me,
I did not know who I was.
It was an epiphany,
A grounding of sorts,
That sent me colliding with the earth called myself.
It was an awakening that stirred my consciousness into being,
One where I did not want to greet the morning,
Because of the discomfort of an alarm that called me to question
Every dream I ever had about me.
It was a jarring experience
To remember who I was,
This person I had never been.
And then I realized as all artists must:
Before you create anything,
You must first create