There is this feeling I sometimes feel. It’s so powerful, it feels like reality. Like, not just a feeling that comes and go’s and wanes and grows over months or weeks or sometimes mere hours, it feels like it’s forever, like it’s reality. It is this feeling where I look in the mirror and I don’t know myself.
That’s it, the feeling, that I don’t know myself. That I have lost myself somewhere along the way and do not know what or who I have become. It is a suffocating feeling. Suddenly all the things that make up my life are the very things that are smothering me, taking away my right to breathe deep. I look in the mirror and do not know myself; I feel lost and alone and like I need to be fixed. I want to fix the thing I somehow broke, the thing that made it so I am somehow no longer the self that I remember or the self that I expected to be.
Writing about it makes me feel it all over again, it is truly an awful feeling.
I used to leave when I felt that way. Whatever I could leave behind, I did; clawed the things that were binding me off of my neck like the chains they seemed to be. I would leave it all – not just the small stuff like my job or even my town. I would leave my friends and find new ones, I left behind partners – once even a fiancé. Because I would be overcome by this need to find myself again. To figure it out. To right the wrongs I must have made somewhere because *this* didn’t feel like the *there* I was expecting.
It never actually worked. Not even once. It would for a while, of course, each time. I’d determine to make the *right* type of friends this time or engage in the *right* types of hobbies. This time I wasn’t going to go crazy, or get overwhelmingly bored (or be overwhelmingly boring). I was going to become what I was supposed to be.
Time and time again I just became the same old me.
Eventually my mother said something wise to me, one of the only wise things she may have ever said so listen up, she said, “Seana, wherever you go – there you are. You keep trying to fix the problem, but you keep bringing the problem with you. You ARE the problem.”
Everywhere I went, there I was. There I was, the sheltered Vermont girl, a little wholesome and a lot optimistic. That girl went to Dallas though. So, who was she then? Was she the same, or was she a little different? There I was, in Dallas, towering heels and big girl drugs and familiar with money and options. But sometimes, in Dallas, I would look in the mirror. I would look at the make up on my face and shoes on my feet and feel confused. I’d see the person in my bed and feel the party pounding in my head and feel that feeling. Who was *this person*? So I went to rehab. And there I was, VermontandDallas, in rehab, seeking my wholesome and remembering optimistic, toeing the party line and signing on the dotted line. But sometimes I would look myself in the mirror and feel that feeling. So I left rehab and went to Vermont. There I was, VermontandDallasandRehab, finally back in Vermont because surely Vermont was home. But, by now, I was several selves trying to form into one. I wanted to be wholesome and pure and I wanted to party and rebel. I wanted to wipe the makeup off my face but I wanted a place to where a nice dress more than twice a year. I’d seen wealth and poverty and had a preference. I’d seen hopeless and hope and had a preference there, too.
So there I was. And smack dab in the middle of it all, I dated a boy. And some thing that lived inside of me fell wildly and madly in love with something that lived inside of him. Even while my world did that thing where it spins out of control and my face became unrecognizable in the mirror and the closing throat shouted at me to run, something inside of me fell entirely in love.
And so, for the first time, I decided to listen to my mother’s advice, the one solid piece that had never left me, and I decided to try and see if I could fix the storm from within.
That. Shit. Is. Hard. Work.
I quit drinking and I went to therapy and I stood still every single time my body screamed at me to run. I switched jobs to scratch the itch a little every now and again maybe. I did stuff until I didn’t like it anymore and then I stopped doing it and did other stuff to see if I liked it better. I missed the city. I tried to learn how to love the country.
But I stood still. Because I loved that boy so much the idea of being anywhere but with him made my heart stop beating a little.
And that feeling, the awful one, it went away. I did some stuff and changed some stuff and kept some stuff the same but mostly I waited, just waited, and that feeling went away.
But it came back. A few years, and two daughters later it came back. I looked at myself in the mirror and I didn’t recognize who I saw reflected there. Who was this woman and, no, but really, how did I become her? And there was that feeling. Choking me all over again, my body screaming to run.
So I shut myself down a little. I freaked out, a little externally and a whole lot more on the inside. I called my therapist and did all the things I didn’t want to do and got them all done. Months. It took months. And eventually that feeling, the awful one, went away.
I’m not saying that love will fix every problem, but it sure does make every problem worth fixing. Because the idea of being anywhere but with that boy-turned-man and those two little girls we love makes my heart stop beating. And if life has taught me anything, it has taught me that these crises of identity are simply things that happen as life changes and we grow. They are feelings, not reality.
I am, afterall, the only thing that comes with me everywhere I go.