when writer’s block is not writer’s block: a peek into my past.

blogging is very difficult for me. i don’t mean writer’s block; i know we all get that. i mean that it’s incredibly difficult for me to open up about really personal things on a public platform. i’ve often questioned myself, “why?” over this, but i know exactly why. there are two instances that happened in my life that must be connected to the thought process i experience when i sit down to blog and just get too scared to do it, because they are the two stories that immediately pop into my head when i ask myself why i have so much trouble delving into vulnerable details of my life for just anyone to see.

story one.
summer 1994.
age 10.

one of my family’s cats died. she was one of two, a mother-daughter pair, that my mom had since before i was born. the mother cat died when i was five, and that’s a different story for a different day.

this old cat, sunny (appropriately named for her unusual yellow fur), died on a beautiful saturday afternoon. i remember feeling happy that day, a feeling that was already becoming fleeting for me then as my parents’ relationship grew worse until their divorce five years later. each of us – my parents, my sister, and i – were all doing various tasks and chores around the house and outside. i was cleaning my room. mom was using the weed eater outside my bedroom. i heard her turn it off near one of my windows and turned to see why she’d stopped. i could tell she was looking at something, but i couldn’t see what it was because it was too close to the wall. a few minutes later, she came inside and told me the news that she’d found sunny curled up against the house, dead. she seemed to have died peacefully in her sleep.

i tried to write about it in my little diary that day; the only diary i’ve saved from my growing up years. i don’t remember why i didn’t finish that entry, or why i didn’t write in my diary again for more than a year later.

i took the news of sunny’s passing really hard. i’m not sure what everyone else was doing right after mom told me about it, but for some reason i ended up alone in my room, crying. not soft crying. hysterical, screaming, sobbing, wailing, uncontrollable grief. i remember standing in the middle of my room, body rigid, arms locked around my trusted teddy bear (which i still have), experiencing this hysterical/screaming/wailing/uncontrollable sobbing, wishing one of my parents would come in and be with me. hold me. cry with me. comfort me. tell me it was okay. i had never felt that much sadness before, and i had guilt too. i felt like i hadn’t loved sunny enough. we had adopted a kitten three years earlier that i immediately became infatuated with. my little bleeding heart child self felt an enormous amount of guilt for fear that this other precious pet, who had always been part of my life, might have died wondering if i loved her.

suddenly, my bedroom door is thrown open, and there’s my dad.

but he’s not there to comfort me.

there is extreme, intense, distorted anger on his face.

he lunges at me. he menaces over me and shouts with his finger pointing down in my face to shut up. SHUT UP. stop this crying. STOP. YOU STOP IT. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ONE MORE SOUND OUT OF THIS ROOM. DO YOU UNDERSTAND. DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND.

and other mean things i don’t remember anymore. maybe something about acting like a baby and being too old to cry like that anymore. probably the threat of a spanking.

and just like that, he storms back out, slamming the door behind him, leaving me once again alone in my room. i feel everything i felt before, but now i also feel shriveled. tiny. insignificant. afraid. i feel guilty for having cried, but it’s a guilt i don’t believe in because i can’t believe that crying was really wrong. but i feel guilty for not crying, as though i’m somehow doing sunny a disfavor by not showing my sadness that she’s gone.

i don’t remember anything else about that day. i don’t know how long i stayed in my room before i felt unafraid enough to step out or if i had to be coaxed out, probably by my mom. i don’t know if i ever cried enough about sunny to feel cleansed of the grief.

i do know that when i finally did start writing in my diary again the next summer, every entry was about how much i believed my parents hated me, especially my dad.

i believe that somehow that day changed my young life. every time i want to share intense, unpleasant emotion with people i don’t know well enough to anticipate their reaction, i am ten years old and my angry, angry father is thundering in my face, telling me to shut it because “NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR THAT MESS.” even when i don’t realize that’s what’s happening way back in the shadows of my mind.

story two.
december 2008, i think?
age 24, out of college, and about 6 months married.

this story is about my college roommate, melissa, who was also a bridesmaid in my wedding. (and who shouldn’t have been a bridesmaid in my wedding, but that’s not really the part this story is about.)

melissa was my roommate for my first two and a half years in college. our friendship started out okay, but it became difficult to get along as we each grew and changed in different directions with differing beliefs, and neither of us had a blessed clue what we were doing when it came to dealing with conflict and all those little things that inevitably bother you about living with someone else. neither of us had the grace to accept the other person where we disagreed on things that were important to us (she was a reformed baptist christian; i was slowly becoming ex-christian), so ours became a very love/hate relationship of forced, attempted friendship.

i started suffering from migraines in college. if you’ve ever had a migraine, you are probably aware of how debilitating they can be. if you haven’t had one, trust me: you can’t imagine it. it’s not just an exaggerated headache you can power through. it’s not something that stupid over-the-counter extra strength advil shit that they slap the word MIGRAINE on can even put a fucking dent in. it is fourteen fucking thousand times worse than a bad headache. i’ve heard it compared to childbirth, as in, “i’d rather go through childbirth again than another migraine,” but i haven’t birthed a child, so i can’t offer my own opinion on that.

unfortunately, when i was in college, i was uninsured and too poor to ever buy the prescription migraine medication i needed, so i did a lot of suffering. (my memories of college can be basically summed up like this: SLEEP DEPRIVATION, ANXIETY OVER FINANCIAL SITUATION BECAUSE POOR, ANXIETY LEADS TO EVEN LESS SLEEP, HUNGRY A LOT BECAUSE POOR, and also MIGRAINES. but this is yet again a different story for a different day.)

one day in late 2008, after having graduated college and gotten married (but still uninsured and too poor to buy the expensive migraine prescription), i sat down and wrote a sort of poem about my migraines and published it on my then-blog. it was a metaphorical description of how i imagined the pain in my head (there was a line about a little man behind my eye with an axe…?). i was rather proud of the poem; i thought it was frank, bare, and poignant.

but the same week i posted that poem, i had also decided to email melissa regarding some things that were still lingering in my mind since our weddings (she got married three weeks before i did). we had pretty much parted ways after my wedding, but there were things we’d left unresolved, and that had never stopped bothering me. maybe i also wanted to be friends (or at least friendly; i hate leaving anything on a sour note).

i don’t remember what i specifically said in that email. i remember that it was too brief. my email was too short, too to-the-point, and probably read rather harshly over the internet, especially for not having talked in months. i quickly realized that i had kind of blindsided her, coming out of nowhere and talking about things she had probably forgotten about by then.

in her reply, she said something that made me feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed. she accused me of having no other motive in contacting her at that time because i was just a drama queen looking to stir something up to feed off of since no one had paid attention to my whiny little migraine blog.

upon reading that, i immediately logged in and deleted the poem about the migraines, publishing in its place an apology for sounding self-absorbed or having given the impression that i was looking for pity.

i did not save a copy of the poem for myself in any form.

i was so embarrassed that melissa thought so poorly of me and my intentions. the other comments she went on to make about migraines, i do not remember clearly, but essentially she trivialized migraines into self-pitying, made-up nothings because of the real medical problems other people face every day.

i want to be clear at this point that i no longer hold these things against melissa. her dad had recently had a heart transplant. heart transplant > migraines. i get it. living for three years under the constant threat of losing your dad because he needs a heart transplant > migraines. i get the gravity of that.

but even though i can look back now and have more grace to understand where she was coming from; that what she was saying to me had more to do with what was going on in her own life, the impact those words had on me was heavy and really devastating. even now as i’m typing this, i’m doing a lot of backspacing and rewording, because simply talking about this is challenging. i’m constantly afraid of sounding like nothing more than a whiny nobody who blows all her trials and tribulations out of proportion while everyone reading shakes their heads.

i shut down really hard for a long time after that email. i hardly wrote, and when i did, it was timid and apologetic. i have always regretted not saving myself a copy of the poem; it was the first poem i had written since before college and it was to me a therapeutic and artistic release; a recognition and validation of the pain i’d had to endure so many times. the pain that caused me to sometimes miss work or skip class or perform poorly. i’ve always wanted to recall what that poem said, and i can’t remember anything about it save that one vague line. i regret that i was so insecure that this girl i shouldn’t have even cared about anymore had such intense power over me; power that i still fight to this day. i don’t believe what she said, but just because i don’t believe it doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt me.

does any of this resonate with any of you?

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3 thoughts on “when writer’s block is not writer’s block: a peek into my past.

  1. Deidre says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Although i don’t really have any trouble writing for the internet, I have a huge amount of trouble expressing emotion to people who love me, like my family. And it’s largely because I feel so embarassed that I’m so sensitive, emotional, whiny, annoying, whatever adjective they might use (and my family is absolutely lovely. maybe they wouldn’t care at all).

    • i think you hit on something there – that they probably wouldn’t care at all! :] are there particular reasons you can identify that make you embarrassed to share yourself? might be worth thinking on. family relations are a different arena entirely, if you ask me, and i don’t have much advice to offer there!

  2. kool*son says:

    I really like your blog, its content and the easy writing style. The reason I am prompted to write a comment is that I have often been told that women live more in their emotions than men, indeed, like their susceptibility to temperature (my daughter is either ‘freezing’ or ‘boiling’), women experience emotions more deeply and on a much wider emotional front than men. In reading this post I am struck that I don’t think I have ever felt emotions of such depth and power and, if I have, never of such self-inducing guilt or self-inquiry. So, it is for me a real insight into one woman’s world, which makes me more compassionate of the ‘swings’ and arrows of outrageous emotion.
    I am also enjoying the autobiographical story that is tantalisingly emerging. Being a father of a much loved and cherished daughter I find your father’s onslaught to the ten year-old you completely baffling. He must have been going through some emotional or mental turmoil of his own to be so abusive.
    Good luck.

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