Creatrixsblood's Weblog


A personal history of writing

I’ve been crafting stories almost as long as I can remember. First they were just simple make-believe stories mostly about a strong, warrior princess (dressed more like sleeping beauty than Xena) often fighting dinosaurs or monsters. There were set characters my friends could be, but I had no problem playing alone and just filling in all the missing voices and fighting trees with dried pigweed stalks.

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I’m not Claire, I’m princess Vanessa. I’ve come to chew bubble gum and cut up invading bad guys… and I’m all out of bubble gum .

What got me to start putting stories on paper was a school project in second grade. We were asked to write and draw our own, 4-page version of “Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” While I don’t remember the contents of that project, I did have a very important realization: I could make my own books!! And I did.. many of them involved cats and utilized the various cat stickers I had on hand as well as my own drawings. Most of them were a great deal longer than 4 pages. That summer I wrote and illustrated a picture book in which a dragon saves a princess from having to rule a kingdom and enlists her help in essentially controlling the weather. Why that is less pressure for her, I’m not sure. But dragon!!

I don’t remember much about writing from third grade, but I do remember really falling in love with reading. We had a required 15 minute reading block, a fair selection of books in the room readily available, and an incentive program for time spent reading at home. It was also the first time I got so lost in a book that someone had to touch me to get my attention, because the teacher saying reading time is over and calling my name just didn’t cut it. The book was “Black Beauty”, and my desk-mate helpfully kicked my shin.

After my mom’s illness and subsequent coma, and just before fourth grade, I began writing without the pictures. The first story was brief- it was as much of a re-occurring dream as I could remember. Then I moved on to a second story, in which people and aliens were warring, and both had traveled time to get magical weaponry because why not. I wrote it by hand in it’s own notebook. One day when I couldn’t find it, I discovered it in the bathroom where my dad had apparently been reading it. He was impressed, but told me the alien name “Zortang” sounded too much like orange drink.

It was around this time I decided I definitely wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

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In fifth grade I remember being really excited about having an assignment to write a story, but was frustrated by the deadline (because I was trying to write a book, not a short story) and ended up tying everything together really quickly without much escalation to the climax. It was about an archaeologist settling a long-fought depute between ghosts in an ancient Egyptian pyramid. We were required to read it out loud to the whole class. I remember feeling my face get redder and redder as I told my story. Afterwards, most of the class of roughly 25 was staring at me with open mouths. I was the only one no one clapped for. To this day I like to say I’m not sure if the shock was because the story was so good or because of my color-changing performance, but I’m pretty sure it was because I became a cherry while I read.

Sixth grade was the first time I was introduced to the concept of writing poetry beyond haikus. The form of poetry that left the biggest impression on me was narrative because my teacher thought I had copied it or somehow cheated, and he ended up calling my Dad about my poem. In the end, my teacher “gave me the benefit of the doubt.”While I did use the basic structure of an existing narrative poem, the content was my own. His continued doubt of it being the work of kid was one of the highest praises I probably could have ever received. That same year grandma gave me her typewriter to type out my finished drafts. I was excited by the concept, but I was a terrible typist, so my typed copies weren’t much easier to read than my hand-writing.

In winter of Seventh grade, my grandparents, aunt, and uncle pooled money to get me an iMac and printer for Christmas with a Groiler Multimedia Encyclopedia on disk and an accompanying Encyclopedia of Science fiction disk that seriously expanded my reading list. Since I had no Internet connection, writing, researching. gaming, digital art, listening to music and customizing the system were about all I could do with it.

With this new bit of equipment, I set out to seriously write a novel. It was an ambitious project. I forced myself to write for at least an hour and half after school everyday, after that I was free to do whatever. My dad mandated the t.v. off when he went to bed, but I was allowed to stay up late as long as I got up in time for school. So, after 11pm or so I would have either books or my computer, and I would frequently chose to continue writing. If I got stuck, I would either move on to another part of the story or start a new one entirely. I never wrote outlines, so I would be entertaining myself as I went along. Around this time I also started sending in novel queries to publishers whose editors were likely confused by the strange font usage.

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By the time I was in 8th grade, I had finished writing a science fiction novel I strongly disliked. I scrapped it, but kept several characters from it and tried again in a different format. The resultant “fantasy book” actually made me proud even though I knew it had some issues. Encouraged, I plugged away on it and concepts for sequels to it the entire year. The best part was, I could work on it in class and not get in trouble because I’d look like I was intently taking notes!

My freshman year in high school, I asked the teachers I found the most approachable to critique my fiction writing. The first teachers were my freshman English teacher and my freshman social studies teacher. Each graciously read through a single spaced 100 page-long “fantasy book.” The former circled and underlined what he felt was working, and the latter gave me no notes, but told me she enjoyed it. When asked, her biggest criticism was that she found it hard to follow as I frequently shifted viewpoints.

After my freshman English teacher exposed me to Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man,” (and my Dad allowed me to watch the movie “Heavy Metal”) I was inspired to write a book of short stories as well as voraciously read anything else attached to Bradbury’s name. “’Write a short story every week [for a year]. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row,” Bradbury advised in a 2001 symposium. While I didn’t write one every week, I did write more than twenty short stories (as well as working on a sequel to the aforementioned “book”)

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My sophomore English teacher went out of her way to individually challenge each of us. She had a set of vocabulary words, she’d have us tick off if we knew. Then, one at a time, she’d have us come to a little room away from the rest of the class and ask what they meant. If it was confirmed that you knew that word, she’d pull out the dictionary and give you replacement words. While I can’t say I was really a fan of her Reader’s Digest assignments, they were better and more practical than book assignments, and she did have us write 2 short stories incorporating specific excerpts from Reader’s Digest stories which prevented me from taking the lazy way out and turning in a short story I’d already written.

I brought some of my favorite short stories to my sophomore speech teacher. At first, she would write one, cleverly-worded compliment of the story before giving it back to me. (Incidentally, in her her class I wore foundation like armor so no one would be distracted by my face becoming a tomato. Worked like a charm.) After I’d given her a couple of them, I feel like she tested me to see how well I’d receive criticism on a story that was essentially Romeo and Juliet in space. I remember she left more notes than usual, some good and this time, some critical. I remember she specifically picked at the word “hammock” to describe the bed in a sleeping quarter. I felt like there were more obvious points to pick at in the story, for instance: all the characters other than the two main characters were pretty 2-D When I talked to her, she said she was just trying to get me to think of more alien terms to remind the audience that none of the characters were human. I asked why she wasn’t more critical.

“I wanted you to keep writing,” she told me.

“ I have to” I replied. She gave me a sort of squinting look I didn’t really understand at the time, but I would recall it my senior year when I received my first real critique.

By my junior year, I’d written 3 (in retrospect needlessly complex)fantasy novels the last of which poked its foot into science fiction. Some of my past teachers were nice enough to read the whole trilogy.I did school paper that year, and was allowed to leave study hall to come to the journalism/yearbook Mac lab. The official story was that I was working on stories for the paper, and sometimes that was true, but other times I was reading blogs, posting on forums, and sharing my writing. I’m sure my supervising teacher was fully aware as I always used the same machine and wasn’t smart enough to delete the history.

My senior English teacher asked us to write a children’s book. I really liked being pulled back to picture books. I wrote a simple story which contained a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and involved a really dumb teenager because I concluded I couldn’t draw children. She also had us write a good number of essays, some of which I let leak into my fiction at home.

The newly digitally colored cover of the children's book.  Maybe some day, I'll color them all.. maybe..

A digitally colored cover of the children’s book in question. Maybe some day, I’ll color them all.. maybe..

That same year, I decided to enter a fantasy fiction writing contest at Wayne State college. I started with the concept of an urban fairy tale, but with notes of the classic format. Unlike everything else I’d ever submitted to magazines, contests, or publishers, I decided to have a couple teachers look at it before I sent it off. I gave one copy to my sophomore speech teacher/drama coach, and one to my senior English teacher.

My speech teacher basically put a gold star on the story. She felt my writing had come a long way… also she probably enjoyed that it had an almost happy ending for a change. My senior English teacher critiqued the first sentence in particular and the repetitive adjective usage. I asked her what she felt might be better, and then decided “Deep,deep, deep in the forest” really just set the atmosphere I wanted, and I submitted it without making that correction.

To my surprise, I won the high school division of the contest. My senior English teacher responded very sedately, but the speech teacher snuck the news into the school announcements. My foundation kept my peers from knowing I was beet red when they turned to look at me. After reality sunk in and I got $30 for my efforts crafting the story, I thought about the critique I received; and I understood not all criticism would necessarily be helpful. This really helped me prepare for what was awaiting me at my first writer’s workshop.

To be continued…

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She could be
May 8, 2014, 4:34 pm
Filed under: beliefs, Confidence, creative non-fiction, writing

Few things lead me to sad contemplation like hearing another woman say that women should not be trusted with roles of leadership. In that moment, I suddenly see us both as little girls clutching our Barbie dolls; she wants us to play house.

In her house, she tidies, primps, hangs out with friends and raises kids while Ken is off at work. She greets him with a warm meal and hug at the end of the day. They sleep, and begin again. Most of her friends play just like that.

I don’t want to play with her.

I’d rather be a sorceress who escapes from a castle prison. In the wilds, I build a home. I tame beasts with kindness and gain their loyalty. Together, we plot to storm the castle and free the city caught in the crown’s oppressive clutches.

There is nothing wrong with her game. I just get bored playing it.

She could be a sorceress too.



Why being heckled for being fat hurts more than being heckled for being thin

As a skinny girl I hate the bones are for dogs comment. I am naturally skinny to the point I have to work very hard to keep my weight up and steady!!! I love being skinnybut it’s hard… it’s mean and hurtful when we are called skin and bones, referenced to attracting only low class guys, or called anorexic. It’s not ok to insult a plus sized woman so it shouldn’t be ok to insult a skinny woman. I have nothing against plus sized ladies. All that matters is you’re happy and healthy. And for the record, my fiancé is not a dog or anywhere close to it!!!!” -Facebook User commenting on a plus sized model’s photo.

Dear (Thin) Facebook User,

First, let me say that I agree. People should refrain from voicing hurtful opinions about the weight of others regardless of which end of the spectrum that person occupies, period. Generally, that person is aware of what their body looks like, and doesn’t need your input on the matter. Such commentary accomplishes nothing except for boosting the ego of the perpetrator by putting down the target, often in the guise of snide concern. Making fun of a fat person and a making fun of a thin person are equally condemnable. Neither is O.K..

real-womenHowever, the way this sort of commentary hurts a thin person is often very different from the way it hurts an overweight individual. Barring very low self-esteem, eating disorders, or other mental disorders that distort body image, most thin people are generally comfortable with their bodies even if they are not entirely satisfied. The above user said herself that she loves being thin. While this is becoming true for a growing number of overweight/fat/plus-sized/choose-your-adjective individuals, a vast majority of them (should I say us?) are constantly uncomfortable in their own skin.

Overweight people, especially women, tend to face a lot of imagery in magazines, television, and movies telling them their size is not only not beautiful, but not acceptable or at best, something to mocked. While there are a growing number of non-traditional models, big girls tend to have to seek out imagery that positively represents bodies similar to their own. On the contrary, thin women regularly see imagery that reinforces and reassures them that their bodies are attractive even if they hear remarks to the opposite effect. Being inundated with this sort of exclusionary imagery tends to make overweight women, and the men who are attracted to them, unnecessarily aggressive toward the idea of thin being sexy.  Often men attracted to fat women are seen as fetishists and the fat women themselves are seen as a fetish,  further increasing their defensive nature.

It is true that thin women still face the same pressure that all women feel: to have the perfect boobs, an exaggerated waist, and round perky buttocks. Disparaging remarks about our bodies hurt no matter what size we are; few people don’t inwardly long to change their appearance. The main difference here is that the remarks of peers regarding weight are much less likely to encourage or perpetuate harmful behaviors in the average thin person.

Thin women, because they tend to feel more confident about their bodies, are more likely to recognize the commentary as ignorant and hateful, label the person dispensing it an asshole, and move on. But it is fairly common for overweight women to already have an inner monologue that tells us we are unattractive because we are fat, and though we may hide it at the time, the commentary validates our negative self-image.  In women who are overweight despite vigilant diet and exercise, this can lead to starvation dieting or even encourage them to give up. In people who compulsively overeat, or eat for emotional reasons the implication is obvious.

In summation: Yes, thin Facebook user, the person who tells you to eat a cheeseburger or asks if you are anorexic is an asshole in the same way as the person who tells me I need Jenny Craig and asks me how I escaped SeaWorld. Yes, we both as women have to deal with insensitive assholes telling us that we don’t fit their ideal of beauty… But, unless you have a sense of worthlessness strongly linked to your weight…unless you have a loud inner-monologue that tells you that you are less than worthy because of how you look…please…don’t pretend you know how I feel.

 



A History of Fatness: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!

In my previous installments: “The Younger Years” and “Losing Weight the Wrong Way,” I shared how I had become a plus sized child and teenager before abruptly losing ~120lbs. within the span of 4 months via eating an extremely restrictive diet while over-exercising. Over the next couple years, I would attempt to get a handle on my disordered eating before ultimately failing.

After my friend had pointed out that I was showing signs of anorexia and non-purging bulimia, I tried to rectify my habits. After a few weeks of continuing my food journal, I still had a reluctance to eat more than 1,000 calories a day. Even if I didn’t write calorie amounts down, I was still doing estimations in my head. I concluded that I needed to stop keeping it. Instead, I focused on reasonable portion sizes, while still working out at least 6 hours a week. This strategy worked very well, and I managed to maintain a weight of roughly 145lbs. for roughly one year.

A photo of me with my fantabulous car in my senior year in high school.

I have to admit, that year was pretty great. Even though I still wasn’t totally happy with my appearance, I felt empowered. I did a lot of things I had previously been scared to do. I joined my high school’s Speech and One Act teams as well as participating in Quiz Bowl. I wore attention-getting clothes that my old self would have never worn.

I was still getting used to all the appreciative attention for my looks from the opposite sex, and often reacted to it badly. Example: While exiting a music store, some guy whistled at me. As it was unexpected, I laughed loudly and closed the door after me. Only after I left did I realize how mean that must have seemed.

Since that guy was obviously not quite a charmer, let me give another example: In my junior year, I was approached by the little sister of one of the few boys who had been nice to me all through grade school despite my weight. He had sent her to ask if I would go to a dance with him. Dumbstruck, I just kind of stood there blinking. She made a knowing face and said, “Ok.” Then she left, and I slowly parsed together what had happened. Although I certainly would have gone, I was too shy to say anything to either them after that.

Then, half way through my Senior year, I started dating a goth boy who fancied himself a romantic. He regularly took me to dinner, bought me little gifts, made me photo collages, and (this is the cincher) talked to my mom even though she’s so brain damaged she mostly only said no. (Unfortunatelymy mom’s condition hasn’t improved since then.) While I had dated previously, I think half of my motivation was just to be able to tell people I had a boyfriend. I never did really let my guard down around the guys I was seeing. However, the goth boy’s patient devotion and acceptance allowed me to let him into the tangled web of emotion I usually kept between myself and word document. He was the first to get my crazy. I still feel sorry for him.

One thing he did for me was help me embrace my body despite it’s imperfections. For the first time ever, I felt comfortable in a swimming suit.

While we dated, I gained 15lbs. We spent all of our spare time with each other, and although we went on long walks and got –ahem- other forms of exercise, all of the dining out went to my waist line. I went up a size, but I wasn’t too worried about it. My ideas of small portions steadily grew.

After graduation, I moved an hour andhalf away for college. Goth boy and I had made plans to get an apartment near campus, but those plans fell through after he failed to save enough money. As a result, I was poorly matched with my roommates. There were two girls from a private, Catholic high school, and a cheery former cheerleader. They all kept everything super-tidy in a specific way, loved reality tv, and country and pop music. I was in hell.

<3 the chick with me.

On the bright side, I got to dye my hair magenta.

Aside from a few bright spots and a wicked wardrobe, my first year in college wasn’t much fun. I was an outsider in my own home, I didn’t really have any friends going to the same school, and I got to see my boyfriend 3 times a month if I was lucky.Although I did get out occasionally with the help of a few area friends or my twin aunts who lived in the same city, it wasn’t frequently. I coped by immersing myself in class, books, cartoons and junk food. Some days I would forgo meals entirely in favor of junk food. Other days, I would I sit down with a half gallon of ice cream and a spoon, eat it all, and then purge. The change in eating habits didn’tshow, probably more due to the fact that walking was my primary mode of transportation (I had elected to leave my car at home to cut costs and the bus frightened me)than my burgeoning bulimia.

In my second year in college (I was 19), things had evened out a bit emotionally. I lost the boyfriend, brought my car from Dad’s place, got a work-study job in the library archives, had friends on campus, and had cool roommates whom I got along with reasonably well. Although I began smoking cigarettes and drinking occasionally around this time, I was generally more well-balanced, and as a result I mostly didn’t binge-eat. Between my work, school, social life, and romance, I didn’t have time to. Once again, dating led to poor food choices like fast food or sit down restaurants with enormous portions, but I managed to stay around 160 lbs.with an intermediate amount of exercise.

Things didn’t really start to go downhill until I was living alone for the first time in my third year of college, but the decline didn’t take long. I shared a story about my childhood clepto-mania with a party cohort I had idealized as a buddy flick-like friend. Long story short: After activating the bad influence, I carried on by myself, landed myself in legal hot water, lost my job, was sentenced to jail time, and moved (while still going to school) rather than deal with it. The resultant stress led me to binge everything: food, alcohol, cigarettes, basically anything enjoyable I could get my hands on.

An image depicting how my 20 year-old self felt about law and auothrity.

An image depicting how my 20 year-old self felt about law and authority.

I am not sure exactly how long I was “on the lamb,” but it was only a few months.  By the time I weighed in when I went to jail, I was something near 180lbs. (I was pretty stressed out, so I don’t remember an exact number.)

Contrary to popular opinion, I found it quite easy to lose weight in jail. The food was disgusting. I didn’t care how hungry I was, I found most of it inedible. I lost 15 pounds during my 28 day stay, but that weight came right back when I moved back to Dad’s house for the summer. Dad was understandably frustrated with me, as I had hidden the entire ordeal from him until I was physically in jail. I internalized ever little thing he said in anger. I felt worthless.

With the help of my generous Aunt Corrine, I returned to college in the Fall and proceeded to make a huge mess of everything about six months later.

Next Installment: Coming Soon



A History of Fatness: Losing Weight the Wrong Way

In the last installment, A History of Fatness: The Younger Years, I cut to the root of my emotional relationship with junk food. I shared how I spent the latter half of my childhood in the plus-sized section, and how I began to lose weight.

At first, my methods of weight loss were pretty sane. I began losing sometime in March, and at the beginning of May my average rate of weight-loss was a manageable and healthy 15lbs per month or about 2 pounds per week. I kept a food journal, I walked between 2 and 4 miles each day, and I did body weight resistance exercises 3 times a week.

Then, with the help of weight-loss books, I calculated my frame-size (medium framed at 5′ 6”) which based on bone positioning and created a goal of weighing 130 pounds (the lighter end of healthy for my frame size)… by my birthday. At the time, I weighed 220 lbs. I wanted to lose 90lbs in 2½ months.

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In these photos, I weigh between 220 and 230lbs.

After school was out for the summer, it was crunch time in more ways than one. I made weight loss my main goal. In addition to the body weight resistance exercises, I began weight lifting and walking longer distances. I began calorie counting. I ate 1,200 calories each day, about 500 less than was recommended for weight-loss according to my books. I was obsessed with creating calorie deficits. I wasn’t satisfied in the morning unless I weighed at least a pound less than I had the previous day.

By the end of May, I weighed about 180 pounds, 50 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the month. The women’s size 16 jeans I previously would lay on the bed to squeeze into fit perfectly. Some were even baggy. My friends and family were impressed. No one worried that the weight was coming off too fast. They made every effort to encourage me. I, however, had hit something of a weight-loss plateau and was still 50 pounds from my goal-weight of 130 lbs and a month andhalf from my goal-date of my 16th birthday.

I made my diet more restrictive. I cut my daily consumption down to 800 calories with two, 1,000-calorie “cheat” days. I would spend somewhere around 4 hours each day walking ( I covered an average of 17 miles) in addition to an hour-long anaerobic work out. I would go to sleep exhausted and hungry.

On my birthday I was 10 pounds shy of my goal-weight. Although I was glad to no longer shop in the women’s plus-size section, I was wearing the largest size most store’s junior’s sections carried at the time- a size 13.

It is worth mentioning that my perception of my size at the time was skewed in part to the arbitrary sizing in womens‘ and teen girls’ clothing and my own refusal to admit to being any bigger than a size 16 when I was younger. At 250 lbs I was squeezing into size 16 pants when I probably should have been wearing a size 22. When I weighed 140, I wore a women’s size 10 or 12, but that translated to a junior’s 13..so basically I perceived a loss of 10 dress sizes as a loss of 3. Also, since I was wearing the largest junior’s size in most stores, I must still be fat.

Because of this thinking, it seemed like my aunt Corrine was almost more excited about my smaller body than I was. She bought me a new wardrobe that summer, marveling over how cute and tiny everything was. Even though I weighed 110 pounds less than I did in May, I still wasn’t happy with my body. I still hated how I looked in swimming suits. My belly was still lumpy, my arms were still flabby.I cut my calories further.

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In this photo I weigh 140 lbs.

When school started, I imagined kids would whisper that I’d gotten liposuction. That didn’t happen. There were (almost) none of the mean comments I’d grown accustomed to. For the most part, the boys didn’t treat me much differently, but I wasn’t prepared for how differently the girls would treat me.

Even among friends, I was suddenly part of the group; I was invited on shopping excursions to neighboring cities, to water parks. Girls who had previously snubbed me treated me with respect. The older girl I mentioned in the previous post who bullied me, despite being a year behind in math class, decided I had become her mortal enemy. However, the most threatening things in her arsenal were telling me I dressed like “a hippy” and that I would marry for love and be poor while she would be a gold-digger. As usual, my biggest obstacle was internal.

In general I felt more confident about my body, but I couldn’t stop comparing it to other, thinner girls. Unable to obsessively exercise, I cut my calories to 500 or less a day. This behavior continued for a little longer than a month. I only managed to lose 15 pounds, and squeeze into a junior’s size 9.

Finally, one of my friends who had been quietly observing my altered eating habits at lunch talked to me. She said that she had also been exhibiting anorexic and non-purging bulimic behavior, and that her mother had pointed it out to her.

“You are skinny, Claire,” she said. “You have to eat.”

I managed to keep the weight off for several years in varying degrees of health. However, I never was really happy with myself. Eventually, my body began to reflect it.

Next installment: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!

 



Beauty comes in many forms, and they envy each other.
March 19, 2014, 3:45 pm
Filed under: beauty, emotions, essays, love, Weight Issues, writing | Tags: , , ,

Last night while getting groceries, the checker paid me a random compliment. She was a cute, short, thin young lady with what appeared to be natural light-red hair: the sort of girl who effortlessly looks good in unforgiving uniforms of form fitting white button-ups tucked into khaki pants, the sort of girl whose waist I stare at enviously.

“I love your look,” she told me, scanning my diet soda. “It’s probably a weird thing to say, but I think it every time I see you come in.”

“Thank you,” I said awkwardly, “I like compliments.” I was wearing form-fitting ripped jeans, (which have these wrinkles where my belly ends that I absolutely hate) a black camisole under a pink accented zipper hoody, lots of random bits of cat hair, and no make-up. I let my barely-brushed naturally curly hair frizz out under my skull and cross-bones bandanna.

She smiled, and related an instance in which she noted that her sister had gained some weight, and she said something about it, meaning it as a compliment. “It’s just that I’m so small,” she concluded, briefly glancing at my cleavage.

We continued talking while she finished scanning my items, and we smiled warmly at each other before I left.



A note to myself about venting
March 15, 2014, 11:45 am
Filed under: cognitive theraphy, emotions, self-help, writing

Just because people don’t understand doesn’t mean you have to whisper into the bottle you keep in your mind.

Yes, there is a reason why you don’t share your feelings with others. They (being the supremely helpful people they are) like to give advice, not recognizing the need for understanding.

People keep giving you repair manuals, but broken things rarely fix themselves.

Your anger boils up inside you like hatchling spiders.  You change the subject or bow out as gracefully as you can manage.  Your thoughts are toxic.  You replay insults hurled by oblivious friends.   Desperately, you attempt to balance your thoughts, to not take it personally.

You started talking to feel better, but now you feel drained and helpless.

A blank page is a better conversation partner.  It will patiently catalogue your feelings, and reflect them back to you. It will reserve judgement completely, politely waiting for you to come to your own conclusions.