This year has been both very, very shitty and very, very productive. Like life, 2012 has been a dichotomy for me—nothing is ever perfect and one minute I felt like I was celebrating the higher points of my career and then being brought down by a wave of grief or anxiety. This post feels a bit dismal, but I’ve done quite a bit of celebrating over the great things that have happened this year and to be honest, some really incredible things have happened for me. I feel I’ve been successful in many ways and I’ve even had some great successes in writing lately that I’m very proud of.
But, as you know, I’m the type of person whose biggest flaw is her honesty and authenticity. So, I don’t want to write a flowery/happy post when I just really don’t feel all that great with some of the things that were heavy to deal with. I have chosen to share some of the darker times of the year here, though, in part because it may help you understand certain choices I’ve made throughout the year and also why I’ve slowed down from blogging.
The Worst of 2012
I have never felt more anxious, and paralyzed by it, than this year. I’m not sure I can explain the way it makes me feel to people who aren’t troubled by it, but anxiety can be a difficult feeling to deal with. I have been so open while writing this blog and I think knowing what I’ve actually shared with the world (and most importantly, that people keep reading it) really has put me into a panicked state.
Top that with the amount of arguments and confrontation I’ve had with friends and family and the amount of friendships I’ve lost, and the anxiety just grows. It feels like no matter what I say, someone is going to take it personally, or be offended, or judge me harshly. I’ve had fights with people who I thought cared about me greatly and have come to find out that many of them wanted me to live my life on their terms. It’s painful to feel that people may not quite love you as much when you are who you truly are.
I’ve learned a bit of balance in all of this, and certainly have learned to be a bit more diplomatic when I care about someone. It’s far better to preserve some friendships than it is to be right—whether it’s over politics or religion. Of course I’ve also learned how to rein in the private side of my life some, to the point where I feel a bit safer saying things online. I can either stop blogging or I can keep working on finding boundaries that work well for me.
Blogging is such an interesting hobby/job. Readers respond most to a blogger’s vulnerability and unique voice; but it’s those qualities that also get the blogger in trouble with trolls and hateful people. As much as you may feel you understand what it’s like to be trolled, unless you have a well-established blog I can’t say you truly understand what some of us go through. Unfortunately, there is no one way to deal with this issue and it seems everywhere I look, writers and bloggers and even journalists are openly talking about the harsh critics online. There was a solid year where I woke up to comments and emails that made me cry every single day. I happened upon a talk Lindy West (writer at Jezebel.com) was giving where she talked about this very thing. Lindy is chubby, and Jezebel encourages their writers to post photos of themselves occasionally. As Lindy talked about the amount of hate mail and hateful comments she gets (and reads), I started realizing there are some people who understand how I feel. Despite non-blogger’s advice to not read the comments, we find ourselves reading them. We have to moderate them, actually, so we can’t just ignore our comments or emails. For some time, I decided to close comments down completely and stop answering email. If you haven’t received a response during this year, and many of you deserved one, I’m sorry. I simply stopped reading some of my emails because I was being barraged by the same thing every day, and very little of it was good.
About my blog:
I feel like I’ve neglected this blog quite a bit and that’s partly due to the things I’m going to write about below, but it’s also because of the amount of hate mail and the overwhelmingly stressful job it’s been to read through emails and comments of people who just really detest me. I needed a serious break and to be honest, I feel like this some extra hateful stalkers have imagined me to be famous and have really gone all out to try to get to me. The sad thing is, it really did get to me and I needed some space in order to feel safe. I didn’t even feel safe, as a few of them made me feel like I was being stalked and harassed anytime I went online. I felt that way, because I was. There seemed to be an irrepressible group of people who were blasting me at once. Of course, they were different groups of people and yes, I had picked fights with their cults or with their political viewpoints or their religious beliefs, but damnit, a girl needs a breather sometimes.
Maybe it’s safe to say that I’ve become afraid of my own blog. It hasn’t been a very safe place for me—and if I were a bit better at the business side of things I would probably hire someone to weed through emails and comments and help me sort through the hard ones. I write exposes and piss off a lot of people off, yet this blog is also a place where I’ve been incredibly candid and talked about falling in love, losing my job, and what it feels like to be depressed.
I can officially say this: sometimes I have no idea what to do with my own blog. It’s such a mixture of thoughts and subjects and it’s sometimes driven heavily by those of you who have continued to read (and things you email me). It’s a lot of fucking work, but as hard as it is (and I believe many bloggers feel this way), it is something I’ve grown to love. I love connecting with so many of you who contribute back to my life and I love feeling like I’m helping some people regain the strength and courage to live their lives freely again. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Which leads me to my job. I haven’t blogged a lot this year because there’s simply no way to keep up on top of what I do for my day job. After losing my job in 2011, the highest priority of mine was to get working again. With losing your job, as many of you know, comes a lot of debt. Work was where I needed to shift all my energy and on top of all that, I was actually fortunate enough to land a pretty fantastic job at a great company. Just today I was doing an interview with a private investigator (for a friend’s job) and when asked where I worked, the guy said, “Whoa, nice.” That’s a pretty standard response in my community who know a) how hard it is to land a job there and b) how great a company it is.
Fortunately, what started as a four month contract position has turned into a twenty-four month contract. I’m now in a really good place but none of this came easy. In fact, this winter break was the first time in a very long time where I finally felt my creative energy coming back. My company works on very high-profile, confidential projects. Everyone works long, hard hours and it’s safe to say we’re all really invested in the work we do. This comes at a cost for people like me who are writing books and blogging at night, but it’s the price I have to pay to be an artist. (Side note: I’m not a fan of being a “starving artist”. I have good taste and I like really nice things, so I’m not at all happy getting by on pennies and scraps for some romantic notion of suffering or to claim moral superiority. Actually, as you and I both know, many of the “starving artists” are just trust fund babies who do have money but pretend not to. Those of us who have been in difficult places financially know the real pain of dealing with hard times.)
Where this blog is going?
Can I start by saying I don’t know?
I’d like to continue blogging about everyday life, but it’s clear from my Google rankings and various reports that most people come here for information on cults and spiritual abuse. So, there’s that. These resources are clearly important for people and I hope to improve them with time as I can.
If things go well and I figure out how to integrate a new content management system on my site and my site mapping is successful, then in 2013 I should have a whole section devoted just to cults and religion news, including my own research (which has been on-going on top of everything else I do-yeah, I work nonstop, actually) and survivor stories. I’ve been working with some really great survivor groups and definitely want to highlight their stories. It’s also important to make their stories, and facts about their groups, more accessible. Usually the groups we all go up against have hundreds of thousands of dollars to devote to marketing, so the stories of survivors can easily be hidden and this means they’re silenced.
But, let’s face it, I can only write about this topic so much before I need to get back to what this blog really started as—a memoir blog. So, in the spirit of memoir, I will continue to blog about my life and write essays about things that are important to me. I’ve also started writing about my writing process and personal lessons I’ve learned on my website because there are quite a few people who reach out to me about writing and the process.
So, without further ado, I present to you the worst of 2012.
(Disclaimer: This post is about ovaries and lady parts.)
A few months ago, I discovered I have PCOS. Actually, my endocrinologist discovered it through a series of exams and blood work, but you get the idea. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. From the internet, “Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female sex hormones. This may lead to menstrual cycle changes, cysts in the ovaries, trouble getting pregnant, and other health changes.” (Source: PubMed Health)
In essence, PCOS contributes to weight gain and can prevent weight loss, but it also causes extremely painful periods which feel like a knife is jabbing you in the ovaries (in my case, just one side) every month. This picture illustrates (warning: that picture is gross) why it feels that way. A woman with PCOS grows cysts and sometimes they rupture.
My worst symptoms aren’t pleasant. I sometimes feel like I’m going through menopause—I can break out into a sweat on a 45 degree morning faster than anyone I know. It’s a bit awkward and it’s also really uncomfortable. I did happen to find a great endocrinologist a few months ago, and since starting treatment I do feel a bit better. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m dying when I have my periods anymore, but many of my other symptoms persist.
There’s also the disparaging part about possible infertility. To be honest, after speaking with a lot of women who have PCOS, it seems like PCOS might not be a complete roadblock to having kids, but it requires a lot of work, medication and weight loss. There’s a whole cocktail of pills a woman with PCOS has to try for months and then of course, this seems to work after awhile with some people.
I’ve never tried to have kids, though, so I really don’t know how much of an issue this will be for me when I do decide to start a family. Or if I do decide to start one. It could turn out to be a non-issue or it could become very complicated. My mom keeps telling me that women in my family haven’t had a single issue having kids, but PCOS does have a genetic component to it, so perhaps since the women in my family all had children at a younger age than me, their symptoms hadn’t hit yet. Either way, I’m 32 now and just a few years ago, I told myself I would start having kids somewhere between 32 and 35 (after the publication of my first book, of course). I read so much about women my age pushing back the age to have kids until we no longer can have kids and I know that’s what is happening with me. A lot of women are getting married later, or never really finding a suitable partner, and we’re often focused on our careers, social lives, and traveling until we finally realize it’s too late or almost too late. I have come to the realization that I have to start trying to have kids in the near future if I do want to have them without a lot of medical intervention and possible complications, especially in light of my reproductive issues. I may not become pregnant as easily as younger women who don’t have PCOS. Sure, some women have children around or after the age of 38, but if you think it’s easy to do, you’re mistaken.
Like many women in my shoes, I’m not married to anyone, although I have mixed emotions on this subject. On the one hand, many people give the impression that they’re happily married when I know this certainly isn’t the case in many relationships. Despite knowing that many people are in loveless marriages with partners who don’t give them enough attention, I sometimes envy the façade. As one friend asked the other day, “Is your idea of happiness mutual love?” I think in many ways it is, because I have everything else in life. On the other hand, I feel a bit like Edith from Downton Abbey. She tries and tries, but can’t seem to find luck with men. While her sisters are in love and becoming mothers, she is [SPOILER ALERT] jilted at the altar and then later courted by a man she realizes is married to someone else. Some people have all the luck; others just don’t.
Whether you know it or believe it, everyone has a few offers on the table. Someone has a crush on you and wants to be with you, even if you’re too insecure to believe it. Isn’t that sort of the nature of love, though? We want what we can’t have and we want those who play hard to get or who act uninterested (in many cases, they act uninterested because they aren’t interested).
So, I guess I want what I can’t have or what I haven’t had. That “I’ve fallen in love with my best friend” feeling (or maybe, I have fallen in love with my best friend. I don’t kiss and tell…yet). I want to get cozy and settle down with someone who makes me feel comfortable in my own shoes, so I don’t have to put on a big show and starve myself and spend a shit ton of money looking a certain way. You know, falling in love with someone like your best friend: someone who who sees you for who you are and can see right through you but doesn’t care too much if you’re kind of weird and moody. Or someone you can snore in front of. I don’t know. Things. Like that. Someone you can have fun with, who makes you laugh and knows that you are kick ass enough to accomplish the stuff that you dream about doing.
There are rare moments in life when you can connect with someone like this. I do know a few people who have this, or some relationships that have developed into this, but I don’t always feel understood by many people so I’m kind of unsure if it’s a realistic thing to hope for. I have kind of an odd temperament: moody sometimes, often depressed, and other times really happy. Outspoken, polite but not a charmer, and not afraid to stand up to someone who treats others with disrespect. You know, that’s not really the “perfect” girl for many, but I’m happy with who I am.
It’s rare to get involved with someone where things are both physical and just…comfortable. Those rare moments and rare connections are what I look for in a relationship, and no, they don’t come around very often. So, I haven’t “settled” down because I really didn’t want to live with someone who didn’t make me feel great.
I’ve written about freezing my eggs and using a sperm donor to have a baby, but to be honest, the closer I get to “that age”, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to be a single mom. Or want to…As I get closer to my “deadline”, I feel okay with it all. While my life certainly isn’t the same as everyone else’s, it isn’t a bad life. I quite like it. Sure, I’d love to spend holidays pushing a stroller around Disneyland, but on the other hand, my life is much better than I anticipated it would ever be at the moment and I don’t want it to change.
Do I even want to give up my sleep? What about the hours upon hours of free time I have on weekends and evenings to write, or watch TV, or have sex when I want to? Let’s be honest, people with children are often miserable because they suck the life out of you. They are cute, but they are selfish little pricks who wear people out. According to the Hallmark channel, having a daughter is the most magical thing that can happen to a woman. Apparently motherhood turns you into this supernatural creature who cries over every moment. I think I’m fairly happy with my moodiness at the moment and don’t want to become vulnerable, so maybe I’ll skip the kid-having thing.
All kidding aside, I think I have finally come to the place where I’m happy with my situation in life—unmarried by choice and childless by choice. Oh, it took forever to get here, but I’ve made it.
Friends and Family
I’m not really “new” to my city anymore, but it hasn’t been the easiest place to make friends. I do have some good friends here who come visit me even when I’m moody and want to be left alone. I like them even though they are a couple and they’re in love and cute and stuff.
As for older friendships, it still hurts to know some friendships change, especially when you need those friends. It is a fact of life, of course. All of our interests change and who we see on a daily basis changes, too. Or little fights turn into monstrosities that no one wants to work through. I miss a lot of those people, or at least what we used to have.
I also moved away from all the friends I made in college. I hated the city I lived in then, but the people were some of the best people I’ve ever met. I miss them more than anyone, because they were there for me during the very hardest times of my recovery from the cult. They also made me laugh more than anyone. We partied and we had great conversation. But more than anything, when I needed them, they were there for me at the drop of a hat.
I don’t have that now. I feel pretty lonely most of the time. Without my family and a few individuals, I would probably spend most of my time crying because of it. It’s certainly been one of the hardest things about this year—and one of the few things I openly discuss. It is what it is, and when I feel sad I try to do something I enjoy; something that makes me happy. It still doesn’t change the fact that I feel incredibly alone and wonder if I’ll always feel this way.
I’ve also had a hard time reaching out to others to get to know people. I was pretty gun-shy about talking to people and trusting them and I felt pretty insecure for the past few years. I’m not entirely sure what happened (whether it was health related or otherwise) but I plummeted into a pretty dark place. I feel like I’m climbing out of it rather slowly and it feels nice to see the sun again. It’s taken nearly the entire year to get to know some people at work, and even still, my place of work is filled with very serious people so we don’t really hang out outside of our jobs.
I won’t expand on this too much, but it’s also been a really tough year for my family. Add that to everything else and I’m just not feeling up to being too open and vulnerable, because life has forced me to be quite vulnerable already. I feel the need for some quiet time alone to sort of retreat from the stresses of life.
I’m not entirely sure I want to delve into this subject yet but here’s how I summarized it on Facebook:
As some of you remember, I spent months interviewing with and filming for a ‘reality TV show’ that may or may not have ever existed. There was a production company and we were working on getting the show on a major network. The network wasn’t known for reality TV though, so I should have known better. I should’ve never done interviews in the first place and NEVER should’ve done any video interviews without a contract. (Please learn from my mistakes.)
But, until that point, I never had any experience with production companies or TV contracts. I knew nothing about the business or about how they work. I suspected these producers was dishonest but just assumed that was “show biz”.
If you are approached by a production company in the future, I highly recommend you do your research on the company, trust your instincts fully, and never grant a single interview until you have a written contract if you feel you have a marketable story. Under no circumstances should you give away your ideas. You owe nothing to them.
Unfortunately, some companies aren’t honest.
How was your year? What were some of your highlights (it’s okay to share the great things that happened) or low times? What are you looking forward to in 2013? Do you make resolutions? If so, what are they?