Thursday, November 21, 2013

Honesty Is The Best Policy

When I was writing my post earlier in the week, I waffled about whether to include the paragraph about Mushu’s illness, the resulting vet bill, or my anxiety related to it. It was an unhappy aside to an otherwise positive post. Did I really want people to know the exact amount of unexpected expense it took to put me in the financial danger zone or the cray cray thoughts that provoked? I decided to keep it, since it was more of a “running down of the things” post than one where I lay out a theme and build to sweeping conclusion where we all learn something at the end like an episode of South Park. If I were just naming things for the week, it was an important thing.

This year I have consistently been sharing all of the relevant details of my development as much as I have been able to within the bounds of politeness and not causing trouble for people who aren’t me. I’ve dropped the façade that my wavering level of motivation in regard to cycling was my biggest problem and revealed the depression, social isolation, divorce drama, anxiety, and disordered eating behind it. Yes, when I list it all out like that I sound like a train wreck, and why I would I want to people to know all that? I feel like I should explain a little bit more about the reasons behind my brutal honestly.

It occurs to me that the revelation of my dirty little secrets could be perceived as either a need to create drama, draw attention, or try to get people to feel sorry for me. I can’t say that I am completely and utterly innocent on those charges, but it is certainly not my intention. I guess my primary reasons are to relieve myself of some burdens in a way that’s not totally private, but at least not shoved in the faces of those seeing my updates on Facebook. You have to willingly click through the link to read this. 

I also want to give better insight as to why I do the things I do, which I suppose is asking for empathy, if not actual sympathy. In that vein, I share the less-pretty sides of myself knowing that many of those reading can empathize more than they would like, and are less willing to share their burdens, so I hope that my sharing my struggles and my progress in overcoming them will help others to overcome theirs, as well.

Finally, if nothing else, I’m doing a service to the train-wreck-blog-loving haters by giving them plenty of reasons to put on their judgy faces and feel superior. Yeah, those are a thing; I know because I was married to one of them.

That being said, I wanted to share some thoughts to consider when reading the writings of myself or any other “train wreck” blogger who dares drop his or her (it’s usually a her) guard and reveal their shortcomings. Of course, this is just my theory, but I’d like to share it. Sorry, haters.

It basically goes like this: some people, for a wide for variety of sometimes unexplainable reasons reach adulthood with a missing piece in them, a hole if you will, while others get everything they need to be okay in a variety of life circumstances. The reasons might not easily apparent like child abuse or neglect, and the person might be successful in some areas their life, so it’s hard to easily say what’s wrong with them. Therefore, it is easy to push it aside as “first world problems”. However, I feel like the “hole” is the basic cause of all the things in the range of depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and the like. It’s what makes seemingly “okay” people act and feel not okay.

So walking around on the street every day you will encounter a variety of people with different sizes and shapes of holes, and those with holes in various stages of healing, because luckily they can be healed. When people get judgy it is usually because they were lucky enough to grow up without a hole and can’t understand the behavior of those with one, or worse, we encounter a person whose hole doesn’t look like our own. Conversely, in the past year I’ve really learned to spot people with a hole like mine and it makes me want to hug them. I also have some lovely “complete” people in my life that provide inspiration and stability in my path to healing. (If you’re reading this and wondering which you are, I’ll never tell. ;) And really, “complete” people aren’t perfect or lacking in problems, they just have better coping skills.

Back in the spring/early summer, a good friend told me that in my situation at the time “a new guy would be like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound”. It was actually very wise advice, although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. However, I was more accurately suffering not from a gunshot wound, but a dynamite blast that had (painfully) cleared out the rubble that was keeping my hole from filling in which the correct missing pieces. I’ve since learned that those pieces aren’t anything you can just shove in there; the healing has to come from just staring into the empty space and seeing that you can survive it, no matter how painful it is. By accepting the hole, it actually becomes smaller. Being aware of all this, I did soon after find a new guy who isn’t in any way a cover-up or filler, but the real person who holds my hand  while I stare into the space and doesn’t think less of me for having it in the first place (often the hand-holding is more figurative than literal, as the void appears less when he's physically present).

So all of those things I’ve been told about being in control of my own feelings and attitudes, nonattachment, and all of those good things that make everyday bummers feel less tragic are actually accurate, but they are skills that are slowly learned over time rather just advice to be given and heeded. So telling a depressed person that they are in charge of their own emotions and expecting them to just flip to happy is like verbally explaining to someone how to bunny hop and then telling them go jump that three foot log. First you have logically know something, then internalize the movement patterns (physical or mental), perform the movement in a low risk environment, then slowly build the confidence to try it in more difficult circumstances.

All of this is to convey a couple of points. One is that I don’t really have the long list of problems that I might appear to; I have one big one that I am slowly improving every day. It’s just a long and hard process. The second point is that there are many others that you will encounter with the same general problem who are unaware or at least unwilling to share. Be kind to them.

I suppose that’s a lot of armchair psychology for a supposed cycling blog, but I feel cycling is a magnet for those “holey” folks, especially women. It manifests in many ways, sometimes leading to great success within the sport and sometimes preventing it. I think it would be really interesting for a sport psychologist to develop a scale for “hole” measurement and see where top athletes rank. My theory is that a hole can drive to a lot of success in the short term, because of its intensity, but perhaps “complete” people fair better over time.

Finally, I found it really interesting this morning when I saw this post from one of my favorite bloggers after I’d already been planning to write this for a couple of days. I think I’ve always liked reading her blog because I felt some sort of kinship, which I would now call a matching hole, although she deals with hers differently than I do, and probably has a lot more natural talent. Regardless, I was really glad to see her talk so openly of her struggles, and I hope she finds what she needs to get better.


Vanessa Roth said...

Though we just met the one time at the Midwest clinic, I have definitely noticed that you seem to have been growing and changing since then. I finding it very inspiring and I think you're brave in sharing the process.

Lindsay Bayer said...

Hello, hole twin. =) I liked this post - you described the feeling and experiences of having a hole very accurately. It's nice to feel like there are other people out there that "get" it.