Thursday, January 5, 2017


Looking back I can say with certainty that 2007 was my bad year, but 2016 had a little something for everyone. No one got out of this one without a scar.

My 2016 started in the hospital and only went downhill from there. Lucky, it was only kidney stones but that is something I would never like to experience again. Immediately after that I had to move. Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate moving. I've had to relocate eight times in the last twelve years. The overwhelming majority of those moves were the result of terrible roommates, however, this move was due to terrible property management. There were a total of six tenants and five of us left. I was still on medication from my stay in the hospital and I hardly remember the move.

A few short months later singer Christina Grimme was shot within walking distance of my new apartment. Two days later I lost a friend in the Pulse shooting. While loved ones and friends were marking themselves as safe on Facebook we came to the realization that no one had heard from Drew. I stayed with a friend the following day and we took turns watching the news until the worst was confirmed.

Going to work became a trying experience. I had customers come in wearing t-shirts with assault rifles printed on them going on about their gun rights. They had no idea that I had lost someone - and I couldn't react. I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and cry. I had a manager look me right in the face and say "I don't know what happened to you Melissa, you used to be strong".

I slammed my fist down on the desk and pointed my finger in his face. I told him off in no uncertain terms. I wasn't going to take that bullshit. I lost my cool in a big way but I fought for the right reasons. I have always looked back on that situation and was proud of the fact that I stuck up for myself.

By this point it was only July and I had spent almost six months going from one battle to the next. I was burned out and emotionally exhausted. I had no support and was cracking under the constant stress. They only person I wanted to turn to was my boyfriend, who after months of barely talking with me finally said that he "didn't want to hear me bitch".

Although I knew I had been no joy to deal with over the past few months I was fully aware that this was no 'I broke a nail and I had a bad hair day' kind of bitching. This was an 'I had to drive myself to the hospital, uproot my life again, walk through protesters to get to my friend's funeral' kind of hell. I had every right to be upset. I had every right to reach out to someone I loved.

I couldn't even talk to the person I cared for most in this world without getting hurt. I remember looking down at his annoyed and callous text message. I had been holding my breath for months waiting to feel like I had someone who I could conquer the world with. I couldn't hold my breath anymore. I let go with both hands and learned just how much darker 2016 would get.

I don't remember much about that summer. I flat out refused to celebrate my birthday. I lost so many meaningful things. Cake and balloons wasn't going to make it better. I wrote my ex-boyfriend more letters than I'd like to admit. I told him that I still loved him. I believed that with the right person you could overcome any obstacle. I wanted so badly for him to be that person. He never responded.

My mother is the kind of person who can give and give without getting back. I thought I never inherited that from her. I was someone who could give but if I felt like it was one sided I would pull back. But not this time. I kept on loving. I was still upset but I loved for all the right reasons. I found out how deep my heart was and learned just how painful and lonely a one-sided love can be. Ultimately, his last text to me would stand testament to how little he respected me. My last words to him were a steady stream of "I love you's".

Turns out I am very capable of the endless love that comes from my mother. But her heart has always been happy and mine grows heavy. She met my father with she was twelve years old and they have been married for forty years. She has never had to struggle with love the way that I have. I keep telling myself that I don't know how much more of this I can take but I should probably stop. Life has a way of taking me right to the edge.

There were no breaks. I would get up, go work every day, and coast until I was able to get home. I had a married former co-worker try to put his hands on me because he thought that I was vulnerable. He grossly underestimated how hostile and abrasive I can be.

I got a tattoo in honor of my friend who passed away in the Pulse shooting. It was a rainbow colored heart on my right shoulder. I spent a lot of time looking at that tattoo in the mirror.

The vibrant rainbow colors were a stark contrast to how gray my world had become. The heart served as a reminder of all the love I had lost. How did I end up wearing an emblem that seemed to represent everything I could not have? The spikes around the edges, which had only been a stylistic choice, remained the only thing that was making sense. I was withdrawing and the meaning behind the tattoo I had gotten so recently was starting to warp. 

Between all the celebrity deaths, Dakota Access Pipeline, ISIS attacks, and the train wreck that was the 2016 election it was easy to feel like the entire world was going to shit. It was like no one could get through a single week without a personal or global catastrophe. 

The only reprieve I ever got was getting to be in California. And my God, what a beautiful time it was! The desert, the Pacific coast, the wildlife  - it was such an adventure. Getting to see my best friend was like having a second childhood we both need to reconnect with. 

Coming back was rough because I had accepted a new job right before I left. I wasn't looking for anything but I had a friend call me with an amazing opportunity. I only had one week to say goodbye to customers and co-workers who had become amazing friends. Leaving that job was so hard and like so many things in 2016 it was an unexpected change. 

By the time I made it home for Christmas I just collapsed. I spent most of my visit home asleep. My brother mocked me by saying that I must have depression.

Here I sit in my middle sister's old room. I gave my bedroom to my youngest sister when I moved out in 2004. 

I'm sure that's what it looks like to him. He just gets to see the exhaustion but he has no clue what the ongoing battle looks like. I don't expect him to. I don't really talk about it much anymore. 

The truth is that I've been to a counselor twice in my life. Once in 2007 and again in the summer of 2016. I know there is quite a bit of stigma involved in going to see a counselor. Most people see it as a sign of weakness but that is the farthest thing from the truth. For me it was vital and the absolute best thing I could have done for myself. I don't have a strong support system in my life. When I break down, everything breaks down. This was the fastest way to get back on track. Talking to someone who is completely removed from your life is also an amazing way to gain perspective. I think more people should have the courage to go. 

I ended up going to two different counselors, in two different offices, in two different parts of the city, nine years apart. The end results were shockingly similar. Both were appalled by the things people had said to me and they ways in which I was treated. Both of them remarked how strong and well-adjusted I was. 

Now, more than ever, I appreciate the phrase "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes".

I've always been made to feel guilty for showing anger or being emotional. I've never believed that you could be healthy while repressing yourself. Negative and painful emotions can light the way to change if you allow it. I've never shied away from anger because I've used it to change things I was unhappy with. I've followed my emotions down some dark paths and learned how to navigate better. I can rebuild because I have allowed myself to break. 

Instead of looking at my tattoo as a representation of things I lack, I have begun to view it as a reminder of things I must create. I'm glad I can see it every time I look in the mirror.  

I am hurt, heart-broken, and completely exhausted but I survived. 

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