I’m an Alien.

“Sensitive people are the most genuine and honest people you will ever meet. There is nothing they won’t tell you about themselves if they trust your kindness. However, the moment you betray them, reject them or devalue them, they become the worse type of person. Unfortunately, they end up hurting themselves in the long run. They don’t want to hurt other people. It is against their very nature. They want to make amends and undo the wrong they did. Their life is a wave of highs and lows. They live with guilt and constant pain over unresolved situations and misunderstandings. They are tortured souls that are not able to live with hatred or being hated. This type of person needs the most love anyone can give them because their soul has been constantly bruised by others. However, despite the tragedy of what they have to go through in life, they remain the most compassionate people worth knowing, and the ones that often become activists for the broken hearted, forgotten and the misunderstood. They are angels with broken wings that only fly when loved.”
Shannon L. Alder

For the majority of my life, I have felt alienated.

I can recall moments on the playground, unable to navigate complicated friendships and instead seeking solace in my books. I attempted to trick myself into thinking this was my choice – to stick out like a thumb tack, alone and propped against the brick wall of my elementary school; re-reading the same sentences over and over again to maintain composure and grasp a semblance of invisibility. The truth was that I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to spend time with me. I tried to maintain a friendship in which I only saw the friend during the summer. By the school year’s start, she seemed to forget I existed. Every single year. I became tired of pretending I didn’t know the girl who I’d shared midnight laughs and Dollar Store candy with. Words on a page were safer than any human contact.

Before I understood that normality wasn’t a necessity, I used my preteen fingers to claw around, searching for stability, acceptance, and understanding. My own mother was strapped with stress that couldn’t be added to, so I often suffered in silence. My mother did the only thing she knew to do in response to a sensitive child…she left me alone. I was allowed to ride my bike to and from the library of my tiny town in Illinois. Sometimes, if it was a special day, I could stop at the DQ after retrieving my freshly-ordered literature. I learned sugary foods triggered the feeling of love, and for that, I went through a chubby phase for several years. The other pleasure chemicals were released while reading books. Subsequently, many summers were spent inside, reading at Speedy Gonzalez frequency ( a Goosebumps book a day) and checking the back of the book for other titles I could order. I moved onto Fear Street a year later. I had a fixation for darkness, for I couldn’t verbalize or connect that I had my own darkness inside of me yet to be released. I learned to cry until my throat ached, a flood of peace following thereafter. I did not learn to regulate my emotions.

In 8th grade, I found momentary acceptance in a crowd I didn’t belong to. These people had parents who were addicted to drugs. The peers learned the coping mechanisms of their parents, and were participating in things too mature for their age. I finally had a place to release this darkness. I threw myself into macabre literature and poetry. Anything below the status quo spoke to me in a way as if to say “you are not alone.” I could never measure up to the demands that normalcy placed onto me, so I rebelled instead. I learned my emotions were burdens to those who didn’t understand (which were the mass majority), so I repressed through cutting and solitary crying spells.

I remember feeling a comfort in my alien nature when I became a Christian. I’m not so sure now that Christianity was what made me feel better, but the fact that I finally found friendship that gave back. Christianity always created an emotional conflict inside of me — for one moment, I could feel I was god’s daughter, perfect in his sight. However, a convicting Sunday morning message would leave me feeling like chewed up bubble gum on the bottom of a shoe. I could never regulate the two. So I seesawed between loving and hating myself, sometimes simultaneously. Most people didn’t even know I was going through this, for to confess it would alienate me further. I also thought feeling perpetual guilt was a healthy symptom of heavy conviction, so I didn’t think to try and correct these cognitive distortions. If I was ever aloof as a child while apologizing or meeting consequences for my actions, my mother would often unintentionally use a certain tone or words to manipulate my emotions and give her the reaction she thought I should have: shame and guilt. I learned through this that every negative experience was associated with these same two traits. This made it difficult for me to bounce back after a personal defeat.

Adulthood has a way of bringing on certainty, or at least the illusion of it. Things finally seemed to be falling into place by my early 20s – a stable job, a husband who appeared to be good for me, and minimal financial struggle. Following my heart into foreign missions put a major strain on my finances. Though I felt connected to Thailand and Asian culture more than my own country of the United States, I couldn’t linger there for as long as I’d like due to income. I returned to the states, and the alienation seemed to return as well. Marital issues in the midst of intense involvement with my church was enough to make me feel like that little girl with the bookmarked Goosebumps again. I did just enough to “fit in,” but I never felt connected.

Shortly thereafter, alienation by stillbirth joined my many foes.

Some of this alienation I pursue by myself — not having energy to exist in a world without my daughter, staying up all night watching Netflix on the couch, unable to go to sleep in a bed that once held my pregnant body. Isolation was also placed on me by society and PTSD — expectations for me to return to work before I was ready, flippant sentimental quotations and half-hearted advice, pressure from my husband to have sex when I couldn’t even think of getting out of bed, guilt for my rage toward god and anything to do with that belief, anger for the abandonment I felt, nauseated any time I walked into my bathroom and remembered all the blood on the floor, haunted with images of her paper skin ripping as the stress of her tiny, formed bones poked through its barrier, the moment of  giving her back to the nurse for the last time echoing over and over until I was driven to insanity by my grief. I wanted to die, and I’m still not sure that’s gone away. I think when you lose something so precious to you, death is always a welcoming thought. My alienation continues — a mother with PTSD returning from the battlefield of loss. I lost a significant piece of my innocence, which I will never regain. I can’t pursue anything significant in my life without the echo of it possibly failing.

The next phase of alienation is a time I still linger in. I was abandoned by my husband, and left to deal with my grief alone. The fear I clutched in childhood was now made a reality with his absence. No one is permanent. While object permanence is something we learn as children, I always understood this didn’t carry over to relationships. However, being an idealist, I always hoped for more. The rise and fall of expectations verses reality was debilitating.

My belief system no longer brought me comfort. It tormented me instead. Each time I couldn’t agree or believe what I was reading in the Bible or hearing in church, I felt the voice underneath it all telling me what a horrible Christian I was. When I could no longer connect to what I felt was god, the voices in my head from Christians expecting me to persevere were deafening. I would be tortured with the thoughts of Christians who went through far worse, and could somehow bounce back. Why wasn’t I that strong? Why was there yet another thing wrong with me that couldn’t be fixed? Why couldn’t I pull it together?

Friends lessened the frequency of interaction while I went through this time. I don’t blame them, and not all of them disappeared. Their absence is understood to me. It is difficult to comfort a hurting soul when there aren’t words or actions to make things better. I myself am guilty of this. And I’m sure I pushed others away, for I knew my own burden would curl its adult fingers around the neck of the comforting friend and pull them under with me. I didn’t wish this pain on anyone else. I had grown comfortable in my alien nature, so it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. The choices I made might’ve sped up this isolation as well. I’d grown so used to harboring these feelings and emotions inside of me, that I didn’t tremble at the thought of being alone. Not for a little while, anyway.

I’m reaching a new age of alienation. This is the alienation of living in the South and no longer believing in god as a being. If Christian friends ask me to explain this, I’m left fumbling for words and looking like a cult-following idiot. I’m still in the beginnings of this transition, but it has been just as difficult as the others. It’s difficult for me to accept invitations to talk or hang out if I know the person will use that time as a way to witness to me, as the person who has “fallen away” or is “back sliding” from god. I also develop social anxiety at the thought of explaining, as when I became a Christian at 15, I didn’t have all the answers — and yet I’m expected to have all the answers if I’m leaving the Christian faith. I don’t. Not at all. There are times where I even doubt if this is the right thing to do. Though meditation and healing crystals offer me more comfort than any organized religion, I am left alone in this journey. Christianity has the wonderful appeal of immediately connecting you with a support system. Not so when you are exiting the Church. I had someone in my life who kept pursuing me and checking on me until I told him I wouldn’t be attending a Bible study anymore; a Bible study he held at his house. Suddenly, I never heard from this friend again. I suppose I was checked off of the list of ‘people to pray for’ and introduced into the pile of ‘ will revisit when she reaches out for help again.’ There is no built-in support system when you say you don’t believe in god as a being. If anything, there is a wall of opposition waiting on the other side.

I have never felt more alone, in many ways. I’m an alien belonging to the highly sensitive, young divorcee, bereaved mother, and former Christian mothership. I know this place is not my home. I understand that I am a starseed, which makes things more challenging. I feel as if I have been tossed with the waves of this life — constantly searching for the shore of stability, yet never quite finding it. For this, I find myself increasingly tired and homesick for a place I long to return.

Above all, I desire, without any doubt or misconception, to be understood to my eternal core.

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Post Traumatic Divorce Disorder

I think this should be a new clinical term for those who suffer painful divorces.

Finding out your ex is a sex addict who can’t keep his eyes off of other women, who prefers fantasies to reality, was a devastating revelation.

I tried so hard to help him with his “purity” — I bought him Every Young Man’s Battle, which he mostly only read if I highlighted some notes and pointed it out to him. His untreated ADD and sociopathic tendencies made it almost impossible for any real change to stick to him. I mothered when I should have been girlfriending, and further mothered as a wife. It was exhausting, honestly. While visiting my sister, she made the statement “I just wish you guys could’ve worked it out.”

“I don’t,” I replied confidently. She seemed surprised.

I concealed a lot of the dysfunction in my marriage. There are still some things I will only reveal if asked or if I feel the person doesn’t truly understand why I’m happier now.

In my newfound belief system, I’ve discovered and confirmed that things go smoothly if you are vibrationally compatible. What this truth means is that, when we have seasons where certain relationships are challenging or friendships have gone silent, it is usually due to incompatibility of personal vibration. So, rather than viewing the things my ex did while we were dating as divine intervention, I’m realizing now that the universe was TRYING desperately to pull me away from someone who would inevitably hurt me tragically in the long run. If a man will cheat on you once, you can guarantee he will do it again. It wasn’t my job to tell him how much God loved him and how he had better for him. It wasn’t my job to be the ear to listen as he described why he had commitment fears. At that moment, I should’ve walked away. I should’ve noticed and realized my worth. But I didn’t. Instead, I allowed someone else to personify my worth, and I lost Ashley in the process. In the process of raising the vibration of someone else, I forgot that I was putting my future in the hands of someone who didn’t match my vibration. Someone I constantly doubted. A relationship which provided a constant companion of suspicion, insecurity, and trust issues. How on earth could I think this was a good idea?

Because my ex presented to be every mother’s dream for her daughter’s companion. He was an expert at wearing masks, and he falls into the Christian mask very easily. People praised him for his talents, the way he cared for me, and how he would sometimes talk sense into me. You know. Because I was the one who was obviously wrong all the time. And even as my ears rang from a blow to my ear after a fight in which he lost control, his family came home mere minutes later, and I had to assume the role of happy girlfriend. I am not trying to demonize him. I am simply explaining my PTDD.

He had subconsciously convinced me I was crazy. I sat in my therapist’s office my second day of inpatient after suicidal thoughts placed me there. She looked at me, very confidently, and stated “You are NOT crazy. You never were crazy. You are having an expected reaction to a bad situation.” Was that true? It seemed everyone else couldn’t understand why I had to separate from my ex. To this day, his family still thinks it’s my fault the divorce happened. Even as their baby boy, the child who can’t seem to do any wrong, had multiple friends with benefits during our separation. I wasn’t innocent, not at all. I ran to the comfort of other men when I knew he was doing the same with women. But I also never put on a mask that communicated that I was innocent. I was ashamed of my behavior — my desperate need to build up my confidence again after it had been ripped to shreds. But I never gave up. Up until the day he had me sign the papers, I still had some naive hope he would come to his senses instead of just deciding to start over with another woman. But he had gave me the ultimatum that I must let him move back in or he would divorce me. We separated domestically because there were some things that he personally needed to work on. He did none of them, yet still managed to have plenty of time to sell a car to his future third wife and develop a friendship turned romantic relationship with her. In my heart, I think he refused to believe that he was in the majority of the wrong. And his pride prevented him from seeking the help he (we) needed.

I was driven to insanity the last months of the relationship. Finding out he was having sex with other women, finding porn on his tablet, watching him slowly lose interest in me, watching in real time on Facebook while he chatted and made arrangements to “make out” with a girl the same day we celebrated our five year anniversary. Slowly, the suspicions I had became truth. I think the first time I truly realized he had a serious problem was about two or three weeks after we laid Carlie to rest. He initiated sex, and I tearfully rejected him. I couldn’t at the moment — my body wasn’t completely healed, and any sensation in that region reminded me of her feet that were constantly felt on my pelvis in the days before her death. I tried to explain to him, but he became angry, and then cried. I struggled to understand him — knowing that he felt intimacy through sex, being a male — but I slowly realized that his tendencies were not normal.

As a child, I always pinched at the fat on my stomach. I remember first trying diets at age 10. I have always had a horrible body image. This experience wrecked what little confidence I was grasping to. With each stolen glance I’d catch him in while we were in public, for each time I knew he wasn’t eager for sex because he’d been busy looking at pornography and/or relieving himself to the pictures/video/mental images of other women in his mind. For the times I felt like nothing more than a way to relieve sexual frustration… I broke a little more. I am now conditioned to immediately fight a panic attack if I am in the same room with a man I care about and a half-dressed or naked woman is on the screen. It’s like clockwork. I gauge the man’s eyes — are they looking at her? Does he think she’s sexier than me? If he looks, what does that mean? Does it mean he will go off one day and cheat on me? Am I not good enough? Alluring enough? Enough, enough? The whole process is maddening, and yet sometimes I feel I cannot control the tidal wave of insecurity before it pummels me. What man could put up with such nonsense? I’m also aware of the fact that what you fear most is what can end up happening if you give enough power to it. So I also have to fight to not make it my reality by not allowing my thoughts to run rampant about what COULD be going on.

There’s times I still feel insane. I hold tight to the affirmations of my therapist — I’m not crazy, and I was simply a suffering woman flailing in a drowning sea of grief and rejection, who reached for the first thing to try and pull her up. I hold onto the truths she’s given me, such as telling me earlier this year that she wouldn’t be surprised if my ex was engaged and married before the end of the year. I told her “Surely not. Not that soon.” But she was right. And I had to experience an entire new cathartic release as I saw how easily he could replace me. At the same time, it was poetic justice. All of my suspicions were suddenly confirmed. What a relief, but what a heart break.

The universe understood I needed someone who can read my thoughts as well, if not better, than myself. It took care in matching my vibration with Kyle. Even thought it was over a year in the making, the universe still found a way to lead us back to each other — even as I found myself caught up in a rebound relationship, and Kyle refusing to talk to me for awhile because he knew I deserved better.

I had an insecurity attack yesterday. I was already feeling vulnerable due to the holidays and the absence of my Carlie Wren. We were watching a music video which happened to have a half-dressed woman in it. Never seeing the video before, Kyle didn’t know what was in it. We watched for a little over a minute before my eyes shifted away from the video and to a random fixation in the room. I couldn’t let this monster grab hold of me again. I had to figure out a way to be secure in myself, to trust Kyle, and to understand that not everyone has ill intentions if they love you. Before I could let the logical take hold, the insecurity had already taken over. He looked just a second too long at the video, and my whole world felt like it fell apart. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. In a lot of ways, I feel I need trauma therapy for my separation and eventual divorce. I hate handing this baggage to someone and expecting them to understand. I know it’s illogical. I know it’s silly. But sometimes, I simply cannot control what route my mind is going to take – or my emotions. I try. I try very hard. But one vulnerability in any other area of my life (for example, I was feeling sickly yesterday) and the carefully constructed coping skills I’ve learned seem to dissipate out of my mind and actions.

I left the room. I gathered myself, used crystal healing with my favorite therapy crystal (Rose Quartz) and tried to calm myself down. When I feel that way, it’s like a trigger to remember all of the hurt and pain I went through when I felt that particular way. Insecurity attacks actually cause flash-backs for me, and I’m back in the hospital with Carlie, or I’m reading my ex’s words to another female, or I’m thinking about all the things I should have done that could’ve prevented Carlie’s death. The feeling in itself is a trigger.

I say all this to explain… vibrational compatibility is essential.

I returned to Kyle’s room with puffy eyes, trying to hold it together. There were so many things making me sad, I couldn’t seem to get a strong breath. I tried to hide the tears, but Kyle was pulling my head into his lap and stroking my hair before I could explain. But I didn’t need to explain. He understood.

“I know what’s going on with you. You shouldn’t feel that way. That’s silly. You’re hot as a furnace. Besides, you’re only a point of light. We’re all a point of light.” I don’t think he even understood the impact those words would have on me, or he might’ve said it more eloquently. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. He understood me, my soul, and my essence.

I have spent my whole life trying to explain myself. What a relief to finally find someone that doesn’t need my explanations. He knows me — the good, the bad, the ugly — and he understands my essence verses when my emotions are trying to take control of me. He helps me work through those ridiculous thoughts. When I’m able to gather the strength to let him know the thoughts, he immediately counters my worries, fears, insecurities, etc. with logical arguments that make much more sense than the delusional thoughts my brain tries to invent.

I have met my vibrational match, after thinking I could never fully trust love, men, or relationships again.

“So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”

-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Expectations vs. Reality

“I was supposed to be having the time of my life.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 

What I would tell elementary school Ashley:

Kick every boy who makes you feel ugly. Hard. Don’t feel like you have to be girly. You are a tomboy for a reason. Embrace it.

 

What I would tell middle school Ashley:

Read as many books as you can get your hands on. (I know you do this already, but branch outside of the RL Stine category). Don’t let the other kids make you feel like you run funny. You’re athletic, even if you don’t know it. Enjoy games, regardless of whether you win or not. Stop obsessing about boys. You won’t marry a single one of them. Take this time to develop your own hobbies, interests, and passions, without having a boy in the equation. You are not a spoiled brat. You’re just sensitive. It’s often misunderstood. That’s okay.

What I would tell high school Ashley:

I wouldn’t change a thing about your goth phase. You’re beautiful. Realize that nice guys are good to date, if you’re going to date. I would prefer that you didn’t, but I know you won’t listen. Just because a guy teases you to show affection doesn’t mean that’s a good match. You’re too sensitive to have someone critiquing while claiming it is for comedic purposes. The first guy that tells you he loves you? Hold on to him longer. He will probably love you the hardest you’ve ever been loved. YOU ARE NOT FAT. Even though you don’t believe anything your mom says, she’s right: you have a woman’s body. Embrace it. Start working on your daddy issues. Now. Yes, you have them. Don’t put all your value in a single person. You will always feel mediocre if you place your worth in others. Above all, realize that your heavenly Father loves you more than a man ever will.

What I would tell college Ashley:

You are enough. You’ve gotten this far. Branch out; be fearless! Don’t spend your freshman year holed up in your dorm room. You are worthy of company, and you add to the lives of others with your presence. Take relationships slow. Snail’s pace. I know you have an issue with this, but trust me, it will be for the best. Decide on relationships with your head first, then your heart. Go ahead and break off your relationship with A.J. Long distance relationships never last long-term. Take a daily vitamin. Exercise as much as you can. Switch your major if you feel led to. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. Stop being so judgemental! Create a new relationship with God out of love, not obligation. You may be cut from a different cloth (after all, you’re no Southern Belle) but God made you just that way: fiesty and passionate. Do not bend on your stance concerning premartial sex. Do not put yourself in a situation where you have the ability to compromise. Learn that saying “no” is perfectly acceptable, and required, to not be hurt very badly.

What I would tell married Ashley:

To date, I have not found a man that exists who has eyes for only you. Get over it, somehow (and if you figure out how, let me know). It is not a reflection on you or your sexy meter. You are desirable. You are worthy. Do not let your partner manipulate you into thinking you’re crazy because you have intense emotions. Do not isolate. Run to a friend’s house, if you need to. Your identity is not in being a wife. If you’re not a natural at cooking, this does not make you less of a woman. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Make spontaneous decisions, but make sure you have the financial backbone to successfully execute them. Listen to me: I have to believe that one day you will be a mother. It’s the absolute frame of your existence. Take better care of yourself when you get pregnant. This includes both spiritually and emotionally. No matter what, you will think it was your fault. I still don’t know the answer to this, but I know that if you have a closer relationship with God, you will have no choice but to accept it as being His will. Don’t isolate. Breathe. Do not feel embarassed for continuing to grieve. You take all the time you need, because in reality, you will need every day of your life until you die. It never goes away. I won’t even say it gets better. But you learn to deal with the grief, somehow.

What I would tell future Ashley:

  I’m so happy you’re actually here. I know some days there for awhile, you weren’t sure if you would make it to today. You are stronger than you thought. You are doing wonderful things. You’re living the dream. I’m so proud of you.

What I tell Ashley:

I don’t really know. Take it one day at a time. You know what you need to do to be happy again. Don’t question it. It’s your intuition talking. It will get easier.

Be the hippy you’ve always wanted to be.