She's Too Intense... And For Good Reason
She’s Too Intense… And For Good Reason
PT 2 of 4 - Faucets and T-Shirts
My anxiety level is the apex of my emotions this month. Especially after the 5k. But I’m also hungry for more. More life, more experiences. I’m not sure if my anxiety is coming from being overwhelmed with work, PTSD or if I’m finally moving forward and my body and mind are like… now what?
A few days before the 5k, I couldn’t focus. I over thought everything about the run. More specifically, my emotions and the meaning of why I was running this particular 5k. You see, that’s what I do… I try to make cosmic connections with every detail in a situation. It’s silly really. (#thisgirliscra #thismeanssomething)
I put too much ‘emotional’ pressure on myself with this run. I hadn’t trained for a minute, so of course 3 days before the 5k, I finally got my ass on the treadmill and set a 2 mile goal. I got to 1 mile and had to stop, you guys. I was so pissed at myself. If I would have had better time management or not taken on so much work, I would have trained more. I thought, “If I can’t even run a mile, how the fuck am I going to run this 5k on Saturday?!” My whole day was messed up after that. My focus was off during work and I felt unbalanced. I spoke with my ladies and vented. They told me techniques that promoted injury free runs and how it was ok to go at my own pace. I didn’t need to sprint the whole thing. They brought me back down and the next day I got on the treadmill. Again, I set a two mile goal. This time I had the techniques they told me about in the back of my mind, slowing down when my body told me to and picking the pace back up when my body was ready. I completed the 2 miles in 29 minutes. I know that’s not even high school track worthy, let alone the dang Olympics. But I was pretty proud of myself. I met the goal I set. I didn’t the day before, but I tried again. And that’s what matters. That runner’s high followed me throughout my day. The drive home from work that night was beautiful. I was on that street I keep talking about and it felt like the setting sun was speaking to me, saying “Keep it up, Dano.”
So, that was the Thursday before the run. My bestie told me to give my body a break that Friday, so it wasn’t tired during the run on Saturday. The plan was to stay the night at her place so I didn’t have to drive an hour in the morning. I also work near her place, so that day I packed my overnight bag before work and left the house. I had this feeling like I had forgotten something. And of course, as I was pulling into work, I realized I forgot my running shoes at home. Fuck me, man. So after work, I left back to the house. An hour later, I arrived and just needed a minute to decompress. I ate a quick snack, grabbed my keys and left the house. I was hardly down the street, and again I felt like I was forgetting something. Can you all guess what it was? My damn running shoes! That’s right, for a second time. I turned the car around and grabbed my shoes and sat in the driveway. I cried and just felt super off. I had day dreamed about the outcome of this run for a while now and the night before wasn’t going at all the way I had pictured it. I’m sure my hormones didn’t help either. I called my bestie, explaining that I’d just drive up in the morning because of my anxiety. I started bawling on the phone with her, and once more she brought me back down. She told me to just come over and stay the night and we’d wake up with a nice light breakfast and coffee. I got to her place around 10pm. We chatted for an hour and then the lights went out. I couldn’t get to sleep at all. My mind was just racing with every thought I had put into this run. Other than the fact that it was to promote awareness for domestic violence and Victims’ Rights Week, why did this 5k literally run my emotions so hard? (#puntotallyintended)
I put so much pressure on myself. I think I’ve always been that way, but never this bad. I’ve always been my own worst critic but the past few years, I’ve had this glooming voice in the back of my head saying, “It’s not good enough.” Hmm, I wonder where that came from? The voice in the back of my mind, unfortunately and hauntingly, sounds like my ex. Because he did say that. He said a lot of shit that broke me down mentally and the residuals are obviously still there, echoing.
Maybe that’s why I freaked so easily. Maybe that’s why I’m so quick to bite. Maybe that’s why this race ran my emotions. Maybe I had to run from those negative thoughts. Maybe that was the meaning of this 5k for me. To run or jog, whatever my capabilities are, far enough without stopping so I couldn’t hear that voice anymore.
I finally passed out because I’m smart and I played “The Goonies” on my laptop. Comfort movie right there, for sure! (#itsourtimedownhere) I woke up early the next morning to her kids laughing and eating breakfast. It was the perfect wake up call, the sound and simplicity of innocence. No jaded adult worries. I had coffee, a bagel and a banana (for them muscles, yo!). We listened to my “Run It Off” playlist that I made you guys a few weeks ago, on the drive to the 5k. We parked and walked up to the registration table. There weren’t very many people there, at all. My first 5k was the “Where’s Waldo Run” for the Waldo Canyon Fire last October. There were at least 400 people there. Probably more, I don’t know. That’s what I was expecting for this run, especially with the #metoo movement happening. There were only like 60 people there, tops. I was really surprised at the small turnout. I built this whole event up in my head and the moment we got there, I was looking at something completely different. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed. The lack of participants didn’t make the run any less important to me. What I did feel was validation for knowing that sexual assault and domestic violence need to be talked about more than it is now. To make this small group of people seem even smaller is the fact, (which was actually pretty cool) that the organization sponsoring the 5k was a non-profit that donated to other non-profits. There were four pink and green paper gift bags on the registration table. Each had a name for a non-profit written on them in black permanent marker. Once a runner completed the 5k, they were given a blue glass pebble to place in a gift bag of their choosing. Their entry fee would then be donated to that organization. My eyes locked in on the bag titled Tessa.
We checked in and collected our swag bags, took them back to the car and stretched. My bestie was taking video and pictures for the blog. She cracks me up! About five minutes later, the small group of 60 piled up before the start line. I honestly don’t even remember hearing anyone say start. I just heard my bestie say, “Ok, let’s go.” in this sweet, calming and encouraging manner. She reminded me that we were going at my pace and if we needed to slow down, we could. But we weren’t going to stop. “Shit… Ok.” I thought. “Let’s do this.”
I feel like all I remember from the race is how dry my mouth was, the cramps in my chest, my bestie’s voice, the hot sun and the finish line that shot out angelic rays of light as I came around the trees. Oh yeah, I had to go up hill a few times as well. That was… um, yeah. I did it, though. I never walked. I never stopped. I jogged about 16 to 17 minute miles. There were so many times when I wanted to stop, drag my feet or walk. My homegirl wouldn’t let me. She kept encouraging me, saying things like, “Use your pain…”, “Use your anger…”
I sprinted towards that finish line and as soon as I stopped, I felt like I was going to throw up. Only for a moment (#keepyourshittogethergirl). The runner’s high kicked in seconds later. All that adrenaline, positivity and self love was running through my body. And the best part was, it was yet another thing that the voice in the back of my head said I couldn’t do. It was one more thing I did on my own and I didn’t need him to meet my goals. He made me so dependent on him. All that mental abuse is probably harder to cope with versus the physical abuse, for me personally. Or maybe I’ve just blocked it out because my heart knows I can only deal with one thing at a time. Point is, all the residual pain for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors are lasting. And sometimes, probably most of the time, even engraved in the ‘everyday’. Every and any moment could be a trigger or reminder. It doesn’t go away. And I’m so humbled and blessed to have been apart of that small group of people that realize that. They understand that organizations like Tessa need constant funding to continue providing resources like awareness, therapy, clothing, shelter for women and children escaping their abusers, etc.
I totally get that some people just don’t have the funds to donate to causes they believe in. I’m usually in that spot as well! But the next best thing is talking about it. If more people talked about domestic violence and sexual assault, maybe more people would have attended the 5k. I don’t know, who knows… There’s another 5k specifically for Tessa on October 5 and hopefully there will be a larger crowd. I won’t be able to run it because I’m photographing a wedding and I hold this couple so close to my heart. Which is another reason why this small 5k meant so much to me. It was the only 5k so far for domestic violence/sexual assault/victims’ rights that I’d be able to attend.
So, after the 5k, my bestie and I ate some lunch with her hubby and kiddos. Then, I trekked it back home. I had planned a girl’s day with my mama. We got our hair done and ordered some dinner. It was a great day. Nothing to complain about, right? Well that night, the anxiety crept up again while I was laying in bed. The anger from the past was crawling up my skin and all I could do was cry. Part of it felt like a huge release, that’s for damn sure. The other, I couldn’t possibly put my finger on it. I don’t know what that feeling meant. Maybe I was/am moving forward and it’s terrifying. I had lived in this depressed, scared, and negative head space for so long since July of 2017. I don’t remember what it felt like to be me before I met my ex and I certainly don’t know who the fuck I am now. Am I a runner now? Am I a survivor? Am I the lucky one who got out? Am I good enough for myself? That anxiety right there… that crap in my head, was causing every muscle in my body to freeze and go into defense mode. Which is fucking crying, I guess.
I had decided before the run that I would do a self portrait to commemorate my achievement. I wanted to set another goal/risk for myself and have a new addition to this on-going project with my self portraits. I didn’t realize the little connections that were waiting for me once I started shooting this one. I set everything up the way I saw it in my head. What you are seeing, that’s what I saw before I shot it. I never know what I’m trying to say. I feel it and can’t put it into words, but I can put it in an image. It isn’t until after I’m done shooting and I’m editing the portraits when I start to see what my heart (or soul maybe?!) was telling me to express. For example, I shot this portrait in my backyard (#ilovemychildhoodhome). The same backyard where my abuser and I got married. I remember that summer my mom and I had landscaped the yard and mowed down all the weeds for the wedding (that’s Pueblo for ya!). When I shot this, I wanted the tall grass, that I carelessly let grow in the past couple of weeks, to show against the white background. I wanted everything to be raw and exposed. It wasn’t until I started editing, when I realized that grass was new growth, even when it was mowed down and destroyed in the past. I had grown as well… Beaten down mentally and physically, but still grew.
Obviously, this portrait(s) is more so about the holes in my shirt. He tore my shirt that night when he threw me against the wall in our hotel room multiple times. And once more against the faucet in the bathtub before the suffocation started. My ribs still feel pretty fucked from that.
The bestie and I had talked about ripping my shirt after I crossed the finish line to express the mountain I had overcome. But I felt the self portrait was more my style. Hence, me ripping the hole he created. I made that hole bigger because I overcame a few more miles of his darkness. And I’m too intense (#thisishowido). I was tearing and clawing through the negative wall he and his mental ghost had built around me.
All in all, I am super proud of myself for completing a goal that I set, mentally and physically. I guess I just thought it would fix everything, instantly. The be all, end all sort of thing. And the fact that it wasn’t, is ok. Really, it is. There is no time frame for grief or PTSD or even heartbreak. The run, the preparation for the 5k, the time spent with people I love that support me… the whole experience has helped me move forward tremendously. Like, I was able to skip 13 miles ahead but I still have 13,000 to go, you know? Each experience I say yes to, heals me. Each moment in life that makes me smile and feel the warmth of love, heals me. Every goal I set, every risk I take… heals all these open wounds and each scar helps me understand my new self a little better.
One big thing I’ve learned in the last year and a half (coming up on two years now…) is that creating helps my healing process. Putting all my shit on the table like it’s an installation heals me. Not in some sick narcissistic type of way, but coming from a place of love that helps someone like me with their healing journey. I hate knowing when someone feels shitty or sad. Sometimes, I feel their hopeless energy so much to where my body just reacts to it [for real emoji]. My heart just falls into my stomach, my muscles are tense and I can’t breathe… The anxiety creeps back up and I just can’t take it. So my brain is like, “How can I help this person? I have to do something.” Well, that’s why I’ve been doing all these self portraits. I’ve heard so many stories after being vocal about mine and it kills me, people. I would go through my experience a million times over, if that meant it would take away the pain from all those survivors in the world and give life back to the ones who are no longer with us. I couldn’t possibly ask or expect another domestic violence or sexual assault survivor to model for me to express our pain. I understand how putting all your pain out there is scary and it’s super personal. So… I decided to model for myself.
Each portrait means something different within my healing process. And some of those meanings can’t be put into words yet. I feel way too much and see everything in images. So writing an artist statement as to why I’m creating images that encompass my experience with domestic violence is super fucking hard. And can’t be done academically. There are too many dark and whimsical dots connecting cosmically within the nervous system of my brain.
However, there is one self portrait that I’ve archived in my mind. For the past year and a half, I’ve planned all the details for this portrait in my head. I ran into problems as if it was this tangible project I could hold right in my hands. Months would go by and out of nowhere, the solutions would come. It’s all mapped out. Why haven’t I photographed it yet? I keep using low funds as an excuse to postpone the project. But honestly, I think I’m just scared to take the risk. This idea is way out of my comfort zone but also right up my ally. It’s also the one portrait where I know I’ll feel the most exposed. And if I can pull it off, I think it will for sure be the finale to my healing process, or at least this volume of it. I set a goal for myself, you guys. I know I’ve been super vague about what happened and for good reason… many reasons actually. I’m going to release this self portrait that terrifies me in Part 4, along with what happened. Like I mentioned in Part 1, I’m going to Quentin Tarantino this shit. And now that you’re reading this, I have to do it. It’s going to happen.
I want to leave you all with a lyric in a Cat Power song… “When no one is around, Love will always love you.” That line has helped me so much, you have no idea. I want you all to know it as well. To any woman (or man) experiencing domestic violence, PTSD from sexual assault or abuse, etc… Know that you are loved and that you are valued and there is help. And you are worthy of receiving that help.
Oh yeah… Never be afraid to express your emotions, even if they are fucking intense.
Be Kind and Love Hard.
*Two songs that got me through this self portrait…