I guess I’m really in it right now. Last week I lost control of my car in the snowy weather, and almost skidded into a snowbank. After narrowly avoiding said snowbank, I then almost crashed into one of those wooden snow measuring sticks. “Oh, gosh, Oh gosh, oh gosh,” I basically whispered as my car did whatever the hell it wanted. Then, a deep breath. My brain stopped functioning. I didn’t have a single thought. I made it to the stoplight at the end of the road, and promptly started crying.
I had been begging all morning for a reason not to go into work. I had cramps, my back was sore, I was tired and already done with the week on only Wednesday. I didn’t want to be on the desk and talk to the public. I had been pleading with the universe all morning: please, just make it snow REALLY bad so they close the library and I get a snow day. I skidded into a spot in the parking lot. I stumbled, in a daze, through the staff entrance. I immediately started crying again. I sat on the floor in my cubicle and texted Eli. I found a donut. I went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and heaved. The sobbing took over, and I really, truly, could not stop. I hyperventilated. I screamed at myself in the mirror, “Come ON. Come ON. Come ON.” I desperately tried to pull it together and stop looking all pink and like I’d been sobbing because holy hell I really didn’t want someone to ask me why I looked the way I looked and what was wrong because if someone asked me what was wrong I would start crying at them and then they would be confused and I would have to find the words to tell them that I had almost gone off the road and I was FINE but I wasn’t you know? Like mentally, I knew I was okay. But physically, my body wasn’t quite sure about that. I cry because I’m upset that I’m even upset, and because I’m so sick and tired of being the PTSD car accident girl who can’t make it through the workday. I’m at war with myself about it, and I thought I made peace a long time ago. I keep thinking: I’m better than this. I’m better than this. I run a fucking podcast about mental health where every other week I’m urging people to take care of themselves and I’m telling my friend to give herself a break and I can’t fucking do the same because I’m so fucking ashamed that this is still my story. I know I’m good at talking about it. So good, that maybe you stopped reading these blog posts a long time ago because they’re all about the same thing and you have better things to do. I don’t want to keep telling you about this, because I don’t want there to be anything more to tell. But I’m going to keep telling you about it, because it makes me feel better to do so, and I can’t change the fact that there’s still story left to tell.
I so desperately wanted to go home, so desperately did not want to talk to a single person, and so desperately did not want to tell anyone about how I was feeling. But in order to go home and be alone, I had to talk to people. You see my dilemma. As I struggled to muster the courage to email my supervisor, I realized that this talking is a skill. It’s something I’ve perfected over the years, and one that my body forgot as it shook and heaved. But I was only shaking and heaving because I was not allowing myself to shake and heave. I did not let myself sink into it, because I was trying to force it down, choke it down, and tell the world I was okay. So I sat at the desk, emailed my supervisor and told her what happened and that I hate to be the PTSD girl but I was really going to have to go home after my desk shift since I could not stop shaking or crying. My supervisor called the assistant director. The assistant director stepped out of his office, and welcomed me in. I kicked the door closed, and immediately started sobbing into my hands. I had not kept it together very well during my five minutes on the desk. The first phone call I got, I answered it and immediately started crying. I barely answered their question. They were confused. So I sobbed at him, and told him I was so sick of being this. He told me it was okay, and that I should go home when I was ready. So I sat at my desk and I ate a donut and I tweeted about it and then I called Eli and then I drove home. I wrote this out, watched four hours of Sex and the City, did yoga, meditated and then my mom called and told me to stop calling myself PTSD car accident girl and then Eli came home and we watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because I love that show. All the while, I tried not to feel guilty for not crying at home. I tried not to feel guilty for feeling okay once I got there. I tried not to think shitty thoughts like, “Wow Fran, did you really have to go home? You seem okay to me.” As soon as I talked about it for one second, as soon as I stopped crying, I stopped giving myself permission to take the time I needed, because it didn’t seem like I needed it anymore. I can only take time when I am at rock bottom. Everything else just isn’t low enough. You thought we only had good enough here? Well, you’re wrong. We have not bad enough too!
I’ve been thinking lately that a lot of our definitions and labels, and our incessant need to define and label, is evidence of the patriarchy at work. More than being sick of being the supposed PTSD car accident girl, I’m sick of labeling and defining myself. It’s all too simple, and it’s another excuse to take one look at a woman and her definition, and then look right past her. So I’m not going to label myself anymore, because you do not get to look at my label and decide what I am. I get to open my mouth and tell you myself. So I will stop labeling myself the PTSD car accident girl, just as I will not be so quick to label myself as a just a writer but not a director, or anything else limiting and untrue. I am evolving, and these definitions are all just a little too concrete for my ever-evolving self to feel okay with them. I am moral, I care about people, I’m worried about this world and our environment and the people in it and how there’s just so much to care about that we kind of don’t anymore. I’m a writer. I’m a woman. I’m in love with an Eli. And those are all the simple definitions and labels you get for me. The rest, you’ll have to talk to me for. Because maybe, just maybe, I don’t want you to figure me out before I get to speak for myself.
And if you think about it, of course that follows. The mantra of my college years was: I’m not going to fit into the college student box for you. This has evolved into the mantra of my twenties: Of course I’m not, but I’m also not going to define myself for you. In the future, I hope to take it one step further: I’m going to attempt to be okay with not defining myself at all.
I know, right?