My name is Ellie, and I am vulnerable.
I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability, and how it gets a bad rap. In our society we're programmed to admire achievement, determination, drive. We like to believe we're impenetrable. At least I did, for a long time.
It takes even more guts to ask for help.
Think about it - when was the last time you asked for help? Especially with big fears and insecurities that you can barely admit to yourself, let alone to someone else.
I think women, in particular, internalize suffering. When we're feeling inadequate we eat, we drink, we starve, we run faster, we work harder, we buy more. We stuff. We pour our energy into keeping up appearances - arranging our emotions like movie props - fearful that if we don't look the part, act the part, that we'll fall away from the pack.
For years I spent so much mental energy mulling over my inadequacies, wallowing in my shortcomings, it was mind-blowing. It was just so comfortable there, in wallow-land. I was used to this version of me-as-not-measuring-up. Like a ratty old pair of sweatpants that I couldn't bring myself to throw away because they felt like an extension of me, I shuffled around in my shortcomings wondering how it is that everyone else seemed so, well, happy.
When I hit rock bottom all my movie props came crashing down, and the dark underpinnings of my world were exposed for all to see.
I braced myself for my worst fears to come true: now that people know the truth, that I'm weak, I'm scared, I'm lost, that all the put-togetherness I've been projecting is one giant ruse, they will all go away.
That didn't happen. Not even close. I wasn't mocked, or shunned, or ridiculed. The opposite, in fact - because my vulnerabilities were so visible, so obvious, so out there - people felt more comfortable letting me inside, sharing some of their private fears.
People in all areas of my life, not just in my recovery circle, started opening up more, letting down their guard just a bit. Not because I had all the answers, but because I didn't, and I could no longer pretend differently. I no longer wanted to pretend differently.
By asking for help I learned I wasn't the only mother who felt trapped, inadequate, disorganized, exhausted and scared out of her mind much of the time. I surrounded myself with other mothers who fought back the fear, doubt and insecurity with laughter, a sympathetic ear, and the ability to give loving advice without judging.
I still relapse with this stuff all the time. I'll start feeling inadequate, insecure, and the wallowing and self-selecting out of the club will begin: I don't know what I'm doing with the blog, the jewelry business, the writing. This person or that person does it better than I ever could. I can't, I won't, blah blah blah. I'll tunnel inward, deeper into my fears, and wonder why I'm so miserable. Eventually shouldering the pain alone becomes too great, and I'll think: oh yeah, ask for help.
If I see someone who seems to have it together, who is achieving things that I have only dreamed about, I try not to view them as superior, or a threat, or competition -- that's just the ratty old sweatpants talking.
Now I know it takes true courage to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability, like shame, can be a great teacher.
We can't heal what we can't face.