If you read my last post, you’d know that from April to October of 2017, I struggled with depression.
In addition to what I talked about in that post, I had also started a new job at a state park, Ian and I moved further away from Nashville, and Kill Me Now, a web series I made with my older sister had wrapped and was being edited by Ian.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with all those changes. My life didn’t really feel like mine for awhile. My time and energy was being dedicated to my relationships and filming. I felt stuck in my path and by wanting and trying to do everything, I wasn’t doing much of anything.
Everything I was feeling, manifested in physically debilitating ways. I had been on high alert, on edge, and on guard for 30 some odd years anyway, but my body was going into overload and rebelling. I was so tense at times that it was difficult to turn my head to the side. I started seeing a chiropractor. I read a lot about toxic stress and how to subdue it. I was relearning how to breathe correctly. I started paying attention to my triggers and responses. I still have to tell myself to put my shoulders down every two minutes.
I made the decision to focus solely on healing myself emotionally and physically. So, I gave up everything I had been wanting, wishing for, doing, and suppose to be doing. I didn’t write except when I needed to journal to clear my head. My sister took over promoting Kill Me Now. I donated the majority of my art supplies. I wasn’t looking into submission deadlines or upcoming writing classes or acting workshops.
For a few months, I was fine, but having no goals or to-do lists, the question of my self-worth gnawed at my psyche and will to live. This caused a lot of second guessing. I didn’t know what I believed in, what I wanted to do with my life, or who I wanted to be with.
I was overwhelmed with maybes and what ifs and it left me searching for answers.
In October, needing space, I went camping alone. I had to challenge my attachment to Ian and all of my fears. I laid awake in my tent for a long time. I cried. I wrote in my journal. I wrestled. I knew I had to start being fully accountable for myself. I had to grow up and let go.
A lot of my misery was due to me chasing too many damn things. I’ve always had an interest in a variety of things. I would passionately pursue an interest but then lose focus it. Then I would turn to another interest, only to do the same. Having too many “choices” left me with an inability to choose something and actually do it. I couldn’t commit to anything since I was chasing twenty different things.
Out of all the shit I thought I was suppose to do and wanted to do and felt obligated to do, what did I really want and need to do?
I knew I had to cut back on interests and passions and whittle it down until I didn’t feel overwhelmed anymore. So, I focused on three major areas in my life (Relationship, Career, Personal Philosophy) and narrowed it down until I only had one choice in each area.
So, what did I decide?
I want to marry Ian. He is a great partner and wonderful companion. He has challenged me in so many ways. Ian stays accountable and keeps me accountable, as well. He is always willing to try, to change, and work on issues.
No one is going to be perfect. Anyone I date will have flaws. But Ian is someone I can trust to have children with. He is someone I can share my life with, growing along the way.
Writing is the only thing I’ve done consistently throughout my life. I know I’m good at it. I know it’s a craft that must be practiced everyday. It is the only thing that gives me hope, excites me, and creates contentment.
I had to say goodbye to becoming an actress, a director, an archaeologist, a counselor, painter, graphic novel artist, travel guide, park ranger, whatever. I can’t live all those lives, but I can create characters who do.
Personal Philosophy: Stoicism
In August, I stumbled across the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and it just clicked. Stoicism is practical wisdom. Stoicism is about self responsibility, accountability, reflection, maintaining emotions, and taking action. It is a tangible philosophy to practice every day of one’s life.
I came away from that camping trip and long battle with depression a changed person. Of course, things didn’t magically fall into place right away but over time, I have flourished all areas.
A person can’t just make a decision or write a list or make a resolution and then do nothing. What matters to you and what you want for the rest of your life must become a life long practice. You must cultivate it every day before it will grow.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many options, focus only on the major areas of your life. Be honest with yourself and cut the shit. By this process of elimination, you will be free to choose what truly matters to you. And you’ll be a hell of a lot happier and content when you do.
I’ve done a little updating recently. I changed the name of this blog from Kristin Growing Up to simply, Kristin Cox. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still growing as a person but I’m hoping to do more with this oft neglected site. I still don’t know what my niche is but I think for now, it is about life and what I think and feel about it.
I haveve wrestled with many of the same issues over and over and it’s been a long (and still ongoing) process of weeding through it all. But one thing remained true throughout is a need to write.
For the majority of my life, my mindset has been that I had to do everything and be perfect at it. While reading over my old posts (some I’ve kept, some I’ve deleted), it was a running theme. Especially this one.
You’re a Grownup Baby, Now What? was written back in 2013, before intensive therapy. Since that post, I’ve had over 4 years of hundreds of self-help books and articles read, navigated new relationships and jobs, and a shit ton of trial and error.
I like reading that post in particular because it reminds me of how far I’ve come. I know why I wasn’t trying or why I was falling short: I was scared to death.
I believed that I was suppose to do it all. Be it all. That I was suppose to be a master of something right out of the gate. I didn’t know it was okay to mess up and make mistakes.
My parents told me I could do anything, acting like I was the last savior of the family. The hope rested on my shoulders to carry everyone out of poverty. One can only imagine the crushing burden it had on me.
During the same time, I was constantly shamed, ridiculed, and made fun of. Anything I did was criticized, either outright or subtly.
My dad always pointed out weaknesses in my drawings, never including any strengths. My dad is also the master of backhanded compliments.
Once when I was 15, I wanted to try cooking oats for myself but keep them chunky. My mother always cooked everything to death and liked her oatmeal kind of soupy and gelatinous. She deemed my oatmeal a failure and the entire potful was thrown out in a rage.
I vacuumed wrong. My tone and volume of voice was too loud or too low. My hair wasn’t the right length. I wore too much makeup sometimes and not enough other times. I came to believe, wholeheartedly, that there was something inherently wrong with me.
When it came to writing a story, I assumed I had to write it linearly and have everything sound perfect the first time through. Getting stuck or not knowing some scenes or writing weak sentences meant I was no good and there was no hope. (I also believed everyone else in the world could mess up or not be very good at something at first, just not me.)
I didn’t know I could write a draft over and over. I didn’t know I could write shitty sentences then go back and make them not shitty. I didn’t know that I could make mistakes and go back to correct them.
I rarely read books on writing. I thought I didn’t need to. Well, SHOULDN’T need to. In the past couple of months, though, I have been reading them. What a revelation they have been! Published authors write badly at first or they still write badly but they know they can go back and fix it.
I have gained so much from reading about the fears and apprehensions they experience. I have also found that how authors approach ideas and the writing process is similar to my own. (I just thought I was doing it wrong since it was me.) It turns out, I’m human like the rest of them.
There has been this life long blockage that seems to have finally been freed. I did a lot of soul searching and asked a lot of questions and had more healing in 2017. I went into 2018 knowing that I want to write. I NEED to write. I MUST write.
And it’s okay that I mess up. That I have to rewrite a story 10 times or more. That I can let myself write and not judge myself to death. I’ve been trying to be perfect at everything for so long, all the while not believing I was worthy enough for any of it. I’ve expected everything to be perfect upon first attempt and you know what happened? Nothing. I did nothing substantial I cared about for a long time. A lot of years spent too afraid to really try on my own.
But I know better now. I don’t have to be afraid. I can be me and that is good enough.