Before It Gets Bad Again

“Things feel good right now, it’s a good time to end it, you know… before it gets bad again.”

Even with the spreading of awareness, the sharing of the stories, the breaking of the silence, the silencing of the shame, there are just some feelings you’ll never be ready for.

It was summer— nice weather always drastically improves my general mood. I had been taking on more events, my instagram was filling up with more than just selfies, I was showing my grind side. My DMs were flooding with people interested in what I was doing. I had just finished a body paint runway set that I was stressing over for months but once it happened, I received a response great enough to pacify my self-criticism. My event calendar was beginning to clear and I was settling into a restful and fulfilled space. My sisters came out to my show and after it was done we had our usual summertime sleepover, complete with mimosas and an afternoon by the pool.

At some point I found myself alone in the living room. Basking in my completeness when it hit me. “Things feel good right now, it’s a good time to end it, you know… before it gets bad again.” The was no clear trigger aside from a moment of me taking inventory of my peace. Peace is a trigger?! This was new. Like clockwork, memories of all of my latest run-ins with stress, worry, anxiety, fear and loneliness came sauntering into the open field of my once rested mind, reminding me of all that could go wrong again. I was terrified. It wasn’t the things that could inevitably go wrong that worried me, it was the fact that depression found a breech in a place I’d never expect it to infiltrate, in a way that I’d never see it coming. It was the moment I realized that my achilles heel had an achilles heel― I felt more at risk than I ever had before.

The worry came because although the thought was clearly temptation to fall back into a negative space, the concept was indisputable. Sure, things were good but there’s always a test around the corner. A struggle of mine had always been things that required maintenance ―clear skin, bills, cars, relationships―they were all triggers for me. I’d put so much effort into maintaining them and they just continued to need more. Multiplying that effort by the rest of my life was an overwhelming concept and being human became more of an ordeal than an experience.

The solution didn’t come instantly. It took some brooding over my new found plight, a lot of intense caution and the realization that I had avoided living in order to avoid triggering depression. What good was peace if I wasn’t actually enjoying it?

I slowly began to allow old triggers back into my life as a rebellion of sorts. If I was going to be depressed anyway I might as well enjoy it. I rebelled most against my diet and my self-imposed celibacy, the two things I needed the most show of control in. The junk food binges were a little less damaging. There was only so much my stomach could hold before it stopped me but the heart gives a little bit more leeway. I wasn’t ready to embrace love so I made it a point to let go of physical entanglements as well but in this moment, I found myself embracing a man that I knew wasn’t good for me. I had been so starved of affection that I’d rendezvous with his toxicity, drown out his presence with weed and wine, consume his lust as if he were someone I could curl up with and enjoy after spilling my love, then I’d go home to silence and self-loathing to pray away my guilt. I couldn’t make it a regular thing, he was too intensely bad for all that I tried to build in between those moments of self-destruction. I’d return to celibacy after using whatever the extent of his desire for me was to fulfill my need to be wanted. I’d avoid him, thoughts of him, memories of our times together until I needed more. Then I’d avoid thoughts of how he made me feel mentally and emotionally long enough to validate the idea of going back to him physically for another round of self-destruction.

After a string of ill feelings towards myself for allowing someone to bring me to odds with myself, I came to my senses. It was no longer worth the sacrifice to be touched by lips that couldn’t speak kindly to me when there was a difference of opinion. My self-esteem wouldn’t allow me to take any more of a beating.

Somewhere in-between all of that, I found the idea of a balance between cautiously existing and fully living. I had always been the person who needed to go from one extreme to the next before finding a comfortable place in the middle and this was no different. My middle, living cautiously. The difference is in existing and living. Striving to do everything in ways that I could be sure there’d be zero negative blowback was killing me just as much as ignoring consequence was. There’s a balance between flirting with the edge and creating boundaries for myself that I had been afraid to find.

It took me writing a book about control and shining light on my journey to mental health to show me that while I had begun to take back the reins of my life from the negative forces that were at work, I had also allowed myself to be pushed into a “safe” corner. It took being in that “safe” corner to discover that my lack of movement stemmed from fear and that anything done from a place of fear, even peace, would inevitably have an adverse effect.

My path to mental health has proven to be balance, more importantly, finding what that means for each moment, each step of the way. It has proven to be different for each phase so the battle will always be new and somewhat unfamiliar. It has also proven to be completely worth the fight.

xO,

KimE.png
 

CELIBATE: Year 2- Knowledge is Power

 

I've been asked numerous times during the past couple of years why I chose to be celibate. There is no one answer to this for me. My reasons were (and still are) many. There were times when I’d boldly answer, “I want to do something different to get something I’ve never had before (which is the overall reason that all other reasons fall under).” Those times mostly fell within the first year and a half of my journey.

What changed?

...Life.

     It wasn’t that I no longer had the desire to do something different in order to get something I never had before (I still do). It was that in the midst of standing on that decision, life just kept on coming. That should be expected, right? Well, it is. Life is like a crash, it’s impossible to adequately brace for impact. You never know what’s coming, how fast or intensely it will arrive and how long it will linger.

     It wasn’t that relationships were that big of a distraction that any prospect of love intercepted my intentions and caused me to waver. It was that when life happened like consecutive jabs to my peace, my certainty in purposefully being alone was no longer certain. When the areas of your life that you thought you secured begin to loosen under pressures that you didn’t even think could move you let alone unravel you, whatever defenses you’ve prepared (or a lack thereof) kicks in.

     I went into celibacy thinking that the work that I would have to put in would simply be to stay away from any relationships. I had no intentions of flinging or one night standing so I knew that wouldn’t pose a problem for me.

     I didn’t stop being celibate, though there were moments I had to ask myself what the point was in all that I was forcing myself to endure ‒ and yes, there did come a point (several in fact) when it no longer felt like a choice that I made but like a punishment that I had to endure for an indefinite period of time. That point was accompanied by all the strength I felt from reclaiming my power thinning out and I hung on by a fairly loose thread to the remnants of my regained virtues.

     During my first year of celibacy, I had this amazing epiphany about “taking back my power”. I had been doing a lot of reading and referencing the parts of the bible I had committed to memory when I was in church. I always giggled at the lingo used to express sexual relations in the bible. “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived.” “But he knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” We’ve gotten so far away from prudishly annotating the coming together of two people but going back to the basics made something apparent for me. Thinking of sex as “knowing” as well as the spiritual act of sharing your power with your partner ‒ “knowledge is power” started to mean a whole lot more than just “read a book and learn something.”

     After that moment of clarity, I was hell bent on never sharing my power with anyone my spirit couldn’t vouch for and I knew that would take time and intense vetting. But even those fortifying epiphanies don’t just stick.

Let’s back track..

     Back in December 2016, life happened to me in continuous rounds of body shots and I can’t recall a time prior to that where I took as many consecutive jabs, where I felt as low or as weak as I found myself feeling during that time. I found myself drunk at a friend’s house trying my hardest to not talk about all the emotions I was battling (ones that had absolutely nothing to do with celibacy). I found myself drunk. I found myself responding to subtle advances and I found myself advancing not so subtly on my own. The main problem with this was that the guilt that hit promptly upon the arrival of my sobriety the next morning stemmed in (large) part from the thought of having to restart my celibacy calendar (no, not an actual calendar).

     Being the guilt-ridden, introspection junkie that I’ve been, I lamented over all of it. I cried - a lot. I felt horrible in awful ways. My guilt and shame got together and reproduced, creating some hybrid monstrosity that felt like more self-loathing than I have ever had the displeasure of becoming acclimated with. It was so bad that I told a friend not to try to talk me out of my funk because I didn’t deserve to feel better.

     I woed even more about the fact that I didn’t break my celibacy because celibacy was proving to be difficult. It happened as a result of feeling weakened in every other area of my life. I loathed how comforting it felt to indulge in a meaningless connection. I hated myself for being capable of such weakness.

     That honest slip of my will pushed me to question myself and the reason for my vow of celibacy. It made me question whether or not it was necessary for me to continue. It made me uncomfortable with the self-imposed struggles that I was being held accountable for. It made me rebel against myself which led to a second moment of weakness that wasn’t an honest slip at all. It was deliberate. It was a face off between my will and my desire to be free of the responsibilities that I had taken on (on my own).

     I felt less terrible. It being a decision rather than a mistake took away some of the self-loathing that followed. I still felt wretched, though. I felt numb and that numbness - my rebellion that resulted in my little “experiment” helped me to realize that I had lost sight of the quest that I was so sure of to begin with.

     I can honestly say that I didn’t regain the confidence in my journey until a couple weeks ago (about 7 months after the slip). It was just a few weeks ago that I told a friend that I was over celibacy. The truth is, I’m not over it. That would mean that I’m over my growth, my peace and my desires for a life that doesn’t feel like an episode of a bad reality tv show. I’m not over it.

     The pros of my slip and fall from (my own) grace is that it highlighted for me more areas of my life that needed further detailing. I never intentionally swept any of my issues under my proverbial rug ‒ the mess was masked by “the way things are”, “the way things have always been”. I just happened to throw a pretty little rug on what I thought was a clear space. Now that it has come to light, I can’t pretend I didn’t see it. That would be a sin against myself. It would be catastrophic for the “different” that I’ve almost delusionally told myself was possible even without example.

     The con is fairly obvious (even if only in context). I backslid. There was a moment during my emotional decline where I sought out a purpose in my position of falling out of sync with myself. I tried to make it mean more than it did in a desperate attempt to regain the self- respect that I had lost. I even went as far as trying to find long term potential in that friend that so readily aided in my backsliding. That was up until I inevitably found myself on the losing side of a power trip and I realized that I never had this power trip with him before because he didn’t have my any of my power before. You can care enough about a friend to argue/ debate things but it’s different when those debates and arguments are a result of trying to demand a level of respect that you feel is deserved but isn’t being given. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t the respect you actually deserve but why demand it (even solely in action) from someone who doesn’t see you as worthy of it to begin with? It took a while to snap myself out of that foolishness but I did. I had to forgive myself in order to not count it as a failure for me. I had to get back to a place where I was adamant about not allowing it to make me feel like continuing was impossible or futile. I had to readjust my perspective to find the lesson in the L I was taking and that required me to sedate my ego.

Where am I now?

     I decided that I wasn’t going to completely start over. I’m still 2 years into my decision to be celibate. It’s not to pretend that I effortlessly made it to 2 years of celibacy. It’s not to pretend that what happened didn’t in fact happen. I will continue to count how long it has been since I made the decision, the vow to be celibate, just as I’ll always count my fouls as a part of the journey. It has been 2 years since I decided that I needed and wanted to be celibate. It has been 8 months since I realized that temptation doesn’t only come in the form of physical urges to have sex but that needing or wanting comfort in other seemingly unrelated areas can also open doors for weakness. And it has been 4 months since I proved to myself that sex clouds even the most objective judgement and can thwart the strongest will. Everything counts.

     I’m currently reading “The Wait” by DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good. It’s reminding me of all the values that prompted my celibacy to start. My desire to regain my control, my power, my desire to get closer to God, my need to tune out the noise of modern life and modern love. It confirmed for me that these journeys are always better with support. That’s where I am now – building, attracting my support system. It’s necessary to start new, as I’m still learning. The people who are already stationed in your life as a support system for other things won’t all fit the necessary criteria for support in this journey. Friends who encourage you to have sex because “it’s good for you” and friends who are willing and always ready to aid you in succumbing to your vulnerability aren’t the friends that you need to allow into this particular part of your journey. It reminded me that you can’t take people on those parts of your journey that were meant just for you. It’s confirming that when you are ready to commit to a decision ‒ enough so that you are willing to put space between you and whoever you need to, that space will be filled with real support from kindred spirits.

     I’m in a place now where I’m looking for space to take. Space from everything and everyone not meant to serve in this next phase of my journey. I can’t afford the kind of support that eggs on counterproductive thoughts, behavior or even conversation. I can respect that this path isn’t meant for everyone regardless of how helpful it can be to anyone. I also have to respect that it’s necessary for me ‒ enough to give myself a solid chance at seeing it through.

Where am I now?

     I’m back on track - in a less “needing to be certain that it’s all possible” way and in a more “I’m going to create this possibility if it doesn’t already exist” way. Being committed, being adamant, being the force that you need, to be who you need to be is pretty damn great. It’s the kind of boldness that will attract the necessary support for the moment when your own force wanes.

Where am I now? I’m back to purposeful. I back to sure. I’m back to in control.

Am I afraid to mess up again?

     No, I’m not. That’s not to say that I’m any less human now than I was before. It’s to say that having gone through a significant phase of doubt only to come back to this resolve solidifies my resolve for me. I never want to get back to that place where my thoughts of myself felt almost impossible to redeem. I never want to get back to a place where my guilt is so strong that it has the potency to destroy my desire to allow myself to move on so I can do better. I never want to feel like less than my best self again.

     At the same time, I’m completely open to my humanness. I know that I’m not impervious to messing up. I’m not above emotion. I’m not the queen of restraint. I’m actually the opposite of all of that. I’m super moody and have the kind of personality that allows me to easily become addicted and almost obsessed with anything that coddles my feelings ‒ be it a combination of good weather and a serene location, a great meal or a gentle touch. Knowing myself and what makes me susceptible to caving is essential to avoiding those things that will tempt me in ways that I could potentially find it hard to turn down.

     Should the day come again, that I find myself staring down the barrel of any kind of pain or discomfort that has the potential to fuel my infidelity to my promise to myself and to God ‒ if I’m weak enough to fold, I’ll aim to deal more gracefully and mercifully with myself and get back on track sooner.

My resolve:
    All that I aim to be – powerful in my vulnerability, in giving of myself; through my art, through my life, being a source of light, of peace and of love – not everyone deserves to be on the inside of that journey; not as friends and certainly not as a partner. Not everyone (despite how intelligent they are or how spiritual they seem) can add to you in the ways you need it. This makes it imperative to wait, to take the time – however much it requires. Take the time before you allow someone to know you. Let them prove themselves continuously.

Who are you allowing to know you? Who are you sharing your power with?

 

CELIBATE: 1 year and counting

Relationships aren’t what they used to be.  Having conversations with people who feel the same has started to feel like those conversations we heard our parents have about the difference in their music and ours.  I don’t know if it has always been as bad as it is now or if it’s just one more thing social media highlighted for us.  Either way, exclusivity, loyalty, communication, all these terms have become indicative of nagging or arguing and if those are the things we feel about the concepts that should be the keys to healthy relationships, what are we even trying to do anymore?

We all go into relationships looking for what we want for ourselves in others but how often do we try to see if we have what they need in us?  It seems like a given but with communication on the fritz, how can we even know the things about each other that we need to know in order to be all that we need to be for our partners.  I found myself in a relationship at one point that I knew I had no business being in simply for the fact that we weren’t able to communicate our issues effectively with each other because communication itself was stressful.  The more I got to know him, the more I knew I wanted nothing more than to undo everything but I didn’t want to be shallow and nagging so I pushed through.  It got to the point where I’d find myself hanging up on him mid story, mid argument, mid “why I love you” because the way he spoke gave me anxiety.  I know, it’s awful to hang up on someone and pretend you got cut off hoping when they called back they’d forget what they were talking about.  I was wrong for that but when I say anxiety, I mean literal anxiety attacks.  It was depressing, being with someone who I could barely talk to because the way he spoke, the things he said all made me want to poof out of existence.  No shade, we just weren’t compatible.

Since then, I have been celibate for 1 year and 2 months, to date. 

It was during that relationship that I decided I wanted to be celibate.  We discussed it and he agreed.  Seems like a messed up thing to want in the middle of a relationship, I know, but I honestly, I had no unreasonable expectations. If he wanted out, I wouldn’t have blamed him.  I didn’t expect him to agree to it, he was free to go but he decided to stay.  That’s when things got messy.

There were some things about that situation that played a major role in my decision to be celibate.  I came to realize that taking sex out of the equation will show you each and every place where there is a disconnect.   Those disconnections are the places that get pacified because “at least the sex is good” or “atleast I’m having sex on the regular”.   For me, the sex wasn’t good.  Definitely not good enough to fill in the many gaps that were present and that’s when I realized that the way I’ve been going about things was backwards.  As far as progress goes, I can’t regret something that has helped me grow as much as that failed relationship did but I got to the point where I no longer wished to go out on emotional limbs for anyone.

One important lesson I learned during those trials and error relationships was that men are no more sure (in general) than women are about any given thing.   It was a “DUH!” moment for me, admittedly but I had to cut myself a lot of slack.  A lot of men do come across like they know who they are, what they want, how to get it and what to do with it, though that obviously isn’t always the case.  I don’t hold it against them though because a lot of pressure has been placed on them to know and be sure of all these things, to be leaders, to be providers and there is little room for error.  This doesn’t excuse everything, just a lot by way of expectations. I’ve grown to learn that men are just as susceptible to uncertainty as women are.  They are just as liable to be fickle.  They have insecurities, just like women and they aren’t automatically suited to lead just because they are men.  None of those realizations made me hate men and none of those realizations made me want to bash men.  Realizing those things made me want to take control of who I found myself entertaining and the amount of energy I put into vetting that person.  There’s a big difference between choosing and “being chose”.  Although there was a screening process involved, I decided that it wasn’t enough.  I no longer felt flattered to catch anyone’s eye, no matter how much potential they had.  It no longer suited me to passively be dragged into and through relationships.  It became necessary to raise my standards a little more.  

A few reasons that pushed my decision to abstain…

1)      YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF SETS THE TONE FOR EVERY OTHER RELATIONSHIP YOU’LL HAVE.

Sounds simple enough, but it took some time to realize that my relationship with myself needed work.  I embraced some changes in the early years of my adult life and with those changes came a deeper understanding of myself and thus a deeper appreciation for myself but I didn’t know that back in 2010 when these changes began that I barely even scratched my own surface.  Trial and error relationships forcibly taught me a lot about myself - things that were important for me to know, but after a while, I had to realize that there was a lot left for me to embrace about myself and instead of employing my heart as a crash test dummy for the wild rides I’d find myself on, I decided that it would be best to not do any further damage to it and the remaining hope I had that longevity in love was possible.  Also, the time I have been investing in myself and my art has yielded so many amazing results. 

2)      I WANTED A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAN THE ONE I TOLD MYSELF WAS ALREADY THERE.

I know it’s unpopular opinion that sex should be saved for marriage and based on the way our hormones are set up, I can easily see why.  I don’t have those “I wish I waited” regrets simply because spilling tears over spilled milk doesn’t get it back into the box (I didn’t intend that pun at all, to be honest).  Am I saying that I won’t have sex again until I’m married?  I hope that’s possible but to be 100% honest with myself – I can’t plan that, my self control is phenomenal but I’m still human.  I can however say that I don’t plan to have any flings, any relationships with anyone that doesn’t fully suit me as I’ve come to learn and love myself.  I don’t plan to have any relationship with anyone who does not believe as I believe and who is not willing to have God at the center of whatever is being built as I have made Him the center of all that I am and all that I do.  That’s non-negotiable. 

3)       BAD SEX, MEANINGLESS CONNECTIONS AND RAISING BOYS TO BE MEN FOR OTHER WOMEN

No shade.  I’m not insinuating that my exes weren’t good enough for me.  Despite how those relationships ended, I found that I was a perfect fit for each relationship I was in at the time I was in them, as I was.  That was the problem.  I didn’t want to be who I was, I wanted to be better and so I aimed to be better.  There were relationships that my wanting to grow became problematic for.  I wanted to try new things, I wanted to figure out who I could be.  Instead of seeing that as ambitious, there were those whose insecurities pushed them to mock my ambition as pretention.   Those were the guys who would either encourage me to not do too much or guilt me into not doing things that involved interacting with other men.   There were relationships I just couldn’t juggle; attempting to domesticate myself in order to “play my position” while aiming to level up in my own spaces left little energy for what was important to me and essentially wasn’t good for me.  I didn’t want to believe that I was fated to be unfulfilled conversationally, sexually and emotionally and it came to the point where I would rather no sex than bad sex and miscommunication with anyone for the rest of my life.  Also, there were cases of the boys who I tried to force to grow up, they fought back.  After a certain amount of arguing and tense interactions, we’d write it off as irreconcilable but then he’d grow up for whoever came next.  While there was a little satisfaction in having it acknowledged that I wasn’t just nagging but had a legitimate cause for concern, I was tired of being the test subject.

4)      I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT I WANTED.

I knew enough about myself to know what I did and didn’t want on the surface but the more I leveled up in my personal growth the more things changed and the more standards I had.  Realizing this let me know that I needed to either set my standards to what would fit the person I was growing into or just wait until I got there to go back to “dating”.

5)      SEX LOST ITS MEANING

Prior to actually losing my virginity (in college) I thought sex was special.  I thought it was supposed to be an intense connection between two people who already had an intense connection.  Growing up I realized that not everyone felt this way.  That didn’t change what I thought it should be or what I wanted it to be but those trials and errors did manage to snuff my fire out significantly.  I got to a point where even in relationships, I had to be under some kind of influence to connect sexually and if I wasn’t, my mind would roam and I’d have to fake interest in what was happening.  Those kinds of interactions made for great materials to write about and for a while, I accepted it solely for the purpose of feeling just enough to keep my poems flowing but I grew up.  That’s no longer sufficient and I’d rather quit art altogether than to put myself through anything just to feel something.

MIX IT ALL TOGETHER…

I’ve outgrown the influence of my peers, film, television, music and such that expresses this socially acceptable expression of “live your life” as it pertains to love and sex.  What relationships have come to represent is unappealing and disheartening to me but I don’t intend to allow it to deter me from what I want for myself or my belief that I can have it.  I do intend to wait as long as I need to to assure that what I bring to the table is nothing short of sincere and that my faith, my intentions, my ambitions, my loyalty and my desires are matched.  Celibacy has cleared that “this might be able to work” filter from the bigger picture for me.  I give myself time, now, to read people’s intentions and having no expectations for them rules out making excuses for who they show me that they are.

Since deciding to abstain, I’ve been in a couple situations where I had the opportunity to observe men’s behavior objectively.  There’s so much more that is communicated in these interactions than what is actually said.   Being celibate doesn’t give you superpowers that allow you to see who is sincere and who isn’t but when you stand on your decision to be removed from doing things the way you have always done them, you give yourself the time you need to locate your best interests in a situation before physically putting yourself there.  

It hasn’t been the easiest journey by a long shot.  There are bouts of loneliness, I must admit.  They don't tempt me to fold as much as I thought they would, though.  I fill them with conversations with friends and setting new goals for myself.  It's still not easy, though.  In the beginning, I felt a little aimless and thus more susceptible to crashing.  I knew why I was doing what I was doing but thoughts of “what’s the point? No one respects relationships as much as you do so you’ll be waiting forever” definitely came through to shake my foundation.  I can honestly say prior to the 8 month mark, I was ready to start making bad decisions again.  The frustration was real.  I don’t know if I would have gotten as far as I did if someone didn’t come along to give me a little hope.  I had a couple conversations with a friend who I had feelings for at one time.  The conversations reminded me of why those feelings where there to begin with and although being in that space to have those conversations with him at that point made me a lot more tempted to say “screw this journey”, it also inspired me to press through.  I know, it does seem ass backwards.  Finding someone with potential that matched my recently upped standards should have made me want to jump in because what are the odds that he’ll be available when I feel ready.  Except, seeing that potential made me want to wait even more because “do something you’ve never done to get something you’ve never had.”  I was 10 ½ pushing 11 months when this all happened.

Now that I’m here, well past a whole year, I am thankful that I stuck it out for several reasons. 

1) If I allowed myself to rush in for what I wanted, I’m sure we would have expired by now and our friendship would have gone bad with it.

2) I chose me.  I needed to choose me.  Showing myself the love that I needed was a step in the direction of being ready for all the things I want with someone else eventually.

3) Making a decision against your habits is a necessary step in changing those habits.

Overall, I’m still growing, I’m still learning and I’m still hopeful that at the end of this journey I’ll be an even more refined version of myself.  Also, that whoever I find myself with will be the last one.  I know this all seems a bit much but the lengths you’re willing to go for what you want says a lot about how badly you want it.