I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should stay quiet about this. Back and forth between feeling like a victim and feeling enraged by what someone else did to me. Back and forth between a desire to retreat and a desire to retaliate. And then somewhere in the middle of back and forth is a place where I know that no one can do anything to me. It is also a place that isn't interested in bashing another woman on the internet, regardless of her actions.
And so where I have arrived is the place I always arrive at: one where I tell my story.
It's not uncommon for us to garner social media girl crushes these days. We are handed these shiny images and catchy copy, luring us in as we escape from our own experience. Transported out of our restless minds and the stress that modern day life brings. And if we have the chance to mingle with these people IRL, their support feels like little hits of goodness. At least that has been my experience. And that is what I did with this person. I admired her. I enjoyed her work and shared it quite frequently. I also found validation through the fact that she followed and watched my journey as well. That may sound lame, but it's true.
I wanted her to like me.
And it seemed like she did.
You have such great energy, she once told me through her assistant.
She felt like a wise older sister.
Where I found trouble is the moment I placed her onto a pedestal. For if we are to do this, the person will always fall. Everyone is human, after all. And fall she did.
It should be noted that this pedestal placement was during one of the toughest bouts of depression and anxiety in my adult life. My sense of self had greatly diminished, lost in a sea of erratic neurotransmitters, firing in ways that weren't working. The withdrawal I went through was the worst of any withdrawal I had ever experienced. The anxiety that was created during this period was 10x worse than any anxiety I had ever had prior to getting onto medication. It felt like I would never get better, like I would suffer forever.
But I did. I slowly climbed out of the black hole, getting on a different medication that was supposed to have less side effects. I began blogging again, finding joy in writing and taking photos so frequently. When I chose to speak out about my journey with mental health, others came to me to share their own experiences. While it was quite scary to put myself out onto the internet so vulnerably, there doesn't seem to be another choice for me. This seems to be part of my purpose-to use my voice as a way to make others feel less alone. Less broken.
I also began Instagram Storying, as a way to show people a different side of me. While my writing can take on a serious tone, my real life personality can be quite light. A lot of my stories were silly and funny. Making them came quite naturally and they just so happened to double my blog views instantly.
I love your Stories, a new friend said over dinner.
Your light shines through the screen, another person told me in a DM.
I imagine she felt this, too. Several months after I created a weekly Story series, an intuitive hit let me know that she was getting possessive over a word I was using, one that has been used by hundreds of thousands. So being the straight-forward New Yorker that I am, I decided to reach out. We had a relationship, a professional one. I had been a two-time private client, sharing information about my struggles with depression, med withdrawal, my family and life goals. So you can imagine my response when I received a long email back that not only thanked me for my integrity, but also mentioned Cease and Desist and a warning not to tread on her territory.
So I used the word again, on purpose, to test her. She didn't own it, but it made her mad enough to unfollow me. A few days later I was accused of copying her, in addition to finding myself disinvited from an event and blocked on social media. Like I tend to do, I spoke my mind. I let her know privately that I felt she was attempting to spiritually monopolize certain words and teachings. Ones that neither of us created.
Following this email, another intuitive hit let me know that I would be making an appearance on her blog and sure enough, there I was. I just never expected the writing to be so cruel. While she never said my name, it was very clear that it was about me. She went after my chemical imbalance and mental state. She said I would never recover and compared me to a troubled person she had known years ago. Crazy felt like the least creative thing she could have named me, but also the most hurtful. Women have been labeled this way throughout history, as a way to disempower and silence the feminine. Did she not realize that there are ramifications for using this word against someone within the current landscape of mental health? Attacking anyone's disability, seen or unseen, is not far off from what Mr. Trump did to that reporter.
It felt like a cheap blow, a hit below the belt. She knew this was the story that would hurt me most and it did. It is the story I have been telling myself for decades. If you had been first put on Prozac at the age of 8, you might, too.
I didn't know how to shake off her words. They repeated in my mind like poison. I didn't want to be on social media. I felt vulnerable and exposed. I stopped posting. I couldn't press publish on a new blog. I hardly made any Instagram Stories and a heavy blanket of depression came over me. While she didn't create any of this, she triggered it.
Keep going with everything you're doing, she once told me. I know that it's not easy for you to put yourself out there.
It all felt like a bad dream. How did this woman who I respected and looked up to suddenly become an enemy? At almost 30, I don't have enemies. When it comes to any issue I have with anyone in my life, professionally or otherwise, I am quick to consciously communicate and find resolve. Part of me wanted to hate her, but I knew it wasn't the answer. If I could go back in time and erase things, I would start with my own positive projections. She didn't ask me to turn her into something she wasn't in my mind and for this I take full responsibility. Was I copying her? No. The language I was using had been a part of my vocabulary for over a decade. When I do happen to use information that I learned from someone else, which I have done on this blog on numerous occasions, they are credited. I've had the privilege of studying with beautiful teachers all over the world and I am always vocal about work I love.
Did I look to her for inspiration and uplifting energy? Yes. This is what she intends to do with her life. Be the light. Be the resource that people turn towards. I was doing what she wanted me to. And the universe was doing exactly what I had asked it to do-putting me up against the things that would challenge me. I guess you could say that I manifested her. Both for growth purposes and to act as a mirror to the story I had been telling myself. Unfortunately, knowing this didn't make her actions hurt any less.
So how do we recover after words feel like knives?
How do we take full responsibility for the people, places and things that are showing up in our lives?
We rise. If we need to simmer in sadness for a bit, then we can do so. We can whine or huff and puff to our friends, but then it's time to get over it. We are constantly faced with moments or moments that stretch into days, months, even years, that will challenge the deepest parts of ourselves. The kind that threaten the connection to our love, our truth and our purpose. But if we are to let these experiences throw us, then we are failing. We are failing ourselves and the people who benefit from our greatness.
If we use every hurtful thing ever said to us to make ourselves not only stronger, but kinder in a world where kindness can sometimes feel like a rarity, then we have won. The high road is the harder road. The loving action and there is always enough mindset chosen over the easy choice of meanness and scarcity is the path less chosen. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to take it. If we are to call ourselves women who support other women, teachers who support other teachers, humans who support other humans, then we are to do just that. And if we fuck things up, which we will, then we should be humble enough to say, I'm sorry.
Instead of retaliating, I will use this as an opportunity to create more space in the community for all kinds of people to come together and feel like they belong. To stick out my hand and say, you can sit with us. Some of the people I know who are successful in the arts or the healing world are the biggest champions of the other people in their fields. While this woman and I are quite different, two people can do the exact same type of work and have completely different outcomes. Different careers. Different audiences. In today's information age, no idea is unique; it is the expression of the idea that is.
So the next time an experience activates hurt within you, use it as fuel. Get stronger and bigger and brighter and bolder. For the world needs loud people who stand up for what they believe in. We need passion and love and acceptance. We don't need more words of hate and separation; we have enough of that. It has not and will never serve any of us. From here on out, I strive to move forward, letting go of my broken brain story. Finding love for the scared and sad little girl who just wanted to be normal. The scared and sad 29 year old woman who just wanted to be accepted. Who so badly wanted to live without orange pill bottles, but couldn't seem to make it happen. I am that girl and I am that woman and I am also so much more. There is more to my story than medicine and brain chemistry. There is more to my story than what you see of me on social media.
No one can write our story for us; only we can do that. May we all find the stories that serve us and release the ones that no longer do.
Photo by Helena Haro