Why I'm Vocal

by Brittany Helms 7 months ago in stigma

On Taking Back My Autonomy

Why I'm Vocal

“You look sick”

“You look tired”

“You look pale”

“You need to eat more”

“You need to gain weight”

“Why are you wearing THAT?”

“You’re so much prettier with makeup”

“You’re so much prettier without”

“You’re so much prettier with hair”

“You’re so much prettier when you smile”

“Aren’t you going to wear a bra?”

“Women shouldn’t have body hair”

“Don’t be so vulgar”

“You shouldn’t talk about periods”

“You’re too emotional”

“You’re too much”

“You’re not doing enough”

“You should act more like a lady”

“You need to rest more”

“You need to try harder”

Anyone who’s followed me for any length of time knows I’m prone to ranting and long posts, replies, messages, etc. My attempts are not at reducing anyone else’s pain or story, nor to silence anyone else because, “my problems are bigger,” but that’s how it comes across, isn’t it? I used to feel the same way. When I saw someone post about their problems, I thought they should keep it to themselves. We all suffer, but we don’t all whine about it, right? When I thought of speaking publicly about endometriosis and mental health, I thought I had no right. Who was I to speak on something so heavy? Aren’t we supposed to politely keep these things to ourselves?

Since I was a child, I’ve loved long conversations. I was a straight A student, yet every report card stated, “talks too much,” or “a bit talkative.” I loved hearing other people’s experiences in life, and I loved when they asked me about mine. I loved school, I loved learning, and I loved reading more than I think anything else. By first grade I’d read over 300 books, and my family will tell you I left this world with one in my hands. If you spoke to me while reading, I couldn’t hear a word. Or wouldn’t… still up in the air on that one. By around 12 years old, I started journaling everything. From my first date to first kiss, to the first fight with a best friend; all documented, along with every single emotion I felt at the time.

I was born into a long line of headstrong, viciously resilient women, often criticized for our attitudes. We feel everything. I personally think most women do, we’re just trained out of it with youth. I, feel everything. From childhood I was obsessed with living things: animals, insects, trees, all of it. Those SPCA commercials honestly ruined an entire day for me. I’d sit down for dinner six hours later and picture a puppy with a missing eye and burns all over it, and be unable to eat anything at all. It’s no surprise I switched to a vegetarian diet around 11 years old.

I say what’s on my mind, always have. I’ve lost tons of relationships, friendships, even family members by speaking my truth. Somewhere along the lines, though, I allowed myself to be quieted. I told myself that my feelings were too much, my emotions too much, my needs, wants and desires were all just too much. All those times in school, I was talking too much. When that 12 year old boy called me a bitch and a cunt, it was because I was being too much. When the 15 year old told me I wasn’t allowed to speak to certain people, I believed it was because I wasn’t doing enough. When the 19 year old cheated on me, I believed it was because I wasn’t good enough. When I lost my fiance, I believed I just wasn’t enough, period. When I was 21 and a boyfriend put his hands around my throat threatening my life, I believed I had said too much. When I went to countless doctors, crying and pleading for help with constant physical pain, I believed a lifetime of abuse, every single time they told me my pain was "normal." The best and worst part of all is... it is all on me.

Endometriosis did not make me strong. It is the weakest part of my being, the darkest place in my soul, the deep lingering unknown. I make it weaker. I was born with what I needed already, but I allowed the belief that I needed something outside of myself. I told myself I was broken, damaged, unusable. I wouldn’t amount to anything because I barely like myself, so why would anyone else like me? The thing about that theory is, everyone only ever sees a projection of themselves when they look into my eyes, or yours. Those who like us, see a bit of themselves in us. I’m the loud, sarcastic, unapologetically violent, tiny little human that lives inside of us all. Those who don’t like us, tend to shy away from their monsters that match ours. If we just don’t look in that direction… it doesn’t exist, right? I’m not innocent, I do it too.

My life is no different from anyone else’s. I’ve been through hell, as everyone else has. I’ve felt sadness and grief, embarrassment and fear, loneliness and heartbreak. I speak on these things not to draw attention from anyone reading, but to push you harder to share your own. The time I’ve spent alone in my room, on different pain medications, crying until the skin around my eyes began to peel, cycling through hormonal treatments, playing lab rat for gynos, GIs, neurologists, allergists, therapists, psychologists, you name it, sent me as far into myself as I could have ever gotten outside of maybe a DMT trip. I know that when someone feels slighted by my stories, it’s that they don’t feel heard, because I’ve been there. I know that when someone gets angry with me for not replying to a call or a message, it’s that they feel ignored and unwanted, because I’ve been there. I know that when someone lashes out at me in a heap of rage, it’s that they need to release their pain and they have no idea how, because I’ve been there.

For 27 years, it’s not made sense to me that we keep so much private. Why do I feel inclined to say “no,” when my doctors ask if I’ve had suicidal thoughts? Haven’t we all? Isn’t that sort of a huge part of the human condition? I’m sure most have heard of Bruce K. Alexander’s Rat Park, where the rats kept in confinement were more likely to consume, and overdose, on the water with morphine than those kept in Rat Park with others. So it isn’t just us. It’s nature. We thrive on companionship. Sure, we need food, sunlight, water, hygiene, a roof, among other things, but that only gets you so far. We need tribes, families, friends. Blood relation isn’t required, the only requirement is open acceptance.

I’ve learned patience and boundaries; patience to those who require time or need a little show of compassion, boundaries to those who view my open emotions as weakness to trample over. Patience for myself, on this journey of healing decades of wounds, both physical and emotional. Boundaries to know that anyone who truly belongs in my life, this life that I've fought bloody and broken to save, would either read every word without complaint, or they wouldn't care at all because they would understand that this is for me, my release, my emotional exhibit.

I want to see your art, hear your music, read your words. I believe you all have valuable knowledge and opinions on the world and society. I think we should always bring up the things that make us uncomfortable, and dispute them until we’ve come to a general consensus, but this requires an open heart with that open mind we all like to preach about. If we are as weak as our weakest link, then shouldn’t we be healing the weak? My therapist told me, “I don’t know of any more suggestions for you, I’m sorry.” I left feeling defeated, broken, and more alone than I ever had in my life. I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally feel those same feelings every single time I open Facebook and see another obituary shared. I’ve come very close to being one of those myself, and anyone who knows me knows I’ve always kept an open home. If my couch is open, it’s yours to sleep, if there’s dinner in the oven, there’s enough for joiners, if there’s beer in the fridge, there’s plenty to go around. If this is my home, it has to be my soul, too.

I don’t want to use others as a crutch to stand on anymore, nor do I want to fall under the weight of my own sorrow again. Reach out when you need help, yes, but don’t forget to reach in. Draw your feelings, paint them, write them down, sing them, share them. Keep some things for yourself, yes, but we cannot assume that those who come after us will feel free to be themselves if we are not. We cannot continue to raise the generations below us believing that feelings are negative reactions to normal circumstances. It simply isn’t true. Trauma is real and we all have our own brands. Your emotions are true, real, relevant, important, and I really, truly hope to see them soon.

Brittany Helms
Brittany Helms
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