Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wow have things been good and busy with me, and not busy in the I-am-filling-up-my-schedule-to-have-control-over-life kind of busy. Progress!

Going off to New York and spending time in the mountains, working for a cafe/catering company and jumping back into classes have kept me with a packed planner and less sleep than I'm used to getting, but there hasn't been a massive meltdown moment where I end up curled in a corner or crying alongside my hysterically beating heart. Take that, panic.

Now, this has much to do with the miracle of antidepressants, yes, but every other inch of my present is working together, making me feel safe. Safety is the motivation for my every action. It isn't love or justice or peace or control even. Honestly.

Being depressed is like being on defense, never offense. It's like having that fight or flight feeling from the time you wake up to when you finally get to sleep. I never felt safe. When I wasn't regarding myself with judgment and hate, I was looking at everything around me with paranoia.

So I slept. I tried going to sleep at 8pm just to make the day end, and I'd wake before 7am feeling exhausted, only getting an hour before the fear made its way into that new day. Should I even leave the house? No one really wants to see me anyways. I won't have anywhere to go, unless I spend money or just drive. I hate driving. I hate parking. I hate people. Wah wah wah.

I slept, and I ate. Once I ate an entire pan of brownies and tried throwing up immediately after. I was alone, of course. Stuff like that is harder to do in company.

But I didn't just overeat, I obsessed. It felt so normal--terrible, but normal--to think about the next meal or worry about whether or not I'd have food when I needed it, as if my primal instinct was always warning me not to starve, and then I'd end the day ashamed for what I had done. God, it was humiliating. I ate like I deserved to gain weight. Like I didn't want anyone to see me. Like my outside needed to look as heavy and unhinged as my insides did.

When I tried asking for help from friends it usually went like this: they'd be embarrassed for a second, hastily say, "You're beautiful!" or just laugh it off like gaining weight unhealthily was a joke; then the next time we were at a restaurant or eating in, they'd ask if I wanted more and more and more, like we were untouchable, like it wasn't eating me.

No one wants to talk about this because it's uncomfortable, but I needed a friend to look at me and say, "You aren't OK, and you don't need this to make it better. Food (or sleep or guys or isolating yourself) can't do that, but I can help you find someone/something that can, Meg." I needed an advocate, because I couldn't help myself.

This is WAY TOO MUCH to ask of twenty-somethings, but that's the sucky thing about experiencing tragedy at a younger age--those are the people surrounding you. No, no, I'm not trying to blame my friends, because they helped in the ways they knew how. They took me to Starbucks and left me alone when I needed it and made sure less-safe people steered clear of me and were always available for venting or laughing about hard topics.

Still, I expected them to do the big things. I know now not to lean so heavily on others, especially when those others are doing college and work and maneuvering social situations, not wresting with depression brought on by a parent's suicide.

The trick is asking the right people. They were the ones who were in good places, places that gave them the room to carry some of my burden. I couldn't ask questions or properly explain how I felt or voice what I needed, but they were able to fill in the blanks. (P.S. parents and psychologists and pastors and psychiatrists are who I'm referring to here.)

So all this goes back to safety. In those darker days, I tried making myself feel safe with sleep and food and isolation, but now I have more space to find/see what truly gives me that snug, warm, protected feeling:

small spaces (pillow-nests in bed, cozy chairs, corners, hugs)
knowing my role (leader, follower, observer, initiator)
allowing myself to mess up and give a little less than normal
making plans
cancelling plans
cleaning, but keeping an unmade bed
calling mom without a second thought
listening to my gut and heart, and giving my brain a break
therapy, therapy, therapy
being honest, but holding back from giving everything up too quickly
podcasts to fill stressful silence
YA novels
abstaining from romantic relationships
saying yes
saying no
eating delicious things
but eating vegetables, too
loving others through words of affirmation and appreciation, apologizing, time, listening, and lowering my vast expectations
watching less TV I don't actually care about
moving more
going makeup-less
going makeup-full
showing my body more love and less criticism
exploring spirituality in Jesus, Buddhism, signs, awareness, and other, beautiful, complicated beings
avoiding extremes

I'm sure this list will ebb and flow--as all lists do--but feeling safe and making space gives me the wiggle room for those changes.

Now, it's time for me to change out of pajamas, leave my home, and get shit done. (This sentence would not have existed nine months ago, not even four months ago.) Wahoo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I'm a big fan of books. I'm also a big fan of movies. Over the past year, I have learned more from, and felt most known by the novels and films I've picked up. Some were for school, others for pleasure. Some made me cry laughing, others made me ugly cry. While I wasn't consciously searching for any specific theme, a pattern formed. I realized the thing that was drawing me in: art as an empathetic tool. It says, "Me, too."

So here's a list of great works--on mental illness, death, love, a false sense of perfection, failure, transitions, loneliness, female friendship, and family--that have deeply resonated with me. No character loses his or her dad by suicide, but that never really mattered, because they're each still telling parts of my story. 


  1. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
  2. The Giver - Lois Lowry 
  3. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
  4. Teardrop Soup - Pat Schwiebert
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis
  6. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
  7. "The Anointed" - Kathleen Hill 
  8. Lucy Gayheart - Willa Cather
  9. "Soldier's Home" - Ernest Hemingway 
  10. Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
  11. Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee
  12. It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini
  13. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
  14. Me Before You - JoJo Moyes
  15. Me After You - JoJo Moyes
  16. When We Collided - Emery Lord
  17. Mosquitoland - David Arnold
  18. Summerlost - Ally Condie
  19. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings - Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
  20. Boundaries - Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  1. Beginners
  2. Adult World
  3. About Time
  4. Girl, Interrupted
  5. About Alex
  6. The Big Chill
  7. Short Term 12
  8. The Road Within
  9. Amélie
  10. Silver Linings Playbook
  11. Good Will Hunting
  12. Trainwreck
  13. The Way Way Back 
  14. Big Hero 6
  15. Inside Out 
*** I don't want to sway your opinion by adding descriptions, plus, hunting down titles and researching plots are half the fun. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I'd watch him from my bedroom window. He didn't wear athletic clothes, just faded jeans or khaki shorts and a Duck Commander t-shirt (always tucked in with a belt), a baseball cap, and New Balance tennis shoes paired with tall, white socks. He'd take our old, lumpy dog with him every time, never keeping her on a leash. He'd use the shock collar, but never actually use it, and I'd watch him hold the remote's lanyard, swinging it one way until it wrapped around his closed fist, then the other way. No iPod or cell phone. Just thoughts and the image of Bee weaving her way through neighbors' yards, sniffing dead things and jumping in the creek.

It was comforting to see my dad out walking. Like he was solving the world's problems, and everything would be OK after he was home. Even better was tagging along, because that's when we'd plan. Following the same route every single time, it would take the three of us forty-five minutes to get back home. I'd practically gallop trying to keep up with his no-nonsense pace--a famous trait of his, and one he passed down to me and my brother. After hitting the second stop sign, I'd quit worrying about Bee running too far off or getting in the way of a car, and we'd start reviewing the Plan.

Tweaking. Mapping out. Dreaming up.

The Plan was my life, and we had it all figured out: major in Psychology--which changed to Communications--and minor in Education, complete the 4+1 plan, thereby graduating in five years with a Masters in Education, teach elementary (which changed to middle school, which then changed to high school) kids somewhere in Nashville or Chattanooga, and then feel accomplished, maybe marrying and having a family and writing a book to top it all off. It was comforting to talk like we were in control.

We mulled over studying abroad, so much so that he helped me open a savings account named "Scotland."

Sometimes we talked about boys. But not often.

If I'm honest, he'd be consoling me most of the time, reminding me to "rise above" whatever drama/failure/heartbreak had just unfolded. He didn't accept unknown answers or wallowing, and his confidence made me feel safe. God knows I've always been a paranoid, questioning  kind of human. I leaned heavily into his ability to fix everything. To sense a need and fill it before I ever asked. To drive all the way up to Nashville when our dorm shower was clogged and flooding the bathroom. To research concert tickets like it was a game. To take me out for frozen yogurt and Books-a-Million on rotten days. To love me with actions more than words.

After he died, sometimes I thought I missed what he did more than who he was. It made me sick. And whether it was car trouble or money questions, I'd always, always cry. As if I was alone and incapable. And he was the only one who could do anything about it.

My dad took incredible care of me, and because of that, I never had to take care of myself in certain areas. I just knew he'd handle it. And he loved that. I'm beyond blessed to have such a thoughtful man in my life. God, I'm mourning our walks. I'm mourning how he cared for me with a strong presence. I'm mourning my confidant, my ice cream date, and my number one phone call.

Today, one year and almost eight months later, there is no Plan. No matter how hard I tried holding onto his guidance, no matter how stubbornly I fought change, I've made decisions and spoken up and said no and tried and, yeah, even wallowed for a while. Nothing is the same as it was before September, 2014. A new major, friends, home,'s all different. Me, especially.

It sounds pretty sappy to say, but if we were walking right now, and I was filling him in on all of the tough choices and brave changes, I know my dad would be proud. Maybe the proudest he's ever been. Even though he did a lot of life's hard work for me, in his heart and head he surely wanted me to be big enough to do it myself. He was just being a dad. And I'm being his daughter.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Stop knowing me!" she yelled, laughing at the four guys who had just taken turns calling out her name in the quad. Long legs, long hair, and a toothy grin, this girl wasn't holding anything back. She loved the attention, and who wouldn't?
This all happened after my french class let out. Schools of Belmont students floated around campus, some with earphones in, bobbing their heads to music and giving the quick head nod to passing skinny jean-clad, Ray Ban-sporting guys, others in giggling groups of crop top-wearing, Goodwill-hunting girls. My head was down and already filled with what felt like heavy cotton. I remember feeling two hundred pounds as I tucked her word choice away for safe-keeping. This was last November, so the majority of my brain was working overtime, fruitlessly making up for a gross level of missing serotonin. Depressed, anxious, and self-isolated, this random girl's random words felt like they belonged to me.

"Stop knowing me," came out cheerfully. What I heard was different: Stop knowing me for what has happened in the last year. Stop seeing me as the girl who left three weeks into her sophomore year, who commuted two hours every day through rush hour, who dropped the sorority she'd just been initiated into, who over-shared at RUF, only to be met with silence, who dated the thirty-year-old guy to forget, who gained almost thirty pounds from trying to fill the hollow ache, whose family was wrecked with tragedy, but managed to look pretty good from the outside. Stop knowing what happened to her dad on September 11. Stop knowing and giving her the look, the what-would-I-do-in-her-shoes stare. Stop filling her head with all of the negativity you yourself may or may not even be thinking.

See, I understand being known for cringe-worthy, uncomfortable reasons. And I know how it feels when you let that define you. But the ironic thing is, no-one is that obsessed with me, or you, or anyone outside of themselves. That doesn't make a person selfish, just human. I may be stuck in my own head 24/7, but everyone else has their own skull to curl up inside. The way I assumed others saw me was mostly me judging me, and boy is that kind of self-deprecation crippling. So crippling that I left right before the end of my first semester of junior year. I nosedived hard and fast, but got help almost just as quickly. Thank God. With big support from my mom and super-beautiful-sassy-says-fuck-and-loves-Jesus therapist, loads of space, a Hallmark-y hometown, library and theater jobs, Weight Watchers, a New York trip, miracle antidepressants, and a stack of YA novels, I'm more Meg than I have been in quite some time.

If I were walking in the quad right now, and I heard "Meg!" shouted once, twice, maybe even three times, I'd bashfully guzzle up the attention, because I'm learning that being known, really known, means the shitty and sparkly bits of me are all mixed together. How I perceive myself is an important factor in others' perception of me. Therefore, I declare all the parts and pieces of me, Meg, blend up into something bold.

So start knowing me. Start knowing me for the before and after, start knowing me as the girl who came back two weeks after her father's death and finished a year of school, who managed to make some good grades and good friends, who felt her pulse and figured out what she wanted, who learned "no" and withstood heartbreak on an already crumbly heart, who wrote it out and talked it out, keeping numbness at bay for some time, who wears stretch marks like tiger stripes, symbols of resilience, not shame, who is loved big by old-soul friends and family. Start knowing me, not for the extremes, but for the moments and feelings and words and stories that make up the whole.

'Cause I've started knowing me, too.