Life · Strength

Inner Warrior

Hello. Hi. It’s me. I know…quite the lengthy absence, right? Let’s just say life happened and I needed a break from spilling my soul and focusing on my syndrome. Oh, and I also wrote a second book during this time, so I was a bit preoccupied with a different kind of writing. I, for one, cannot juggle everything and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

But here I am. I’m a little anxious to start blogging again. It takes a lot for someone to put her whole soul on the line with each post. And sometimes, I don’t have the willpower to do that. I don’t like attention. I don’t like the spotlight. I don’t like to be the focus of anyone’s conversation. In fact, it’s why I needed a break from blogging in the first place.

You see, after my memoir launched I did an interview with a popular magazine. I was more than excited to share my story, but I’m not an expert in Public Relations, nor was I ever trained how to do these types of interviews. I answered the questions honestly, but not as eloquently as I would have liked, I’m afraid. (Or maybe I just overanalyzed my responses because I’m a perfectionist and it’s what I do.)

After the interview was published, I waited and watched to see readers’ reactions. I stupidly read comment after comment, and while most were positive in some way, my mind began to gravitate toward the negative ones. I knew hate and ignorance existed. I have always known. I remember learning about the Holocaust in third grade thinking I would have been tortured by the “angel of death” before being exterminated for my imperfections. So, yes, I have always been acutely aware ignorance and malice existed, but it had never been directed at me until that point.

I thought I was strong enough to handle reading a smattering of hurtful comments, but at that time, I wasn’t. I didn’t grow up with social media. If anyone wanted to bully me when I was young, they had to do it to my face. And none of my peers did. I was lucky, extremely lucky. I transitioned through all the pivotal moments of my youth unscathed. At thirty-four, I finally found out how mentally challenging it was to face online trolls. It was incredibly foreign to me and I didn’t handle it well.

With each horrible word, I felt my positivity draining from my personality. Though I stopped reading the comments shortly after I started, I sunk into a deep depression, not wanting to speak to anyone or do anything if I didn’t have to. And when I did have to leave the house, anxiety reared its ugly head. I constantly wondered who around me thought I was some sort of monster and what would happen if someone decided to act on their ignorance. I hated thinking that way, but I couldn’t control the thoughts that filled my head.

I knew I needed to get well. I couldn’t let my depression or anxiety get the best of me. I couldn’t let my demons – those lonely souls sitting in front of their computers spewing hate for their own pleasure – win. I was better than that. I was stronger than that. The advantage I had being thirty-four years old rather than an impressionable teenager was that I had life experience. I had already developed self-esteem and self-worth. I knew I had an inner warrior; I just needed to resurrect her from all the rubble she lay buried under. Most importantly, I knew that no one else should be allowed to control my psyche. My opinion of myself was the only one that mattered, and without a doubt I knew I was strong, confident, beautiful, and worthy.

With that mindset shift, I began to heal. I avoided the things that triggered my anxiety and depression: I deactivated Facebook and stopped watching the news. I focused on the activities that made me happy. I surrounded myself with people I loved. I began to smile again. It took time, but I slowly found my way out of the darkness.

As I was healing, I agreed to an interview with Chris Ulmer of “Special Books By Special Kids” (SBSK) because he wanted to feature someone with Treacher Collins syndrome. When he left my house after our interview, I had an anxiety attack. I was afraid I had botched the session and that I would once again feel defeated by what I was trying to express. I couldn’t stand the thought of being anything other than eloquent. If I was going to represent my syndrome in this video, I had to make an impact. I had to make viewers realize that people with facial differences only looked different. We were intelligent, fabulous human beings who should stand out for positive reasons, not because of the way we looked. I had thought (and hoped) that if I could expertly convey that sentiment, I could somehow diminish bullying and trolling. (Yes, that was a highly idealistic expectation, as bullies have underlying issues themselves, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.) My mental state was still on the mend and I worried that if my best self didn’t show in this interview, it would damage my healing progress. Anxiety is a brutal bitch.

I wrote to Chris asking for a redo on the SBSK interview, for a chance to say what I really wanted to say. He was so kind to my neurotic mind. Chris had no understanding of why I was afraid to air this interview, but he took my anxiety in stride. He assured me I did a great job and that the video would end up being an edited, two-minute clip, meaning much of what we shot wouldn’t even be included. Chris even offered to show me the clip when it was finished so I could decide whether or not I was comfortable with it being posted for the world to see. And, in the end, I was. It captured my essence.

After the video posted, I did what I swore I’d never do again: I read some of the comments. They were all very positive and uplifting, which I not only credit to Chris’ editing skills, but also to his mission of showing his subjects in the highest light.

I learned something about marketing that day. You have to choose the avenue which best supports your cause. The magazine was not my target audience…at all. I should have never done that interview. And while I’m sure I did gain some followers and readers by doing it, there are much better outlets that align with my message, ones that aim to spread positivity and respect more than anything else. It’s very much like life. Surround yourself with likeminded people; people who will build you up rather than tear you down. How did I not realize that earlier?

I am happy to report I have bounced back from that initial experience. The SBSK interview helped immensely. I am wiser, stronger, and wholly confident now. I am also acutely aware that what I went through is nothing compared to what some people face. Some deal with ongoing bullying, harassment, and torment on a daily basis, and I hope in my heart of hearts that they find peace.

I can’t say I’m back at this blogging thing for good, but I felt it was time to share that experience and officially move on with my life. It’s been a hell of a ride since the last time I posted, and I’m going to keep tackling life as it comes. My entries may shift away from my syndrome because I feel like I’ve exhausted that part of my story. I used to live my life with my syndrome taking backseat, and it’s time to get back to that. I am not Treacher Collins; I am Kristin.