Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't Shrink

 "We need people who don’t ask us to become different for their own acceptance and terms of approval. We need people, and we need to be the people who give others the permission to sit in their own skins and not be afraid. That’s the best gift you are ever going to give someone— 
the permission to feel safe in their own skin.
To feel worthy.
To feel like they are enough."
-Hannah Brencher

Recently I had a situation that pushed my buttons a little (or a lot), and wasn't sure if I should share it until now. 

The past few weeks I have spent most of my time job hunting. During one particular phone interview, a potential employer asked me if there was anything in my past he should be aware of before hiring me. Without much hesitation I told him there is a DUI on my record and I have struggled with an eating disorder. To which he respond with, "I know. I looked you up online and see that you do some recovery writing." At first I responded with pride and a little excitement, until he said, "the eating disorder is one thing and not that big of a deal, but if you ever want to be employed in the future you should remove any public knowledge regarding your struggle with alcohol." He continued to say it made him a little uncomfortable and it isn't something to be proud of.

Completely taken off guard, I simply agreed with him and awkwardly carried on with the conversation. After the phone call was over, however, I found myself humiliated and crying on my bedroom floor. Deep down, I know there is some truth in what was said. A struggle with addiction of any kind does make employment more difficult in certain fields. Writing about my past and sharing it with the internet world may not appeal to everyone. I am able to take what he said as constructive criticism and realize he might not be the only one who feels that way.

However, and more importantly, I refuse to shrink parts of myself and hide the details of my past in order to make others feel more comfortable. My writing might not please everyone or be the safe route, but it does start a conversation. This man's words made me feel like it was okay to publicly talk about my history with an eating disorder, but being an alcoholic is something to be ashamed of and needed to be kept hidden away. It made me feel like he was already judging me and placing me into the unworthy box without ever meeting me.

I have reached my breaking point.
I am tired.
My story matters.
My voice matters.
I am sick of living in a society that punishes,
and continues to push me down,
for having the disease of addiction.
It is not my job to change who I am
in order to make someone else feel better. 

Sadly, without question, this happens all the time. Even my parents agreed it's more socially acceptable to be open about a struggle with an eating disorder than it is with addiction. But here's the thing - I have spent most of my life attempting to keep this part of me a secret, hoping to remain small in order to avoid conflict or pain. At this time in my life, I have reached a point where it is not only important, it is also detrimental, for me to speak my truth in order to heal.