STRIPPED INTERLUDE: WHERE’D YOU GO, KALEIGH ROSE?

(*I do not own the above image. Credit belongs to original artist).

“How are you?” 

“How’s life?” 

“Are you ok?” 

Hey there. As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been “off the grid” for quite some time (not that I’m notable enough to expect anyone to be paying attention to what I’m doing), but I wanted to check in to let anyone who was concerned/curious know that I’m alive and well — which is about all I can say as someone who, like all of you, is surviving and existing during a seemingly endless global pandemic, important social justice movements, constant environmental disasters, and disappointing yet unsurprising political treachery- all while being forced to function in a capitalistic society expecting me to behave as if everything is “normal,” and trying to grow as an individual and live a fulfilling life in the process despite the effects of all of the above causing nearly every aspect of my life to be put on an indefinite hold against my will.  

…does that answer your questions? 😬😅

*I do not own this image. Credit belongs to Sarah Smith
*I do not own this image. Credit belongs to Anne Bradstweet.

The few of you who have perused this blog space may recall that I began a small personal essay series over the course of the quarantine called “STRIPPED,” which was essentially a creative outlet for me to express my thoughts and observations regarding romance, sexism, heartbreak, growth, and love, all paired with boudoir-styled photos to emphasize vulnerability and connecting to my body (& to hopefully inspire others to do the same) as a way to cope during this troublesome time. I had always imagined it as 7 part series, the final installment being an empowering, fiery declaration of inner strength and self-love to uplift my readers as well as myself. But, to be honest, I don’t have the right words in my heart to genuinely provide that kind of piece at the moment, and I certainly haven’t had them throughout the quarantine; however, I still felt compelled for a slight “mind purge,” so let’s just call this a “STRIPPED Interlude.” And in lieu of the more “glamorous” lingerie photos that accompanied the other posts, please enjoy this impromptu selfie from today, complete with PJs, fuzzy socks, acne scars, my f*cked up eyebrow that I always anxiously pick at, and a messy bun full of unwashed hair (also known as the absolute *height* of “quarantine fashion”🤣). The stylized photos are fun to take sometimes, but to be completely real with you, this is who I am most of the time- especially this past year.

I’m typically a very private person, and am extremely protective of my emotional/physical boundaries (many of which have been newly created throughout my therapy process this past year), but I also am adamant about being genuine and honest with my experiences, in an effort to connect and let others know that they are not alone in their struggles. I also find a lot of solace in writing & being creative, and I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like (due to practical life priorities as well as my own mental hindrances)- but for whatever reason, I’m feeling the urge to share this with you today. 

For the past year and a half I’ve had recurring dreams and nightmares from a traumatic heartbreak that occurred towards the end of 2019– mere months before the world as we knew it would end, and before all the emotions I was suppressing in an attempt to “just get over it, move on, accept it,” came cascading down on me with crushing force. This also served as an unexpected catalyst into a lot of other underlying wounds and issues that I didn’t know existed (or thought I had already worked through), and while I’m certainly not “grateful” for what happened, I will admit it has been a curious journey into the depths of my psychosis and understanding the true core of where my pain and toxic patterns stem from.

(*Some of you may be eyerolling at all of this so far, and that’s perfectly fine, but if that’s the case I kindly suggest you stop here because things are about to get even more “eyeroll-y” the further you read. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya 😝).

Nevertheless, the nightmares persist, and as a result I often wake up in a melancholic, anxious haze, and sometimes, I manage to jot down my thoughts in the moments before I groggily put on an episode of Family Guy to try and help lull myself back to sleep (what can I say, Seth MacFarlane hasn’t failed me yet 😘). This post will contain a small collection of excerpts from some of the blurbs I’ve written to myself from my subconscious.

Fair warning, though: 

These insomniatic  musings are not exactly “empowering.” They’re not “happy.” They’re not “productive.” They’re not the “best version of myself.” But, they are ME— probably the rawest form of me that I know of at this point- and I cannot help but be intrigued and want to learn more (maybe that makes me a narcissist, I’m not sure), but having a curiosity of myself and what I want/need has never come naturally to me, it’s always been directed towards others- people I love, admire, and care about- to the point where I’ve never really been interested to know or understand myself— which is fascinating to realize, considering the majority of my heartbreak and emotional ineptitude, no matter the context, often comes from me being/feeling misunderstood. 

 I’ve since learned in therapy that this is actually a consequence of “codependency,” which in fact does NOT mean needing/depending on other people in a relationship to be happy (as most people assume), but rather an addiction to helping/feeling needed by people as a consequence of a deeper addiction to neglecting and abandoning yourself. So if you’ve ever wondered “Why is Kaleigh SO invested in my life and giving me advice that I didn’t ask for, especially about men and dating when she has practically ZERO experience– the NERVE?!,” or “Why is Kaleigh giving me gifts and candy and book/music/film/TV show recommendations for no reason?,” or “Why is Kaleigh SMOTHERING ME with affection and attention that- once again- I DID NOT ASK FOR, she’s supposed to be an INTROVERT this makes NO SENSE?!,”or “Why is Kaleigh SO concerned with what other people think of her, why does she need their approval when they aren’t even kind to her- it’s pathetic and weird and she’s supposed to be a ‘badass’ who doesn’t give a f*ck! What’s WRONG with her???!!!,” well, now you have your answers. 

And on that note, to anyone who has possibly felt overwhelmed by me over the course of our time together, I am truly sorry. While it of course was/is never my intention to make anyone feel that way, your feelings are valid and I understand that I may have been a toxic person in others’ stories for these reasons, and I apologize. I promise that I am working on it and trying to be better at establishing healthier connections with those around me. (*I’m not assuming people think of me at all in any context, but if for some reason you have/do, and your thoughts have been similar to what I just described, I hope that this offers you some clarity and peace in knowing that I’m aware of the problem now and I’m doing my best to fix it). 

This epiphany has therefore caused me to reevaluate a lot of my relationships and reassess my boundaries with people, for everyone’s benefit, including- for the very first time- my own. 

But, as you may have guessed, it’s not a switch I can flick on or off whenever I want. It’s hard to distance myself. The guilt I feel for trying to prioritize myself over others is agonizing (I know that makes me sound like a self-martyring asshole, but I don’t know how else to explain it). It gets worse when people feel abandoned by me because of this new and unfamiliar emotional distance and lack of accessibility- because I know just how f*cking awful that sense of abandonment feels, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, let alone the people closest to me. 

To put it as simply as I can: my instinct is to put you first no matter what. If you needed a new heart I would rip mine out if I could without a thought or hesitation and give it to you. And that’s… really f*cking unhealthy. I know that. I’ve always known that, but I didn’t know how to control that impulse, or where it came from. That’s all changing now. I need to learn to take care of my heart, my body, my mind, and determine how to be a good friend/sister/daughter/co-worker/random citizen/overall individual without completely neglecting my own well-being. The way it used to be was you get ALL of me, while I get NONE of me. Right now, it’s flipped to you get none of me and I get all of me (it’s a first, so it’s been daunting). Throughout this self discovery process, I’m trying to figure out how to balance giving myself what I need, while still being able to be a genuine and valuable person in people’s lives.

One of the very few silver linings of this pandemic is that the metaphoric veil of my vices has been fully lifted, and I can no longer suppress or ignore them. As The Phantom would say, we’re “past the point of no return.” And mind you, these issues & traumas aren’t just from the heartbreak from last Fall- they’re from my whole life. So it’s going to take some time.

During this resurgence & recalibration, I will likely come out a bit different. I will probably not be as accessible as I always was, and I need you to know that it is not a result of me being in a state of turmoil or distress, it’s actually a result of me being at peace. I am an introvert, after all, my alone time is and always has been very precious to me- and that, I know for certain, is never going to change. I hope everyone will be able to understand and respect that without feeling abandoned, neglected, or offended.

This newfound understanding is also starting to make a lot of sense now as I realize the terrible irony of having the impossible expectation and desire to be understood by others, when I don’t even truly understand myself. And the strangest thing is, I’ve been aware of this for a while, I just never quite knew how to define it— and I’ve since learned that the majority of my struggle actually comes from not knowing the “solution” of how to achieve self-actualization & fulfillment, and coping with the constant cycle of exhaustion, frustration, and depletion that accompanies my attempts at determining where I “belong,” what I’m “meant” to do with my life, and who I’m “destined” to be with. The way my brain is wired, I feel pressured to know all the answers, and as I continue to experiment and explore to find them- and inevitably keep smashing into dead ends- it’s difficult to maintain a constant sense of “positivity” and “hope” while in an ongoing state of failure and diminishment. 

Therefore, in an effort to heal and better understand myself and this pain that keeps on taking new forms in different people– ex-lovers, old friends, immediate family members- I wanted to organize these sleepy thoughts in a creative way and share them. 

*This is a small collection of my insomniatic thoughts that would occur as a result of vivid dreams & nightmares over the course of this past year. They’re not perfect, but they’re honest, and they’re me. (Background images belong to Canva).

To anyone who has found their way to this, I want you to know that you are loved and appreciated, and you DESERVE to be loved and appreciated, even if you hardly have the energy to muster that love and appreciation for yourself. During this time of isolation and devastation especially, you are worthy of love and rest and rejuvenation, and I hope you can find a way to make peace with yourself, even when others may guilt you for setting your necessary boundaries and taking care of yourself first. You will always have you- you are your own constant- and I hope, if you’ve felt self-abandoned lately (or always)- that you can find a way back to yourself, and that you feel whole. 

I’m in the process of doing that myself, and it has not been easy, but I’m trying incredibly hard to find that peace, and create a safe space in my mind for me to breathe and feel all that I need to feel, so that I can properly heal without being penetrated or inhibited by emotional distractions, toxic thoughts, gaslighting, or judgement (both from myself and even those close to me). 

You are worth the effort- from others, and from yourself. And if you don’t believe that right now, I hope someday you do. 🥀🖤🌹

Xx,

K

*Inspirational Songs of Choice:

“Toxic” (from the score of Promising Young Woman)- Anthony Willis/ Britney Spears

“I’m Not Mad”- Halsey

“I’m Not A Vampire (Revamped)”- Falling In Reverse

“Davy Jones & Imperial March”- Samuel Kim

“Another Life: Motion Picture Collection”- Motionless In White ft. Kerli

“Already Gone” (from the score of Wonder Woman 1984)- Hans Zimmer

“killing boys”- Halsey

“Dragonstone” (from the score of Game of Thrones, Season 7)- Ramin Djawadi

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