The Art of Mirriam Neal

//building up and tearing down

My insomnia is back. It comes and goes – once a year or so. That’s how long it takes for me to internalize the stress that doesn’t affect me on the surface. I like to think I handle stress well, but then insomnia rears its ugly head again and I realize I don’t actually handle it at all – I shove it all in an emotional closet somewhere until one day I open the door and everything comes tumbling out.

It’s not as though one huge thing happens and shoves me overboard – sometimes it’s that one tiny thought I tuck away, or that one thing someone says to me, or that one extra thing add to my To Do list, that provides the straw to break the camel’s back. This time around, I’ve realized the last straw was an approaching anniversary. A few weeks from now will mark a year since my heart was broken, my ability to trust was shattered, and my mindset drastically altered. This might sound very dramatic from the outside, but it was no small thing for me. It was the worst month of my life, marking the most intense year I’ve ever had.

It was a year of change and growth, a year I discovered more about who I am than ever before, and a year where I gained the most beautiful, incredible, true friends I’ve ever had. It taught me to be a much, much better person than I was before…

But it started by breaking down into small pieces, and the pieces rearranged themselves in a different order. The majority of the pieces fit back in better shapes, but some of those pieces were chipped and painful, and they didn’t fit.

My newfound anxiety – re-thinking everything I said, wondering if I could have said it differently or better, wondering if everyone who spoke to me was secretly saying one thing and thinking another, or maybe spreading things about me behind my back – didn’t fit.

My newfound inability to fully trust anyone – my belief that everyone was out to get me even though I knew that was ridiculous – didn’t fit.

But I think the biggest, most jagged piece was something that I didn’t actually realize until last night, when Arielle said something that gave me a ‘lightbulb moment.’ She knew what particular anniversary was approaching, and she asked if it had something to do with my insomnia. I told her I was certain it did, and she proceeded to tell me exactly what I hadn’t known I needed to hear.

I realized that it wasn’t my view of others that had changed so much as my view of self. When I wasn’t looking, I developed the belief that if someone wanted to treat me badly, that was fine, and I probably deserved it. That something about me brought out the worst in people, and that somewhere along the way, everything I wanted to be had turned inside out. Whether people confirmed this subconscious belief or not didn’t matter. They could pay me a genuine compliment and it would make my day – but it wouldn’t sink past my skin, because – well. I might love someone, but that doesn’t mean I trust them. I viewed every kindness with an unknowingly cynical bent, because I had stopped trusting that most people meant anything they said. I never stopped being honest with what I told people, but I had stopped extending them the courtesy of trust.

I didn’t realize the structure of the wall I’d built until last night. It’s a wall I’ve let very few people scale since last year. And I suppose the thing about seeing the walls you’ve built is that, once you know where they are, you can start the deliberate process of tearing them down. And sometimes, if you’re as lucky as I am, when you start, you realize some people have already been there, working on the deconstruction ahead of you.

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