When I was eleven years old, I went to this Catholic weekend retreat for kids. I'm actually guessing I was eleven, because I remember playing the drums to "Zombie" by The Cranberries on stage, and I just looked up when that song was released. It was definitely a feeling of that time in middle school, when I was taking drum lessons and wearing baby tees with ridiculously huge jeans.

On the last day of the retreat, our parents came for the service. And I faked speaking in tongues. Well, now I know that, while it was happening, I did not know that. I was on stage, with my eyes closed, babbling nonsense at full commitment, as the priest held the microphone in front of my face, raving about how incredible I was. The Holy Spirit was speaking through me!

When I flash back to that moment, I just remember wondering what the big deal was. You want me to make a bunch of stupid sounds? I can make a bunch of stupid sounds. (God, I wish I could make the sounds for you right now, because I remember them, and boy are they good.) I made the stupid sounds, and wasn't expecting such a huge reaction. I remember keeping my eyes closed because I couldn't possibly face the huge audience in front of me, I just had to keep making these stupid sounds.

I was so relieved when it was over. And I swear--to this day--I had never seen my parents so proud of me. I sadly have no other memory of the both of them, together, smiling, and so happy. About me. Everyone was going up to them and gushing, in awe of their daughter.

To this day, this story makes me laugh so much to envision it. I just think back to little eleven-year-old me, just giving everyone what they wanted.

And I think of this story now, because I recently have shifted into this place where I no longer want to give everyone what they want. I have struggled for a long time with trying to be what I think people want me to be, wanting to be liked, wanting to fit in, feeling obligated to do things I don't want to, wanting to help everyone who needs my help, wanting to do the right thing. This especially started to happen after my several rock bottoms and subsequent recoveries; my whole mission became to help people, if I could just help everyone, the awful past that I was ashamed of would be worth it.

It's funny how you learn about being of service, but nobody talks much about the importance of boundaries. My biggest lesson in the past few years has been boundaries. Boundaries are hard, because most people who are unaware of healthy boundaries, will assume you are "selfish." How dare someone be selfish! How dare someone take care of themselves! You must suffer through life like the rest of us! (Why are we taught all the wrong things?)

Boundaries were really challenging for someone like me, it's hard to learn boundaries when you weren't raised with any. When we think of boundaries on a surface level, there are the obvious ones, like disengaging from harmful relationships or situations, but the truth is that boundaries are so much more than just the obvious. It's taking full responsibility for your energy and becoming fully aware and mindful of what you're doing with it and where you are putting it. It's saying no not only to the obvious and harmful, but saying no to even really kind people or really cool things. It's letting go of energetically assaulting people by dumping on them. It's shutting down someone who is dumping on you. It's stopping the habit of oversharing (this was me, truly a huge sign of so much unhealed trauma, LOL because it's still cringey and embarrassing). It's experiencing true intimacy by building actual relationships in a healthy way, and not giving that intimacy to people who haven't earned it. (When my therapist told me about "unearned intimacy" it blew my mind and I realized so many relationships that I thought were friendships were definitely not.) It’s respecting people’s time, respecting your own time. Staying out of other people’s business. Boundaries are even letting go of labeling yourself an "empath" and learning how to not take other people on--yep, that shit is just bad boundaries. You can literally focus on your own healing and learn how to manage that shit and use your sensitivity for only good.

And so much is the practice of boundaries with your self. It's not only setting the boundaries but following through. Because if you aren't respecting your own boundaries, why should others? It's choosing yourself first and doing what you need for yourself in order to be able to show up as your best self. It's listening to your body and no longer abandoning your own needs. Because another thing that's pretty messed up about boundaries is that you can't teach other people how to have them. You can only show others what your own boundaries are by sticking to them. (Trust me, I've learned this the hard way.)

For me, it was letting go of people-pleasing and then being okay with the consequences of that--disappointing people, what other people will think--just the worst things to think of as someone who was raised to be codependent. So nowadays, I am intentionally trying to be less available. Trying to give people less access. I am finally understanding now, as a 38-year-old, that I actually don't owe everyone anything. That I actually don't have to do anything that I don't want to do. I am a highly sensitive introvert. I recharge and replenish in solitude. I have to take care of myself or I become resentful and terrible. I'm doing this for all of us!!!!

It continues to be challenging, but what helps me follow through is to remember that I am simply being authentic. I am practicing integrity. I am doing what I need to do to be the most mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy, in order to... wait for it... BE OF SERVICE.

We only start with so much energy a day... what are you doing with yours? I'm not letting mine leak into anything I'm not completely in love with anymore. I will not be making stupid sounds to get you to like me. Sorry Mom and Dad.

Yup, imagine her speaking in tongues.

I had to go to the dentist to get my front tooth fixed the other day. I chipped it. Well, I actually chipped it a really long time ago, and have gotten it fixed a few times over the years. It had been awhile since it chipped again. I was due. Normal chipped tooth stuff.

(I was just about to describe how I chipped it, and I decided to search my old Xanga posts - which are archived on Wordpress - for "chipped tooth" and found this post from June 5th, 2008, recalling the experience:)

the last time i fainted was in the summer of 2003 in New York City. i was in a club, probably dehydrated, and i fainted not once not twice but four times - first in the middle of the dance floor, then at the wall after throwing up, then in the bathroom stall as i was undoing my pants, then again as i was about to wash my hands at the sink. i ended up with a chipped tooth and busted lip. and now, here i am in Salt Lake City, Utah. and i fainted at the Erykah Badu concert.

I am laughing and cringing. The all lower case! The double spaces after the periods! No one needs to see how they wrote 14 years ago. It isn't far away enough, like when you read something from when you were five and it was adorable.

But then I kept looking and found my post from June 22nd, 2003. The cringe, indeed, gets much worse:

Last night, I met up with some old friends that I used to party, or I guess you can say '"rave'" with two years ago.  We smoked a lot of blunts...a lot, of this stuff called Sour Diesel.  I had a couple of beers, but other than that, I felt completely sober...not even really high.  Nothing can beat Cali weed. We headed out to Club Arc by about midnight.  Party ran 'till 8 in the morning. I really liked the club...excellent sound system, good music, nice small room for intimacy...they didn't serve alcohol, so you know everyone there was fucked up on drugs.  Not even long into my time being there, I was standing, kinda dancing, listening to the music, when all of a sudden, I got really dizzy.  Then, my vision started to slowly fade away.  I kinda put my hands on my knees, and then, next thing I know, I'm sprawled out in the middle of the dance floor.  I'm completely blacked out, but I think I remember actually being conscious, so, like, I knew that I was passed out on the floor.  I finally came to, 'cause people were trying to get me to wake up.  They moved me to a big block thing to go lay on. Then I threw up. Then I fainted again, on that big block. Two of the girls I was with came to me.  I told them I needed water.  Keep in mind that I had no idea what the fuck was going on with me...because this was really random.  It's not like I dropped or anything.  I was feeling completely fine. I told them that I wanted to go to the bathroom.  They had to walk me, 'cause even though my eyes were open, I couldn't see anything, everything was black.  Really scary feeling. We got to the bathroom, and next thing I know, I'm on the bathroom floor with them trying to wake me up! I spit out something from my mouth - I fell on my face so I chipped my front right tooth.  I also had a pretty busted lip.  I drank more water... I got into the stall, and the last thing I remembered was starting to undo my pants...but next thing I see, they're trying to wake me up again! I fainted in the stall. They said that they heard a big sound, and saw my legs coming from under the stall door.  My friend Linda got me another bottle of water.  I started to feel better as I chugged the entire thing.  We sat there in the bathroom for awhile until I felt a little better.  Then we went back on the dance floor. Of course I wasn't feeling too hot and I was still kind of in shock of what the fuck just happened to me, so I sat down.  I wanted to go home, but there was no way I could, since all my stuff was still back at the apartment we were at.  And it's not like anyone was gonna leave. So I sat there - for maybe five hours straight.  I tried to sleep for awhile, but security came up to me shining a flashlight in my face and told me to stay awake.  I almost wanted to say to him, "I'm not on fuckin' drugs, you moron, I'm just tired!"  So, I sat there, talking to whoever ended up next to me every now and then, staring at the lights, watching people be fucked up, and of course taking in the beautiful music. I think I might have been dehydrated.  This kind of thing (but definitely not as major) happened at Raging Waters when I was in middle school.  I got the same initial feeling, but went to First Aid and they gave me some Gatorade and I was alright.  It was really hot in the club, and I think I remembered being really thirsty but not thinking anything of it.  Plus, when I ate a big stoner dinner, I didn't have anything to drink with it.  So maybe that's a possibility? We left at about 7.  They went to an afterparty in Brooklyn.  Hell yeah I wanted to go home! I'm gonna try and get the tooth fixed when I go to Arizona this week, 'cause I'm sure it'll be cheaper than it would be here.  Great, I get to see Don with a chipped tooth and a fucked up lip.  I guess it could've been worse, I mean, good thing security didn't see.  I would have gotten in big trouble!  Plus they probably would've took me out in a stretcher and I would be the symbol of those anti-rave commercials.  What kills me is that I wasn't even on E.  Ha.  What the fuck happened?!?!

"This stuff called Sour Diesel". My snobbery on Cali weed. "Excellent sound system." Things being "random." "And of course the beautiful music." Swearing and probably thinking I was so cool, because I was 19 years old. Oversharing every detail. Referring to yet another time of fainting and not having learned the lesson. And my raver boyfriend who lived in Arizona, my raver boyfriend that I met at a rave in San Francisco, who isn't even alive anymore.

It's such a trip to look back at POV's from your past. It always reminds me that the things I am thinking and saying and doing and writing right now... will eventually make me cringe in the future. Humbling!

It's also interesting to look back on how we tell stories, and how they change. How they edit themselves as they get further away. If I were to describe this night to you now, I would have told you that I was a child that had no idea how to take care of herself. I would tell you that I was definitely on drugs, because even though I wasn't on ecstasy, I had smoked a lot of weed. I would tell you that I was prone to fainting and it was a recipe for failure because it was hot and enclosed, and I hadn't been drinking water. And I would tell you that it took me until my 30s until I learned how to take care of myself, because now I very rarely get high, if I did it wouldn't be in public, I eat well and drink a lot of water, and I leave when I want to. Could you believe I was in my 20s at the Erykah Badu concert and that shit was still happening?

Because you just don't know... until you know. Which always makes me wonder-- what don't I know now? And how embarrassing is it?

You know, this blog didn't end up at all like I had originally planned. I was going to write about how when we are reminded of things from our past, they're opportunities to acknowledge how far we've come. How I can have a flashback of something I had completely forgotten, hear an old song, remember an old relationship, or smell a specific scent and time travel to whoever I was at the time, not knowing what I do now, wishing for all these things that eventually came true. How the cool job I have now is close to the building where my old group therapy was, where I once went to every single week when I was in some of the most painful and hopeless times of my life, and I get to drive by it, and remember. How life is funny and fun and weird and messed up and miraculous. But then I got distracted by old Xanga posts.

Can't wait 'til this post embarrasses me one day. (I still listen to EDM.)

Understandably did not have a photo from Club Arc, but here is one from Limelight in 2001, where I cropped out the glowstickers from West Point I had just met.

TW: self-harm, suicide

This video appeared on my Instagram feed this morning. I don't even follow the account, it was one of those videos that just show up, based on what you like, and I guess they were right.

I watched it, and immediately started crying. Hard. Guttural sobbing.

I compare these types of cries to an exorcism. Because something old and deep and murky is literally being released out of your body. Energy is being moved. It usually takes a trigger, and a lot of the times the trigger is completely unexpected.

I started telling myself I was ugly at a very young age. Probably around the same age as this child. For most of my life, it was the core of my depression, anxiety, obsession, and self-hatred. In middle school I started cutting myself. I hurt myself until my 20s. In college, I was suicidal. I tried everything to look different--starving myself, obsessively exercising, constantly cutting and dying my hair, wearing too much makeup, dressing provocatively--but of course, nothing changed the way I felt about myself. I was completely obsessed, and would spend late nights comparing myself to models and celebrities online. I had a boyfriend and I was nearly impossible to be with, always insecure, unable to go to parties and social events without freaking out, getting too drunk and crying about how ugly I am and how he should leave me. There was even one night I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill myself.

At some point, I tried to get help. I went to the counselor on campus. They told me my case was serious and I needed to see a professional off campus. I started seeing this man who put me on anti-depressants.

It wasn't until my 30s when I really started to take my life seriously and turn my life around. Of course, if anyone reading this has heard any version of my life story, I had a lot of issues I needed to deal with, a lot of actions that needed to be taken, a lot of work to be done, and a lot of teachers and helpers and support that showed up in my life.

But very recently I've been realizing that since I had so much crazy and insane shit going on in what were the multiple bottoms of my life, I had forgotten how it all started, that it had started with... I so ugly.

And of course, through the years and years of therapy (I still go bi-weekly), support groups, mentors, and woo-woo spiritual work, I got to see where the I so ugly story came from.

Of course I believed I was ugly. From an early age, my mom was always finding ways to make me look different. She'd make me get out of the sun so I wouldn't get too dark. She tried to massage my nose to be thinner when I was a baby. She permed my hair for my entire childhood. She constantly pointed out when people were pretty, or ugly, or fat. If a Filipino person was mixed with white, they were superior. (There's an entire conversation I could have here about colonialism and colorism in Filipino culture, but I won't go there right now.)

And not to mention, my father was obsessed with the sexualization of women. The garage of my childhood home was collaged with photos of centerfolds and swimsuit models. There were Playboys and Penthouses all over the house. There were framed photos of centerfolds in the bathrooms and in the closets. I would watch him rent porn at the video store. He always checked out women in front of my mom and I, it was like a tick. He'd point out women on the TV. He'd say when someone had big breasts or a nice ass. He'd say when someone was ugly. He once came home and told me about the strip club. I was so little. Don't ask me where my mom was in all of this. Every time someone asks me that, I don't know what to say.

Of course I believed I was ugly. My dad was obsessed with these women. These white women. I registered--at an early age, that time when your baby brain is soft and absorbant and taking on everything that you feed it--that that's what men wanted. That is what attractive looks like. And I looked nothing like them. Of course I believed I was ugly.

Throw in the fact that I grew up never seeing anyone who looks like me on TV, in movies, on cartoons, or in magazines, or the fact that I wanted so badly to be an actress, a star, but there was no proof that I could be that, and yeah--of course.

OK, I'm not trying to play a victim here. I'm not even trying to self-loathe. I've spent thousands of dollars on therapy to be able to say I forgive everyone, it's not my fault, it's not anyone's fault, everyone was doing their best with what they had, it's ancestral cycles and trauma, I get to break the cycle, blah blah blah blah blah.

But I guess it was just surprising to remember, so deeply, so viscerally, such an old wound. It's easy to forget how far I've come. It's easy to forget why I am the way I am sometimes. And when I so often feel like I'm not good enough, and I try to cheerlead my way back into believing in myself, now I can remember who I'm really talking to. It's the child in the video. It's me as a little girl. And I love her. I'm sorry it's so hard sometimes, kiddo.