Monday, October 17, 2011

After great pain comes great joy.

The past year and some change has brought many waves of emotions along my journey of transformation. I have dealt with all of the serious, underlying issues of my life like past relationships, sexual assault and sexual abuse, the death of a dear friend and soul mate, and hurtful voices of my past. Sitting here today, I feel emancipated from the fear, anger, bitterness, and harm I felt for years like it was slavery of my whole being, not just mind, but my body and my soul as well.

One thing I have been reflecting on lately is the experience of dealing with my near suicide attempt. I realize that some of my readers may need to re-read that statement, especially if they are family, but this is a very real situation in my life that I want to share. I have found that when we open ourselves up, it invokes the same in others, and even just through this blog, I've heard some amazing stories about healing and other stories about how the person is inspired to heal. That is what this blog is all about.

For about 10 years, I had what I called a "wrist phobia." If someone would touch the insides of my wrists, especially the main artery, I would literally freak out. It was uncomfortable. I didn't wear bracelets or anything around my wrists, including sleeves, because it was psychologically painful, and I didn't know why I felt this way until last November when I spoke out about my experience with suicide.

About 10 years ago, I was in a very hard place in my life, like most high school students, trying to figure out who I was, what my role in the world was, and what I meant to others. I was having a very hard time with my peers, my family, and my friends, so I figured I was the one who was the problem, right? It was the common denominator. So, one late night in December, I went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and held it at my left wrist. I felt the cold blade against my skin and I froze. I just stared at my situation, partially numb just by the sheer fact of what I was doing while also full of emotion- anger, resentment, fear, depression, pain.

I was focused on all of the negative voices that had invaded my mind and my heart, flooding me with sadness and despair, until images of my family began to overshadow every thought. Conversations with my dad popped up, including a recurring one. "What would you do without me, Dad?!" I would ask. "I don't know, but I hope I never have to find out," he would always retort. My mother's beautiful, gentle, encompassing embrace swept over me. My brothers' faces, laughter, and warmth filled my mind. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends all seemed to appear in that kitchen, making my body tingle with love and regret at what I was about to do. A resounding "No, Anslee" was all I could hear, think, or feel, so I put the knife down on the counter top and walked away. I cried myself to sleep that night all the while begging for forgiveness and thanking God for the incredible people who have raised me. I thanked God for love - and for Love.

Much like some other traumatic events from my past, I suppressed this experience for about 10 years. It manifested itself in my body as a reminder by my wrist phobia, nagging at me to come to terms with this event in my life, but I did not see the light until almost a year ago. The East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) was my moment to share my experience with suicide as a response to the teen bullying suicide epidemic that had been going on the months preceeding E.A.S.T. It was an emotional experience for me to create the art installation that I did, but through that process, I made some really incredible friends in some of my fellow artists part of the show and in some patrons who viewed my journey through art and responded emotionally to their pasts alongside me. E.A.S.T. 2010 was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. After expressing this event through art, my wrist phobia went away almost immediately.

Move to this past Wednesday when I was wrapping my hands for my boxing gloves the first time. Grace said, "You have to make sure you wrap your wrists to protect them, so we wrap that the most." I looked at her, watched her wrapping technique, and gave the world my gratitude that this experience is no longer hindered by my past. I want to wrap my wrists! I want them to be strong and protected and stabilized. I want them to be touched by the black cotton, then layered with the glove elastic, because this represents growth and change and strength, banishing any amount of darkness that may have lingered there. I'm excited to feel this part of my body that had been a psychological distress for me for almost 10 years of my life. Overcoming my past, represented by a mental block, was a joy for me a year ago, but it is a triumph for me today as my life is improving daily and with every boxing practice.

"After great pain comes great joy." This saying is very true, but it is even more true when you delve inside yourself, take where that pain is coming from by the hand, lead that experience and everything it has consumed out of your life, and set it free. This joy is everlasting because this experience is no longer a recurring obstacle along your path. That freedom is completely, absolutely, and wonderfully priceless.

Choosing to live was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but it was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best decision I have ever made. And that's an understatement. Thank you for reading.

If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide, please reach out. 1-800-SUICIDE is always available to someone who needs help.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mama said knock you OUT!

I had my first boxing class this morning! It was so amazing I wanted to cry. Here's how it went down.

For a while, I've been interested in boxing. My great uncle Dick was a boxer when he was younger (Stage name: Fighting Joe Young or something like that), and I've had a huge fascination with this whole idea since I heard that he would box secretly. Aunt Virginia didn't want him to box, but because he is a Connell (Family pride!), he did what he wanted to anyway. Gotta love a man who knows what he wants! So, this image of a boxer in my family has run pretty strong in my mind since I can remember.

Fast forward to this summer when I would watch Biggest Loser episodes on Hulu while I worked/cleaned/whatever. That show is a common theme in my life these days, so just get used to that reference. There were new trainers for season 11 and they started boxing and doing martial arts, capoeira, etc. It was pretty cool to me, so I asked Erin while she was training me if we could box since it was really an exciting idea, but they didn't have the equipment. After Erin and I ended our sessions, I really wanted to investigate this, so I looked online and found Austin Boxing Babes. It was clear to me what I needed to do, so I made plans to start my boxing adventure.

The pops gifted my brothers and myself some "Halloween money" this year (Dad, you rock SO hard!) and I knew exactly where that money was going. I set out to buy my boxing kit of gloves, hand wraps, and a mouth piece, and marched my prissy-looking self into a few stores looking for the best deal. It was pretty noticeable that most of the store attendants were thinking, "Who is this lady in a dress and heels buying boxing gear?" And, of course, I delighted in that moment. So, I got my red gloves, and I think my moment of empowerment was right when I realized that these gloves are going to take me on not only a physical journey, but an emotional journey, and I am more ready than I have ever been in my life for both of these. [Note: This same day, I also purchased a bike foot pump and a u-lock. I'm ready for that, too.]

5:30 am this morning, I woke up with excitement to get down to the boxing studio. I was a little intimidated simply because it looks so - I don't know - real? You don't know what to expect for things like this, I guess, but it was really cool. I got my paperwork filled out and proceeded to follow whatever the sweet instructor Grace told me to do.

Before we began, Grace gave me the low down: We don't wear shoes on the mat. YES! We bow before we get on the mat and before we leave the mat. DOUBLE YES! We do a specific motion before and after every practice. YES YES YES! All of it sounded really fun - and it was.

We started with jumping rope. I couldn't help but laugh the whole time because, to put it plainly, I SUCK at jumping rope. Erin used to laugh with me when we would attempt, so it made me laugh even more that I've been through this already. I didn't give up, though. I just kept laughing and screwing it up, repeating internally, "Patience. You are going to master this, girl!" I was glad when that drill was over.

We went through a few drills, and since I haven't been working out in a few weeks, it took me some time to get into it, but I stayed positive. That little Grace kicked my ass! It was amazing! We did all kinds of weight drills and cardio. It felt really good to sweat like that. Then, it was time to box. Oh yeah, I was ready. And I'm pretty sure I looked like a huge dorkface the whole time because I couldn't stop smiling, but I could care less. It was exciting for me! And I'm excited just talking about it!

Grace sort of taught me how to wrap my hands, which was the most interesting part to me. Before class, while I was filling out paperwork, the other 3 ladies were wrapping their hands. I couldn't help but watch a little bit because it seemed like such a beautiful ritual to me. They took their time in wrapping the black cotton around their wrists, through their fingers, and over their knuckles, as they were preserving their essential limbs and preparing themselves for their class. These women are strong. They each are the warrioress, wrapping their hands so diligently to engage in battle. So empowering! My blood was pumping through my veins faster and faster. I was ready.

Putting on the gloves was a little awkward, but like everything else, I kept it light and just laughed through it. You use your teeth to put on your gloves. That, right there, is another reason why I love it. Don't ask why. (Oral fixation, maybe?) Grace taught me the stance and some techniques and we did rotations. When I got to the punching bag part, I took a moment to be grateful as sweat was pouring from my body, with my heart rate lively. My smile was bigger than before, and I might have started tearing up. You know, just a little bit. It was one of the most amazing feelings, and I am so excited to have this experience, unlimitedly, for the next 3 months.

The hour went by quickly and I met one of my fellow boxing babes before we left. She had been out for 4 months, but one would never know that from her practice. These women are inspirations to me, and I cannot wait to continue this process and see my strength majorly increase, both internally and externally.