My #BeReal guest today is Jennifer Hildenbrand.
Being real is so many different things. It is about who you are in every phase of life. Who you choose to be each moment. We are all real even when we are pretending to be someone else because pretending is a choice we make.
Much of Jennifer’s real mirrors my own and maybe you will see pieces of yourself here too.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing your real with us.
It is actually a bit weird for me to write about “being real”. I spent most all of my life being very much the opposite.
In social situations I was a bit of a chameleon. For awhile I did dress how I liked to and ignored any ridicule that came my way because of it but then I found myself blending into the first crowd that accepted me. I pretended to like music I really kind of hated. When I became a mother and then wife I tried to dress the part a bit more because I feared the stigma of being “goth” on top of being poor white trash. Slowly I let the black back in and started to feel a bit more comfortable in public. It may sound very strange but when I tried to wear colors I felt much more exposed, I felt like a clown walking in a crowd of uniforms. It actually caused a lot of anxiety for me. Bear in mind, I was “goth” before I even knew it existed or what it was. My appearance slowly evolved into it due to random events. I started wearing black because my mother said it was slimming. I dyed my hair black because I loved how it looked on Cher in the movie ‘Mermaids’, I found myself for all intents and purposes allergic to the sun *it gets worse every year* and then I discovered The Cure quite by accident and thus I became goth and still had no clue really. I didn’t know about any of the music or culture. I just wore black and loved The Cure. Eventually I stopped responding to the accusation with the same reply of, “I don’t like labels, they’re sticky” and just accepted it.
I was also very guilty of being a serious doormat, a people pleaser. I did whatever I felt would keep the peace, make others happy and avoid any form of conflict. I also spent every waking moment since I was 12 years old worrying about being thin. Starving myself and hiding myself. I was actually never more than maybe 140 until I became pregnant with my daughter when I was 17. I was 180 the day I had her, I stayed at that weight for about 5 years because of the birth control I used. Once I stopped that, I started three diets, two were diet pills and then all I had for nutrition were slim fast shakes. I did all of this at the same time and dropped 40 lbs in about a month, I kept that weight off for several years. Then met my now husband and my weight went up then yo-yoed for years. *He is a fabulous cook and doesn’t like to eat alone* Around 2011 I was put on a medication for my mental illness that caused me to be sick when I ate then unable to eat hardly at all. I was drinking Ensure because the medication required I eat with it and I was losing weight fast. I knew it was the medication but I cared more about being thin that I stayed on it until a doctor finally diagnosed me officially as having Bipolar and switched my medication. As hard as I tried the weight slowly came back.
So I spent all of my life not knowing who I actually was. I rarely had opinions about most things. I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God or not. I kept blending in depending on the situation. When my husband was taking me to hang out while he was a DJ for an internet radio program I pretended to know music I had barely heard and even attempted to DJ myself. I wasn’t awful at it and I enjoyed it but it was a struggle because we could only play music from independent labels. Then when the retro pin up look became more main stream again I started wearing cute dresses and developed a love of shoes. Previously I had only ever liked one pair of black strappy velvet heels that I danced in often at Goth night until I danced the heel off of one. I’m a boots girl. Even at goth night, where I fell for my cureboy, the man I eventually married, I felt a bit false because I didn’t know most of the bands that played but oh how I loved the dancing. Those were the very best years of my life.
At some point in the last few years something changed. I started really searching for myself. I wanted to find that girl who danced shamelessly for hours at Goth night and wrote poetry and walked in the rain at every possible opportunity.
I am finally feeling “real” and feeling a sense of having my own identity. I am still learning and I have to work very hard to stop and be honest in many situations. I stopped being ashamed of my many flavors of crazy, though I am and always will have feelings of uselessness because of being unable to work and being on disability. I stand up for myself more and try very hard to be as honest as I can, especially if I can find a way to do it with kindness. That is a very big deal to me. I am disgusted by hatred or meanness of any kind. There is no reason for it. I try not to make excuses for my mistakes, rather I admit to them and apologize and make a serious effort to correct it. If I am wrongly accused I speak up instead of apologizing for something I never did.
The most recent change I am working on is my struggle with my body dysmorphia. What that is in a nutshell is seeing my body as something ugly and far more overweight than I actually am. It takes many forms but my weight is my weakness. I am trying very hard to avoid dieting and start living. I still do yoga and try to eat healthy but I gave up on my ‘skinny’ clothes and I am building a wardrobe that is comfortable for the size I am. I am also figuring out what my own personal style really is and letting it show. I still love my retro dresses, petticoats, corsets and heels but I also love my skulls, black nail polish, lipstick, and ripped up, distressed sweaters and pants and hardcore boots and leather jacket. These things are helping but it is still really hard. I should even confess that I very occasionally visit my husband’s ex girlfriends FB page to give myself a bit of a boost to keep at it. As I said, I don’t like to be mean but she is very unfortunate looking. I don’t care how shallow that sounds. I don’t comment or anything, I avoid her when I see her in public but seeing her does make me realize I am not as hideous as I often feel. Wow. I can’t believe I am letting that confession exist publicly but this is about being real and being real to me is being honest and true to who we are and who we want to be.
As for the question of what people might be surprised to know about me, I would have to say that because of my many fears and anxieties, people might be surprised to know that I have no fear whatsoever when it comes to scary weather. *unless I am driving in it* When the sirens blare I don’t run for shelter, I rush to the window or the patio. I have to force myself to stay inside. I only stopped going out during thunderstorms because my husband says it is unsafe and I suppose that is true but thunder and lightning don’t scare me one bit. I live for these things in a way. I hate that nature can be so deadly and always hope for all to be safe and sound when it ends. When it happens though…I feel so very fascinated and alive.
I am a 38 year old handicapped with a natural immaturity. I’m quite fine with that, I tend to have more fun. I am married to my Cureboy, he spoils me and takes care of me like no one ever has in my entire life. I have a stellar 20 year old daughter who makes me more and more proud every day and I love spending time with her. She tells me pretty much everything and we have the kind of relationship I always hoped for.
I live in a small town just outside of Lansing, Michigan where my husband grew up. We bought a house here a couple years ago and have filled it with several rescues from the humane society. We have 2 dogs, 3 cats and 2 dragons. I call myself a Domestic Goddess. I take care of the animals, the cleaning and the phone calls that need to be made, I try to be a good wife.
I dabble in photography and I am currently trying my hand at sketching. I do have a lot of health problems in addition to my many flavors of crazy but I keep doing my best to enjoy this life I was guilty of taking for granted for so very long.