Who I Am: American Scar Stories and How I’m Learning My Worth

It is less-than-common knowledge that I spent most of my life striving to accomplish a very singular goal: To be a performer.

I didn’t want to be a writer until GOD asked me to. I’ve always had a lean towards the verbal and I’m sure it is not disappointing to any of my English teachers that I’ve grown up to do what I do. But still, lingering at the back of my mind is the glow of what could-have-been if I’d chosen to become an actor.

I love the stage. It is where I made my home for 5 years of school. It taught me to be confident, to be myself, and to be great at what I chose to do.

The longer my high school career drug on, and as the theater department began to crumble, the clearer it became that I needed to make a decision. My junior year I looked into what it would take to transfer to a performing arts school in Washington D.C., but with less-than-supportive parents, it was just a pipe dream. I wanted to go to school for theater, but I had no money and the more actors I met, the less I wanted to be around them.

Senior year came and “What are you going to do?” was hissing it’s taunt from the corners of every mouth that spoke to me. The more I prayed, the louder the answer rang.

You’re going to stay. Here. Right here. And wait.

So I did. I waited and waited. I worked and failed. I went to class after class, getting nowhere towards a degree. The years were slow. I got slower, more tired; soon I could barely get out of bed. The years’ pace came to an agonizing crawl. I met Doug. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD. I married Doug. I moved to Oklahoma. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified). We opened the bookstore. Time stood still.
I saw friends graduate college. I saw friends get Masters degrees. I saw friends get published in magazines. I saw people all around me find footing, have children, travel abroad, even win awards.
A sinking feeling kept holding down my joy. It still does at times. All I could see was what other people were doing with their lives and how I was doing nothing I had set out to do. Even now, I easily forget how much I have to show for the last 5 years.

All of those feelings were revisited as I read the stories surrounding mine in, American Scar Stories. I’m not a pageant queen. I haven’t suffered through cancer. Not many people even know my name. I don’t have a non-profit surrounding a cause. I like to think that I bring awareness to this disorder, especially when trauma-related disorders are so misunderstood, but I have so little to show in any direction that I was swamped again by feelings of worthlessness. Akin to I’m sure, what Van Gogh must have felt when he penned these words to his brother,
Oh if I could have worked without this accursed malady, what things I should have done…” – Vincent Van Gogh

I own a bookstore, it is one of Doug’s highest aspirations and here it is. And here I am, quite literally sitting inside someone else’s dream.
I have written and self-published a book of poetry, the next to be published this month. I’m a recorded musician. I’ve been a National Park Service Ranger. I have performed on the Kennedy Center stage. I found and married arguably one of the most amazing men on planet Earth. But GOD asks me to write. Not stories. But about myself; about what it’s like to have an invisible illness. So I write and I write and I write. Does anyone read? I’m sure a few.

But if I wrote for readers I would have quit a long time ago.
I keep writing, even when I don’t want to, because it’s what GOD has asked me to do. He hasn’t asked me to run a marathon, make a clothing line, or be the next Miss America.
He’s asked me to do very few glamorous things. Soon I’ll be going to the hospital. Because GOD has asked me to walk out this healing no matter the cost. My life isn’t pretty or romantic. I know people tell me that I’m their hero and that I inspire them, but I don’t have a life to envy.
But I keep doing it. Because I don’t have a choice? Sure. But if I fought it’d be worse.
So I’ll keep writing. Just in case someone is reading, but mostly because GOD has told me to.
Changing the world is a slow gig. Changing yourself is even slower.

Get American Scar Stories here

Get Cathy’s book here

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