All weekend I've been thinking about this, and I think I've figured something out: I've been in hiding.
For so many reasons, all self-protection. Fear of being judged and misunderstood, that when people see the real me, they won't like what they see. Especially when I talk openly about being sick. Fear of feeling overwhelmed by inane comments - well meaning but frustrating misunderstandings, judgement, "advice" about my health. Not being willing or able to respond to all of those without it degrading my own wellbeing and yet feeling obligated. Fear of further complicating difficult family issues.
And yet... by hiding myself I am, ironically enough, more misunderstood because I'm only expressing myself to a select few. I'm more isolated, and also keeping so many potential friends and allies at arms length. I've been letting fear rule because I had people I trusted judge and abandon me. Because I've felt so misunderstood so often. Because my entire life I've been an outsider, and have been bullied far more than I ever deserved.
You guys, I'm tired of hiding - and of limiting my self expression. I'm tired of letting obligation, and fear of so many things and people, keep me from reaching out and connecting with kindred spirits, and from being my full self publicly.
I finally love myself and like myself enough to know the bad things that happened were not deserved - that who I am and what I go through is not bad. Not wrong. Not my fault. And that the people who think otherwise - they're not right about me. I've internalised it all for so long and let them make me feel like a horrible, broken person, but I know deep down that I'm not. That while I was raised never to feel good about who I am or what I do, I can feel good about myself just as I am.
I'm okay now. And I can continue to be okay while knowing not everyone will like me or love me, and that I cannot please everyone while still being good to myself. Those who care will care, those who won't, won't. And that's okay. I need to start living my life for me again, not constantly in response to others who don't even like me or are no longer in my life. How else am I supposed to grow and thrive? It's time.