Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sick of it.

I should probably proceed this post by saying that I'm doing pretty well overall, for anyone who is concerned. I haven't had a dark day for a while and I'm amazed looking back at all I've accomplished and how far I've come in terms of emotional healing this year. I really am in a good place, especially when I consider where I was a year ago (lying in bed a lot, nothing to do, considering going back to school but only taking one or two classes; withdrawing from medication, feeling awful physically and pretty cranky too.) I am so thankful for that. I overheard my dad say that he doubts whether mental illness really can be treated and even though I've felt a similar way sometimes, I think that there is hope for getting better.

However, some old ghosts have come back to haunt me tonight. I texted a few different people today just to check in on how they were doing and received replies from none of them. Lately I've been pretty okay with not having many friends and I've done a lot of work this semester to get over the people who ditched and/or hurt me in the past, but that kind of made me feel hurt, angry, and lonely again. I'm sure people are just busy hanging out with their families, but part of me still worries that they just aren't interested in me any more or even that they hate me. Overall, I know that I'm not high on most people's priority list, and I guess this confirmed that, which hurts.

I mean, even some of the people I do keep in contact with, the relationship feels a bit lopsided. This one friend writes me when he's struggling or sends me the movies he makes, etc. and I always try to watch them, encourage him, listen, empathize, etc. But recently I realized that even though he sometimes initiates conversation, which is more than some of my "friends," he rarely supports my creative projects and I don't recall him doing much to support me when I was down. In fact, sometimes he tossed my concerns aside or even put pressure on me to do things I wasn't comfortable with to change my situation instead of just listening to my hurts. He rarely likes my posts on social media or watches or reads things I create. Why do I invest so much time and worry into his well-being and life endeavors? I guess because I care and I hate to think of people hurting and being ignored the way I felt I was.

I also went down the bad, dark path of Facebook stalking the guy I had a big crush on during my junior year (who broke my heart...if someone can do that without knowing it...)

First, I felt disgusted and smug..."He's not really that attractive. I look better than I used to. He's not as talented as me."

Then I felt a touch of sadness. "Maybe he is hurting after his breakup with his girlfriend. Maybe I should try contacting him again. Oh, wait. He probably noticed that I unliked and unfollowed him on everything....It would be weird to contact him out of the blue. Plus, it's not worth opening your heart to that."

But then there was the one picture where even I had to admit that his forearms looked a little sexy and I started to second guess that...

Then I noticed one of my friends who knows he broke my little heart had liked the photo.

Then I remembered how she defended him and said he was a good guy after he shattered me.

Then I just wished I had someone to call and cry to about him but realized that I had already way over-talked to everyone I knew about him and nobody wanted to hear me, a year and a half after I had last spoken to this man I had never even dated whimpering once again about how lame he is when everyone knows he's a hella lot cooler than I will ever be (on a certain worldly level. But I'm beginning to wonder if that level is all people really care about.)

Then there's my general frustration in recent months with how men - even nice, average, kind-hearted guys (who are what I like) - tend to go for beautiful women over women who, I don't know, are nice or funny or smart or creative or all of the above. Then the woman can be a jerk or snob or have no personality or be possessive or boss him around and he will just take it because she's so beautiful. And average-looking girls like yours truly with loyalty, brains, depth, etc. end up forty year-old virgins. But I guess I would rather be single than be with someone who can't appreciate me. But I don't think I'll end up with even a person who can't appreciate me because why would a person who didn't appreciate me in the first place even date me.

Anyways, life isn't bad. But I wanted to get those rants off my chest because I feel like they bottle up inside me and I have nowhere to express them and songwriting and recording the song takes too long (and then goes ignored) so it can be hard to get something expressed that way.

It's not easy, but let's reach out to the lonely and love one another. It's a harsh world out there and we need to know someone's on our side.

Friday, December 23, 2016

It's okay to be you the way you are.

I finally finished the semester last week, which was a huge relief. It's hard to believe it's over, especially hard to believe that I finished my research papers. It's interesting how much less burdened I feel now that classes are over; I can sleep better and I don't feel like the world is in danger of caving in or a deadline is looming over me. Yet I still feel a constant niggling in the back of my mind as I binge watch Season 1 of The Bachelorette (...and The Bachelor...and The Crown...and twenty Hallmark Christmas movies...) that I ought to be doing something purposeful now that I have time off. But I also don't want to burn myself out by putting pressure on myself all break and forcing myself to work on all my creative projects I don't get to work on during school.

Today though, I found myself cleaning my room which then led to scrapbooking some loose momentos I had saved and eventually I actually found myself sketching and brainstorming for a creative project. I didn't force myself to do any of those things; they all just felt right in the moment, so I followed the creative flow and enjoyed it. I guess it's a reminder to let things happen naturally. I find myself putting pressure on myself in so many areas of my life, sometimes without even realizing it. In the back of my mind, I have a program running, asking one question after another, chasing its tail, circling.

What career should I pursue? Am I on the right path? How do I even pursue any career? Am I really using my talents enough? Should I pursue a more creative career? How would I even do that? Should I really go to grad school? But if I didn't, wouldn't I always feel a void? But if I did and later changed careers, wouldn't I have wasted my own (and others') time and money and taken the opportunity from someone who really wanted it? Will I ever find someone who I'm compatible with? Will I ever have the opportunity and courage to get to know a guy? Am I even attractive to guys? Am I too closed off? What if I date someone and get my heart broken? What if I date someone and they just want to have fun, they aren't interested in a serious relationship, and I get my heart broken? Or they find out I tend to be more marriage-focused and get freaked out? What if all men are immature? Etc., etc., etc....

Encouragement courtesy of "The Latest Kate"

Even though my anxiety isn't overwhelming, dominating my thoughts the way it used to, it still is operating in the background of my mind in many ways. Wondering if I'm making the right decision in something as small as choosing what to order for lunch or something as big as what career field to work in. Worrying whether I said the wrong thing or came across the wrong way in a conversation. Debating whether I offended the friend(s) who didn't reply to a message I sent. Wondering whether I should put the effort in to keep up or reignite friendships that have stalled or that I purposefully ended. Worrying whether I'm taking too many classes in the spring semester. Debating about whether I screwed up in this way or that way, trying to nitpick the ways I might have failed today, yesterday, two months ago. Going over conversations from weeks, even months, ago in my head and kicking myself.

I spend so much time regretting, second guessing, obsessing, questioning. I like the times where I just get to be unashamedly me. Where I revel in the moment. Go with the flow. With mental health treatment, it's easy to get to a place where you're just pressuring yourself to improve and berating yourself for messing up or not making enough progress. But the standards of progress are pretty arbitrary. Beating yourself up turns into another impediment to your progress. You become your own worst critic, worst enemy, feeding all the lies and inner darkness that have been pulling you down all this time.

From The Latest Kate
For a good month and a half or more of this last semester, I put a ton of pressure on myself to make more friends, talk to people, make conversation with guys I was interested in. I didn't do much of any of that. It was too uncomfortable. And honestly, I'm kind of glad I didn't force things. It would have been awkward and weird. (And sometimes there's a benefit to waiting around and observing a guy for a while before you try and make a move on him...He seems great until one day he says something in class that makes you think, "Gosh, I'm glad I didn't get involved and emotionally wrapped up in him...But that's a side note.) I think there's something to be said for following your gut: if a certain situation arises where it feels right to assert or push yourself a little, go for it. But don't beat yourself up for not seizing every moment or for not forcing yourself to grow. Sometimes therapy can push to hard and we need to give ourselves a break or else we'll end up back in an emotional wreck.

Looking back at this semester, I didn't achieve everything I dreamed of, but I did good work in my classes, I forged relationships with professors for the first time ever, I made some acquaintances, and I continued to work on myself in therapy. I am learning to both be more open to possibilities and opportunities, but also to back off of forcing myself to fit a mold I think I'm supposed to conform to. And I'm realizing that many of the accomplishments I made this semester, even if they were small, were times when I just saw an opportunity arise and took it. I didn't push something. I didn't awkwardly start a conversation with the guy I sat by in class, but when he passed by me on the way to a presentation, I wished him good luck because it felt natural. It wasn't a complete game-changer, but it was seizing the moment and being braver than I used to be.

I have a sticker of this on my computer as a reminder. (The Latest Kate)

The holidays can be a time of comparing ourselves to others and being confronted with ideals we think we should live up to. We remember the New Year's resolutions we didn't fulfill. We read the Christmas cards and wonder why our family can't take a good picture or why we can't get it together to have a Christmas card-worthy life. I personally wonder where all the time went and regret (and beat myself up) for not using it better, enjoying it more. I see and hear so many things - on TV, from friends, in music, even in therapy - so many ideas of what I think my life should be and how I'm not measuring up. I keep worrying about times this year that I might have messed up.

I hope you and I both, reader, can put aside some of those worries, that pressure, and enjoy the break from stress. And carry into the New Year the knowledge that we don't have to be perfect, we don't have to fix ourselves. We don't have to have all the answers. We are allowed to make mistakes. We are allowed to not care for a little while whether or not we made a mistake. We are allowed to accept, even embrace, ourselves just the messed up way we are. We are allowed to revel in our own uniqueness and stop hiding the parts of ourselves we're afraid others will judge. It's too tiring.

You are making it through each day, and that is progress. You are surviving, and that is accomplishment.

I am trying and that is enough. I am taking baby steps and that is moving me forward.

"Progress is progress no matter how small." (Thanks for that wonderful mantra, Kate!)

Monday, December 12, 2016


Social anxiety is overwhelming.

For maybe the second time this semester, I spent the entire day at the school I commute to. I only have classes in the mornings, so I usually just leave after I finish class because I don't really know anyone on campus and the school cafeteria is expensive. Today though, I had to wait around for a few hours to go to my professor's office hours in the afternoon, so I decided to hang out in the cafeteria while I waited. In recent weeks, I've made one friend on campus who I think also has social anxiety, so I started the day hanging out with her after class, but then other people from my major came and talked to me over the course of the day, and finally I talked to my professor for almost forty minutes.

Tangent on friends with social anxiety: I tend to gravitate towards other people with social anxiety because they tend to understand me better and I feel more comfortable around them. On one hand, it's nice to have people who aren't overwhelmingly loud or who force their opinion on you and who tend to be good listeners and who understand what you're talking about when you say you're terrified for the group discussion in class on Wednesday.

On the other hand, sometimes it's nice to have that one impulsive, outgoing friend who will find a way to get you to talk to the guy you like or who will push you to get out of the house and go on a spontaneous day trip every once in a while. Since so many of my friends are shy, I have trouble meeting new people (especially guys) because they tend not to have many friends themselves and I have a really tough time finding people to go to events with me. Sometimes I brave it and go alone, but I do occasionally wish I had a friend who invited me to do stuff and who would actually go to events with me, especially now that I'm a commuter and I've become such a homebody. It's weird to hear classmates talk about going to bars and hanging out with friends on the weekends because I spend almost all my time outside of school at home. I've started to feel embarrassed about it. But after days like today, I wonder how those people even enjoy going out and drinking and talking about stupid stuff.

I feel exhausted. (Back from tangent. Thanks for bearing with me.) All I did was have a few different conversations and diverge from my normal routine for a few hours, but I want to curl up in a dark room in the fetal position for forty-eight hours in an attempt to recover. I am definitely an introvert, but I don't typically consider myself that introverted because I'm not one of those "I hate people" type of people. But maybe I've underestimated my introversion. I do spend a ton of time alone. I guess I can enjoy an interaction if it's a good one-on-one conversation with someone I feel comfortable with, as when I talk with my fellow socially anxious females and get to make jokes and express my opinions freely. But today I had a lot of conversations with people I'm not used to (who were men, who I'm not very used to talking to) in situations where the social conventions were fuzzy.

Example: How much of your life are you supposed to share with professors? I shared with my professor today a little bit about how I come from and Evangelical Christian background but I've been shifting away from that sub-culture recently. Was that inappropriate? How long is it appropriate to talk to a professor? Did I overstay my welcome? Did I dominate the conversation too much? Did I offend him? Did I change his opinion of me negatively? Did I come across as trying to convert him? Did I keep him from something important? Did he have to stay late? What if that affected his relationship with his wife? Welcome to the mind of an anxious person.

It's exhausting to overthink everything. And even when I'm not consciously questioning these social interactions, I have this general uneasy feeling and steadily deflating sense of negative self-worth. All this unpleasantness makes me want to stay in my little bubble from now on. Because as empowering as it was to talk to a list of "cool" people and feel an inkling of what it might be like to belong to a community, in the end I feel self-conscious and scared and vulnerable and stupid and restless, obsessing over one thing after another. There are conversations I had months ago that I still go over in my head and kick myself for.

I hate living in fear. I hate how isolating it is. Isolating because I'm afraid to talk to people but also because when I do talk to people, I'm being controlled by that fear, so I'm only projecting a shadow of my real self. Isolating because after those conversations, I am stuck in a cycle of overanalysis and self-deprecation, unable to connect with my loved ones because of the misery I feel. Or I over and over ask my family for reassurance that I "did okay", making myself an annoyance, making myself feel even more guilty and juvenile.

Here's to the socially anxious men and women of the world. No one ever toasts to us. Our plight is seldom recognized and often mocked. We think we're the only ones. We think we're always the one who is wrong. We live in our self-imposed prisons that we didn't ask to impose on ourselves and everyone tells us we have the key to get out of. But where's the damn key? And have these advice-givers ever tried the exhausting task of constantly facing your constant fears in order to beat this monster that rules your life? It leaves you exhausted and feeling worse than ever. And if you give yourself a little break, the anxiety starts creeping back, like weeds. It's easier just to coexist with the rabid dog or rambunctious child, giving them whatever keeps them sated in order to give your exhausted self a break.

Whatever baby steps - or leaps and bounds - you took today or yesterday or the day before to chip away at that prison cell, I salute you. Let that anxiety lie in the place where it was first formed - the cafeteria, the office, the classroom, the grocery store checkout - leave it there and move on with your life. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Give yourself a break - open the book, turn on the favorite song, press play on the remote.

The world may pressure us to change, we may pressure ourselves to change, but let us also for once we the ones to advocate for ourselves: We've tried. We're trying. We're still here. We're existing, even though it's really hard. Really damn hard. Even though people don't get that and we're ashamed to tell them because they'd label us as petty or look at us funny. We're here though. Even if we're quiet, we're survivors. We're warriors. We're on the front lines constantly but will never receive the medal of honor. But we will fight the good fight nonetheless.

Whoever you are, whatever people have said or might say, you're a warrior.