Friday, January 20, 2017

Mantra for Spiraling

I made a mistake, but that does not mean I am a mistake.

I made mistakes this week, but so does everybody.

Someone hurt me, but that does not mean I have to hurt myself.

I see my peers' accomplishments, but that does not mean I have to compare myself to them.

I feel lonely, but I am not inferior because I am alone.

People don't flock to me, but that doesn't mean I am worthless.

My messages to friends may go unanswered, but that's not a reflection on me.

Many have hurt me, but that does not mean I have to hurt myself.

I may be overlooked by others, but I am allowed to look at myself and admire what I see.

I may be overshadowed, but that doesn't mean I should let my light stop burning.

Others may seem like they have it all, but I don't know whether their heart is heavy.

Even if someone is "better" at something than me, doesn't mean I don't have talent.

Just because a lot of people aren't paying attention to my work, doesn't mean I'm not making a contribution.

Today may look bleak, but I don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Tonight may hurt, but I need to be the one to give myself a second chance for tomorrow.

I may feel hurt, but that does not mean I have to hurt myself.

This hurt may come back again and again and again, but slowly I will work through it, and one day I will be happier, healthier, freer.

It may seem like nobody wants me to be the person I am, but I think, deep down, I believe in who I am.

I want to learn to believe in myself and advocate for myself. When friends have abandoned my side after I stood up for them, I want to be the person who stays and stands up for me.

I may be hurt tonight, but that doesn't mean I have to stay hurt tomorrow.

Others may hurt me, but I can heal.

Just give it time, patience, and grace. Extend yourself love and patience, and give yourself space.

You don't have to hurt yourself - emotionally, physically, mentally - because of any mistake you have made or any abandonment you have faced or any abuse or neglect you have suffered. You don't have to suffer silently at the hands of those who have hurt you in the past and don't even give a damn about you today, replaying the conversation, revisiting the old places, remembering the sense of inferiority, retelling the lies that have permeated your mind.

Consider this your permission, your encouragement, to be free, to let go, to forgive, to scream, to write that letter and burn it, to delete that phone number and never answer it, to drop that subject and never pick it up, to go to a therapist and finally open up - whatever you need to do to heal and move on, please do. Just don't let go of yourself. Stop taking it out on yourself. Because you don't deserve it. You've been through enough and you are enough and you are beautiful just as you are.

Consider this permission to love yourself finally, even if it just starts with one tiny little part of yourself that you admit isn't so bad. Or one pat on the back for something you checked off your to-do list. Recovery is in your grasp - and if it seems out of reach right now, then it's okay to just strive for survival; one foot in front of the other is progress too.

Consider this permission to go at your own pace, admire your own face, and give yourself some grace. Look around and see the faces who can't live without you. Write down the things you have accomplished, no matter how small.

Consider this permission to move on and start healing. Start by saying this: "I am not a problem."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"You had a bad day."

This is a stream-of-consciousness piece I wrote earlier today after I had my car towed while I was in a somewhat stressful meeting, talking about my future after grad school. I was waiting around to be picked up and I just had to get all my emotions out somehow, so this jumbled but honest piece came out. I figured I'd share in case it resonated with anyone:

I feel…I feel the way I always feel when I leave a social situation. Vulnerable. Stupid. Lonely. Full of second-guesses and critiques and criticisms. All of myself.

I guess this is why I don’t get out much. It’s too painful. It’s too overwhelming. It makes me doubt myself all over again. It makes me feel hopeless, like there is nothing I can accomplish and the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

I was so excited to spend time with people because I get so tired of sitting in my room doing homework. But then I leave and think, “I talked too much. I held everyone up. I was too open. Maybe I offended someone. Maybe I interrupted someone. Maybe I said something stupid.” And I feel overwhelmed and stupid.

To make matters worse, I made a real, undebatable mistake. I parked my car where I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t notice the sign that said “No walk-offs” (in my defense, the print was small.) But I was in a hurry and I didn’t know if my school permit from last semester was still valid and who would notice if I went somewhere else? I could get something from the store later to assuage my feelings of guilt. But someone did notice, and when I came back my car was gone. Disappeared. Vanished. I wandered around before calling home, tail between my legs. “I should be more self-reliant. I should figure this out myself.”

My sister told me to call the number on the sign, so I did. Found out they had towed the stupid car and I needed to pay $150 to get it back. Okay, I could do that, I thought. Until I Googled how long it would take me to get to the place by bus...An hour. And I didn’t even know how to take the bus. So I dialed my mom to ask for help, feeling more and more like a spoiled white girl.

Sometimes you have to ask for help. Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes you don’t know everything. Sometimes you put yourself out there and you don’t get the affirmation you need. Sometimes you drop your Chikfila iced tea on the street because you’re so flustered about your missing car and then so you don’t even have something to drink while you wait to be picked up. 

I hate that stupid parking lot even more now.

I feel so anxious sometimes, like I’m locked in a room filling up with water. I’d rather pull the plug at the bottom, just back out of thing I don’t want to do, than build up the strength to push open the ceiling to break free. All the talk about overcoming your social anxiety…that’s what it feels like to me. Trying to break open a damn ceiling.

I spent the morning talking about careers. I love and hate it. I like planning out what I’m going to do and I even like applying to summer internships, but I hate the burden of realizing I have to make myself “make it” in the world. I just want to write, to help people, and to make a difference. I want to make people feel less alone, less worthless. I want to learn to be myself and be confident in being myself. I want to find some relationships where I actually feel appreciated and wanted, even if I never find a husband.

People are talking politics again. It always makes me so uncomfortable. Nobody is being fair. Nobody is listening. Everyone is talking. My friend who I’ve been so frustrated with because she doesn’t seem to give a shit about me just texted me out of the blue to tell me her sister is coming to the Women’s March this weekend. I guess that encapsulates why politics frustrates me; it’s almost devoid of humans. It’s about ideology and action, ignoring the people who have those beliefs or will be affected by those actions. My friend texted me about the March because she knew I voted a certain way, but she didn’t bother to ask how I was or really anything about me. She didn’t even ask if I was going. 

Why did she even tell me this information? So I could congratulate her? I feel like political support - of whatever side - has, in some ways, turned into a badge to get acceptance or praise from friends. We hate people we don’t know – or, even sadder, people who we once loved – because they vote for a certain person or support a certain policy. I don’t get it. I hate the hate. Why can’t we just drop the subject and why is it such a big deal? People expect me to have an opinion on politics but I would rather know what’s going on with my friends, how they’re doing.

I wish I could be more honest about how I feel. I’ve gotten so used to putting my best face on. I let out glimpses of my vulnerability but I always feel like I said too much afterwards. I wonder if it would surprise people how broken I feel inside. But then I sometimes wonder if everyone else doesn’t feel equally broken. But then I come across people who really are happy. Or I tell people about my anxiety and the overwhelming stress I feel and they stare at me blankly and then pat my shoulder and say, “Oh, I’m sure everything will be fine!”

I know who I am, but I don’t know what I want. And I’m afraid of letting everyone who I’ve told what I thought I wanted in the past. Life is a journey and journeys are about finding yourself. Nobody is supposed to have it all figured out at twenty-two. Go back to focusing on just putting one foot in front of the other. All we’re guaranteed is this moment; who knows if we have the future. Who knows what’s in the future, if we are lucky enough to have it.

I am enough for what is here right now. And if I’m not enough, then maybe what I’ve put on my plate is too much for me and I need to downsize. But either way, one foot in front of the other. Today was a bad day but tomorrow is a new one. I'm going to be okay. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

I am enough.

Today, I went to my first day of an internship I really shouldn't have taken on. I'm too busy and I was terrified to go because of my social anxiety. I went anyways, so I guess that's something. I left feeling miserable: worn down, defeated, inadequate. I was planning on going a couple time to test things out and then maybe call the whole thing off if it turned out the work wasn't beneficial to my career goals or I was too swamped to do the work. But then I was made to fill out paperwork, I was introduced to everyone, I was told I was the only undergraduate intern the department had ever accepted. Over the course of the day, I realized, "Shit. I think I accidentally committed to this. How can I back out when they're already making an exception for me?"

The day ended up lasting five hours; I thought I was coming in for maybe three. I was on my feet for most of it. I was hungry. I was worried about the midterm I have tomorrow that I needed (need) to study for. I felt like I was in the way, a  burden, using up this person's already pressed time. I felt terrible at making small talk, quiet and awkward. I always feel awkward about what subjects are okay to breach with people who are three times my age.

Then a group of women who were graduate students and recent Master's recipients visited and listening to them talk I realized how little I know, how pathetic I must seem, how much work you have to do to make it in any career field. I felt so inferior and discouraged. I felt so trapped. That's how I've been feeling a lot lately: trapped. I don't know if it's the nature of stress or something to do with my personality. Once I started class again, I felt trapped in the knowledge that I have to finish the class and I'm going to be stuck sludging through it the rest of the month, then have no break. I feel trapped in that I've over-committed myself outside of class and I'm at war within myself over whether or not to back out of these different places where I'm volunteering to take care of myself or whether that would be disrespectful and hurt my career chances.

But most of all, I feel trapped by my career choice. I don't know if that's a signal I should pursue something different or if I would just feel trapped no matter what I picked just because I'm afraid of settling down on one choice. Of course, I'm also not actually working in the career, so it's hard to even really know. Then I realize in some moments that I just need to take things one at a time right now; I can't determine my whole career plan now - I don't know what will come up. It's best to keep an open mind. And if the volunteer opportunities I've taken on are weighing on my mind so much that I feel like the world is caving in on me constantly, than maybe the better thing for my career is preventing myself from having another nervous breakdown by quitting those "jobs".

I feel trapped when I think about getting a long-term job. People respond by saying I don't have to stay there long, but I can't shake the feeling of terror over signing that contract. But I'm jumping ahead so much. My job now is to finish school and find a summer internship. Then I just have to take the opportunities as they open up. This pressure to make kids choose a career is sometimes ridiculous; life just happens. I can apply to things and only one door might open up.

And back to the whole feeling inferior thing, I need to realize that I am what I am. I can improve that in small measures, but I can't be so hard on myself that I short-circuit the system.

Your resume is long, but it hasn't gotten you any internships in the past.

I am enough.

You're pretty knowledgeable, but you hardly ever read any more and you could do so much more work in your classes and you don't compare with those women you met today.

I am enough.

You went and talked to a lot of people, but there were so many awkward silences and strange moments and you probably didn't talk enough.

I am enough.

You know, some people your age have started businesses or written books or recorded CDs.

I am enough.

You haven't even dated anyone and a lot of people you know are married. People don't even bother to ask whether or not you're dating someone because they just assume at this point that you're single.

I am enough.

You should really do more meditation or start exercising or do a CBT workbook or something. Your social anxiety is so weird. You aren't good enough because of it. You are so inferior and nobody likes a shy person.

I am enough.

You need to write more music. You need to finish your book. You need to publish more articles. You need to get more friends. You need to find a hobby. You need to be more bold. You need to confront your lame friends. You need to market yourself better. You need to get more readers to this blog. You need to break your bad habits. You need to get to sleep earlier. You need to stop spending so much money. You need to give more to charity. You need to talk to that boy you like. You need to fix all your character flaws. You need to get out more. You need to join a club. You need to meet someone. You need to make sure you meet the right person, but not fixate over whether they're the right person, and be more open to just casual dating. You need to make sure that person doesn't take over your life. You need to wait to meet anyone, actually. You need to figure yourself out first. You need to build self-confidence. You need to find a new psychiatrist. You need to be more honest about your feelings. You need to be more thoughtful about people besides yourself. You need to practice your religion more. You need to decide where you stand on issues. You need to get over people who have hurt you. You need to accomplish things. You need to make a name for yourself. You need to have a plan. You need to network.

I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.

You are enough, friend.

(That was actually a really helpful exercise. I'd recommend it if you find yourself constantly nitpicking your life and what you "ought" to be doing. All these things are weighing on my mind daily and I hadn't really realized it until I unpacked it here. The list is a little scary. I really do need to ease up on myself. And go to sleep.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

But it sure is tempting sometimes...

Today has been one of those dark days...those days I'm convinced everyone hates me. Those days where I can't see the silver lining so I wonder why stay here. Those days where insult is piled on injury. Those days where nobody will answer the phone and it's probably just because they're busy but you wish you could tell them how it cut you to the core because your skin is already so thin and it made you think about swallowing all the pills on the nightstand next to you. Even when you weren't feeling this way, it popped into your head when you picked up that prescription how dangerous it seemed - all those pills sitting on top of each other in that orange bottle. You weren't even sad then and the thought was in the back of your mind and it scared you. The possibility that you would, the knowledge that you could, and the realization that you would think of it even when you didn't want to.

I know people are trying with all their might to erase the stereotype that suicide is a play to get attention, but I have to be honest and admit that for me personally, there is some element of the temptation to die that is connected to getting others to notice how much I'm hurting. When I'm in these dark moods, I want to just tell the friend who keeps ignoring my texts, "Can you just talk to me? I want to die and I need to know that someone here on this earth is invested in seeing me stay here. Can you just cancel your plans and agree to go skating? I just need something to distract myself. I wish we had gone last night because that was when I started overthinking everything and feeling so alone and hated and useless."  But that seems so desperate and, I don't know, against the rules of how you talk to people. I know that I should stand up for myself and just be honest, but I honestly don't have the words or strength to tell people how I feel. And I'm afraid of ruining their night by burdening them with my heavy heart.

Ever since Carrie Fisher died, people have been outpouring memories of life with her, tributes saying what they appreciate about her, and other displays of love and affection. Whenever a person dies and everyone gathers to remember them, it always strikes me how wrong it seems: why didn't we tell this person these things while they were alive? I guess part of me wishes sometimes that I could fast forward and hear those funeral speeches because right now I feel like I'm just a nothing. I don't know how other people feel about me and that really troubles me. What if I'm actually just bothering everyone I know? Annoying them. I'm that creepy person they wish would stop texting them. I realize how incredibly selfish and image-conscious this all must sound, but I just want to be honest in case anyone feels the same way. 

I feel like I've reached out so much to friends, tried to be supportive, empathetic, fun. And nobody really gives a shit. I'm not the friend people want. I'm not the one they run to when things are wrong or right. I don't think anybody would list me as their best friend. You can give to the universe, but it isn't necessarily going to give back to you. That doesn't mean you should stop giving, but it's just a reality I keep running into over and over and over in my life like a brick wall someone put in the center of a corn maze. 

I know I have to keep going - keep living, keep giving, keep supporting and loving other people. It may seem bleak today but everything is constantly changing in my heart and mind. It's not worth ending it all on a bad night when I'm young and over-emotional. But it sure is tempting sometimes.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nostalgia and nincompoops.

I have a lot of feelings right now. Maybe because I'm hungry. But mostly because a lot of my past has been dredged back up in the last couple days. I had forgotten why I kept all of the memories I made and people who I knew at my previous school locked up in a little box in the back of my mind. So I reopened the box again. I started having long conversations with two people who were good friends at Previous College. I tried to talk to other friends and received no reply. I went through my boxes of old clothes that I used to strut around campus in, sorting them to give away because I don't fit any more. Gosh, I know it sounds so shallow and materialistic, but it's killing me to part with these clothes. They have so many memories attached to them. And they were - still are - so beautiful. I wish I could pop back into them. I wish I could just re-live one day back the way things were, when these people still talked to me.

But then I realize that I was miserable then and there. Friends ignored and hurt me there too. I was so lonely and heartbroken. For every time I laughed and swapped stories with friends, I sobbed on a bathroom floor, telling my mom over the phone that nobody gave a damn about me. I still wouldn't mind wearing all the clothes again or popping back and taking some more photos and writing a few more journal entries so I could remember things better in the future, but ultimately I have to trust that I did what was right for me and that I'm in a much better place now. Just like I don't fit in those clothes any more, I don't belong in that world any more. It's time to move on to a new wardrobe, a new life. I feel guilty sometimes for not visiting my old school or making more of an effort to keep up with old friends, but ultimately I think the healthy thing to do is to move forward. My life now is different, just like my body and my clothes and my friend group, but I think ultimately it's a change for the better.

I guess I've been comparing myself with a friend who keeps in close touch with our friends back at Previous College and goes and visits regularly. Talking to her recently and hearing about her close friendships with those people, I feel guilty for not returning myself. But I tried to keep in touch with people and they were busy. And I knew that going back would be too painful. I need to trust the decisions I made at the time were right for me, regardless of how my choices look to others. Nobody knows me better than myself. I mean, I guess I was right to quadrant myself off from Previous College and Hurtful College Friends; now that I'm letting them back in my life, I feel hurt, inferior, vulnerable, worthless...all those feelings I experienced day in and out for years at that school, with those people.

Reader, if you find yourself questioning your choices because of others' critiques or comparing your life to someone else's in order to berate yourself, stop. It's not fair. It's not right. It's apples and oranges. Two different paths on two different continents. You have to listen to your own needs sometimes. You have to prioritize your own heart, even if the actions you take don't make sense to others. You deserve to be taken care of. You deserve to be loved, if at first only by yourself.