That’ll Have To Be Okay

I haven’t blogged for a while now. What happened?

Well, after a month and a half of searching and worrying, I got a job. And then my mind just went blank.

The job specialist I’m working with says it’s normal. I’m so overwhelmed with the change that my mind is just shutting down. It hasn’t made my anxiety worse, but it hasn’t made it better, either. Right now I’m just existing, waiting for the next time I go to work.

So I’m going to have to let that be okay.

I just wanted to write this to keep some continuity and to not let the fear of blogging grow too big again.

Wish me luck, guys!

I’m Not Her Anymore

As soon as I saw her at the concert, I expected to feel horrible.

I’d just zig-zagged my way through throngs of tipsy people to better see the band once it came onstage. Behind me was a group of people I only knew through my boyfriend, who was playing in the band. Being around them was in itself was a challenge—I rarely feel good about myself around people I don’t know.

So there I was, trying to get comfortable in my spot, when I looked to the side and saw an oddly familiar face.

A popular girl from my secondary school.

Dear God, no.

I slipped on my normal person-mask after a few seconds of confusion, and said hey. We went for a cursory hug. She asked me how I was doing, and I said I was fine. Inside I was begging her not to ask further. How do I sum up my strange journey from awkward, silent secondary schooler to sober, ex-copy writing, self-aware, job-seeking 25-year-old?

To offset more questions, I asked about her. She told me what she’d done, and I said ‘cool’ for lack of a better response.

Kill me now.

But then I mentioned that my boyfriend was in the band. And I suddenly re-noticed the girl’s friend, who I’d been awkwardly ignoring because I’d missed the moment to introduce myself. She offered her hand to me, and we shook hello.

She loved the band, y’see. Massive fan. The lead singer has had some media exposure, so I wasn’t that surprised.

And then it hit me: I was with the band. Or rather, I was with the guitarist in the band. I’d be gazing adoringly up at him as he bobbed his head and played his tunes.

I had a boyfriend. I dared to hang out with his friends. As a chunky 15-year-old who kept the smallest inner circle possible, I never in a million years would have guessed.

And that strange journey I mentioned? The excruciatingly painful but also deeply rewarding one? It had gone on for ten years and transformed me into someone much stronger.

Ten years since I last saw the girl I was trying to make small-talk with.

She looked thinner now. She’d studied something different than I’d have guessed. I would never have put her and her friend together if they weren’t talking to each other.

I didn’t know this girl, and she didn’t know me.

I saw that then, as I stood there gazing at the shiny purple lights. Here I was, an entirely different person than the one I was as as a teenager. Here I was trying to stand tall even as I felt tiny and scared.

Ten years ago I would’ve shrunk away. I’d have left the room, probably. Maybe had a good cry in the bathroom and gone home.

Actually, strike that—ten years ago I wouldn’t be at a concert, much less with the boy I love.

The person I feared reliving as I met my high school classmate? I’m not her anymore.

And it took meeting a popular girl from secondary school to realise:

I’m damn proud of that.

 

Guilty Silence

I received a text the other day. My heart skipped when I saw it was from a store I’ve applied to work at. Reading it, I found it wasn’t that important and closed it without replying. It was really only telling me I’d need to wait a bit longer for their decision.

However, the rest of the day I had the niggling sense that I really should have responded to that text. What if they took my silence as a lack of interest?

I carry this feeling almost constantly. I rarely feel on top of my social life. There’s usually someone I haven’t responded to because I didn’t do it immediately, forgetting about it for a few hours—and when I recalled it again, it felt too late to say something. So the cycle goes until I resume contact. Or they do, but that might set the cycle off all over again.

That feeling of having answered everyone, though. I love those days. It’s like my mind and body feels lighter, guilt-free.

I’m making it sound like hundreds of people reach out to me, but I’m only talking about a few close friends and a couple of acquaintances. Those few people take on such a monumental weight to me. The longer I take to respond to them, the more isolated, trapped and guilty I feel.

It creates a strange relationship with them—because while they’re the people I should talk to about this, I’m prevented by my guilt from not responding to them. It’s such an odd conundrum. It makes me feel very alone when deep down I know I shouldn’t have to.

You know what’s funny about all this, though?

When I finally mustered the courage to answer the store, the reply just bounced back right to my inbox. It was from a number you can’t text back, so no response was needed in the first place.

I hope that’s the universe’s way of telling me something.

They’ll Still Be Here

My boyfriend invited me to his hometown a week ago. I said I’d think about it, but I already knew I wasn’t going. My mind immediately went to the coming week – job interviews and therapy sessions and searching for jobs would be sapping me for energy so bad I knew I’d be out cold every other day.

That’s what happens when I get “out there”. The more I engage with the world outside our little flat (my boyfriend and I live together), the more I stress and fret and lose the clarity I’ve been trying so hard to create. Being introverted I lose energy as soon as I step out the front door. On top of that, I need time to sort out the mental noise that follows any interaction with another human being. Or rather I need time to let it die down. Otherwise it piles up.

So I have a reason, and my boyfriend knows this. But still I feel guilty. I fear that his parents judge me for not showing up AGAIN. In my mind they’re thinking: Is a hermit really the best option for our son? Despite him reassuring me several times that everyone gets it and just wishes me well, I wonder. And I worry. And then I question if I’ll ever trust that people think what they say they think.

That distrust stems from my twisted self-image. Most days it just rests under the surface, allowing me to still go about my day. But when my tiny child of a self-image wakes up and starts wailing, I’m convinced that I suck at tending to my own and others’ needs –  and surely everyone sees that. I’m handicapped. I can’t do the things required of me. There’s something wrong with me. I’m trapped.

For a long time, I didn’t have the words to describe my experience. I just kept writing the same type of thing over and over again, using the same type of imagery, without ever delving into the depth of what this dysfunction is about. Therapy, reading, and the beautiful people in my life taught me to name my fears. I’ll be grateful for that as long as I live.

That’s why I can stand this tiny hell. I can’t be completely alone if there are people who’ve helped me. I might distrust them when they say they don’t judge me, but their actions say something more powerful: They care about me. Whatever bad they may have thought, they chose over those thoughts. However bad I feel for disappointing everyone, the people in my life are still here.

My boyfriend said it’s completely fine that I didn’t have the energy to go. I’m too preoccupied with my pity party to believe him.

But he’ll come back home to hug me after the weekend, and that’s a good sign he’s telling the truth.

 

Hello

I’ve come to realise just how much anxiety plays a role in my life. I thought that when the panic attacks ebbed away a couple of years ago, I was out of the woods and wasn’t really that affected by anxiety anymore. Boy, was I wrong.

My therapist recently asked me what I avoid. After my initial answer (exercise), the answers just started rolling off the tongue. I avoid going to the store. I avoid walking in public, large groups of people, parties, visiting my boyfriend’s family, going to sleep, shopping malls, meeting new people, and so on. Dear me, I thought I was doing better than this.

I didn’t feel discouraged, though. On the contrary – now I saw clearly my own limitations. I can work with them now. Learn to surpass them.

Still, while I say that, it does feel overwhelming sometimes. Like now. Tonight I’m just sitting alone in the flat, trying to have a nice evening despite my overwhelming guilt. I overslept for an appointment with my therapist, you see. Once the pang of guilt hit me, I cancelled my other appointment for the day, too. Now I’m just super proud that I did the dishes once I got up. I ordered takeaway even though I can’t afford it, just to avoid leaving the house.

But. But. These days happen. I can’t expect to never have them anymore. They will happen from time to time, and the best I can do is to let them be and not make it worse. I really acknowledged that over the last half year. Before I would’ve hit the town and stayed until closing time, and now I eat some crappy food. From that perspective, I’m doing well.

Anyway. I wanted this post to give you an idea of what I’m going to write about, but the truth is I’m not 100% sure yet. I just want to share my experiences with someone. I just want to connect.

Despite being so lucky as to have supportive and loving people in my life, I do feel lonely in my experience sometimes. And I want… I want to get it out. I’m tired of feeling like my struggles are shameful secrets I need to hide from everyone I meet. They shouldn’t be.

I dunno, man. I’ll just pick a direction and see where it goes. Another gem I’ve learned in the past half year.