Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brave Little Toaster.

My social anxiety returned with a vengeance in the past 24 hours. Well, it wasn't as bad as it once was, but it was worse than it has been in the past few months. I scheduled to start my training for a volunteer position today where I would shadow other people currently volunteering. Sounds simple enough, and I knew it would all work out just fine, but I felt that anxious anticipation last night as I considered the coming evil. I said to my mom four or more times in the course of one conversation. "I'm kinda nervous about tomorrow."

Today, I was quiet all morning. I had trouble even answering questions in the half hour before I left. I shuffled back and forth from one activity to another and just wanted to generally curl up on my bed and lie there rather than go. I started thinking of good small talk questions while I put on my eyeliner because a socially anxious person must always come prepared. I sighed into my cereal. I couldn't stop thinking about my coming doom, even though I knew I would get through it and I had managed to talk to all of those strangers in the training dinners we had that I so bravely attended. But I knew it would still be awkward and I just get so nervous doing new things. There are so many questions and you're not sure what is going to happen so you can't plan out what to do with yourself and where to go so that you don't get all flustered or overwhelmed in the moment and run away or mess up.

My leg jiggled in the car and my sister said it looked like my entire body was vibrating. I walked around for 10 minutes once I got to the neighborhood because I was afraid of being early, even though my bladder was about to burst. I scrambled to plan out what exactly I would say when they answered the door. Nothing seemed quite right, but I grasped at the thing that made the most sense to explain why I was there and rehearsed it over and over as I walked down the block and made my way to the entrance. I rang the bell. I recited my line. I navigated a rather awkward conversation with two strangers. I asked to go to the bathroom (believe it or not, old me might have just tried to hold it because I was so afraid of asking questions, which requires one to initiate conversation out of the blue.)

I talked to five or more strangers. I shook hands and introduced myself and said the grownup stuff you're supposed to when you meet someone. I shuffled my body around in a generally not-too-embarrassing manner. I made small talk with two old men. I took more initiative in the conversation than I might have before. It was exhausting, but I'm proud. It might have been nothing for any extrovert and only a minor worry for a non-socially anxious introvert, but for socially anxious me, it was another step in a better direction of not being ruled by my fear. And I know that it's only because of the many, many, many other little steps I've taken every day over the last decade that I am in the place where I can take the particular step I took today. And the step I took today will get me to a place where I can take a step towards another goal, another level of comfort. And so on into the distance of some magical place of being able to chase my dreams with minimal social anxiety holding me back - maybe just enough to keep me from saying something stupid. Oh, wait. Is that my social anxiety speaking? Maybe not because I just sat through a four-week class of people who felt they were entitled to speak any thought that ever came to mind.

Anyways, on the topic of being a brave little toaster, I was thinking just a little while ago - and this is actually what inspired me to write this post when I should be in bed - about the time I had to leave school for half a week last year because things had gotten so bad with my depression. I don't really remember what happened except I just broke down to my mom and felt so incredibly physically and emotionally awful and burnt out that she and I both knew I needed to get out of that God-forsaken place and come home for a rest, even if it meant missing some classes.

I emailed my counselor and told her I wasn't doing well; I think I had just had an appointment with her, ironically, but had been trying to put a brave face on things, as I've been wont to in therapy. I explained how I was feeling and I even admitted that I had been injuring myself, which I had heretofore kept from her. We met the morning of the next day before I left and I signed papers to allow her to contact Student Life and Learning and my professors to explain that I was having an emergency and asked for their understanding regarding my absence. She asked me about the self-harm and I clammed up. I always feel embarrassed talking about it because I knew it freaked people out and people looked at people who did it as freaks. I still don't tell people about it and haven't talked about it in therapy since. I have paused and triple thought about every sentence I included in this piece admitting to it. I think the questions were mostly just for safety though; they didn't dig into the emotional side of things. I just remember feeling humiliated and being glad when they were over. And glad that they were in a place I couldn't show her when she asked to see.

I was five plus hours from home, so I only went back on breaks and it was kind of a huge pain in the neck to get back, but my dad was kind enough to drive up and get me. I guess I should always remember that as a testament of his unspoken love; many fathers, I'm sure, would have been skeptical of a daughter needing to come home in the middle of the semester because they were Really Sad, and I'm still surprised he wasn't either. But he came. I remember feeling a bit awkward bringing my stuff out to the car to meet him, not knowing what to say and very much knowing why exactly I was taking this unexpected trip but not really wanting to speak it aloud.

I was thankful my roommates weren't there when I left because I didn't want to figure out how to explain to them what was going on. When I made my plans the evening before, I remained silent about it to them because I didn't know what to say and was embarrassed to explain and receive pity clucking or, worse, silence. I left a note and my nicer roommate sent a kind text of support later.

It was good to be home, though the anxiety of having to return and deal with schoolwork hung over me, as it always had in grade school when I took time off because I was sick. I mostly slept or laid in bed in the fetal position because, although I didn't know it then, I was not processing the antidepressants I was on so my body couldn't deal with all of the medication that had built up in my system. I emailed professors. I slept. I ate. I met with my intimidating psychiatrist who I would always absolutely dreaded meeting. He asked me more uncomfortable questions, especially about the injury. He asked what I would do in the summer when I wore a bathing suit. I said I didn't know because I was flustered and felt uncomfortable that me wearing a bathing suit was the first thing that came to a 60 year-old's mind when he found out I was injuring. In my head I was like, "Bitch, I don't wear bathing suits because I never go swimming and when I do I wear shorts because #conservativechristianbornandraised #youcantakethegirloutofthechurchbutyoucanttakethemodestyindoctrinationoutofthegirl. Anyways, I remember feeling even more humiliated, wanting to melt into the armchair and slither away in a pile of ooze, and move on from that particular set of questions. I'm sure something was done to adjust my meds. And it was probably something bad for me. Maybe he added Wellbutrin to the mix . I'll have to research.

Anyways, I slept. I probably cried. I slept some more. And I dreaded the day I would have to return.

And finally that day came when I had to face the music. Mom bought the plane ticket and I started packing my stuff into two bags. I had only flown in my adult life once the year before when I went to England. I was kind of alone because no one ever wanted to sit with me and got separated from everyone in customs and had to go through security alone (thanks, guys), but I had still been with a group, so I was nervous to really truly Fly Alone, but by golly I did it. And I had forgotten that I did that, but tonight I remembered and thought, "Dang, girl. I'm proud of you. You should be proud. That's a big accomplishment for an anxious person having a nervous breakdown." I think I may have even checked a bag.

I'm proud of myself for doing this volunteer job. (And another one too). For pushing myself. For not letting fear always dictate my life and limits to me. For bushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I'm proud of myself for taking a break when I so desperately needed one last year, even though it was quite scary to do. I'm proud of myself for having the courage to return to school even though I was really sick and I had a lot of anxiety about going back, dealing with my missed work, facing professors, etc. And I'm proud of myself for flying on my own.

Baby steps, you Brave Little Toasters. Baby steps.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Open and close.

I've been reading a lot of stuff from To Write Love on Her Arms and its incredible founder, Jamie Tworkowski, lately, including his astounding book If You Feel Too Much, which I highly recommend. Their big emphasis is that people need to open up and share their hurts with others. I'm an advocate of this too, but I have a lot of trouble with it as well, in part because I've been judged and burned for doing so in the past. I'm having trouble with it now because I want to share what's weighing on my heart, but I've had people judge me before for the things I'm dealing with again now. I don't want to open up and be judged and look stupid again. And I have trouble even putting my thoughts and feelings into words. Maybe it has something to do with being an introvert. Part of why I don't talk as much as others is because I have trouble articulating everything since there's so much in my head. When I do share, I have trouble conveying the intricacies of what I mean and then when people repeat back to me what they think is the matter, it isn't what I meant and I get discouraged and give up.

Apart from all of that, I feel more and more un-pretty as the day wears on today. Reading about the girls someone you admire has been interested in makes you realize you're never gonna make the cut and no matter what you tell yourself, other people mainly look for someone beautiful and physically attractive to date. I am many things, but I'm not pretty. I'm okay-looking but not conventionally gorgeous. I'm smart but how many people do you know who are dating someone because they're smart. I'm funny, I'm kind, I'm loyal. But what does he talk about? She was beautiful. She was gorgeous. She was a model. I want someone beautiful to come home to.

Well, I want someone kind, intelligent, witty, and loving to come home to, whose a good person and who makes me a better person. Who gets me and who wants me there and wants to be there for me. Who wants me to succeed. And I'm freaking sick of how obsessed everyone is with how people look. I hate when I get obsessed with whether or not I'm up-to-par in terms of attractiveness because it eats away at me, drives me to distraction, and ruins my happiness for the day. And because other things matter so much more. Like character, heart, compassion, and pizza.

I guess I just feel discouraged and defeated tonight. The sad thing is I realize that the root of each thing I feel sad about is that I started looking at it from a point of view of "what does everyone else probably think" instead of "what do I think". That always ruins thing. I usually feel okay about how I look because I think, "Hey. You're decent-looking, self. That's cool." I usually believe in my dreams, my crushes, my feelings. But then I start trying to share them and I get very self-conscious and afraid and find myself saying, "But I know it's probably stupid" and "But it probably won't work out" because I'm greeted with an awkward silence that in the past has meant, "I don't want to affirm what she's saying because I have to bring a reality check to the nonsense she's spouting."

I wish I could chase my dreams with an unfettered heart and mind in a welcoming world.

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"I wish I were pretty
I wish I were brave
If I owned this city
I'd make it behave...
If I were fearless
I'd speak my truth
And the world would hear this
That's what I wish I'd do"
- Sara Bareilles, "Let the Rain"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to succeed at life by really, really trying.

I used to be obsessed with self-improvement, advice, bulleted lists of "7 things not to do if you want a healthy marriage" or "8 Ways to Make Your Life Happier", and discerning every possible lesson I could out of every lecture, sermon, or story I heard. Some of this was driven by my anxiety, which led me to obsess about the future, so I would try to prepare for it as much as possible by learning lessons from others' mistakes and making rules for myself based on such misfortunes. I read any article I saw about how to have a happy marriage because I was terrified of having a dysfunctional or argumentative one even though my parents and grandparents had happy marriages.

Beyond this, I was bent on constantly becoming a better person, learning, and being convicted when I needed to improve, much of which was driven by my almost obsessive dedication to my faith, which I think was in some ways fueled by anxiety too. The fear of doing something wrong and messing up my life or hurting myself or others or disappointing God. The desire to live up to expectations. I can't pick it all apart, but I know the drive was constantly there. It wasn't a bad thing; I'm glad I set the bar high, strove to be better and have good character, and remained open to the things I could learn even from a useless, rambling message. But it was a bit exhausting at times and fed my anxiety so that I was driven to distraction by fear and guilt at times if I, say, didn't read my Bible one night.

Now that I've gone through something pretty awful, I sometimes think I should no longer have to fear treacherous times in the future. But I still don't feel entirely confident in my ability to weather such storms, and I certainly dread the day I will have to return to the hellish place of unspeakable sorrow and unbreachable loneliness. Whenever I have short relapses back into depression, I am always scared that I'm falling back into that pit I was in a year ago: unceasing, unrelenting darkness -- the weight of the world that no one realizes is on your shoulders.

And since I've made it past those darkest cafe days into recovery, I've found that I can't bear even the subtitles of any book, article, social media post, or whatever that smacks of advice, how-to's, life improvement guidance, etc. After I came home from college, I remember how hollow I felt sitting in church one Sunday. It was like those movies where the sound fades out and the edges of the screen get blurry and the main character just stares. I watched the pastor joyfully throw his hands in the air in praise, alternately strumming his acoustic guitar with an unbridled passion, exhorting us all to sing of God's goodness to us. It was like someone had pushed pause on my life. "Ummm...Wait a second. Why should I thank God for his goodness? When I just went through a hella shit and cried out to him every minute with no reply? When some of those who claimed to be his people, his body, my family in Christ turned their freaking backs on me? When I went to a Christian school to serve God and everyone just rejected me and God closed every door, one after another, that I tried to open? And now I would have to leave. You expect me to praise him?"

I couldn't bear going to church any more and I don't think I'll ever feel the same about the institution as I did before. Sermons, teachings, preachings, and well-meant but didactic, somewhat-demeaning conversations with parishioners became like sandpaper to my soul. They still are. I couldn't hear people preach at me, I couldn't read my Bible. I was so broken, so betrayed, so afraid. I had always been someone who had the answers for things and who had followed the directions. But now my answers failed me and all my efforts to carefully plan my path could never have prevented the awful times that plopped down in the unfolding of my young life.

I was tired of the advice, including my own. I learned that sometimes there's nothing you can do to fix things. That's why I flinch a little inside and draw back when I hear people emphasize how if you just get the right diet, sleep pattern, exercise habits, lifestyle choices, religious beliefs, thought patterns, etc., whether counselors or friends or religious teachers or book covers or Gwyneth Paltrow is saying it. I know better. Sometimes you're broken and you couldn't avoid getting that way and you can't do much of anything to get out of it. You've tried everything and nothing's worked and some things have even made things worse. You had the best intentions, aspirations, and played by all of the rules. You are still pushing with all of your might, the only problem is you're so weak you can barely stand.

So I've learned, or am in the process of learning, to extend myself grace. To be patient with the learning curves of life, the imperfections, the far-from-ideals. I've stopped reading those advice books. I'm sure some of them have good things to say, but I'm learning to listen to my inner voice when it says, "No, not today. That's not what I need."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Did I do that?

Have you ever watched a video of yourself and realized you have some mannerism you never knew about, like some stupid look on your face whenever you're listening to people or an annoying vocal pattern or something? And then you're like, "Oh my gosh...do I do that? All the time?" And no one else really cares but you're about ready to go put your head in a paper bag and crawl under your back porch and never come out to spare humanity the blight of whatever tiny "defect" you just found out about. Or maybe a friend told you, "Do you know that you do (such and such a thing) a lot?" but you were completely clueless and now you're worried that's all people notice when they see you. Or you are washing your hands in the bathroom after a meal and you're like, "SHOOT HOW LONG HAS THAT SPINACH BEEN COVERING MY ENTIRE FRONT TOOTH. WHO SAW THIS AND HOW LONG DID THEY LAUGH AFTER I LEFT."

I'm not typically a self-conscious person, but the last couple days I've found myself feeling quite nit-picky with myself, noticing little things that I do when I talk or how stuff tends to get stuck in my not-quite-straight teeth, etc. and feeling very anxious about it. I started to imagine how people must see me and wonder if people judge me or if I've been barred from opportunities because of these minor quirks. Maybe it makes me annoying to listen to when I talk. Maybe I look really stupid.

I started to make action plans to try and rectify the problems: I would make a more conscious effort to clean my teeth after meals. After all, what if I one day went on a DATE and got stuff STUCK IN MY TEETH?? I would practice keeping my mouth closed when I wasn't talking so it wouldn't just hang open. Blah blah blah...It was exhausting just obsessing about it for the ten minutes before I gave up and decided it didn't matter that much. I can't imagine how awful it must be to have a disorder where you obsess about these things all the time. It saps the happiness and life out of you.

I'm sure I'll see some video of myself in a year or two and start freaking out again about some aspect of myself and if I ever get asked on a date I probably will end up with broccoli in my teeth. But I like to think that a date would be far more distracted by my witty banter, sagely wisdom, and intimate knowledge of the nuances of early American teaware designs than by a stupid green speck in my mouth. I guess I realized that it's better to have a dumb haircut or wonky eyebrow than an abusive personality, selfish heart, or unkind spirit. Even if there are some things about my outward appearance that don't live up to the typical beauty standards or even that are ugly to others, I would rather be less attractive than be someone who hurts others, ruins lives, kills, or is filled with anger and hate.

I know some people's insecurity can't be cured just by simple words like that, but if you're like me and occasionally start nit-picking yourself and feeling lousy, I hope this gives a bit of perspective, as it did for me.

Stay strong, friends. You're all beautiful.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I am the champion.

...of the world!

Jk. But I am the champion of my lifelong social anxiety disorder! Which has drawn the confines of my world for me, defining what I can and can't do, keeping me from making friends, making jokes, being myself, feeling comfortable, feeling safe, feeling like I'm a person worth talking to. It has belittled me, held me back, made me lonely, kept me from doing what I longed to, made people perceive me in a certain way. I will struggle for it for the rest of my life because that's just the way I'm wired, but I have made some really big strides, which makes me so joyful and so proud.

I've put a lot of hard work and bravery over the years into trying to overcome my social anxiety. I don't think many people realize that, and I haven't either. Others (and myself) look at me and see everything I don't do that normal people should. But I'm learning to look at myself at see the things I didn't use to do but do now and the things that I have the courage to do that others don't have to have courage to do...so who's the stronger person? The one who just puts his/herself out there no problem and appears normal, or the one who makes hesitant, perhaps slightly awkward small talk but fought a racing heart, objecting mind, and whirl of anxious thoughts and emotions to do so? To me, it's the latter.

I used to get so overwhelmed by dates to meet new people, go to an event, or interview with a professor or potential employer that I would want to just curl up in the fetal position or rock back and forth as nervous adrenaline pulsed through me for hours before the meeting. My mind would be consumed for days beforehand anticipating the event, and I couldn't turn the thoughts off. Understandably, I sometimes just ended up cancelling because I couldn't stand the anxiety and physical reactions any more. Friends would judge me and I would hate myself for what I saw as cowardice because everyone else seemed to view it as such. But if you were in an electric chair having increasingly painful shocks go through your body and somebody gave you a button to push to stop it, would you press it?

The medical supplements I'm on, inositol and SamE, have helped with reducing the physical reactions to things a lot, which is a very welcome relief! They also help to reduce my involuntary anxious thoughts in general. I've also had a lot of chances now that I'm home and commuting to school to face many of my fears, such as ordering at restaurants, checking out at cashiers, meeting with professors, etc. But a big thing has been the medication, which is definitely a course I would recommend looking into if social anxiety has a big grip on your life. There's only so much you can overcome when your body is controlled by raging anxiety chemicals that are triggered by the smallest social unknown. Personally, I found out I was intolerant of SSRIs and antidepressants, which are typically used to treat anxiety. But I was able to find a solution that worked for me. There are forms of counseling also targeted towards treating social anxiety, but I found these intimidating because they make you systematically face your fears and engage in social behaviors you are intimidated by, which I felt overwhelmed and a bit demeaned by...It's not like I hadn't been trying to face my fears, after all.

But let me get to the reason why I am writing: today I finished my third volunteer training to be a historic house docent. Dinner was provided before each session for all the docents in training, which of course struck fear into my socially anxious soul. Well, it wasn't quite that melodramatic; it would have terrified me before, but now it just makes me a bit anxious and uncomfortable. I considered just skipping out and coming to the actual training; it was optional, after all, and there would probably be mostly old people. But I just had this gut feeling that I really should go. The first time, I sat with a group but barely talked except to answer some questions directed my way. I did make a bit of conversation, but mostly I listened to others talk. I've learned to accept this though; sometimes you just need to take baby steps and accept that you can't plunge into the deep end if you're just learning to swim.

The second time, I came in about the same time as another lady, who was elderly but very nice (I think old people are just swell), so I made conversation with her and asked some questions that aren't part of my usual safe and comfortable go-to small talk repertoire. And I got to talk to another woman who is actually my age. Boom. That's two good conversations. And I even considered going up to the museum curator afterwards and asking about her educational background to aid my grad school search. (I didn't but that's because she had left by the time our training ended so I had a good excuse. I was relieved though...)  This time I sat with more strangers, intending to just smile and nod, but ended up talking with another new person -- out of my comfort zone again and a bit awkward, but I think everyone felt a bit uncomfortable.

Tonight, I casually mentioned that I had talked to this person and my mom just stared at me for a moment, almost tearing up. "I'm so proud of you," she said. I was a little dumbfounded at first, but then I realized: this was all pretty big. I wouldn't have done most of this even six months ago. I would've skipped the dinner and conversations. I pushed myself. I stood up. I had courage to go to each and every dinner because each time I considered just bailing, but each time I decided to take the risk. And even though things were easier because of the medication, I had to be courageous to go on that medication too. I was scared out of my mind to go on anxiety meds when I started them two years ago. You read those black box warnings and reviews from people who have cycled through dozens of meds and you are like, "Okay, never mind. The horrible life I'm living with a crippling condition is fine." But I recognized that I needed help and could be living a much better quality of life if I had the courage to reach out for that assistance. So I took the plunge.

I couldn't have even imagined how awful things would end up being for me when I read those black box warnings while checking out during my Technology class sophomore year. It took over a year to find out that I was intolerant of the meds because of a rare genetic abnormality I happen to have, and even then my dumb psychiatrist kept me on the things for a while. I held on through the most turbulent year of my young life, cycling through I don't know how many meds, being judged for what people thought was laziness and over-emotionality when all along I was being poisoned. I would say the joke was on them but it was really on me. I'm the only one whose paid this entire time, apart from my immediate family who all suffered along with me, seeing my hurt. Finally, I went off of the medication and eventually went on the medical supplements I had mentioned before and started feeling much better.

But my point is that while some (including myself) might discredit my social accomplishments due to my being on a medication now, but the reality is that people have to exert courage, self-awareness, and self-advocacy in order to get help. It is scary going on a medication. It can be tumultuous, what with the side effects and dosage adjustments, especially in a culture where you feel like you have to keep quiet about it so you don't feel able to share, "Hey, I might not be myself these next few days as I'm adjusting to a new medication" or ask for time off, etc. I remember how uncomfortable I felt when I had to let my professors know that I needed to take some time off to go home when my condition became particularly acute junior year. Even more awkward (and ironic) was when my psychology professor said to me once I got back, "I hope you're doing better. You don't really look like anything is wrong." Hahahaha. Wow.

So take time today to be proud of what you have done and remember to cut yourself some slack when you find yourself overwhelmed with self-criticism for ways you aren't measuring up. You deserve credit for your victories, no matter how small. Even if it's just staying alive for another day when you just want to give up. That's a huge accomplishment, even if other people don't get it. Even if you judge yourself too because they've always judged you. You deserve some love, some recognition, some praise. Don't wait until the awards ceremony to give others recognition for their accomplishments, big or small. Let them know today. Same goes for you -- host your own awards ceremony.

Award for Best You...

....goes to YOU.

Sorry, I had to get a little cheesy.

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Read more posts about social anxiety disorder.

Read more posts regarding medication.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cold feet.

Earlier this week I got all excited again considering the possibility of re-opening my heart to the idea of falling in love one day. The magic was short-lived though as the weight of reality came crashing in: no one is interested in me and the idea of falling in love has made me more angsty, unsatisfied, critical of myself, and anxious than when I had given up on the possibility. The truth is, romance has caused me more trouble than it seems worth, maybe because I've never had my romantic feelings reciprocated by anyone so I've never truly experienced that lovey-dovey honeymoon period where someone actually wants to be with you too. The idea that someone would actually be interested in me or tell me I'm beautiful or want to hang out with me seems completely far-fetched, foreign, pie-in-the-sky, especially now that it feels like not even my platonic female friends want to hang out with me.

The more I think about love, the more doubts I have. Could I really be happy with someone else? Would they understand what I've been through? Would they accept me as I am or push me to be more like how they think I ought to be? Would they take the time and patience to understand who I am and where I'm coming from, or would they berate me for not fulfilling certain ideals or being a better person? Could we actually agree on what we want from life and whether or not to have children and where to live and where to go to church, etc. without one person losing and becoming lonely and bitter? I guess I'm only used to seeing the end of love, how things don't work out, not the beginning when it seems like the two of you can work out anything with the incredible power of your shared passion. But the truth is that love has its limitations and roadblocks.

In the past, I've become so obsessed with trying to figure out the exact perfect combination of personality traits, values, characters qualities, and interests that would make two people optimally compatible. The problem is, I've spent so much time trying to figure out the logistics and logic of a match, that I've forgotten the most important thing: the relationship, the connection. Of course, that's because I've never had the opportunity to experience it. But when you focus on how everything can go wrong, you lose faith in things ever going right, which is pretty cruddy. I guess my experiences over the past year and beyond have instilled a lot of doubt in humanity in me; I don't know if people can love you unconditionally and sacrificially. People seem to have a lot of conditions for their love; things that will make them second guess and decide to walk away.

And even though I've believed almost my entire life that God loves unconditionally, the people who teach my faith sure make it seem like there's a lot you can do to make him stop loving you as much. I've been trying to get to know God again without the constructs of religion, but I'm still often find myself afraid that I'm not doing enough or being faithful enough. But I guess what matters is the heart behind things.

I've been afraid to form a relationship with someone and have it not work out; it seems like a waste of time and something that makes you a failure. Plus, people of my faith were big in pushing the idea that you should only have a romantic relationship with the person you would marry. The problem is, that makes you afraid to date anyone (oops, sorry, court). And maybe loving someone isn't a loss but a gain, even if things don't work out as you had intended. I did learn some thing along the way from all of the guys I liked, even if some of those crushes make me want to hide my head in humiliation...like when I went to the library every single day of my freshman year because I had a huge crush on this guy who would always be there who I happened to talk to one day at church. Oh, to be young! Actually, I hope I never am that young and naive again because that was pretty dumb and embarrassing...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Memory Lane

A couple days ago, I shared some old song lyrics/poetry I wrote a year and a half ago. I found some more lyrics from a couple months ago that I thought might be worth sharing. They were written after I had been doing some reminiscing and reading old diaries and capture some of the process of grieving and moving on in one's recovery.

Memory lane
Such beauty
Such bittersweet pain
Count my crosses
Mourn my losses
Shed a few tears
Over lost and lonely years

Ashes and ashes
Dust and dust
Let my tears fall
Turn these gold pages to rust
As long as someone remembers
Where I've been
That long September
Spent praying they'd let me in

Just walking down
Memory lane
Just turning pages that bring back the pain
Thinking of how he never kissed me
Wondering does he ever miss me
Or am I just a memory now
Some odd lovestruck girl for him to laugh about

Memory lane
So much pain
I'd shut out
Till I came to doubt
It ever happened
Now the scenes flow like rapids
I was so down and out
But look at me now
I'm more than memories

I put away these old pictures
Till next time I peruse
It's good to look back
But I could really use
Some new memories
- R.G.

The ending's kind of corny but I thought it did capture a bit of the experience of recalling your past while you're on the way to recovery. I've found that there is a lot of pain that I sequestered to some dark part of my memory and sometimes it seems right to take those old memories back out and remind yourself that you really did struggle, it wasn't just an event you made up or blew up in your head. My old self deserves to be recognized for what she endured so bravely.

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Read other poetry I've written about tough times.

Listen to my music.

so useless and all part II

Ever have one of those days where you realize that in spite of all your efforts, dreams, and schemes and any merits or talents you may possess, you're really not much of anything at all? I've accomplished things, but not anything that anyone will remember. I have skills, but not ones that people pay attention to or value. Sometimes I despair of ever making new friends. It's just not something I'm good at. And even if you make friends, I've found they usually disappoint you anyways. You just don't get to see friends much when you're an adult. When I spend time with the youth from my church and they're all just trying to get back on their cell phones, you want to tell them to enjoy this time when they can hang out with their friends whenever they want.

And if making friends seems occasionally hopeless, the prospect of my ever dating anyone seems so impossible, it's actually laughable. I wish I had never had my dreams of getting married someday reawakened; I was so much happier without this awful feeling of desperation and disappointment gnawing away at me. I was more content with my heart locked away beyond anyone's reach, including the reach of my own stupid hands. Always falling for people who don't have even an inkling of interest in me. The frustrating thing is the counselors I've had have never been willing to talk with me about my hurt of being rejected so many times. And my friends and family all judge and make fun of me for developing feelings for people I barely know. So I've started to hate myself for it too. But I can't seem to help it. I used to think it was a sign of having a loving and loyal heart, which I didn't see as a bad thing. But I guess no one else agrees.

I'm just not sure how to make my life worthwhile, a contribution to the world. But maybe even if you do amazing things that people praise, you still don't feel fulfilled. I used to find joy in encouraging and helping others (and almost as much frustration when they didn't seem to care) when I was at college and there were plenty of friends around, but now there aren't many people left in my life to love any more.

I know that what others' think of you or how popular you are doesn't necessarily mean that you're more or less valuable or talented or kind, but sometimes it makes you question things when no one seems to really care about you or what you do. When your efforts at conversation just seem like a burden to people you thought were your friends and when you're always the one initiating things. When your quality work gets only a cursory glance when you're just trying to make it to help people.

I guess today I just have that feeling I used to get so often where life seems like just a long list of another days, each bearing the possibility of more pain, hurt, and disappointment lurking in the shadows of the unknown.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quiet.

I've been taking a summer class the past three weeks. It's a small class but there isn't much discussion involved. But I was shocked when on the second day of class while we were having a break to get water, etc., I had this odd interaction with two of the other girls:

I was sitting in my seat, hunched over because of the stupid air conditioning making everything so cold. I guess I must have been spaced out, staring into the distance because one girl who was standing in front of my desk out of nowhere exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! Are you okay? You look so worried."

I immediately snapped back to life and replied that I was totally fine. The girl's friend, who is quite cheerful and talkative, then commented, "Oh, it's okay. She's just quiet. Doesn't talk much but gets all her work done."

I was completely floored, even a little baffled by this comment. I had never met this girl before. We had maybe exchanged a couple of words if even that. We had only been in class one and a half sessions. How did she know I was quiet?? The incident brought to mind another similar occurrence from a couple years earlier. I had been taking an exercise class for maybe two months by this middle-aged lady. One class she was trying to figure out if she had put on the right song to dance to and she looked over and saw me nodding and said, "Oh, this must be the right one. Even the shy one is moving to it!"

Again, I was a bit baffled at how she knew I was shy when there were other girls in the class and none of us really talked or had much interaction with her beyond following directions. After both incidents I felt a bit self-conscious; is it that obvious that I am a shy person? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Has it costed my getting jobs? The chance to date guys? Do people just write me off? Well, I know that people do oftentimes just write me off. People never guess that I have a zaniness, a creativity, and a sense of humor behind the wide-eyed, closed-mouth facade (actually I have trouble closing my mouth because I'm a mouth breather, but you get the point...) I've had people tell me countless times, "I had no clue you were so funny!" or "Wow! I didn't know you could sing!" or "You seem to comfortable speaking in front of big groups...I'm shocked!" Blah blah blah. It's been quite frustrating to be typed as someone with no personality and no opinions just because I don't voice them.

The truth is, I have struggled with a crippling condition called social anxiety disorder since I was young. Oftentimes, I want to speak, to be myself, to share, to make friends, but I am held back by my brain's programming to second (third, fourth, and fifth) guess anything I say. My quiet voice and body's tendency to pump loads of anxiety chemicals into my bloodstream whenever I'm in social situations doesn't help either. Things have gotten a lot better for me in the last few months as therapy and medical supplements have helped me bring my anxiety and depression issues into balance and as I've gotten more practice being out and about in the world, but apparently I am still "the quiet one". And I still have trouble making friends, much less meeting a guy, which is a distant impossibility. Ha.

I guess that's another reason why I decided to consign myself to a life of singleness, as I talked about in my last post; I've gotten so upset at myself over the years for not talking to guys or taking more risks to try and find someone that it seemed like a relief to just cut that concern out of my life. No more beating myself up for not talking to that cute guy at the event. No more stressing over how I needed to put myself out there and talk to my crush or else nothing would happen between us. Ironically, when I started pushing myself to talk to the guys I liked more, I think it almost did me a disservice; I probably would have been a bit more attractive if I had played harder to get. But I hate the idea of playing games in romance, so I'd rather just be myself. But people would get on my case about not talking to men, so I felt pressure to do so. But I'm sure you don't care.

I think it's sad that we write quiet people off as people who have nothing to say. I do it too. But I've gotten to know a lot of quiet people over the years, and while sometimes we might not have anything to say, most of the time we have quite good points or jokes to make but don't have the opportunity because someone else is always talking.

----
Read more posts about social anxiety.

Read my article about social anxiety on The Mighty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

So confused.

I'm one of those people who is obsessed with the Myers-Brigg personality indicator. I know this drives some people crazy, but I just find the thing fascinating. Most of the time, I don't think about it too terribly much, but I've gone through periods where I wouldn't get my homework done because I got so wrapped up in trying to figure out my type, type other people, etc. I even have the letters of my type as a decoration on my wall along with some print-outs of descriptions of my personality as a pick-me-up for when I feel bad about myself. I guess I find it motivating and encouraging to understand myself, especially since the majority of aspects of my personality (introverted, shy, introspective, emotional, confrontation-avoidant, sensitive, etc.) are not particularly popular or desirable in American culture, which makes me question my worth quite a bit.

Why am I talking about this? That's a good question...Wait a second. I need to stop and remember.

Okay, I'm back. I got it. I'm saying this because my personality type (the big reveal: INFP! And very proud! You can go research now.) is prone to dreaming, which is really a double-edged sword. Dreams are so fun after all. Not the ones where you can't speak louder than a whisper or you just realized that you missed all of your finals or whatever, but the daydream kind of dreams where you meet Prince Charming (I mean, personally I found myself more attracted to John Smith from Pocahontas than P.C., though I doubt he was actually that attractive in real life, but really nothing in that movie reflects real life...) or sing onstage with Demi Lovato or get married to the guy who sits in front of you in chemistry class or your school changes its core course requirements and you don't have to take chemistry...

I find myself daydreaming a lot. Probably more than I'd like to admit. Not that I'm always zoned out or anything, I just have these imaginings of the possibilities of my future running in the back of my head like those houses where people leave the TV on all the time. I've always had such imaginings since I was young, convincing myself I would meet my favorite celebrities or become a great author or singer. Most of these things are just too embarrassing to admit, like old crushes you had on 90's boy band members. I guess I just like the feeling of power that I get from imagining myself in some situation where people can be impressed by me, which I am ashamed to admit because I find prideful people so annoying. I guess that since I haven't had many friends or much popularity or attention over the years, it's a bit addicting to imagine myself in a place where I impress, where I shine, where I am respected and listened to and my opinion is valued. But sometimes I realize that even if I fulfilled those dreams, I probably still wouldn't be satisfied.

Why am I talking about this? That's another great question. I guess because what I'm struggling with today, as the title of this post may indicate, is a clash of dreams, which has made me, well, so confused. I've had my heart set on grad school, but this week my little noggin caught the inkling of some grand imagining for a completely different track I could take, leaving me conflicted. What do I pursue? Where do I go? Further complicating things is the realization that down this new path could be a man who I truly admire. He's out of my reach and no doubt we will never meet and even if we did, he would never take notice of me, but he's the first guy since the fiasco of last year who has made my heart consider that maybe it would be worth letting down the fierce, ten-foot tall wall it has erected to peek out just a little at the possibility of possibly falling in love and surrendering my independence. Someone who might actually care, actually listen. Someone who might accept all my baggage. Someone who might get me.

A year and a half ago, I thought I had found someone like this. And he had the elements of potentially being such a person. But he gave his love to someone else and grew somewhat cold and indifferent to me, even peppering our interactions with callous condescension that was like a serated knife to my already-tender heart, so desperate to believe the best of him. After I left that school and started to move on, I grew hard-hearted and cynical towards people because of the betrayals, let-downs, and hurt I had experienced, but most especially towards men. Not only had this last crush treated me with condescension (even though I'm older and considerably wiser, may I add...I guess I've learned my lesson; go for the older men), but I still was disgusted with how patronizing my high school crush had been to me even though I'm pretty sure he liked me. He once told me when I said I was bored that, "Young ladies tend to have that problem." (I can't make this stuff up, guys. But it did inspire my first song.) Another guy in my church singing group told me that even though I had been nice to this guy I liked, I "didn't deserve to have him like me back just because I was nice." And those are just the highlights of such interactions...

Anyways, what I mean to say is that sometime last year, I decided that the vast majority of men were pretty much all condescending, self-centered, and arrogant. I was tired of being subtly put down and talked down to, particularly by men in Christian circles. I was tired of being circumscribed to certain personality traits, roles, and abilities as a woman. I guess people just have a need to put others down so they can feel bigger, regardless of gender.

I'm still not entirely convinced I was wrong in this conclusion, but when I read about this one man, I saw a beauty and humility of soul and commonality of mind and thought with my own rarely-held opinions that made me stop dead in my tracks. I had locked up my heart behind twelve-foot steel walls, having decided it was safer and easier to just live alone. I could do what I wanted, not pressure myself to pursue relationships, not stress out about crushes, not obsess to the point where I made myself miserable, not ever have to experience a break up, not have to experience the inevitable heartache and frustration that I had become convinced marriage would bring...I would be unique, standing on my own two feet, and I would finally be content.

And I was content! Until a glimpse of a dream of having the privilege to love, support, and comfort someone truly deserving and end any heartache he had experienced and to perhaps - hope beyond imagining - perhaps even be loved back, though I would happily love such a soul without return for a thousand lifetimes. That dream shook me to my core, made me reevaluate and rearrange. And that wasn't the only dream. I also considered the possibility of pursuing a different vocation, a different path. I dreamed of doors opening to a beautiful road of using my talents to help others. Both these dreams just seem so real sometimes. I have to remind myself that neither is really even a remote possibility for me in Real Life at this time. And with that knowledge, I realize in my head that it's pointless to question my life plans when there really isn't an actual "other path" to take right now. But my heart is still enraptured by the possibilities. My soul is still shaken by the earthquake that rocked it. My world that had settled into normalcy, shaped around my ambitions to pursue one path, had been shaken like a snow globe and set back down while the mysterious greater force that stirred things up quietly slipped away.

Now I'm left in the swirl of whatever it is they use to make that fake snow. I grew up believing, in part because of my religious faith, that everything happens for a reason; I've come to nudge myself away from that belief because otherwise I obsess over what the reason for events might be and draw conclusions where I shouldn't. But when things like this come out of nowhere and shake everything up and then move on again, it always leaves me wondering if there wasn't some divine purpose. I mean, why else would it happen? Maybe it's all me being emotional and hyper-sensitive; who knows. But the point is that such happenings leave me wondering if I am being prepared for some new course my life will take or some such thing. And that leaves me confused because I can't let go of this dream, which makes me question whether the goal I've designed the next year or so of my life around pursuing is really a worthy one.

And brooding over an attractive but inaccessible man doesn't help things much either.

Neither does the fact that I am UP PAST WHAT SHOULD BE MY BEDTIME!!! And I need to write a paper in the next 36 hours. But I had to get this out of my system first. It's a bit embarrassing to expose this odd, obsessive side of myself that no one seems to understand and I've often been made fun of for, but maybe someone out there gets it and can be comforted knowing they're not alone.

Keep dreaming, friends. The future is wide open, and one thing I am thankful for is that I can enjoy and relish in that nowadays, because a year ago I thought there was no hope for me and no point in living. Depression puts blinders on me like that and I can't see any truth. I am so thankful that that blindfold has been removed and I can see all the lights on the horizon. I hope that if you're struggling, you know that one day you can see that light, too. Don't give up. Hope is indeed quite real.

Monday, June 13, 2016

When I decided

I remember it pretty clearly (as far as memories go). I was sitting on the bed of my sophomore dorm room one night. It was dark outside by this time of evening, but things were even darker in my mind. I hadn't slept well in weeks. When I tried, I would just get jolts of adrenaline and anxiety chemicals pulsing me back into a dazed state of forced wakefulness. I was miserable, not just from the lack of sleep and the anxiety resulting from (and perpetuating) it, but also from the growing storm clouds of hideously deep depression that were forming over me. There were times when I even daydreamed of dying. I didn't know how to get out of this awful mess of unhappiness my life had turned into. Hanging out with friends couldn't alleviate the burden weighing to heavily on my heart, but being alone was even worse. And how often I did find myself alone.

My roommate was dealing with her own issues, so she went home almost every weekend, leaving me to brood over my sorrows alone in a narrow white cement-walled room. It was one of these nights that I found myself in my customary place, cross-legged on my quilt-covered twin bed thinking the unimaginable for a pretty good-two-shoes Christian girl raised in a fairly conservative home: "If I could go get drunk now, I almost think I would." I was shocked at myself for thinking such a thing; I had already committed to never consume alcohol since I was quite conservative at the time and my family had never been drinkers. I hadn't ever had alcohol or wanted to until that point. But under the overwhelming weight of inexplicable, inescapable sorrow, I saw the appeal of being able to take my mind off of things, if only for a while. Give myself a break.

And it was then that I decided I really should never drink. Any commitment I had made before this was simply a moralistic rule-following made convenient by a cautious nature and lack of desire. This new decision was made with the awareness that if I turned to alcohol or another substance to give me relief from depression or social anxiety or whatever other soul-plaguing maladies I would wrestle with in my future life, I would start on the slippery slope to dependency. And more than that, I would rob myself of the chance to push myself and work through issues in a constructive, healthy way in order to become a stronger, wiser person with better coping skills because of my pain. I would rob myself of the chance to experience the pride of accomplishing in spite of my fears, knowing I had done so without the aid of any dependency, whether on a boyfriend or booze or compromising who I am to succumb to peer pressure or whatever else.

So I some people may consider me lame for not drinking, and I don't usually try to explain my justification for not boozing, but I know it is proof of my strength, not a sign of weakness. And it breaks my heart to see so many people turning to binge drinking and other substance abuse as a way of life or of relief. People pass it off as just a youthful escapade, a way to let loose, but I've come to wonder if much of it is masking or running from pain, anxiety, and issues that people don't know how to face. I know I risk sounding like a prude, and maybe I am one, but I think it's time we stopped perpetuating the drink drink party party culture and started offering hope and help and safe places and real fun through true, meaningful interactions with other people who accept us as we are, scars and bad habits and all.

I don't want to set myself up as a holier-than-thou person through this post; I have made many choices I'm not proud of. I was lucky enough to never be put into positions that would have tempted me to begin consuming alcohol. But I want to share my story to encourage others considering turning to substances to deal with depression and to encourage those who have made a commitment similar to mine and feel uncool or alone or like they're missing out because of it. Stand up for yourself. Keep pushing. There is hope. There is help. And even if you have turned to unhealthy things, there is hope.

Stay strong.

Mindfulness.

Something that has helped me over these past few months (when I remember it) when I relapse back into depression is to practice mindfulness exercises. Typically, I find most methods to distract myself from depressive thoughts or to correct wrong thinking patterns unhelpful, particularly when I'm in the throes of depression where my unhealthy state of mind makes it nearly impossible to listen to reason. But one night when I was feeling awful about myself, I found an old handout from a therapy group I had gone to one session of at the request of my college counselor during my junior year. I tried some of the exercises on the sheet and found them surprisingly helpful.

The beauty of mindfulness is that it encourages you to observe and accept your emotions rather than rationalizing or fighting against them, as many psychological treatment methods do. By naming and flowing with your emotions, you take away some of the power they have over you, almost like how shrugging and walking away from a kid having a tantrum can sap the energy from them because they feed off of your attention. I can't explain it too well and I probably shouldn't since I'm not an expert, but I can say is that it has helped me. It's strangely calming and helps you to take a step back and process through your feelings without getting swept away by them

I thought I would share some of the basic concepts and exercises from my sheet, in case they can be of any help.

  • Simply notice the experience without getting caught up in it or reacting to it.
  • Let experiences, feelings, and thoughts come in and out of your mind without fixating on any one of them. Don't push thoughts away, but don't cling to them either. Consider them to be waves coming in and out of your mind.
  • Observe your thoughts and feelings, putting them into words: "I feel sad now, thinking about how I was treated." or "I feel angry about what she said to me." .
  • Notice the feelings in your body and the scenery surrounding you and your senses. Describe them to yourself.
  • Tell yourself how you feel, saying, "I feel like a loser" rather than "I am a loser", for instance.
  • Practice changing harmful situations, changing your harmful reactions, and accepting yourself and the situation.
I have to give credit to whoever made this worksheet, but I don't know who that is. But know that this is my paraphrase.

I hope those basic exercises can help you calm down next time you're upset, angry, or emotional.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

It was real.

I really was supposed to be asleep two hours ago, but I'm an incurable night owl and I developed some awful habits over the last year, I guess. I get so inspired though and don't want to stop working! Anyways, as a continuation of my dumping of old files here on the blog (relevant ones, of course), I thought it might be interesting to share a few things I found that I wrote about my actual symptoms last year. These are things I wrote at the time, recording my physical and emotional symptoms.

It's easy for me, now in a more recovered state and with over a year's time between me and these occurrences, to doubt what happened to me. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I could have dealt with things better. Maybe if I had just done stuff to take my mind off of things...

Even when I don't question that things were bad, I do spend most of my time not thinking about what happened to me. I pushed a lot of things from my mind. And when I recall some of the acute pain and desperation I was feeling during those times, my heart breaks for my former self. It was truly scary and lonely for me. And why shouldn't it have been? I was going through a serious medical issue but didn't know it. I'm surprised I made it through as in tact as I did.

Like I've talked about on here some before, I was on a few antidepressants and other psychiatric medications to treat anxiety and depression, but it turns out that I have a rare condition where I can't process these medications. Don't let this discourage you from seeking medical treatment, please, because it is a wonder and a gift. But my particular story meant that I was actually getting sicker and sicker from these medications basically being dumped in my bloodstream with nowhere to go. My biggest symptom was that I was EXHAUSTED. I slept so, so much. But sleeping a lot can also be a symptom of depression, and I was operating under the assumption at the time that I was just in the midst of a particularly bad depressive episode, not knowing that the medication was making things worse. My other symptom was the awful low moods and periods of self-doubt, self-hatred, unspeakable sadness and hopelessness. It was the worst I've ever felt in my life, physically and mentally, and I've felt pretty bad.

So I thought it would be interesting to share these "primary sources", if you will; the firsthand accounts from the time of how I felt. It's kind of validating because I forget how sick I was and there were friends who doubted I was sick and who judged me about what they saw as laziness. My roommate who has been my "friend" of three years was quite judgmental about how much I slept. I almost wish I could write her a letter and be like, "Look, you poophead, look at my genetic testing files. I WAS BEING FREAKING POISONED AND COULD NOT KEEP AWAKE. GROW A HEART, YOU - " I will cut myself off there for the sake of women everywhere.

Here's one list I kept of my symptoms. I was worried that I might be bipolar because of some family history, so that's why I paid attention to a certain things that might seem a bit random to include. But I think this demonstrates my fatigue and just that I was generally barely holding on, muddling my way through things, which is very unusual for me and was quite frustrating.
3/9/15 Sunday
Sleepy: slept in late, slept in car, could barely move in evening when got to school; perked up after talking to people - slept soundly at night
3/10/15 Monday
Very sleepy all day after good night's sleep
2-3 naps; slept soundly at night
Got mad at friend
3/11/15 Tuesday
Sleepy again
Irritable
3-4 naps
Lying down, all these ideas for pranks popped into my head
3/12/15 Wednesday
Didn't nap
More energy
Made a lot of jokes
Irritable again; got mad at lots of small things 
Went to bed so wouldn't be grumpy
Trouble falling asleep, woke up in middle of night - muscle jerks, restless (probs due to my panic disorder)
3/13/15 Thursday
Slept in a little; hard to wake up
Feel jumpy, twitchy (note: this was probably due to my panic disorder, which can make me produce extra adrenaline)
More energy
Want to be out doing stuff

Hungry a lot, esp at night

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Here's an email I wrote to my psychiatrist, though I couldn't find the end of it:
  • I haven't been doing very well. I've been struggling a lot with depressed moods. I have lost motivation to do school work and have difficulty concentrating when I try to do school. I have very low energy and I've struggled with having a lot of negative thoughts but I have little motivation to try to combat them. I also sometimes wonder if I'm having mood swings - I might feel positive part of the day and then feel very dark and negative later. Last week, I was walking to the store one afternoon, feeling fairly positive and then when I was walking home, my thoughts and mood began to spiral downwards and I got back
----
Here's my email to friends announcing I wouldn't return, which received few replies. Maybe it can be a help to others who need to write similar letters.


Hi friends,

I wanted to let all of you know that I won't be coming back to ----- this year. I'm definitely sad that I won't have the chance to live with you all for one last year…I have made some dear friends at ---- and so many of you have touched my life with your humor and compassion. However, after much, much thought, my family and I have decided it would be best if I stayed close to home in the coming year.

I still have not recovered from the depression and anxiety I've been struggling with for some time, most acutely in the past eight months. Between the fatigue and difficulty concentrating, it doesn't look like it would be wise for me to go back to school. I'm still working with my psychiatrist to find a medication balance that works and seeking counsel to work through past hurts to move forward with my life, so I think it would be best to remain nearby my family and doctor so I can get the support I need to recover fully. I've had a rough few semesters that really took a toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally, and I don't think I'm yet ready to take on a full academic courseload again.

As for the future, I plan to take some community college classes this fall and then probably transfer to a Maryland school to finish up my undergrad. I wasn't completely satisfied with my major at ---, so I'm hoping this transition will also give me some time to get a better idea of what career I want to pursue.

I will take with me many fond memories from ---, many featuring friends like you. Thank you for the prayers, laughs, late night talks, dance parties, gossip sessions, and chats over incredible, inedible Bon Apetit entrees. Thank you for being patient with me in times where I wasn't doing well, for any notes of encouragement, for coming to hear my performances…it meant a lot to know people cared.

I hope this news isn't too upsetting…Throughout my time at ---, God has closed a lot of doors for me, which left me questioning whether I was meant to be there. Last semester, it slowly became evident that it might be time to move on. Leaving before my last year is crazy, but I'm hoping it's a leap of faith.

Best wishes to you all, and best of luck especially to my senior friends!! Hopefully you will be allowed to get the senior citizen discount at restaurants and museums. I wish I could strut the stage with all of you all next spring. You all have accomplished and endured so much.

Lastly, I hope that we can continue to keep in touch and visit each other! My normal people email is xxxxx and my address is xxxxx if you ever want to write.

Love,
Becca


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Wow. I'm amazed at how friendly and non-passive aggressive I managed to make that sound, knowing how disillusioned I felt at the time...But in all seriousness, reading this back, I feel really proud of myself for taking a bold step to care for myself. For listening to my body and to the signs around me. And for not giving up in the face of adversity, not just during my struggles that last semester, but also throughout my time in college and beyond. I faced a lot of rejection, isolation, and inner turmoil, but I kept going and forged my own way. You go, self. 

Well, that's about it. I guess the archivist in me thought those might be worth preserving and sharing.

Stay strong, kiddos. If you're teetering on the brink of taking a bold step to work for your own recovery and break yourself off from a toxic environment of toxic people, I hope this inspires you to do so. If you're physically or emotionally struggling, I hope this encourages you to seek help. It's a process, but it's so worth it. Because recovery is possible.

Some more poetry.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I've been going through old stuff I wrote during last year's darkest days and thought I would share some song lyrics (that didn't make it into any song). These were inspired by some things I was learning about C. S. Lewis' poetry (the planet concept metaphor at the end). But mostly they were inspired by my epic fail of a crush...a romance that I misread signals for that never got off the ground. The guy seemed into me but we couldn't date because we were in a group that didn't allow it so he entered a relationship with another chick. Cue angsty songwriting sessions and months of living in denial, still hoping he will change his mind and obsessing over him even though he treats you like crap (even though you're older and more talented and mature!) Go figure.

I can't satisfy you
I can't keep your attention
Your eyes shine when you speak of her
They wander when you talk with me
When will I see
I'm a hopeless case
Just another not pretty enough face

Why does God give her
What I long for
Your eyes may be open
But you're blind if you're heart's closed
The truth's being shouted
But you're not taking notes

I'm a discarded image
A beautiful star shining
In some unseen corner
Of your sun-centered world

But beware of the first clarity
Maybe I've been letting a grain of the universe
Be the center of the world
Set me on fire
Propel me through the air
I'll let off fireworks
I'll see what's out there
Find new planets
A place where I can dance
I shine bright

I deserve a celestial romance
- R.G. Spring 2015

Read more about romantic relationships.
Read more poetry
Read more about loneliness.

Some poetry.

I've been sorting through some old files to try and quell my computer's protests that I don't have enough disc space and I found quite a few things I wrote during my darkest cafe days a year and a half ago. I thought some of it might be worth sharing on here in case they could be of use to anyone else going through similar things.

Reading it over, I guess I should forewarn people that there is some rather violent imagery and language if that might bring up issues for you.

This particular set of lyrics I wrote about my frustration and hurt over the neglect (dare I say betrayal? maybe that's too harsh...) of my friends when I had clearly communicated that I was hurting. It's unedited but honest. I don't think the lyrics will ever make it into a song (90% of what I write doesn't) but I always hesitate to even think of calling my stuff poetry because I know that stuff has rhyme schemes and meters and other sophisticated structure. But here it is:

I had a wise man tell me one day
People are just a liability
I scold what an awful thing to say
But now I'm losing the ability
To deny the doubts in my own mind
I've gotten so disillusioned
If you didn't love them you'd leave em
Cuz they've left bleedin'
One too many times

You gotta earn your way in this world
You gotta fight for him if you wanna be his girl
Laugh hard, talk loud
Pretend you know what you're talking about
Love is a reward, it's conditional
Broken hearts are turned away from the hospital
Everyone keeps track of sin
That's what I've learned
On the outside looking in

People are posion
Don't too close
Or you'll end up crying
When the doors are closed
You swear it's worse than dying
Call it cynicism
It's my prison
I shiver from all the draughts
But I stay in hopes it'll keep me safe

Whoever said ghosts were phantoms
That lurk around your house
No, they're the memories locked in your head
That you can't get out
Good men are just pretend
They take you round the side
Shoot a bullet in your back
Leave you suffering but alive
Tell you to put your head in a sack
Then they wave when they see you again
And just like that you're supposed to be friends

I want to believe the truth
Just like I wanted to believe in you
But I've been burned so many times
And you were just another lie
I told myself
I want to hope
I know there are ways to cope
I would be stronger if I said no
But I am weak, okay
I am weak
And I guess I tell myself these lies
Because I hope someone will come and tell me they're not true
I hope someone will come and tell me "I love you"

- R.G., early 2015

My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the Orlando tragedy as well as the other awful happenings of the past week. Hate and guns...the worst human inventions. Let's be a part of bringing more love to this world. I know I need to work on doing so.

I am starting to maybe have the tiniest glimmer of possibly believing in love again. There is a good man out there. But who knows if our paths will ever intersect...

Overall, I am hopeful again, contrary to how I felt when I wrote these lyrics, though I don't blame myself for writing them at the time. But I hope I can offer hope in saying that even those painful, deep wounds of being abandoned by friends are healing pretty well. They'll never go away, but they aren't raw like they used to be, getting inflamed anytime they were rubbed the wrong way. I am learning to stand on my own two feet and hold the hands of those who do love me and let go of those who have shown they do not.

So take that, everyone who didn't respond to my email saying I was leaving school. I hope you all learn to be good friends one day. I know it's hard when you don't know what to say, but it's still good to say something.

Now I'm rambling...