My Days in Mud

I feel as though most days I'm swimming through mud. This is neither a good or bad thing, it's just my state of being. I've accepted that having mental illnesses (yes, I'm using the plural) means almost everyday is going to be muddy in some way, shape or form.

Some days I just wanna walk through it to get somewhere, not really caring if I get my clothes dirty on the way, I just want to get through it and get it done. These are the days I can't be bothered with crap being around me, I just know I have to trudge through to make it through the day.

Other days I walk carefully, gingerly stepping over muddier spots and doing my best to hold the hems of my pants up and away from the grime. I get anxious and nervous, struggling a lot some days just to leave my house because I'm terrified of the minefield that is society.

Then there are days I get stuck, my feet sink in and I can't budge an inch no matter how I pull or scream for help. It sucks when I get so stuck in my head that neither I nor anyone else can pull me out, frustration at my mental health is something I continue to struggle with.

The worst are days I decide to fuck it and lay in the mud, feeling it seep through my clothing till it hits my skin and covers me whole. That deflation of defeat can be crippling, those days I have to take time alone to figure out where my head and heart are at. I believe these are the days when my head and heart fall out of sync, which dampens my spirit.

Occasionally I'll roll around in the mud, not really giving a damn about the mess but not caring enough to stand up and get out of it. There are weird days where my depression clings to me like a wet blanket, but I really can't find myself to care all that much about it. I'll somehow have the energy to go do random activities to occupy myself from my head, like dancing on my favorite hiking trail or going to a movie all by myself.

Then a day comes and I'll get back up and start fighting my way through it again, knowing I'll likely get dirty along the way but nevertheless persist. Some days I wake up and just know I have to get things done, and that's what I end up doing.

I can never tell you what kind of mud I'll encounter on any given day. Occasionally I'll have a day be going fine and dandy when suddenly I take a step and my feet slip right out from below my and land my ass in a muddy puddle. Other days the ground is dry and sturdy enough for me to skip and dance through, not giving a damn about tripping or falling.

Life is muddy. Most days we'll be lucky and the mud will settle down and the water's surface becomes clear again. Others things get stirred up and thick so it's impossible to move forward without making a bigger mess. Life is about as clear as mud, we just have to figure out what to do with it whenever it's encountered.

Follow on twitter @JoyPearson

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Braids 

As a kid, I picked at my scabs. Any cut or scrape I got took forever to heal, because I was always scratching and picking at the scabs. It’s always been an unconscious reflex, I’ve never really aware I’m doing it until I’ve got bloody finger nails and brown blood stains around the wound. This sounds horrifically emo, but it was how I dealt with anxiety. Same goes for bruises, I could never stop touching and pressing on them. The few times I’ve had stitches were dicey, I couldn’t stop poking and prodding bandages. 

I’m not going to be dramatic and say it’s because I like pain. In fact, it has little to do with the pain of these acts, its about the relief I find afterwards. I’d pick at a scab and cover it with a fresh bandage, the wounds always warm with irritation that fades comfortably into a healing stiffness. Poking bruises and the instant relief of covering it gently with hands feels soothing. It’s kind of like pain is the payment for relief. 

I’ve tried a lot of healthy replacements to these behaviors. Fidget cubes are my best friends, as well as play dough to squeeze, yarn to knit, and nail polish to pick. However, while these tools gave me a replacement for my nervous energy, they did not bring me the same physical relief. 

I have long hair. I’ve been growing it out from a pixie cut I got three years ago, and thanks to vitamins and care, it has grown past my bust line. As soon as it was long enough, I began braiding it. Just basic braids, I haven’t mastered the French braid nor the fishtail. Sometimes it would be a simple ponytail braid, or a side braid down my right shoulder. More often than not, I’d constantly keep a tress or two from the base of my skull tightly braided. 

It wasn’t for vanity I began doing this, rarely were the braid ostentatious or noticeable. The braiding had much more to do with how I was handling my stress and anxiety. At 23 I’d been in treatment for depression, PTSD, and anxiety just under a year. After experiencing a mild panic attack on a six hour plane trip home from Boston, I calmed myself by braiding my hair. 

Anyone with long hair will tell you how sore the scalp gets after being pulled tight, be it in braids, ponytails, or buns. In my experience, I find the sensation of taking my hair out of tight braids incredibly soothing. I slowly unwind the twists and then massage my scalp, which always calms me down and relaxes my mind. It’s the least destructive way I can achieve a relatively calm physical state when I’m tense from anxiety. I keep my fingers busy from picking at scabs, and I have the sensation of relief from unbraiding my hair. 

I don’t know anyone else who does this, or anything similar. Part of me feels like I’m insane for even admitting this out loud, but I’m hoping someone else will relate and know they aren’t alone in how they physically cope with anxiety. It’s hard, I used to scratch myself until I made new wounds to scab over and pick at, it was unhealthy and it concerned my family. It was something I couldn’t help doing when I was anxious, thankfully I’ve worked hard in therapy to find healthy substitutes for this behavior. 

Braids are simple but beautiful. They date at least 5000 years, appearing in every culture around the world. The relief I get from massaging my scalp after braiding is far more beneficial to my wellbeing than picking at scabs. I used to be embarrassed by this behavior, but now I’m more outspoken about my mental health struggles, I’m going to proudly own my braids for what they are: symbols of an anxious human trying to cope with the world. 
For more anxiety inanity, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

What do you see when you read me?

That’s a serious question I think about, not just a title for this post.

I wonder what you all thing when you read what I have to say. What do you assume about me? What do you imagine my day looks like? Are you judging me for whining? Am I being dismissed as another sad white girl? Am I overthinking? Am I under thinking? Do I need to stop thinking all together?

I don’t really want to know the answers to these questions. I think the answers would hurt way worse than the constant plague of anxiety induced questions that fill my head. But it doesn’t stop me from wondering, it’s basic human nature to wonder what others think of us. How we handle that curiousity is another monster all together…

(follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for live updates of anxiety and stupidity).

Cloudy Joy

I had a realization last night. I wish I could go into detail and lead you all up to this beautiful moment, because it really changed my life, but the lead up was personal and intimate and I’m not ready to share that with the world. Here is what I figured out:

My life is a cloud.

Everyday, I am different; I experience difference in any/all aspects of my life. I rarely plan nor do things that I expect actually happen all that often.

There are days where I’m scattered about and stretched out long and wide across the sky; my mind and body go to many places seemingly all at once.

The next day I can be overcast; I’m mellow and chill with no problems relaxing inside with a good book under my reading lamp.

Dark and Stormy days happen; lets be real, who doesn’t have these? They’re frustrating, suffocating, anxiety-ridden periods that make us human.

Some days the clouds slowly glide across the sky; moving along at their own happy pace, happy to let things happen as they are meant to.

Others they change shape; one moment it’s an elephant, then it shifts into a hippo with a jumprope (true story).

Then there are blue skies with thin cotton clouds in the distance; who doesn’t love blue skies? No matter the temperature, a blue sky makes me smile and breathe easy.

Not everyones life is a cloud though. Some peoples lives are maps, they’ve planned all aspects up until their burial plot. Some are prisons, born into unfortunate circumstances they never asked for but are forced to make do with. Some are rainbows, they’re magically picture perfect and you can’t help but wonder what their murder weapon of choice is (my best guess is an icicle, if they’re thorough there will be no traceable evidence [even I am concerned by the fact that I have thought that through, you’re not the only ones]).

My life is a cloud. It’s always gonna be a bit hazy in one way or another, but I couldn’t be happier for the uniqueness of each and every day I get to experience in my life (I’m not lying or pretending to be profound, I started a bullet journal 4 months ago and every single day is different!). I can’t wait for more cloudy days.

For more odd profound/stupid/stoner thoughts follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

 

#ThxBirthControl

I graduated high school at 18, full of scholarships and excitement for the next part of my life. I went to the University of Puget Sound and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in theater. I took several psychology courses post-grad, leading me to my current job working for a school district co-running the extended day program at an Elementary school. I have many hobbies that include any form of art, playing my ukulele, writing about mental health on my blog, walking through the Juanita Wetlands while counting bird calls, collecting comics, and watching/rewatching movies. I have a wonderful apartment that has my touch on every square foot, I keep beautiful plants named Herman and Leonard on my window sill next to my stack of books I plan to read. All this to say, #ThxBirthControl for allowing me to decide when and where I am prepared to start a family. Please donate to Planned Parenthood, who deserve a huge shoutout for providing birth control to women for decades.

#NotAllGirls

Women are ‘supposed’ to be ‘small’ and ‘quiet’. I’m 5 foot 9 inches with an affinity for heels, I got some wedges that add 7 inches to my natural Amazonian height. I also fluctuate anywhere between a size 10 to a size 14 depending on how much I care enough that month to make the effort to go to the gym. ‘Quiet’ is not in my vocabulary, I have a diaphragm and I know how to utilize it to my best advantage. Once when asked to describe me, a former friend only wrote “LOUD”, at the time I took that with great insult, but now I find it is one of my greatest strengths. To generalize women down to one size and sound standard is a joke, being ‘big’ and ‘loud’ is way more fun anyways.

A glimpse into how my mental health works

I lost my phone. For some people, this is a huge catastrophe where lives are at stake and state secrets are about to be revealed from the archives hidden deep in the recesses of undeleted text messages taking up data space. For some, it’s a minor inconvenience that means getting a shiny piece of new technology. I consider these the two extremes for phone loss.

Me? I am neither extreme, I just feel like a failure. This is how I feel any time something small goes wrong. Today when I discovered my phone was missing, I was chill. I calmly went back to the classroom I work in and looked through, then I went back to my car and sifted through my purse and between the seats, nothing came up. Now I’ve got pressure on my chest, something is wrong and it’s my fault. I go back again to my classroom to search once more, this time with more drawer slamming and doors being flung open and closed harder.

I go back to my car again, wondering if my coworker accidentally took it. I ease a bit thinking that was a real possibility, which then took the pressure off my chest of my failure. I started driving home, only I started realizing that I had no alarm clock in my apartment. My phone had always been my alarm. Pressure on my chest again, I’m a failure because I never thought to get a basic alarm clock to keep in case of power outages.

I get home quicker than usual, more to do with my speeding through yellow lights so I could get to my computer and email my coworker and boss. My computer is linked to my text messages, so I contact my boss and ask him to check in with my coworker. She doesn’t have the phone. Fuck my life.

Pressure increases, tenfold this time. I stomp out of my apartment and down the stairs into the underground garage, this time tearing my car apart looking for my phone. Cracks, crevices, pockets, I even looked in the trunk even though I hadn’t opened it in well over a week. Pressure spreads from my chest to my head, I can feel my eyes heat with the potential of an anxiety attack, but I shake my head hard to ignore the sensations of tears building.

I get back to my apartment and take to my laptop with more key slamming and cursing under my breath; I can’t access my iCloud account to use Find My Phone. Cue hyperventilating and pacing. My hands are combing and gripping my hair as I try to keep breathing through the pressure, but failure has set it’s nasty claws in. How could I be so irresponsible? How could I have not had it in my purse when I left? Why don’t you have backup plans for this? Why don’t you have a landline? Why don’t you remember your iCloud security questions? Why are you so thoughtless and stupid?

My boyfriend, who’s just landed after having been in London for the weekend, is doing all he can to make it seem like it’s no big deal. I know it’s not a big deal. I know there are hundreds dead in Haiti, I know Donald Trump is spreading rape culture, I know Black Lives Matter, I know there are refugees taken from their homes trying to find a place to live in a country where ‘charitable christians’ want to turn them away. I know there are a million worst things going on right now than the temporary loss of my phone. It’s not about my phone, it never was. It’s about the fact that I have never been able to allow myself to make mistakes without punishing myself internally.

One small misstep, and my anxiety is all over me. The other day a coworker kindly corrected the way I was communicating with a special needs student. It wasn’t a major mistake I was making, it was a simple correction of rhetoric to use, but in my chest and mind I felt like I’d ruined this students life. I beat myself up for the years of psych classes I had taken where I’d learned proper communication with special needs students, I cried in the bathroom because I feel like a terrible instructor and role model.

On the outside of these moments, I recognize that I am simply a human making small normal mistakes that others have. I see that I’m not a failure, but in those moments of common missteps, my anxiety’s smoke chokes me until I can’t breathe. The bitch is standing behind my shoulder whispering “Oh look at that, you fucked up again. How original.” And there is literally nothing I can do to stop it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for me when it comes to mental and emotional health problems. Most people have written me off as a drama queen, unfortunately I went through most of college with little to no help when I and a friend were being bullied. The few times I tried explaining what I was going through, I got as far as “The people in the drama department are-” and almost always I would get some variation of the sarcastic comment “Drama in the drama department! How surprising!” Because people didn’t take me seriously then, I now struggle to tell people when I am upset or hurt because I’m afraid they’ll once again write me off as being dramatic. How is it just being dramatic when it’s reducing me to tears in a bathroom at work? What about when I’m lying awake in the middle of the night going through every single thing I fucked up that day? How is that just being dramatic?

Of course I’ve stopped telling people when things get to me. I excuse myself politely to have a moment alone, which is really all I need mostly. I can get a handle on myself and step out from the darkness I easily find myself falling into, but talking about it is a whole different story. Thankfully through this blog I’ve been able to feel more open and honest about my feelings and struggles. I’ve always found I can process my feelings more deeply and successfully when I can write out what I’m going through and what it’s making me feel. The fact that people happen to read and relate to what I write on here is just a lovely compliment, as I really never expect anyone to take what I say seriously.

My mental health makes it near impossible for me to deal with mistakes I make, no matter how big or small. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making mistakes, nor that I am a failure as a human being. It just means that I work harder than most at forgiving myself and moving forward, and I take a lot of pride in that. So for those of you who also feel like complete utter fucking failures, you’re so not alone. I’m right there failing with you, albeit with a little more style perhaps.