Learning to Live as a Conflict Avoidant 

It came as no great surprise to me recently when my therapists (that’s right, PLURAL) told me that I am ‘conflict avoidant’. If you need a crash course on conflict styles, google it and catch up because I’m going to jump straight to the point: I do not like conflict. If I’m being honest, conflict feels like a creature with a thousand claws is scratching down my shoulders and squeezing my neck until I choke. But thankfully, through therapy and a hefty tool box of mental exercises, I’ve (kinda) tamed that creature and have made it (somewhat) my bitch.

Like all conflict styles, being Conflict Avoidant (CA) is no better or worse than the others. Every human being has a different manner in which they deal with conflict, and all manners have pros and cons. However it seems that humans get really frustrated when different styles of conflict are confronted by one another. I know this because I maintain close relationships, and each person has a different conflict style than myself. Some are easier to manage, while others often get tangled up in a mess. It’s a work in progress learning how to dance with each style.

I can only speak from my own experience being CA, so I try to be understanding of all other conflict types. I feel that as a CA, I’m far easier intimidated and am more susceptible to pressure and persuasion. I have often found that when I’m in situations of conflict in which the person I’m arguing with has a stronger personality and (perhaps) thicker skin, I often give up or give in. It’s rarely because I agree with the other person’s argument or I’ve changed my mind; it’s always because I can’t stand the pressure of conflict, I always feel like I’m about to suffocate and/or cry. 

This is really hard for me to write about, as it’s really my biggest fault. Standing up for myself is a huge overwhelming effort, one that I can pull off once in a blue moon but leaves me drained for weeks. More often than not when faced with conflict, I back down and walk away because I don’t want the negativity to germinate in my chest and take over. It’s just always been easier that way.

I think the reason I’m writing about my biggest weakness is because I’ve been examining self-esteem lately. My therapist has been asking me for ages, ‘where does your self-esteem come from?’ And I’ve never had a really good answer. Every answer I gave was half-hearted or desperate guesses, I’ve never really been sure where it came from. After recently going through some rough patches and putting my frustrations under a microscope, I had the answer: Solitude.

Two years ago, I moved into my own apartment. I had never lived alone before, after high school I went to college where I had a string of roommates then moved back in with my parents post-undergrad. Living with my parents for a year in my twenties was both a blessing and a HUGE pain in the rear. Sure, I was in my twenties and I was an adult. I had finally quit my soul-sucking job selling shoes at Macy’s to work for a school district that paid me better and didn’t make me hate humanity. But I still had that awkward need to ‘ask’ my parents permission before going out late, and when I got into a serious relationship that meant ‘sleepovers’ I was ready to leave the nest. I was ready to be on my own to fly.

I am very blessed to have been living alone for two years in my apartment now. My true introverted self flourished in my solitude, and there I finally met my true self and called her friend. I still live close to my family and have sleepovers with my boyfriend, but being alone has really allowed me to find myself and where my true strengths lie. I’ve set up an etsy business that I’m slowly (because I’m absolutely terrified) branching out into farmers markets, I’ve embraced my desire to make art, and I’ve learned how to clean the toilet (are you proud of me yet, Mum?).

I imagine you can see how my self-esteem is now so well matched with my weakness. They often hold hands as they skip through the minefield of emotions I experience on a daily basis. In my solitude I can find clarity and thought in any issue I’m presented with, but being CA often means I take longer to respond to an issue than others. When immediately confronted with conflict, I’ll often back down and give in to find some immediate peace, only to later examine the situation in solitude and find thoughts that I wish I’d shared earlier. My need to sit on any issue to mull over in solitude has cost me many relationships with impatient individuals; ones that were more open to conflict than myself, but I ultimately wouldn’t miss. 

I’ve gathered some tools lately to help me bear out being CA. First is the word “safe”, there is more power in that word than any superpower found in the Marvel Universe. I telling someone “I don’t feel safe in this conversation…” or “I don’t feel safe when…” automatically stops the other person. Unless they’re a real asshole, no person wants to be told that they make someone feel unsafe. It’s a terrible feeling! Because if someone doesn’t feel safe talking to you, that means you are not a safe person. Unless you’re a psychopath (in which cast, stop reading my blog and go get some help), no one wants to make people feel unsafe. I know that if I tell someone, “I don’t feel safe right now,” they cannot tell me I’m wrong. They are my feelings, and they are 100% valid. Anyone who tries to invalidate someone’s safety is an asshole.

My second tool comes on the heels of the first, and that is using statements that start with “I feel…” I have found that in using statements such as “that makes me feel…” or “When you did this, it made me feel…” you have already blamed the other person for whatever it is they’ve done. In stating “I feel…” You are taking ownership of your feelings and where you stand in any given situation.

The thirst tool is time.  This can be both a healing balm, or a slow poisonous death. Taking time to step back from a conflict to think and gain insight can present better solutions, but if the wait is too long the other person may grow impatient. Not all conflict can be dealt in the heat of the moment, but neither can they be left on the back burner forever. There is a mastery to asking for time to examine the conflict, the returning to it later enough that insight has been gained but the battle hasn’t been abandoned. This tool is one I’m still training, as being CA often means letting conflicts drop and pretending they don’t exist anymore. 

I’m still learning how not to see being CA as a weakness, but the setbacks tend to be debilitating. I am learning how to turn conflict into conversation; choosing to share feelings and ideas with others rather than engage in a battle of words that leave me with wounds more painful than the victory itself. This doesn’t always work, especially when the other person isn’t open to receiving feelings and thoughts with respect and mindfulness. However it can be a start to giving myself some inner peace in trying to resolve conflict in a non-hostile manner.
That’s not to say I’m now perfect; I’m still the queen of passive aggressive anger. I will cold-shoulder the hell out of you if you so much as think about hurting a loved one or stealing my food. I also make poor judgement calls, and I don’t think I’ll ever have any volume control. But I am trying to do the best I can with the tools I have to make daily conflicts more bearable to deal with. I’m learning how to embrace being CA without beating myself up over the setbacks. It has been, by far, the hardest task I’ve yet to face, but not one I’m willing to give up on. 
Follow on twitter @JoyPearson


Generated Poetry: The Formulation of Love

I’m on this kick where I use a word generator to give me 6 random words that I incorporate into a poem. I imagine I’ll be posting many of these, so bear with me (or not…. this is my website after all. So if you don’t like this, fuck you, go somewhere else to read garbage poetry that stinks more than mine!)

Generated words: Afternoon, Imposter, wept, Serum, Formulation, Deplorable.

The formulation of love can be rather tricky

It suffers from a deplorable lack of compassion

It’s also often ironically witty…

A cure-all serum does not exist

Safe for the hours in the afternoon I’ve wept

Over memories of when I was last kissed.

I feel like an imposter in my own head

Pretending I don’t have these memories

Of you, me, and our love you killed, dead.

For more spontaneous stupidity, follow my twitter @JoyPearson

Art Therapy at Studio S Fine Arts

I took a big step for myself this weekend. I could wax prose on the subject, but I’m just going to get to the point: I posted my original art up for sale in my etsy store Wandless Wanderers where I also sell greeting cards and bath bombs. I honestly don’t expect anyone to buy it, but I’ve been pushed and encouraged by so many people that I figured I may as well post them just to get them to stop nagging me!

So I did. Yesterday I was filled with near paralyzing anxiety, going back and forth between posting and not posting for a really long time. I took a long sojourn to the beach nearby to sit, read, and think it through. All my thoughts went to the same conclusion: If I want to be an artist, I need to attempt to sell my art.

So I posted my art up in my shop, and it sold within minutes! I’m just kidding, it hasn’t sold. But wouldn’t that be a great way to end the story? Or begin it? Who freakin knows, I’m getting existentially off topic. The point is, I got over my fears and anxiety and did it!

One victory down, I figured I needed to keep the momentum running. I’d been contemplating attending a free art class a friend of mine was running. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I was erring on the side of “calling out sick”, but overall I knew not going would have been a dumb choice. I was correct in that assumption.

Just getting from my apartment to the class was a major anxiety struggle. Everyone is outside enjoying the sun, so the roads were crowded and I ended up straddling cross-walks with my car more than once (and nothing induces driving anxiety in me like having pedestrians walking around my car, glaring at me for not judging the distance better). So by the time I arrived and parked my car, I was pretty amped up and not feeling too sociable. But I’d already posted on twitter that I was facing my social anxiety, and I couldn’t back down!

Thankfully, it was a small class, and the atmosphere of the studio calmed me almost immediately as I began looking at the example pictures and started thinking of color combinations in my head.

To begin, I used an exacto-knife to cut out pages from a dictionary. I chose pages specifically with the words “Joy” “Wander” and “Mental” in them. It took me a long time to come up with this arrangement (I wanted to make sure I was covering words such as “menstruation” and “Menses”).

Next I used a stencil and traced flames over the pages, ideally to represent the creative fire I have burning in me (or just fire, it’s art, it can be whatever you want). Then I painted a layer of liquid masking within the flames so that water color wouldn’t seep through. 

As you can see, I did not use enough of the liquid masking, so the color bleeds into the flames a bit. But I’m honestly happy with how this turned out. The colors are vibrant and they make the disjointed flames dance a bit more. I also love that you can still read the dictionary definitions underneath so you get a sense of the kind of person I am from the words I chose.

So, to sum up: I shook off my anxiety and posted my artwork on Etsy, plus I faced my social anxiety and attended a class alone. So… pretty good weekend, in my honest opinion.
For more up-to-date notifications about my art, anxiety, depression, thoughts on a Jurassic Park/Downton Abbey crossover, or even bad jokes, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

Arguing with my brain

I frequently disagree with my brain, it leads to a lot of anxiety and moments of frustration. Here’s a common conversation we have on the daily:

Me: Today isn’t going well. I wish I had someone to talk to about it.

Brain: Why? No one cares.

Me: Sure they do! 

Brain: They’re only being polite.

Me: Well it’s nice when they ask how I’m doing and listen. Oh look! A friend is online! I’m going to ask how they’re doing and see if they can talk.

Brain: Good luck with that.

*30 minutes later*

Brain: How did it go?

Me: Fine… They’re doing really well.

Brain: Did they ask how you were?

Me: …no.

Brain: See?

Me: See what? They’re probably busy! 

Brain: Or they don’t care.

Me: Sometimes things spring up that need full attention. They’re probably focused on something important.

Brain: Yes they are, they’re focusing on not caring about you.

Me: I highly doubt that.

Brain: Then why didn’t they ask after you?

Me: I just said, they’re probably busy!

Brain: Busy ignoring you.

Me: Okay, you know what? I am a good person! I care about others and I like hearing about their days! Even if they don’t have time to ask about me, much less remember, at least they know that I care about them and I genuinely mean it when I ask “How are you?” So why don’t you shut up, and let me enjoy my friendships!

Brain: …

Me: …

Brain: … They still don’t care.


Anyone else have this argument with their brain? Logically, I know that my friends care and love me. But my brain likes to lie to me and make me feel unimportant. Having a mental illness makes it hard to trust in other people, but it makes it impossible to have trust in myself. 

I spoke to my close friend, Sarah Fader (CEO of Stigma Fighters, follow her on twitter @thesarahfader) and she gave me some damn good advice, “Sometimes, you need to just ask for what you want and not give a fuck about the consequences.” Hell fucking yes. It’s not easy to do, but I’m making a conscious effort to voice my feelings and to ask for what I need from others. 
Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for more up-to-date arguments I have with my brain.

Thoughts on a Desire to Write 

I want to write.

I really do, but blank pages keep blocking me from pulling through.

So I’m reduced to this,

Stream-of-consciousness lines,

That don’t really make any sense.

This is how I write when I can’t,

Skipping lines to start new sentences,

Hoping the next one compliments the prior.

However now looking at this post,

I’m feeling no more, but less than a writer

(Anyone else see the rhyme there?

No? Just as well, I’m not writing for a prize).

I’d hoped to write something strong,

A long prosaic piece on the super powers of those called ‘mentally ill’

But documents lost and motivation strayed

Somehow sucked all my time away

(Did that rhyme? I don’t know anymore,

I’m just gonna keep writing a little more).

I’d apologize for this post being out of place

But this is my blog to begin with.

So enjoy my thoughts, 

As I write the way my mind wanders and strays,

Maybe my words will get better,

Maybe someday….

Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for even weirder stream-of-conscious posts. 

Icing on a Cake

These are dark times…. Yeah I never thought I’d ever use that phrase seriously. It’s hard for me to write it without hearing Bill Nighy’s voice from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. But it’s honestly the atmosphere that is the world right now…

I’m not going to dive into the specifics of the last week, I think we all know what happened, and we all are feeling things on a multitude of levels that makes it hard to function properly. I have always read about those momentous historic moments in text books, like the assassinations of JFK or MLK or Hitler’s rise to power, and empathize on a shallow surface level with the grief the nation felt during those times.

I now realize I never truly appreciated the depth of sadness and disappointment that spreads throughout an entire nation. I was too young when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, it took weeks for the devastation to sink into my elementary educated mind. Now I am in my mid-twenties, and truly experienced the full force devastation that was the November 9th, 2016 election.

It’s been a day by day process. Breathing is a real effort in most moments, I often stop and stare blankly as I contemplate the new low this nation has been brought down to. I rest my hand over my chest as pain pulses there knowing a person full of hate and violence against so many is now elected into our highest office.

Yesterday I felt was the lowest, as I approached my friend’s house in the dark and suddenly slipped over a patch of moss and fell hard to my knees, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” I loudly drawled, not even caring that the neighbors were currently heading to their car next door. I limped into my friends house and while dressing the scrapes on my knees, I cursed, “This is just the pissy icing on the shit-cake that has been this week!”

I was angry last night when I limped to bed, struggling to get comfortable when my knee was bandaged up and swollen stiff. I was frustrated and exhausted, anxiety still clinching a part of my chest as my leg throbbed.

Today was a step up, calling it ‘better’ is too much of a stretch when I can’t even tell someone “I’m good!” when they ask “how are you?”. My leg is still sore and I spent most of the day alone, but like every day since Tuesday I went out and saw that the world was still spinning and everyone was still working. I see so many people actively working for the better, to be better and take a stand against the hatred and violence.

I’m watching my favorite celebrities push for change and speak out against the unfairness of the election and the tyranny of hate that threatens the nation. I see my boyfriend and friends all donating to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Atlantic Street Center, and more charities in hopes of making a positive change. Safety pins are everywhere as we open ourselves to strangers and let them know that we are there for them and will comfort them in these times of fear and violence.

I’ve read about it in text books and novels, I’ve seen it in films and television; it is always when it takes a hard hit that goodness rises up, stronger than before and enforced by the actions of benevolent compassionate beings.

So I’m going to recite my favorite sayings now so you can hopefully get inspired like I am to get out there, do some good, push for change, and use your voice for the better: Be the change you wish to see in the world. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Consideration is a big deal, it costs us nothing. We are trapped by our own perspectives, make the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, not just your own. You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for more non sequiturs and bad poetry

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.