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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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

Word Generator Inspiration

Lately I’ve had a desperate need to write, but I suffer from a lack of inspiration these days. To give myself a kickstart, I used a random word generator online to give me a set of six words that I would then craft into a poem. The words I received were ‘extract’, ‘betrayal’, ‘contagious’, ‘messenger’, ‘union’, and ‘smart’. 

Using these six words, I came up with the following poem:

To extract thoughts and ideas from my mind

Seems so impossible, I take it as a sign.

A betrayal from my hand to my brain

A tenuous union that’s driving me insane.

If I were smart, I’d find hobbies more contagious

Things I can do that will be more advantageous

Someone get a reliable messenger for my hand and head

Before things remain silent, sadly left unsaid. 

For more poetic ridiculousness, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

Random Rhymes

I’m on a weird rhyming kick currently, which always happens when I start listening to too much rap combined with watching Shakespeare films (Words, words, words). Rather than let them rot on the page of a random notebook, I’m publishing what I wrote out today. It’s probably not good (no wait…. it is DEFINITELY not good) but I know that if I don’t publish my writing more, the less motivated I’ll be to continue writing. So here I present, for either your enjoyment or torture, some bars I wrote out today.

Sure, yes sure!

I’ve got words to say

Say them or don’t

It’s all the same

My body shows peace

My mind wondrously strays

Lovers, liars, cheaters, sneakers

I know all their secrets

But I’m no snitch or squealer

Unless you do

Something found rude

Or just not true

I’ll let it stew

Until I need to serve it up, I’ll drink some booze

and watch you lose

Whatever dignity that’s left for you

Ha! Okay, okay I’m not that dope

I’m a girl hidden in the crowd

Not on display riding a float

This is no joke

I have no hope

Everyone will look at me say “you should not have spoke.”

Take from that what you will, I’m going to go write some more clunky rhymes and pretend I actually know what I’m doing when it comes to writing. For even more convoluted thoughts, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

RIP blog post

Getting a new piece of tech can be truly magical, but not without its myriad of frustrations. I wrote a draft for a blog post the other day, it really meant something to me. How do I know? Because it was something that I carried in my chest the last few days laboring over how to give birth to a new blog post musing the magic of words. 

It was an awesome piece, I got to throw in some Shakespeare quotes (which I then bastardized) and contemplate the many wonderful literary and lyrical worlds I’ve been transported to thanks to the craft of stringing words together to make sentences/thoughts/lyrics/etc.

I thought I’d saved the draft (in fact I’m positive I did), but now I’m home from work looking all over my iPad and coming up with nothing. The piece is gone. 

I know some of you are rolling your eyes thinking “It’s not a big deal, don’t pretend you’re Hemingway now.” But I’m hoping a fair amount of your understand the grief I’m in right now. That piece meant something to me; it was a love letter to words, one that I’ve been formulating for years now. My love for words knows of no boundaries or depths. Words are pieces of magic that, when carefully paired up, can create beauty or wreak destruction. Words are power, words matter.

I’m trying not to feel too upset. I suppose this post is almost like an obituary to my deceased post, honoring what I lost while also reveling in what I love. To make this  simple end to a rather pointless post, I shall quote my favorite line of Shakespeare:

Words, Words, Words.
(Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson and tweet me the play I just quoted and you’ll win a prize [Spoiler alert: the prize is a high five {Spoiler Alert: I don’t like people so you’re not actually getting any prize}])

Ride the Wave

What do you do when your best friend isn’t talking to you? Well that’s gonna be different for every person in every situation. For some, it automatically means calling all your other closest comrades and letting the shit-talk commence. For some, it’s crying in a corner and saying “oh woe is me, I am worthless and the world hates me”. Then there are the real people.

The real people are the one who sit silently and wait. They contemplate silently their entire relationship with friends and reexamine where it all went tits up. It’s the real people who have to wait and grit their teeth with torturous patience as they dig and grip for any reason to wait and fix whatever it is they messed up.

I like to hope I am a real person. I think it’s cowardly to automatically turn friendships into battle fields the moment things get sticky. It’s easy to fall down that path and turn everything that was once beautiful flower fields into gnarly roots of dug up weeds as bitter wars are waged. I get tempted to curl up into a ball and cry. I often sob to my friends how much I don’t want to be this planet anymore, that I’d like to disconnect from society completely and live in my simple cabin in the woods surrounded by books and think about how everyone is out to get me and the world rejects my being.

But no, I aim to stay real. I go quiet for days, weeks at a time in contemplation as I wonder what happened. Then comes the real torture, the waiting. The patient waiting as you try to figure out what your friend wants and needs. The waiting isn’t for you, no. The waiting is for your friend; just because you have done your time thinking and contemplating doesn’t mean that they’re ready to go there as well. So you wait, let them do their time. That’s my challenge right now, waiting and letting them do their time.

So what can a person do while their best friend isn’t speaking to them? Well here’s what I’ve done:

-Organize my blu-ray collection by the Dewey Decimal System (it’s not as easy as you’d think. Or it’s just as hard as you think. Either way, it’s really hard to do).

-Stare at my completely stocked pantry and refrigerator and complain about not having doughnuts.

-Come up with the Canadian title counterparts to popular film titles (see my last blog post for the list).

-Rewatch Stranger things and pretend I’m not crying when Mike and Lucas fight each other.

I’m trying to come up with more productive, less pathetic sounding tasks to do. But you get the gist of it: Life sucks when best friends aren’t speaking to each other. But it’s real. It’s giving space and air when things have gotten too heated and rough for two people to deal with. It’s waiting the long arduous periods of silence in hopes that the next conversation will be the ice-breaker that will lead back to brighter days of laughter and inside jokes. It’s real because it’s love. It’s what friends do. It’s what anyone who cares for another person does. They wait and give the other space to breathe. Then, after you ride the wave and let time do it’s thing, you speak again.

In Which the Bitch is a Witch

If I were forced at gun point by a wild madman insisting I give up the secrets behind enemy lines (because I find myself in those situations so often, am I right? Probably not…), I would confess that it’s being unpredictable that gives anxiety and depression their edge. You never can predict or know when and where either will strike at you.

If I’m lucky, I come prepared with weapons to combat: well curated music playlists, word searches, coloring books, supportive friends, favorite movies and TV shows, and more. But, like so many others, I’m not always fortunate enough to be prepared to go into battle with myself.

It’s scary for people who don’t regularly grapple depression and/or anxiety; your mind is playing tricks on you, your own self is betraying you. I’ve been calling my anxiety ‘bitch’ but my therapist edited that word into ‘witch’ with good reason, “These are illusions that your anxiety is projecting, it is your job to figure out the ingredients of their spell in order to determine whether it is an illusion or actual danger.”

My episode yesterday was unpredictable. I had been putting off art commissions and requests for ages, using my job as an excuse (as it does keep me insanely busy). However, now that I’ve been on summer break for over a week, I’ve run out of excuses to put things off.

It’s my own fault for agreeing to so many commitments at once, I’m always eager to please people and make them happy. In truth there isn’t a whole lot of complicated things I need to get done, but my anxiety cooked up a spell that made everything seem ten times more crucial and important. I suddenly became convinced that if I don’t execute everything perfectly that I would be a disappointment and failure to everyone around me. I tried to sit down and create some art pieces, but my vision was clouded by the anxious smoke that the witch had created, making it hard for me to focus and make anything beautiful.

I spent most of my day in bed afterwards. I laid curled around my favorite cuddle pillow (that’s a pillow that I use strictly for comfort in times of stress) in the fetal position staring blankly at my computer screen as I found TV shows to binge rather than get any productive work done. I felt frozen in my spot, only moving my left arm to occasionally click buttons to continue episodes or change movies.

As I laid in my dark bedroom, curtains closed with only my dragonfly string lights providing any illumination, I sifted through the dark thoughts and feelings. First I was angry that when I wanted to be productive, my mind got the better of me and left me nearly catatonic. I was furious at the unpredictability of my feelings and mind when I was trying to do something for both myself and others.

Once I got through the anger and frustration, I laid there pulling apart the spell the witch had cast over me. I’m an overly sensitive person, that paired with my anxiety makes it easy for me to see/sense things that aren’t really there occurring. I tried talking to a variety of people yesterday to pull me out of my smokey spell, but every time I opened my mouth or typed out a message I got the overwhelming feeling that I was a bother to every single person I came into contact with.

I realize that in all likelihood everyone was just busy with their own issues, that I was talking to a lot of people via Facebook messenger and text messages so I couldn’t actually tell if I was annoying them or not. I’m sure that if I looked back on all my conversations I had yesterday I’d see that everything was just fine, but the spell I was under had be questioning every single interaction I made with every person. At this point I’m fairly certain that the spell my anxiety put me under was all made by the illusion of trouble, rather than the actual existence of problems.

Aside from the unpredictability factor, that is the worst part of my anxiety and depression; that I can never tell if i’m in any actual danger or if it’s all an illusion. I see and sense things that aren’t there all the time, but my body and mind are convinced that the danger is real. I think that’s the part that really defeats me and leaves me lying in bed all day, not knowing if I am in any actual trouble or not. The smoke makes it impossible to see sometimes.

I am forever learning and changing around my anxiety and depression. Learning that they were casting spells over me has been both terrifying and liberating. I’m hoping from now forward that I will be able to deconstruct the spells and clear the smoke with more efficiency and care, but like all other humans suffering it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

I suppose in a manner of speaking, it’s time for me to bone up on my own magic spells… Expecto Patronum! That didn’t work…..