Everyone is on Meds

Social anxiety, for me, happens when I go out into the world and I feel like everyone is watching me. I can feel eyes on me watching my every move, even reading my thoughts… It’s that feeling that there are a bunch of cameras hidden, and they’re all pointed at me; I can’t see them, but I know that there are people watching me. They’re judging, critiquing, mocking, maybe even laughing at me. Every move I make is seen, and thought or feeling I have, even though I’m not saying them out loud, are broadcast throughout the land.

My social anxiety often feels like The Truman Show.

When a wave of social anxiety approaches me, I start to assume that everyone I meet is on medication. Every person surrounding me is on one medication or another, so they’re no different than me.

Like my father always said, “Better living through chemistry.”

I like to look at people and think, “I bet you’re bipolar, aren’t you?” Or “You’re so taking Ritalin,” and then I identify my Xanax homies and Lorazepam bros.

It’s a device, like picturing the audience in their underwear. It’s a means to make an uncomfortable situation bearable. By assuming everyone I meet is also on medication, I feel I am on equal terms with them. I don’t feel inadequate, I feel like I get where they’re coming from.

Telling people I’m on meds is disarming. It makes people feel either uncomfortable, confused, or relieved. The uncomfortable don’t know what to do, and usually end up saying ignorant hurtful shit that ends with me telling them “well then you’re not really someone I want to associate with, so fuck off.” Confused people offer an opportunity to educate individuals about the importance of mental health and wellness. The relieved feel blessed, “I’m on meds too! I’m not alone! We can be messed up together!

Medication is a great way to make friends, connections, learn something new, and most importantly: just all around feel so much fucking better about being alive.

It’s hard to feel good about being alive sometimes. Meds make it easier to feel good about being alive.

My depression, when untreated, feels like a wound/injury that I feel all day everyday. I wake up in the morning and think, “ugh I’m alive, but I’m in pain! It hurts! This sucks! “ but then I get aid, be it in the form of a band-aid, therapy, or medication and everything starts feeling better again. Feeling alive starts to feel good again.

Before medication, my anxieties were crippling and my depression made living miserable. I once told a counselor, “I’m alive, but it hurts, being alive actually hurts. Having to function hurts. Going through the necessities of life is hurting me. Paying bills, taxes, laundry, recycling, driving, ordering, appointments, etc.”

Basic life functions may be easy for others, but when you wake up already in pain, going through those functions is like pouring salt on an open wound.

It’s like I have a broken leg but I’m walking on it anyways and going to work thinking, “I’m here, I’m getting what I need to do done. But it hurts like fucking hell while I do it. It’s making me more miserable, it’s making me worse….” If you walk on a broken leg without treating it, it won’t get better and it won’t be tolerable. Even if what you have to do is something that is necessary for life, you won’t be able to do it until you take care of that broken leg.

So I’m on medication to manage my mental health, I have been for the past three years. I used to feel shame about that fact, the stigmas of mental health were gossip fodder for my anxieties that made me want to quit meds and stay in my cave of shame. But then something amazing happened; I began waking up and feeling excited about being alive. I could face my days not dreading the pain I’d endure, but instead determination and motivation began flooding my system.

I started to become less socially anxious when I began trying to assume who was on what medication, then silently sympathizing with that person’s pain. When I make these silent assumptions, it is not done in search of truth. I am not looking to diagnose anyone or correctly guess what medication that person may be taking. Instead, it is a way for me to filter my social anxieties so that I may not feel inadequate or unequal with whomever I’m speaking to. Being in social situations is hard, especially when I feel like there’s something wrong with me all the time. By assuming that there’s something wrong with everyone else, I don’t feel I am the only one struggling.

You’re not alone. Even if it’s not being said aloud, everyone’s medicating their pain one way or another. You don’t need to be ashamed, but you don’t have to talk about it either. You do you.

Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

This piece was edited by the magical Sarah Fader @thesarahfader on twitter

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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

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

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.

Wandering Fake Stars

 

I can’t be myself when I travel. It’s a matter of fact. I don’t know how to get comfortable in a strange foreign place the way I do when I am home in my personal domain where I know everything inside out and out. I become self-conscious of everything unknown to me, which is just about everything depending on the location of travel.

I’m fortunate this week. Wednesday I traveled out to Newbury Port for the second time; an area my boyfriend is from that I’m somewhat familiar with but more comfortable being in. This time I feel more confident and comfortable in my surroundings, though only by a few inches.

Tonight I drank a bit more wine than normal, using the drink to dull my nerves and anxiety as my guy’s siblings arrived to stay for a few days. It’s not that they’re awful people, it’s that I myself feel I’m out of place on the far outer circle of here. Not uncommon given my circumstances, but anxiety inducing none-the-less.

After excusing myself upstairs for the evening, I found myself in my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom for one of the rare long moments alone I’ve had recently. His room is beautiful; the ceiling is painted in a whimsical space design, using blue and cerulean colors for the background and a dazzling combonation of browns, oranges, and yellows to create the planets of our solar system. It’s dazzling to stare up at in the middle of the day.

It was night when I came up into the room, and no one was around. After changing into my pajamas, I decided to explore the loft. That’s right, my guy’s bedroom has a ladder than leads up to a loft. I remember when I first saw the loft over a year ago during a Skype session during the early days of our dating, when we hadn’t declared ourselves as a serious couple or even knowing we were in the middle of falling in love. I remember the video when I saw his room and I went, “Oh my god WHAT IS THAT?” When I saw the hand railing ascended 10 feet above the bedroom floor. “That’s the loft,” Alex answered casually, but I was completely fascinated. Only in princess stories and tales of medieval castle designs had I heard of ‘lofts’ within rooms, I’d never seen one for myself. I vaguely explored it upon my first visit to his home last summer, but only tonight did I learn how to appreciate it.

All alone in my undergarments (and slightly drunk), I scaled the ladder and crawled tentatively onto the loft. It’s softly carpeted, a few books comfortably lined up against the wall my boyfriend had stored there for time being. There’s a small door, big enough to crawl through that leads into his brother’s bedroom, who has another door that lead’s into his sister’s room, like a series of passages connecting rooms (much like the ones I’d always read in adventure books and died to see in real life).

Hearing no one approaching, I stood up to my full height, surprised to find that I couldn’t head-butt the ceiling with my 5 foot 9 1/2 inch height. I took a step and gripped the handrail and looked down upon the floor plan for the bedroom, which was fairly standard (Bed, desk, bookcase, couple of chairs), and then I looked up.

I recognize that the ceiling of this room is not an accurate representation of the galaxy, but I couldn’t help but be mystified as I slowly reached up and let my finger tips graze the celestial ceiling above me. It was beautiful. I’m about 80% certain it was the alcohol warping my mind, but I felt like I was high enough to explore the galaxy. I imagine this comes from my utter obsession with Guardians of the Galaxy and all other space epics, but I smiled like a true wanderer while I stood on that loft looking out at the painted stars.

I felt a bit like myself when I was up there. A wanderer full of curiosity and wonder as I explore unknown places on my own for the first time with the aid of others. It gave me a sigh of relief to know that that piece of myself remains untouched by the anxieties of life. I can only wish now that I could see the ceiling, the stars and planets, at night as I drift off to sleep. Though I know that if I could, I’d never want to close my eyes again. Which would turn into a tragedy of it’s own.

It’s hard to retain or find yourself when you’re displaced from your natural environment. Without my family near me, I feel exposed and vulnerable to the world in ways many would not understand. But if I can find moments of wonder in my searching and wandering, I find myself feeling stronger and more steady within myself, no matter where I am in that moment.

Motivational Drought

I’m in a drought of motivation. Ever since I got back from my trip to hawaii, my mind has been teeming with thoughts and ideas, but I can’t will my fingers to type or write them out. I’ve been sitting for days staring at blank pages and screens hoping to push something out into the void, anything at this point.

The best way to describe how I’m feeling is by comparing my brain to a sponge. Right now it’s saturated with thoughts and ideas, ready to be squeezed out over a surface. But everytime I pull the sponge out to wring it, my hands cramp up. I leave the sponge wherever to slowly dry up while I sit in frustrated silence watching netflix or meander about catching Pokemon (not the worst way to spend time, I caught a Jynx yesterday!).

So what is it that’s stopping me? I’ve got a lot to say and talk about, plenty of ideas to sift through and explores, but the motivation to write it out is just gone. It comes in short bursts and dries up quickly.

I’m hoping that if I just let it happen naturally, I’ll find that magic moment where the words flow and poor out. But I’m scared that those moments are becoming fewer and far in between. I’m thankful to have wonderful friends to talk through my ideas and ask for feedback and motivation. I suppose the key is to just not give up. Let’s see where that takes me…

Morbid Friendship

You ever sitting at a table with your greatest, most cherished loved ones at the end of a jovial evening when suddenly you are confronted with the realization that at one point or another, these people will disappear from your life?

No? Just me? Well I won’t let that stop me from explaining about my insane thought process.

I’m currently on the big island of Hawaii, having flown out last Saturday with my boyfriend, Alex, to attend my friend’s wedding. It’s been a beautiful week so far, my college best friends in the same place for the first time since college graduation; we’re (sorta) all grown up and we have our boyfriends to join us. We’re renting a house out in Waikoloa Village and having a blast exploring the island and getting ourselves into all kinds of shenanigans (such as discussing in depth the wines one should pair with human flesh and how best to roast our friend, Ian, on a spit).

Last night we all went out for dinner at Kamana Kitchen in Kona, a wonderful Indian restaurant with a perfect ocean view where we feasted and laughed and smiled all evening. Doc and his family joined us for the feast, nine of us all together trading off stories around the table and viciously debating the ways of the Dark Side in the Star Wars Canon. I felt so full of love and happiness for these people around the table, some of my nearest and dearest friends, people who I would take a bullet for without thinking about it.

Alex and I rode home afterwards, the island is dark with dotted lights of houses off in the distance. We’re driving alone down Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, and I’m struck by a melancholy of foresight: all the people I love are going to die someday.

Everyone has this thought (or so I’m telling myself to feel better), we all know that life is temporary and fleeting on this planet. Time continues on whether we like it or not. But my anxiety ridden mind couldn’t help but fear for the impending days I’ll have to attend the memorials, funerals, and wakes of my beloved departed friends.

Mortality is terrify. When my beloved childhood cat, Tortie, passed away at the end of 2014, I become determined to avoid forming any more emotional bonds with animals for fear of enduring the agonizing pain that was losing my cantankerous childhood pet. Of course, this determination was easily thrown out the window, as my family had three other cats still around, all of whom owning concrete positions in my heart.

So of course when I suddenly felt my anxiety’s smoke fill my vision and I started thinking of distancing myself from friends, my common sense bitch slapped me across my face and said, “You’re a moron”.

Of course, I’m not going to suddenly distance myself from my loved ones and go hide in a cabin the middle of the wilderness (though that’s not too far from my ideal living setting….), But I’m still so terrified for the day I’m faced with the mortality of everyone I love.

I recognize that this is obviously a sign that I should cherish every moment and memory I make with them; that I’ll surround myself with love through these amazing beings. But the fear is still buried there…..

Okay. It’s time for the Bachelorette party. Margaritas will solve my morbid love of my friends…. Or make it worse….. Let’s see how this goes…..