But I’m Not Like You

Two Thursday’s ago I went out for dinner with my best friends’ Megan and Ethan. We had a lovely time. Ethan invited me to a pizza evening that Saturday, and Megan, knowing me really well by now, told him that it might be too much for me. There were going to be 4 other people there. People I’ve never met. But I told them I’d let them know, and decided on the Saturday morning that I was going to be brave and go for it. After all, I don’t see them very often as they live quite far away.

I don’t like driving that way. The area they live in is scary, and the last 15 minutes of that road is anxiety-inducing, especially with the traffic lights every 500m or so. I always make sure I have my taser within easy reach and ready to go. Thankfully I got there safely, relieved but still on high alert. I made sure to get there an hour before everyone else was due to arrive so I could prepare mentally and relax a little with my friends. I had to sleep over as Ethan wouldn’t let me drive that road at night.

It was an insane evening, and the instant I met Megan’s cousin, I didn’t like her one bit. The rest of the evening only intensified that dislike. Megan doesn’t like having her around either (she saw her last 2 years ago). This girl was out of control, over-the-top, obnoxious and vulgar, and way too loud. Throughout the evening I disappeared for 20-30 minutes to the room with my noise-cancelling headphones. I had come prepared, although in hindsight I should have followed my instincts that morning and not gone at all. But the thing with me is I’m never sure what’s instinct and what’s just plain fear or anxiety.

By 1:30am I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go to bed. All I actually wanted to do was go home. Megan had also had enough by then and we sat in the room chatting. She was regretting the whole evening and also wanted it to be over. We both went to bed. But the music and people continued on. I would just doze off and then wake with a start.

The party was still going on by 5am. I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep and went to make coffee. Megan came out of her room as well, and told a very drunk Ethan that it’s time to end the party and go to sleep. Ethan is a teddy bear even when drunk out of his mind (which is something he’s only been twice before – we’ve known him for over 20 years now).

With total silence now, but my body still buzzing on the inside (I hate this feeling), I sat in bed reading for about 30 minutes and then figured it was safe to try to sleep again. As I was dozing off, my room door opened, and in walked Ethan, with a “it’s okay Meg, go back to sleep” and stumbled over to the bed. He crashed down next to me, proceeding to pull all the blankets away from me. I lay there in shock for a few seconds. Then came the snoring. That was me. Done. I jumped up and decided that it was time for me to go. There was no way I would be getting any sleep with a snoring guy next to me, thinking I’m Megan. I wasn’t irritated, but more amused at what had just happened. Ethan was very embarrassed and apologetic when I told him this, but now we can laugh about it.

When I got home I only managed a 3 hour nap. But it was something at least. Since then, I’ve still been trying to recover. Yes, it’s taking a long time. The biggest reason for this is that I haven’t given myself the rest I need. Sure, I’ve slept 8+ hours for most nights, with a few exceptions thanks to nightmares, but the problem is during the day. My way of recuperating from social, sensory, physical and emotional/mental overload and tiredness is to hide from the world for a while.

That’s something a lot of people don’t understand. I’ve been struggling with depression for a while now, and it only seemed to get worse the days after the party. M (the lady I stay with) knows how I’ve been feeling, and encourages me to go out and do things. For example, wants to take me out for coffee or says I should go to the library or bookstores (both places I like). She believes that spending too much time at home makes depression worse. And it does. For her. But not for me. Not when I feel overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed and I leave the house, things don’t go well for me. When I’m already overwhelmed, it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. In other words, panic attacks/meltdowns/breakdowns. I need quiet, and as little sensory stimuli and socializing as possible, or my depression gets worse.

There have been so many times in my life where I didn’t leave the house for days, and emerged feeling refreshed and so much better. That’s how I cope with life and the world. When I was still living with my dad, I would sometimes take an entire week “away from the world”. They would often argue with me that it’s not healthy. Well, it’s not healthy for me to always be going out and doing things. It’s the same with M. Her friend came over the one day, it was almost 12pm and I was still in bed (reading). She told me “up, up, you can’t stay in bed all day, that’s why you’re not feeling well”. Just for the record, I don’t stay in bed all day. I still do things like washing my dishes, cleaning my room (if I’m up to the task that day), having a cup of coffee in the morning with M, but I just don’t want to go anywhere.

I understand that for a lot of people going out with friends and doing things help them fight their depression. And I know those telling me to do these things have good intentions, but it doesn’t help me. I feel like yelling “but I’m not like you!” I feel this pressure to conform, scared to upset anyone. But much more than that, scared to be seen as “lazy”.

I’ve told M how I recover and start feeling better, and she says she understands, but I don’t think she truly gets it. After all, we’re individuals with different experiences and views of the world. Can we ever truly understand someone else?

The Not-So-Silver Lining: When Positive Thinking Backfires

I follow a few different science and psychology channels on YouTube and wanted to share a video from one of them that I just watched on why positive thinking isn’t the absolute “be all” that it’s claimed to be. I’ve attached the video below, as well as the link to an article I wrote in 2016.

My blog post on this topic: “Just Be Positive”

So I wasn’t that far off the mark it seems. 😉

Self-Respect & Boundaries

When I was in the clinic last year and while attending the Tuesday group sessions, we often spoke about boundaries, and, using DBT, ways to enforce those boundaries while maintaining self-respect.

While I’ve become better at setting and stating my boundaries, the follow through doesn’t come as easily. I may do well for a while, but then give in for some reason or the other. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling lonely (not to be confused with being alone). Maybe I feel bad for the person. And sometimes, maybe because I feel the need to fit in and avoid conflict (as in the case of my dad).

I’m still a work in progress, and don’t know if I’ll ever become an “expert”. But that’s okay. The important thing is to remember that I have the right to set and maintain these boundaries.

With that in mind I’ve decided to make a list of things I’d like to remember when it comes to my self-respect and boundaries. This list may change and grow over time, but for now this is what I’ve got.

It’s not my responsibility to fix or heal others.

I have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty about it.

I have a right to my own opinions.

My feelings are valid.

I have the right to my own space and time.

I don’t have to explain my reasons.

I’m allowed to change my mind.

I have the right to walk away when a situation or person makes me uncomfortable.

My needs are also important.

I have the right to ask for what I want and need, just as the other person has the right to say “no”.

It’s okay to be different to those around me and not force myself to fit in.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

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Public Meltdown & Ready For Downtime

January has been really busy and quite intense. I know it’s only the beginning of the year, but I’m ready for another break. I had a week off in December but that doesn’t feel like enough. For me, time off doesn’t count if it involves family gatherings and having to be social the whole time. The first few days were glorious, but the rest were just too busy.

I met up with both old and new friends, a current client and a potential one, so have had a lot of social interaction this month. This is a good thing for a lot of people, but as an introvert, it’s been draining for me.

There’s also been a lot of stressors. But that’s a part of life and something we all deal with often, so it’s nothing new. I had a few days where I was in my high energy, hyperactive, feeling on top of the world and invincible mode. But then I fell back down to earth with a thud. The depression just hit me. This past weekend and week has been hard. I feel like I’m heading towards burn out. This is the part where I make things worse for myself by beating myself up for getting overwhelmed so quickly and easily. It’s just frustrating.

Sometime during the weekend I went to the store to get some stuff I needed. I know better by now. Never go to the shops on a weekend. But I needed one item that couldn’t wait. Already anxious, it was made worse when a guy stood in the queue behind me. He was so close I could feel his breath on my neck! I moved forward only to have him do the same. This overwhelming fear and panic gripped me but then in the next instant something in my head just snapped. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember his words “I’ll fuck you up”. Instead of my usual reaction in a seemingly threatening situation of getting the hell out of there and getting myself to the bathroom or quiet place, I challenged him. I was so angry in that moment that I felt I wanted to fight him, to hurt him. I was ready. And he was a big guy! I just wasn’t thinking. Then one of the most embarrassing things for me happened. I had a panic attack right there! With a whole bunch of people around and staring. Throughout this whole thing, not one person stepped in, not with the confrontation, and not with the panic attack (bystander effect?). By that point, and for a while (no idea how long), I felt trapped. I couldn’t think of a way to get away or out of there, it’s like I was just stuck and my brain couldn’t function. But somehow, and with very blurred and vague memories I found myself in my car. I wasn’t in a state to drive so I just sat there for a while, both freezing cold and hot at the same time. It was a horrible experience and one I don’t ever want a repeat of. I’ve dealt with similar things plenty of times in the past, but like I said, none where I was in the “fight” mode, just the “run/get out of here” one.

Since then I’ve had raging PTSD symptoms (my usual flashbacks with a couple new ones for good measure, increasing hyper-vigilance, etc) and am terrified to go to the shops again. I haven’t been since. My stepbrother has a bike now and loves driving around, so doesn’t mind going to buy stuff for us, so I’m grateful for that. The only place I felt safe this week was sitting with my therapist in her office.

I was incapable of working on Monday. I have a deadline on the website I’m working on (the one from last year where the guy made me wait for everything and only contacted me back the week before last and now suddenly I must jump), and that usually puts me in hyper-focused mode, but I just couldn’t do any work on it that day. I also had my assignment due, and I love my course, but I couldn’t even do that. So it’s not just things I don’t enjoy that suffer during times like these, it’s even those things I love. I couldn’t even talk on Monday. It’s as if the communication channels in my brain had shut down. Even my dad asked me what was going on, and all I managed was, “tired”.

At the dentist today, I started panicking at a certain point while she was working on one of my teeth, and she had to stop for a while. They usually have those heavy “vests” that they put on you when they take x-rays, so I asked her whether I could have that on me while she was working, but said she didn’t have one in her office right then. I thought to myself “don’t lie, you just don’t want me to use it right now” (paranoid/irrational thought).

The more I go into work when I’m feeling like this, the more it builds up and my coping skills start failing… that’s where I am right now. But I don’t feel like I can take time off again. When I asked for an extra day or two in December after Christmas, he said no. That they have to work (they don’t, they could have closed the shop as it was quiet over this period anyway), so it’s only fair that I also do.

I have something to look forward to tomorrow at least. I promised the owner of the dog shelter that I’d start leash training two new Husky puppies they got in this week. Dogs I can deal with when I’m not feeling good. Humans… Not so much.

Struggling

I’ve been struggling a lot these past few days.

My sympathetic nervous system and good old Amy(gdala) thinks I’m in constant danger. My emotions are all over the place. For a couple of hours yesterday I felt completely empty, then another torrent of emotions.

Reading my previous post back, I’m aware that my current emotions will pass, but then what? It comes back again at some point. Like the ocean and waves, it’s never ending. Like I told my therapist today, using coping tools and skills is hard and exhausting.

My sensory system is even more sensitive lately too. Everything feels brighter, faster, louder, leading to me losing my shit much much quicker. Anxiety is a bitch. And my trusty benzo’s? Well, no effect, they’ve been pretty useless. Although I wonder if they haven’t actually been working, and I would have been even worse without them?

Thank whoever for therapy today. It was intense, and most of it a blur, but C was once again very comforting and helpful. We didn’t do much “work”, as most of the session was focused on helping me get regulated and become present, but I was exhausted afterward. I still am.

At the end of the session I got nice firm hug from her. I needed that so much. Hugging a stuffed toy just isn’t the same as close contact with another human. Just as an aside, we don’t always hug after sessions. It’s only happened about three times because firstly, sometimes I’m too ashamed/scared to ask for one, while other times I just don’t feel the need. I wouldn’t like regular hugs, because then it just becomes like a routine and while I thrive on routine, this is something different.

I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning. Just the thought of another day gives me a sinking feeling. I could take the day off work, but even that feels depressing.

They say struggles make us stronger, but it feels like the opposite is true. I don’t feel stronger. I feel weaker instead.

No One To Take Care Of But Myself

It’s been such a relaxing day, and I’m feeling pretty good.

On Thursday I felt stressed because it looked like it was going to be a busy weekend. I had plans to meet up with my business partner friend on Friday, go to the dog shelter on Saturday morning, meet up with a lady from group afterward (not the other lady that I’ve vowed never to meet up with again), and spend time with Jasmine on Sunday. But I made a decision on Saturday morning. Jasmine could wait a week, and I would rather go to the shelter on Monday after work when it’s quiet (most people volunteer over the weekend).

I’m so glad I made that decision, because when I do too much over a weekend, especially socializing, I’m left feeling exhausted and am overwhelmed at the thought of work on Monday. My week then starts with me already feeling irritable. So this was a form of self-care.

Yesterday was a good day as well. I met up with M from group, and had a nice time. She’s absolutely lovely. She’s 75 years old (but looks 10 years younger), and had a daughter who shared my name, who sadly passed away a year ago. Yet, M is such a ray of light. She’s calm and positive (not annoyingly so). We spent almost two hours together and I left feeling relaxed and content. She’s definitely someone I want to make time for and keep in my life.

I slept in this morning, which was glorious, and have been feeling peaceful and relaxed the whole day, doing little things I enjoy. I’m content being on my own, and love being in my room the whole day without having to go anywhere. I don’t really get bored. I realized on Friday that I don’t have anyone to take care of anymore. It was never really my responsibility to take care of anyone, but it was a drive I had. It still feels a little strange only having myself as a responsibility, but it’s starting to feel okay.

As I’ve discovered, managing my time, social interactions and activities is so important to my well-being, and I feel like I did a great job with that this weekend. I’m grateful that I get to learn and practice taking better care of myself now and getting my own needs met. I still believe in kindness toward others of course, and helping where I’m able to, but I’m done neglecting myself in order to do this. I matter too. We all do.

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