Nightmares & The Dark

I’m having a hard time with my sleeping routine.

I’m naturally a night owl, so go to bed quite late. I try to go to bed before 2am though. Sometimes I manage that, other times not so much. I usually wake up sometime between 10 and 11am.

At least that’s how it used to be.

I’m craving the blissful state of non-existence for a while, but instead I’m bombarded with nightmare after nightmare. The really bad ones wake me up in a panic and it takes me a couple of hours to be able to turn the light off again and go back to sleep. The dark is deafening. Terrifying. I’m acutely aware how alone I am in those moments. At night the monsters are lurking in the closet, under my bed. Sitting on the edge of my bed, watching me. Waiting.

My longest continuous sleep time over the past two weeks has been 3 hours. This broken sleep is obviously making things worse. Sleeping until 3pm, because I was up for hours, too scared to go to sleep. Or having fallen asleep and woken up after yet another terrifying dream. So many people from my past in some of those dreams. Lies, betrayals, violence, death. So much blood and death.

Saturday and Sunday were two of the worst days I’ve had in years. I honestly don’t know how I got through it. Maybe I didn’t after all, and I’m not actually alive right now. I wanted to go into the clinic, but couldn’t get there. I didn’t know where to turn. Everyone seemed to have abandoned me. Unanswered messages. Cancelled visits and meetups.

New complications with regards to my uncle. I just want him to come out of this already. He has to. I can’t lose him, I just can’t. I had spoken to him a few days before he went into hospital, because he had sent me money for my birthday, which was so appreciated (more than he could ever know). I need to hear his voice again. We need him.

I need my mommy. There’s that. Even though everytime I’ve been with her, there’s never that mother-daughter bond and feeling, more like just a friendship. But she’s my mom, and I love and miss her. I’ve never been able to cry in front of her. But still, I long for that comfort of not being alone when I cry. When I’m not feeling good. The reality is never quite like the imagination, is it?

Remembered on Wednesday that my therapist had told me that I could email her while she’s gone if I need to. So I did just that. I wasn’t writing from a very present state of mind and it wasn’t a long email. I told her I was angry with her for reasons I can’t quiet think of. Told her I was thinking that maybe she wasn’t coming back. That she didn’t feel real anymore.

She replied that same evening. That didn’t feel real either. I wasn’t expecting a reply, since I wasn’t all there when I sent it anyway. There had been genuine moments during the day where I was so confused, believing that I had made her up the entire time. That nothing was real. That I wasn’t alive. Or human. The next morning I had to make sure that it hadn’t been a dream. She is real. She actually sent me an email. An email that let me know that she’s proud of how I’m managing, and encouragement to keep going even though it feels tough. Letting me know that she is coming back and we’ll have our video consultations soon. I don’t deserve her.

I don’t want to be alone anymore. Being bombarded with messages and photo’s of people finding new jobs, starting families, new relationships, it seems that nearly everyone I know is moving up in life. And I’m just here. Stuck. Trying to keep my head above water. Trying to build a business that’s just not going anywhere, no matter how hard I work, how many things I try. Seeing all these new businesses in my field that have sprung up with sub-par work, yet they’re the ones getting all the clients, using techniques that aren’t working for me. I’ve been trying for years now. Am so tired, and feel like a failure. A fraud. Maybe I’m just not good enough.

So far away from everyone I know. Longing for a hug. A warm hand to hold. If only for a day.

Time Doesn’t Stop Flowing

I received an email this morning reminding me that my birthday is coming up soon. Well, thanks for that. But hey, they sent a voucher as well. For something that I have no interest in.

And once again I was sent down a rabbit hole of existential angst.

I’ve recently give my business a bit of a makeover, complete with a redesigned website. Since first starting my business I’ve learned a lot. Both from personal experience, and theoretical knowledge through courses, books, webinars, other entrepreneurs, etc. I’ve reworked my business model a bit and feel more confident with my direction.

Running a business reminds me of life. If we’re not growing, changing, or experimenting, we can’t expect anything to be different. Sure, we may fail more than we succeed, but that’s part of the deal I guess. Here’s hoping that my persistence will pay off eventually.

I don’t have much to show for my life. I don’t have anything to my name. I’m not financially independent. But to that voice that shows up way too often, and is often way too loud to ignore… I’m trying dammit! And I’m proud that I haven’t given up on my business or myself. I try to be a good person, treat others with respect and kindness, and give where and however I can. This all has to count for something.

On another note, I got to see my therapist this week. No cancellation. It was a good session and a lot got cleared up. I feel confident and secure in our relationship again. It was our last in-person session until after her maternity leave, so from next week it’s video sessions. There are going to be weeks when I don’t see her, or where she might have to cancel. But we’ve discussed it, so I feel at peace.

It’s been such a busy week, what with my laser-focus (forgetting to eat/sleep/etc) on my business. I’m officially running out of steam now, so have decided to step back and rest this weekend (well, from with what’s left of today).

I’m not that young anymore after all. Except in my own mind of course.

It’s Not All About Success Or Being The Best

I just read an article on the Scientific American blog that spoke deeply to me and gave me a better perspective on something I struggle with.

It’s something I’ve spoken about on here before.

Here’s the thing. I’m constantly working on my businesses, trying to make them successful. Sometimes I get so frustrated because it seems no matter what I do, it’s just not working out. I’m limited by finances, so can’t spend much, if any money on paid advertising. As most people know, organic content, marketing and advertising often doesn’t work well enough. It can be a dead zone. The saying “you have to spend money to make money” is pretty accurate. But still, I continue to try new things. Learning new ways to market and reach people.

Life rarely gives us what we want, and sometimes what we want isn’t actually what will make the most impact or difference to our lives. I’m proud of myself for continuing to work hard. I’m always learning. And even if I never reach the particular goals I have right now, I feel I’m not wasting my time by working on these things. Someday, somewhere down the line, it might just come in handy.

On another note, like most of you, and as the title of my blog says, I’m on a journey of healing from trauma and mental illness. This is extremely hard work, and most of the time it seems as though I’m not moving forward fast enough, or even at all. When we’re really struggling it’s difficult to see the progress and the little ways we have moved forward. During these times it seems as though everyone else has it all together and we’re left behind. But the fact that I’m still breathing and writing this right now is an achievement. It’s a result of not only fighting to survive, but to thrive as well. Life is hard, it’s messy, and sometimes even downright shit. But if we put in the personal work, if we strive to be our best selves (not who others want or expect us to be), we can better deal with whatever comes our way, and experience all the blessings that life has to offer as well.

Success isn’t everything. Striving to be the best can be exhausting, and most of the time, not even possible. There will always be someone out there who’s better. At the end of the day, I believe it’s the journey that counts. The end point is just an illusion.

You can read the article I mentioned here:
Working Hard Even If You Might Lose

Growing In Assertiveness

I went out with Jasmine and my business partner/friend (Kim) last night. I had sent Jasmine a message last week, telling her that I have been feeling rejected and unimportant to her over the past few months, and that I miss her. She then invited me for sun-downers with her and Kim, as well as another mutual friend of theirs.

I really wasn’t in the mood to be with people, especially having to meet someone new, but since I haven’t seen Jasmine in months, I decided to go anyway. I’ve also been having some issues with Kim over the past few weeks and wasn’t looking forward to seeing her and talking more “business” (she has a habit of bringing business stuff up anywhere and everywhere). Our recent business meetings have been all about her and her own business and I was fed up. She’s back to her old pattern of constantly relying on me to help her with things she can easily figure out herself or Google. I’m trying to work on building up my own businesses and this is taking me away from that. I don’t get time to work on my own stuff because I’m constantly helping her out.

Last night when she started talking about our next meeting (on Friday) and how there are some more things she wants to change/add/remove on her website, I felt my anger rise up. I took a sip of my drink to buy myself some time, because I didn’t want to react immediately. Thanks DBT and Mindfulness. I told her that we’d talk more on Friday. Once the anger died down, I decided that I needed to talk to her about this now because I’m not sure whether I want to meet up on Friday anymore. Jasmine and her other friend were in the middle of a conversation, so I felt it was okay to talk to Kim about this quietly. I told her that I feel as though our meetings have changed. That I used to enjoy them, because I almost always left feeling inspired and motivated, and they had been a benefit for both of us. These days I just feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I wasn’t nasty about it, but made sure to use a firm tone of voice. She insisted on just one more meeting focused on her business and website, so we can get that out of the way and she can relax. I agreed, but told her it will be a short meeting. I’ve also decided that after this, I’m going to start charging her for any new work on her website. I’ve shown her how to do certain things herself, but she keeps losing the papers she writes the instructions down on. That’s not my problem. I’m going to make this clear to her on Friday. I just can’t continue on like this with her. It’s draining me. I know I’ve been enabling this behaviour lately by giving in to her demands. But at least I realize this. Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s okay that I slip up from time to time and don’t have it down perfectly. It will take time.

I left early last night as I was exhausted, and while I enjoyed talking with Jasmine, there were two other people there as well so we couldn’t just ignore the others. In the past I’ve always been afraid of leaving early, not wanting to offend anyone, but these days I find it much easier to excuse myself and not feel bad about it.

Assertiveness had always been a foreign concept to me. I took on the passive, people pleasing role in all of my interactions with others. Now that I learned there’s another way, I’ve realized just how much damage I was doing to my own self-esteem and mental and physical health. Assertiveness is vitally important, but it’s also damn hard if you’re not used to that way of communication and interaction.

A lovely online friend of mine created a new course on assertiveness and kindly sent me a copy. If you struggle with assertiveness, this course will help dispel common myths and help you toward achieving a healthier style of communication. Reading through the PDF helped me cement my decision to stop being passive, and it has lots of helpful advice and action steps, complete with examples. If you’re interested, you can find it on her website here:

How To Communicate Effectively & Stop Being A People-Pleaser

This is one of those things that will only improve with a willingness to change and lots of practice. Oh, and lots of uncomfortable feelings at first. But it does seem to get easier each time.

Contemplating Achievement

It’s time for a more positive post, because it’s not always just bad.

About a month ago I told my mom that I feel like I haven’t achieved anything in my life. That I’ve just wasted my life, and have nothing to show for myself. I was feeling a little despondent about my web and graphic design business. She told me that the fact that I continue to come up with ideas and work hard, despite the obstacles, she sees that as a great achievement. She said that she would have given up trying long ago, but I didn’t. And at some point, all that hard work just has to pay off.

My design business is about 6 months old, and I think I’ve done pretty well so far. Even though the business isn’t where I’d like it to be, I realize that it will take time. I haven’t had many clients, but at least I’ve gotten some. It’s much more successful than my photography business ever was, and is. And for that, I’m grateful.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been wanting to redesign the website of one of the restaurants my friend (previous wedding business partner) and I often meet at. Their website was ancient, had security issues, and didn’t work correctly. I spoke to one of the managers, gave her my business card, and asked her to please give it to the owner. And then I waited.

About 2 weeks ago I decided I was sick of waiting. So I found out the name of the owner of the restaurant and sent him an email. It took me an hour to write! Not because it was a long email (it wasn’t, it was short and to the point), but because I kept rewriting it in an attempt to get it just right. Damn perfectionist tendencies. It took me another 10 minutes to get the courage to hit “send”. But I did. And I was rewarded two days later with a phone call from the owner, telling me he’d been wanting to change his website for 3 years, but hadn’t gotten around to it! He wanted to meet. The last meeting we had, on Monday, I had shown him what I’ve done so far, and he was super happy with it. That was such a relief. I had been so nervous that he wouldn’t like the design and layout, and I’d have to start over. I find that I get very attached to my design work, and really want the client to like it too. I’m almost done with the website now, and should have it up on Monday. It would have been ready earlier, but of course, I still have my half-day job. I’m glad I’ve got that job though. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

I went into panic mode just before starting this project because I would have to do something completely different to how I would usually do it. I thought I couldn’t, and I’d have to tell my client that I couldn’t help him. But I did the work to figure out just how to do things this way. It set me back two days, but I learned, and with it came a boost of confidence. Adaptability in business is crucial. I learned this from an online sales and entrepreneurship course I’m taking at the moment.

One thing I’ve learned through this experience with the restaurant is that it’s not enough to just hand out business cards and hope for the best. I’m going to have to follow-up, and reach out to the correct person. And my meetings with my friend in business really motivate and inspire me. We motivate and inspire one another, and even though it’s draining spending too much time with her, I always get something out of it. I’ve learned to tell her when she’s overwhelming me, and ask her to talk softer and slow down, or give me 5 minutes to just ground myself. She respects my boundaries, so our meetings have become so much more pleasant, and I leave feeling good (most of the time anyway).

Achievement isn’t limited to career or studies. The other day Jasmine told me that I’m becoming really good with boundaries. That was nice to hear. To me, that’s an achievement. So when I think I haven’t achieved anything in life, I can recognize that thought for the lie it is. Maybe I can refer back to this post during those moments of self-doubt.

Unfortunately the depression and desire to just give up on life hasn’t left. It’s there when I wake up in the morning. It’s there every time I take a break from work. Heck, even while I’m working, but at least once I get into a flow state, I get a break from those feelings and thoughts.

Fine, Then Not

It’s been a busy, but good week. I took the whole of today to myself for some rest and relaxation. Yet, I feel depressed. I felt fine this morning and afternoon. But somewhere along the way that changed.

It seems that after a busy period, once I allow myself some time to recuperate, I hit a low. Even if it was a good kind of busy. I had to force myself today to not do any work, even though I felt the urge to. Did some work last night so that I could have a break today.

Maybe if I had done some work today I wouldn’t be feeling this way right now. But I also know that I tend to burn out pretty quickly, so need to prioritize self-care. I have a meeting with a client tomorrow and the week is going to be another busy one. So I have to learn to balance my life, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

I hate feeling this way. Of just wanting to disappear. Of wanting life to end. Especially when there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation for experiencing this depression. But I guess it’s never logical anyway.