Public Meltdown & Ready For Downtime

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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.

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Where I’m Not A Burden

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A few weeks ago I started volunteering at a local dog shelter.

I’ve been wanting to do it for months, but didn’t want to go alone the first time. I hate not knowing what to expect (it fills me with anxiety and/or panic), and therefore find it helpful to have a friend or someone else I know come with me so I don’t get overwhelmed. My business partner agreed to come with me, so I could finally go. Now I go alone, which I prefer, because I can control my time, what I do, and get alone time with the doggies.

It’s been really good for me. There are definitely challenges, because I tend to get attached to animals pretty quickly, and it breaks my heart leaving them behind every week. Especially one particular dog. My girl, Athena. Even though I walk different dogs all the time, I still at least play with her for a while every week, and might take her for a walk as well if I have enough time. I’ll add photos of her at the end of this post.

Spending time with these amazing creatures feels so good. It’s also my weekly exercise (I should exercise at other times during the week but it’s boring, so don’t). I might not be making a huge difference to their lives, but at least I can do a little. And that’s good enough. When I’m there, and with them, I don’t feel like a burden. I feel like I matter. At least to those doggies. I can smother them with love and they don’t push me away.

In one of our sessions when I told my therapist I was going to the shelter the next day to start volunteering, she was really glad to hear that, but told me to take different dogs every week so I don’t become too attached. But now she knows that’s just not possible (at least not yet). When I was telling her last week how badly I want to adopt Athena but that my dad won’t budge and doesn’t want a dog around, even if he doesn’t have to have anything to do with it, she encouraged me to continue going and not give it up despite that. She already knows me pretty well… That something like that (the disappointment at my dad not allowing me to have a dog while living with them) tends to de-motivate me from doing things that are good for me, or that I enjoy. I’m glad she said that because I have been wondering whether it’s worth the heartache of having to leave them behind when I go. But I want to do good in this world, and giving back to these dogs is one way I can do that. They deserve it.

Another reason I enjoy spending time with dogs is because it’s the one time when I’m out in the world that I don’t feel on high alert and sensory experiences don’t overwhelm me as much. Nothing else has such a soothing effect on me, other than a hug of course (which is always way too short anyway). I feel safe in the presence of large breed dogs in particular. Maybe it goes back to one of the family dogs we had when I was a kid. Her name was Cindy, a large cross-breed we had for about 5 years. She was my best, and only friend for a big portion of my childhood. I always felt safe and loved when I was spending time with her.

One Sunday when I got back from visiting my mom for the weekend, I couldn’t find Cindy anywhere. My dad told me they had put her down. She wasn’t sick, but she had bitten one of the other dogs. His theory has always been that the first sign of aggression signals that it’s time to have a dog put down (which I now know is bullshit). I was devastated. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. And his other dog, wasn’t even seriously hurt. She just had a little mark. I was furious, but of course didn’t express it in front of my dad. I’ll never forget that day.

There was another dog at the shelter, Apollo, who reminded me of Cindy, and I bonded with him the very first day. Last week when I wanted to take him for a walk, they told me that he had been adopted. It triggered this horrible memory of having Cindy just gone so suddenly without having had the opportunity to say goodbye. On the one hand I was happy that he got adopted and now has his own family, but a part of me also felt really heartbroken that day. Now? I’m just glad that he found his forever home.

I told A about my volunteering and she said it’s a good opportunity to work on my attachment. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but now I can definitely see it. A form of exposure therapy for people with attachment issues. Just wonder whether it will translate into human relationships? I don’t see why not.

Obsessions As A Coping Tool?

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Throughout my life I’ve had various obsessions. Things I latched onto and that became the centre of my world for a while. It would be all I could/would want to think or talk about.

As a kid it would be a movie or an animated character, and the family dog Cindy. As a teen, it was a celebrity (won’t say who, it’s embarrassing). I’ve had an obsession with Jennifer Lawrence (which drives my friends crazy) for the past couple years, “replacing” my previous one. I’m the Wikipedia of knowledge when it comes to her. It’s actually quite sad. 😉

My current obsession revolves around dogs. It never really went away. Psychology (and Neuroscience) is also an obsession, but the world of dogs is now front and centre again.

Unlike the Jennifer Lawrence one, the Psychology is something that fascinates my friends and they don’t mind me talking about it endlessly. They’ll even ask me questions, which puts me on cloud nine.

I want to study Psychology. I want my own dog. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted these things. So it’s not just new stuff that comes up and become obsessions. I just go through these stages where I’m so psyched thinking about doing and getting those things that once again it’s all I can think about, and I want it now.

But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I’m not going to get any of those things in the near future unless something changes in my life. When I thought about that, I felt defeated and hopeless again. But yet my mind won’t stop or let it go. It’s like a compulsion. I have to read more, watch more, learn more, talk about it as often as I can to anyone who will listen, etc.

Why do I do this to myself? I’ve asked this question quite a lot, but I don’t have any concrete answers, other than that maybe it’s a coping tool? Because my mind is so filled up with these things that I don’t have time to deal with all the other shit. It makes me feel alive. It fills me with excitement. So I don’t see it as a bad thing. Sure, it can be annoying sometimes (and not just for others). But for the most part, it’s so worth it.