The Winds of Change

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Not only is that how many essays started in high school when we were doing Change as a topic, but it’s also true. Changes are constant, consistent and certain. Changes are big, small, simple and complex. We probably undergo thousands of changes that we don’t even notice. The last month or so has been a ‘period of change’ (that’s what people call it, right?) for me.

First, I got a new job. This is exciting and horrifying all at once. I’m very much settled into my current, part-time job. I know the people, the systems, what to expect. I’m happy and comfortable. My new job will be full-time, it will be with a whole new team and all new environment. I’m shitting myself.

Second, university started. I’m on my third degree – wait, it’s not as impressive as it sounds. I keep chopping and changing, so really, I’m on my third attempt at a degree. This one, I’ve convinced myself, I will actually complete. But with full-time work and part-time study, this is making me nervous.

Thirdly, at the ripe old age of nearly-twenty-four, I got braces. If you want to talk about pushing comfort zones, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable for the next year or so. If someone offers to shove a whole bunch of metal into your mouth for a few thousand dollars, definitely consider it carefully.

Since change is such a sure thing, we need to know how to deal with it. There are some changes that are easy to deal with. For example, recently my favourite Mac’n’Cheese brand changed their packaging. I didn’t realise this for months because I would walk into the aisle, scan the shelves and walk out, having not recognised my brand. After weeks of frustration (I really like Mac’n’Cheese), I decided to go with the ‘other’ brand that was there. Turns out there’s “NEW LOOK” written very clearly on the packet. I have now adapted to that change. Other changes, however, are no so easy to adapt to. Moving towns, losing a loved one, break ups, they’re all big changes, and changes that can throw us into utter turmoil.

So. How do we cope with change? Well, I cope with it like this:

Crying, trying to get out of the change, flatly refusing to change, then, after many renditions of these, finally, accepting the change. And mostly, once the change occurs, I just deal with it. I’ve moved over seas to live four times. Each time I didn’t know what to expect, where I would live, or what it would be like. I didn’t know if I would make friends, or if I could easily keep in contact with friends back home. But I just kind of picked up the routine and dealt with it. If I had to name one skill, it’s that I’m pretty good at going with the flow.

Although, I have to be honest. With me, it’s sort of like getting caught in a current. I will struggle, flail and try to get out with all my strength. Then at some point I’ll realise I’d be much better off to not do that. Next thing I’m kicked back, a cocktail in my hand, just watching the scenary going passed.

I think most people’s reaction to change is fear. The unknown is a scary thing. My new job is something I’ve never done before. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t know if I’ll get along with the people I work with. I don’t know if I’ll like it. I don’t know how I’ll cope. I don’t know if it will make studying even harder.

But you know what? I didn’t know any of that about my current job. In fact, I was 99.9999999% sure I couldn’t do my current job. I was so sure I couldn’t. But I could. I can. I do. I didn’t know if I’d get along with the people I work with. And I didn’t get on with all of them, but with most I do. In fact, today I spent most of my time at work laughing and joking with people. I’m having a going-away party tomorrow and I realised how many of the people who had once been collegues are now friends. I hated my job at first. Everything was scary and overwhelming. I didn’t know how or have the confidence to manage relationships when they got confrontational. I remember the first time I got yelled at over the phone. I froze up and later cried. And cried. And cried. But now people get mad at me, and I’m like “Sure, I suck, I’m the worst, is there anything else? No? Cool, have a good day.” *click*

I think back to that time, how scared I was, how shy I felt, how everything, even outside work, seemed scarier. I didn’t use to be able to strike up a conversation with people I didn’t know, but now I can. In fact, I had four conversations about the weather with four different people today, and that’s a slow day. I can look strangers in the eye and joke around with them. I still get shy and awkward sometimes, but if the me before this job could see me, she would be amazed. And she should be very proud.

I know that starting this new job will be hard. But I also know that I can adapt. I’ve grown up in a tumultuous house, at best. I had a hard time in school. I’ve had shitty relationships, and gone through fine weather friends. I’ve struggled badly with mental health, self-harm and suicide. And I’m still here. And if I can do it, then there’s no way you can’t.

I always wish there was a step-by-step guide to these kind of things. Going Through Change for Dummies or something. But I think it’s mostly just taking care of yourself and believing in yourself. And if you can’t, doing it anyway. After all, we can’t escape change, might as well embrace it.

 

 

 

 

Image credit: https://www.tes.com/lessons/vNa25x2u0apeIg/3-3-wind-direction-and-wind-speed

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Triggers

Triggers are something that gets made fun of a lot. I think people started using ‘trigger warnings’ for things that seemed quite trivial to a lot of people, and it took the meaning away from the word. Now, if you talk about triggers, people think you’re being over sensitive. They don’t realise that for a lot of people triggers are a very real, very scary and very awful thing.

I have a few triggers. I grew up in an abusive household and have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). There are things that ‘trigger’ me and put me back in that mindset, the mindset of being in danger, powerless and terrified. Things like shouting, not even directed at me, just in the same area, causes me to freeze up. It become harder to breathe. My heart starts racing. I can’t think. My body kicks in the fight or flight reflex and pumps me full of adrenaline. Any kind of confrontation is the same. I sit and shake for ages afterwards. Shouting, certain gestures, even being in my childhood home, are all triggers. Unfortunately, I still live in my childhood home, something that contributes largely to my poor mental health.

Triggers don’t only come from PTSD. There are also things that can trigger mood swings. For example, tonight I was feeling pretty good, better than usual. I had a long, busy day at work, so I hadn’t had time to dwell on my thoughts. I got home and was watching my current favourite tv show. I went out to get a drink of water before bed and my little brother made a comment, something he thought was a hilarious joke, about how he and my mother were going to get me a garbage skip for Christmas.

Now, this might not make a lot of sense, but let me explain. My room is always messy. I’ve tried to keep it clean and tidy, but so much of the time finding motivation to get out of bed is too difficult, let alone to clean. I have bursts of energy and I’ll clean for a while, then it’s like getting hit in the face, and I just can’t do it. I also learnt when I was younger that if my room is messy my father won’t come in here, which means it’s safer. My bed is right at the opposite end from the door and there’s an obstacle course separating the two. In a house where I often hid in cupboards for hours to avoid him, that kind of safety is highly prized.

But why did that joke hurt so much? Well, it was like a slap in the face. I was so cheerful and happy and then BAM a reminder that I’m not good enough. A reminder that they talk about me behind my back, they make jokes together at my expense. I know all this, but it’s still not nice having it through in my face, especially around this time of year when everyone talks about how important family is. What really sucks is they wouldn’t have any idea how badly it effects me. How I went into my room and cried and cried, while they laughed. What’s worse is I don’t think they would care. I’m just being too sensitive. And that’s where the issues really come in. People don’t understand that when you have a mental illness, you’re not going to react the same to things. Teasing might just seem like teasing to some people, but to others it’s soulcrushing. It’s not being too sensitive, it’s reacting to something that really cuts deep. But because they don’t experience the same, they can’t understand it, and they don’t like it when you “ruin” their joke. They expect you to laugh along, and when you don’t, they get offended. We’re not allowed to get offended. But they are.

In my last post I talked about suicide and how I deal with those feelings. Triggers are different. They’re often unpredictable and difficult to avoid. They hurt. People judge. It sucks. But being aware of triggers is very important. There’s not a lot I can do when someone around me yells. As I said before, it makes me freeze up. I have learnt that repeating the phrase “It’s okay, you’re safe” outloud to myself does help, but that’s only once the trigger, or what my brain sees as the threat, has been removed. Dealing with triggers is something I’m still learning about. I recently got the book The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk which was recommended to me by a psychologist I was seeing. She thought it might help with the triggers, learning how the mind and body stores the traumas. I haven’t started reading it yet, but when I do, I’ll make a post about it. I’m hoping it will be good, that it will help.

As always, I feel a bit better after writing. Still crap, but that seems to be the norm at the moment. Probably due for another medication switch up, but that’s another post entirely. So, I guess this is where I say goodnight and settle down to sleep.

Goodnight.

 

 

 

Image credit: https://www.concealedcarry.com/safety/should-you-modify-your-carry-gun/

Depression and Suicide

Suicide is something I think about a lot. I’ve had bad depression for most of my life. I didn’t start getting any kind of treatment until I was nearly eighteen and most of the coping I’ve done on my own. It’s not something that’s easy to talk about. It’s not something people want to talk about. I’ve tried to bring it up with people I’m close with in the past, my mother, friends, etc. but it’s amazing how quickly they want to change the subject. If you ever want to test someone’s thinking speed, bring up mental illness and they’ll have a topic within seconds.

Something that I hate is the taboo around talking about mental health. It’s something I could go on about for ages. Recently a friend of mine brought up the fact that she had been at a fast food drive through and the girl serving had self-harm scars. She asked us, two other friends and I, if we thought the girl should keep them covered. I wanted to say no. No, she shouldn’t have to keep them covered, she shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of them, how does that help?! But it’s confronting, and I know that I keep evidence of self harm covered up as much as I can. I recently had someone notice something I had burned into my ankle and it’s like this wave of “Play it cool and lie” came over me. I don’t want people to know I self harm, even if I haven’t done it in weeks, months, years. I don’t want people to know because it makes me seem weak, and because I’m ashamed of it.

Shame. That’s a big thing with mental health. And I don’t mean “Oh, isn’t it a shame…”, I mean that horrible, burning shame that you carrying around with you. Because people can’t know. They can’t know that you cry yourself to sleep. They can’t know that you hurt yourself. They can’t know that every day you think about whether it wouldn’t be better to just rip the bandaid off and end it. And this shame that forces you to keep it all in, also convinces you that not only to people not want to know, they don’t care. It turns the rational thoughts of “It’s confronting and they’re struggling to respond” into “They don’t care about you”.

I can remember confiding to my mother once that I didn’t think anyone cared about me. She told me that I had convinced myself of that. I didn’t have to. If you were to ask me who in the world cares about me, I would answer “Nobody”. Not to be dramatic, not to be attention seeking, or self pitying, but because I truly don’t believe it. I can rationalise, I can tell myself that of course people care, but that is what I have to convince myself of. It’s not that I’ve talked myself into believing that no one cares, or that I’m alone, that’s like an inherit thought. That’s just how I feel. I can sit here and go through people I know in my head care. My mum, my sisters, my friends. But could I honestly believe that they care? No. That’s mental illness.

Mental illness is exhausting. Not just forcing myself to get out of bed, to go to work, to smile and laugh and pretend, that’s actually easy compared to just existing with myself. At work I have distractions. People coming and going, things I have to do, problems to solve. That’s the easy part. The hard part is when I’m trying to fall asleep at night, or when it’s quiet and still and my thoughts can just do their thing.

Mental illness is isolating. I work in an office with a lot of people. I would see at least a hundred different people a week. I see friends regularly. I live with my parents and my little brother. I have people around me all the time. And I feel so disconnected from them, I might as well be on a different planet.

Mental illness is tireless. It’s like trying to swim against a rip. You push all your energy into just staying afloat, but it doesn’t let up. It just keep pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and eventually you have to make a choice: do I keep swimming or do I sink? Which one is easier?

For the people around me, it’s easier that I keep on swimming. That effects them less. No one wants to have to deal with a suicide. Think of what that would involve. Police. Medical staff. Funerals. Getting rid of possessions. Having to tell people that hadn’t heard.

For me, it’s easier to sink. It would be so easy to just end it, just to give up. There are methods where it’s just like falling asleep. No more tears, no more heart stopping panic attacks, no more terror, no more depression. Just sleep.

So why don’t I end it? Well, firstly, because it’s biologically ingrained in us to survive. Go to the edge of a cliff. You’ll feel your palms and the bottoms of your feet start to tingle and sweat, your stomach will clench, you’ll tense up. Your body is literally fighting to keep you alive. It’s really hard to override that instinct. Secondly… Well, no, I think that’s the only reason. I haven’t got the energy to override my human nature screaming at me to stay alive, even though I’m miserable.

Now, you might be thinking, why don’t you do something about it? That’s one of the things people say if you do force the conversation upon them. One of my friends, who knows quite well I’m medicated and have seen psychologists, said that once and I wanted to slap my palm against my forehead and say “Oh! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that! So simple! I’m cured!” but I didn’t, because I’m not an asshole. I do, in fact, do things about it. I go bak to my doctor to reasses the medication I’m on whenever I feel like I’m getting worse. I want to see a psychologist, but I work with all of the ones in my city, and have no way of getting to another town to see someone else. There are psychs in training at the uni I can see, but I don’t want to be the one that turns them off being a psychologist. That’s not entirely true, I just want to see someone with experience, someone who has gotten people through this kind of thing before.

I also have management strategies for when things get bad. I have specific songs that I put on that make me feel happy. I go for walks. I distract myself. But those don’t always work. If it’s late and I’m trying to get to sleep, and all of a sudden all I can think about is how much I’d rather be dead than anything else in the world, what then?

Well, then I get up and blog. I put on one of my happy songs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sywP3aVNUpY), I cry and type until my head pounds, my face is wet and my wrists are all crunchy from being held wrong. Then I check the time and realise I need to be up in a matter of hours and I don’t have time for this shit. Then I sign the blog off, post it and go to sleep.

Goodnight.

 

 

 

(Image credit: https://leisurethings.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/lets-talk-depression-and-leisure/)

Playing The “Yes, but” Game.

It’s 23 days into the new year and I haven’t written anything. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I have a few little scribbles, a scene or two, in a note book somewhere. But as for substantial, planned writing, it just hasn’t happened yet. As always, I came into the new year with grand ideas of publishing my first novel (“this year, for sure!” – me every year), reading 52 books and moving out of home – permanently this time. I have to say, I’ve made fairly good progress on the books, being on my 11th already, but what with reading, binge-watching vampire movies and discovering a new anime series, my writing has suffered.

It wasn’t until just now, reading a blog post by my sister, that I realised how little I’ve written this year. Reading the post, all I could think was “God, I wish I could write like this”. I’ve always been compared to this particular sister. When I was around 12 we looked similar (she was 22, so I don’t know if that was insulting to her, me or both of us) and I constantly got mistaken for her. And then I started high school and people started expecting me to achieve like her. See, she’d topped the state in English, and when my teachers realised I have a particular knack for English, they all thought I would be The Next Her. Unfortunately, I let every single one of them down.

Being compared to my siblings, not just my younger-older sister, has always bothered me, mainly because (and I’m not afraid to admit this anonymously) I am extremely, painfully insecure.I hold ridiculously high expectations for myself, basically setting myself up for failure, but still beating myself up when I do fail. It’s something I realise is not good for me and try to change, but I think the Yes, But game is something everyone does, even from a disturbingly young age.

The Yes, But game goes like this: Person A compliments Person B. Person B either accepts or rejects the compliment, then passes it on to Person C. For example, “Wow, Anna, this story is brilliant!” “Thanks, but Judy’s was so much better.”. I’m sure we’ve all played this game at one time or another. I know that I, personally, play this game a lot. Not always out loud, either. Sometimes it goes like this: “Wow, this story is really good!” “Thanks!” *Inner thoughts* I bet they’re just saying that to be nice. Theirs was much better.

As someone who does this a lot, I have to say, it is an excellent way to undermine your own confidence. Because, let’s be honest here, we’re never going to be the best at absolutely everything we do. I’m never going to be the greatest writer in history, nor the best dancer, nor the best painter. In fact, even within my immediate family, I’ll never be the best at any of those things. But just because I know that, does that mean I should hang up my laptop, dancing shoes and paint brush? Of course not! I’m not going to get any better by sulking about how I’ll never be the best! And I don’t have to be the best, I just have to be my best. Comparing myself to others is never going to help me. Even if you compare yourself like this: “My story wasn’t the best, but at least it wasn’t as bad as Paul’s.” In fact, that may even be more harmful. Besides, maybe Paul’s just a little rusty, you don’t know.

I wish I could say that after realising how bad the Yes, But and comparison games are, I stopped completely and never did it again, but unfortunately, this is not the case. See, I am extremely competitive, and while I know I’ll never be the best, that does nothing to quench the desire to be the best. In fact, sometimes it fuels it, out of pure stubborness. But not matter how much it might drive me to try harder, in the end this is always my failing. Not matter how good I think my story is, when I start comparing it to others’, it makes me feel as if I’ve fallen short. So here is my new years resolution: Don’t compare any writing to anyone else’s until at least April.

I’ve just mentally started comparing this to my sister’s post, so I’ve failed already, but I’ll try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next…

 

 

 

Image credit: https://beingsakin.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/yesbut.jpg

First blog post

I’ve always been bad at keeping journals. I think it takes a special kind of person to do it, someone with really good commitment. One of my best friends in high school was great with keeping diaries. She’d write long entries every day, detailing her thoughts and feelings. I always wished I’d done that so I could look back on now forgotten memories, but unfortunately my commitment needs work. My friend was the first of us to get married. Coincidence? Maybe…

Writing has always been a way for me to channel my thoughts and feelings. I usually wrote stories, though, not journal entries. Looking back over my works I can tell what kind of a mood I was in at the time of writing. If the main character had her heart broken I was probably angry or upset. If she got her first kiss I was in a good mood. It might have been unfair of me to take my mood swings out on these characters, but somehow it helped. It allowed me to think situations through, to analyse them in a way. I could change what had happened in the story, even if I couldn’t in real life, and that gave me some comfort. For a time I could become someone flawless and strong who said and did all the right things.

As I got older my characters became more real. I still used them to escape, but they were no longer the smartest, most beautiful, most skilled character. They had flaws, they ran from their problems, they hurt people. But everything was resolved in the end, no endings were left unfinished, no ends left un-tucked. I channeled my spirit into them, but I was still able to fix things. I can’t do that in real life. Sometimes I wish I could, but things just aren’t as clear cut as I wrote them to be.

I’ve had a lot of beginnings and endings in my life. Some of them good, some of them bad, some of them yet to come. I like beginnings, but I’m not too fussed on endings. Recently a relationship of mine ended. I cried a lot and vowed never to let myself fall in love again, telling myself the pain wasn’t worth it. But it was. It hurts, even now. But we had a great time together. We loved each other as hard as we could, we gave each other a part of ourselves, we grew together. It ended with tears and heartbreak, but with the promise of friendship. It will take time for us to heal and find a place where we can begin a friendship together. It was the end of something and the beginning of something. I really hate endings. But I really do like beginnings.