Breathe.

I have a mild anxiety disorder.

I say that with pride, because the qualifier “mild” did not apply when I was first diagnosed, and it does now.  When I was younger (and yes, you may take that with a grain of salt since I am only twenty-seven), there was a period of time when I was taking nine different medications.  Not nine different pills, mind you, but medications.  That meant I was taking a ton (is that the correct metric term, here?) of pills on a daily basis.  The anxiety made me feel nauseated constantly, and for no reason at all except that I was terrified of…something.  There were so many days when I felt I was physically incapable of removing myself from the safety of being under my bed covers.  I almost failed high school because while the work I did was excellent, my attendance was abysmal.  The first rule of success is : Show up.  I was really bad at following that rule.

I did graduate high school, and I breathed a bit easier after that.  Then it was brought to my attention that I didn’t get to take a little vacation from life.  I needed to find a job, or I needed to go back to school.  Since so much of my anxiety had been school related, I thought I would try working for a bit before biting the bullet and attempting to get myself a degree.

I found a job at a retail store, a fantastic place called The Body Shop.  They had hired me just for the holiday rush, but then the New Year passed, and they thought they might still have a use for me.  I stuck around, both because I was intrigued by the ethics of the company (they have some amazing values and are constantly raising awareness of and fighting against major problems in the world, and I think more companies need to get on board with that), but also because I wasn’t sure where else to go from there.  The Body Shop was an amazing find for me, because the employees there seemed to be unapologetically themselves.  They helped ease back the shell I had created to protect myself from the terrors of the outside world.  They poked fun at me, and they let me know that was okay.  They taught me to respond to their good-natured jabs with snaps of my own.  They showed me how to make fun of them, and that was way better.  We danced around the store using makeup brushes as microphones as we lipsynched to whatever terrible songs we’d been sent to play in the store that month.  Our boss, Lisa, taught me that it’s okay to laugh wickedly in front of people, and that I didn’t need to stifle my giggles.  I don’t know if they realized what they were doing, but my coworkers taught me that I could be myself all the time, and that I didn’t need to pretend to be “normal.”

When I started really going through a bad patch while living at home, Lisa was the one who pulled me aside, sat me down, and told me that what was going on in my life was unacceptable.  She told me that I needed to take control of myself–own myself, so to speak–and that my parents were somehow holding me back from that.  She made me realize that I was worth something no matter what, and that if I were in an environment that made me feel any less of a person, it was time to GTFO.

Lisa was the one who pushed for me to be a full-time employee, so that I would both make enough money to afford rent somewhere outside of my parents’ house and have health insurance when I inevitably got sick because I had to go live in a cardboard box for a while.  (That’s a lie.  It was a wooden apple crate.  Rent in Los Angeles is insane.)  (Not really.)  (The wooden crate thing, not the rent thing.  The rent thing is totally true.)  Lisa was also the one who drove me the craziest when I worked there, constantly changing her mind about the layout of the store and what she wanted done.  She sometimes apologized to her employees for the aggravation she was causing them.  She never apologized for being the way she was.

I learned a lot from her.

I’m no longer working at the Body Shop.  I still love their products and admire their spirit.  I sign their petitions whenever I can, and feel the warm glow of pride that I once worked for that fantastic company.

Those years at the Body Shop led to a lot of self-revelations on my part.  I spent a lot of time in therapy, working through the particulars of my anxiety with my psychiatrist.  I developed more self-confidence in myself, and as I did so, the anxiety dwindled a bit.  It’s now gotten to the point where having tranquilizers on hand are a good idea, but likely won’t be necessary.

I still have panic attacks that leave me terrified of nothing which lead to even more panicking, mostly about how crazy I am to be to panicking about nothing.  That’s what the tranquilizers are for.  Some of the panic attacks I can work through.  Some of them I can stare down and make my bitch.  And some of them leave me curled up in a little ball, hiding under the covers, and determined to never emerge again.  But I will eventually emerge, knowing that this could happen again.  I acknowledge that, and I try to move on with my life.

I may have an anxiety disorder, but I am not going to let it stop me from living my life.

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I’m Sorry

It’s been awhile since I last posted anything here, which is a *terrible* idea when you are just starting out writing a blog.  I’d apologize profusely to you all, except that I think “you all” is going to consist of…well…no one.  This blog is far too new to actually have generated any readership.

I am, instead, going to apologize profusely to myself, for breaking the promise I’d made to myself to write more often.  But, me, I did have some reasons.

These reasons include :

  • My 92-year-old grandfather ending up in the hospital.  (He’s doing well now, and almost back to his old self!)
  • A rat getting into my pantry (and then the rest of my apartment) during the week I was staying with my family, waiting on news of my grandfather.  I spent another week with my family while I visited my apartment during the day to scrub it down with bleach.  So much bleach.
  • Traveling to New York City to visit my sister.  Ye gods, that is a busy city!

I’ll be writing posts about all of these things soon.  I promise, me, and I’m not going to let anything stop me!  Except for Cthulu.  Or the Zombie Apocalypse.  You know what?  I’m changing that promise to “I am unlikely to let anything stop me!”  It’s far more accurate.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not me, I hope you had a happy and spooky Halloween!  Expect to read more from me!

Probably.

Trust.

(This post is about trust, if that wasn’t obvious from the title.  It’s going to be a little bit hard for me to write, and I’m sorry if it doesn’t make sense.  I’m hurting, right now, and I’m not always the most clear person when I’m upset.  Still, I’m going to try, and, while I hope you’ll bear with me, you are also more than welcome to skip this post if you would rather go find something humorous and clever.)

The other day, I asked someone I care very deeply for (a girlfriend and confidant) to come and talk to me about some things that were bothering me.  I told her I really needed to speak with her, but that I didn’t want to interfere with other plans she had.  We agreed on an evening.

She sent me a message at around 3PM to say that she would be working late and wouldn’t be free until around 9.  I asked her if everything was okay, and received no response.  I asked her again, a few hours later, and was informed she was going to a wake.  I said that did not sound like she was okay, and that I would get dinner for her if she’d like.  I once again received no response, but I now assumed it was because she was upset about the funeral.  (She later said that the funeral was for someone she’d only met briefly due to her job, and her company had simply wanted a presence there for the service.)

When she finally did arrive, at around 9:30, she asked if I still wanted to talk with her.  I said that it would probably be best to wait until another evening.  She insisted.  And so we talked.

I mentioned that there were small things she’d been doing constantly, over time, that were eroding my trust in her.  She constantly made embellishments and told small lies to make stories more entertaining, or to make her own decisions seem cast in a better light, and she did so even when speaking to her close friends and family.  Combined with outright lying about some rather major things, I felt uncomfortable about trusting her with the more personal aspects of my own life.

I didn’t always use the best phrasing in our talk.  I was hurting, and not thinking as clearly as I should have–if I had been thinking, I would have written down my points so they didn’t fly out of my head the moment the confrontation arrived.  The things I said were hurtful to her, because she hadn’t considered there was a problem, and hearing that I didn’t trust her was a painful revelation.

At times, she reacted by laughing at me derisively.  At others, she sat and listened quietly.  At one point, she lied to me again.

Finally, she told me that to her, trust was not something that was built.  It was something that was consciously chosen.  She told me that if I cared about her, then I would trust that she had not intended to hurt me with what she was doing.

I responded that it wasn’t that I did not trust that she did not mean to hurt me; it was that I didn’t trust her not to hurt me.

We ended the conversation there, both of us reeling and emotional.

The next day, I discovered that she’d posted a status on Facebook the morning before our talk saying that going to the funeral would be easier than speaking with me.  I’m sure she meant to say that she knew our conversation was going to be difficult, and that the funeral of an almost stranger would be easier in comparison.  But that wasn’t what she said, and I was not the only person to interpret her words differently than she’d intended.

It hurt.  Again.

And I realized that the two of us–someone who believes that trust is a conscious choice, and can/should be extended at will (her) and someone who believes trust is something that is built gradually, by both parties (me)–could not reconcile these differences of opinion without changing an intrinsic part of our persons.  We could not continue to associate without one of us becoming upset with the other.

I told her these things, and I walked away.

I have looked back and realized that many of the things she’d said were emotionally abusive.  “If you care about me, then you won’t be hurt by the things I say because you’ll trust I don’t mean them.”  That is not acceptable.  That makes it my fault that I have been hurt; that is blaming the victim.

That’s not how trust should work.  If someone hurts you with their words, intentionally or not, speak to them about it.  Try to be understanding of them if it is the first time it’s happened, but let them know it is unacceptable.  If it is not the first time it’s happened, consider walking away.  And if it has happened many, many times, with no signs of improvement or even acknowledgement of your pain?  Walk away.  If you feel like you can’t do that, then talk to someone about it.  In fact, no matter what, talk to someone else about it.  If you need support, your friends and family will be there for you.

You deserve better than that.

(I apologize for the rambling and probably poorly crafted sentences in this post.  I haven’t slept in two days, and, as you might have gathered, I’ve been through the emotional wringer.  I just needed to put this down.)

My Father Is Not An Alcoholic. Probably.

(I realize that this conversation is not going to help me in my argument that neither I nor anyone in my family is an alcoholic that I know of, but I’m still posting it.  Because it makes me giggle, and that’s what’s important here.)

Me : Phoebe started limping pretty badly at the end of her walk, so Mom asked me to get her car and go and pick the two of them up.  I want you to come and keep me company even though they’re only two blocks away.

Dad : Okay, but I’m taking my gin and tonic with me.  ::gestures to his glass::

Me : I…are you kidding?  I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.  No open containers of alcohol in the passenger area and all that.

Dad : Whatever, you’re the one driving, not me.

Me : You make a good point.  I suppose we could also argue that a glass isn’t what that law is referring to with the word “container.”

Dad : EXACTLY.  Now, hurry it up.  I don’t want to miss more of this baseball game than I have to.

Me : …You know I’m not going to let you live this down, right?

Dad : You know I’m not going to pay any attention to you whenever you mention this, right?

Me : Well, as long as we understand each other.

(I just want to say that my dad’s reasoning for bringing his drink with him was that he’d just poured it, and that if he’d left it, the ice would have melted and diluted it.  You can’t blame him for that, right?  I mean, who wants to drink a watered down gin and tonic?  And that…doesn’t make him seem like less of an alcoholic, now that I think about it.  It just makes him seem like an alcoholic with refined tastes.  Also, my dad’s a lawyer.  HE IS SO GOOD AT HIS JOB.)

I Haven’t Been Murdered. Yet.

My parents have arrived home from their trip back East, which was good, because it means I avoided being murdered–barely.

I grew up in their house.  I lived there for twenty-two years before I decided it was time to stretch my wings a little and maybe take a step outside the nest.  Even though it’s been a few years since I’ve lived there, that house still remains “home” to me in a way that my subsequent apartments have not.

That said, they’ve done some remodeling since I left.  What was my bedroom is now the “Guest Room.”  What was my sister’s bedroom is now my dad’s “Study.”  Even the kitchen and family rooms are remarkably different from when I was growing up.

Not all of this happened after I was gone, now that I think back on it.  The remodel of my old bedroom definitely did not happen while I was there–I think I would have at some point noticed construction workers and painters in my room–but bits and pieces were done while I was still there.  It was a slow and gradual process; I think my parents were hoping to ease the shock of the change would have on me and my sister.  Which makes the result even more unsettling.

During the day, the house is the house I grew up in, just with some make-up on.  It did some working out and some growing up, and it’s looking more elegant and in better shape than ever before.

At night, it transforms, and suddenly I’m in a stranger’s house.  A house that is too big, and too empty to be filled by just one mildly paranoid twenty-five year old and an older golden retriever.  Oh, sure, there’s an alarm to set, and the house is in an extremely safe neighborhood.  The police are only a minute away (less if they speed), and I have a big furry puppy-like dog to reassure me that everything is okay.

My head is aware of all of that.  It is also aware that the noise in the bushes is PROBABLY A MURDERER, RUN!

(It turns out the noise in the bushes was actually a friend of my mother’s dropping off some informational papers on art she’d picked up that she thought my mom might like.  She dropped them off by walking all the way along the house to the back door and left them on the doormat.  There is a bench at the front door for exactly those sorts of items, and this woman has used it before.  Clearly, she wanted me to freak out for the rest of the week.)

So, my folks are back in town, and I am feeling like my being murdered is less imminent.  It’s a nice feeling–very relaxing.

That just means I’m starting to get complacent and will be murdered on my way to my own apartment this evening.  Tricky murderers.

Sibling Love

My sister and I were the best of friends up until I turned three.  It was around that age that my sister realized I was going to develop my own personality.  I wasn’t just a very life-like toy on which she could impress her own thoughts and opinions.

And our interests were very different.  My sister loved watching television and movies; I couldn’t wait to be sucked into the world of a book.  She hated cooking; I found it fascinating.  I would make a mess of my bedroom but keep every other room in the house clear of my things; she needed a quiet, clean, and neat space for herself, but the rest of the house was fair game.  When our family went on a tour of an outdoor camp in Maine where they wanted to send my sister, I was the one tugging on sleeves, begging to be allowed to attend.  My sister announced that they couldn’t force her to go.

We weren’t polar opposites.  There were times when the two of us would unite and combine our efforts to convince our parents of something.  Once, it was convincing them to allow my sister to pierce her ears.  Another time it was to get ourselves our own phone line.

On occasion, we would play games together.  Our parents mother didn’t approve, but we would play poker (our dad taught us to our mom’s dismay) and bet stickers from our collections.  We collected and played with Pogs, during that brief moment that they were popular.

But the fact remains that we mostly did not get along, and that led to a lot of fighting.  We would fight about the stupidest of things (which seemed so important at the time), and the fights would carry on for hours.  I’m actually kind of surprised that we didn’t drive either of our parents to drink.

Evening would fall, and the two of us would inevitably have been separated into different rooms.  (We were each put in a different room, I mean, not that our bodies were dismembered and scattered so it would take us longer to put ourselves back together.  We weren’t like Deadpool and Wolverine.)  I would sit, filled with a furious and righteous anger that my sister would dare do whatever-it-was.

Then my sister would knock on the door.  She would open it and stand in the doorway, refusing to look directly at me.  And she would sullenly ask me if I wanted to spend the night in her bed.

I always took this to mean that all was forgiven.  I never stopped to think about whether she was admitting I was right in whatever argument we’d been having, or if she was just condescendingly implying that I was too young to know better.  It didn’t matter to me, because my big sister had invited me to share her bed.  It was like a mini slumber party, and I thought it was one of the coolest things in the world.

I would climb into her bed and snuggle down between my sister and the wall (she had a twin bed that was pushed into a corner).  I always fell asleep confident in the knowledge that no matter how different we were, no matter how many fights we had, my big sister loved me, and I loved her.

It was one of the best feelings ever.

A few years ago, my sister told me that the only reason she’d ever invited me to sleep in her bed was because she’d been convinced monsters were going to creep up between the wall and the bed.  She figured that if I were there, they would eat me first, giving her enough time to get away.  So what was a sweet memory of sibling love to me was a memory of ruthless determination to survive for her.  I can’t even be mad.  At that age, if I’d been convinced monsters were coming, I don’t think I would have been calm enough to come up with a plan of action to ensure my escape.

I’m still confident that no matter how different we are or may become, my big sister will love me, and I will love her.  But when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’m going to trip her as I run away.

You Win This Round, Sickness.

My parents are out of town for almost two weeks and asked me to come live at their house while they were away and take care of the dog.  I agreed happily because this is the house I grew up in, and Phoebe was my golden retriever as much as my parents’ up until I moved away.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve come down with…something.  Maybe a flu?  I’m not sure.  All I know is that I have a low fever, I ache all over, and I am somewhat convinced that movement is the devil.  Seriously, moving at all sucks right now.  I wish I had one of those electric wheelchairs just so that I would only have to move a single finger to get from place to place, but you know what?  Even THAT would be too much movement.  Typing this post is agony.

To make things worse, my parents prepared for their trip by eating or throwing away everything that was easy to eat.  Perishable?  Consumed or thrown away.  Easy to snack on?  It was already snacked on, or they snuck it onto the airplane.  Tasty to drink?  I have this mental image of them chugging juice from the bottle and pouring the rest down the sink.

So, I am sitting here in my old room (what my parents now call “the guest room”, the  jerks) and I am trying to figure out how to make everything stop hurting and the world to stop spinning so that I can go to the store and pick up some goddamned chicken noodle soup.

(Sidenote : my parents have no cans of chicken noodle soup, but they do have eleven cans of kidney beans.  Mom and Dad, there isn’t going to be a kidney bean crisis.  You are silly to believe you need to stock up on them.)

Oh, right, and somewhere along the line, I need to learn to suck it up to take a hyperactive golden retriever on a few walks.  She’s eleven years old and has bad arthritis, and she is still going to walk the pants off me.

Can I wave a white flag yet?