Updates

Wow, I really forgot how much I hate having random roommates. The creepy roommate left for 8 weeks to go visit his family and came back very early this morning. I’ve been hiding out in the bedroom all morning with my homemade granola, trying to avoid him before I’m sufficiently caffeinated to deal with the world.

I have to talk to random people all day at work, where I’m awake and chipper and full of flavoured water and bubblegum. I don’t want to have to do the same thing here, not even showered, with someone who thinks that every time we pass each other in the hallway we absolutely need to have a long and awkward conversation.

I guess that’s par lately, though. I’ve kind of avoided coming on here the last few weeks because……… well, everything just sucks. And when everything sucks, my brain goes blank. I can’t even write erotic friend fiction anymore, much to the disappointment of my coworkers.

Right after Easter, our hours were cut at the store. Not just “well, guess I can learn to survive on 25 hours instead of 30 hours” cut. I mean “well, that 37 hour week was nice. What the hell am I going to do with myself when I only have 4 hours next week” slashing.

For the entire month of April, I was lucky to get scheduled for more than 4 hours a week. The boss pulled me aside, went over the scheduling and budget with me, and swore things would get at least a little better. Just not any time soon. So, I had to start looking for a second job.

Had a few interviews, got a bunch of rejections. Then I signed up with a placement agency that seemed super promising. They recruit for a place I’m dying to work for and said they always have openings there. They promised they’d send me every listing for there as it came in. That was weeks ago, and I haven’t seen anything since.

I’ve spent days going over cover letter tips because those damn things are the bane of my existence. I’ve got at least half a dozen different versions of my resume ready to tailor, and have a small collection of application packages from various local businesses. Basically, when I’m not at work I’m at home looking for work.

That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The second week of April the boss called me on one of my many days off. The transfer notices came out for our district, and I’m being transferred to our downtown location.

Now, there’s a little group of us who have worked together for years. When they built our new location, we did the move from the old one together. We’re like a little family, the five of us. So as soon as I got off the phone, I went into our online group chat to tell them the bad news. Turns out, all five of us are being separated. Four of us got transferred to different stores, with one staying behind. We have been a collective emotional wreck since that day.

This group of us is family. We’re all super protective of each other, and of the other people at our store. When the big scary customer guy came threatening me and stabbing at me with his pen, it was my work family that came to my rescue and got him out of the store.  We’ve gone to each other’s kids’ birthday parties and weddings. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, cats, and Sundays together sitting poolside with too many drinks. MamaBear’s two sons are my favourite little gentlemen, while PapaBear’s kids are the cutest little balls of awkwardness and hyperactivity. Sugar and I (she calls me Cinnamon because of my red hair) have been leaving chocolate bars in each other’s lockers for years now. And the WorkBFF, well if I get into why she’s awesome I’m going to start crying again.

There have been a lot of tears shed, and a lot of group hugs. Our last day at this store is Saturday, and it is going to be one sloppy day. The WorkBFF and I are closing together that night, and don’t think we can make it through the shift without crying a few times. Every time we close the store together, she drops me off after work. The last few times, I’ve managed to contain my tears until I’ve gotten out of the car in my driveway.

Throughout all of this, things at home have been ridiculously strained. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has been anything but amazingly awesome. I’ve caught him hiding alcohol from me a dozen times in the last weeks, and caught him shopping at other liquor stores to hide his purchases from me. He’s been back on the hard liquor with a vengeance, and his drinking is just spiralling.

We had planned on doing so much together while our roommate was gone. Instead, we spent more time sleeping in separate rooms than together because of the fights about his drinking. His drinking puts a huge strain on our relationship, and his lack of caring makes it worse.

At night, I fluctuate between two types of dreams now. In one, AAB gets drunk and angry with me. I know he would never hit me in real life, but he does in my dreams. He hits me, or pushes me, or tries to hurt Bowser. Whatever he does, I wind up getting hurt badly while he just rages on.

In the other dreams, he’s gone. I’ve left him and started over in a new apartment alone. I have a cute little bar cart, Bowser has a sibling, I have plants growing on the window sill. I’m happy. Even though I’m working all the time and super stressed in the dreams, I’m still happy to be alone.

I don’t think it’s possible to leave him, though. He’s pointed out dozens of times that regardless of how much he’s drinking, he’s still much better than he was when we met. The only thing that would ever drive him to drink like that again would be if I left him. If I left him he would drink himself out of a job, and a home, and wind up on the streets. If I leave, then that will drive him to drink even more, and it will be my fault that his life is destroyed. I can’t do that to someone, and couldn’t live with myself knowing I’m responsible for someone else’s alcoholism.

I’ve spent the last 4 weeks in a constant state of panicked haze. Nothing seems real, nothing seems safe. I’m constantly waiting for something more to go wrong. Every time I drive with AAB I panic, wondering how much he drank so far that day. I’m constantly worried that he’s going to hurt himself or someone else while he’s driving, or while he’s at work.  And he gets so mean and demanding when he drinks, too. The other night he announced that we’re getting a kitten, he’s picking it out, and the sometimes scratchy Bowser Kitten needs to get declawed because he’s a vicious beast of an animal who will kill anything smaller than him.

This was also the day after he out-catted Bowser Kitten in the Battle of the Bathroom Centipede. Bowser was too gentle with it, and it almost escaped. Oh, that vicious little beast, eh?

I’ve been trying to write more to take my mind off of everything, but nothing is coming of it. At least, nothing I can throw on here. I have dozens of half-finished pieces sitting on my desktop, and a few more scribbled in notebooks. I don’t know, maybe I need a new blog. Or multiple blogs for multiple genres. Or maybe just stop altogether.

I don’t know, my brain isn’t clear enough for rational thought anymore. I think it’s time for my lunchtime cry now.

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Crazy Going Slowly Am I…….

Sometimes life is just one crushing blow after another, until you just wish Flanders was dead.

~Homer J Simpson

Well Sunshine, it has been a damn rollercoaster the last few weeks!

After my last post, I had a few interviews with the Company I Never Wanted to Work For, Ever. The first one over the phone went really well. I did some online tests after that, filled out a job seeker profile for them on their website, and went in for a second interview.

When the interview ends with the person shaking your hand and saying, “Well, this was fun”, you know things did not go well.

After that, I somehow managed to get in with the job agency that handles the account for the somewhere I’ve been wanting to work for years. I had a fantastic interview with them, and they emailed me some computer testing to do from home. Just to qualify to work where I want to, I needed to have a typing speed of 40wpm and be able to pass three different components of Microsoft Word and Excel testing with 80% (basic skills), 60% (intermediate), and 40% (advanced).

I spent two days reteaching myself Word and Excel beyond the basics I use almost daily. Pretty sure it paid off, though.

Test Results

The agency said it could take a little while before postings came in, and I prepared to settle in and wait. This place I want to work at would be perfect since my house is right between it and my current job. I could leave on, do a quick-change, and head off to the other when I needed to. Almost sounds too good to be true. Things were finally starting to look up for me………

So of course, everything got messed up again.

Monday afternoon the boss called. Every now and then corporate likes to transfer people to different stores in the area. Usually, my store would have maybe two people leave and two new ones come in. This time around five of us are leaving, and I’m one of them. At the end of the month, I start at the store downtown. Actually, of the five of us who are closest at the store, four of us got transferred out. And all to different locations, too.

Of my little group, my little work family, most of us had not planned to stay at that store forever. We knew at some point one of us would have to leave, or one of us would get a job somewhere else. They tore us all apart at once, though, and it’s a huge shock to us all. Phone calls were made, group chat came back to life, many tears were shed and much wine was drunk.

Oh, there was so much wine. Thank you Chili, for making such delicious and affordable liquid feelings!

Frontera Cab Sauv

This is what my feelings taste like. Delicious sadness…….

I don’t know if it was the shock of us all being pretty much ripped away from each other, hearing the sounds of my coworkers crying over the phone, or the massive amount of wine I drank after getting the news that put me over the edge. All I know is my heart is fluttery and my insides are vibrating again.

All I want to do is curl up in a ball right now and sleep. But my eyes don’t stay shut and my brain doesn’t turn off. I woke up four times last night, with the final time being almost an hour before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s alarm went off at 6:30am. I’ve been scrubbing, cleaning, job hunting, and researching for hours already, and it’s barely 10am.  Hell, I cleaned the damn oven before my first cup of coffee!

So bear with me while I try to figure out what the hell is going on with my life. I’m going to be working on job applications and cover letters for the next while. Hopefully, I can get my heart to stop pounding long enough to get a post or two out on here.

Mental Health, Mental Help

 

This is the fourth time I’ve started this post in 13 hours. Woke up twice last night trying to figure out what to say. I spent years trying to ignore it or deny it. When I was younger and my symptoms first popped up (9th grade, right after I started at a new high school in a new city where I knew no one), I was made to feel like certain people wanted me to be sick because it made me wrong, and then they could laugh at my family because they had the weird little freak in high school.

During my lunch break, I would get this strange feeling. My heart would start racing and pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest and run down the hall. My breathing would get fast like I couldn’t get enough air in a regular breath so I switched to tiny micro-breaths. Sometimes I’d break out in a sweat, or I’d get too dizzy to stand. On more than one occasion I threw up in the bathroom by my locker. I went home on my lunch maybe 10 times by the middle of the semester.

I can still remember the very last time I dared to call home and have mum come pick me up. There was a full office staff, a few teachers on their spare periods, and maybe half a dozen students in the office with me that day for whatever reason. Mum came into the office to pick me up, and one of the secretaries pulled us aside where no one could hear us talk quietly. She suggested my mother have me speak to the school counsellor, and maybe get recommended to a therapist for a short time, because I appeared to be having some sort of issues with anxiety.

Well, mum was having none of that. She fucking exploded on that poor secretary, in front of everyone in that office.

“What do you MEAN she should see a counsellor? She was perfectly fine before I sent her to this school! How dare you tell me my daughter is some sort of freak! A psycho! Don’t you know what happens to people who see a therapist? They’re branded FOR LIFE as a crazy psycho! You want my daughter locked up in some NUT HOUSE for the rest of her life? Is that it? Have you seen her grades? She’s getting A’s in all her afternoon classes, could some FREAK do that? How DARE you tell me my daughter is damaged, how DARE you tell me my daughter is some sort of psycho FREAK!”

It’s been like 20 years since then, so that’s not exactly word for word, but you get the gist of it. She ranted like that for a good 5 or 6 minutes, referred to me as a freak more than a dozen times in front of a few of my classmates. The car ride home was a total joy! She ranted on even more, telling me that there was nothing wrong with me, that she couldn’t believe someone would think I’m some sort of psycho, that if I ever let myself see a therapist or psychiatrist they would just put me on meds and then no one would ever hire me because the whole world would just know I’m crazy. The rant went on even more once we got home!  I swear, that woman ranted on and on about this for a good two hours on and off that day.

After that day, I stopped telling my mother pretty much anything for many years. I made up some stupid story about a problem with the ventilation system in the hallway my locker was in, and that was why I got sick at school so much. It was the stupidest story, so totally obvious that I made it up on the spot, but she believed it. Hell, she still believes it. We saw an article about my old high school online, and she started telling people about the ‘ventilation problem’ and how it could’ve killed me. She was more willing to believe that the ventilation system in a newly built school was faulty in a way that only affected one student than helping me work through my issues.

So, for years I tried to ignore what was happening inside me. I beat myself up over things I couldn’t control. Instead of working to understand the racing heart and quick breaths, I locked myself away in my room so no one could see the panic. I did the same for the suicidal thoughts. The one time I did hurt myself and opened up to my mother, she flipped out on me again. She said that if I didn’t “cut it out and just act normal” no one would ever love me, I’d be shoved in an institution, and I’d die alone. Totally what you should say to a 16-year-old trying to deal with mental health issues, eh?

I tried to ignore all of this for years. I’d lock myself away from the world so they couldn’t see me struggle. I drank, I did a lot of drugs, I pushed myself to somehow be “normal” in the most fucked up ways. My parents were high school sweethearts who married and had three kids, for example. So, I thought if I found love early enough, I could be normal like them. But the forced isolation made it hard to meet people I could connect with, and I wound up engaged to a drumming ninja (he once put “ninja” on a job application as his current occupation), and got kicked out of my parents’ house to be with him. He treated me like shit, abused me, starved me, and burned the only copy of my first (and to date, only) novel I had written as punishment for something. But in my head, being with him made me “normal”, because…………. I don’t even know anymore.

It wasn’t until more than a decade after that first incident in the school office that I finally sought help. I had gone back to university, and the school had free counseling services. By that point, my anxiety and depressing were pretty bad, but I was still trying to cover them up. I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating like crap and chugging cheap malt liquor while I “studied”. Before a big panic attack, sometimes it feels like all my emotions drain into something deep inside my skin, where they can’t escape or be really felt. I feel this mix of heaviness and nothingness like I’m going to burst out of my skin and run ranting and screaming into the night. I stayed up for three days and finally passed out in our living room (I was living with friends near campus by that point), and rolled over on a pair of scissors in my sleep. The pain was some weird sort of release, and I started cutting myself right after that. It was the cutting that made me finally made me go to counseling services.

I wish I could tell you everything changed for me that day, that everything was magically fixed and I’m living a perfectly “normal” life like my mother wanted. That’s not how things go, though. I’m still fighting through this, learning how to handle both depression and anxiety. I’m learning the patterns they tend to follow (the depression gets bad right before or after a major panic attack usually) and am able to tell the people closest to me when I can feel my anxiety getting worse. I still don’t open up to my family about any of this, though. I tried to years ago, when I first sought help, and my mother denied everything I said. It’s healthier for me to just not tell them about any of this.

There is no magic cure for this. There is no one-way to deal with mental health issues. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years; some of them worked for me, others didn’t. That doesn’t mean those other things don’t work for other people, though. Going back to school brought out some huge stressors and triggers for my anxiety, and a lot of people I know who suffer through this have said the same thing. So, I just want to give you a little help, a little guidance. You don’t need to follow everything I say, or even try any of it. It’s just options, things to keep in mind when nothing else seems to work.

It’s not easy dealing with this shit. I still get panic attacks. The night I started posting about back-to-school help was because I was trying to work through a major panic attack that kept me up until almost 5 am, drained me of all my energy, and left me with a dark cloud over my head that made me wish I could just stop existing. I’m pulling through though, and I know you can too Sunshine.

Tip #1: Grounding

A friend recommended this to me years ago. It’s what she would do when she was living in a dorm and her anxiety would get bad around exam time. Basically, you’re distracting your brain from the inevitable overanalyzing of the ridiculousness of your panic. In my support group back in school, one thing we all agreed on was that our anxiety attacks made no sense to us. It’s like, there’s no reason for you to be panicking, but you still can’t seem to calm yourself down. You try to calm down, and you’re reminded that the fact that you’re panicking makes no sense, so there must be something wrong with you to be making you panic. And that makes you panic more. The more you try to calm yourself down, the more focused you wind up on the panic, and the worse it can get.

Anxiety Grounding.jpg

I know it says right in the little picture thingy there from Tumblr that it helps “when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings”. If you get that feeling in your more panicked times, then you can definitely give this a try. I don’t get that feeling, but this still works for me for other reasons.  That kind of leads me into my next tip….

Tip #2: There Is No “Right” Way to Be Have a Mental Issue

Sometimes having anxiety can mean heart palpitations and sweat. Other times, it can mean completely blocking out the outside world, staring off into space, unable to process the things going on around you. Some feel frightened, some are jittery, people get tense or worried or can’t focus on anything else except that anxious feeling bubbling up inside them.  Some of the happiest looking people suffer from depression. It’s not all locking yourself in a dark room and staring off into the nothingness around you. As a master of the Customer Service Persona, I can honestly tell you that it is entirely possible to feel hopeless and worthless like your entire life is one giant failure after another, like the world would be a much better place if you could just stop existing in it, and still slap a smile on your face and laugh about things. I mean, Robin fucking Williams suffered from depression. That man, to all outside appearances, was the exact opposite of depression.

There’s no right or wrong way to have anxiety, or a panic attack, or a depressive episode, or any form of depression in general. I check WebMD for a lot of things (even though somehow, no matter what’s wrong with me, it tells me I’m dying a slow and painful death). According to them, a panic attack should last like 10 minutes, and I should have fear of dying and a sense that I’m choking. I have NEVER had any of that. That panic, that feeling of terror, like my heart is going to burst out of my chest and the world is going to collapse around me, it can last for hours for me.

There is a tonne of different things associated with each and every mental issue out there. You don’t have to tick off every symptom or every box to have a “proper” mental disorder. You don’t have to take medication or see a therapist or psychiatrist long term to have a “proper” mental disorder. You can have the same issue as someone else, have different symptoms, handle it differently, and you can both STILL have that disorder. There is no one way to have an issue with your mental health.

Tip #3:  Regularly Practice Self-Care

I have a list of things that I consider “comfort things”. They’re things that I somehow find soothing, for whatever reason, and I fall back on when my brain starts to feel all fucky. They’re things that comfort me, that bring me to a place where I feel safe and secure, even if that place is just in my head. And the list is all over the fucking place.

  • soup
  • Vine compilations on YouTube
  • the movie Hackers
  • the movie Tank Girl
  • books about serial killers
  • books about cults
  • books about random facts
  • hugging my snuggle pillow
  • flannel
  • slipper boots
  • throwing a blanket over my head while I watch random shit on my computer so it’s like I’m watching it in a tiny blanket fort
  • painting my nails in dark colours
  • 90’s grunge music
  • 80’s new wave music
  • indie music from the 80’s and 90’s
  • Chilean red wine
  • fuzzy socks and lots of lotion

Now I don’t use all of this at the same time. I’ll throw on my slipper boots, maybe a flannel shirt or sleep pants, throw a blanket over my head, and watch a few short Vine compilations while I hug my snuggle pillow.  Or I’ll throw on a bunch of lotion and my fuzzy socks, paint my nails, and watch Tank Girl. I’ll throw on some Talk Talk and Psychedelic Furs in the background while I curl up with a good book about serial killers.

Everyone has their own little comfort things. You need to figure out what it is that is comforting to you. I doubt Charles Manson and Tank Girl will bring most of you much comfort, but it works for me.

Tip #4: Exercise, Get The Fuck Outside

I walk everywhere.

If I don’t get out of the house for a day, I make sure to at least open the blinds for a bit. The cat likes to sit in the window so I tell myself I’m doing it for him, when really just getting a little bit of sunlight can really help me some days.  If it’s nice enough out, I’ll open the window and let in some fresh air.

When I’m in mid panic attack, I completely close myself off in my room as much as possible. But when I’m not, I try to get outside at least a bit each day. I really should be exercising more, but I don’t. It really helps some people manage their mental health issues, and I know it’s helped me in the past. I have too much going on around me right now to focus on that though.

#5: Don’t Eat Like Complete Shit

Again, this is something I’m complete shit at. I have my good weeks, where I’m packing celery and carrots with me at work, and sipping tea all day. Then I have my days (or weeks even) where it’s nothing but pizza, french fries, and red wine.

Usually, the more hours I work in a week, the better I eat. If I have to pack a lunch or dinner to bring to work, I wind up with shit like veggies and hummus, soup, and mushroom meat (I also eat less meat and eat shit like “mushroom meat”, which is faux meat made out of mushrooms and soy, which I can only find at the Multifoods a little ways from my house). If I’m stuck at home, working 4-hour closing shifts every fucking day, I wind up eating a lot of frozen pizza for dinner, a lot of leftover pizza for lunch, and a pot of coffee for breakfast. This is usually when my anxiety starts to flare up a bit too.

For a lot of pizza, there’s a strong correlation between what you eat and how you feel. Eat like shit, feel like shit, basically. If you find that eating certain foods, or eating a certain way, worsens your mental state, then don’t fucking eat like that if you can help it! I know, that’s pretty fucking hypocritical of me to say, considering how I eat usually. This isn’t the easiest advice to follow, and no one is going to be perfect at it. Give it a whirl and see if it helps you out at all, though. Keep a food diary or something for a few weeks or months. No need to count calories or any shit like that. Just keep track of what you eat, what you drink, and how you feel.  If you see a pattern emerging, then fucking run with it.

#6: Stop Fucking Self-Medicating!

Again, fucking hypocritical of me to say this, considering how much wine I drink. I admit, there have been times when I could feel a panic attack coming on, and I reached for a drink. Working in a liquor store, I have constant easy access to alcohol and have to learn about it somehow. So, probably more often when I should when I feel the panic building, I grab a bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon, my book about wine (flavours, pairings, smart sounding shit), and curl up with a giant fucking glass or four.  Sometimes it calms me down a bit. Other times, I wind up still awake and drinking wine at 4 am, mindlessly reading through Not Always Right posts and going through old notebooks from 2003.

I’ve had friends who swear by smoking pot as a means of controlling their anxiety. Others have had a hard time controling it, using the anxiety more as an excuse to smoke than anything. I’ve known people to buy medication off the street instead of getting it prescribed. Yes, it’s a great way to get it cheap when you can’t afford your meds sometimes. But you’re playing with doses, and brain chemicals, and all sorts of stuff that can royally fuck your day up.

Don’t use substances that aren’t prescribed to you as a means of controlling your mental health. Yes, a drink or smoke from time to time can be fine. It’s a social thing, a way to calm you, a way to feel normal. But you can really easily start becoming dependant on these things just to feel normal. It’s a short fall into addiction when you let something be the only things making you feel “normal””.

#7: Find Your Fucking Triggers

I know, triggers are a joke to a lot of people. “How are you going to make it through life? There are no trigger warnings in the real world!” Except there are, fucking everywhere. Movie ratings, video game ratings, music ratings, content warnings on TV, allergen warnings on food, warning signs on the road, warning signs on heavy equipment, warning labels on medication……… The only difference between these and a trigger for mental health is that mental health isn’t always taken seriously. You can take a sick day for the flu, or for a broken leg, but most jobs and schools don’t give you mental health days.

Are there certain things that trigger certain feelings in you? No, you can’t avoid them completely, you can’t yell at people for bringing them up (unless they’re really fucked up shit and that person knows how it affects you), and you can’t hide from them for the rest of your life. One of my biggest triggers is finance. I’ve got a metric shit-tonne of student loan debt, a bunch of credit card debt, and feel like I’m going to die in debt someday. The thought of not making my bill payments sends my heart racing, more than it does for the average person. I know that when my hours at work take a drastic cut, there’s a good chance I’ll get thrown into a full-out panic attack at some point.  I can’t avoid that though.

Know your triggers can help you better prepare. Like I said, I KNOW that getting my hours cut can result in a massive-ass panic attack, which then leads to a depressive episode. I make sure I have some of my comfort items ready and waiting for me. I recently went from getting 40 hours a week at work to being scheduled for 15 hours. I know that by next pay day, I will most likely get thrown into a major case of anxiety. I have my soup stuff (powdered mix, noodles, and dried veggies from Bulk Barn), a 10 hour Vine compilation video, a new nail polish, some new murder books, a bunch of flannel ( I am Canadian after all),  and a copy of Tank Girl ready for that. No, I won’t be able to stop a panic attack. But I can help ease my way through it, or through a major anxiety episode.

 

I wish I could say that following all of this has somehow cured my mental state magically, Sunshine. I wish I could say that I’m a happy, mentally healthy, productive member of society now. I’d be lying to you though. Just today, I got so overwhelmed with my current situation (so many roommates, showing the house to prospective other roommates, hours cut at work, things with the boyfriend) that it started really getting to me. I sat there wondering what the hell would happen to this place if I just ceased to exist. Where would my Bowser Kitten be? Who would take care of this house? What kind of shape would the boyfriend be in? Have I really made a difference, or would there always be someone else could’ve stepped in and taken my place for each of these things? What’s the point of being here?

So, I made soup. I threw on some old Vines, and then a bunch of Rage Against the Machine. I typed, I read random useless facts, I played with eyeliner. I can’t fix myself completely, but I have to leave for work in 35 minutes and need to be able to fake my way through my shift. Luckily, I have the Work Bestie with me tonight. She’s one of the few people I actually open up to at all about this, so I can let her know I can feel it building again.

 

How It Feels

Imagine you’re walking home alone, late at night. None of your neighbours’ lights are on, no one seems to be around at all, and it’s just completely dark out. Suddenly, three very large men appear behind you with weapons; a pipe, a knife, maybe a chain. You walk faster, trying to put some distance between you and them; they speed up. You start to slowly job, while they loudly laugh and quicken their pace to match yours. Soon, you’re in an all-out sprint through your neighbourhood, wondering why no one is coming outside to help you. You run, you scream, you call for help, all the while these three are slowly closing the distance between you. Your heart feels like it’s about to burst through your chest, while your lungs can’t seem to take in air fast enough. Your head is spinning, your legs feel like they’re about to give out at any moment, but you keep trying to push yourself forward just a little bit longer. The men chasing you are getting closer and closer, until you can almost feel their breath on the back of your neck. You can feel them reaching for you, touching your hair, laughing at you.

Picture everything your body feels in that exact moment: the fear, the exhaustion, the panic, the almost overwhelming urge to curl up in a ball and cry and vomit and wait for the world to go away while you just pray that nothing bad will happen to you.

Now imagine all of these feelings, this intensity, come to you suddenly while you’re lying in bed on a Monday morning. THAT was my anxiety attack Monday morning.

I misheard something Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend mumbled to himself while he was getting ready for work. He’s a total grumpy asshat first thing in the morning, and tends to say random things that are pissing him off. Neither one of us knows exactly what he was rambling on to himself about, but I thought I heard a few words in there about me. I sat and thought about that for a little while after he left for work, and then the panic set in.

The worst part of it all is that I KNOW that it makes no sense. I know that there is no reason why my heart should be racing, or why I should be sweating like crazy when I’m just sitting still. I can tell myself that the thoughts racing through my head are just stupid and make no sense. I can tell myself all this, I can know that it makes no sense, but that doesn’t stop it.

The thoughts that go through my head are crazy too. I thought AAB mumbled something about our sex life. The next thing I know, I’m sitting here imagining that we bought a little house, and I was pregnant, and he was so pissed that I was going to have a baby even though we both want one. I’m sitting there imagining that he would leave me, that he would hate me, that he would want nothing to do with me. And that just made the panic worse. No matter how much I told myself that these thoughts made no sense, they just got worse and more intense.

I like to think I was lucky, though. I had my panic attacks happen while I was at home this time. Aside from a roommate chilling in his own room, and my kitten faithfully watching over me, I got to sit here all alone and deal with this the way I know I needed to.

You see, people want to help. And they really to mean well, honestly. They just don’t help though. One friend would just constantly tell me to calm down, as if her ordering me to do so would stop this whole mess. AAB’s first instinct is to kiss and cuddle me. As amazing and awesome as he is, him doing that is probably the worst thing he could do. I know myself that part of my panic leaves me feeling claustrophobic, and his snuggling up to me makes me feel even more closed in. My head on his shoulder, or laying with my head on his chest, where I am the one deciding how much space we take from each other, is fine: anything else just makes my chest tighten.  He is really trying to help when he does that, though, just like all the other people who have tried to help me over the years.

And telling people not to help me just makes me feel worse. Suddenly, on top of all the other thoughts flooding my mind, “They’re just trying to help and show they care, why do you have to be such a bitch, you’re pushing them away from you, they’re going to stop coming around if you treat them like this” rushes in there to join them.

Now I know for many of you out there, none of this makes any sense. If you get thoughts like these in your mind, you can make them stop. If your chest starts tightening up and your heart races, you go to a doctor. For someone suffering from anxiety, though, these things don’t work. I’ve had doctors suggest all kinds of things to “help” me: yoga, tea, meditation, reading, long walks, deep breathing……… and yes, these help me to feel a little more balanced sometimes. None of these things stop panic attacks, though, and none of them help once one has started.

For years, I felt completely alone in all of this. I had people tell me I was overreacting, that I was doing it for attention, that if I didn’t stop I’d be thrown in the “loony bin” and it would be on my “permanent record” that I was crazy (where the hell is this permanent record anyways?). I was made to feel like I was the only one in the world having this problem, and that I was selfish for not stopping it myself. It took many, many years for me to find others who share my problem, who are open about their anxiety. I now know that this is a condition that there is no complete cure for, but there is plenty of support around me when I need it.

So Sunshine, if you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, please know that you are not alone. And if you know others who suffer from this, here is a little insight into what may be going on in their minds and bodies. Everyone’s panic is different, there is no one right way to have a panic attack. Please take care of those around you, in a manner they need and are comfortable with.

My Anxiety

Ok, so when I started writing here, I thought this would just be for story and article ideas, maybe some advice. But on one of my other blogs, where I write about my life a lot more, I had quite a few people message me about their own personal struggles with anxiety. Reading these messages, corresponding with these people, sharing resources…… it really helps me a lot.

So I thought, what if that could help more people? I know personally, I feel a whole lot better knowing there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Sometimes it’s great to be able to talk to people, to exchange ideas on how to manage anxiety, to compare how we each feel when that dreaded moment of panic starts creeping in. Other times, just reading someone else’s accounts of what they’re going through is enough to help me through things. It’s enough just knowing that I’m not the only one out there feeling this.

So, I’ve decided to be a bit more open on this blog. Maybe it will help me keep it updated a bit more. Maybe it will help others out there who stumble across my ramblings. Whatever it does, Sunshine, this is part of my self-care. And you know how I loves me my self-care!

The Meals EVERYONE Needs to Know…….?

So I’ve been seeing these articles all over the internet: The meals every 20-something should know how to make; 30 recipes you should know how to cook by the time you’re 30; 10+ dishes and drinks everyone should know how to make at home (including you). Apparently, there’s a lot of food out there we just MUST know how to cook in order to be considered an adult. To be honest, I don’t know anyone, aside from a few chef friends, who can cook all or even most of the stuff just in these three articles above, let alone everything every seems to think we need to cook.

To me, knowing what you need to know how to cook comes from learning about what you life to eat. For example, I’m not going to learn how to make polenta and zucchini when I don’t even like polenta or zucchini. And these things appear on a lot of damn lists!

If you know that there are certain foods you love when you go out, or certain recipes your folks make when you’re home that you absolutely love, then learn how to make these. But don’t feel any sort of pressure to learn how to make a bunch of stuff you’ll probably never eat, or never want to cook, or never want to serve to others, just because some list told you that you need to.

These lists are pretty damn common. There is always someone out there who is an absolute authority on exactly what you need to know by a certain age. Or things you absolutely need to do by a certain age. Or places you need to travel to, books you need to read, things you need to experience, people you need to date……. it seems like there are a whole lot of things we all need to do in our 20s and/or 30s. Honestly, though, we don’t do most of them.

And that’s not a bad thing.

You don’t need someone else setting up lists for you, or telling you that your life is unfulfilling, or that you’re wasting your time if you haven’t completed all the things on the list. Do you know how many lists I’ve seen that have things like skydiving or bungee jumping on them? My sister is turning 31 this month, and you couldn’t pay her to go skydiving or bungee jumping. Does she consider her life wasted? Oh hell no! She has an absolutely amazing husband, they have a home together, and the craziest fluffy black and grey Norwegian Forest Cat whose fur feels like cotton candy. Does she have everything going for her in life? No, because nobody does! And it has nothing to do with whether she’s ever jumped out of a plane or off a bridge with an elastic band wrapped around her legs. Because not everyone wants to do the same crap.

Why am I bringing this up? To be honest, I was going to give you yet another list of things you absolutely, positively need to do as a young adult, this time in the kitchen. It was inspired by the above Hello Giggles article and the fact that I had almost a full carton of eggs that was just 3 days away from its Best Before date. As part of my research, I tried to look up recipes and things you need to know before you’re 30 (because apparently cooking very specific dishes is something everyone needs to learn as a young adult, whether you like it or not).  Well somehow in my search, I came across this list, which temporarily mentally destroyed me.

Now, here’s a bunch of things on that list that apparently I absolutely should have by now that I definitely do NOT have:

  • A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in my family.
  • Something ridiculously expensive that I bought for myself, just because I deserve it.
  • A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
  • A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a second list on there on things you should definitely KNOW by the time you hit 30. While most of the things on there are perfectly fine with me, there were a few that hit close to home. How I feel about having kids, for example, is a big one with me right now. When I was in my late 20’s, I didn’t think I’d ever want kids. After 30 though, once my friends started popping them out and I got to play with them and babysit them, I realized that I’m pretty sure that I do want them. Oh, and I’m over 30. Here’s the tricky thing though: I met my current boyfriend while I was in my 20’s, and he definitely does NOT want kids. Ever. When we started dating, I was perfectly fine with this. Now though, it’s putting a real strain on our relationship. If I lived according to this list, I would have known that when he and I first met, and it wouldn’t be an issue right now because it would’ve been a deal breaker back then.

So I started thinking, I know I’m not a shining beacon of grown-up success, but have I done absolutely EVERYTHING wrong? Have I done so much wrong that it’s messed up my entire future? I went into a panic, contemplating every decision I’ve ever made with my life. I started thinking, if I’ve already failed this much, can things get better? Or am I stuck in this crappy existence forever? I make no secret of the fact that my life totally and truly sucks at the moment, but have always been told that things will get better. But according to this list, I’ve missed my shot. I’ve missed out on the most basic and fulfilling parts of what I need to have at this age, and it’s too late to start all over again.

Ok, so I lasted like this for a few days (I hate having anxiety at times like that). I didn’t want to write (thankfully I have some drafted and queued posts for emergencies), I didn’t want to go out, and I didn’t want to research any more. It took the homeless fundraiser I wrote about last weekend to snap me out of that. There I realized that I was doing good things with my life, even if I don’t have a daily exercise regiment. I made new friends, and talked to some awesome people who share quite a bit in common with me in that regard. I found kindreds, and acquaintances. Basically, I lived life and in that moment, I loved it.

I wasn’t living off of some list. I wasn’t checking to make sure that someone, somewhere, had already made sure that this was something that I should be doing at my age. I found something that makes me feel good, that makes my soul happy, that makes me feel like I’m doing more than just existing, like I’m giving back to this world. And that feeling, for me, is better than owning new furniture or something ridiculously expensive. I was living.

Yes, eggs and lists helpful recipes both sent me into an existential crisis and to blissful existence. The human mind is funny like that.

Anyway, yes I will be posting more recipes soon. And some cooking basics (which you absolutely do not need to learn if you feel you live a fulfilling life without them). I think maybe this week, I’ll start with a salute to eggs.