My Path

Shy Student Hiding Behind Note Cards During Class Presentati

As a Social Anxiety Enthusiast (by no choice of my own), I’ve spent countless hours wondering if I’m doing it right.

Am I socializing correctly? 

Is this how you’re supposed to stand?

Did I say the right thing?

How stupid did I sound?

Are they talking about me? Are they laughing at me?

Is it awkward I haven’t said anything yet? Better look around and check everyone’s eyes. Shit, you made eye contact, abort, abort, abort! 

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Is a joke appropriate here? That joke was corny as fuck, and they laughed out of pity, better shut your mouth already.

Is it weird that I have no input? Can they tell I can’t think straight? Better just agree with the person next to you. Originality can wait.

Was my opinion too strong? Should I have not taken an absolutist’s point of view? At least Kant would agree with me. But he’s dead so how is that helping? Fuck, just get out of here already. 

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It’s not just face to face contact, it spills over into emails as well. Blogs. Whenever my words come in contact with another person’s eyes or ears I’m worried of their substance. I’m worried if I appear as an average human to them and if I don’t . . .

Well, I’m not quite sure why my anxiety cares if I appear as an average human to people or not. Sure, I’ve always been confused on how to connect with my peers (since pre-school), but I don’t have a clear memory of caring whether or not people accepted me until late in elementary school. I believe that’s when I grew self-aware that I’m not like the others.

People determining my personality “shy” became an insult. When teachers requested I “speak up” I grew so enraged the rage fell out of my eyes as tears. School was no longer a place to learn, to grow, to develop, it became a house of trauma. 

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I never grew out of it because it wasn’t something to grow out of. It was something that needed to be addressed that wasn’t.

They weren’t inside of my head, they didn’t know how much I could talk. The only way they could see an ounce of intelligence was through reading and writing, the fact that I ran circles around my peers. It kept my peers from finding reasons to bully me. I was never once bullied to the extent many other quite kids are. Perhaps because I bullied the bullies who attacked the little disabled girls who didn’t know how to stand up for themselves.

Maybe it was because I was with the kids with the tazers and the weed who hung out with the adults and pretended to be adults. Maybe it was because I exploded alcohol in the library, got told on, threatened the kids who told on me, and walked out of the principals office unscathed, no punishment, with the entirety of the school believing the snitches had just over-reacted. And, regardless of my anxiety, I would stand up for myself and if I didn’t, the people behind me would.

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Did any of that help? No, it only isolated me further.

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Once the cool kids moved onto high school and I was left with two more years in junior high alone. I had to establish my own personality and I couldn’t.

I wasn’t a stranger to being alone in my head. In fact, I quite liked it. I’d liked it since before I new school existed. I created worlds in my head I could never explain in words and they never went away. In fact, I continually retreat to them when I’m not sure what to do. They are the reason I can dissociate, blink, and wonder where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and how time has passed without my recognition of it.

Although these worlds, and the people I’ve placed in them, have given me better advice than any physical adult has in my life, I wouldn’t want another child to grow up like I had and be forced to retreat into a fake world and merge their personality with the personality of the little people in their head. It comes with a price.

You think you’re “going crazy”. 

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You ignore the fact that you’ve created them and although sometimes it feels you’re interacting with them on their own accord, as if they’re speaking with you freely, you’re the puppet master. You’re giving yourself advice and soothing yourself through the ruse of an imaginary character in your head. If that sounds confusing, imagine how it would be for a ten year old.

You get very used to being with yourself and talking with yourself, and not very used to speaking with other people or being open with other people to the point where you don’t see a point in trying anymore.

My anxiety was left unattended and depression joined me at age ten. If I were to choose the worst of the two, I couldn’t. They go hand-in-hand; they wouldn’t be as bad as they are if one didn’t exist.

In all honesty, I prefer depression. It’s soothing. It’s calm. You move slow, you think slow, nothing matters. If I wanted to spend my life like that, depression would be ideal. You know, minus the suicidal part of it all.

coping-with-anxiety-and-depression-722x406Anxiety has the capacity to frighten me because it snatches away all rationality. Depression doesn’t always do that to me. Anxiety urges my insomnia, it makes me pay attention to my heart rate, it makes me think the finest cut on my hand will contract the deadliest disease. I carry a USB file of all the files on my computer since 2009 with me at all times in case there’s a fire when I leave the house. I can’t keep a single thing neat. I can’t focus. The tiniest thing causes so much stress I end up doing nothing in hopes of quelling the stress and then stress out about the fact that I’m doing nothing. 

The seemingly unimportant behaviors I expressed as a child has birthed something much grander than expected.

It’s prevented me from writing the fiction I used to love to write. And this, you see, is taking it to a whole other level. Now, I’m pissed.

The reason I can’t find myself to write, the reason why it’s so hard for me to type this information about these thoughts right now, is because I feel I’m being watched.

Now, hear me out here. 

stock-vector-sketch-illustration-of-puppet-master-hand-256704700After speaking with a crisis line the other day (congratulations self, you didn’t blow your head off), they helped me realize the reason I’ve suddenly dropped all the things that used to keep me sane without even knowing they did. It’s not because I don’t have time for it, like I somehow convinced myself over the last few months, it’s because I’m convinced every (fictional) sentence I write, every idea I come up with, is being judged by someone who has either passed on into whatever afterlife there may (or may not) be or by the fictional characters I’m writing about.

It could be the result of unattended anxiety. And it probably is. But I found it odd because when I tried to rationalize my way out of it, I find no loophole. 

It’s all spiraling out of control. This is why I’m a strong advocate for educating teachers on mental health. I’m a huge advocate of preventative care done right. Back in 1999, 2000, I wouldn’t have expected any of my teachers to predict this or to recognize those behaviors.

But it’s 2016. We have stylish electric cars, we have smartphones that interact with Virtual Reality headsets. We’ve teleported messages between particles.

I think we can give our teachers and the public a little more education on mental health.

Be A Teacher, Not A Scapegoat

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Drama sucks. Let’s all take a break from this drama and talk about something much more interesting.

It seems like people lack that in the world today, the gift of being interesting, from my perspective.

I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention something that was brought to my attention via email last night.

As I’m sure everyone has noticed, I have a loud (writing) mouth, and I will say what I think, what I experience, without regard for people’s feelings or thoughts because I truly value truth and honesty over people’s histrionic emotions.

That’s not to say I don’t care about all of you, it’s just that if you come at me with something stupid, I’m going to tell you it’s stupid. If you’re telling me a fact that’s wrong, I’m not going to appease you. I’m going to tell you it’s wrong and I’m going to back it up with concrete details. That’s a quality you should look for in your friends, I believe. If you’re a person who, you know, likes that kind of thing. Friendship, I mean.

And, as I’ve probably stated before, one of the purposes of this blog is to also be a safe haven to bring to people’s attention the truth about all different types of mental health issues, not just mine. Sometimes I get bored talking about myself.

That being said, I give a shout out and a thanks to Nicole over at Healthline.com for 1) giving this blog her attention and for 2) providing me with this graphic:

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I’ve also included the graphic in one of my far older posts: “What’s your neurological disorder?” . In case you don’t know about that post (most of my new followers probably don’t go trotting around my posts from three or four months ago), I decided to bring it to the front of the line today.

If you don’t know about Heathline, it’s got information on how to find a doctor, it’s got a pill identifier, and much more information on health related topics. It’s got news: the bad stuff with the good stuff. It’s got the tobacco industries being sewed over the cancer causing chemicals in their E-Cigs and it’s got the topic of racism being bad for everyone’s health. It’s like much more poised and classy version of Web M.D. If you haven’t checked it out, I’d suggest moseying on over there. You might find a topic that interests you.

Those of us who struggle with our mental health issues, and of course those who experience Bipolar symptoms, can sometimes be baffled at how ignorant the general public is of mental health in general. Considering we all have brains, I’m even more baffled at people who are bewildered when I mention something like “neurotransmitter”.

They do this:

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And say “that’s a big word”.

No. Not it’s not a big word. A first grader could spell Neurotransmitter.

Me as a first grader could spell Neurotransmitter. I can’t speak for the rest of you.

The point is, the general public is severely under-educated. And if you’re bogged down with mental health symptoms, if you’re stuck in your house all day or find it too stressful to work or you just have trouble seeing any advantage at all in struggling day after day, I’m giving you the title of a teacher right now.

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Someone needed to teach you math before you could be an engineer. Someone needed to teach you physics before you studied quarks.

There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant. In fact, I love ignorant people. Keep in mind, the literal definition of “ignorance” is “lack of knowledge”. What’s wrong with lack of knowledge? It just gives you a chance to learn, and the ability to learn is one of the greatest gifts life provides us.

When people are clearly ignorant in your face, when they think your psychosis makes you a murderer or your agitation at a parking ticket is “your Bipolar side coming out” (dude, I don’t know, people say that stupidest things), don’t get mad at them. Don’t be me; don’t punch them in the face and make a snide comment like “No bitch, that was my Bipolar side”. Don’t then kneel on the ground and keep hitting them through their chocked, worthless apologies while saying in perhaps the calmest voice you’ve ever mustered: “Oops, there it is again. Damn, again. Man I’m so sorry, my Bipolar is just so active today!” 

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Don’t do that. Don’t perpetuate blind stigma. Yes, their words might be offensive. Always remember there’s a difference between someone knowing the facts about disorders but still blurting ignorant statements and someone who knows no facts about disorders and reiterates only what they’ve seen portrayed on T.V. Particularly Lifetime. I’ve seen some pretty bad ones on there.

I’ve seen some good ones. But a lot of bad ones. They stick too closely to stereotypes and too loosely to truth and reality all for the sake of drama.

Instead, teach them. Remember you experience a world they’ll most likely never get a glimpse of. Your job isn’t to beat sense into them, although sometimes that seems like the easier route, your job is to provide them with as much necessary information as you can. What they choose to do with that information, how they choose to process it, and whether they choose to take it seriously or not is up for them to decide.

You won’t beat stigma by getting laws passed. You beat stigma through education of, specifically, the general public. There are way more people there then there are in congress and all the other lunatic asylums of the government.

Oops. I mean government institutional establishments. *Ahem*.

The more of the general public that is on our side, the more allies we have when we finally do approach capital hill.

So I encourage you, especially if you’re someone stuck in a rut at this moment, to teach. Inform someone. Do it with firm confidence but soft demeanor. Show them the opposite of what they see on television and in the news. Don’t just talk about it. Don’t hashtag on Twitter, don’t say “OMG, people are so rude!” on Facebook and post a picture of you with your prescriptions or whatever that one day trend was.

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You don’t want a one day trend. You want something that can last a life time and, if you haven’t noticed, memories and thoughts can last a very, very long time.

That’s the purpose of that graphic way up there. It informs you of things. I’ll keep my personal opinion of particular parts of it out of this, because the principal of the matter is what counts here: inform, inform, inform. Create your own graphics. Post that on your Facebook instead of your face and a fucking orange bottle. 

Sorry, sorry, the aggressive side of me is just begging to get out today. I don’t let him play around much anymore, and after last night’s drama he’s been itching for a taste of the world again.

Most importantly, tell your story. Don’t tell it for dramatics, don’t tell it for attention or sympathy or whatever else you can get out of it. Don’t tell it just for you. Tell it for everyone. Because your story is a truth for you and perhaps a truth for many. Maybe some of those many don’t have the courage or the ability to tell it like you do.

You never know who it might reach.