Talking to People is Getting Easier

I often struggle with talking to other people. I hate small talk. I don’t like talking to strangers. Once I get to know someone, I’m willing to talk to them, but not much. It takes a while to feel comfortable with people. If I had the choice, I would only talk to a couple of people. I’m told this is not healthy behavior. Part of it stems from my lack of trust in others. I have a few thoughts when someone approaches me. “Why are they talking to me?” “What do they want?” I immediately assume the worst.

This isn’t so much a lack of trust in all people. I’ve had the misfortune of being around people who wanted to use me as a means to an end. That’s been my experience when dealing with others. I assume everyone is trying to get something from me. I’m still baffled when someone says they enjoy my company. It’s hard for me to believe them. In trying to change this behavior, I started telling myself that it didn’t matter if they used me as long as I got something out of it too. I did feel used, but I enjoyed other’s company while I was used.

It was easier to think this than to feel used. It was a coping mechanism. I had to think of a benefit for myself to avoid the negative thoughts I often had. I fail at this sometimes. The biggest issue was not having someone to confide in or with which to vent. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel better about a situation. If I don’t feel close to someone, I don’t feel comfortable sharing my troubles with them. It’s a hard place to live. I’ve finally found a few people that care about me and want what’s best for me. I’m still not used to this.

I find myself having small pointless conversations with strangers and not feeling uncomfortable. Is this how normal people interact? Is this socializing? I’m never certain. I have yet to find someone that I immediately become friends with. I’m still distant with others until I get to know them. I suspect I always will be this way. My main point is it’s getting easier to talk to people, both strangers and my friends. I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a sociable individual. I’ll keep working on this, but I also like my solitude. I enjoy not talking to others. Will that ever change?

Remember…

Remember…

Remember who you are.

Remember how you got here.

Remember what you love.

Remember what happiness is.

Remember your friendships.

Remember where you’re going.

Remember to accept your diagnosis.

Remember that you are not your illness.

Remember to have hope, to love and have aspirations.

Remember to allow yourself to feel and to live.

Remember that you are human and perfect in your imperfections.

Remember to let go.

Remember to move on.

Remember.

To be.

Remember this,

That your existence proves that there is a perfect world;

That perfect world is within you.

Unleash your inner magic and allow your inner-tuition to guide you.

Love yourself.

Always, remember this.

Love, Francesca

That Time I Almost Went to Disneyland

Growing up, my family never went on any vacations. One year when I was eight, we traveled to Tennessee for a family reunion. I didn’t know anyone on that side of the family and never made friends quickly anyway. I don’t remember any other time we traveled somewhere that didn’t involve moving. We lived in about six or eight different states before I turned six-years-old. We were always moving to a new place. My father worked for interstates as an electrician and we traveled to where he would work. We settled in Oklahoma and stayed for several years.

I thought my childhood was normal. As I got older, I repressed most of my trauma. Any memories I did have, I didn’t think were that bad. I thought everyone lived through things like that. I looked at photos a lot as a child. I’d see pictures of myself as a baby or toddler and never remembered anything from that time. Most people don’t remember being a baby. I saw pictures from before I was born. These were interesting because it was life prehistory. A time before life. More often than not, my family had to tell me who was in the photos.

One photo from the summer of 1986, the year I was born, showed two little girls standing in between their two parents. The mother was pregnant. The photo looked faded and old in the standard four by six size. They were my two older sisters and parents at Disneyland. There were other photos of the girls on various rides like the teacups. The rumor is they no longer have the teacups ride. At the time, the family lived in Southern California and would for another two years. In those first two years of my life, the family never went back to Disneyland.

I went through grade school hearing other kids talk about their time at Disneyland. I would joke and say I’d never been, but I had the food. They’d look at me in confusion. I would explain my mother was pregnant with me when the family went. They would nod and look awkward until the subject changed. I grew older and older sharing this same story. People would become enraged shouting how they didn’t understand how I had never been to the happiest place on Earth. Before now I don’t think I could have comprehended what happy meant.

I have ridden rollercoasters where they take your photo. My picture would show me grimacing. I didn’t think the rides were as exciting as everyone else. The rides which pushed the limits are the only ones I find exciting. The only rides I actually smiled in the photo. I can think of two. No more. As a kid, I don’t think I would have appreciated Disneyland for what it had to offer. I’m not sure if I will now. It’s rare to find someone in their 30s who hasn’t been to Disneyland. The closest I’ve found is someone was 25 or 26 when they first went.

I’m not saying my family stopped going on vacations after I was born because of me, but I am saying my childhood was not great and enjoying things can be difficult. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get to visit this magical place. Part of me wants to and another part cares less and less each year. I think I will go one day and it’s possible I’ll go alone. Just so I can say I did it. But I think the point of a place like that is to enjoy it with people you love. That’s the part I’m still working on.

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The Long Expensive Road to Recovery

I recently had my first appointment with a psychiatrist. I had counseling when I was six and again when I was eight but nothing since. There was a lot of trauma to discuss over nearly 30 years and this was the first session, so I felt I rambled a little too much. I was told this was normal for the intake. I think they got the overall picture but part of me feels like there were things I didn’t get to say. I had to remind myself there will be plenty of other sessions to discuss all the things.

This being the first time I’ve actively sought out help, I’m proud to say I did this on my own. No one told me to get help. There was no court order. I chose this. The was caused due to several factors. I now have insurance through my employer and therefore the costs are less. I could see my personal and professional relationships becoming strained due to some of my issues and I wanted to solve this before I caused serious damage. More importantly, I want those people to see I’m doing something to correct the problem. If others see an effort being made to correct an issue, I think they’ll be more understanding of what I’m personally going through.

Obviously, one session isn’t enough to provide a diagnosis. There are so many titles and subcategories and specific labels. They are leaning towards something in one of the traumatic disorders, but it will probably take a few weeks to get a firm diagnosis. This is just a label to me. Something to tell others. What’s important is the treatment. I can call this whatever I want, and it won’t make any difference if I don’t do something to correct the issues or don’t deal with the trauma on a conscious level. If anything, a name for my trauma and issues will only help me get disability from the state. Is that what I want? No, but I might have to in order to have money to pay for treatment.

This is the first step in a long journey. I don’t know how long it will take. If I focus on the finish line, I’ll feel it’s too far and give up. I can only take it one day at a time. One session at a time. This would be easier if I didn’t need a lot of dental treatment as well. I have almost $1,000 in dental costs I’m saving up for and now I need a couple thousand to reach my insurance deductible. Thankfully my insurance provides a Health Savings Plan that I can put money into but even that’s a long way from having enough money in it to cover all my costs. It’s so expensive just to be alive.

The One Thing That Keeps Me Going

More and more people tell me to do what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Whether I’m writing a poem, a short story, a novel, or blog journal post; writing makes me happy. Lately it doesn’t feel like anything else makes me happy. Nothing really. Sometimes coworkers make work fun but it’s not something that makes me happy. I mean truly happy like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Something I feel within my soul reminding me why I’m alive and why I was born. Writing is the only thing that has given me that feeling.

I look back on things I’ve done and things I thought I enjoyed. I feel everything led me to this point. Everything made me who I am; who I’m supposed to be. This realization comes with one fear. I believe I’m supposed to be alone on this journey. Every experience, every encounter, every person I’ve met; it feels like it all is telling me to let go of everything and pursue this adventure alone. I don’t want to be alone. I’ve always felt alone. Why would the Universe tell me my journey is a lonely one?

I’ve heard people say writing is a lonely craft. That’s not true for everyone. Most writers have an editor. Sometimes it’s a close friend. Sometimes it’s a professional who becomes a friend. Some writers have a core group of people they trust to read the early drafts of their work. I’ve tried and failed to find this. People express interest but not much else. When I approach them with my work, I think they’re surprised like they didn’t expect me to follow through. So, I write five different drafts until I feel satisfied and either self-publish or submit to online magazines. I get many rejection letters.

Everyone says that is the life of the writer. Even the great writers had many rejections. Add those rejections to the personal rejections in life. I mean finding the courage to talk to your crush and getting rejected. I mean trying to make new friends and then they disappear and ignore all your attempts at communication. I mean the rejection one feels everyday added to rejections that say your writing isn’t good enough. All those hours you spent improving your story didn’t improve it enough. Rejection on top of rejection on top of more rejections. Not including rejections from childhood that stay with you.

Many writers struggle but most have a support system to help them keep going. Family and friends who tell them not to give up and keep at it. Never give up; never surrender. I don’t have that support. I share my writing and most people ignore it. I share a cat video, and everyone loves it. How do I keep going? The only answer I can think of is writing makes me happy. Nothing else in the world brings me that kind of joy so the rejections don’t break my resolve. I know I’m depressed when I’m not writing.

Writing gets my emotions out. Writing releases my thoughts so they don’t bottle up. It’s therapeutic. But it’s not enough. I’m seeking help but I still need a support system. I need friends and family. I gave up on my family years ago. I keep trying to find new friends, but I don’t think they want to put them time in on me. Maybe I’m too much for them. Maybe they think I’m a basket case. Maybe they don’t care about my writing or if I’m alive or dead. I’d have given up by now if not for writing. Sadly, writing has yet to help me pay the bills. I guess I’ll keep writing until it does.

My Mind Still Thinks I’m in Danger

When you grow up with an anxiety disorder, you don’t realize what kind of skills you’re developing. At an early age, I learned how to distinguish if someone was a bad person or not. Are they friend or foe? Growing up on the south side of almost any city will cause you to learn these skills willingly or otherwise. It was easy to see if someone was drunk, on drugs, or a mugger. I now avoid homeless beggars with a practiced indifference because I learned how to present myself in a way that projected, “I’m meaner than you. Fuck off!” It didn’t matter if I was meaner or not as long as they thought I was.

What happens when you integrate into everyday normal life where you have fewer threats? I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. No one around me went through similar struggles or battles. They lived a happy childhood with parents who didn’t verbally or physically abuse them. They have issues they are dealing with, but they have a support system to help them get by. They aren’t sitting at home alone rocking back and forth in an attempt to comfort themselves. They can make a new friend at the snap of a finger and not question someone’s trust. They can walk into a crowded room and thrive while I’m looking for exits, avoiding everyone, and trying not to hear and see every little detail in the room.

I can talk to anyone. I can jump into a crowd and find someone to chat with. I’ll know after a few minutes if I can get along with someone or not. I can make a new acquaintance. I rarely have the desire or energy for this. And close friendships? That part is hard. It takes so long for me to trust someone enough to let them in. Most people don’t stick around that long. I think most don’t want to. Some people, I see them as they are. They’re not bad people but they’re not good people either. I don’t want those people in my life. Other people drift away on their own.

I have no support system. I’ve never been close with anyone in my family. If I manage to find someone I can talk with more than once, they become my best friend for maybe a year or two and then life pushes us in different directions. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason certain people talk to me as often as they do is only because I always start the conversations. If I didn’t contact them, would they eventually contact me or not at all? Most of the time, the answer is not at all.

Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I only meet selfish people so caught up in their own bullshit they can’t see me. Sometimes it feels like they see everyone except me. I want to be seen and heard. I want to feel close to someone, but I can’t be close to just anyone. I can’t let someone in fast enough. All I can do is sit back and hope someone eventually wants to make the effort. I’ve made the effort multiple times for multiple people. I feel I’ve always gone above and beyond and get nothing in return. I don’t do it for praise or status. I do it in the hopes that someone will do it for me. Karma. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated with kindness.

When Everyone Abandons You

A realization came to me in mid-December. Someone I was close to, had spoken to almost every day for a year and a half, began ignoring me. It was easy to notice. I stepped away from all social media not wanting to be reminded that I’m being ignored. Maybe I said something that bothered this person. I apologized the next day, but they never responded. The realization I had, no one outside of work contacted me for almost a week. No one. Apparently, this person was my only friend. I told a coworker my situation and they helped me put things in perspective.

I moved from depressed to angry. I didn’t know the situation, but I felt used. I’ve had enough people ditch me because I didn’t give them what they wanted anymore. This felt like the same thing. So, I sent a message three days after my apology message. I said, “Whenever you decide to speak to me again, we need to talk. Preferably in person.” They never responded. I went nearly a week, and no one contacted me outside of work. People asking for shifts covered or if I knew where something was, where did I last see it. No one asked how I was doing or if I wanted to make plans.

No one in the world wanted to spend time with me. At least that’s how it felt. I know there are people out there I can call or meet somewhere and have a good time. Why does it feel so hard to keep in touch? How does one person encompass so much of your life? If you’re thinking this was a relationship, it wasn’t. It almost moved in that direction a couple times, but nothing ever happened between us. I’m not sure if they liked the attention and that’s it, or if they themselves were confused about what roll they wanted me to play in their life; friend or romantic partner.

Regardless of what happened with this person, where is everyone else? What happened to all the people who said they cared about me? I claim part of the blame for not doing more to keep those people in my life. Everyone gets so busy, you have to schedule a month in advance just to go have breakfast with someone. Or they live in another city or state. When did the world become so disconnected? Why did I put so much time and effort into social media? Why can’t I make a connection with another human being?

What do I have after all this? I have work that pays the bills, I have my cats, and I have my writing. Everything else is just noise. I don’t want to meet strangers at a bar. I don’t want to use dating sites or apps. I want to feel important to someone. I see other people who bump into someone and hit it off. I see other people talk about hanging with the same person every week for several years. I see other people with less ambition but more fulfilled lives. Why doesn’t anyone stay? No one sticks around. 

My friend and I finally talked and cleared up a few things. Despite how I felt, they also were going through some personal things and feeling depressed. Though they said they weren’t ignoring me, I think this person was but it was nothing to end our friendship over. Regardless, it’s noticeable when they don’t speak to me.

Different Types of Panic Attacks

This is not a scientific post. There are no references cited. This is solely based on my own experiences. Depending on my mood, emotions, and sensory stimuli, I never have the same kind of panic attacks. There are many factors that combine to bring on an attack. There are other instances where the same situation causes no panic. It’s unpredictable. Even which kind of attack I will have is unpredictable. I have identified three kinds of attacks I’ve had, each one a different form of panic. There could be more, but these are mine.

Normal Apprehension as Panic

These are the normal things that cause anxiety for anyone. Things like stage freight and public speaking, talking to your crush for the first time, or doing anything for the first time. On occasion, I get so worked up I can’t do the thing. Sometimes, forcing myself to keep going works and I get stuff done. This doesn’t always work, and I abandon all hope until the next time around. Not everyone has issues with this sort of anxiety, but those of us with anxiety disorders struggle a little more than others. This is the easiest type of panic from which to come down and doesn’t ruin your day.

Fear as Panic

Anyone who feels their life is in danger will have a slight panic attack. This is a normal reaction to danger. What do you do when you’re lying in bed, nothing is happening, and your heart starts racing? What do you do when you feel like you’re in danger, but there’s no danger around you? This type of panic attack is the most unpredictable because it can happen anywhere, anytime, and with no probable cause. This is also the most difficult panic attack to get over. I think it’s because the lack of a cause creates more anxiety.

Anger as Panic

This is the one I struggle with the most. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s never fun when it does. Usually, when my senses are overwhelmed, and I have less control than I’d like, I get frustrated. When this happens, I have to move around and handle things within my control to calm down. When I can’t do this, and I feel things are not being done the way they should, I get angry. I snap at others or have an attitude when I don’t need one. It used to be a lot worse, but as long as I don’t allow myself to get frustrated, I can avoid this kind of panic.

With all three of these panic attacks, I have the same symptoms; pounding chest, the shakes, irritability, and the need to avoid all humans. Sometimes the attack and symptoms last a few minutes where other times they can last for hours. I’m still learning about mine and figuring out how to avoid having them. I try to avoid stressful situations. Easier said than done. If I can’t avoid them, I focus on things I can control, even if all I do is rearrange furniture. It keeps me focused and I can avoid getting too angry or having to leave to catch my breath.

A Swim Upstream And Lessons Learnt

As the year comes to an end, I would like to recap what 2018 has been for me. This year was filled with so many ups and downs. Tears have been cried and my faith has been tested on so many occasions. There were a lot of lessons learned, despite my heartache.

It has been a year since I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and My Bowel Disease. This time last year, I was so malnourished because my gut was extremely damaged and I couldn’t absorb nutrients. It has been such a struggle to get to a point were my bowel disease was at bay. I was also diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and panic disorder about three years ago. I struggled to keep the ship sailing since my malnutrition and my bowel disease made my mental health conditions worse.

I lost so many friends due to us growing apart. I was no longer helpful in their journeys and them in mine. I grew into what I am today because I was shaped by my circumstances and experiences. I became who I was destined to be. I fell in love with myself again, despite having lost myself in the storm of circumstances I had no control over. I gained new hope and I started traveling the world again, with friends and on my own.

For the first time in a year, since my diagnosis of CPTSD. I started living for myself and not being defined by doctrines that people tried to instil in me. I overcame my self harming strategies, my suicidal thoughts and most importantly the guilt I have carried for so many years. I always struggled with guilt and self-hate. Because I was taught by my abusers that I was not worthy of love and that I wasn’t deserving of life. I still struggle with my negative inner critic from time to time but I learnt how to cope and tackle this negative inner critic.

I am grateful for all that Life had to offer me in 2018. Most importantly, I found the new me!

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again soon Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love,

Francesca

When Mental Illness Can Be Difficult to Accept

It is difficult to accept when you first learn you have a mental illness. Sometimes it’s a shock when the doctor tells you, but you believe and trust the doctor and begin exploring options towards recovery. What if it’s not a doctor? What if your family is telling you to get help or telling you why certain behaviors make them think you have a mental illness? Will you accept it when your friends or family say you have a mental illness? I have seen some people reject the idea and run from it instead of considering getting a professional opinion.

I can understand why some people have this reaction. When I first looked into the symptoms of Complex PTSD, I was shocked to learn how much of what I thought was my personality derived from symptoms of this disorder. While I learned many of the things, I didn’t like about myself were symptoms, I also learned many of the behaviors and traits I identified with most were symptoms. This was a hard reality to accept. The inner image I had for myself was wrong and I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

It took some time, but I eventually started to accept this new self-image. Certain things were reidentified in different ways, but I am still the person I have always been. This new information only made me understand myself more. I know myself better than I did. It takes time to get to know another person and this is true of knowing oneself. The hardest part is accepting and learning how to move forward. I’m still struggling with moving forward. Most of my life I didn’t have a support system. I have a small group of people now, but the path forward is still difficult.

Anyone who feels their family is attacking them with accusations of mental illness, my advice is to see a professional if for no other reason than to prove everyone wrong. Don’t argue. Offer to see a counselor and get an official diagnosis. Too many mental disorders have similar symptoms and behaviors and it can be hard to determine what is causing certain behaviors. Even from a psychiatric professional, the news is difficult to process and accept. Remember that, despite the stigma, mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and does not make you less of a person. It is one more battle you weren’t expecting, but it can be won. Don’t give up.

Photo Credit: <unsplash-logoPriscilla Du Preez