Friday, August 25, 2017

Antsy Pantsy

I'm antsy today. Terribly antsy. I'm "working from home", and so far all I've gotten done is a couple of organizational emails, getting my tire plugged at the auto shop, and starting some laundry. I have an appointment with my florist later today, so there's that. It's not that I don't have things to do. I really want to be able to work on these new ideas I have. But I'm at a standstill. Ironic, being antsy in a standstill. I can't focus, can't sit here and concentrate. I feel the need to be outside, moving, not sitting inside at a computer - even if it is at home, with the blinds up and a nice amount of sun streaming in.

I am on my fourth dose of caffeine - three cups of coffee and Diet Dr. Pepper (my current dose). Naturally, you're probably thinking "It's not even noon. If you're so antsy, stop with the frickin' caffeine." But honestly, it helps me. Part is my need for morning caffeine. I usually have at least two cups of coffee. Then I waited in a nearby coffee shop while I got my car worked on, hence cup 3. Now, I got a Diet Dr. Pepper because for some reason, it often helps me work - a hold over from college and grad school, in which I always had one by my side while working on papers and the like. It's like a prop that must be on a set for the scene to occur. In fact, it got me writing this, which is progress - writing feels like the only thing I'm capable of doing today that's even remotely close to work.

I think it's in part due to sitting at a desk much of the week. I'm a restless spirit by nature, and I tend to be mobile when I can be, despite my chronic fatigue. Moving feeds my creativity, my emotions, my heart, my soul, and my brain. There's also the fact that my condition causes about 200 thoughts going through my brain at the same time, which means that I have trouble actually focusing on one or a few.  This can make one antsy.  Not to mention I'm in the mood in which I feel I need to take action. I've spent a good number hours/days/weeks/even months pooling together ideas - some of which are more pooled together than others - and trying to organize them in some fashion. After a while, my brain gets done, more or less, with that... organization can only go so far without action, and after a point it feels a bit, well, pointless. Like you're going around in circles with all of these ideas that so far have not come close to coming to fruition because really, you haven't even started. Not to say that brainstorming and planning isn't an important step, because it absolutely is. But unless where you're stuck is what you want to do in the first place, it only gets you so far.  So now I have all of this restless energy, needing to take action at... something. Anything. Not even towards these goals per se, though obviously that would be nice. Just not to feel like I'm sitting here physically doing nothing.

But now, I'm stuck. I have the ideas, but nothing seems to be working in moving them forward. Not trying to do the research and get the information for starting by myself. Not reaching out to ask others for suggestions. Nothing. It feels like an eternal waiting game. And it's downright uninspiring and to be honest, tends to start dropping me towards depression. When you have all these great ideas and you get started and you try to get the info and you reach out and you get nothing, crickets, it feels like you'll never succeed.

So that's where I am today. Antsy, frustrated yet energized, needing do anything but sit behind a computer, ironically. And yet knowing that if I just do something to get rid of the energy, I'll feel like I wasted a good day off of work not putting my ideas into actions. It's a mental tug of war, really. And there's not too much of a point to this post, to be honest, except to get it out of my system, try to explain how I am feeling, and let others know that if they feel this way ever, they're in good company... or at least company. Maybe that's at least a start. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dear Friends, I'm Sorry For Disappearing

Dear Friends,
I'm sorry for disappearing on you. I know I haven't seen you in ages. Too long. And I miss you. A lot. Please don't think otherwise. I know I've probably missed your girl's night out, or your child's birthday party. I know you've invited me, and it probably looks like I'm blowing it off.  I'm not, I promise. It pains me to miss them. It hurts my heart. Not because I love going to these specific activities per se, but because I feel like a terrible friend. And because I miss you, and I was really hoping that this time, I could manage it. You are a valuable part of my life - I don't keep a large number of people close, so you must be.

But I have an illness. Several, actually. And lately they've been rearing their ugly heads, so to speak. If you're close to me, which you are, you know I battle a mood cycling disorder, complete with hypomania, depression, anxiety, and social anxiety. There are times that getting out of bed is physically, mentally, and emotionally painful. There are times, many, most in fact, that being in a group of people - not a crowd, where I can disappear, but a group where I'm supposed to interact - is terrifying. I'm not exaggerating. It's not that I don't prefer it, but that it's terrifying. I've been crying constantly, and I've learned the hard way that the anxiety that will occur if I force myself to go will have a disastrous impact on my mental health. And the few times I've almost managed to convince myself that it will be OK, depression convinces me that nobody really wants me there, that I'll be an outsider, that I'll embarrass myself by breaking down and crying or tells me some other lie, I realize too late, that makes me crawl back in my little corner and hide.

Lately, it hasn't been only group interactions, either. It's felt like all I want to do is hide and cry, or turn into myself and think quietly, read or write. And because I don't want us to get together, even one on one, and me to turn into a blubbering mess, I avoid seeing you. And besides I know that most of the time people try to make me feel better, it only makes me feel worse, for not being able to. Most recently, I've been experiencing terrible depression about being depressed. I barely recognize myself many times. Me, who used to be full of optimism and positivity, with an easy smile. And I feel like I'm mourning the self that I feel that I've lost. So I promise, it truly isn't you, it's me.

So I'm sorry that I've disappeared. And I know it's a big ask, but please, don't stop trying. Keep inviting me. But also, maybe we can start by taking things at my speed? Would you be able to come to me, for coffee perhaps? If I'm nearby, one on one, and I start to falter, it's easier for me to get home, into my safe zone. Or maybe we can FaceTime to catch up. I know it's not the same, but it's something right? More personalized a bit, and I get to actually see you. It's a start.

I also ask you, please, do not assume anything, especially from my social media. Yes, you may see me check in somewhere, or a picture of me out somewhere. I have a cycling disorder. Which means that by nature, I have ups and downs. Perhaps I was having a good hour, or day, or even weekend. I could have even been having a good week. It doesn't mean I'm "better". It means I was have a good hour or day or weekend or week. And if the next hour or day or weekend or week, I am not well and cannot see you, I'm not being dishonest. That hour or day or weekend could have been all I had in me. I could have given it a try, and become so mentally and emotionally exhausted that all I can do is lie in bed. Maybe I could only go because I was with my ever-understanding fiance, and I knew that if I had to suddenly clutch his arm and say "we need to go" because it got too much, if I was about to break down, I could. I was only able to go with that safety net. So please, don't assume.

I miss you all. And I'm hoping that with the right combination of therapy, meds, life adjustments, and time, I may get back to at least having the ability to be my happy, less anxious, less fearful self. I'll never be cured - my illness doesn't work that way. But I'll take at least a little movement in the happier direction. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

When Did Being Busy Become an Excuse?

There are some unspoken norms in our society. When someone (that you aren't super close with), asks how you are, you say something like "Fine, OK, good." You don't usually tell your coworker or the barista at the coffee shop, "Well this bought of depression is really rough and man, my IBD these last few weeks, whew!" Because we probably figure that "How are you" from this person is more or less obligatory, and that they don't actually want to know the details on how you're doing.  This frustrates me, INFJ and small-talk-avoider that I am, but I have come to learn that it's how society operates.

But there is this societal trend, expectation really, that I just cringe at, and cannot seem to get behind: Busy. Everyone's busy. I don't think people even know what they're busy with some days. But that's what they are. "How are you?" "Fine. Busy." I've even found myself doing it at times, and it makes me angry with myself. But I'm an awkward small talker so I usually just put on the mask and throw out things people expect to hear - I'm fine and I'm busy.

But the problem with everyone being so busy is that we don't seem to examine it closely.  We don't sit down and think "What am I so busy with, and is that really what matters most to me?".  As long as we're busy, we are covered. Can't make that important event? It's OK, you were busy. Forget a friend's birthday? Well, you've been so busy. Have to change plans on someone when they were really counting on them? They'll understand, you're busy.  Not get to do something you promised someone. They'll understand for the 1st or 100th time, because you were busy. And rarely will someone question it. Rarely, it seems, do we ask captain busy-pants exactly why these things that they're busy with are more important than that family event, the birthday, plans that we were counting on, their word or promise that they gave you.

But when you battle illness every day, you sometimes have to ask yourself that. Is xyz more important than my health? Can I physically or mentally or emotionally manage to get through this relatively unscathed, or is it going to really put me out of commission? If I do x, will have the energy/strength/health to do y, which means more to me? I often have to prioritize the things that are the most important to me, and I have to live by that. What things matter most to me?

  • Family and loved ones (this includes four-pawed loved ones)
  • My health and sanity, because if I don't have these I can't be there for family and loved ones. 
  • Friends
  • Helping others, through my advocacy efforts and just in general
  • Work to a lesser extent, in the "I need my job because I am not independently wealthy" kind of way. 
Notice a few things here: there's not a 'thing' on this list. Nor is money on this list. Work is on this list, but it's the bottom of the list - not because I don't value my job but because my work won't be holding my hand on my deathbed, and because if I don't have my health and sanity, I cannot work. Yes, there are things we need money for:  food, a roof over our heads, paying our bills, clothing. And wanting some money for livelihood, I understand. But why are we so busy working to make money for things we can't enjoy because we're so busy working?  Wouldn't your family rather see you and have a less expensive TV or car ,than have a top of the line TV or car and never see you? If not, well, time to examine why that's the case. 

Being busy is understandable. But it isn't  some omnipotent reason that doesn't need to be further specified. If you're using it this way, it's become an excuse. You have to be busy with something, and the way you spend your time, what you're so busy with, shows your priorities, plain and simple. This is where that old adage "actions speak louder than words" comes into play. Time is the one thing we use that we can never get back - our most precious resource. So next time you're tempted to say "I was too busy" and end the sentence there, don't. Finish it out the way you actually mean it: I'mwas too busy with x, that I didn't have time for y like I promised you, because x is more important to me right now. If you don't like a sound of that, time to reexamine how you're using your time. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Learning From My Past, As I Head Into My Future

Yesterday, July 10th, was my former wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago I walked down the aisle in a ballgown dress with six bridesmaids, seven groomsman, and approximately 200 guests. The wedding was fabulous. Basically my entire family on both sides flew in from out of town, some for whom I know it was a stretch time wise and financially. It meant the world to me, truly. The room was filled with people we'd each known over the past 24 years, many that we hadn't seen in years. It was a grand scale event that I became so wrapped up in planning that, in hindsight, I realized I was more focused on the wedding itself than the next 50 or so years of married life ahead.  But at 24 years old and one of the first of my friends to get married, that's what I did.

I think I knew, or at least had a nagging feeling, walking down the aisle that I was making a mistake. But I'm a dreamer, with my head often in the stars, and I thought I was being unrealistic wanting more than I had - a good-hearted, steady, reliable man who loved me and wanted to spend his life with me. I thought it should be enough. As it turns out, it was not. We were not, as a couple. Had it, no doubt my life would be drastically different than it is today. There are moments when I think about how my life changed course on January 24, 2007, the day we decided to split. But I have no regrets. It was the best decision for us both. I believed it then, and I haven't doubted it a day since.

In part, I think I simply wasn't ready for any of it. Some people know exactly who they are and what they want at 24 years old. I was not one of those people. I didn't realize that at the time, of course - I took the route I always expected I would. College, full time job, grad school, marriage, house, plan for a family. It wasn't until the "plan for a family" part began that I realized how unready for this life I was. It's funny how one day you can wake up and discover "this is really going to be the rest of my life if I do nothing about it right now." You'd think vows such as "for as long as we both shall live" said in front of 200 people including a priest would do that. But for whatever reasons, it didn't. It was the startling realization that I could be someone's mother, that if we had a child he would always be their father, and that we'd be inextricably tied forever in that way, no matter what else happened in our lives, individually and as a couple.  It occurred to me then how little we'd talked about the details, the actual realities instead of the "one day"s. It felt almost like a reverse Truman Show  - like a story that I played a part in, and suddenly it became clear that it was my life. We had moved along the path in front of us. We had never questioned if it was the path we should be following.

Today, I'm just under two months from my wedding (it's two months from this past Sunday, but who's counting). I am almost 38 years old and have lived a lot of life since my last wedding. I know it's given me experience. I believe, or at least hope, it's given me wisdom. Now, my fiance and I talk about the little details, plan for the actualities of the future. Things as minor as interrupting our (very food motivated) dog while she's eating, playfully tugging at her ears and tail to make sure she doesn't mind, in case a future child did the same. We discuss the larger aspects of life and the minutia, having a plan, yet being able to go with the flow (OK the go with the flow is just him, I practically plan out my underwear a week in advance). We thing of the what ifs, even the unlikely ones. We have the difficult discussions now, so that we don't have to confront startling differences we never realized were there when a situation arises. We may not always agree, but we have learned where each other stands, and how to compromise where we must. We dream together, but also confront the facts. I certainly am no expert in relationships. Less so in marriage. But I'd like to think I've learned a bit along the long and especially topsy turvy road to where I am now.

If I could give advice to anyone getting married, or thinking about it, it would be this:

1. Don't ever, ever, ever assume. I don't care if you have to ask 10 different times in 10 different ways to make sure you understand each other - not that you always agree, but that you know where each other stands.

2. Every answer to the above doesn't have to be a yes or no. If you don't know, say it. There are some questions I can answer with much more certainty at 37 than I could have at 27.  It's better for someone to know you haven't made up your mind than to be surprised when you change it - especially about something major.

3. Compromise is incredibly important and it's not always 50/50 in every individual situation. In the end, it should about even out, but don't keep exact score.

4. Sometimes, a topic may be so crucial that you don't feel you can compromise. Pick your battles, but stand your ground when it matters most. Otherwise, there's a high chance of bitterness and resentment down the road.

5. Don't count on anything outside of the two of you to make your marriage happy. If your marriage will only be happy if your life together goes exactly as planned - ideal home, family exactly as you imagined, jobs on the current course, etc - you need to reconsider. Your partner should be enough for the marriage in and of themselves - not as part of a larger plan that comes along with them. Because we know what happens to the best laid plans.

6. Don't count on either of you changing, but understand that everyone does in some ways. Meaning this: love and marry the person for who they are in this moment, not for who you think they could be or who they used to be. At the same time, everyone evolves and grows, or so you hope. Shifts in each of you, with age and experience, are almost inevitable. Allow each other some leeway, especially as the years progress. I personally wouldn't want my spouse at 64 to be acting like they did at 24.

7. Sh*t is going to happen. This basically an absolute given. To you as a person, to you as a couple. The things you never expected to bother you will. Things you expected to worry about for years to come, you'll get used to.  When these things happen, know that you're in good company, and try not to let it discourage you.

As I start dotting the i's and crossing the t's of the details for my next wedding, I can feel a glaring difference between my first wedding and this one. We have a total of two people in our bridal party, one on each side. We're having a 15-ish minute ceremony at the same site as our reception. There will be about 65 guests instead of 200, a good number of whom are between the ages of 1 and 14. We're not doing a shower (bridal, I am showering) or a registry. I personally don't care if everyone - that's not in the actual wedding - shows up in their PJs. What I do care about is that half of the time our discussions about wedding plans dissolve into laughter. that we enjoy cooking dinner together as we discuss our plans, that what we can't wait for most is the opportunity to spend our lives together, whatever that may bring.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

To Those People In My Future

There is this fact, this highly important fact, that I want those people who plan to be part of my future, in any capacity, to know. It is something that my soon-to-be husband knew before we went on our first date. It's something that my closest friends have known since the day I told them I had been diagnosed. It's something that I think is critical for anyone close to those with chronic illness to not only know, but to truly understand.

My illness is for life. 

I was born with it, and when I take my last breaths, I will still have it. It may seem better or worse, ebb and flow (it is a cycling disorder, after all), but it will always be there. Even in the moments when everything feels fine, feels "status quo". Even if I go days or weeks without an anxiety attack or dropping into depression, or an upward cycle into (hypo)mania, it will be there, lurking under the surface, ever present. It will affect me even when you do not see it affecting me, even when there are no outward signs, because I'll know that any day I could wake up and everything could have shifted on it's head. I'm never not aware of this. Every single day of my life is a surprise, even if nothing changes in my mood or anxiety level from one day to the next. The fact that nothing has changed is often a surprise. I may have a warning of a cycle. I often do not.

I can "beat" individual episodes of depression, anxiety, mania, in the sense that eventually, they'll be acutely over. I cannot beat them for life. There is always the chance that something will bring on my anxiety, even on a beautiful, warm, sunny day on vacation where it seems nothing can go wrong. Something will, at least to my anxious mind, and it will throw me into a tailspin. I'll try to reign it in, and sometimes I can. Other times, I struggle. I may be able to downplay it, or move on from it quickly, depending on the severity. But I may not. There's always that chance. And once it escalates, if it escalates, it will be awful. For you, and also for me.

I cannot calm down or relax on demand. No amount of meditation or yoga or healthy eating or sleep or exercise habits will "cure" me. They often help, but that is it. I can cycle numerous times a day, for no "reason" other than because I have a mood cycling disorder. I can wake up on edge, or even angry, at nothing in particular. If we're especially close, I'll tell you I'm struggling, and you'll know what that means. If we are not, I'll probably put on the mask as best I can. I'll take it off only when I'm in the comfort of my home, or possibly with trusted loved ones.

There will be times when I have to avoid or cancel plans. My illness will make it excruciating to go out in public, or even to see anyone.  My options are to not go, or to spend the entire time trying to hold back tears and steady my body so that nobody can see me shaking, hoping nobody notices the emotional void I've forced myself into, which I must in order to pretend I'm OK.

You may have to spend hours, days, weeks, even months trying to remind me that I'm not hopeless and worthless, that my life is worthwhile, that you love me or care about me. You won't understand why, once you've said it a couple of times, I cannot believe it. So I'll tell you why - it's the equivalent of you trying to convince me the sky is green when it clearly looks blue to me. I physically am unable to see it as green, no matter how many times you tell me, no matter how many convincing arguments you make - because to me, it's blue. And even if I finally say, "Ok, it's blue," I'm only saying this because you told me it is enough that I'm just agreeing - not because it spontaneously now looks that way to me. This is the same. I'm often unable to see the value of myself. It helps when you tell me, greatly, but it doesn't make it so. It may never make it so. I ask you not to stop trying. One day, your kind words, said for the 100th or 1000th time, may save my life. Please know that, even when your efforts may seem to have no effect, they do. Just knowing you're making an effort does.

There are times I will take it out on you. I hate myself for this, and yet if I don't get it out somehow, I'll explode or worse, implode. I'll apologize profusely. I truly mean the apology. I hate taking it out on you as I'm doing it, yet it feels like if I stop this flow of emotion, I'll burst. Eventually, I'll exhaust as I would if I were sprinting at top speed. I'll then fold into myself, distancing myself from you because of this. I'll put a shell around myself, a cocoon. It's for you, not me. It's so that stop taking it out on you.

I'll need to be by myself. It's nothing against you. I need to recharge. I need to be alone with myself, to try to understand what's going on. I need to eliminate all outside influences for a short while, maybe even just an hour or so, and that means you too. I'll be back, but I need this. It's because I care about you that I'm doing this. It's because I want to be my best self for you, and I cannot if I don't have time to replenish my emotional stores.

There are times I'll scare you, and probably scare myself.  Not intentionally, but because you cannot understand how I'm feeling. There are times you won't recognize me. There are times I won't recognize me. I ask you to hang on. I understand how difficult my illness, and I as a result, can be. I am working hard, every day, to become healthier, even when you may not see the efforts.

If you plan to be a part of my future in any way, please know these things. We are a packaged deal, my illnesses and I. There is no me without them. It will be worse at times than it even sounds here. There are no words to truly describe what it's like in the first person.  I'm doing the best I can to give you a heads up. Please know, there is an upside. My emotional depths mean that you could trust me with your life. My loyalty is steadfast. I often do for others at the expense of myself. I am a giver that will give beyond what most think possible. Those in my life, those who choose to be, are everything to me. I can, at least, promise you that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Pieces of My Illness That You Don't See

My illnesses are invisible, for the most part. So this title might sound strange. But there's "invisible', and then there's "kept under lock and key" invisible.  Technically, if I was good enough at pretending (which I have been often), I could completely keep my illnesses hidden, other than the IBD, because you can only make up so many excuses to literally run to the bathroom. You may see me look tired or distant, as if I'm having trouble focusing. You may notice I'm quick to worry or stress out. You may hear me mention how exhausted I am. If you're close to me, or read my blog or social media, you'll hear me mention that I'm struggling.  You'll hear me say how I'm feeling anxious or depressed, or how I'm cycling rapidly. You'll be aware of my illnesses. That doesn't mean you'll truly see the extent of them.

But there are so many pieces of my illness that you may never see even a hint of. Pieces that almost nobody will ever see except my fiance. I want to write about them though, because I think they're worth sharing. Not because they're extraordinary, but because to the public eye, I manage to hold myself together relatively well most of the time. It could make depression, anxiety, mood cycling, MECFS look like they aren't that big of a deal, to those who don't experience or understand them. What I want those people to know is that it takes Herculean effort some days to put on the mask. Herculean effort and three plus cups of coffee, to be more specific - at least for me.

What you don't see is how difficult it is for me to get out of bed in the morning, despite the fact that I am actually a morning person. On my good days, I like to be up early and feel my best in the mornings. Still, so many days I have to absolutely force myself to get out of bed. I have to remind myself that in addition to the fact that I actually like my job, it pays my bills. On weekends, I have to remind myself that my dog needs walking and feeding. That the house needs cleaning and we're almost out of food in the fridge. Ironically, most days I get out of bed extra early due to anxiety - the options, when I wake up at 4 am, are to lay in bed and have my mind race ad cause massive anxiety, or get up and feel exhausted. I don't want more anxiety than I already have, and I'm used to exhaustion. I pick what seems to be the "better" option. I am always tired. Always. There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not exhausted. Many days, I battle weakness. Numbness in hands and feet, even when I'm walking, is something I've become used to. There are days where it feels like the blood has drained from my arms.

You don't see how badly I want to curl in the corner. Or how I wish my bedroom sheets were an invisibility cloak. You don't see, because anxiety and hypomania often make me more talkative than I'd like to be, how significantly more content I am when I say nothing.  When I listen, especially to the universe, I'm content. The rain, the birds, a train whistle in the distance, the wind through the trees. There, my mind stills ever so slightly. One would think the opposite - less noise, more mental chatter. But it isn't the case. Less stimuli that seem to require it's acute attention makes it easier for my brain to rest.

You don't see the wave of anxiety that wells up, that I'm almost certain is about to come out of every pore, as you say, "It's better if we talk on the phone, what time can I give you a call?" and I become frantic for an excuse. You don't see the panic that I feel when you say you've invited three other people to our lunch, which I thought was us chatting one on one as friends, because you assumed "the more the merrier!" You don't see how my mind races when you change plans at the last minute. When we're running late, and my brain has to now recalculate the entire day based on our new time frame. You don't even understand why I need to rearrange it in my head, but to me, it's critical. It's not even a conscious thought. It's as habitual as, say, making sure you have your daily cup(s) of coffee in the morning.

You don't see how deeply I feel everything. I have become well-practiced at the mask. You may know I'm slightly bothered, but you don't see how I twist it around in my head for hours, days, weeks. I'm unable, it seems, to not do that. You don't see how deep the wound is, for even the smallest upset. How it makes me feel like I'm worthless. You don't see how I worry about virtually every conversation, wondering if the negatives are worse than I think, and the positives are just nice things said to make me feel better, that I don't deserve.

Most of all, you don't see the self-loathing. You don't see how much and how often I hate myself for the way I've acted, for my inability to handle situations that most people can. You don't see how desperate I am to be able to go with the flow, to be social, to calm my words and speak less when it feels like my mouth literally will not stop, sometimes with my brain almost unaware of what I'm saying. You don't see how much I chastise myself for getting worked up, visibly, sometimes publicly upset, over something - and often at someone - that I later can't understand why it even bothered me.  And no matter how much I remind myself that this is my illness, that it's all part of what I battle, I can never fully allow myself not to personally blame myself. I blame myself where I would never blame others with my illness who acted the same - I know it's not their fault, because I know what the illness can do. And yet when it comes to myself, I cannot give myself that compassion.

There are invisible pieces that have a positive effect. Every color is richer. I can appreciate a flower or a plant or a sunset more than most. I virtually feel the colors. My day, or at least my hour, can be made by the simplest thing - seeing (and petting!) a cute dog, helping someone with even the tiniest thing, a genuine compliment given to me. The rain is more entrancing to me. I feel a warm breeze as if it's about to lift me up and help me fly. A rich mug of coffee is simply wonderful - and getting it in a unique or pretty mug is an added bonus. Life has so many tiny, beautiful moments to me. Unfortunately, they often don't last. Each of the situations described above - the anxiety, the depression, the hypomania, the deep wounds, the lack of sleep -  all take over. But at least, between those, I can appreciate the littlest of things. I have to be grateful, at least, that I do have that. It makes the world, in these moments, perhaps not completely dark.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I'm Done Being Your Doormat

Dear world, and a good majority of the people in it: I am done being your doormat. I have had enough. I have been kind and giving and caring. I have been sympathetic and empathetic. I have over-apologized for things that were never my fault to begin with. Sometimes, simply for who I am. For my existence. I have forgiven and forgiven and forgiven. I have accepted being trampled on, smiling and saying "it's OK I understand", and then silently going home and crying for hours, days on end. Sometimes I still cry about things years later, the hurt is so deep. I've let the things you've done make me feel bad about myself. Like I'm the problem. Like I'm best at just being your cushy little doormat. The cushy little doormat right before you step into your beautiful, expensive house - you have to trample me down in order to elevate yourself. For a long time, I thought it was simply my place. You convinced me of that. When I attempted to stand up for myself, you called me selfish or attention seeking, telling me to stop raising a fuss. You called me hot-headed, over-reactive, unreasonable. You convinced me I was the problem, simply for asking you top stop trampling on me. It made me feel worse about myself. Nobody wants to be a hot-headed, selfish, attention seeker. So I became even more of a doormat - to apologize for "unacceptable behavior", for causing you trouble. For years, almost 38 of them now, I have asked permission. I've asked permission for the stupidest things - for things nobody should ever have to ask permission for. I've practically asked permission to exist at times. And no matter what someone's answer was, I acquiesced. I didn't want to cause a stir. I am so empathetic and caring and understanding that I always managed to put myself in someone else's shoes and convince myself they were right. I felt guilty if I didn't. I hated myself if I caused a problem, caused anyone hardship, anyone was upset with me.

But I am done acquiescing. Last night, I got some news that put me over the tipping point. It wasn't tragic or even terrible news - nobody was hurt or ill. It was news about my something at my home, that I literally just moved back into this past weekend after months of renovations, that will cost me a lot of money that I don't have, and inconvenience, all for someone else's benefit. And that was it. I was done. Everything that everyone has done over the years for themselves at the expense of me, every offense, every time someone stepped on me, every time someone upset me so as to not rock the boat, every time someone didn't stand up for me, or disrespected me, or treated me like crap, or convinced me to treat myself like crap, added up and triggered a switch. And yes, I am sure many people have gotten worse news lately. But if you tell me that I will throw something at you and we will cease being friends immediately, so I highly suggest you don't. We all have our own battles, and  mine is a long standing one with life and illness, and I ask you not to judge mine as I do not judge yours. I'm done with people judging me and trying to placate me and getting me to acquiesce. Done.

I will no longer apologize for things that are not my fault. I will no longer let you trample on me to boost yourself. I will no longer let you convince me that it's my place in life. You will no longer make me feel bad about who I am, about standing up for myself and the things I deserve. I will not yell and scream and make a huge scene. I will not even try to convince you of my place. I will simply tell you my place. I will tell you what I will do, and what I will not. I will not ask permission for things that I have no business asking permission for, simply because the world has convinced me that everyone else knows best. I'm done believing that bullshit. I've seen through those lies. I won't bulldoze over everyone, I will be respectful when I know that someone does know better, when it is appropriate to ask permission or to collaborate efforts. But I've discovered that those times are much fewer than I'd been led to believe.

Perhaps this will not make me popular. But you know what? I've never been popular. And years of doing what everyone else told me to do, of being convinced that I'm not worth anything, that everyone knows better, made me feel so inferior that I closeted myself away, not even wanting to be around people. Severe social anxiety makes it worse. So not a whole lot will change. And those who do stand by my side, like my loved ones and closest friends, they will be valuable, quality people. They will be positive two-way relationships, not simply people using me to get their way. I will know people based on actions, not pretty words. There is no "let me know if you need anything." That puts the onus on me, still, contacting you.  There will be no "Oh we should get together" with them not following up. Those are pretty, empty words that get others off the hook for not making an effort. People will not be too busy for me. Especially not with things like work and chores and tasks. I'm sick of inanimate pieces of life taking precedence over people. Nobody lies on their deathbed wishing they'd spent more time in the office or spent more time cleaning the house or running errands. It is people holding your hand as you take your last breaths. I want only people in my life that get that. I don't care if your reach out is "Well I have the kids at home but you're welcome to come over and sit on the floor and play toddler games with us". I'm fine with that. In fact, I prefer kids and dogs to most adults. Or if you are battling illness and suggest a virtual coffee get together via FaceTime. That works for - I'm probably battling too. And even if I can't do these things, you've offered. And you've offered on terms I can do - not some big group gathering that you know makes me anxious. You've tried. I don't feel like I'm making all of the effort. That means the world. I'm done being the only doer in 90% of my relationships. I'm done giving and caring and doing for others what they won't for me. Pulling all the weight. Being taken for granted. Doing things that cause me massive anxiety and depression so that I can see people because it's the only way they'll get together. Done, done, done.

You see the problem, world and people in it, is that I never was a doormat. I am the pavement underneath. I could see the appeal of having the doormat there - it's pretty and nice and  people enjoy it. It softens the blow of people stomping on you. I like being useful, helpful, and giving. But suddenly, the doormat is gone. It's been trampled on too much. Worn through and tossed away. And now, there's pavement. Strong, sturdy pavement. People couldn't have stepped on that doormat for years if it had been hanging there in thin air. It was supported by the concrete all along. Concrete doesn't wear and tear as quickly as a cushy doormat. Nobody wants to stop down hard on the concrete. It doesn't silently clean the dirt off of your shoes as you step up into the beautiful home of your life, where dirt and doormats aren't welcome. You stomp on the concrete, you feel it. And sometimes, when it starts to storm, concrete gets icy. And icy concrete is not a place you want to step. It is particularly unforgiving.