Friday, April 25, 2014

Closing a Chapter

Today was a pretty good day. I got some stuff done, made some tasty food, and then relaxed and watched a good movie, all on a few hours of sleep. It's the first truly functional day I've had in a while, and it feels great.

The only thing that's really changed, other than being tired of being a broken, blobby houseslug, is that I decided that there was no real point in sitting on the apology I wrote a while back to my friend who I am no longer speaking to, so I sent it along to him. I rewrote the damn thing a bunch of times, and I'm glad I did, because it was important to me to accept responsibility for the things I truly felt regret for without taking on the blame and guilt of the entire mess. Simply, it's because I don't feel like I did anything wrong except for when I reacted pretty badly to a lot of hurt and anger. And, well, I'm human, mental illness or no. Strong emotions tend to make you do stupid shit sometimes.

I wrote it for me more than for him, though I'm genuinely apologetic. I don't even know if he read it, and I give about zero fucks if he did or not. He's still not a person I want in my life, and too stubborn and prideful to admit he did anything wrong (or too ashamed? I don't really know), but I would be pretty surprised if I ever got an apology back. Even if I did, I don't know how I'd react. There's a bit too much betrayal there for me to forgive it completely, I think. (See my writing blog: Trust. I wish that wasn't where I was at, but it's pretty accurate to how I feel about the whole thing, even if I exaggerated the evil intent. Probably.) But I don't hate him. I think he acted a lot out of fear and self-preservation, which is something I understand pretty well. And he did truly care about me at one point, and helped me a lot at a time I needed it... so no, I don't hate him. No, none of that excuses him treating me pretty poorly and all the hurt he caused, but, in the end, I'm not the sort to hold onto hate and resentment for too long.

So, I've mourned the loss of the amazing friendship I had, however briefly. I've wallowed in my misery and hurt feelings and anger. I've spent the time I needed to rage and cry and let it all spin around in my head until it drove me mad. And now I'm truly, honestly done. I said my last piece, as succinctly and plainly as I could, and I hope the door to that part of my life stays shut for good.

There's one decision, one moment I do truly regret, because it may have salvaged what was good before it was too late. When he first pulled away, before he knew that was a trigger and thought it was the best decision at that moment, and when I had first expressed the need for space and time to sort out my complex feelings (*cough*)... just before everything spiralled into chaos, I let fear make a decision for me. To be fair, I was triggered pretty badly by something he couldn't have foreseen would have that effect, and it scared me shitless and put me in such a high state of anxiety that I'm not sure I could have chosen otherwise in that moment. Even before then, I was pretty terrified basically all the time. I barely managed the move out of my marriage and into a new apartment and new life with a lot of help from others. I was a pretty broken wreck by that point and I'd spent 7 years being mostly dependent. The thought of being on my own filled me with large amounts of dread. So yeah, the thought of losing even part of the close friendship I'd found was unthinkable, and I panicked.

No, I don't think I could have made the 'right' decision, the one which agreed that space was a good idea, but I regret what I did choose... and that was absolute, raw honesty. I let him in to the scary places in my head and trusted him when he reassured me, time and again, that I couldn't break what we had. True trust is something very precious to me, and as such, there are a very few, specific people I let in beyond the thickest of my walls. At that point, it was four people total, and now it is three. And I let him in further than anyone else previously, even the husband. When it became evident that we weren't as unbreakable as he said, I still trusted him, because not to do so beyond that point was too devastating. And it was when everything finally, and inevitably, fell apart beyond repair.

You'd think having your marriage fall apart after realising it was a toxic situation you needed to break free from and moving out on your own while too ill to work would be enough stress for the year/decade/lifetime, but no... being betrayed so completely by someone you left yourself so very vulnerable to, well, that's just the icing on the cake I needed this year. But I finally understand why it's taken me so long to process, adjust, cope, and finally pull myself back up once again. This shit just needed time to sort itself out inside my head.

And I'm pretty grateful and proud that I'm still here, that this hasn't broken me completely, cause it wouldn't be unreasonable if it did. But, if nothing else, years of coping with my mental illness has taught me a lot of resilience. You fail and fall down enough times, you get pretty used to picking yourself back up, too. And I've made it to 41 days clean from self-harm. You can't be too broken if you aren't self-destructive. Not that I haven't been tempted a lot, but I know it won't help anything except add to my collection of scars. Even in this last couple weeks of extremely depressed blobbiness, there's been a small voice within me forcing me to keep pushing, to move forward, and to survive. I'm finally free to live my life the way that makes me truly happy, so I know it would be silly to give up now, no matter how awful I feel.

And so, I close one door behind me and open another. No more looking back. I'm still only just beginning.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Undiagnosed Chronic ThingyThing

I like how I always write these updates at stupid hours. It's like I can't ever sleep properly or something.

I wanted to talk a bit about the physical illness I'm also experiencing at the moment. Pain often ties into mental illness and vice versa. I can't really tell how much depression is caused by the fact I'm hurting all the time now, or how much pain is caused by the depression. Both are contributing to one another to some extent, I'm sure.

It's not just pain, though. I've been having all sorts of weird symptoms for ages now, over a couple years, though the actual pain started early-mid last year sometime. I had to complain about the pain multiple times before my doctor finally did some proper investigating, because despite the pain being there it wasn't 'bad enough' to investigate. Everyone has some lower back pain/leg pain, don't you know? Especially someone who injured their back at work earlier in the year (which happened because I had pain in my right hip and leg and was favouring it when moving a heavy thing around). I got a CT Scan and x-ray of my spine, but they didn't find anything out of the ordinary. I also got some blood tests done to check various things, but the only thing off was slightly high inflammation markers. So, I got referred to a rheumatologist (who I actually saw before a couple years ago when all this started), and I've just been waiting for the appointment and popping pain pills. Yay!

So, the first weird thing was when I was working in the kitchen at IKEA. I began having really terrible joint pain in my hands, similar to arthritis. They were more stiff and painful in the mornings and would ease up throughout the day, but they hurt nearly all the time. That was why I got referred to the rheumatologist the first time, but she determined that it wasn't Rheumatoid Arthritis, because it didn't quite fit. She said it was an 'inflammation something', because my markers were up back then too, but it was being exacerbated by using my hands so much working in a kitchen. To be fair, it did ease up after I left IKEA, so I didn't think about it much.

Also, that was partially because I left IKEA due to constant dizziness that refused to go away. I had bouts off and on here and there, but by the time I left, I couldn't stay upright long enough to work at all. So, I quit (well, was pushed to, but that's another story), and my doctor at the time sent me off to see a neurologist at the Dizzy Clinic they run at the RPA Hospital. They did tons of tests on me, including testing my hearing and checking for common causes of vertigo, spinning me round in a chair, and putting water in my ears to cause dizziness! It was super not fun. In the end, they didn't find anything, though thought the dizziness might be caused by my anxiety. They did send me for an MRI to make sure there wasn't anything else that could be the cause, but the dizziness eased up by the time I needed to get results, and I sort of slacked on going back due to life and (more honestly) anxiety about dealing with it more. I kinda wish I did now, though.

I still get bouts of dizziness off and on, but nothing as bad as when I quit IKEA. Another really couple of really weird symptoms started about the same time as the joint pain and dizziness, but they were so minor comparatively, I never really brought them up or mentioned it much. They have been ongoing since then, however, nearly constantly. One is that I can sometimes be super, extra sensitive to noises. Not all the time (or I might go mad), but it's worse on days I feel worse or when I'm very tired. The only way I can really describe it is that even the tiniest noises can startle me, such as when the husband would set his drink down on his desk and the room was otherwise completely silent. The noise would seem extremely loud and I'd have a knee jerk startle reaction. I've been told it's just stress or whatever, but it feels too extreme to me to be a simple stress reaction.

The other thing that I get a lot, though again it's worse the worse I feel or if I'm more tired, is a vibration sensation that moves down my back. I was having trouble describing it until one day my cat sat on my shoulders purring at me. It was exactly the same, pretty much. So imagine a purring cat on you, only there's no cat and it feels like waves of vibration from the purring moving in a downward direction.

So yeah, probably close to this time last year, I began getting pain on my right side, around my hip and down my leg. It's focused more towards the back, and is probably tied to my sciatic nerve (the one that runs from your spine through your hip and down your leg). The pain wasn't terrible, but it was constant and annoying. I began favouring that side a lot and, as I mentioned, it led to me injuring my back. After a lot of rest and physio, I got my back healed up really well, but the pain in my hip remained. My lovely physio did note that my muscles around my right hip were super tight and that was probably constricting the nerve and causing the pain. Fair enough.

As time went on, however, the stiffness and pain continued to worsen steadily. It began affecting my ability to walk or lift anything (very inconvenient as that was a lot of my job at the time), and by the end of last year the pain was affecting my entire back, shoulders, and both legs, as well. The stiffness was so bad that I was barely able to move or bend over or stand for too long without everything spasming and tightening further and causing even more pain. My joints all over were aching badly, much like when I had the joint pain at IKEA, only it was not just my hands, but also my knees, shoulders, wrists, etc. I basically I could lay in bed a lot or hobble around the house some, but otherwise I wasn't well enough to do much of anything.

I also started experiencing really draining fatigue as my condition kept worsening. I mean, different to depression fatigue. I am more of an insomniac than an over-sleeper anyway, so it was really, really strange to feel so drained and exhausted that I'd spend days sleeping in bed because I just had no energy for anything else.

This really disabling flare up lasted quite a few months before finally easing up a couple months ago. The stiffness slowly eased up so that I can at least usually get around when I need to now, and the pain is still there all the time, but not at nearly the same level. The fatigue will still get me if I overdo it, so I have to be careful not to tire myself out too much. But overall, not nearly so bad as the end of last year when I yet again left a job due to my health. Sigh.

At the same time, I've developed some more fun new symptoms this year. One is a sensation of squeezing tightness around my chest and ribs area, as if I'm in really tight, constricting clothing or being hugged too tightly. Even more recently, I've been having a lot of muscle twitches and convulsions which are both random and constant. They sometimes jerk me awake when I'm trying to fall asleep, because I need it to be more difficult to ever get any sleep. I also sometimes get trembling in my hands, though that's a lot more infrequent. And I've been having a lot of trouble focusing my eyes at times and they can be painful off and on. Actually, now that I think about it, for the past few years, my eyesight has continued to get worse, even though you are supposed to plateau as an adult.

There's a few other symptoms I'm more embarrassed to talk about, but basically, a lot of this points to something going on with my nervous system. I have no idea what, of course, but internet research (no, I don't have cancer) has pointed to perhaps something demyelinating like MS or similar? But who knows, other things can affect your nervous system as well, but it's clear I have a chronic something that will probably be autoimmune in origin, cause why not have my terrible immune system decide to also attack me, as well.

So yeah, that's what's going on with me. I don't like complaining about it too often, if I can help it, and you likely won't even remember I'm in pain all the time, because I try to not let it stop me from living my life. But if I mention that my back hurts and you complain yours does as well, it is entirely possible I might give you a slightly dirty look. (Yeah, that happened with someone who should have known better. >.>)

This isn't a hey, look at me dealing with all this terrible shit, give me sympathy! post. A lot of people deal with health problems, and I'm certainly no stranger to them. But it is a pretty draining situation overall, on top of the already stressful life stuff I've been dealing with, and it makes it even harder to make myself do what I need to when my depression drains me of motivation, as well. I think I'm allowed to be proud that I still mostly take care of myself pretty okay? Yeah, definitely that.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Where I'm At: Could Be Better But I'm Coping

Okay, so Zen Mode hasn't quite been going as planned, for various reasons. Still feeling so conflicted about everything, and my brain just stubbornly REFUSES to let everything go. I do not cope well with things completely out of my control. This is a common factor in a lot of mental illness... because so much IS out of our control by default (especially our thoughts). So, it's nice to feel like we can control and fix as much else as possible. With anxiety in particular, our minds dredge stuff up and constantly worry over things until a solution or resolution can be found. When that's not possible, then you get to continuously process it for, basically, ever. It's really exhausting.

This is why my process of dealing with problems or conflict is to talk things out until we reach an understanding both parties are okay with. Obviously, having space and time to let emotions cool can be super important, whether I want to have that or not. But I am definitely a talk things out sort of person. Probably I overdo it a bit sometimes, but admittedly that's because I will do whatever I can to get my brain to the point of it shutting the heck up. Often if things end up resolved in some way, I can talk myself out of the worst of any lingering anxieties or stray thoughts.

On the other hand, if you shut me down and refuse to have any sort of discussion so that no resolution can be found, then I will just stay in constant anxiety-limbo. This is pretty much where I'm at right now, despite how much I've rationalised and processed everything and logically I understand the whats and whys. It's still a big something I cannot address directly or be able to fix, because the other party has cut me out of his life as completely as possible. That is beyond my control entirely. Nothing I say or do will change his mind, and I know that. But my brain refuses to cope with 'out of sight, out of mind'. More like 'out of sight, HAHA THINK ABOUT THIS EVERY SECOND OF EVERYDAY, SUCKER.'

Anxiety is pretty much an asshole.

Obviously, there was the super hostile email that triggered a lot of emotions I had finally started putting behind me, making everything fresh all over again. I basically have been back at square one, no matter how much I am beyond caring if a resolution ever occurs. But the worst bit is that the other party thinks they can communicate with me about a bunch of things regarding our situation but refuse to entertain any sort of response from me. They ended the email with, "Don't reply, I won't read it." Um. Sorry, but that's not how this stuff works. You can't dictate terms to me and expect me to simply comply. And when I send a short, reasonable message ages later just to work out one thing that was niggling at me, ignoring it to the point of not even saying yes or no so we're on the same page is really just starting to be an asshole for the sake of it. Especially when you know social space is a huge anxiety trigger, so I was doing it for selfish reasons, but ones that let my brain keep me from being terrified of attending things my friends have invited me too (y'know, the ones that DO want to still see me).

Yeah, it triggered some poor reactions from me again, because it was so hurtful and infuriating. I regret continuing to allow strong emotions to dictate my reactions to things, but part of the point of it being a reaction is that I'm not entirely in control of my behaviour at that moment. I want to be more mindful of how I choose to act in future, but that will take time and practice. Until then, I'm only an imperfect human, and it doesn't matter if I react badly sometimes... it doesn't give anyone the right to treat me so badly. And, honestly, this is a thing I've kind of needed to learn, so I guess that is me looking on the positive side somewhat.

But a friend made a really relevant comment when we had a chat about everything the other day. He is trying to control me and my behaviour because he isn't dealing with it well, or at all, really. But that is something HE needs to learn... that you can't control others beyond a reasonable extent. And that is especially true in public spaces, on the internet or in person. I got another response tonight in regards to some interactions in public internet space. It was almost an actually civil request. He said please and everything. But public space is just that, public. It belongs to everyone. If you don't like the behaviour, ignore it. Nothing I have done or said was remotely unreasonable. I wasn't trying to pick a fight, but if he takes it that way, I can't help it. Just like I can't control what he thinks or assumes about me, I can't control his reactions to things I do, nor will I censor myself for someone else's comfort when it's unreasonable to do so. (Reasonable requests are another thing entirely... or if I were going out of my way to make someone else uncomfortable, but reading shit into a public discussion is on you, buddy.) I am interacting in a civil way in a public space. *shrug*

(Actually, I also linked something I thought he'd also really enjoy... but realised later it could be taken passive aggressively? But I can't control if that's what he thinks my intention was, either. Fortunately, my anxiety brain has pretty much let that go.)

Honestly, I just expected him to ignore the thing entirely. I didn't expect him to contact me yet again. And despite my strong impulse to respond in kind, I realised it was pointless. I'm still annoyed he feels it's okay to continue to attempt to dictate my behaviour, no matter how politely he phrased it. But it's not worth the time or energy of even the most minimal response. I will be as civil as possible in shared spaces, but I know it's beyond my ability to change anything now (nor do I particularly want to... it hurts and I'm angry and I'd rather things were NOT this way, but I really want everything about the entire situation to just Go Away).

So yeah, proud of the fact that I curbed my impulses in this situation, because it just wasn't going to be helpful. But it triggered some pretty bad anxiety tonight. It's taken me ages to calm back down, and the most helpful distraction was being scared out of my wits by a cockroach on my bed in my lap as I wrote this (waaaaaaaaaah T.T). I set up a Gmail filter so I won't be tempted to click on any more shitty emails should he be tempted to criticise my public behaviour once again (doubtful but I really don't want to get triggered anymore... do not NEED).

I realise that he thinks that I am 'the problem' and that by trying to pretend I don't exist that it solves 'the problem', and it is entirely out of my control to change his mind. And even if he did happen to think differently, he probably also doesn't trust that I will respect his boundaries (for some good and some bullshit reasons), so that is a trust that is broken and won't be fixed without me just leaving him alone. Which I am trying to do. Outside of public areas we coexist, anyway. And that doesn't take into account that I don't trust him to respect any of my boundaries either, but that's pretty irrelevant anyway.

Ok, I'm actually more zen about the whole thing in general if I can talk myself through things, but I still find myself hurting and missing whatever things were good between us before this mess, and missing him, because I know he's not an inherently bad person even if he's dealing with this situation in a very hurtful and selfish manner. It is still much related to my blog post from ages ago about my brain dragging me into emotional places that are extremely unhealthy for me and doing it subconsciously most of the time. It's put me in a pretty bad depression hole over the past couple weeks. Zero motivation or ability to function almost. Combined with some pretty epic pain from my undiagnosed chronic something, and I have pretty much been an isolated blob in my apartment for a while now. I also decided I couldn't give my uni studies the focus I need to for now, so I'm withdrawing and trying again next semester when hopefully everything has settled. It sucks and I'm frustrated to push it back once again, but my health will always be my first priority.

Anyway, I realise this isolation is not helpful for me in any way, SO I'm gonna start kicking my own ass and doing little things to get myself back into a healthier mindset. For instance, I have quite a bit of opportunities for social time this long weekend, and I intend to take advantage of that. It will do me a lot of good to keep pushing myself beyond the comforts of my social anxiety and take advantage of things people have invited me to attend (or want to attend with me). I don't have to stay ages if it's stressful or overwhelming, but the effort of it is still pretty worthwhile. I may even run into the source of all this drama and stress, but in public, social space I will either ignore him or be as civil as possible. Last thing I need is to drag people I care about into our pretty terrible mess, and I know he doesn't want that, either. Once we start coexisting comfortably, it'll probably be best for both of us in the long run.

Though, I do hope to get to the point where my brain just shuts up and lets everything go. I'm trying to keep distracted or even practise some of the mindfulness breathing my psychologist taught me last time I saw her... but that's not a solution or a fix. It just helps me cope. And I'm certain my friends are tired of hearing about all of this (I am tired of talking and thinking about it!). My housemate has actually banned the subject, which I totally respect so much. I don't want anyone else dragged down because of this, and I need to take the crazier parts of my illness to a professional. And I will. I have an appointment with the mental health nurse I met when I had my overnight ER stay a little while back, since I can't see my regular psychologist as often as I'd like. (Also, housemate is lovely and able to be really upfront and honest about this stuff, so it's easy to respect her boundaries... lessons a certain someone needs to learn. >.> Ok, that was definitely snarky. But this is my space to rant, dammit.)

So yeah, this has been a pretty shitty period in coping with my illness, but I'm used to having periods like this. Sometimes it sneaks up on you and becomes disabling once again. But that doesn't mean I've failed at life, just that I had yet another setback. As always, you pick up the pieces and start over again, step by step. It's a constant fight, but a worthwhile one.

P.S. - Despite falling back into a pretty terrible headspace, I'm staying clean on the self-harm front and feeling pretty fucking badass. 33 days and counting. <3

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Zen Mode: Engage!

Obviously, I've spent a lot of time processing, braindumping, and generally trying to simply move on with my life. I wasn't making amazing progress, for various, stupid 'I'm an emotional punching bag' reasons, but hey... I was trying.

I even managed some socialtimes, despite having a stressful, sleepless week. I intended to spend both days out this weekend, but I barely managed to drag myself out of bed on Saturday because I was so drained and fatigued from my week. Still, I was in a good mood by the end of Sunday, which was awesome.

And then, BAM, I got a super-hostile asshole email punch in the fucking face late Sunday night. But I wasn't sad or upset other than the fact that I was REALLY ANGRY. A hurtful, drama-causing reminder of everything I'm trying very hard to put behind me was the last thing I needed. I'm moving forward, well past all the petty bullshit, and even the realisation the other party is at a standstill with everything... I mean, really? I was at least harbouring some sense of human decency, because I just simply don't have the capacity to hate people, even ones who cause me a lot of pain and stress (case in point: see husband). It must be hard work maintaining that level of spite and ill will for days and days.

But it pushed me well beyond the point of caring even a little bit anymore, and the sensation is truly freeing! I was actually feeling super great today for the first time in a while. I got some things done today I needed to, which is nothing special, but I also met a new psychologist for the first time because she will be running a group DBT therapy program I'm going to be a part of in a couple months. And the even fairly general chat I had to her about everything that's been going on helped me really solidify a few things in my mind.

The most important is that my emotional responses ARE both reasonable and valid. I've been telling myself this for a while, but that is different than believing it is true. My reactions to these strong emotions needs a lot of work, definitely, but the emotions themselves are not problematic. I mean, they exist for a reason... it was a strong sign that I needed to get the heck out of dodge.

And secondly, I have been through some REALLY SERIOUS SHIT the past year or so in my life. Like, also a thing I knew, but the more I talk to professionals about it, the more it becomes easier to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made. And I've made quite a few, but I'm also kind of flailing about here without a life raft. The fact that I'm pretty clueless about how to properly respond to things sometimes, especially when I'm at high levels of stress or anxiety, is not really unreasonable. My response has generally been to shove all the terrible shit away into a part of my brain I don't access and not deal with it. Or, as has been the case recently, be at such a high level of emotions that I stop coping and responding rationally altogether.

The DBT is meant to address a lot of this specifically, so I'm pretty convinced it will be a good, positive step forward. And step one is simply awareness, which I've certainly had a lot of practice with lately. And I'm not in a space where I'm beating myself up with guilt or dwelling too much on the past or other things which are simply completely out of my control.

For instance, the husband and I actually came to a similar conclusion today about how we are only in control of our own actions and thoughts, so to a certain extent it's a pointless waste of energy worrying over how others think and feel about us. We can't control others' perceptions, even if we keep striving to do better and learn from our mistakes. And for me, an important addendum to that is that others cannot (or, at least, shouldn't) control or influence our thoughts and behaviours for their own benefit, and to my own detriment. I need to be in control of myself and my own well-being and stop letting others tell me how that should or shouldn't manifest. And that last bit is a lesson I've learned the very hard way.

Anyway, so yeah, I'm feeling very zen about everything at the moment, and it is an amazing brain space to be in. If anything, I feel sad for the other party, because it seems draining and unhealthy to live life that way. I hope his views of me will change some day, but if he wants to stew in his own misconceptions, that's not my problem.

I also thought of a really good way to sum up the entire situation in one sentence: We kept having strong philosophical disagreements on how not to be dicks to one another.

And that's all anyone needs to know, really.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interpersonal Relationships with Very Anxious People: A How To

Chances are that you will have to deal with an anxious person in your life sooner or later. It's a common mental illness that many deal with, whether you realise it or not. Those with generalised and/or social anxiety often have trouble with interpersonal interactions and can find them overwhelming. Worrying thoughts are constantly bombarding them and there's nothing they can do to make them stop. Even with a therapist's help, they often simply learn to ignore the worst of those thoughts so that they can handle situations better. They often can unintentionally be difficult to deal with; needing reassurance, lacking in confidence, and/or feeling like a burden to those around them. With a bit of patience and understanding, you can help them cope with something that is both difficult and out of their control, and hopefully build up some of their confidence in interpersonal relationship situations, as well.

These are a few rules to help interact with them in ways that ease their already high-level of stress in social situations, rather than add to it accidentally. It also can help avoid draining reassurance cycles that can become common between a person with anxiety and someone trying to have a friend/relationship with them.

1) If they ask you to be honest, be honest, whether it is good or bad.

Anxious people have a tendency to second-guess, mind read, assume worst-case scenario, or otherwise become overwhelmed and confused if they don't have a clear grasp of the situation. These thoughts are constant and often will weigh them down, whether they show it or not. Upfront, clear communication is the best policy in any interpersonal situation, but this is especially true if you are interacting with someone with generalised and/or social anxiety. If you are reluctant to say something because you're worried about a bad reaction, well, the anxious person has probably already thought of the worst thing you could say in any given situation; the likelihood is that whatever you say, even if it is negative, will still be a relief to them, because a) they can stop worrying and b) it's almost never as bad as they think.

2) If they ask for any clarification or reassurance, give it to them and be as straightforward as possible.

If they are asking repeatedly, to your annoyance, then they are obviously unclear or uncertain about something in the relationship. In this situation, try to get to the bottom of the true worry. Ask why they need reassurance about your feelings, because likely there is something specific bothering them but they're afraid to ask.

3) Reassure them they can ask you about anything bothering them with no judgement attached.

If you find that they are reluctant to ask you openly about their worries, try to help build their confidence that they can have an open and honest dialogue with you. If you're open and honest with them, as you should be, they will probably begin to trust you much more quickly, anyway. However, they may still need a bit of reassurance that needing clarification about something that is bothering them, no matter how irrational it may seem to you, the person outside their mind, is totally okay. It's better for both of you in the long run to address things and ease the anxious person's mind, as once they understand things better, they will often calm down fairly quickly.

4) If you feel you need to set boundaries, be extremely clear about what they are and why they need to be in place.

Sometimes dealing with a highly anxious person can be tiring and difficult for the other person involved, and in no way should they be bending over backwards to the extent that they find it draining for their own health. Clear and healthy boundaries should be a part of any strong interpersonal relationship, whether you are dealing with someone with a mental illness or not. As long as you are completely upfront and honest about where you need boundaries to exist and why, then the anxious person should be able to abide by them without panicking or letting their worries overwhelm them. Let them ask any questions necessary to get them in a place they understand everything and are comfortable with it.

5) In the event something goes wrong, conflict arises, or the anxious person doesn't respect your boundaries, always default to open, honest and clear communication.

This can be especially difficult if and when high emotions are involved, but if you're able to, it's still in both of your best interest to be as upfront and clear as possible in these situations. If you feel that you cannot discuss something further at that moment because you're too angry or upset, just say so and promise you will talk things over later after both parties are calmer. If you feel that space is needed, same thing. But be as clear as you can about what you need and why. Default to at least stating the situation and the minimal amount of explanation you feel is necessary for both of you to be on the same page about everything. Non-communication will likely put the anxious person's brain into overdrive, causing panic and worry and possibly heightening their anxiety to levels that are out of their ability to control. This will only lead to more misunderstandings and the situation deteriorating even further, as opposed to finding a resolution.

6) Hold them accountable for their actions, while avoiding placing blame on them or their illness.

Depending on their level of treatment and experience with interpersonal interactions, it's likely they have a lot to learn about managing their illness while successfully navigating relationships with others. It's easy to want to place blame if they end up hurting or upsetting you, but you're likely to start their overactive mind down a path of guilt and berating themselves for their mistakes. So, while you shouldn't let it slide if they do upset you in some way, try to talk things out calmly, after a period of space if necessary, and help them understand why what they did was problematic and how it affected you. They will never learn if they aren't held accountable for their behaviours, but at the same time, you should try to avoid letting them get into a negative headspace about the conflict if at all possible. The more irrational they are, the less likely they will truly learn from their mistakes in the first place.

The bottom line is that these are useful habits to build for any interpersonal relationship, but they are doubly important if the person you are dealing with suffers from anxiety. If there is any level of confusion or statements left too open to interpretation, the anxious mind will grab onto those and worry and nitpick and likely become bogged down by their overwhelming thoughts. This will likely put them into a place that makes it harder for you to want to interact with them and harder for them to ever learn better skills for interacting with others.

Another important disclaimer is that if you suspect someone of having highly anxious thoughts and behaviour, but they aren't being treated for it, encourage them to see a professional as soon as possible. Friends and partners can only do so much for those with mental illness, and they need a psychologist or psychiatrist trained in therapy to truly start them on their road to recovery.

Any additions? Comments? Constructive criticisms? I'd love to hear what you think, from both sides of the equation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Not Anymore

My rational brain is exhausted, but it understands. It has come to terms with everything and just wants to move the fuck on. Rational brain is confused as to why I'm still so unable to kick my ass into gear, only moving a half a step at a time. I have a life to live and no time for this misery bullshit.

However, emotional brain is still angry and hurt. Emotional brain is wallowing and dragging me down into that massive hole of depression which swallows me so often, but I refuse to take it out on myself anymore. I could. I want to, desperately. I held the blade in my hand, conflicted. But then I put it down again, because I deserve better.

I deserve better than someone who's unable to be honest, leaving behind wounds that take far longer to heal than the ones brutal honesty leave which disappear quickly. I deserve better than to be dismissed, disregarded, and judged for my emotions, for my illness, for the fact I'm a hugely imperfect human being. I deserve better than stubbornness to the exclusion of all else, right or wrong.

I deserve better than this shitstorm of emotions I feel inside. But they are there, and it will take time for them to go away. I'm allowed  to hurt. I'm allowed to mourn loss. I'm allowed to be angry, and I'm even allowed to do whatever wallowing my mind feels is necessary.

But I will NOT take it out on me. Not anymore.