Turn your wounds into wisdom, your hurt into healing and your breakdown into a breakthrough.

Dear Self,

When life gets hard, it’s easy to crawl into bed, hide under the covers and wait for it to pass you by. It’s easy to think you’re not capable or you’re not good enough you just don’t deserve.

Things might really suck right now. It might feel like the darkest of the dark hours you can see. It may be the worst day, week or year of your life. And all you want to do in this world is just give up, to think that you’re worthless. Let me tell you, self, in these moments, you are wrong. You are completely and totally wrong in every sense.

You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are capable enough and you are more than qualified to conquer whatever the world throws at you. And I promise you that one day… one day you’re going to look back on this point in life and laugh. As a distant memory you’re going to be so grateful that you stuck it out and you kept going, even when every bone in your body was telling you to not.

So if you’re in need of some motivation, look no further.

It takes time to build success. It might be human nature to see someone find success and imagine it as this spontaneous emergence for them that came over night. Simply put, that’s not the case. It takes days, weeks, months, years even, of consistent work, of a desire to make small changes day after day.

Each day that you’re struggling, each day that you just don’t want to try any longer, you’re building your strength and resilience by putting one foot in front of the other. If you keep going despite any setbacks you might face, you’re going to turn into one powerful human being. You might not see it now, but it’s being built inside of you, like the Rocky Mountains that took thousands of years to seemingly reach the sky. Now you look at them and it’s as if you never saw a sight so beautiful. Don’t just conquer your mountains, make your own.

Only the weak quit. And they do quit all the time. So if you continue on and defeat that urge to quit, you’re going to reap the rewards of new opportunities left open by those weak minded souls that quit along the way. You’re not weak, so make sure that you’re ready to take advantages of those opportunities when they’re presented.

Even the biggest of blunders, even the worst of mistakes, even the most down of days, they beat the hell out of not ever trying. Because as long as you’re trying, you’re not allowing your fear to hold you back.

I can’t stress this enough, self, JUST KEEP GOING. Turn your wounds into wisdom, turn your hurt into healing and turn your breakdown into a breakthrough.

Life with social anxiety.

Drawing by user: 12littlegiant21 on DeviantArt.

I once read somewhere that social anxiety is self consciousness on steroids. That’s actually a pretty perfect description of it.

I’m not very good with people. If you don’t start the conversation, it’s very likely that we won’t have one. Every day activities like ordering a coffee or purchasing groceries can be extremely difficult for me. I live with a fear that I’m being judged. That if I slip up, that if I am not perfect, people are going to remember that, that it’s what I’ll be known for… forever.

People who know me describe me as quiet. And most days, I’d describe myself that way too. I’m quiet to those who don’t know me. I’m quiet because I worry – about what they think of me, about being enough for them, about not being an embarrassment.

People who don’t know me often describe me as having permanent resting bitch face. They say that I come across as cold and… uninterested. I listen, I hear, I understand, I just… don’t know what to say back when they talk to me. I stare blankly into the abyss hoping for something to come to mind, but it never does.

Small talk is awful. I mean downright awful. Having a simple conversation with someone – a coworker, a bank teller, the bus driver, anyone really… it takes a great deal of effort for me. Effort that quite often comes across with people believing me to be a closed off shell of a human being.

Some days are better than others. But some days, it’s all I can do to not live in terror of my non-existent flaws. Because they’re there. You may not be able to see them but I can definitely feel them.

I overthink absolutely everything. Even the smallest of interactions can send me into a fiery spiral of anxious energy that I don’t know how to control. It’s something that can keep me hiding in my house for days at a time. And I wouldn’t tell you if that was the case. I’d simply either not answer your calls or, make up excuses to try and convince you (and myself) otherwise.

I can say that their words don’t matter to me, that they have no value and there is no stock in what they say, but they still hurt. As much as I don’t want them to, some words cut like a knife.

There are handful of people in this world I feel truly understand me. Those who love me, those who appreciate me, those who tell me things like ‘I’m robbing the world of the chance to know me’, because they know I don’t like meeting new people. They know I have a hard time with human interaction. They know I’m afraid of what people will think and they love me anyway. That, well that’s the kind of love they don’t write books about. That’s the kind of acceptance I think we all seek to find.

I believe that people sense I’m a good listener. I think they can tell that I’m hearing them when they speak… not just ignoring them and moving on but actually processing their words. I think it’s irony in a sense… being terrified of human interaction whilst people find you to be the best listener they know. And yes, I know I just misused the word irony.

The most frustrating part of social anxiety is that I know I’m being irrational. I know the decisions that I make and the actions that I choose are not those of a rational human being. I can’t help it though. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve had anxiety for longer than I knew what anxiety was.

Social anxiety is hard to explain. If you’ve never experienced it, you might not understand why I don’t want to go out in public without my headphones. You might not understand why I try to get into and out of public places as quickly as I can, why I try to avoid conversations with absolutely everyone at all costs. I’m an introvert, but it’s so much more than that.

I’m trying to remind myself that there will come a day when people see me for me. When I allow them into my world without fearing what they think. I’m trying to believe that there will come a day when I set the standard, when I am the rule and not the exception, when I can play ‘Words With Friends’ without worrying if they’re really my friend. I’m trying to convince myself that I can overcome this feeling, that the anxiety won’t always win.

Until then, please go easy on me. Because like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t start the conversation, it’s very likely that we won’t have one…

A note from someone near and dear to my heart.

*Please note – I did not write the following. These words belong to someone I know, I am simply passing these words on through my blog in hopes that their quest can reach a wider audience.

Hi friends, family and strangers who might be reading this,

You may or may not know that I have been battling Multiple Sclerosis for several years now. MS has take many things from me; my ability to maintain a fulfilling career, my ability to play sports; even my ability to walk. I’ve had to adjust to significant changes in my lifestyle and one of the toughest has been a move to an assisted living facility that does not allow me to live with my dog Snoop.

MS causes depression in 50 to 80% of MS patients. As much as I try to put on a brave face, I’ll admit that I often fall into that category. Something that can pull me out of that despair is my bond with Snoop. Even on my worst day I know I have to drag myself out of bed long enough to make sure Snoop is fed and taken to the park at least twice a day. I am unable to physically make it through a day of work but Snoop gives me a sense of purpose and structure in my life. When your disabled it’s easy to feel isolated from the able bodied world. Snoop helps facilitate social interaction when I desperately need it and keeps feelings of loneliness from becoming all consuming.

The benefits of the human-animal bond has been well studied and chronicled in many scientific journals. Alberta recognizes service animals that perform physical tasks for their owners and the job they do is invaluable. Unfortunately Service Alberta doesn’t yet recognize Emotional Support Animals despite their proven positive effects on those living with depression, anxiety, PTSD or numerous other ailments.

There is a petition collecting signatures online for the cause and we’re asking for the support of those who, like me, understand the truly invaluable benefit to having an emotional support animal. Please, if you’re able, sign to support us in hopes of making change that will help everyone with mental health issues.

Petition: Allow emotional support animals in Alberta

Thanks for reading. If you think it’s time for Alberta to take mental health seriously on more than just “Bell Let’s Talk” day…Please sign and share this petition!”

Thank you.

Reminder: you are enough.

Dear Self,

You really ought to be nicer to yourself more often. Take a look at yourself in the mirror and remember that you are the glue holding this together. Remind yourself of your intelligence, of your humour, of your good moments and your strengths. Because you have them all in stride.

You really ought to remember what you’ve been through in your life, not as a negative, but as a positive. You did it. You survived. You got stronger. You made it through that and you can make it through this. Nothing in this world is insurmountable so long as you believe in yourself and your capabilities.

Also, you really ought to quit with the excuses. Exercise is good for you, so stop finding reasons to not go. Eating healthy keeps your body properly functioning, so stop eating crap. Your well being is what is most important, so don’t ever deny help when it’s offered, or when you need it. We all need help sometimes. Your family loves you, so stop avoiding them and your friends want what’s best for you, so let them know you appreciate them.

Self, I wish you could know how great you are. I wish you could quit thinking poorly about yourself and direct some of those compliments you like to give to others towards yourself once in a while.

Don’t ever try to hide who you are. Don’t lower your standards, don’t dull your shine. Don’t think that you’re too much or you’re not enough because who you are is good enough. Good enough for you, good enough for friends, good enough for family. Those that love you love you just the way that you are. And the great thing about being human is that good enough can always get better, so long as you believe in yourself.

You’re talented. You’re insightful. You’ve got a way with words that you really ought to start using more often. You’re open-minded, you believe the better in people and yet somehow you don’t believe the better of yourself. You really ought to change that.

Promise me self, in the latter half of this year, I want you to be better. I want you to think smarter and stop putting yourself down. I want you to see the good in yourself and make a conscious effort to smile every day. Because you deserve to smile… even on the crappy days. Nothing in this life is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a bright spot.

You are enough. Love yourself, please. Love everything about yourself. You’re this way for a reason so it’s time you start appreciating that and understanding that you are enough.

Lose-Lose Conversations

My aunt called this afternoon. She called once, I ignored it. She called twice, I thought she might have been calling back in hopes my parents had an answering machine. The third time that she called I figured she obviously does not know my parents are in Denmark. Since she has a terminally ill husband, I thought I ought to answer the phone in case she had something important to say that I needed to pass onto my parents while they’re overseas.

Boy, not only did she have nothing important to say, but she’s really good at picking me apart and making me feel like a piece of shit.

I am someone who keeps my family at a distance. Not because I don’t love them but more so because we have different beliefs… we have different values, we have different understandings of the world and how it works, so if I don’t keep myself away from them, fights happen. A LOT OF FIGHTS. A lot of my family members are exceptionally judgmental people. And though they live in glass houses and really shouldn’t be throwing stones, they do it all the time.

My aunt really laid into me today. According to her, I’m lazy. According to her, I just don’t try. According t her I lack the motivation to find success so I won’t ever do so. She gave me a lot of ‘advice’ of how I need to take my resume into Wal-Mart every week once a week and they’ll be forced to hire me because I just won’t go away. She told me I’m thirty years old and I’m a disappointment to the family. She told me I had so much potential and it’s such a shame that I threw it all alway.

Throughout all of this, I was kindly trying to tell her I was busy. I was kindly trying to tell her that I had to go. I was kindly trying to tell her she could call my parents on the 23 when they’re home. And she just kept cutting me off and telling me what she thought of me and how much of a screw up I am.

My anxiety went through the roof as I was listening to her. I reached a point where I thought I was about to burst out in tears. Since she wasn’t letting me talk to tell her I had to go, I eventually just hung up on her.

I know I’m going to hear about that later, but I couldn’t just continue to let her beat up on me.

Now I’ve just spent the past few hours trying to calm myself back down.

Everyone’s got an opinion. Everyone wants to give you their opinion. Sadly, some people know diddly squat about your life and still feel they have the right to pass judgement on you anyways…

Sometimes you just really can’t win.

The beauty of the beast.

I wish that I could be edited. I wish that what the world could see were a perfectly curated collection of a beautiful life with sweet moments and loving family and friends. I wish that I could be one of those people that makes life look effortless, or one of those rare people in this world to which life is actually effortless.

I cannot do that. I can’t.

Life is messy. Life is filled with disappointment and heartbreak, sad moments and struggles. Life is not easy. It’s not effortless and I refuse to paint a picture of life that just isn’t rooted in the truth.

That’s not to say that there aren’t happy moments. The good moments are there and they do exist. But I’m the type of person to which, when I experience the good moments, I am living them… not trying to instagram them. And that’s not to throw shade at those who do, that’s just to say that the best moments of my life, you likely won’t find proof of on any phone or camera. The proof is that which lives on in only the fondest of memories that never dim nor fade, no matter how many times I upgrade my phone.

Current messy bits going on in my life are big bouts of anxiety. I’m talking BIIIIIIIIIIIG bouts of anxiety. Worries about money, about relationships, about forever falling short of the desires I have for work and success and life are filling my days that no amount of road-tripping seems to be able to solve. I’m getting through though. I’m still trying.

I’ve opened up a lot about my anxiety this year. The reactions that I’ve gotten have definitely been mixed. I think that’s why it’s important to continue sharing, though. If someone’s never dealt with mental illness before, it’s hard for them to understand what exactly someone is going through. I get that. But I think it’s time they learn. I think the best thing you can do for yourself is open up about your struggles. And if they don’t hear you, open up again and again and again until they hear you. Because education about mental illness is the biggest thing we do towards ending the stigma.

We don’t need curated lives to look perfect for the world to see (at least I don’t). I think what we need is to be open and honest with one another about the struggles it takes to just be human. Because if we’re human, and I presume we all are (I’ve yet to see any proof of aliens) then being open and honest about the struggles will make the good moments, the beautiful sights, the happy days, feel so much better. We’ll have people to share them with who will truly appreciate them with us.

The more that I see the edited lives of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and so on and so forth, the more I think we’re losing touch with reality in hopes that we can portray our lives to look ‘better than the next person’.

I don’t want to be better than the next person. I just want to be me.

Holding on for dear life.

My anxiety has skyrocketed in the past few days. Ever since that night I went to see the doctor I can’t seem to get a control over my thoughts and this aching feeling of fear in my heart.

As much as I can tell myself ‘Your fear is a liar’ and ‘You can and will get through this’, every doubt that has ever crossed my mind in life seems to be creeping its way to the surface, controlling my happiness and my ability to function like a normal human being.

What is the answer? What do you do when you just don’t know where to go or who to talk to or how to fix it? When hiding under the covers seems like the only thing in this world that will keep life from getting any worse than it already seems.

I know it’s in my head. I know that. I’m also abundantly aware that my head holds a great deal of power over the rest of me and always has. These thoughts, while not the most pleasant feelings in the world, are coming from somewhere. Finding the root of that evil is quite possibly what scares me the most. Because if I do find it… and I can’t fix it, does that mean that it’s going to be this way forever?

I sound like a broken record. It’s been a rough couple of days, and things don’t appear to be looking up any time soon. All I want in this world is to run away and I don’t have that option. I don’t get to run away from this. I don’t get to run away from here.

What do you do when you’ve reached the point that your fear is rooted in the fear? Goodness, I am in no state of being for human consumption on this day. The smallest of things are pissing me off and the biggest of things feel insurmountable. It’s like that feeling they explain when you’re drowning and you reach a point in which you become so delirious that you’re not sure if you’re going up towards the surface or down towards the depths of the sea that’s about to swallow you. I’ve lost track of which way is up and I can’t shake it.

These doubts of mine, they’re winning. They’re winning by quite the margin right now and I hate it. Holding on for dear life…