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Find and Focus on Your Wins

I don’t know about anybody else, but when it comes to my mental health I rarely give myself credit for how well I’m doing. Or when I have a particularly good day, I don’t celebrate that. Instead, I find that my focus stays on the negative. Instead of acknowledging that I got a lot done because once I was up and about I had a lot of energy, I focus on the fact that I slept through my alarm and was late. I focus on what I didn’t get accomplished, because if I hadn’t slept in clearly I could have gotten that done too. There’s no way that I would have spent that extra time futzing around on Facebook or Pinterest. Nope, definitely not. That was missed productivity time, and therefore deserves self-flagellation.

Pinterest

Most of the time I don’t even realize that I’m doing this until someone points out how productive I am, or what a good mood I’m in and I take a moment to reflect. All in all, I have more good days now than bad. Not easy days necessarily, there’s always something to overcome, but at the end of a week more days fall into the good category than the bad. A friend got me thinking about this, when she shared this meme with me.

Anxiety

I have panic disorder, not generalized anxiety disorder, meaning that I skip over the whole racing thoughts thing and just jump straight to the physical symptoms of the panic attack. When I was at my worst, I would have 6-7 panic attacks a day. A good day meant I only had 2-3. Bad days would frustrate me almost to tears. Why couldn’t I get a grip? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make them stop? Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why did everything have to be so hard?

As you can imagine, this did wonders for making them stop. Insert sarcastic font here. I was expressing this frustration to my therapist one day, and she stopped me. Because she couldn’t figure out how I had had 6 full-blown panic attacks in one day and not wound up in the ER. I replied, rather testily, that obviously I had stopped them. Duh! At this she laughed, I don’t think she could help herself. Apparently this thing that I completely took for granted – the ability to stop a panic attack – was “amazing.” The fact that I could do it over and over again all day long was “huge.” I was so busy focusing on the fact that the panic attacks started in the first place, that I was failing to give myself credit for stopping them.

99 Problems

Yes, it sucked that they existed at all, but I was kicking ass in taking care of myself so I could move on with my day. Once I started focusing on the positive aspect of the whole situation, it was easier to deal with. It wasn’t a magic pill or anything that made the panic attacks go away, but it definitely served to reduce the frustration in my life, which in turn probably reduced the attacks. I don’t know for sure, because I wasn’t paying that close of attention at the time, but my attacks have dwindled down to once in a great while instead of daily. So I feel like there has to be at least a small connection.

But what this meme did for me even more, was remind me to start giving myself a break in terms of my depression as well. Yes, I have felt more depressed than normal as of late and it has definitely interfered with my social life. I also haven’t gotten things done that I wanted done back in January. Which sucks, but I’ve also gotten a lot of other things done. And I have made time for friends where I was able. So not all is lost, and maybe I’ll be more likely to catch up to where I want to be if I stop beating myself up for not being there already.

Ending the Pity Party?

In a recent conversation, I found myself talking about pity parties. Namely, that I needed to stop throwing them for myself. In my defense, I have been dealing with chronic illness for over two years, my first overseas trip in a decade was plagued by illness – including fevers so high it made wearing a coat in England in January frivolous – and a broken little toe that may require surgery. So I’ve got some crap going on that warrants the occasional pity party. That being said, I do my best to stay positive. Please see previous blog post.

Pity Train

That means, that when I do throw myself a pity party, it’s not a long drawn-out affair. Generally, I give myself about an hour. For one hour I am allowed to bemoan all of the ills that have befallen me. All of things in life that are unfair, all of the times that I’ve gotten the fuzzy end of the lollipop and all of the opportunities that I miss out on because of all of the crap mentioned above. In essence, I get to be in a surly, shitty-ass, nothing-will-appease-me, stay-back-or-I-will-end-you sort of mood. At the end of the hour, I shake it off, let it go and move on with my day.

It’s quite refreshing, and lately has become more and more a necessity to maintain my mental health. Which I’ve been looking at as a problem. The inner dialogue looks something like this: “Why do I need this so much lately? What’s wrong with me? Why am I such a whiner? Buck up and get over it!”

Complaint Department

That’s a great inner monologue, right? Very healthy. This is what I was bemoaning in my recent conversation, when my whole view on the matter got turned upside down. My therapist (I try to only whine about stuff like this to people whom I pay to listen) posited an alternative way to look at it – “What was wrong with throwing yourself an hour-long pity party every week? Or even every day? That’s healthier than bottling it all up inside.”

What? How in the hell could feeling sorry for myself every day for an hour possibly be good for me? Think of all of the other things that I could be doing in that time. An hour a day. That’s seven hours a week. 28 – 31 hours a month. 365 hours a year. Why in the world would I spend over 15 days a year purposefully feeling sorry for myself? That’s ludicrous! Then she asked two more questions:

“Name the happiest child you know.”

I gave the name of a friend’s child.

“Ask that child’s parents if there is a time every day that the kid is impossible to deal with.”

Hyde Gif

She intended this to be homework, but as it so happened, this child’s mother and I had recently talked about this very thing. Like clockwork, this child goes from happy and bubbly to inconsolable every day around 4:00. Doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing, nothing will please this kid. Something that was a piece of cake at 10:00 that morning, will cause a complete breakdown at 4:00. Then after an hour or so, he’s back to his happy self. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Apparently this is something that well-adjusted children do. They store up all of their injustices and frustrations throughout the day, and then let them out all at once. They throw themselves a daily pity-party, and are happier for the rest of the day because of it. Huh? That actually makes a fair bit of sense. I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it completely – probably because I’ve spent my whole life being told not to feel sorry for myself – but this might be worth trying. Who knows?

 

 

Do What You Can, When You Can

Over the years I have gotten pretty good about accepting the limitations placed on me because of medical issues. My diet is extremely limited, so I’ve learned to eat before going to group gatherings, to carry food with me, and to cook just about anything using substitutes for the foods I can’t eat. I figure it out and despite limitation continue to enjoy food. I’ve learned to work around injuries when exercising. Tendonitis in my ankle flares up, I do Pilates instead. Costochondritis (rib inflammation) flares up, drop the Pilates and embrace long walks. Break the living shit out of my toe, let’s do some leg lifts. I adjust, I modify, I keep moving.

Okay

My mental illnesses are a bit trickier, because they can’t always be planned for. But where I can, I plan. If I have a day filled with crowded spaces and constant interactions with people, I make sure I have a nice quiet evening at my house planned for that night. I have a light on a timer in my bedroom that turns on every morning to help simulate the sunrise. I keep lavender on my night stand to take if dreams wake me in the night, and I have gaba in my purse to take if I’m out and about and start to feel panicky. I accept my limitations and I work around them.

At least on my good days I do. On my bad days, I feel like I’m being betrayed by my body. I feel like there is some sort of conspiracy to prevent me from doing anything useful, or anything at all for that matter. Then I spiral down into self-pity and resentment and my depression kicks in and all I want to do sleep all day. But if I sleep all day, then I wake up and feel even worse, because then I REALLY didn’t get anything done. It’s a vicious cycle, and can feel never ending. At least that’s how it’s felt lately. So I’m adopting a new mantra. Okay, it’s not new at all, it’s actually well-worn, but I’m pulling it out of the closet and dusting it off.

What you can

I’ve been repeating this to myself a lot lately. When I feel like I’m not writing enough, creating enough, or moving forward in my career. When my dogs are bouncing off the walls with energy and I just want to take them on a nice long walk, but have to remind myself to let my foot heal so I don’t have to have surgery. And especially when I look at everything the current administration is doing and I want to take action, protest and make my voice heard, but some days the thought of even making phone calls is overwhelming. It is on these days that I am now saying to myself – Do what I can, when I can. That is enough.

That is enough.

 

 

You Are Not Alone

Because of my mental illnesses, I have been subject to a plethora of misconceptions. My depression tells me that I am a burden and not worthy of the attention and love of those around me. My panic disorder tells me that I am in extreme peril and my PTSD tells me that I will never be safe again. Those last two like to work in tandem. As paralyzing and inconvenient as those things are, they aren’t as damaging as the misconception that I held for years – that I was all alone. That nobody understood how I was feeling, that nobody could relate or truly empathize, that there was no community where I could belong. I was too broken to reveal my true self to anyone.

Broken

I have since come to discover that I am not alone. That belief is a load of shit. I actually belong to a rather extensive community, but few know it exists. Because of the stigma of mental illness and the shame associated with being a victim, people don’t talk their mental illness or abuse. Those that do are often labeled as outliers, over-sharers, attention seekers at best and are shamed and ridiculed at worst. It is not a “polite” topic of conversation. However, I feel that it is an absolutely essential topic of conversation.

By staying silent I felt alienated and that made all of my symptoms worse. Then one day I summoned up the courage and I wrote a blog post about my depression. In this post, I poured out my unique experience and the feelings that only I was feeling while out there all alone in my abyss. You can imagine my surprise when I got comments, both public and private, from people agreeing with me and saying that they feel exactly the same way. That they go through the exact same cycles and emotions. That I had put into words something they had been trying to say for years.

Truth

What? How could these people understand my inner most feelings when society had been telling me for years that I was an aberration? Simple. Society was wrong. I was not/am not an aberration. The things that I was going through, the thoughts that I was thinking were common place. In fact, I would hazard to guess that they run rampant throughout our society. This revelation that I was not alone and that people understood me, did more good than several months of therapy. It was like a burden had been lifted. I didn’t have to carry the weight of my illness by myself anymore.

For me this discovery was years ago. I bring it up now because I have been receiving messages from people who share their stories with me – either in part or in full – and a recurring theme that is coming through is that my blog helped them feel like they were not alone. I’m so glad that they got that message and I hope it sinks in. But for those who haven’t received that message, it occurred to me that it bore stating publicly. Because as I discovered years ago, with all of my other dark thoughts, the feeling of being all alone is not unique. You are not alone.

Not Alone

PTSD and Trump

I have made no secret of the fact that I, like many in our country, think that Trump is an abomination and ruinous to the progress that we have been able to eke out toward a goal of equal rights for all in this country. His election literally makes me ill. Since his election, many of the PTSD symptoms that I had worked for over a year to overcome, have come flooding back. The panic attacks are back. The bad dreams are back. The abject feeling of helplessness is back. I am not alone in this. I personally know several people experiencing this same phenomenon, and I would wager that therapists across this country have noted an uptick in patients with a resurgence of PTSD symptoms.

Quote

Trump is a self-confessed sexual predator. His election to the highest office in this country sent a crystal clear message to survivors of sexual assault and abuse that that behavior is totally acceptable. As two of the predominant symptoms of survivors of sexual abuse are shame and a belief that the abuse was their fault, I have a feeling that November 8th undid years of therapy for many people. The inauguration on the 20th probably undid more years. As my abuser was a woman, this was not the cause of my relapse. For me, it was the bullying and the gas-lighting.

I honestly didn’t even realize that I had relapsed as badly as I had, until my therapist pointed out that my despair after the election went far beyond the election itself. I had moments where I was paralyzed by panic, followed by rage, then denial, then I would just give up. Meanwhile, I had a never-ending loop playing in my head of every time I was ever bullied in my entire childhood. There was a lot more there then I remembered. It’s amazing what the brain can repress in order to protect itself. But it was all back, playing in Technicolor 24/7. The mistreatment. The lying about it afterwards. The carte blanche acceptance of the aggressor’s story.

Gas Lighting

What shocked me though, is that the bullies weren’t the stars of this film. Instead, the focus was on those who should have protected me. Those who should have stood up for me. Those who should have listened to me. Except for very rare occasions, ever single memory involved these “protectors” doing one of three things:

  1. Ignoring the maltreatment entirely.
  2. Participating in the maltreatment.
  3. Leading the maltreatment.

The first one I can understand to some extent. A very small extent. The second two caused the psychological damage. The fact that nobody had my back. That nobody felt the need to stop or even acknowledge the maltreatment. The subsequent belief, that I didn’t deserve anything better. That I wasn’t worthy of better. I can tell you right now that I spent many of my adult years letting people treat me like crap and letting them take advantage of me, because I thought I deserved it. And it took many hours of therapy to break those beliefs and patterns. Clearly, it’s work I’m still doing.

So to say that my distress comes from Trump himself is a gross misrepresentation that gives that man way more credit than he deserves. My distress comes from the feeling of betrayal, and the feeling of helplessness that I have been transported back to my childhood, by all of those who voted him into office. We, as an enlightened people, are supposed to look out for our fellow man. Common decency dictates that those who are stronger, more able, look out for those who are weaker. On November 8th, millions of people in this country voted for a man who revels in abusing those he deems weaker. And with those votes, those millions of people said in one unified voice to every survivor of abuse, “You deserved it.”

By voting for him, you condoned his actions, his words and his beliefs, telling everyone in the world that those actions/words/beliefs are perfectly acceptable and further more will help you succeed. I am disheartened by Trump’s policies and horrified at the actions that he is already taking in office. But I am crippled with grief by how many people in this country consider my abuse acceptable behavior. To others who are feeling this too, please know that you are not alone. Now is the time for us to stand together, and have each other’s backs.

Marchers

 

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OCD – Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Last December my company had its annual holiday dinner, and since the restaurant was near my house a couple of co-workers came over to get ready. For whatever reason, I don’t remember what, I mentioned that I have OCD. Unlike the other mental illnesses that I have, no one ever seems to believe me on this one. I don’t think people think I’m lying or anything, but “I’m OCD” gets bandied about as a joke so commonly by people who aren’t, that it’s hard to imagine that someone actually has it. So when I actually show symptoms people are surprised, as is what happened with my coworker.

That night at dinner we were seated next to each other and she happened to look over and see my plate right as I was finishing organizing my food so that there was a piece of chicken paired up with a proportionately sized piece of potato all neatly lined up. I was so engrossed in this task I didn’t even realize she was looking at me until she said, “Wow, you really do have OCD.” It cracked me up. Hadn’t I just told her that I did? Then came the inevitable question, “So do you have to wash your hands three times, or check the stove multiple times, or anything like that?”

ocd

No, that’s not how my OCD manifests. Okay, that’s a little bit of a lie. I always grab three paper towels to dry my hands in public restrooms. Doesn’t matter if two is enough, I inevitably grab that third one. I can’t stop myself. But other than that my thing isn’t counting; it’s organizing. If it can be alphabetized, it is. If it can be color-coded, it is. If it can be sorted by size or shape, it is. If it can be alphabetized, color-coded and sorted by size or shape I am one happy camper!

As a child, this was how I coped with having no control on the rest of my surroundings. My bedroom was the epitome of the saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” If my sister walked in and moved something even half an inch, I knew it and I had to fix it. One time when I was at camp my mom and her friend thought they would be nice and cleaned up my trolls for me – I had over 200. The problem was that they were organized into a troll village that took up over half of my room. I hadn’t left them out, I had left them in their respective homes. So when I got home and saw that all of this had been “cleaned-up,” I lost my shit – like yelling, crying, furiously working to get it all back in place lost my shit. I wouldn’t eat or sleep until I got it back to normal.

This was the worst that I ever got, which is admittedly pretty bad. But as I got older and got my compulsions under control I started to swing in the opposite direction out of fear that I would get compulsive again. Even if it bothered me, I wouldn’t allow myself to organize everything. My desk had to be cluttered. Or my nightstand. Something had to be out of order to prove to myself that I was better. That I didn’t need everything to be perfect. It wasn’t until last year that I finally realized I was doing this. That was also when I realized that OCD aside, I am more content as a person when things are neat and organized. So I organized my desk, and amazingly the world didn’t end, nor did I fall back into harmful compulsive behaviors. Whoo! Instead, I realized that I can use my OCD to my benefit. I’m going to England for vacation and food might become an issue at times because I have so many food allergies. So much to my little OCD heart’s delight, I made a baggie of snacks for each day that I will be gone, taking into account the activities of the day, my sweet tooth, and penchant for low-blood sugar.

snacks

Nailed it!

A Confession Without Shame

I have a confession to make. I’m not really a Star Wars fan. I know this sounds like no big deal, but when all of your friends are huge fandom geeks, them are fighin’ words. My saving grace is that I don’t dislike the movies, I just don’t seek them out. I bring this up because for the past week my Facebook feed has been filled with tributes and remembrances of Carrie Fisher. In scanning through these, I learned something new about her. She not only suffered from mental illness, but she openly spoke about it and fought to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. This made me take a second look at this woman, and I gained a whole new respect for her.

For three-quarters of my life I have suffered from multiple forms of mental illness – depression, OCD, panic disorder and PTSD – and for a large part of my struggle my biggest fight was against the stigma. I didn’t want to be mentally ill, because that made me weird/different/crazy/unbalanced etc. So instead of seeking out the help I needed, I specifically denied myself that help because I was “stronger” than my mental illness. Even after I sought out therapy, I refused to take medication because, again, I was “stronger” than my disease. Looking back at that mindset now, I have to laugh if only to keep myself from crying. How much of my life was frittered away fighting a fight that didn’t need to exist?

heads

I was in my thirties before I finally accepted my mental illnesses and began to actively treat them for what they were, illnesses. Not a defect in my character, but an illness. What finally helped me turn that corner, was talking to a friend who had just been diagnosed with diabetes. This friend had tried to control her diabetes through diet, exercise, and every other bit of advice she could find. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t working and she had a choice to make. She could either be sick every day of her life, or she could go on insulin and only be sick every once in a while. Of course, she went on insulin. It was a no-brainer. Let me repeat that, the choice of being sick every day or going on medication was a no-brainer.

The lightbulb turned on. I had tried every conceivable treatment I could find for my depression – exercise, therapy, supplements, dogs, somato-emotional-release, more therapy, sun lamps, acupuncture, nature, etc – and after decades of trying things, I was still sick every day and quite frankly getting worse. Life was a constant fight. Getting up in the morning was a battle. Focusing on tasks was a battle. Motivating myself to leave the house was a battle. I fought every day all day and I was exhausted. Yet, I refused to medicate myself for my illness because that would mean admitting that something was wrong with me, and what would people say? What the actual fuck?

stats

I decided then and there that I no longer gave a crap what other people thought. I also decided that nothing was wrong/weird/different/crazy about me, I simply had a disease that could be treated. So I treated it. Now I’m not saying that medication is right for everyone, I only medicate my depression. I use alternate treatments for everything else because it can be a bitch figuring out what medications and what dosages work. Especially when I discovered that medication for the panic disorder made my depression worse, even while on medication for the depression. When this trial and error doesn’t go well, it’s not pretty and I wouldn’t wish that process on my worst enemy. Finding medications for everything wasn’t worth it. However, I learned that if I medicate my depression I can deal with everything else going on. But when the depression isn’t in check, everything else runs rampant.

So I medicate the depression, and most days I can function with only slight battles. Yes, some days the panic disorder wins the battle. Some days the OCD wins the battle. Some days they all gang up on me at once and I spend the day curled up with my dogs. But most days I am a fully-functioning, active member of society and many people are surprised when I tell them of my diagnoses. They’re even more surprised that I talk about it openly and have no qualms answering questions. Because all of my therapies aside, openly speaking about my mental illness has been a better balm than anything else. There is no shame in mental illness, and the more we talk about it the more we kill that stigma. So I’m here to talk.

fight-stigma

Finding My Words

The first thing my therapist said to me after I expressed how upset I was, was that I was clearly upset about something more than the election. She was right. Without realizing it, I had been going around with the belief that people are generally good, that we have evolved to a point that as a whole, as a majority we reject hatred and ostracism. I realize now, how horribly naive was. The election of Donald Trump brought all of those beliefs crashing down and brought back every memory of being bullied from my past. It brought back every memory of my loved ones standing by and watching, or worse yet joining in on the bullying. It has made for super pleasant dreams.

I do not believe that the 62 million plus people who voted for Trump are all misogynistic-racist-xenophobes. I believe that some of them are, probably a higher number than I want to think about, but not all of them. However, I now believe that there are 62 million people in the US who are either okay with those behaviors, and/or willing to join in if someone else starts. There are over 62 million people in this country who put down their vote for all time, to elect a bully to the highest office in this land.

That was enough to break me. I had no words. I did not want to live in that world. I don’t want to live in a world where bullies feel that their behavior is not only acceptable but sanctioned. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to spit in my friend’s face and tell her to enjoy her free trip back to Mexico. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to call another friend of mine a ch*nk and tell him that he wasn’t welcome here anymore. These are not anecdotes off the internet, these are things that happened to people that I know and hold dear. I repeat, I don’t want to live in that world.*

But I’m also starting to see something that is renewing some of my faith. People aren’t putting up with it.

I am a member of two different groups on Facebook. At first, these groups were all about action. Numbers to call, petitions to sign, rallies to attend. That still exists, but something more has developed. They have both become a safe place where people can come and express their fears, their humiliations, and their tears from hateful experiences. The love and support that they get in return are a balm for anyone hurting. Better yet, it has become a place to share victories. Stories of people standing up to bullies, some with broken voices and shaking hands, but standing up anyway. People refusing to listen to hate without saying something in return. Stories of people straight up asking the strangers around them for support in confronting this hate, and getting the support. Stories of solidarity that declare in no uncertain terms that xenophobia/racism/hate are not currencies that are accepted here.

And nowhere in any of these stories is there name-calling or yelling at the bully. (I’m sure confrontations like that exist, they just aren’t being shared.) Instead these stories are of people asking for tolerance to be shown to those who are different. They are stories of strangers banding together to cover up racist and anti-Semitic graffiti so no one else has to see it. They are stories of kindness being used to smother hurt. They are stories of people no longer willing to look the other way. Maybe that is our victory. We aren’t seeing anything in this country that didn’t already exist, and quite frankly minorities have been trying to tell the white population about it for years. Maybe our victory is the clarity and unity to stand up against those who derive their power from putting other people down. That gives me hope.

I also applied to volunteer for the ACLU, because you can’t sustain hope without action.

 

 

*Not in a “suicide-put-me-in-a-48-hour-watch” sort of way, but in a “denial-fingers-in-your-ears-say-it-ain’t-so” sort of way.

Look for the Helpers

I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers as a kid. He always kind of gave me the creeps. I had never encountered anybody that was that kind all of the time, and I doubted his sincerity. And now I need to add that to the list of things I should bring up with my therapist. Regardless, as an adult I have come to love and, in times of trial, cling to a quote of his: “Look for the helpers.”

helpers

There will always be helpers. There will always be hope. There will always be a way. I am still at a loss to fully express myself after the election. I sat down to witness history, and I did. Just not the history I had anticipated. I watched as an oft ignored part of our country declared in one loud, red voice that they would not be ignored any longer. That they would not let their way of life go quietly into that good night. They raged, and we all listened in disbelief.

To the rural Americans who feel disenfranchised because their America has been slipping away from them, I am sorry. I am sorry that we didn’t listen, that we didn’t care. I am sorry that we didn’t hear your cries and that even though everyone says you’re privileged you don’t feel that way living at the poverty line. I am sorry that it has come to this, and I hope that in the years to come your situation will improve. I truly do. We are listening now.

However, we need you to listen too. As evidenced by how close this election was, we are a country divided. A deep chasm exists separating one side from the other and because of that chasm neither side can hear the hopes, dreams, fears and wants from the other. And if we can’t hear each other, we have no hope of understanding or empathizing with each other. This is a problem. This country is big enough for all of us to exist together, but only if we can understand each other. The only way for that to happen is to truly listen and appreciate where the opposite side is coming from.

get-ahaed

I hold strongly to the belief that you don’t have to push others down in order to rise yourself, which is in direct conflict to the rhetoric of our new president. I respect the decision of our country to elect him, but I do not respect him or his hateful disparagements and I will not sit quietly by while they are said. I will not sit quietly by and watch rights being taken away from American citizens simply because they are different. There is room for all of us, and we can all rise together if we are willing to listen and try. And while we learn to do that, we need to have each other’s backs.

 

To the LGBTQ+ communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the people of color in this nation – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the women who seek equality and autonomy of their bodies – I am one of you, I am your advocate.

To the non-Christian religious communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

 

Now is the time for tolerance and acceptance. Now is the time for love. Now is the time for the helpers.

candle

 

This is a good resource talking about what to do if you witness or experience racism specifically, but the information can be expanded to other scenarios as well.

This is a good strategy to use if you witness Islamaphobic harassment. Again the technique can be used in other scenarios as well.

If you are LGBTQ and need a friendly forum to express your concerns or you need someone to talk to click here for an established community who are there to help.

If you feel that your rights are being infringed upon, please check out the ACLU.

If it all feels like too much and you are considering suicide, please now that you matter, and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help – 1-800-273-8255.

Saying No to the Dreams of Others, In Order to Build My Own

I have been approached twice in the past month about stepping into a substantial role of an artistic endeavor. I was incredibly flattered by both and they both spoke to an inherent interest of mine. Not something that I am actively pursuing right now, but something that I have in the past and could see myself involved in again in the future. Needless to say, these offers were very tempting carrots dangled in front of me. The first one I went after, interviewed for, but in the end didn’t get the position. What surprised me, was that I was relieved that they had decided to go with someone else.

Deep down, I did not want this great opportunity and at first I couldn’t figure out why. What was wrong with me? True, there was very minimal money up front, but stake in all future earnings and plenty of perks immediately. Which is pretty much par for the course with artistic endeavors, unfortunately. At first I thought it was the money thing. Then I realized that my relief had nothing to do with that. It came from the fact, that while this would be a step up, it wasn’t a step in the direction I am going right now. It would do nothing to fuel and build my current endeavors and reach my current goals and dreams. Progress, but progress in the wrong direction.

wrong-direction

I think for the first time, I truly understand that not all forward momentum is good. This great opportunity was to help someone else with their pet project. To help them achieve their dreams. There’s nothing wrong with that, except I would have to put my own dreams on hold to work on theirs. Where’s the sense in that? For a long time I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I worked toward other people’s dreams. I grabbed onto anything that came my way. I thought that any opportunity was a step in the right direction, never realizing that I was running around in circles.

I don’t regret any of it, it gave me something to do and I learned a lot along the way. However, now that I have dreams and projects of my own, I need to stop putting my work on hold to help someone else with theirs. That’s why I was relieved, when I didn’t get the position. Yes, it was a great opportunity, but for me right now, it would have been a step in the wrong direction. So when offer number two came around, I said no. It was a hell of a lot harder to turn that down then I thought it would be, and it took a couple of days for me to wrap my head around turning down work. But now that I have, the relief is here again. No more dedicating myself to other people’s dreams, until I’ve achieved my own.

dreams