Clawing Your Way Out of Your Own Head

I’m going to be perfectly frank here. I could not write this post when I was at my lowest because, no matter what I tried, nothing worked. I did not believe I could feel better. And the more I wallowed in self pity, I more I self-isolated.

In a letter I wrote to a friend back in 2013, I said something to the tune of, “It worries me how much I crave isolation. I seek it every chance I get.” At the time, I was in college and living in a house of 7 people. I shared, not only a room, but a bed. In the mornings, I got dressed in the dark to accommodate someone else’s sleep schedule. This was living in the city, always accompanied by the sounds of the train or friendly people playing instruments in the street. It’s hard to be alone in a city.

I think about that letter a lot, as if I should have been more “careful what I wished for” because I got it. I got to be alone.

I’m going to be perfectly frank here. I could not write this post when I was at my lowest because, no matter what I tried, nothing worked. I did not believe I could feel better. And the more I wallowed in self pity, I more I self-isolated convincing myself that, “You’re not going to get better, and these people don’t want to hear you complain about it anymore. They want to hear you say that you’re feeling better, but you won’t. So stop reaching out.” This is how I spoke to myself.

I followed my own set guides to “being alone” but misery seemed to follow me like a shadow. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on any one cohesive thought. It was all I could do to pull myself out of hourly panic attacks. I was experiencing resurfacing repressed memories of past traumas and I started, not only fearing these memories, but fearing what else might resurface. I was wracked with fear over things that haven’t been prevalent for years. I felt like a traumatized pup that no one wants to adopt because it’s been “ruined.” Because it snips at reaching hands out of fear, remembering hands that once weren’t so kind. I felt ruined.

Then, two things happened. One (and I’m cautious to put this because it’s important to remember that any kind of medication is never a catch-all solution) I started taking medicine again for anxiety after running into (more than) a few medical insurance road blocks. Two, I realized that my panic rarely followed me to my place of work. And I really dwelled on that for a couple of days because according to, well, everything.. stress from work is one of the leading causes of anxiety in adults in the US. But I found myself staying late and coming in early just to sit a little longer in the embrace of safety. So what was that about? I surely worried that I wasn’t performing well enough, I had an extremely heavy workload, dead lines to meet, what have you. But I felt SAFE there. Safe being a key word for me because my anxiety is largely panic based with no obvious causation.

So why was I calmed in an environment made to be stressful, but panicking at home. Work was the only place I could go where I could truly get out of my own head and just be for a while. The thing about my mental illness is that I am obsessed with it. It occupies every pocket of my brain like smoke, always present in everything I do, which made my life feel like a constant to-do list. Maybe if I eat, I’ll feel less anxious. Maybe if I go for a walk, I’ll be okay. I didn’t do anything without the purpose of “feeling better” or “recovering” behind it. Nothing was for pure joy anymore. “If I play this video game, maybe it’s something I can grind until I’m so good and then.. and then.. and then..” I made myself into a project, instead of a person.

But I’m not a project. Self improvement is important, sure, but it’s equally important to do the things that you do because you genuinely enjoy them. Without concern where it’s going to take you in the future. Without obsessing over how it’ll impact my mental illness.

But changing the way your brain functions isn’t easy, which is why I’ve started looking for ways to get out of my own head. Like any other habit, it takes time to ingrain into my daily routine. For anyone who also struggles with feeling trapped inside their own mind, I’d love to hear what you do to shut yourself up. What do you do that is PURELY for the joy of it? What helps? Reach out to me and let me know.

A list of ways I escape my own head:

  1. First and most importantly, schedule time to let yourself really feel. This was recommended to me by a therapist a while back, but at the time I felt certain that I couldn’t “schedule my feelings.” But, turns out, you totally can. For me, I used to find time to sit by the water and check in with myself. Often, I cried or screamed or stomped. This was my designated time to FEEL. Once I started this process, it felt less like these emotions were just sitting under the surface. It’s okay to feel. It’s good to feel.
  2. Do things that appeal to your senses. Touch the things around you. Leaves on low hanging branches, hot pavement, chipped paint. Yes, you’re going to look like a weirdo rubbing against a tree trunk by yourself. Who cares. Be a weirdo. They don’t know.
  3. Go swimming in cold water. It’s really hard to think about how paranoid you are that everyone actually hates you when you’re swimming in cold water.
  4. Go on scavenger hunts and make art out of what you find. A collection of fabrics or odd knick-knacks. Take pictures of unique shadows on your skin. Hang it above your bed. Fuck Warhol, you’re a real artist.
  5. Listen to podcasts. And not just pretentious educational podcasts, listening to meaningless comedy hours or spooky stories. Laugh out loud at the funny parts. Create a happy energy within yourself. I hear this all the time: Other people are attracted to happy people. But don’t do it for the sake of others. Be attracted to your own happy self. (I also use podcasts when I’m having trouble sleeping. If you have someone else’s voice right in your ear, it’s hard to pay attention to your own racing thoughts.)
  6. Clean your sheets, do your dishes, wash your bathroom sink.
  7. If you have the funds, keep food around. Buy a cook book and work your way through it. Have you ever noticed how good it feels to really take care of yourself? You started to feel like someone worth being taken care of.
  8. Try not to rely on social media for validation.
  9. Try not to associate other people’s popularity on social media as them being more worthy than you. Everyone is fake on the internet. Consider someone you know very well. A best friend or a family member. Then consider how you would feel about them if you only saw them through their Instagram, twitter, what-have-you. Entirely different story, right?
  10. With the last two in mind, share things online! Our usage of the internet isn’t black and white, it doesn’t have to be either poison or antidote. There are plenty of communities to be found online. Find a site with people who also like your strangest niche interests and explore them.
  11. Take yourself dancing. (I’m still working on this one. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. In the mean time, maybe just dance alone in your room like a teenager in a movie. It feels stupidly good.)
  12. Interact with strangers. When I used to work retail, something I would notice is how other employees would complain about elderly customers coming in and wanting to chat for long lengths of time. But I never understood the annoyance. Social skills are like a muscle that needs to be exercised less it become weak and you forget how to use it. More likely than not, you’ll be surprised who will chat with you. (I’m still working on this step, as well.)
  13. Create art that is just for you. Draw in your sketchbook without the intent of sharing it with anyone. Write a terrible poem. Paint. Do these things because they are fun, not because you want to “be better” at them.
  14. Listen to music all the time. Stupid, meaningless pop music, EDM, whatever. Stop wearing about if you’re listening to “”GOOD”” music.

 

A

 

If you think this might be for you, it probably is.

if you’re reading this right now, take caution. the middle man is shaking out the sheets from his bed where he’s shed his dragon scales and laying them back down over our eyes. he eats our affection because nothing else satiates. he’s good at unearthing it too, affection from our dry barren gardens, so much so that we have bare none left for ourselves. he says, “your garden has the freshest herbs. you alone have saved me.”

take caution: the middle man LIES. you are not over reacting. do not apologize like i have. the middle man lies.

Listen, I have to tell you this because my biggest fear is hurting people. i exist with a fear inside me like a bomb thats certain to explode, shrapnel tearing through the cheeks of everyone around me. Theyll wear scars for the rest of their lives and say, “how selfish. how fucking selfish.” im suspicious, maybe, you recognize this pain.

and i apologize in advance, for my skin is sharp as swords and my words seer flesh like poison without trying. this means that my hugs end in wounds. and my “i love you”s end in burns. i hope you believe that im taking diligent notes on how to be kind and i watch Good people like lab rats with the intention of learning how to be better by the textbook. but even when im standing completely still, im bending the grass beneath my feet. im sorry, earth that im so heavy without meaning to be.

if you’re reading this right now, know that im so sorry my presence has hurt you. this isnt the first time and believe me when i say i recognize the pain. and i recognize how irrationally angry it makes you feel. but in my version of events, we’d have our own stockpile of meaningless jokes by now. but thats assuming a lot. thats assuming i wasnt predetermined to be the joke long before i arrived.  it really didnt matter who i was, did it. but my mother once told me, “sometimes you have to be the bad guy to protect someone else.” is that whats happening here? do you need to hate me? do you need to scoff at the things you think ive done? because if im not the bad guy, then someone else is. and god would that hurt so much worse, huh?

a very tired and anxious

A

 

Dream Analysis//2

You need to get your life in order.

Mess 
To see a mess in your dream symbolizes the state of your waking life. You need to get your life in order.

Fog 
To dream that you are going through a thick fog symbolizes confusion, troubles, scandal, uncertainty and worries. You may not be seeing things the way they really are. You may have lost your sense of direction in life. Alternatively, a fog represents mystery, secrecy and protection.

Scream 
To dream that you are screaming symbolizes anger and fear. You are expressing some powerful emotion which you have kept pent up inside. If you try to scream, but no sound comes out, then it indicates your sense of helplessness and frustration in some situation. No matter how hard you try to get someone’s attention, they cannot hear you. The dream highlights your difficulty in communicating with this person. You need to immediately identify your fears or feelings and confront this situation in real life.Alternatively, your inability to scream may be a form of REM paralysis.

To hear or dream that someone is screaming indicates that some friend or family member is in need of your help.

Suffocating 
To dream that you are suffocating signifies that you are feeling smothered or oppressed by some situation or relationship. Something or someone is holding your back. You are experiencing a lot of stress and tension.

Elevator 

To dream that the elevator is out of order or that it is not letting you off symbolizes that your emotions have gotten out of control. It may be a reflection of your life or your career. You are feeling stuck in some aspect of your life, whether it is your career, relationship, etc.


Yelling 
To dream that you or someone is yelling represents repressed anger that needs to be expressed. If you are yelling and no one hears, then it suggests that you are being overlooked in some waking situation. You feel that your voice does not matter or that your opinion does not count.

In particular, hearing demonic yelling in your dream means there is something you thought you have left in the past that is still haunting you.

An Exercise in Release

A list of things you could shout while alone on a mountain top:

I treat google like a therapist

I collect symptoms like stamps

A list of things you could shout from the top of a mountain:

Hello mountains this is my voice

I feel like I haven’t heard it in a while

I am silly and I find joy in small things

Sometimes I make silly faces in mirrors

I hope no one ever catches me doing that

I am much younger than I feel

I am still trying to understand who I am and that’s okay

I am proud of small victories

Sometimes I worry I am an obnoxious person

I often feel alone when I’m with people

I don’t connect with people easily

I hate someone I’m supposed to love

I feel ashamed of needing to cry

I self isolate when I desperately need attention

I hate needing attention

I treat google like a therapist

I collect symptoms like stamps

I carry trauma in my muscles, it’s why I’m always sore

I desperately want to forgive the people that have hurt me

I desperately want to be angry at the people that have hurt me

I want to scream at the people who have hurt me

I want to tell them, “I am not impenetrable.”

“You have been burning me with your cigarette butts.”

“You have been stabbing me with your scalpel.”

“As if I am built from brick, as if it won’t leave a mark.”

here you can stop abruptly. feel slightly embarrassed by your emotional outburst. feel lighter because of your emotional outburst. it’s not so heavy anyway. stand up a little taller. really notice the ground beneath you. pretend you can feel the earth’s rotation. pretend you’re in a movie. pretend that everyone you’ve ever known are all standing at the base of the mountain and they want to tell you, “We only hurt you because we, too, never learned how to love. We squeezed too tight, we mistook fear for anger. But we did it so that you could learn in our place. Real life gets so much better from here.”

This isn’t an exact script, feel free to improvise. 

exit stage right

 

Look, I’ve been meaning to tell you something. YOU you. The you that lives in an entirely different kingdom than I do, but still shares your warmth with me without condition. Look at you, if you can. How have you never noticed the incandescent cloud that surrounds you, pulsing with your breath? What color is it right now? I don’t know because I can’t see you. But maybe it’s the shade of the ocean, depending on the ocean. Or maybe it’s the color of childhood bed sheets.

Maybe you didn’t realize it, but your kindness is physical. Proper noun. I know this because I’ve felt its touch on my skin when I am cold and I’ve felt it inside my lungs when I am struggling to breath. I’ve felt it sleep inside my pores from across continents. So, I know that it is real even if you don’t.

I guess what I’ve been meaning to tell you is

thank you.

with love,

A

 

 

 

 

 

a dream analysis

 ‘That day I carried the dream around like a full glass of water, moving gracefully so I would not lose any of it.’

Arrested

To dream that you are being arrested indicates issues of control and restraint. Some aspect of your Self may have been prevented from fully developing. 

Prison

To dream that you are in prison indicates that you are being censored in some area of your life. You feel that your creativity is being limited and that you are not allowed to express yourself.

*Please also see Jail.

Jail

To dream that you are in jail suggests that you are feeling restrained or censored in your work environment, relationship or situation in your life. You are feeling confined and suffocated. Alternatively, it represents self-punishment and guilt. You are involved in some wrongdoing.

Cry

To dream that you are crying signifies a release of negative emotions that is more likely caused by some waking situation rather than the events of the dream itself. Your dream is a way to regain some emotional balance and to safely let out your fears and frustrations. In your daily lives, you tend to ignore, deny, or repress your feelings. But in your dream state, your defense mechanisms are no longer on guard and thus allow for the release of those feelings that you have repressed during the day. 

To wake up crying represents some suppressed hurt or previous trauma that is coming up to the surface. You can no longer suppress these emotions. They need to be dealt with head on.

To dream that no one hears or responds to your cries represents your helplessness, difficulties and frustrations in trying to communicate with others. You feel that your words are falling on deaf ears. Perhaps your dream is telling you to be more vocal and work harder to get your point across.

Shower 

To dream that you are showering with your clothes on means that even though you may change your outer appearances, it does not change who you are on the inside. Alternatively, your dream indicates that you are unwilling to let your guard down. You are still keeping up a protective barrier between you and others.

Telephone

To see or hear a telephone in your dream signifies a message from your subconscious or some sort of telepathic communication. You may be forced to confront issues which you have been avoiding. Alternatively, the telephone represents your communication and relationship with others. If there is no dial tone or the phone is left off the hook, then the dream indicates that you are shutting yourself out. You are experiencing difficulties in getting your thoughts and feelings across. 

To dream that your telephone has been tapped indicates that aspects of your subconscious must be confronted. Alternatively, it implies that you have a fear of being exposed. There is something you are hiding.

Telephone Charger

To see or use a telephone charger in your dream suggests that you are feeling drained or empty. Thus the dream may be metaphor that you need to be “recharged” and revitalized. Alternatively, the dream indicates that you are disconnected from others. Perhaps you are isolating yourself. 

Running

To dream that you are running away from someone indicates an issue that you are trying to avoid. You are not taking or accepting responsibility for your actions. In particular, if you are running from an attacker or any danger, then it suggests that you are not facing and confronting your fears.

Runaway

To dream that you are a runaway indicates that you are struggling with issues of belonging and acceptance. Alternatively, the dream means that you are refusing to confront some issue or situation.

Jailbreak

To dream that you are breaking out of jail refers to your desire or need to escape from a restrictive situation or relationship. Alternatively, dreaming of a jailbreak means that you are refusing to accept the consequences of your actions.

Nightmares and anxiety dreams are something that I’ve always deeply struggled with. Not only does it effect your sleep, but a deeply disturbing dream can stick to you like puddy and impact your entire day. When I was about 15, I discovered that analyzing my nightmares immediately after waking up helps my mind understand those unsettling images and therefor take away their power. If I’m turning my thoughts to “what restrictive situation do I desire to escape from?” as opposed to clinging to the emotions and fears that often seep out of the dream and into the waking world, I’ve found that I have an easier time getting out of bed and going about my day.

 ‘That day I carried the dream around like a full glass of water, moving gracefully so I would not lose any of it.’

-Miranda July

A

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