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

 

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.

let me tell you about my morning

when i write my own story i am both storyteller and main character. i get to rewrite my narrative. i get to choose how to see my world. i get to open the door and invite you into my universe. 

im back in salem and it sits the same, like a heavy weight in my stomach or a feeling of being a little unseen: a window partially covered, a light flickering, a cloud over the sun. this morning especially so, though my friends are in the kitchen, though a breeze drafts through my room, though the day sits waiting for me to fill it.

something about overcast days and creaky houses reminds me of stress and sadness and im worried im letting so many people down. two days, two separate situations saying ‘im annoyed’ and ‘you messed up’ and im too sensitive for this. when people criticize i want to hide, i want to crawl under hills, i want to wrap myself in blankets and curl into a corner and feel the feelings and so this is what i do. with tea and candles and telling myself that when people are upset that doesnt mean im wrong. when people are upset, sometimes they are wrong. when people are upset, sometimes i need to take my own side

and the drama in me sighs out, oh, sometimes living is like being an open wound and the salt is just text messages and casual words and how can i be so thin-skinned in such a gouging world

and with that sentiment, sad-me leaves my little cocoon nest and goes into the kitchen and makes myself breakfast oats and tells the roommate whats on my mind. there was miscommunication with someone and its this whole thing and when i explain it he laughs and its so clearly ridiculous and i crack a smile and then we are both laughing and —

its not all so bad.

its not all so good, the world, our nation, right now. but its not all so bad, not all of it. not laughing over oatmeal and not me, at my core, and thats the fear, right?


so, anyways, ashley wrote about blogging and i tell you these little stories, these morning oats and little thought because

i write so that i can speak, i write so that i can see the words i need to read. when the world pulls me down and im confused and tense and disappointed in myself, i get levity. i get agency. when i write my own story i am both storyteller and main character. i get to rewrite my narrative. i get to choose how to see my world. i get to open the door and invite you into my universe.


i dont know if you see me as i want you to – as a friend, as someone doing their best, as someone constantly apologetic and trying to be kind, as a thinker and brave doer and all the things i like to think i am. i do know that i dont like opening up out loud, i stutter and sweat, i avoid hard conversations, and this is why i dont like telling someone off for blaming me for someone elses mess and this whole situation, but anyways, when i write

i want you to see how the corner feels when i wrap the yellowstone-green blanket around my body and sit in my too-tight hat from b and feel the comfort of walls close and warmth closer. i want you to see how i sit and think and ask myself whats happening in my heart and slowly the sun filters through the broken white window blinds onto the scratched up wooden floor and how i start to remember all the wonder that is me and my life. i want you to taste the oats as i eat them slightly under-cooked in a too-hot-to-hold metal bowl and talk through my mouthful to caden and the sun shines a bit more inside me too.

i write so i can feel, and so you can feel it, too.

-h

 

 

 

Why I Blog

After the late film critic Roger Ebert lost his ability to speak as a by product of numerous intense surgeries, he threw himself into online blogging. It was called Roger’s Journal, a title that I particularly latched onto because the writing wasn’t limited to what had become his niche profession, but instead was a collection of anything in his mind. Journalist Janet Maslin said, “Ebert writes as if it were a matter of life and death. Because it is.” 

After the late film critic Roger Ebert lost his ability to speak as a by product of numerous intense surgeries, he threw himself into online blogging. It was called Roger’s Journal, a title that I particularly latched onto because the writing wasn’t limited to what had become his niche profession, but instead was a collection of anything in his mind. Journalist Janet Maslin said, “Ebert writes as if it were a matter of life and death. Because it is.”

Ebert was blogging because he had to blog – because it was a matter of being heard, or not being heard.  A matter of existing or not existing.

There is plenty to dissect here. Ebert was, more or less, shouting his final thoughts and musings for the world to hear, all so without a voice.  I’ve often wonder what kind of benefit this project had on his grieving process, deep below the surface. At the end of the day, one our most human fears is being forgotten once we’re gone. We live inside our own heads for so much of our lives. We have thoughts and fears, small pleasures and intense joys that, really, we can only feel because these things exist solely inside our own selves. So, once we die, so do these things.

For example, I can tell you about how the song Suicide is Painless by Manic Street Preachers makes me sleepy. Sometimes, it even makes me cry. Maybe the song stirs something inside you too, but still, you could never hear it the exact same way I hear it. You’ve never listened to the instrumental version play in the dark from my childhood bedroom from down the hall before a rerun of MASH.

This is a memory or an event or just a human thing strictly for me. These are passing shower thoughts, or while driving to work alone in the early morning. They’re often so fleeting that we don’t even ruminate on them too long ourselves.

But these small, every day thoughts and occurrences are what end of piling together to be our lives. Feel them. Acknowledge them. Out loud, I have said hello to the trees in my yard, or the rocks I sit on overlooking the ocean. Hello, good morning. I’m alive again today, isn’t that wonderful? It’s certainly a pleasure to feel you today, breeze.

These are the kind of things I want to blog about. To celebrate the ordinary and to be the archenemy to apathy. Much like Ebert, this blog has become a practice in existing. A thesis on staying alive. A matter of life or death.

I want to mention here that it’s terrifying to share these things and I have to imagine it’s equally nerve wracking for Heather. When you share, you open yourself to criticism. And criticism has and will come. Some harsher than others. The ones that will hurt the most come from people you would hope understand. The people who fear criticism the most will attack you. Keep that in mind. Someone once told me that if you like what you’ve created, then chances are so will at least one other person on Earth. You’re not an island, you’re not so different. You’ll find your audience, you will find your people. And won’t that be so wonderful.

You can find Roger’s Journal here.

A

what I’m reading: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

what I’m listening to: Snowmine