Anxiety in Learning, and People Who Refuse to Understand

How do you explain anxiety to someone who doesn’t understand it? How do you open a discussion about how you’re feeling, when the other person is sitting across from you in judgement, and telling you that you’re wrong? These are questions I asked myself this week, when I had an encounter with a friend that left me feeling frustrated for those very same reasons.

I do not have anxiety in any diagnosed sense. But, like every other person in the world I’m sure, there are certain things that do make me incredibly anxious. I find being in crowds acutely uncomfortable. Meeting new people either turns me into some kind of overly expressive, unintentionally aggressive(ly energetic) person, or into a silent, dismissive, seemingly moody person who can’t make conversation. But another thing that makes me feel anxious is learning from other people, one on one.

I like to teach myself things, for a few reasons. Firstly, I am as stubborn as a mule. I like tackling challenges – despite often getting a little overwhelmed by them – because I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after completing something that I spent time and effort on. Of course, this doesn’t always mean it’s an effective way to learn; my lack of musical ability (despite trying to teach myself various instruments over the years) is a testament to that. The other major reason why I enjoy trying to teach myself things as opposed to learning a skill from another person, is because I hate feeling like I’m stupid. And as silly as this might sound, learning new things can make me feel incredibly stupid.

See, the thing about learning from someone else, is that somewhere in my brain there is a little voice that tells me that the teacher is judging my inability to do ‘the thing’. And even though I know realistically they’re not thinking that at all, I can’t help but feel awkward when I’m learning something new that I haven’t yet mastered. It’s one of many reasons why starting a new job makes me nervous. The idea that I might not get it right, that I might take too long to learn, that the teacher might get frustrated with my questions and think I’m an idiot…these are all factors that contribute to the feeling of anxiety and inadequacy. I like to learn in solitude, where no one can witness my inevitable mistakes, and where it doesn’t matter how long it then takes me to fix them. Learning from someone else can come with a level of pressure that doesn’t come from teaching yourself how to do something.

I was trying to explain this to my boss the other day. I said learning new things can sometimes make me feel stupid, and his exact verbatim response was “Well, you’re wrong, but ok.” There it is. You’re wrong. With those two words, he managed to simultaneously belittle me, and prove my point. When I tried to further explain what I was talking about, he cut me off and told me that it didn’t make sense, and that feeling like that was weird and “not normal”. Which brings us back to my original question; how do you explain a feeling to someone who is determined not to understand?

There are always going to be people who think you’re weird for feeling a certain way. There are always going to be people who don’t understand. I usually try to avoid having to have those conversations, but in this case it was unavoidable. I guess at the end of the day, I don’t need to explain myself to anyone, and I certainly don’t need to justify how I’m feeling, especially not to someone who refuses to understand. But, I can get mad about it and vent on my blog. Have any of you ever had that experience? Have you ever struggled to explain how you’re feeling to someone else? Tell me your stories!

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Fractured (and a Little Bit Lost)

I’m not going to pretend I’m writing my second blog post in as many days because I have anything particularly interesting to say. The truth of the matter is that I have nothing to do at work, and I am kind of grumpy, and I am angry at myself for doing something last night that I told myself I wasn’t going to do anymore. Plus, in typical Amy fashion, I am wallowing in existential angst and wondering what the hell I am supposed to be doing with this life of mine, that seems to be casually passing me by.

Image result for pixabay fractured

Right now I feel about as fragile as a piece of glass, and the smallest amount of pressure is going to be enough to fracture me into a billion tiny pieces. My emotions feel like a raw, exposed wound and I am struggling to keep it all together, even though all I really want to do is explode out of my skin.

I am so, so very sick of feeling this way. I feel like I post about it periodically, which I’m sure you’re all tired of reading about. But no matter what I do, I can’t seem to shake this feeling. I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am, and how I think who I am is being shaped by my circumstance, and my location. I said to a friend of mine on the weekend that I feel like I can’t really become the person I am meant to be until I get out of this state.

I don’t think it’s an uncommon thing, particularly amongst people in their 20’s, to feel like they’re still becoming. I think as a general rule, we have this notion that we’re not who we’re supposed to be yet, and that we have to spend the next however many years figuring that out. That’s certainly how I’ve been feeling lately. I feel like I’m not able to be authentically me yet, because I don’t have the freedom to reinvent myself into who I want to become. I feel as though I am living in this shell of myself, and that I need something explosive to break it open and reveal the real Amy underneath. Logically, I know that moving away isn’t going to change who I am. I know this, because I’ve moved away a few times, and I’ve always come back to my home town more or less the same person. But it doesn’t stop me from dreaming of the day I can finally have my own house. And when I think about that house, I think of it as being as far away from my home town as I can get without moving to another country.

What I think I need, is to move so far away that it isn’t easy to just come back home. I need something completely new and fresh, and different. Yes, wherever I go there will still be people who annoy me (thanks, customer service) and I know that wherever I go, my mental health is going to come along for the ride. I know that I will still have doubts, and states of depression, and fears and probably a lot of sleepless nights. I am not naive enough to think that moving away is going to change my life so drastically that I’ll wonder why I never did it sooner. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to believe that a fresh start can be cathartic, therapeutic even. At any rate, I have to believe that there is something better for me than what I have now.

I wrote this post today, because I needed to create something. I am stuck at work until 5:30 and every particle of my being is screaming out to make art, in one form or another. I feel trapped here, stuck in this godforsaken shopping centre, and this small square shop, and I am battling my very emotions, as well as my very irresponsible desire to just leave and never come back. But, as yesterday’s post will attest, I have a stupid adult obligation to stay where I am, at least until I have enough of a financial buffer behind to allow for the kind of freedom I so desperately crave.

Life is hard, and I’m angry and I kind of just want someone to bring me their dog so I can cuddle it.

Lonely and Alone

When you’re single, you do a lot of things by yourself. For example, I go to see movies alone, I take road trips by myself, I go to bed at night without someone else. You get so used to doing things by yourself, that you sometimes forget that not everyone else does. I’m a perpetual third wheel whenever I hang out with friends, and I’m forever getting the “when are you going to get out there and meet someone” questions. I’ve learned to deflect and ignore those questions when they come up, but last week was a bad time. On top of being a hormonal mess (thanks, period), by brain decided to send my emotions into hyper drive. I spent a lot of last week crying, and suddenly my being alone felt like a really horrible thing.

When I picture my future, I see it alone. I have a four year plan (because it’s going to take me that long to save any significant amount of money), and when I see myself buying a house, I’ve never considered the notion that I will have to share that space with someone else. I look at houses online that I will never be able to afford, but I sit there and think “yes, that could be my sewing room, and that will be my guest room, and that will be where I hold elegant dinner parties for all my friends.” Ok, so maybe not that last one, but I do think about the life I want to have, and it never includes another person.

But last week, my emotional state of mind meant that I was sitting there, crying over one thing or another, because everything seemed to set me off (seriously, it was a very wet week). Amidst all the tears and negative thoughts that brought them on, I wondered for the first time in a long time, if perhaps I should try and meet someone. Because maybe coming home to someone, and cooking with someone, and getting into bed next to someone at night, isn’t the worst thing in the entire world. I didn’t go so far as to sign up to Tinder, but I did spend a fair bit of time wondering about the appropriateness of wearing a sign declaring my single status, and the phrase “girlfriend wanted, enquire within”.

My emotional state has calmed down significantly in the last few days. I was able to clear my head, and brush away the last of the negative thoughts that plagued me last week. Much like the way you sweep the floor during a spring clean, I purged all of the malicious, insidious thoughts from my mind and now I’m back to my normal, contentedly single, people hating self. But the thing I need to remember going forward, is that even the most content single people feel lonely sometimes too. There’s nothing wrong with me for occasionally craving human connection. Actually, I think most people would agree that it is actually perfectly normal. Ah well, so I’m the weird one, what else is new?

Dear Amy

Dear Amy,

I know that life feels complicated sometimes, and I know that you often get anxious about your time and how you spend it. I wanted to tell you that it’s ok to wonder about where your life is headed, and it’s normal to sometimes compare where you are to where your friends are. But I also wanted to gently remind you that, at age 26, your life is far from over. You have a lot of time left to work out where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. Please don’t worry so much. You’ll figure it out.

I wanted to let you know that it’s ok to let go of things that don’t feel right anymore. Things and people come into your life at different times, for different periods of time. Some are meant to be with you for your whole life, and others just for a small part of it. I know it sounds like a cliche, but trust your instincts. You’re generally a pretty good judge of what is right for you, and you’re rarely wrong. Don’t be afraid to try new things, meet new people, have new experiences. Do things that terrify you, if for no other reason than to say you’ve done it.

You sometimes doubt your ability to succeed. You have a tendency to try and take on too much at once, and often get too overwhelmed as a result. Slow down a little, and take things one at a time; trust me. You are capable of achieving your goals, but you need to pace yourself or you’re going to get burnt out. Again; you have time. You don’t have to learn everything right this very second, and all things take some time to get right. Set your goals, and allow yourself the appropriate time to achieve them. Don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t all go perfectly the first time. And if you feel like you’ve failed? Just remember that piece of advice you were given by one of the smartest people you know, and keep failing until you don’t. But also remember that on the days that you can’t bring yourself to try, you don’t need to feel guilty. Which brings me to my next point.

Take care of yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard, physically or mentally. Recognise when you’re at your limit, and learn to take the time to recuperate before you wear yourself out. You don’t have to be on the go all the time. Stop and read a book, or enjoy a cup or tea, or try to have a nap in the afternoon. Whatever it is, just make sure that you do it. You’ll thank yourself, and so will your body.

Finally, I just wanted to remind you to be kind to yourself. And remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re doing ok, and I believe in you, and I love you very much.

Sincerely, and with great affection,

Amy.

Adios, 2018

Here we are. December 31st. The final day of the 365 that made up 2018. I, like many others I’m sure, am feeling a little reflective.

It occurs to me that at the end of every year, I focus on the bad. Even though the last few years haven’t been all bad, the culmination of each of these years has been negative. Though I’ve been fighting many battles, and even winning a few, it seems I’m constantly losing the great big war. So recently I’ve been doing a bit of…well, soul searching if you will. Trying to understand why I am where I am, and what I’m supposed to do. And if there’s one thing that I have discovered about myself in these last couple of weeks, it’s that I’ve been lost for a long time.

It’s difficult to put into words how I’m feeling. I feel like I’ve lost sight of the world around me, and the infinite possibilities that come with being human, with being alive. Imagine being in a room filled with hundreds of doors, and meticulously, systematically locking each of them in turn. That’s kind of where I am. I’ve allowed myself, however unintentionally, to become locked into a tiny space, and in turn locked out the world. Maybe I thought it was safer, maybe I thought I didn’t deserve more, maybe I’m just scared. Whatever the cause, I’ve realised that it’s time to start unlocking those doors again. Look, maybe it’s a hokey metaphor but I can’t think of any other way to put it.

I think setting goals can be an intensely personal thing. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because, as I’ve said before, the obligation to make them negates the possibility of improvement. What I do believe in, is setting achievable goals at any time of the year, so long as those goals are for you and not resulting from outside pressure to conform. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m setting a few personal goals myself. But I’m not going to share them here.

What I will say, is that I feel like I’ve been walking through a foggy mire, stumbling blindly through heaviness and all manner of things determined to hold me back, and drag me down. And I’ve been lost in that fog for the longest time, but now I’m ready to be found.

25.12.18

Please scroll past this post if reading about unhappy things is going to ruin your day. I may not enjoy Christmas, but I don’t wish to put a damper on anyone else’s joy.

With that out of the way; today is Christmas, and it’s 5:02 in the morning. I’m awake, again, because of an unfortunate and cruel twist of fate that brought me into this life as a woman. So of course, because it’s Christmas and because I’m awake, 25/12/18 is off to a bad start. And this time, it’s not just because I’m a common garden variety Grinch.

Christmas has long since become my least favourite time of the year, but this year I’m feeling especially melancholic. It’s a stupid mental health issue, you see. My brain decides that, on a day when so many people are feeling joy and happiness and closeness, it is going to screw around with some chemistry and make me sad. My brain and I are at odds with each other a lot, and today especially, she’s being a rather heinous bitch.

I feel very alone. I have family events to attend today, but right now the very thought of going anywhere or doing anything, exhausts me. I feel like I need to cry but it’s as though the ability to do so has dried up. Isn’t that just the worst thing, when you need to cry but you can’t?

I realise this is a miserable thing to say on a day like this, but I wish it was tomorrow. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the rest of the day.

Expectations

Sometimes I find myself so caught up in who I’m “supposed” to be, that I forget who I am. I find myself constantly either battling expectations, or trying to meet them, and end up emotionally exhausted from the effort. I mean, come on; existing is hard enough, without having to try and conform to the version of you that other people think you are.

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure lately, to be the person other people expect. And I don’t mean that I’m actively going out of my way to change who I am for someone else, but rather that I feel the weight of everyone else’s expectations of who I am meant to be.

See, a couple of days ago, I cut off most of my hair. Before the big snip, my hair was somewhere around waist length, and was dyed a dark red. When I said I had booked in to cut it, almost everyone that I told expressed disappointment. “But your hair is so beautiful”, “but you’ve been growing it for so long” and “you’ll regret it” were the things I heard the most. I felt as if I had to constantly explain that I needed a change, that I wanted something lighter for summer, that it’s my goddamn hair and I can do what I want with it.

When I felt the weight of my locks disappear, I felt literally and metaphorically lighter. By the time the hairdresser was finished, and my long red hair had become a jet black bob, I knew that this was the change I had been craving. And the first in a series of changes I plan to make, in an effort to improve and progress.

It’s not just about my hair though. At work, I fight the endless battle against customer expectations that I can’t do my job because of my gender. When I tell people I don’t want kids, I get smug sneers and condescending comments about how I’ll change my mind, because women my age are expected to want families. I’ve been too afraid to admit that I might be a little bit lonely, because I feel like I need to be this strong, confidently single woman who don’t need no…other woman. Because for so long, that’s who I have been, and my brain keeps telling me that to admit that secret aloud is akin to selling out. It’s a heavily ingrained mindset and a hard habit to break.

The truth is, lately I’ve just been overwhelmed. Between an ongoing (and long drawn out) rental dispute and the accompanying anxiety, a weighty frustration at how this year has turned out, a heavy dose of newfound and unfamiliar self loathing, and the absolute wretchedness that is Christmas, I just want everything to stop. I want to run away to a quiet little cabin somewhere and get my bearings. And to shrug off all the expectation, to start fresh. But since I can’t do that, maybe the next best thing is to stand naked and barefoot on the grass under tonight’s bright full moon, and ground myself. Because, let’s be real, everything is better when you’re naked.

I made a change, don’t carry on; I left my locks at the hair salon.