On Fear, and (Lessons From) Dimmu Borgir

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Everyone is scared of something. Clowns, spiders, penguins….it takes all kinds, as they say. I have to confess that I am not particularly fond of moths, with their propensity for flying at my face at full speed, and their general creepy demeanour. But the thing that really, truly scares me is mediocrity. The idea that I will spend my life never getting to experience anything beyond mundane, everyday average-ness terrifies the absolute hell out of me.

I know you have all heard this story before. Twenty something working in a boring job just to pay the bills, seemingly the only single person in a world filled with couples, struggling to save for nice things whilst elsewhere, people are buying houses and travelling the world and living their best lives. They’ve literally made movies about my exact predicament, and mostly those movies are shit. Though, in the Hollywood way, most of the protagonists in those stories have some kind of life changing experience and they all live happily ever after, blah blah blah.

Look, it’s entirely possible that I’m being a little dramatic, and largely unrealistic. Am I, perhaps, putting too much faith in the idea that I am ‘on the right path’? Am I overlooking the fact that life itself is messy and unpredictable? Am I spending too much time simply wondering when my life is going to start, instead of realising that it already has, and that I am entirely responsible for my own happiness? The answers to all of these questions is a resounding yes. See, I have this infallible tendency to overthink, and then overreach, whilst simultaneously doubting myself. The result has never been anything less than a spectacular failure, which in turn leads to a rut that I find harder to climb out of each time.

There are so many things that I want to do, to see, to learn. My brain is like a sponge, wanting to soak up as much as I possibly can. I want to curate a life of experiences so that when I die, I can say that the time I had was well spent. Is it morbid to be thinking about my death at the ripe old age of 26? Probably. The thing is, I often find it hard to remember that there is plenty of time and opportunity ahead of me. I need to stop beating myself up about the fact that I am here, when I want to be over there. More importantly, I have to learn to be kinder to myself, which is not an easy thing when the only pet you’ve ever had is the proverbial black dog.

The thing that scares me above all else, is the notion of existing without actually living. It is a kind of underlying, insidious fear that permeates every little aspect of my life. But, in the same way I overcame my fear of spiders a few years ago, I know I can overcome this too. I just need to take things one day at a time, go slowly, and remember what Dimmu Borgir taught me;

“The keys are in your hands. Realise you are your own sole creator of your own master plan.”

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Angry, Bitter Thoughts at 1am

I think I’m going insane. There’s a restless energy within me; insatiable, and infuriating in its endlessness. I want to run ten kilometers. Or beat a punching bag to death. Or fling myself out of a plane. Anything to release this toxic build up of emotion. I feel like I’m about to explode out of my skin, and I can’t make my brain stop. I just want it to stop.

I’ve been having nightmares. And during the day, I’m plagued by negative thoughts, and bad feelings I just can’t shake. All I want to do is shut my brain off, go to sleep, and wake up as someone else.

I’m suffocating.

On Being Positivity Adjacent, and Being Ok With It.

I am not what you would call an overly positive person. My brain is simply not wired that way. Part of this has to do with having a mental illness (depression, represent!), and part of it is because, on a fundamental level, it just isn’t who I am. I err on the side of pessimism, and I tend to find it a greater struggle, and much more of an effort to be positive and cheerful and optimistic about things.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. A very good friend of mine has recently begun to immerse herself fully in a journey of self discovery, and she’s doing all the better because of it. I talk to her, and feel inspired to be better, to try harder, to push myself out of my comfort zone and throw myself into the deep end of human interaction and brand new experiences. And then the inner voice that lends itself to my decision making, reminds me that I don’t like people, and I feel uncomfortable in social situations, and that I am much happier just living my little hermit life. Then, for reasons beyond my understanding, I feel guilty about it. Why is it so hard for me to put myself out there? Why do I loathe the idea so much? Is there something wrong with me?

I’ve been asking myself these kinds of questions a lot in recent weeks, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be an influx of people lately, urging me to try dating sites, and to get out there and meet potential partners. And every time, I laugh it off, and tell them that I am happier on my own. Which brings a myriad of questions and doubts from the people trying to set me up. After all, it’s a truth universally acknowledged, that everyone else knows more about how you should live your life than you, the one actually living it. At least, they think they do. I’ve spent most of my life single, and the idea of dating is largely unappealing to me. But the major argument against this, is that I don’t know unless I try, and that I could be missing out on something great because I ‘cut myself off’ from any possibility of romance.

Secondly, I’ve been spending a lot more time on my own than normal, in my house, locked away. All the friends I made here are working in a job I no longer have, and I don’t know anyone else here. I’m still unfamiliar with this town, despite being here nearly five months, and my days off are mostly spent inside, or adventuring to other towns by myself. Again, the very idea of meeting new people is daunting. And, by the way, how do you even do that? I mean seriously, do people just approach others to strike up a conversation and end up with a friend?

I went to a networking event the other night, and the girl hosting it talked about finding your passion and rolling with it. Which sounds great in theory, but I don’t know that I’m passionate enough about anything to want to make it my job. All the women there seemed content to chat and plan and interact. And this is where I differ from the above mentioned friend. I think she took a lot more from the night than me, because she’s willing to be open to new experiences and to try new things. And I felt bad because I was acutely uncomfortable in this room full of strangers, and then I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough, and that I had failed in some way. Why couldn’t I talk? Why did conversation make my throat tight, and my heart race? Why did I feel a little relieved when the headache that had plagued me all day intensified to the point where I couldn’t stay?

What I’ve come to realise, amidst all these self doubts and existential questions, is that whilst I may not be as socially outgoing as my friend, I do have an inherent curiosity, and thirst to learn more about…well, everything. I too am open to experience, and discovery, and knowledge. Just not with other people. And there is nothing wrong with that, and certainly nothing wrong with me. The fact that positivity doesn’t come naturally to me, is not necessarily a flaw. It is nothing more or less than a quirk of my nature, a part of my genetic makeup, if you will. It is me, and I’m good with the person I am.

I know what I want to do with my life. I want to adventure places, see the world, be inspired and create, in any way I can. But career wise? I got nothing. Romance? I’d prefer not to. People? Thanks, but I’ll pass. And whatever I may do, it isn’t likely to be with rose colored glasses and a positivity hat. But with pragmatism as my super power, I’ll do just fine.

Behind Closed Doors

I almost started this post with “the problem with anxiety and depression is…” but the truth is, there isn’t just one problem. There’s about five billion. So, let’s begin again.

When an outgoing and gregarious friend unexpectedly tells you that they’ve been to see someone about anxiety and depression, it kind of knocks you for six. It’s easy, you see, to look at someone’s outward personality and assume everything is ok. It’s easier still, to not even consider the possibility that they may not be ok, because they’re not the kind of person you readily associate with the black cloud of mental illness.

Anxiety and depression can affect anyone. In fact, statistics show show that 1 in 4 Australians will experience anxiety, whilst 1 in 6 will experience depression at some point in their lives. That’s a fucking lot of people. And, unlike a physical ailment that can be fixed with a bandaid, mental illness is not so easily remedied. It’s all consuming and bleak and confronting, and there’s no easy fix.

I’m a ‘suffer in silence’ kind of person in most aspects of my life, so I can understand why it’s easier to pretend things are ok than to tell people that you’re having a difficult time. Why it’s easier to lock the bad things behind a door and pretend it doesn’t exist than talk about it, or face the hard reality of it. And that’s why it’s never a good idea to simply assume that someone is ok.

Ask. Check in. Be there to lend a shoulder, or an ear, or to just sit in silence. Because you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

The Altered Reality of Hospitals

Hospital waiting rooms are like small universes of their own. Everything seems slightly removed from reality, like the real world is there, just slightly beyond the veil. When you look around, there are people being supported and comforted by their loved ones. Each all in the same situation, each suspended in an endless moment, each waiting for something to happen. It’s a strange thing, sitting in a waiting room alone, surrounded by groups of strangers. When you spend so long doing things on your own, you sometimes forget that not everyone works by the same solitary rules.

When people get fired from their jobs, they take ‘support people’. When people go into hospital for admission, they bring along someone to be there for them. When people travel, the go in groups, or with friends. But not all people.

Humans are companionable by nature. There is an inherent, unexplained need in us to be with others; to interact, to seek comfort, to feel less alone. But being alone can become a way of life, so ingrained that it becomes almost impossible to comprehend the idea of other people coming into that singular, solitary circle. Sometimes, asking for help is too hard, because you become so used to relying on yourself, that you forget to trust others. Sometimes, you consider trying to break that habit but you get too scared, and really, isn’t everything easier on your own anyway? And sometimes, you end up crying silently in a hospital bed, because you realise that it’s not always easier, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Hospitals are weird, man. It’s that whole altered reality thing that brings secret things into sharp, scary focus. Or maybe it’s all that too bright lighting, and clinical atmosphere that changes things. There’s the lost time, when you’re present in body, but not in mind, and you’re poked and prodded and exposed to strangers in lab coats. There’s the knowledge that hospitals are a place you go to be healed in some way, but the fact that the healing is a by product of the pain that gets inflicted to treat The Thing you’re there for. Whatever it is, there’s something about those places that just creeps me out. And it’s one of the few times when doing things on your own can be the greater of two evils.

On (Apparently) Unhealthy Emotional Responses, and Feelings of Failure

When the face you put forward to the world is tough, and hard, and nonchalant, it comes as a great shock to everyone – not least yourself – when you have a burst of uncontrolled emotion that, despite your best efforts, spills to the surface in a messy flow of tears and embarrassment.

I am not the most forthcoming person when it comes to what I feel. I’m more of a bottler; I keep my misery and rage to myself, because I’ve never been particularly comfortable revealing vulnerable parts of myself to other people. I’m not a hugger, I almost never cry in front of others, and I takes insults a lot better than compliments. Some people have told me it’s a flawed and unhealthy way to deal with things, but it’s the way I roll.

Today was a difficult and emotional day. My job is very rewarding, and very hard, and due to some unlucky circumstance beyond my control, I was told for the second time today that I am not competent to take calls without a mentor. They have given me one more week, during which time I have to hope that I get the right calls in order to be assessed. So my fate (and continued employment) is literally entirely out of my own hands. Which doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like not being in control of my future, and I like even less the possibility that I might get dealt more of the same unlucky hand, and have to suffer as a result. So, following a combination of frustration, disappointment, and a crushing sense of failure, today I cried at work. First in the bathroom alone (how cliche) and then again when my friends said nice and comforting things to me. Like I said; I’m not so good at having people be nice to me.

I’m not very good at not being good at things. It makes me feel stupid, and angry. Especially when I try really hard, and it doesn’t seem to help. It’s kind of like being repeatedly punched in the left eyeball. Or the right eyeball. Maybe the whole face, who knows. Having a positive attitude doesn’t help. The constant feeling of failure is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and I’ve had more than a few moments where I’ve considered just quitting and making everyone’s lives easier. But alas, part of that so called flawed nature of mine is a deep seated stubbornness. So I’ll do this next week, and I’ll try my fucking hardest and I’ll just hope, desperately hope that it will finally be enough. Because now I’ve cried in public twice this year, and I can’t have that. I mean, I have a reputation to uphold, dontcha know.

An Open Letter to Two Creeps

Dear Creeps,

I couldn’t help but overhear – mostly because you were being obnoxiously loud about it – but you both seemed to have quite the obsession with penises, and I just can’t help but wonder if it’s maybe because neither of you have one. So I thought I’d offer some free advice; there’s these amazing things you can buy in sex shops nowadays, they’re actually a strap on penis. I highly recommend you each go and purchase one, since it might help with those feelings of inadequacy you both have going on, and your apparent inability to attract any kind of positive attention from a woman.

Let’s be real here; I am a grown woman. An adult, for all intents and purposes. The word penis does not shock me, no matter how many times you repeat it, or how loudly you say it. If your childish antics were intended to illicit any kind of response from me, I’m afraid I was no more inclined to give reaction than if you had have repeated the word chair with the same increasing regularity and volume.

You see, I’ve had experience with men of your ilk before, and I am more than familiar with the game. The game in which one or more of you see a woman on her own, and do your best to make her feel scared or uncomfortable. I have long since discovered, through countless encounters of a similar nature, that blatant ignorance is the best response, which is exactly what I did tonight, as you leered at me and made crass comments. I didn’t rise to the bait, despite how desperately you tried for my attention. Your juvenile and boorish behaviour does bring some questions to mind, however.

Firstly, I wonder if you would treat the women in your life the way you treat a stranger. If you do, I feel supremely sorry for them, and even more disgusted with you. Secondly, I wonder how you would feel if it were you subjected to the lecherous behaviour you demonstrated tonight, and whether you would have handled being objectified with the same cool detachment I managed. And finally, I wonder if you would be so bold had I have been in the company of a male friend of family member. These are all questions I will never receive an answer to, but they are valid questions nonetheless.

The point where you crossed the line from nuisance, to clear harassment came when I left after getting my coffee. Let us be clear. In modern society, it is not considered polite or acceptable to closely follow anyone out of an establishment and repeatedly ask “want a penis in your mouth?”. There is absolutely no situation where that is appropriate to do to a stranger, and it was reprehensible behaviour. You thought you were being funny (which only goes to show what abhorrent, mouth breathing jerks you really are), but being intentionally intimidating for the purpose of amusement is a vile thing to do. Had I have turned to upend my scalding coffee over your heads, I would have been justified.

I would like to think that better people might reflect on their actions, and realise it was a dick move. But, as evidenced by your Neanderthal natures, you have neither the brain capacity nor emotional ability required to show respect and consideration where it is due, and that is it highly likely that you were just too stupid or ignorant to realise it was wrong. Though that is in no way an excuse for the way you behaved, it at least means I can lower my expectations about you feeling remotely apologetic.

Yours in disgust,

Amy.