Friday, June 15, 2018

Just Have the Conversation

[Content: mention of suicidal thoughts]

This is a branch-off of my last post, about not needing every person to agree with 100% of my book in order for the book to make a difference.

One time when I was in high school, there was a news story about a girl my age who died in a car accident because she was speeding in order to make it home by her curfew. My parents told me, "Don't ever do that." They said that if I was ever running late, they wanted me to call them, and to never ever drive unsafely on their account, no matter how late it was.

At some point, when I started going out with friends more on my own, my mom told me that if I was ever in an uncomfortable situation, that I could call her and she would come and pick me up, no questions asked. She said that she didn't ever want me to drive home drunk, or get in the car with a drunk driver, or get in the car with anyone that I didn't feel safe with, for any reason. She said that she didn't want me to avoid calling her because of anything that might have gone on at a party, that she would come and pick me up if I felt unsafe, no questions asked, and she would respect my privacy if I never wanted to tell her what happened.

I thankfully was never in a situation like this where I needed to call her, but I always knew that I could. These are the kinds of conversations that can save lives.

And it's my belief that if, when I left for college, my parents had given me a similar talk, saying that it was okay if it didn't work out, it was okay if I wanted to come home, it was okay if I didn't live up to the expectations that everyone at school had for me, that it was perfectly fine and nothing to be ashamed of if going to a prestigious college far away from home was just not right for me, I might have had the guts to call them and say that I wanted to come home. I might have been able to walk away. I might not have felt trapped at school. I might not have felt like I couldn't come home and face everyone after how badly things had gone. I might never have felt like suicide was my only option because I had nowhere to go. And it's my belief that if my parents saw this as a risk, they would have had this conversation with me. But they didn't see that risk. None of us did.

I know that I can't prevent every single person from ever going through what I did. I know that there will be parents out there who will read my book and will still push their children down a path that isn't right for them. And I also know that there are parents out there like mine. Parents who would have that talk with their kids if they just understood the risk. And through my story, I can help them understand that risk. I can help them understand that that conversation could save their child's life. If any parent out there reads my story and realizes that they need to have that conversation with their kids, then I've done my job.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I Don't Need 100% to Make a Difference

Final edits can be stressful. This book is my everything and I want it to be absolutely perfect.

Then I think about Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. I had mixed feelings about this book - I loved about half of it, and the other half, I didn't really like. (I'll get into those details in another blog post). But my biggest reaction at the end of the book was that I was so glad the book was a bestseller. Because in spite of anything that I didn't like about it, I knew that lots of people were reading the book, and I knew that lots of people like myself would be treated better as a result of reading this book. There would be parents who treated their introverted kids better, teachers who treated their introverted students better, and bosses who treated their introverted employees better, specifically as a result of reading Quiet. Friends would be more accepting of each other, and introverts who had been invalidated all their lives could find validation in this book and feel empowered to be themselves. I may even run into people who treat me better specifically because they read the book. I gained a lot from reading Quiet, and I am so grateful that it's a bestseller, even if I didn't agree with every single point it made.

Maybe that's how I need to think of my book as well. Of course I want it to be perfect. Of course I want my readers to agree with every single word. But maybe I need to realize that if it's not perfect, if I didn't cover every single validation issue from every possible angle, that what is in the book can still help people a lot. Maybe I need to realize that every single person won't agree with every single part of the book, but that doesn't mean that they won't gain anything from it. It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Someone who doesn't agree with certain parts of the book can still find sections that help them improve their relationships. Someone who thinks that a good portion of the book is obvious to them and doesn't teach them anything new can still learn something from the parts that weren't obvious to them. Everyone doesn't have to agree with 100% of the book. I mean honestly, when I think about all the books that I've loved throughout the years - both fiction and nonfiction - they all have some elements that I don't agree with or think are problematic. And I still love them. And they've still had a huge impact on my life.

I want this book to be the best it can be. And I want everyone to agree with all of it. And everyone won't agree with all of it. And that's okay. When I really think about it, I'm not sure I could name a single book that I agree with every single word of, that there's not one piece of advice that I disagree with, or one single behavior a character does that I wish the book would not promote. I've been so hung up on this idea that everyone has to agree with everything in order for my book to be successful, and I can't even think of a self-help book where *I* agree with everything, other than my own book!

If someone comes to me and says that they didn't like the book as a whole, but one particular section really helped them to feel better about themself or to resolve a conflict with a friend or pursue a path that is right for them - that's a success story. That is a clear-cut success story. And that is certainly better than that person never getting to read that piece that they needed at all because I was too worried about them not agreeing with everything else. 

Most people won't agree with 100% of the book, and that's okay.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Getting Better ≠ Becoming More Socially Desirable

I was feeling angry about a lot of things last night, and I went for a bike ride around my neighborhood. I didn't feel any better. Exercise generally does *not* make me feel better when I'm upset. Especially in a public space like my apartment complex where people will walk by and expect me to behave in a non-angry way. So I did something that I've never done on my bike before: I began talking out loud to myself. I spoke out loud, in a normal tone, not trying to hide it from anyone. I kept repeating the same things over and over again. I did not stop speaking out loud when I passed by other people. I kept talking, kept asserting my right to talk out loud to myself. Most people didn't notice. Some people looked up at me briefly, then back at their phones. I continued talking and it felt so amazingly empowering.

I should add that I did not say anything that was hurtful or threatening, but the mere act of talking out loud to myself while biking could be enough to make people uncomfortable, or to wonder what was wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me, and I no longer care about suppressing myself so that others can feel comfortable in situations such as this.

People often think that getting "better" means becoming more socially desirable, more neurotypical, more "normal." But getting better doesn't always mean that. 

Getting better can mean becoming more argumentative in cases where you used to pretend to go along with things that you never actually agreed with.
Getting better can mean questioning things that you used to accept without question because you were scared.
Getting better can mean saying no to things that you always felt pressured to go along with in the past, even things that most people always thought you were okay with.
Getting better can mean telling someone that no, you are not okay being anywhere near them if they are going to chew gum, click their pen, or anything else that bothers you. It may seem to them that the problem just arose out of nowhere, when in reality, you've been suffering in silence for years.
Getting better can mean telling someone that you don't want to hear about something because it's triggering to you, because you were never really okay no matter how many times you listened to it before.  
Getting better can mean starting to wear earplugs or headphones, or getting other accommodations that you need, again, not because the issue just arose, but because you didn't have the guts to take care of yourself before, and now you do.
Getting better can mean wearing fun, bright-colored earplugs instead of the skin-tone earplugs you used to wear hoping that no one would notice.
Getting better can mean *not* holding your phone up to your ear while pacing in circles and talking to yourself just so that other people feel more comfortable with your behavior.
Getting better can mean that you don't automatically stop talking to yourself when you come into contact with another person, because you no longer feel self-conscious about it.
Getting better can mean *not* lying and telling people that you are "just getting some exercise" when you are actually jumping or spinning around for purely emotional reasons.
Getting better can mean taking more sick days because you no longer have anxiety about calling in sick.
Getting better can mean asking for help and support more often than you used to, because you're not afraid anymore.
Getting better can mean getting out of a situation that is not okay for you, no matter how many people disapprove, because you have the courage to do what feels right for you. 
Getting better can mean speaking out about bad things that have happened to you *more* than you ever did before because you feel more like your story is valid.

Getting better won't always mean that you are a more pleasant person to be around, or that others will be more comfortable around you because you act more "normal." Getting better won't always mean being more socially desirable. Getting better won't always mean acting like someone who doesn't have anything wrong. Getting better doesn't mean that everyone will like you better. 

My goal was never to make other people feel more comfortable around me, in the sense of acting more neurotypical or socially desirable or "normal." My goal was never to *act* more okay with things as they are, or more okay with other people's expectations of me, or just more okay with things in general. I am never going to be that way.

I am going to get better.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

On Treatment and Normal Distributions

I've been doing therapy and taking a therapy class for almost a year now, and it's been helping me so much. For the longest time, I believed that therapy would brainwash me into changing my beliefs or into being a different kind of person than I want to be, but so far, therapy and my group have helped me to better achieve the goals that I want to achieve and to be the person that I want to be. I get scared a lot of times because I've seen these programs on youtube where kids who were screaming about everyone else being horrible to them will come out of a program being brainwashed into thinking that everything is their own responsibility and acting like mature, responsible adults when that didn't seem to be what they personally wanted to be like before they were sent to the program. And it scared me that that was going to happen to me. But it didn't. I'm still intact, I'm still untamable, and I haven't gotten brainwashed into growing up or taking responsibility for things that other people did to me.

If you are in therapy and you are questioning whether it's working for you, ask yourself if you have been better able to achieve your personal goals and to do things that you personally want to do since you have started the therapy. Make sure that you are moving towards who you want to be, not away from it.

In my therapy group, everyone is different. Everyone has different interests and personal goals, different things we want to work on, and different places that we hope to end up when the therapy is over. And that to me is a green flag of the group working well. It would be a red flag to me if everyone came out of it having the same goals, when we entered having different goals.

When it comes to figuring out if a treatment program might be right for you, look at the diversity of interests and paths that people take after completing the program. And look for *normal distributions* of personality traits and interests. I wrote a blog post about this years ago relating to schools, but it is important for treatment programs as well. I would be very, very wary of a treatment program where everyone comes out of it being super outgoing and loving to be around people most of the time, when 26-50% of people in the US are introverts. Logically, there should be at least *some* introverts in the treatment program. If everyone comes out being an extrovert, something is not right. I'd be very suspicious of what is going on. The same is true with beliefs. 75-98% of high school students don't like school, so if the majority of people come out of a treatment program excited about working hard in school, that is a huge red flag of brainwashing. 70-85% of people don't like their jobs, so if the majority of people come out of a treatment program excited to go to work, that is also a red flag, unless they feel that way because they have all found new jobs that that prefer to their old jobs. Basically, if there is no brainwashing or manipulation going on, I want to see roughly the same distributions in people coming out of a treatment program that you would see in the general population.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Decision to Self-Publish

Some Background: I finished my book in August 2016 and was ready to send it out to agents and publishers. Less than a week after finishing, I got the news that my grandma only had a few months to live. My grandma was like a second mom to me, and my world came crashing down yet again after that. I didn't touch my book for a long time. I tried several times to send it out, but I kept chickening out. My book really didn't fit the description of what anyone was looking for, and I couldn't give most agents what they wanted. When it comes to non-fiction self-help books, you're expected to be an expert in your field - have a PhD and have a job in the field and be writing about something that you've actually tested. Every agent I checked required a paragraph stating why you were qualified to write the book, and sample letters usually included stuff like, "I have a PhD in clinical psychology, I have been in practice for 20 years, I've tested the methods in this book on over 500 clients and they have worked." I was never going to be "qualified" to write this book in the eyes of agents and publishers. When I would go to send out my pitch letter, I would just freeze.

I began therapy on June 12, 2017, which took up a lot of my writing energy. I used to do a lot of long, written exercises for therapy. I didn't have to write as much as I did, but it was a good way to give my therapist a lot of information in a short amount of time (because she's a fast reader, and it takes less time for her to read something in session that I've already written than for me to say it all), and I also did it because I had a lot of anxiety talking  to her and writing stuff ahead of time made it easier. Now I'm at a point where I don't write as much for therapy, I just make some notes to myself because I feel safe talking in session. But while I was in that mode of writing long pieces for therapy, I did not really get much work done on my personal writing, everything else was sort of put on hold.

I tried many times to send out my pitch letter and I kept freezing up. My therapist tried to help me with this. She actually read over my pitch letter, and one day she pulled tons of books off her bookshelf that were written by non-experts and stacked them up in front of me to show that I didn't have to be an expert in the field to publish a book. I felt a lot better, but I still just couldn't bring myself to make that first move.

Not having my book published is one of the biggest things that's been holding me back and making me feel like I'm not getting anywhere in my life. I spent TWO YEARS writing my book - I began on August 17, 2014 and finished on August 29, 2016 - and in all the time I spent not doing anything with it, I felt like it hadn't gotten me anywhere. I was making no progress on any of my other writing projects. Every time I tried to work on something, I felt like, what was the point? I began writing the validation book with the intention of publishing it and giving talks about it and changing the world. If it was just going to sit on my computer, then what was the point of writing it? I couldn't get excited about any other projects knowing that I wasn't going to do anything about them.

So I continued to focus on my individual therapy and my therapy class, putting my book on the back burner yet again. This past spring, I read my essay about what happened in college out loud to my therapist in the course of 6 sessions, and recently began pulling out all of the issues from the essay that are still hurting me now and bringing them up in session. On May 8, 2018 - the one-year anniversary of when I contacted my therapist for the first time - I told my therapist that one of my biggest issues is that ever since I left college, I have had a strong desire to save other kids from going down the path that I went down, but I have never gotten any support for that goal. I told her that I had seriously considered pursuing a career as a high school guidance counselor when I was just out of college, but that I'm just not a people person, and I know that I would miserable having a working-with-people job 40 hours a week. Like, if a standard work week were only 10 hours, I would love to be a therapist, but it's just not something I can do in large quantities and still have energy for anything else. My therapist suggested that I could volunteer with kids, and I could do it just one hour a week or less, that it didn't have to be my full-time job. She gave me lots of suggestions of places where I could do that. I told her that I had seriously considered volunteering with kids for years, I had looked into doing something like Big Brothers Big Sisters. The problem is that I'm anti-school. My mission is to stop kids like my younger self from being pushed on the path of academic success and going to good colleges when it's not what they want. My idea of volunteering with kids is to shred all the school papers and make paper mache toys out of it and go play outside and have fun. And that's not exactly welcome in most places. Most mentoring programs expect you to push kids towards academic success, down the exact path that I needed someone to save me from. But my therapist told me that there were opportunities to volunteer in the ways that I wanted to. She told me that I could just go someplace and run a poetry workshop or an art class, I could promote kids expressing their feelings in artwork even if it's grotesque enough to give adults nightmares. I asked my therapist, wouldn't I need a degree to teach something like that? And she said, not if you're volunteering. She knows a lot of people who run organizations, and she said that if you're offering a free service, a lot of times people will take it. That if I called up a place and said that I'd like to run a class for free, someone would probably say yes to it.

I thought that over as I was driving home. It never occurred to me that I could do something like that. I always thought that the only way to volunteer was to follow the rules of what other people wanted, like pushing kids to behave properly and do well in school. It never occurred to me that I just could offer one specific service, like a writing or art workshop, and that some places would agree to that if I was offering it for free. I thought long and hard about this on my drive home - for the first time in years, I felt empowered. I felt like I could actually make the difference that I wanted to make. While I liked the idea of running a writing or art workshop, I realized that what I wanted to do more than anything else was to give talks on my book. I wanted to run workshops on validation and consent-consciousness. I had all the material in my book. I could make fun, engaging workshops, for kids with the material that I have. This was it. This was what I wanted to do.

And I knew at that moment that I had to self-publish.

I had to self-publish because my book needed to already be out before I could run workshops on it. First of all, giving talks about my book is a great way to sell more copies - while I plan to leave a free copy with every school that I give a talk in, I'm sure that a lot of teachers and older students may want to buy a copy for themselves or for other people they know. I already have enough people telling me that they want to read my book when it comes out, and I can't deal with giving actual talks on it and having people get all excited about it and having to tell them that no, I haven't found a publisher yet. And secondly, in order to have schools agree to let me give these talks, I really need to have my book out there already so that they can look into it ahead of time. If I were to call up a school right now and volunteer to give a lecture on validation, their response would probably be, "Who the heck are you?" I'm not a therapist, I don't work in the field, and if you google my name, you'll only find my Linkedin page with a bunch of work experience in finance departments. I don't have any qualifications right now. But if my book is out there, and I have my professional website marketing the book, then people can look me up and get a sense of what I would be talking about before agreeing to let me give lectures.

I've given it a lot of thought, and I know that self-publishing is the right choice for me. Even if I got the courage to send out my pitch letter, it would take a long time before I would actually get an offer. My life has been on hold for way too long over this book and I am ready to move forward and start making a difference. There is also the fact that I would have to work with an editor and possibly change what is in the book, and if I self-publish, I have the final say on everything.

I have begun my final edit, which will take some time because I had previously expected to have a professional editor, and now I need to make a lot of editing decisions that I had previously thought that someone else would make. I'm using a print-on-demand website, so that when my book is on Amazon and you order a copy, the company prints just one copy for you. A portion of what you pay for the book will go to the printing company, and I will get my portion as well. This way, I will not have the start-up cost of ordering lots of copies of the book. (For this reason, I will not be able to give away a lot of free copies, because I will not have lots of copies just lying around in my apartment.  "Free" actually means that I will be buying the book at the printing cost.)

My biggest concern with self-publishing was marketing. I'm not a networker, and I was really hoping to have a professional marketing team and not have to do all of that work myself. But, as I've learned from the process of trying to find an agent, being a writer is much different now than it used to be. Writers used to just be writers, and they had professional editors and marketing teams. But nowadays, writers are expected to be more of their own editors and do a lot of their own marketing. You know how you can find articles about common mistakes people make on their resumes or at job interviews? Well, I've read lots of articles about common mistakes people make when trying to get a book published, and it's considered (from multiple sources) a common mistake to send out a query letter for a book without already having a website set up for marketing your book. I've also found lots of sample query letters for non-fiction books like mine where you are expected to have an entire paragraph about how you are going to market your book. Even if I got an agent and a publisher, I'd still be expected to do a lot of marketing work on my own. Self-publishing is more like being self-employed, where I can make my own decisions about what I want to do because no one other than me is relying on my book sales.

The talk I had with my therapist about volunteering made me realize that it's okay to start local. I had thought that I had to hit it big first - be on the bestseller list and have a TED talk and TV interviews and then people would start asking me to give talks at schools and colleges. But I realize now that it doesn't have to go in that order - I can start marketing locally, with the networks that I do have, and I can start volunteering to give talks in middle schools, high schools, and colleges locally, and start making a difference right away. And while I'm doing all of that, I can still audition for a TED talk and contact TV shows for interviews and still work to succeed on a larger scale. I can always be working towards my larger goals while making a difference every day once I'm published. I do want to have a TED talk. I do want to be a bestseller. I do want to get paid enough for book sales and speaking engagements that I can quit my day job and be a full-time writer. And when I get there, I'll be successful. But I don't have to wait that long. I can still be successful right now.

What is success for me?

-Success was when my friend told me that my essay about college inspired her to get out of a toxic job situation.
-Success was when two of my friends told me that I had helped them to be more assertive about their needs, to stand up for themselves more, and to just feel better about being themselves.
-Success was when my teacher friend told me that my college story changed the way she taught her students, that she didn't want them to just be good at school but end up treating other people the same way my college classmates treated me, she wanted to make sure they also knew how to be kind.
-Success was when I friend said that I had inspired her to do more wild, untamable things.
-Success was when my super-logical friend said that being around me made them more understanding and accepting of super-emotional people.
-Success was when my friend who does not experience social pressures said that they learned a lot about the effects of social pressure from me and that it's influenced how they treat people.
-Success was when my friend who comes from a "suck it up and deal" culture, where they were used to pushing people to pull themselves up, read my posts about demanding pure validation and thought, "Hmm, I wonder if I could try validating people?" and ended up trying it and being more validating.
-Success was when a friend told me that they had had a conflict with another person years ago that they had never quite understood, and that after hearing my college story, they understood what they had done that made the other person upset.
-Success was when I shared part of my experience with a coworker and she became open to the fact that her child may have been mistreated by the people who were supposed to be helping. (This was thankfully not the case, but she had previously believed that if someone was in a position where they were supposed to be helping her child, it meant that they were helping her child, and I saw that belief change in her when I shared my story).
-Success was when the therapist running my DBT group said that she shared one of my metaphors with her colleagues and that they loved it and are using it with their clients.
-Success was when the same therapist said that my questions have made her reconsider how she's teaching the class, and actually seeing those changes implemented in the following class sessions.
-Success is seeing a lot of my friends be a little more validating and little more consent-conscious after hearing my college story and reading the unpublished draft of my validation book.

This is what success means to me. And this is what I've been able to do without even being published. I can't wait to see the effects I can have once my book is out there. I am so ready.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My Complaint Club

My apartment is going to be a complaint club community going forward where everyone gets to complain non-stop all day long about anything we want to and there is no invalidation, no pressure to be positive, no pressure to have a better attitude, no pressure to take responsibility for stuff that happened to you or that other people did to you, and so forth, all complaining is allowed no matter what, no invalidation allowed ever.

I need to protect against invalidation. And...stuff that I can't quite explain what it is but it's certainly threatening. I hope this threat feeling goes away, whatever it is.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

More Cognitive Processing

[Content: Suicidal thoughts]

My Therapist: "So you were creating this playlist as a plan to kill yourself?"
Me: "Yeah, I put all the triggering songs together to get myself in the right mindset."
My Therapist: [Nods with this deeply concerned expression] "That's disturbing."

And this is the first time in my entire life that someone said to me "that's disturbing" in a such a caring, concerned, loving tone. Every other time that someone used the term "disturbing," they meant it in the sense of "Stop being disturbing so that I can feel comfortable." This was the first time anyone ever used it as a term of care. I feel so loved and so cared for right now. I never knew this level of care from a therapist was possible.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Delicate

Imagine that I came into your house and threw a bunch of your belongings onto the floor, slamming them really hard. When you get upset about the things that are broken, I tell you that the things that broke were too delicate and that only your belongings that stayed intact after being slammed on the floor are worth anything. How would you feel about that? Would that be acceptable behavior on my part?

THAT is what it's like when you use the word "delicate" as an insult, like it's a flaw in a person if they can't handle certain things. It's not a flaw. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being delicate. If you think it's someone's own fault for being hurt or "too" sensitive when something bad happens, then I would be very happy to throw that delicate vase of yours out the window because it's obviously the vase's fault if it breaks.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cognitive Processing

Cognitive processing therapy is so freaking intense!!! It takes so much energy, I always feel like I'm gearing up to run a marathon or something, I'm actually out of breath during the therapy sessions, like more so than I am if I'm actually doing something physical. It's so intense but it is helping so much, I feel like I am finally getting the care that I needed 8 years ago!!!! Even 12 year ago!!!!

To my fellow friends who have turned 30 or about to turn 30 or hit any kind of milestone, just know that it's never ever too late to do things that you want to do or that you need to do for yourself in order to feel good. I was told time and time again that it was too late to do anything about what I went through, that that opportunity was gone, but I found a therapist who validates me and I finally had the guts to tell her what I really needed and be assertive about it and we are on a mission now and it's scary and difficult but wonderful at the same time. Always know that it's never too late. If there's something you regret not doing years ago, you can still do it now. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't because you can.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

How I'm Feeling Right Now

I can relate to this more than I ever want to admit. Sums it up perfectly:



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Falling

I jumped off a 100-foot cliff and you caught me.  I can't even describe the feeling.  It's gonna get higher and higher, but I've taken the first leap and I feel incredibly safe.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I’m certainly enjoying this invisible snowstorm we’re having today. I wonder if it’s safe to drive in invisible snow?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Validating


This is such a validating song for me. Seriously. I'm not gonna outgrow it.




Sunday, February 11, 2018

PSA

If you send me "inspirational quotes" that are supposed to be motivating and make me feel empowered, you are making me feel worse and it is YOUR FAULT if I feel worse.

If you send me inspirational quotes when I'm feeling bad, I will hurt myself more and it will be YOUR FAULT that I hurt myself more.

You will have to live with that for the rest of your fucking life, I hope you never sleep again.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hypocrisy Litmus Test

To everyone out there who keeps telling me that age is just a number, that my age only has the meaning that I assign to it, please ponder this for a moment...

If I cry because I don't get my way, would you judge me for being immature?

I'm not talking about a major life event like losing my job. I mean like, if we had plans to go to the beach or something and then we couldn't because there was a thunderstorm and I cried and threw a tantrum over it...would you judge me for being immature? Would you have higher expectations of me than you would have of a six-year-old in that same situation?

My guess is that you would.

And if you would, then you can't really, truly mean it when you say that age is just a number. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

For My Fellow Full House Fans...

To my fellow Full House fans, ponder this for a moment...

What if Danny had died and Pamela survived and was raising the three girls herself? How would our perceptions of that be different? In the current show, we accept that fact that their father would have a hard time raising three girls all alone and that he needs two friends to move in and help him. Would we accept that if it were their mother who survived? Would we understand why she needed her sister-in-law and her best friend to move in and help her raise her daughters? Or would we expect her to do it on her own? How would we feel about three women raising three girls? Would we view it as a success that the girls are doing so well in spite of losing their father, or would we just *expect* everything to work out fine?

Now here's an even bigger question - Uncle Jesse. What if it were the above scenario, where their mother survived and her sister-in-law and female best friend moved in to help raise the girls. What if instead of Uncle Jesse, the girls had a 26-year-old aunt who was wild and rode a motorcycle and played in rock concerts and was living this young wild party lifestyle, and she gave it up to help raise the girls? Would we see it as the major sacrifice that we see in Uncle Jesse? We would think that it was so over-the-top sweet that she loved her nieces so much that she was willing to miss those wild parties in order to read bedtime stories and tuck the kids in at night? Would we have the sympathy and compassion for her that we have for Uncle Jesse? Would we fully *get* how big of a deal it is for her to make that lifestyle change? Or would we just *expect* it? Would we just act like that was what she was supposed to be doing anyway?

What about the episode "Seven-Month Itch," where Uncle Jesse misses his rock and roll days and runs off to be with his friends? Would we understand that kind of crisis if it was their aunt instead? Would we see it as valid? When their mother tells their aunt that it's okay if she needs to run away and take time off sometimes, would we view that as reasonable, or would we expect their aunt to grow up and leave that lifestyle behind?

What about "Dr. Dare Rides Again," where Uncle Jesse almost tries a dangerous stunt on his motorcycle to prove that he's still the same wild guy he always was? When Stephanie tells Jesse's friends that he took her class on a trip to the dairy farm and he gets embarrassed because that's the opposite of what he and his friends think is "cool," would we accept that from an aunt? Would we accept that their aunt has a desire to be the hot young wild gal that she's always been, that she doesn't think taking some kids on a field trip is as cool as being in a rock and roll band and partying all night? How would we feel about her attempting a dangerous stunt while being in a mother type of role to her nieces, because being that wild chick she used to be matters more to her? Would we ever give her the empathy and understanding and validation that we all gave to Uncle Jesse?

Something tells me we wouldn't.

And that's why I'm terrified of becoming an adult in this kind of a world. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Where I'm Headed

I still remember this one time 4th grade, when my classmate said that to be members of her secret club, we all had to "act like 4th graders" and that I couldn't be in the club if I was still going to watch TV shows like Barney and Sesame Street. So I said fine and I quit the club. In private later, my best friend whispered to me that why didn't I just lie to the girl in charge of this club and tell her that I would quit watching those shows, but still keep watching them anyway. I was always at home when I watched TV anyway, so it's not like she would find out. But I said no, I wasn't doing that.

I was not willing to be part of the club or be friends with that girl under those circumstances. I was not okay pretending to be someone I wasn't in order to be part of a group. I knew that there was nothing at all wrong with me watching Barney and Sesame Street at age 10, and that it was a problem that other people were making fun of me, not a problem that I watched the shows. I knew I wanted no part of a club or a friendship where I would have rules about what I could do and how I needed to act.

This is sort of what it feels like to be about to turn 30. I keep worrying that people are going to have rules and expectations about how I'm supposed to act and what I'm supposed to be interested in. But it's different this time:

1. I've had to deal with this kind of "act your age" pressure in higher-stakes circumstances, for longer durations of time than a 15-minute recess, where I couldn't just climb down from the jungle gym to get away from it, where people didn't forget about the club rules altogether by the next day. I feel like every single time in college and with my ex that I was expected to "act my age" is flooding back to me now, and I'm terrified that I won't get validation anymore once I'm 30.

2. I care more about fitting in with my peers and having friends now than I did when I was 10.

3. I don't feel secure now like I did back then. On a gut level, I don't truly feel like it's okay to be me in this world and that it's other people's problem if they don't accept me. I always feel like there is some truth to how people tell me I "should" be and I have to work hard to fight those beliefs. I don't have this inherent sense that being me is perfectly okay.

4. I have more freedom now. I was stuck with that "act like a 4th-grader" club because I went to school with those kids and didn't have any friend circles outside of school. I'm not in that position anymore. I can be friends with anyone now. I can go anywhere and do anything and I can find people who don't have social rules about acting mature, and it's actually much easier to do that now that I'm an adult. I'm not trapped anywhere. I can walk away much more easily now. I can keep searching until I find those anyone-can-join kinds of groups that I've always thrived in.

I'm going to be 30 in 2 weeks. And I'm not aiming to act 30. I'm not aiming to be mature. I'm aspiring to be like that 10-year-old who walked away from that 4th grade club without a second thought.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The REAL Reason Why I Don’t Drink, and Why that Doesn’t Make Me Less of a Wild Party Girl

If I drink a small cup of coffee at 8 AM, I can be awake until 6 or 7 AM the next morning. Caffeine affects me more than it affects most people. I’ve learned that the hard way enough times. Caffeinated black tea or green tea in the morning has kept me awake all night, when I’ve left the tea bag in a little bit too long. The one time I tried a pumpkin spice latte, I didn’t sleep for 24 hours. I can’t take Midol anymore because the new caffeinated formula makes my hands shake. On New Year’s Eve two years ago, I drank half a can of Red Bull and was awake for 36 hours, and I felt jittery for a full week, long after it should have been out of my system. I should mention that my friend who drank a Red Bull with me fell asleep a couple hours after drinking it and, as far as I know, was not affected by it after that day. I am a Highly Sensitive Person [link] and I can’t process caffeine the same way that most people can.

When I say that I can’t have caffeine because I don’t like the way it makes me feel, the way it makes me feel is different than the way it makes most people feel. In other words, most people who start their day with a cup of coffee are still able to fall asleep at night. It’s not like the point of coffee is to stay up all night, every night, and I’m this boring person who doesn’t like that. The caffeine affects me in a different way than it affects you.

Drinking alcohol is similar for me, in that it affects me differently. When I drink alcohol, I feel dizzy and like I have a fever, and everything around me becomes way too much stimulation. I don’t feel looser, I don’t feel like I wanna dance more or party more. I don’t have fun laughing at goofy stuff with my friends. I almost instantly feel like I want to go home and get away from all the stimulation of the party. Alcohol essentially prevents me from having any fun. It ruins my good time. About a year ago at my friend’s party, I tried a slice of watermelon that had been soaked in margarita. It was such a tiny slice, I didn’t think it would affect me at all, and everyone was raving about it so much that I really wanted to just try one piece. Within about ten minutes, I felt like I had fever. I felt dizzy. I felt like the party was way too much stimulation, everything was too loud and too bright and I wanted to go home. I got really upset. I had been looking forward to this party for such a long time and I had to go and ruin it for myself with a slice of watermelon! Luckily it was only one slice, so I instantly tried to counteract it by eating a lot of food, even though I wasn’t hungry, and I eventually felt better and was able to stay and enjoy the rest of the party. All while other people were eating multiple slices of the watermelon and saying that it wasn’t having any effect on them.

This made it sink in with me just how different my experience of alcohol is than most people’s. For the longest time, I really wondered what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t enjoy drinking like everyone else could, and how other people could possibly enjoy something that felt absolutely miserable to me. And then I read about how highly sensitive people have a different experience of things like alcohol and caffeine, and I understood. Like with the coffee, alcohol affects me differently than it affects most people. It’s not a matter of me not enjoying what you enjoy – it’s that I’m having a different sensory experience altogether. If you knew that a cup of coffee in the morning would keep you awake all night, you probably wouldn’t drink it. And likewise, if you had the experience with alcohol that I have, you probably wouldn’t drink at all.

It’s not my fault that I process these things the way that I do. I need you to accept that this is the real reason why I don’t drink.

Remember back in elementary school, when we had the DARE program and they made it sound like you would instantly drop dead or have something horrible happen to you if you took one drink? I will admit that I bought into that when I was a child. I bought into it when I was a teenager as well. As a teenager, I didn’t drink because I was scared that something horrible would happen. And if you knew me back then, you might think that I’m still that way. But I’m not. I took my first shot at age 20 and learned from that that I didn’t like drinking, although I pushed myself to like it for several years. But after age 20, I wasn’t scared anymore. I just legitimately hated the sensory experience of getting drunk. Given the choice, I’d rather be at a party with a cold than be at a party drunk. Being drunk just ruins everything for me and I have never enjoyed it, even if I pretended to.

I need you to understand how sensitive to alcohol I am, and that it’s not an ethical issue to me, it’s not an out-of-comfort-zone issue, and it’s not a not-wanting-to-party issue. I know sometimes people want me to just take one shot together with them to celebrate a wedding or birthday or something, and I appreciate that you want to do that with me, but when I say I can’t have even one shot, I really mean that I can’t because it will ruin the rest of the night for me. Please let me use my own judgement on how alcohol, caffeine, and anything else will affect me, because it doesn’t affect me the same way it affects you.

Not drinking because I don’t enjoy it is completely different from making a choice not to drink even though I do enjoy it.

Imagine that someone can’t have dairy because they’re allergic, but they eat absolutely everything else that they want. That person is not going to fit into a vegan club just because vegans also don’t eat dairy. Because that person is not actually vegan. Now, imagine that a huge portion of mainstream partying and entertainment was centered around eating ice cream. Entire parties were based on ice-cream eating contests and people acted like if you didn’t eat ice cream, you weren’t really participating in the party and you weren’t really having fun. And imagine that the only way to find other people who don’t base their parties on ice cream is to hang out with vegans. Do you see the problem here? Do you see how much it would suck for this person who is allergic to dairy to essentially be forced into a community where they will be expected to give up other foods that they *do* want to eat, simply because it’s the only place where they won’t be pressured to eat ice cream? Do you see that if this person does not want to restrict their food in any way other than dairy, they will essentially never fit into either the mainstream ice-cream party culture, or the vegan culture, and it would be a problem if those were their only choices?

This is what happened to me at college.

I may not drink, but I love to party! (Now, to be clear, I don’t want constant partying, I want most of my time to be quiet and low-stim and by myself, and it was not okay for me to live with roommates or to live in a dorm or to be in any kind of circumstance with forced social contact. But as long as I have those needs met, as long as it’s fully consensual when I want to interact with other people, and as long as nothing horrible is going on in my life, then I definitely want to go out and party. I’ve talked a lot about the issues I had about being an introvert at a very extroverted college, and that was definitely a major problem, but what I’m describing here is problematic as well, and contrary to what a lot of people think, the two do not contradict each other). In high school, I considered myself to be a wild party girl. We had so many wild parties that were awesome and did not involve drinking, and those are still some of my happiest memories. I had always heard that college was a ton of fun and lots of clubbing and wild partying, which I was so looking forward to.

But my college was essentially divided into two cultures – hardcore drinking culture and non-partying culture. In the hardcore drinking culture, people got extremely drunk on the weekends. I mean, if you walked the campus on a Friday or Saturday night, it smelled like vomit. Everywhere. And urine. People would pee on the floor when the bathroom was like ten steps away. People threw furniture out the windows and the rest of us had to pay for all the dorm damage at the end of the year. One time they threw an armchair down from the third floor that would have killed someone if it had landed on them. People regularly were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. People talked about having gotten their stomachs pumped multiple times, as if that was just a normal part of life.

We used to have a 24/7 health center on campus, but one year they announced that it would no longer be open 24 hours and if you had an emergency in the middle of the night, you would have to go to the hospital. We all signed a petition to keep the health center open 24 hours. When I signed, I was mainly thinking of someone being physically ill or having a mental health crisis in the middle of the night. But when I talked to other students about the issue, almost everyone’s main reason for wanting to keep the health center open was that people who get so drunk and need to be hospitalized will not go to the actual hospital because they could get in trouble for underage drinking, so they were going to die of alcohol poisoning if the health center was closed at night. Everyone went around saying that people would die of alcohol poisoning if the health center closed at night. The concept of not drinking so much that you could die was not a viable solution to that problem. That was just a part of the mainstream college life.

My friends at home liked to drink as well, but it was nothing like what I saw at my college. Even at home parties where people got extremely drunk, people didn’t break other people’s property or need to go to hospital. I will admit that I had a lot more fun at home parties back in high school, before drinking was involved. But I was still able to have fun at drinking parties without drinking because people were not so drunk that you couldn’t talk to them. I could still dance and play games and socialize and have fun without drinking. But my college classmates got so drunk that you just couldn’t even communicate with them. They’d be falling all over you and slamming into walls and it was just impossible to have any fun at those parties without being drunk. The couple times I went to those types of parties with friends, all I did was babysit my friends while they got drunk. Make sure they didn’t fall or break anything or hit their heads on the wall. A couple times I walked people back to their dorms and I had to let them lean half their weight on me, like you would if someone sprained their ankle. I had to hold onto them really tight when we walked down the stairs and I had to say “Step, step, step…” each time so that they would know when to step. I didn’t go to those kinds of parties very often. I didn’t go to college to babysit people my own age.

Home parties were more accommodating as well. For example, when you play beer pong, you normally try to throw a ping pong ball into a cup of beer, and when you get it in, your opponent has to drink the beer. At home, we always played this game with cups of water, where you would have your own drink off to the side and when someone got the ping pong ball in the cup of water, you’d take a drink. This allowed everyone to have control over how much they were actually drinking, because you could choose how big of a sip to take from your drink. It also allowed people who didn’t want to drink to play, because you could just fill your cup with water or soda or juice and no one would know or care. But at college, people always played with real beer, and when I mentioned the home method to people, they told me that that was wrong and not how you were “supposed” to play. They also told me that it was “so ghetto” that my home friends had once taken a door off its hinges to create a long enough table to play beer pong. The students at my college had a better solution to that problem – one year, some students from another dorm stole the ping-pong table out of our dorm and never brought it back and we all had to pay for it at the end of the year. As well as the couch that they threw out the window.

Needless to say, I didn’t fit into the drinking culture at my college. But the non-drinking culture was even worse. And I was trapped in it. There were only two cultures at my school: drinking and non-drinking. And the drinking culture was simply out of the question. The non-drinking culture at my college was essentially a non-partying culture. A culture where if you didn’t drink, you were expected to be a completely different kind of person.

I was so excited for my first college dance. I loved the dances in high school, but there were never enough of them. My college calendar had a dance every other week, all with some sort of fun theme, and they lasted till 2 AM! I couldn’t wait for all that partying! Now, I lived in a substance-free dorm, and the way the social circles worked, basically everyone I knew outside my dorm was a from a substance-free dorm as well. When the first dance was coming up and I started talking to people about how excited I was, they all looked at me really strangely, like I wasn’t supposed to be that excited. When I asked around about who else was going, everyone was like meh, it sounds like high school. I loved high school dances!!! I had no idea that people would reject stuff in college because it was “like high school.” Now these substance-free students were very social (too social in fact, they never went away when I wanted to be alone). It wasn’t like they just didn’t like going out. There seemed to be a specific issue about dances. So I started talking about this super hot outfit that I wanted to wear to the dance, I was going over possibilities of what would look sexier, and all the girls in my dorm gave me a “what the hell is wrong with you?” stare. Every single person I talked to acted like there was something wrong with me being so excited and spending the effort I was spending on my hot outfit for my first-ever college dance, like I was “supposed” to be over that. I was supposed to be too mature or too feminist or too studious or too concerned about serious issues to put the effort that I was putting into what I wore to a dance. 

The summer before college, my friends and I had wanted to go to this nightclub on the beach, but we couldn’t because not everyone in the group had turned 18 yet. We all kind of thought, oh well, before long we’ll be in college and we’ll be doing that sort of thing every weekend. The first time I expressed my desire to go nightclubbing in college, everyone put me down for it. Everyone. When I said that it was one of my life goals, I was flat-out told, “That’s not a real goal.”

When I told everyone at college about my awesome beach week with my high school friends and how I had my first summer fling and that I was heartbroken that it wasn’t for real and I still felt kind of empty and desperate for that kind of experience again, I was told that I wasn’t supposed to have a boyfriend or do anything sexual and that we were too young and we’re supposed to be smart and independent and focused on learning, not like those people who get drunk and get to dress as provocatively as they want and have all the sex they want.

For the first semester I sometimes had people to go to dances with, but after a while, the substance-free students stopped going. Sometimes they’d have alternative events that were fun, but often times, being substance-free meant that Friday and Saturday nights were ordinary nights, and people would actually stay home and study. The people I hung out with would study all the time. They talked about economics at campus barbeques, which were supposed to be fun events. They’d actually bring their textbooks to the beach. There was one time at the start of freshman year that I went on a partial weekend trip with a few people from my dorm, and it was just constant homework and studying the whole time. Like, I literally packed and rode in the car to this beach house so that I could listen to some boring, complicated intellectual conversation in the car that I knew nothing about, spend less than an hour walking on the actual beach, and spend the rest of the time in the beach house with everyone doing homework. (This was also the trip where I was expected to know what rhubarb looked like). Great vacation.

One time there was a slip and slide down the hill, and I had no one to go with. Everyone on the slip and slide was drunk and falling all over the place, it was like it was an activity specifically to do while you were drunk, and everyone I hung out with who didn’t drink either thought the concept of a slip and slide was silly and childish, or else they wanted to talk about how much water it was wasting. I literally had no one who wanted to go with me and not be drunk.

The “work hard, play hard” motto at my college should have really been “work hard, drink hard,” because it was only the drinking students who lived by that motto and valued fun as a top priority. When you worked on a group project or any kind of activity with drinking students, it was just a built-in assumption that you would never ever work on Friday or Saturday nights because those are party nights. But anytime I worked with a non-drinking student who knew that I also didn’t drink, they’d expect me to meet them on a Friday or Saturday night. They would name those times as if it was no big deal, when the rest of the campus was out partying at those hours no matter how much other work they had to do. I was in a play that my friend had to direct for her class and she actually scheduled a rehearsal for the Friday night before spring break, assuming that we would be okay leaving for break on Saturday morning instead. I told her there was no way in hell I was staying, I was leaving on Thursday because I didn’t have class on Friday, but she had the rehearsal anyway and the other two people stayed even though they could have left for spring break on Thursday as well.  Because they were substance-free. With drinking students, that would simply be unheard of. With drinking students, they would have thought the director was out of her mind for thinking that anyone would stay and miss a day of vacation for a rehearsal, but they all looked at me like I was wrong to skip it.

I did not get invited to one single party in college. I only got invited to academic lectures and discussions about important issues. I got invited to “come over and study” on a Friday night. I got invited to do education and academics basically all the time, but in a “fun” setting because there lots of people around and someone happened to order a pizza. I never wanted to go to any of those things, I just wanted to have fun, but I was expected to go because I was substance-free. Being part of that group came with so many expectations. I went to a bunch of events and clubs that I never had any interest in joining simply because I was expected to. The people around me were always complaining about how it was such a problem that everyone else cared so much about their wild party weekends and weren’t willing to talk about important issues and go to educational events and have intellectual conversations and all that. From the moment I stepped on campus, I was expected to reject the very culture that I actually wanted to be a part of, the culture that was the main reason I had looked forward to going to college at all.

Even the school administration viewed drinking as the only way to have fun. Towards the end of my junior year, when three students had to be hospitalized after an annual drinking event, the school admins wanted to address the excessive drinking issue. These were the proposed solutions to cut down on the drinking culture:
-Schedule more classes on Fridays. (A lot of us had Fridays off and had a 3-day weekend, so this would reduce the weekend time that people drink).
-Make the January terms classes more rigorous and have more homework. (The January term was advertised to prospective students as at time where you take one easy class and mostly just party, so this would be deceptive).
-Have more academic events on the weekends so people can go to educational talks instead of drinking.
After advertising themselves as a fun-centered school, their plan to deal with the drinking issue was to remove the fun rather than having actual fun events where you didn’t have to get drunk!

THIS is what I mean when I say that I never had my 20’s. I never got to party like I was 21. And now I’m 29.

So as you know, I was horribly damaged after college (I’m not just referring to this post, you can read The Unencrypted Truth [link] if you don’t know the story). It took years for me to even feel well enough to go out again. I had gone to some wild parties on my summer vacations during college, but summer after graduation I wasn’t up for much. By 2012 I felt a bit better and went to the beach and to some parties and clubs. A lot more stuff happened after that – my first job, the breakup, getting my own place, just a lot of stuff, and for a long time, I didn’t feel well enough to do much of anything. Summer 2016 was really fun, but my Grandma died at the end of that year and I had yet another year of not feeling well enough. But I do feel well enough now. I’ve been doing therapy and getting better from the bad stuff and as long as nothing else horrible happens, I feel totally ready to party right now.

Except that I’m about to turn 30 and everyone I talk to says that the last time they went to wild parties was in their 20’s. Everything I read online says that you stop going clubbing in your 30’s. Everyone is saying that they can’t live like they did back in college because they just can’t stay up that late anymore. People my age are posting, “Yay, look at me cooking and cleaning and having workout goals and doing adult responsibilities!” I rarely see the kinds of pics we used to see back in our early 20’s.

And I know you’ll all tell me that I didn’t miss anything. That it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. That you didn’t party hard in your 20’s and you’re okay with it. That’s fine, but that’s not how I feel about it. I will never, ever be okay with not having that party lifestyle.

Some people I’ve talked to have said that I need to “get this out of my system,” but I’m not planning to do that. I don’t like the concept of getting something out of your system. When someone says that someone needs to get something out of their system, the end goal is to get rid of the desire altogether. The idea is to do something to the point that you feel satisfied enough to no longer do it again. I don’t want to get rid of this desire to party hard. I want to actually party hard. I want to party hard my entire life. If a day comes that I personally get bored with partying hard, that’s fine, but if that day never comes, that’s fine too.

When I told my coworkers that I felt like I had never had my 20’s, they said that that was the reason I didn’t want to grow up and be 30, but I don’t see that as the only issue. I don’t grow up and lose interest in things in general. Did you know that I played with my toys and didn’t lose interest until I was about 16? That’s not a problem, it wasn’t because I had an issue or something. If I like something, I keep doing it until I personally lose interest, and I didn’t lose interest in playing with my toys until I was about 16. If I had had all the wild partying that I wanted in my early 20’s, I think it’s very likely that I would still want to continue living that way.

I believe that in order to truly know that you’ve lost interest in something, you need to still have the option to continue doing the thing, and choose not to do it. When my interest in playing with my toys faded, I had the ability to keep playing with them, but I found myself losing interest and being drawn to other things instead. But if I suddenly *can’t* do something anymore, like when I couldn’t get into any plays in college because the auditions were more competitive, that is absolutely not okay. If you have a sweater that you don’t wear anymore and you decide to give it away, that’s fine. But if you have a sweater that you do still want to keep, but someone else gives it away without your permission because they think you’ve outgrown it, that’s not okay.  And even if you cope with that situation by telling yourself that you would have outgrown the sweater eventually anyway, that doesn’t make it okay that someone else took it. The only way I’ll ever know if I don’t really like party culture or if I’ve “outgrown” it is to actually have it.

I don’t want to go hiking. I don’t want to take up knitting. I don’t want to have people baking cookies in my house. I don’t want to do serious gaming. I don’t want to be geeky. I don’t want to reject mainstream music or movies or TV shows. I don’t want to go to academic lectures or discussion groups. I don’t want to join a gym. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to become career-focused. I don’t want to do all the stuff that I was expected to do in college just because I don’t drink.

I want to party. I want to wear super tight short skirts and sequins and sparkles. I want to rock out to mainstream pop music under a strobe light. I want to close the place. I want to be there till they turn the lights on and the music off. I want to stagger in from a dance club at 3 in the morning and crash in my clothes and wake up at noon the next day. I want all-night parties that actually last ALL NIGHT, past midnight at the very least.

And remember that cup of coffee that I mentioned at the start of this post – the one that I can’t drink because I’m so sensitive to caffeine? I want a reason to drink it. I want to know that I’ll actually need to be up all night because I’ve got a wild night of partying ahead of me. So give me that reason. That’s what I want for my 30th birthday. 


Not just once. Not a last hurrah. I want it for a lifetime.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Late Night Survey!!!

Please take this survey and help me gather evidence as part of my therapy exercise:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YJPGTFC

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Hammer

Imagine that you lived in a beautiful house all your life that you loved very much. One day, someone handed you a hammer and instructed you to break one of the windows of the house. This didn't sound like a good idea to you, but this person convinced you that breaking the window was the right thing to do, that it would be good for you, it would bring you more happiness in the long run. So you break the window. You're not happy. The house is freezing in the winter and you try to cover the window but it's just not the same. You express how upset you are at the broken window, and you get told to break another. And another. Just keep on breaking those windows. Once every window is broken, this same person tells you that the solution to your anger and sadness is to break more of the house. So you bang that hammer into the wall to make a hole. And another. And another. You keep doing this for years until your beloved home is shattered to the ground, until there's nothing left of it. All under the assumption that, as you've been told, this will make you happy. That you should be lucky that this person gave you that hammer in the first place.

You spend years just living in these shattered remains of what was once your home. Until one day, you reach out, You express a desire to try to rebuild that home. Someone listens to you. Someone assures you that yes, what happened to you before was wrong, and yes, you can rebuild your house. You can rebuild it to be whatever you want it to be. This person helps you think about what you want your house to be like, and they help you find all the right building materials. And then they hand you a hammer. They tell you to use that hammer to rebuild.

But you can't. At least not right away. Because the sight of the hammer reminds you of the hammer you once used to destroy your house. You've only ever known hammers to be tools of destruction. Not to rebuild. You never knew you could use one to rebuild.

So it might take you a little longer to get there than it takes everyone else. It might be more difficult for you than it is for someone who is more okay with using the hammer, someone who's built things before and sees the hammer as something you use to build things, not break them. But you'll get there. If you have the right people helping you, you will absolutely get there.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Start to 2018

I'm still working on a lot right now with therapy, and I just want to be clear about a couple of things:

-My greatest fear is being brainwashed, and I am being extremely cautious not to get brainwashed at every step of the way. I have a therapist who respects my boundaries and I think even shares my beliefs about not going along with positivity culture, and she respects and validates that the bad things that have happened in my life are actually bad and doesn't try to push me to feel differently, so that's important. I am monitoring my therapy goals very closely in conjunction with my other goals and with the person that I want to be. I believe that I can use therapy to help me achieve my goals, live my life according to my beliefs, and to become more of the kind of person that I want to be. All of the goals are coming from within me, and I am not pushing myself to have new goals that are not really mine. 

-Remember when I was right in the middle of working on the validation book, and I said that I would not be posting as much on my blog because I was hard at work on the book, but that it didn't mean anything was wrong? That's what's going on with therapy right now. I am doing a lot of writing and creative thinking exercises for therapy, and it's leaving me with less energy for writing on my blog, and that's okay with me because therapy goals are a high priority for me right now. 

Also, writing is therapeutic for me, a lot of my blog posts are a form of therapy for me, so sometimes I simply do not feel the need to post something on my blog or on Facebook because I'm already working on the issue in a different way.

Also, a lot of my specific therapy goals and accomplishments feel private to me, so I'm doing a lot more private writing that I do not want to share on my blog.

-The fact that I have not been posting as much stuff on Facebook does *not* mean that I no longer believe in those things anymore. I do. My beliefs haven't changed. It's just that I have a better understanding of why I post what I post, and what's really behind it. Like, I used to post a lot of stuff on Facebook about how I was never going to clean or do housework or any responsible stuff. That fact has always been true, but I never felt the need to post about it so much until I was with my ex, who threatened that part of me and made me feel like I had to grow up and do those things at some point. The reason that I post a lot of the angry stuff I post on Facebook is because I feel insecure about it - I feel like I'm not being allowed to do what I want, like I'm trapped, like no one will like me or be okay with the way I am, etc. and that's why I have to scream about it on Facebook - to fight back. I am not purposely trying to avoid posting as much on Facebook anymore - I've just reduced the urge a lot because when I got to post angry stuff I stop myself and I'm like, wait, this isn't the answer, I need to deal with the underlying issue here. So, it's not about saying, for example, that I'm going to start doing chores around the house. It's about feeling secure and confident enough in myself that I can simply not do chores and feel okay with that, and as a result, not feel as much of a need to scream about it on Facebook. So I'm not changing or lessening my beliefs by posting less, I'm working on becoming more secure in all of the things I posted, leaving me with less of a need to post.

It's gonna be an intense year of healing, and lots of awesome. I can feel it. Happy 2018.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2018

2018 will be scary. But it will be worth it. Because I'm in control now. I wasn't before, but I am now. I have full control over what I'm doing and I can stop at any time, and I can alter it in anyway. It's my choice. My pace is my choice.

It's taking all my strength right now to believe that you won't drop me for not being fast enough, that you'll stick with me till the end, till I'm ready. I know you will. You won't give up on me. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

2018

I just don't have any hope for 2018. I've given up on the concept of new beginnings.

I've had high hopes for every year since 2007 and I've been wrong.

How can I be turning 30 when I never got to be 20? I really feel like I never got to be 20.

If you do have hope that's fine, but it's just not where I am right now.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Therapy and Complications

I have a lot on my plate right now with therapy. I know I've been pretty MIA on my blog for a while. I'm hoping to change that soon. I just have so much to deal with regarding therapy, and it takes quite a bit of my energy.

I'm following this therapy vlog on youtube that I need to stop following because it's making me feel more triggered, but I can't seem to stop watching it. Like, I'm sort of hooked on it now.

Here's the deal: Towards the end of 2015, I suddenly felt really close with all of my coworkers. It just felt like such a warm and caring group, and even though I'd prefer not to have a job, I actually enjoyed going to work and seeing them every day. I looked forward to it.

For a while, I felt so attached that I was craving more time with my coworkers and more of a close relationship with them. Right now, I have a friend I met at work whom I talk to outside of work and whom I'm working on becoming closer with. But the rest of my coworkers were my parents' age and didn't really get together outside of work. I desperately wanted to have a closer relationship with all of them. I was annoyed at the boundaries we had from being coworkers, that I felt like I couldn't talk to them the way I'd talk to people outside of work.

At some point, I found a blog called askamanger.org, where people write in work-related questions. I immediately fell in love with the blog author and loved her answers to a lot of questions. But over time, I found that that blog was upsetting to me. I'm just not a work person, I hate the pressure to have career aspirations and to behave in "work-appropriate" ways. I'm not okay with the expectations of a lot of jobs, and a lot of what I read on this blog made me scared to ever look for a job somewhere else.

But even though it was bothering me so much, I kept reading the blog. Why? Because it satisfied a desire that I wasn't getting fulfilled. I would go home, wishing I could be closer with my coworkers, wishing they could come over to my house and we could be our real selves around each other. I'm not a work person, but I obviously associate my coworkers with work, reading this blog about work questions made me feel closer to them. It helped satisfy that desire that wasn't being met. I eventually stopped following the blog when it was really causing more harm than good for me, but it took a long time for me to stop.

Therapy has brought up so many things for me that I need to work through, and I feel like I'm craving more time with my therapist than our once-a-week-meeting. It's not that I'm in a super bad place right now (although I feel like I'm heading towards one once my class starts up again). It's just that I have so much to work through in the therapy, and everything has so many layers because I get triggered by the therapy itself and then I have to deal with those meta-issues as well. I'm thinking about these issues all the time, and I really want more therapy time than I have currently, because I have so much stuff on my plate and we never get through it all. So, similar to the way I started following a work-related blog when I wanted a closer relationship with my coworkers, I've started reading more therapy stuff and following a therapy vlog to help satisfy my needs. The problem is that, just like with work, I'm not actually a therapy person. I know that sounds weird because I'm so focused on it, but I'm actually very against a lot of mainstream therapy concepts and I find a lot of therapy stuff to be triggering. It's only when I'm actually working with my own therapist one-on-one that I feel safe because she's willing to help me work through my issues with the therapy itself and she is very respectful about what works and doesn't work for me. So all this extra stuff I'm reading and watching about therapy is making me feel worse, yet I keep doing it because it's satisfying this desire in me, and I don't know how to stop.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Where Did You Go?

I'm not gonna say, "We used to be so close." That wouldn't be true. "Close" isn't the right word to describe it. I'm not sure how close you can get seeing each other as infrequently as we always did, and not talking at all in between. But I will say that I miss you. I miss us. I miss the way we used to be. And I don't know where you went.

You never used to talk. I didn't like to talk to other kids either, but you were even quieter than I was. If we asked you a direct question, you'd look at us and smile and then look away and not answer. Sometimes you'd get hurt - physically or emotionally - and you'd cry. You'd cry for a long time. Sometimes for 20 minutes at a time. Over things that wouldn't have made me cry. We'd try to comfort you, but nothing helped. We kept asking what was wrong, but you wouldn't answer.

You used to fight all the time - yelling and hitting and throwing toys and books. You'd scream every time your mom tried to brush your hair. I thought I was the only one who still did that sort of thing. There was constant screaming and crying in your house over food you didn't want to eat and piano-practicing you didn't want to do and toys you didn't want to pick up off the floor. I thought I was the loudest screamer on earth until I set foot into your home.

You cried because we were going swimming. Because you had to carry two noodles to the pool. Because the balloon was the wrong color. Because we weren't allowed to use chalk in the basement. Because you had a 15-minute car ride where you didn't get the seat you wanted. Because someone was washing the sand off the beachball when you wanted to hold it. Because we did eenie-meenie-minie-mo to decide who would go first and you didn't win. Because someone told you not to stick your hands straight into a dessert that was for everyone to share. I thought I was the one who had to get my own way all the time, but that barely registered when you were around.

One time we had planned a special surprise when someone told us that the plans had changed and offered an alternative. I wanted to cry. I was trying so, so hard to hold back the tears because I didn't know you all as well and I didn't want to cry in front of you and I got the sense that I wasn't supposed to be so upset. Then you started crying. And I knew that what I felt was real, that I wasn't alone. I was so grateful to you for expressing yourself when I couldn't.

One time we were playing with a dollhouse. I always liked to play that the kids took over everything and pushed the parents out the window or off the roof. But I never thought through the consequences of that. I never had the parents be killed or injured. It was more of a prank, like "Ha, ha, we pushed you off the roof!" But it was no prank with you. When I went to pick up the mom, you told me that no, the mom couldn't say anything because she was dead. Because that's what happens when you get pushed off the roof. I had the daughter dancing on the table, climbing up the poles, and swinging on the chandelier. You had the daughter bring in a bomb and blow up the dollhouse so that everyone died and she could do whatever she wanted forever. I never met anyone who played rougher than me. You scared me a bit. You were my partner in crime.

And yes, this was a long time ago, but not as long ago as you think. You probably estimate it was 25 years ago. But it was only 18 years ago. And yes, that's long. But there's a difference. 25 years ago would make it "normal." It would make it just regular kid stuff. But 18 years ago makes it how we were. It makes it us.

And I know we weren't close in the relationship sense, but we were close in terms of being like each other. We were close in the sense that I was never the most difficult kid to deal with when you were around.

I just want to know where you went. I look at you now and you're so perfect. You'd never know where we came from. You'd never know that we used to be so alike. When we look through the photos, you say it was all perfect. But I look at those photos and I still see your tears. I still hear you screaming. You grew up to be perfect. The past looks perfect to you. And maybe you don't remember. Or maybe you laugh about it now.

But I wish you'd come back. I wish you hadn't grown up without me. I miss that little girl who knocked the parents off the dollhouse roof. 

Where did you go?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Standards of Mental Health

1. I consider anything that is forced on someone without their consent to be abuse by default. This includes forcing someone to go to school, therapy, residential treatment, or anything without their consent. If someone tells me that they were obligated to do these things but they do not consider it abuse, I respect that and will not consider it abuse for that person. But my *default* assumption will be that it is abuse until the individual tells me otherwise. A lot of adults consider it acceptable to force certain things onto children, and you have to work hard to convince them that your experience was not okay. I'm the opposite. I assume that anything forced on you was not okay unless you specifically tell me that it was okay. You don't have to work to prove to me that a situation was abusive. Just say the words, "I was forced" and I believe you.

2. When it comes to how well a person is doing or how well a particular program or treatment is working for them, I only believe the testimony of the individuals. I do not consider testimony from parents, teachers, therapists, or anyone else to be valid. This is because parents may have different goals for their children than the children have for themselves, so I cannot judge that a child or teenager is doing well by the child's or teenager's standards if I only hear from parents or other adults involved. I will always accept your testimony of how you are doing as the truth, regardless of what anyone else involved in helping you has to say.

3. Compliance is not consent, and I will never trust compliance as a valid measurement of success. For me to believe that any kind of treatment was successful, I need to see that you either:
A. Feel better emotionally.
B. Are better able to do things that you personally want to do (and you have explicitly stated that you want to do those things)
I will not judge an increased level of compliance - either with adults' orders, with household or school rules, or with the standards of society - as a form of success. If I see an increase in compliance without seeing an increase in your interest in doing the things that you are doing, I will become even more concerned about your well-being.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

No Positivity Allowed

Every time someone says something positive, I'm gonna hurt myself.

I'm gonna keep slicing deeper and deeper until I stop hearing positive things.

Friday, October 13, 2017

On Depression

[Content - depression, self-harm, suicide, severe bullying]

The TV show 13 Reasons Why is about a girl, Hannah Baker, who kills herself and leaves behind 13 tapes for the thirteen people who drove her to that point because of what they did to her. While I don't really like the show and I think it has a lot of issues, I've had a huge problem with most of the criticism that it's gotten. The main criticism I've seen is that the show fails to address mental illness. It never actually comes out and says that Hannah has depression, and it doesn't discuss mental illness as a risk factor of suicide.

This criticism struck a nerve with me because of my own experience with suicidal thoughts. When I was hurting myself and having thoughts of suicide in college, every single person I talked to, with the one exception of my friend Eli, assumed that I must have had a history of depression before I was in college. No one believed me when I told them that I was fine when I came in, that the college and everyone in it shattered me. The premise of my validation book, and of my beliefs in general, is that we are all fragile and we are all responsible for not breaking each other. And that's why I like stories like 13 Reasons Why that put the responsibility on people to treat each other better, that show how you can hurt someone badly enough that you cause them to develop depression or an anxiety disorder or suicidal thoughts, and that you are responsible for that. So when I saw all these criticisms about the show not addressing the fact that Hannah has depression, I was upset because it felt like just another instance of people not wanting to admit that you can drive someone to kill themself. The idea of focusing on depression as a mental illness would make it seem like it's just something that Hannah has, something that needs to be treated by professionals, something that no one else had any responsibility in.

When I told Eli about how much these criticisms upset me, Eli reminded me of the fact that people don't always have to be driven to have depression or suicidal thoughts. They certainly can be, but there are plenty of people who do just develop depression, the same way that you might develop any kind of physical illness, and it doesn't have to mean that they were abused or bullied or that they suffered any kind of trauma or distressing life events. Sometimes you just get depression and there isn't a clear cause. And Eli told me that maybe some of the people who criticize 13 Reasons Why for not discussing mental illness have had experience with the other kind of depression - depression that just comes on and doesn't have a clear root cause. Perhaps those people feel that their experience is being erased by a show that only shows depression and suicide as things that can happen as a result of all the horrible things that people did to Hannah. Because if you have depression and have experienced suicidal thoughts, but you haven't been abused or bullied or had something horrible happen to you, then you've probably experienced a lot of invalidation about how someone in your position could be depressed, a lot of feelings of guilt because you don't think you have anything to be depressed "about," and seeing a TV show that portrays suicide as only a direct result of horrible events could feel invalidating to your experience.

I get that. I had the reverse feeling when I first saw the movie Prozac Nation back in college. I had high hopes for this movie. Back when I was in high school and college, there was a common trope that high school is miserable for everyone and college is awesome for everyone. I had seen so many movies about middle-school and high school bullying, including bullying that led to suicide attempts, and I was desperate to find a story about the same thing happening in college. But I was disappointed when I realized that Prozac Nation was not simply the college version of a story like 13 Reasons Why. In Prozac Nation, the protagonist develops depression while she happens to be in college, but nothing that happens at college seems to cause the depression. And while the protagonist's experience of depression is totally valid, the movie made me feel invalidated because I felt like it was trying to say that depression always works that way - that you just develop it the way that you develop any physical illness and that it's not caused by events or how people treat you and it's not anyone else's fault. I was looking for a story that did put the blame on other people for treating you horribly. I was looking for a story like 13 Reasons Why. I was looking for a story like mine.

I have a hard time seeing depression presented as something you just develop without a clear cause, because it feels like it's invalidating my experience. But I'm sure people who have had depression develop without a cause feel like their experiences are being invalidated when they see depression presented as a result of bullying, abuse, or trauma when they have not experienced those things. And sometimes the causes of depression aren't necessarily "bad" life events - lots of people experience postpartum depression after giving birth - a time when other everyone else probably expects them to be overjoyed. I even knew someone who became depressed and developed suicidal thoughts as a bad reaction to a medication that they were taking for an unrelated issue, when they had been fine before taking the medicine.

I guess what I want to emphasize in this post is that ALL of our experiences are valid. It's valid to say, "This happened because YOU hurt me" and to hold those people accountable. It's valid to say, "This happened because of this life event" even if that life event is not something that most people would think is traumatic, or is not something that you consider traumatic. It's valid to say, "I don't know why this happened, but it did." There are a million reasons why these things can happen, and one reason does not erase another. One person's experience should never erase another's.