weathering storms

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

This quote from one of my favorite books summarizes the first half of my year – and the aftermath – perfectly. Sometimes, I look at myself in the mirror not to see what I look like, but to wonder how I’m still here. It’s also timely, as it’s been storming for the past few days, and while I love the rain in small doses, I miss my swimming, my morning walks, and being outdoors in general.

While most of my days have been filled with company, and I’ve been keeping myself busy in general since moving to Austin, I spent most of today alone in my house, in the rain, with nothing but TV and my thoughts. And while this might be something I need right now, it’s certainly not what I want right now.

The storm metaphor resonates with me, because – as I’ve talked about recovery before – getting out of the major storm doesn’t mean there won’t be smaller storms you won’t have to weather along the way. There are very few things about being alive that are predictable, and some of the storms you don’t see coming will be easier to push through than others.

When something like this happens, I try to scan my thoughts and reactions to see if there are ways I could be treating myself and others better. Feeling shitty in a general sense might be an inconvenience, but when an inevitable storm approaches, it’s also the best time to ask myself if I’ve been handling a situation poorly or need a change of perspective on something.

Usually, the hardest part about being alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time is the realization that I don’t give myself the same compassion that I extend to others. It’s not always easy to convince myself I deserve to be treated well after going through an extended rut. I overanalyze interactions I have with people I know enjoy my company, yet when I get in my head, I tend to assume the worst instead of what’s most likely true.

I’ve been writing about my experiences with recovering from anxiety and PTSD since February, and whenever people contact me to say I’ve described exactly how they feel, I’m still surprised, even though it happens all the time. I’m constantly being reminded that I’m not the only one who feels this way and that there’s nothing that sets me apart when it comes to my anxiety. My anxiety is the least interesting, least unique part of me – every thought I’ve worried about, millions of others have ruminated on their own version of that same thought.

And way more often than not, it’s been a complete waste of energy. So instead, even in the middle of this storm, I’m going to be grateful for all of the times I’ve been wrong in doubting myself. I’m going to be proud of all of the excruciating bullshit I’ve waded through only to find light on the other side.

As always, if anyone feels like reaching out, even if we don’t talk that much or know each other that well, feel free to do so. If there’s anything I can do with my brief time on this planet, I hope I can spread empathy and let anyone who needs to hear it know that they are excellent and deserve to be happy.

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moratorium on feelings, please?

I’m much more confident than I used to be, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t days when I don’t melt into the couch entirely unprompted, full of doubt.

And I’ll add that I’m actually having a great day, in spite of that? Feelings are weird.

Most of the time, I don’t show my negative emotions anymore, because I’m much better at processing them and determining whether they’re useful or a total false alarm. But I’m human too, and the sheer annoyance of “what even is this, and why did my brain decide to make this happen?” is sometimes enough by itself to make me wish I could take a vacation from thinking for at least a few hours.

At least the things I once feared are nothing but minor annoyances now, but when this happens, I occasionally revert back to:

Why is this a part of who I am? Can we not do this today? It would be great to be able to perform mundane tasks without the feral cat of self-doubt following me around.

Because of recent events in my life, the idea of vulnerability scares the shit out of me. I’m hyper-aware of actions in others that could lead to abusive or controlling behavior, and I’m self-conscious about appearing too meek or unassertive. I know what a parade of red flags looks like now (in both romantic partners and potential friends), but I’ll forever be the kind of person that looks for the good in everyone above all else.

And the result of being that kind of person – the kind who is cautious, but optimistic about others to the point of doling out a million second chances? The result of being that person often seems to lead to blaming myself for either things I’ve had no control over or taking too long to get out of toxic situations, because I refuse to admit I deserve(d) better.

I’m working to rectify that. People don’t always see it, but there are times even when I feel confident and in control that I’m also wondering “Did I say something wrong? Does this person wish I’d just be quiet? Am I asserting myself where I shouldn’t be?” only to find out later that I was doing the polar opposite of that.

It’s encouraging to know that everything is going in a positive direction, but the daily work of reminding ourselves to be kind to and take care of ourselves is constant, even if that gets annoying.