Wednesday, June 24, 2015

at least i'm not sitting on a tack


It's good to take a break.  Sometimes you go and go and go and push and push and push yourself until you're forced to take a break by life's circumstances.  That wasn't exactly the case for me, but a few things happened at the end of April that played a major role in my decision to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging and social media.  Aside from maintaining my design team assignments and Etsy orders, I've stayed away from the internet for about 7 weeks.  And it's been really, really nice!

While it was nothing tragic nor earth-shattering that kept me away, I was dealing with an old frenemy--anxiety.  Yup, I said frenemy.  My anxiety keeps me from doing all kinds of fun, amazing, and important things, but I know that without it, I wouldn't have my pretty extraordinary imagination (whatif this and whatif that?).  My mind is whatiffing all day--and all night--long.  I don't just whatif about troubling things, though, I also whatif when it comes to creating.  So without the anxiety, I know I wouldn't be half the paper artist that I am (if you'll allow me to call myself that).  Those ideas have to come from somewhere and without that incessant exploration of possibilities--both good and bad--I wouldn't think of them.

Unfortunately, anxiety tends to get in the way of a full and productive life, too.  I've come a long way since my teenage/college years when my anxiety was at it's peak--before I even knew there was a term for the way I felt, and that, gasp!, I was not the only one who felt it.  With therapy, hard work, and the support of my family, I've been able to accomplish all kinds of things I never thought I'd be able to do.  

But I haven't been in therapy in over ten years and I'm regressing.  Without wanting to realize it was happening, I've become complacent in the life I'm leading--happy to be a homebody with the excuse that we have two young children and a small business.  But then I started paying attention to all of the things these two young children were missing out on and the guilt hit pretty hard.  Really hard, actually, and I had a pretty good breakdown.

It's not about me anymore.  Well, duh--we came to that conclusion the second Gus entered our lives.  But meeting the immediate needs of the kids--food, clothing, shelter, health, nurturing--is not going to be enough to raise well-rounded, happy children.  They need experiences and friends and education, which means I have to overcome whatever anxiety, avoidance, and self-doubt issues that creep up and I have to face them head on.  Gus and Nemy must come first--not the anxiety.


I've struggled with it most of my life--not just my adult life, but all the way back when I was a kid, too.  I have social anxiety disorder which means interactions with other people--and any situations that might mean interacting with other people (because the anticipation is always the worst part)--are painfully difficult.  I want to clarify that I'm NOT anti-social.  Please don't get the two mixed up!   I'm just socially awkward so when I can avoid other humans for fear of making a fool of myself, I do.

I should say, I did, because as I said, I've come a long way from where I used to be.  There is still minor trepidation when it comes to new experiences--and crowds and parties--but otherwise, I'm pretty good.  Well, I'm still socially awkward and unless we connect instantly, you might have a little trouble holding a conversation with me!  If I'm quiet, it's not because I'm bored or uninterested in what you're telling me, I just don't always know what to say because my mind is working so hard to say the right thing that it usually gets flustered and can't think of anything at all--even answers to simple questions.  It sucks!  If we get past that awkward stage and begin to get to know each other, it's much easier for me converse.  And I'm much more eloquent when writing which is why you'll find me here, not so much out and about.

I also hate having people watch me--or feel like they're watching me.  I remember a therapist telling me once that people aren't worried about what I'm doing because they're too involved with what they're doing.  She meant that I needn't be concerned that everyone's watching me, waiting for me to trip or do something wrong or embarrassing, because folks have more going on than that.  I hope this is true!

This feeling was particularly bad in high school.  I broke out in hives when giving oral reports, never raised my hand to answer a question, never ate lunch, never used the restroom, and never got up in class to sharpen a pencil.  I had a handful of friends but they weren't in many of the same classes so there were long stretches of time (hours) when I didn't utter a word.  High school, for me, was hell.  I wasn't an outcast, I wasn't a loser, I didn't get picked on or bullied.  On the outside, I looked like any one of the rest of my classmates.  But I was silent, almost invisible.  One part of me didn't want to be noticed; a smaller part of me did.  I wanted to be social like everyone else, I just didn't really know how to talk to anyone without the possibility of making a fool of myself and that was terrifying so it was easier to avoid as many social situations as I could.


One day, I arrived in class, sat down, and felt a dull sharp pain.  I couldn't be sure what it was and after some very discreet searching, I realized I was sitting on a tack.  A 'normal' (i.e. logically-thinking) person would have gotten up, removed it, maybe had a laugh with the person next to them, and moved on.  Not me.  I sat through that 40-minute class with a tack in my rear end for fear of drawing attention to myself.  I'm not sure now what I thought might happen if I tried to remove it--perhaps all eyes on me with hysterical laughing and pointing (I know now that wouldn't have happened)--but whatever it was was far worse than sitting on that tack.

That's either one of the saddest things you've ever heard or you're laughing pretty hard right now.  Maybe both?  It's funny in a sad way, for sure.  And maybe it's even my new mantra...At least I'm not sitting on a tack.  At least I'm not sitting on a tack.  At least I'm not sitting on a tack.  Because these days, I'm healthy enough to know that the things I need to do to take care of my family aren't nearly as bad as sitting on a tack for 40 minutes.  The only life that revolves around me is my own--and to a certain extent, my children's.  It's time to quit worrying about other people and tend to myself so I can adequately care for Gus & Nemy.

Okay, so while I'm rational enough to know that my fear of interacting with others is irrational, I also know that the fix is not as easy as a quick snap of the fingers.  It's going to take time, change, and work to re-set those brain paths from instinctually choosing flight, rather than fight.  I've recognized  and admitted the behavior and I have amazing motivation--my two little ones, whom I've determined will NOT grow up being anxious.  And the rest?  Well, at least I'm not sitting on a tack.


I just want to say, if you're still with me, thank you for your support.  I'm truly blessed to have all of you in my life.  When I was younger (before therapy), I thought I hated people.  Thankfully, therapy taught me that I don't hate them, and there's no reason to be afraid of strangers.  Since I've never met any of you personally, we're all strangers who have connected over a shared love of creativity.  If I was still holed up in my bedroom, hating people, I wouldn't be connecting with any of you today.  So thankfully, I'm healthier and happier, and on the mend again to restore my full life.

I have a special thanks and a huge virtual hug for my amazing friend Sam of Dunne With Style, who poured through paragraphs upon paragraphs about my anxiety issues and let me complain and feel a little sorry for myself, all while giving the best advice and encouragement.  She's so wise and I'll be forever grateful to her.

{gift courtesy of sweet Sam}
I also want to share this sweet surprise mail I received while all of this was going on...the yummiest homemade strawberry jam I've ever had (in the cutest jar!), and a meaningful keychain from my dear web friend Kathleen...back when I posted on what would have been my mom's 65th birthday, I shared a video and Kathleen left the most encouraging comment to that post.  A couple months later, I got a message from her saying she'd found a key chain while vacationing in Hawaii and it reminded her of the video so she wanted to send it to me.  The box arrived and inside were the keychain, the jam, and a beautiful handmade card (I'm sorry I don't have a photo of the card--it's hanging on my bulletin board).  I teared up a little reading her note and I love the keychain, along with the message she attached to it.


Be present everyday.  These will be the memories of your life.  Oh, how perfectly fitting for the way I've been feeling.


The box arrived when I needed a little love, encouragement, and faith that this world did not just want to chew me up and spit me out.  And this was it.  Kind thoughts and meaningful gifts from a stranger.  Kathleen, your gifts and your friendship are truly appreciated.


All right, enough seriousness...I'll be back tomorrow with something FUN!!  Just because I haven't been online doesn't mean I haven't been making lots and lots of things.  I actually have quite a bit to share with you over the next week and a half so I do hope you'll come back!  xoxo


9 comments:

  1. You are a brave woman and I am so proud of you!! Admitting our weaknesses is the hardest thing to do, but its also the most liberating for your being brave will inspire others to be brave and conquer their fears too. I am so lucky to have you as a friend xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm so glad you are back, and deciding to continue moving forward to live your healthiest life! Honestly you must be telling the story of my life. I too suffer from anxiety and for a long time I worried about what others thought of me. My kids and their love for life have certainly helped me get over that fear because I want to live a full life with my family. Now, I'm still trying to figure out all those socially awkward situations. Good to hear you are in a good place. Take care. xoxox

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you are really brave sharing your story here on your blog. I think we all have a package we are carrying around. What I learned is that it is important how you interpret events and things that happen in your life. If you learn to see the things that happen to you in a different way, in a more positive way, then it is much easier to deal with these events. Mindfulness has been a good approach for me and has helped me a lot to see things differently and more relaxed. It's good that you have found 'creating' as your outlet. Your work shows that you are a creative soul with a special eye for details and beauty. It's good to know you and you are such an inspiration ♥. Sending you warm regards, Sandra :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am not as eloquent as the previous posters but wanted to send you a virtual hug, for being so strong and so honest. You shine, now everyone can see that đŸ˜˜

    ReplyDelete
  5. Welcome back to social media land Rebecca, hugs to you, proud you took a break & concentrated on you. I think it's really easy to make assumptions about people and the Internet is probably the worst place for it. I too suffer from periods of anxiety and become reclusive, I'm sure if you met me you would never pick it or just presume I'm nervous, I fidget as I talk to others to the point where I have to walk away leaving a conversation short. Some days are better than others obviously. I too find social media a great place to be myself which is uncanny really. Proud that you put it out there, I think you will be surprised at how many others are out there with anxiety as well, I've found its more common amongst creatives which is strange but on the other hand not so strange if you know what I mean. Can't wait to see what you've been up to on your break. Take care. Karen x

    ReplyDelete
  6. Having known you since ... well forever.... I could not be more proud (not in a condescending way, but in an inspired way). You are aware of yourself and what you're about, and so many people are not. You have come so far and your ability to take care of yourself in a very real way shows that. I'm so so excited to see you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rebecca, you are not alone. As I was reading this post, I was shaking my head in agreement. Although our reasons for the anxiety are different, the feeling is the same. I also still get anxious around my friends, crowds and meeting new people. One of the things I've learned to do is to speak up about how nervous I am to that new person or friend. It allows me to give up my squirrely thinking and be in the moment. Its funny how the other person would be thinking the same thing. I'm so proud of you and hope you know that you are not alone in this blogsphere. I'm looking forward to your upcoming posts. Be blessed!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I loved reading your post, because I relate to everything you said, even if with me the issue is not so important as with you. Thank you for sharing!
    Hugs
    Marghe

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm glad u are back. U inspire me. And I missed you.

    ReplyDelete

i do appreciate your comment!
~Rebecca