LONELINESS IS REALLY HARD AND WEIRD, OKAY?!

Quick question, did anyone have Murder Hornets on their End of the World 2020 BINGO card? No?

Since the world is just… *gestures vaguely at everything,* I’d thought it might be a good time to talk about loneliness. Loneliness is an interesting feeling. For a word that means an absence of something, being lonely is quite a heavy, oppressive place to be. And I think a lot of us are feeling lonelier than usual with the shelter in place orders. Even if you’re quarantining with family or roommates, being in isolation can still leave you feeling, well, isolated.

And I think that’s a huge reason why so many people are disregarding the severity of the pandemic and fighting for their “right,” to go to beaches or malls or get a haircut or whatever other stupid fucking thing they are protesting we open back up for. This prolonged period of isolation is one of the scariest situations for modern history, and the fear and chaos is compounded by the fact that staying safe and isolated also means putting ourselves in that scary place of being alone with our thoughts. We all tend to be afraid of the pesky feelings that rise up within us when we are forced to stop and listen to what our mind has to say. Despite our ability to constantly be plugged in with others, there’s still so much vulnerability in having to sit with ourselves and actually see what’s in the ignored corners of our minds.

Being trapped in the four walls of your home can drudge up all the things we work so hard to keep buried. In our normal lives, we can sprint from thing to thing, person to person, place to place, and interact without having to face ourselves. But when we have nowhere left to go but the circuit of wherever we’re staying, things come up. Things like past traumas done to you, or traumas you’ve done to someone else. You think of happy memories and sad ones. Mistakes and accomplishments. You think of the relationships that sustained you when it was too challenging to have one with yourself. The past and the future both swarm in and make us think when we are this alone. And we don’t always see things we like.

We are being forced to look at our lives in the most stripped down versions of what they are: the relationships we have, the ones we lack, the things on the outside we usually turn towards to numb the reality we don’t like. I think what also creates another layer to the loneliness is how all of our social structures are crumbling around us. Things that often seemed so vital and important have been proven to be obsolete. We are seeing the extent from which industries can work from home, we are watching our government disintegrate, our economy crash. It’s terrifying.

So, instead of enduring these periods of forced introspection, people choose to run from themselves and go out into the world during this dangerous time. (Please note, I do not condone any behavior that violates the shelter in place. This is serious, and it’s vile to me that people could be so selfish as to risk the lives of people and the well-being of healthcare workers and those that can’t shelter in place. Believe me, I would rip out my own fingernails at this point for a yard I could go sit in instead of my 600 sqft. apartment, but I’m still keeping my ass inside).

How I’m tryin’ to be

One thing that keeps coming up for me is the loneliness I feel in my careers. I’m a dentist (in training) and a writer, and the two have minimal overlap. As a dental student, I don’t have strong bonds with my classmates. Which is hard as hell. It’s extremely difficult to go through the stress and pressure of becoming a doctor and lacking a sense of network and support through it. It can feel like I’m floundering alone in a sea and need some life support. As a writer, I don’t really know anyone. I have so many friends in the reading community, which is what inspired me to take the leap to writing, but I don’t have personal connections with other writers. And I’d like to make those connections! I really would. I just don’t know how. I have so many questions and thoughts and concerns and just THINGS I want to talk to other writers about, but it often feels like sitting at the edges of the fringe, waiting until I become successful enough to be let into that inner circle. (Could I be more melodramatic? hahaha).

And being on submission right now adds an extra element of loneliness. I just kind of feel like I’m floating in this state of unknowing and it’s challenging for me to sit with. As a person that likes control, not having any is a challenge for me. I just wish I had someone to talk to that’s been through it, that can talk me through the (many) lows, and celebrate with me on the highs.

But these are all things I’m learning about myself during this time. I’m being forced to look at where that loneliness comes from, and the power I have to change it, if I’m brave enough to take the steps.

Maybe I’m naively optimistic, but I do hope that good can come from these dark times. It will take work, hard fucking work, but maybe we can know ourselves a bit better after this, if we are willing to stop and be fully alone with our thoughts. Maybe we can find pieces of ourselves that have been buried beneath the rushing of normal life, and learn to nurture those gifts so they can shine. We all have the potential to heal and learn and grow if we’re brave enough to look at the scary bits inside.

Why Am I so Mean to Myself?

Holy shit, I’ve been so damn depressed the past three weeks. My boyfriend and I started sheltering in place March 14th, and it’s been quite the emotional roller coaster. I’m so thankful for our shoebox sized apartment, I’m thankful for our sweet kittens, I’m thankful that I can talk to my mom everyday, I’m thankful that my boyfriend and I are still laughing with each other everyday, and we don’t want to kill each other yet.

But I’m also a wreck. Sometimes, it feels like my body absorbs the pain of the world, sucks it all up, and places it in my chest, where it balloons to the point that it threatens to crack my ribs. The first two weeks of the pandemic hitting the U.S. were some of the worst anxiety weeks I’ve had since the major medication switch back in August. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, my body wouldn’t stop shaking. I felt fear and sadness and hurt for the people suffering. I felt worry for my own family, my own physical and financial security. I felt rage at people refusing to take it seriously. I felt despair. Then, I got a round of rejections from publishers (I know this is par for the course, but damn did it hurt so badly), and I felt such acute and personal rejection (thanks ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria). I felt so damn much that I think my body kind of shut down and said “Okay, that’s enough feeling for the next month,” and powered off into a numb depression. I couldn’t feel much of anything besides exhaustion and this dull, pulsing sadness.

It’s been rough. I’ve felt ashamed by my reaction, by my anxiety when I’m not personally sick. When I haven’t lost a loved one to this crisis. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. My empathy, my sensitivity, they often feel like burdens, but I’m trying to view them as super powers. As blessings. Feeling so much hurts, but after feeling so down these past few weeks, I realize I’d rather feel too much than feel nothing at all.

I’ve slowly been fighting out of it. It isn’t easy to claw your way out of that dark blueness. It take so much energy to resurface, to pull yourself up and breathe and feel and think again. But yesterday, for the first time in five weeks, I felt like myself again. I felt happiness. I felt gratitude. I felt okay.

If anything, this pandemic has forced me to slow down. My body, my mind, my spirit, have been in a dead sprint for the past two years through school, and the pain and sadness and trauma of the past six weeks has forced me to stop moving at that break neck speed. Our school has accelerated our lecture schedule, but do you know how hard it is to try and actually learn during a global crisis? It’s fucking HARD. I can’t keep going at this rate. My brain is an oversaturated sponge, threatening to painfully burst if I keep forcing it to sprint and work and keep up with some weird outside expectations on how I should be performing.

And one of the problems with slowing down is how you start to actually hear yourself think again. And holy shit, the things you hear are not very pretty. Something about this time and this space has allowed me to hear the thoughts, those tiny little buzzing noises that usually are too low to consciously register, but still burrow into corners of your brain, plant roots, gain purchase, and hurt you.

For example: yesterday morning, I had an exam. This was the third exam in two days. And, since I’m trying to be nicer to myself, I got up at 6am instead of 4am like I customarily do to study. I was sitting on my couch, guzzling down coffee, scrolling through a power point, when a thought flashed across my brain, so fast I almost didn’t catch, almost didn’t hear it. But my brain said “Hold up, what the fuck did you just say to me?” I did a little rewind and realized the words “You’re disgusting,” had flashed through my head, almost undetectable in all the other clutter up there. What the actual fuck is that?? Why am I so mean to myself? Here I am, waking up at the crack of fucking dawn to study, to try my hardest, and the best thing I can think to say to myself is I’m disgusting???

There is no way we as humans are meant to say such awful things to ourselves, to hurt ourselves like this. And yet, we do. I do, at least. Little thoughts like failure, loser, faker, disgusting, unworthy pass through my brain all the time. They shoot across my mind’s eye like silent little missiles, collecting in a corner until they start taking up more and more space. Until they fill so much room they think they are entitled to hurt me.

And what’s odder still, is how, even in the face of calling myself cruel words, it’s a challenge to be nice to myself. It feels so uncomfortable to take those nasty words, crumple them into a little ball, light it on fire, and then shower myself with nice words. Words like hard-worker, determined, honest, lovely (like, I almost couldn’t type that last one! My fingers stalled out on the keys. They were like, “uhhhh no you shouldn’t call yourself that. Not publicly. Because what if people reading this think you actually think of yourself as lovely?” See how fucked up all of this is??).

I don’t have an answer yet on how to abolish this mean way of thinking. It honestly feels embarrassing to even admit all of this. There’s always shame, there’s always fear, there’s always What if I’m the only one? But, even if I am (which I highly doubt), articulating this yucky tendency might be the first step in freeing myself from it. My mom’s therapist told her to write out twenty-five of her strengths and say them out loud everyday. I did this, I honestly made myself LAUGH at how hard it was for me to come up with twenty-five whole strengths, like, girl, you are a writer, you can’t think of twenty-five words that are nice about yourself?? Ridiculous. I’ve also started doing a little bit of journaling. I just try to write how I felt that day, thank God for the blessings He’s constantly bestowing on me during this time, and give myself space to really feel everything right now. The future has never felt so uncertain, but even in this awful time, there is beauty, we just have to search a little harder to find it, but we can enjoy it all the more because of that.

Bonus: here are a bunch of pics of my cats cuddling.

Depression on Main

Ah depression, you sly little minx, creeping up on me when we finally had a break in the grey tundra of seasonal depression.

I’ve decided that instead of curling up in bed, I’m going to put it all out there and be vulnerable about how I’m feeling. Because that’s how destigmatization happens, we open up about the reality of disorder and the way we function through it.

To put it bluntly: depression is a B I T C H.

Someone once asked me, out of my ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression, which is the hardest to cope with. I would honestly have to say depression. While all three give me a great deal of challenges, and all feed off of each other in nuanced ways, depression may be the hardest because it is the easiest to lean into.

Anxiety is sharp, often painful, like little electrical pulses that jolt me into action (over-thinking, over-analyzing, over-worrying, over-everything), but it’s also an acute enough feeling that I can acknowledge it. I can try to center myself, or go for a run, or cross off tasks on a list, or pop a Klonopin if it gets really bad. For me, it’s a productive disorder that makes it impossible to sit still (while still somehow feeling paralyzed by my mind… lol gotta love the contradictions).

Alternatively, ADHD fucks my productivity on certain things, particularly school things. Sometimes, the mundanity and structure of dental school makes me want to rip my skin off or simply cry because I. CAN’T. FUCKING. FOCUS. But, on other fronts, it’s been a huge amplifier for my creativity. Being diagnosed with ADHD has given me the power to have patience with my brain, treat it almost like a young child, learning to allow it time to hyper-focus on things I love, like writing and reading, and learning strategies to help with executive functioning. Again, it’s a neurodiversity that still allows me to be an active participant in my life.

But depression? Whoa, buddy. Depression is THE WORST.

Depression is this hazy cloud that makes me a passive bystander in my own life. It numbs me. It makes me exhausted, and sad, and unable to get out of bed and do the thousands of things my anxiety and ADHD are screaming at me to do.

And, for me, a person that genuinely tries to go through life with unabashed optimism and joy, the negative thoughts and feelings and insecurities that depression heightens hurts so deeply. My imposter syndrome is so amplified during spells of depression. I have these lazy, swirling thoughts about why I’m not good enough, why things will go wrong, why I’m such a fake.

And I hate that! I’ve worked damn hard for everything in my life, and I wish I could convince my brain to shut the fuck up with the darker thoughts, with the lazy sadness that makes me want to hide out under blankets.

And all of this has conveniently come a week into the submission process of my novel. I have so many doubts and negative thoughts and just downright FEARS about coming this far for nothing to come of it. But I can’t think that way. I need to remind myself that writing was the first thing I ever did in my life fully for me. It has brought me joy and fulfillment and happiness and escapism, and no book contract will make that journey more or less valid.

But I can’t change my brain. I can’t open it up and wire it properly and make it produce the right amounts of serotonin and dopamine and all the other goodies to make it feel better.

But I can be real about the pain of it. I can reach out, make myself vulnerable, and hope that other people understand the challenge of fighting against that blanket of depression. I can force myself to say nice things about myself, out loud, over and over again, until one day I fully believe them. I can sprint away from that temptation to lean into the depression, and force myself to keep plugging, keep hoping. I can go hug my kitties and make my boyfriend get me pizza. I can keep studying, keep writing, keep doing my best to be a good friend to those in my life.

I can fight this bitch with everything I’ve got. She won’t know what hit her. And I can laugh at some really spot on tweets about depression.