Try my mind on for size

Everyone has demons they face. Nobody has a perfectly easy life. So what I CANNOT STAND is when people try to belittle someone else’s thoughts and/or personal struggles. I realize that I am ridiculously biased here since I am speaking from the perspective of someone who battles general depression/anxiety, but still. How difficult is it to take a moment of your day to be empathetic?

I have been told that I can take empathy to an unhealthy degree, and there are instances where I fail to consider someone’s backstory before judging. I am in no way claiming to have found the perfect empathy balance, but at least I am aware of my faults and actively attempt to improve them.

It absolutely blows my mind and infuriates me when people make rude comments about someone they know little to nothing about and take that narrow belief as the whole picture. If this is you, newsflash: there’s a 99.9% chance that more is going on in that person’s life than you think.

Before I settled on teleportation as my ideal superpower if given the opportunity, I used to think I wanted to be able to read minds. I get a thrill out of being able to learn someone’s thoughts and to better understand how their mind works. But right now, with my former friends treating me like literal garbage they could not care less about, I actually wish that they could read MY mind.

Back when they did sporadically talk to me, if I ever responded in a way that exposed my depressed or anxious thoughts, they were usually quick to change the subject. There were also comments about we each have the power to control our day and how we feel about it. And yes, while I agree that attitude is key, there are moments where I genuinely do not feel able to not feel sad. Sure, I am usually strong enough to remember that there will eventually come a time where I won’t feel this sad, but in certain moments, the only thing I feel capable of is riding out that wave of sadness. But not everyone gets that. A lot of people, many of my former friends included, say “just think about all the good things you have. There are so many people out there who would give anything to have the life you do. Be grateful for it.”

Well, you know what? Those are quite possibly the WORST statements to say to someone who is already battling depressed thoughts because now, on top of being sad, you’ve made me feel bad for feeling sad.

Okay, so I realize that it’s not necessarily easy to just jump in someone’s mind and realize that they’re not TRYING to feel sad, but just…like…sometimes I wish it were. Sometimes I wish I could open my mind to my boyfriend or my teammates and show them that the negative thoughts can be strong. They can make it difficult to find motivation to do the things that once made me happy. Maybe then they could see that I don’t act the way I do so that people will feel sorry for me. Maybe then they could that the worries I repeatedly bring up are ones that GENUINELY scare me, no matter how many times someone reassures me that they’re illogical.

I know everyone has their own battles to wage, but sometimes, I wish we as a society could switch minds and be more empathetic to each other. We’re all in this together, right?

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Then Vs. Now

Each time I reflect back on my life a year ago, it becomes more and more difficult to comprehend how different everything felt then.

In terms of classes, I remember being focused and crazy-driven to maintain my A average in Biology I. In those days, a challenging, heavy course load felt like an obstacle, but one that I knew I could make it through no mater the outcome. I was able to focus in class, and I could get lost in my thoughts for hours about science and organizing my lecture notes. I was excited to go to class and discover realms of the world I had never known existed, and I was ecstatic about pushing my brain to think quicker and more critically. Of course, I’m not going to say everything was perfect. There were days when the assignments felt overwhelming, I felt inadequate, and I don’t think I ever finished a biology test that spring semester without an immediate phone call to my mom, crying about how I had for sure just lost my GPA. But as a whole, life was good.

On the running side of things, life was pretty awesome this time last Spring. My teammates and I were all hitting PRs that tack season, Pauric was coaching the women’s track team, and I was finally feeling like I had found my place at Mercer. After deciding over Winter Break that I was going to transfer my sophomore year, I had made it my mission to finish strong. But along the journey to leaving, I realized that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. I wanted to be a part of the great team Pauric kept telling us we could be. I wanted to experience the Macon traditions with the girls I had spent freshman year with. I wanted to be able to look back senior year and laugh at how far we had come together during our time on this campus. Sure we had 6am practices, but we were out there pulling each other through tough workouts, and getting shit done. Every Friday that wasn’t a race weekend, we would hit up the Indian Mounds for a progressive run that was very rarely ever progressive. Those were my favorite days. Everyone was high off of making it through another tough week of classes and workouts, and the hour-long run was almost guaranteed to be laughter-filled. No matter what had happened earlier in the day or week, for that carved space of time, none of it mattered. We were there for each other, and we were happy sharing random thoughts and stories amongst the trees.

But I don’t want to paint this idyllic picture of life last year. Things weren’t perfect running-wise or relationship-wise, and it’s important to look back on the past realistically. There were still days where I felt unwanted, lonely, and not enough, but they were fewer back then. There were the days when I stood on the sidelines and watched as two people I had thought were my best friends ignored me. And after months and months of my attempts at being included failed, eventually I gave up. But back then, there were other people to turn to. Thinking back on it, maybe the fact that I made friendships outside of our trio was what pushed me away from them. That was never my intention, though, and I hate what we became. At the heart of it all, I just wanted friends for the long haul.

If I had to choose three words to describe how I felt at this time last year, they would be: strong, fast, and excited. Excited to hit times I had only ever imagined, to earn the grades I worked so hard for, and to spend three months away from a ton of my usual responsibilities. After returning from Conference, I said goodbye to multiple friends for the summer, but I was completely unaware that it would be one of the final good moments we shared.

Today, I don’t have friends to turn to on this campus. I spend every day trying to distract myself from how lonely and unhappy I am here, and I actively count down the days until I can leave for good. I eat my feelings, which only makes me hate myself more, and if I could sleep through the rest of the semester and just skip to the day of my final, I would.

What I don’t think my old friends realize is that I never asked to be unhappy, and I’m not acting this way to get attention. Coach Hurst told me after a practice this semester that I should, “just try to be happier. People don’t want to be around sad people, so be happy, and it’ll be easier for the girls on the team to hang out with you.” Then he cut me off from running with the team, even on recovery days. And while I’m happier not having to see his face or hear his voice any more, that decision essentially isolated me from the people I was closest to. And even though he said I could still interact with them outside of team activities, I could count on one hand the number of times I have hung out with people on the team after I was kicked out of practices. I was officially on the outside of a group of girls I had once been a central member of. During the Fall semester I had seen hints that relationships were changing, but I hadn’t anticipated the worst.

This semester has in many ways sucked. I lost almost all contact with my teammates, becoming more of a pariah than a person to interact with. One of my best friends moved across the country, so I couldn’t hang out with her either. Someone I thought was my friend dropped me as soon as the new semester started, and when I asked why, the only explanation I got was: I’m busy. I gained like 20 pounds from stress-eating and being on the wrong anti-depressant prescription. After being separated from the team I’ve had to run from campus every day, and also alone- that is if I could gather enough motivation and self-assurance to not start crying as soon as I started my watch.

I am unbelievably ready for this semester to end. I’ve changed prescriptions, and I’ve gotten a LITTLE bit closer to my normal weight(still got quite a way to go, but I can’t dwell on that or else I’ll start crying haha so we’ll just leave it at that). I’ve been accepted into my transfer school, which gives me hope for next semester, and I know I only have a few more weeks of running alone.

Another thing I’m not sure some people here won’t understand is that I didn’t set out long ago to be here temporarily. I haven’t talked about transferring each semester simply for the drama factor of such a topic. And I didn’t stick around just to repeat the shock factor over and over. Each semester that I returned to campus, I genuinely believed things would get better, and I was determined to do everything in my power to make sure they did. I didn’t apply to UGA until the middle of March because in February, I still had hope. I still held on to the tiny possibility that people here- SOMEONE here- cared about me. It took some dark, and admittedly scary, thoughts to realize that nobody was going to come looking for me if I left Mercer. In fact, I realized that if something happened to me in my room, nobody would probably realize it until about 3 days later.

I love life too much to waste it any longer being sad, so if that means I need to transfer schools to be happy again, then that’s what I’m going to do. No, I don’t expect UGA to be a cure-all to all my issues, and I don’t expect it to magically grant all my desires. But it’s a fresh start. It’s a place where I don’t have to walk around and think “that’s where my roommate and I did homework together back when she actually talked to me”, “this is the route the team would run together sometimes for early morning workouts”, “these are the steps I used to be able to smile while taking.”

Less than on week. Less than one more week until I never have to be alone on this campus again. Until I never have to lie staring at the walls of my Loft, wondering what I did to push away people I care about. Until I can really begin fighting the demons in my head. In less than a week, I will have my family beside me, there to support me until I am ready again to support myself. Four days. And as a very wonderful friend reminded me this week, during a night of chaotic thoughts, 4 days is nothing in the grand scheme of it all.

Finals Season

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: Finals Season is a chaotic period of college life. No matter how much time I spend working and studying throughout the semester, finals are an inevitable, looming uncertainty. The outcome of this last test, report, or presentation can dictate that fate of your grade, and that’s a pretty powerful motivator to whip out alllllll the textbooks, power points, notes, quizzes, and even a nerd or two for guidance along the way.

But, in all fairness, finals can be beneficial and, dare I say it…exciting! It’s one more chance to show off all that you’ve learned in the last few months, and some professors allow it to count as a redemption score for a past disaster of a test.

All this is to say that these next three are going to be expectedly busy and undeniably challenging and frustrating at times, but a positive side of almost any situation can be found so long as the effort is put forth to find it. So to all my fellow college students out there, WE GOT THIS!! Let’s put our heads down, plug away at all we need to finish and study, and let’s finish strong.

TFT Reflection 7/ Weekend Recap

“I don’t even know what we talk about/ I just listen to the sound of his voice and to his laugh/ and to the sound of him listening to me”

Mitchell came to visit me in Macon this weekend. It was…absolutely wonderful.

He arrived around 2 am on Saturday morning since he left his campus after returning from a track meet that night, and even though it meant a screwed-up sleep schedule, I one-hundred percent wouldn’t have changed the plans to a more reasonable ETA. There is just something so incredibly peaceful about sharing a bed with someone you love, so despite our first hours back together being spent asleep, I was happy.

I had to go to a Service Scholars Retreat from 10 am-1 pm on Saturday, so I left Mitchell in my room for that period. When I got back, we drove to the Rookery for lunch. He got the Jimmy Carter burger, which has peanut butter and bacon on it, and I got a ham and turkey sandwich. Oh, he also got a Whoopie Pie shake since the restaurant is known for its burgers and shakes. Lunch was a success.

After we finished eating, we wandered around Downtown for a few minutes on our way back to his truck. I decided at the last-minute to direct him a different route back to campus, and we ended up running into an unforeseen event to check out.

At the intersection where we would turn to head back to the University, we noticed crowds of families with their dogs at the park to our left. We spotted some tents, so we decided to spontaneously park and see what was happening. To our complete surprise, the audience was celebrating a soapbox car race!!

Neither of us had ever been to one, having only heard about them from books or movies, so we stayed to cheer on the final ten cars. Mitchell kept saying, “This is hilarious!” and my heart was happy to see that he was having fun with me.

After the final car crossed the finish line, I took Mitchell to see the cement slides over by the law school (which he admitted were cool despite the 5 minute walk it took to get to them). We didn’t slide down them because all the cardboard was already at the bottom, but I was content with him having seen them for himself.

Back in his truck, we drove to Tatnall Park and parked there before setting out on our campus tour. He didn’t specifically ask to be shown where everything is, but I have a deep-rooted need to share the places and events of my life with the people I care about, so there was no way he was getting out of seeing where I’ve spent the last two school years. It was fun to point out my favorite spots on campus and add on stories about what goes on in certain buildings. We were both tired from the sun by the end of our walk, but for him to have seen everything for himself was unexplainably yet undeniably priceless.

The rest of Saturday was spent lounging around in my room, watching Lost in Space on Netflix, and grabbing Chick-fil-a from the University Center for dinner. As simple as the agenda sounds, it was one of the best days I’ve had on campus in a very long time.

This morning (Sunday), we woke up to thunderstorms, so after ignoring the day until about 11, we got up and went to J. Christopher’s for brunch (which, tbh, was probably more like lunch since it was basically noon when we ate). He got french toast and absolutely DROWNED it in maple syrup, and I got a vegetable-egg white omelet with an english muffin and fruit. There were TVs in the restaurant, and we marveled at some of the houses on HGTV, commenting on what we would want our dream houses to be like.

After the receipt was signed, we set out to find the Bass Pro Shops Warehouse, and it coincidentally was RIGHT ACROSS from where we randomly chose to eat breakfast, so that was perfect!! Haha We strolled around there for quite some time since that’s one of Mitchell’s favorite stores. Our last stop was to Kroger so that I wouldn’t have to beg someone to take me there during the week, and then we headed back to campus.

Mitchell left soon after we got back, and while I wish he could have stayed longer, I knew there wasn’t really going to come a time (at least not in the foreseeable future) where I was fully ready to leave. He was super sweet and double-checked with me about whether it was alright if he started the drive back to his school, and I laughed back that as much as I wanted him here, I couldn’t hold him back from returning to where he needed to be.

I know that most of this is rambling and that very little of it relates to anyone except Mitchell and I, but I felt like I needed to document this weekend somewhere because as I mentioned earlier, it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve felt this peaceful and happy on campus. I also realize that I didn’t really address the introductory quote, but our weekend kind of encapsulated its essence: we didn’t do anything spectacular, but it was a spectacular weekend because we were together.

TFT Reflection 6

“It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”

Sometimes, like when the loneliness feels inescapable, I wonder what it would be like to just not care as much as I do. To not take every comment and action so personally. To not have my mood completely flip for the worst with a single glance of a sad scene.

But most days, when I am happy and thoughtful and compassionate, I am grateful that my emotions are dramatic. I love when I can better sympathize with people by really delving into the thoughts they describe to me and considering the situation from their perspective. I love how pure elation floods my veins at the sight of an adorable puppy and how the reception of a single unexpected smile leaves me seeing the world in brighter hues. I love how my heart feels like it is going to burst open when the people I love hug me and, I love how passionate I quickly become about projects.

My family and I openly joke about how emotional I am. There was a time when I would defensively flare up at the mere implication that I am dramatic or sensitive, but since then, I have come to accept and appreciate how strongly my emotions affect me. There are still moments when people will suggest that I “just let it go” when I am upset, but I have realized that that isn’t who I am. Whether it is my own problem to solve or not, I cannot help but feel a connection to the emotional atmosphere around me. It is not in my nature to watch anyone suffer through sadness without feeling some of their pain, but I have grown to use that pain for the better. Instead of allowing it to consume me, I attempt to take actions that will hopefully bring relief more quickly. It will take a lifetime of practice to not let my emotions get the best of me, but I am happy that I am now able to recognize that my dramatic disposition has its benefits. Regardless of how strongly those feelings are experienced, everyone’s feelings are valid.

Responsibilities Vs. Preferences

This week I had my third session with an on-campus psychological-health counselor. Having made it past the intake questions of our relationship, she asked me what I hoped to get out of our next few sessions before the end of the semester.  Now, there is quite a list of areas of my mindset I would like to develop and strengthen, but only so much can be discussed and analyzed in a 45-minute period. So what I chose for my first goal in this journey to self-peace is to address my need to please everyone.

I think I have mentioned this before, but if I have ever had any interaction with someone- in person or online- or even if I have just heard about them through someone else, there is a 85% chance that I have contemplated how I might have misstepped and made them unhappy. If I had a catchphrase, it would unfortunately probably be “I’m sorry” because I’m told that I say that a bit too often. I worry about saying too much, saying too little, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, etc. And more often than not, I apologize before anyone has even told me that I have acted in a way they don’t like. I just ASSUME that I’ve done something wrong and that I need to make amends.

I’m sure there’s a ton of other deep, psychological issues I’ve got going on that would help explain my need to perpetually apologize, but from my perspective, I think it stems from being scared of people leaving me. I have awesome relationships with my parents and sister, but I have internalized how time and time again the friendships I form are transient. There is no specific argument or betrayal that leads to the splits, and I’m typically the last one to know that we aren’t friends anymore. One day, though, I inevitably catch up. Sometimes the realization hits me when I go to ask them to hang out and see that my last three offers were either rejected or ignored. Other times I have to face the truth by stumbling upon post after post of the person I thought I had plans with hanging out with someone else.

I have two best friends, but they are both typically hundreds of miles away from me. However, this weekend, one of them is planning to drive down to visit me! I am super excited, but when I told my counselor about it, I admitted that I was also nervous. I wasn’t scared that my best friend doesn’t care about me anymore- our relationship has lasted long enough to make me feel secure in it. Rather, I was scared that they would be disappointed in their trip. I was so worried about making them happy, that I could barely enjoy the fact that they were coming to see me at college for the first time!

What my counselor responded with next is a piece of wisdom I will likely hold onto for a long time and share with anyone else who might need to hear it: no one person is responsible for the feelings of everyone else; it might be your PREFERENCE that the people around you are happy, but it is not your RESPONSIBILITY. In theory, it is simple to consider that each individual is to be tasked with focusing on their own feelings, but for a people-pleaser, this reminder is absolutely liberating.

She explained it to me by suggesting questions I should consider each time I begin to get anxious about pleasing others. First: What are my responsibilities for [insert situation]? When we practiced this, I suggested that my responsibilities for this weekend with my friend were to take care of myself and to help with the general safety of my friend, since he’s going to be in an unfamiliar place. Then the second question: What are my preferences for [insert situation]? In this case, I said that I would prefer my friend have a great time.

The third and fourth steps are where the real mental work comes in. Now that responsibilities and preferences have been categorized, the focus shifts to making a realistic plan that could help those preferences become reality. For our weekend plans, this consisted of me thinking up a few options of fun activities we could do and places we could eat during his visit.

Okay, so everything is set up to achieve happiness. But, of course, life is never that easy. What happens if my friend and I do everything I planned, yet he still walks around like Eyeore?? Do I need to feel guilty and berate myself for him feeling sad? NO!! Unless I have directly inflicted some kind of pain onto him, it is not my fault that he is sad. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is his fault either, but it would do neither of us any good for me to apologize over and over again for something I can’t control. And that right there is the fourth and most vital step: recognize that if things, don’t work out as imagined, the blame doesn’t automatically sit itself upon my shoulders. 

I am still a novice at this technique of categorizing responsibilities vs. preferences, but I am excited and hopeful about trying it out more often. I am positive that I will worry myself into a panic a few times before I learn to consistently trust that sometimes people are going to be unhappy no matter what I do, but I am optimistic that with practice I will be able to more comfortably live in the moment. I hope this concept helps someone else as well, but if not, that’s okay too. (;

 

 

 

*bites lip anxiously

I feel tense again. This weekend I felt overall pretty awesome, but these past two days I feel like I’m hanging out on the edge. The edge of what, I don’t know. I just have this sense that all of a sudden something bad is going to happen.

Part of my worries probably stem from not working out yesterday. Like at all. Like, I spent the entire day from noon onwards in my room being borderline useless and almost completely unproductive. I did it because I just didn’t feel like working out, and maybe I should have made myself get on the elliptical for a bit or even just go for a walk, but I chose to instead just lie there in bed watching Kevin Hart interviews.

I am working to find a balance between too much exercise and not enough, but whenever I am alone, I end up at the extremes of the scale. It’s easier when I have other people around me- when I have friends who will hang out with me or even just talk to me. But there is still about a month left of school- a month left until I can be somewhere where it’s not such a struggle to be happy.

Today is not one of the good days. Neither was yesterday. But I can acknowledge that there will be good days in the future and that tomorrow has the potential to be great. So I will ride out this wave of anxiety and try to not split my lip from gnawing on it. I will practice reminding myself that I have time to reach my goals and that minor setbacks do not equal the termination of my destinations. I will get to where I am meant to be so long as I am patient and continue to put in the work. *Deep inhale….deep exhale.*