“Do not set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.”

Repeat after me: asking someone for space does not make me a horrible person.

I’m not a very social person. I need a lot of time to myself or with people I’m close with to just chill out and relax. I much prefer to hang out at home reading a book, playing a game like Animal Crossing, or cross stitching. Others thrive on socialization, and prefer to be around people all the time. That’s fine too, but it’s not for me.

If I date someone, this is something I make explicitly clear (unless they’re like me, and just get it). A guy I dated listened and told me he understood. I learned quickly that he, in fact, did not understand.

As much as I may not like to go out, I know that I can’t exactly avoid it. I have classes to attend, soon I’ll have clinical placements to attend. I’ll have presentations to give, appointments to attend, and various places to go. I’m actually writing this from a public library right now.

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m actually dealing with my social anxiety or not, or if I’m dealing with it in the right way. Certain things are worse than others: public speaking ranks highest for it, while booking an appointment ranks pretty close to the bottom. Knowing that, I essentially choose my battles: if I have a presentation that day, chances are I’m going to go home later on and go right to bed, and hanging out with someone afterwards is just not something I’m up to doing. Sometimes I push myself to do things I don’t want to do: going to certain events on campus (usually smaller ones, I tend to avoid crowds if I can), going out with a group of people I may not know that well, etc.

All of this context will make sense soon, I promise.

As I said, I dated someone who didn’t understand this. He didn’t understand because he’s the complete opposite: he thrives on socialization. He introduced me to his group of friends super early, and most of them were really nice people, but it was overwhelming for me. He wanted to see me the next day and I had to explain, again, that I needed time to myself because the night before was exhausting.

This pattern pretty much continued through the duration of the (short) relationship.

Here’s the thing though. He tried to make me feel guilty because I wasn’t meeting his needs. There was no compromise here: essentially I needed to put aside my own mental health and emotional well-being just so I could meet his socializing needs. Honestly, I tried to make more of an effort because I thought “maybe I’m not trying as hard as I could”. But my efforts weren’t enough and that conversation came up again.

Ever had pneumonia? Sucks, doesn’t it? The logical thing to do when you have it is to rest, take your antibiotics (if prescribed), and just to take it easy. Pneumonia sucked all the energy out of me, and I’m pretty sure my family was worried I was going to be sent to the hospital because my cough was so severe.

Apparently, though, pneumonia isn’t a good reason to not go out; rather, he wanted to come see me and take care of me. I didn’t need to be taken care of; I needed rest.

This is about the time I finally stood up for myself, with encouragement from my best friend (because apparently he had to get her involved), and told him to give me space, and I would message him when I feel better. I don’t think I could have been any more clear, unless I held flashing lights and sirens with a sign saying the same thing outside his house. Did he give me space?

No, of course not.

Unsurprisingly, we broke up.

And he still wouldn’t give me space.

He would message me on Facebook every couple days, and I would reiterate that I still need space, and that leaving me alone for a day or two is not what giving someone space means. The pattern continued, and he started telling me personal things: he was lonely, he wished he could be with me, he met someone, he might break up with this someone because of reasons I’m not going to go into, and that he hopes he can be with me again someday. That last one he said while he was in a relationship with a new person.

Like I said, I couldn’t have been any more clear when I said I needed space. I blocked him on everything I could think of, and told him to not message me again. In my mind, red flags were going up everywhere, and flashbacks to my first ex harassing me for a year came back. I was on high alert.

When I let my guard down a little bit, he messaged me on Snapchat (the one thing I forgot to block him on) and all of that came crashing back and I was furious. But apparently I’m the crazy one for saying I’d go to the police if he contacted me again.

I was on high alert again. I was actually afraid I would run into him: the bus I take home goes near his street, he knew where I lived, he knew where I went to school (and while I know the campus shared with Durham College was a decent size, I was still afraid he would show up). When you’ve been harassed in any way in the past, those same feelings stick with you, and even if his actions weren’t malicious (they came off as him just being downright clueless), they were still enough to scare me.

I haven’t talked to him directly in months. He randomly messages my best friend, usually with something that’s just considered socially inappropriate given the context, and that usually triggers anger-induced heart palpitations in me (which is what prompted me to write this all out).

Repeat after me: asking someone for space does not make me a horrible person.

I’m open with my mental illnesses and my experiences in hopes that it inspires someone, anyone, to seek help if they are struggling. I’m open with it with people I meet in hopes that they’ll understand why I do things the way I do them. Most of all, I’m open with it so if someone gives me a negative reaction, I can go on in my life without them. There’s still too much of a stigma out there, and self-stigma inside of me.

Personally, I don’t want pity; the take away from my experiences is simple, and summed up in one sentence.

Do not sacrifice your own mental health and well-being for the benefit of someone else.

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The Stress of Starting Over

I am a mature student and starting my life over again from scratch has been exciting and liberating.  It has also been overwhelming and stress inducing.  When I left a terrible and toxic past behind in pursuit of a brighter and more meaningful future, I expected that balancing work and studies would be difficult and was prepared to learn new skills in time management and stress management.  I had no idea; however, that social dynamics would become my biggest hurdle.

I like to describe my current life situation like Christmas dinner.  There’s the adults table and the kids table.  I however, don’t belong at either.  Many of my instructors and friends are fully accomplished and are years ahead of myself.  On the other hand, I am surrounded by a group of young adults, most of whom are barely outside of puberty and so finding my place within this new environment of students has been a lonely struggle.  My maturity does; however, give me some advantages: I am unafraid to be different, I am open with my emotions, have little time for gossip, have the capacity to appreciate a variety of different people, and have a passion and perseverance to overcome obstacles and find the positivity in every situation.

So, when the young students call me their “school mom”, I find comfort in the fact that I help nurture a group of individuals who need extra support and know that this capacity is appreciated.  I take pleasure in being able to connect with a younger group of individuals, that teaches me patience and shows me an excitement that is admirable.  I respect my own accomplishments and appreciate the growth that I have had, since I was 18, and it makes me excited to know that I am sure to see even more personal development as I go through this program.

Ultimately, I know that I don’t have to sit at the kids table or the grown ups table.  I sit at a table of my own making and welcome a new group of diverse individuals.  Many of whom will be older and younger, many whom I can teach or whom may teach me, but all of whom are on a journey of education and enlightenment.  I have chosen, as I enter my second semester, to approach these struggles as opportunities.  This experience will make me wiser, but perhaps keep me younger and I will carve my own unique place in this world, choosing optimism over fear.

My Autistic Experience – Conflicted During Autism Awareness Month

Apparently it’s Autism Awareness Month… at least in the States.

Every time there is an event or month that has something to do with me, I find that I barely notice it. A year ago, I made a post on Ableism month that started with “So apparently this month is Ableism Month?”

So yeah. Apparently it’s a month that I should care about, but of course I don’t. Surprise surprise, right? It is an interesting, seemingly conflicted opinion that I hold that I think should be investigated.

When I look at society, I see its potential. When I look at people, I see their potential. It is why I hold people to such a high standard. If people were able to live up to the potential that they possess, the world would certainly be a more interesting place – if not better. In seeing the potential of myself and others, I also see how that potential is squandered – for as smart as I am, I could be smarter if I were more dedicated. For as hard-working as I am, I always feel like I am being lazy if I am not working all of the time.

For as good as things are, they could always be better.

Autism Awareness Month is similar in this instance. I have said multiple times that to bring about acceptance of autism, it is necessary for autistic people such as myself to reveal their conditions and share their experience openly. There is no better way to show the potential of autistic individuals than to have autistic individuals show their potential to the world.

I don’t know how many people with the autistic condition take my advice, but I cannot blame anyone who refuses to do so. It would be hypocritical for me to expect other autistic individuals to do what I have thus far been unwilling to do.

I am conflicted on this matter.

On one hand, I want to reveal my condition so that I can show people that there is potential for autistic people, that there is much we can do.

On the other hand, sharing my condition will cause people to think differently of me.

Every second that I remain conflicted on this subject is wasted potential. If I decide to reveal my condition, I can help build a better world for autistic people. It will be a slow process, but every piece of the puzzle matters. If I decide to keep it to myself, I can achieve some peace of mind. I can get by on my own for the most part. No one has to know my condition, and chances are that no one will unless I go out of my way to tell them. No one will treat me any differently in an attempt to accommodate my condition, nor will I be underestimated based on autism’s more difficult aspects.

Autism Awareness Month is a reminder of this conflict in my mind. It reminds me that I have work to do on the autism awareness front. It is a reminder that I have a decision to make that may have consequences that I am not able to predict. It is easier not to think about it, but I can’t even do that without feeling like a hypocrite.

There is much to be done that requires putting myself out there, making myself open to the public. It is a scary prospect, but someone has to do it. Perhaps there will come a day that I decide it will be necessary to reveal my condition. I hope that I will not have to, but I suspect I will if I do not want to be left feeling guilty and hypocritical.

Almost There

So here I am, another year of school has gone by. I have no more midterms, and two more assignments to go. This does not include the various things I will need to apply/interview for but you know what? I feel good. I’m almost at the finish line.

For some reason as exams draw nearer, I feel less stressed…for now. So I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. I can finally take a step back and breathe. I’m excited to be almost done my 3rd year of university, but also a bit sad because I will be graduating this time next year. I won’t go into detail and dwell on my future of what will happen even in forth year. Right now, I want to feel in the moment for once. Think about the current situation rather than the future. I want to enjoy my calmness while it lasts, although I know it won’t last long.

I would like to take this time to reflect. I feel this school year has been a lot about growth, grace under pressure and taking on too much. I’ve learned a lot. The most important I feel has been to give myself a break, physically and mentally. I may want to do all that I can and sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but maybe that’s a good thing. Limits are a good thing because they let us know (no matter how stubborn we are or try to fight it) when it’s time to take a break or just move on. Limits give us a place to draw a mark in the sand, so we know not to go any further. And though I do believe that we all need to push our limits at times, it should not be an every day thing. I don’t want to push myself so hard and keep redrawing my line in the sand to the point where I don’t realise that I’m about to fall of a cliff or have life pass me by.

I want to have balance in my life. I know it will be hard, and I know it won’t be easy, but I feel ready. Obviously this comes after surviving one of my most stressful years in my academic career, now knowing that I can do it. But I don’t know, I feel confident. I know what success feels like and failure too. I’m still learning more and more about myself but at the same time, I’m not where I am when I first started university. Thus, with regard to the end of this school year, I am happy to say I am almost there. I made it. Not because of the late night study sessions, the lack of sleep, the countless commitments I made, but the people around me. Those I helped and those who helped me, even if they didn’t know it. And that’s a good feeling to have, so I’m going to hold onto it for as long as I can.

Well wishes,

L.R.

The Troubles with being a Social Introvert

Growing up, I have always loved being around people and socializing at parties. One of my favourite past times is hanging out with large groups of people because you will always find someone to talk to or something to do! Although I love to socialize, I’ve only ever had a handful of close friends, and as I’ve grown up the handful has gotten smaller as some of my friends have moved away.

Although I’m a socializer, I’m very introverted. I enjoy having time to myself, I am perfectly comfortable with watching movies alone over the weekend, and you will probably never catch me asking people to hangout after class. I feel super uncomfortable when I am faced with making the decision to try and get close with someone. My good friends have always been the more extroverted, who would plan the social gatherings and bring me along. Now that those friends have went across Canada and the US to different universities, I find myself in a rather strange predicament. I want to go out with friends, but am too shy to meet people. Peculiar dilemma, isn’t it?

The craving to socialize has always been there, but when you are placed in large classes, how do you do it? If you are going through something similar, I’ve devised a plan to help you (and I) get to know some university students without feeling awkward about it.

1 – Check out the sororities on campus! 

Looking at how close students in sororities interact with one another and really get to know each other is envious. I wish while I began attending university I looked into UOIT’s sororities just so that I could get to meet people and feel connected to others. Its a funny thing because my friends were ALL in sororities at their universities, and the amount of close friends they walked away with is amazing. You can find everlasting connections while on campus, and this is one of the ways to achieve them!

2 – Join a club or a committee that interests you!

Honestly, THERE ARE CLUBS FOR EVERYTHING! Just a quick google search of UOIT’s campus clubs makes me wish I would have looked into it earlier. Do you like gardening? There’s a club for that! Do you like art, drama, dance, or music? Clubs for that too! Are you religious and would like a place to meet others with the same religious values? There are clubs for that! What about humanitarian opportunities, board games, billiards, sports, SUPER SMASH BROS (I’m not kidding), like there is literally a club for everything. Find a hobby of yours or something that you are really interested in, and join the club to meet like minded people. You may have to pull of the bandaid of actually attending the sessions, but hey, think of all the cool stuff you’d be involved in and the amount of people you will meet who share your interests.

3 – Create a study group for your class!

This is something that not only will benefit you socially, but it can also benefit your grades (and we can all use that). Through blackboard, just message the whole class asking if people would like to get together for a study group, I GUARANTEE YOU people will respond. Even if you do not end up hanging out with the students on the weekend, it is still a way to meet people and to have that social fulfillment of being around others. You may meet your new best friend this way, you never know. Keep an open mind!

PSA to you all: Do not pull a “me” and go through your whole university career wishing you  met more people. I’m graduating in April and I regret not joining clubs or looking into ways to meet the students I’ve sat beside for the past 4 years. I seriously recommend looking into what UOIT offers, because I never did and I think it would have made my university experience THAT much better!

Overthinking – Pondering What Could Be the Cause of my Mental Turmoil

When someone is seeking answers to something, they seek out the experts. Meeting and speaking with them, hoping that spilling their innermost thoughts and feelings and presenting the facts that match to things that they know, they hope to receive an answer that matches the research they themselves have conducted. As for myself, I think I’m afraid to know, but desperate to confirm.

I hate jumping to conclusions and I hate diagnosing myself before a doctor can, but as I have been waiting this long to know what is wrong with me, it is only natural that a paranoid, anxious psychology student would start seeing parallels with the many mental illnesses I study within myself.

Last week, I found myself switching from general anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and depression, as those can be diagnosed by a GP, to thinking I might have a more severe condition. Thoughts of bipolar disorders and cyclothymia crossed my mind. I almost drove myself nuts seeing if my symptoms matched the reported symptoms of these disorders. However, I am my own worst doctor, I will always think I am over-exaggerating or under-reporting my own symptoms. I don’t condone Google-diagnosis, but I still find myself doing it, in my endless search for answers.

I can’t seem to sit still, my mind is both exhausted and racing everyday, and I just want to keep moving forward but feel so stuck. The anticipation of finally getting some confirmation and answers are almost overbearing. The stress of this term has taken its toll now; I have felt an anxious nausea sitting in my stomach for almost two weeks, feeling both hungry and repulsed by food, yet still overeating. The weather has had me down for so long, my emotions feel blunted to the point I can’t remember what a strong emotion feels like, and the world is both too bright and too dull. I feel crazy and calm all at once.

I try to keep my mind away from focusing on things like this too much, but sometimes its all I can focus on. I really just want confirmation, so that I can stop adding the disclaimer *not yet diagnosed* to my statements on mental health. I hope someone else who is struggling with a lack of diagnosis can relate to my feelings, and maybe feel less alone. I hope if you are reading this, everything will fall in place for both of us in time.

Til then, good luck and much love.

Drawn and Quartered

I have committed high treason…against myself…AGAIN! I once again have begun to spread myself to thin. Breaking promises I told myself like, “I’ll go to bed by 10:00pm” or “I’ll stay on top of things”, and the classic “I’m fine, of course I’m not taking on too much”. But I’m not fine.

School, work, friends, family, volunteering, applications, planning for my future, meetings! (in no particular order). Sometimes it just gets to be to much. Constantly being pulled one way, whilst another part is being pulled in the opposite direction, all by my own hand. My decisions, and mine alone cause me stress, panic, and anxiety. And I can’t stop. Apart of me wants to, but another part of me knows (or at least thinks it knows) what’s best for me. I can’t tell anymore whether I’m worthy of a break, or if my judgement is on point, I just don’t know.

So many things and so little time. Or maybe its just my time management skills. Because honestly I can’t tell anymore. So much work and effort has been put into making me who I am, because no task is to big or to small when others ask; it’s not a problem. But I think I have a problem, or maybe I don’t and its just the lack of sleep. I just want…to be happy I guess. And I know this anxiety, this ball of fire in my chest burning me from the inside out will die down, maybe even go away entirely (eventually). But right now, all I want to do is lay down and not think.

I’m always thinking. Brain racing, head thumping constant reminders that there’s still so much to do. My future is riding on what I do, on my choices and it scares the hell out of me. Like a deck of cards, one small move, one misplaced card and all my hard work is gone. As if it was never there. Poof! And then what? Disappointment. The ever crushing, self loathing, let everyone down type of disappointment. The type of disappointment that makes your body feel like a thousand pounds, and yet like it’s floating. Untethered with nothing to keep you from floating away, from losing yourself, from ever caring again. So many expectations, and so many things to tend to. And sometimes, its all too much.

Being pulled apart sucks, its sucks a lot more when you are actively doing it to yourself. And I wish I had some positive ending statement about hope floats and precious words of encouragement, but I can’t even believe the ones I tell myself right now. But I’ll still be here. Day after day. Grinning and baring it till I get home, back to my bed, my safe place where I retreat inside my head.  I really wish I had something more positive to say, but I can’t. I can’t lie to myself or anyone else and say it will be okay. Especially when there is nothing wrong with NOT being okay. No one has to be it all, no one has to achieve it all. I don’t just want to be good, I want to be great, to surpass everyone. But who I should really be focusing on is myself. I want to be better, I want to be stronger…but right now I can’t. And I have to learn to be okay with that.

Well wishes,

L.R.

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Finding True Friends

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There’s no right way to define what a ‘true friend’ is, everyone has different definitions. To me a true friend is someone you can trust and who will support you through anything. Friends are supposed to be there through thick and thin. Friends are like snowflakes, each one is unique and can’t be replaced. Every friendship is different.

The year 2015 was the year of losing friends for me and finding out who my true friends are. I’ve always had really strong attachments to my friends, and when they leave it hurts. As 2015 started I seemed to be having ups and downs with friends of mine. This eventually lead to a fall out with those friends, with this brought a lot of emotions and feeling depressed again. So I started seeing my counsellor at school again. A friend of mine in my classes was really supportive during this time, but that friend soon left too and got tired of helping me and seeing no change. I struggled with that loss too, I seemed to be losing a lot of friends, which took a toll on me and my mental health.

Slowly, school came to an end, and graduation was fast approaching. With graduation coming and my friends leaving, I tried to stay close to a friend who I knew was staying in town. I tried my hardest to hold onto this friend, and constantly asking them to spend time with them. Which in turned pushed them further away. With this person always being busy it was hard to find time to get together, I would see them out with other friends or working. I took them being busy more personal than I should have.

Things went downhill fast, it slowly turned into fighting and things being said that we couldn’t take back. This friend got their significant other involved and things got worse fast. Despite this friend asking for space, I tried relentlessly to hold onto this friendship. When holding on didn’t work, eventually my pain turned to anger towards them. I tried everything to get attention from them whether good or bad. Which was seen again as harassment, so when police got involved I had no choice but to let go.

Even though I lost a friend of 8 years in the midst of everything because she didn’t like who I was becoming or the situation with my other friend that was going on. I wasn’t going down the messy road of another fallout again. So I let her go to, I pretended to be okay when everything was falling apart.

Letting go was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. It allowed me to move on, be happy, find new friends and make time for old friends. Most importantly, it allowed me to find my true friends. So that’s what I did.

 

 

 

Feeling Pressured to Grow Up

We are all different. We do not all have the same goals, the same wishes, and the same outlook on life. This does not mean one is better than the other, this simply means we should try to see the world in others’ points of view.

That being said, have any of you felt pressured to grow up? Have you felt pressured to conform to what everyone else is doing in their lives? I know I have, and I know we aren’t the only ones.

Backstory: I am 22 years old, I have been in a relationship for 7 years, I still live at home with my mom, and I do not feel ready to leave the nest.

I always get bombarded with the questions about marriage, moving out, buying a car, when I want kids, and why my boyfriend hasn’t proposed yet. As a university student, I am just not ready for these things, and I have come to the realization that it is OK! We all grow at our own pace, we deal with things differently, and we all have our own paths laid out for ourselves. I want to continue with school, go on for my PhD, and slowly settle in to “adulthood”. Many friends of mine are starting to get into their careers, want to save to buy houses, want to get married, and want to have children in the next couple years. At times, it is discouraging seeing how my friends are settling into their lives and I am still sitting here in school barely able to afford my coffees for the week with my part time job. I sometimes wonder if I am holding my boyfriend back because we won’t be able to purchase a house or really get our lives started together until I am finished my schooling. As down as I feel some days, I always remind myself that these are my goals. Just because my friends have different goals, does not mean I should look down on my own. I should embrace the process of growing at my own pace; never force yourself into situations or back out of your dreams just because your path deviates from everyone else’s. That is what makes you unique, what makes you you.

Moral of the story: Do not worry about what others think you should be doing. Pursue your hopes and dreams, and everything will come together at one point or another. Keep pushing – as winding and bumpy the path may be, just remember you chose it for a reason 🙂

I’m Still Learning

2017. Another year, another semester gone. And that old saying is rearing its ugly head; “New year, new me”. This saying can hold different meanings to a variety of people. It could give those who have put off their goals for so long a bench mark of where to start. Marking a beginning and/or end for new and old relationships or habits. Or it could simply be a way for those who know they can’t commit to a goal another way to stall. And honestly, I have to say I’ve been both. But I’m still learning.

But I truly believe, as each year passes we all learn more and we get better. This may seem fairly obvious, but its true. There are still things for me to learn and improve on. But I’m working on it, and that’s the important part. As we progress and we work on things, we tend to improve even if we don’t realize it.

I do well in school, and have good study skills but they’re not the best. Over the years I’ve become less scared to talk in front of large crowds or even instruct a class on how to do something, but I still get nervous; the butterflies are always there. As well as, my ability to balance work, school, volunteering, and a family/social life leaves something to be desired. But I’m working on it, and that’s what’s important. I try my best to get outside my comfort zone, no matter how scary it is, and how much my anxiety fights to over power me. I try and take as many opportunities as I can, so they will help me develop and grow as a person. Even though, and it may not look like it on the surface, I am panicking on the inside. But that panic drives me. Because if the way to get rid of that anxiety, or make its affects less severe, is by taking more chances frequently and consistently, I’ll do it.

But once again, I’m still learning. I have not reached that point of confidence yet. I’m doing my best, all the while trying to convince myself that my best is good enough. So, I vow to myself that I will try my best every time all the time, to be better. And whether it takes months or years, or my whole life, I will continue to learn and be better than I was yesterday. I want to be okay with not being okay, or just being okay at certain things. I may not always be the best, even though I desire it, but I will always do my best.  So if your like me and don’t have everything figured out yet, that’s okay. We are all still learning, we will never stop learning and improving. The most important thing is to acknowledge and celebrate progress and know that your best is good enough. If not to be the best for others, be the best for yourself first. Because, for me right now, I’m okay with not being okay; I’m still learning. And I know this sounds like a bunch of motivational quotes, but they do hold true for some. Myself in particular.

Well wishes,

L.R.