Friday, November 6, 2015

Super Secret November Challenge Blog Post #4

There are two routes I can go with this blog. 

One, I can share my observations about anything and everything going on around me. 

Two, I can be extremely personal and ride that fine line between "brave" and "Dear Diary" (less desirable). 

Or, I suppose there is a third option of straight up creative fictional writing, but my comfort level is nowhere near sharing that part of myself.

Kids, I tried. I dramatically paced my apartment for a few hours, trying to come up with a topic that had absolutely nothing to do with me. But I couldn't focus. It's gonna get real self absorbed up in here until I get my writing groove back. 

The LiveJournal Post

Today has been a not so good day, for multiple reasons, none of which I want to get into. I did all the things I was supposed to to process and move on : cry, talk to family, eat some bad food, have a beer, take an angry nap. But I woke up, still fixating on that one thing that has consistently gotten in the way of being able to live a full life: My social anxiety. 

To tell the truth, I really, really, really do not feel like writing about this at this present moment. I would like to crawl into the shower with another beer and then pass out in my bed to any brainless movie that I can find. And that may be exactly what happens in the next few sentences. We'll see. 

SA is something I have dealt with all my life. And, thanks to having been part of the medicated artists club (The MAC - acronyms 4-eva, y'all!) since I was fifteen, I was able to deal with it. Sure, it made for occasional awkward interactions and some missed opportunities, but it never really got in the way until my twenties. The short version of this story is that my social phobia maxed out while I was living in Chicago, to the point where I couldn't even go down into the lobby of my building to check my mail without having a panic attack. By the way, this is a great way to get to know your neighbors without actually knowing them - my legs would always give out on the second landing of the staircase right next to the trash can. So. Much. Take Out. And bags of kitty litter. And what I'm not entirely convinced wasn't body parts (just the one time). 

I moved to Milwaukee, and I spent almost two years after that in counseling learning how to deal with anxiety, how to deal with social situations, and how to deal with the broad, unpredictable reality of human interaction. 

After that, I started to come back around. I formed a group of friends there that were the first real friendships that weren't rooted in theatre for the first time since high school. It was nice. Theatre people can be wonderful, but they can also overwhelming for someone with social phobia. And when I moved back to Birmingham, even though I was still battling anxiety, I was able to go out on a regular basis and enjoy my friendships here in town. 

But at some point, when my number of panic attacks were starting to dwindle out, I began diving back into old habits. I dreaded going out; became hesitant about meeting new people. Resistant to being around large groups. Easily overwhelmed. Panicky Polly. Nervous Nelly. Alliteration Annie.

There was a time when I could count on a solid core of friends no matter what, simply because I did theatre, nonstop. I didn't care what the project was, every so often it was a production that really meant something to me - a lot of the time it was just a home base for social life. But once it became harder to cope with social interaction, I started becoming more selective. I only did shows that I really wanted to do (and I also refused to work outside of a professional capacity, unless it was a very special case). But I couldn't stop feeling guilty. I knew that I was repeating a pattern that has done more damage than almost anything else in my life. I couldn't fight off the demons of SA, and as a result, I'm sure I appeared standoffish, or self righteous, or that it seemed that I just plain didn't like people. And that was not the case.

It was just too hard. It is still is too hard.

When I am in a show, I love the kinship you find. Occasionally you land upon for true friendships, which, as you get older, becomes the holy grail of theatre associations; but I even enjoy the frivolous, fleeting bonds that are standard fare with any production. Just because you don't follow through with every relationship, doesn't mean that they didn't have any bearing on your life. 

And, I should emphasize, this is extended to all of the non theatre connections that I have made over the years - friendships that I appreciated, but just didn't have the wherewithal to follow through with. 

And it wasn't just the friend factor that was affected by this. Everything has suffered in some way due to this condition. I have high periods and low periods, but the SA will always be around. I had a very brief high for the late part of my twenties. But I have been coasting downward the past few years, and it has taken it's toll. 

My counselor in Milwaukee was the bee's knees. Petra was a thirty something eastern European who was finishing up her degree in psychology and some other social profession. Her patience was unending, and she never tried to force any self help speak on me. The closest she ever came to offering advice was on our last visit.

"Jussika. You must never forget, Jussika. You do have choice. You have right to choice."

It was exactly what I needed to hear. She wasn't saying it in a way that blamed me for my disorder. She said it in a way to let me know, I was not a slave to this thing. That it didn't own me. "You have right to choice" became my chosen mantra, because I always needed reminding of it.  

Even though, in my heart, I know she's right, my gut says that this may be something I can escape from every now and then, possibly for several years at a time, but no matter what, it will always find me. My little own little eighties anxiety movie monster. 

"Oh hey girl. Everyone in the world told me to tell you that they hate you."

My goal is to be the final girl, with no Carrie style ending. Today was definitely not the day for that. Today, the monster won. But I'll be damned if he stops me from having my shower beer. 

Like all good girls who are based in towns with limited professional theatre options, I have a second job. I avoided the server train, and hopped on with pet care, which suits me perfectly. Limited human interaction, no personal attacks. If I get shit on,  okay, yes, it is literal - but it isn't personal. Today as I left each pet and moved on to the next house, I said goodbye as I usually do, with an addition. 

"Be sweet! Don't be scared of the storm!" 

I am going to take a bold guess and assume that what I said made little difference, because they're cats and dogs. But hopefully the tone was soothing amidst the sound of rain and thunder. It's still good advice, in general. When you are battling something that feels like you have no control over, all you can do is try and handle it as best you can, and try not to be too hard on yourself. You are what you are, but you are never without choice, no matter how small that choice may seem. What can you choose to do in a limiting set of circumstances, with a limiting condition?

Be sweet. Don't be scared of the storm. 

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