Anxiety

Recently I watched a movie called Eighth Grade. It was written and directed by Bo Burnham. Now I’m going to talk about him and nothing in relation to the movie. I first heard of Bo trying to watch his standup… which I didn’t really like. I still don’t, if I’m being honest. Sometime later, I saw him on The Green Room with Paul Provenza (which I think anyone with comic appreciation, should watch). I grew some admiration because it’s not easy holding your own in a roomful of veterans. I still didn’t think much of him. It wasn’t until I saw him onscreen in The Big Sick that I got serious about that admiration though, I still can’t explain what changed my mind.

I really enjoyed The Big Sick. I think everyone should watch it. I think Kumail Nanjiani is brilliant. This movie was probably one of the best romantic comedies I’d seen in a long time when I watched it. I still can’t believe I got a chance to tell Kumail in person how much I liked it. 

Back on track.

I have trouble coming to terms with how bad my anxiety can get and how crippling it can be. For years, I tried to hide it from myself. I think part of it was because I didn’t know what was going on with me. It was part of the trauma. Having no one around made it easy to be confused. When I started getting a sense of what was happening, it made me even more scared because I felt like it was making me less of a person than I already felt like. For years, deep down, I just desperately wanted to be cool but I felt like this was a reason even less to be it. It made me feel more like the loser I already felt. I wanted to be cool because I felt so invisible and with the life I grew up with, it made me feel so alone.

I’m only beginning to understand my own anxiety more. Every time I’ve tried to talk about it before, it was always with some sense of crafted conversation. It’s not easy talking about how bad it can get. Even when I have better control over it once I started learning more about it. But I get moments where it’s so hard to breathe. I don’t answer my calls or texts and the longer it goes on, the more I feel that loser feeling and if it goes on too long, it’s so hard to get out of. I start to not be able to function. I can’t focus and I just stay in my room. Sometimes I feel this intense feeling of panic like I’m terrified but I don’t know of what. It’s usually before bed and it’ll keep me from sleeping. I get the same feeling of panic when I try to leave my house after a few days of being too worried about people seeing my anxiety because I can see the physical signs of the weariness when I look in the mirror.

It’s been bad for a while now.

Eighth Grade explains anxiety pretty well. I can relate to that desperation and inside vs. outside and how disconnected it can be. That pressure to want to be seen as cool and the awkwardness that comes with it. The stutters of talking to people that you think are cool and those small smiles of victory when you think you feel it. It gets being a disgruntled teenager pretty well too. Some of the scenes were so painful to watch because I could feel it.

It’s the closest I’ve come to see how relatable it feels to my own anxiety. I even think she does better than me but then I think of moments where I’ve forced myself to do things. I’ve never been able to shake that uncool feeling from myself though. It’s emotionally painful to experience and I can get paralyzed by past embarrassments even though I know deep down, it’s not a big deal. It’s so awkward.

There was another seen that hurt to watch. It was the car scene. I’m going to spoil it:

When he was making her uncomfortable by trying to get her to play Truth or Dare and she didn’t really know how to go about the situation… I felt that. When she’s looking down and away but still trying to “be cool”, it’s how I feel inside when I talk to people. Even just in social situations. But where I really felt it was when she apologized for saying no and how guilty she sounded for rejecting the dare. When he tells her it was for her and how her first time is gonna be stupid or whatever… You can feel the guilt growing on her. When she is crying in her room, I felt it. For me though, I internalize it and that scene and how she’s acting in it is the turmoil I feel on the inside. 

What I felt was more shame though because sometimes I never said no.

This film was the closest thing that I’ve seen in front of me that explains how I feel inside sometimes. In a way, it’s kind of nice that it was anxiety rather than emotional disturbance that I’ve seen in other films.

It’s a lonely way of living and it gets even harder as I get older. As an adult, there’s a part of me that feels like I’m a grown woman, these are problems for teenagers. I’ve learned not to push people away which is a step up from how I used to be. I tend to isolate myself but I’m working on that. I’m still learning to accept help from the right people and being honest with them. I know I’m lucky to even have a couple of people this is possible with. I feel guilty that I have a support system but I can still feel helpless. But I’ve grown as well. I don’t long for affection anymore. Sure, I have anxiety about dying alone or being a spinster for the rest of my life but I don’t force attachment to people anymore. I’ve come to terms with how disappointed and overly anxious it makes me and that it’s best to avoid.

I never thought I’d genuinely stop seeking for meaning in empty places.

Loyalty Through Cruelty

I wrote and posted this during the summer. I ended up deleting it during a writing cleanse but I think it’s an experience of mine that I need to be honest and open about. It was a dark time in my life and it took me a long time to genuinely forgive myself for the shame I felt. When I wrote this, it was because I thought I was taking it out on my relationship at the time for the damage I got from it. Except I wasn’t because that relationship turned out to the start of an emotionally abusive relationship. Which is why, after some consideration, I decided to put it back up here.


 

I recently read this phrase and it’s been in the back of my mind since.

It’s another phrase that’s best described what some of my past experiences and thoughts were.

It gives me horrible flashbacks to the brief period where I gave my life to someone who I’m still convinced to this day is a sociopath. The twistedness of that relationship still gives me anxiety when I think too much about it. I try and brush it off but at the same time, I feel like if I don’t own the story, it’ll never stop haunting the way that it still does. And I hate that it does. When I talk about it, I come off as moved on from it but deep down, I’m not sure that’s true and I think it’s something I have to be honest with myself about.

I have to be honest that it wasn’t just him. I played a part in letting it last the four miserable months. He may have been a sociopath but I was also really fucked up at the time too. I didn’t like how he treated me but I think I found comfort in how accepting of my love he was and how available he seemed. It was enough to keep me hanging on and ignore the constant red flags. I knew better, absolutely. I knew how cruel he really was but I was so loyal to him because there were times he held me when I was breaking down about my life. Those hugs were comforting when I fell apart. They made me feel… safe. That false sense of security made me tolerate the way he treated me like property and eventually like a sex doll. He was also very smart and I thought I could benefit from that.

In a way, that was true but in hindsight, not for the price that I emotionally paid. Not for the scars it left. It was only four months but it left me a shell of a person after. I didn’t really deal with it when it was over. I just tried to move on with my life and pretended I did. I tried to survive it without working through it because it didn’t last long and I was ashamed and a part of me still is. I didn’t think much of it until the thought occurred to me that maybe I still feel the repercussions of how it left me when my mind thinks it’s going through the same experience again with someone else. That would explain the chest tightness I sometimes feel.

I had trouble dressing confidently for a while because I was scared of my own body. There were times he would try to have sex with me when I wasn’t feeling it and told me that maybe I shouldn’t be dressing so attractive as to not make him horny. What’s sad is that this type of thing would be repeated in my next relationship. I felt confused about my own body. I felt it when I would feel proud of it and he would nod in agreement and then tell me all the areas that could “definitely use improvement”. My body was my body but it didn’t feel like I fully owned it when I was with him. There were times I felt dirty for the way he was talking to me.

He never told me how to dress; he was never possessive that way, but he would make comments about certain stuff I wore. He would tell me he liked something on me but preferred me in something else. Most compliments came with a criticism. He didn’t tell me what to do but he would always try to direct me and be pushy about it. When he asked me to do something, it was almost like a command rather than a request. It was like he was almost trying to instruct me and expected me to obey. He took his time at his leisure when he felt like it but always rushed me about things. It drove me crazy. I used to get nauseous when I remembered the times I got so fed up that I snapped because I would freak the fuck out and yell and he would just stare at me until I calmed down. Looking back, it was almost like he was holding back a smile.

He didn’t keep me from my friends or my life but he manipulated me enough that I kept myself out of my own life. I was scared to have it because being with him was almost like a full-time job. By the time I was fully committed in the relationship, I felt like if I wasn’t around, he’d be up to some shady shit. That should’ve been a sign for me to come to better senses but when you’re emotionally weak as shit, you don’t have that. I was constantly worried about what I knew was the truth but at the same time doing what I could to avoid coming to terms with it. He had my loyalty even though he was so emotionally cruel to me.

I think another part of the twistedness was that he made me feel like I was a part of his life. He got me to participate in his interests. He bought tickets to things for us to do. He introduced me to his friends as his girlfriend and made me feel like so around them. We even spent time at his parents’ place where he was absolutely affectionate with me. It seemed like he wanted me as a part of his life and that was something I hadn’t felt in a long time so I closed my eyes and tried to lie to myself. I thought it meant something even after I found out he was trying to bring another girl into this country to live and also trying to fuck his ex-girlfriend. I tried to make it mean something even though his future plans had nothing to do with me and he would’ve left me abruptly for any of it had I stayed. We acted as a we but it was almost always about him.

For all the times he comforted me, there were more where he left me crying. He stifled laughs a few times during my tears. He would make me cry and then instead of owning up to it, he would pretend he didn’t do anything and try to comfort me with hugs. I would try repeatedly to leave but somehow always found my way back. He rarely said sorry so the times he did, I readily accepted it. Except for the time he shoved me against the wall, he never physically hurt me in any way. I almost wished he did because I would have been smart enough to leave sooner. Bruises on my body would’ve made more sense to me than the bruises I was getting inside of me. Instead, I stayed through the times he made me question whether my right to speak up against him was valid or just me being either overly sensitive or crazy.

I’m ashamed of how fucked up I let myself get in that relationship. I’m ashamed that instead of leaving him, I stayed. I’m ashamed for all the times I gave him to him when I should’ve said no. I’m ashamed to admit that I took my IUD out so that I could give myself a reason to say no to sex with him. I mean, it worked but that’s pretty fucked up. I’m ashamed because recalling this relationship and realizing maybe I’m not quite over the damages and I only got worse with the relationship after that makes me feel pretty sick to my stomach. It makes me feel like damaged goods.

Life after him was a sweep under the carpet. I’ve talked about how damaging it was but never really acknowledged the actual extent of it. I didn’t want to admit to myself the extent of the manipulation that I allowed and enabled. I still don’t but I have to. The relationship was lowkey so I kept the break up that way. He never wanted to participate in my life so when he was out of it, I thought there was no need to acknowledge what happened because no one really knew about him anyway. I buried it away inside me but I didn’t accept that it still messed with me. I’m only realizing this now because I realized the fear and effects from it are still there. I dealt with everything else in my life but I never dealt with or spoke about this. Not even in therapy or counseling.

My relationship with this guy was four and a half years ago. It was a really dark time for me and it’s probably time to stop hiding it and shine some light on it. If I learned anything about facing all the bad shit that’s happened to me and I let happen, it’s that when you share it, it doesn’t have as tight of a hold on you anymore. I’m hoping this is what’s going to happen now that it’s out there.