The beach too?? Seriously?!?!

So, I’m leaving for the beach in 2 hours. I should be excited, right? Well, I was. I was super excited before I did what I have been trying not to do ever since I found out I was going on vacation.

My niece sprung the news on me a couple of days ago. She and I both have birthdays in September, so to celebrate, my sister is treating us to a beach trip before the cold hits. I’m super greatful and any qualms I have about going are my problem and mine alone, don’t get me wrong.

After the initial excitement wore off, I started worrying, as I am one to do. “Will there be…stink bugs there?” I spent the next day and a half trying to calm myself down and convince myself that there won’t be. I discussed my anxiety with my boyfriend and my mom, I called upon my old memories of the beach to make myself excited, I even made a list as to why there won’t be any there.

1.) there is no food source for them
2.) the weather is not conducive to their behavior
3. I don’t fricking want them to live there

For the most part, all of that worked. I was really excited up until a few minutes ago, and now I’m sitting here, taking deep breaths with tears streaming down my face. All because I did something I told myself I wouldn’t do. All because I broke the golden rule of phobia recovery. I googled “are there stink bugs in Myrtle beach, sc?”

Ready for the big surprise? There are. They live at the beach too! Can I enjoy nothing anymore?!?

Now here I am, racking my brain trying to come up with an excuse not to go. I am a horrible person, or at least I feel like one. My niece and sister are giving me an all expenses paid, birthday celebration at the beach and I’m trying to back out because of a damn phobia.

The truth is, I’m doing a surprisingly great job keeping my composure this stink bug season, and not letting my phobia get in the way of living my life. I’ve made so many strides and I’m super proud of myself.

The thing about going to the beach though, is the lack of outlets I will have at my disposal. No mom to kick my ass and give me her tough love when I’m feeling anxious. No boyfriend to kill the bugs and hold me until I stop crying. No therapist to spill my guts to every time I have a break down. Nope, hundreds of miles are going to separate me from my support system.

Sure, I could call them, but there are some issues with that option. First of all, between the sand and waves, the bar, and the hotel, there isn’t going to be much in the way of privacy. I can’t break down into tears when my mental illness insists.

And as for leaning on the support of my travel companions? I can’t do that either. I love my niece and my sister both dearly. But, they do not know much of what I go through. They don’t, nay, they can’t understand. They haven’t been there with me through this. They are the “got a problem? Fix it. Can’t fix it? Fuck it” type of people (damn, how I envy that). As far as their knowledge, I get freaked out around bugs, and that’s it.

So for eight days, I will be confined within my fears.

Hopefully it won’t be so bad. Maybe I read wrong information during my research. Maybe it is still too warm for them to come inside. Maybe I’ll see some, but not as many as I thought I would.

Or maybe…

Maybe it will be terrible. Maybe they will be everywhere and I won’t find a shred of relief from fear the entire time I’m there.

Who knows? This is where my hope-for-the-best, expect-the-worst practice comes in…the very reason I wrote this entry.

So maybe I DO see them and get scared. I’ll be at the freaking BEACH, saying goodbye to summer with a strong drink in my hand. Will it really be so bad? Or maybe a better question is, will I let it be so bad?

I can deal with it or I can run from it and not go.

I’ve got an arsenal of excuses prepared…being afraid to set foot in people’s houses will do that to you. Will they be mad? Surely. Will they get over it? Probably. I can call it off, sleep in tomorrow, and wallow in self pity, wishing I was in the sand.

I’ve decided I’m choosing the other option. I’m going to go to the beach and deal with it. I’ve set up code phrases with my mother and boyfriend, in case I start to have an anxiety attack and need to talk, but do not have the means to do so privately. I’ve got my mantras prepared, and my meditation tracks loaded on to my phone. I’ve got a new prescription of buspar. I’m ready for this.

I’m going to the beach, damn it.

Wish me luck.
xoxoTMM

I’ll never be the same.

If you have a mental illness- whether it be depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder, you know how disconnected you can sometimes feel to the “normal” world around you. What may seem like an everyday task to most is a mountain climb for us. Our interpersonal experiences are harder to manage, and our internal conflicts are more complex. Its a lifestyle that cannot be understood through explanation alone. You must live it in order to comprehend how it affects a person.

I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for literally as long as I can remember. My first experience with mental illness was with separation anxiety that manifested itself as night terrors and bed wetting. Funny. I wish an occasional night terror was all I had to deal with nowadays (although the bed wetting I do not miss).

This phobia…this unshakable fear that persistently looms over me like a lightning storm waiting to strike me down…it’s affected me in ways that I never thought possible, even from mental illness. I’m barely a person anymore. I’ve gotten better, yes, but if this recovery was Mount Everest, I would still be able to see base camp behind me. All of the things I used to love to spend my time on have been replaced with me trying to figure out ways to avoid being triggered. I’ve had the most drastic and irrational ideas run through my mind without me realizing just how outlandish they were until later when I would mentally kick myself for being so crazy. I feel like I’m losing my mind.

And if people didn’t understand my trials before…wow. There aren’t enough words to describe how tired I am of hearing people tell me to just get over it. A fear of bugs is not that bad, right? Everyone’s scared of something, right? Snakes, frogs, bees, what have you. That’s true, only, this isn’t a fear. I wouldn’t even consider a fear and  phobia similar, knowing what I know now. They’re completely different. A phobia engulfs your entire life in worry and vulnerability. Does your fear of snakes do that? Or do you just get a little tense around tall grass? See the difference?

I keep telling myself that it HAS to end sometime. It HAS to get better. There HAS to be a light at the end of the tunnel. there just has to, because honestly? I can’t live this way knowing it will never get better. This is just no life for anyone. I have basically zero independence and my functioning level is nonexistent. I rely on others for everything because I’m too terrified to be by myself, even for a few minutes. Everything is out of control.

Even if it does get better, even if I reach full recovery, I’ll never be the same as I was before I developed this phobia. I’ll never see that girl again. I guess that’s okay, I didn’t like her much anyway. But she definitely beats the girl I am now. Hopefully future me will blow them both out of the water. I want her to be vibrant and bubbly. I want her to go on road trips and jump out of airplanes. I want her to wear cute dresses and make up, instead of baggy tshirts and frumpy jeans. I hope she makes new friends in new places all the time. I hope she chops her hair off and gets tattoos on a whim because life is short. I hope she’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But most importantly, I hope she finds all of the happiness she’s missed out on her entire life.

And as fast as it came, it’s gone.

So, I saw my first in-house stink bug today. Summer is over already, and so is my safe season. The invasion is upon us. For many, this would be a major nuisance at worst and a non-issue at best…but for those of us living with entomophobia, it means the beginning of a long, long, (long)…long, long next few months. I knew this day was coming. I even knew it was coming sooner rather than later. But was I prepared for it? Not in the least.

I was sitting on the couch next to OJ watching netflix when I happened to glance over to the kitchen (as I often do. Another symptom of my phobia- I can’t sit still without darting my eyes around my surroundings every few minutes) and I see it. The tiny manifestation of pure evil is crawling on the bay window, like it freaking pays rent, the bastard. Surprisingly, I didn’t scream, I didn’t cry out. All I could muster was a pathetic little “oh….shit”.

Of course, OJ new exactly what was happening as soon as he heard me say that. Without missing a beat, he goes to the kitchen, takes a paper towel, and ends the creature’s miserable reign.

And again, like clock work, he says to me, “You okay? Wanna talk about it?” I didn’t wanna talk about it, I never do. What do I say? I mean, everything that was previously going on in my mind has evacuated, and all that’s left is intense, skin-crawling anxiety. I don’t really have thoughts after I see a bug, even though one of the best cures for phobias is mindfulness. All I can muster is, “That’s a bummer.” Tears begin streaming down my face.

All of the sudden, OJ turns into Mel Gibson in Braveheart, feeding me a pep-talk filled with the mantras that I’ve heard time and time again. Fear gives small things big shadows, your fear can’t hurt you, your fear is not real, etc. etc. and I’m sitting there, all but comatose. I can’t process what he is saying. Hell, I can barely process how I’m feeling.

By the way, how I’m feeling? I’m feeling like ripping every inch of my skin off. I’m feeling like stuffing myself into a box and sealing it up until next summer when I can feel safe again. I’m feeling like taking a shower that’s so hot it leaves blisters. That’s how I’m feeling.

All because of a stupid little bug.
Remember this the next time you wanna make fun of someone with a phobia, no matter what it is of, no matter how stupid it may seem to you. They’re real and they suck major ass.

Here’s to a short fall.
xoxo TMM

My Grand Canyon

You know, it’s funny. You never actually know something is true, til it is. I mean, you can assume the Grand Canyon is huge, based on pictures and testimonies of friends and acquaintances who have visited the place. You can assume the vast hole is as awe inspiring as it seems to be. However, you can never fully fathom just how big it is until you’re sure that you’re staring down into the canyon itself. You always have the same thought in those situations. “Wow, I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was THAT big.” You didn’t know, and then all of the sudden, you do know.

Don’t worry, this isn’t just some stoner ramble about the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been myself, in fact. It’s more of a metaphor that helps describe this emotion I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve had boyfriends that have come and gone and I was in love-ish. That is, I thought I was in love. Now that I have OJ in my life, I’m one thousand percent certain of it. And now I find myself thinking, “Wow, I knew love was great, but I didn’t know it was THIS great.” Because before, I only had what I knew of love to go off of.

Of course, I know now that my past relationships can’t qualify as love. As a matter of fact, none of them even came close. (I wouldn’t dream of posting something this mushy about any other boy.) Love, for me, is a force that hits you like the air resistance pressing against you on the biggest drop on a roller coaster. It’s intense and exhilarating, and leaves you excited.

I’m excited because I know exactly who I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. I’m excited because I have someone who knows exactly what parts of me need the most attention. When he smiles at me, I see the cosmos in his eyes. I’m not religious at all, but if anything makes me believe, it’s him.

I don’t know what I would be without him, and I don’t care to know. I’m a better person with him, and that’s all that matters. We compliment each other- serving as each other’s cheerleaders when we need a boost, and as each other’s enablers when we know we need to take it easy. We know how to have fun, and we’re damn good at it. A night at home can turn into one of my most precious memories without me even knowing it.

I can cry around him, I can scream around him. I can completely and utterly break down in front of him, and each time he builds me back up.

I’ve never felt anything like this before.

More summer shenanigans.

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Yesterday was lovely. Boyfriend and I planted and spray painted and drank. Add in a little pool time and it would have been the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon. Admittedly I don’t have a lot of people who I hold dear in my life, but the ones I do, like my boyfriend, give me more love than I could ever need.

The Gatlinburg vacation ended up being a surprising success. Of course I saw plenty of bugs to keep my anxiety running a little higher than what I would have liked, but I also made a ton of progress. I even got to the point that on the last day, I was genuinely sad to be leaving the cabin. I’m excited for more vacations in the future. My boyfriend and his entire family are so wonderful. I’m so grateful to have these people in my life. Even more grateful That they think of me as family. My favorite part of the vacation was a tiny place we stopped by, right on the outskirts of Pigeon Forge. It was entirely out of the way from all of the put-put courses, the outlet stores, and all of the other tourist attractions. In fact, we would have missed it if not for our cabin being out that way as well. It was called Goats On A Roof and if you’re ever in the area, I suggest you check it out. It is literally what it’s title represents- a tiny little craft shop with goats…you guessed it…on the roof. Of course they have little ramps to come off the roof as they feel. But the best part was, that for a measly $.50, you could feed these goats. Feeding farm animals from your own hand is an underrated joy of life. I could have stood there for hours feeding those sweet little goats. I’ve already made my boyfriend vow to take me to a petting zoo as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

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The sky has been beautiful lately. The clouds have been plentiful and every day this week the weather has seemed like it was right on the brink of storming. I am a sucker for a beautiful sky. Clouds, sunlight, stars, a big bright moon- there truly is so much beauty in the universe.

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I’ve had my ups and downs but I like to think that I am keeping true to the promise I made to myself, to enjoy my summer despite it all. Despite my mental illness, despite my financial worries, despite every pound of pressure that I am carrying on my shoulders, I truly am enjoying myself.

And that’s beautiful in and of itself.

Not alone.

A strange thing happened to me today. Strange, but necessary, more necessary than I could have thought.

I’m on vacation right now in Gatlinburg TN with my boyfriend and his family. I’m down here with him, his parents, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend. We’re renting a cabin and of course my anxiety is running extremely high because where better to see all kinds of bugs than an open air living space in the middle of the woods?

Upon arrival, we decided to check out the deck of the cabin, since it included a hot tub and we’re all pretty pumped about that. All of the sudden, boyfriend yells that he just saw a snake slither under the boards of the deck. I was unphased. To be such a chicken about everything, snakes are not such a big deal to me. I’ve seen them before and I’ll see them again. Its inevitable where I live- on the northern end of Appalachia. Leave them alone, know which ones are poisonous, and watch your footing and seating in nature and you’ll be fine, they won’t bother you. (If only I could apply this logic to bugs, right? Anyway…) However for a lot of people, snakes spark a powerful fear inside of them…and rightly so. They’re ugly and slithery hell creatures. (I said I wasn’t scared, not that I’m a snake enthusiast :p) My boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend is one of those people. She had a reaction that is similar to mine when I encounter bugs, very similar. She cried and relied on someone else to take care of the problem…her boyfriend.

I truly feel for her. Being that afraid of something is a heavily disheartening feeling. I do not wish that fear upon her, or anyone really. But seeing her react that way really made me feel better. At first I felt guilty for finding comfort in her panic, but then I realized that fear is normal. As much as I want her to not be afraid, she will be. As much as I want myself to not be afraid, I will be. Acceptance is important.

What was even more relieving is seeing the way boyfriend’s family reacted to her fear. They did not judge her, as I have been afraid that they would do of me. They did not make fun of her. They did not ask “why are you scared!?” in that familiar demanding and condescending tone.  They simply accepted the fact that she was scared, and helped her make arrangements to ease her anxiety.

I’m so used to thinking I’m a freak for being so damn irrationally afraid of something. Maybe her phobia isn’t as bad as mine, or maybe it is. I don’t know the girl that well, truth be told. But seeing people respond to someone else’s similar fear was so comforting. More importantly, I can sincerely say that I did not cast judgement on her, not even unintentionally.

So how is my situation any different?

Sure, there are people who raise brows and hold back laughter…and my favorite, people who INSIST on telling me stories in which they encountered a bug. People who just do not understand that my life is hell over this. But I need to get it out of my head that every single person is looking at me like I am some sort of sideshow attraction over my disorder. I love my boyfriend and I love his family. They’re wonderful.

Some people genuinely do just…get it. 

xoxo TMM

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