June 19, 2018

On this day, at about 4am, I began my 6.5 hour drive to Vicksburg, Mississippi to start my Field Team Leader training with AmeriCorps NCCC.

I stopped twice and I’m writing this article to talk about my final stop. I stopped in Cuba, Alabama with a population of 303.

The reason for my stopping was that my gas tank was on E and the next exit was 40 miles away, so it was this exit or the side of the road for me.

I pulled into a gas station- the only gas station at this exit. There was one other truck in the lot. It was about 10am, so it was light outside.

I tried to insert my credit card, but the machine kept saying see cashier, so I walked inside. I was wearing tennis shoes, basketball shorts, and a loose tank top with a sports bra underneath. My hair was in a ponytail.

I walked inside the gas station and noticed that it was quite dark and dirty. I looked for the cashier, but there was no one. Suddenly, a 30something year old man came out. He was short, skinny, and looked to be Asian- I couldn’t say exactly from where.

He said, “Hi! How are you?” I responded with, “Hi, I’m doing well, how are you? Can I get $20 on pump 1?” I held out a twenty dollar bill and waited.

Instead of walking past me and to the register, he walked directly towards me, stopped inches from my face, and said, “How about you give me a hug?” Shocked, I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He moved his hands to my waist and I jumped back. I threw the $20 and said, “Pump 1, now, thank you.”

I turned around, walked back to my car, and prayed to God that I would able to fill my fucking tank because I needed to leave. Finally, I did see that he inputted the amount and I started filling my tank. My eyes frantically darted around me, making sure that he or anyone else didn’t approach me. I let the meter hit about $15- I didn’t care about the money, I just needed to leave. So I left.

I will never forget that feeling. I’ll never forget the disbelief I felt. I’ll never forget the fear I felt when he came so close to my face. I’ll never forget the feeling of disgust I felt when his hands touched me. I’ll never forget thinking, “What if he had been taller, stronger, bigger?” I remember thinking, “Oh my god, what do I do? Do I run? But I need gas. Fuck.”

As I drove the remaining miles to the Southern Region AmeriCorps NCCC campus, I cried. I called my mom. I cried some more.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to say that that is the most physical a man has ever gotten with me. I can’t imagine what other women feel who have gone through worse. My day to day with men has always been limited to cat-calling and inappropriate comments (mostly when I used to work at an auto parts shop). I wrote about this experience in my journal. I will try to find that entry and share what I wrote that day.

You have to trust your partner’s words and feelings.

When I was 16, I wrote a letter to my future self. The letter was about believing my own children (if I decided to have them) when they say that they’re in love at 16. I wrote the letter at a time where I was madly in love with my first girlfriend.

Today, as adults, we have a tendency to look at young[er] love and laugh. “They’re not going to last.” “Little do they know they won’t end up together.” “How cute, they think this is forever.” Whatever your phrase is that you use when looking at teenagers in love, you can’t deny their attraction to each other. You can’t deny their hormones and their impulsive tendencies. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it may or may not last, but what they feel is real. I was there, I was 16, and I know that what I felt wasn’t made up.

16 year old Megan

When your own feelings and words are questioned or doubted, you are quick to get defensive about them- I am, anyway. “What? What do you mean you don’t believe me when I say [insert your words here]?” “Why would you doubt my feelings for you?”

However, on the flip side, I do completely understand the other point of view. The internal dialogue might go something like this: “There is no way that [insert name here] feels what I feel. There is NO way that they like me as much as I like them. They would probably think I’m crazy if they actually knew how often they were in my thoughts. I can’t believe how into them I am, but I’m not convinced that the feeling is completely mutual.”

I think that the above dialogue stems from simple insecurity of self. We are our own biggest critic. We set our hopes and dreams above what we think we will actually ever achieve. We belittle ourselves. We are hard on ourselves. We have a difficult time accepting ourselves as who we are as humans, so the idea that someone else has accepted us- an anxiously uncertain jittering human mass of unshaven limbs and hair that we think looks like it was ordered by the electric socket in our bathroom- can seem very unreal at first.

I’m being dramatic. Personally, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had minimal insecurities about my physical appearance; however, my general “it is what it is” attitude, my frequent use of sarcasm, and my very forward and blunt responses have gotten me into some trouble in the past. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to terms with my personality and I think I’m hilarious. Finding a partner who feels the same way about the things that come out of my mouth has proven to be challenging.

So, when mutual romantic feelings were confessed between me and my now girlfriend, I did have a momentary lapse of thought that went a little like this: “Does she really think that’s funny, though? Is she really okay with what’s happening? I hope I didn’t just insult her. I also hope that she doesn’t think that I sound like a prick. I hope she can tell that I’m not as arrogant as my words make it out to be sometimes.”

In conclusion, humans are all insecure in some way, shape, or form at some point in their lives. We all have issues. We all doubt both ourselves and those around us. For the sake of your relationships, though, do your best to take what your partner says at face value; don’t look too deep into it. Believe them, trust them, and enjoy the ride. If they weren’t into you, they probably wouldn’t be dating you.

Exercise/Exposure Therapy Day 1

Yesterday was my first time participating in exercise and exposure therapy. We worked on desensitization, mindfulness, and focusing on my breathing at a slow walk up a small incline.

A little background: I do not have asthma. I am as healthy as I currently can be. When I’m having a panic attack, my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline are of the same levels as if I was running from a burning building. It’s a false alarm in my head. So, when I try to actually run for fun or for exercise, my brain thinks it’s in panic mode because my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline automatically shoot up the same way they do when my anxiety is at its peak. It’s not fun.

So, the past 10 years I have avoided long distance running and physical activities that might send me into an attack and then into an unconscious state (fainting). It’s frustrating because I love hiking, team sports, marching band, running with my dogs, and so much more; I haven’t felt like I can 100% participate in a long time and that’s what I’m trying to get over through this new type of therapy.

My therapist did say that while exercise therapy is not new to him, he has never treated someone like me with it. Normally, he uses it for people with anger management issues, couples that come to therapy to yell at each other, or people who have body image issues.

I came to therapy yesterday ready to run, but we didn’t get over 2 mph. He said the first session is only about the initial exposure. Next session we might kick it up, but the goal is not to go as fast as we can. The focus of this therapy is getting my heart rate up and then back down without jacking up my breathing. It’s about [not purposely] sending me into panic mode, handling it, and then returning to “normal”. It’s scary, but also exciting.

Closing the Sit Down Therapy Chapter

Last Thursday was my final session in sit down therapy. This week, I will begin exercise therapy. This particular session was bittersweet, but I really enjoyed it and I look forward to the next adventure.

It mostly consisted up a quick update, figuring out the date of the next session, lots of reflection, and some wrap up questions.

  1. Overall, how was therapy for you?
  2. What did you think of your therapist’s emotional responses and encouragement?
  3. What would you tell the you on your first therapy session?

I unexpectedly got choked up while answering one of the final questions and I would like to write about it here.

“What is something that you have learned about yourself since starting therapy?”

Initially, I didn’t actually have a significant answer to this question. I thought about how I learned more about my mental processes and how my anxiety reflects things I haven’t emotionally or mentally dealt with. I recalled retraining my brain to not go to the worst case scenario when feeling anxious. I also thought about how I had accepted that I feel emotions very strongly and that I am naturally someone who loves very deeply.

Then I had a concluding thought: I learned that it is possible for me to live the life I used to only dream of.

After I was diagnosed with GAD and PD, my opportunities and potential for adventure and happiness in life seemed to narrow. It’s been 10 years and the latter statement became something in my life that I simply accepted. I accepted that I would just not be able to do everything that I dreamed of because of my diagnoses.

When people look at my life, they see a wide range of travels and adventure. When people meet me, they see confidence, spirit, and drive. If you were to look at my resume, you might also be fooled. I’m not saying that I haven’t lived a wonderful life, because, trust me, I have. It’s been freaking amazing and I’ve enjoyed everything. I don’t take anything for granted. What I’m saying is that there have been tiny obstacles and various plans that I have either altered or discarded due to my fears.

I was settling on living a life [for the rest of my life] that my anxiety had control over. Sure, I make the initial plans, but my anxiety has always determined whether or not those are carried out. If they are carried out, trust that they have been amended.

Since starting therapy, it has come to my attention that I don’t have to plan my life around my anxiety. I don’t have to modify my plans. I don’t have to cancel my social obligations. I don’t have to kill my dreams.

When I started therapy, I made a decision to tackle my anxiety without medication. My therapist has mentioned that he is proud of me for accomplishing what I have without medication, but I don’t see the significance. I think those who choose to take medication are not weak and I don’t think that those who choose not to take medication are stronger. I think both choices are difficult in their own ways.

With all of this being said, starting therapy back in May was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time. Because of the past 4 months, I am now able to see my future in a new light. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared anymore, but I do think I’m better equipped to tackle what’s to come. Of course, I think I will be even more confident once I go through exercise therapy. Getting my body in line with the changes my mind has gone through will be the next to step to mental liberation. More to come!

I am fucking proud of myself.

I got off of work at 1pm. I drove home, changed, and walked right back out the door to head to the city my new girl lives in. She doesn’t get off of work until 6pm, but traffic is so bad if I leave anywhere after 2pm, I’ll be sitting for over an hour. So, I made it to the nearest Starbucks in about 30 minutes with minimal traffic.

Once at Starbucks, I ordered a venti decaf white peppermint mocha. Man, that’s a mouthful. I went to bathroom while they prepared it and when I came out, I grabbed my drink and headed for one of the couches. There were not many people in here at this time.

I started by going through my work email and responding to them. I checked my personal email as well. Then, I moved to my blog- the one you are currently on. I wrote 3 articles about topics that are at least somewhat emotionally charged. I went to the bathroom once more.

When I came back, I started to get the familiar unwelcome shortness of breath feeling. I thought that maybe my coffee was caffeinated after all. I tried to stay a little while longer, but eventually I had to pack up my things, pee one more time, and nervously head out the door. I still had about an hour to kill, though.

I walked to my car and breathed a small sigh of relief as I sat down. The simple thing of not being around other people is already enough to take a huge weight off. I drove to a nearby parking lot of a shopping center and parked. I pulled up some YouTube videos and wrote in my journal. I also talked to myself trying to rationalize the situation in my brain.

I was not able to completely shake that anxious, heavy feeling in my chest- even once I got to her apartment. It died down a little bit, but it was still very much present. I was nervous to drive home. Having a panic attack while on the road is a huge fear of mine.

Anyway, it did finally come time for me to drive home. I got in my car and drove away. It’s a 30 minute drive of nothing but highway. I got about 5 minutes in before I felt that feeling again. I started biting my nails and I hiked my left leg up on the seat- my go to position when I feel anxious in the car. Then, I decided to try and focus on my breathing.

I counted about 4-5 counts inhaling and 8-10 counts exhaling to counteract my hyperventilation. It was working. Then the feeling came back. I tried again to really focus on my breathing and the road. I felt myself calm down a little bit and I was able to get home quickly and safely with a lot less panic than if I had not focused so much on this breathing pattern.

This is big for me. I am rarely able to focus enough on my breathing to actually slow it down, but I did it. Practice makes better, I guess. I’m just proud that I made it home alright.

I’m in bed now. It’s late. I have work tomorrow. My roommates are both out of town and sleeping alone in this house makes me nervous. My neighborhood is not exactly the safest, but that’s Atlanta for you. My doors are all locked and I left one living room light on. We also have all 3 of our cars in the driveway, so it looks like their are plenty of people here. I’ve done this before, I think I can do it again.

Goodnight, all.

Something I Don’t Like To Admit

I fall fast and I fall hard.

Outwardly, I do a stellar job of acting “normal” and keeping my obsessive brain under control, but internally I have eloped, moved to Europe, and birthed 20 children. And the person I have done this with I have known for 10 days.

In all seriousness, I do develop feelings for people I date very quickly once I’ve determined that they are a desirable candidate for courting. I fall for their quirks and their flaws and the way they move. I memorize what their voice sounds like, what they smell like, and what their touch feels like. And then I want it all the time. Again, I have only known them for an extremely short time.

I feel myself already attaching myself to the person I just started seeing. I have also had an increase in nightmares and anxiety, so I think I’m doing my panic dance concerning commitment (even though my brain clearly wants it?!?!?!).

I’ll be fine. I can take a chill pill and just take it slow. At the same time, I will try to enjoy this person and learn as much about them as I can so that I know I’m not leading my heart into a pit of fire and death. Well, that was dramatic, wasn’t it.

What is something that YOU don’t like to admit about yourself concerning dating?

It’s One of “Those” Days

I think it began last night, when I drove home during a thunderstorm/flash flood warning. I was driving 40mph on the interstate and trying to focus on my breathing. I don’t know what it is about driving through the rain at night, but it makes me so incredibly anxious. I wore my headphones to block out some of the noise.

This morning, I woke up a 6:00am. I got dressed, grabbed my food, and walked about the door. As I sat in my car and listened to the radio for a few minutes. Then I turned it off. I could feel that my mind was tired. I didn’t sleep terribly and I went to bed before midnight. I just felt really weak.

On my way to work I picked up some Post Its at Kroger. There were a lot of school buses on the roads because school has started again.

Now I’m in the office building. I went to the bathroom to adjust my bra straps; they were too loose and falling off of my shoulders. I returned to my work area and poured some of my homemade granola into a mug because I did not bring a bowl. The granola proceeded to spill into my mug and everywhere else as well. I got up to get the broom and ran my right thigh into the pointy handle of the drawer next to it. I grabbed the broom and returned to the crime scene.

So, here I am. I’m eating mediocre granola cereal and trying to keep my eyes open. I’m hungry and full at the same time. I feel like I could both sleep forever and never sleep again. I could cry and laugh simultaniously.

I’ll be staying late at work today. We’re doing troubleshooting exercises and there’s a new girl to train. There’s nothing interesting at my house anyway.

Being Kind To My Guilt

Today in therapy we discussed being kind to negative thought processes and also giving thanks to negative past experiences and people who were involved in them. Lastly, we touched on guilt and how it can be a positive thing.

I think it was most difficult to give any sort of thanks to the people and the situations that were not kind to me in the past. My therapist says I don’t need to thank them for what they did, but rather for giving me the opportunity to get through that and know what to look out for the next time around. I understand what he was saying, but I still struggle with being grateful for any of those experiences.

I have always had such an issue with guilt. I struggle with accepting gifts and letting people do favors for me. I struggle the most with feeling guilty about not always being able to be there for people. I know that I don’t HAVE to see X amount of people each week, but I feel that they rely on me. They depend on me. They count on me. I forget to be there for myself, and I know that, and I’m working on it.

My therapist says that I don’t always have to claim the emotions I experience when I talk about them in our session. For example, he asked me how I could practice being kind to guilt. I immediately asked, “MY guilt?”. He said I can own it, but I don’t have to. I decided to own it.

I guess what I learned today was to see the silver lining. I don’t think it’s always a good idea to have that mindset, but I’d much rather look at my past experiences as moments of learning and growth rather than as moments of devastation and shame.

A Little Dark Cloud

As I was driving home from a very nice evening with Chelsea last night, a slightly terrifying thought crept into my mind. With it also came a familiar feeling from 2014. The things that were attracting me to her were very similar to the things that attracted me to my emotional abusive and manipulative ex.

My ex was very “guilt trippy” and manipulative. Chelsea is nothing like that, but neither was my ex in the first 4-6 months. I see in Chelsea many of the good parts of my ex. They are fundamentally very different people and their personalities are also quite different. Their approach to life, emotions, and conflict is very similar though. It’s also very similar to mine.

To be honest, though, the way I deal with my emotions and anxiety has changed profoundly since I started therapy. I’m much more prone to crying and just letting those sad feelings take over me for however long my body needs it. So, I see parts of my old self in Chelsea, too. I suppose every person is different and maybe what she’s doing works for her. She doesn’t seem to have any huge issues and she seems pretty self aware, so I guess I shouldn’t be concerned.

All in all, I’m not worried. If I see red flags, I leave. If I don’t, I look forward to seeing where this goes.

Meeting Number 4

Today I will be going to my date’s apartment. I’ve been there once before, this past Monday. I feel that I will be writing about this development quite a bit so let’s call her Chelsea so we have a name.

We started talking via Bumble on July 16th. We met for the first time in person on July 23rd. Since then, we’ve seen each other twice, so today will be the fourth meeting.

She’s funny and kind and considerate. She’s very attentive when I tell stories. I made her take the love language test because I suspected that she would have similar results to me and I was right. We both score 10 points or more towards Quality Time and both of our second category was Acts of Service. Her Myers Briggs type is also INTJ, so that was also interesting to discover.

I think there are many people who struggle with long term dating because they’re addicted to the feeling they get during the first few meetings. I, too, find the first few weeks, maybe first 2-3 months, the most exciting, but I also greatly look forward to being fully comfortable with someone. Nerves are fun and tingly, but they also create a lot of anxiety for me.

I feel that this is the first time in a long time that I have been fully myself with someone from the beginning. In previous partnerships, I often had a wall. A large wall. A large concrete wall with spikes. It wasn’t great and it was draining to keep up, but I was doing it to protect my feelings and heart. I don’t feel that I have a wall with Chelsea. She makes me feel very comfortable and I feel free to be however I want to be in the moment.

Without giving away too much of her personal information, she hasn’t had as much experience with women as I have, and that made me nervous at first. I think she has a fear or concern of not living up to my past experiences, but she should know that I have a fear of fucking it up as well. It goes both ways and I think that’s a healthy discussion to have.

Right now, there is a definite safe space to have any conversation and I hope we are able to maintain that. I really like her and I’m excited to see where this goes. I’m allowing myself to feel giddy and I’m embracing it.