Conquer the Fear

I have always had a funny relationship with dreams. Not the kind of dreams where your mind tells you stories while you slumber, but the kind of dreams that you wish you could make happen. The goals that run through your mind constantly. The kind of dreams that make you think “it would be so cool if this could happen for me.” I have had a couple of those dreams, the kind where I constantly say “I wish” to, and I always wondered if I would be brave enough to try to make my dreams become a reality.

I have spoken about this before, but for as long as I can remember, my biggest dream was to become a writer. I don’t even need to be an extremely successful writer, but a writer nonetheless. I wanted to share stories, life lessons, and informative pieces. I wanted to be able to write something that someone out there could relate to. I wanted my words to start a dialogue between strangers, bringing all of us together in some sort of way. I wanted to come up with fictional stories that could captivate an audience and have them asking for more. I have longed for my imagination to take me to a place in my career that I could be proud of, but there was one thing standing in my way. Fear. 

I take that back. Fear wasn’t the only thing keeping me from trying to accomplish my dream, but it definitely was the biggest factor. I always told myself that if I were to ever try to make something out of myself through my writing that I would put every ounce of energy into it. Everything that I have would be dedicated to this one massive dream of mine. However, the circumstances that I was in both financially and mentally would prevent me from being able to do that, that is, until recently. 

Finances have been a strain for Stephen and me for many years. It seemed like every time we were able to save money and feel like we were finally getting to a place of financial stability something would happen that would wash that sense of security straight away. “It’s just a part of life.” “Welcome to being an adult.” “No one ever said that growing up would be easy.” That is what people would tell me about the unfortunate cost of being alive. Also, let’s not forget the worst day of the year for people who rely on medications to live: January 1st. Being a type one diabetic is incredibly expensive, and January 1st is the day that your deductible resets. It always feels like a slap in the face when you have to worry about paying for an insurance premium, a deductible, and the medication that you need in order to keep breathing. A major thanks to my pancreas for adding that stressor to my life. Anyways, I had to work at jobs that I absolutely loathed in order to get by, much like the majority of our society. While I would work, I would fantasize about one day being able to write and have my words be read by the world, but by the time that I would come home from work I had little to no energy to put into my dream. It was a vicious cycle. Work. Dream. Fantasize. Go home. Crash. Repeat.

When it comes to my mentality, I always wanted to have the energy to just make my dream happen. I knew that in order for my writing to flourish I had to put in the work. I knew from the beginning that if you want something in this world that it won’t be handed to you, and if you want it bad enough one day it could be yours. But you have to work for it. I never wanted anything to just be handed to me, but I was too emotionally drained to be able to work towards my goal. As I said, I HATED all of my previous jobs, and they made me feel worthless. I felt like such a disappointment, and it sunk my self-worth to basically nothing. I was already dealing with depression and anxiety, so feeling down on myself for my career left me with nothing. And when you already lack any sort of energy, when you feel like you are sucked dry of everything that you are, you just go into survival mode. I was a walking zombie, just living life on autopilot. When you are in that mode, you just don’t have the extra energy to put into “extra” luxuries, such as accomplishing a dream. You’re just trying to stay alive. 

Eventually, finances started to become better, and with a ton of work, so did my emotional stability. I entered the unexplored territory in my life where I had an option to quit my paying job in order to try to make my dream come true. I never, ever imagined in my entire twenty-six years on this planet that I would ever have this opportunity as an option, and now that it could be a possibility it scared the hell out of me. I started second-guessing if I could actually afford to quit my job, I wondered if it was the responsible thing to do, and I worried that my husband might end up resenting me for not going into an actual job every day as he does. I had developed all of this doubt to the point where one day I would talk myself up and say “I am just going to do it.” Then the next day I would say “I can’t do this. What was I thinking?” I was driving my husband insane with my doubt and fear, and finally, he just told me to quit my job and focus on my writing. It was kind of a “now or never” type situation. It is odd to me that after spending years imagining, hoping, and fantasizing about this moment that suddenly I was pumping the breaks. I think it is one of those things that you never think is in the cards for you, and when you finally have an opportunity to make it happen it puts you in a state of shock. And then that state of shock turns into doubt, and then that doubt turns into fear. But after talking to my therapist and doing some major introspective work, I made the decision to quit my job to attempt to make my dream come true.

It was scary. It still is scary to this day. As it stands, I am two months into what could be a life-altering choice that I made. But with that being said, I don’t think that I have ever been happier about myself. So here is the thing. I am not oblivious or naive to the fact that there is a high probability that nothing will come from this. I know that I am asking for a lot from the universe to give me the success that I desire from my writing, but I just want it so bad. I live for my writing. I live for my audience. It brings me so much satisfaction whenever I push the “Publish now” button on my website. It warms my heart whenever someone messages me about a piece that I wrote. I am thriving. I feel alive. My spark is growing larger and larger with each day that passes. Yes, as per usual, the unknown is terrifying. I do not know where this is going to take me in my life. But do you know what sounds even more terrifying to me? Not knowing if my dream could have been a reality. Always pondering the idea if I made the right choice by not running towards my lifelong dream. I will never regret the choice I made to try to improve my life by chasing my dream, and I will continue to thrive on it until the moment I draw my final breath. 

Fear was one of the strongest internal opponents that I have ever had to face, but man does it feel amazing to conquer that monster.

Dream, Oh Dream

****TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THIS PIECE TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT.

Isn’t it amazing how one dream can ruin your entire day? Last night I had a dream about him, the guy that stole my security, amongst other things, and now he stole the opportunity for me to enjoy my day. I woke up feeling immediately anxious, and I woke up wanting to immediately break out into hysterics. I woke up wanting to die. 

The ironic thing is that it wasn’t even a bad dream. We were together, like in a committed relationship. I loved him and he loved me. We were laughing, having meaningful conversations, and even having consensual sex. The fact that I was so happy in this dream really fucked with my head, and the moment I woke up I felt sick to my stomach with disgust. How could someone who brought me so much pain be in a dream that could have been interpreted as something so beautiful? I felt so confused and overwhelmed, and it just added to the rest of the emotions that I felt. 

Usually, I take my time waking up in the morning. Since I loathe morning time and I consider it to be vile, it takes me some time to get adjusted. This morning, however, was not like my typical morning. Since I woke up feeling so awful from this dream, I already woke up fully awake. Plus, whenever I tried to close my eyes, all I could picture was him. Him and his grimy hands touching me, me smiling at him, me having feelings for him. Seeing those visions was too much for me to handle, so I decided to get up and distract myself. As luck would have it, I already had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, but I had a couple of hours to kill before that time. So I went to the store and walked around for a bit, picked up some medication, and then drove back home. 

My therapist has always told me when I am having bad thoughts to do whatever I can to distract myself. Whether that is writing, going out to the store, getting coffee, going for a walk or just hanging out with my animals, I need to just do something to distract myself. Since I woke up so anxious it was a goal of mine to try to calm down before my appointment, but I wasn’t able to help myself. After I left the store and pulled into my driveway, I just sat in my car. My anxiety was even worse than it was before I had left, and I felt as if it were physically impossible for me to move my body. Then my thoughts transitioned from thinking about my dream to what actually happened in real life. Thinking about what happened always does me in. My already horrible anxiety turned even worse, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought about how easy it would be for me to open my garage, pull in, and close the garage door behind me while leaving the car on. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I am writing this right here and now, but having those thoughts, as brief as they can be, still do some sort of damage.  

One of the biggest problems that I am having is truly moving on from that incident. I feel as if he has me in a chokehold, and after all of these years, my freedom is still at his mercy. I absolutely hate what happened, I hate him for doing what he did, and I hate myself for not being able to be strong enough to break free from his grip. In the past, I told you that I was fragile. Now, here is your proof. 

Luckily my therapy appointment helped me a lot. I told her everything that happened in the dream, how I woke up feeling, and how it affected my day thus far. One thing that was killing me that I needed help understanding was why I had that dream. Usually, when I dream of him I dream of what happened or scenarios that closely resemble what happened. But this was so different. You see, her answer was not as complicated as I thought it was going to be. She asked me there were any personality traits of his that could be considered “good.”  I had known him for a decent amount of time. I was eleven when we were first introduced, and the big incident didn’t happen until I was fifteen. So in that time frame, I saw things from him that I thought were great qualities, but at the end of the day, it was all a lie so that he could deceive me so that he could get what he wanted. He wanted me to trust him, and he was able to get that from me. So was he actually “good?” No. But the perception that I had of him was that he was. I told her about this memory that I have of him that I will never forget. My parents took a bunch of us to this fair that happens every summer, and I went off with him and his friend. I was wearing a skirt and a halter top, but I had to have been twelve at the time so it wasn’t too revealing. There was this one man that was running one of the game booths that just stared at me for the longest time. He and his friend didn’t like that, so they blocked his view of me in order to protect me. I just remember them both becoming visibly upset and rushing me away from that guy, and that is probably the one and only good memory that I have of him. That is the only time I remember him actually being genuine. 

So the answer ended up being pretty easy. I had a trauma and the body and mind hold on to that trauma. Supposedly, as an attempt to protect myself, my subconscious gave me that dream to try to push the negativity and the trauma away and to put him in a good light.  Dreaming of something that could be interpreted as “good” could help me move on from the bad. But I would like to give my subconscious a heads up about something. If given a choice, I really would rather not dream or think of him at all. So thanks for trying but next time just refrain from “helping” me. 

I don’t think that I will ever fully break free from him. That memory will always be there, however, I am learning that I have control over my life now. Whenever I think about him and what he did I can take comfort in knowing that he isn’t apart of my life now, so I don’t have to keep ripping open those wounds. Now is the time for healing, and although I will always have those scars, those scars will symbolize my strength.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

I am Falling

I am falling. 

When it comes to my depression and anxiety, I never know what each day is going to look like. Some days I feel like I can live a functional life, while some days I can barely get out of bed.

I am falling.

Just as I thought everything was starting to look up, I realized that I was starting to come back down.

I am falling.

Internally I am screaming for help as loud as I can, but as desperate as I am to reach out to others I am afraid to burden them.

I am falling.

There is a tiny voice in my head that keeps taunting me. “Here we go again. Brookana is falling into another low.” I want to grab my mind and shake it, I want to scream “SHUT UP” and “LEAVE ME ALONE” but I know whatever I do I won’t be able to quiet the voice. 

I am falling. 

I haven’t cut in a decent amount of time, and the only reason I am writing right now is to distract myself. I see my scars on my thighs, the marks that represent that desperation to feel something, to satisfy my mind. I don’t want any more of these reminders, but the amount of strength that it is taking to not pick up my blade is exhausting. 

I am falling.

I haven’t left my house in three days.

I am falling.

I am isolating.

I am falling.

I am not sleeping.

I am falling.

I wonder what it is like to not have to experience depression and anxiety. Is it as sweet as I imagine it to be? Not having to worry about sinking, not having to worry about bleeding, not having to think about how your own mind is trying to sabotage your life. How freeing it must feel to not have anxiety that dictates what you can and can not do, to have this warden in your own personal prison, to have the power to literally take your breath away and make you feel like you are dying.

I am falling.

I imagine my life is a giant rabbit hole. I keep falling and falling until I can finally grip something and pull myself up, and then out of nowhere I slip and I am falling again. If I hit the ground, that means I am gone, but if I can eventually pull myself up I could finally experience living.

I am falling. 

My cat won’t leave my side. I think he can sense something is wrong.

I am falling.

This time around, I refuse to say that I am fine until I actually feel fine.

I am falling.

I am breathing. With each breath that I inhale and with each movement of my chest reminds me that I have more life to live. 

I am falling.

I need time to work through this.

I am falling.

Just like every other time I sink into a low, I know I will be okay.

I am falling.

Misophonia

Everyone has their pet peeves. But what if your pet peeve brought on an intense feeling of anger? Or what if it made you feel the urge to cry? What if it gave you anxiety or made you sweat? I have a pet peeve that has the ability to make me feel all of those things. Hi, my name is Brookana and I have Misophonia.

 

Misophonia is basically when certain noises result in a reaction that may seem senseless to others. My “trigger” noises consist of the following: gum chewing/popping, loud breathing, loud obnoxious eating, pen tapping, crunching, and slurping. I know that these are noises that most people can’t help but make, but I can’t help but feel a rush of emotion whenever I hear them.

 

I haven’t had Misophonia my entire life. I believe I was about six or seven when I experienced my first rush of anger after hearing a noise, and the first trigger noise to present itself was gum chewing. My middle brother always chomping on gum and it never used to bother me, in fact, I don’t really recall ever really noticing it much in the past, but there was just one day where his incessant chomping just filled me up with rage. I just remember wanting to punch him every time he chomped on that gum, and that was the day that my life started to crumble. 

 

Trust me, I understand how utterly ridiculous and dumb this sounds. Every time I would become upset over someone eating or chewing gum I would feel so bad about myself. I have never understood why these trigger sounds have to get under my skin the way that they do, and I am positive that my friends and family who know that I have this think that I am crazy. Hell, even I feel insane sometimes. The term “Misophonia” is fairly new, and when I found out that more people were talking about this and that there was an actual disorder for the thing that I have been feeling ever since I was young made me feel so validated. Perhaps I am not as crazy as I always thought I was, and that felt great. 

 

I feel like the older I become the more intense my Misophonia presents itself. I avoided the movie theater for years because I couldn’t handle the sounds people would make with their candy and their popcorn. Going out to dinner has become increasingly difficult because if I hear people around me eating it is all that I can fixate on. Being with my family can be hard for me because I have quite a few family members who make sounds as if they are starving animals fighting over their prey. Although being in public can result in me feeling upset and defeated, I have found new techniques that help me cope better with the sounds that can make me feel so horrible. I have started carrying earplugs with me everywhere I go so that if I start feeling overwhelmed by noises that I can’t control, I have the power to just turn them off. It may seem odd or silly that I put earplugs in public, however, if I can have solutions to help soothe my escalating emotions I will most certainly take advantage of those. 

 

Although there is not a cure for Misophonia there are ways that you can cope with it to help soothe yourself in stressful situations. I have learned ways to help myself when I am starting to feel anxious over my trigger sounds, and although it may come across as rude I would rather be rude with my coping mechanisms than be rude with my outbursts. Some ways that I help ease my emotions when they are starting to escalate are:

  1. Walking away when someone is eating and I feel my anger starting to form.
  2. Using my earplugs to help cancel out unwanted noises.
  3. Exercising my right to alone time whenever I need to calm down from a situation that I couldn’t walk away from. 
  4. Using headphones and listening to music to cancel out undesirable noises. 
  5. Distracting myself with a book while using earplugs to keep my mind off of the noises.

 

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms to deal with their Misophonia. Every now and again I learn new ways to deal with my emotions. I feel like although my Misophonia has become more intense and I have acquired more trigger noises, the way that I have handled them has improved. There once was a time where I used to wish that I could go deaf so that I didn’t have to hear these noises anymore. Or I would just hide in a bathroom and cry hysterically because the noises would make me so mad. Now I still get angry, but I have learned to walk away or use my earplugs to prevent me from getting even more overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is that I will never be able to escape the sounds that bring me so much angst. Hearing people eating or chewing gum is unavoidable when you live in a world where over seven billion people exist, and expecting people to change themselves just to appease you and to make your life easier is just plain selfish. Adapting and finding ways to cope is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for the people around you.

 

Just remember this one thing: having Misophonia doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes you a little more quirky and interesting!

Stress

The older I become the more that I learn about myself. It is an interesting experience having a revelation about yourself. I have always been confident that no one knew me more than myself, and that although I am aware that I am constantly evolving as a person I always knew what was changing about me as the changes were taking place. With that being said, there is some new information that I have realized about myself that I was not expecting and that I find truly troubling, and that is the fact that I handle stress in a very poor way. 

Don’t get me wrong, with the amount of anxiety that I deal with I have never been excellent at handling stressful events, however, I always thought that I had some tact with dealing with unfortunate issues. Perhaps that was how I used to be, and now as I am getting older and have experienced more things the way that I handle things have changed, but if I were to be perfectly honest I don’t remember how I dealt with intense issues in the past. From what I can remember, I used to internalize things a lot. I would think about what was stressing me out constantly until it was resolved or until I didn’t have a need to think about it further. It wasn’t until I started therapy that I realized that internalizing things that were a bother to me was unhealthy. I know that there are coping mechanisms when dealing with stress, and I loathe the fact that at twenty-six years old I am still having trouble with it.

I think the biggest stressor in my life would have to be my animals. My animals are my literal world. Most of my joy stems from them, and I love them more than anything in the universe. (Don’t worry, I love Stephen as much as them. He is not being neglected.) So when one of them becomes sick, even if it is something small, I fall apart. This is something that I feel an immense amount of shame for, and I know this flaw should be at the top of my priorities to try to fix. When one of my animals isn’t feeling well, I immediately think the worst. My anxiety starts to get worse and worse, to the point where I feel like I can’t breath. My heart beats so fast, and I turn ice cold. I cry uncontrollably, and sometimes I even throw up. 

A few months ago Gimli wasn’t feeling well for about six hours. I noticed something was off because he wasn’t eating his food, and that is so unlike Gimli. The moment he hears me reaching for a can of wet food he starts meowing and running towards his bowl, and then starts immediately chowing down the instant his food plops down. So for Gimli to be uninterested in his food had me worried right away, and then we he started becoming lethargic a full blown panic started to take over me. All of my symptoms that I mentioned before were at the forefront of my internal battle of attempting to handle this properly, and the worry that I felt was so strong. When I am having anxiety like that, I truly feel like I don’t have any control over myself. I know that what I am doing isn’t rational or right, but I can’t help it. I just lose control. That was when I did something that I am even embarrassed to say. Before I switched my medication I was taking one anxiety pill in the morning and then one anxiety pill at night. Those pills helped me stay leveled throughout the day, because the smallest thing, like driving for instance, would give me anxiety. Well anyways, with Gimli not feeling well and with me being as panicked as I was, I took an extra pill. Then a little while later when that didn’t help I took another. Taking those extra pills was something that I had never done before, and when Stephen saw my pill bottle next to me he immediately took them away from me and hid them. Luckily, Gimli felt better not too long after that happened, and I instantly felt better because I knew that he was going to be okay. Please believe me when I say that I know that this is shameful behavior and quite frankly immature, but I think I have a theory as to why I have these reactions to stress when it comes to my animals. 

Back in October 2018, my little lion, Lupin, passed away. Watching Lupin go through everything that he went through for a month was one of the most traumatizing and difficult things that I have ever seen. When you love someone or something as much I loved Lupin and you’re watching them die in front of your eyes and there is literally nothing that you can do can change a person. I know that I have never been the same since Lupin died. Every little thing that is not typical with my animals or even with Stephen gives me instant worry and anxiety. Even when I try to talk to myself through the situation with logic and try to convince myself that everything is okay, I still can’t convince myself of that. I think that when my Lupin died he took a huge part of me, and not just the part that loved him more than life itself. I think my security is gone, and now every time something happens I just instantly think back to Lupin. 

Thank god for Stephen. When something happens and I shut down he becomes the voice of reason. He takes control of the situation, and helps with everything. I am so lucky to have a partner who can handle a stressful situation with ease, even when I have gone crazy. 

The way that I handle stress is probably one of my worst flaws. It is definitely something that I am attempting to work on with my therapist, because no matter how hard I try to avoid stressful situations that is just not how life works. I need to develop better coping mechanisms, because how I handle things, or lack of handling things, is so unhealthy. It is going to be a long journey, but I look forward to the day where I have a stressor come to light and I am able to handle it in a mature way.