Vampires in Your Life

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We all have them. Sometimes they are psychic vampires. An example would be an abusive boss, who thrives on your fear of losing your job, or an abusive partner, who controls you through threats of losing your domestic stability.

An emotional vampire is someone you care about, and who cares about you, but continually does things that are harmful to your well-being without intent to harm you. These are the hoarders. The people suffering from addiction who don’t realize that their “little” habit harms you. The people who are perpetually broke when they should not be. The people who should know how to live as adults but can’t unless you help them.

How to deal with a psychic vampire: get away as quick as you can, then use the legal system against them if possible.

How to deal with emotional vampires: you can’t. I’m sorry. You can talk to them day after day, night after night, and the behavior that’s harmful to them and to you will never stop. That’s because you (probably) aren’t a medical professional. You have to find a way to live around these people. You have to mentally separate yourself from them. They will drive you mad in a different way than a psychic vampire. You care for or love the emotional vampire. You see the problem(s) they’re having. You suggest ways to change. You have earnest conversations with them about their problems. You make stronger suggestions. They pull away. You explain to them about the ways that their problems affect other people, including you. “I know,” “I don’t know where to start,” “It’s overwhelming.”

And it goes on and on and on.

An emotional vampire cannot envision another way of living. You can talk sternly, threaten to leave, leave, cut off contact, and it won’t make a difference.

The emotional and physical crap they’ve built up is beyond you. They need professional help. You’ll drive yourself to the cliff edge of insanity trying to get through to them. They hear it, they know it, but “it” is their routine. They honestly can’t see how it’s harmful to anyone.

You have to live your own life as much as possible. If you’re a caregiver for an emotional vampire, you should seek out family help so that you’re not carrying the load alone. If you are alone, contact your local senior center or Social Services. They may be able to give you information about respite care.

If you feel that you’re losing yourself to an emotional vampire, seek professional help, or at least reach out to friends.

And that thing you’ve been wanting to do . . . hang the picture. Go to the movie. Cut your hair. Grow out your hair. Get the tattoo. Buy the book. Write the book. You can do it. You have to enforce little pockets of time for yourself, and you’ll have to hear some bullshit about it afterward, but it’s all words. Do the thing you have to do for yourself, and above all, do not lose yourself.

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Failure Does Not Make You Stronger

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Since so many people feel free to throw around a blanket statement like “failure makes you stronger,” I’m going to throw my own blanket out there for those who think that’s a colossal load of horseshit.

Failure may make some people stronger. Or maybe it makes them more determined. Or angry enough to attack their problem and crush it.

Failure also destroys dreams, costs people their life savings, demoralizes them, causes them to fall into deep depressions that never lift, makes them simply give up. No, it’s not a case of blame the victim for their response to the situation. It is the situation that brings on the emotions that break a person.

There have been many people who have gotten back up after failures and become heroes, and I admire those people. But there are many more people who “failed” and lost their motivation, their way, even their will to live. Those people are not one iota less than any other person who has ever walked the face of the earth. They deserve our empathy and our help and our support.

Not one single person in the world has the exact personality and strength as another. We are all snowflakes. The way that we respond to all the stones life throws at us is a combination of nurture and circumstance. The cruelest thing someone ever said to me was a friend (it’s always a friend) who, when I was very down (I have chronic untreated depression because I can’t afford the healthcare I need) said, “You want to hear about a real problem? My first son was stillborn.”

I knew about that, she told me about it earlier in our friendship, and it broke my heart that her baby didn’t live, that she is still so obviously tormented by it after more than twenty years and four living, extraordinary sons. Pregnancy, the deaths of infants, stillbirths, and infertility affect me in a different way than “normal” people because I’m infertile. I cried for my friend.

I have seen her through so many problems, and I don’t consider a stillbirth a “problem.” I consider it a tragedy. I’ve seen her through problems large and small. I’ve seen many people through problems large and small. I’ve never said, “You want to hear about a real problem? I got pregnant once, when I was 20, had a miscarriage, and had to have a hysterectomy when I was 32.”

Every single person deals with tragedies and problems differently. We’re beaten with the “tragedy/failure/whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” myth until we feel like failures if our failures don’t make us stronger. My tragedy didn’t make me stronger. Am I a failure? My marriage failed. I don’t feel that made me stronger. Smarter, maybe, wary, cynical, suspicious, cautious, guarded, reliant on my intuition, mistrustful of my heart. But mostly it made me feel like I hurt my stepdaughter by not bearing up under the abuse for four more years, until she turned 18, and then I could have somehow bowed out gracefully.

That’s the mindset evoked for some of us by “failure makes you stronger.”

If it doesn’t make you stronger either, you’re not weak. You, like me, lack the ability to rebound from deep personal tragedy or disappointment in a way that inspires others.

It’s not my damn job to be an inspiration.

We’re not heroes in the conventional sense. We’re heroes because we’re alive. Like my friend, who lived through a tragedy and kept going.

We need to stop celebrating the myth of strength through failure and start celebrating the fact that we got up  today and took care of our families and/or went to work or put in another job application or planted a garden or adopted a pet or saw another human being through the fallout of a failure. Failing doesn’t have to mean you lose your dreams. It would be a lot more productive and humane if we all saw ourselves as part of a support system and helped each other regain our strength after a failure or a loss.

Get Over It

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I did.

I got over caring about the opinions of people who can’t comprehend that to some of us, money is not everything.

I got over expecting people to change. I’ve accepted that some people in my life are good people with bad habits. I’ve also accepted that some people are just bad people who will always drag down others, and I’ve excised them from my life.

I got over feeling that I need to live up to the standards of people who don’t share my values and have no respect for me.

I got over feeling that my life and life experiences are less valuable than those of other people.

I got over feeling that something was wrong with me for being single and liking it.

I got over taunts from so-called adults about my cats and my hobbies.

I got over wasting energy on people who think that caring for an aging parent at home is a waste of my life.

I got over trying to fit into a faith where I do not belong.

I got over trying to apply all the rules to my books when I realize I was fucking up my voice in an attempt to write to the trend.

I got over the societal pressure to forgive those who haven’t asked for forgiveness or tried to make amends or even admitted wrongdoing. I don’t need to forgive them to “heal.” I have mental and physical scars that are never going to heal. I am brave enough to live with them instead of mouthing words of forgiveness that evoke no feeling in me.

I did forgive the people who comprehended the pain caused by their actions.

I learned to set boundaries. That was hard because I thought I was already doing it. I wasn’t. I also got over my fear of “authority” figures who expect me to be the one who always gives, gives in, accepts atrocious behavior for the sake of appearances. This fucking state. This fucking town. This fucking multi-generational sickness that says smile and keep the peace.

I’ve always been taught not to make waves. Some situations require making waves and being firm and unyielding. And those are skills we’re all going to need for the foreseeable future: don’t be afraid of upsetting people by demanding your legal rights, your familial rights, your right to be treated like a human being and not just a customer/account number.

I’m so very tired of seeing awful advice about forgiveness dispensed by people who just make up bullshit for a living. I’ve tossed out self-help books and unfollowed motivational authors whose advice has not one damn thing to do with our reality. Now, the impossible standards they set just piss me off.

Honestly, if you’ve found a way to survive and cope and somehow thrive in this new world, I applaud you.

I got over taking things for granted. The things I’ve trusted in my whole life are crumbling by the day. I learned the difference between quality time and wasted time. I learned that spiritual rituals help me when I’m anxious and confused and give me back a sense of control that’s been trod into the muck over the last several months.

I learned that there are some opportunities you should take even if you’re unsure because if you don’t, you’ll regret it later.

My wish is to somehow bring all my friends back together like we were a year ago because what has divided us is a living lie.

I’ve had some brutal life experiences the last two months, and I don’t wish them on anyone. I hope you can “get over” the things that are holding you back and put yourself first, unapologetically.

I want us to be united because that’s the only way we can take control and create our best future.

Motivation failure

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I responded to a woman I follow on Twitter after she posted a motivational quote. I probably shouldn’t have. I do not for one second believe that she ever thought the quote could be in any way offensive or upsetting, but it is to me every time I see it because it is so totally unrealistic and really has a victim-blaming tone about it.

The quote was about change your thoughts, change your situation. Something to that effect. I used to believe in that. I believed it every day and believed so hard and it did not work.

It did not help me view my living situation in any kind of positive light.

It did not help me manage my anxiety and OCD. Nothing but medication and therapy has ever helped with that.

It did not help me deal with the unkind people in my life because no matter what *I* did, they kept on doing things to hurt me. In fact, my attempts to be more understanding led to them taking even more advantage of me.

It did not help me deal with my physical health problems. It did not help me deal with anything, let alone give me the tools to change my situation.

And so I get so sick of seeing it repeated and earnestly passed around that I finally told this woman that I found the quote offensive and even harmful to people with OCD because we can’t change our thoughts without intensive medical intervention. Quotes and prayers are not going to help us. We pray for release from tormenting thoughts every day of our lives. At best, we turn to life examples of other people who have made it through horrific situations and try to look at them as role models and remind ourselves that that person got through X thing. I can get through this. And that doesn’t always work.

Distracting myself just leads to another intrusive thought. There is not one thing in my life I can think about that doesn’t come with some accompanying anxiety or bad memory. Just now I looked at one of my favorite dolls and immediately remembered this past February when a man and a woman cyberstalked me for weeks after I complained on Target’s Facebook page about poor service after I ordered a doll. Now I’m going to think about that all night and probably have a nightmare.

I got an early Christmas gift yesterday, a deck of oracle cards. I love it, but it’s always going to remind me of a friend who collects Tarot cards who told me that she wasn’t my therapist when I was having a very bad day and sent her a message about it.

When my 10-year-old cat gets in the bed with me at night, I start wondering how much longer he’ll live. He’s not even sick.

This is the life of someone with OCD and anxiety. Sleep is no respite because of the nightmares. Meditation is impossible for me. Reading helps a little. Gardening helps a little. Writing is another compulsion with its own humongous set of associated worries. Is this book really awful? I should rewrite this whole book. Oh dear God, did I save that paragraph I cut? I’ll never get a book deal so I’ll have to self-publish but I can’t afford a professional editor so I can’t self-publish because I’ll never catch all the mistakes. I’m doing all this work for nothing. I should give up. But if I give up, all the people who laughed at me and said I’d never be successful will win.

But that motivational quote being a huge trigger for me did not give me the right to jump down a stranger’s throat, and I’m lucky that she ignored me and didn’t tell me where to get off.

I just wish that everyone could understand that we can’t all be that person who lived through a nightmare and kept a positive attitude. It’s an impossible standard. I guess that quote helps some people. But I’ve been fighting to control my thoughts for thirty years and I know a lot of other people with OCD and other mental illnesses have too and some of us are so, so tired of the motivational quotes. The motivational quotes lead “normal” people to think that we’re just malingering, that we really can just “get over it,” “move on,” “stop dwelling on it.” We’re “drama queens.” The truth is that our illnesses are inconvenient for other people and they don’t want to be bothered by them, by us. They want us to shut up and act normal. They don’t care if we’re only acting. As long as we aren’t annoying them with our petty problems, that’s all that matters.

That early Christmas gift, that deck of oracle cards. It’s a stunning deck with 55 vintage images of women. A couple of the cards feature gorgeous vintage photos of Japanese women in kimonos. I cringed in my mind when I saw them because my ex-husband was obsessed with Japanese culture and the stereotype of submissive Asian women. I think that I’ll always associate such images with my ex-husband. How can you control a thought that stems from an abusive situation you were in for seven years? And then I feel guilty for having the thought because does it make me racist? No, it makes HIM racist for stereotyping Asian women and telling me over and over that he should have gotten a “mail-order bride” instead of marrying me, but I can’t suppress that thought.

So this, OCD, anxiety, PTSD after abusive relationships, this needs to be discussed. If someone with one or more of the disorders can talk about it, I think they should so that people will have to see us as actual sick people, not malingerers. But no one should feel pressured to talk about their illness. I talk about it. I get a lot of positive feedback from other people who suffer from the same illnesses.

It still doesn’t have anything to do with the woman who posted the motivational quote, so I apologized to her. I don’t expect to hear anything back from her. I wish I could tell her why the quote set me off. I guess that’s why I wrote this post. I hope it helps with the dialogue that’s so desperately needed between people with OCD and people who don’t understand it. I hope it makes someone think twice before telling someone with a mental illness that they can think their way to recovery. I hope it helps someone with a mental illness talk to someone who doesn’t get it.

I hope the woman who posted the quote forgives me even if she never speaks to me.

I’m Not Afraid

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My anxiety has skyrocketed since last Tuesday. The only time I’ve ever been able to work on controlling my fearful thoughts was with a wonderful therapist on Long Island. I can’t afford a therapist right now. I’m trying to remember things that he told me six years ago. When I start imagining bad things that might happen–and I’m very adept at seeing every possible negative outcome–my thoughts start with “I’m afraid.” I’m making myself stop those thoughts immediately and telling myself “I’m NOT afraid.” And then I try to think of anything that makes me happy.

Like many other people, I was flooded with memories of abuse during Trump’s campaign. I finally had to tell someone close about things that have happened to me over the last 25 years that they didn’t know about. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want that person to be upset by those things, but now they know why I’m so dramatically emotionally different than I was a week ago. I feel drained and numb now, but it’s better than the emotional roller coaster.

I know that some people are spending much less time online or going offline to avoid the negativity. I respect that, although I will miss them. Right now I find that staying in touch with my friends as much as possible is helpful. I also keep up with spirituality-related sites and accounts and fun sites makes things somewhat bearable. As does writing out my thoughts here.

I work from home. I’ve only been out once since last Tuesday. I don’t want to see any of the ugliness I read about online. But I can’t stay inside forever, or I’ll let the bad change me. I’m pessimistic in the best of times. But I feel like I need to start getting out again . . . I need to see my neighbors. I need to talk about homey things.

I need to not be afraid.

“Change It”

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If you suffer from clinical depression, you’ve almost certainly heard most of these things at least once. Did hearing any of them help you, or did they just drive you further back into the dark corner where you spend most of your time?

Depression is an illness. No cutesy motivational quote or command to “snap out of it!” is going to cure it. You have good days, good weeks, and then you have very bad nights. And we’ve all been there and we’ve all heard all this crap and please try not to let it make you feel worse about yourself. Some people will never get it. But there is someone who will, and that person may very well be a doctor in the ER, so don’t fear doctors.

And don’t listen to people who belittle your depression. That leads to belittling yourself and makes the vicious cycle more vicious.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/

Simply saying “I don’t know what to say but I can listen” is better than making someone feel worse than they already do.