Change Is Scary

Hey! I’m moving soon! Hey! I’m not handling it well! Hey! I suppose now’s a good time to talk about change.

CHANGE (pronounced in an unpleasant, hesitant, through clenched teeth kind of way) is something a lot of people struggle with, including me. Absolutely including me. I don’t view the word “change” as neutral or context sensitive. (And to those ready to say, “well what about when you change a tire or change into your pajamas: please don’t be that person. We all know what we mean by “change” right now.)

To me, change is bad. Most people don’t normally think of the word “change” during positive events. “I started dating an amazing person!” isn’t viewed as a positive change, but instead as dating an amazing person. “I broke up with an amazing person,” however, is viewed as change. We think of the horrible ways this change affects us. No more cuddling. No more emotional support. No more love. I don’t need to explain the reasons why this change sucks, do I? I think you guys are smart enough to fill in your own answers.

I think by default, the concept of things changing is negatively viewed. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. But that word seems to swim through my head more frequently when negative things start impacting my life. I don’t want to sound like I’m promoting the idea of things staying the same in a closed off bubble world for all eternity, but when something shitty happens and it in no way makes your life better, I think it’s a little unrealistic to believe the positive person that continues insisting that “change is good.”

I get that the pro-change crowd is only trying to help when they say this to people suffering because of change. Yeah, okay guys. I get it. I appreciate the effort into making us feel better. Please try to see things from our perspective, though. Those that have been affected by change, especially those that have difficulty talking about how hard it’s been for them, really really don’t need to be told that change can be a good thing. It feels like you’re writing us off, like you’re saying the problems change has brought us aren’t really affecting us. If you really want to help, the best way is by understanding our position and trying to be there for us. You don’t need to solve our problems, you don’t need to try fixing us, you just need to be there for us.

That being said…

There is… a certain… truth… in what they say (also spoken in an unpleasant, hesitant, through clenched teeth kind of way).

Oh, and believe me, I don’t want to admit that. I really, really don’t want to admit that. I’m still for my stance on change being a negative thing.

But when something negative changes your life… sometimes there’s something else that happens as a side effect. Sometimes. Not all the time. But sometimes.

All right, here’s an example. After my first semester of college, my best friend stopped talking to me. She was going to school in a different state, she stopped answering her phone, she stopped responding to E-mails, she basically disappeared. There was no warning, there was no closure, and it left me feeling abandoned. How else was I supposed to feel? The person who, throughout the entirety of high school, I’d talked to every day, confided in, made inside jokes with, and unfortunately, had feelings for, just disappeared. Had I done something? Was I not good enough to be friends with anymore? Did the knowledge of my feelings for her ultimately make her not want to deal with me anymore? Well, I’ll never know. I convinced myself that she was better than me and I didn’t deserve her as a friend, and that I did deserve to be given up on.

Fast forward a few years later. One of my friends from a creative writing workshop introduced me to another one of his friends. He eventually had to go, but me and her continued talking for hours. We clicked instantly. She said we should meet around campus and hang out more often. We exchanged numbers and each day that we were on campus with one another, we sat and talked. We talked for hours. If I wasn’t in class, I was either waiting for her to get out of class or actually hanging out with her. We texted each other at night, and we eventually started calling each other more frequently too. One night we talked for six hours. For the first time in years, I felt like I had an actual best friend again. It felt like I was making some substantial progress with my life, which for the longest time, felt stuck in time.

The best part was that both of us felt comfortable enough to open up to each other with unresolved issues from our pasts. She was the first person to really care and try helping me with my issues involving my best friend from high school. I told her everything that happened. I was a completely open book. She was the one that helped me realize I’d been bottling everything up for years. She was the one that convinced me to try therapy. She was going and it was really helping her. She made me aware of the wellness center at my college. She became an extremely important and essential part of my life, and I’d only known her for a couple of months.

Well, sometime during winter break she stopped answering my texts. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but when a week went by and she didn’t even try getting back to me, I started to panic. Memories of trying to talk to my best friend from high school started overflowing from the bottle I’d corked them all in. I was terrified the same thing was going to happen again. After years of trying to find another friend to have that kind of connection with, I’d finally found one, and as each day went by, the realization that the same thing was about to happen again kept washing over me. Only this time it hurt more. The first time allowing myself to form a friendship like this since high school, and it ended in the exact same way. And she knew how much that kind of ending affected me, too. No, this time was definitely worse.

I didn’t handle it well. I don’t remember what I started texting her when I tried getting in touch, but I’m sure it wasn’t anything that would make her start wanting to talk to me again. Don’t get me wrong, with both this girl and my former best friend, I was by no means always easy to deal with. But to go from what we had to simply not speaking for no reason… I mean, I don’t know. I didn’t handle it well, but I think I deserved a reason for why they did what they did.

As you can imagine, I had a lot to talk about when I returned to therapy once school resumed in the spring. I viewed the entire loss as an unneeded change. I felt like I was finally moving forward. After years of trying, I’d not only made a close friend, but… well… a friend. People came into and out of my life with each semester and no one really hung around long enough to form a friendship with. The change with this girl only brought me down to my lowest emotional point I’d as yet experienced. What did it do for me? What good came out of this? How, in any way, shape, or form, was this good?

Well… therapy came out of it. I needed it, and eventually the bottle I’d stored all my feelings in was going to burst at some point. Do I feel like I needed the loss of another close friend to start the healing process? No. Do I feel like there was a better, less painful way to acknowledge I have issues and to seek proper help for them? Yes.

But the fact is, this whole thing happened. And therapy, and thus this long, not even close to finished road to recovery began. It was a side effect from change.

I’m still not saying this change was positive, even if it may have been… needed, for lack of a better word. There must have been better ways to get to where I am now. I’m just saying sometimes, when looking at the bigger picture… I don’t know. Sometimes there are some side effects to change that may be, what the pro-change crowd, would consider… good.

I hope that made sense. Telling this story took a lot more out of me than I thought. Drawing cats and toast is definitely easier.

Hang in there.

Potential in Journal Entries and Writing Exercises

Recently, my mind’s been all over the place. I keep having angry days, sad days, melancholy days, paranoid days, etc. I thought I’d try keeping short journal entries so I could have somewhere to put some thoughts and maybe try to work through them in a therapeutic sort of way.

But as I was writing my first entry, I ended up doing something different. What started out as ranting about something that pissed me off turned into this snippet that peered into the life of a character I’d accidentally created. It was sort of strange, but halfway through I thought to myself, “Hey. What would someone like me, but not me, have to say about this topic?” And I kind of started writing something else, pretending I was a different person. And like all my characters, there’s always going to be some degree of “me” in them, but I gave him a name, made up a situation for him to be in that I’d never personally been in, and before I knew it I’d made a character.

So I tried it again a few days later. I was on my way home from work, and it was a cooler summer night, and I was feeling a little lonely. When I got home, I began writing this little blurb about loneliness, and it turned into this short piece about someone longing for a girl to share a moment with as he sat by a lake, ending with him confessing that he missed this one girl from his past. Who’s the guy? I don’t know. Who’s the girl? I don’t know. But I made this narration that I was really proud of, and I saw potential in another character if I decided to expand it.

I made two other “characters” this way and I noticed the more I played around, the better I got at creating characters that felt more separate from myself, and that’s something I feel I need to work on in my fiction. These recent writing sessions turned into very effective exercises. At the moment, I’d like to try fleshing out these characters a bit more to see if I could create a story around them.

But either way, I thought I’d share my experience with this for any writers struggling with fiction. Creating stories and characters is complicated and often doesn’t work the way we want them to, so sometimes it’s important to go back to writing exercises. This is why it’s important to keep writing, even when you’re short on ideas. Whether you’re writing journal entries or working on short exercises, keep writing something. You never know what you’ll end up finding as you do them. 🙂

When You’re Scared To Do Something

Just do it.

… Seriously. Just do it. Unless it’s something stupid like jumping a bunch of cars with your motorcycle, the best thing you can do is just do whatever it is you’re scared to do. Telling someone you like them? Do it. Approaching an intimidating teacher or boss? Do it. Applying for a new job? Moving out? Attending therapy?

Just do it. You might need to compose yourself, put yourself in a better frame of mind. That’s fine. You’re scared; it’s natural to prepare yourself. But in the end… well, you just need to do it. If you don’t, your fear will turn into overthinking. And we all know what overthinking can do.

So just do it.

Shitty Moods

Sometimes someone asks you, “Hey, you all right? You seem like you’re in a bad mood.” To which you reply, “Why yes, I am in a bad mood. Someone was really rude to me at the grocery store, and it just got under my skin a little. But thank you for asking. That alone already makes me feel better.” And you hug, and ice cream falls from the sky, and golly, things just perk up.

Then sometimes when someone asks, you say “I don’t fucking know why I’m in bad mood, so just leave me the fuck alone!” Then you flip a kitchen table, get a carton of ice cream from the freezer, lock yourself in your room, and eat the whole thing with your bare hands.

Granted, both scenarios may be slightly exaggerated. The point is, I’ll be talking about shitty moods today.

Shitty moods are different from regular bad moods. With regular bad moods, you usually have an understanding of why you’re upset. Someone said something really mean to you at school. You worked really hard on a project that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. A friend cancels plans with you, plans you were looking forward to all week. Something generally happens that disappoints you or makes you mad, and you can easily explain why.

Shitty moods appear to be more irrational. They’re more personal, and usually require a little more digging or understanding to explain yourself. Of course, reasons don’t really matter when you’re in a shitty mood, all that matters is that you’re in one and you usually don’t want to deal with anyone or anything. And it’s hard to be around people, even people that you genuinely like and want to help you, because you can’t just give a reason for why you’re so upset. The best thing is usually to just wait it out somewhere by yourself until you settle down and can think more rationally, because when you’re like this, everything seems far worse than it really is. And when you’re combining shitty moods and an onslaught of negative thinking, your day is bound to end in tears.

So what can you do to calm your shitty mood before you feel even worse about yourself? The first thing you should do is find somewhere quiet where you can breathe. Go to the bathroom if you’re at school or work. Sit in your car if you’re at a noisy house or party. Just make sure it’s quiet. Then close your eyes and breathe. Don’t think about anything else but breathing. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. Take nice, long breaths, too. Short, quick breaths aren’t going to calm you down, so take it slow. And breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth tends to produce quicker breaths and sighing, and neither are going to help here. Just nice, long, slow breaths. Do this for five or ten minutes. You won’t be instantly better, but you should be at least a little calmer. You’ll hopefully start to think more clearly, too. Try doing this fairly regularly. Every hour or two, give some dedicated time to breathing.

If you feel like you’re going to be irrationally bitter to everyone, you probably need some time to yourself to cool down. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to do some interacting at some point during the day, and depending on who you have to deal with, this can either make your shitty mood better or worse. If you deal with people you can trust or feel comfortable enough with, give them a head’s up. I have a friend and a couple of coworkers who know I can sometimes get into these shitty moods, and they understand and give me space. They help or show support if they can, but they know as well as I do that I just need some time. If you don’t have anyone like that around, just keep trying your best to make it through the day. Do your breathing and keep in mind that other people don’t know what’s going through your head right now, so try not to let your shitty mood make you take it out on them.

When you are able to get some time to yourself, you need to relax. Everyone’s different, but I’ll let you in on some of the things that help calm me down. Exercising is usually good. Chances are you’ll have a lot of pent up energy after being in a shitty mood, so releasing some of it through exercise helps. Regular exercise tends to help put you in a better mood in the long run, too.

Hot showers or baths can also help. Well, I can’t really vouch for baths. My bathtub doesn’t have a drain stopper anymore, so that option’s out. But hot showers are great for relieving tension. You won’t be bothered (unless you live with unusually obtrusive people), the hot water will make you feel better, and you can just stand there for as long as you need to while the water peppers your body.

Turn Facebook’s chat off. Even if you’re by yourself, you see all those people who are still online, and you can still feel the weight of not wanting to deal with people when you’re on it. In fact, just don’t deal with Facebook in general. I know, I know. The latest updates of which bars people are at or Instagram-imported pictures of food aren’t going to browse themselves. But honestly, my Facebook feed just makes me feel more overwhelmed when I’m in a shitty mood. Check it once a day until you’re feeling more like yourself, if you even have to check it at all. I usually like to separate myself from Facebook, Twitter, and my E-mails until I’m doing a little better. Focus more on you rather than what other people are doing.

Play some video games. I used to be a fairly big gamer in my teens and early 20’s. Now… ugh. I don’t know what happened to video games, but I’m just not interested anymore. I still like playing the old ones, though, and I usually play video games more regularly when I’m depressed or in these shitty moods. Bring out something you grew up with, something that you know makes you feel better on the inside. The Donkey Kong Country games for Super Nintendo usually help me out, as well as any Mario or Zelda game for Nintendo 64.

Drink something warm. Nothing alcoholic. You don’t want to mix alcohol and your shitty mood. No coffee, either. You don’t want to be more alert, you want to relax. Try tea. I’ll admit, I’m not really a tea guy, but I don’t know how many times I’ve read or been told to drink hot tea to calm down, so I’m trying to get used to it (for what it’s worth, it does seem to help at least a little). I’ve heard chamomile is great, but I’ve yet to try it. Hot chocolate works fairly well for me, but be warned: it can still keep you up at night.

Go shopping, but don’t go overboard. If you haven’t bought anything fun lately, go treat yourself to something affordable. I’m sure you’ve wanted some new shirts or pants for a while. Go buy a new set of clothing. At the very least, you’ll know you have one less thing to worry about doing.

Relaxing music is always good. My mp3 player has different shuffle options for different moods, so sometimes I’ll put on the “mellow” selection to help me calm down. Everyone’s music tastes are different, so I’ll leave it to you to decide what works best, but some of my favorite songs to help me calm down are “Home” by Barenaked Ladies, “When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper, “Name” by Goo Goo Dolls, “Through the Dark” by KT Tunstall, “The Background” by Third Eye Blind, and “Home” by Vanessa Carlton.

There are some YouTube videos I have in a playlist for this kind of situation, too. Some are for helping with self-doubt, some are for advice, but almost all of them do a pretty good job of helping me cool off. There’s one particular video about dealing with panic attacks and anxiety issues that ALWAYS makes me feel better, if for no other reason than it makes me feel like someone else out there feels some of the same things I do. It’s by Tessa Violet (aka meekakitty), and I’ll link that video here if you want to check it out.

Relaxajin is also one of my favorite YouTube channels that helps me calm down (it even helps me focus when I’m having trouble writing). It’s the second channel of Lucahjin, a popular Let’s Player. Unlike her primary channel, though, Relaxajin is dedicated to soft spoken, soothing videos meant to help you take a deep breath and ease your mind. When I was in a particularly shitty mood last week, I plugged my headphones into the computer, closed my eyes, and listened to one of her videos. This one is another of my favorites, one that I’ve returned to many times when I’m kept up at night with negative thoughts. This particular video is a Q&A; she answers submitted questions from her listeners that deal with topics such as acceptance, moving on, and relationships. I highly recommend checking it out here. If you’re in a shitty mood, she’ll probably touch on something you’re close to, and if not, it’s still a very relaxing video.

Hopefully some of these will help you comfort your shitty mood. I know it’s really tough being in one, but hang in there. Sometimes it can take a while. Last summer I spent two months trying to get out of a really shitty mood. Don’t let it overwhelm you. It takes some time. Time by yourself, time getting to know what’s eating you and why it’s bothering you so much. And eventually, time with other people. It’s hard, but after enough time try making yourself do something with a good friend or someone close that you can trust. Sometimes a good night out is the final push from shitty mood to good mood again.

And if you find yourself frequently getting into shitty moods, try seeking some professional help. I’ve spent a large portion of college seeing a few therapists on campus and reading self-help and psychology books, and I don’t think I could have made it to where I am now without them. Therapy can be expensive, but at least check out your options. If you’re in school, chances are you can see some kind of counselor for free.

Whatever you do, at least remember to keep breathing.