Empathy

I wish there was a way to teach empathy. And to incentivize people to empathize.

To understand that the circumstances of your birth predetermine 50% of your life. Whether that was your parent’s careers and social status and education and maybe their religion. The country that you were born into and maybe even the state.

Your level of intelligence, your physical and mental health.

One of the things our country is struggling with most is the level of empathy. We’re so far apart now and we have no idea how to come back together. We listen to the people we want to listen to. And we trust what they’re saying regardless of what they’re saying. We refuse to listen to each other or to even try and understand.

Yes, it’s true, there are facts. But in my opinion, even facts can be subjective. If we ignore circumstances and individual perspectives, why someone thinks the way they think, how can we possibly think that we have the potential to change their mind? What makes us think that they would trust us enough to listen and if they listened that they would understand?

Truthfully, I feel like I don’t have enough empathy. I grew up as a minority, but with a life of privilege, with parents that were educated and had steady jobs. In a strongly liberal state with liberal parents. And I don’t understand the other side. The other perspective.

Truthfully, every time I try to understand the other side, it makes me angry, because it seems to unreasonable. And because of that, I tune it out. That’s not right.

Truthfully, I sometimes think that people who don’t agree with me are ignorant. But maybe they think the same of me.

We’re so divided now. How can we start to understand?

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the light

The darkness started in November. No, it was before that. But I made the first cut in November. And it took me 4 months to stop. And I really thought that I would be dead before I made it here. Because it hurt to wake up. And to get out of bed. And to go to work.

It hurt to smile. And to talk to people. To spend every second of every day lying.

It felt like my mind was drowning and treading water all the damn time. Never quite reaching the surface.

I didn’t think I would make it here.

It’s one thing to be alive. It’s another to live. I’ve felt joy in the past week. Real joy. Not the plastic smile I’ve worn across my face for the past eight months, crying in whatever private space I could find. But that bubbling feeling in my chest, the one that can’t be contained.

I didn’t even recognize it at first.

And I kept up the motions. Waking up at 5:30am to put in a 12 hour day because it took me twice as long to get everything done. Riding Ubers to the office because I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel. I didn’t know where I would go. Or what I would do. The temptations I had, I could never say out loud.

The only moments with relief were when I drew blood. And for a brief moment, I could feel again. Better yet, I couldn’t feel anything else.

I stopped cutting four months ago. And this week, for the first time, I was happy. It still feels surreal. I’m proud to have made it here. But I still feel like I got lucky, and I don’t know how to reconcile that. Because what if I don’t make it out one day?

Someone today told me “its nice to see you smile again”. I don’t know why it felt so good. But I think I was glad someone said it out loud.

Striving to be

I’m at a place now where instead of choosing to be alive, I’m looking to choose to be happy. I honestly didn’t expect to make it here and I’m terrified that I’m still teetering on the edge, but seeing that option in front me is comforting. It’s a visible step forward.

Things are still hard, but in a different way. Over the past couple of months, I’ve gradually cut more and more people out of my life. I could barely manage the everyday interactions I was having, so I canceled plans, I stopped responding to messages, I spent as much time by myself as I could. Now that I’m finally ready to stop moping around, I’m finding myself unusually alone.

Its not the worst problem in the world to have though. Part of where I am now is little by little understanding the things that take me to a dark place, working not to overreact, and striving to be happy regardless of circumstance. Because I can’t guarantee that my life won’t sink to shit ever again and I want to be ready.

I’m not quite there yet, but having the option in front of me means that I’m moving forward. Here’s hoping I continue in that direction.

Sundays

I wake up on Sundays with my heart racing, a pit in my stomach.

It’s a habit now.

Another week is coming, but what have I accomplished this week? What have I accomplished this weekend? The obsessions never stop.

Things have settled down now. I know I’m on the upswing, but cycles of anxiety grasp at every thought. The meaningless worries, which used to sit in the back of my mind, seem to have nestled in and made their home. No amount of mental power will make them budge.

I’m trying to take things one step at a time. To appreciate the glimpses of light in every day, but I can’t help but dwell on the negatives. My brain seems to wander in search of the tiniest anxieties I’ve been running around to avoid. Last week, I couldn’t breathe. I thought my asthma had finally heard about LA smog. But it was just anxiety. I guess my subconscious knows, because the nightmares haven’t stopped in weeks. Swarming me every night and with every nap. Ironic since sleeping is how I used to avoid the world.

I’ll be patient.

I’ve gotten to the point where the me I’m trying to hide doesn’t slip out as often. I walk around with smiles, suspiciously positive retorts to the day old “how are you?” Things are seemingly back to normal. And I haven’t cut in a month. But every second of every day still feels like a war. To not get sucked in again, and to forgive myself when I do.

Sundays though. Sundays I aim for survival. Sundays I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can live up to them, but when the day comes, the loneliness settles in. I walk around with a tightness in my chest, an urge to throw everything up. Sundays I despise, but secretly wish would continue forever.

Today, I’m remembering to breathe, be patient, and practice a little bit of metta.

Recovery

Recovery feels like finally realizing that the sun is behind the clouds and that its been there all along. But it’s not the same thing as seeing the sun.

Recovery is acknowledging that your life is worth it and fighting like hell every second to remember that. Refusing the vicious thoughts and temptations you used to rely on. Resisting the ease of slipping into a dark hole and lying there because it’s easier not to get up.

Recovery is struggling to remember that there is good in every moment even if you can’t see it right now. It’s being grateful for the ten minutes of every day that you have a smile on your face and it’s real.

But that sinking feeling in your chest is still there. Once in awhile it gets a little bit lighter, but you know that it’s there. You have to remember that those dark habits you relied on have consequences. So now before you reach for your razor, you stop, you breathe, count to ten, think of alternatives. You remember that people care. You remember that you should care.

Recovery is knowing that the sun is there, but fighting every second just to catch a glimpse. And every time you lose sight of it, you’re filled with terror.

Forgive yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Someday, every day will be filled with sun.

that sinking feeling

Every second of every day, I feel like I’m drowning. Like my heart’s about to burst and nothing I can do is gonna stop it. And all I can do is cry when I’m alone and put on a smile, patch myself up, and hope that as little as possible of me seeps out.

I wish that I were stronger. That I could handle life like an adult. That I could feel that warm glow from deep inside knowing that everything’s gonna be alright. I can’t i can’t i can’t. I can’t breathe anymore. And I think that just one more little nudge would send me tumbling.

Taking the First Step

2016 is has been a doozy of a year. It started off okay, got really really good, took a minor turn for the worse, and ended up in the midst of a perfect storm clearing a massive path of destruction. So as I head into 2017, I am partially homeless, driving a car I probably shouldn’t be driving, and a $1,200 laptop out. That, and I’ve called about 15 therapists at this point and still have no appointment.

But to be fair, here are some things that went really well in 2016. I graduated college with a small group of friends that mean the world to me and have held my hand through some really tough times. I had a GPA that wasn’t superb but far better than what I would have imagined for myself a couple years ago. I spent the summer at home building a relationship with my family that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I moved across the country by myself, started a job that I’m actually pretty happy with, and found a supportive group of friends in a city where I expected to be very lonely. And I finished my first rotation in a place that I’m pretty proud of.

So even though 2016 ended up in the throes of a Shakespeare “comedy”, I don’t know if I can say that it was really a bad year, maybe just one of a lot of lessons learned. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I do know that I have some changes to make going into the new year. Because I objectively haven’t been taking care of myself and that should always be my first priority. A lot of that comes from the fucked up perspective I have about money and spending. And while I know that most of these thoughts are incredibly unhealthy, I don’t talk about them because I feel like very few could comprehend the experiences that led to this. So these thoughts linger and suck me dry, and they guide me toward skewed decisions that put me in terrible situations.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop being so hard on myself and to treat myself well. To make the choices that take care of me mentally and physically. To splurge on me when I’m down and out. Because I’ve learned that in the long run, trying to skimp on these things costs me more in the long run. Because I wake up at 5am and work 65 hours a week and deserve nice things once in awhile.

Because I deserve to be happy.

I can see the light. I know that everything that has happened is fixable. Soon, I’ll have a home. I’ll sign my lease over. I’ll get my car and my laptop fixed. I can stop commuting 80 miles  a day. I’ll go see my family and we’ll spend a week in Taiwan together. Things will look up.

2017 is going to be a good one because I’m going to make it a good one.