Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Conquering Misery

Wow, I have seriously failed on the keeping-up-with-a-blog front. Shame on me.
Since my last post, oh... so much has happened. So much, in fact, that I can't be bothered to write it all. But I can tell you that since then, I have become sincerely happy. Perhaps it's fleeting, and it is definitely only in certain aspects of my life, but after going back down into the dark little hole that was my anxiety, it feels like a cold shower on a hot day.

Much of this is retrospective, since I began writing this last summer and am finishing it now -- in March.

So, my dear friends, I present to you:

PoR's Five Steps to Conquer Misery

Snazzy title, huh?

STEP 1: Accept Your Misery

Okay... I hate everything.
Yes, I'm sure this sounds like the five stages of grief or something, but it's true! The first thing that made me start to feel less miserable was saying, "Dear World, I am miserable. Fact." And actually, that was what prompted starting this blog. Once I had given myself the freedom and the perimeters to really let loose on my malcontent, and, frankly, be a bit of a whingey cow for a while, I immediately started to feel better. It stopped scaring me. My anxiety was something I was bringing out into the open, and that made it seem much less powerful.

STEP 2: Test the Waters

After my boyfriend and I broke up, I was a wreck. It wasn't just because I missed him and I felt scorned... even though that was true... it was because I felt like I was losing everything, and that I wasn't in control. In my life, I have lost six friends to suicide. All young. All people I feel I should have known something was wrong. I'm pretty hearty, but that's enough to make anyone feel a little shaky on their feet. The most recent friend to go was someone both my boyfriend and I were very close to, and it was a month and a half before our relationship ended. The feelings got so mixed up in my head and all I was feeling was massive, massive loss.
After a while, though, I decided to push myself a little to try something with someone else, to see what happened. It was purely exploratory, and this new gentleman understood and agreed with that. I've never been the type for random hookups, and I wouldn't exactly say that was what this was, but it's the closest I've ever come to one. He and I started friends and spent a few weeks just going out together, getting to know each other. He was interesting, flattering, and painfully funny. Nothing happened, not even a kiss, until we had been out together three or four times.
Then I decided to take the reigns and suggest something romantic. I really just wanted to see how far I could go without panicking, crying, or basically dying -- dontcha love how melodramatic my brain can be when it comes down to it?
I've always been so judgmental for anything "casual", but now there's much less room in my life for judgment. It was a very short-lived tryst, if that's what you could call it, and I really let myself test the waters. I did something that me a year ago would have probably judged someone for. I know. Bitchy, right?
Anyway, it fizzled quick and he lost interest. It's a shame, really. I didn't want to date him, but I really liked having him as a friend, and I miss that aspect. But most importantly, I explored sides of myself that I hadn't explored before, and that made me feel empowered.

STEP 3: Get the Hell Outta Dodge

I couldn't think of a better time to leave the country. I went with one of my girl friends to England for two weeks and Paris for one, and it saved me. Suddenly I was in a place where I had no history. Well, I did -- after all, I was visiting almost my whole maternal family, seeing as I lived in the UK till I was four -- but no adult history. No places that reminded me of the happy times I shared with my ex. No people that reminded me of dying friends. No phone. NO PHONE. THAT was the saving grace, I think. Better yet, I was basically alone. Yes, my friend was with me, but fundamentally, I had temporarily cut ties with my own life for a period of time, and it was just what I needed.
The trip was... soon I'll do a whole post on the trip, because it was too amazing for words. But what it did for me was something I'll never forget: It expanded my horizons.

I mean, come on -- no one can be miserable here!

Now I know that sounds cliche, but it's true!
Also, meeting so many new people taught me how much I love getting to know people. Any social anxieties I held at home had no business being around in Europe -- anyone I met I probably would never see again, so what was the risk? As a result, I got to put my social skills to the test, as it were. And discovered that if you think of everyone like that -- nothing to lose, plenty to gain -- then you actually are more interesting. I know that took something external and made it awfully self-centered but... hey, we all think it, don't we. You also get to know some fascinating people by just asking direct questions and being enthusiatic about it.

I've always felt and been thought of by others as old for my age. I was always fighting to prove that I wasn't really my age, that I wasn't young. But travelling, meeting SCORES of new people of all ages, flirting, discovering, learning, being humbled -- it all taught me that I am young.
I never knew how young I was until this trip. I also never saw the benefit of being this young until now!

I can go anywhere, meet anyone, feel anything. The world is my oyster.
If that doesn't make you feel a little cheerier, you're a lost cause.

STEP 4: Fall in Love... Again...

Anyone who reads this is probably going... uh oh... I know. I know.
Let me just explain.
Literally four hours before I was supposed to leave for the UK, my ex emailed me. I hadn't really spoken to him for a month, and he was contacting me now? It turned into a fight, which turned into a phone call, which turned into two emotionally exhausted people sitting on the phone together, laughing uproariously at our ridiculousness. Turned out, he had completely misconstrued something I had said, and I had completely misconstrued something he had said, and the two of us just dissolved into laughter. From then on, it was amicable. He told me what I had long suspected -- that he had been depressed for months, and needed to figure out how to handle that before he could be with me, because he saw it hurting me. I told him I was going to Europe and we could talk when I got back, but it ended with us both feeling shaken but extremely happy.
Reader, I dated him. ...Again. And it was wonderful. We had a really great time, and we got to a whole new level of being together. Now, months later and in a new year, we have parted ways again. But everything is okay. I fell madly in love with him again, after having handled such a large hurdle, and I felt so strong, so secure, so proud of myself... I felt like I was falling in love as a grown up rather than a little girl. Cheesefest. Yes. I feel a little boursin-y as I type that. But something about going through a crushing breakup and actually surviving really takes your sense of self to a whole new level. I encourage everyone to do it, at least once!

STEP 5: Find a Job You Love

It ended up taking me the entire summer to really get to the job I loved. It was a hostessing-turned-waitressing job, nothing glamorous. But the team of people were amazing, the environment was laid-back and pub-like, the food was DELICIOUS, and I found a whole new aspect of power in myself when I finally put on that little black apron. I've been working in the food industry for three years, but only this past summer did I make it to the level of server. And let me tell you, maybe it's because I'm an actor, but something about that apron and little black book clicked.
I loved starting a new table, practicing reading people, deciding -- do they want peppy or straight-forward? Are they chatty, or do they want me to stay out of their way? Do they want recommendations, or do I treat them like a well-read regular?
So much fun. Not everyone feels this way. Some people balk at the thought of being on your feet for eight hours straight, not getting a lunch break, talking to people constantly, juggling plates... it sounds like a recipe for stress and disaster!
And yet I found myself looking forward to that job every morning. My other jobs, while perfectly fine, didn't get me jazzed. They seemed to drag on forever, even though the shifts were the same amount of time. I was sitting all day, mostly, so I felt uncomfortable and restless, often slipping into apathy and frankly doing a mediocre job.
But waitressing got me going like nobody's business! Again, probably a good thing as I am about to graduate from theatre school.

So there you have it. I'm much less miserable. I hope you are too.