Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.

Brain Over Mind: Dealing with Psychological Disorders

This is a story about how I have learned to conquer psychological disorders.  I still deal with a lot of this stuff every day, but I am slowly coming to terms with it which enables me to feel better. I have been in denial for so long about the things in my head and I have been too ashamed to talk about them with anyone, even my doctors.  I decided to write this (long) entry to reflect as briefly as I can on how my mentality has changed over the years. Hopefully someone can relate and feels encouraged by this.  The point of this entry is to reflect on my progress and remember that it’s okay to be told you have a disorder (or several) and that, in some ways, a disadvantage is actually an advantage.

1Seeing life through a different lens.

Last night, after dance class, I was expecting a call from a friend.  It never came.  Yet I somehow managed to pack up my ghilles, drive home, and read a couple of books without a fret.

For me, that is HUGE.

There was a time not so long ago (perhaps just weeks) that not getting a call from someone would have led to a complete breakdown.  I would have absolutely lost it.  It’s kind of hard to explain.  Yet I’ve managed to come to terms with it in my own head and it’s given me a huge grip on life.

THEY CALL IT “DIAGNOSIS”
I’ve struggled with my emotions, perfectionism, and self-hatred for a long time and always just assumed it was how everyone lives.  I just referred to it as my “inability to cope” and denied the help of doctors and psychologists.  Even after being diagnosed with a few disorders when I was 18, I still was in denial.  I was required to do counseling during college due to my declining physical health, increasing injury rate in athletics, and a series of mental breakdowns that led to bouts of what the doctors were calling “severe depression” with sudden swings of “anxiety” that were sometimes triggering paranoid episodes – basically, borderline bipolar.  I just scoffed at what they told me.  I didn’t want to hear it.

Despite being told these disorders are real and that it’s okay to have them, let’s just put you on meds and get you into counseling – I refused to accept defeat.  I’m not sure if it was denial if I seriously believed I was unable to cope, that it was all in my head – and not in the psychological-disorderly way.  As a reaction to being told there was something inherently “wrong” with me, I just kept denying the evaluations.  I didn’t want to admit to myself how I was feeling.  My doctor would ask a survey at the start of each appointment that rated how depressed or suicidal I was the past week.  I was afraid she would judge me if I was below-average-happy, so I started lying on the evaluations.  Then I felt guilty.  I asked her to scrap them all together, claiming it made me “feel worse about myself”.  In hindsight, I probably received the lowest psychological scores for having done that.

MEDICATION, THE WORD I HATE
I started with Wellbutrin for depression.  I didn’t think it did a damn thing.  Maybe I was expecting to be healed, but I also recall thinking it was a trick, that they were just feeding me blanks to see if I was lying about my feelings (which I didn’t even feel like sharing anyway).  I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac.  But the pill really just made me feel less.  Less bad, but less good too.  I think it numbs the brain.  They kept upping the dose until they were probably worried it would kill me, then they decided to try Celexa.

On Celexa, I at first hardly noticed a change.  I kept saying “I don’t need pills”, but I was told “pills or counseling” and was happily blackmailed for the time being.  They doubled my dose and I admitted I felt a little more in control.  As I started taking the pills, I noticed I could control my hunger better.  I had less shakes, but my heartbeat seemed more spontaneous.  My dreams were so vivid that I started waking up to myself screaming and crying.  It was always dreams of me being crushed, my bones breaking, my breath torn from me.  I took the pills for a good year before I finally thought, Why do I need these?  I don’t want to depend on medication.  This is silly.  I literally talked myself out of it.  I bullied myself.  Fool, grow up and stop blaming your problems on something that doesn’t exist.

That’s when I tried doing what I had done with Wellbutrin – just not taking the pills and pretending like I had.  In the past, I just felt cleaner somehow not taking them.  Stronger, even if I was still as “off” in thinking as I was previously.  But cutting that many milligrams of Celexa off at once… that was not good.

Have you ever watched The Hunger Games movie?  Do you know the part when Katniss was stung by the tracker jackers and her world spins and it looks like she is tripping?  That was how I felt 50% of my day.  If I skipped my medicine for a day, I would start to feel light-headed.  After two or three days, I started hallucinating.  I couldn’t see straight and it always felt like the world was turning 2 seconds behind me.  The room always spun when I looked to either side.  I was terrified, so I kept playing the game of a few days on, a few days off, then I almost started feeling my anxiety again as my bottle started to empty and I dreaded being trapped in that tripped-out world again.

WHAT I WAS SECRETLY FEELING IN MY MIND
So, over the course of these years, my mental-whatever-it-was progressed like this: I started noticing so much self-loathing that I was drained of energy, had no motivation, and found no entertainment in life.  I started asking rhetorically about life and why I’m being bothered with it.  My negative attitude made me hate myself even further.  Then I started to feel extreme waves of self-consciousness, like if this is how I perceive myself then dear god what do other people see?  I began to stress.  I understand now that a huge part of these “disorders” is environment, and I was placing myself in a very unhealthy one.  I began caring too much about others and how they feel in regards to me.  My ups and downs became so dramatic that I don’t know how I ever got out of them.

I can distinctly remember the spring before I turned 20.  I lived in a room that felt like a box, about 10 feet deep and 8 feet wide.  Every part that made up me was trapped in the room and right in my sight whether I liked it or not.  I recall becoming hateful again at my own image, both internal and external.  I recall pushing myself so hard in athletics and academics that any slip-up put me on a burning, downward spiral within myself.  I remember my alarm going off in the morning, me shutting it off, looking at the clock, then feeling my stomach bottom out with such sudden acidity that I felt like I just bungee jumped off a cliff.  The only thought in my head: “It’s another day.  ANOTHER DAY.  I have to GET THROUGH it.”

All I could think about was how monotonous, meaningless, and painful my days were.  Every day, the same thing.  I was mechanically getting through it.
Get up.
Shower.
Brush teeth.
Give up on hair.
Give up on face.
Put on clothes.
Look too fat, put on other clothes.
Repeat.
Give up on looking okay.
Put on shoes that hide my feet.
Grab enormous bookbag.
Don’t forget something.
You’re going to forget something.
Grab clothes for practice after.
Water bottle.
Always skipping breakfast.
Go to class.
Run to class.
Why are you always late?
Sit at class.
You forgot to do your homework again.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?  Don’t you EVER read your assignments?  You wrote it on your hand, too.

Knowing how much I hated my days and that I had no reason to feel that way made me that much more upset.

That’s when I started realizing how much others were affecting me.  I tried to suppress it as long as I could, but certain things about myself and the way I think always seem to leak back in to my life.  This is when the depression became much more manic and when my anxious cycles started reflecting bipolar tendencies.

Example: I’d get a text.  So happy!  I’ve been waiting to hear from this person!  Literally skipping around the cramped room, smiling.  Read the text.  Freeze.  Stomach bottoms out.  Not what I wanted to hear.  Instantly begin bawling.  Crumble to floor.  It was just because they canceled our plans for tomorrow, nothing more.  Realizing this, picking myself up.  Sudden rage at myself.  I don’t mean anger, I mean punching my thighs, kicking things, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.  Get over it, baby!  Back to tears, self-pity.  Then I suddenly remember something unrelated and I’m laughing again.  LAUGHING.  Then crying.  Then laughing while crying while pinching myself.  Then curling up on my bed, so confused, feeling defeated, and falling asleep without doing that homework assignment I put down and even wrote on my hand.

That was at 19.  The next year, the medicine I was taking numbed me enough that I was just getting by.  I started distracting myself with people and fell into the wrong crowd.  At least I wasn’t hurting myself anymore, but then I started hurting other people.  And obsessing over small things.  I had a one-track mind.  I couldn’t let things go.  I wasn’t having as big of peaks and valleys, but I was still throwing myself into them.  I started imagining things that weren’t happening and ignoring the things that were.  I was losing control of myself and forgetting who I am.

STRUGGLING TO FIND MY BRAIN
The hardest part of any psychological disorder – whether it’s an eating disorder, mild to manic depression, etc. – is being able to pull yourself out of your world.  “Your world” is your mind.  It’s where you imagine, where you dream, and where you cause yourself to fail.  “Our world” is your brain.  “Our world” is the same world we are living in, the one in which our brains must work to allow us to survive.  Something like anxiety naturally occurs in both worlds, but it crosses that fine line when anxious, fight-or-flight tendencies consume our every thoughts for six months straight or longer.  I used anxiety as the example there, but I believe all “disorders” are really just a hyperbole of a similar instinct and that they’re all cousins in the Mind.

When I began to realize that my life was literally being defined by my disorders and not the orderly, planned lifestyle that I had craved in the perfectionism that caused my manic behavior in the first place, I was finally able to come to terms with my problems.  I still uphold that I had minor afflictions, but I refuse to deny that there wasn’t at least something going on.  I took a whole 8 months to control myself and I was certainly tested in that time with some of the most painful moments I’ve experienced in quite some years. Trust me, it wasn’t easy. I ended up hospitalized two or three times for what was at the time potential organ failure. Turned out, my anxiety was suppressing my appetite and causing physical pain. I had to learn to control it, calm down, breathe, see a way around it.  In this time, I became much more self-aware.  I took to analyzing myself, others, situations, etc., and learning how to mediate them.  Traveling has certainly eased those tensions and is probably a huge reason for why I’ve become so addicted to going abroad.  It’s freedom, release, and reminders that there’s so much more to life than myself.  Yes, it makes me see how worthless I quite frankly am in this huge world, but I don’t get depressed about it any longer.  No, I see it as a challenge to be the biggest I can be.

4
TODAY’S PEACE
I am now able to look at the call that never came and, instead of breaking down, crying, rolling around on the floor, bruising myself, laughing, whatever “crazy” thing I did before – now I step away from it completely.  I do feel sad and I do laugh, but it’s because I can’t help but feel hurt – and that’s okay.  But I also laugh at his foolishness.  I don’t NEED you.  I have faith in life and can get around this.

Finally, I am able to look at someone mistreating or neglecting me and chuckle, saying, Well that’s his loss.

And it is!

The Butterfly Circus

All of this reference to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (namely the quote “We accept the love we think we deserve”) got me to reflecting on the 20-minute short film, “The Butterfly Circus”.

Circuses usually give me a peculiar feeling because always imagine the same cliché acts in merely a new setting. I imagine smoke and mirrors juxtaposed with human strength and flexibility that I do not have the patience to personally obtain. I also imagine ordinary and unordinary animals being ridden, tamed, and otherwise confined under a tent. Perhaps the only exception to my view of circuses is “The Midnight Circus”, full of magic, or…well, as of now,…The Butterfly Circus.

This short film has bounced around the Internet for quite some time but never made a particularly large splash. That’s probably because it’s not funny at all. No, really, it’s just plain old sad. And TRUE. And no one likes to see the truth, especially when they can subconsciously identify the ridiculed guilt within their own personalities.

So what’s the plot? Essentially, it’s about a limbless man who is a sideshow as a freak, but another man intervenes with his wondrous “Butterfly Circus” and gives this man a shot at redemption. At redemption? For being stuck the way he is? Yes, for redemption – because this man has accepted this transposed role of being a freak, accepted that he was cursed with his disabilities, accepted that he deserved no better. So the story shows us how a less-than-average caterpillar can go into its own mental cocoon, make a transformation in itself – using only what it’s been given, and then come out something refreshing and beautiful and unique.

It makes you wonder what kind of lies you hear about yourself, believe, and then “live up to” without surpassing.

How often have you heard how you are perceived so often that you inadvertently accept it? That you’ve been given a niche by others, so you strive to fill it? That you’re afraid to break away and stand up for your diverging qualities? What are you really and do people see you for that person? Do they know the real you? And if someone ever suggests that you could overcome the impossible and be something incredible, don’t you just scoff at the thought of it? Doesn’t it take some convincing before you can accept an outlandish suggestion? But it’s not impossible.

I like how the film sifts through the rubbish and reminds us that no one decides our lives but ourselves. Stubborn confidence can be just as flammable as toxic insecurity. And my favorite quote from the film, coming from the ringleader as he talks to Will, the disadvantaged, is when he looks at him and says, No, you have the advantage — because:

“The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”

Crushed.

Two days before Linda’s would-be birthday, I’m wearing her November necklace, I have a lot on my mind,…

and I’m delivered a crushing blow.

I never see those coming.

Then someone else lifts me up.

I’m in limbo.

I feel like my heart has been ripped out and yet being saved from my sadness only makes me hurt more.  Because I realize I have nothing figured out.  I’m so confused.  The let-down in crushing, the raising-up is crushing.

Can’t everything just settle out for me already?  I’m exhausted from trying, from trying not to care, and from trying to care again.