#TimeToTalk – #BreakTheSilence on mental health


It’s Thursday morning and anxiety is being a bit of a bitch. I slept badly – too cold, rough dreams – and struggle to make myself do things. I talk myself through it – through shower, nice breakfast, a bit of calming exercise – but I still fail at time management. I’m late. A bit mad with myself. Make that very mad. I don’t know what to do. 

I’m late to a very nice workshop that I attended last week too. It’s made for and by refugees and free (donations for food) and it makes me feel conflicted. Those familiar with my situation know that I’m not earning much and haven’t been for a while. It might change soon (fingers crossed), but doing anything nice that isn’t a gig (or otherwise directly career-related) makes me feel guilty. Nevermind that if I want to help refugees, here is the thing I can do – donate time, attention, workshop-leading skills and some English language conversation. So on top of all these feelings now I have being late, which is a particular emotional bruise – I’d say trigger, but who knows what could crawl out of the depths of the Internet to accuse me of being a snowflake? – and so, I struggle. To go or not to go.

After provoking an argument with one of my nearest and dearest (argument that didn’t need to happen, only I was so mad) I sit down with myself and hash out a solution. I’ll go to the very end of the event. Then I’ll have shown up but I’ll sidestep being late AND still
leave the house. The mental labirynth required here is still better than curling up with my phone, reading about politics for the rest of the day. I curled up for about an hour an a half, but it’s still a win.

This blog, Good Enough Diary, is a bit of an homage to writer’s block – after all, suffering writer needing something to kickstart
creativity is a figure we’re all familiar with. It’s harder to admit that I likely suffer from some species of anxiety mixed with previously diagnosed moodiness and depression. When I’m low, going out of the house is hard – but being around people tends to make me feel better. Conversation, speaking out, expressing – those things make me feel better. And yet it’s so hard to say this, what I’m saying now. It is so very hard. Yes, I have suffered from depression, but I don’t like even saying that. So many people have worse problems, worse bouts. I’m not self-harming, my self-neglect tendencies are presently manageable (mostly I tend to go the other way, making healthy food and such) and people with “real” problems would laugh me out of the door.

Except what is real? And why do I invalidate my own reality?

I’m currently on a no sugar diet (health-related), but if I’m not – an argument with my partner could be a box of cookies, or binge watching a show. I enjoy both of those things, but they can be abused as well. Externalising emotion, guilt, blame – and on top I’d rather say that I’m fine. English culture is not helping here – does anyone ever expect an honest answer to a “How are you?”. I don’t like to complain and when I’m sad, being candid feels like laying my problems at someone’s feet.

There, I’ve said it. Not all. People who know me as a chatterbox could likely be shocked by the presence of hidden depths. I talk a lot, but there are things held back, too. Things I’m scared to talk about, or reluctant. Ashamed. Like when I’m late or cancel, caught up in my brain, I often make a story up because I can’t bear to admit I’m feeling too low to struggle through the door. Or how I numb feeling by reading too much. Or eating, or watching. You throw stuff at feelings you don’t know how to deal with. I’m not alone in this strategy but it feels like I am, sometimes.

I’m reading a number of wonderful books (Brene Brown is a particular favourite) that make me realise that my problems are legitimate and I’m adding to them by my silence. By self-shaming. Well, I’m talking now. My problems are real, but their weight wouldn’t be so heavy if I wasn’t ashamed, if I didn’t feel alone, if I wasn’t scared that they make me unlovable. And I am a person with a significant support network. So if you’re reading this, please know that I love you and am grateful for you, just my brain was not socialised to treat me well.

We’re retraining, brain and I.

So now it’s time to apologise for the missed workshop. And later a friend will WhatsApp from Italy – she’s somebody with whom I can talk about all this. And it’s important, people – because you need to hear the right message again and again if it’s to stay in your brain, especially if your default setting is the opposite. If you’re set up for shame, guilt, invalidating your own emotion – if you can’t deal with sadness or anger or disappointment other than burying it under sugar or alcohol or Facebook – there can never be too many times to hear that you’re alright, you’re valued, you’re allowed to speak out.

Beautiful people, love yourselves. Learn to, slowly. Patiently. Time to talk. Time to talk. Time to talk.

Good Enough Hack: Name It, Don’t Shame It (Con Artist Syndrome)

When I started writing this blog, there was one aim, one and only.

The aim for this blog was: to write it.

And the more I wrote and achieved, the more my ambition woke up to it. I started wondering whether I should have a website (I should; I attempted one at http://www.ritasuszek.weebly.com; of course, it’s unfinished), whether this blog should be my online presence (debatable; also, do I feel comfortable sharing that much of myself as official?). In short, I started expecting things.

I stopped writing.

Time has passed. I need to write whether the blog is “ready” or not. I deviated from its mission of casual while-you-wait creativity. So I am back, with my Good Enough Hack, which is… name the problem.

I have a recurring mental health problem. You could call it a version of impostor syndrome; I privately call it Con Artist Syndrome: my feeling that I’m cheating people into believing I’m worth something as an artist, as a professional. Surely if they saw me – the real me, scrambling for deadlines, wandering the house in yesterday socks – they would scorn the picture I make. So I scorn it for them. I hurt myself as I fully believe I deserve, before I get hurt by others. In a preparation of sorts.

I want to be the early-morning-rising, writing-at-her-own-tidy-desk, excercising-four-hours-a-day artist. Nothing less will do. Nothing less is worth it. And truthfully, it’s not impossible – I have been that person (well, the four hours is usually in a workshop, and I don’t own a desk, but details). But I’m not that person right now, I’m not that person all the time. Nothing else will do. I don’t deserve help if I can’t make it on my own.

See this? This, this knife’s edge either-or black-and-white obsession has been haunting my days. Whenever I start small – and I need to start small to start at all, sometimes – I preemptively scorn the effort. Can you picture this? Picture a child, stumbling on short legs to give you a hug. Now picture turning away and saying: you don’t get a hug until you stop holding the walls. Take yourself seriously, now. Practice. Maybe one day, you’ll deserve the love. Be ambitious, dream big. But how can you start your engine without fuel?

I’m saying all these wrong-headed things to articulate just how wrong-headed they are. I’ve had them for years, and they come and go: company of good people will chase them away, or when I sustain a meditation habit, or when I dance frequently. But I’m in a crisis now, and writing is all there is, in a sense – I can’t keep asking my partner to love me out of my blues. His love can’t reach places I don’t love, myself.

I’m sitting in a cafe and crying discreetly. This is a win: I left the house. When I’m gripped by those feelings, one thing that helps is leaving the house, meeting people, social activity. Simultaneously, when I’m gripped by these feelings, I cancel meetings, call in sick at work, postpone walks. I say to myself: you can’t leave until you clean your room, do the work, shape up. You don’t deserve the reward. You have to earn it.

Self-punishment, self-sabotage, scorning of the body – I sometimes stop eating/eat badly, postpone showering or getting dressed. Postpone writing, say all these things in my head. And of course, read a lot of stories, watch a lot of shows. It is a time-honored coping mechanism for me: escaping into my head and imagination. Perhaps it started in childhood: I got bullied and I loved books, so going outdoors stopped being attractive pretty quickly. (later I got bullied because I loved books and talked “funny”).

Again: this is a good day. I started getting it together yesterday – I did indeed clean my room up a bit, put together a load of laundry. Today I’ve been working on being okay with everything that’s been happening. (Got up late – okay. Had breakfast – okay. As opposed to low-level murmur of “you already ruined your day by getting up too late, now it’s not worth doing anything”). Interestingly, my brain tends to play hide-and-seek: whenever I come up with a solution to a made-up problem, my brain throws a block at me – it’s like a scene in an adventure movie, you know, when the hero is about to be trapped and all those walls come down wherever she looks? My brain is a labyrinth and it keeps itself entertained. Wherever I turn to, a wall comes down. Except the walls aren’t real, and whenever I venture  outside the confines of my tortured brain, I re-discover this: I can walk through walls like a ghost. Because things in my brain are as real as I allow them to be.

 

20160705_152739

Now I’m in a cafe, about to work on a grant application that I SHOULD have sent weeks ago, because it’s been ready, but I dawdled, because I need advice on a detail or two. Frankly, if I’m writing, I’m already on the road to recovery.

So, recovery list:

name the problem. Writing helps. I’ll try and name/refute the limiting/fearful statements that keep coming up (or down, like walls).

for the love of all that’s holy, leave the bloody house! You deserve it! Parks are good. Theatre is good. Friends are great.

purge some emotion. I always cry while watching cartoons. Also, Fried Green Tomatoes – guaranteed fountain.

exercise if you can – if you can trust yourself not to turn it into “I should work out more” baseball bat to bash yourself with.

 

 

 

 

Halfway To Thirty (Also Brexit, Fuck)

6 months left until I hit the big 30! Feeling lost, confused, helpless, sad, confused… Granted, some of it might be due to Brexit. And no sugar diet (hello, withdrawal).

The big leading Thing of Things that seems to be happening in my life: in my race to Become A Cool Person (which is not always successful, let’s face it) I seem to have lost the person that I actually am. Cue rude awakening. See confusion. Example: I want to be the person who gets up early (I do function better in the mornings), but right this minute I am not that person. Responding in my favorite way (with guilt and bitter self-recrimination) really does not yield the desired effects. Changing the response incoming. Frankly, I’m not sure who I am, who I think I should be, who I’m becoming, who I want to become. There are things going right – I have to work on the appreciation of The Good Things – but mostly I’m looking around, wide-eyed, going: is this me?

Also, this just in: I might be an introvert. Please stop laughing. Is there a late onset? I love people; I tend to be at my best in (good) company, enjoy being centre of attention, etc etc. But people exhaust me, too. Maybe just now I have a lower tolerance – crowds definitely a no-no. Also, I’ve not been leaving the house due to freelance/mugging and subsequent fear of dark & outdoors/post-Brexit low mood.

On the bright side, there is writing. Writing is the best. If I rouse myself from reading-induced stupor (favorite escapism, now that eating a pack of cookies is not an option) and start writing, I know I’m gonna be okay. Writing, verbalizing – they keep me sane. That’s why I talk so much. Well, I talk for many reasons. I hide in plain sight sometimes – if I speak of it all, no one suspects there’s anything deeper. But writing… is the easiest, most accessible way of coping. So if I have enough energy to write a blog post, an article, recently (!) a fanfic, I know I’ll be okay eventually.

Ongoing creative projects: #GirlfagThePlay (egads, it’s slow-going! I’ll get there), Safe, the one-woman show (might rename it Shame, or something related). Newest idea: a stand-up show called A Fucking European. Oh, and the Polish-language show, No Such Place As London. Now just need enough focus to do these. 🙂

What is it about?

It needs to be said: I stopped writing, because I don’t know what this journal is meant to be.

I got stuck. Yes, perfectionism, but also – I want people to read me. This blog has been more of a place when I come to “write out” my thoughts. Write through the blocks. It’s a me-space that has not become a public space. It’s good enough for me-writing, but if I want an audience, I need to do better than this.

And so I’m stuck. Somehow, the freedom of writing just disappeared. And I’m not here. I don’t know what topic to pick. Picking at scabs, reaching for the moon, writing my play. Not writing my play. Not working. Learning to work. Learning to fly. Learning to crawl. Learning to be still.

I fought with my boyfriend today. Me not working is putting a pressure on us, and it all spills over. There are other reasons, but guilt remains, and is ugly.

I have a set point of misery and just keep going back there. I’m afraid to be what I can be, which is fully, unashamedly

– joyous.

I keep wishing I was someone else

Lifestats: articles – too many; Google – carrot cake vegan icing (no dairy diet); Money earned – not enough; Count of fear – high.

I wish for a lot of things. I wish I were more conscious of myself, more self-aware, more grounded; I wish I were less frustrated and happier. I wish I had better boundaries, better body, better everything. I wish I did more work, I wish I had more self belief.

I wish I didn’t have to write things out, and if I do, I wish for more audience. I wish I had a better blog, about something else, less self-obsessive than my tired mental health. I wish I were less dramatic. I wish I were better at meditation. I wish I believed in my dancing and singing enough to actually practice it. I wish I had the courage to leave social media when I need to work. I wish I had a cleaner room. I wish I could watch Netflix series all day, without feeling the guilt – but I also wish I watched 2 episodes and then followed the inner drive that tells me to do some work. I wish I didn’t try to subconsciously cook and clean more because I’m unemployed and my partner is supporting me – I wish I applied for jobs more, not appeasing some invisible female duties. I wish my partner were less frustrated. I wish, I wish, a prayer of the powerless.

I wrote this poem, about a year ago “Where do you keep your power”. Recently I tried to read it out loud in rehearsals, and man, I break in tears. As most poems, I wrote it for others, but for myself – if I stopped questioning myself all the time, if I believed. I can believe. There is a space for me to believe in myself, and I have to have courage to inhabit it.

I am ashamed for writing this. There are people with bigger problems for sure. Here I am, in this empty space I created in myself, too scared to step out. I’m not fighting for my life – or am I? I’m fighting with my brain, which tells me all the time that I suck. I am fighting with my habits, with lack of self love. I am grateful for all the good things – maybe not grateful enough; I look at everything with perfectionist eye of “things to be fixed” – so the things that don’t need to be fixed don’t even get noticed.

I wished I wrote all the articles I come up with, or at least most. I wish I didn’t lose belief halfway through the thought, nevermind the project. I wish I could help people, I wish I could change people’s lives. Is that naive? Perhaps I’m just the funny girl. Perhaps all that angst is for nothing and I can do some stand-up comedy. Look at me, all dismissive. That is worthy, too. I feel like I have so many sides of me and I can’t create a stable personality, a stable brand, idea. But perhaps I can. Maybe it’s okay to be all that I am. The poet, the singer, the voice. The writer, the teller, the dance. The messy, crying, sensitive, self-obsessed, humorous, witty, occasionally ironic, mostly charming, fucking intense person that I am – nevermind all the things I want to become.

I am capable of change. But if I don’t like step one, change will not satisfy me either. If I can’t celebrate my current self, exercise everyday – despite extra endorphines – will not move me into self-love. It could help, but the thinking of “I should be doing XYZ, instead” will stay.

Perfectionism is capitalism of self. All we want is more, more, more. And better. It’s okay to be more efficient. But conditional self-love doesn’t fucking work, now does it?

 

Bravest of the brave

20160204_150055Courage. Take heart. This is literally all I can say to myself, as I:

  1. Take a new, uncertain path in life while
  2. My relationship is falling around my ears.

2. is, at least in part, caused by 1. – I’m fairly certain. We’re both sensitive artists (read: drama queens) and somebody here needs to put a boundary up and it’s got to be me. In an ideal world, I would quit my dayjob and enjoy nothing but mental support from my partner. In this world, it’s really up and down. I do understand – our lives are tied together, and if I don’t do well, financially, WE are in trouble – but truth is, one can process a tough situation in any number of ways, and I’m becoming disillusioned with what’s happening in here. I’m actually getting chances and commissions, there is plenty of pitches to make, applications and things; all I need is to be in sound mental state. And I’m struggling with that. Because four hour arguments, and some words can’t be fixed with I’m sorry, can’t be unspoken.

In other news, I went dancing on the street yesterday. My partner was actually really proud. I was, too. I thought about doing it forever, and now that I have – in the barest, easiest way, without much prep – I’d like to do it again. The bravery of it steals my breath. That’s what I need. I need to do brave things and stretch my body into a bit of pain that is real. This is real and necessary if I’m to actually make things possible.

I don’t need to be bravest of all people. All I need to do if be bravest of all Ritas that ever were. The only one to compete with is me. And that is some stiff competition, to be sure! But I can do it. I have so much love. I’ll spend it all in one place, now: on me. Growing myself up, my Rita-garden, the soil of soul.

Aaaargh! Madcap run for my life, a.k.a. I have Muppet Underwear, Fuck This

20160129_102300.jpgGoogle searches: washing trainers without ruining them forever (that was the intention, anyway)

Mood: aaaaaargh!!

I’ve been writing normal/well-thought-out/structured posts recently, but fuck that shit. Fuck it. Fuck pretending I’m not in a freefall, and that I don’t swear like a sailor when the mood strikes. Fuck respectability politics, fuck staying home all the time, fuck being scared.

My old pal frustration is in town. Let’s rattle some cages. Let’s DO SOMETHING!

Yeah, I had this spiritual post in mind about how I need to go in (listening to myself) and out (PUTTING MY BLOODY ART OUT). Not in the mind for it right now. Because suddenly I’ve been mostly home and wtf. WTF.

It snuck up on me. You know that weird feeling when you quit a job and start staying home? I thought I was doing right by myself, at first. In the first week-two I went out a lot, next to new training regime and challenges. Very fast I got sick and was forced to slow down a bit. A tiny bit. A large bit. OMG LIFE IS SO SLOW.

From perfectly legit bit of rest to revival of old habits in no time flat. The struggle is real – I’m not even being ironic. Suddenly I started working from home – which, fair enough, is possible, but going out is necessary sometimes. Suddenly I stopped bloody leaving the house. Suddenly I was fearful, procrastinating, progressively anxious. No. Just no.

The nadir came today – I got my payslip from the old job, which I think is a mistake. About half the money is missing. It made me slightly anxious, and then just really mad. I’m not about to rely on these things. I am the person who got a commission right of the bat, ON THE LAST DAY OF WORK. I am cooler than this. I’m not letting it happen to me. I’ll call them!

As my old acting coach used to say: don’t keep calm and carry on! FREAK THE FUCK OUT AND CHANGE THE WORLD!!!!!

 

FREAK OUT!

LE FREAK

SO CHIC!

*dances through the blog*

The New Way Of Walking

Mood: thoughtful. Lonely.

Google searches: Alan Rickman, “Jinx” (due to cryptic conversation with a housemate re: films to watch on house movie night)

Today was a weird day. Yesterday it’s been a week since I quit my job. I’m doing great and I’ve been saying as much; today I will acknowledge the rest of reality.

My back hurts. It was one of the motors of change. I’m waiting for an NHS physio appointment (standard waiting period: 12 weeks); my disc has been moving, apparently. Also, I went to a fitness class, which I intend to continue – possibly muscle pain has compounded in, today.

I didn’t leave the house. My mistake. I was trying to make myself work, when I really needed a rest – but I don’t work well from the house, unless I have a time limit. Yesterday I’ve done quite a lot of work, because I was going out to a stand-up night with friends. Today things got a bit more blurry.

I’m learning. I’m learning my own tells. How can I have the life I want, if I don’t pay attention to what I want, and how I behave? So I’m paying attention to what makes me tick. Sometimes I back away from change. After doing a show I have a hiding period. I’ve done two stand-up monologues this week, plus a pitch and lots of other things. I’m really doing pretty damn well.

Since I quit:

I exercised at least an hour per day in various forms, often more; I always did between 15 minutes and 2 hours of masseur-appointed back exercises;

2 stand-up slots, people!

I woke up happy every morning and made my bed (embarrassing a confession, but with depressive tendencies that can be a feat)

kept up swimming, once a week;

I organised a team for my dream street-act to dance on the streets (currently we heard from a drummer who wants to join, that’d be so cool).

I got myself invited to audition for Vagina Monologues in Brighton, which. omg.

This all happened in a week.

It’s just, today I backslid a little, and I’m in a bit of pain. That’s to be expected. If you want muscles, pain will happen; if you want to keep your head high and back straight, you’re changing habits of a life time.

I’ll keep at it. I found my path, and I’m learning how to walk again.

I Jumped And Life Caught Me.

light

Mood: ebullient & tired

Google searches: not in awhile. Just trying to keep up with life.

Dear Readers, life is awesome.

Let me tell you a story: on the last day of work – yes, that job I quit a couple posts ago – I was happy. I didn’t have brainspace to be anxious about not working; I was just immensely happy that the job would be OVER. And I had a customer. And we chatted.

“What do you do? – I’m a documentary film maker. – Oh, that’s so cool. I didn’t get there yet, I’m a writer. Mostly comedy. I just quit my job and I’m writing as of tomorrow.” This is a shortened account of the conversation that took place. There was no pressure, no mercenary focus; I didn’t want anything from anyone. I was content, shooting off my mouth, just talking – sharing – re-confirming in my mind that it was happening: I was quitting to become an artist.

So what happened? Exchange of business cards; invitation to pitch; creating the pitch, winning the pitch and first project meeting!

Of course, I confronted the perfectionist beast right away. I want to be this effortless genius, whereas in the meeting I had to reign my ego in, strongly, when the animator – the expert – told me straight up my story is too long and too involved, and we’d better start over. But I know how nuts ego is. This is me, learning the creative ropes – creating ideas, presenting ideas, backing them up AND letting them go. I wouldn’t give this up for anything – especially not for dreamed up perfection.

This is real. Hard-won confidence starts here. My job is to listen: to my creative team-mates; to my creative gut (NOT to my brain that alternates between: “…they don’t even need you here, you’re obsolete” and “….you have to speak more”). My job is to work-out (which I’m doing), eat well (which I’m doing), do the work and not to take myself too seriously.

I’m working on it. And I’m loving it…. 🙂

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