Imagine meeting an old group of friends or classmates. One person constantly belittled and even bullied others while growing up. Now, she listens well and even apologized for past actions. Another person, on the other hand, was shy and insecure. He still struggles to speak and usually complains about himself when he does speak.
Situations like this happen to me all of the time although not always in the same day. I meet people from the past who have changed tremendously while others are nearly identical. The questions arise, “Do people change? Can someone move on from the past? Are some people able to forget who they were?”
Throughout youth group and college chapels, the ideas of modesty and purity were drilled into my head. Even at a younger age, I was already being told what I shouldn’t do or wear or say. Being good was one of my main goals in life, so I took all of these lessons extremely seriously and still do.
However, one talk that no one in my youth group ever gave me was how to stay safe. No one spoke about abuse, assault, or manipulation at my university. If the concept of safety even came up, it was quickly glossed over as one of the pros of being modest or acting like a good girl. Thus, all I could discern about staying safe was the more innocent and pure I was, the safer I would stay.
I am not even sure how to start this exactly. The wait between these posts (both for you reading and me writing) has been far too long.
Life has been a bit hectic and full of changes lately. Since my last post in June (forever ago, I know), I have been offered a new job which I will be leaving the country for in a few months. After years of dreaming and doubting myself, I am going to be teaching English in China. Better yet, the Disney company will still be my employer.
The joy of taking this new step in life comes hand-in-hand with the fear of change. Am I really moving to a country across the world that I have never been to before? How will I learn Mandarin that quickly? How will I survive without my family and friends? How will I ever be confident enough to teach?
Living in recovery (or at least attempting to) is strange. At times, the current sweeps you under and pins you under the water until you feel your lungs about to burst. Other times, the water seems like a calm pool, perhaps even enjoyably cool and refreshing.
Then there are days, weeks, months, years when you are just treading the water. You aren’t about to drown, but your feet certainly do not touch the ground to stabilize you. Each recovery-based choice takes considerable effort and seems like a waste most of the time. However, making those healthy choices is not impossible.
Memories haunt, words remind, fears remain, but I will survive.
When people warned me that he wasn’t a good friend, I just smiled sheepishly and shrugged. Sure, he was not perfect. Yet, a quirky, introverted, socially-anxious preteen girl took the friends she could get. So, I told myself repeatedly, “It’s not a big deal.”
It’s not a big deal if he tells me to shut up. I do talk too much.
It’s not a big deal if he belittles my dreams. They won’t come true anyway.
It’s not a big deal if he slaps my face. It was a gentle hit to keep me from being too weird.
This sassy duck does not let anyone who doesn’t respect her into her life.
So much of my time is spent wondering how I am going to say “No” to someone. How will I let him down carefully? How do I keep her from getting angry at me? How do I get out of a situation without having to be obvious?
People are constantly telling me to give others a chance. We are often told not to “judge a book by its cover” and to “take time to really know a person.”
Those words of advice are very helpful in many situations. Yet, these wise sayings do not mean you need to say “Yes” or let everyone into your life. Sometimes, saying “No” is the safest and healthiest option.
Why is it so scary to leave the house? I might be running to the grocery store, going to Universal Studios with friends, or heading to work. Each time, terror fills me and makes me want to stay rooted in my home.
There are times in my life when these fears diminish a bit. Yet, they always pop back up few months or years later.
Is this social anxiety? Aspergers? PTSD? Depression? A mixture of everything?
I wish that I could explain to others how scary this is. I want friends and to socialize but need people to come to me sometimes. Instead of always going out, I long for someone to enter into my bubble and just be with me.
Maybe someday there will be someone like that in my life. There were some people back in Minnesota perhaps, but now they are gone. Once again, I am forced to emerge.
I am sorry, neighbors, that I look at you with terrified eyes when you try to say “Hi” while I am walking. That I rapidly turn and scurry in the other direction when I see you even begin to leave your front door. That I would rather pass by a huge black snake than you and your dog.
I am sorry, neighbors, that social anxiety seizes me and propels me away from other humans. That my heart begins to shake whenever I see a car drive by me. That I envision each person around kidnapping, torturing, and killing me.
What do you do when you have the urge to use a symptom? When suddenly, you feel like you must cut or you will die? When purging seems like the only option? When isolating for a week sounds like the only thing that will keep you safe?
You have to run. Run to a coping skill. Run to a loved one. Run to your recovery.