The Middle

Summer days mean a sweltering sun and lazy days, and even though I work most days of the week, I would say I’ve definitely been a model for this classic image. Catch me at the beach reading a little Stephen King or on my couch drafting my way through my novels. It’s a rough life, ya know?

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In reality, I have to start at least thinking about my future. My snap answer to “What are you doing after graduation?” is “Oh, I’m moving to New York!” Yes, that’s still my dream and no, I’m not giving up on it, but now that I am starting my senior year of college in less than two months, it’s daunting. I know that is still my dream–and I will make it happen–but I have to start looking for jobs and places to live and publishers. I’ve been hanging onto my book for so long that I’m terrified to put it in anyone else’s hands. Forty more pages and it might be time to send it into the world…

What a terrifying feeling.

It’s late on Tuesday night–or should I say a Wednesday morning–and I’m on the couch with Kristin, watching That 70s Show and talking about her latest Tinder date, our family issues, and boy things. We bought some nicer-than-Barefoot pinot grigio and are distracted by boy band videos on Facebook.

It’s kind of wonderful and it’s been distracting me from the major anxiety I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.

It’s not major, hyperventilating, crying in public, unable to control any kind of emotion anxiety. It’s more like under the rug, creeps in during a slow Led Zeppelin song, driving up PCH alone kind of anxiety. With so many wonderful things happening in my life, it’s difficult to believe that I could be feeling anything but happiness right about now. But I know very well that no moment is guaranteed bliss when you’ve been fighting a demonic mental illness since you were ten years old. And lately I’ve been trudging through an uphill battle.

I had relatively low levels of anxiety when I started grade school, but it really kicked into high gear when I was in fifth grade. I didn’t know my intense nervousness was more than that yet. It began affecting my immune system and taking over when I was a freshman in high school. Still didn’t have a name or reason for it. I didn’t know what that sickening, sinking feeling was until junior year.

It’s been hard for me to let go of that terrible, fluttery feeling in my stomach. Every day that I worked at Victoria’s Secret the last year, I felt nauseous. I walk into the store and smell the slightly-comforting scent of Bombshell and prepare myself for the inevitable stress of impatient customers who passive-aggressively snap at me when something goes wrong. Something out of my control. Retail is so important, but it is also a major stress. I quit that job for the anxiety it gave me–which is no one’s fault but my own. But now I’m a glorified Uber driver. I drive a couple of high school girls to and from summer school and tennis practice. I enjoy it, I do, and it causes me so much less stress than any retail job could.

But somehow anxiety gets to me anyway.

I can’t talk to people as easily about little things that might get to me, about a kind-of-unsafe driver who switched lanes recklessly on my way home, about how I can’t see a car that may look like a cop car without convincing myself I’ve done something wrong, about how I’ll drive through an intersection and panic because I can’t remember if the light was green (even though it was). Driving has always given me so much anxiety, but I act like it’s the normal, everyday activity it is for most people.

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I am Ross every time I’m in the driver’s seat.

I’m almost twenty-two, and I have the same sinking worries that I had when I was ten: do these people I care about actually like me? Do they think I’m worthy of their friendship? Are they going to stand by me when I can’t stand myself? Despite the evidence that they will continue to be my best friends and support me through my rough days, I still can’t help but grind my teeth in fear. Fear I’m not warranted to have.

I read a Teen Vogue article about anxiety today that completely represented how this illness has ruled my life for a decade–and how it has continued to impact me since I have completely embraced recovery from Depression. The article was mostly just a compilation of quotes from people with anxiety about the things they are afraid to tell their friends. Even though I do talk to my friends about my anxiety sometimes, these quotes hit the nail on the head on everything I can’t say to them.

“I already feel like a huge burden, I don’t want to add to it. And I honestly 90 percent of the time I can’t explain why I’m anxious. So I’d rather not say anything and just get through it on my own.”

This was one that really stuck out to me. Most of the time I can’t tell you why I’m anxious or depressed because I simply don’t know. It’s just a feeling that creeps up on me. I can’t stop it. There’s nothing anyone can really do to help, either, so I just don’t mention it. Instead of reaching out for any help (because to be honest, that doesn’t do anything for me) I shut myself away from everyone for a while. I have to let myself fall into it to get out of it.

When I was in Burbank in May and my dad was driving me to the train station to come back to SLO, he brought up the ever-difficult topic of anxiety. I know my parents read my blog sometimes–so does my grandma–but it doesn’t make it any easier to talk to them about any of this. It’s my way of putting everything out on the table, but we never talk about any of it when we see each other. Except this one time.

My dad told me that he used to struggle with anxiety. I guess I wasn’t surprised, but I just didn’t think about it. I’ve always felt so distant from my parents that it just felt like they would never understand what it’s like in my dark little world. But my dad did. He said my grandmother struggled as well–I never got to meet her, but I’m so much like my dad and his family that I guess it makes perfect sense. He said that if I ever have bad anxiety to talk to him and my mom about it. It’s probably the nicest sentiment, to actually talk to the people that can help me, but it’s far easier said than done. And like I said, it’s so much easier to get through an episode on my own.

Maybe one day, Dad.

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I’m trying to find a point here. Maybe it’s that I need therapy–which is something I mentioned to Kristin during our wine-induced venting session. I’ve made a lot of progress on my own, but it’s still hard. I mentioned to my boyfriend (yeah, you read that right) that I’m so much less responsive, talkative, and emotional when I text him when I wake up because sometimes I still can’t feel anything in the morning. I wake up and I feel numb to the world. It takes a little while for actual feelings (of any kind) to kick in. That’s why it takes me so long to get out of bed every day. That’s the Depression in me, but it all stems from my anxiety. Sometimes it’s still hard to be a real person, even with the people I care about the most. Every day I try to be better at it for those people and for myself.

I hate that all of this still gets to me, but at least I can feel now. At least I know that there is more than the numbness. And when I feel (or not feel) like everything is hopeless, I remember that it’s not. I’m better than that.

See? All I need to do it write it all out to find that silver lining. I’ll see you when I’m out of this little funk.

Thanks for listening.

Ash

Day Tripper – Tube Round 2 & Exploring the City

Hello, hello!

So I decided to take on the task of adventuring into the city on my own again. I had some doubts and a lot of anxiety, of course, but I had a ticket to a sightseeing bus tour and I was going to take it–no matter how much my anxiety tried to talk me out of it.

I woke up at 6:30 am (I know, I am shocked at myself, too!) and got ready. The first tour bus was leaving at 8:20 and I was going to try and make it on that one. I left my flat at about 7:30 and headed for the tube station. I had my screenshots of Google Maps, and I was ready. Calm, cool, and collected. Well, it only took me a block to realize that there are streets on Google Maps that don’t exist in the real world, so it took some mental rerouting and deep breaths to find my way. And when I saw that red sign above the entrance, I was so happy I could cry. It’s the little victories.

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Before I knew it, I was out on the streets of central London! Just wandering. I came out of the tube station all turned around, so I just kind of walked until I saw signs that pointed me in the direction of Buckingham Palace, which was where I wanted to go. At this point I was too late for the first bus. I knew they run every ten minutes or so, so I was okay with strolling. The front of the Palace was deserted–not surprising once I remembered it was barely 8:30 on a Wednesday. Everyone was off to or at work.

After a few snaps of the Queen’s official London residence, I found a map in Green Park that pointed me towards the first bus stop on the tour. I was excited to be in the city and see all the sights, but this park was also pretty fantastic, so a leisurely stroll was in order. I had time.

Onto the tour! I am trying to think of things I did not see on this tour, but even just the Red Line loop that I did was a lot. From Elizabeth Tower to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge (London likes Towers, apparently) to Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We drove down Oxford Street and Regent Street, and let me tell you, I was ready to hop off right then and shop my bank account into the dust. But I have three months to do that–I can’t get too crazy yet. And I did eat lunch at the (very first) Hard Rock Cafe, which was very cool. My musical heart was happy, but it was a little pricey (I knew that going in, though).

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I didn’t hop off the bus at all or take the river tour (which were options available to me). I just wanted to sightsee. I didn’t need to go and see the attractions quite yet. Plus, I was alone, so no one could take my picture. I have about a billion photos now, but I am in zero of them. My selfie game isn’t too strong, so I couldn’t really do that either. (Insert some laughs here). But the pictures I got were great! And I drowned my Snapchat in them–with fun commentary, per the usual.

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All I can say is that I love this city. It is weird to think that just a few days ago, I was feeling so frustrated with it–and myself. I was worried that I had gotten myself into something I could not handle, once again pushing myself too far. I thought I had failed, but I just figured out what not to do when googling directions. I have to trust my instincts and stay calm.

The city was amazing, and I cannot wait to go back. It’s so close that I can go anytime. But I think for the next few days I am going to take advantage of my own little neighborhood and explore some more. I live a hop, skip, and a jump away from a cute little park (with a mini zoo–not kidding). And like I said in my last post: everything is brick and I love it. Love.

I still don’t really feel like any of this is real. I’m in London? I adventured in the city by myself and my anxiety didn’t swallow me? I ate lunch at a restaurant by myself? I took the tube confidently? I feel like I might be living someone else’s life. I would not trade it for anything, though. What my first day here taught me is that I have a lot to learn and have a lot of growing to do, and this city is going to be very good for me. This day being the polar opposite of the one just a few days ago means that there is a lot of work to be done. Not all my days are going to be like this one, and I am not expecting them to be. Tomorrow I plan on staying in bed late and then going for another walk in the park. That will be just fine with me.

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I just still can’t believe I did all that, rode home and walked over to High Street to buy outlet converters (since mine broke–THREE DAYS it lasted) and an extra blanket, and still got home to my flat before 8 am California time. Crazy.

Treating myself to some Netflix and Stephen King now. Thanks for keeping up with me!

xoxo, Ash

London Town – Saying goodbye to America and hello to England!

So this is it…I am leaving the country tomorrow for three months. I am going to be living in not only a new city or state or even country. No, I am moving to a completely new continent. Almost a new hemisphere! Crazy is an understatement.

So is panic. I am still in the process of packing, for crying out loud. I know, I know. I am such a procrastinator, but this is one of those moments in my life where I won’t be sure it’s real until after it happens. And even then, I might still be in denial. This is exactly the kind of thing I always wanted to do but I never thought I ever could (thanks, depression).

But lo and behold, here we are!

Over the next three months I will still be blogging about my life and my struggles and posting little exerpts of my writing, per the usual, but I will also be documenting my adventures abroad: traveling, eating, drinking, the works. I know I have been posting very sporadically lately (I’ve been busy and quite frankly, uninspired), but this is my chance to step my game back up. I can give y’all updates that are more than: “So today I went for a hike, and it was beautiful! Then I went to work. And I ended the night with 5+ episodes of One Treet Hill.”

Be prepared for an absolute overload of pictures, cute boy sightings, and tales of an American girl adapting to a new world (or if you want to get technical, the Old World. The Mother Land, if you will). I hope those cute boy sightings include at least one member of One Direction. Please, God, just one!

I cannot wait to share my adventures with all of you, as I share just about everything else! Hopefully I will get a great chunk of writing done, both for Book 2 and the blog–I’ve got a new blog series in mind coming your way in the future). And I figured it was time for a little change in theme, as well, to go with my change of living situation. Stayed tuned for it all!


Things I still need to do:

  • finish packing–this should be done, but I clearly am a failure at having my life together
  • get my car washed–seems unnecessary, but it must be done
  • get a decent good night’s sleep
  • say goodbye to Gracie–this is definitely one of the most important ones
  • change my phone plan
  • print an abundance of paperwork
  • finish the bottle of wine JoDee left for me–at least, it’s not the Malibu
  • get In-n-Out–for obvious reasons

Things I am going to do in London (but not limited to):

  • High tea at the Ritz
  • Big Red Bus Tour–because I need to be a tourist before I can be a local
  • Tate Modern Museum
  • Princess Diana Memorial
  • Shop on Oxford Street–trying to underpack so I can shop till I drop, basically
  • St. Paul’s Catherdral
  • Millennium Bridge
  • Ben Ben (Elizabeth Tower) and the House of Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Buckingham Palace
  • King’s Cross Station–Harry Potter is love, Harry Potter is life
  • Monument of the the Great Fire of London–for you, ENGL 205
  • Abbey Road–also for obvious reasons

I went through so many ups and downs to get here, and now that it is all finally happening, I can’t believe it! I am ready to take the leap across the pond and see what the rest of the world has to offer. My little corner of the internet is getting a whole lot more exciting.

See you guys in England!

XOXO, Ash ❤

It’s Not Over

“It gets better.”

Let me ask you: has that sentence ever helped anyone? I know that every single time I heard those words, I wanted to scream. I wanted to say that it doesn’t get better. You are only saying that because you don’t feel the emptiness and anger. I could not possibly bounce back from this crushing self-loathing that has ruled my life for a decade. Saying “It gets better” will only reassure me that it does not, in fact get better.

Someone suffering from depression will not understand that it gets better until it happens. And let me tell you, sometimes they don’t even believe it then. They wait for the inevitable fallout that leads them right back into the darkness. And then sometimes, they don’t even get the glimpse of what “recovery” looks like.

They kill themselves because that is better than suffocating in life.

September. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

I literally just had to stop writing this for a few minutes. Take a breather. It is hard for me to write about this now…hard to tap into those emotions (or lackthereof) and that mindset. My heart is pounding right now.

There are reasons besides depression that people commit suicide. Anxiety, terminal illness (though that is usually “assisted suicide”), PTSD, avoiding a worse fate (like dying is better than life in prison, etc)…the list goes on. But when I think of suicide, my mind goes to depression because that illness is the reason for my suicidal thoughts.

Being home this last week (and for the next week) has thrown me back into a bad groove. I am suffocating here. I wish I could say otherwise, but there is too much here that has so easily dragged me down. I feel like I am seventeen and drowning in Bad Thoughts. I’m not, let me get that straight. But it has not been easy in the least bit, and I cannot explain why. It makes me question my recovery, for sure, but that is another post for another day.

Maybe it’s because I am thinking about Jino again…walking on that overpass…I don’t know.

But I do know that I may hate the sentence “It gets better,” but there is life past the darkness. I cannot tell you what it is or how to find it, but I promise there is something. Maybe “better” is not the correct word. But it is different. I still feel the numbness that depression poisoned me with, I do. I can feel things, though–so many good things. Adventures with my friends and beautiful sunsets and good music are my biggest catalysts for the release. Like the keys to the chains that bound me for so long. Sometimes at the end of the night, the numbness is there waiting for me, and I let it take me into the night. After a day of hiking or being at the beach, giving in is easier than fighting it. It is harder to break away from in the morning, but it does not have so much power over me.

Yeah, so maybe “better” is the wrong word, and that is why we hate it so much.

But that does not change the fact that, in my eyes and in the eyes of many people like me, suicide is not the answer to your problems. I know it seems like it is, I know. I cannot tell you when or how, but things are going to change. Maybe it’s a person that comes into your life. It could be a change of location. It will possibly be just a new feeling you wake up with one day. You won’t get to see what it is if you end your life.

Maybe someone or something won’t come around to change your life, maybe you are meant to change someone else’s.

So I am asking you, if you are thinking about it, please don’t. I know that sounds weak, like I am begging. But take it from someone who has been there, who has seen so many others crawl out of it. Recover. And from someone who has seen someone they care about fall too far into the clutches of it all.

Please don’t.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

They have an online chat, as well.

Or if you don’t want to talk to any of them, talk to me. Email me: aheartwideopen@yahoo.com

Letter to [You] – Three

I’m sorry. I have always been sorry. To be honest, I probably always will be–at least a little.

Your first love is supposed to be some whirlwind romance. You fall in love too fast, you break your heart with him and maybe he puts it back together. Then you realize that maybe you were too young to know what love really is. But that love–whether it fell apart, stayed strong, or went against the expectations of the people who didn’t believe in you–was real.

We didn’t have that. We crashed and burned before our relationship could even blossom into something real. I was lost and broken and confused, not believing that a boy could like me. I didn’t like me, so how could anyone else? I wondered how you could see anything appealing about me through the towering walls I put up. I mean, you spotted me on the bleachers at my brother’s baseball game when I was in the worst of moods, ready to cry for whatever reason. Maybe “bitchface” is not my worst enemy…

But skip forward through my first kiss ever and you not wanting to sit with me at the next game because my dad was sitting nearby. I smile at these memories. Funny how you were scared of my dad at the time when he wouldn’t hurt a fly. When Gracie does nothing but joke with him–calling him “Hef” (because his name is Hugh), for crying out loud. Maybe you were a little scared too. Safer with your buddies than me and my sisters. But fast-forward all of that to when I pushed all my friends away, and you along with them. They were dictating all my moves, and I didn’t like it. I was sick all those months (fighting the nastiest sinus infection I hope I never have again) and I couldn’t deal with it. I didn’t have power over my body, all I wanted was power over my emotions. Thanks to depression, I couldn’t even have that.

I should have told you. I wanted to so badly. You were the first one to see me for what I saw myself as. Maybe you were the one who could pull me out of that dark place. But I wouldn’t let you. I couldn’t face the fact that I thought you would hate me for it. It’s why I’ve never told people about me, especially guys who like me. I eventually push them away just like I did to you. Our break up was the epitome of “it’s not you, it’s me” because I was the problem. You did nothing wrong. You were sweet and kind, and I didn’t deserve that. You still probably thought it was because I didn’t like you anymore. It was far from true, but it was better you thought that. Easier for you to forget me and easier for me to sink into the Darkness I found solace and comfort in. At the time, I believed that to be good thing.

I am sorry that we dropped out of each other’s lives, though it was probably for the best. I could forget about you and me and move on. Try to recover, even. You didn’t have to think about me, and I hope you didn’t lose any sleep over me. I hope you never do.

Spending that time at the lake with you got me thinking about all this. About how I have this apology in my head. I wonder if you thought about the same sort of things I did, or if seeing me brought up a weirdly bitter aftertaste in your mouth. But I am glad that we did nothing but laugh together. I was happy to see you so carefree about the world. I was glad you teased me about not drinking (or rather you poked the bear to get me to confess–still nothing to confess!) and threatened to tip me in my donut float over in the lake, rather than ignoring each other the whole time. I am happy you are happy. You deserve to be.

Love always, A