Social Anxiety: The Spotify Challenge

I remember in junior high a friend of mine was in the car with me as we listened to a CD I was really excited about; I probably got it as a gift, as I have the tendency to listen to the same thing over and over if I’ve just discovered it. We reached a track I loved, and I turned to my friend and said “This one’s my favorite!” She gave the first few seconds a listen and then replied “You really like this type of music, don’t you?” with a judgmental, mocking tone. That’s the first memory I have of feeling ashamed about my taste in music.

And then came school dances, when I was the only one who wasn’t singing along to most songs blaring over the loudspeakers. College parties were worse. And post-college. And…right now.

In program today we were discussing how to establish relationships with people we encounter regularly, like folks in program or work or some such thing. Someone asked how we get the conversation going, which is how we got on the topic of music. I had a bit of a revelation sitting there while our therapist discussed how music can be an incredibly vulnerable thing.

I had made a Spotify playlist for the new year, and I realized 2/3 of the songs in the playlist I had chosen because I thought that’s what I should be listening to, but not actually what I wanted to be listening to. In fact, when those songs came on and I was alone in the car, I would skip them. And skipping 2/3 of a playlist leaves you with very little. But on the off chance that I would be driving someone around in my car, I wanted to make sure my music was good enough; I didn’t want to be judged or mocked or told I wasn’t cool because of the music that I listen to.

When I admitted this revelation to the group I felt shame, but also a bit of relief. I had buried this inside of me for so long, it was nice to share it in such safe environment. Not only that, but to get validation from others that I’m not alone in that, because music is a very vulnerable thing. One of my friends mentioned, “It’s like having someone read your diary.”

This revelation got me thinking about how often I am in my car and how I listen to music every time I’m driving anywhere- even if it’s two minutes away. Why should I let my social anxiety get in the way of something I enjoy so much?

That said, I decided to make myself a challenge in group today to create a new Spotify playlist that is 100% for me, and not for anyone else. Another friend of mine chimed in and mentioned that I should blog about the experience. So, here I am.

Let me tell you, this mental filter I’ve got with music runs deep. I had to think very mindfully about the music I was adding. And, of course, my perfectionism kicked in and fed me all kinds of lies about how the playlist looked, and how long or short it was, and certain artists I was including. I still think the playlist is far from perfect, but I realize that it’s not something that’s permanent. I can constantly be switching things around if I want to, and I’m allowed to be bored with certain songs. Just because I find it boring, doesn’t mean I’m forced to keep listening to it.

As promised to my accountability buddy (you know who you are), below is my playlist. Love it or hate it, I don’t care. This is mine.

 

unnamed 1.18

there is a beautiful tall tree in the middle of the forest
the tree’s limbs are long and nimble
yet strong enough for birds to land and nest on
the tree top kisses the sun and has the perfect view
of the forest floor and its surroundings
humans gather underneath and admire it’s slender frame
against the blue sky above

one day a storm sweeps in and knocks the tree to the ground
it is now short and it’s width is more noticeable
bare of branches and leaves

how does the tree reach back up and kiss the sun
how does it encourage birds to land on it
or remember what the view looked like
before the memories fade away into the clouds

 

-body image

 

 

Master Manipulator

For those who don’t know, or who didn’t see my post explaining the three states of mind, I personify my emotion mind since she’s usually the one taking control. Her name is Sasha. She’s a sly fox, a devil in disguise, and of course, she’s drop dead gorgeous. Her goal in life is to hurt me, make me jealous, spiteful, unhealthy, and impulsive. So far, she’s done a pretty good job of it. This #MentalHealthMonday is my middle finger to her.

Lately Sasha has been in my head non-stop. She’s been convincing me that I’m not good enough. Not talented enough. Not pretty enough. I’m technically underweight and yet Sasha tells me I’m not thin enough. She sees all the fat that hangs from my bones and puts a fun house filter on my eyes when I look in the mirror. She convinces me that food is unsafe and will do me harm. For a long time, she convinced me to lie about these feelings. To my friends, family, and treatment team, I was on the road to recovery; progressing steadily. On the inside, however, Sasha was telling me that if I told anyone my secret, they would make my life a living hell. They’d force me to eat, step me back up in care, and ultimately, judge me for not being the perfect patient. So for weeks I stayed silent. This past weekend, however, I think Sasha needed to get a drink of water after spending so much time yelling at me. During the silence of her sips I could hear the whisper of my wise mind telling me to come clean and that things will be better when I do. Within a split second, Sasha was back, jumping up and down, ready for a fight.

I clung to that small voice, though; the one telling me I could do it successfully. I could be honest. So I reached out to a few friends from my ED program and confessed to them. They were completely understanding, and encouraged me to share what I was going through with my therapist. Sasha threw a temper tantrum. But even so, my wise mind’s voice got a little louder.

Sasha gets scared easily. Usually it’s because she feels like the spotlight is no longer on her, or when I witness bravery in others and feel inspired to be brave myself. Sasha does not want me to be brave. She needs me dependent on her, otherwise she will waste away in the back corner of my mind. One morning at clinic, before breakfast, one of my friends- a fellow patient- stood up, marched to the middle of the room, and lay her sneakers down in front of us. Crying, she said that she was giving the shoes to her therapist so that she would not be tempted by her eating disorder any more.

It was the bravest thing I had ever seen. Someone not so different from me stood up, said to her disorder “I choose life, I choose freedom,” and willingly gave up the most secure, comfortable, unhealthy part of her. I could see how hard it was on her face. And I could see the hope that shone through the hurt and despair. I will never forget that moment. The memory is burned into my brain, never to be removed.

I felt Sasha shudder that morning. Bravery was not something she wanted me to get accustomed to. Bravery meant I could stand up to her, to fight for my right to be happy and healthy. It was because of that recollection of bravery that I reached out to my therapist on a Saturday night and admitted that I wasn’t ok. That Sasha had tricked me, and was continuing to lie to me about my worth. As soon as I let the truth slip, Sasha created a storm in my head. Regret, self-hatred, and hopelessness flooded my mind, and I wished I could take it all back. I was comfortable in my disorder. I was on track to lose the weight I wanted to lose, and I stopped myself. It was difficult to separate Sasha from myself that night. To realize that what I had done was brave, and that I was taking back control of my life and my body and my health.

As you can imagine, Sasha is not pleased that I am showing her hand to all of you. She knows that this means it will be harder for her to lie to me, to seduce me back over to the dark side. And to that I say: Screw you, Sasha. It’s time for you to sit down and knit a f#cking sweater.

 

 

(I swear I had this drafted and ready to go before the clock struck midnight, but then I had to be an adult and finish my taxes. It’s only 90 minutes after Monday, so I’m still counting it as a #MentalHealthMonday post. Try and stop me.)

Wise Mind Collection

Hello all! A #MentalHealthMonday post is forthcoming, don’t you worry, but I wanted to make a quick announcement first.

I am adding a new poetry collection to my site! In addition to the unnamed series, I will be writing pieces reflective of my work towards recovery, particularly from my eating disorder. I will be writing when I am in wise mind, and the focus will be on the importance of recovery, that I can look at when I’m feeling willful. I want to channel my creativity, because that tends to draw me in more and be more inclined to share and express what I’m feeling or going through.

So, I hope you enjoy it! I appreciate your readership!

-K

my fiercest army

i stare dead into the face
of my disorder
it is beautiful
a ravenous glow
that makes me hungry
for the beauty it possesses
it pulls me towards it

stimulated
i sway towards the light
moving through a thick fog
when from behind i feel
my name trickle into
my consciousness
the glowing light in front of me
suddenly flares as i
turn to the direction of
the voice
the light so blinding
it’s hard to make out shapes
colors seem distorted

there it is again
my name like silk
like something familiar
calling me home after a long day
through the ether hanging like a
curtain upon my eyelashes
a form materializes
and i can make out
an outstretched hand
i walk towards it
the warmth from the mass of light
behind me flutters
against my skin
as i spot another form
another hand stretched towards me
welcoming
comforting
the two forms are shoulder to shoulder
when another joins them
and another
until there is a sea

an army
reaching out for me
and i realize
they aren’t anonymous creatures
they are women
each with a distinct aura
all radiating care and love
they seem resistant to the illumination
that i have left in my wake
and their hands seem soothing
like a still pool of water
the heat continues to shroud me
yearning for me to reciprocate
and envelop it’s rays
yet there is something so magnetic
that allows me to reach out
and grasp at the closest hand

there is a slight shudder
a disturbance in the temperature
and the woman reaches up
with her other hand
and douses my eyes
with her fingers
washing away the curtain
and i feel a change
a match struck

when i turn to face
the warm glow of my disorder
i find that it is a roaring fire
sparking and spitting
angrily towards me
i look down at my clothes
they are singed and smoking
falling from my body like ashes
it’s as if a kaleidoscope is removed
from my vision
changing the soft light
to an inferno
that was burning me alive
engulfing my existence

i step back into the arms of the
women that surround me
forming a wall that withstands
the increasingly burning ugliness
cooling my skin as they
barricade me from the blaze
they guide my mind
teaching me how to
douse the flame

 

-to the army of women on staff at my treatment center. this is for you. 

a letter to my therapist

how do i open my mouth
and let the truth pour out
like cement
hot and slick
until it hardens
and coats my legs
until they’re stiff
immovable

how do i express
what has never
been expressed
a new thought
that has formed
and taken hold
of my mind
so much of me says
keep your mouth shut
you are beautiful
just the way you are
but another longs
for someone to
see me
reach in
and yank the hand
that’s holding me
so tight
too tight

how do I thank you
for your kindness
your patience
and compassion
when i invite you
to reach into my
mind and grasp
that hand that
grips me tight
massaging the muscles
until I can feel it
release
ever so slightly
for allowing me
to feel and breathe
again

Black Cats & Toothbrushes

Happy Friday, the 13th! I hope everyone is avoiding walking under ladders and stepping on cracks.

This post was inspired by my dad, who doesn’t believe in all of those superstitions that freak people out on this unlucky day- or any day, for that matter. For example, let’s say in a baseball game the pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, and it’s the top of the ninth inning. However, as soon as the sportscaster mentions it, suddenly the opposing team hits the ball and the no-hitter is no more. People tend to blame the sportscaster for “jinxing it” — my dad thinks that’s a load of crap. His words didn’t magically fly through the air waves and land in the pitcher’s arm. But to some people, they believe in that superstition.

In my experience, I am not superstitious about stuff like that (though I used to be when I was younger; whenever I received a chain email, I had to forward it, otherwise I would never find love or I would die a tragic death or something), but I actually do tend to be more superstitious about more tangible things.

I have what’s called “emetophobia” which basically means I have a fear of vomit. I know some of you will relate and say “Yeah, I can’t stand vomit, too,” but I want to separate fear from phobia. You can fear something and not have a phobia of it. It’s when the aversion or fear becomes so irrational that it affects your daily life that it becomes a phobia. So, I developed anxiety, OCD tendencies, and an eating disorder because of my phobia.

You could argue that the phobia is currently at its peak, because I’m in treatment for my ED now. However, I had another significant peak when I was younger, in junior high and the beginning of high school.

I grew up with chronic nausea, and became terrified of getting sick. I fell asleep on the bathroom floor more nights than I was in my own bed, and pretty soon my parents were fed up with me running to the bathroom out of fear and falling asleep there every night (hello, germs!). So, I started just going with it and falling asleep in my bed. However, I had a very specific regime to follow, and if I didn’t follow it exactly I knew it would make me sick.

To start, I’d have to make sure I had a plastic bag hanging off the left side of my headboard on my bed. I had to get in bed from the left side, and use my right hand to set my alarm clock and turn off my lamp. Once I laid down, I had to start on my right side, then after a certain number of minutes flip to my left, then back to my right- only if I turned inward so my stomach touched the mattress as I turned. Eventually, I could then get in the position that was most comfortable for me and drift off to sleep.

My superstitions were so deeply rooted in my brain, that I would have somatic symptoms if I didn’t follow my routine. Even today- though not as severe as they once were- I experience some of these superstitions. For example, I have to brush my teeth in a very specific way, otherwise I’m convinced that something will go wrong later in the day if I don’t.

Earlier, when I was on the phone with my dad, he asked me if I believed in that “superstitious stuff,” and I said no. Which is true; I don’t believe walking under a ladder or seeing a black cat cross the path in front of you will do anything to you. However, I am definitely superstitious in other ways that I didn’t even think about until after I hung up the phone with him. Granted, my superstitions are more likely categorized as OCD behaviors rather than superstitions ones. Nonetheless, these beliefs foster a real fear in me, as I’m sure it does in others, which is almost worse than watching a movie about a  man in a hockey mask murdering people.

On this Friday the 13th, I am setting a goal to brush my teeth in a different order tonight. Because if a cat can’t ruin my day, why should a toothbrush?