When the dam broke and I was forced to come to terms with the state of my mental health, it caused me to start reevaluating things. One of the positive outcomes was that I gained a backbone. I have always had a smart mouth, but I gained the spine to go with it. Tkout and Dipper assure me that the sparkly Care Bear is still there, I haven't lost that, and I can outdo Mary Poppins herself on most days. What I don't do so easily anymore is back into a corner. Nowadays I'm more inclined to stand up for myself. It feels good.
While I was going through my struggles I found I wanted to push people away. Everyone. Almost constantly. I was angry with the people who didn't (or couldn't) understand what I was going through and as a result stepped back from me. I felt they abandoned me. The ones who held on but didn't seem to know how to help? I was angry with them too. The ones that tried to tell me I wasn't as bad off as I knew I was? I didn't want to explain it to them. I wanted them gone. Before I knew it, I had whittled my circle down and was in danger of getting rid of the few people who remained.
Tkout and Dipper tried to convince me not to continue pushing people away. At times they weren't even immune to the purge, but they held on. For them it was different though, I was selfishly trying to save myself the pain of losing them when they moved on. When they had enough of the crying, the insecurity, the wobbly moods, the struggle. What I refused to have faith in was the fact that they weren't going anywhere. They still haven't, and I won't claim that everything is always a field of wildflowers. I still have dark days. I still feel the need to push everyone away, but it's more when I know I'm not playing nice. When I have too much rage built up and nowhere to release it. When I find myself lashing out at the people I love. When I know intrinsically that "I'm not good with people right now". Lucky for me they both roll their eyes and stand their ground.
Recently I've found that I want people in my life again. Bit by bit. I'm starting to want to make room again. To make plans. To see those plans through. The big test was this past Saturday.
VTVT has been a friend for years. We met while working at PetSmart. I didn't like her at first. I thought she was a know-it-all and it drove me bugfuck. What I was unwilling to realize was that I was jealous. While I was scraping by living with my parents, scooping hamster shit at a pet store, and waiting for my big break as a teacher, this chick was living her dream. She was a vet tech (VTVT was the name I made up for her when I didn't like her, based on her penchant of reminding people she was a Vet Tech.) When my jealousy subsided and I started to see who she really was, I realized I not only liked her, but we clicked. She was the person who taught me how to crochet, which is one of my favorite hobbies.
During the Dark Year she was one of the people I pushed away. She was getting ready for her wedding, which I backed out of being a bridesmaid because of the anxiety, depression, and inability to handle crowds. The stress of that coupled with the fact that I couldn't seem to explain to her what was going on with me only frustrated me more. She made suggestions - do yoga, drink tea, crochet, go for a walk. These are sound suggestions, unless you're in a dark hole and looking for somewhere to vent your rage. I viewed them as unhelpful, and decided that they weren't going to make the pain go away or make me better. I pulled away. She still posted on my Facebook wall. She texted. The offer to hang was always there. But I didn't want to go to the Botanical Gardens. Or the craft store. Or the state park. Or anywhere that wasn't the dark of my basement or Dipper's house. She offered to come over, but I found the idea of hanging out with anyone who wasn't Tkout or Dipper or Phoebe too terrifying to even consider. I always said no.
After awhile I think she figured out that I had closed off. That didn't stop her from texting. Or offering a ride to the park. Or asking me if I needed to go to the craft store or out for coffee. She didn't get mad when I wouldn't text her for a few days. (Or weeks, if we are being honest.) She never blew up on me because while I couldn't hang out with her, I hung out with Dipper and Phoebe all the time. She was patient.
This past Saturday we finally hung out. She came over to my house and I gave her an afghan I made for her right before the Dark Year started. I also gave her a Star Wars pin with a Funko cartoon version of Wicket, her favorite Ewok. I found it at GameStop a few weeks ago. She loved them, and I felt embarrassed that I hadn't even wrapped them, or put them in a gift bag. She didn't seem to mind.
We sat in my living room with Zelda and talked for a bit. It felt like we hadn't ever stopped hanging out. It felt comfortable. We talked about her progress in yoga and my progress with finding a job that made me happy. We caught up. It felt good.
Then we hopped in her car and headed to the local park. I knew VTVT liked to bird watch. She does it while sitting in her garden at home. I had a fuzzy recollection of her purchasing some binoculars. I didn't realize how into it she had become. We walked the park trails and she kept her eyes out for birds. We saw a woodpecker right off the bat, as well as some catbirds. She told me about the different birds and what made them special. People often feed the wildlife in the park, but we hadn't brought anything. Neither of us believe in feeding the wild animals. We think familiarity with humans is to their detriment. Even so, we had quite the entourage. A squirrel, chipmunk, blue jay, and some other assorted wildlife were following us along the trails. They kept their distance, sort of. It allowed for some really nice photos, and certainly it was nice to get closer without the animals being behind glass at a zoo.
VTVT is a bit of a shutterbug, like me. She kept trying to take pictures of birds, whereas I was more into the bugs and the fuzzy animals. Not to mention plants. I love taking pictures looking up into tree canopies. They're like a slice of comfort. One of her goals was to get a picture of her doing Tree Pose on a tree stump. We managed that with flying colors!
I think we spent 3 hours in the park, and walked just under 10,000 steps. It was definitely refreshing and fun to get together again. I'm looking forward to it in the future, and am thinking of reaching out and asking her for some help breaking the ground for my garden. I have bulbs that need planting, and I find creating flowerbeds to be a bit of a pain in the ass. VTVT built her garden from the ground up, and adds to it every year. But that's a topic for another post.
This morning I thanked Dipper for not letting me cut everyone out of my life. He was the first to notice it, but only because he had done that himself during his dark times. Tkout listened to my complaints about people, but was always the devil's advocate for not getting rid of them. He always argued that there was merit, even if it meant that I needed to take a little bit of a break here and there. At the time, I went along with their suggestions, but wasn't fully sold on them.
After VTVT left on Saturday I started to think about the Dark Year and why I pushed people away. I'm not going to take all the blame - there were more than I few moments where I was justifiably angry with people. However more often than not, I just wanted something concrete to fight. Mental illness is invisible. Even when the symptoms present themselves, there's nothing you can fight. You can't strangle depression. You can't lock anxiety up and throw away the key. You can't get on a train, plane, or boat to escape them. The same is to be said of the other disorders and diseases. Like it or not, they're with you for the ride.
I'm a person that, while I don't relish conflict, I prefer to meet my challenges head-on. Tkout says that I like to fight things out and be done with it. He's not wrong. During the Dark Year I didn't know what to fight. I felt helpless. The medicine adjustments were a hellacious rollercoaster. The soaring highs and crushing lows were unbearable at times. When I was suicidal, I didn't want to reach out and bother anyone. I know everyone says, "If you need anything let me know." The problem is, when you're so sick of it all, you don't want to let anyone know. You want to be out of the picture. No longer anyone's problem.
Lacking a corporeal target, I turned on my friends. I found fault where there wasn't any. Where there was fault, I amplified it to gargantuan proportions. Tkout and Dipper saved me from getting rid of everyone, and I can't express how thankful I am to both of them. On Saturday I realized how much I miss VTVT. There are other friends I miss too, and it's my hope that I will be able to bring them back steadily. That's not to say that everyone is coming back, because in going through it and finding my spine, I came to realize some people really are there to use you. The ones that aren't, the ones that waited, they're the ones I am looking forward to letting back in.
This post is longer than I meant it to be, but I hope the message I intended to convey came across. Don't let your illness and the struggle make you blind. If you need space, take it. But whatever you do, don't listen to the voice telling you to let everyone go. At times your illness will find every excuse in the book to get you to get rid of people. Don't listen. Don't allow it to isolate you. Keep fighting the good fight.