Working on Fear of Death

I just wrote an update post and thought I had nothing of note to say, but I just realized I was wrong.

A couple years ago, I wrote about my crippling fear of death. The other day, I talked to a counselor about this for the first time, and it actually really helped. But before explaining my counselling session, I should try explaining this bizarre fear again.

Since about 2015, I have had a near-constant fear of death. I can’t explain away the irony that I have been suicidal at times since this began; mental illness is weird. But I am always afraid that I could die any second, and that my life would mean nothing because I haven’t done anything important yet. It ties into an existential anxiety about the reality that everybody dies and the desperation to attach meaning to my temporary existence.

I am aware that statistics suggest I will live for several more decades. I have spent time looking through Stats Canada data to make sure of this. But I just have this overwhelming feeling that I will die young. I find it difficult to plan for my future, because I don’t feel like I will have one. Making plans for later in life feels like deciding what I’ll spend the money on if I win the lottery. Because of this constant fear of death, I never feel safe. I imagine the bus I’m on crashing, or nuclear war breaking out today, or a plane crash-landing onto my house. It’s obviously very distressing.

After speaking with my counselor, I have learned a bit about why I feel this way. For one, I realized that this started around the time I found out that a girl who had gone to my babysitter’s died in a car crash. She was 19. I also spend a lot of time watching the news, where freak accidents are reported on regularly.

These things might play a role in creating my fear of death, but what sustains it? I realized that the thought of letting go of this fear ironically terrifies me. I feel like constantly expecting my death protects me somehow. I can’t handle disappointment and changes of plans, so thinking about a future that nobody is guaranteed is really hard for me. I guess I’m trying to prepare myself in case I do die young. I want to avoid a situation where I’m slowly dying on the ground, thinking about all the things I’ll never be able to do. Like “Joke’s on you death; I knew this was going to happen the whole time.” I also feel like having this fear pushes me to create a legacy NOW. In reality, this is hardly true. Sometimes, I will desperately write in an attempt to get all my thoughts out into the world while I still can. So cool, I have a journal and a blog. But a real legacy is built over decades, and I can’t plan that far in advance.

So I’m going to stop ruminating on these fears, as difficult as it is. And yes, there is a small probability that death sneaks up on me while I’m not expecting me. But there is a much larger probability that I stop living in constant fear long enough to make something of myself. So I guess that’s something?

Sarah

July 9th, 2017

Once again, it has been a while. I haven’t had anything incredibly meaningful to write about; I’ve just been living life. Getting up in the morning, eating, doing chores, and going to bed. Lots of times. But I’ve stumbled across some extra time, so I figured I would provide an update on what’s going on in my life.

Things are generally going well; I’m still the happiest I’ve been in quite a while. I’m taking one Summer course and managed to land a super easy, fun job. I have stumbled upon a group of queer friends to hang out with, so I’m feeling a lot less lonely. But I do still miss being in a relationship. That being said, I am completely over my previous relationship with Jenn. With every passing day, I realize how much I was settling to avoid being alone.

I am (ideally) going into my final year of undergrad this Fall. I need to take a full course load both to pull it off, but I think I can do it. This also means applying for grad school in a few months, which makes me want to crap my pants. I’m looking to study in Germany, which is really excited as a faraway dream and really terrifying as an approaching reality. And after that, I will need to get a real job. And what if I change my mind about my career path? What then? I want to work as a public policy analyst, but I’m having doubts about working for the Canadian government. The more I learn about colonialism, the more the Canadian government seems like an illegitimate, unethical institution. But the point of my chosen career is that I think I can enact more change from the inside, so maybe it’s better to work on Indigenous issues from within the government. I don’t know.

I’ve still been having a lot of anxiety about the prospect of being bisexual instead of a lesbian. But I’ve been working on breaking down my internalized biphobia, so I feel a lot better about it. I still don’t know whether I am attracted to men, but I’m okay with not knowing. Whatever man-made label most accurately describes my complex human reality, I am part of the queer community and I love it. And I love myself.

That’s really it for now. I’m starting to feel a little depressed and out of it for no good reason, so I’m going to try being productive as that often makes me feel better.

Hope everybody is doing well,

Sarah

Sad

I know my blog is filled with negativity, and for that I apologize. These days, I actually am happy a lot of the time. But the motivation to write a new post often comes from feeling so miserable that I desperately seek some form of connection with other humans. So here I am.

I don’t know what it is. I haven’t been waking up (i. e. taking my meds) at the same time everyday, so maybe it’s that. I found out today that I might not be able to take a course I want to take next year. My sister went to the ER with suicidal thoughts last week. I have almost fully cut two close friends out of my life, so I am lonely af.

I probably feel so shitty because all these factors have culminated in a perfect storm of loneliness and misery. I have two peripheral friends that I am trying to get closer to, and I don’t really talk to anybody else. For a while, I was inexplicably okay with this, but I’m starting to feel so alone. And I feel the worst when I’m already miserable, because I just want to curl up in someone’s arms and have them cuddle me and make me feel better. I have called my ex as recently as last week, even though she never ever responds and I do not want that relationship back in any form. I just need someone. Anyone. I’m trying to be strong on my own but I am getting so tired.

Toronto Pride is this weekend, so I might meet new people. But I think I probably won’t. And I’m perceiving a pattern where people get to know me, realize how annoying I am, then leave. I can’t tell if it’s real, because it sounds like a classic social anxiety distortion, but the evidence is fairly convincing.

Sorry. I don’t even have the energy to write. I am just done. In a figurative sense. (I’m not in danger of harming blah blah blah)

Sarah

Coming Out to Myself (Part 2)

Chapter 4: Orange is the New Black

I recognize that the straightgirlest thing one could possibly say is that Ruby Rose turned them gay. I do not claim that. But as somebody who built an identity as a straight girl for over two decades, Ruby is someone I actually allowed myself to feel attracted to. She was androgynous and gender-fluid, and every straight girl was attracted to her. It was innocent enough. As I fell for Ruby’s character Stella, I watched romantic relationships between women playing out on the show.  I began to find myself wanting what those women had (minus the orange jumpsuits). My list of “Women I would be with IF I was gay” grew suspiciously long. I began questioning assumptions about myself that I had clung to since I was 12.

Chapter 5: Questioning

As I had in the seventh grade, I began obsessing about my sexuality once again. Only this time, I wasn’t scared. This time, I didn’t think being queer was a sin, and I didn’t hate myself for thinking I might fall into that category. Also, the world had changed. There is still a lot of work to be done before the LGBTQ+ community gets to enjoy equality, but this dream is getting closer every year, and certainly a lot changed betweeen 2007 and 2015. So I was able to question my sexuality with the comfort that I would be loved by myself (well, I’m working on that) and others regardless of the answer.

Chapter 6: Jennifer

Not once did I non-ironically refer to this person as Jennifer during our relationship, but I am still healing from our breakup 9 months ago, and using her entire first name feels delightfully cold and indifferent.
But Jennifer will always be an important part of this story, whether I like it or not.

Jennifer is also in math (technically she’s in the Actuarial program, which some might argue is more commerce/finance than math, but I digress) I first noticed her at an event hosted by the Math and Stats Society. And I overheard her saying something about her ex-girlfriend, so I knew she was into girls. I told my housemate about the “Asian girl with the short hair” that I thought was cute. My housemate, a co-president of the Math and Stats society, actually knew this girl. One day, she texted me saying Jenn was bored and wanted to meet me. So I hurried to campus on 3 hours of sleep, and we talked for about an hour before she had to go to class. I was 85% sure I was attracted to Jenn, but part of me was terrified to get involved only to realize I was actually straight like an asshole. But I met with Jenn on campus one or two more times, and at some point, we made a coffee date. Two days before this date, I invited her over to watch Juno with my housemate, her boyfriend, and I, mainly to avoid the third-wheel experience. Jenn came over, everybody drank and watched Juno, and that was the night I first slept with a woman whoops. That experience confirmed for me that I was indeed attracted to girls, and even more so, that I wanted to be with Jenn. A couple weeks later, we were official.

Chapter 7: What About Men?

At this point, I still wasn’t ready to define my sexuality. The question had always been whether I was straight or bisexual, but actually being with a woman lead me to question whether I was attracted to men at all. It took months from the start of the relationship to really figure this out, but Jenn didn’t mind, and neither did I since it wasn’t immediately relevant to my life. I tried on the label of “bisexual” for a week, but it didn’t feel right. Eventually, last Summer, I began identifying as a lesbian. Well, I typically prefer the term “gay” for some reason, but you get the point. I still wasn’t 100% sure, but I was sure enough for the label not to feel like a lie.

Chapter 8: Now

I am now single, as you’ll know if you read my pitiful post-breakup posts. That was a rough time. Anyways, I am exclusively dating women at this time. Sometimes, I still question whether I am attracted to men on some level, but this usually ends with me deciding I am not. At the very least, I know I am more attracted to women than to men, and I have no desire to date a man at this time.

Maybe I prefer the word “gay” to “lesbian” because to me, it allows for some ambiguity. It’s not officially an umbrella term, but it feels a little umbrella-ey to me. Sometimes I think about using the label “bisexual”, even as an insurance policy, so nobody accuses me of lying if I end up falling in love with a man. But it just doesn’t feel right at all. Maybe I am just trying to avoid the shit bisexuals get from both straight and queer people, or the hypersexualization of bisexuality. Maybe I enjoy men not constantly assuming I’m interested in them, or I’m thinking in all-or-nothing terms and bisexuality feels like a middle-ground. This stuff kicks around in the back of my mind sometimes, but identifying as “gay” still feels right.

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So that was a long story, and it might not even be over. But that is how I discovered I was not straight after 21 years of believing I was.

Sarah

 

A Positive Update

Hello, the internet.

I’ve definitely been neglecting this blog lately. Whoops. Cue the usual “I’ve been busy/ I’m low-key a piece of shit/etc” thing. Formalities, formalities, blah, formalities.

I was eager to get right into this post, but now I don’t know where to start. To be honest, I’m not writing this because anything especially update-worthy has happened recently. Although, now that I think about it, that’s true. But I am writing this evening because I finished my evening routines a little earlier than usual and I still have some time before the Seroquel knocks me out.

Typically, I am motivated to blog by misery. So I guess it’s a good thing that tonight I’m writing because of happenstance instead. Because I actually have some really great things to share.

Good Thing #1: I am a happy person.

Okay, I don’t know for sure what it means to be a happy person, because I’ve never been one, but I’m certainly not a sad person anymore. And it’s a really weird feeling, but it’s a good weird feeling. I’ve been fighting mental illness for so long that it has become my identity. I was the sad, cynical, sarcastic, beautifully-broken asshole. I’m still a sarcastic asshole, and I am acutely aware of the problems in the world, but I also have a sense of purpose to solve those problems and the hope that it can be done. I don’t know if it’s the daily meditating (yes, I’m that person), challenging my social anxiety, or making Dominique a smaller part of my life. But whatever the reason, I’m pretty pleased.

Good Thing #2: I am dating.

For a while, I got stuck in a pattern of ending my contact with someone as soon as there was any potential for anything. My therapist said I was scared of getting hurt again, which sounds better than me lacking any social capabilities, so I’ll take it. Eventually, I gave up on dating altogether. At one point, I was going to casually sleep with one of my guy friends just to feel some shitty, bootlegged version of love for ten minutes. But recently, I’ve really been trying to put myself out there and meet people. I went on a date recently, and the plan is for us to go out again. I don’t know for sure what I want at this point, but I’m having fun. So, there’s that.

Good Thing #3: I got a job today.

This is actually amazing, but I don’t think my excitement level accurately reflects it yet. Just getting a job is a miracle and a huge financial relief. But it involves limited contact with other people, and actually sounds really fun. I’ve had jobs that I have “liked” in the sense that I was able to experience moments of happiness while working at them. But I think I will ACTUALLY like this job. Like the people in TV shows that I never relate to. You like the thing you’re forced to do at a desk for half your waking hours? Okay…

But yeah, finding a job means my Summer is figured out, and now I just have to do the things for a few months.
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I actually feel so grateful for where my life is right now. For the first time in a long time, things are going well. Eight months ago, I was constantly suicidal, and now I’m here. I can function in school and can find employment. I go to social things and enjoy them. I spend my time talking to people who want happiness as much as I do. I’m doing all the things. I’m really doing them.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that I have cured myself of all mental illness with the power of positive thinking. More accurately, I have greatly reduced my symptoms of mental illness to a level where I can function, by working very hard for a very long time. I’ve been eating well (and enough). I’ve been going to the gym. I’ve been meditating, despite not really loving it. I made the terrifying decision to move out of my old place. I am pushing myself to endure anxiety-provoking situations many times per week. And at some point, all these actions got me somewhere pretty cool.

It has taken me quite a while to write this, and by now the Seroquel HAS kicked in, so that’s all for tonight. Hopefully I’ll have more good updates soon.

Sarah

Grumpy

You know the stereotypes you always hear about women on their periods?

I am that stereotype. She is me. We are one.

I actually had an amazing day. Things have been going really well for me lately.  Well, except for the episode of Game of Thrones playing out in my underwear and the godawful cramps. But aside from that, I was happy as a clam with my hot water bottle and my chocolate bar.

And then one stupid thing happened and I’m complaining to everybody at once because I want validation for my anger. Now.

I got high with a guy friend the other night, and at one point he said something about me being a tease. It made me really uncomfortable, but I didn’t say much. I texted him today, hoping I would mention my discomfort and he would explain that he was kidding or whatever. But he was weird and gross and like “Ok. Not going to happen. I get it.” I HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT BEING A LESBIAN ON THE DAILY SINCE I MET YOU. DID THAT NOT HELP YOU GET IT? Anyways, so now I get to toss this good friendship in the garbage because I don’t feel comfortable hanging out if he’s thinking of me in that way. And this is the second time this has happened this year. I’ve started telling boys I’m gay as soon as I meet them, but apparently, even that’s not enough.

Despite all my male friendships going to shit for this reason, there are ZERO women revealing their romantic feelings towards me.

Ugh.

Sarah

The things I learned in Undergrad

My undergraduate experience hasn’t been very conventional. And I’ve hated myself for that since I returned to school in Fall 2015.

But I just finished a 10-minute guided meditation on self-forgiveness (because apparently I’m a person who meditates now), and as cringey and fluffy as it sounds, I realized something important. Namely, that I have learned so much more since I started university in 2012 than I ever could have if things had gone differently.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had graduated in 2016 with my friends from high school. If I hadn’t switched programs. If I didn’t take time off for eating disorder treatment. Maybe things would have been easier, but they wouldn’t have been better. Because I went to university to learn, and that’s what I did.

2012-2013

I began first-year as an anxious but generally happy super-Christian. I went to church twice a week, I volunteered with a youth group, and I planned to declare Religious Studies as my major in second year. I hardly know that 17-year-old version of me now. I feel compassion for her, because I remember that Christianity gave her a purpose and a community, before it gave her crippling self-hatred for being a sinner and stifled her dreams. I feel compassion for her, but I barely know her. These days, she rarely crosses my mind. Anyways, at some point, this girl decided God was telling her to become a nurse. When I didn’t get into the Nursing program for the following year, I decided to major in Psychology for my second year then transfer into Accelerated Nursing.

2013-2014

At the end of Summer 2013, after university education and life experience left me doubting Christianity for months, I made the decision that I was no longer a Christian. When I went back to school in September, all my friends thought I was going to hell, I had no hobbies or interests outside the church, and I had no direction or purpose for my life. I tried turning to science to give me some sense of meaning. I thought if I learned HOW our species and our planet ended up where they are now, I would also know WHY. I wanted to switch into Biology. Then Biochem. Then general Life Sciences. Then physics. Eventually, I decided to stay in psychology after all and do something to help those with mental illness. I developed Bulimia in the Fall, and barely attended any classes in the Winter. I went to the Psych ER three times with suicidal thoughts. At some point, I thought a change of scenery might help, so I applied to double major in Math and Writing at a different university in January 2015. Over the Summer, I experienced a trauma and my eating disorder became restrictive and took over everything. (When I talk about this, I like to clarify that my eating disorder COINCIDENTALLY became worse and more restrictive at the same time, but restrictive eating disorders are not generally more or less severe than other eating disorders)

2014-2015

Just typing in those years brings me immense sadness. This year must have been the most miserable in my life to date. In the Fall, I couldn’t work, and I was waiting until January to return to school. I watched documentaries under a blanket in my room all day, and had energy/motivation for little else. All I cared about was food and calories and weight. And to be honest, I probably needed it at that time, because everything else had gone to shit. I accepted a referral to a Day Hospital program, because I thought I would be magically better in 8 weeks and go back to school like nothing happened. I started attending classes in February, and relapsed immediately. I still only cared about food and calories and weight. I dropped all my classes in late March or early April because I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn anything. I returned to the Day Hospital program in April. While there, I decided to return to my original university, as it was closer to my home so my parents would be nearby and the trigger of commuting would be gone. This school doesn’t have a writing program, so I intended to double-major in Math and English.

2015-2016

I managed to mostly maintain my recovery through the Summer. I met Jenn in the Fall. She made me happy and was a great motivation for recovery. I’m still getting over our breakup, so I’ll just say the recovery stuck and Jenn did not. I also decided to only major in Math, as that meant graduating with a BSc instead of a BA, and the English courses at this school are not remotely writing-related.

2016-2017

Jenn broke up with me a few days before classes started in September, so I started the term suicidal. I was in the hospital a few times for overdosing, and was very nearly admitted as a psychiatric inpatient. I managed to get my shit together just in time, and got through the term. In the Winter, my roommate was admitted inpatient, and everything was about her for months. I sound unsupportive and I honestly am, but I had zero support and she was incredibly selfish during this time. I don’t want to get into the details, but our friendship became very toxic, and it was all very difficult for me. I made no changes to my program this year, believe it or not.

After 6 years of undergrad, I will (if all goes to plan) finally receive my degree in 2018. That degree will tell the world that I came to university and I learned about math. And I used to take comfort in knowing it wouldn’t say anything else. Like the fact that it took me 6 years to achieve, or the fact that I changed my mind on my program 20394 times, or the fact that I entered school wanting to be a missionary, or the fact that I lost a year of school to complete eating disorder treatment. But today, I kind of wish my degree wouldn’t just say I learned math. I wish it would say that I learned where I stand on religion, how to survive when I don’t want to, how to cope in unhealthy ways, how to cope in healthy ways, how to break and then put myself back together, how to love, the fact that I love women, what heartbreak feels like, how to put my life back together a second time, what I really want to do with my life, and how to work towards the life I really want. Because I learned all those things, and looking back, I wouldn’t change my path one bit, because those struggles and setbacks and detours made me grow into the person I am today. And I learned things about myself and the world that I will use for the rest of my life. So my undergrad hasn’t been conventional, but thank god it hasn’t been.

Sarah