Vulnerability

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. As a kid I would write fiction Halloween stories, I would write with people online, and would give out copies to my moms work friends. As I moved into high school I wrote my first novel – finishing at an impressive 100,000+ word length. Even then, however, I felt scared to tell people what my novels and stories were about.

Throughout high school I’d be more than willing to post updates on my writing “I wrote ten pages! Only a short amount of time before my novel is placed into the world!” However, whenever people would ask me what said novel was about, I’d shell up and tell them “It’s too complicated to explain,”

My novel, Selection Day, was written my sophomore year of high school and still has yet to be published. Not because of getting rejected by publishing houses or anything – but because I’m scared to put that part of myself out into the world.

I’m now in my junior year of college and just finished a second novel that I’ve been working on for years. I’ve posted a few excerpts on here and have put pieces of Submerged in Paranoia out into the world. Whilst writing it out in my notebook, I was avidly searching for editors and asking friends if, when I typed it up, if they’d read it and tell me what they think. However, the more I type it, the more I feel myself beginning to close off that part of me again. I keep making excuses. Like, I don’t want to rush it, or I might want to change the ending, or maybe the pace of the novel is too fast, maybe it’s not good enough.

My sister has been offering to take my notebook and type my novel up for me so I don’t have to, but part of me lives in fear of judgment. I’ve stopped looking for editors on Fiverr even though those people don’t even know me. Maybe it’s because the novel itself is dark and deals with topics that aren’t light and fluffy. Maybe it’s because I don’t want my family to worry about me. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s as good as it sounded when I was writing it.

I still want to publish this book within the next few months. I’m just struggling on feeling as though I’m good enough to do so. I’m struggling on feeling like it’s possible.

The Journey to Find Self-Love

We are built with characteristics that make us special. We are built with certain aspects that make us different from anyone else. So why is it so hard to love ourselves and to love what makes us different from everyone else?

We are surrounded by photos and videos of those that we, or society, deem as perfect. Some of what is perfect is ultimately impossible and we know this – but we still strive for it.

We wake up on the daily knowing that life isn’t fair and that there are some people that are simply dealt a better hand than us.

That being said though – it is still impossibly hard to look in the mirror every day and to like what we see. It is hard to be happy with both looks and with how our lives are going – and impossible to be happy with both of those at the same time. Whether it is seeing engagement photos all over Facebook and still being single, watching the Victoria secret fashion show, or whatever it may be – there is always a certain outside pressure that makes you feel as though there is a certain way that we should be living. A time frame to meet all the expected demands of life.

At some point though – we fall into the frame of self-love. To love yourself whenever you are single. To love yourself in every outfit you wear – and not question whether you look stupid in it. Self-love is different for everybody – whether it is outwardly or inwardly. Some take longer to reach this point than others. Some may never reach it at all.

The journey of loving yourself – and truly loving yourself- is a very long and difficult one. We aren’t built to believe that life and everything about us are perfect.

The journey is filled with disappointment and a pressure to be perfect, but a beautiful journey, none the less.

A New Calendar Year and Expectations

The beginning of 2018 started with a strong mentality. I was convinced that a new calendar year equaled out to a new me. I told myself that it was going to be the best year yet and that this was my year, that this year would top everything else – and definitely not be like all the other ones.

Who doesn’t begin every new year with this mentality though?

2018 began great – I was involved in my first serious relationship and was happy in it, I was back into dancing, and I had started a new semester at college. A bad blow hit our family whenever my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and would have surgery and radiation to get rid of it.

Due to the stressors of life, I had slacked on getting my college loan situation figured out and before I knew it – I was getting emails essentially telling me I was taken off all rosters until I paid tuition or got a loan. Every place I attempted to get a loan from rejected me and my parents when they tried to co-sign. Within the week a professor told me that I could no longer sit in on their class, despite knowing my situation.

I wound up dropping my minor which was computer science shortly after those first few weeks at school due to the way that particular professor treated me.

That rattled my second semester quite terribly – after I got my loans figured out, I dropped the class with said professor and that wound up taking me down to just 12 credits, barely reaching the required amount of credits to remain full time.

It was also around this time that I became obsessed with the way I looked and began to overwork myself in an attempt to lose weight and have a better body. I pushed myself so hard that I wound up in the hospital – essentially pulling the muscles and enflaming the tissues within my chest wall. This ‘injury’ set me back not only in my workout journey but also affected my daily life for a long while.

Around this time my mental stability began to dip and I returned to therapy after not going for several months. It was the first time in a long time that I felt as though I really needed to return and talk to somebody and for a while it helped me.

My mother had her surgery which was successful, she began radiation, I performed in my performance at my old dance studio, I was still happily in a relationship, and eventually I scraped by in my second semester of college.

Most notably, with my depression and anxiety, I do not get seasonal depression in the winter months like a large majority of people do. I have noticed that I get my most depressed come summer months and I have never been able to figure out why. I cannot seem to grasp if it is the large quantities of ‘free time’ which gives me too much time to think or if it is because I work so much that I push my mental and physical strengths too far.

My summer began with a lot of concerts and a lot of work. I had seen the big names such as Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Weezer, and The Pixies. Come July I had met my favorite Youtubers, Dan and Phil, and began to gear up for the last year of Warped Tour – and many more concerts to follow that.

This was around the time that my anxiety began to come back and the things that were not big worries for me began to return. I found myself not wanting to go into convenience stores and I found myself retracting and not wanting to leave my home. I stopped going to my boyfriends’ house and generally stopped socializing. I began to work more and more and was working two jobs at the time. On top of going to concerts near weekly, juggling a relationship, and two jobs, I quickly overworked myself to the point of exhaustion and wound up missing work due to overworking myself into exhaustion.

The months of July and August have mainly been repressed. I was still working and enjoying life, but my mental state was at the worst it had ever been. I can remember going to concerts – laughing, smiling, having a great time, just to get home and cry myself to sleep for reasons that I did not understand or comprehend.

What started off as weekly therapy appointments turned into considering going twice a week which eventually turned into several visits to the psychiatrist – along with several shifts in medications.

After an extremely life changing week or so, I began to change near the end of August. I returned to both of my jobs, began to consider teaching dance at my old studio (and getting hired), and I got to start up my third semester with a schedule where I only went on Tuesday and Thursday.

In September I had turned twenty surrounded by my family. I spent a nice day shopping and at lunch with my mother, came home, and then had a nice dinner with my entire family. The following Friday my best friends and I got to enjoy a nice night out. A night where I was no longer stressed, I was carefree, and this was the night where tings took a dramatic turn – and even though I didn’t know it at the time, it was for the better.

October was whenever I began a true transformation. I was attending therapy by the weekly. I began to talk to those I hadn’t in a long time. I began to stabilize the relationships I had neglected for many months and essentially returned to a form of normalcy and general happiness.

I was dancing like I used to in high school and was doing another performance. I now not only had my family, but my dance family as well. I began to teach at my dance studio – falling in love with my little children more and more every day.

After our performance in November, I made it through midterms, and I got to enjoy Thanksgiving in Maryland with my family. I got to go back home and work Black Friday with my favorite retail team. November was filled with family and friends – all that I could have ever asked for.

December began preparations for Christmas. By December 14th I had finished my third semester of college – with perfect attendance for my 8AM class. I finished with all A’s and B’s – a new accomplishment. By the end of finals I had started at a new job, my third job, and already loved it.

In December I got to build relationships with unexpected people and got to spend time with those people. I began to feel myself opening up more and becoming less guarded and less anxious as time went by.

Now, it is the end of December.

I am ready to move on from my worst year, 2018, but I am also grateful for all that it taught me and all the things and relationships that came out of it.

2018 was by far my most heartbreaking year filled with confusion, sadness, anxiety, and stress.  It, of course, was filled with heartbreak and loss as well.

I sometimes choose to look at the negatives of 2018 and how horrible it was – breakups, my mothers diagnosis, psychiatrist appointments, therapist appointments, hospital visits, etc.

Instead I can focus on the two most important lessons that 2018 has taught me.

In this year I have ultimately learned how I will allow myself to be treated (and when to recognize if and when someone oversteps my boundaries), and I have learned that even in the most heartbreaking of moments – so much more can come out of it.

I am leaving 2018 with stable relationships. I am leaving 2018 healthy and smiling.

In the year of 2019 I would like to continue the relationships I have made with others and build on them. I would like to stay positive and truly happy – not just to front it for social media and family. I expect to continue to know and understand my self worth – and to realize whenever people cross my boundaries. I expect to recognize red flags and to not brush past them continuously in hopes that people will change.

Most importantly, I expect myself to remain strong and to remind myself of who deserves to be in my life – and to be okay with letting go of those who no longer aid in my happiness.

Normality

Authors note – This is the beginning to the story of Emerson who is featured in the previews I posted titled “Submerged in Paranoia” and “Alone”. Let me know if you are interested in hearing the entirety of his story.

—-

It is normality that gets us through our day to day life. You could tell me your form of normal is sitting and watching an episode of Friends every night before bed. You could tell me it is normal for a couple to hold hands as they walk together along the sidewalk. All of these things seem like a normal occurrence.

What if I told you my normal was to question my sanity? To question everything I see and touch? I could tell you the stupid details of my life but the reality is that I don’t know them. I don’t even know why I am talking to you.

Maybe it is because I have given into my version of normality that I have tried too many times to change. Maybe I have given into the loop of insanity that tosses me from one side of the room to the other. I must have truly gone insane, you see.

True insanity comes whenever you are speaking to the voices on the insides of your skull like they are a real person. I suppose when you have no one to talk to these are the things you resort to.

I wish that I could change into a normal human that easily. I wish that I could be a mindless drone that wakes up, goes to the gym, goes to work or school, maybe sees a friend or girlfriend, builds relationships, makes small victories on the daily, a brand new accomplishment here and there, and goes back to sleep…but that simply isn’t my normal.

“Emerson.” It feels as though whoever said that was yelling my name through a long tunnel, my own name echoing a hundred times over before it reaches me. I am brought back to earth again. I come to see Taylor sitting across from me as her little boy, Dalton, crawls all over her. His tiny hands tug and pull at the tank top that covers her chest just barely. A half eaten Wendy’s Hamburger sits on a table in front of me.

I stare at the hamburger like it is a foreign object. I don’t remember how I got here. I don’t remember ordering…sitting…eating.

I remember now that Taylor had said my name.

“Hmmm?” I finally hum out to Taylor

“Penny for your thoughts?” she asks me as Dalton slams his sweaty baby fist down on a package of saltine crackers, crumbs spewing from the package and skidding across the table. Some go as far as to slide underneath my tray of half eaten food.

It dawns on me now that Taylor wants to know what I am thinking and where my thoughts lie. What I want to tell her? That I want to die, that the voices are more intense now more than ever, that I haven’t taken my medications in over a week now, and how I was supposed to go to my doctor today but I rescheduled for the third time.

I couldn’t tell her these things.

“I have no thoughts to give.” I reply to her. A simple response – one that she doesn’t like and I can see this visibly. Her mouth presses into a fine line and her thinly filled in eyebrows press in towards one another. She sucks in a long breath and her free hand, the one that isn’t holding her son in place to prevent him from flipping over her shoulders, swirls around the small bowl of chili that she has sitting in front of her.

Dalton is now slapping his hands on the table, more saltines flying up and falling back on the table as he screeches loudly. Few people turn to look over at us.

Screaming children must be their normal.

“You know you can’t expect to get better when you can’t ask for help.” She says to me lowly. “I don’t know how many times I need to tell you this.” She says in a near whisper. I roll my eyes at her and lean back further in my chair, feeling the cheap plastic press into the middle of my back as I look at her.

“I’m not asking you to lecture me. It’s the last thing I want, actually.” I say to her. This wasn’t our normal. I know you’ve lived in the crevices of my head somewhere for a long time and you should know this but I feel the need to reiterate that most of our conversations, from what I can remember, are good ones.

This is where I am supposed to inform you (and whoever is listening to me ramble) where Taylor and I met. Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you. I suppose that being mentally insane can give you a pass on those sorts of things.

She never brings it up or uses it against me when I forget her birthday.

I can barely remember how I got to Wendys let alone what has been happening the past few hours.

All I can remember about Taylor is that she cares far too much, that she has a son, and married her high school sweetheart. Normal is how I would describe her life story.

In attempt to change conversation, I clear my throat and look at her. “How is Cameron doing?” I ask her. This seems to make her angrier and she stands up in a huff, scooping Daltons mess of saltines into her hand.

“I’ll see you later, Emerson.” She says as she grabbed the tray in one hand and held Dalton on her hip as she walks away from me. Dalton squealed out into the shitty fast food dining room and attempted to wave at me as they moved through the exit.

Like that I was alone with just the voices on the inside of my head.

Let me ask you this… are you my normal?

Tunnels, Finding Light, and Everything In between.

Writing in general these past few months has been forced out of my hands and onto a computer screen. The slivers of solid ideas were forced onto paper that was later crumpled and thrown away.

My better pieces of fiction writing posted a few posts ago are recycled bits from high school where my best pieces of work seemed to stem from.

I wanted to write but had no motivation to get up, (or sit down, technically), to do it. The motivation and urge to write 10+ pages in a notebook was not there.

Maybe I wrote the happier pieces before the fiction writing to cover up the pain that radiated through me when I needed a shimmer of light the most.

Maybe those pieces were written to simply try to focus my brain on the silver linings of life. Maybe that is why my posts about light and life were happy, but the old pieces of fiction (that have been sitting in my writing archives since 2015-2016) that I felt compelled to post came from the subconscious.

I know those pieces about tunnels and being positive came from a genuine heart. That same heart, though, was also sad but clinging onto the happy moments as a guidance through a darkened tunnel – almost as if the lights had gone out completely and I was stuck in construction for a long time.

Maybe at the time if I was open about finding positivity that positive personality would wear onto those who needed it more than I did at the time.

Two months ago I did not want to be alone, nor did my family want to leave me alone or by myself for extended periods of time. Two months ago I had taken weeks off of work and lost over ten pounds due to stress, anxiety, and the worst depression I had ever fought through. Two months ago I stayed on the same couch in my living room watching the same episodes of Impractical Jokers over and over.

The love for life did not come over night and did not hit me like a truck the way  it is made out to be. It was not as simple as going from writing dark pieces to being happy in less than twenty four hours.

It took time, patience, and love and support from those around me that mattered most in my life.

Now that my mind is open and not muddled with darkness, now that I have passed through the longest tunnel of darkness I have ever fought through – it is easy to see the battles I fought and the coping mechanisms I used to get through it.

It was once said to me that we cannot heal in the same environment that made us sick.

This holds true and even though it may be hard to get out of the environment, to accept that maybe things are not working out as planned,  and to accept our own failures – our life gets better and we get healthier both mentally and physically.

Now that I am through the tunnel, doing better, and at the happiest I have been in a long while – I am ready to take the world by storm and live every day to the fullest potential.

I hope you will come along with me.

N;kk;

And I am Alone

A hand pushes through the cloudy haze of confusion and swipes it’s long fingers at me.

“Get away from me!” I scream at the pale hand tainted in bulging blue veins. I cannot see the body in which the hand belongs to through the darkness. Nothing but an extended arm is extended towards me.

It’s fingernails are long enough to curve over at the tips, the nails more yellow than flesh. I am shaking as I try to back up away from the long extended fingernails to prevent any further harm done to my body.

“I don’t take orders from you…” My voice shakes as I try to muster strength in my voice. My attempt to hit the hand away from my face is a failed one. Immediate fire is set where the fingernails shaved off pieces of skin.

“You get away from me!”

Dark red blood is falling from the wound and crimson seeps into the creases of my fragile hands. The hand continues to swipe at me as the blood drips into my eyes, the same eyes that have seen too many horrible things in their lifetime. My eyes burn and are blinded with the red cataract, my hands making it worse as I rub at them.

“Get away!” I scream as I continue to back up away from the hand as my legs tremble and shake. My vision is tinted and blurry, I still cannot see. My bloody palms wipe at my eyes in an attempt to get my vision back but I wipe more of the hot tacky substance into my line of sight. I can feel the whip and the snap of the wind as the hand swipes at me again and again and the nails scrape at my cheekbone, peeling my skin back layer by layer. My hands grip at my skin as the freshly opened wound rips and pulls at my nerves. I scream out into the empty air and I feel the strain and wrench of my vocal cords as my fingernails peel at my skin. My back strikes against something cold and hard. I pull my head back to dodge another swipe of the fingernails and my skull cracks against a harsh surface behind me.

My once red tinted vision suddenly goes black and my body hits the ground underneath me.
The cold air holds onto me as I wrap my arms around myself and hope that doing this will protect me from the outside world. My body shakes violently and brutally. My hands are wrapping so tightly around myself that I am nothing but a firm and bloody ball of human flesh and bone. I feel hands grip at my body arms both firmly, but not hard enough to hurt me, and my eyes pop open and a face stares back at me.

The face is kind and familiar.

“Emerson!” She yells at me. I shoot into an alert as my hands grab at my face but no blood stains my fingers. My fingers glide along the skin of my face and I feel nothing but the flesh that lines my prominent bones. Bones that have gone too long without food. Bones that are heavy and crumpling from lack sleep. No long and yellow fingernails dangle in front of my face. The kind face extends a hand to me again and I try to escape her touch as she reaches out for me. Her touch burns at my skin as her hand rests at my shoulder and I feel as though a thousand needles were jammed down into my fragile skin. I shrink away from her once more.

“You were deep in it, Em.” she whispers to me. “I came over when I heard you screaming.” she says to me as she tries to reach out to touch me again with her hand. I pull away from her as sharply and as quickly as I can.

“I’m fine.” I manage to growl at her.

“Emerson,” She whispers to me. We both know that I am far from okay. Even the voices in my head know that.

“I said I’m fine.” I hiss at her rudely.

She looks at me with that face that she has looked at me with a thousand times before.
Her face is sad, her lips forced into a sad frown. Stress presses into fine lines and her concern is evident in premature wrinkles. Her forehead shows signs of stress and anxiety with wrinkles forming in her face in heavy and thick crinkles and rolls. Were these premature signs of stress there before or after I came into her life? I may never know and I know she would never tell me the truth.

I wipe at my face again in an attempt to find the blood that was just drenching my face a few moments ago, find signs of anything that just happened being real.

“You’re alright.” She says again. Her hands rest on the tops of her thighs now, she got the message not to touch me.

“Emerson, your delusions have come back full force… you’ve been taking your medicine?” she asks me to which I do not reply to her “You know what the doc-” she begins but I cut her off.

“Taylor, Please.” I say to her as I rub at the temples of my head with my left hand, my right hand trying to find the cut that I felt rip into my skin just a few moments ago.

“I’m fine.” I whisper to her as I avoid the stares that she pushes into me. Medications. Doctors. Needles. According to her this is all that I need to feel better. What she doesn’t realize is that I am Emerson Matthews. I suffer from delusional disorder along with depression, and who knows what else. I am a concoction of all things negative in this world. All things bad were pushed under the fragile frames of my skin, compact into one sad human being. What did I do to deserve all of this? My fingers push into my skin harshly and I can feel the movement of the loose skin that blanket my bone. My fingers push and pull at the skin that is there so hard that I feel tenderness that resides there, and while it hurts, but I don’t stop.

“I need to be alone” I whisper to her but that word rolls off of my tongue like venom. It bites at me and puts in a sting in my rapidly beating heart. I know those words hurt her, but they hurt me too, just the same. I watch again as her pink lips push into a line and she stands to her feet without a word. The sadness in her body is evident as she moves through the house and she closes the door behind her. I can hear the slide and the click of the door as it locks into place and I hear her footsteps disappear down the stairs and onto the street. I swear to myself and to you that I can hear her front door slam behind her, making me shrink away from the sound.

And I am alone.

That word wraps around me like hands holding me at my throat. It works its way into my stomach like a virus with its fingernails scraping up my insides. I feel sick to my stomach and try to stand up on my feet. My hands press into the cold stone of the fireplace that I had just smashed my head into just moments before.

Did I really hit my head or did I just imagine it?

I try to maintain my balance but my knees quiver; the pull of my tendons and ligaments cause my knees to cave in.

I am alone but I did this to myself.

The emptiness claws at me and the pit of my stomach grows larger with each scratch and scrape. My eyes land on the white door to my left but the loneliness paralyzes me and I cannot move. My mind is cluttered with a thousand thoughts and voices. Along with a constant repeat of the scene that just unfolded. Blood, hands, and the hurt I just did to Taylor. How, much like the delusions, Taylor came in and left without a second guess.
The feelings of being alone are pervasive and consume me like an infection. Loneliness pushes through me like a wave and eventually it will drown everything in its path. Eventually I will be nothing but an empty shell of bruises and bone. My memories of a time before this one are vacant.

Loneliness is all I have ever known.

The pit extends into my gut and I can feel the twist and pull of this vicious virus that I am trying so desperately to get rid of.

I want to cry and I want to scream out into the empty house. The house that is filled with nothing but empty rooms and delusions – those of which that belong to a mad man. A panicked and rushed gasp escapes the back of my throat and my hands grab at my mouth as if I was going to push the sound of distress back in again. This is all that escapes me as my eyes slam closed. Tears leak profusely from my eyes and begin to soak my cheeks. My stomach concaves inward and I feel the roll of my spine as my body begins to work against me and I hunch over. My knees convulse and I collapse, my bones falling onto the hearth of the fire place. I curl into myself, the stone is cold against my body once more. Panicked and frantic sobs escape from my mouth and the tears soak at my face. I try to quiet the sobs that frantically escape me, trying to silence the weakness that I try so desperately to keep away from the human eye. The stone is cold and my body is empty. I lay on the large flat rock holding myself more and more tightly as more sobs escape into the empty air.
And I am alone.

Submerged In Paranoia

“Mr. Matthews, we are going to ask you to open the door for us.” A voice pelts through the door separating me from them.

I stumble across the floor before losing my balance. Scrambling towards that same door, I pressed my back against it, my bare feet slipping out from underneath me.

“Mr. Matthews if you don’t open up the door, we will break it down, you don’t want that do you?” a voice asks me, the same voice from before.

“Leave me alone!” I scream at them.

“You know we can’t do that Mr. Matthews.” A different voice replies to me.

Heavy red and blue strips slice through my white lace curtains, along with fluorescent white headlights that burn my sensitive eyes to look at, white lights bouncing off the walls and into my eyes.

What did I even do? My face is covered in a hot and sticky amount of sweat. My chest heaves heavily and my heart strains to pump blood through my body. I must’ve been running just before I reached the house. I try to gain my footing again but my feet just slip out from underneath me again.

My arms trickle sweat, beads of perspiration beginning to move and slide down my arms.

That was whenever my eyes caught a glint of red, just for a short second, enough for me to take notice.

My crazed eyes land on the red blood that coats my hands, red blood splatters following up into my arms, near my elbows. My fingers touch at the blood that is already beginning to dry, tacky from an unknown persons body.

“Oh God…” I call out my voice caught and jagged in my throat. The voices outside the door, along with the sirens, on top of the voices inside of my skull begin to stumble and overlap one another.

Where one sentence ends, another voice is there to take its place.

My hands find my ears and grasp at them, tacky blood coating my ears as my fingernails begin to rip at my ear, an attempt to pull them off.

Maybe then the voices would stop.

More sirens. More commands. More voices.

“Emerson, we just want to talk to you, can you do that for me?” A female voice stands out from the others. Maybe it’s because they think I’ll trust a female more than a male. They are wrong, even if her voices are calmer than the other ones, less harsh.

“Just stop!” I yell out to them. More voices are attempting to talk to me. I can no longer decide what is real and what is fake. Voices inside my skull attempt to talk over one another, making me go mad.

My fingers continue to claw at my ears that are now tacky with blood.

Anything to stop the voices.

Again, this time from the other side of the door, they are drawing in closer.
“Emerson, open the door!” Someone yells at me, a man, with a voice that makes me jump.

“Just stop.” I beg as I shake now, rocking back and forth, my spine crushing against the wooden door so hard that it shakes.

Voices inside of my head fight for dominance and figures dance in the headlights that shine through the curtains.

I can almost hear the click of the guns they’ll fire at me.

“Just stop.” I beg again.

“Mr. Matthews, this is your last chance.” The same, meaner voice, yells at me.

“Stop it.” I beg them.

“Mr. Matthews we will beat down this door.”

“Stop.” I whisper, tears rolling down my cheeks and dripping onto my knees, soaking the fabric that covers them.

I rock back and forth. Voices combine.

“Stop it.” I say out loud.

“Last chance!” The woman now yells.

“STOP!” I scream out into the air.

And just as quickly as they came, the voices all come to a standstill. They stop in a dead silence.

My eyes peel open, fresh tears still streaking my cheeks.

No longer do red and blue streaks of light shine in a revolving circle. No white headlights shine almost directly into my eyes. My heart still thuds heavily inside of my chest wall and I can feel the blood as it pulses through veins that get tighter by the second. My throat is heavy and I can hardly breathe.

My spinal cord feels crushed and bruised as I stand on my feet again, my feet still sweaty and slick.

Trembling hands grab at the door knob to the front door and I rip it open, expecting to get shot down in an instant.

A smack of cold air hits me hard, pushing through my hair and sending chills down my exposed flesh. Leaves push against the ground with yellowing grass that now reached the middle of my shins. The air was silent, almost as if no one was around for miles and miles, as if I was the only remaining person in the neighborhood.

Shutting the door behind me, I stumble into the bathroom, knocking over things and nearly crashing my body into the sink.

Broken shards still line the back and the inside of my sink as I glance at a broken reflection of myself. My eyes are distant and hold no sparks of life, those were lost long ago.

Rather, they are just a darkened green, my hair lined with sweat. My ears no longer have tacky blood lining them and my hands are clean.

The blood never existed, at least not this time.

As I stumble into my bedroom, stripping off the shirt that was soaked with sweat and tears and tossing it somewhere on the floor, I can feel the cold air hit my body.

As soon as I lay my head down against the pillow, the same whispering of voices return.
They are further away, in some deep crevice of my mind and brain.

I can close my eyes and sleep, undisturbed by the voices.

For now.

“Everyone has anxiety!”

Today, I was working the morning  shift at the historical hotel restaurant as I always do. The day I had was both short and long as I was working a split shift, so my first part of the day was done except for my last table of the morning which was a table with two gentlemen.

They started off as any normal table, a few questions about drink options, what came along with the meal package they had, the decision of what breakfast they will get, and what dressings they did or didn’t want.

It was two men that were very personable, one man told me how sweet I was, the other telling me how great I was and how amazing the food he just had was. The man hands me a crumbled up five dollar bill that I shove into my pocket as I begin to take the bill away from his table before he stops me.

“Why do you have one clear nail?” the man asks me, diverting my attention to my fingers.

Tucking his bill into my other apron pocket I spread out my fingers and present my hand to the man in front of me.

“It’s not a clear nail, it’s sparkly” I say to him, showing the fresh acrylics that were just put on yesterday afternoon.

I told him that I had just gotten them done at the salon and he was confused on the concept of not just painting your nails at home.

“These will last me about two weeks without chipping and they’re better quality.” I inform him, shifting slightly and nervously on my feet as he glances at me.

“Why do you have fake nails, then? Why pay all that money?” he asks me.

“Because I wanted to, not only that, but it helps me from picking at my fingers which I have the tendency to do.” I say to him with a nod of my head.

Of course, he asks me why I pick at my fingers.

To which I reply “I have really bad anxiety and when I’m nervous or whenever I’m bored I’ll pick at my fingers.” I say to him, giving him the short answer.

“What is anxiety?” he asks in return.

Uncomfortable and feeling like I have an interrogation light shining down on me, I swallow and begin to feel panic and anxiousness whirl around in my stomach. The familiar skip of my heart rate returns and my heart rate accelerates to the point that I can feel my blood thumping and pounding in the veins in my neck.

Uncertain of what to say I look away from him and twist the ring on my finger. “I just get really nervous about things and overthink a lot.” I explain to him.

“Well, I get nervous sometimes too, everyone has anxiety!” He informs me with a chuckle.

I nervously chuckle with him, taking his last bit of dirty dishes away from him. I left it at that and didn’t go into it fully with him.

I didn’t tell him that I am not just nervous before going up to a stranger to ask them if they want a refill, that I spend hours at a time before my shift, anxious over the thought of messing up their order, so much so that while at work I reread my notes and compare it to the order I punched in at least three times before sending it to the kitchen. I don’t tell him about how I pull up the same tab three different times, even after it is sent, to make sure I got it right.

I don’t tell him about how a lot of times I am exhausted, not because I worked two jobs yesterday and woke up at 5AM today, but because I spent the day before being social, taking care of tables, and selling merchandise at Hot Topic, and my mental capacity is low and I need to recharge.

I do not tell him that I get ready two hours early before I have to leave, leaving my house and giving myself over 30 minutes to get to my 10-15 minute drive to work, because I fear that something may happen, or “What if I need to stop and get gas?” and “What if my tires need air in them?” and “What if I were to break down?”

Only to get to work at 6:15 when my shift starts at 6:30 and I am alone in the kitchen until everyone else shows up for work, too.

I do not tell him that I pick at my fingers to the point that they are bleeding and sore – that I continue to pick and pull at the skin that resides on them until I get to the point of having to wrap band aids around each of my fingers and sleep with socks on my hands to give them time to heal.

I do not tell him that paying $45 to get my nails done is well worth it because the fake nails make it nearly impossible for me to pick at my fingers, giving the sore flesh time to heal and get better again.

Only for me to pull my nails off two weeks from now and fall back into picking at my skin.

I do not tell him about how big of a step it was for me to waitress, whenever I couldn’t even go into a gas station three years ago due to fear and anxiety.

I do not tell him about how I’ve been in therapy for three years, and how I go to therapy twice a week, and still manage to feel anxious and sad a lot of the times.

Instead, I smile and laugh at his poor attempt at a joke and thank him “so much!” for letting me wait on him, I tell him that I hope he has safe travels to his next vacation in Washington DC, and that I am very glad he enjoyed his breakfast.

In my head I cannot help but to be upset and put off by his comments and how his words made my disorder feel like they were no longer validated. I am uncertain as to why I cared so much about an older gentleman that I more than likely would never see again, ever, in my life. It still stung. I know that I cannot be upset, as he was probably coming from a good place and trying to be supportive and make me feel normal, but his attempts came off as insensitive and hurtful.

This isn’t the nervousness you experience before you go to your first job interview. This isn’t ‘first day of school’ nerves that pass once you get through the door of your new classroom. This isn’t  the fast beating heart you experience before you go on stage, to forget about it by the time you start moving in front of an audience.

Rather,

It is feeling a fast heart rate in your chest for reasons unbeknownst to you, it is knowing where every exit and entrance is, and which is closest to you if you need to run away. It is micromanaging everything in your head and leaving an hour early, just to arrive to the location you were headed and wait for 45 minutes, whilst picking at your fingers.

It is taking medications on the daily to feel normal, and getting withdrawal symptoms when you miss a dosage. It is getting up three to four times a night to make sure the doors and windows are all locked – even though you know its locked, but fear and ask yourself “What if it isn’t and someone breaks in – then it’ll be all my fault.”

It is constant nausea before and after you eat, and multiple trips to the doctors to get your stomach looked at – to come up empty handed and to leave you in a state of worry that something and everything is wrong with you and it’ll be too late before they catch it – whatever ‘it’ is that is wrong with you to make you sick all the time.

This is just scratching the surface of what goes through our minds on the daily.

Your nerves before a job interview, before the first day of school, or before approaching a crowd are not invalid. Rather, they are understandable.

However, you do not have anxiety just because you felt anxiety from time to time before big events that make you understandably nervous and on edge.

I would not wish what I go through on the daily onto anybody. I just wish that others whom do not experience it could validate my feelings and emotions just like I do when they tell me they had a bad day or they were nervous.