Friday, December 6, 2013


With my first year of university now over, I have a few months off. I’m happy to say that I'm still working on writing a story. This isn’t the same one I used to make posts about on my writing blog, but rather it’s about a different idea that I’ve had for quite some time, and have worked on periodically for the past few years.

The amount of attention it’s been given has increased dramatically this year, and especially as of late. I’ve filled two workbooks with notes, and in the past couple of months have written a 7500 word outline of the story’s main points. During the past few days i’ve been working on refining my main characters’ throughlines for clarity and condensing events to lose redundant scenes. So it’s still in the planning stage.

I’m determined to get this right. I read a lot of writing blogs, articles and books by authors and editors about the storywriting process, to help me identify common areas that writers struggle with so that I can work on them myself. I rework and rethink every aspect of the story to see what could be improved, or even cut, which is often difficult when you’ve put effort into something.

With all the free time that I have now, I wish I could say that my story is progressing rapidly. But this isn’t a perfect world, and I'm not a perfect person. It’s a fantasy story. I created the world, its people and everything in it, and the story spans the greater part of an entire continent and follows several characters. And that takes a lot of work. Hard work. And nobody likes hard work.

My writing process is a cycle of motivation, hard work and pleasure at progress, then utter despair at the seemingly insurmountable task ahead of me, akin to scaling Mount Everest while the mountain itself taunts you and laughs at you. The more I refine one area, the more I notice about what’s wrong with the others. Sometimes I find a great solution to one problem, but then that has huge effects on other aspects which creates more problems which need more solutions. I doubt my ability to rise to the task stretching before me. Stress and anxiety are common partners in this process, because this part of editing a story is all about looking at all the shit you've done wrong and attempting to fix it, one little bit at a time.

And then I stop to reflect. I reassure myself that this is normal. That every writer starts with something terrible and incomplete and after a lot of hard work, attempts to sculpt it into something amazing that they can be proud of. I consider my progress. And then the motivation returns, and I work. But sometimes this can take a day or two. And that only makes me feel guilty because I’ve wasted time.

I suppose I'm getting better at it. It’s funny, that the more progress you make, the easier it becomes, because you slowly build a really solid foundation that you can be sure of, and even proud of. It’s like building a house. As you lock things in and lay down more and more bricks, you start to get a shelter that you can sleep in. Then you just have to decide what furniture and carpet and wallpaper you want.

There are a few twists in my story that I really like, and perhaps the part that I'm most proud of is the conclusion - I spent many days trying to come up with a solution, and when I found it I shouted out “yes! YES!” because it worked so well. You chase those “yes!” moments because you know when something works well - it falls into place like a jigsaw piece, and you can feel good about it. Those are moments that inspire and motivate, but reaching them requires a lot of work.

Hard work.

That I should probably get back to...

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Note on Social Anxiety.

Mine is in regression. It does not disable me, nor prevent me from living my life the way i want to, in the way that it used to.

In no way does that mean its effect on me is no longer an issue. It is still a part of my everyday life. It's still entirely and utterly unpleasant and stressful.

I can best describe it with an analogy. Here's an example:

I'm just back at university, and yesterday i had the first tutorial of a course (which is where a tutor guides a couple of dozen students through hands-on course work with discussion).

Think of my anxiety as water in a saucepan. The tutorial's about to start, so i walk into the room with all of the other students.

I don't know most of these people.
Where am i going to sit?
What's going to happen in this tutorial?
I hope i don't get stuck next to that guy who always stinks.

If cold water means i'm perfectly calm, and hot water means i'm stressing out, we can fill the saucepan with warm water as a starting point. I'm somewhat nervous about what's going to happen, but then again, so are most of the other people, and my level of anxiety could probably be called typical.

The tutor stands up, does his introduction, runs us through a little bit of what tutorials are going to involve, and then says we're going to do an ice-breaker.


Put the saucepan on the stove, and turn it onto a medium heat.

Had this been a few years ago, you'd have been pouring the water into an electric kettle, wrapping it in an electric blanket and turning it on, putting it on the stove on a high heat, enclosing the kitchen in a stove, setting the stove on fire, then tossing it into the fiery pits of Hell.

To speak publicly, to strangers, as a social phobe, is akin to asking an arachnophobe to lie down in a bath full of tarantulas.

But i've had treatment and exposure. So i can manage.

I really want to make friends.
I have to make a good first impression.
I know i'm going to get anxious.
I can feel myself blushing already.
But i can do this.

It's entirely irrational. Most phobias are. I've had treatment for social anxiety, i've worked in customer service, i'm introspective, i wrote an goddamn essay on social anxiety. I've had years to get to know this disorder and all its ins and outs. Prior to that, the thoughts were:

What if i say or do something stupid?
Everything will think i'm weird.

I won't be able to make any friends and i'll ruin the entire semester and be depressed.

Casebook stuff for a social phobia diagnosis.

But those thoughts don't trouble me so much these days.

It's difficult to explain. After years of suffering, your body becomes conditioned in its response to provoking situations. Eventually, it becomes such a reflex that you begin anticipating anxiety.

You can rid yourself of irrational thoughts. Irrational reflexes are much harder to erode. So you become anxious about becoming anxious - about displaying typical signs and symptoms of anxiety. This nasty fucker of a disorder wraps its tendrils around your brain so tightly that no matter how hard you try, once it's in you, it's in there for life. It feeds back on itself and you begin to fear fear itself.

But, like i said, i manage. How?


I don't just want to suffer through this.
I want to make friends.
I want to have a good time.
I can do this.

I've just been informed i have to face my fears, and this ice-breaker's coming at me like a truck. My saucepan's starting to simmer on its medium heat by the time the tutor's finished explaining it. You have to tell the class your name, why you chose Psych, and a random fact about yourself.

I know how my anxiety works. If the speeches start in some corner of the room and slowly, painfully, inevitably, creep towards me, like i'm the movie hero strapped to a table with a deadly laser creeping towards my balls, my water will be boiling by the time it gets to my turn.

So i volunteer to go first.

Crank the stove up to high, and i'm on the clock. What follows is a tentative balance between chasing my goals and doing myself proud and then quickly-shutting-it-down-before-the-saucepan-boils-over. I give myself as much space as i can to be humourous or interesting without the cracks of what's going on inside showing.

Then it's over.

I grit my teeth inside my mouth, and squeeze the chair under the table with my hands so that it hurts, while pretending to listen to the next person but really not hearing a word, and let the anxiety wash over myself. The saucepan's off the stove, and it's still too hot to touch, but it's cooling slowly.

I could have given short, succinct answers possible. I could have said my favourite colour was red and be done, instead of telling the class about my three pet rats, who are just the cutest, and who live in a huge cage with four levels, who we let out to run around on the bed but obviously not on the floor because that would be silly.

I could have not ridden that fine line, and that would have been a lot less stressful. It would have been a lot easier. But where does easy get you? Would i be pursuing my goals?

Each and every day i step outside is a challenge. Sometimes i don't feel up to it. Whether that be getting my boyfriend to order dinner instead of me, staying in my room when my housemates have visitors over, or passing up an opportunity to socialise because the anxiety is uncomfortable.

Is that okay? Some of you might think so. But it's not. I'm not okay with that. Why should i be? Fuck that. If i'm lazy or complacent i'm not being the best person i can be and i'm missing out. I want to be happy, because i deserve to be.

It's a daily battle with myself, but i know my opponent well, and i'm winning.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Well here i am again. I suppose i'm doing this more for myself than anyone else. This blog represents an important part of my life and i think it deserves this post.

To be cliche, it's hard to believe it's been 2 1/2 years since i closed it down at the end of 2010. Since then i've had many adventures, and misadventures, and have grown and changed as a person at my very core - so much so that i'll attempt to be as succinct as possible as i summarise the past few years of my life.

And i'll start at the start, and by that of course, i mean the end of my blog.

First steps.

Having stopped receiving treatment for my anxiety disorder in October 2010, i guess i experienced something of a relapse. In fact, my former therapist and i had decided that i'd call her a month after i stopped going to sessions, but i was so embarrassed by how i'd slipped backwards that i never made that phone call. Without that constant checking of progress, that safe place where i could talk about everything i was going through, that encouragement to improve, it became harder for me to expose myself to the situations i feared.

When my final year of school commenced at the start of 2011, a few months later, i was faced with another year of sitting in silence in a classroom, of fear and anxiety of opening my mouth in case i said something stupid, and of being alone in a room full of others. So i worked hard, and put into practice the skills i'd learnt. And that was the best year of school i'd had in a long time. Although rather deficient in interpersonal skills, i tried hard to make friends, contribute to discussions, and take control over my anxiety.

That was the best year of school i'd experienced in a long time, and i could leave the house each day with a little less anxiety than the day before. But when the year drew to a close, and i looked back on how much i had improved, i was struck with a sadness that it had taken me that long to regain control of my life and functioning. I said goodbye to the friends i'd made, and to a situation that used to terrify me but that i'd managed to become comfortable in.

I'd known my online boyfriend, known on here as Kakistos, for about 18 months by the end of 2011. During that period we'd visited each other a few times and got along fantastically in person. As we lived interstate, me in Victoria, him in Queensland, the times we got to see each other - usually only for about a week at a time - were divided by 4-6 months of being apart, and were always bittersweet. But even while we were apart we kept in contact constantly, and i'm greatful for online gaming for allowing us to share a virtual space with each other.

Some of you may recall that it was always my plan to move to Melbourne as soon as i could. The town in which i lived was a poisonous place, and held nothing for me. So on the day that i did leave, Dec 1 2011, an empowering day for me as you could imagine, i did catch the train to Melbourne. And then i caught a plane, and flew directly to Queensland.

It goes without saying that that was a huge step for me, and i did it alone. My mum, my cats, my nan, and my family stayed in Victoria. That day was a mix of liberation, of joy at being rid of my old life, of nervous excitement, and a healthy dose of anxiety about what the future would hold. It was also a long, long, hellish day for unrelated reasons, which served to make me more emotional, but also more determined.

My boyfriend met me at the airport, and drove me to my new house, which we shared with two of his friends, one of their girlfriends, and a friend of a friend (who turned out to be the housemate from hell). I went from living in a house with my mother who often worked, to sharing one with five other people. Those housemates put us through hell relentlessly, but i had my boyfriend by my side to rant about them with during car trips, and in bed at night.

A job.

I lived off savings for a few months, but as that money started to dwindle, the inevitable prospect of getting a job loomed ever closer. I had no choice but to start applying for jobs. I was anxious about the interviews, but i got accepted for the second position i applied for:

Serving customers at McDonalds.

When i went in to hand in my application letter, and saw the registers, the screens, the employees, the customers, i didn't think i could do it. There was no way i could do it. God, in my daily life it was a nerve-wracking experience to even place an order. Being faced with the prospect of standing on the other side of that counter, with nowhere to hide, and lines of people waiting to come up and interact (the very thing i had a diagnosed phobia of) with me, terrified the shit out of me.

As my first shifts drew closer, my anxiety skyrocketed. For me this was the equivalent to being thrown in the deep end of a pool when you can hardly swim. Somehow i made it to work for my first shift. Unfortunately, for someone who needed it the most, my crew trainer was hopeless, and put me on the counter, with customers, without even showing me how to take orders or operate the register.

It's honestly painful for me to think about my first weeks of work. They were hellish. Customers are grumpy enough until you start fucking up their order and have to give them refunds on things. People come in and ask for a soy, half-strength latte, from the McCafe, served extra hot, in a mug, and i don't even know where the button for a latte is... I had to give refunds for about two thirds of the orders i took during my first shifts. 

But i survived. Sure, i'd go home and shake and quiver and cry and get no sleep, but then i'd go back the next day and do a little bit better. Not really an ideal way of operating, but i didn't give up.

A couple of months after starting, i moved to a new store that had just opened, and it's there, with bit of experience under my belt, that i started to make strides.

I worked there for a year, and by the end of that time i'd grown quite adept at order-taking and customer-soothing. But surprisingly it's in interacting with my coworkers that i benefited the most. At 19 years old, i learned how to get to know people. I learned how to maintain an interaction, and how to hold a conversation with someone. Those were skills i had always lacked. They were the deficits that had prevented me from making friends. I'd been on this planet for almost two decades but until that point i'd seen people talking to their peers at school or at work and not be able to fathom how they'd gotten to that stage, how they'd created a relationship from nothing. By the time i left McDonalds, i was also leaving behind friends who were important to me. 

But i don't miss dealing with customers.


It's during 2012 that i applied to Griffith University to enrol in a Bachelor of Psychological Science. I was accepted, and began my study this year. I had my final exam for the first semester of subjects only last week.

Studying Psychology wasn't an idea that entered my head until probably my last year of school, but when i first had the idea, it became a persistent one. Having completed a semester of study now, i can be absolutely sure that i've followed the right path.

I was anxious as the first day approached, but as soon as i arrived, and could fall back on the arsenal of skills i'd developed from my experiences since leaving home, and during therapy, my anxiety subsided, and i could experience the situation i was in more fully and honestly as myself. Since then, i've prospered at university.

I made a new friend every day at university for the first 5 days and have made more since. I got along fantastically with everyone in my 'learning group' for my Interpersonal Skills subject, and not only directed our group work and discussions, but kicked ass in the interaction role-play in which we had to perform. Additionally, although we only had to do one role-play each - i got mine out of the way in the first of 3 - i also volunteered to play the key role in the final one to assist my group members.

The work is challenging and interesting and i love it. The university environment is so diverse and that's exactly what i sought when i left my old town. The friends i've made get me to read and check their assignments before they send them in. We can stress about assignments together and talk about the subjects and support each other and do other friendy things. 

Funnily enough, one of my essays was even on social anxiety disorder.

Looking back.

The life i live now is a happy one. To know that only a few years ago i was in the grips of a disorder that was controlling my life is hard to assimilate with the person i am today. In moments of clarity when i look back on how far i've come i am filled with pride and give myself a mental high five.

Although it's becoming apparent to me that anxiety is going to be a lifelong companion, it's now a beast that i've tamed. I think the most hepful thing to come from studying Psychology, as well as a knowledge of how it is that your brain works, is that it fosters a critical, inquisitive mind. Today, when i start to fall into old unhelpful habits it's quite easy to pick myself up on it. And i'm not hard on myself, nor do i berate myself for the mistakes i make. Instead i am accepting of the nature of how i operate, and i continue on my course for personal growth. 

I've gained an appreciation for the finite nature of life. You have one go and then you're gone forever. I know that without support from the psychologists who treated me i'd have lived a life barely worth living, and that's a terrible scenario to think about, but it's important to me.

For not only is Psychology incredibly interesting, but to pursue a career in the field makes sense for the sort of person i am. I've always endeavoured to help others, even when it came at the cost of my own wellbeing. 

My psychologists gave me the building blocks to allow me to support myself, and it's because of their help that i am where i am today. Thanks to them, i broke free of a toxic environment i was in danger of losing myself to, and i'm not just living my life - i'm loving it.

To think that i'd be able to do that for other people is a truly wonderful thought.