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.