Sometimes…

Writing is my form of therapy. Sometimes I write to vent. Sometimes I write when I’m anxious and need to calm down. And sometimes I write just to write. Character profiles, line editing and scene revisions, or that one annoying scene that I can’t get out of my head. I tried to write earlier today but the words came out clumsy sounding and I stopped. It wasn’t a pleasant scene either, and not something I was in the right mindset to keep working on. I was watching Criminal Minds while I worked (I work from home so I can do that) and it got in my head.

And then there are times, like right now, when I want to write, but for the life of me, there just are no words waiting to jump out and be written. Most often, it’s when there are other things distracting me, like the TV or dad, but sometimes that writer’s block is there even in the silence. But there is a quote that always makes me feel better when writer’s block hits.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

So, sometimes I will sit at my desk, stare at a blank screen for a few minutes, check emails, etc. and then I will just start writing whatever is on my mind. After a few lines, I just keep going and going until my muse triggers and I find something that starts to flow like water. Sometimes what I write is pure gold and doesn’t need much revision. Other times, and this happens more often, it’s crap and I know later I’ll have to rewrite it because it sounds forced or it doesn’t sound anything like I imagined it would. This was not something that happened overnight. I took a lot of college classes on creative writing and actually minored in it, and this helped me learn how to better my writing from the mediocre high school level that it was at. And it was awful. I probably mentioned that in a past entry. It was just laughably awful.

Even now, I’m looking at buying some books on writing about magic, fight scenes, and darker scenes, just to read about them and learn new ways to try and better my own writing. I still have a couple books from my college classes and recommendations from professors that I need to read, but I feel like wanting to read more about how to better your writing makes you that much better a writer. I tend to strive for perfection, but sometimes there are certain areas of writing where I have no experience and I need someone else’s feedback to help me. A lot of times, that someone is my best friend, and I always appreciate whatever feedback she gives me. It helps make my somewhat good writing into better writing.

I’m not sure if I’ll be posting any of my personal writing here yet, especially since I’m still working on my first novel and I’m still pretty shy about sharing it with anyone besides my best friend. I can say I have a harder shell for critique about my work, but that doesn’t make sharing it any less intimidating. I’m just glad I have a small support system that helps me feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Having even just one person believe in my dreams and goals makes it all worth it, because I know how hard I can be on myself, and how many critics are out there telling me I can’t do it or I’ll always be a starving artist because writers don’t make good money. It’s not about the money for me; it never was. I write because it’s who I am.

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More New Friends

Earlier this week, my mom told me she met some girls in the store where she works that are going to this anime convention I really want to go to in February and she told me that when she told them about me wanting to go, these girls asked if I needed a ride and/or wanted to come along with them. Well, my mom initially told them that I was only planning on going the one day (which at the time I was, because my other “friends” hadn’t made any kind of committed statements that indicated to me that they even wanted to go). When she came home and told me all this, I told her I would be ECSTATIC to go with them and spend the weekend at the convention, and would even be willing to split hotel costs with them. Having been to three different conventions previously, I know that the whole weekend brings about a ton of different events and programming and experiences, and I told her the only reason I wasn’t going the whole weekend was because I didn’t think I could afford the tickets AND a hotel room for two nights by myself, since I still haven’t heard any solid info from my friends about whether they’re going or not. (I’ve also put the info on Facebook for them regarding times, registration fees, etc. and I got more responses from other people than the ones I asked to go with me.)

So last night when mom came home from work, she had gotten me the one girl’s name and phone number for me to get in touch with about meeting up and going to this convention together. I sent her a friend request and a message this morning and we’ve been talking on and off all day just in general, like getting to know each other kind of stuff. Her last question to me was about this convention and I sent her two long messages describing my situation and my ideal plans and have yet to hear back from her, but even just the general conversation was pretty easy and she seems super nice. And as it turns out, we have a mutual friend (acquaintance on my part); however, it is the younger brother of “Gia” from the last post. So I’m slightly torn. Do I attempt to make friends with this new girl because she has this love and enthusiasm of things I enjoy and run the risk of encountering Gia’s brother, who may then take some of the things I might say by accident back to her? Or do I ignore her and let another amazing convention slip out of my fingers because I’m too afraid to try something new and not care what other people think?

Right now, I’m perfectly ok with the first option. I missed out on seeing my favorite voice actor two years ago (because we had just gone to our first convention a week before and really didn’t have a lot of funds for that one, so we REALLY didn’t have any for this second one) and I am determined this year not to miss out on three more of my favorites. I even mentioned in my Facebook informational post that I was going regardless of whether anyone else was going with me. I figured if someone else is going with me, not only can we split the costs, but we can also double the entertainment/enjoyment factor (depending on who’s going, of course). Plus, when you’re on a mission to make new friends who are supportive and energize you, it helps to actually attempt to make new friends. So yeah, I’m hoping maybe we can do a meetup sometime before the actual convention, especially since I’ll be traveling the two weeks before the con and I won’t be able to meet then. But I know people are busy and when I get my next response, I’ll bring up the subject of meeting beforehand so I know who to look for in February.

Letting Go

I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to write about for today’s blog post and then it came to me. Part of the purpose of this blog is to help me deal with my anxiety and let go of some of the things that bother me the most, one of which is the toxic friends I keep. There is one “friend” who is above the rest in their toxicity level, and this is because for six to nine months, she tormented me with psychological mind games and made me feel like this horrible monster. As it turns out, I wasn’t the problem. And even now that we’re no longer living together, there are a myriad of things she does and says that really piss me off.

So here’s a little bit of context. This girl, “Gia,” was someone I was aware of in high school, but was never really friends with. She was a grade above me and I only met her through a different friend of mine (who ended up stabbing me in the back later). Anyway, when I graduated and went away to college, I happened to remember halfway through the year that Gia went to the same college as I did and we started hanging out between classes after that. We really connected and introduced each other to a new anime show. She also let me play on her game systems because I didn’t have any that first year. The next two years, we decided to live together in the same dorm room, which also went well because we had differing class schedules and some nights she worked down at the building’s front desk. The following year she graduated halfway through and knowing that, we lived in different buildings that were right next to each other. Fast forward a year and a half. I had just graduated, also halfway through the year and while applying for jobs, I was accepted at one in the area where I had gone to college. However, since I didn’t live in the area, I asked Gia if maybe she would like to move in together and could look around at apartments in the area, since she already lived there for her job. Three weeks after New Years, we had moved into our new apartment and that Monday, I started my new job. It was quite the whirlwind experience. Nine months later, I was laid off and living off unemployment while searching for a new job. After we renewed our apartment lease at the start of the year, I was still between jobs and Gia decided she wanted to get a cat. Personally, I thought it was both a great idea and a stupid one. Great because I love cats, stupid because I was going to be home all the time and this cat was going to bond to me instead of her. And that’s exactly what happened, and this is when our relationship started to deteriorate. The first six or so months after getting the cat, Gia seemed to expect a certain level of “domesticity” from me. She expected me to say hi every day when she came home from work, clean the apartment regularly, and empty the dishwasher. She even told me she felt like she always had to walk on eggshells around me because she could never tell what my mood was.

First of all, I regularly emptied the dishwasher, dusted and vacuumed the apartment (except Gia’s room) for the sake of my allergies and cleaning up cat hair, and swept the kitchen floor because I liked to walk around barefoot and there was generally kitty litter (or salt in the winter) on the kitchen floor. I cleaned up her cat’s vomit whenever she threw up because we didn’t want it sticking into and staining the carpets, and when she was gone for a weekend, I both fed the cat and cleaned her litter box. The issues that Gia had with me were that I left my dishes in the sink with water in them (most often they were left there because they had food stuck to the sides of them and I was letting them soak, and would put them in the dishwasher later); she didn’t like how I played with her cat (which I did try to modify because she wasn’t my cat); and I didn’t wash the dishes very often. However, whenever there were large amounts of dishes that couldn’t go in the dishwasher, she was the one making them because she did a lot of baking and cooking for work. Excuse me for not wanting to do your dishes.

This was a very difficult six months for me. I was made to feel like this horrible, lazy, sloth-like person. My unemployment ran out and I was surviving on my savings, which meant the only things I really spent money on was rent, utilities, and food. I stopped buying the stuff for the “diet” plan I had been on, which led to me gaining back all of the weight I had lost, plus a little extra, none of my clothes were fitting anymore, and I spent more time in my room with the door closed because I couldn’t stand to be around Gia anymore. Eventually I reached out to an old high school friend, now my best friend in the world, and told her about everything I was going through and that I needed someone to talk to. My only regret was having not stayed in contact with her through college. She managed to calm me down and talk me through the rest of this ordeal. Gia and I made up enough to make it through the rest of our lease agreement and then we went our separate ways. For me that meant coming back home, which I hadn’t wanted to do, but I’m glad I did because I got to spend more time with my bestie and her daughter, who I love like a niece. Getting to spend all that time with her was great therapy because we were always laughing and being around her never left me drained, except from laughing so hard our sides hurt.

It wasn’t until 2016 that I realized just how toxic Gia really was, even when we weren’t spending all of our time together. The apartment she ended up finding she’s still living in, and I still dread every time I have to go there (although this year I have decided to not make any effort to go there unless to see another of my friends if and when they’re in the area because that seems to be the place to go…). I dread it because every time I went there last year, the counter beside her kitchen sink was piled full of dirty dishes, from the sink all the way to the wall, which is about 2-3 feet long. Her stove always has crumbs, stains, etc. on it and her small kitchen table always has a pile of stuff on it, like baking supplies that are left out, piles of mail, random empty boxes, etc. On top of this disaster, her trash can is usually full to overflowing and she has the bag pulled up out of the plastic bin as if she’s trying to maximize everything the bag can hold. The space under the counter where all of the dirty dishes are is usually full of random recyclable things that didn’t make it into the recycling bin, and last time I went, she had an enormous fort of empty boxes, trash bags, and recyclables behind the front door that went around the entire one end of the dining table. The living room is littered with cat toys, because she now has two new cats (she lost the cat that she got when we were living together), her bathroom is generally fairly clean (it’s about the only room she cleans when company comes, and directly across from the bathroom, you can see into her room and there’s usually clothes, dirty or clean, I can never tell, in a heap on her floor or draped on her drying rack. Most often they’re dropped on the floor.

It’s disgusting.

Now if that wasn’t the worst of it, she has become even more sarcastic and snarky and some of the “jokes” she makes are no longer funny. When she had sent a group text message to me and two of our mutual friends, I had turned my phone’s volume off because I don’t like group messages and several messages in, she sent a message to all of us saying that she thought I didn’t like her anymore because I wasn’t responded to her messages and I had not sent her a birthday wish. Now, in all fairness, I was already annoyed by all the message notifications so seeing this message further irritated me. Part of me was glad though because she appeared to be getting the message that I was ignoring her, but the assumed attitude the text was sent with was enough to send my own sharp response that lacked all humor. Most recently, there was a group gathering for New Years because our one friend was home from Arizona, where he’s going for his PhD, and Gia made a fuss over my asking for a salad to go with her “epic” lasagna (which wasn’t all that epic). Since we had lasagna for Christmas, I wanted something light to go with Gia’s lasagna, because I knew how she liked to cook, and it was usually very heavy and filling. She finally relented when I agreed to have at least a small portion of the lasagna but having to fight for a f**king salad was ridiculous and unnecessary. (Thankfully the one friend in this group that I still like swooped in and saved the day by trying to smooth things out and make things work. He knows about my ordeal with Gia and now seems to be trying to keep the peace between us, but he also knows about my anxiety and is way more understanding than the other two in the group.)

There are a ton of other examples, like her throwing a colossal fit over me canceling plans in July after having an anxiety attack over her boating plans (I don’t like boats) and saying I “threw a wrench in her plans, just for the sake of chaos,” which basically told me she didn’t give a damn about my anxiety. But all of these things added up to me deciding I no longer want to be friends with someone who doesn’t support my new, healthy lifestyle and who spent six to nine months mentally tormenting me, and still makes jokes that are actually demeaning. It’s going to be hard to sever the ties because I don’t like confrontation so I can’t just directly tell her I don’t want to be friends (I can only imagine the fit she’d throw if I did). Which leads me to do a more cowardly thing and to just let myself drift further away from her, ignore all correspondence, and slowly end things on my terms. It’s not the best plan, but it’s the one I’m going with right now.

I apologize for this sounding like a big gigantic rant, because I know that’s what it is, but just thinking about Gia makes me seethe with anger and that’s why I need to let her go. She’s not good for my health anymore. And if you are suffering from any kind of abuse, physical, emotional, psychological, please, please, please reach out to somebody. No one should have to go through that alone.

Managing My Anxiety Part 2

I mentioned in a previous post that growing up, I probably had a mild form of social anxiety, and part of having to deal with that kind of anxiety is learning how to handle different social situations. This is something I am personally still working on, because it is a lot harder than it might sound. And to those people who will tell me to, “Suck it up, buttercup,” and “What do you have to be anxious about?” No, that’s not how this works. Anxiety is not just a mental state that can be overcome by sheer force of willpower. Most often it’s not even something we can control because it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain that sometimes requires medication to offset that imbalance. For me, the anxiety can stem from something so irrational, like worst case scenario, almost like an impending doom sensation. Like if I screw something up, even just a minor thing, it’s going to cost me my job, I’ll have no money for food so I’ll starve, and so on. Now, my brain might be trying to tell me that none of this is going to happen because it’s minor, but fear often beats out logic. Probably, almost every time. Because fear is stronger than logic. Those two anxiety attacks I had in the same day were driven by a fear so strong that I couldn’t shake it. All because I had been told that I would have to engage and run my own conference calls. I’m not a big talk on the phone kind of person to begin with but to be told instead of asked if I could do this put so much fear in me that during my second anxiety attack that night around bedtime, I told my mom that I was going to quit the very next day, just to avoid having to do these calls.

Sounds extreme, I know, but that’s how my anxiety works. Thankfully, my mom talked me out of quitting my job and I am still working there today, but I did write a detailed letter to my supervisors explaining the situation and they were very understanding. I don’t know why talking on the phone bothers me as much as it does. I don’t even like calling to make doctor’s appointments. Maybe I’m afraid of how my voice sounds, maybe I’m afraid of being judged, though for what, I have no idea. As a general rule though, I try to keep my phone conversations under three minutes unless it is required to be longer (like I’m getting tech support and I need to help walk the person through what’s wrong).

Little things like this are especially challenging for someone with social anxiety. Oftentimes we can’t rationalize or explain why we’re afraid, just that we are afraid.

Now, I work from home, which means the only interactions I generally have with co-workers are via text, IM, or email. On occasion I’ll get a phone call, but not too often. Which is great because then I don’t have to try and make awkward small talk with people passing in the halls or during my lunch break. (I suck at small talk.) Plus I can work in my pajamas and no one’s going to care. However, in living where I live, which is at home for financial reasons, I have to deal with two of my biggest stressors for anxiety. My parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death and am glad they let me move back in when I had a falling out with a roommate. But there are just some days when everything they do and say irritates me and I can’t for the life of me explain why. Like trying to hold a conversation with me when I’ve just rolled out of bed and am not fully awake yet. Not to be rude, but I am not, and have never been, a morning person. At least wait until I’ve had breakfast before asking me all sorts of questions. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. Confrontation is also not a strong suit for me and I’m usually ok with suffering in silence because I know you guys are not doing these things to annoy me in purpose.)

One of the top stressors is loud noises, especially if I’ve been home all day in silence or had soft music playing. I know my dad has some hearing problems and that when he comes home from work, he wants to watch tv to unwind and relax. Not a big deal. But when he turns the tv up as loud as he does to be able to hear it, it’s usually quite jarring to my nerves and that sends my anxiety through the roof. He also likes to flip channels because he hates commercials, which can also pile on to my annoyance. Sounds pretty irrational, right? Being anxious over some noise and channel changing? Herein lies my predicament. One of the best ways for me to settle down from this is to listen to my music through headphones as loud as I can take it. Not so loud as to give me a headache but loud enough to drown out everything else. And not just any music either. Oh yes, I made myself a playlist especially for times when I need a little music therapy. The list consists mostly of Evanescence but also has one or two Tool songs as well as A Perfect Circle. These songs will generally calm me down and quiet my mind, especially if I sing along to the ones I know the words to, and I can’t explain why it works, but it works and that’s all that matters.

I really am trying to be better about these things, because I know sometimes my parents are not doing it on purpose just to annoy me, but I also want them to know and understand that even the littlest things can trigger heightened anxiety for me and I don’t always know what’s going to set it off. I have a general idea of the big ones, like loud noises, large crowds, and meeting strangers one on one, but the smaller ones are often the most irrational and unexplainable triggers, and I’m sorry. I am still learning how to deal with and handle my anxiety better without shutting people out. Just be patient with me, please. I know how hard it is, and I sometimes hate myself for it, but please just be patient.

Managing My Anxiety

Sorry it’s been a couple days since my last posting. I’ve been fighting what appears to be a hormone-induced migraine, which made it very difficult to do anything last night. Currently I am feeling much more like myself again and with a good night’s sleep, I should hopefully be back to normal by tomorrow.

This is one of the things I intend to work on fixing over the course of the future. I’m fairly healthy overall, other than being a little overweight, and even my doctor noted that I’m very flexible, something else I’m very proud of. But I know I have a hormone imbalance and some mild to medium anxiety issues. Not quite enough to call it a disorder, I don’t think, but it has definitely gotten worse in the last year. And after experiencing two pretty severe attacks within 12 hours of each other, which is rare for me and actually made me consider quitting my job in my heightened emotional state, and then having to deal with the aftermath the next day, I am determined to do everything I possibly can to manage my anxiety better. I never want to feel that way again. It was debilitating. There’s just no other word for it.

Managing my anxiety is one of the main reasons for weeding out the toxic people in my life. Only two of my friends really know and acknowledge/accept my anxiety for what it is, and of those two, I think only one knows about the dual attacks because she is my rock when I need her and I tell her everything. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that I had anxiety. For a long, long time I was told, “Oh you’re just shy. The nerves will pass.” And sometimes they did. But more often than not, they didn’t. I once gave up participating in a spelling bee, despite being an excellent speller, because I knew the boy I had a crush on at the time was in the audience and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of him. That was in 6th grade. Considering I’ve been out of college for six years now, this has been going on for a damn long time, and I either went along and let it control me, or I found an outlet to let me express what I was feeling. Most often the fear won out and I missed out on some excellent opportunities, but I did also discover that writing was the best and more therapeutic outlet even back then. As I grew older and more familiar with language in general, I was praised for and took a lot of pride in my writing skills. I excelled at research papers; I usually had too much to say.

However, the real joy came from making up my own stories. I wrote the very first draft of my first novel (still in a lengthy revision phase) in high school and looking back at it, it was horrendous! Like, laughably awful. But I guess you have to start somewhere, right? I finished the initial rewrite in college some six years after I started it and ever since, it’s been on hold because life kept getting in the way. But for 2016, it was one of my goals (“resolutions” if you may) to write out length character profiles for all of my major characters in this series.

Well, truth be told, I didn’t get ALL of them done, but I got at least half of them done, which I call a win, and through these profiles, I learned a lot about them as relatable characters and also things that were vital but missing from their parts in the story. I hadn’t realized how little I knew about these people or why they did what they did until I did these profiles for them. This alone helped me understand the bigger picture of the story I was trying to tell. On top of that, my best friend, who is also currently my editor because of her enthusiasm and love for my babies, asked a lot of questions and helped me see things I hadn’t seen while writing initially. She also pointed out contradictions, redundancies, and parts that needed more description. Yes, she was sometimes brutally honest with me, but that’s what I needed. Someone to tell me when I suck and not sugar coat it. You would think as a person with anxiety, such harsh criticism on something you love would make the anxiety worse, but I’ve grown a hard enough shell with my writing  skills to know to take all feedback with a grain of salt. Usually I can tell when something’s bad or needs work, and she helps me figure out what I’m looking for or need to make it better and more vivid.

Criticism on me personally (clothes, personality, etc.), still working on a shell there. I can usually ignore it, but stuff meant as “jokes” such as being assumed stupid based on what kind of car I drive, yeah, not tolerating that anymore. I’m still upset that the people I call “friends” continue making that “joke” even after seven or eight years when it’s no longer funny, and when my car is twice as old as any of theirs and in decent enough condition because I take care of it.

Ok, end rant. So yeah, part of managing my anxiety will be these designated writing sessions, which will hopefully not only manage my anxiety, but also help with the revision process on my book. Maybe by having an established writing routine, I won’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. It’ll just flow naturally. I hope.

A Step Forward

Yesterday I met someone. Not in the Match.com way where you’re looking for someone to date, although it might sound like that from my descriptions. No, I met someone who I would like to have as a friend because we have a lot in common. Also, having done a lot of soul-searching and self reflection in 2016, I’ve come to the very difficult decision that I need to get rid of some of my current friends and replace them with new ones who are more supportive and less draining. Friends should make you feel energized and alive, not drained and exhausted, and after meeting this girl yesterday (let’s call her Maka) I felt energized and refreshed that someone else geeks out about some of the same things as me.

First off, she’s an anime junkie and has gotten me intrigued by several new animes I’d like to watch. She loves manga, gaming, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, and animals. Her dog is named after a wrestler, and she told me she’s not as big into wrestling anymore, but was when she was younger. She is a bit younger than me but that doesn’t bother me. My best friend (we’ll call her Tsubaki) is younger than me and I honestly don’t know where I would be without her.

And sure, Maka has her fair share of problems, but who doesn’t these days? There are days where I truly feel like a starving artist, even though I’m not actually starving. But I try to live within my means, which usually means I will forego something I really want because I don’t have the money to afford it. And the same goes for hanging out with people. There are just some days where I want my peace and solitude because I have learned to enjoy my own company. The best part about that is no one can hurt you or put you down about it. I mean, they can try but I’m not afraid to admit I am a very happy hermit, and my choosing to hang out with someone is an indication that I genuinely like and trust that person.

Rambling tangent aside, meeting Maka yesterday was not only uplifting, but a huge win for me. I’m not the outgoing type so meeting strangers for the first time usually scares the crap out of me (and usually doesn’t end well either, but those are stories for another time). This time I was excited to meet a fellow nerd. I didn’t have an upset stomach from nerves, I wasn’t super jittery from my anxiety, and when I spoke, it wasn’t at a rushed excitable pace. In fact, our conversation flowed almost seamlessly from one topic to the next, and sometimes circled back to the same topics. There were almost no awkward pauses and the whole situation felt natural and easy. Which, for someone who doesn’t make friends easily, made everything that much better

And the best part of all this is that I did it almost entirely on my own. I say almost because technically my mom initiated the Facebook friend request from Maka to me because she and Maka work together. But once I accepted her friend request, I initiated the conversation, I set up the time and date of our meet up, and most importantly, I went to meet her by myself. Usually, the way I used to make friends was simply by proximity to more outgoing personalities. For instance, in college while waiting for a class, I stood near a girl who looked pleasant enough and she started a conversation with me while we waited. Through her, I was sort of welcomed into her circle and through one of her friends, I met two of my current friends. I never did the initiating. I was always the one being approached and welcomed. Well, no more. I might still be skittish about approaching strangers, but I know now that I have the confidence to do it if I really want to.

Finding Freedom To Be Myself

It’s very freeing, being out from under the yoke of your oppressor. To find out exactly who you are without anyone else telling you who to be. You find new things you didn’t know you enjoyed, because nobody else enjoyed them, or wanted to try them. You find out who your real friends are and who only wants you around to control you.

2016 was a monumental year for me because I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know a few years ago when I was undergoing some psychological abuse. For example, I’ve always been quiet, shy, and kept to myself for the most part, but what I didn’t know was that some of that shyness might have actually been a mild form of social anxiety. Last year I spent a great deal of time learning how to handle my anxiety in ways that didn’t always include prescription drugs.

One of the ways I found that helps keep the anxiety down is, not surprisingly, working out, which for me included POP Pilates and yoga. I’m still trying to find a good balance of each in order to maximize their feel-good effects, but I can’t imagine getting up every morning and not doing at least one or the other or both before I start the rest of my day. The instructors for both are highly energetic and upbeat, and agree that we should love ourselves as we are and not compare ourselves to anyone else, that we are all on our own journeys. That mentality really resonated with me personally, having had pretty low self esteem my entire life, and it lifted me up to see the good in myself that I couldn’t see before. It also helped me to achieve certain goals that I thought were beyond me, like being able to hold certain yoga poses or get through an entire Pilates workout without stopping to catch my breath. Little victories like that were huge accomplishments for me.

Writing is a close second to helping keep the anxiety down and while I didn’t do as much of it last year as I would have liked, this year I plan to incorporate daily writing sessions on select days so as to make writing a habit again. I’m actually writing this during one of those sessions. I’m a writer at heart and am always carrying around a notebook, just in case inspiration strikes me, and I’ve found that when I’m really upset or anxious, writing out everything that’s running through my head calms me down, not only because it empties an already busy mind, but because it also validates what I’m feeling at a particular moment. Sometimes I don’t know what’s upsetting me until I write down whatever I’m thinking about. Sometimes what upsets me most is my current place in life. I’m not where I thought I would be at this point, and I have to remind myself that that’s ok. All things considered, I’m doing just fine where I am. I have a job, a car that runs with no problems, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and a support system that’s there to help me when I need it most. And that’s all that matters right now.

One of the last things I learned about myself is that, to truly be free, you just have to do what makes you happy, not what everyone else wants. Just let your nerd flag fly high and those who matter will encourage you and be right there with you, supporting you. At the end of 2015 I did a test run of my first cosplay ever. I was so nervous no one would know who I was, but I walked with as much confidence as I could muster, and it went over so well that I did it again a month later for a concert based around the video game franchise my character was from. And even though it was not a “professional” level of cosplaying (none of my items were handmade), I still had a couple people ask for pictures. That was one of the greatest feelings in the world. At the end of 2016, I did a different cosplay, also low maintenance with the only handmade item being the skirt, and went to a concert for a different gaming franchise. Once there, while we were waiting for the show, the three of us were asked multiple times for photos and one woman even put us on a live stream video to Mexico. I can’t even begin to explain the elation I felt personally for that kind of attention. I have a great respect for those who take immense amounts of time to make their own costumes, and I hope to someday learn to do it myself, but being in costume for me was one of the most freeing things I could’ve ever done. It gave me confidence I didn’t know I could have and it helped me relax enough to carry on a conversation with a stranger, which I don’t typically do. What I’ve found is that most cosplayers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they are always willing to share how they made their costumes, or where they got their inspiration, and they can be supportive even if you’ve never met. Just being part of this group means a lot to me.

With a lot of help from my best friend, without whom I don’t know where I would be now, I started to see the toxic people in my life and am now trying to rid myself of them, even though it will be very difficult. But after having so much time to myself and discovering my worth and what makes me happy, I can now distinguish those who put strain on my mental well-being and make me want to hide the important parts of myself, like being a cosplayer and a closet anime lover, and find those who share in my enthusiasm for what I love most.