It’s not my shame. It’s theirs.

I didn’t post last night because I was helping to host a screening of a documentary about trafficking. It’s something that is close to my heart, and has been for many years. Did you know that there are more slaves now than there ever was when slavery was legal? The slave trade is second in profit only to the drug trade. And that gap is closing fast. What is this world coming to, when someone decides that buying a woman or girl is a better business deal than selling drugs?chains-19176_640

I spoke at this event, sharing my story. The voices in my head tried to tell me
that my story is not worth sharing. That it was nothing in comparison to what these women and children go through. That it’s not even relevant. To those voices I say, then why do you care?”

If I decide to keep quiet about my story, then the men who abused me win. The more I keep it in the dark, the more power it has over me – to control me. To make me feel shame. It’s not my shame. It’s theirs.

I may never know whose lives I will touch by me sharing, but I know I feel lighter afterwards. When it is brought out in the open, its power lessens. I feel freer. If you have a story, I encourage you to tell it. It is extremely cathartic, and it will help. Maybe even help someone else.

My cat is not afraid of much

My cat is not afraid of much. He’s pretty weird for a cat actually. He likes going for walks (without the lead thankyou very much, he does not like being controlled!), taking rides in the car (it actually calms him down), visiting new places and new people, and even playing with big dogs (which has gotten him into trouble in the past). But those odd things he is afraid of (other cats is about the only thing I’ve found), he just sits there and hisses at it occasionally. He doesn’t run away, he doesn’t try to pick a fight with it. I like to think he’s being assertive. And he looks it right in the eye and tells it he doesn’t like it.

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We can learn something from my cat. A lot of us live in fear. But it is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. We need to feel it to protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear things that are far from life-or-death. Traumas and bad experiences can trigger a fear response in us that can leave us paralyzed, running or fighting for no good reason.

There are 5 types of fear:

Extinction – the fear of death, of ceasing to exist. Think about when you had a near miss in a car, or felt that horrible feeling when looking over the edge of a tall building.

Mutilation – The fear of losing any part of our bodies. Anxiety about creepy crawlies arises from this fear.

Loss of autonomy – the fear of being paralysed, immobilised, trapped, or controlled by circumstances beyond our control. The physical side of it is called claustrophobia, but it extends to social interactions and relationships as well.

Separation – the fear of abandonment, rejection and loss of connection with people.

Ego-death – the fear of humiliation and shame.

Can you identify which of these fits your fear(s)?

President Roosevelt once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. Often we end up fearing the fear, and not the actual situation. We remember when we felt that fear, and so when we come up on a similar situation, we are afraid to feel that again. When put like that, it sounds less scary, right? We are fearing fear itself.

The first step in overcoming this is to identify it. Break it down to it’s basest parts. Identify one of the above 5 fears and name it. Even say it out loud. Say it like Shakespeare would have: “I see you fear of separation, you loggerheaded toad-spotted clotpole, and I am not afraid of you!” If nothing else, you’ll be in fits of laughter, which always helps.

The next step is to face it. Yes, go at it head on until you find that you are no longer afraid of it. It actually truly works. I’ve done this many times with trigger points. Things that bring up those bad memories. I keep doing them, or visiting those places, or talking to those people, until it no longer scares me. I now have very few flashbacks because of this.

We don’t need to live our lives in fear. There is much to be enjoyed out there. Like Beenut butter – it’s peanut butter crossed with honey. Yes, you can actually buy this here!

J.A. Gates

Distraction Queen

Depression is something that is very hard to escape from. It has infected your mind, and how do you get away from your own mind? It follows you everywhere, whispering lies to you. You’re alone. You’re useless. No one cares. It’s an incredibly isolating and confusing experience. No wonder we lose so many people to it every day.

So how do we get through each day when this is going on in our brains? For some people, medication helps. I found that for me drugs didn’t help, they just made me worse. I tried many different types of antidepressant and anti-anxieties, but none of them helped me. Some made it worse, but that’s a whole other story. But I do know that they work for a lot of people, it’s just a matter of finding a good doctor who can monitor you well and find the right drug. Be mindful of the possible side effects as well, as there are many and some can cause suicidal ideation. Contact your doctor straight away if you experience this.

Without medication to help me, I’ve had to turn to other things to keep my mind from killing me. I am the queen of distraction. Distractions are awesome. I read a lot. Entering another world to live in someone else’s head for a while is the ultimate escape. If my head is too chaotic and I can’t focus enough to read, I play computer games. Yep, I’m a gamer. I find them extremely immersive, and I have control over the environment. I can run through the streets of Victorian London being an Assassin, or hunt monsters on my trusty steed Roach in The Witcher, explore ancient tombs as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, or just be Batman. The possibilities are endless. After a long day at work, particularly a frustrating one, swinging a sword around and killing something gets it all out of my system. Judge me if you like, but it works. And no one gets hurt.

Another great thing to do to help with depression is exercise. Now, I’m not much into going for a run, or getting into the gym and jumping on a cross-fit machine. I hate that, it’s boring. So I found martial arts. I had always wanted to learn, but didn’t think I could do it, until I realised that in order to get some confidence, particularly around men, I needed to change something. So I found a trainer. My trainer works with a mixed martial art, comprising of Jeet Kune Do, Philipino Kali and Muay Thai Kickboxing. It’s a discipline that is designed for self-defense, not just fighting in the ring. I do two sessions a week, for 30 minutes at a time, and boy has it increased my self-confidence! I’m fitter, I’ve lost weight, and I don’t live in fear any more! Also, if I’m at home and feel those old feelings and anxieties again, I just drop to the floor and do pushups until the feeling goes away. You see, when you exercise, happy chemicals are released into the brain. Instant anti-depressant!

Other great things to do:
Having an animal to pat (lowers blood pressure)
Drawing
Colouring in
Watching TV shows and movies
Writing/journaling
Hanging out with good friends
Eating a special treat
Going for a walk
Listening to music

Don’t forget though, that you can’t distract yourself forever. At some point, you will have to face your fears, and only then will you find yourself released from them. Find a counselor that you connect with and work through the root causes of your depression. The sooner the better. It can take time, but it is possible. Don’t tell yourself you’re not strong enough, you don’t know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.

Things I’ve learnt from depression

It’s been over 3 and a half years since I’ve been on antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication. I take that as a win. I’ve been pretty well, really. Being in full time employment has helped heaps with that. On days when I’ve woken up and felt like crap and felt like hurting myself (old habits die hard), I’ve just forced myself to go to work and by the end of the day the feeling has gone because I’ve been hanging with funny people and had my mind focused on others instead of myself. I’ve had a reason to get up in the morning, so it has gotten easier and easier. Trust me. I’ve had fewer and fewer of those days as the years have gone by.

I also try to be mindful of what I’m thinking. If I’ve had a weird day, I often find myself pulling it apart at the end of the day. What was I thinking about? What did I tell myself at the time? What triggered that response? How could I have responded better to that? Sometimes I will have the littlest social gaffe, and I find myself in the bathroom crying, telling myself I’m useless and broken. That’s always a bad idea. It takes me ages to calm back down again from an incident like that.

But I always make sure I try and learn something from the experience. I think that’s just my personality. I’m always trying to better myself. That can be a curse too, because I don’t stop to celebrate the little victories. I know I’m getting better though. It is possible to change those little negative inner voices. It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of practice, but it can be done. For me, I had to start identifying the lies that I believed about myself. Obviously, I had the help of a counselor to identify these things, otherwise how would I know? Then I had to write down the truth about myself. I believed I was ugly, so I had to write the truth, which is that I am actually beautiful. God doesn’t make ugly things. It’s just insulting otherwise. So, I would write these truths down in a notebook, and every day I read them out loud to myself. When I first started, I would roll my eyes at reading them, because I didn’t believe them yet. After a while of doing this, speaking out the words started to take hold in my mind. I actually started to live out these truths. This is when I started taking selfies for the first time ever. I started celebrating me. Because I had learnt that it didn’t mean I was up myself.

It meant I appreciated someone else’s art.

Welcome to my world

So this blog is called ‘No Cupcakes and Curtains’ because of a conversation I had with my old therapist a few years ago. I told him I hated small talk. Can’t stand it. I can do it, but I prefer to skip it. I don’t get it. He referred to small talk as ‘Cupcakes and Curtains’. I’m not sure if this is an established saying, or whether he was just putting together random words. I tried to Google it, but there was no urban dictionary meaning for it, so I don’t know. Hence I decided this blog was definitely not about the small talk, so NoCupcakesAndCurtains was born.

I love to write. I have been spinning stories since I was about six years old. I used to think it was since I was 10 years old, but then I found my first ever diary in a box the other day, which was just a hard bound notebook and found the words ‘I am 7 years old. I like writing books.’ So I figure it’s meant to be. Even in that diary I was creating an imaginary family around me, and living in weird and wonderful imaginary houses. They were usually underground or floating in the sky. Never just an ordinary house. I seemed to have a fascination with underground things. Not sure why.

I also had a fascination with secret things. It was my favourite word. I had secrets. Secrets I kept, even from myself until I was 18 years old. Those secrets were the ones that would fuck me up. You know the ones. The ones that strange adults told you were secret from everyone else. And I believed them. Even my brain believed them, and in the end, not knowing what to do with that secret, hid it from my own consciousness. That dissociation kept me slightly saner for those formative years, although I still had a lot of the side effects.

When it all came back to me in my later teen years, my mind broke a little. A little bit more, anyway. I went off the deep end. My brain now wanted to kill me. It told me to walk in front of cars, take pills, walk off high things, etc. I only partially listened to it. Eventually, after wanting to shut it up, I decided downing some sleeping pills with vodka was a good idea. Not so much. A stay in the hospital overnight was the result of that. The funny thing is, I was released the next morning with no more than a “don’t do it again” and a see ya later. No follow up. Interesting.

The next few years were a rinse, repeat of that episode. I’m sure my long suffering family were getting pretty sick of it. I was self-harming on a daily basis, and also a work-aholic. I tried to stay as busy as possible. I didn’t sleep much, so I just used to go to work instead. Eventually, I ended up signing myself into a full-time rehabilitation unit to try and get myself well. I knew I was fucked, and if I carried on the way I was going, I would be dead in a couple of years. So I gave it all I had.

I came out 15 months later a very different person. I now wore colours. I smiled. I took selfies. I dressed girly. Ish. People didn’t recognise me. I was happy. I had found who I was, I had learnt to love myself, despite my quirks. It had been a hard journey, but well-won. I was 22 years old.

This post has been long enough and sobering enough. I’ll let you go. We can pick this up next time.

Because kittens
Because kittens