Tantrums and Time Out—For Adults!

So, the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. Between trying to get off my butt and finally get into school, going on vacation, and trying to keep my head above the waters of debt, I’ve been pretty busy. (Also, I’ve been up to my neck obsessed with a certain anime, but we won’t talk about that. We prefer to forget that.)

Then came the inevitable meeting with my counselor. Most shoved under the magnifying glass this week was my temper. See, I’ve caused a few problems with my roommates. I can be quite nasty. Even when I’m not trying to be, it just spills over. They’re scared of me, at those times.

Of course, I’d never hurt them. I would never come after them with a pair of scissors, for instance. No, I learned long ago not to physically take my anger out on others. I just get shouty and throw things and storm off. That’s good control, right?

Ha.

Controlling my temper is a problem. I’m the first one to admit it. If I were in Pixar’s Inside Out, my primary emotion would be anger. Whenever I’m sad or afraid or feeling some other negative emotion, anger, like a knight in shining hatred, takes the helm. It’s been my defense mechanism for so long that I don’t know how to deal without it. What do you do? Let it out, no matter how safe you think your outlet might be, and you scare people. Turn it inwards, and you’ll only end up hurting yourself. It’s an unending dilemma.

Along with that comes the problem of fear. Using fear against others is one of my greatest weapons, only encouraged by five years working at a haunted house. It’s an addictive thing. Because, when people are scared of you, when you see their eyes widen and they back away, you no longer feel afraid. You are the one with the power, and suddenly every insult they’ve ever thrown at you, every time they’ve laughed, doesn’t matter anymore. There’s only the power, and who has it.

This, and more, I discussed with my counselor. Who brought up a few interesting points.

First, I need to think about what I want out of relationships with those I’m closest to. Do I want them to fear me? Do I want to lord that power over them? Well, if so, I’ll just be repeating the abusive cycle. This is why so many abuse victims turn into abusers, themselves. They can’t let go of those coping mechanisms that don’t apply outside of where they were abused. For instance, my mother backed off when I got angry. That’s how I was taught to make her stop. But now, living about two hundred miles away from her with my three roommates, I don’t need to respond that way anymore. Trying to unlearn the message you inhaled from childhood isn’t easy.

Second, my counselor explained the concept of time out. When children do something, good parents send them into time out. Why, he asked me. I answered, because the parents need a break. And then I realized—the purpose of this was to give the parents a chance to diffuse their own tempers. To keep them from doing something they’d regret.

So, that’s my other new project. To take time out, and think about my goals. How I want my relationships with the people in question, like my roommates, to go. I can choose to make them fear me—to make them back off. I can also choose to chill, open up, and explain the problem to them, and attempt to make things better via communication.

Well, it’s a daunting task. Actually talking to people about feelings in the past has ended in bad news for me. But my roommates are not my parents. They are not my sister, even though she’s gotten so much better. They’re good people, and I need to give them a chance.

Dear Parents

(aka Dear Mac of The Possible Future)

  • Your children are not puppets. They are individuals. All of them have different wants and needs. Don’t project onto them, or place them on a pedestal.
  • Take the time to listen to them. They have a perspective, too, and they’re not always wrong just because they’re the children.
  • Don’t try to tell them they’re extremely intelligent and capable of handling online high school classes when they can barely divide.
  • Don’t forbid them from seeing friends—they’ll usually just find a way to go behind your back, if the friendship is strong enough.
  • When they ask why they aren’t allowed to do something, give them a good, honest reason, not “Because I said so.”
  • Don’t ever try to hide from Child Services, or isolate your children in other ways—especially not from peers. Psychologically, children need to form social connections, or their brains don’t develop correctly.
  • If you’re going to homeschool your children, make sure that this is actually done. Properly. Patiently. Don’t yell at them for not understanding. Make sure you understand, first.
  • Don’t tell them to stop being so sensitive.
  • Don’t talk about people behind their backs to your children. Especially not other children or the other parent.
  • Don’t make it all about you.

Kick Depression In The Butt

So, I’ve been seeing a counselor. That’s going well. I’m telling the Evil Depression Voices to shut their pie holes, because I’m awesome, and not nearly as worthless or incompetent as I try to tell myself that I am. Thanks to my counselor, of course. And my sister. I couldn’t do this crap on my own!

(Warning: several curse words will follow)

Tonight, my sister worked a double shift. And she texted me, because one of her coworkers was being a chauvinistic dick, it was a long, stressful day, and depression was giving her an emotional breakdown.

Me, I like to fix the problem. I’m not good at dealing with emotions. So, I tried just being a sounding board. Then I started slipping into my usual habit (telling her that she should come work with my department because it’s better management, etc). I apologized, but then she told me what she needed was a solution for tonight.

So, I did my absolute best, trying to give her the pep talks I give myself. Tonight, therefore, I’d like to give myself that same pep talk again.

Life is full of challenges, Mac. People can be assholes. If they don’t like the way you do things, tell them to suck it up. You are awesome. Sometimes you think you can’t handle it. Well, you can. No obstacle will ever be put in your path that you can’t demolish. You just gotta choose to do it.

You’ve already been through hell. What’s this? It’s nothing. Depression is being the drama queen. It’s making a mountain out of a molehill. Tell it to shut up. Because you’re tough. You’re strong. You’re awesome. You got this. Nobody can bring you down unless you choose to let them.

My pseudonym is Mac. I’ve stop fights in their tracks. I’ve climbed thirty-foot knotted ropes. I’ve run a zipline. I worked in a haunted house for five years, and never complained about any injuries I received. I rescued and continue to protect my cat, Moe. I’ve let go of the so-called love of my life more than once. I solve problems. I write and proofread. I am beautiful, smart, witty, and my cats adore me (as long as I feed them). I survived a narcissistic, hoarding mother. I survived an abusive sister. I survived bullying, self-harm, a batshit crazy aunt, and a friend’s suicide. I am strong. Depression and the day-to-day challenges of life ain’t got nothin’ on me!

Victim? Survivor? Nope. I’m a fighter, thank you very much.

Depression can shove it where the sun don’t shine.

Manure Occureth

Nearly two weeks since my best friend, Scott, took his own life. I haven’t broken down since the funeral. I feel that’s an accomplishment. I guess the funeral gave me the closure I needed—final knowledge that this wasn’t some kind of sick joke. And now, life goes on. It’s too short to waste grieving.

Sad as it is, I’m sure this did happen for a reason. Now, I have some tangible, first-hand experience with the grief of losing someone close to me. The experience of having a friend so lost in life that he felt he had no other way out. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I just wish he could have found some help, like I did. But, too late. For Scott, the great test of life was turned in early, and the rest of us still have to struggle through all the joys and sorrows that come with it, constantly hoping we finish before our time is up.

And this is a test I intend to ace.

Scott’s death has grounded me, given me some more traction to make it through my own life, and maybe be better prepared to help others make it through theirs. This isn’t an experience I’d want anyone to go through, but at the same time—even while I’m grieving—I recognize that it’s enabled me to be a better person. Just like my sister’s abuse helped balance out my mother’s constant praise, keeping me from turning into a narcissist like her.

Whoever may be out there, going through hard times and wondering just what it’s all for, I hope you can take a step back and realize that even though it hurts—sometimes so much you can barely stand it—it’s helping you become better, in some way. You’re strong enough to make it through, and when you do, the sun will shine out all the clearer.

So, here I am, sitting in front of my computer, being oddly optimistic. Don’t worry. I already know I’m crazy. And cheesy. I get all my best lines off Hallmark cards, and I have a ridiculous flair for the dramatic. That’s okay, though. Life goes on.

Lessons Learned From A Haunted House

Ah, October! Season of so many things dark and horrific! Everything that is beautiful! The one holiday I adore! How it makes me reminisce, back to my younger days, working in a haunted house. And the things I have learned from it.

After transitioning high schools, adjustment was tough. I was friendless again, and trying not to make all the stupid mistakes I’d made in junior high. So, what was a poor girl to do? Be nice to everyone, rule number one. Second, try to join some clubs. Through my short-lived association with the drama club that year, I found out that the local haunted house needed actors. Well, having been a fan of suspense and horror for the last couple years, I was quick to fall for the idea.

Haunted House

Yes, the haunted house in question looked just like this.

At the meeting I was directed to, however, were not a bunch of drama geeks. Nah, these were the kids I’d always been afraid of—and admired a bit. The rebels. The goths and emos. And there I was, probably the only person not wearing black!

But I got in with ease, and devoured the cast manual. Though I failed in my first role as an asylum patient, I was given a new role within two weeks. Zombie.

And that was when I met her. My haunted house role model. A very short goth in her early twenties, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was the queen of that room, and we all appropriately worshiped her. Her motto, which I instantly absorbed? “Suck it up and deal with it.” Or, sometimes, “Go hard or go home.”

I only got to work with her a few weeks before my throat gave out and I had to be transferred to a quieter role, but those weeks formed my perception of my work at the haunted house. According to the owners, I became one of the best, most versatile actresses they had. I didn’t whine if I wasn’t given the role I wanted. And I did my best, every single night of every single season for five years. I got bruised, cut, groped, suffered allergic reactions, and lost my voice repeatedly. It didn’t matter. I sucked it up, and dealt with it. I emulated her take-no-crap attitude.

Since then, of course, I’ve learned. You can’t always suck it up and deal with it. Sometimes, you can’t give your all. But sometimes, you can. And when you do, you shine. Heck, you’re freaking made of moonbeams!

As to the other lesson in the plural title of this post, you know why I love horror, even though I’ve now got a pretty permanent fear of the dark? It’s looking that fear right in the face. Acknowledging it. I’m facing something that’s meant to scare me, and staring it down. Telling it that it can’t. Proving I’m stronger than that. Pushing back against my fear with everything I’ve got.

Beyond anything else, I think those were the most important lessons I learned in those five years.

I Am The (Anti)Hero

In the past, my two friends and I (best friend and sister) have known our roles. My beloved sister was the Hero—champion of justice, natural leader, Gryffindor. Our best friend, the Sidekick—the loyal Hufflepuff with all the best lines. And me, the Antihero—the brooding loner and pure Slytherin. Not that I had a problem with it. We all knew it was true.

And, in the craziest way, I clung to that identity. Antihero. Doing what’s right, either for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way. Free to leave the side of the Hero whenever I see fit. Cheerfully walking on the edge for the sake of keeping it interesting. After all, being a straight hero is boring.

Alas, how times change. The Hero took a fall.

And my three roommates (one of which is my original best friend, the other two of which have rapidly taken up similar places) have decided for a change of archetypes. One that does not include my sister. And this time, I have been voted the hero and leader.

This is what happens when all your roommates are not only nerds, but writers.

And I think I like it.

In so many profound ways, I need to rethink my life.

Christian Weirdness: Mormon vs. Catholic

Tonight, I took the opportunity to expand my Christian horizons by going to a Catholic mass.

Now, there are those among the Mormon church who believe Catholicism is the whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelations. That’s incorrect. The whore of Babylon is not necessarily a denomination, just a state of mind. Opposition to righteousness.

That in mind, I decided that I needed to stop just thinking Catholics were weird (besides wrong, of course), and that I was so much better than them, and actually try to understand. Besides, I’ve always found Catholicism somewhat interesting. Maybe because the majority of demonic possession movies have a Catholic background. Plus, the stained glass windows and cathedrals are beautiful.

So, tonight, I attended mass, dressed as I would for an LDS service—in a skirt. I was advised by the Internet that it was the only way to dress for Catholics as well. Imagine my surprise when people started showing up in jeans!

In the LDS chapel, we have hymn books out for the congregation. In this chapel, they had three song books and a missal and a book for you to follow along. I was having a hard time switching back and forth between them all.

LDS church is composed of three different meetings: Sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and the age- and gender-specific classes (Primary for children up to twelve, Priesthood for males over twelve, Young Women for girls twelve to eighteen, and Relief Society for women eighteen plus). A total of three hours, sitting down except when traveling from one to the other. Our Sacrament meeting is most like a standard church meeting, gathering in the chapel, taking the sacrament. It’s really a very simple organization. Opening hymn, opening prayer, ward business, sacrament hymn, sacrament, first speaker, second speaker, hymn or musical number, third speaker, closing hymn, closing prayer. Mass isn’t anywhere near that simple. I couldn’t keep track of all the prayers and hymns and things sung! Most of it was routine. And plus, there was so much sitting, standing, kneeling. Good way to stay awake, I guess. Bravo to Catholics for figuring that out! Maybe us Mormons could use a little more of that, and a little less of the classic elbow in the ribs.

To say I didn’t feel comfortable? An understatement. All in all, I found it too formulated, leaving too little room for revelation. See, Mormon’s don’t really use formulated prayers very often. Just for things like baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, and so on. I guess you could say our prayers are free verse. Reciting something like a prayer will never feel right to me. Also, I found a bit of it was really showy—more of the body than the mind and heart. Beyond that, I was depressed by the limited amount of scripture: just the Bible. I’m so used to the classic Mormon quad: The Bible, the Book of Mormon (testament of Christ in the Americas), the Pearl of Great Price (miscellaneous things, including the books of Moses and Abraham, and the Joseph Smith translations of the Bible), and the Doctrine and Covenants (establishment of the LDS church, and related revelations). To be cut down to one. . . is weird.

Now, I can’t tell you I felt the Spirit there. And I can’t say I didn’t. I’m not very spiritually sensitive. But the pastor did say some good things, and I had good notes to take.

After mass, I talked to the pastor long enough to give him my name and tell him I was Mormon. He made sure I felt welcome, and introduced me to another girl, who introduced me to basically everyone else. To be perfectly honest, I was overwhelmed by how included they made me—how nice everyone was. I’m a Utah Mormon. Here, Mormons can be nice, but they can also be very judgmental and cliquish, for lack of a better term. But I saw so little of that in the Catholics I met tonight. They invited me to an activity later in the week, and I think I might have to go. Because, honestly, in my own ward I haven’t ever felt so included.

My conclusions: Catholics are still weird. Their religion seems to be as steeped in tradition as Judaism. And, of course, I won’t ever believe the Catholics have it right. But they’re wonderful people—far better than I’ve been led to believe by Utah Mormons.