Performance Anxiety

I’m heading into week 4 now since school started.  This week was full of worry over my first assignment.  I lost sleep, felt nauseated and an overwhelming sense of doom.  Welcome to performance anxiety!

I know I can achieve the results that are necessary for my course, it is my self-doubt and concerns about letting my instructor down in my ability to deliver a finished image that plagues me.

Over the course of the last 48 hours, I have ruthlessly worked on several images as possible submissions.  I only need to provide one.  Prior to those 48 hours, I spent other countless hours practicing the technique and steps necessary in producing the image composite which is the requirement for this assignment.

I’m still not getting the steps down and am missing parts that require starting over and over.  Memory issues are really getting to me.  I’m trying hard not to let that get me down, yet it is difficult.

By practicing the same skill over and over again I’m hopeful that it will become muscle memory and I can move forward with some ease through the rest of the course which will continue to build on this past week’s lessons.

Apart from the worry of the assignment was the pushing myself to get outside and take the background images.  Forethought, planning, and direction of the sun all played an important element in this assignment; take 2 or more images combine them and make the final image look realistic.

I believe I did an acceptable job at what the assignment required, yet I’m not sure since my model is placed inside a house instead of in front of an object.  She is small in comparison to the whole photo, but a relationship in size was part of the project as well so it may be fine.   Her emotions show a believable situation, which I think an important part of the photo.

The image will be printed in class this week hopefully and I’ll be able to determine whether or not I’ve achieved success.  On screen, it looks well done.  We have not covered how to do shadows as of yet, so there is that element missing.  I have used my skills to the best of my abilities both within Photoshop and the actual lighting to create believable aspects in the photo.

Here’s hoping…


Feelings of “I’m not doing enough”

This week has been a week of changes and challenges, from becoming an official empty nester, to becoming a part-time student, and starting back at the camera club, the week has been an emotional roller coaster.

To cope with our daughter leaving for college this past Sunday, I cleaned non-stop for two days.   The house feels emotionally empty.  Everyone tells me I will get used to it and that the feelings of peace will come.   I think I must have texted her at least a hundred messages, but I’m doing better now at adjusting to her not being here.  It’s just the after school hour that has caught me off guard this week.  New routines are beginning for all of us.

Tuesday nights are now camera club.  I was eagerly anticipating getting back to the club, though my initial feelings were borderline at the end of June when we broke for the summer.  My anxiety was very bad back then.

The first meeting was great until competition came up.  I was excited, then feelings of humiliation flooded in as my image was projected on the huge screen.  There it was, a good photo with a stupid watermark on it.  It wouldn’t be so terrible but the announcer had to point it out and tell everyone that the image was disqualified.  I could feel the burning of shame on the skin of my ears.  I tried my best to let it roll off as one of those things, except I would have rather the image just been pulled and sent a note explaining why it wasn’t judged.  It didn’t help that later in the evening our vice-president tells me it’s happened to her before, but the club sent her a note that there was a problem and she was able to resubmit.  Why wasn’t I given that opportunity?

Instead, I tried to tell myself that my image showed members what not to do.  Look at the positive, not the negative I tell myself.  Now when exporting my images from my Lightroom I will be sure to uncheck the ‘add watermark’ feature.

Prior to the start of the club’s new year, I set up my journal for competitions.  It’s a small black book where I keep track of the images I submit.  What a bad start for this year.  Points are given out for each month.  This month with the disqualified image I feel like I’m already behind a HUGE black ball.  Never the less, I am pushing ahead.

CAPA, my other photography association begins in October, and I’m not sure I will be returning to it.  More competitions and stress.

Today, being Friday, I have to pick out my next two images for this month’s competition.  My anxiety is so high!  I feel nauseated just looking through the flood of images in my computer, trying to pick out just two.  The competitions are divided into two categories each month, with the rotation of Nature and Open plus a specific theme.  I will have to force myself to sit for a set period and choose my images.  It doesn’t feel fun at all.

On Wednesday, I started back to school.  I’m taking a single photo editing class.  I wasn’t nearly as anxious to get back into my studies… or so it seemed.

My first class went well.  I had no panic attacks, felt calm and relaxed.  I have a seat in the front off to the side where I feel comfortable.  I was able to focus without problems. Now the student mania has kicked in.

I spent the first afternoon doing my online portion of my class as expected without issue.  Taking the necessary notes, then writing out the ones from the morning class to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  You see all my material is Power Point delivered, so I rewrite the slides with my personal side notes from class.  I don’t learn well from just reading materials.

Now here comes the mania, because I don’t feel like I’ve done enough.  I must be missing something.  I type out all my notes into Google Docs with headers, proper indexing… everything must be consistent and perfect.  This isn’t so bad because if I leave my note book behind I have the notes readily available anywhere.  This is what I tell myself.  Simply though, it is my worried mind that won’t let me rest.  I feel like I’m not doing enough.

I have written out my schedule at least six times, checked the online D2L, the site that delivers our class materials more than I care to disclose.  I’ve written the instructor twice to check in on what I might be missing, to be assured that I’ll be just fine.

Thursday I purchased a $50 planner so I won’t miss anything.  ** Side rant – Michael’s why would anyone need two of these things.  Their deal was buying one get one.  I’d rather have been able to use your 50% off coupon for the purchase.  Think positive thoughts again… give the second one to my daughter who was looking at getting a planner for college.

Having both an online calendar and now this bulky calendar book, I feel like I’m still missing something.  WORRY… WORRY… WORRY.  Feelings of “I’m not doing enough.”  I am trying my best to take a break every once in awhile, but it is difficult.

I haven’t done anything else except school and planning.  No cleaning, no taking time for myself.

Now it’s Friday.  I have my meeting with the Accessibility office at the college to discuss my accommodations for class.  Extra time for assignments, the privilege to leave class for anxiety… and a few other ‘in case’ scenarios.  I really wanted to go school without this, but better safe than sorry as they say.  I just hate asking for the special care at times, wanting to be just like everyone else.

Trying to look forward to the week ahead and praying for a peaceful weekend.  I am doing the best I can… at least that’s what I am trying to tell to convince myself of tonight.


The scarecrow points the way

Much of my days I feel like I’m really living day to day.  I don’t talk much about the disassociation that is part of my mental health simply because many people don’t understand it, nor do they really want to have it explained to them.  For me looking back to any point in history, even yesterday, I seldom connect emotionally and frequently mentally to the events that took place.  It’s common in our house that I don’t remember things.  We’ve all lived this way for so long it’s just the way things are.

Over the past year, the disassociation has been more problematic than in my early years.  There was much more record keeping between parts, more co-consciousness happening and there were very clear indicators that a ‘switch’ had occurred.  Now my parts are very divided.  I struggle regularly with my purpose in life.

I feel like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz who is pointing the way to Oz… not being clear about anything and only wishing for a functional brain.  

If you were to look at my life from the outside you would think I had it all.  A wonderful family, a home, a comfortable life where I don’t have to work, I want for nothing… and yet depending on my mental state, I can see nothing but the bleakness of shallow feelings that I am not worthy of any of these things.  I look at all the things that others do as regular folks only wishing that my mental capabilities were put together enough that my days would be similar.  Instead, I am a quiet reclusive, with bouts of social interaction.  I cook, clean, do my photography, colour a lot and pass the day away with little more.

You see, it’s very difficult to be 48 when your mind is telling you are 6, 14, 19… a different place and time in existence, all the while coping with present day living.  I have parts that twist my peaceful living into a hellish thought.  Unrelenting horrible nightmares of past abuse, tormented voices with no sound or action rip through my mind welding their own presence silently.  I make a ‘switch’ without even knowing it.  I just wake up that way.  I take what is given to me.

I get no notice that a ‘switch’ is coming like I used to.  I miss my old journals, they had the road map to my consciousness, now I am on a journey that leads me into an abyss most days.  I struggle to close out the negative, to push through childlike and teen emotions, praying that I just do the right thing on any given day.

There are times I internally hear a different name than my own, which is when I know I’ve made a defined ‘switch’.  It’s very difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t undergone such a transformation.  I will always answer to my common name, though it has changed slightly, now I sign everything with my middle name included.  It just seems more me.  I am evolving… that is what the therapist said is the cure.

The term integration is often used in treatment.  I suppose I’m pre-integration.  There seems to be much less of my previous alters… disappeared for whatever reason.  I don’t even remember their names or when they left.  Today, there is a few very distinct interactive alters.  I choose not to call them by name out loud, but I hear their names inside the internal conversations.  The wants and wishes to be addressed by their own separateness…I refuse to offer that connection.  It is my one and only control that I have to keep my outside appearance the same.  I am me… they are me… we are one, even when separated.


I am thankful to a special phycologist {The Ice Pick} who accepted the diagnosis in my late 20’s and worked with me for eight long years.  I wish I could speak with her now, unfortunately, she retired and we lost contact with each other.

Dog therapy

I have always loved having a dog in my home.  We have one now.  Our sweet Maggie.  She’s a sweet little breed, but alas not social at the least, so taking her to the dog park is out of the question.  She may be small, but she is full of fear aggression making it challenging and dangerous to take into confined areas where other dogs are all excited.

This week I’ve pushed myself out of the house two days in a row.  I have my trusty camera with me (the security blanket).  I visit our local dog park and take photos of the dogs.  The few owners that strike up a conversation provides me a way to connect to new people with similar interests.  Since starting my photography project, “It’s a Dog’s Life” some of the owners have come from the Facebook group that one of the parks lead.

It’s been wonderful therapy!  I get a lot of dog kisses and cuddles which I thoroughly enjoy.


I am thankful to those around me and their patience as I struggle some days just to make the simplest of things work.  Take for instance the electronic can opener.  This device was the surge to my self-confidence when we first got it.  I cursed the damn thing as it seemed impossible to line up the lid to the cutter.  Given time though, I have gotten it to work.

Days when things are going all wrong though, I and the can opener battle again.  Instead of becoming frustrated to tears I ask for help.  Those around me know I’m capable… hell I know I’m capable too, but instead of fighting against something that obviously is distressing me I ask for help.  It seems such a small thing, the can opener, I mean, but it goes much deeper.

I’ve always had a hard time asking for help when I need it.  To allow myself the compassion that I would give someone else who was struggling is a HUGE step in the right direction.  There are still days when I’ll push people away though.  My pride gets in the way, or worse, I just break down.

My gratitude thought extends to all those who help me get through my toughest of days, but also stand by my side on the brighter ones too.


A pretty dress and smile

I haven’t given up the great pretender in a sense.  I find if I stick to my daily routine of bathing, make-up and getting dressed like I was going out somewhere, my mood is better.  I feel somewhat better about myself, but there is a lingering of is there more to me?  It’s great to look pretty and be able to take care of the house and such, but I long to be less anxious.

I am still having great difficulties maintaining a ‘normal’ outside life.  I desperately want to do some volunteer work in an office, or meeting and greeting people to help them.  Yet my challenges wear me down and I stop.

In the past few weeks, I have been struggling more and more even with the new drug Abilify.  My agoraphobia of going into different places is rising.  I’ve pushed myself to exhausting days just to follow through on commitments with my, It’s a dog’s life photo project, yet there are days I’m just not capable of driving so I have to rebook.

It is embarrassing, so I’ll be honest and stretch the truth a bit… I’m not feeling well.  It’s not a long stretch, but it feels like a lie.  I’m not physically sick to be contagious or anything, yet here I stay within the comforts of my home, looking out at the world wanting more in life.

I know people can’t see the anxiety, the depression or the tension when I go out.  I’ve become a clock watcher again, which tells me things are getting worse.  I count out the minutes, record my activities, plan my activities to the minute and if even 2 minutes goes out of sync, I mentally loose it.  This is no life… it’s an existence.

I journal to keep focused on what I’m doing well at, otherwise, I would be beating myself up each day.

Here’s what I am good at.

  • I can go out early in the day to do shopping for myself without going manic or panicking.  I chatter a lot to myself to stay calm in these situations and I do fidget a lot, but I make it through about one hour out alone.
  • I managed to visit both government offices to get my legal documents arranged to apply for my passport.  Each required multiple visits.  The first one I was nearly in tears, but I held it together.
  • I can support my friends when they need me now, without becoming their rescuer.
  • I can accept that there are days that the physical pain is too much and I need to rest.
  • I make a damn good housewife!  That’s a job.
  • I am making progress with my book-work on the family business.  I’m slow but progressing.  That’s a job.
  • I am a good photographer.  This used to be a job, but now a hobby.  This is beneficial to me.
  • I LOVE my family and would do anything I can for them.
  • Most days I can accept the limits I have.
  • I can still give a genuine smile and laugh through the worst days. — it’s tough, but I can do it with the right people.



I am grateful for each day I get to live my life.  Not everyone is so fortunate to have circumstances such as mine.  I am blessed with a loving, nurturing husband who has come a long way in helping me deal with this disease.  We have had our struggles, but somehow we have come out stronger with less.


A little garden grows

A warm weather hobby of mine is gardening.  I have tended to move towards more natural native plants which attract, feed, and provide hosting of eggs for butterflies.  This means leaving some of the weeds, which can be beautiful.

I like to call my backyard my outdoor serenity, even though there is no privacy to speak of.  We live in between a 5 unit townhouse complex, their backyards face our yard, and a 3-story walk up apartment.  Our yard is chain link fencing.

I have learned to overlook the prying eyes and noise of the neighbors.  Instead I tend to my gardens, enjoying the birds and other wildlife that come to visit as a result of my hard work.

In a way, I suppose I am like that little garden.  I tend to myself, trying hard everyday to keep my focus on the quietness of the days when I function better..  The weeds, or bad days, have their beauty too.  Not as pretty, but just as beneficial, in that without them I would forget how comforting the good days can be.

Lately my days have been better, though still difficult to manage.  I find my mind wondering a lot into dark places rooted in negativity, despair and full of “will it ever be better than this”.  These are my dark horses.  Grazers of my quiet garden, constantly with me.  I try not to feed them, yet they nibble on my precious vulnerability.  Most days they take a bite here and there, then leave me alone.  I repair the patches only to move on forward knowing it is a repeating cycle to my daily life.  

This is most likely the best description I can give to my life.  This is my little garden.

Don’t cry

Don’t cry for me.  Don’t stand over my grave only to feel regret.  I’m gone.

I’m gone for good.  Your tears are being wasted on empty feelings of guilty emotions, on sadness or on better intentions that never transpired.  I am gone and I can’t feel anymore.

Save your stories now.  I can’t hear them.  My ears are listening no more.

Take back your promises.  They can’t come true now.  Your days of me waiting have run out of time.

I’m gone.  Alone in the darkness, fallen into a place where no one can reach me.

Tomorrow you’ll wake up, the world will be the same.

When we spoke about my dreams, my aspirations or desires it was clear they were out of reach, so I gave up on them.  Seeing that I had become all I will ever be, reduced me to being, less fulfilled, less happy, less of me every day that passed.  I am gone.

Slowly I disappeared.  Those who knew my story said I was strong.  They were wrong.  I was a great pretender!  Behind closed doors, in quiet hours I fell apart.  My heart ached for a life I couldn’t attain.  I let myself believe my doubts, realizing that dreams can become nightmares and that nightmares can become your living waking dream.

I am gone.

I don’t know where I went, or when.  The darkness fades quickly.  I reached out every once in awhile to others.  The feelings of hope tingled on my soul, promising brighter days ahead.  Just another crushing expectation that anything would be different.  Everything just stays the same.

I am gone.

I am tired of the pretense.  I am done with trying to be the girl who is less needy.  I am expired of this life.

Do not cry over my grave.  I will not hear you.  I will not feel you.  You haven’t been there for me, and I can’t be there for you now.  You are on your own.  I’ve been on my own for much longer it seems, far beyond today.

I reached out.  I tried to talk. It was always about me, or so you said.  In jest or joke, it doesn’t matter.  What I heard was ‘I didn’t matter’.  I was selfish.  I should be quiet, keep my dreams, my emotions in check and only be the pleasant one.  The one who blends into the background, putting others before myself.   Drown out my own pain through whatever means.

From quiet childhood, where no one saw me, I am that as an adult now.  Quiet, gone and still…

Don’t cry for me.  I’m no one special.

{not a suicide note… just the way I feel tonight} 

I am tired of everyone blaming my depression on the way life is around me, or describing me, or how it has changed everything.  I am still me.  I have always been me, but I’m constantly changing to make things better for everyone else it seems.  I have changed.  Everyone does.  It’s not fair to blame me though for life not being what you thought it should/could have been.

I miss the times when I could just be me, without worries of what others thought.  Of days of joyful bliss, of sunshine and being happy with who I was.  This is why I love to sit alone in the sunshine.  It’s quiet, peaceful and I can feel the warmth on my skin.  A place and time where I can be just me.  No one is asking anything of me.

Now life is easier when I stick to the three mains in my life.. stay quiet, be dutiful and be there for everyone when they need me.  I often think of the what if I wasn’t here. Would it really make that big of a difference to those who are in my life?  I feel like my depression is blamed for everything.  Well, I am sorry to have this disease called, depression!  I can’t just turn it on / off.  No one takes responsibilty for their actions towards me.  I don’t get respect, even when I ask for it.  If I had another disease would I be treated the same?

When I’m down, I can’t do as much.  Maybe that’s when others can do more instead of letting things become even more chaotic.  I try my best every day to take care of those around me, sometimes to the point of making myself even more sick.  Then it just spirals from there, falling back onto my shoulders to pick up the pieces anyway.

I’ve talked, and talked and talked even more.. but no one listens.  I try to explain what I need but after a while, everything falls on deaf ears.  It seems to be regurgitated knowledge that never seems to be kept.  I am quiet now… I feel like I may as well be gone.  I am ghost anyway.  You only see me when you need to.