Scars — **Trigger Warning : Self-harm, cutting, suicide**

**Trigger warning: Self-harm, cutting, suicide.**

scars1

Scars.

Everyone has them.

The one above your eyebrow from when you walked into the coffee table, age 2. The one on your knee from when you skidded across the gravel-laden driveway on your way to the perfect street hockey save, age 13. The one on your heart from the first boy who broke it, age 17.

Some people say scars give you character; others, that they give you lessons.

I think scars are whatever you make of them. But some are a little harder to live with than others.

I have my fair share of scars. The knee one from above is one of mine; still have some of the gravel embedded in that m-effer to prove how dedicated I was to the save. I have one on my lip from a baseball injury. I have a few from practicing karate.

I have more than a few on my hands and wrists and arms and thighs that I don’t ever want to talk about.

The thing about self-harm is that it is really misunderstood. It is vastly and horrifyingly misclassified over and over again. And along with leaving scars, it leaves a sense of overwhelming shame that doesn’t ever go away.

I’m breaking my silence today and it scares the shit out of me. Bear with me, please.

My scars stare up at me every day. As I type, the crescent moon patterns on the meaty part of my right hand wink at me like eyes with a dirty secret. My hands know how deep the pain goes. They know so well because I’ve bled the pain out of them.

This is my favorite Stephen King quote. So damn true.

This is my favorite Stephen King quote. So damn true.

I have fake stories for all of them, ingrained in my memory to save me from the awkward pause as I try to think of an excuse. Part of me hates myself for the lies. But what other choice do I even have?

“Oh, that? Yeah … totally scratched myself until I bled.”

*cue awkward silence*

I vacillate between wanting to educate people and needing to hide. Even as I write this, I’m cringing at the spotlight I’m shining on myself with these words.

When you talk about cutting, there are a lot of gut reactions. People do it for attention. People do it because they are suicidal. It’s a fad. It’s fake. They’re just crazy.

There is very little empathy or compassion in the general public for cutters. It is a misunderstood side-effect of depression and anxiety. Lots of people talk about cutting, but very few people actually understand what it is.

And it’s not surprising. There are a glut of romanticized images of cutting out there. If you go on Tumblr or Pinterest you can find thousands of images of delicate wrists bleeding, of intricate white lines up and down an arm. They’re triggering and they only show either the act or the consequence. They don’t deal with the cause or what leads a person to cut. And they certainly don’t deal with the aftermath.

I think that is really dangerous.

Like any mental health issue, self-harm is unique in each person. I can only talk for myself here. I don’t cut because I want to die. Or to get noticed. On the contrary, I hide those scars from everyone.

myself

I cut because I cannot take the internal pain anymore. Because the inner hurt is so great, so unbearable, that it needs a physical outlet.

The internal scars that lead to a cutting episode are so much more pervasive than any scars I have on the outside. And that is what is so hard to explain. I ache inside for so long. I push it down and let it build until the black, smoking pile of hurt takes up almost all of me. I feel like I might burst from being full of pain.

And it comes out at the worst times. It’s not A + B + C = D. It rarely ever happens at the moment of pain.

Have you ever read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? It’s a kids’ book where the entire alphabet piles on top of the poor coconut tree until it literally bends in half from all of the weight. It’s kind of like that. An entire alphabet of circumstances pile on top of me until I break from the pressure. The cuts are the fissures in my brokenness.

I guess that sounds a little romanticized. I assure you there is nothing romantic about locking yourself in a bathroom and digging your nails into your own skin so that you no longer feel like you’ll explode from the pressure. There’s nothing romantic about watching yourself bleed and knowing that you did it to yourself. There’s nothing romantic about looking down at scabs that bleed again and again and knowing that they will scar and knowing that you fucking did it again.

There’s nothing romantic about it; it’s just sad and painful and full of personal shame.

I’ve been self-harm clean for over six months now. I wish I could tell you that it is getting easier, that I’ve found something else to release the pressure and get me through those tough times. I wish I could tell you that, but I don’t like lying.

The thought is there in the back of my head all the time. I sometimes have to use all of my energy to fight that impetus to excise my pain. There are times when the scars help: I see them and I remember “no more.” There are times when they call out like a siren tempting me to let it out again. Because it’s so easy in that moment to think that cutting will ease the pain. I have to tell myself on loop that it isn’t that simple.

my reminder ring: I am enough

my reminder ring: I am enough

I have a few talismans that help. The first one is this aluminum ring I wear on my left thumb. It wraps around just tight enough that it leaves a ring indent, but not so tight that it is uncomfortable. When things get bad, I look down at it and read the fading inscription on it: “I am enough.” I can turn it around on my thumb and feel the metal move against my skin. All of that helps.

There are other things that sometimes help, but my biggest talisman is actually hidden from most people’s view. In August, I got my largest tattoo finished. It takes up my entire right side, from just below my breast all the way to my hip. It’s a gorgeous color piece of a phoenix rising from its own ashes and bursting into a bright explosion. In the swirling smoke, the words “Still I Rise” are written.

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You can’t get a more poignant reminder that you need to rise above the hurt than looking at almost nine hours’ worth of intricate artwork forever etched on your side. The bumps of the line work have long since faded, but I still often run my finger over the area and remember. There was a ton a pain involved in getting that ink. It covers my ribs and the very sensitive side area; not an area I would recommend getting inked unless you were really committed to having artwork there.

I knew exactly what I was getting into pain-wise when I chose it, but that was where I pictured my phoenix rising. The time it took to get it and the recovery from it were really hard, but that image is always with me now. I look at it before and after every shower, every time I get changed … I see the words and I remember. Still, I rise. I can do this.

It’s the most powerful reminder I have and I’m grateful that I was able to do that for myself.

Posting about this subject is really difficult for me. Thinking about it and ruminating over how to talk about it puts cutting foremost in my mind. I know that isn’t great for me. It makes staying clean harder. But … I can do it.

My other, and perhaps worst, fear is that something I say may trigger others. It is really, really hard to be in a situation where self-harm is part of your self-care. It is twisted and seems so foreign to those who do not engage in it, but for many cutters, it is actually a way we care for ourselves when the pain gets too much. If you find yourself hurting yourself in any way (cutting, scratching, hair pulling, hitting….), please, talk to a good therapist.

It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I found it hard to admit my habits, even to a therapist. But when I did and I wasn’t met with disdain or anger or misunderstanding, I began to forgive myself.

enough

I really believe that forgiving yourself for the impulse is half the battle in getting better. Letting go of some of the shame I feel for my impulses has helped me stay clean. I no longer have that huge, dark cloud hanging over me. Or, at least, not as prominent. It’s still there, but it’s dissipating.

Talk to a therapist. Confide in a trusted friend. Find someone you can call at any time and say, “I’m in danger.” They’ll know what you mean by that and they’ll show you the compassion you maybe can’t show yourself.

Compassion, my friends, is where the healing needs to begin. Compassion for yourself, for your pain, for the impulses that you try to control but cannot always fight. Compassion.

Try it with me.

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Ringing in the New Year

Happy 2015!

Seems crazy that it is already a new year. So much has happened this year. The family and I traveled to Disney World at the beginning of last year. My youngest started Kindergarten. I tested for my black belt. My oldest delivered her first in-class science presentation and nailed it. I started a little blog called Serotonin Junkie….

It really was magical. ;)

It really was magical. 😉

And here we are: ringing in 2015 on that little blog.

2014 wasn’t always the sweetest year. There were a lot of times that kind of sucked, actually. But all in all, I look back with happiness at a year of accomplishments and hard work.

Probably the hardest thing I did this year wasn’t on the karate mat. It wasn’t that four hour black belt test. It was starting this blog and coming “out” to family and friends about the struggles I’ve faced in dealing with depression and anxiety. It’s been a bumpy road, but I haven’t regretted one moment of it.

this is hard for a lot of people. but it is very true. i am the same person.

this is hard for a lot of people. but it is very true. i am the same person.

I started this blog right around the time of Robin Williams’ unfortunate suicide because I found that I had a lot to say about mental health. I’m not a mental health professional; I just have a lot to say about my own battle with mental illness and how the stigma surrounding it has affected me.

Apparently, what I have to say makes a tiny bit of difference. This blog receives more traffic than I ever envisioned and for that I am profoundly grateful. I never expected more than a couple of people to stop by. But now that I’ve connected with people from around the world, I realize that I want this little blog to succeed. I enjoy reaching out to people, hearing their stories, and sharing their struggles with them. It gives this often difficult journey a purpose and meaning that I find exhilarating.

So, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to post here every three to four days. I wrote up a calendar for January, complete with blog titles for the month. I also sent the calendar to my best friend and asked her to ride my ass to make sure I stick to it. And stick to it I shall, with her keeping me honest.

So what do you want from this new year? Either from me, here on the blog, or out of life in general? Any good goals or dreams you want to share? Any hopes for your year, either mental health wise or other? Feel free to share here in the comments or on Facebook if you so choose.

See you soon and many thanks for taking this journey with me.

no, but we are. seriously. we. are. fabulous.

no, but we are. seriously. we. are. fabulous.

Airing Out the Bunker

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I realize that is stating the painfully obvious, but I want to acknowledge my absence. I could blow it off on mundane crap and say that I was too busy, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t make time amid the crap to sit down and write. And I have paid the price.

I sat down yesterday and tried to just breathe. My therapist right now is really into mindfulness exercises, and truly, they work well for stopping a panic attack in its track. That said I suck at doing them on my own. Especially when I look around and it seems like the whole of humanity’s shit is piling up around me. Instead, I girder myself inside a bunker, wait for the shitstorm to pass, and inevitably focus on all of the bad things.

... again.

… again.

There is something broken or in need of fixing in every part of my life. Literally everywhere I look, I see something that needs attention or fixing or healing. When I sat down to do my mindfulness exercise, I minded my way right into a full on panic attack. Go me!

The point of this veritable pity party is that I need to draw a line somewhere. I cannot let this get to me the way it has. I’ve been moping, wrapped up in the thoughts of what is going wrong and where I am failing, unable to see anything positive. There are rays of light, for sure. But for the most part, I haven’t let them touch me. And I am worse for that.

Perhaps the mindfulness exercises are working better than I give them credit for because I can see now that it’s a choice. I’m choosing to wallow in the impossibility of my current situation instead of letting the light shine through. Instead of valuing the things that go right. I may not be able to will myself out of a deep depression, but I can choose to open up a freaking window in my bunker and let in the air.

So, that is what I’m doing. Airing out the bunker a bit. Things may in fact be fucked up all around me. There may be more to fix than I am humanly capable of handling at this point, but that doesn’t mean that I am without hope. It doesn’t mean that I have to sit in a cold room wrapped in the thoughts of what is wrong. I can take my own advice and let small victories lift me up.

 

So … Good news: My mom, who had major surgery on Monday is now home and resting comfortably. Though she’s going to need more PT and recovery time than we anticipated, the surgery itself was a success. She’s in less pain now and on her way to recovering fully.

More good news: I opened an Etsy shop offering cross stitch patterns and hand stitched items just in time for the holidays. It allowed me to take something that was just a little hobby and make a bit of money from it. And since it’s my shop, I can be as irreverent as I want to be. For instance, I can sell bookmarks that are lacy and delicate and read “bookwhore.” Because I want to and I think even lacy, delicate people should be allowed to love the dirty words. You feel me, I know you do.

Even more good news: I was nominated for a blog award! Despite my absence! I will be adding a post on Monday describing the blog award and nominating some other blogs that I would recommend to my followers.

It feels fresher and brighter in here already. Little bit of air, little bit of sunshine … it clears the bunker right up, doesn’t it? When I’m in a rough patch, I often find it very difficult to breathe and accept any good. It’s so much easier to focus on the negative and let that stack of bad grow to monstrous proportions. I’m not negating the bad stuff. I’m not saying I should just blithely ignore the problems. But I do need to work on ways to refocus myself. I have friends and a therapist who can help me with that, but honestly? This is something I need to work on for myself. I’m not always going to have someone around who can refocus me and help me breathe.

What do you do when the bad stacks up and looms over you like the big, bad wolf threatening to blow down the walls of your safe space? Does meditation work for you or do you prefer heavy metal blaring in your headphones while you work out? I often prefer the latter, but have lately been unable to work out due to some health issues. It sucks. But, in keeping with allowing in the light, I’m also getting a great chance to heal. <~~~ Look at me all Zen and shit.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

If you’d like to share your secrets, please feel free to share them in the comments. I think this is a problem many who suffer from mental illness face on a regular basis. I’d love to have a conversation about what we can do individually to combat the problem. I will see you soon with my next blog post. Feel free to poke and prod me if I leave you hanging for too long. The bunker can sometimes suck you back in if you’re not careful.

Reaching Out and Being the Light

So someone you love has a mental health diagnosis. They are struggling. They may or may not have reached out to you for help. You want to help. Now what?

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

I think one of the most important things that family and friends of those with mental illness need to do is be honest with themselves. Dealing with a mental illness is hard; no one knows this more than those who suffer with it. Being the “go to” person for someone who suffers can be just as draining as dealing with the actual disease. That is why it is so important to be honest with yourself and your loved one about what you can handle.

Support can come in many forms: an ear to listen without judgment, a shoulder to cry on, the extra push someone needs to attend therapy, tough love when it comes to taking meds… We need all of that at different stages in our illness. But dealing with all of that can be exhausting and overwhelming and you might need to take a step back for your own mental health. How you step back can make or break your loved one, so I’m going to talk a little bit about that here.

When someone you love is in the midst of a crisis, obviously you want to be at your best. Completely on top of your game and there for them 24/7. The reality of crisis is that it doesn’t know timetables. My crisis might come at the same time that your youngest starts teething, your dog starts vomiting, and your car gets rear-ended. You’re stretched to the limits, but I need you. What do you do?

Your first instinct might be to hide all of the other shit and try to be on for me. It’s a noble act. But it can’t last, can it? We are not made of elastic and we can break if we try to stretch ourselves too thin. The best you can sometimes do for a friend in need is to tell them the truth: this is my life right now. These are my challenges. Tell me what you need most and I will do my best to cover that need.

I’ve struggled tremendously through my battle with depression and anxiety. I love the people who walk by my side, but I have never expected them to go down with my sinking ship. I would much rather honesty from them than to watch them slowly burn out as they try to be my everything.

So what else can you do? Your friend is cutting. You notice they’re not sleeping. Or you notice sleeping is all they do. What can you do?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don't be this chick, mmmmkay?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don’t be this chick, mmmmkay?

Ask.

They’ll probably lie.

Ask again.

And again.

I do not mean bombard them with a Spanish Inquisition style interrogation. I mean remind them of your love and of your acceptance. And ask them what they need. Ask what they are missing. Ask how you can love them better.

It might not happen right away. It might not happen in a week. But if you can prove to your friend that you will not judge them, the gift of trust is immeasurable.

depression_helpfriend

Below are some resources for talking to a loved one about mental health issues. If you truly believe that someone you love is suicidal however, the time for gentle prodding is over. Call the suicide prevention hotline listed below and talk to one of the counselors immediately. They can give you the words you need to give your friend help. They can help you save a life.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)

How to talk to a friend who is depressed: http://www.wikihow.com/Help-a-Friend-with-Depression

Talking with a friend or family member: https://www.lundbeck.com/upload/ie/files/pdf/leaflets/How_to_say-lean_on_me.pdf

Specifically for younger readers: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/help-someone-you-know/supporting-a-friend

Shining a Light on My Truth

This is a special week: Mental Illness Awareness Week. While I have some issues with including “Illness” in the name instead of “Health,” I think this is one truly important week. And I am honoring this week with daily blog posts, guest writers, and lots of real talk. It’s time to speak the truth, my truth, and not be afraid of the stigma. I hope you join me.

stephen_fry_on_mental_illness___by_rationalhub-d5ebmuz

Today as we kick off the week, I want to answer a really important question: What IS Mental Illness. It’s not an easy question, and so I’m going to start with defining what is NOT Mental Illness.

  • Mental Illness is not the result of personal weakness.
  • It is not the product of poor character or dodgy upbringing.
  • Mental Illness is not a bad day or even a bad week.
  • It is not crying for no reason once in a while.
  • It is not an isolation sentence.
  • It is definitely not a death sentence.

Those “nots”? Those are characteristic of the stigma that surrounds Mental Illness. Those of us who suffer from invisible illnesses, like Mental Illness, bear the burden of that stigma daily. It’s why we are often silent. It’s why we shy away from telling people we see a therapist, or take medicine, or cut, or have suicidal thoughts. People hear those things and assume SO MUCH. Giving up on assuming is the first step in truly helping your friend or lover with their struggles.

Mental Illness is unique for every sufferer. There are endless combinations of diagnoses that someone can hold and every diagnosis manifests itself somewhat differently for each person. I can only talk about my own illness, but for once I am going to be painfully honest. Here goes nothing.

I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Syndrome with Acute Panic Disorder and mild Agoraphobia. And I am a cutter. Big words, those. Basically, I struggle daily with every blasted thing I need to do. It’s hard to get up sometimes. It’s really hard to be in a crowd. It’s hard to settle my own mind and stop it from racing. It’s just hard. And sometimes, when I can’t take it anymore, I physically hurt myself in a twisted attempt to make the invisible pain stop.

surviving

Outside factors absolutely weigh on my mental health issues. When my kids are sick, when I argue with anyone, when things don’t go as planned…. I suffer. These are issues that medicine helps, but cannot control completely. We all want a magic pill that we swallow and become normal. It’s a pipe dream and it is discouraging to know that we can’t have that.

A depressive episode or a panic attack is not something I can snap out of at will. Adding pressure to act normal only exacerbates the issues in someone who is suffering. When I am told to get over it, to fake it till I make it, to just deal…. Immediately I’m filled with a sense of overwhelming disgrace. I’ve let someone I care about down. I’ve burdened them. I need to try harder.

The fact of the matter is this: I can only hide for so long. I can only fake it for so long before I burn out and crash even harder than before. It’s at those times that I am most at risk of cutting. It’s really not easy to admit that I do this. SO many people look at cutting like an emo fad. That people who cut are just looking for attention. Time for a little bit of honesty. Are you ready?

So fucking what if that teenage girl with cuts all up and down her arm is doing it to get attention? Imagine the deficit of attention she must be feeling in order to slice her own skin to get you to notice her pain. When you hurt so bad that you take a razor, or a needle, or your own nails to yourself in order to escape the pain, you are in terrible shape. The last thing you need is judgment. But that is so often what we receive. Harsh judgment. Derisive laughter. Painful sarcasm. Easy answers that mean nothing. And people who think you’re going to kill yourself.

I don’t cut because I want to die. I cut because I hurt so bad that I need an escape. It is twisted to a normal brain, but the reality is that cutting helps diffuse the inner turmoil for just a second. And then the guilt piles on and it is even worse than before. But for a moment, the cutting helps. It is an attempt to care for myself in the most unnatural way possible. And I have scars on my body now that remind me daily of that pain. Harsh reminders of why I need therapy and good friends and a daily cocktail of meds to keep me stable.

rough days

I haven’t cut in four months. I’m damn proud of that, but it has been really hard. There are days when every moment requires concentration NOT to scratch at my own skin. I’ll finger my scars. I’ll text my friends. I’ll keep my hands busy with cross stitch. ANYTHING to keep from allowing myself the opportunity to slip up. With counseling and a lot of vigilance from a good friend, I remain self-harm free. For now.

But the monster is always there waiting. And frankly, it’s terrifying.

Tomorrow, I’ll explore ways friends and family can support those with mental health issues in a healthy way. If there are any topics you feel should be touched on, please let me know here or privately via email. I’ll do my best.

Writing Out my Demons

I told you that the beginning of school years were a bitch. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of deadlines, doctors’ appointments, paperwork, and obligations. Balancing all of that crap has been overwhelming and for a while, I didn’t know if I could juggle it all. I can and I feel as though I’m headed toward an even keel. I’ve decided to celebrate by writing, my favorite thing to do!

image (8)

One of my four tatts. Maybe someday soon I’ll share all of my ink on here….

I have a tattoo on my left arm of a feathered pen. Around my wrist are the words “Writing out my demons.” I got that tattoo when I finished my first book (unpublished and likely to stay that way. It’s a great story, but it’s not saleable. I’ve made my peace with that and there will be other books). Those words sum up my experience with writing and depression. At times, I need someone standing over top of me, holding my head in place and forcing me to write each word until I’m in a better place.

Starting this blog was a huge step for me. While I adore writing, my forte is in making up stories. I spin tales of fantasy and horror that emerge from the ether of my subconscious, spawn characters from the depths of my dreams. And I’m not going to lie; a lot of that comes from the pain of depression and anxiety. Many of my stories were born from a panic attack or a night terror. It’s therapeutic to write about fantastical horror to ease the real horror of suffering from these illnesses.

It’s not as easy to hold a mirror up to myself, take a snapshot, and then show the world. This has been hard. Posting things that I usually only share with my closest friends and knowing that anyone who wants to can access them has been …. well, it’s been a bit surreal. At first, I panicked every time I posted, afraid that I would be judged, that people would look at me different or treat me different.

I still have moments like that. When things get bad, as they did over the past two weeks, I can grind myself into complete inaction. I was unable to write a single word without worrying what the world might think.

The experience of sharing my stories, though, has been completely positive. So many people, people that I never would have told about my struggles, have told me that the blog has helped them. Hearing that they both understand and can relate has been extremely beneficial for me. And realizing that they don’t judge me for my demons? Well, that has been eye-opening as well.

hiding

I think all of us who suffer with depression and anxiety worry that people will judge us for our illnesses. I know that for myself, I worry that people will only see the illness and miss the rest of me. I work very hard at that mask I put on for the world. Though it hides me and gives me the comfort of putting up a wall between myself and the rest of the world, it really isn’t designed for my comfort. The mask is designed to protect those around me from what I go through every day.

Opening up and letting all of my readers see inside has been difficult, not just because my wall is gone but also because there are now so many people on the inside. So many people look at me after reading these blogs and know that I’m struggling. I worry constantly that they are going to feel like they need to take care of me. Or treat me differently. Or stay away. I struggle with that constantly.

It’s been nice, though, to know that reality is so much different from my worst fears. People in my life who are now reading the blog are learning so much about depression and anxiety. And in learning, they are not distancing themselves from me or treating me any different. For the most part, people have been truly excited to learn. A surprising number have also come forward and said, “me too.”

I started this blog on a whim, realizing after Robin Williams’ death that I had a lot to say about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. I never expected it to be “big,” nor did I expect that I would want it to be “big.” The truth is, it hapurposes become extremely important to me and I do want that. I like reaching new people and knowing that my words have touched them. I like knowing that my struggle means something, in a bigger way than just getting through the day. I like helping people. And if I’m able to do that with my words, with writing which brings me so much pleasure, all the better.

Thank you for taking this journey with me and holding my virtual hand as I take these first shaky steps at opening up. It’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you and I hope that we can continue to open up together.

This Overload

I have a confession to make: while I absolutely love humanity, I really don’t like people very much.

people

That probably makes me sound like a bitch. The truth is that I find people really exhausting most of the time. They expect so much from you. They expect a smile and small talk. I don’t always feel like smiling and small talk makes me want to gouge my eyes out. It’s not people, really, I guess. It’s the social expectations that go along with being in a group of people.

That said, I’ll take a lazy day with my people any day. Give me quiet on a sunny day with one or two of my best friends and we’ll dissect the world together. Or make inappropriate jokes all day long. It could go either way and that’s just fine by me.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t really allow you to walk around in a bubble of only the people you choose. Well, I guess you can if you’re a hermit or you invest in one of those bubble soccer get-ups (Seriously, have you seen those? They are amaze-balls and I totally need to play that game. Anyway….). For the rest of us, you can’t cocoon yourself away from the world and still function.

Bubble Soccer. AMAZING, right?

I’m facing a few weeks of having to be “on” a lot. Like, a lot a lot. My youngest just started kindergarten, my oldest is in third grade and a social butterfly, and this is the week of back to school activities. Or as I like to call it, Introvert Parent Hell. There’s the Kindergarten meet and greet where they have fun activities for the kids and the parents get to schmooze (read: small talk). There’s back to school night where you walk around a crowded school and cram into children’s desks with thirty other parents to listen to the teacher talk and schmooze some more. And then the week is capped off with the back to school picnic. More schmoozing.

It’s not so much that I don’t want to be involved in my children’s school life. I do. I just wish I could do so from my house without all of that schmoozing. There’s no way to be in a big group of people without having to small talk your way around. Unless, of course, you sit in a corner and just stare at people. Believe me when I say this: it is tempting.

Being “on” for me means smiling and faking small talk with a bunch of random strangers. The truth is, I enjoy learning about people’s lives and talking to them about meaningful subjects. I love exploring what makes people tick. But how often do you get past the weather and how picky an eater your child is when you’re in a group of four or more people? Rarely, if ever.

There’s nothing I can really do to change this. Interactions with strangers will always be superficial at best. Even if I run into a like-minded individual, it’s rare that we get past the pleasantries. See, most people like me are also hesitant to push too much because so many people find our probing questions intrusive and weird. It takes time to get to the level where we’re comfortable and large groups don’t provide that kind of time.

So I’ll be spending the week outside of my comfort zone. That can go one of two ways for me. If I’m smart,social hangover I’ll take time for myself to decompress before and after each event. And I won’t get so overwhelmed that the week’s events pile on top of me like a herd of angry elephants. If I’m not smart, well … angry elephants are assholes.

I’m already thinking of ways that I can decompress somehow. Time with a friend in the middle of week, maybe. Or coffee and writing by myself one morning. Just something to balance out all of those people with all of their demands. I’ll get through it. Won’t be the first or last time, I can assure of that. What are your strategies for getting through rough patches? Do you have coping methods that work for you? I’d love to hear what you do to get through.