Uncomfortable comfort zone: Day 41

Day 41 of forcing myself out of my uncomfortable comfort zone: stopping hermiting, getting out of the house and seeing people brings up a lot of emotions. Emotions that I’ve forgotten existed. Emotions from situations from the past that resurface in situations that are similar; sadnesses, fears, anxieties, excitement, lust, anger. All the emotions. And it’s all overwhelming and difficult to deal with. It’s no wonder that hermiting is my default; that telling myself that I don’t need these interactions is easier; that denying my need to experience intimacies and the emotions they bring is simpler. But as difficult as dealing with the prickling of coming back to life is, the positive feelings outweigh those that are difficult to sit with and I will continue to flex my limbs and get the blood flowing again. #uncomfortablecomfortzone

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Day 6: Reflecting on how I am after committing to forcing myself out of my uncomfortable comfort zone #depression #anxiety

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8 Days ago I made a video (posted on this blog) about my loneliness due to isolating myself for the last two years. Despite the fear, I admitted to it as part of the process of reaching out and allowing others back into my life. 2 Days after that, I committed to forcing myself out of my uncomfortable comfort zone – the excruciating limbo between severe depression and functioning more healthily with depression and anxiety. I admitted to myself that as difficult, scary and anxiety-provoking doing the things I felt incapable of doing in my limbo are, that staying in that limbo was scarier; that I could no longer live like this. That life is hard, requires effort, is dominated by things that we do not want to do but rather have to do – adulting, in other words; and as much as I “just don’t wanna”, not doing those things fuels depression and the cycle of severe depression -> suicidality -> recovering -> living in limbo -> severe depression. And the only thing that breaks that cycle and enables healthier functioning and not just being a functional depressive, is contrary action – doing things that are the last things on earth I want to do.

These things range from “small” things like not sleeping until 12, brushing my teeth, washing the dishes more often than every 10 days and not drinking and eating from dirty dishes, messaging someone back instead of feeling too overwhelmed to even read the message, showering. Because the truth is these things are not small when you’re depressed and anxious. They’re huge. In and of themselves and because they lead to huge change.

This is, of course, in my 41 years on this earth living with chronic depression, anxiety and Complex PTSD, not the first time I’ve come to this conclusion. Because things happen in cycles. It’s a lesson I need to learn and re-learn over and over again. Because my default to the stress of life and the stress of the underlying depression and anxiety is to retreat, assume the foetal position and withdraw from as much responsibility as I’m able to without losing my job or the flat I rent or the dogs I love.

This is my default because it feels safer to withdraw from life. That in limbo depression (and I’m NOT speaking about severe depression here) is a comfort zone. An uncomfortable one, but a comfort zone nonetheless.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s words – that in the in limbo depression feel like a slap in the face, a you do not understand!, a simplification – ring so true in this commitment space to be a person who functions more healthily with depression and anxiety: “I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.” And I am SO tired of my own bullshit. This bullshit that keeps resurfacing and rearing its ugly head in my life. This bullshit of the in limbo depression being a comfort zone.

So, 6 days ago I committed to taking contrary actions, feeling the fear and doing it anyway and forcing myself out of my uncomfortable comfort zone. It has not been easy. It has not been entirely pleasant. It has not felt comfortable. But each step of taking agency in my life and taking action rather than lying on that uncomfortable comfort couch that feels like bathing in my own self-loathing has made me feel better, stronger, more able. (I’ve shared about these experiences on this blog under the heading “uncomfortable comfort zone”).

I have forced myself to go out with friends twice. I have forced myself to jump into the pool and get active again. I have washed dishes three times in the last 6 days. I have interacted more on social media (in meaningful conversations) rather than just scrolling through and succumbing to the feeling that I have no energy to do more than “like”. I have showered more. I phoned my dad rather than waiting for him to phone me. I have started cooking again, eating three meals a day, bought healthy food rather than comfort food (and have lost weight and that self-loathing bath is becoming shallower).

I have been able to do this by not giving myself the option of “no”. When I’m invited out I say yes and mean yes. When I stand on the edge of the freezing pool I do not give myself the option of turning around and going back into the house to sit on that uncomfortable comfort couch.

And while it has not been easy, or comfortable, each of these actions and decisions has made me feel better. And the more I make these decisions, the more I find myself doing things with less and less conscious thought; things that would normally take me two weeks of “I have to but I don’t wanna”.

And what I’ve learnt in just the last 6 days is why I withdraw from people – it’s not just that I’m socially anxious and find social interaction draining because of the anxiety. It’s that I struggle with boundaries. As someone said to me this week: the deeply confusing thing is not being able to tell the difference between doing things despite the fear in order to feel better, and doing things despite your intuition that those things are dangerous for your own psyche and well-being. There’s so much more to say about this and I don’t know if I’m making sense, but all I know is that I now have concrete things to work on in therapy rather than the same shit different day stuff. And I’d rather be working on these things and dealing with the root causes of why I struggle with social interactions, self-care and feeling that I am enough than return to the death that is the in limbo depression; that uncomfortable comfort zone.

Uncomfortable comfort zone: Day 4 – Entering a female space as a perceived man

Showered and coiffed for second forcing myself out of uncomfortable comfort zone social engagement.

Tonight I’m meeting up with 6 women (cis, as far as I know) and I only know one well and have met another once. And I’m sitting here worrying about me entering an all female space as a male-looking person for the first time.

If it were most other spaces, I wouldn’t be as nervous. But as someone who has lived as a perceived woman for 38 years, I know how the dynamic changes when an all female space is entered by a man. I know that the comfort, safety and freedom to do or talk about anything is infringed upon.

I would normally not out myself as trans unless it came up. But the thought of bringing it up to put these women at ease is all I can think about right now. The need to say “it’s ok, I get how this feels and you’re safe”. But I’m also very aware that I do not need to explain myself and that I need to trust in others’ perception of me not as an appearing male person, but as a person.

There’s so much more complexity to this topic in a patriarchal society. It’s a HUGE issue and I don’t think there’s ever a comfortable way to navigate it. How to be respectful of women vs. the loss of automatic inclusion and belonging. Added to the fact that automatic inclusion and belonging in male spaces is as fraught as a female socialised person and feminist. And the trans community needs to speak about this more.

But right now I’m just sitting with the feelings and seeing how tonight goes in the first of many encounters where I need to learn to renegotiate the space I inhabit with others.

#feelingthefearanddoingitanyway #uncomfortablecomfortzone #depression #recovery

Uncomfortable comfort zone: Day 2

My first forcing myself out of my uncomfortable comfort zone social engagement. Third pic – the face of someone who rode a horse (very large!) again for the first time in 25 years. Very proud of myself! #uncomfortablecomfortzone #depression #healing #feelingthefearanddoingitanyway Thank you, Gernie!

Top surgery: 18 Months later

18 Months post top surgery today. Firstly, gratitude. I can hardly remember what my chest felt like pre-surgery. It just feels like me. Sometimes I forget, but the body remembers (someone seated hugged me the other day and there was a split second where I was like, oh! they have their head on my boob!)

Secondly, the body’s incredible capacity to heal! Which is why you cannot get caught up with how your results look, because it changes monthly. It’s still not how I want it to look because I want a revision of the bit in the middle (what was the surgeon thinking?! And it’s been difficult sitting with the conflicting emotions of “you should only be feeling grateful and happy” vs. “they didn’t do well with that bit and it’s completely ok to have it revised”. The pressure to feel only happy and grateful made me repress my dissatisfaction and I told myself it was ok. But I have grown into the feeling that it’s ok to be happy and grateful and wanting it to look better). I also haven’t been to the gym in two years, but it’s never too late to work on that.

Thirdly, a HUGE thank you to everyone who donated towards the surgery. I will be forever humbled and grateful.