Living alone: How to stop thinking there’s a man trying to break in and rape you

Sorry for the violent title, but being a girl with an imagination means that every night, there is some strange horror story threatening to test my natural animal instincts to keep myself alive.  And I have to think about this disaster in an empty house all night, usually only falling asleep minutes before the alarm goes off.

I am in fact a professional paranoid freak.  Professional.  Every night I run through different scenarios in my mind: what if the house catches fire?  How will I get myself, the monkey cats and my baby pictures out safely while wearing my favorite jeans and all jewelry of value?  What if someone breaks in?  What’s going to be my weapon?  Or should I just jump out the second story window and pray I have it in me to run far, far away after the sting of the pavement slapping my feet?  Is my pepper spray around here?  What happened to all my old softball bats?  Oh I better just run for it.  What if it’s a ghost, though?  Can you run from a ghost?  Won’t they find me anyway?… *BEEP*BEEP*BEEP.  Shit, class time.

Living that way for about a year takes its toll on a girl.  I started feeling really old, really tired and really sick.  So, here are a few things I figured out that help me battle the mental demons:

1.  Pay Attention to what you do before you go to bed.  Watch your hands lock the front door, say what you’re doing out loud if it helps.   This prevents you from bolting into an upright position just as you were about to fall asleep, in fear that the door has been unlocked the whole time (we forget things when we’re tired).

Also, make sure your keys aren’t in the front door when you lock it.  I’ve done this far too many times.

2.  Light a candle instead of just turning out the lights.  This gives you enough light to see your surroundings, without keeping you awake.  Just don’t forget to blow the candle out before you fall asleep.  No house fires, please!

You could also put on a movie you know the ending to (I recommend 27 Dresses), as long as the light from the television doesn’t keep you up.  Watching a movie you know well keeps you from feeling obligated to stay and watch the ending.

3.  Meditate.  And don’t listen to the weird clanking noise the heat is making (which, at night, is clearly a burglar/rapist/angry clown)!  Focus on your breathing instead.  I like to just listen to the natural rhythm of my own breath, but if you find controlled breathing more relaxing then go for it!

4.  Be creative.  Have a weapon close at hand but not a real one (no knives or guns, this can lead to devastating accidents).  Try a piece of sports equipment or anything small and heavy (piggy bank?  Imagine a mushroom cloud of pennies… now that is a distraction!).  I like to think of my messy bedroom as a very creative booby trap.  No one can navigate that place quietly and successfully in the dark except me!

5.  Have a plan.  Sometimes the best way to get rid of the demons is to know that you could actually take on something that’s not imaginary.  Know your escape route in any situation.  You could even go as far as J.Lo and mentally map out your surroundings, while blindfolded, counting the number of steps it takes you to cross the room or get to a specific location.

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How to heal a hopeless soul

Hopelessness- n. the inability to learn, act, perform or work as desired.

How do you avoid feeling hopeless?  Don’t think.  Be careless.  Have no passion.  All easy things to do.  Much easier than thinking, questioning, caring, being passionate.  So how do you get out of hopelessness once you’re there?  This is something I have been trying to figure out for a long time now.

I think for me the cause may have to do with New England seasons: the lack of sunlight and therefore happiness inducing vitamin D.  But sometimes it’s not the weather or the seasons.  Sometimes it’s beautiful out and all I want to do is curl up in bed all day, no food, no human interaction, nothing.  Here are a few things that have helped me get the hopeless feeling to hit the road.

1.  Have a support system.  Being down in the dumps can be enlightening in that you find out who really, truly cares about you.  If your friends go two weeks without hearing a peep from you and don’t call you to find out what’s going on,  you need to find some new friends.  Sorry.

Having people who know you well enough to understand your behavior patterns is crucial during times when you’re feeling lost and hopeless.  My friend Kristen is the prime example of understanding me and my behavior.  In an almost scary way.  We’re always interrupting text messages to each other by calling each other.  On one occasion, while sitting down helping her fold her laundry, she looked up pointing at me and said, “You had sex last night!  I know it!”  And in fact, I was single and dating someone new and… uh… it was the third date-ish.. guilty.

But more importantly, about a month ago she called me out of nowhere and said, “You’ve been crying all night, I can feel it.  What’s wrong?”  And she was right.  Sometimes my life can be overwhelmingly negative.  I’m a biology major who hates biology.  I have a job that I despise with more passion than I have the energy to emit.  And that’s just about all I have time to do (this blog is my salvation).  So that leads me to my next hopeless soul helper…

2.  Make a plan.  Make a list of things that make you feel like your life is hopeless.  Figure out which items or situations on the list you can control.   Here’s my initial hopeless soul hate list:

  • I hate biology
  • I hate being a pharmacy technician
  • I hate being poor
  • I hate that I don’t have the time to study for the classes that I hate

I took that list and used it to determine what it absolutely necessary in those hopeless areas of my life:

  • I need to graduate in the next year, so I need to stick with biology
  • I need to have a job
  • I need to make more money
  • I need a schedule that is flexible enough to give me time to study

So now I have a list that gives me a better idea of which situations have to stay,and more importantly, which situations can pack their bags.  I have to stick with biology as my major in order to graduate and move on.  I don’t however have to remain working a job I loathe.  Looking at the last three bullets on my list, I realize that when I babysit, I make more money per hour, doing way more enjoyable things (get paid to play Angelina Ballerina?  yes please!),  and when the kids are put to bed, I have time to do homework and study.

This list is not new in my life.  I knew before I wrote anything down what was making me miserable.  I just didn’t have the financial ability to quit my job.  So since I realized that hating my job is something I’ve chosen, I’ve been working and working, and paying more than the minimum payments on my bills so I have more financial freedom.  I’m giving the pharmacy my two weeks notice on Saturday!  No number of exclamation points can convey…

3.  Avoid negativity.  Some people only contribute to your hopelessness.  I know from many experiences that I cannot talk to my mom about anything involving school or my career plans.  We’re just too different and she doesn’t understand the things I want and need in life.  A “real job” can never and will never define me.

There are also some girls in my program who are not so nice to talk to.  They’re always complaining about something.  even when they have nothing to complain about!  They look for things:  the ceiling is so gross (duh, welcome to a public university!), my advisor doesn’t know what she’s doing (yes, she does or else she wouldn’t be here).  These types of people you want to avoid when your soul is hurt!  Avoid them like the bloody plague!

4.  Help someone else.  It may seem hypocritical, (and it may just be me) but when you’re feeling down, you come up with the greatest advice for other people.  Or find some way to help them out with their hopeless situations.

Even though I hate biology, and I hate doing all my class projects, I LOVE helping other people with theirs.  It’s the reason I ran for (and won) the secretary position of the Biological Society at my university.  I LOVE sharing the wisdom I’ve acquired through being a miserable student.  And if it helps someone else after me in any way, that makes me feel loads better.

5.  Take a Hopeless Holiday.  Allow yourself to just feel.  Feel hopeless sometimes.  Take a day, or two.  Call in sick.  Watch movies that make you cry.  Refuse food if you want.  Or demand all of it if that’s more your style.  Then, when you’re done crying, paint something, write something, dream something, run through the streets naked!  Whatever you say goes on your Hopeless Holiday.

6. Write.  Write what you’re feeling down a piece of paper.  Get as many words out of your head as possible.  The more clutter there is bouncing around inside your brain, the more likely you’ll spontaneously combust.  If you need to send your feelings to a certain person, do it.  And don’t regret it.  If you need to say it to him or her out loud, you’ve now had some great practice.  If you’re more the symbolic type, grab a pot and some matches and light the hopeless sucker.  Because you’re not hopeless, and you never were.