Tag Archives: connections

letter to my father

My father is a very proud man. I’ve never understood him, but for the first twenty years of my life I lived in his shadow. He influenced my way of thinking, what I studied in college and how I viewed the world. I had a role-model, somebody I could admire and look up to. In my early-twenties though things began to change, or, more precisely, I began to change.

I moved away, first to Poland and then New York and finally San Francisco. I saw new things and was exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking. I finally got to see the opposites–the things my father rejects, and never converses about. The things that make humans unique.

I started joining radical political groups and got rid of my car and stopped eating meat, anything to piss my dad off. For once, I wanted him to recognize me for me. I didn’t care anymore if he couldn’t see himself in me.

Because of all these changes, I’ve become angry at my father, and my father has become angry at me. We rarely talk. When we do it’s awkward and forced. I say hello, he says hello, I ask how he’s doing, he says fine, and then I ask to talk to my mom. At the time of writing I haven’t talked to him in at least three months. I’m waiting for him to call–it’s his job, right?

I’ll get to the point: I no longer want to be angry with my father, and I do not like this distance between us. There may always be geographic distance, but I’d like to be closer in a spiritual sense, or at least in a father-son sense. At this point, he’s less of a father to me and more of a long, lost friend. It’s sad.

What’s more, I don’t really know how to repair the damage between us, if that’s even possible. But I think a good starting point is for me to start being honest with him.

I think the most logical part to start with is his alcoholism. He’s been a functional alcoholic most of his adult life. It’s not easy to address because he’s not the quintessential alcoholic you see on TV or in the movies. He’s never hurt anybody in the family, and we rarely see him drunk. But he still has a dependence–and it has greatly affected our relationship.

I’m also afraid of my father. He has such a big ego. Nobody can tell him anything that goes against his way of thinking, and so I think the only way to get through to him would be through writing–

Dear Dad:

I hope this letter finds you well. I know we don’t talk much, and so you must be surprised that you’re reading this right now, but I think this is something we can address later. For now, I want to jump to the point.

For the past year or so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my past in order to understand how those experiences create meaning for me in the present. You, being my father, are a big part of that, obviously. You’ve had your say in who I am today, and I thank you for that. I have inherited a lot of great qualities from you. I deeply care about the world and the people in it, especially those I associate with–which is why I’m writing this right now.

As you can tell, I’ve changed a lot since I moved away. I’ve taken the theories I learned from my childhood and adolescence–the things you taught me–and tested them in the real world. Some work, some don’t, and that’s okay. At this point in my life I think my most endearing quality is how open I am–I’ll listen to anything, I’ll give anybody a chance. Everybody has something to say, and everybody needs someone to listen to them. Right now I need you to be open, and I need you to listen.

I strongly believe that you are an alcoholic. You are not a fall down drunk and you’ve never laid a finger on anyone in the family, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. And it’s certainly impacted our relationship. Whenever I’m home, you’re always in the basement drinking, and when you’re not, more often than not, you’ve had too much to drink. Frankly, you’re less of a father and more like comic relief for me, as sad as that sounds.

You can do whatever you want now. Your actions are your choice. But I am no longer going to be an enabler. If you want to continue drinking, I believe the distance will only increase between us, and our relationship will continue to falter. What you do now is your decision. I’ve made my choice. It’s time for you to make yours.

I may never give this to him, but it still feels good to get it out in the open.

Feeling terrible

So, I felt terrible last night, and I’m feeling even worse now. I went through a pretty difficult social situation earlier, where I met a friend of a friend at a museum. I’m proud of myself for going but like always it didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go. I didn’t live up to my standards.

I felt out of place because I didn’t know what to say most of the time. The conversations felt forced, and I tried opening up, but that too felt forced. I tried so hard to connect with this person that I think I probably came across as desperate or, infinitely worse, socially inept. I kept asking myself, Can he tell that I’m anxious? What does he think of me? And the same voice answered: Of course he can tell. How could he not? He thinks you’re anxious, nervous and boring. You are unpleasant to be around.

We left the museum after an hour to go eat, and at the restaurant we sat in front of a mirror and I kept checking my expression. I looked terrible. My face looked tense and tired. I looked exactly how I felt on the inside.

Finally, on the way back to the museum, he bailed at the last minute, claiming he had to clean his apartment, by running toward a bus without even saying a proper goodbye. This confirmed my suspicions: I am shit. In the end, I feel sorry for him–that he had to hang out with me. I wish I didn’t disappoint everyone who comes in contact with me.

And now my weekend is total crap, and it was going so well. I avoided a binge last night and went running for an hour earlier today. I feel really depressed, even worse than last night.

I’m going to drink the pain away tonight.

And the same voice answeredever

Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

This post is a continuation of Poland, part 1….

While studying in Poland, I traveled extensively throughout Europe not only to see other parts of the world, but also to get away from the other Americans. Again, I had high hopes when I returned to Poland after I fled back to the states–expectations that I couldn’t live up to. The second I got off the airplane I knew things wouldn’t be different. I wouldn’t connect with anyone or fit in or feel comfortable–and I didn’t. And so, I spent as much time away as I could.

I’d now like to document my travels, which I should have done a long time ago ..

BEFORE POLAND

New York City (January 7th-11th, 2006)

I had a blast in New York. In fact, I had such a good time, I ended up moving there a year later. We (my ex-girlfriend and I) stayed in a YMCA hostel near Times Square for a night, but after getting no sleep, because of the extremely loud steam heating system, we moved to a hotel (also near Times Square).

Unfortunately, most of the pictures taken either have me and/or my girlfriend in them. So I can’t post them.

On liberty island, looking toward Manhattan.

Watching a band at CBGB who described themselves as Radiohead meets Pink Floyd. They turned out to be nothing like that. It was still cool, and I’m glad I went because the club closed later that year.

London (January 12th-14th)

After New York, we flew to London. I don’t think I saw the sun once, which somewhat prepared me for the weather here in San Francisco.

Buckingham Palace

Dali Museum

Tube

Big Ben

Paris (January 15th-18th)

Paris was/is definitely one of my favorite cities. Again, I didn’t see the sun or sky, but the wonderful architecture made up for it. I also fell in love with crepes and nutella–and nutella on crepes.

Arc de Triomphe

Madrid (January 19th-23rd )

Next up was Madrid. I honestly didn’t care for the city (aside for the Prado Museum), but that could be because I was starting to get a bit burned out. I did get some sun, though. These pictures are of no significance ..

Rome (January 24th-27th)

I got sick the first day in Rome. I didn’t really enjoy the city. If I wasn’t sick and was Catholic I probably would have enjoyed it more. I’ll make a mental note of that in case I ever go back.

Vatican Museum

Ancient ruins

Colosseum

DURING MY TIME IN POLAND

Budapest (February 10th-12th)

So, as I said in my previous post, my first few weeks in Poland were hard–so hard, in fact, I had to go home. When I returned, a week later, all the Americans welcomed me back by feeding me shots of vodka. We all went out that night. I don’t remember much. In the morning I awoke to an angry girlfriend who said she was going to go to Budapest to visit her ex-boyfriend–who she dated when she lived in Hungary with her family on an exchange program–because I apparently did something stupid the night before. She wouldn’t say what exactly, and I was still a bit drunk so I didn’t care.

In retrospect, I don’t think I did anything–she was just looking for an excuse to see her ex-boyfriend.

Anyway, my girlfriend left, and I went back to sleep. I got up again a few hours later. Sober, I realized what had happened, and so I hightailed it to Budapest. I don’t remember much of the city because I honestly didn’t do much. I spent most of my time in a hotel, hungover.

Chain Bridge

Prague (March 9th-13th)

After Budapest I had a month of social hell–everything from attending classes to going on a pub crawl (and blacking out) to leaving my room to brush my teeth was very difficult. That said, Prague was an amazing city–one of my favorites, architecturally speaking. Oh, and we also got snowed in for a night.

Prague Castle

Red roof city

Drinking the pain away ..

Germany: Frankfurt and Heidelberg (March 24th-26th)

We flew on a discount airline (like $20 a ticket) from Warsaw to Frankfurt–a boring, ultra-modern city, I felt like I was in the financial district of NY–and then took a train to Heidelberg, a small college town in the south-west portion of the country. I enjoyed the city.

Skyscrapers in Frankfurt

Tree path in Frankfurt

Heidelberg–red roof city 2

Famous church in Heidelberg

Poznan, Poland (March 31st-April 2nd)

I don’t remember much of Poznan, aside for the excellent local beer from the bar at the hotel. I think we saw more of the bar than the actual city.

Old town square

Former Pope, John Paul II memorial (about 90% of
the population in Poland is Catholic)

Gdansk, Poland (April 7th-9th)

I also don’t remember much of Gdansk, namely because all the Americans went there together, as an organized group, and I had a terrible time. I think I’ve blocked most of it out. I remember three hour dinners each night, having to sit at a table with fifteen other people I didn’t connect with. I drank a lot.

Solidarity memorial

Bird flu

Hurghada, Egypt (April 15th to 22nd)

We spent spring break in Egypt. It was great–I got to forget all the horrible social interactions in Poland, and I even forgot I had to go back. We bought our tickets through a Polish travel agency and ended up staying at a Polish resort.

Red Sea

Trip to Giza / Cairo

Resort

Krakow, Poland (April 30th- May 5th)

Krakow. Another group trip. Another disaster.

Auschwitz

Jewish cemetary

Salt mine

Wawel Castle

Amsterdam (May 6th-10th)

Amsterdam was a nice break–got high, saw Radiohead.

Canals

More canals

Pot

Heineken Brewery

Thom Yorke

Brussels (May 12th to 14th)

I wasn’t planning on traveling that weekend, but I found out we had a group dinner, and so I picked the cheapest flight. I was very depressed in Brussels. There also wasn’t much to do. I spent most of my time in the hostel and only came out for a few meals of ice cream and waffles. I got so bored, I took a train back to Amsterdam and got really, really high.

Cool church

Arc de Triomphe

Random street

Manneken Pis

AFTER POLAND

Oslo, Norway (May 21st to 23rd, 28th to 29th)

Saying goodbye to everyone in Poland was difficult. Those who really made connections with people were crying. I just felt like an outsider, giving forced smiles and hugs. When I stepped on the plane, I felt an immediate release. I could escape again.

Norway was beautiful, but Oslo wasn’t so great–just another big city.

Harbor, round 1

Harbor, round 2

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Bergen, Norway (May 23rd to 28th)

Bergen, a city surrounded by beautiful fjords and seven mountains, was absolutely amazing. So beautiful, so wonderful. I wanted to learn the language and stay there forever.

Harbor

Mountains ..

.. fjords

Cool church

City

Alley

London (May 29th to 30th)

We had a layover in London before returning home. It was actually sunny, so I spent the day running around the city taking photos to make up for the gloomy photos from the first time around.

Big Ben

Big Ben, Westminster, London Eye

Colosseum

camping

I went camping in Big Basin over the weekend with a friend (Ms. M), my girlfriend, her brother, and two of his friends. It was rough weekend.

I hadn’t seen Ms. M. for quite some time, and, honestly, I think that my girlfriend connects more with her than I do at this point. But since I have very few friends, I’m very protective of the ones I have, so I’ve tried to keep my girlfriend and Ms. M. somewhat apart. (Which is a separate issue altogether.) Anyway, I rode down with her on Saturday, and it didn’t go well.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to somewhat reconnect with her. I had to say the right things. I had to be funny, witty, and interesting. I put so much pressure on myself and I worked myself up so much beforehand that I had to take something. I wanted to take an Ativan, but I took Propranolol by mistake. All my pills are getting mixed up because I have to cut them and I keep all of the cut halves together, in the pill cutter.

Mental note: pink = Ativan, round and white = Propranolol, triangle = Lamictal. Or maybe that’s pink = Propranolol, round = … ?

Anyhow, I didn’t live up to my expectations on the car ride. I didn’t always say the right things (I never do), and I wasn’t funny enough or witty enough or even interesting (I never am, never am, never am); and thus, I was very anxious throughout the ride. I think the second I got in the car in fact, I just wanted to be somewhere else. It was a different kind of hell being in that car with her, but it was still hell.

When we got to the campground, I stopped worrying about conversing with Ms. M. and started worrying about meeting my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend and her friend. They arrived with my girlfriend a day earlier. I was actually supposed to go with them but I avoided it, opting instead to ride with Ms. M. on Saturday.

Once I got through the formal introductions (which I think I’m great at)–

  • To my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend: “It’s nice to meet you.” (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend’s brother: “It’s nice to see you again. (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend’s friend: “It’s nice to meet you.” (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend: “I missed you.” (Smile, hug, kiss.)

–I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or how to act. I wanted so much to make a good impression, but I really just sat there at the picnic table while everybody else conversed. I didn’t need to be there. Nobody cared.

After a quick breakfast, Ms. M., my girlfriend, and I went to Santa Cruz so they could register for the triathlon. I wasn’t in it but I wasn’t about to stay behind with the others. On the drive into town, I sat in the back, while my girlfriend and Ms. M. conversed, while I consciously told myself I wasn’t going to compete with them (or anyone) to say things: instead, I’ll just be quiet until there’s an opening. What that really meant: I just won’t talk and feel like shit because I’m not talking. I just stared out the window, wondering how I’d get through the weekend and why I was there to begin with. They acknowledged me once during the whole ride, commenting about how quiet I was.

I didn’t need to be there.

Back at the campground, I avoid conversation by taking a nap–and by that I mean I pretended to. I stayed awake, hoping that someone would say something bad about me so I could confirm my suspicion that I am a piece of shit. It didn’t happen, though, but then again, no one seemed to mind that I wasn’t around. I got up around 5:00 to help make dinner.

After dinner we all sat around the fire talking–everybody except me, that is. I didn’t say much to anyone the rest of the night.

Put simple, I felt very depressed throughout the day. But was my depression caused by my anxiety, or was it a mood swing? Probably both. I binged on Friday night and felt like shit (even more depressed) in the morning, and I think I went into the weekend feeling depressed, because of a mood swing, and then that depression made it even more difficult to engage socially, which, in turn, brought me down even further.

I barely slept that night, but I woke up on Sunday feeling a lot better. My girlfriend and Ms. M. left early for the triathlon, while I stayed behind to help the others pack up the campground. I ended up staying with them most of the day, watching the triathlon. I never really felt comfortable but I got by.

Pic of the athletes warming up:

I love watching endurance events because everyone gets so emotional. At the end of the race, I hung out by myself watching the runners cross the finish line. Some laughed. Some cried. Some shouted. Each one evoked emotion inside of me, and I started crying at one point. It was therapeutic.

When my friend crossed the finish line I gave her a big hug. I felt the connection between us. It felt good.

On the ride home, my elevated mood rose even higher. I couldn’t stop talking. What’s more, I was witty and funny and interesting and felt no anxiety, and I didn’t really want to say goodbye.

Overall, Sunday was a much different day than Saturday. On Saturday I felt so depressed I couldn’t converse with anyone, and during the night I felt suicidal. I didn’t feel even the least bit depressed on Sunday. I sought out social situations and spoke up rather than hide.

I hope others didn’t notice this swing.

Finally, I want to end with some positive thinking. I don’t think my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend liked me very much. I don’t really know why I think this, but I could just sense it. She didn’t really talk to me much and when she did it felt forced and she gave me some funny looks. I know it could be anything, but I’m interpreting it negatively. Interestingly, I feel somewhat okay with that–I’m not a bad person because someone doesn’t like me. There isn’t something inherently wrong with me because someone doesn’t like me. I don’t need to change something every time I come across someone who doesn’t like me.

Rinse. Repeat.

I hope everyone’s day went well, and I hope this good mood of mine lasts for a few more days!

Poland, part 1

n 2005 I met a girl, fell into a relationship, and abandoned all my friends. I couldn’t handle maintaining the friendships because of my anxiety (and my issues with constancy), and besides, I had a girlfriend who took care of all my needs. Why would I need anybody else? My friends thought otherwise, and they kept calling me–wanting me to hang out, wondering where I’d disappeared to. I never answered their calls, but they just kept on calling. I felt guilt and shame and regret and remorse. I just wanted them all to go away. I needed a clean break–and one finally came. Poland.

After living together for only three months, my girlfriend and I decided to study abroad together. She’d lived in Hungary for a year with her family and really enjoyed many parts of Eastern Europe. I didn’t care where we went–I just wanted to get away. We … err she chose Poland, and we left in January of 2006. I told almost no one. Finally. I got the break I needed. I left everything behind, hoping I could start over.

In the weeks before moving, I pictured my girlfriend and I only spending time with each other when we were there. I knew there would be other Americans there, but I didn’t want to get to know them. My girlfriend had other ideas, though. She wanted to connect with others and make the most of her experience abroad. So in those first few days in Poland, my girlfriend hung out with others and made friends while I stayed hidden in my dorm room. I cried a lot. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to feel comfortable talking to others. I wanted so badly to be anybody but myself. My depression coupled with the terrible weather meant I barely left the dorms. I don’t remember much from those first few weeks, but I do remember taking a lovely stroll downtown braving the cold and the fog and the snow and the slush–

This hiding continued for about two weeks, ending when I decided to escape again by running home. At the time my mom was going through chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, and so I told everybody I was extremely upset about her cancer–which was partially true–and I fled back home. Finally. I could relax again. But right when I got home, the depression hit again. I felt like a failure. I just wanted to go back. Things will be different, I told myself. I’ll be different. I booked my plane ticket back to Poland the very same day I landed home in Kansas City.

My time at home was hard. I slept late. I sat around watching TV and playing video games. I cried. My parents didn’t know how to help because they didn’t know what was wrong with me. My dad ignored me altogether, but my mom confronted me one day, asking me why I came home. I said I didn’t know. I wanted so badly to open up to her and tell her all the things bothering me. But I didn’t. I passed up another opportunity to connect with a family member.

On the plane ride back to Poland I promised myself I would be someone different. I would make connections. I would be popular. This of course didn’t happen. I spent the rest of my time in Poland miserable, hiding in my room, planning out how things would be different when I got back to America. Now I honestly don’t remember much from the remainder of my time there. I can tell you that it was hard. I can tell you I felt depressed. I can tell you I felt like dying. Beyond that, though, there’s only some flashes here and there. I’m not going to detail them … yet. I may come back to this someday and fill in what I remember or start a new post or something. But right now, I’m exhausted. I can’t think about this anymore.

I added another part–Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

the social phobic

Aside from this blog, there just are not many others out there that deal specifically with Social Anxiety Disorder. I know I talk about other subjects on here, but the main focus is the anxiety. It’s why I created this blog. It’s what I’ve been struggling with for the past ten years or so. Sure, I’m plagued with other issues, like depression and disordered eating, but the main focus is the anxiety–all else manifests from the anxiety, in my opinion. With that said, one other blog of note, which deals specifically with social anxiety, is The Social Phobic.

I’ve been following this blog for a few months. Actually, following isn’t the right word because it hasn’t been updated since March. I’ve really just been reading the archives. I can see myself in the author’s words. It’s comforting to know there are others out there like me. One of the hardest things for me to deal with is the isolation and loneliness. I forget that others experience anxiety too, and I forget that Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders, affecting millions upon millions of people. It’s just not glamorized on TV or in movies. There are no documentaries on A&E. The disorder isn’t represented on The Real World or any other reality TV show. I can’t see myself on TV, or in any of my friends.

That’s why I think these words are so important, and that’s why I found The Social Phobic to be so enlightening. Like everyone, we need to have a voice, we need to connect, we need to be seen and heard. So when I read that first post on that blog, I knew I had to share my experiences too, and I knew I had to begin writing about those experiences in order to understand them and eventually name them.

***

I know I don’t have many readers yet, but I still want to hear from you if you’re reading this. What other sites would you recommend? Are there are other blogs out there that focus on social anxiety that I’m missing?