The Best Laid Plans

journal laid open with a pen resting on top, the pages are lined without any writing, and there are shadows cross crossing the pages

If I had known a year ago how much getting involved with my local writers’ guild would change my approach towards writing, and help me get out of my shell… I wouldn’t believe it. When I signed up to volunteer at the beginning of last year, it was because I wanted to meet people with similar interests in writing, and build up my confidence to share my work.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.

I’m not shy. I’m anxious.

It takes me a long time to open up to people. It isn’t easy for me to relate to others. It never has been. I’ve always had a hard time making friends. I don’t trust people. From the outset I believe that anyone I meet wants to hurt or manipulate me, and no amount of rational thought curbs that sense of dread.

I understand now that thinking that way is related to PTSD. That my fear is rational because I have been mistreated in the past. Telling myself not to think that way doesn’t help and it dishonours my personal experience. I need to work my way through that mindset by acknowledging the anxiety, to sooth myself and continue trusting my intuition, so that I can move forward.

During the pandemic my anxiety got out of control. I’m still at risk for a heart attack because of mental and emotional stress. Things that I have done for years without any struggle have felt impossible. I was paralyzed in the face of my own life. I no longer understood why I had the life I was living. I didn’t think I belonged in my house, with my husband, at my job… and that feeling was so overwhelming that I thought about ending my life.

If not for my spouse, my writing, and my job, I don’t think I would have pulled through that.

I thrive in a routine (but suck at working to my own schedule or deadlines), so I chose not to take any time off of work, but I did let work know that I was having health complications. I threw myself into my writing in an effort to unload the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. And my husband supported me by being there when I needed to talk or cry, making sure I wasn’t disturbed if I was writing, and encouraging me to take time for myself.

It’s taken me almost two years to feel close to normal again, and I know I’m not there yet, but I do feel like I’m out of the woods.

When I answered a call for volunteers in January 2022, I still felt like a collection of raw exposed nerves. Going to meet people I did not know felt impossible. Introducing myself to groups of strangers felt like I was an ant beneath the focused light beam of a magnifying glass. After a few minutes of speaking, my thoughts would race, and I’d need to cut myself off so I could get a break and concentrate on my breathing.

It took a few months, but I’ve gotten to know the other volunteers, and I feel more comfortable around them. It was a difficult beginning, but I opened up more this year than I thought I would. I’ve even shared my writing and connected to critique partners for one-on-one feedback!

I didn’t have a set goal when I signed up for volunteering. I simply wanted to meet other writers so I could feel less alone. Now there are new aspects to my routine that I’m beginning to cherish.

I want to continue expanding my writing connections, and involvement with the arts community locally and online. This year I plan to attend more workshops and do more independent study on writing craft, and most of all, to read more!

I set a lot of goals for myself and used to feel depressed when I failed to meet them. I think of them differently now… I think it’s good that I tried at all. Trying is what’s keeping me going.

I made an off-hand remark to a friend when I was feeling suicidal that the only reason I’m alive right now is because of the book that I’m writing, so I should make it a series and stick around for a while longer! But that joke has become a motivation by itself.

Live for the series.

Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu

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