Anxiety and Abuse

Not many people are aware of this, but last year I found myself in a mentally abusive relationship. Healthy Place defines mental abuse as “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” This can occur in so many different ways; and my relationship wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what most have experienced, will experience, or are experiencing. I know I certainly didn’t treat the other person properly either, nor do I believe that he had realised that what he was doing was abusive, but there were things that should’ve been glaringly obvious to him to just not do. That relationship taught me so much about abuse, myself, relationships, and others.

Perhaps the most important things I learned were how anxiety disorders can make it difficult to see the signs of abuse and how they can be used by abusers. I’ve been battling in my mind as to whether I wanted to write this post for nearly a year, and now I finally feel ready.

How anxiety can blind you to abuse:

  • Most people with anxiety are already aware that they tend to imagine the worst meanings and intentions behind people’s words and actions.

This can make incredibly difficult to sort through the imagined red flags and real red flags. I was fully aware of some things that made me uncomfortable during that relationship. Sometimes though, I thought back on some things and realised that what was said or done was different than the negative thing I had heard in the first place. But there were also times I couldn’t tell if what was said or done was negative or not.

  • Anxiety can tell you that you’re overreacting.

This was a huge issue for me. Not everyone’s red flags are the same, and I thought that because something wasn’t an issue to a friend of mine, it shouldn’t be an issue to me. Obviously, that conclusion was the exact opposite from the truth.

One of the things that I thought I was overreacting about was that this person had said that he would support me in my creative endeavours and he wanted to read my work. He said this time and time again. So when he was over for the evening one day, I asked him to read a scene that I had written earlier that day and was incredible proud of but very nervous about. Without pause, he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to.” Not “In a little bit,” “Maybe later,” or any sort of explanation. And it was pretty clear to me that he meant what he said. He just didn’t want to read my work.

This tore me apart. But I convinced myself (against the advice of others) that I was making a big deal out of it, and that he didn’t mean it how it sounded. But in that moment and reflecting on those things after the relationship ended, I knew he did.

There were many other things that happened that I told myself weren’t big deals, that really are, but I’ll actually mention one of those things in the section about abusers.

  • The irrational fear of never finding anyone else who could ever be interested in you can make you feel trapped in the relationship.

He never said anything like, “Without me, you’ll be alone forever,” or anything with a connotation anywhere close to that. But I told myself that that would be the case. I was still recovering from a really bad mental breakdown that had occurred the previous fall and was still recovering from my first failed relationship that had dwindled away just a couple months prior. These two circumstances combined to make me feel as though I was a pretty worthless human being, and even after I started naming those red flags as what they were, I convinced myself that I would never find anyone else. Thankfully not too much longer, the relationship “ended” and I began the journey of regaining hope and recovery.

How abusers can use your anxiety against you:

  • Even without saying it, abusers can make you feel as though they are the only person that will ever “love” you.

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point I made. This guy never outright said this. But as time went on, I realised that I didn’t feel desirable unless he was there because he would talk about how much he liked to hold me and how pretty I was, and I noticed wasn’t really receiving any compliments on my appearance from anyone else at the time. I also realised that I would sometimes tell him stories from my past or from work in which a guy had flirted with me (or even asked me out), and he would usually suggest that the guy was intending everything to be platonic. Without actually saying it, he had insinuated that I wasn’t desirable to others.

  • They can gain your trust and then target your insecurities and triggers.

This was a really big thing for me, and is now something I am very aware of. This guy had charmed me and gained my trust very quickly, and early on, I realised that he liked to push limits on things. He even told me that he liked trying to “push people’s buttons.” We had a conversation about it, and I essentially said that there were certain things I did not want him trying to push limits on, and he agreed to that. However, we ended up having multiple conversations about those exact things and his pushing my limits.
Some of these things were my insecurities about my appearance and personality, but the thing that made me really start questioning the health of our relationship actually happened on our last date.

That day, we had actually had a conversation about my PTSD from car accidents and how, sometimes when he was driving, I felt like my PTSD was being triggered because of his driving. He changed how he was driving for most of that evening. However, after turning onto a street on the way to my apartment, he decided that he would continue speeding up and swerving slightly until I reacted. I thought that he was just being weird and speeding up quickly and that he would stop once he reached the speed limit. But he kept going and going.

I was on the verge of a panic attack when I finally half-yelled “What are you doing??”

His only response: “Seeing how long it would take you to say something.”

Even after that, a large part of me wanted to stay with him, and I tried to make it work. But that brings me to another point.

  • You might be the one always contacting them.

I didn’t realise this was a case until I saw a Tumblr post about a similar situation. I continually found myself clearing my schedule for him whenever he wanted to spend time with me, but he wouldn’t do the same for me. But the last few weeks of our relationship, he barely spoke to me. That last date seemed wonderful (aside from the attempt to trigger my PTSD), and he actually asked to meet up over the weekend so that we could define our relationship. I was torn between entering an “official” relationship with him, and ending it. He said he would make sure he was free at whatever time would work best for me, said goodbye, and left. But when I sent him the times I had available, he told me that none of those times would work. So I asked when he would be free and (as always) I would clear my schedule for him. But he never let me know. In fact, he slowly stopped talking to me in general over the next two weeks.

Then I was scrolling through Tumblr one day and saw a post about a woman whose boyfriend wasn’t really talking to her much and who never messaged her first. The woman had been advised to not call or message the guy for three days to see if he would respond. She asked what to do if he didn’t, if she was could contact him then. The girl she was talking to said no, that the guy was getting off on the woman’s need for him, and that if the he didn’t try to communicate, he didn’t really want her, let alone realise that he was losing her.

I took that piece of advice, and I didn’t message the guy I was dating for three days. Then three days turned into three weeks, three months. Now I haven’t spoken to him since April 23, 2016.

That relationship screwed me up, and I’m sad that I experienced it. But I’m so glad at the same time because I learned so much from it.


I really hope that none of you ever experience such a relationship, let alone one worse.

But there is always hope.
If you ever find yourself in an abusive relationship, know that it isn’t your fault and that you can get out, even if you need help doing so.

Here are some resources for abuse victims or friends of abuse victims who want to help:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Help Guide
5 Ways to Escape an Abusive Relationship
Help a Friend
5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

Anxiety and Outlining

When it comes to my blog posts, I plan really far in advance. I know it isn’t exactly an outline, but it works as one. Then there are my short stories and my novel. For these, I’m usually a “pantser,” writing everything that comes to mind as it arrives. But I’ve learned over the last year that I can’t write a novel like that. Short stories? Maybe. But a novel? That ain’t happening.

So I’ve spent hours continually going through the vague idea in my head, attempting to create a tentative outline, and it stresses me out to no end. But overall the idea of finishing it and actually working on the book has been inspiring. At one point, amidst my excitement and motivation, I messaged Azelyn to tell her how determined I am to finish the first draft of my novel this year and that I was actually trying to create an outline, which obviously surprised her. What she didn’t expect was a stream of messages over the next few days (or weeks, really) complaining about the process of outlining a book that I’ve been wanting to write for years now. I wasn’t even complaining about the process as much as I was about the fear of not being able to create the themes I want to flow through the book.

I kept telling her I would finish the outline and send it to her for months. Then one day, I forced myself to sit down with a cuppa, a container of Cheerios, my computer, and Facebook Messenger and type away. I set goals for the book and then for each section. After that, I thought about every major thing that I wanted to happen, and I tried to organise it and fit it into the sections and then into chapters. I finished my outline.

After months of procrastinating, complaining, and staring at a blank screen, I finished it.

But here I am, actively writing a book, still freaking out about my outline.

Will I even be able to use it?
Will the lessons I want to teach through it ever be realised?
What if something I don’t expect happens to the characters? How will I work that in?
How will I be able to fit all of these scenes together?
Is there even enough stuff here to make a story long enough?
Or is there too much?

I’ve already thought of some scenes that I had been so excited to write that I now have no idea how to fit into the outline, and that scares me.

But that’s the thing about an outline: It isn’t set in stone. You can change it.

Don’t let your fears or anxieties stop you from outlining, but more importantly, don’t let them stop you from writing. I know it can be stressful, overwhelming, and confusing, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it.


Are you a “planner” or a “pantser”? How do you handle your anxieties about outlining and plotting? Let me know in the comments!

Anxiety and Job Searching

Last name. First name. Address. Phone number. Why did you leave your last place of employment? What experience do you have? Why do you want to work here? Where do you see yourself in five years?

These questions are only a few that are permanently seared into my brain from the endless hours of applications that I always seem to be filling out. I recently started a part-time seasonal position. I love the job so far, even with being completely exhausted at the end of my shifts, being hit on by complete strangers, and awkwardly trying to talk friends into buying things when I used to be the one talking them out of their impulse buys. But because it is a seasonal position, I still need to find another position to start come January.

The majority of looking for work is just mind-numbing monotony, but it becomes a whole different thing when you add a mental illness to the mix. Having anxiety disorders can make submitting the applications and resumes, making follow-up phone calls, and being interviewed nearly impossible.

Because of facing the seemingly impossible time and time again, I’ve started noticing patterns in my application processes and anxiety levels.

The constant uncertainty of applying and interviewing in exhausting and worrying as it is. But when an anxiety disorder is added to the mix, the nervousness becomes a toxic fear. You constantly worry if you put down the correct information. You wonder if you smiled enough during your interview. You dwell on how well you shook the interviewer’s hand and if you should have done it differently. You think about whether you called too soon or too late to check on an application. You are terrified at the thought of going into an interview and forgetting the answers to basic questions. You overthink the pre-interview exams, wondering if you had typed just three more words if you would get the job. You obsess about whether your outfit was too colorful, too dull, or too casual for the interview.

But these aren’t things you can control or change.

However, these are some of the tips I’ve gathered for myself as I’ve looked for jobs over the last few years. I hope they can be of some help.

Searching for jobs to apply to:

Start specific and move towards generalized positions.
If you start with specific positions that you believe you will love, you may just get a dream job of yours because you took the time to look and apply. If you don’t find a dream job, look for another in your field. As you go along and apply to those positions, start looking at more general positions that might hire you on the spot. I usually aim to apply for five specific positions for every general position I apply to when I’m first looking. Then as time goes on and I’ve applied to the specific positions, I switch to one specific for every five or so general applications. That way I am always applying to the jobs that most appeal to me while I seek potential employment in the meantime.

Check at your local library and in the newspaper.
There are still several companies and small businesses that do not have job listings posted online, let alone online applications. Going to a library and looking in the newspaper is a great way to see when those companies are hiring.

Filling out applications:

Set a minimum and maximum number of applications to apply to in a given day.
Job searching is a job in itself. It can potentially take hours of work just to finish one application. Make sure you’re filling out applications. But make sure you are taking the time to make them and your resume look good and for you to take breaks. Applying can be mentally and emotionally draining, so be sure to get some fresh air, sleep, food, and relaxation.

Organize the applications.
I usually start off organizing the applications by due dates, then interest, then company/position. It isn’t often that applications have due dates, but I have applied to many. These jobs are usually highly competitive, and even if you don’t think it’s worth the effort because of lack of experience, you should apply. When organizing by interest, I simply go by the job descriptions that are readily available and start with those which seem most aligned with my goals and interests. Once I’ve done that, I go through and look at the companies and what they stand for and what perks are available for employees.

Submitting applications:

Double check everything.
I’ve realized while or shortly after submitting applications before that I’ve made a mistake. This can not only be embarrassing, but it could also cost you a position. When filling out paper applications, I prefer writing everything out in pencil first and then going back through and looking over it all before I fill it out in pen.

Try to make your resume unique to the company and position to which you are applying.
This isn’t always possible, and I’m beyond aware of that. But when you are submitting applications to companies and positions that you are truly interested in, it helps when you have things that stand out to HR.

Write cover letters.
I hate this. I really do. I am awful at writing letters to my friends and family; writing letters to complete strangers and trying to convince them to hire me is even worse. However, this could greatly help when applying, especially to your dream positions. Make the cover letters very specific to the company, and if possible, find the name of the supervisor or manager that would be overseeing the interviews and hiring process. Doing so has gotten me a few interviews that I hadn’t thought I would ever be considered for.

Follow-ups:

Call the companies to which you have applied.
I hate this about as much as cover letters, but when you call a company to ask if your application has been reviewed and/or if interviews have started, it shows initiative. I tend to call anywhere from three to seven days after I’ve submitted everything.

When possible, walk in to ask about your application.
There are many places that do not allow this anymore for security reasons. But if it is allowed, walking in can show initiative as well as put a face and personality to your name.

Interviews:

Arrive early.
Not only can this show that you are prepared and diligent, but it also gives you time to stop and breath before your interview. Taking several deep breaths can calm you. I also tend to bring something relaxing to do or work on while I wait. Usually I take a sketchbook and a book with me and will pull one of those out until I am called for my interview. This helps me to relax and empty my mind a little as well as helping me to act a little more like myself than my panicking brain normally allows in stressful situations.

Come well-prepared.
Show up with a printed copy of your resume, a portfolio (if applicable), questions that you might have about the position and company, ideas for what you could do in the position to improve efficiency or set the company apart, an expected (and usually negotiable) salary, and a smile.

Save questions about things such as sickness policies for after you are hired.
There are many questions that I tend to have about companies’ policies that I want to ask during the interview; however, asking the right questions at the incorrect times can take a wonderful interview and ruin it in seconds. Stop to analyze the interviewer and the situation before you ask the question, and if needed, write it down as a question to ask later.

Be honest.
Yes, embellishing yourself can be good, but don’t overdo it. Tell the truth when you’re asked a question that is meant to analyze your leadership skills or your personal interaction. In my experience, even when the truth seems as though it could harm my potential for being hired, it has always been praised. I’ve even gotten further in some interview processes and even hired after/because of my responses. Obviously those responses weren’t the only things that led to my being chosen, but I have been told that my honesty is something that interviewers have admired.

 

What are some of the things you do that help you remain calm and diligent throughout the process of looking for a job? Let me know down in the comments!