ANOTHER ROUND OF EXPOSURE THERAPY

bodamain

Hey everyone out there with anxiety and panic! Have you ever said to yourself,

“Gee wiz fellas, you know what I think would just be too great for my mental health? Extremely small, confined spaces, that are dark, smelly, and require lots of physical exertion?”

Well then, I have I got the place for you! 

Do you know those Escape Rooms that are so popular?  Well did you know that there is a chain called Boda Borg?  It’s like a Chucky Cheese playpen for adults. You go in and it’s literally 20 escape rooms. Very elaborate, long, multiple-roomed escape rooms. Some are more mental, some are more physical. Some require both.

I’ve made a good group of friends here at Harvard through a gaming club. And it’s been discussed that we should do a Boda Borg day sometime. And well, yesterday ended up being the day.

 

***A brief history for anyone reading this post who hasn’t read my blog in the past***

I’ve struggled with depression since I was a kid (bullying and being gay in conservative America…blah blah blah, you get it.)  And then after years of not taking care of myself and never addressing the depression,  I started breaking out into anxiety attacks at 20. By 23, I was full-blown agoraphobic. That’s when I started writing this blog. And from there I started the very long, bumpy road of recovery from completely insane, to regaining my humanity in an attempt to live my life rather than hide from it…

 

So anyways, when I arrived at Boda Borg yesterday, I was like… Oh holy fuck. 

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Have you ever watched those claustrophobic movies like The Descent? Or how about weird torture movies like SAW? And have you been like, thank god I don’t have to go through that?  Then great news! In Boda Borg you can do both! 

descent

 

 

Our first “Mission” was called PLATOON. And we walked into this room and had to find the supplies that we were told to get.  Once we found them, A tiny little door that you had to crawl into was unlocked. And when I say tiny little door, I’m not kidding.  Here’s an example of what the door-openings look like:

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It was practically pitch-black inside, with only a few little orange lights to add just enough light to allow to see where the walls were.

Inside this dark box, you realized you have to crawl and snake your way between platforms UPWARDS in almost complete blackness. You climb your way all the way from crawling-height on the first floor, up to the second floor!  (I graciously made a visual representation for everyone below)

 

ENTER

 

Oh and I forgot to mention!!!  So, every time you progress to a new room in Boda Borg, the door closes behind you AND LOCKS! So, we get into this cramped area and the door locks behind us, and it’s tight, and dark, so sort of disorienting. I try pushing the little door open to get some light in, but it’s locked… Now, I don’t believe in God. But in that moment, I silently said to God, or the Universe, or whatever, “Look, if you allow me to have a panic attack in front of my newfound friends, I swear, I will fucking kill you.”

We started snaking our way up the platforms, on our knees, bending our bodies, lifting ourselves up little by little. I could feel panic at my side. I could feel it just wanting to break loose and cause havoc. But, I stayed calm.  Deep breath in, deep breath out, and lift!  Up to the next platform I went. Then I crawled over to the next opening. Deep breath in, deep breath out, and lift! When we finally made it to the top and I could see the light of the room (which, the rooms themselves can be claustrophobic to some, but after snaking your way through thatthe rooms are a refreshing wide-open expanse.

boda2

 

But soon you figure out that Boda Borg is filled with nothing but these panic-inducing tactics.  Almost everything requires crawling through tight passageways, or climbing up tight passageways, or climbing across tight passageways (as I found in one tube that had monkey-bars running through it. The tube itself is lined with sensors, so if your body touches it at any point, you fail and have to restart the entire mission.)

 

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As the day went on, it began to get fun. It’s like a panic attack actually.  When you start getting panic attacks, you’re like,

OH MY GOD I’M DYING!!!!!!!

But after a hundred panic attacks, you’re like…

OMG WHATEVER, THESE HAVEN’T KILLED ME YET. I’M SO OVER IT.

It’s just like that.  Another room, another insanely claustrophobic space that you’ve been locked into.  But they haven’t killed you so far, right?

I started loosening up. I started really enjoying myself. I started to have a lot of fun!  We ended up being there 8 hours! You can buy a 35 dollar day pass that allows you unlimited access the entire day.  And we we’re determined to beat all 20 missions.

boda1

Here’s a great example btw:  When I say these spaces are tight, I’m not kidding.  They’e like the scenes in Alien where they’re climbing through the ventilation ducts

alien

 

But here’s one thing I will say: Having friends there helped so much. Knowing that you were there with friends as a team, was amazing. Because you weren’t alone. You weren’t abandoned. And isn’t that really the root cause of most of our anxiety and panic anyways?  It’s always the fear that we’re going to be helpless somehow?

But with friends there, it’s fun. You have support. You have laughter. You have fun!

And that’s so true with mental health in general.  Humans are social creatures. We need meaningful interaction with others, otherwise, we lose our fuckin’ brains. I know a lost of us like to think that we’re the lone wolf or whatever, but take it from someone who literally had to be a lone wolf for some much of my life…

It isn’t fun and it isn’t glorious. It’s fucking miserable. 

I fully believe that support is the number 1 key to helping us stay sane and happy.  And I’m glad that I’ve made some friends here, and I’m glad that I’m in a place where I can challenge my depression, anxiety, and panic.

What do you guys think helps you the most when confronting your fears?

 

~ The Dark Horse

(And no, this isn’t proofread. It’s summer vacation, and I aint proofreading shit)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SUMMER IS COMING!

SUMMER

 

So, it’s May and summer is just around the corner!

(Well, for some lucky people around the globe, it’s always Summer…Just know, I’m jealous of you!)

But here, the trees are finally greening up. The flowers blooming. And the weather finally warming. I had my big event 2 weeks ago, and just finished my last final today!  I’M FREE!!!!!!!!!

But now I’m asking myself: what to do? 


 

I feel great, like I’ve accomplished so much this past school year…and yet, I can hear depression and anxiety knocking on my door, like the killer in some horror movie.

I can hear them whispering to me…

“You did good…but can you really top that?”

“Where do you go from here? have you ever considered THAT?”

“What if you fail the next time you try?”

“What if this all was a fluke?”

baba

 

Ah yes, depression and anxiety. Creeping around in the darks of your mind, like they’re the fuckin’ Babadook.

 

SO HERE’S WHAT I AM DOING

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I’m reminding myself that I have an internship this summer in Shanghai! I worked hard to get it, and I’m scared and excited! And yes, my depression and anxiety want to creep in yet again, and say things like:

“What if you hate it?”

“Won’t the language barrier be hard?”

“May this even be… dangerous?” 

“I mean…the world is becoming an increasingly hostile place after all….”

“And won’t it be lonely?”
“And OMG I ALMOST FORGOT! ….What if you fuck up? What if you fail? What if you’re not good enough?  Boy oh boy… you better just stay home in bed huh?”

 

But I’m a determined person. I don’t want to fail…and not only do I not want to fail, but I’m determined to achieve greatness in my life. The idea of going back to cafe jobs and retail makes me dread the future.  AND YOU KNOW WHAT BITCHES? I FUCKING REFUSE TO DREAD THE FUTURE ANY LONGER. I grew up in Ohio during the recession. All I ever had was people being like…

“get your head out of the clouds!”

“You hate your job? WE ALL HATE OUR JOBS! Just be thankful you have one.”

“There are tons of unemployed people who would love to take your place!”

“And where do you think you’ll go anywhere? There’s no jobs in this country! You’ll just run off to a big city and end up unemployed and on the streets!”

“Why can’t you just be thankful.”

“Why isn’t this life enough for you?”

“The world outside Ohio is even scarier!”

“Risks are scary! And hard! Just don’t do it!”

(I’m starting to realize where my anxiety learned all it’s lines from…)

But guess what people. I am my own person and I can choose to do what I want with my life. And if I want to have my head in the clouds my whole life, dreaming of happiness, then god dammit, I’m going to!

And for all you Ohioans out there (you know who you are)… do you know where “having my head in the clouds” has taken me?

I’ve been able to go to college in Los Angeles

LA

 

 

And Chicago!

chi

 

 

I’ve been able to live and work in Melbourne, Australia

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And Auckland, New Zealand

auck

 

It’s even given me the opportunity to be here at Harvard.

harvard

 

 

Also, on a random note: The Real Housewives series has also seemed to follow me from LA, to Melbourne, to Auckland…it’s been weird.

RHauckland

 

 

BUT ANYWAYS, YOU GET THE POINT! 

 

There will always be people out there who put you down. Whether it be that they’re jealous of you, afraid that you’re a stronger person than them, or maybe even genuinely just believe you’ll fail (but that normally spawns from one of the first two.) And unfortunately, our brains are wired socially. So when we hear that shit enough as we grow up, depression and anxiety are likely to follow. So then, not only are you fighting those around you, but you’re fighting your own internalized sense of being failure.

 

So….. let’s devise a plan:

home

If negativity wants in so bad, LET IT IN. Invite negativity inside. Offer it a cocktail, an amuse-bouche with a complimentary aperitif if you will. Let that depression and anxiety get comfortable. Let all the harsh words from those who doubt you take a seat. perhaps lay out a few copies of Vogue?

“It’s the September Issue,” you can say, seeing at that is the pinnacle of Vogue’s year. “Anna lent me a copy early…she wanted my advice.”

A collection of photos from famed photograph David LaChapelle hang on the wall. This house really is the paramount of distinguished taste. Then, as everyone is enjoying the party, quietly walk outside into the cool night air.  get int your car, and…

 

boom

~ The Dark Horse

 

Life After Mental Illness?

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So, I wrote a post last week about how I was about to stand in front of a crowd and host a show… the first time getting in front of a crowd since life was completely turned upside down by crippling anxiety that got so severe, it turned into constant panic attacks, which then led to agoraphobia.

I was in therapy for a long time. The first goal was to get me to a point where I could walk outside of my apartment. Then the goal was help to me in public spaces, like grocery stores and malls. Finally, through exposure therapy, the goal was to make me feel comfortable anywhere.  Me and my therapist wanted to completely get rid of that fear of the outside word.

In the beginning, it felt like I was stranded in the middle of an open ocean. Endless water. No shore in sight. It was overwhelming. I felt like I would drown in the outside world, with no place to rest my tired body.  And I won’t lie, I did in fact have many a panic attack during the early stages of therapy.   Dude, I was legit a fuckin’ mess hahah! I can’t even believe how crazy I was when I look back at it now.

ocean

 

And why do we have those panic attacks? We fear that beneath the surface, there may danger. Like something is about to go wrong…like the world is about to fall apart.

shark

 

But over time, I got better. I got stronger. I grew brave. And after a while, the outside world didn’t scare me anymore. I realized that I allowed my agoraphobia to go on longer that I should have because I never challenged it. I allowed it to control me.

 

But then I stopped.  And do you know what happened last night?  Absolutely nothing. I went onto that stage and owned it. I didn’t shake. I didn’t freeze up. I didn’t even sweat. I was the best me I could have been, and it was amazing.

 

And guess what, I had a great time!  I loved the event last night, and it will be a memory I will always have!  Looking back, I’m like…I could have been doing this all along! I could have been experiencing all this exciting stuff for years now!  Why did I let anxiety control my life?????

And you know what happens when you stop fearing everything?

…you’re then able to realize how beautiful it all is.

reefreef1reef2

 

 

It’s never too late to live your life

~ The Dark Horse

Feeling like you need help?  Call your local Lifeline support line. Another great resource I love is an Aussie website called Beyond Blue

EXPOSURE THERAPY: Or, I’m Bringing A Drag Queen To Campus

Untitled design

Alright everyone, so, if you’ve read my blog for a while you will know that I used to have a little problem.  This super tiny, basically nonexistent problem was that I had agoraphobia. In fact, for a while I couldn’t even walk out the front door of my apartment without having a panic attack. And then for years after that, I struggled to be in open places.  Luckily for me, I had an amazing therapist who gave me what’s called Exposure Therapy.

For those who don’t know what it is, it’s basically exactly how it sounds. You get over your anxiety by being thrown into the situations that give you anxiety.  It’s hell, I’ll be honest. But damn, that shit works!

For me, I had gotten into therapy way too late. I didn’t start until I had formed a complete fear of the outside world. Anywhere that wasn’t my house was a source of anxiety. Also, I’m gay and have always acted really weird around straight guys (because they were always mean to me) and I was especially weird around hot jock straight guys (because…you know, alpha male types are straight up cunts). Anyways, so my therapist, being the clever bitch she is, figured the perfect solution…. I was going to do my exposure therapy at the football stadium on campus…

foot

And not only would I be doing it there, but I would be doing it DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM AS THEY HAD THEIR PRACTICE.

blues

Yes, that’s right. She had me run up and down the bleachers, and then run onto the football field as they practiced and spin in circles to make myself dizzy… all right in front of the football team.  The goal was to make me feel like I was going to pass out, and then show me that I didn’t pass out.

Look people, it wasn’t easy.  In fact, as I ran the bleachers I was screaming profane things at my therapist.

“You’re a fucking cunt! You’re a fucking cunt! You’re a fucking cunt!” I screamed over and over.

She simply responded with, “You know, it’s weird, I didn’t know that people who were about to pass out had the energy to scream like that.”

I ended up really loving this girl. She was amazing and was exactly what I needed in a therapist, I just didn’t know it.

 

ANYWAYS, so what does all this have to do with Drag Queens right???? 

Well, one of my internships on campus is making episodes for a podcast. Back in January, the guy who runs the podcast was like, “Hey, can you make an event happen? An event would be great publicity.”  Now, I didn’t know much about drag, but I thought it would so bright and colorful to have an event with a drag queen.  And how much fun right? I’m all about having people learn in a fun setting. Trying to learn when you’re bored as fuck is impossible.

So, I’ve been spending the past few months making arrangements and learning everything there is to know about drag. It’s been a whirlwind, and now, it’s almost here. I am actually going to be hosting the event!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?  I’m going to be the one on-stage hosting the event and asking the questions. And here’s the thing….

This is going to be my first time on stage since developing anxiety.

sever

 

That’s right. I’m going to be in front of an auditorium that seats 200 people, with all eyes on me.  This is Exposure Therapy 2.0 bitches, and I’m determined to make this fun. I’m determined to not get anxious or have a panic attack in front of a crowd. I want to make people laugh. I want them to have fun, and to enjoy themselves.

And on top of that, I’m going to keep learning. This is the next step of my journey. I’ve done a great job of getting back into society, but this is my chance to crawl out from the shadows. I’ve always been a natural entertainer. A natural people-person. The anxiety and depression just kind of masked that for like… over a decade. But it’s never too late.

Do you understand that?

It’s never ever too late.

We can always grow and always be better. Depression and anxiety does not control us. We control them.

And furthermore, this goes beyond depression and anxiety. This is true for all of us, from people with PTSD, to someone who is having a midlife crisis, or anyone who just feels like they aren’t living to their true potential.   You aren’t dead are you?  No, I didn’t think so. And since you’re alive, it means you’re able to change.

To grow.

To be better.

To be happy.

blair

If this boy from Indiana can have the balls to put on a dress, then trust me, we can have the balls to change our lives.

 

Let’s Do This!

~ The Dark Horse

Learning New Things: Or, Learning To Soar And Never Giving Up

 

albb

So, I’m picking up some hobbies. I’ve grown tired of feeling stale and boring. When people ask what I do in my spare time, I’m like… “I read, write, go to the gym, drink tea at cafes as read and write…and I eat….and stuff?”   And then I sit there and I’m like… my god, I sound like I’m 90.

 

I need a little more magic in my life. I need something that takes me away from the constant cycle of “reading and writing”. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love to read and write…but sometimes I just need something else.  Anything else, really.  I love writing and It’s a great creative outlet. But it’s so silent, so isolated. I want something performative and exciting!

 

Years and years ago I bought a banjo. A banjo I have hardly touched ever since because when you’re consumed with depression you don’t feel like you have the energy or brain power to do anything. But, I’m better these days. And it’s time for me to start doing all the things I spent so many years not doing. So, I’m gonna’ pick that bitch back up again. I love music and I wish I was better at being able to make it. And then I was like…

Well, I own a fucking instrument!!! Why don’t I do something about it????

banjo.gif

 

I’m working on this huge project right now at school where I’m writing a podcast episode on Drag. And even though I’m gay and have had a few experiences where I’ve seen a drag queen walking down the street or something, I’ve actually never been to a show, nor have I ever watched Drag Race or anything. So I’ve been doing a crash course in Drag lately and have been discovering a whole bunch of really talented people. The crash course is what’s gotten me into the UK Big Brother season that Courtney Act on it (who thank god won, cuz everyone else in that house was a bloody cunt to her)

Anyhoo, there is this drag queen named Trixie Mattel. She sings folk/country/alt/singer-songwriter something type of music or something? I’m not sure how I’d classify her style, but anyways, she’s super talented. She can play instruments and sings really well.

trixie

I had reached out to her for an interview for the podcast episode I’m working on, and she totally blew me off….which kind of sucks….BUT I’M NOT BITTER AT ALL..….WOULD A BITTER PERSON TYPE IN ALL BOLD CAPS????? I DON’T THINK SO!

But anyways, I was like, look: If this sassy cunt has the balls to put on a dress, wig, and makeup and then rock an autoharp on a stage….then god dammit I can learn a fuckin’ banjo!  And so, learn a banjo I shall!

 

 

On top of that, I’ve also started learning Mandarin.

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I have an internship in Shanghai this summer, and I’ve also been selected to do some travel blogging while I’m there, which is insanely cool!

The internship says I don’t need any experience speaking Mandarin, but fuck that. Goin’ to a foreign country without knowing any of their language is white-fuckin’-trash.   Ok…actually, I take that back. If someone is going to a tourist place for a week, then I can see them not needing to learn the language.  I don’t think anyone going to Cancun for Spring Break would have any need to learn Spanish (however, America is rapidly changing, so learning Spanish is becoming more and more useful in our country and I may argue should be a mandatory secondary language taught in schools).

Anyways…. what the fuck was I saying? … Oh right. So yeah, I’m going to be in China for the summer. And when you settle and live someplace for a while and have a chance to really just get into a groove there, knowing the language and culture is key. Especially since I’m going to be venturing out on my own to explore the city to write these travel pieces on top of the internship.

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So, I’m doin’ this! 

I’m living my life. I’m done sitting passively as life passes me by. Any of you, go back to my early blog posts. Read some posts from back when I was agoraphobic. It was insane! I literally let my youth slip by as I struggled and fought against the issues I was having. It breaks my heart when I go back and think about my years in California, Australia, and New Zealand. I was running and searching. I was looking for myself. I was trying to find who I was. But I was so hurt from my past and had nobody there to help me move forward, so I just stumbled tumbled and crashed.

But, that’s growth right?  Growth is moving forward and learning from the past so you can become better for the future. I remember a great line from one of my favorite movies, The Time Machine. The main character keeps trying to go back in time to save his girlfriend who dies, but no matter how many times he goes back and tries to change the situation, she always dies in some way. The past is cemented. There’s no changing it.

At one point he says “The only way to go is forward”.

~ The Dark Horse

INFJ and Emotional Intensity

emotion

 

Hello my fellow INFJ’s!

So, today let’s talk about something we all experience: Emotional Intensity. 

 

Emotional intensity has been described by Imi Lo as:

“Emotional intensity is a form of neuro-diversity that is most often misunderstood by our culture. It is characterized by heightened and intense feelings, a constant stream of both positive and negative feelings — pain, distress, despair, fear, excitement, love, sadness or happiness — sometimes a mixture of many at the same time.”

For those of you out there who like images, I’ve made this:

HAPPY

INFJ types are known for our strengths. Such as being creative, insightful, inspiring and passionate.

These come from our intense sensitivity, which we get from this emotional spectrum.  We can see such beauty, but also such pain. We can see the light and the dark, and we can see them with a sharpness that others can’t.

 

For example, have you ever been talking to someone and they’re going on and on about how great their weekend was?  They’re sitting there saying things like, “OMG we went to this bar and OMG we were there till like 2am…and I was like…OMG I have work Monday, but whatevs right, it’s the weekend?!?!  OMG it was so much fun!” 

And you’re staring at them blankly, almost in pain. Wondering how something so insanely boring and trivial could bring them such joy?

 

Well, that’s the emotional spectrum in play. Normal people can really only feel so much joy and so much pain. They live in a relatively constant stasis, unaware that there could be anything more. And for the most part, not even caring if they ever have more. Because as far as they’re concerned, they’re happy.

But not us. When we hear them talk, our stomachs sink and our palms sweat. When you’ve felt intense joy and intense pain, the idea of spending your entire life only 60% switched on is scary.  AND IT SHOULD BE! For us, living that lifestyle would mean that we aren’t letting ourselves flourish. We need more because we know that there is more. 

dunst

For us, living that kind of life would be like being locked in a cage for eternity.

 

That’s why INFJ types are natural artists, travelers, philosophers, teachers, and preachers. We need more.  We need to feel like we have a cause. Like we have a purpose. 

And sadly, a lot of us don’t get nurtured and supported the way we should. A lot of people don’t understand us or refuse to help.  Then, our sensitive nature, which could have been there to push us to be the best we can be, ends up devouring us.

We wonder why nobody gets us and why nobody cares. We wonder why we’re so different…why everyone says it’s so wrong for us to just be…us. And thus, we fall to the dreaded INFJ dark side.

darke

 

But, we don’t have to.  We don’t have to hate ourselves. We don’t have to feel like crap. We don’t have to let society tell us that we’re bad for feeling such intense emotions.

Will people always tell us that our head is in the clouds?    Yes.

Just remember you’re not alone. There are other INFJ’s out there.  We are few and far between, but we are here. And we get you. And we don’t think you’re weird. We think you’re awesome!

bloom

Let yourself bloom!

~ The Dark Horse