My problem with “confidence”

A lot of the time people who are anxious or worried about something, are usually given the advice “be confident”. Now the person saying this might mean well and have good intentions, because encouragement can help lessen someone’s anxiety and bring up their self-esteem.

But if we look into why confidence is needed, there’s a more negative side. It’s about how others treat you, in this world, there is (unfortunately) a large majority of people who like to feed their egos. The things that matter to these people are ego, status and popularity. Especially in the town I’m living in, when it comes down to how people treat you, it’s all down to how much status you’ve got and how you carry yourself as a person.

For example, if you’re confident and don’t feel emotionally vulnerable, this means people are going to look up to you more as a person. Compared to someone who is emotionally vulnerable, who is aware of the people around them, and doesn’t display confidence. People are going to be more likely to take advantage of this person’s weakness and perhaps see them as lesser.

I’ve never heard of anyone accepting people’s weaknesses and anxiety, I’ve never seen people celebrate being emotionally open, to the point where you’re allowed to feel anxious and nervous about something without feeling that you need to “be more confident”. As an example, there’s many out there who have been bullied throughout life, perhaps in school as a child, and this means that person might feel anxious and more timid around other people.

Instead of accepting that this person is going to look anxious in public, instead of accepting that they might shake a little, or speak very quietly. Instead of accepting this and allowing their confidence to develop upon acceptance, we instead tell them to “be more confident”. Why can’t a person simply BE in society without having to seem like a confident, smiling, healthy person?

Why do we see confident people as the “right way to be”, when instead we should accept that some people are going to feel anxious in public places, and that treating them no different than a smiling confident person who doesn’t have the same fears, is more beneficial to building that person’s confidence?

Feigned confidence isn’t real confidence, and it’s rare that “faking it until you make it” helps someone without confidence. How can you build upon confidence that isn’t there? Confidence isn’t just a mask to stick on your face, to cover up your anxiety and fear, in order to make those around you feel more comfortable.

Confidence needs patience. Confidence needs understanding. Confidence should be built from acceptance. Instead of shaming someone for being anxious and nervous in public places, instead of shaming that person for speaking too quietly on stage, we need to accept them and show them it’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to have emotions.

I’m rambling on a lot. I’m just hoping people reading this understand my points. Not many people want to acknowledge or believe this, but in the world confident people get treated better while emotionally vulnerable people get stepped on. People out there feel uncomfortable with vulnerability, so instead they bully and belittle those for being “weak” and applaud others for being outgoing and “strong”.

When we see the negative side to confidence, only then we’re able to see how hypocritical it is to expect others to be confident. It all ties into ’cause and affect’ too. People often mistake ’cause and affect’, instead of questioning why a person appears they way they are, they instead place them into a tiny little box and say they’re not making an effort.

Whenever I’m in public spaces, because of what I’ve gone through in the past, my subconscious mind sees being around strangers in public as “danger”, a threat to me. Whenever I’m in public, my body will tremble, my voice will evaporate, and whenever I pick up a coffee and try to drink it, my hands might shake so much that I dribble it over myself by mistake. Or that whenever I’m pulling out money from my wallet to pay the cashier, I might be slow trying to get the money out, because of my shaking hands.

Instead of allowing myself to accept that I’m anxious and that my hands are going to shake, instead of allowing myself to relax and enjoy being outdoors as much as I can, I’m instead mentally beating myself up over not “being confident enough”. This is because throughout the years, I’ve been personally seen as weak, I’ve been laughed at, called names, simply for having shaky hands or looking visibly nervous. Anxiety, nervousness, it isn’t accepted.

I feel that I’m made to be self conscious and fixate solely of the fact I spilled my coffee on myself, or that I genuinely feel uncomfortable sat down on a table with other tables of strangers around me. I feel that every little thing I do as a result of my anxiety, is a flaw and makes me n embarrassment. Because that’s what I, and many others with anxiety, have been taught by their peers.

Even some therapists shove this onto you, instead of accepting that you’re anxious and naturally feel this way as a result of past experiences, instead of helping you accept your emotions and accept what they do to your facial expressions and body language. Instead of teaching you not to worry about what others think, to relax and allow yourself to feel awkward without shame. You’re taught to “be confident!”

Now I understand that it helps people to be “more confident”, I understand that there’s people out there who benefit from this type of therapy and practice of being confident. But I feel that in a way, it’s just building upon the stigma further. Hide everything, hide your emotions, wear a big fake smile to make others comfortable. Does anyone not see how much energy acting consumes? Does anyone not see how much emotional health that sacrifices? The strain of a false facade?

I hope this post wasn’t too much of a incoherent mess. I’m currently going through month 4 of Sertraline withdrawal, I’m not as emotionally connected to my thoughts as I once were. Now I do have empathy and I understand there are cases where people can’t be open with their emotions, because it’s a safety mechanism. It’s something they need to do to remain safe, wear a mask. All I’m doing is expressing how people out there treat you differently based on how much confidence you express. It isn’t just about you and making yourself happy. It’s about avoiding the judgement, shame and being taken advantage of.

I’m taught to try and stop shaking. I’m taught to do breathing exercises and told to relax my muscles. But do we not see where the discomfort is coming from? My discomfort isn’t from the fact that I feel and look visibly anxious. The fact my hands shake, the fact I have awkward posture, and that my body language screams “I’M SCARED”. None of this causes me discomfort. What DOES cause me discomfort, is other people’s reactions to my anxiety. Other people’s ignorance, their judgement, their strong belief that anxiety and awkward posture = weird/weak/pathetic. And I have a terrible feeling that other people who have anxiety, also feel the same way.

Oh boy! Oh boy!

Oh man, I thought there was no other joke more amusing than the one I had today in the shape of a doctor’s appointment. Years and years I’ve been left in the dark, left to rot by my GP, left to rot by the NHS mental health team. All they’ve done over the last 13 years was shove pills down my throat, shove CBT in my face, and tell me to “fix myself”.

Well guess what? They’re now realising I have an assessment next week for C-PTSD. Complex. Post. Traumatic. Stress. Disorder. I have been so gosh-darn desperate, my hope in the NHS mental health services has been destroyed that much, I had to scrap together the little bit of money I’ve got left in my bank account and pay for a private assessment.

A private assessment in a country that has NOOOOOOOOO medical insurance! In a country where we’re TAXPAYERS PAYING FOR THE NHS TO HELP US WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES! AND IT HASN’T DONE A SINGLE THING. SO MANY ADULTS OUT THERE (and children, which is distressing…) HAVE BEEN LEFT TO ROT, IN A PIT OF THEIR OWN MENTAL ILLNESS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL/EMOTIONAL CRISIS. Trust me, folks. They may that suicide prevention is important and that there’s always someone there to listen, but these are just empty words. Especially in this pandemic, suicide rates are rocketing up, and the NHS are still ignorant towards most of people’s mental health. We’re trapped in time. I’m surprised that they’re not doing lobotomies anymore, since they’re that far behind.

Anyway, getting off topic. Because I’ve been left to decay to the point I’ve had to pay money that I can’t afford just to get a scrap of help and hope, they’re now having alarm bells ringing in their heads. “Oh! Oh dear! Your problems are complex! CBT won’t help you!” – the exact words I’ve been saying over and over for years. I’ve said this to my GP, I’ve said this to the counsellor down at Mind, I’ve said this to PCART, to the Urgent Care and Assessment Team. “CBT won’t help! I know it won’t!” and they would always say, “Do CBT. You have to cooperate and do CBT, or leave.”

Freaking years and amazingly after 13 years of suffering they’re now regaining their hearing. Incredible, amazing. It only cost me so many years of trauma, childhood trauma, flashbacks, death wishes, self-injuries, isolation, agoraphobia, rotting teeth, etc. It only wasted so many years of my youth, of my adulthood, wasting away in a bedroom, in the dark, wishing for an escape. See, folks. This is how mental health care works in the UK. They won’t help you at the start, they won’t help you during your worst moments, the least they’ll do is shove pills down your neck or maybe stick you in inpatient if you’re really desperate. But when it comes to helping you? Actually looking at the route cause of your problems? Treating those problems? Assessing you? Diagnosing you? LISTENING? UNDERSTANDING? No. No this doesn’t happen, right until you’ve been left to rot for the maximum amount of years.

You’ve got to prove to them that you’re sick. Fall so far. Lose teeth. Scratch skin. And when it gets to the point where you’ve lost trust and given up hope and death seems comforting. “Oh! You need a clinical psychologist! You’re problems are that severe! We need to find you one!”

This was a joke. This was a whole comedy, with a complete audience, packed with laughter. Laughter of joy? No, laughter of tears. Painful laughter. Pitiful laughter. Fake laughter. The kind of laughter you hear when you’ve downed so many pints, your head is spinning, and you’re realising how much of a mess the planet is.

I’ve got a private assessment next week. I’m a UK citizen. A country where there’s no insurance. I’ve got to pay £359 up front for a job the NHS never did for me as a child. Psychiatric assessment, a real one, where I’m finally understood and listened to.

I’ll update everyone on just how bad it’s REALLY gotten. Just so you know, Sertraline withdrawal that I posted about a few weeks or so ago. Yeah, month 4 of withdrawal. 23rd of July, exactly month 4. Maybe I should make a post later comparing my symptoms from one month, to another. See what’s altered, see how I am coping, make a big document of it.

Thanks for listening.

Aftermath of my neighbour’s party

It stopped at 11PM. Now imagine this, folks, music as loud as a rescue helicopter flying above your house. You know how rescue helicopters are so big and loud, that if one remained over your house, eventually it would feel like an earthquake is occuring, or the noise might perforate your ear drums.

Imagine music so loud, it sounds like you’re driving into town about to see a carnival set up there. With such deafeningly loud music, that can rumble eardrums miles away. That noise, alongside the sound of dozens of drunken shouts and laughs, is enough to send someone with PTSD and autism into a frenzy.

My family are unfortunate being trapped in this little town. My little brother and sisters are all autistic. My parents are autistic too. Yes, we’re a complex little family but we are always full of cheers and smiles. Until the crushing weight of reality crashes down, and we remember that we’re surrounded by drug dealers who have no respect for others.

And today is one of those days. Last night we all huddled up in my mum’s room, I dragged the big fan up from downstairs and put it on the highest setting to attempt to drown out the music blasting from outside our house. My siblings were unsettled and found it hard to sleep, because of being autistic and having noise sensitivity. We had to put a lot of effort into settling them down, comforting them, something that should NEVER happen. But the neighbours don’t give a damn, in fact they find some sick pleasure from knowing they can blast music and unnerve us.

We have ear defenders at home, so you can imagine my little brother and sisters, and my mum having to wear these. And the fan blaring. All cuddled up in my mum’s room, wishing that the noise could stop soon. My parents do all they can to keep us happy, healthy and well fed. Yet it becomes overwhelming at times, when there’s still a mortgage that is preventing us from moving as soon as we like.

It becomes overwhelming, when we’re surrounded by loud reckless people with no respect for others. In this small town, my family are outsiders. So we don’t have friends, we don’t have control, we don’t have respect. We’re not drug dealers. So we don’t get respect. We’re not two-faced, we’re not snobs, we don’t blast loud music or throw house parties until 2AM. We don’t lie. We don’t deceive. We don’t make others suffer. And yet, we’re treated like nothing, we’re not even considered human. During these moments, not a single friend or neighbour is here for us. It’s Hell.

It’s 2:47PM and last night every little noise I heard, even when it was just the floor creaking or the fan going, my brain kept on mistaking it for the pulsation of that music. But there was no more music, it stopped at 11PM. Yet these little sounds reminded me of the music and it made sleeping difficult. This morning I woke up, my little brother noticed me and asked if the music was still playing, because he could keep hearing a “thud, thud, thud”. I’m terrified of the music coming back, we all are. I don’t think it is here yet. And I’m hoping they don’t switch it on later, because last time it made me scream, twitch and cry.

Don’t take your freedom for granted, fellow reader, because while you’re able to make your home a home, we’re all trapped here waiting to move. Like caged dogs wishing to leave the dog shelter. But this isn’t going to happen until 2023, so there’s going to be a few more years of emotional excruciation.

I’m sat here glued to my phone, stuck in my bedroom, because my body is frozen from any sudden noise. Whenever I feel trapped in life, mainly because of this neighbourhood, I get obsessed with the Internet as it disconnects me from reality. I’m scared of leaving this phone, because of the music happens again, I’ll need to plug in my headphones and hide under my duvet. I’m scared of going downstairs, because what if they make a noise? I’ll be too far into the open. These walls are paper thin. English houses are paper thin and not properly insulated.

Be grateful for your freedom. Be grateful that your neighbours respect you and don’t treat you like garbage. Be grateful that you don’t feel like a trespasser in your neighbourhood. Be grateful for your friends. Some people have none. Be grateful, because what seems to you like a simple thing, is like winning the lottery for me and my family.

What sound sensitivity does to me (autism + PTSD)

As I write this my neighbours are playing their music at the loudest possible volume, this means I’m in a big state of anxiety and distress. When you think of loud music, sure the volume’s high, but it isn’t always enough to make your bedroom floor vibrate (my bedroom is close to the window), it isn’t always enough to hear in your kitchen, your bathroom, or halfway down the street.

Yet my neighbours are unlike ordinary people, in fact they’re alcoholics who are into dealing drugs. Yes, folks. Unfortunately the tiny town I moved to years ago is a drug dealer’s retreat, where you’re either one of them, or you’re ruled over by them and they see you as someone who is weak and deserves to be punished. Aka. myself and my family.

Now I want to make this clear, dear readers, that this house has a mortgage that isn’t going to be paid off until the year 2023. So that’s another few years of Hell. Anyway, the reason I’m making this post is to take my mind away from the flashbacks and trauma, and instead explain what happens to me when the neighbours thrown an alcohol fused party and blast music to the highest percentage ever.

When I hear this music blasting, it sends me into fight and flight mode. This is a trauma response, and because of feeling trapped and under my neighbour’s control. I’m hiding in my bathroom, relaxing in an empty bath, with the ear plugs tightly pressed in my ear holes and ear defenders tightly pressed against my skull. The reason I’m doing this, is because the bathroom is the furthest away from the noise. Plus it’s very cool in there, nobody hangs around on the bathroom, and when the lights are off it is dark.

The reason I need to wear ear defenders and ear plugs, is not just to block out the noise of them, but to block of any awareness that these neighbours exist. Because my PTSD leads me to get the bad sensation of being controlled, I feel like the neighbours are purposely making this racket to make me as uncomfortable as possible.

To take back what little control I feel I have, I place myself in a comfortable and safe mental box, where I can deprive myself of these noises. I feel that when I’m wearing ear defenders, I can pretend that I’m a person who is in a safe and happy neighbourhood with neighbours that aren’t drug dealers and alcoholics who show no respect for people with autism, but instead they’re respectful members who know how loud is “too loud”.

And it’s not just this, being in the bathroom enhances this detachment from my reality. The tighter and more closed off from people and noises, the easier it is on my emotions and mental well-being. Now I’m going to talk about what happens when I decide to leave the bathroom, and what it does to my body and emotional health. As I leave the bathroom, once again I can hear the vibrations of the music from outside. Even with ear defenders on, my autism means that I’m sensitive to vibrations and it feels like my ears are vibrating. It feels like my skull is vibrating too.

This means it’s very hard to concentrate on anything other than the vibrating music and my building anxiety. In fact, now that I’m fully out of the bathroom and make my way into my bedroom, I get this deep-seated urge to scream and cry. This is where I was before deciding to hide myself away on the bathroom, the loud voices of drunk men, the drunken singing and shouting, and the constant pulsating music got that intense I screamed and cried.

The screaming and crying was that loud, my adrenaline was shot up and my body shook as a physical reaction. It’s very hard for me to make noise in this house, for example, I’ve wanted to scream and cry as a way to release the pent up emotions that I feel when the neighbours choose to throw another drunken party at 12PM midnight. But have always had my anxiety of the neighbours hearing me, of anyone getting confrontational, which would often render me mute. Yet it got this intense, I was that emotionally agitated that I did release a shrill scream of fear.

As I’m downstairs, I notice dinner that I was in the middle of cooking. Instead of eating my dinner, my stomach feels queasy and I feel weak on my legs. When I hear noises from nextdoor, my body jerks as a response, it’s an involuntary response. But if I hear them hammering wood, every time that hammer hits the wood, I jerk. And now when I hear a person outside laugh or shout, my body jerks in response to this. I’m like a puppet on strings, controlled by these sounds.


I’m in my own form of Hell…

Disclaimer: I’m not against antidepressant use and understand that they save a lot of lives and make living more manageable. I’ve used antidepressants in the past which did not have the same negative effect. I’m willing to expand more on any of the below with future entries. These are all personal experiences and not to ignore any positive experiences people have had or to coat everything in one colour. There are many excellent doctors and psychologists who do help, there are many good people in the world.

There’s a special place in my brain and it’s called ‘Hell’, a place where nights are no longer full of restful sleep and instead full of tortured souls crying from the heavy weight of sleep deprivation (you can hear their screams). A place where the future seems distant and unclear, where time has been evaporated and days merge into each other. Where life no longer has any fragrance or excitement, where there’s no new things to learn, no hope or trust.

And this little place called ‘Hell’ and the very brain in which it spins it’s chaotic web resides in my own skull. It was a foolish mistake of mine, something which should’ve brought hope and instead brought months of pain still continuing to this night. A night where I lie awake, my head spinning with emotions threatening to leak out through screams and cries, the same desperation flooding my core, as I remain sleep deprived.

“They gave me hope to live, they made my thoughts easier to manage,” said one voice of reason. Another said, “this is WHY you need to be medicated; you’ve got PTSD! you’re sick!” while a further ignored my wishes and needs and instead handed me a prescription as a substitute. Instead of helping me get therapy and access to things that could have made it not so horrible, that could have made life without antidepressants possible and to stop the cycle from continuing.

Money was more of a necessity to these doctors, not my head, not my quality of life or my health. And as a gap in my mouth serves as a grim reminder of how much decay has gone on in my life, and how I’ve been left to rot in my own trauma.

Still, a made a foolish mistake. Taking those pills, there wasn’t anyone there to help me, this is what I did on my own. No psychiatrist to manage my symptoms, nobody there to help with the tapering of the medication, nothing there for the withdrawal either. Last year I was fine, I still had my happy days, but all they could see was the depression and how that needed to be treated.

Where was the help for the PTSD? For the years of childhood trauma, for the bullying I endured in school, and the impact it left on my head – my life – where was it? Medication, that’s it.

I sit here now in a chaotic state, having one been free of any chaos, no intrusive thoughts, no insanity or creeping doom, sleep unaffected and happy thoughts were thought. But they wanted to make it easier on their wallets, despite having told them the good news, “my freedom is back! I’m off antidepressants! I feel fine! I never thought that I could be fine off them, but here I am and the mania is gone and I can sleep at night too!”

First pill, instantaneous impact on my brain. Emotions disconnected, reality detached, and sleep destroyed. I lost the ability to feel sleepiness and as the days continued, so did these problems. Do I stop? I held the packet in my hands while shaken with terror, there was nobody on my side and none of my questions were answered. I had to carry this weight on my own shoulders and decided that night to stop the antidepressants for good.

It was foolish of me, I shouldn’t have done it, I both shouldn’t have taken the medication but I shouldn’t have stopped cold-turkey. Every side to this had a sharp blade ready to cut, and I was scared of chopping my fingers off so I thought it was the safest route, to avoid any further destruction.

I was devastated, how could something that did so much to help save other people’s lives did this to mine? I had to deal with the mania alone, 5 days head spinning and scared of losing the plot. I had to hold on tight and keep myself sane, once the mania stopped it was confusion, even putting together simple sentences were difficult and I was convinced that I wasn’t going to make it out alive.

Noises became loud, so loud that I had resorted to wearing ear defenders all throughout the day and night. Small noises were irritants, including the sound of my breathing. I wanted to rip my head apart, I wanted to die; to escape. Curled up on the floor, humming to myself to soothe the stress, fan blaring in my ears and head a rollercoaster.

None of this I had ever experienced throughout my miserable 21 years of life, and all since March 23rd 2020. And I hate myself. Nighttimes are terrifying, days are full of fatigue, and yet when I close my eyes there is nothing. My bed doesn’t provide comfort, it feels like I’m lying on nothing. Sensations of comfort, peace, tranquility all gone.

And there’s no telling when this is going to end, there’s no idea why my brain feels like it is on fire, there’s no sense of this big pile of senselessness. If I could turn back the clock. If I could pay attention to my gut feeling instead of ignoring it as I’ve done far too many times. If only…

Being diagnosed was an uphill battle.

As a child, it was obvious to my parents that something was wrong with me. Not wrong as in terrible or that it made my parents love me any less, but it was clear that I was going to be much different than other children.

The earliest signs I had was the fact as a baby I never responded to my name, it was like I never recognised my name. If I was trying to crawl up the stairs or my mum wanted to get my attention from the other side of the room, when she called my name I wouldn’t turn my head or find her.

Another thing that happened was how I easily got overwhelmed by emotions and would “zone out of it”, I’d have moments where I would be crying and throwing a tantrum one minute, and then the next I’d be lulling in my mum’s arms in a trance, head thrown back and no eye contact.

And the tantrums I had were over things such as hearing the toilet flush as I hated the scary noise it made, or that I was made to eat dinner as I was a picky eater and trying to find foods that I was happy eating was a challenge.

Anyway, besides this one of the main reasons for needing to get me diagnosed was because of the challenges I faced in school. In nursery school, it first began. The teachers hated my symptoms, all the little traits that were apart of my autism and a part of me.

At the time I wasn’t making eye contact with anyone in class, teachers picked up on this and my mum would often hear about how naughty I am in class. Naughty because they kept on seeing the top of my head as I would look down when I nervous or if I was around other children in a group.

Naughty because when the teacher was busy trying to teach her class, I got sidetracked and looked behind at the kid on the desk drawing a picture. And naughty because whenever something overwhelmed me, I’d respond by bursting into tears.

I wasn’t a naughty child, I was a good kid who only tried their best to listen to the teachers and do my best at counting numbers or painting pictures. My mum knew this, so did my gran, but the teachers wouldn’t listen and I would continue to lose my playtime.

This was between the ages of 4 – 11, before getting someone who listened to my parents concerns enough to get me assessed for autism. I faced multiple challenges with teachers brushing my difficulties in class aside and only saying that I was normal.

The difficulties I faced were mixing in with my peers, which resulted in severe bullying. I also was more vulnerable and expressed more autism traits as a child, because as a child you’re driven more by emotions, and for an autistic child you can be very sensitive to emotions on an entire new level. And before school I’d have meltdowns, which caused a great amount of stress.

And I’d also find it hard being in crowded areas, working in groups and bottled up emotions. All of this did go on, but the teachers and even staff who were supposed to be there to support children with special needs still dismissed it and tried discouraging my parents from getting a diagnosis.

Getting diagnosed meant I had to have opinions from everyone, such as the school. Now I haven’t got much insight into what happened, but it took years to get diagnosed.

For many parents of children who are left with no support in schools, who are receiving no special support for their educational needs (reading, writing) it’s difficult to get teachers to pay attention to the signs of autism. They’re having to put up great fights just to get someone to listen in order to be referred to services like CAMHS, which is where I was diagnosed.

But this is for another time. I’m hoping this blog post wasn’t too lengthy and that it hasn’t strayed too far from topic. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this, even if you’re just scrolling through it means a lot.

A place for my head

Thank you for visiting my blog, even if you’re just passing through it means a lot to me. This is the first time I’ve ever shared my thoughts publicly, most of the time I’d hide away behind a private journal or vent on a loose few pages of scrap paper.

This time though, I’m having to make a leap if I want to have my voice heard. And this is the number one reason why I’ve created this blog, to be heard.

Throughout my life it’s been hard for me to have a voice of my own, while dealing with the restraints of selective mutism and being knocked down by bullies. I would often be left cast in a shadow of misunderstandings and ignorance, unable to explain or express myself.

I’ve faced a lot of hardship in my life, things that could have been avoided, if only there was some understanding and compassion. Since a young age I’ve never had it easy, despite my parent’s best efforts to try and keep me safe and happy in life.

The trauma never came from inside, it was as though the little family I had within those 4 walls was the only happiness and comfort I had, like a safe bunker from the dangers of the outside world. Professionals, teachers, bullies, toxic extended family members, troublesome neighbours, and a town that doesn’t accept “different”.

This town is where most of my problems came from, where everything began, and within this blog I’m here to share those stories, to shed light on how terrible things happen, and to ever so slowly step out of the shadows that I’ve been cast in.

Please be kind, no judgement, no harsh words, please just listen and view the world from my eyes.

Welcome to my blog.

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