This post was originally supposed to have a title of “A year on,” but I kept deleting it. The words weren’t right. I couldn’t focus. It wasn’t turning out to be what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t writer’s block. It was more what was going on in my personal life and the things that prevented me from writing something I wanted to publish. I want to discuss a few things from the past year and where I’m at right now. Hopefully, you’ll want to continue that journey with me.
CAPWN Youth Shelter
In June 2019, I gave my notice at the Star-Herald and began working at the CAPWN Youth Shelter. It’s been a phenomenally supportive year. I’ve learned a lot of new things and some not so new, but were good refreshers. A lot of the not so new stuff can be attributed to my research as a journalist as well as my own therapy.
My bosses (I technically have three) have displayed the compassion that CAPWN preaches, not because they have to adhere to the organization’s mission, but because they genuinely do. A few months ago, I sent an email with far too much information and then panicked. Nuance in email is difficult and I obsess over them more than I should.
Since it was just after 1 a.m., I settled into the mindset of trying to keep my brain from spinning out of control until I got a reply. I got a reply 10 minutes later. My boss said, “Breathe, Irene. It will be okay.” There was no admonishment, no judgment. I often need reminders like that to help with emotional dysregulation. Six words is all it takes.
At a staff meeting, one of my other bosses and my colleagues were making jokes. Everyone was having a good time. After I went home, my brain spun up and I worried I might have offended my boss. I texted her to apologize. She replied with, “Irene. I know how you are. There are no offense. Go have a good day.”
Overall, the year has been a good one. I have only made one major mistake. Even then, there was support and lesson-learning rather than admonishment. I certainly will never make that mistake again. I could write several more examples, but will instead mention although I love writing and loved being a journalist, my mental health needs to come first. It does at this job and I am better off because of it.
I am still writing. I’m trying to get myself together to do more articles with Wyobraska Magazine. If I had never left he Star-Herald, I wouldn’t have been able to accept this awesome proposal. The magazine writes about all the things I love – history, environmentalism, conservation – and I get to pick which stories I want to write. I’ve been a bit crap with deadlines (there are no hard deadlines) and I need to learn to manage that better, but I’ve had fun writing again.
Because I work in a more supportive job, I’ve been able to make some good progress in therapy. That’s not to say it’s been all good. Last October was probably one of the worst I’ve experienced. I wrote a lot about it. It’s the toughest month of the year for me and stretches to just before Thanksgiving. I’m working on a plan this year to change what happens, including a reduction in flashbacks, in an effort to stay on track.
Also, over the past year, the amount of flashbacks have been reduced, but are of greater intensity when they do happen. It’s an area I actively work at because the flashbacks will never go away, but what I do when they do occur is something I can control. I’m not there yet, but I will be.
Staying off the internet
I have been active on the internet since March 1993. It’s been a huge part of my life. I’ve met good friends. I met Paul on ISCA BBS. There is a wealth of knowledge on the internet as well. It has allowed my education to never end. Every day, I am reading something new and adding information to my knowledge base. I absolutely love it.
However, there is a huge downside to the internet as well. I won’t go much into detail at the moment as I am working on another post about it, but when I look back at the past 27 years, it’s also been detrimental to me. Social media is one of the biggest problems for me and I have worked to eliminate this problem.
I don’t have any social media apps on my phone. I have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit accounts. I left the first two months ago and made a post a couple of weeks ago on Twitter stating I probably wasn’t coming back.
I’ve written many times how much I want to leave Facebook. It’s been a constant struggle for two years. Today is day 12 without logging in. The longest I’ve gone is 18 days. The difference this time is that I have accepted I may lose touch with people I want to keep in contact with. If I have liked a post of yours in the past month, you’re probably one of those people. I’ll miss the regular updates, such as what your dog is doing, how farming is going, or pictures of cool places you’ve been, but this is what I need to do in order to stay healthy and progress in my therapy.
The truth is, Facebook isn’t good for me. Even as I write this, my brain is also trying to calm down and make a decision on whether or not to post this to Facebook to at least let people know why I’m not there.
I’m not leaving Reddit. I use Reddit in a passive manner. I occasionally make posts there, but it’s really all about gaining knowledge. I’ve curated my Reddit feed into the things I want to see, including cats, history, science, and, of course, Formula 1. I don’t walk away from Reddit feeling angry or upset.
Leaving technology at home
Over the past month, I have gotten into the new habit of leaving technology at home when I go out. I’m treating my cell phone as if it’s a landline. I just spent four days at Custer State Park. I had my black notebook I carry in my pocket and a pen. That’s where all my writing went. Paul and I avoided people as much as we could, which is easier than you think.
We have our home office set up. There is no internet in the room. There never will be. It’s a place for me to write and get away from the world while I am in Scottsbluff.
I know most of you reading this will never understand the struggles I go through every day just to walk outside and be semi-normal. I’m not asking anyone to, but this is best decision for me if I’m going to get better.
From now on, the best way to get in touch with me is to either use the contact form on my website, email me at irenenorth [at] irenenorth.com, text, or call. Maybe not call. I hate talking on the telephone. You can also sign up for my email newsletter at the bottom of the page and be notified whenever I write something new.