My Experience w/ Sexual Assault

I never had any intentions on writing about this, but with its prevalence in the media, it is something I cannot seem to keep hidden in the back of my mind (where I prefer to keep it). It is also something that for the first time ever I feel empowered to share. It is comforting to see so many stand up against sexual assault and share their stories. There is finally a movement to strip abusers of their power and through that, I have recognized the strength my voice and story holds. The sentencing of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team Doctor, is what has finally inspired me to tell my story. Although I haven’t heard any of the 156 victim-impact statements, including Aly’s Raisman’s (which I heard was very powerful), the nature of the situation has profoundly struck a nerve with​ me. Once I feel emotionally capable of doing so, I plan on listening to what these brave ladies had to say.

After writing that first paragraph I knew what was to follow was the start of several intensely personal paragraphs describing my truth. And as you’re​​ reading this now, I am struggling to type the words, so I am just going to go ahead and start and it may come off as blunt, but there is no eloquent way to put it… As a child, ​I was molested by a non-blood related family member.

I’m not sure if I hid the experience in my sub-conscious for so many years because it was so painful or because it genuinely took me that long to realize I had been abused. The first time I recount the memory resurfacing was when I was 13, which makes sense because that is the age I think I was first capable of understanding what had happened to me. One of the saddest things about being abused as a child is not even comprehending the abuse you are suffering. When there is an adult who is in the position to watch over you it is heartbreakingly​ easy to get manipulated.

I was always excited to see my abuser because I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and he would always buy me lots of toys when I stayed with him. What occurred between us would be presented to me as a type of chore, a task I had to perform​ to get something in return. Unfortunately, the “chore” entailed me letting a grown man grope my bare bottom and make out with me. I was 6. Although I didn’t have an understanding of the magnitude of what was happening to me I can recall it making me feel uncomfortable. One day when we had plans to go to the toy store after I did what he asked of me I ended up crying instead. He calmed me down and told me that for now on all I had to do was allow him to tickle me and that would be enough to still get toys. He never did more than tickle me from then on. I still despise being ticked to this day.

When I started to be able to remember and recognize what had happened​ to me it was very traumatizing and confusing. I felt disgusting and humiliated. Add to the fact that I was an already extremely self-conscious​ teenage, it unquestionably took a toll on my self-image​ and self-worth​. To this day I am not confident it will ever be something I will be able to work through. Sometimes I wonder if it somehow even had a hand in shaping my anxiety. I know it has affected my self-respect or lack-thereof for many years.

Currently, I am going through a metamorphosis of sorts and am fully committed to continuing​ down a path of self-actualization and improvement. I am glad the conversation on sexual assault is finally starting to become normalized. It has helped me reclaim my voice and therefore also my power. I sincerely hope the discussion continues and that more and more people start to feel safe and comfortable speaking out.

❤ Sweeney

Feature Images Obtained From:

From being THAT girl @ the bar to becoming THAT girl that DOESN’T DRINK (@ the bar).

So I’ve been told when you’re trying to cut out drinking from your life that it is a good idea to also cut ties with the friends you drink with. Theoretically, I completely understand this, but I’m sorry but…hell no. Do you know how long it fricken takes me to find a group of people that I can be completely comfortable around? Sure it has been tough, but I am willing to put myself in that difficult position to maintain important friendships. Not to mention, I also have a major FOMO complex. There are, however, definitely acquaintances of mine that I only feel comfortable around if I am drinking/drunk…. they can go. To be honest, acquaintances are the vain of my existence anyway​. So if I’ve hung out with you at a bar or party in the past month, congratulations….I must really like you!

It has been a strange experience going from binge drinker to non-drinker. Some of the changes have been really enjoyable, for instance helllllo no hangovers! And not gonna lie, it is pretty cool to remember your whole evening. When I go out now I put much more emphasis as to why I’m leaving the comfort of my couch and Netflix​. Whether it is to watch your band play or celebrate your birthday, I am actually going out to support and be there for you. Before any excuse to drink was a reason to go out and the occasion always played second fiddle. I was a very selfish drinker and I really didn’t care about anything other than when I was going to get my next drink. It feels good to actually be present. It is also reallllllly funny to watch my boyfriend get wasted which, after over 10 years of dating, I have rarely seen because he’d always have to be in charge of taking care of my drunk ass.

Now for the downside… it’s really hard. Imagine wanting nothing more than relaxing with a nice cold beer, preferably a microbrew​ (because I’m pretentious like that) but not being able to have one AND THEN subjecting yourself to several hours of being surrounded by said micro-brew. Ugh, honestly it is the literal worst. It is a craving like none other. I have found that my anxiety lessons a bit once I put any form of beverage in my hand. If I am at a brunch type of event, chamomile tea helps to calm my nerves and relax me. If I am going out at night I will usually stick to water or if I want to get really wild a diet coke/ sugar-free​ energy drink. Also… lots and lots of kudzu​ (and occasionally kava)root. I’m actually going to make a post soon about supplements and which ones I take for a more natural mood support, so stay tuned!

Another pitfall? Having to explain (over & over) why you aren’t drinking. Sometimes people do not even ask but I feel compelled to tell them just because I assume they are wondering (even if they probably aren’t). If my anxiety makes me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb than not drinking at a bar makes me feel like I am naked and painted hot pink. My friends are completely fine with it though and very supportive. If you are going through something similar and your “friends” make you feel weird about it, that’s when I fully support the idea of cutting ties.

The only other challenge I’ve come across so far is answering the question “So how long are you doing this for?”. Word of advice, do not ask somebody who’s​ struggling with drinking that because ​IDK hopefully forever? In my head that is like trying to calculate how long it is going to take me to fail. Could I learn how to drink in moderation and start partaking again? Maybe….but probably not. Will I ever just say f*ck it and start drinking again? I honestly can’t answer that. For now, ​it’s safe to say the “Sween Machine” is in a coma. It’s possible she’ll stay asleep indefinitely. It is also (hopefully significantly less) equally possible she’ll wake up. Instead of worrying about when that may or may not happen, I am just going to continue to enjoy my new found clarity.

❤ Sweeney

More than just a guilty pleasure: How Reality T.V distracts me from my Reality

I felt like it was time for a little bit of a more lighthearted post. I am actually not much of a reality television fan. However, there is one particular show that I have now been watching for just about 15 years (ohhh my gosh, just typing that out makes me feel hella old) that holds a special place in my heart. That show is MTV’s “The Challenge”, originally known to me as “Real World/Road Rules Challenge”. The latter may sound familiar, as the show’s original casting pool came from people who had either appeared on Road Rules or the ever popular Real World. The series is a competition based show in which the winner (which could be a team, pair or individual) wins a relatively large sum of money and in some cases a Saturn Ion, woo! On the path to victory, friendships are tested and broken, romances blossom, LOTS of booze is poured and general debauchery ensues. And then somehow between the fights, the tears and the hookups some people actually impress you with their athletic prowess.

I recently read a quote about reality television that struck me, “In the reality- TV era, unstable behavior becomes a valid career choice”. No wonder I had such an obsession! There is a reason this show was my go to. Every season I would get to see like 20 hot messes make a fool of themselves while also kicking ass and winning money. As a formerly self-described train wreck and collegiate athlete I actually felt like I could relate to this show on a deep level. Saying that I relate to a reality tv show on a deep level truly makes me cringe, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t.

I also thought (as I’m sure many other fans of the show did) that I would be a GREAT addition to the series. I once shared the desire to make my reality t.v debut to a friend and he turned to me with the most serious expression and said: “No…please don’t… you’d be the next Snookie”. I’m too old to be cast now though, so it will always remain a mystery how great I could’ve been. Ughhhh I just had to go get my Master’s Degree during the prime reality t.v years of my life. PLD if I do say so myself. Honestly, ​though, I do not know if I could handle it. I have a hard enough time facing my friends after I do something embarrassing. If I let a million viewers glimpse into my private life I would probably find a nice looking rock and hide under it for the rest of eternity.

So now I just get to call myself a longtime viewer, and that is fine. One of the aspects of this show I really enjoy is how many of the people are cast for multiple seasons. When you’ve watched a show for 15 years and it still follows many of the same people’s story arcs, you grow attached. I feel invested in them. Whether it is watching somebody who once told somebody they wanted to smash their head and eat it (I kid you not) fall in love or a religious fanatic wanting to settle their beef​ by wrestling, I am never left non-entertained. I’ve also learned​ so much from​ watching. For instance, I now know approximately how much furniture is possible to smash during the duration of a Yellowcard song. What would my life be without that knowledge!?!?!?! So here is my Johnny Banana’s toast to the Challenge. Thanks for being there for me year after year. You always know how to make my spirits high when I am having a bad day, especially on trivia challenge day and for that, I am forever grateful.

❤ Sweeney

EmployMENTAL: Anxiety & The Workplace

Dealing with anxiety at work is admittedly one of my biggest challenges. Maybe because it is something that, over the years, I’ve hyped up in my head as being super stressful. Not that I think everyone else has it easy at work…because I’m over 1,001% sure I am not the only one plagued with this pesty problem, but it certainly has affected my life significantly.

One of the first non-seasonal “real” jobs I had was an Assistant Front of House Manager at a prominent performing arts center. I started out as an usher and then got promoted, mainly because my good friend was another assistant and I was one of the few employees to speak English. I guess that was good enough to qualify me for my first managerial position. Anyways….I had a hard time with it. Not because I wasn’t capable or confident leading others, but for other obscure reasons. Sometimes it would be that I was too nervous to ask back of house what the latecomer policy was and other times I would freak out over just the prospect of not finding somebodies seat.

The reason why I am bringing up this particular job is that it was during this time I was testing out different anti-depressants. More notably, it was the job that caused the Nurse Practitioner I was seeing to first prescribe me Xanax “as needed”. Looking back at it now, I wish I had never started taking Xanax  (more on that some other time). I also totally wish I was seeing a different NP. First of all, she started me out on an anti-depressant that did not even treat anxiety and instead of finding a substitution she would just keep prescribing more meds on top of it. Secondly, she instilled this notion in my head that I needed medication if I ever wanted to succeed professionally.

It’s a strange balancing act, being confident but also at the same time having crippling anxiety. It’s like some days I feel like I can take on the world and others leaving the house seems almost impossible. It has caused my work performance to be very uneven. And there have definitely been times where I self-sabotaged myself on the job purposely so I could try to outrun my nerves. I kept thinking that maybe if I found the right job my anxiety wouldn’t be able to find me.

Now that I am 30 and these emotions have been following me around for as long as I can remember… I am starting to realize I can’t escape them. I can’t just hop from job to job hoping that maybe this time everything will magically be perfect. I’ve often used anxiety as my crutch for failure, but in reality, I should know better than to rely on the very thing that knocks me down to help me walk. I am finally coming to the conclusion that these feelings aren’t a result of just circumstance and that it’s going to take a lot of commitment to overcome them.

For once, I am really trying. Its kind of a make it or break it moment in my life and I refuse to crack this time. As Eminem so eloquently puts it “Success is my only motherfuckin’ option, failures not”. I’m not going to lie, it has been really hard. Sometimes I feel so embarrassed and isolated by my own thoughts that all I want to do is hide under my desk. Sometimes I am so consumed by the fear of what my peers are thinking about me it makes it hard to focus on what I need to do. Luckily, strangers don’t give me anxiety! This makes meeting people and building early connections quite easy for me. Not to brag, but I am pretty personable. Now all I have got to do is figure out how to be that person more of the time. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on how that works out for me.

Til’ next time!

❤ Sweeney

New Year, Old Me

So despite leading up to the New Year with guns blazing, once 2018 actually did roll around I fell short…and by “fell short” I mean I think I literally fell down at some point after the ball dropped and incidentally dropped my own metaphorical New Year’s ball (ba dum chh). All puns aside though, 2018 has pretty much sucked for me so far.

The month prior to January I had spent an insurmountable amount of time self reflecting, making improvements and basically just working on trying to get my shit together. And not to pat myself on my own back, but I was doing a pretty good job. I actually believed the notion of that cliche’d “New Year, New Me” thing would apply to me this year. Its not like I thought I’d become a whole different person, but I was confident in my efforts to become a least a better one.

Nothing particularly major happened to make me this way. My biggest set back was that I ended up drinking on New Years, something I had been adamantly avoiding. I had made it through Christmas and several parties and outings without even craving alcohol. I was so proud of myself and I could see my mindset changing. I was OK being the only one in the room not partaking, hell I would even say it felt comfortable not to! I didn’t even drink until after Midnight. I don’t know what flipped the switch inside my brain, but I figured I had deserved to indulge just a little bit.

Of course, there is no such thing as a “little bit” with me and I ended up waking up at 3pm with a wicked hangover. While the hangover served as a great reminder to myself that I hate drinking, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment. To make matter worse, this new low energy I had adopted in 2018 followed me throughout the next week.

Although I did not work New Years day, I felt sluggish and not myself the subsequent days at work. My anxiety was back with a vengeance and I had trouble organizing my thoughts and getting through tasks. In case you don’t already know, Anxiety is a raging bitch. I started getting all these crazy thoughts in my head and coming up with wild conclusions in my head over what my co-workers thought of my obvious low energy. Reality tells you: They probably thought you could use a good Starbucks run and maybe a nap. Anxiety on the other hand attacks you with ….. OMG EVERYONE THINKS YOU ARE CRAZY. Why do you suck at your job so much…. WhAt iS wRoNg WiTh YoU?!?! Other than anxiety making you think it is acceptable to toggle your type in a blog post, it is completely illogical.

So THAT my friends has been my 2018 so far. Not so fun. All stemming from 1 night of drinking too…which is kinda insane if you think about it. On a positive note though, my efforts in December in the self improvement department were not fruitless. Because of the work I put in, I have been able to pull my big girl pants back on and myself out of this slump (It might of taken almost like a full week, but hey I still deserve some credit!). So tonight I am going to go home after a productive day at work, eat some Pizza and maybe jot down ideas on how to embody a New Year, New Me mantra for myself.

❤  Sweeney

Nicknames & Their Connotations

So in my last post, I briefly touched upon the idea of trying to live up to this image of being a “hot mess”. I know it seems like an odd trait to pursue as your identity, but in a strange way doing so made me feel safe. As long I self-identified as being a mess other people’s perception of me (in theory) would carry less weight. To help perpetuate this idea I had a nickname, The Sween Machine.

This nickname actually started pretty innocently enough. I had just moved to New Jersey for grad school, during the height of The Jersey Shore’s popularity and it was just sort of my “Jersey” name. Soon, ​however, the name morphed into an outlet for me to become this completely different person. When you have anxiety, the thought of being a different person is comforting. The Sween Machine was carefree, wild and did things without thinking. She could act in all the ways my anxiety inhibited me from doing. Besides the obvious, one of the HUGE problems that came with this was that in order to become my alter-ego I had to drink… A LOT.

I had some fun times being the Machine, but overall it was super detrimental to my well being and completely not worth it. For those fleeting hours of drunken escape, ​I made my anxiety much worse. Now not only did I feel anxious, but I had to navigate through dealing with my drunken actions, many of which I did not even remember. I also could not handle being in social situations without drinking and when I did drink I would always binge. I started becoming a liability not only to myself​ ​ but other people. No matter how bad it got, however, I couldn’t seem to let go of the Machine. It took a lot of time for me to even begin thinking of shedding this image. I now try to work on it everyday. I am attempting to completely cut out alcohol from my life and try different natural supplements instead of medications to deal with my anxiety. I am slowly learning that being in control of your life is much better for your mood than allowing it to be a huge mess (go figure!). I am finally allowing myself to be myself. No more Machine Wreck.

 ❤ Sweeney

Social Media & Misadventures

Social media has the tendency to do 1 of 2 polar opposite things at any given time… it either gives you a strong sense of community or it makes you feel isolated AF. It is a platform that allows us to find people we relate to, who have the same interests or who are going through the same hardships. The downside is it also provides us with the microscope to use to inspect how our lives do not live up to our peers.

I didn’t decide to create a blog so I could go on a rant about social media, but I started my first post with the subtle observation to drive home its true purpose. I wanted to create a blog about anxiety. I wanted to create a blog about the irrational demon that has steered my life into so many different twisted roads. I wanted to create a blog that while inherently about my experiences, others could relate to. My Facebook feed is littered to links by people to articles titled things like “10 Things People With Anxiety Want you to Know”, “13 Things to Remember If You Love A Person With Anxiety” and “The 5 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who Has Anxiety.”

Even though these articles have grown cliche to me and completely generalizes what I am going through, they make me feel a little less alone and a little closer to that random acquaintance online. However, all it takes is 1 post, even after just deciding I’m bff’s with like 100 anxiety-ridden strangers online, ​to decide I am going nowhere in life and that I am destined to be a failure.

I know I am not, but it still doesn’t make help me feel like I have my shit together. I know people use social media to project the image of themselves they want the world to see…but damn thanks for making me feel so behind in life. I used to actually think it was funny to make my online persona (and to be honest, my real life persona) embrace being a “hot mess” I guess it was the way I dealt with my emotions. I used to be a self-described​ “misadventurer”. I thought it was funny, but in reality, ​it was just a way to mask my insecurities.

So 1st rant, I mean blog post, over. I don’t really think I provided a clear-cut​ conclusion to this post, but it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want. Stay tuned for more SweenXiety entries, where I actually go in depth about my experiences and maybe…just maybe somebody can relate and find comfort in what I write.

❤ Sweeney