Table for one

A few weeks back I was sitting in a cafe, waiting for the salad I ordered, drinking my tea (through a straw of course) and gazing out the window quite content.

I never use to enjoy my own company, but, over the year I have started to embrace who I am and enjoy it. Now I love to see the world go by, people watching, and get lost in my own thoughts without any concerns or anxiety. I now understand the importance of me time!

On this particular day, I was enjoying a break from the classroom and went to the café I often go to.  I’ve now become friendly with the staff there. While I was day dreaming, and trying my best to avoid having coffee, something suddenly dawned on me. I was feeling extremely content, and this made me realise that I had really achieved a milestone. Now, you may be thinking nothing I have explained so far seems out of the ordinary. Its only when you compare today’s scenario to how I was a few years back you can see the progress.

Up until a couple years ago, any situation where I was by myself and interacting with strangers would cause feelings of anxiety. Anxiety triggered my movement disorder and my fear of jerking caused even more anxiety. It felt like a never-ending cycle that I had to go through on a daily basis. I worried about being judged and having people stare at me. Just having to order food or speak to someone new would cause knots in my stomach and the muscles in my vocal chords would make my voice disappear almost completely. This left me feeling like I had to fight the words out. I was too scared to ever ask for help because I never wanted to admit that I was different, and I couldn’t do something. So, a situation like sitting in a cafe by myself, being quite content, was something I thought would never happen. I didn’t expect to get to a point in my life where I could be alone without pounding myself with negative thoughts.

When I jerked, I use to think to myself “everyone’s laughing at me”, “I look stupid” or “this is my fault”.

Change is a funny thing. For me it didn’t happen all in a day or even in one year. I stated how I never expected my life to change but I still hoped it would. I think it’s this hope that encouraged me to keep going, to keep trying. It has been a work in progress since I made the decision to come to Australia 5 years ago. It would have been easier to stay in my trapped shell, with my own sabotaging thoughts. However, that wouldn’t be living my best life. Getting on the flight was just the beginning. When I got to Australia I continued to push myself to do things that made me feel extremely uncomfortable. My first challenge was 4 years ago.  A good friend got me a job in a small café. This was something I had told myself I would never try. Just the idea filled me with so much anxiety, it would definitely trigger my jerks. Despite this, I forced myself to try it because I knew had the support of my good friend. I didn’t go near the coffee for obvious reasons, but I helped at the register and taking plates out (sometimes). After my first day I was so proud of myself for getting through the day with no major hiccups. I had proven myself wrong, I felt on top of the world.  This was short lived, as on another shift I burst in to tears because my muscles were playing up whilst I was on the till trying to serve a customer. Fighting my condition, I became very frustrated. I recall feeling like such a loser because someone else had to takeover. After that shift I was pretty down and wanted to call it quits. When I spoke to my friend at home she encouraged me to focus on my win and the fact I was their trying. My time in Australia has been filled with moments like this and I had no idea then, but it was all shaping me to become the person I am today.

I hope now it’s clearer, why, me sitting in the cafe, free from anxiety and negative self talk is a big deal. These days I will be in public jerking away without fear of judgement. Don’t get me wrong it can still be annoying and a challenge, but the difference is I accept it! When I am at a cafe I am sure some people are thinking “why does this girl have a straw in her tea” but I don’t concern myself with this. I have even had days where I am feeling very bold and ordered the soup, which as you can imagine takes a bit more effort when your hands aren’t always steady. I swear that by the end of the meal I have already burnt the calories off. Some days I jerk for a solid 20 minutes on the train and I don’t stress about people staring. I just get off the train slightly sweatier and feeling like I have done a workout. I am not afraid to be myself and it is so freeing. Developing this confidence is what encouraged me to start “Challenge the Jerk”. I want to make sure that I continue progressing and experiencing new things. I still get nervous and mess up from time to time, but I don’t let it stop me from trying. So far, I have tried Life drawing classes, Brazilian drum classes, ghost tours and I have joined the first Victorian wheelchair league. This is an amazing opportunity as I am now play for Richmond football club, which is awesome! I am having so much fun. I am surrounded by beautiful people who see me and not the Jerk.

My reason for writing this post is, I think we often compare our milestones and achievements to other people. We forget that what’s easy for one person may be a challenge for others. People think they can only celebrate the big wins, like getting that promotion or running a marathon. I know that there are many people who have never had a problem eating alone or a fear of public transport alone, but for me it’s a big deal and I am going to take time to celebrate.

 I hope that you also take time to look at how far you have come. So, whether it’s finally getting your child to sleep through the night, finishing an essay you struggling with or presenting in front of a group of strangers, take a moment to celebrate your success!

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