Tag Archives: Neuroticism

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Other Fun Stuff

I’m a crybaby. I have no qualms about admitting this. Most people who know me probably already know this fact and those who don’t—well, they just haven’t spent enough time around me yet. I was in the first grade when the Chronic Crying™ began. It was a Monday, right after my mom’s thirty-first birthday, and we were nearing the end of the school day. As a “treat,” my class was watching one of those animated VHS tapes—the ones made specifically for Catholic schools. Nothing out of the ordinary was going on, but then something hit me: I really missed my mom. She hadn’t gone anywhere; I just missed having her nearby. I kept replaying in my mind how happy we all were just one day prior. For the first time in my young life, I felt the emotional pangs of nostalgia—even if it was only for the weekend. I missed the happiness we felt being all together. I missed not having to be separated by school. I just… missed. And before I knew it, before I could explain it or even begin to fathom it, the tears came gushing down my cheeks.

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante
My teacher noticed and pulled me aside to ask me what was wrong. I think I managed to stammer out some BS about the dumb animated dog film we were watching. Maybe I blurted out that I missed my mommy—that part is fuzzy—but the truth was, I really had no idea what was happening. Unfortunately, this was a confusing sensation I’d have to learn to get used to, since this became par for the course every day for the last two months of the school year.

The crying episodes got so bad that my teacher had me step outside the classroom with her. She pleaded with me to stop. She begged me and asked what it was she was doing wrong. That only made things worse. Knowing my unexplained sobbing was also causing confusion and sadness in others just filled me with even more upset. I had no answers—it just seemed to be something beyond my control. Days where I’d successfully avoid crying (or, at very least, avoid letting anyone see me cry) were triumphs. I eventually made it to the end of the school year and spent a (relatively) tearless summer.

Second grade brought with it a renewed attitude, until one day when the tears inexplicably started up again. My teacher, a different one from first grade, pulled me aside and told me she heard about my episodes. She wasn’t about to deal with me crying every day. I could sense my classmates’ groans and snickers at my expense—they, too, were tired of my shit. That’s when a new sensation swept over me—one of extreme shame and embarrassment. And that feeling plugged up those tears because, in that moment, that was a far worse feeling than sadness—and one I could easily understand. Thus ended the crying saga of my eighth year of life.

Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of astonishing how little my educational system cared about the well-being of one of its young students. Instead of having a formal sit-down with my mother, it was only mentioned here and there as an aside. Instead of having me sit down with the school’s psychologist, I was instead scolded, shamed, and made to feel worse about what was going on. There were no further attempts to unpack what was going on with me. It seemed like the only way to solve it was by making me feel as though I were doing something bad. I’m sure there was nothing malicious behind it—just teachers underprepared for dealing with the needs of an apparently emotionally fragile child—yet it still seems like something that could have been handled with, pardon the pun, kid gloves.

For the rest of my educational career I’d only cry in certain circumstances, likely for fear of being embarrassed. The crying usually accompanied panic attacks which struck me in the wee hours of the night during my preteen years. Other than that, it took a lot to get me to a point of breaking down. High school left me unfazed; I’d balk at the other young women who got emotional over fights with boyfriends or receiving low grades. Maybe it was my keeping online journals to write out my feelings that allowed me to better understand my emotions than I ever had before. Maybe my life was just pretty all-around okay, but for some reason I was an alarmingly even-keeled and unemotional teenager.

It wasn’t until college when I experienced losing someone very close to me for the first time that I felt true sadness again. And with that loss came an emptiness, an impending sense of doom that set me sail on an emotional tidal wave. Suddenly, it wasn’t just sadness anymore that caused me to cry. It would come from anger, frustration, nerves, existential dread and, the one I hate the most, absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

Crying is weird. I still find it hard to quantify what will or won’t make me cry. When I’m angry, the tears come rushing out before I have the chance to control them. When I’m sad, there’s no telling when the crying will actually begin. But the worst is feeling completely out of tune with my body and my emotions. As confusing as it was to not understand why it started or where the tears were coming from is just as bad as not knowing why they won’t. Berating myself and feeling that utter internal sadness, knowing that if I could just allow myself to cry—just really sob—it would make all the difference. But it’s always in those moments when the tears refuse to freely fall. It’s when I, shockingly, want to cry I can’t.

The Crying Game by Jamie L. Rotante
One thing I’ve learned from being a crybaby is that a good cry every now and then can actually be a positive thing. It’s reinvigorating, an enigma—simultaneously exhausting and rejuvenating.  It makes my face and red and puffy yet also exfoliates the pores or some shit. I don’t know. That might be a lie, but, either way, crying can feel really good when it’s a release of pent up aggression or long term sadness. I’ve also learned that it still kind of sucks to get caught crying in public and my total fear of complete embarrassment will often cure that. Maybe I’m not really all that different at thirty than I was as a scared and confused eight-year-old. I just now have more constructive ways to channel my feelings. But I won’t give up working on understanding myself better—I owe it to the sad little girl I used to be.

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Jamie L. Rotante
Twitter: @jamitha
Instagram: @jamieleerotante
Facebook: JamieLeeRotante

Laura Collins
Instagram: @lauracollinsart

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

As I’m writing this, the audible ticking of the wall clock behind me is damn near deafening. It sounds like a drum march blasting in my ears. It’s not really that the clock is loud, but the mental tick-tick-ticking is inching closer and closer to the big boom.

Yeah, I guess you could say I’ve been procrastinating again.

I’m counting down the days and hours until my deadline. Sure, I’ve had a solid month and a half to work on it, but it’s come down to these last few crucial hours… the same as it always does. I like to trick myself into believing that it’s because I work best under pressure. The reality is that every deadline is accompanied by a series of mental Olympics that can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. Freelance projects for me are akin to the five stages of death—except crank that number closer to ten and have them be way more manic.

The first step is smug satisfaction. I’m working and writing. That’s a good thing.

Second step is avoidance. I know I don’t have to work on said project until a certain date, so there’s no point in wasting energy on getting it done early when I could be working on something more pressing (i.e., a different project I’ve been procrastinating on that needs more immediate attention).

The third step is panic. Wait—fuck—what was that deadline again? Have I blown it all? Am I the most unreliable freelancer in the world? This is usually followed by a realization that I still have ample amount of time to get the job done.

Fourth step: doubt. Not just in the project at hand but my entire life. Does anyone care what I have to say? Is my writing really worth anything at all? Why do I even bother?

Fifth step: Writer’s block.

Sixth step. Denial. There’s no way the deadline is already in a few days.

Seventh step: acceptance. It’s time to hunker down and get it done. Of course, this last step only comes after days of opening my laptop and silently screaming before deciding to play mindless games on my phone, wrap myself in a blanket, curl myself into a ball, and fall into a slumber so I can hate myself in the morning when I realize how non-productive I’ve been.

Then I finally write my damn piece.

And so it goes for literally every project I embark on, from school projects of yesteryear to writing gigs of the present. It’s like my mind just refuses to let me get a head start. I think about it. I entertain the notion of getting ahead and doing things in a timely fashion, but then my mind and body will just not let me. I take note of my deadlines. I mark them down in my planner. I create alerts in my phone. I make myself aware of how long I have. I take all of the responsible steps I can before being decidedly irresponsible.

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante
Don’t get me wrong—I always hit my deadlines. I have to. I’m so hyper-aware of them it would be straight up negligence on my part not to. But I just never feel inspired until the days and hours before the deadline are official. Every time I’m given a new task, I want to get it done early. I want to get ahead of the game and make an editor’s life easier, especially being one myself. But the little part of my brain that likes to go swing dancing with paranoia and anxiety refuses to allow that to happen, so I can only truly function at the last possible minute (sorry, Todd!). That’s the only time my brain will allow me to actually gather my thoughts in cohesive way.

It’s worse with personal projects. Deadlines actually help; sure my brain may go into overdrive and I may panic for weeks on end about that “time’s up” moment, but at least they actually give me a direct path towards creativity. So often while I’m at work or handling mundane tasks, I think of my best ideas for stories and new creative ventures—always when I don’t have the time to harness them and bring them to fruition.

Then when I have a few moments to myself to start cracking down and making my ideas a reality, I go blank. I can’t concentrate, I can’t bring pen to paper. There’s no timer going off pushing me to do it, so it never gets done. I have notebooks upon notebooks of half-finished scripts and ideas. Documents upon documents of short stories I started with the intent of entering into writing contests, but never finished. If there’s no real threat of someone being angry or upset with me for not getting it done, it’s impossible to do. I’m always angry and upset with myself, so that doesn’t work. I spend more time chastising myself for the work I’m not doing in the time I could be doing it that self-loathing is no longer a motivating factor, just an ordinary occurrence.

ProcrastiNation by Jamie L. Rotante
It’s also not just about writing or freelancing. It’s procrastinating in life. “Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?” is a really nice sentiment I reject as often as I think about it. Laundry goes unfolded, dishes pile up, my car’s oil goes unchanged until I explode into a mess of frustration. Text messages go unanswered. That’s probably the worst offense I’m guilty of. Text and other kinds of digital messages, things that should bring forth happiness and excitement, instead awaken a dread within. What does this person want? Why are they texting this early? Oh God what if they want to… hang out??? I read the message and wait to reply. And then I read it again and wait some more. I read and read and hope they don’t see that I’ve read their message while I continue to put off my reply. Then I genuinely forget I was waiting to respond. Then I hate myself for being a bad friend.

Why didn’t I just respond earlier? Well, why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Why do anything in a timely fashion when it’s so much more fun to procrastinate and agonize? Why would my brain want completion and complacency?

Then there’s the last, final stage: achievement. Once I’ve finished my writing, dried off the last dish, put away the last book on the bookshelf, or finally shot off that text or email, the feeling is so good, so pure—the closest to true bliss I’ll ever get. In fact, I’m inching closer to it now with every word I type. Maybe that’s what this is all about. The procrastination and the panic it breeds wouldn’t make that actual act of completion so damn fulfilling if I just got things done like a normal person. The rush of creativity and satisfaction in what I’m producing wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet if it came to me in a timely manner. It’s the mental hell I have to put myself through to achieve nirvana when I come out the other side. It’s not about just being lazy or irresponsible; it’s the journey, the struggle and the triumphs.

Nah, I’m pretty sure I’m just an asshole. But hey, that felt nice for a while. Now, time to cross this one off my deadline list and hibernate until the day my next project is due!