Everybody has a comfort zone. It varies from person to person. Mine is, to put it bluntly, pretty small. Historically, I tend to be pretty closed off, and a relatively sedate person. I tend to hang around with a small group of people, take part in relatively few activities, and reveal myself to very few. That’s the kind of place I feel secure in, and where I tend to have the lowest level of anxiety.
Yeah, you probably know where this is going. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been part of my treatment, because for the last decade or so, my comfort zone has been so small it practically fit in my room. I haven’t spent a lot of time going out to new places, or getting to know new people; I let my depression run my life, and that, predictably, did not go very well. I was afraid to go out and find friends because I thought people would reject me, and without people to do things with, I didn’t go out to do much myself.
At Menninger, I got the chance to get to know a lot of new people. I’ve mentioned it many times. Many of them I would consider to be good friends, and I would still consider a good portion of the rest to be friendly; there were very few people I didn’t get along with to some degree. Some of the people I didn’t get along with I’ve also mentioned before. But just getting to know so many new people, to be willing to talk to so many new people and reveal parts of myself that I had previously kept hidden, was very freeing, even if it was very nerve-wracking at times. But the environment at Menninger was one that was very controlled, and one that was designed for the patients to get to know each other.
Things are different here at the step-down. We aren’t all housed in the same space, and so while many of us still see each other on a daily basis, we don’t spend our days together, all day, every day. We have a greater degree of choice concerning who we spend our time with and how we spend it. While there are still some rules, we have a great deal more freedom. And so we get more chances to step outside of our comfort zone. We can go out and find people outside the program to do things with, and find cool things to do with other people in the program. Hell, on Friday night I went out with some people to the symphony. Granted, it was the Video Games Live symphony, so it scores me some geek cred, but it was still something I don’t normally do.
I guess what I’m saying is that comfort zones are OK. Obviously they’re OK, because they are where we feel the most comfortable and secure, and also apparently where we are the most productive. But Before I came to Menninger, I didn’t even know how small mine had become. It’s something we shouldn’t just accept thoughtlessly, but stop every once in a while to examine, because there are a lot of things in life that we might miss if we just assume that we’d be uncomfortable.
Yes, there will be times when we will fail, and when things go wrong, but those things shouldn’t be what define us. Our comfort zones are what we make of them, and it seems to me that unless we watch them and look for ways to expand them, even if only slightly, they slowly start to constrict until we are left alone in our rooms. Granted, our rooms can be cool places – I mean, it’s probably where we keep our coolest stuff – but if that’s the only place you’re comfortable, your life is likely to be pretty lacking. I’m tempted to quote Ferris Bueller here, but I think I shall avoid doing so and instead just assume you all know what I mean.
Also, I am now in possession of pictures of me in my goth phase. But you’re going to have to offer me quite a bribe to see them.