Blueberries With Broken Wings

It’s Day 3 of no Facebook (and coincidentally, no alcohol). It is also Day 3 of Lent, but not Day 3 of anything else. I have yet to give up caffeine, or sugar, or dairy, which is good, since I just drank a lovely Vietnamese iced coffee containing heaps of all three. Yes, I know that they’re terrible for me, but just don’t have the extra willpower necessary to cut out all joy in one fell swoop. I’ll give the social media withdrawal symptoms a little while longer to subside, then recalculate.

Anyway, yeah, where was I? Day 3. Also Friday. Also two days after rent was due, and a few days before a bunch of other random bills are due, and one day before I get kicked out of magick school for not checking in for the month, and one day before I meet up with a friend from the Camino who happens to be in town to visit, and two days before I have to go back to work, and four days since my cat came down with another UTI and cost me my rent, and…meh, who cares what day it is?

I only typed Facebook into the URL by mistake maybe four times today so far, but I did go to Zulily to “window shop” four or five times, and I definitely reread my last couple of blog posts on here a few times, so it’s not like I’m magically no longer procrastinating online. I’m just not procrastinating in as disjointed and turbulent a way. Hopefully that means something.

As far as conversations with real humans go, I’m currently at the coffee shop with the boyfriend, and we’ve been talking about going to watch a movie. And a friend/coworker of mine came over to see me at the shop, bringing his new significant other, whom I’d never met before, so I met a new person today (and he was very nice, but that’s Canadians for you, eh?) Also, the guy at the table behind me has been kicking my chair pretty consistently over the last hour, so that’s a form of interaction. He’s lucky I’m a very patient lady, and my only response has been to move the chair a little to the right to hopefully give him more foot room. It didn’t help. He’s just one of those jerks who doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings and later gets run over by a bus. Probably not, but a girl can dream.

Also, I got invited out to dinner with a group of friends! I’m not hungry, though. But it was nice of them to ask.

Emotionally, all is good. I’m feeling especially fat and bloated today, and my face looks like a solid sphere when I look in the mirror, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I do seem to remember that last time the anxiety and depression were this bad, I was suffering from a touch of body dysmorphia, too, so it’s a good bet that it’s half and half – I’m both fatter than I want to be and seeing myself as a giant blueberry creature because I’m a tad off in the head. Oh well. Only so many things I can tackle at one time.

Speaking of tackling things, I FINALLY scored a doctor’s appointment. Not a psych appointment, because I’m still having trouble finding one that takes my insurance plan, but at least I was able to arrange to see a gynecologist in a couple of weeks. Which is great, because I am very ready to start proceedings to get my tubes tied and get this whole fertility question answered once and for all. I’ll take “No Babies Ever” for $1,000, Alex. That’ll be an incredible load off. A little sad, since I’m officially the last of my line, being my parents’ only child, but I have no interest in producing offspring from scratch, or giving anyone else permission to ruin what’s left of my figure and give me more wrinkles in the process. If I’m ever in the financial position to take care of myself like a real adult, you know, with a little nest egg, and an apartment that’s larger than the back seat of a Volkswagen, I’d love to consider fostering children. But that’s a question for 10 years from now. Right now is the time to start going through the motions of explaining to any number of doctors that no, I don’t want kids, and yes, I’m qualified to make this decision all by myself, without a man calling the shots. We’ll see what happens. I’ve heard too many stories of women who aren’t trusted by their medical professionals to make up their own minds about how to use (or in this case, not use) their own bodies.

There’s a man here at the cafe with the most beautiful blue and purple hair, complete with a big blue and purple beard AND a blue and purple handlebar mustache. His hair game is on point, and I am filled with awe and a touch of envy. I miss my blue hair. I miss living a less structured life, even though I know that it wasn’t healthy for me, at least in the state I was in. I’m not thriving, and I don’t think I know how to. But I do know that when I’m left up to my own devices, without any structure, I fall right out of the nest and linger, starving, on the sidewalk. At least the structure acts as a kind of safety net. Either way, I’m restricted, but I guess it’s better to get fat in the net than get stepped on on the sidewalk. This analogy is tedious. I’ll leave you with the song of the day…

Day Two: Kyrie Eleison

Munky is curled up my lap and refuses to get off, so I’m writing this from a Macbook propped precariously on the back of a rather fat, annoyed, and slightly under-the-weather tabby cat. You insist on the lap, you have to take the consequences. *Pauses typing to accommodate overly emphatic tail swish.*

I am emotionally worn out, and need to make this quick. My day started with a text from my dearest cousin to say I love you in the way that only we share. Soon after, I got another text from my college roommate, to say she was in labor with her second child (and is still, unless I’ve missed any memos). I walked to work, and listened to “Kyrie,” by Mr. Mister, a few times. It’s been my top song for the last few days. I read this interesting autobiography a week or so ago by an Irish musician who mentioned hearing “Kyrie Eleison” being sung in church, and I got kind of obsessed with listening to various versions of the actual song. Then one day I remembered loving this silly rock song as a kid, and surprise, surprise, now it turns out that the song is directly referencing an inner Camino. So it’s been on heavy rotation lately, helping me untangle myself. Here’s the real deal, in case you’ve never heard it:

Work happened. There were a variety of screw-ups and triumphs. I’d gotten some math wrong yesterday, and had to deal with the consequences today. A housekeeper yelled at me because she needed to yell at someone and I was the only person available. A sales person in one of our other offices was let go, and consequences rippled out from there. A guest was angry that central reservations had told her the hotel was a short walk from the convention center, when it’s actually about 20 minutes away, and expressed her displeasure to me at great length, since I was the first person she saw (there’s a pattern to my day, isn’t there?). A trio of travel agents asked for an impromptu tour of the hotel, and brought their own scorecards to rate various facets of the hotel AND my performance in showing them around. By the time I walked out of the office at 5pm, I felt bruised and battered.

Today I found out that my TripAdvisor account (necessary for work) was also linked to my Facebook account, and I couldn’t log into it without reactivating Facebook. So I had to make a whole new account, which is fine, but was a time suck, to be sure.

After work, I went back home to grab my dirty laundry and head to the laundromat. My parents had called a couple of times over the course of Mardi Gras, and I hadn’t had time to call them back yet, so while my sheets were washing, I called for what I thought would be a short call. It ended up being two hours, and being mostly nice. There was lots of wasted conversation, of course. I hate smalltalk, but it has to be done. I wish I was the kind of person who could stop someone and say, “Yes, you’ve told me that five times already!” But I can’t, because it’s not polite, end of story. You just have to suck it up and write off those ten minutes of your day, and be grateful that you still have a parent to talk to, because so-and-so’s parents are dead (possibly because so-and-so was honest about the smalltalk being boring, and her parents dropped dead instantly). Yeah, I know, I’m super mean. I’ll get what I deserve for being a terrible person. Blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, my dad asked me how I was doing, and I told him the truth, that I’m not OK, I’ve mostly been white-knuckling it lately, and am doing my best to take the steps necessary to treat my anxiety. That I’m considering bankruptcy, because I can’t figure out how to carve a path out of the debt. That I’m not going to kill myself, but that’s all I can promise. That I have a hard time leaving the house. He listened, and then for a couple of minutes, it went downhill. We were back to where I regretted being honest, because he laughs it off and turns it back to a story about how he’s had it so much worse before. Like it’s some awful contest. So I reacted in the only way I’ve learned to keep my temper in check. Don’t fight back. Don’t make it worse. Just let it go. Realize he’s not my therapist, and not capable of helping, and not trying to hurt, even if he is. I thought briefly about just hanging up. But then the weirdest thing happened. It was like he caught himself mid-stride and heard that he was hurting me. He suddenly got serious and told me that he loved me and I could always talk to him if I needed him, and he knew where I was coming from, and had faith that I was going to be OK. My mom chimed in from the background that I could always call her, anytime. It was really nice. I know they both mean it.

The boyfriend is also foregoing Facebook for Lent, and around mid-afternoon, I texted him to see how his day was going, telling him that I was just so worn out already. He reminded me that I’m used to getting many mini-doses of dopamine throughout the day. My body and mind are going to be going through withdrawals from social media for awhile yet. He mentioned feeling anger. I mostly feel sad. I’ve been crying the whole time I’ve been typing this, and am only just now realizing that the front of my shirt is soaked.

I keep remembering what it felt like a couple of months after the Camino, when I felt like someone had taken a grapefruit spoon to my inner self, and scooped all of me out. Plop. I was a husk. I just laid in bed, watching Call the Midwife for days. Just thinking of my cats made me cry. I started to see my dead friend Josh everywhere. I felt like I was already just a milky memory to anyone who had known me. I barely remembered myself. This time, the feeling has been hanging around since Monday. I don’t like to think of it, but this is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Luckily, Munky seems to be feeling better, and now I’ve got freshly laundered sheets, so that’s something. It’s time to pill the cat, clean out the litter boxes, sweep the floor, put sheets on the bed, and get some shuteye.

Lent (Terms & Conditions)

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This is just how it is. That’s important for me to note. I am an optimist, and I believe that we are constantly evolving, changing, shifting our perspectives and thus, our realities. However, it’s key for me, at this junction, to realize that I have been fighting a losing battle against an immovable foe, and have finally tired out enough to realize that I haven’t budged an inch in all the struggle. I have been fighting for the wrong thing(s), yet again. And in coming to this realization, I also find that I’m not new to this knowledge, or rather, that the knowledge is not new to me. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results, go ahead and ship me out to the bin. I am not coming back from myself.

The other day, I was reading this comment on an online forum for ex-Fundamentalist Christians in various stages of deconstruction. The original poster was discussing how problematic it was for white, middle class, Christians to tell people from different backgrounds to stop expressing their fears, because “God loves you and all you need is to go to church more.” I don’t want to make this a political post, so I won’t explain more than this, just that the comments under the original post broke the sentiment down and explained it in various ways, some people agreeing that it was at best short-sighted, and at most classist and racist, while other people tried to explain that with God at your back, fear is pointless, blah, blah, blah. I refrained from sharing my perspective, because I intuited from the overall tone of the comments section that I wouldn’t be understood properly.

But here’s what I think about it: we are all going to die, fear or not. This is not a dark thing, or a pessimistic thing, or a sad thing. It’s just the truth. You are going to die. There’s no way around it. Repeat after me: I am dying right now, and will be dead soon. (Whether by bus tomorrow afternoon, or in sleep 50 years from now, the individual human timeline is a minuscule thing.) With nothingness on the imminent horizon, why waste any time on fear? Physically speaking, after that first jolt that gets you moving, fear is pretty pointless. Overall, it’s an impediment. Long term exposure can be quite harmful – just ask anyone with an anxiety disorder. If you want to fight, fight. If you want to seek pleasure, seek it. Your life is your own, your death is inevitable, and it is not my place to tell you that you’re an asshole. Why would you believe it, if you can’t see it already? When we die, we are gone. There’s no heaven, or hell, or great beyond. At best we are energy that gets recycled. We are worm motels, and if we’re lucky, there will still be trees left to nourish when we’re done making a terrible mess of this beautiful place.

So with my impending death and the pointlessness of fear laid out before me, I am changing my tactics. I have come to terms with the fact that I’ve been going about this all wrong, and I’m not too proud to admit that it’s time to change.

I am sick. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Like an idiot, once I started feeling better, I stopped taking medication. For awhile it was OK, but now it’s not. And it’s been “not” for far too long now. My thoughts are scattered. I have trouble finishing projects (which is nothing new, but worse now). I work myself into a knot just thinking about the wording I will eventually use to write about specific things, then eventually just avoid writing about them, altogether. I am nearly incapable of holding down a conversation in person, and my fear of public gatherings manifests in such a way that I appear aloof, annoyed, and impatient. On the good days, when I can force myself to go out in the first place, I end up just having a panic attack and shaking in silence in the darkest corner I can find. At least then I just look like someone who’s having a bad day, rather than someone who wants to burn down the building with everyone inside it. While I was scared of not fitting in as a younger person, now that I’m in my 30s, it’s come to pass that I never did find a way to fit in, and now I’m sick, so the awkwardness is also wearing a layer of anxious, bad-tempered energy anytime I’m put into a position where I have to interact with people I don’t know that well. I eat and drink to tamp down some of the fear and unease, and frequently find myself eating pure junk in large quantities, knowing that I don’t want it, but doing it anyway as a form of self-punishment.

While most of the symptoms of this have been disagreeable, there are some small positives. The largest of these is that while I have lost the things that used to tether me (music, sensuality, costumes, fantasy stories), I have traded out my appreciation for these things for a new appreciation in being completely untethered. I am wandering. I don’t know who I am or what I am doing here. I have a feeling like I’m walking between rain drops, like I can see more of the world because the world has forgotten how to see me. It does hurt a little, but it is more like a memory of pain than the pain itself. Though my connection with humans is tenuous, at best, I have learned that I feel a deep, energetic connection to animals and the earth. I have also begun to see how very few people actually matter to me, which gives me the ability to wonder why it is that humans feel a need to be loved by many, when they can actually only reciprocate appropriately for relatively few. Why, for instance, pretend that I care about the people with whom I went to high school? We don’t share any of the same goals, other than continuing to breathe. Which reminds me that I need to find someone else to take over the 20-year reunion. Let them eat Rotary Club meatloaf and share photos of their children on someone else’s time. I think I’ll go to Italy that weekend.

Anyway, as you can see by now, I’m stuck. I can’t really see a way out of this particular cycle, so instead of treating the symptoms, it’s time to go to the root. It’s time to take out the anxiety, itself. After that, we’ll rebuild.

Step one is to go on a break from social media for Lent. I really only use Facebook and Instagram, but I use them both to get that dose of dopamine when someone likes, shares, comments, or reposts. I took Facebook off of my phone today, and will deactivate my account on March 1st. I’m still thinking about Instagram, but I’ll probably remove it from my phone in the end, as well. I never actually look at my Twitter accounts, but this is a great excuse to deactivate all but the Compass & Quill account (which I only use to repost blog posts, so I’ll just continue not checking it).

Step two is to get serious about finding a new psychiatrist and therapist, and getting back into treatment. I’ve looked around on my new health insurance page a few times, but they make it so convoluted that I always end up getting confused and giving up. I think I’ll just call customer service and ask for help during a lunch break next week.

Step three is to get physical and get sleep. Those are two things, but they work together. Physical activity is proven to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and they will also help address my weight issues, which will also, in turn, help the anxiety. I have been having a lot of trouble getting in my 8 hours of sleep a night, but I think if I’m properly worn out from working out, it will help me climb into bed earlier every night.

Step four is to cut out sugar, dairy, and caffeine. They’re all highly addictive, and are all playing an unhealthy part in my life. I always reach for one of the three when I’m uncomfortable – and I’m always uncomfortable. So I’ll just take a break, even if it’s only for 40 days.

Step five is to finish something. So I’m aiming to finish writing all of my Camino posts by Thursday, April 13th.

What am I looking for? So many things. That’s a whole new post, at some later date. For now it’s time to get out of the coffee shop and home to my cats. Isabel’s going to be very happy about her favorite heating pad’s resolution to spend more time in bed.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

My paternal grandmother (I call her Nana) has poor circulation, just like me. Our hands and feet are always cold. When I was little, she used to take my tiny hand between her own much larger ones and try to bring some warmth back to my chilly digits. While doing it, she’d typically intone, “Cold hands, warm heart.” I still say it to myself quite often.

My apartment is cold. It’s only in the upper 60’s, but there’s a chill in the air, and my fingers and toes feel like fledgling ice cubes. I’m sitting on my couch, where I’ve been mulling over what to write for a couple of hours now. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve started and stopped multiple times. In all, I’ve probably already written 700 words or so, then backspaced them all into the aether.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. It will be 2015 soon. I wonder how things have changed since last year, and how they’ve stayed the same. It’s harder to think it over this year, since my concentration isn’t what it used to be. My thoughts scatter like the wind as I reach for them. I’m exhausted with the process.

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The negatives of this year have been:

Working myself ragged to make ends meet.

Lying to everyone that I was fine when I clearly wasn’t, then worrying about all of the lies so much that I was even more depressed.

Promising more to everyone else than I had to give.

Not promising enough to myself.

Constantly berating myself for not “achieving” at writing, weight, health, money, womanhood, etc.

Shutting out my family because I don’t want them to see how much I’m struggling trying to be someone they’ll be proud of.

Not handling my money as intelligently as originally planned.

Listening too much to other people’s advice. It’s well-meaning, but we are not one-size-fits-all, and other people need to understand that “helpful” advice for how to build a great life can often come across as a condemnation of someone’s shortcomings. Don’t tell people what to do unless they ask you, and even then, be gentle with your phrasing.

 

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The positives of this year have been:

Making up my mind to leave my relationship – then actually doing it.

Falling madly in love when – and with whom – I least expected it.

Holding down two full time jobs, and using the money more wisely than I would have a couple of years ago (yeah, this is on both lists).

Making a home for myself in a desirable neighborhood.

Rolling with the punches in a new relationship with pre-existing issues on both sides that many would have run from, making the bond stronger and sweeter than anything I’ve ever known.

Finally feeling completely at home with being a geek. Nothing to hide, no one to laugh at my interests – just other people who want to play board games, read fantasy novels, and love to dress up in costume as much as I do.

Reaffirming friendships with some of my most beloved friends.

Creating new friendships with a generous helping of new faces.

Coming to terms with the fact that I’m depressed, and need help.

Having the courage to join a really great gym – AND go to classes, even when I was scared.

Beating the back and hip pain that’s been a constant in my life for the last five years (!!!)

happy ending

I think that overall I’ve done a good job. I’d love to look back over this year from a place of perfection, but I’m never going to have that. We’ll never be perfect, any of us, and it’s ridiculous to try. What I can have is love, and friendship, and a decent selection of people who not only get what I’m going through, but are humble enough to know that sometimes they can serve best by just being there.

I’ve been sad and confused and worn out for the last few years, and I had somehow gotten used to it. I was treating it with plenty of wine and potato chips, and lots of sleeping late and trying to avoid conversation as much as possible. But this year I’ve been slowly but surely coming to terms with how much of my behavior has been a coping mechanism for depression. Whether it’s something brought on by my as-yet untreated thyroid issue, the constant back and hip pain, or if I just need therapy (or all of the above), I get it now. Being in a great spot with my love life, and having lots of opportunity to talk about emotions and mental state in person and here on the blog helped me to start to wrap my head around the fact that something’s not normal in my chemistry at the moment.

So that’s what I’m going to work on in 2015. I want to be OK again. I want my warm heart back. I want to put it to work again, and shine for other people. But before I can do that, before I can be bigger for everyone else, I need to get better for myself.

Happy New Year, my beautiful, mysterious internet friends. May you have health and happiness in the coming turn around the sun.