Category Archives: Mental Health and Other Fantasies

Zacky V and the Christmas Tree

Dear gods does that ever sound like the beginning of some misbegotten piece of real person fanfiction that I probably would have gleefully written at age 14. Probably did. [Insertnameofprobablyabassistordrummerhere and the Christmas Tree].

However, that is not what this is.  “This” is all the way at the bottom of the post if you want to be that reader who has to know the end first. This is also a story of an improbable day that begin with a 20-mile run at 5:30 in the morning that would be the end of several very, very dark mental days.

The run, for the record, kind of sucked, though it was in one of my favorite places, and I could see the ocean. For those who may read this who also follow me on FB, you know I spend about a quarter of my time working south of home. You know when I am there because I torture you with pictures of sunrises taken while I watch surfers and drink coffee. My spirit animal/place/thing (yes, I am being deliberately vague. Why should become clear).

After my 20-miler (that, though it sucked, I finished at a 9:51 pace for the final mile–suck it, brain), I walked back to my (other) apartment (don’t I sound fancy? It’s a room. With a Murphy Bed and not even a hotplate or coffee maker, don’t get all excited), which is about a mile and half from the shore (which makes up for the small and non-hot-plateness) if I head to my favorite coffee shop (which makes up for the no coffee maker). Which, of course, I did.

Wandering to my favorite  post-run resting place for coffee-guzzling, I look up and see Zacky V on a ladder, Christmas lights in hand. I know good and damn well that my big ass deathbat tattoo is visible (running shorts!), and I have this intense and possibly ridiculous concern about making him uncomfortable (you know, no one who likes the band lives in the same area. Of course), so I sidestep to keep my leg hidden, but catch his eye nonetheless.

He’s fucking beaming. Hanging lights and looking utterly beside himself. I congratulate him on the fine job he’s doing, and he says “Thank you, man!” He’s gleeful. I’m a bit gobsmacked.

I should explain something here, because I wasn’t just sucking up. I love Christmas lights. Most readers (since most of you do, indeed, know me) will realize that this is merely an offshoot of my love of all things gaudy. Sparkle is my friend and close companion. Sequins are next to godliness. My aunt sent a picture of a pink Christmas tree to me this year, not because I love pink so much, but because it was tacky as hell and would look FABULOUS with a couple carefully arranged flamingos.

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Peacocks and feathers? You should have seen my mantle a few years ago, to say nothing of the AMAZING wreath I had at the time.

Oh, wait! You can!

Because I am such a klutz and so bad with heights, I’ve never done much with exterior lighting, so I deeply appreciate those who do.

Where I presently reside (3/4 of the time), there aren’t many kids and, I suppose as consequence, not much in the way of holiday exterior decor. But, in my spirit animal/place, there is much, much, much to be found. Like dozens and dozens of Clark Griswolds (there is one corner about two blocks from the shore that I could just stand on and stare at the exterior lighting battles going on for hours. I didn’t, but I could. I wasn’t there for more than like 20 minutes. Really.) all over the place doing battle for the most holiday spirit via lights, garland, really big balls, and reindeer. When I walk around (which I do quite a bit of when there), I talk to more people than I ever do in my daily life. And during the holidays, I chat up the decorators, because I am so very pleased and grateful.

To wit: there is a house, and I now know the true meaning of picture window, by the way, with two giant stuffed reindeer artfully (because how else) arranged in the picture window. They are so freaking big and realistic (and wearing bells and whatnot!) that I had to get uncomfortably close to the house to assure myself these were stuffed animals and not taxidermy. I am still not sure, and I confess to having been a bit concerned about approaching the artists involved.

So, back to the story.

Because of the brain crap, I hadn’t even been arsed to put up a tree. In fact, as I came to find out, I had thrown my fake tree away last year. I think because I had donated just one too many quarts of blood to the damn thing. I grew up with fake trees. I have nothing against a fine fake tree. In fact, the faker, less tree-like the tree, the better. Hence the flamingo pink tree my aunt found. I never quite got used to having real trees, so I abandoned the notion when I moved out here (well, after the cats broke the last real one, but that’s another tale).

In my real life, I haven’t been able to even get my tree up (or discover that I didn’t even have a tree anymore), and here I am watching a man just absolutely delighted in Christmas lights. Utterly, visibly delighted. I was kind of expecting him to start skipping.

I sat in my favorite coffee-guzzle space, which is still in sight of the decorating festivities, and marveled at the whole affair. As was pointed out by one of the other local decorators, a curmudgeonly soul near the coffee shop, my offering of cheers about the decorating meant I had to come back when the lights were all on to really see the awesomeness.

So, after dinner, I wandered around looking at all of the places I had seen getting set up. Candy canes, santas, icicle lights, and that starshower thingy they’ve been advertising of late (there were a shit ton of those around). It was fabulous. And, because I had to see the end result (and because it was on my way unless I wanted to add a whole lot of walking, which, having started the day with 20–remember that?–I wasn’t especially inclined to do), I walked back to Zack’s.

It was dark (as you do if you want to see lights) and a weird hybrid and warm/chilly that had me taking off my hoodie and putting it back on over and over again. As I come around the corner, who should I spy but Zacky himself, admiring his work. I asked if that was what he was doing, and he affirmed that it was.

We talked for a bit, and the jist of it was how happy he was. He was clearly proud of the work–it was, he said, the first time he’d done this by himself–and, in spite of the dark, I could see the sparkle in his eyes (aided, no doubt, by all the Christmas lights). I don’t know jack about anything else in his life, save what he chooses to post, but I do know that he had one of the happiest lilts in his voice that I’ve heard in a very long time.

And, weirdly, it broke through something.

I’m now back to my 3/4 home. And I have a tree up. A gaudy, unmistakably me tree. And while I can credit the glee in his voice for kicking something over in my head Saturday night, let me assure you that the gaudy is all me. His lighting scheme is not, granted, the pent-up WASPy candle and wreath in each  window and white lights only thing, but, it is also not as delightfully tacky as my 6.5 ft silver tree with multi-colored lights and a Star Wars blanket as a tree skirt. That sucker is all me.

It also lacks stuffed reindeer, for which I think I am grateful, where it equals both his exterior decor (and if he has giant stuffed reindeer indoors, that is both his business and my delight to NOT know) and my townhouse.15391087_10155695169399968_7229143992720904047_n

Anyway, that’s the story of how Zacky V saved Christmas shared his joy with someone who, clearly unbeknownst to him, really, really needed it. Consequently, he bears some responsibility for the big-ass silver tree, covered in sparkly (and, um, not-quite sparkly) ornaments, now in my living room.

Thank you, man.

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Lies

**I am publishing this as is. All errors result from a choice to write freely.

A friend bemoaned the coming blog postposts that will forthcoming in the wake of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide*. Posts that will question why someone would choose suicide, the state of mental illness treatment and support in the States, whether addiction (or, for that matter, depression) is a disease, character defect, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The last phrase is particularly apt at the moment for me, though it has nothing to do with Williams’ death.

I process the world–usually–through writing. When I don’t write, it probably means I am in denial or otherwise just not working my way through something. Which means, I suppose, that today is a good one.

And perhaps it is also a good one because so many of us are still standing and will remember the Robin-shaped hole–and, I hope, the holes left by the scores of other suicides today, tomorrow…

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. And we can pretend that addiction and mental illness are aberrations and character flaws. And we can decry the “choice.” And we can mourn the losses. And we can love those who remain here. Not always present, but here.

And running alongside the shock on my Twitter feed is the abhorrently less shocking news: kids who can’t get home because of a blockade, residents in fear of a heavily armed force shouting at them, attempts to fight back that are often swept aside in the reports for the sexier acts of destruction.

In Ferguson, MO. Racial tension explodes.

That which is forced into silence–externally or internally–will rise. The emotions that are drowned, denied, or belittled will take over. Eventually. And we can never really predict how, where, or who. We are all subject.

That Williams’ apparent suicide should come after a long stretch of working and time in rehab should come as little surprise. The masking of the highs–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal lows. Worse still are those liminal spaces known as mixed episodes, when you are deeply depressed with the energy and –sometimes–delusion that make it possible to do something about the (lack of) feelings. That something is not necessarily going to look rational to those on the outside. But it might carry its own internal logic. And the end result is the same.

A hole.

That Ferguson’s apparent violence should come after a long stretch of increasing racial tensions and the warfeargasm (thanks, L7) fed by the media should come as little surprise. The masking of the threats and hostilities–through whatever means–can result in pummeling, fatal actions. Worse still are those liminal spaces between delusion and fear, when you are so terrified of your neighbor, the police, the kid on the street that bullets seem like the only way to do something about those feelings. The internal logic will be there. But the end result is the same.

A hole.

A death. A loss. More fear. More pain. More evasion of truth.

Evading the difficult conversations about race that are bound up in a political vision that triumphs noise over evidence. Evading the conversations that put on the table the simple truth that a black man in the Oval Office sent part of this country into a profound state of delusion. Evading the difficult conversation that some of those same delusions bind up the possibilities for treating mental illness and addiction because, like the black man in the Oval Office, too much of the discourse assumes black men, addiction, and mental illness to be something other. Too much of the discourse assumes whatever it is that white and normal are supposed to be.

Fuck that.

Depression kills. Fear kills. Delusion kills, be it the one mediated on TV or mediated in my head by the bipolar cycles that I work to balance every single day.

Cycles that killed a man this morning. Delusions that make us have to question ourselves when the energy is too high (did I see him? Is he real?). Delusions that there is no other way out.

Other kinds of cycles, just as subject to swings, killed a young man this weekend. Delusions, mediated by violent rhetoric and pervasive, inflamed fears that go unquestioned and too quickly smothered by the next great event–this delusion killed a young man this weekend. And the days before that. And before that. And before that.

How long do we let delusions destroy us? How many holes have to be left?

Depression lies.

Fear lies.

Both kill.

 


 

*the first line caught my eye on FB. That was too hideous to leave.

Two and Still Counting

Well, I sort of don’t believe that I made it to two, having hit one so many times before. But, here it is. When I started drafting this yesterday, I was of a far different mood than I am presently. But, I want to be true to what was real yesterday (absolute gratitude) because it still is true today, if rather masked by depression. Which sucks, but no one ever said that life got easy in sobriety, either. I’m weaving the two days together–I hope somewhat seamlessly.

So, if I may quote Volbeat in passing:

Counting all the assholes in the room
Well I´m definitely not alone, well I´m not alone

And that is perhaps the best thing about 2–the realization and recognition that I am not alone. Kind of beautiful.

The year has not been an easy one, certainly. It was filled with a great many troubles that I NEVER imagined, and more than a few that I suspected, but was a little dismayed and surprised to have them show up now. These revelations included major depression (not mine, but someone I dearly love), a radical and still-coming transition at work (including a campus move for me–ah, change. I handle that so well), more therapy and therapists than you can shake a stick at, and twin diagnoses (mine) of chronic fatigue (no surprise) and bipolar II (not a surprise, either, exactly, but I’m still working on that whole acceptance thing). And, on the upside, I am grateful beyond measure to all the people who reached out to me or who were there when I reached out through all of the above.

I am not alone, even when I feel like I am.

I was, for the most part, a solitary drinker. Social drinking ended for me at approximately my first drink, which, if my mother is to be believed, happened when I was about 6 months old. Thereafter I demanded–by her telling–demanded wine every time she had any. Mine! I was solitary in most adventures, and that remains true in many cases now, but not as much as before. Even when I venture off alone.

I am not alone anymore, even when I set off that way.

I traveled this year, rather more than I imagined I would (and all the more surprisingly, given the events of the year). Flew to such far flung places as a casino in Connecticut, an old airfield in New Jersey, to home in Virginia Beach, to a teen dream-come-true in Cleveland, and to a beach in Ireland. Several of these adventures saw me flying by myself. But, in Atlantic City, I met an elderly Irish man who was convinced I used to come to that restaurant all the time, a young woman who gave me an A7X bracelet because she saw my Matt-bat tattoo, and scores of folks who asked about the shiner I’d acquired at that casino during an Avenged show. In Cleveland, I celebrated Guns N’ Roses with some of my favorite people, and managed to thwart the (other) GNR fans lined up outside the hotel by leaving the van running and piling in the signed posters with as much dignity as Janean and I are capable of possessing (which is a fair amount, it turns out). In Virginia Beach, I ran what may turn out to be the worst and last half-marathon of my life, but I enjoyed every second of it. In Ireland, I got to visit a site I’d long intended to see–and, what’s more–unknowingly selected a hotel that was in sight of it.

Not the day I put my feet in the North Atlantic.

Not the day I put my feet in the North Atlantic.

I also got to put my bare feet in the North Atlantic, which amuses me more that I probably should admit.

Not alone, even in the struggles.

Work constituted a major part of my year–as we prepared for the consolidation of the institution with another. It came as a shock to most of us that we even had to do it, and I think the work-level in preparation for it came as a shock continually throughout the year. But, we were together in it, and we will forge the new togethers. One day at a time. The impending changes did force me to kickstart productive research again (that’s a positive), and I find myself composing a paper on punk, nostalgia, and anxiety. Sort of oddly fun. Academics are weird.

So, that’s it. A year in brief. Here’s to another day and another series of days that may bring us to another year. My thanks to you all for traveling these roads with me.

The Halcyon Days of Candy Canes

The adventures in limited foods continue apace, including a rather pitiful realization that candy canes are now verboten.  CANDY CANES.  Somehow both dramatic and terribly funny.  As a result, this unrepentant lover o’candy canes is on the hunt to find the how-can-I-have-December-without-them treats in a non-corn syrup variety.

And hope like heck the taste is worth it (I  have faith).

Last week turned into an adventure in “what, this too??” With respect to both food and “food” (such as non-stick spray) items.  Everywhere I turned in my diet, one of the blacklisted entities would show up–most commonly corn and soy.  Our typical Thanksgiving dinner was…necessarily modified (I still served wheat rolls, but I clearly didn’t eat them or the butter they demand).  I called a friend for help in determining what in the world to eat for breakfast, and after lamenting the egg-less existence, she brilliantly pointed out that it was easier to just think morning dinner, rather than remaining stuck in my apparently limited vision of what constitutes breakfast.  Or, as another friend put it: “did you eat cold pizza for breakfast in college?  Then what’s the problem here?” My friends, they got my back.  So, yesterday was Acorn Squash & Homemade Sausage (store-bought that we typically get has corn syrup–I’ve not yet evaluated others).  Other options will be Brussels Sprouts & Bacon (the concept of which delights me to no end).  Another morning adventure was the every-other-day-smoothie with blackberries and bananas (and spinach.  Awesome).

More amusingly, I realized this week that it was easier to cook after a long day than it was to figure out where in the world I an eat out (waaay too much brainpower needed.  Brainpower, which notably, is really lacking after 6:50 pm, which is why we kept defaulting to going out in the first place).

So, all three meals are lovingly prepared each day. A process which is not unlike the hell I put myself through when I was avoiding writing my dissertation, only I’m not eyeing the baseboards for deep cleaning and it feels rather more productive.  I was June Cleaver with a full-time job and a minivan, dammit.  Thank the powers that be that the minivan is gone (I never could live up to that ideal) and that the job has survived me.

In non-candy cane related news, I can report that I slept–like really slept–the other night.  I feel asleep quickly and stayed that way in what must be that thing you non-insomniacs call deep sleep.  Astounding.  Utterly astounding.  I assume, since I did nothing physical to warrant such things, that the Magnesium that has been ordered (by the same doc who cut me off from candy canes) is doing it’s thing and helping.

If you happen to have  a lead on candy-canes that I can eat (not that I’m obsessing or anything), please let me know.

Mo and Me

I’d like to introduce y’all to someone.  The fabulous fellow at left right left(who needs to know left from right?) is one of my rescue boys, Mo.  He came to us

Why, yes, I am the cutest cat in the world. Thanks for noticing.

after a rather unfortunate encounter with a car; he was taken by the local police to the vet we take the big guy to and, well, Mo just happened to come home with me one afternoon about 5 years ago (the vet just may have suggested that my penchant for wacko cats would be helpful).  Mo is a Bengal cat–his nickname is short for Mowgli.  He’s of the brown spotted tabby variety, and he does possess the beautiful golden glitter in his fur that the breed is known for.  Has a terribly charming pumpkin-orange belly, too.  And he’s lovely, lovely, lovely.

Being a Bengal, Mo “should” conform to the following description:

Whether they are fishing in the aquarium or playing in their water-bowls, fetching balls for their families, taking walks on a leash or climbing to the top of the highest cupboards, Bengals are constantly on the move and are perfect for anyone who wants to interact and play with their cat daily.

This is not Mo.  Mo, in fact, is none of these, save for “cat.” Mo is, as the saying goes, just FINE: fucked up, insecure, neurotic, emotional.  Also wildly high-strung.  Of all four of my current animals (and the three that preceded these), I probably identify most readily with Mo.  One gets the feeling that Mo would be who Mo is, regardless of his experiences.

Yes, there are two competing theories to what drove Mo to take a leap in front of a moving car.  Mo may be one of the fleet of feral cats in this community–he has a notched ear, which is typical of the ferals who were caught and released after neutering (which would certainly explain some of his…resistance to humans).  It is entirely possible (likely, even) that Mo was abused during the first two years of his life, before he came to us via our awesome vet.  Mo cares not one whit for men nor small kids.  He’s not keen on women, either.  In fact, he seems to be altogether misanthropic.  He is, however, very fond of other cats, and he does allow me the opportunity to pet him at dinner time. He even seems to appreciate it.  He also allows me to hold him in order to trim his nails, so he probably doesn’t totally hate me; he might even trust me a tad.

But, again, one gets the feeling that Mo would be high-strung irrespective of his history.  High-strung and Mo appear, indeed, to be synonymous.  And boy do I understand that on a deeply personal level.  All the therapy in the world isn’t going to change that for either of us.

He does have the marvelous benefit of being far cuter in his high-strungness than I.

Confession Number 168*

I’ve been sick for the last three weeks.  Not the relapse or pending-relapse sick, just sick.  And not an iota of a clue what is wrong.

One of those three statements is a lie.

For the small population of folk who knew me in high school and with whom I still maintain some contact, some of the following may ring familiar.  For most of those who met me after TG was born, it will not.  I’m not sure how much, if at all, I’ve discussed my less-than-stellar high school career with anyone who wasn’t unfortunate enough to be there at the time.  I was, in short, a poor student.

I didn’t turn in work, and when I did it tended to be half-assed.  “She doesn’t live up to her potential” showed up in reports so often that my mother just came to assume that it would be there, should she bother to look at it in the first place.  Even in drama–the one place I marginally excelled–that remark came up year after year (what potential, exactly, my director meant, I’m less sure.  Certainly wasn’t acting).

During the last two years–no, that’s not accurate…During the entire span of high school, I was depressed (not something in and of itself particularly surprising in that age range).  I was ill, too.  The illnesses started in 5th grade.  On Thursdays.  Pretty much every Thursday for about 12 weeks that spring semester (beginning February-ish), I would report to the nurse’s office before or at the start of lunch, before we would switch classes to my afternoon teacher, Mr. Kern, who was, as I recall, in charge the day’s lessons for  social Sciences, science, and math (that may well be incorrect).

I was afraid of Mr. Kern.   Nice guy–very demanding.  Saw through my bullshit.  See, Thursdays were the day I returned from gifted-school, a separate site I attended on Wednesdays.  Invariably, I’d forget to do or bring my homework for Thursday, the end result of which was a demerit.  Ten demerits equalled detention.  I recall only having detention once that year–Mr. Kern had to drive me home because my mother couldn’t get off work and my father was in…Idaho (?)…somewhere of that nature.  Possibly he was in California.  I don’t remember any more.

So, given that I only had detention once, I must have done my homework occasionally, but I do remember how sternly Mr. Kern would look at me when I didn’t have it.  Abject failure in pigtails.  Again.

I felt awful.

On those Thursdays in spring of fifth grade, my mother would dutifully come get me and take me to the doctor, though my temperature was seldom above about 99.5 F.  In the meantime, I’d wait in the nurse’s office, and my teachers–usually in the order of Ms. Whitaker (morning–language arts), Mr. D or one of the rotating bands of physical education teachers, and then Mr. Kern.  Each would glower at me (increasingly as the weeks went on), wondering aloud if there was anything really wrong with me.

I felt awful.

True enough, I was usually hiding from my homeworklessness, but…here’s the rub…each week that occurred, when my mother dutifully took me to the doc-in-the-box, I tested positive for strep throat.  And each time I took the 7 or 10 (I don’t recall which) regiment of antibiotics faithfully.  And scored a positive the very next time I arrived.  They finally shot me up (literally) with long-acting penicillin–stuff was thick enough to leave a scar on my hip at the injection site.

No further Thursdays to the nurse, and, as I recall, no further missed homework on Thursdays.

I felt better.

Somewhere in high school, it happened again.  Missed days.  Forgotten work. Trips to the doctor.  Feeling utterly exhausted all the time.  Mono spot and strep tests that rang negative each time, though the glands in my throat remained clearly swollen.  Sometimes, I just couldn’t do more than lay on the couch and stare at the dog, who was nonplussed  by the whole affair.

After a few months of the “what the hell is wrong” routine, a doc at the navy hospital drew a few vials of blood (for which they had to use a butterfly needle made for kids, my veins were so bad and my blood pressure so low**).  The results came back with a very high–I recall him stuttering when he said it–Epstein-Barr Virus titer.  He ran the mono spot test again.  Still negative.  There was talk at the time about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which was the celebrated-diagnosis of the day.  Though studies (in about 2003) would indeed correlate the high EBV numbers, negative mono test, and the wandering host of other symptoms I presented with (aches, odd respiratory ailments, headaches, poor sleeping, etc.) with CFS, the syndrome was regarded then, as it still is, as largely psychological.  In other words, it’s all in your head, please get over it. For a year or more we went through the same series of tests with the same results.

I was still not doing homework and increasingly wanted nothing more than to NOT be in school.  And, I felt awful.

I could still do things–particularly things I enjoyed, like going to concerts or participating in theater.  I’d be too exhausted to do anything else after the fact, but I could do them. As a result, I came to the conclusion eventually that it was indeed all in my head and the physical symptoms were a manifestation of the depression I was experiencing, and that I was, as it was widely assumed, making myself sick (or playing sick) in order to get out of dealing with school.  And sometimes, that felt true, as I would miss doing something and begin a spiral that would involve–eventually–missing school.

I was choosing to be sick so that I didn’t have to continue to be the abject failure (though I now seldom sported pigtails).  Over the past nearly 20 years, I’ve carefully managed stress levels, however, even going so far as to choose a career with built-in vacation times, in order to ensure that I didn’t push myself too hard and make myself sick again.

Now, I want you to look at that again.  Simultaneously, I held the belief over the course of 20 years that I had the ability/control to make myself sick (or was faking it to such an astounding degree that I skewed the medical tests) and that I had to take care of myself to prevent it from happening again.  And for these twenty years, it’s never occurred to me that those two beliefs might be mutually exclusive.

My work situation changed recently.  Since 2007, I’ve slowly given up those built-in down times by shifting my responsibilities away from teaching and toward administration.  Even when I worked and planned and did stuff during those breaks (and I did), they felt different.  And, as I predicted (while believing myself to be inherently lazy and inclined toward shirking my duties), I don’t take care to take breaks anymore that don’t involve some insane level of activity–physically and mentally.  This year has been the worst–I’ve taken to telling myself that I just have to make it until June.  June.  Just hang in there.  Forgive yourself the mistakes.  Hang in there.  Hang in there.  Hang in there.

And then I’d realize there was something else I’d meant to do.  What was it?

The illness of the last three weeks feels so much like high school that it scares me.  I feel deflated.  And when I need to ramp up energy, I can (sometimes), but it means that other things can’t and won’t happen.  I’ve been chastising myself for months now about the things I’m forgetting to do,  the details I’m missing.  For being lazy. Forgetful. In case anyone is counting, yes, the cervical (neck) glands are indeed swollen.  Perhaps it’s just the flu.

I’m sort of waiting for Mr. Kern to arrive, demerit board at the ready.  Of course, I no longer need him, since I’ve utterly internalized the conversation.

I tried working the steps on the matter of how I feels, and got as far as step one when I realized that I’d never allowed myself to imagine that I was sick.  Really sick.  Not faking it.  Not trying to get out of doing something.  I  mean, there are things I am currently avoiding, but it’s because I have no energy for them, not because I have a burning desire to argue over what it is I haven’t done.  I’m putting the majority of energy into work, so home and me are getting left in the dust–I’ve nothing left.  Nothing.

What if I turned the conversation about the 5th grader around?  What if she was forgetting her homework because she was sick?  She wasn’t necessarily aware that she was sick, but she lacked the energy to complete the task–perhaps even to recall that there was a task.  What if she was that sick?  That exhausted?  And that inclined to assume she was at fault for everything–even being sick.  It had to be purposeful.  It had to be her in control of the illness–it couldn’t be that she felt awful.

Awful is easier to ignore when engaged in something that one enjoys.  Reading is, and always has been, something of a distraction for me.  I could feel awful, get lost in a book, and feel marginally less awful for a while.

What if the depression, which was co-morbid in both 5th grade and high school, did not cause the illness, but was caused by it?  And made the forgetting worse. And what if it doesn’t matter which was the chicken and which was the egg and which came first?  What if it just is?

I was depressed and I felt awful.

I am depressed and I feel awful.

I’m working on the depression and the shame.  I think that work has kicked the door open for me to begin to imagine that I didn’t do wrong in high school and in fifth grade.  There was a finite amount of energy available to me, and I didn’t know it.  I blew through it just trying to keep up with every one else, and I blamed myself for not measuring up.  Clearly, I was in control (and, perhaps, this was another area where I grasped at straws to make myself believe I controlled something) and had something to be ashamed of.

How in the world did I convince myself that I controlled when I developed strep throat?  That it was my fault?  WTF?

So it’s not that I don’t have an iota of a clue what’s up.  I don’t know that the CFS is back.  I’m not certain I want to walk that road in the medical establishment again (there is nothing, after all, to be done about it).  I’ll go in, get the appropriate tests to ensure that it isn’t anything easily dealt with (at which point I’ll be irritated at myself for waiting so long to go in).  But, if they come back negative, I don’t know what I’ll do, and, at the moment, I’m leaving that with HP, who at least has provided me with an avenue here to see that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t me.

Which makes me feel, oddly, a little better.


*168th post/confession/whatever. No other numerical significance I am currently aware of.

**Recent information suggests that the low blood pressure is part of the host of problems, as the brain doesn’t get as much as it otherwise would.  This speaks, perhaps, to why, as I have long believed, I improved when I got pregnant.  My blood pressure went up and reached normal for perhaps the first time in years, allowing some of the damage to heal.  I was a damn sight more active and a FAR more engaged student during that period than I had been before.

Welcome to the Family

Family is entirely a misnomer, but the song is too stuck in my head to type “committee,” which is more apt (maybe…family might be pretty appropriate too, now that I think about it).  I’ve had some…odd experiences of late. So, a brief detour from the relapse narrative (and, truth be told, the first relapse is a really short story. Also completely common, but I’ll get to it. Needs to be written) and into the annals of mental health.

The sum of all of the weird events is personality. I’ve had a personality assessment, an encouragement for personal branding (no, not the body mod kind), and a, well, series of insights regarding my still unfinished fifth step (we ran out of time. Fee free to insert the appropriate joke here). According to the DiSC (said personality assessment), I am a “high S, high I” (the scores are nearly equal).  I stands for “influence” and S, unbelievably, for Steady (though, in glancing at ye olde font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, S originally was short for submission.  Make of that what you will).  Also, as with Myers-Briggs, I seem to possess the traits of the “counselor” personality type (INFJ).

And you know what they suggest about the mental health of counselors, right?

As some of you in my daily existence are already aware, I dragged my butt back into therapy recently. Seemed a wise thing to do, on the whole, and certainly because I need all the help I can get with the whole sanity and sobriety thing.  Unfortunately, our current therapeutic enterprise is thusly particularly entertaining, as I currently feel decidedly less sane than before.

Why?

Clearly this post is destined to be among the “please tell me this isn’t as crazy as it feels” variety.  Simply put, we’ve begun naming the voices in my head. Seeing that in print, you might imagine, makes me a bit nervous. Probably makes some of you a bit nervous.

Hi!

If you hang around recovery long enough (and this time, thankfully, I have, so I wasn’t as put off by said therapeutic enterprise as I might have otherwise been), you’ll hear about “The Committee.” The notion is commonplace–one might imagine the committee as simply as Tom and Jerry cartoons with the angel and the devil on the shoulders. A friend of mine–last week I think–commented about her own committee that she wishes “they would use their inside voices.”  I so agree.

Let me introduce the committee members as yet identified (note: I owe the ridiculous construction that follows to one of the silliest fanfic pieces I’ve read to date.  No, I am not sharing the fic–I do wish to retain a modicum of dignity).  Here’s kind of how my brain works:  I recently remarked to someone that over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few events that might be called serendipitous with regard to my recovery.  Having said that….

Critic:  This isn’t appropriate sharing material.  Also, they won’t believe you anyway.

Skeptic:  Serendipitous seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Counselor:  There, there.

THAT is what happens in my brain.  What comes out of my mouth then, is often a follow-up a rephrase:  Well, not serendipitous exactly, but there was something….just…  Well, it is sort of what happens; I mean if they were all so well-defined, I could recognize them and be done already.  It’s more of an impulse–I constantly correct myself (I think I’ve noted in these pages before that I self-correct in my writing to a degree that is stunning for someone who is also a terrible editor.  Were I to leave every word I typed and put strikeouts through the word choice changes, it would be a much, much longer post).  The confident and constant critical narrative causes me to do such things as confusing self-flagellation with self-depricating humor and martyrdom with humility.

As it happens, the “maybe-not-exactly-serendipity-but-damn-sure-came-up-a-bunch” thing regarded self-criticism and the ways in which I silence myself and belittle my own experiences.*

Critic:  Others have had it far worse than you.  Stop being dramatic and oversensitive.

Skeptic: You may be blowing these “connections” out of proportion.

Critic: You have nothing of note to say anyway.

Skeptic:  I still reject the notion of serendipity.

The Rabble:  Yeah, what they said.  Who’s reading this?  *runs off to check stats*

Counselor:  Stop listening to them.  They aren’t helping.

Critic:  Can it, softie.

Here’s the rub, though (and What She Said warned me about this, but boy was I unprepared for the realization)–I wondered yesterday what it would be like if the Critic, who is by far the most dominant of the voices, were to be silenced, or even muffled.  The idea is, frankly, terrifying.  I realize the Critic is me, a particularly unhelpful part of me, but definitely me, so to absent this dominant part of me leaves me with…what, exactly?  From where I sit, what remains is a void.

A really fucking significant void.

As I said, terrifying.  And not just a little upsetting–who am I without the pounds of self-hatred I dump on myself without even acknowledging that I do it most of the time?  Again with the mantra of the year:  who the hell am I?**

If you made it through this drivel (Hi, Critic!), or not, for that matter, thank you.  I’m trying to get all of this clear in my head and it helps immeasurably to put it out here.  Helps, too, to know there is a level of accountability to other people knowing my crazy.


*Out of an unusual sense of self-preservation, I’m not going to cite the particulars here.  I will say that I was horrified to realize how much I had begun to belittle one particular series of events in my life and recast it as both “not that big of a deal” and my fault.  I *thought* I had worked through the issues, but, quite clearly, I had, instead, boxed them up neatly and tried to pretend they weren’t there.  When I mentioned this is therapy, my counselor observed that I was, at the time, doing the best I could to merely survive, which is an accurate assessment, but not one I’d ever really considered.

**Yeah, working on a “personal brand” has been a real blast.  Sheesh.  Although, if you look at the exterior, the bright red hair and the penchant for unusual shoes certainly comes to mind.