The Big Reset

I haven’t posted since April, ugh. It’s been the longest break I’ve taken since I started blogging for realz in 2012.

I don’t even know what I want to say now…it’s more that I want to break the silent streak and hopefully gain some momentum from putting fingers to keys and seeing what comes out.

This summer is feeling like a great in-between time. The adults are vaccinated, but our kids are not. For me, getting vaccinated is the benchmark for feeling safe, for getting out and doing stuff.

We’ve been socializing more. It’s been weird. I’ve gone into people’s houses. What?!

Each summer here in the PNW I tend to feel a renewed urge to get out and be active, get fit. In an effort to do that, I fell off my bike and badly sprained my ankle. I think the universe is telling me to slow my roll.

As my depression lifted, and as the world opened up, my anxiety moved back in. Oh hey, look, you have some vacancies to fill. Don’t mind if I do.

I worked hard to find a therapist who 1) had openings – because therapists ARE FULL UP right now, and 2) was willing to see vaccinated folks in person. I knew I’d need the extra support for going back out into the world and processing all the shit we’d just been through. Also, I would like to go back to work at some point aaaaaand I’m gonna need to take care of myself first before I can get back into the therapy office as the shrink.

So far, this has been a summer of patience. Of healing. Of reconnecting. Of deciding on my boundaries moving forward.

This summer is the big reset.

Posterboard versus hand signals

I just got Jenny Lawson’s new book in the mail A DAY EARLY – the postal service must really know what they’re doing when the tracking number tells me my beloved package will be here on Saturday, and since I am a creature whose mental health depends on expectations being met or exceeded, they, well, exceeded them because today is indeed Friday (at the time this was written), a survey of my peers confirmed – and I’ve already dived into it, even though I have a library book that’s due soon and it can’t be renewed and I don’t like to read two books at one time so now I’ve gone and fucked everything up but who cares because nothing matters anymore.

Her book inspires me to write in gauche run-on sentences that include lots of italics and all caps because her writing just speaks to me. She also inspires me to write about my own struggles with mental illness, among other things.

I hesitate to write about depression versus anxiety for a number of reasons. First is that anxiety is my main course and I usually only order a side of depression, and not all that often. Also, depression just seems scarier. More dangerous. When I write about it, I always feel the need to add that I’m not suicidal (because I’m not). Depression is so much more than that, anyway. And it’s different for everyone.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to decide to go to social events because things I try to say come out wrong because my depression manifests as extreme irritability. While I want human connection and know that it will be good for me, my worry is that my depression will say something horribly rude and piss off my friends and I’d like to keep my friends. But, if I stay away from my friends for their sake and express myself only with one liners and emojis via text, I fear they’ll think I’m trying to ghost them and I swear I’m not.

My depression also manifests as a profound lack of energy. If you’re seeing me outside my house wearing pants lately, be sure I’ve used up my energy just getting to that state. Another reason I worry about group events is that I’d rather not burst into tears if someone asks me how I’m doing. See, I’m a horrible liar and I don’t want to lie but I don’t necessarily want to discuss every last detail about how I’m feeling with a group of people – partially because I don’t always know what or why I’m feeling. BUT- I do appreciate people asking. I do. Even if I suck at answering. And if I did burst into tears, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. I also don’t want people to be afraid to ask – again, because I suck at answering – mainly because I don’t want my depression to become this huge, ugly elephant in the room (but not indoors in any room, because covid. the proverbial room). Lastly, I’m extremely cognizant of the fact that I don’t want the topic of my mental health to hijack the festivities. I don’t want to be that sick person who sucks all the fun out of the [metaphorical non-covid-filled] room, but I don’t want to ignore the obvious, either. I’d love to strike a balance between totally ignoring the huge elephant I’m riding in on versus bursting into tears and becoming the focus of an impromptu group therapy session.

Nobody, firstly me, wants to have to tiptoe around the issue of how I might be feeling on any given day. I’ve often thought about how I might cut straight to the chase. I’ll arrive at the please-wear-pants garden party and loudly shout I’M AT A 4 TODAY. I MIGHT CRY. I’M GLAD I’M HERE BUT I ALSO MIGHT LEAVE EARLY. GOOD AFTERNOON TO YOU ALL. But, to be realistic I should probably put all that on huge white posterboard and go through them one by one like the Walking Dead guy does in Love Actually when he’s totally trying to steal his best friend’s wife. (Who does that?!) Cuz if I’m actually at a 4 (out of 10), then there’s likely no way I’d be able to say all that without crying. Either posterboard or hand signals. Hand signals would be more environmentally friendly.

Hand signals it is.

I’m here. I made it.

It’s dark in here. And cold. I don’t like the cold but the dark is kinda nice. It wraps me up so your pity cannot see me.

I’m not sure how I got here or how long I’ve been. I have no idea how long I’ll stay or how I could leave if I wanted to.

Do I want to? I don’t even know what’s outside anymore.


I want to drive and meet people.

I don’t want to drive and meet people.

I need to pack.

I’m excited to pack?

Leave me alone so I can pack.

What do I need again?

Put things in the car. Don’t forget.

Get gas. Wait.

Run errands. Hurry.

Maybe coffee will make me feel…how I’m supposed to feel. Why, I have no clue.

Remember. Don’t forget.

People are waiting.

Pull over. It’s too much. I can’t see.

Breathe.

Driving fast. Novel sights, new smells.

Stimulation.

Breathe.

Get there.

Missed turn. Racing heart.

Drained.

Engine cuts out, so do I.

Resist the urge to run. Keep driving.

Moving fast feels like standing still.

I’m here.

Get out of the car.

I made it.


Say hello to my new Depression Translator.

Me: “Hi. Where’s the bathroom?”

DT: “Hello, friends. I am happy to be here but I’m depressed, exhausted, and fear human interaction. I’m going to go hide in the bathroom for a moment and try not to cry and/or hyperventilate. It may take me a while to calm down and warm up to this social situation. I’m sorry if I seem weird or rude. I know how this must look. I can’t seem to fix it. But I’m here. I made it.”


I feel the need to accompany content like this with disclaimers because I’m aware that I’m writing for an audience. I want to normalize depression and anxiety and I want to suck the stigma out of it. I want to normalize expressing depression and anxiety because that’s healthy. I fear judgement for writing stuff like this, but I feel compelled to do it nonetheless. Take from it what you will, and leave your advice at the door. Thanks.

Happy Rambling 2021

I haven’t blogged in over a month. I’ve been all over the place. I feel scattered – everywhere at once. In an effort to “get things done” I start one task and then pause that and start another until I’m simultaneously trying to do several while none of them get finished and I end up forgetting what the first task was. Indeed, I started reading an article and then decided I should blog.

I feel lost. Every day is the same, and now that we’re past Christmas and New Year’s here in Oregon, it’s all the same gray, wet shit. My therapeutic happy light used to combat SAD needs to be, like, turbo charged cuz it’s not cutting it. I often don’t know what day it is. I have a million nitty gritty things to do that are made harder by Covid restrictions and trying to not get sick. Returns to retail stores. Repairing my car’s tire (AGAIN!). Relying on whatever substitutions our grocery store pickup offers us, which is sometimes bizarre.

The political junk is unreal. I told my husband the other day that I had the vague thought about needing to finish that one book about the attempted coup because I wanted to know how it ended before I realized…oh yeah. Not a book.

And then Oregon schools are just now moving in the direction of opening up and I’m pissed. We’ve been in lockdown more or less for 10 months now, and we have several vaccines in the pipeline (if you follow Oregon news, our government is slow as fuck getting those needles into people’s arms for some reason) and the government, school boards JUST NOW are making decisions to open up. Hey, I know! We’ve waited 10 months to try and flatten the curve and that didn’t work so you know what we should do?! Open the fuck up so that we can perpetuate community spread at the height of Oregon’s case numbers and deaths after the holiday surge. High five!

Oh, and I’m doing Whole 30 again so there’s that. All this fucking rabbit food had better kick in and make me feel better because it’s a goddamn miracle I didn’t reach for the mint chocolate chip on January 6th.

One good thing to end on – I randomly decided to mention a lifelong dream of mine to the members of my moms group – that I want to learn the piano at some point. I have zero musical experience. I don’t know how to read music. Never owned an instrument. I sing a lot and was in choir once, but I learned the songs by ear. Aaaaanyway, what comes up on my Facebook feed just days after I make this comment? A local piano teacher offering zoom classes for adult beginners. THAT’S ME! There was no way I couldn’t not NOT do it. So the teacher actually helped me spend a chunk of my Christmas money to buy a used keyboard and I signed up for the class……and it starts in two days!! I’m super excited and intimidated and nervous, but hey. It’s Covid and it’s zoom so it’s convenient and I’m not doing anything better besides drooling at Amos’ abs on The Expanse (ANYONE ELSE?! Dear lord don’t get me started.)

So there you have it.

Happy rambling 2021, you guys. May you feel safe and loved and relatively sane. Ish.

The World Is Not Ending

I’ve realized I need to remind myself that the world is not ending.

Somewhere along the way, I figured all the stores are closed and school is closed, so I should be too.

This is it. Accept it. We don’t get nice things anymore.

But then I hear other people are going out.

Having experiences.

Seeing people.

Doing things.

Living their lives.

And then I remember. Huh. Maybe I should too?

Staying home is nice.

Safe.

Warm.

Comfy.

But is this what I want?

I’m so tired.

Weary.

Sad.

Numb.

But is this what I want?

Sometimes I don’t know what I want.

Oftentimes I change my mind.

Or my mind changes me.

Just remember, self: the world is not ending

And neither are you.


Day 22: Pepper Day!

Behavior Modification: Let’s Make Racism Bad Again

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the millions of Americans who voted for Trump.

This was a candidate who had at least 26 women come forward and accuse him of sexual assault. He also admitted to sexual assault in an interview, on the record. This was a candidate who refused to denounce white supremacists on national television. This was a candidate who incited violence and spread conspiracy theories. The list is long. Too long. This doesn’t even begin to cover it.

As a person with a psychology degree and a mental health counseling degree, I aim to try and understand other people’s worldview. I am fascinated by how people think and what motivates their behavior.

One of my (many) pet peeves is when people dismiss others’ behavior by saying, “I just don’t understand.” A flipside of that is to oversimplify or label a person’s behavior, also in an attempt to dismiss it: “Oh, he’s just a monster.” “She snapped.” “She’s crazy.”

In instances of flippant labeling like that, there’s no curiosity, no desire to actually seek to understand or find out the real, nuanced answer.

And so I ask myself, why did people vote for 45? Did they:

  • Agree with his policies and morals?
  • Benefit from those policies?
  • Or perhaps, they just disagreed with Biden’s policies (or perceived policies)?
  • If they didn’t agree or benefit, did they somehow justify 45’s actions/words enough to feel okay voting for him?
  • Vote Republican out of habit? Or because their friends and family do?
  • They consume Fox News/Breitbart/etc.?
  • Some other explanation I haven’t thought of?

I ask myself these questions because, ultimately, I am interested in how sociopolitical change happens on a macro level. Namely, how do we get people who voted for a racist, misogynist, white supremacist to change their voting habits? How do we make racism bad again (or ever)?

I studied behavior modification briefly in grad school, and I find it fascinating. Getting people to vote and get vaccinated and wear masks and use car seats are examples of behavior modification on a mass scale, as is getting people to buy Gap jeans or the new iPhone.

This reminds me of the massive anti-drug campaigns I was exposed to growing up. “This is your brain on drugs…any questions?” Really stuck with me, as that ad was so compelling and wonderfully quotable.

My guess is that the answer to my question involves attacking the issue from all sides meaning, on both a micro and macro level. I read a quote somewhere from a BLM leader, and I’m paraphrasing: what will help to end racism more is for white people to call out the racist tendencies of their white friends, and not necessarily just befriending black people. Which means we’re going to fight racism little by little, interaction by microaggression.

I keep coming back to the question of how to whittle away harmful, fear-based beliefs of a massive group of people who are no doubt feeling all kinds of feelings after the election. Worse yet, it’s a group of people who have been taught to demonize truth and facts, and many are doubling down with the emergence of platforms like Parler. …How do you reach people who don’t wanna be woke? Again, I’m guessing the answer is: slowly and deliberately and on all fronts. With equal representation, by changing social norms, by calling out microaggressions, and probably much more that I am forgetting or am unaware of.

It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to know that such a large portion of the American population actively participates in an ignorant, fearful, hateful worldview or is at least accepting of them. My hope (maybe fantasy?) is that there is a team of psychologists out there somewhere, brainstorming a massive campaign to combat racism, misogyny, xenophobia, white supremacy, etc.

Where do I sign up?


Day 9

Sick and Burning

Nighttime is easier.

The kids are in bed and the sun is down.

I pull the blinds closed, so I can’t see the smoke or the creepy orange sepia glow.

Now I can fool myself into thinking things are normal.

I stand in the shower and zone out while the water pours over me, in an attempt to wash off my grief. The dread. It’s so much that it clogs the drain.

I turn the TV on and eat sugar and numb out. Forget the outside world. Forget the trauma. I get to yell at characters who aren’t real. Consequences that don’t exist. I judge their choices because I know better. People I’ll never see. Places I’ll never be.

Why not stretch it out? It’s easier when the world is dark. One more show.

I go through the routine of getting ready for bed. Like nothing’s wrong. Next I huddle under the covers and read. Old favorites or new worlds. Vampires that sparkle or dystopian kids doomed to die. I judge their choices because I know better.

Eventually, sleep. Far too late into the night, but it’s comforting.

Anything to put off waking up to a world that is sick and burning. Glowing orange and choking on its own smoke.

We left the world behind

This week, my family and I went camping it was exactly what we all needed.

My anxiety had been climbing the week before and it was getting to the point where I was having trouble managing it. The day before we left I developed a massive migraine that left me with this weird, horrible acid reflux and nausea combo of a hangover. I was barely able to finish packing and dragged myself into the car for the two hour ride.

Over the course of that first day, my symptoms faded away, my spirits perked up, and as soon as toes hit the sand on the beach I felt my anxiety start melting away.

There’s just something about the beach that is so therapeutic, so soothing. And that’s despite the fact that I hate wind and sand (or at least I hate that sand gets everywhere).

We were able to book a campsite at a boyscout camp and it was perfect. The actual boyscout camps had been canceled, and so the organization opened up the campgrounds to individual families. We were given a campsite that had 13 huts on it – enough to sleep 26 people – on about half an acre and we had it all to ourselves. Private bathrooms, private showers. We were often the only four people on the entire beach just a three minute walk away. We could see the ocean from our site and we went to sleep listening to the roar of the waves. Aaahhh.

Also, my phone didn’t have service at the campsite, which forced me to put it down. It was the first time I had really put my phone down for any extended period of time in about a year. It was long overdue and very needed.

The kids were able to explore and wander and play and we didn’t have to worry. We took our time and we got dirty and we ran and screamed and played.

We left the world behind for three days and I’m very thankful.

beach

My anxiety is finally shared

I’ve dealt with anxiety at varying levels throughout most of my life. Since having cancer, a good portion of that anxiety has been directed into health-related junk. A recurrence. Infertility. Surgery. Passing it onto my kids. Illness in general (who knew I’d have to worry about cancer at age 19 – so what ELSE do I need to be worried about?!). Not knowing when I should worry and when I shouldn’t. Death. All of the above.

The Bloggess, who is so bravely and beautifully candid about her struggles with mental health, said it best.

“Some of us even feel somehow better during this time. It makes sense though. With anxiety disorder you’re constantly afraid and feeling dread for something that isn’t real. Now with something real to focus on it can be a sort of relief. The rest of the world has joined us and the cognitive dissonance you feel for feeling so terrible when there’s no reason to feel terrible is gone.”

This hit the nail right on the head for me. About 4-5 weeks ago, the crisis was finally here, and I was scared out of my mind, but I was ready. I remember on Friday, March 13, as soon as I had both my kids home from school and safe, I felt so much better. We had toilet paper and wipes and hand sanitizer. We buy hand soap in bulk normally anyway. A friend had just dropped off groceries because the stores were being ransacked. I had just filled my car with gas a few days before, by chance. We were home, safe, and scared yes, but my fear was finally directed at something real and, the biggest part, it was shared. It wasn’t just in my head. It was on TV and splashed all over Facebook and it was on the faces of the people in Target. My fear and dread were validated, and that feels…not exactly comforting, but relief in knowing we are all in this together and that I’m not crazy.

Plus, staying home is something I’m good at. I feel safe at home. I can control my home, for the most part. I can wipe it all down and spray the shit out of it. I’m really good at following rules. You want me to stay home and stew in my anxiety? Done and done!

Unfortunately, that’s also what I worry about. I worry that this experience will change me for the worse. In a deep, dark, scary way. And the longer this goes on, the more I’m concerned. This is all starting to feel a little too normal. I wonder if I’ll feel weird leaving the house in the future. Shaking hands. Passing money. Going out to eat. Going to the movies. Getting on a plane. I wonder and worry that my mild OCD tendencies will fester and metastasize during this time, that they’ll grow into something too big to contain once it’s time to get outside and get dirty again.

I don’t feel like I have control over my anxiety. It’s always there, just changing shape and color as I move through life. Are there more panic attacks in my future? More insomnia? Will I develop agoraphobia? Worse yet, how will all this affect my parenting, my kids, my relationships? Will I go through life just waiting for the next disaster? Will everyone else?

In the beforetime, I was operating with my usual amount of social anxiety and general awkwardness. But now, forget about it. In my effort to physically distance myself and my kids, from friends and strangers alike, I no longer know how to act. Do I say hi? Run and scream? Cross the street? Wave? Smile? Hiss at my kids to GIVE PEOPLE PERSONAL SPACE BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO GET SICK. SOME WEATHER WE’RE HAVING! HA-HA. I wonder what it will be like hanging out with people again. What I will be like. Will I hesitate? Will I worry? Will it be like nothing ever happened? All of this feels like a very odd fever-dream, not knowing if I’ll feel like me when I wake up.

Right now, I’m okay. I’m just watching my anxiety, wondering what it’ll do. What is it planning? I don’t know. While this blog post may make it sound like I’m spinning out – I’m not actually, not now. Not yet. This is just how my anxious brain works. If I’m not currently worried about something, then I’m worried that I am forgetting what I should be worried about. Sounds nuts, but it’s true.

I’m just concerned and curious. And worried.

I’m Not Okay

I am not okay.

I am all over the place, you guys.

My mood changes daily, but often by the hour.

I am so scattered and internally, my mind is going in a million different directions at once. I start so many things that I struggle to go back and finish. Articles. Text messages. Podcasts.

I’m taking in so much information and I’m getting interrupted way more than normal because my kids are home and all over me. I can’t remember what I read where.

I’m moody. Way moodier than normal. I read too much news, I get anxious. I chat with friends, I’m uplifted. I see beauty in the human spirit online and I’m inspired to paint or write. I do yoga and I’m energized. I think about extended family, people’s inability to lead or plan ahead or follow directions, and all that I can’t control, and I fall into despair.

I microwaved some lunch, and when it beeped, I opened the fridge.

Since September, my autonomy from my kids had really begun to increase, take shape, make me feel like I was getting back to myself again. My kids were going to school. I was going to the gym. Heck, I was exercising more regularly that I have ever done in my entire life. I was going to the gym and yoga and pilates and sole sisters (walk/jogging) every week. I was doing Whole30. I was feeling pretty great.

And then extremely quickly, I lost it all. All of it. And while I’m a tried-and-true introvert, this is giving me ptsd from when I was stuck at home with newborns. I’d be okay if the time at home was my own. If I could do what I wanted.

I was unemployed when I was pregnant with my first and I did okay. I read a lot. I watched tv and movies. I ate whenever I wanted. I napped whenever I felt like it. I took walks. I did chores. It wasn’t the best, but I’m good at entertaining myself. I like my own company.

But now…I am constantly breaking up fights. I can’t hear myself think. I can’t read when I want. I can’t watch tv with adult themes. I can’t exercise. Fuck napping. Basically in order to do what I want, I need separation from my kids. Bottom line. On top of all that, I’m supposed to teach them shit, too. All while being scared out of my mind.

And so I try and do whatever I have to do to get by. One day at a time.

I’ve taken to locking myself in other rooms of the house. Oh yeah, because not only is my time gone, but also is my space. My kids rule the entire first floor, and my bedroom is now a home office where my husband works. I’ve taken to locking myself in my son’s room so I can nap or do yoga or chat with friends. It’s what needs to be done so I can continue to get through these days.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take until we find a new normal, or if we’ll ever find one. Because this is NOT. NORMAL.

And so. I’ll get by. One day at a time.

I’m not okay.

And right now, that’s okay.