Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My Coming Out Story

Happy Pride month!!!! Oh right, that was a while ago. Quite a while ago. And I'm not gay. Yes I know I dress myself in a very stereotypical lesbian way. It's comfortable, dammit. But I did learn that technically I am part of the LGBTQ+ community (I'll give you a hint, I'm one of the +'s. Also let's be honest, there are sooooooo many letters now, I'm fine being a +. Also also, it's positive. ahah hah hah yeah...*cough*). There's even a flag, just for me.
But this isn't about a sexuality or gender coming out story. It's a religious one.



So uh... I'm not religious. *gasp* No. How could you. How dare you.

Yup, I said it.

If you're a reader of mine, or know me personally, like, for realsies, then you would know that I've been dabbling in the dark arts. As in (insert movie trailer guy voice) a world in which I choose to live and dictate what I want and need to believe in. And sorry to everyone who helped raise me to be that good Christian girl, but now that I'm middle aged, I have the guts to rebel, I will. And say, uh no. I don't believe in that god, or that other god, or that one over there either.

Besides all my aunts and uncles with whom I don't have a strong interpersonal relationship with, through no fault of their own mind you, all of my familiar elders have passed, except my dad (he's a cool dude). My mom and all four (and a half) grandparents are gone. So in a sense, there is less guilt to be felt because there are less people to disappoint.

This idea of "coming out" came to me because of a YouTuber I occasionally watch asked his viewers a particular question. A very important question. One that everyone should know the answer to. And one that sometimes takes many many years to figure out. Took me 20+ some years. Some never do. Some never ask the question of themselves. But what I noticed was, was that no one really answered. Only one did, and it was very superficial and quick. I only looked at the comments about 4-5 hours after he uploaded so perhaps there are answers now. Maybe I'll go back and check before posting... Maybe not. Yeah, nope. But also in their defense... that's a hard question to answer short and succinctly. I'm using this post and look how long it is. Just look! Scroll back up now. Scroll back up!

I wanted to comment. But I couldn't say what I wanted to say in just a comment section of a YouTube video that would ultimately get lost in the thousands that this particular YouTuber gets. Perhaps he'd see it, perhaps not. But I very well can't write an essay on my life experiences and questions I've been asking myself and figuring out since I was a pimply awkward bumbling teenager in a YouTube comment now can I. But I can here. Yay.

What's the question, you ask? (or not) Well, it has to do with the lyrics of a particular song by a particular band that I happen to have become a sort of groupie of. And I can honestly say groupie now because I really did follow them to another country, so yeah. I've seen them three times this year now, and will once more in December. Yeah, total groupie.

The song: The Hype
The band: Twenty One Pilots
The basic gist: There are internal and external pressures on us all, and it's both a "I wish someone had told me to believe in myself and my dreams when I was younger" and don't believe in your own hype. It's an encouragement to keep going and a cautionary warning to also let things go that need to be let go.
The lyric: No, I don't know which way I'm going/ But I can hear my way around.
The question: What or who do you hear?

So after thinking about this question and how I would answer it, it forced me to confront myself and made me put my workout clothes on and go for a run. Because part of answering that question is doing what I need to do to answer that question. That doesn't make any sense does it. The act of going on a run is part of the answer. And while on this run I thought about it some more and basically wrote this whole thing out... in my head... and then lost most of it because I didn't want to sit down and take the time to even outline it.

Butt, one of the points was this. I grew up in the church. I lived it. Breathed it. Drank the kool-aid. I believed it. All of it. With every fiber of my being. I took my bible to school. I highlighted scripture. I wrote in the margins. I wrote religious poetry. I wrote religious songs. I was in the religious scouting program, went to Christian summer camps, I was a member of the worship team, church musicals, went to the whole U.S. youth conference, joined the christian club in high school, did the pray at the flag pole thing, even went on a mission trip. I wore a cross necklace, wrote "Jesus Saves" on my backpack, had a "rapture" license plate thingy on my car. I tithed. I had all the cool christian rock CD's. Even went to a Michael W. Smith concert. I was in his fan club!!!!!! Oh my this is getting embarrassing.

All that to say, because I grew up in that environment. It was my world. All my family was part of it and therefore all my friends and family friends were/are of the same religion. So when I finally had the guts to stop going to church, I felt extremely guilty. Like I had failed them all. I let them all down. I thought that there must be something wrong with me. Why didn't I ever feel like they said I should. I never felt "the lord" move me. Or feel a presence. Or ever feel that when I prayed, I was heard by anyone, let alone some supreme being. I never felt comfortable. Never liked the rules, guidelines, or expectations. Didn't believe everything that came down from the pulpit. I took issue with what was being preached and taught sometimes. But like the people pleaser I am, I never spoke up and just hugged the walls like a good wallflower and stuck it out.

And I feel like, just like LGBTQ+ people feel like they have to "come out" in our hetero-normative culture, I too have to "come out" to my religious friends and family, so that I can be my true and authentic self.

Crying to god, pleading, asking for guidance, reassurance, forgiveness, strength during the dark or painful times or rejoicing, celebrating, praising during the good never felt true or right or work for me. And it wasn't through a lack of trying. I studied. I began asking questions. I asked god why I doubt him. Why can't I accept him? Why don't I believe? Where is my faith? What is wrong with me? You're god, fix it. Fix me. Why won't you fix me?

But again, I never felt at home in a church. Any church. I went to different denominations, Catholic mass, charismatics, I tried Buddhism, went to a Hindu temple. They were not comfortable places for me. I didn't feel safe or contentment or any sense of belonging or "finding my people". None of the religious faiths, belief systems or constructs, philosophies, or teachings called to me or made sense to me on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level, to where I would say, Yes. This is my faith. This is what I believe. This is my religion.

This is just me and my story. My experience. I see nothing wrong with anyone believing in a god, making religion an important part of their life. If it works for you, and you truly believe and that truly helps you navigate this blue ball we all live on, then great! I'm glad. You found something you can latch on to. A foundation. For many, religion, spirituality, the belief in god is the answer to that question. Who am I to say there isn't a god, there isn't an afterlife, there is no heaven. I'm no expert. I'm still figuring this out. I'm not done asking questions. Remember though, this goes both ways. I have no right to tell you you're wrong to believe and practice what you believe and you have no right to tell me that not believing in your chosen religion is wrong either.

So what about those of us who don't have religion as a foundation stone? Are we lost to the winds? Hopeless? Just bumbling stupidly through life? No. Wait, aren't we all bumbling stupidly through life? It was always taught, at least in the church I grew up in, that we are all lost until we come to god and accept him into our hearts and becomes our lord and savior. So going to a non-believer or an ex-believer and telling them they are lost without god, to me is just so wrong on so many levels. But I won't get into that here.

So what do I hear to find my way around? Short answer: everything and nothing. Long answer: In my darkest moments when I realize I'm in a place I shouldn't be and need to leave, I have several tools. I turn introspective/inward. I can calm my mind and focus on a single voice (the one I like to call the quiet one). That one, that part of my mind is good. And I know it is good. I can focus on it. I know that turning external things off helps to calm. I find strength in the world around me. I will go to the ocean. I will go to the forest. I will go outside to some type of nature, some part of the natural world. That grounds me. I can recharge out there. I have a few people I can talk to, if that's what I need. And I have music. I have certain playlists that I can use to guide me. Certain bands, certain albums, certain songs, genres, styles, rhythms, beats, etc. Music with certain instruments, voices, or beats per minute can and does have a huge impact on me. And of course writing. This is my outlet, my catharsis. So what do I hear in the dark? I hear myself speaking to me, guiding me. I hear music. I hear the waves. I hear the wind blowing through the trees, over the grass. I hear my heart beating in my chest. I even hear the purring of my cats. And I hear nothing. Just quiet. Getting to the quiet is often the first step. Shutting all the external and internal things and alarms off. Focusing. And listening for the nothing. The quiet. Then and only then can I begin to hear what I need to hear.

Within the bands mythos, Tyler's inner voices could be the nine bishops and Nico/Blurryface could be his loudest and darkest voice. Who knows. His brain is very weird and complicated and we as listeners only get a glimpse of the inner mechanations of his brain. Many people (I used to be one of them) interpret the many voices as representations of god in that god is one of the voices, another is yourself, and maybe another as the devil. And which you choose to listen to is your choice/free will kind of thing. I'm not sure I have nine different voices. Maybe Tyler doesn't either. I don't know. But in a way it makes sense within the story the band is telling currently. He just has strange names for them. I just call mine the quiet one, or the loud one, or the mean one, etc.

Tyler's good at compartmentalizing. It's a very male brain thing. Everything has a spot, a compartment, a box. Everything has a place. And it is very organized and structured. I like to think that I too have compartments, but in reality it is more of an open concept mindscape in there.

So yeah. This has been gathering dust in my drafts folder for five months now. When I first started writing this, I thought I would send a link to the YouTuber, but then changed my mind. Why? Because I sussed out where he actually works as his day job/nine to five/real job. And I lost a bit of respect I had for him. I didn't always agree with what he was serving up on his channel, but this was a blow. Then I stewed on it for a while and time passed... okay a lot of time.

And just like Levar Burton always says in Reading Rainbow, "but you don't have to take my word for it".

I can't judge him for where he works even though I hate what that institution stands for and promotes. He may be trying to change it for the better by being there. I don't know. I don't know him. I only know what he shares in his videos. I mean, I work for a company that does environmental compliance work on oil and gas pipelines, and I hate oil and gas pipelines. I think they are not needed (new ones), are extremely hazardous to the environment and our cultural history. It's a fuel source that is dirty and should be phased out, not upgraded and promoted. But I know that no matter what, those lines will be built and the earth and culture destroyed, so it might as well be done by a company I know will do its best to mitigate and preserve what it can. Still hate it though, and still hate who this person works for too. But this is a lesson in humility and not knowing a persons true heart and desires and purpose and what they hope to accomplish within said institution and in life.

Still probably won't link this to him. More so because that video where he asked that question is ancient now in YouTube time. And everyone has already forgotten or moved on to newer, fresher content. Consume, consume, consume. And it takes me apparently five months to finish a freaking post now!

Here's something interesting. The band recently released a re-imagined version of this song and they changed that lyric line slightly. "No, I don't know which way I'm goin/ But I can hear the way, yeah." So does that alter the meaning of the song at all? Ehhhhhhhhh, naw. It's almost even more poignant or affirming. Like instead of stumbling around trying to listen, he can hear clearly now and can navigate safely.

I hope that was interesting for you. I have some ideas cooking. And maybe I'll be a bit more productive on here as the holiday season kicks into high gear. Because I know my mood will sour, and the mental state will get darker again. And when I'm farther down that hole, I tend to be more loose and forth coming in writing. That's just how depression and creativity works, yo.

*side/end note: If I scared anyone in my previous post. Sorry. Didn't mean to. I'm fine. Really. I'm just trying to explain and put into words what it's like to live day to day with this disease.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Let's Dig In: Depression Part III (things are getting serious)

This has been sitting, festering in my drafts folder for months. And by months, I mean since May. Yeah, festering. Even the post after this is mostly written... and been festering for... almost one month now. The initial data dump that spewed out the bones of this was easy. The meat? Not so much. But I need this to quit festering. So here we go... It's going to be a little all over the place. Strap in.

Life is cyclical. Depression is cyclical. A great analogy for this is The HeavyDirtySoul music video by none other than Twenty One Pilots. In it, Tyler is in the back seat of a car, dreaming. In the dream Blurryface (or is it Keons) is driving and almost runs over Josh repeatedly, who is brought into Tyler's dream and is sitting at his drums in the middle of the road. He's driving in circles. But with the help of Josh, in that the harder he hits the drums the more the car falls apart, to the point where it bursts into flames and explodes and Tyler escapes. Thus defeating Blurryface. Only to realize it was all in his head, and he's still asleep in the car. It just repeats. It resets. Even before they made this "official" music video, they made a video for HeavyDirtySoul (Circle). Again, where instead it's a concert that repeats. Every day is a battle to be fought, and every day the sun sets, and every new day the sun rises. Start over. Now with Trench (the latest album-almost a year old now), the story continues with the music video trilogy starting with Jumpsuit (which picks up after the car explosion the next day). Either we are still in Tyler's dream and instead of resetting, the dream continues as he walks away from the burning car and conceivably into Trench. Or he broke the cycle. And he's no longer stuck in the car going in circles. He and Josh broke that cycle and are now on a new journey... in Trench, which is full of circular patterns, new enemies, old enemies with new names and faces, and new and old battles. Life continues on, sometimes in circles and other times winding paths.

There are nine Bishops in Dema (the fictional city in Trench). We know Nico is a dick, and he is talked about quite a bit in the album, and we know a tiny bit about Keons (not such a dick) through Clancy's letters, but what about the other Bishops? Will we ever get to learn about them? Interesting aside is that all the Bishops names come from song titles or lyrics from the previous album, Blurryface. Keons: the lyric "choke on smoke" from HeavyDirtySoul. Did you know that if you do a google image search for "happiness" the prevailing color is yellow? Hmmmm, those boys were on to something.

And now to somehow fit the above paragraphs with the ones below. Smoothest transition ever.

Look at this while I figure this out. Here is JaidenAnimations explaining her anxiety: Anxiety is the Greatest

Cool, now that you watched that and forgot about my not knowing how to connect that previous paragraph to this one, here's the next paragraph. Not sure if it was just my generation or not but it was somehow and pervasively so drilled into us that we needed to find out why we were put on this earth. Our life had to be meaningful, a purpose, and we needed to figure that out and go do it. We couldn’t just have a job and enjoy life as it happened. No. We needed to find our passion. Our purpose in life. The dream job. That one person who would make us complete. And you needed to figure this all out by like the end of high school so you knew which college to go to and what degree to get. Yeah, sure no problem.

Some people found those things. I didn’t. I don’t know my purpose in life. Why I’m here. What I’m meant to do. I’m technically middle aged now. I should have figured this all out by now. It's probably why my anxiety and depression is worse now as an adult than when I was younger. But what if what was grilled into the psyche of us all was wrong? What if there isn’t a meaning to life. A point? What if we are just too evolved and self aware. What if I’m suppose to just enjoy the planet while I’m on it?

I wish. But that’s not how my brain works. I need a reason to live. A purpose. I need meaning in my life. Am I saving the world with my job? No. With my donations to organizations? No. With my reusable beverage containers and steel straws? No. Maybe with these things I end up saving a life. But we’re all going to die. Why bother. Maybe my purpose should be to help others.  I can’t just sit back and enjoy. My brain won’t let me.

There are lots of different types of depression.
Traumatic vs non traumatic. PTSD. Survivors guilt. Single event. Multiple event. I haven't suffered a trauma. I don't have PTSD. I haven't gone through a life and death situation where I survived and others did not. I cannot speak of these things as causes because I have not lived them. I know many who have. But I can only speak on what I truly know and have and continue to experience.

And that is my type. Live with it for life. There’s no cure. It will never go away. You can make plans. Be excited and happy and seeing and socializing with friends and doing all the things you’re supposed to do to help with your depression and taking meds, seeing a therapist, and soaking up sunshine. You can be doing everything right. And still have one dark moment that ends it all. People talk about warning signs. Maybe there are. But many times there aren’t. There’s no predicting a dark moment. There’s a warning siren that goes off in my own head but what if some day it doesn’t. Or I ignore it for too long. There isn’t anything anyone can do. No amount of check ins will stop a single dark moment... that you fight.

So what am I saying? Maybe my purpose is helping people understand. Most of us who have depression are extremely self aware and know our brains and how they work. Those of you who don’t have depression? You don’t. You don’t understand. You don’t see how suicide can be an answer. I’m not saying it is the right answer. We all hear after a celebrity suicide about how could they? They had all these things, kids, money, fame, spouse, whatever. They were happy. They were going to do this or that the next day, or why didn’t anyone see the signs. Well you know what? That’s not how it works.

So yeah, I need a reason. A purpose. A meaning. I need a reason to keep listening to that warning siren no matter how many times it goes off. No matter that it will never go away. What’s my purpose?

I've been excruciatingly slowly loosing weight. Do you know how good it feels to wear new jeans that fit? I can’t fit into my regular ones still but no longer am I in my fat-fat jeans. I’m between. Knowing that I no longer have to wear the fat-fat jeans and buying jeans in a smaller size that fit well is amazing. It’s the little things. I need to remember to celebrate the little things. I went out and bought two new pairs and gave my old two pairs of fat-fat jeans to my sister for her sewing projects. Trying them on in the store was amazing. I imagine it's like what people feel like after amazing sex or something. I wouldn't know. But it was euphoric.

The internal depression voice says mean things. The mean one says you’re a looser. You won’t amount to anything. You’re a worthless piece of shit. No one loves you and no one ever will. Why do you think you’re still single and alone?  No one cares about you. That’s what mine says all the time. Now I know what it tells me is lies. I know that if I put myself out there and focused my time and energy on socializing and all that stuff I could find someone if I wanted. If I wanted. I don't. The constant bombardment of that voice and constantly reminding myself to not listen to it is tiresome. You wonder why people with depression are tired all the time? It’s mentally exhausting let me tell you.

And now how giving in to the voice just once can end your life.  Example 1: Chester (he spoke about it in interviews and such): he was sexually molested as a child and as a teen suffered physical and emotional abuse, bullied relentlessly at school, suffered from anxiety, low self esteem, drugs and alcohol abuse, and depression. You name it he did it or was done to him. To say he survived as long as he did is quite amazing. But all it took was just that one moment of listening to that voice and gone. Example 2: You can have all the things (love, kids, money, a job you love, whatever makes you happy) and one flick of the wrist while driving or as simple as getting up in the middle of the night to go pee and just take all the pills in the bathroom and go back to bed... gone. It can be so simple. So easy. Just think about all the things, people, support certain famous people had. They had the loving families and friends. Took medications. Saw therapists. They did all the things you're suppose to do, and yet... Chester Bennington, Anthony Bourdain, Dolores O'riodan, Chris Cornell, Kate Spade. There were no warning signs. They all had things to do, places to go, they all had plans... to not die. Linkin Park were going to start their European tour two days after Chester killed himself. Dolores was set to record a song the next day. Chris had just finished a concert performance.

I'm not okay. I'm 41 years old, I should have this figured out by now. Why am I even more messed up now? More depressed. More anxious. More social anxiety. More fearful. Why? Shouldn't I have a better handle on my inner demons? Why are they so much stronger now? Am I weaker? Have I grown so weary of fighting that I can no longer keep up? Am I that tired? Am I that exhausted? That's scary because when people like me get too exhausted and weary of the constant fighting, the more and more alluring it is to just stop and end it, once and for all.

I'm now the same age as Chester was when he ended it. That epiphany hit me the other day. And honestly I've had a rough go of it lately. I hate July. Nothing personal July, I just hate you. My mom was born in July. She's dead now. She loved celebrating the 4th of July. I hate this holiday now (for multiple reasons, one of which is because my mom loved it and she's gone now so it lost its appeal) (I wonder if I hate Christmas more now because she's gone and it was her favorite) My parents got married in July. It's quite often too hot to enjoy the outdoors. It's one of the busiest months at work. But I can make reasons for why I like or not like any month of the year. It just happens to be July right now, and I hate it.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand it's now August. I don't like you either. I'm still here. Still have depression. Going in circles. Pretty sure I'm still stuck in the burning car loop. I'm not sure if this shed any light on what life is like with depression. But damn it, I want this piece of garbage out of the drafts. And quit festering. I got two sick cats to deal with, one of which may be dying.

But not to leave you on a sour note. I got out of my home office for a day and actually had a nice time out on a survey with co-workers I had never met before and was not nervous or anxious or have any bad thoughts or problems. Go figure. And we all stood there and went, "It's so obvious. Surely it's been recorded before. We should record it anyway. Right? Yes? Yes."

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I and Part II     Depression Part I   Depression Part II    Obsession     Anxiety Part I

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Attention K-Mart Shoppers, Blue Light Special in Aisle you really should have your shit together by now, where's the cat food

Here's a little something to tie you over till I buck up and get stuff written. I started this well over a year and a half ago now. And it's been sitting in the proverbial death pile known as drafts. I better check the link to make sure it still works. This also ties in to a future post that's partially written. I really have been thinking about this stuff for a while. So on with the oh here's a cool thought that fizzled...

I'm technically not a Gen-Xer, Gen-Yer, or a Millennial. This article tried to call my "generation" Xennials. Wha? Stupid. I was born into a micro-generation or as I like to call it, the Original Star Wars Generation (1977-1983). I was a child in the 80's, a teenager in the 90's, and thrust into adulthood in the 00's. I had an analog childhood and a digital youth. Pagers were all the rage in my high school. I remember the first personal computers. We had an Apple IIc with the big floppy disks and an Atari 2600. I was forced into getting my first cell phone in my late 20's.

I just turned 40 (see, sitting here for well over a year). I feel old now. Because I was born into this strange micro-generation, I don't quite align myself with Gen-Xers or Millennials. I was brought up to be a pessimistic optimist. Sounds ironic. It is. Que Alanis Morrissette. It was believed that we could become anything we wanted. Go to college, get a degree, become millionaires and change the world! But also brought up to realize that Social Security would be depleted by the time we needed it, the environment would be past saving, and the government would collapse, and we'd spend our senior years in a post-apocalyptic hell hole. But dammit, you better amount to something. You better make your mark on the world. You better be or do something important with your life.

So I was going to be a famous author, or astronaut, or a Ranger (the park kind). I was going to be a somebody. Well, I'm not any of those things. I haven't changed the world by writing something groundbreaking like JK Rowlins or Ta-Nehisi Coates. I didn't spend a year in space like Scott Kelly or sing David Bowie's Space Oddity like Chris Hadfield in the international space station orbiting the big blue orb. And I'm no Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest National Park Service Ranger.

I've always felt that I'm an extra human taking up space on the planet. The third child. Not the heir, not even the spare. I'm the oops. The "well that answers the question of do you want to have another"? I didn't marry. I didn't have kids. I never wanted to populate the world with more of me. Is this what a midlife crisis feels like? Is that what I'm feeling?

Get off my lawn!!

I never did make it to Oregon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Let's Dig In: Depression Part II (the good, the bad, the I need all the potato chips in my belly now dammit)

I was trying to go to sleep when this image popped into my head of a vast open space covered in green grass and flowers with trees off in the distance. The sky is blue with white puffy clouds. It's warm. Birds and happy insects flying about (like the big fat fuzzy bumble bees, not wasps and mosquitoes). Sounds perfect. Looks perfect. Happily, I'm sitting on the ground, in the grass looking up at the sky and around at all the beautiful things... with my feet dangling over the edge of a giant deep dark hole in the ground. So why did I have to get up and write this down in my journal at 4am? What does it mean? It is a visual representation of my life with depression. On my good days I get to sit outside with my feet dangling in the depression hole. The warmth of the sun on my face, the breeze lightly blowing through my hair. I'm never very far from the hole. It's there all the time waiting for me to forget it's there and I fall in.  Some days I even get up and walk around and explore. Other days I trip and fall into the hole. Sometimes I get stuck on a ledge and the sun can still reach my face. Other times I fall all the way to the bottom of the hole. Normal people get to run around far from the depression hole. They may trip and fall and skin their knees, but they never have this constant quiet threat of a depression hole. Damn you extroverts and your bomb social skills. I imagine that bipolar people are one day at the bottom of the hole looking up and the next floating in the clouds. They never get to experience the ground. That's sad. At least I don't have that.

I've been having less bad days with some good days sprinkled in. I'm mostly just right in the middle. Not super happy and not super sad which is how I know I'm not bipolar. A song popped to me on my ipod on a run recently that comes pretty close to how I'm doing. And it's not a Twenty One Pilots song! I know, shocker! Listen if you'd like. It's One Republic - Better. The chorus says this: I think I lost my mind, But don't worry about me, Happens all the time, In the morning I'll be better, Things are slowly getting better, Sing it again.

I've been making slow, steady, small changes, one at a time. Making big drastic life changes all at once, like going cold turkey, only leads to big drastic failure, in my experience. So starting way back in September I made my first small change. I stopped binge eating. Once I got that under control I made the next small change. I went from eating three meals a day to two. Once I adjusted to that I made the next small change. I started to exercise. First just walking (I used walking to the coffee shop to get a drink, to curb the binge food cravings), then the rowing machine, and now running. Once the habit of exercise was reformed, the next small change was implemented. I stopped drinking soda.

I need to work on a few things still. I've been running somewhat consistently now. I signed up for a 5K with my boob. My friend. She calls me her boo and she's my boo too so she's my boob. She has big boobs. Never mind. She's my friend. Yes I have friends dammit. I used to use food or soda as a motivation to exercise. If I went for a run, then I could go get a soda. But I can't do that anymore. I needed to find something, some reward for achieving my goals. What are my goals, you ask? Well, I got fat remember? I got 30 pounds overweight fat. So my goal is to loose those 30 pounds. And I needed to set small incremental goals (every 10 pounds) with rewards for hitting them. So what can I use as rewards? Can't be food. I don't need or want stuff. I hate shopping. So I decided on tattoos. I have wanted to expand and add to the arm band I have. Perfect. So when I reached the first 10 pounds milestone I walked into the tattoo shop and gave my artist my ideas and said have fun designing.

As of posting (I wasn't going to post this till I actually reached it) I have hit the next 10 pounds milestone. So my reward? My first session.

There's 10 more pounds. And from experience, the last 5-10 pounds are the hardest to loose. My body is very well adjusted to the new eating habits. And my body is pretty adjusted to exercise. I will start to gain muscle faster than I loose fat so my weight will likely go up before it goes down again. So I have to run farther and faster. Start weight lifting. Eat healthier foods. It has taken about 4.5 months to loose 20 pounds. It will likely take half that, possibly more to loose the last 10. Because these last 10 will be the hardest, I've decided to break it into two. So I need to figure out what the rewards will be for the next and last 5 pounds. I have an idea, and yes they are tattoos.

The next small change is sleep. That's what I need to work on next. Going to sleep at 4am and waking at noon is probably not the healthiest thing. Even with all the small changes I have made, the daily struggle of depression is always there. There are some days I wake up and I just know, instantly that it's not going to be a good day and I won't be a proper functioning adult. But, there are other days I wake up and I know instantly, that it's going to be a good day.

When I first started writing this in... February, I was having a string of good days. Now that I am finishing this, I have been in a long string of bad days. Today was the first good day in a long few weeks. Not to burst your happy bubble, but that's just how it works. When I started this post, I was sitting in the grass, as I finish it, I'm a few steps up off the floor of the bottom of the hole. That 5K? We never ran it. We were to run it in January, and it's now close to the ides of March. That tattoo I got for reaching my 20 pounds lost goal? I didn't actually make it. I was one pound away. And I've since gained some back. It feels like I gained all of it back. I've had two sodas, two days in a row including today. I binged an entire can of Pringles and a family sized bag of peanut butter M&M's last week. I haven't been wanting to write in my journal. I set three goals for the next day in each entry. They're usually easy like: run, work 2 hours, and do laundry or go for a walk, shower, fix the kitchen drawer. Because I failed to do pretty much any and all for a while, the last one from a few nights ago simply was: get up, survive, go back to bed.

And that's exactly what I did. It's what I do. It's what every other depressed person does. We get up every day. We survive however we can (some days we may not make it out of our pj's while other days we accomplish all three goals and then some), and we go back to bed every night. And do it all again. Keep breathing. Keep getting up.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I and Part II     Depression Part I    Obsession     Anxiety Part I

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lets Dig In: Anxiety Part I (I may look fine, but I'm screaming inside)

Guess what else I have besides depression? That's right, you guessed it, a two for one special in aisle self worth and doubt; anxiety. Yay

There are several varieties of anxiety, and let me tell you I have them all. I live and deal with them all with varying degrees of ... success? But today we're going to focus on Performance Anxiety. This type doesn't just smack me upside the head if I have to give a speech, or some type of musical performance, oh no. Anytime I have to get up and talk in front of people, have to call someone on the phone, an interview, giving a work presentation (even over a conference call), speaking in meetings, meeting co-workers, bosses, or even co-workers working for me for the first time. You may not think of some of these things as "performance anxiety" situations, but I have to perform. I'm the one in the spotlight. I have a job to do (perform).

A family friend visited my dad and I a week or so ago for the day. He asked if I had done any field work recently. And I was explaining why I don't do field work much anymore. But I had recently done a very small survey for a cell tower installation, and I was explaining how just that simple task can cause anxiety. He was shocked to hear how much preparation I do, even for a simple cell tower survey that took less than 10 minutes to actually do. But I do all these tasks and preparations to keep my anxiety from overwhelming me and keeping me from doing my job. I have to prepare for any outcome. Which vehicle should I take? How many miles from my house is it? Are there alternate routes? Is there a gate? Which road do I use as access? Who do I have to call to say I'm coming? Where should I park? What does the area look like? What's the terrain? I Google Earth the shit out of it. I print out maps and aerial images. Check batteries in my backup GPS unit, charge the phone, get all my field gear packed into said vehicle I chose to take earlier. All the day before I even leave to do the tiny survey. I've learned to just not think, and dial the phone number of the mystery person who answers when I have to call to say I'm coming. Otherwise I flounder and over think all possible outcomes of said phone call and I get so worked up, I can hardly talk and form sentences when the mystery person answers. I didn't say to our family friend that the map app on my phone didn't work, so it was good that I had looked at maps and my route before, and that even though I knew where I was going and what to look for, and what the place looked like, I was having to do breathing exercises to calm my nerves the closer I got to the site.

I have to do varying degrees of this preparation for any part of my job that takes me out of my house. I work from home these days, by the way. The more I do something, like say drive to Turlock to do what we call Records Searches at CSU Stanislaus, the less anxiety I feel. I know how to get there. I know several, and have driven several alternate routes to the school's campus. I know where all six car charging stations are on campus. I know where all the pay stations are. I know where the building and room is now. I know my way around the stacks and file cabinets, and how finicky the copy machine is. But do I still get anxious? I do. The last time I went there, four of the six charging stations had blue screens of death. There was a car charging on the fifth one. I was lucky that the sixth and final one was open and working. Otherwise I would have had to find somewhere to charge the car... in the middle of The Central Valley. I have an app for that, but still, I was starting to panic a bit driving from parking lot to parking lot and seeing the blue screens of death. Another good example of what happens when even with all the preparation I do, everything goes wrong, and what happens to me is here.

I have a trifecta, a triple threat. I'm an introvert with depression and anxiety. Let's all have a panic attack! Wee! I know now from life and job experiences I have had what will and could give me anxiety. I know how to control my breathing. I know what works and doesn't work when I get nauseous from said anxiety. I know how to curb it, lessen its effects on my body and psyche. I know to prepare. I know when to say no. I know what I can and cannot do and what I am willing to put myself through. I know all this now. When I was a kid or even a teenager? I had no idea.

When I was a kid, I was shy. I knew that. I took piano lessons from about age 6 to 16. All but I think one of my piano teachers was a wife of a pastor. Whether they were the head pastor, associate pastor, or music pastor, their wives gave piano lessons. Was that a prerequisite back then? As a kid, I loved the piano. We had a piano in the house. I had keyboards. I had piano key wall paper in my room. It was the compromise with my mom when I said I wanted to paint the walls black. As I got older, I got better at the piano. I liked playing for people when they came to visit. I played a song on my little keyboard for show and tell in elementary school. In fourth grade I started learning violin in school. I was in the middle school orchestra and high school orchestra. And I took private violin lessons for a few years in my early teenage years. It was during my teenage years that performance anxiety started to creep in. Playing the violin in the orchestra was fine. I liked it. Playing with a group was fine. I started having problems when it was just me. My private violin teacher had all her students compete in a competition that I can't remember the name of. But if you won your division, you would go on to compete state wide. Anyway, being one of her students, I entered the competition. My dad took me to the competition. It was in a school auditorium I think. I just remember being in this large room and there was a music stand next to a piano and you stood in front of a long table of judges, and behind them was the "audience" (all the other competitors and their parents). Well, the girl who went right before me, nailed it. And it happened to be the exact same piece of music I was playing. I made it through. I was shaking so much. I finished. I did horrible. And after the judges made their comments and such I left the room and puked. Apparently my teacher saw the terror in my face. She pulled me aside after the competition was over and said, "I will never make you do that ever again". She was true to her word (bless her). I never had to enter a competition or perform at her recitals after that day. Some time later, I was in high school, I stopped taking private lessons in violin. My teacher and I agreed that I wasn't going to get any better. She saw my limitations, and I came to realize them as well. I continued on playing in the high school orchestra... in the back row. And I was fine with that. I even continued to play in college a bit. I minored in music and so played in the beginning orchestra for a semester, and played it for a bit, before learning the trombone, in the MLJ's (Marching Lumberjacks).

 My experiences with piano are bit more sinister. Like I said earlier, as a kid, I loved playing and performing on the piano. As I got older and better, I started signing up to play the offertory on a Sunday morning at church. My teacher and I would pick out a song and work on it for my performance. The day would arrive, and I'd get nervous. Sweaty hands and the shakes. My ears would burn hot. I would get through the song. I'd usually do a pretty good job but I would always make at least one or two mistakes, that to me were very obvious. But I'd get done, everyone would clap, and I'd get a few accolades after the service from people. I felt good after, and determined to do better next time. Well one of those next times ended up being the worst experience I ever had while sitting at a piano. Even my mother was pissed off, not at my horrible bombing at the keys, but at what happened right after.

Well I had this big cool idea about how I was going to tell this trauma tidbit, but I couldn't find the song book this particular song came out of, and I can't remember the name of the song, or even how it went. It must have been quite traumatizing if I actually got rid of the book and can't remember anything about it. Anyway, here's the less dramatic version: I bombed. Everyone knew I bombed. But I pushed through and finished. I was almost in tears. I stood up and was about to walk out of the sanctuary to go hide in the bathroom for the rest of my life when the asshole pastor that was there at that time called me over to him... ON STAGE. I don't remember his exact words anymore, but said something to the effect of "good job on powering through that. Go practice some more, you obviously weren't ready, and come back and play it again", then patted me on the back or something. By then I was balling my eye out, snot was running from the nose, face red from extreme embarrassment. I'm an ugly crier. It's one thing to say something after I left the stage, but it was extremely embarrassing and very traumatic for me to be called out, told to walk to center stage where he was and be both "comforted and scolded" in front of the entire congregation. No one would have seen me crying, had I been allowed to flee when I wanted to. I have to note here too that this pastor had very poor people skills, which is why I put comforted in quotations. He thought he was doing something good and encouraging for me when what he did had the opposite effect. After I was excused, I went and sat down next to my parents and cried some more. My mom was pissed he did that to me. She knew how nervous I would get. She wrapped me in her arms and said "do you want to leave?", I nodded my head (since I still couldn't speak), and she took me home. Maybe a month or so later I was slated to play the offertory again, and I was going to redeem myself and play that song again. I practiced my ass off. The Sunday arrived, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't get up on the stage. I told my piano teacher (who was the church pianist) that I couldn't do it. She said okay, and she took the sheet music from me and played it herself. She bombed. Not nearly as bad as me, but she made noticeable mistakes. That made me feel slightly better, knowing that even my teacher couldn't get through that song without messing up. She later told me during one of our lessons that that song was hard and not my style. So we chucked it. But from that point on, my performance anxiety got worse. I got even more nervous. It's at the point now, that I will start getting anxious or nervous days before I have to do whatever it is I have to do.

Now this same piano teacher, who was the church pianist, was grooming me to take her place. She didn't want to be the church pianist. I wanted to learn Chopin, Debussy, and Joplin. I didn't want to be the church pianist. That style of music and playing was not in my wheelhouse. She was shoving church music down my throat when what I really wanted was to learn Rags, Nocturnes, and Concertos. But I never said anything. I was timid. I just wanted to please her and everyone. I eventually stopped practicing what she assigned me. I'd make up excuses (sometimes they'd be legit like when I'd jam my fingers playing softball). And eventually I stopped showing up for my lessons. I quit. I stopped playing piano at church. I lost my passion for it. Had I had spoken up and said, no, I don't want to learn this. I want to learn to play this, perhaps I'd still be playing today. I eventually taught myself to play Chopin's Prelude #4 in E Minor from an "easy" book, but what I wanted to learn and couldn't teach myself was Chopin's Nocturne #2 in E Flat. Which one is that, you ask?

After that traumatic experience and being taught what I didn't want to learn, I lost the desire to perform. I found that the nerves would not go away, no matter how prepared I was. And I became increasingly frustrated by my own limitations. I was a good pianist. But I lacked the simple ability to be a great pianist. There comes a point where I just stop improving, no matter how hard or long I practiced. Not everyone has the ability or talent to be a great pianist, and I was slowly coming to terms with my limited ability. It was so frustrating. I just wanted to be able to play certain pieces, and I just couldn't.

That piano teacher eventually left the church for another (her husband was a music pastor). I did not fill her shoes when she left. I did play the violin as part of the "worship team" for a year or so. Which I was completely fine with. Playing with a group on an instrument that wasn't front and center was fine. No nerves, no anxiety. And playing church music on the violin was not difficult.

In high school and college I could pick up and learn a new instrument easy and fast but no matter how hard I tried or practiced,  I could only reach a certain skill level. I always wanted to be better but my fingers just couldn't do it. It was so frustrating to the point I would just quit. I picked up classical guitar, electric bass, and trombone. I took lessons in each, and learned on my own. And every one, I quite out of frustration. What that has to do with anxiety, I don't know. It doesn't, I guess.

I so wanted to be a musician when I was younger. I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be in a symphony orchestra. I wanted to tour the world and play music. My dad had bought me midi software for our family computer that I could plug my keyboard into. I wrote so many songs. I loved recording and layering tracks. I was showing off a piece I was working on to my then extended family. My then sister-in-law was so impressed (I still think she was just catering to me, but whatever) she wanted to use the song in her wedding. So I worked on it and worked on it, and my dad worked on how to get it onto a cd, and it was used in her wedding. I was so proud... and frustrated, because I heard all the little mistakes I made. I'm sad that all those songs I created are lost and gone forever.

So in my last years of high school and into college, I knew that my dream of being a musician would not happen because of two things: my lack of skill and my performance anxiety. Even if I could have concurred one of those things, the other would have still stopped me.

You know what I just realized while writing this up? I have little to no pictures of me actually playing any instrument. The only one I could find is in here above (my dad found the one of me playing my bass). That's kind of sad.

Well, so now you know a bit about why I'm not a professional musician, public speaker, teacher, or anything involving me being in any kind of spotlight. And I didn't even go into any details about panic attacks, stress induced anxiety, self image/doubt anxiety, travel anxiety, or social anxiety. Oh yes, all those are so fun too.

So until next time... Don't be offended when I don't answer your call, say no to your invite to a crowded bar, or trip to the mall on a weekend. I have my reasons.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I and Part II     Depression Part I    Obsession

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

But I'm a grown-up

I have to keep reminding myself that I am a grown ass adult. I can do whatever I want. If I want to stay up til 4am watching random YouTube videos, I can. If I want to sit in bed all day in my cat PJ's, I can. There's no one telling me I can't or shouldn't do that, but me. There's nothing wrong with staying up til 4am. I don't have a job where I have to perform brain surgery at 8am. No. So why do I think that it's so wrong? It isn't. Maybe it was a bad idea when I was still in school or had a job that started at 8 or 9am. But I don't. What's the big deal? Why do I hate myself?

Why does that voice still have so much power over my choices? Why do I still believe it when it tells me staying up til 4am is bad? Or that waking up at noon is lazy? Or that wandering around my house in my PJ's all day is pathetic? Hey, I don't wear them to Wally World, okay? I don't even shop at Wally World! Get off my back, man.

Growing up we're told as kids and teenagers by our parents that you need to go to bed at a "decent" hour, and get your proper 8 hours of sleep, and get up every morning and put on proper "you're going out in public" clothing. Go to school, do your homework. Did you brush your teeth? When did you last shower, you stink.

I think that it is so ingrained into my psyche that it has become this annoying nag of a voice in my head. So that every time I don't want to sleep and watch video's or read weird articles on the internet or play farm heroes on my ipad til 4am, I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt. Or when I just don't want to go outside my house and only get dressed from the waist up (bra's are important to me), and stay in my cat PJ's and Dr. Who slippers all day, I feel like I was a lazy slob or crazy cat lady shut-in who just wasted an entire day of her life doing absolutely nothing? I may have actually accomplished many things in my PJ's, but I'll still feel like I just wasted away, sitting on my ass on my bed surrounded by my cats. I only have two cats, I'm not an official crazy cat lady yet. Wait, how many cats does it take to become a crazy cat lady? Are their rules or requirements? Hold on, let me check... the INTERNET!!!!

A cat lady is a cultural archetype or a stock character, often depicted as a woman, a middle-aged or elderly spinster, who owns many pet cats. The term can be considered pejorative, though it is sometimes embraced.
Women who have cats have long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood. In more recent decades, the concept of a cat lady has been associated with "romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women". Specifically, it has also been embraced by lesbian and queer women.

Oh Wikipedia.... Wait there's a syndrome? Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome? What's this? Oh, it's just toxoplasmosis, a very common parasitic disease that in healthy people shows in flu like symptoms or no symptoms at all. It is contracted by eating poorly cooked food or infected cat feces. Ahhhh, okay. Wait, I said that wrong. I'm not implying that people eat cat poop... well I'm sure some people have. The human species is quite dumb. So some cats have this parasite, they poop it out, and some stupid human cleans their little box with their bare hands? Who does that? They make poop scoopers people. You never have to actually touch the poop. Gross. And wash your hands. Wash your goddam hands... with soap!

So yeah. Wash your hands, wear a bra, and then do whatever the hell you want. Tell that nag to fuck off!