Stress and New Beginnings

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I find myself thinking a lot lately about confidence. I haven’t been writing much (obviously) and I feel like I am so caught up in my own head about it. I think of at least half a dozen blog topics a week, but I do nothing with them – not even write them down unfortunately. I feel tired of my own voice in print, worry that I am in a rut. I get afraid that I will sound stupid or cliché. I get stopped by that nagging thought that if something isn’t very unique and striking, it’s probably not worth writing down at all.

A lot of this is just white noise, of course. I know it’s there if I scratch the surface, but who wants that? So instead I just don’t write anything down. Suddenly my life is much too busy with television shows and films and sleep. It’s not that I’m not busy, but probably I am a lot less busy than I act.

That’s my why I haven’t been writing. I’ll try to do better. Our little pack has a whole new motivational plan for us all to be writing together. I imagine you will see the results, or not, from me as the case may be.

So, onto my life.

One of the things that I have noticed in reading through old Baby Me journals is that I never just let myself be upset or angry or even just meh. I always would talk about how unhappy I was and then end with this idea that I needed to be upbeat, I needed to stop being such a downer, or whatever the case may be. I don’t really know entirely where that came from. Possibly there was a gendered element in there somewhere, possibly there was some religious concept that Christians weren’t unhappy. But more likely it is just that my family isn’t very good with emotions of any kind and negative ones felt more difficult to manage.

I am going to try to talk about things without qualifying them and we’ll see how dire it sounds when I read it.

Things are not dire, which may be a part of the problem in a weird way (is that a qualifier at the top… who knows!). Even when things are very shitty I tend to ultimately do better if I feel like I have something to grab onto and fix. Right now I am just restless and feel stuck, concerned I am spinning my wheels and not doing… something. What I think I am not doing is fairly unclear to me. I have two jobs, which are making my life chaotic in a way I do not approve of as a rule. But it is certainly doing something. Both of my jobs are contributing to my experience in some way, and I am grateful for that. But in the newest one I feel very adrift and not at all sure of what I am doing.

I will have to get going on grad school applications soon, but they aren’t even available on their respective websites yet (sometime this month, probably?). In both cases, they aren’t due until the end of the year, leaving me with quite a bit of available time to work on them. I am in no way looking forward to doing this, and suspect I will procrastinate a lot once they become available, but they will be something specific for me to work on.

I am vaguely stressed about a lot of things. I will lose my health insurance soon due to the gobs of money I am making (or you know, over $1100 a month). It feels strange to be stressed about that, as I didn’t have health insurance for a large part of my life, but now I am on medications that I should probably stay on for the sake of sanity and all that nonsense. Plus I’ve had full coverage for almost 4 years now and I have gotten accustomed to that being one thing in my life I don’t have to worry about. What if something happens in the interim year?

I feel like I am having general post-college ennui more than anything. This realization that I was good at school and good at that structure. I liked having my life broken into quarters, I liked regular feedback every few months. I liked the feeling that I was actively working towards things and I could lay out on a chart what those things were. Must take classes X, Y, and Z to graduate by this date. They were all steps I understood and, while they were obnoxious, I was pretty good at following the rules. Good at deadlines, good at class participation, good at school socialization. And then I find myself worrying that perhaps I am not nearly as good at non-school life (even though I realize that a lot of those skills are very transferrable). But you know. I worked day to day jobs for a really long time before I went back to school – like a decade. And I was an okay worker, but I was also extremely depressed and generally miserable almost all of the time. When I went back to school it was such a complete change of everything. And it was a good change, even when it was scary (often). I think part of why I find myself so jumpy and restless now is the worry that being in this day to day working life means going back to what that meant before, which I clearly did not excel at.

There’s not a lot of reason to think that, probably. My life is pretty radically different. I feel very motivated. But then I worry, if I am so driven by these particular goals that I can see so clearly, what happens when I get my Master’s? What happens when I pass that milestone, and don’t have more school to jump into (I don’t think I plan on my PhD at this point)? Is the goal then just to finish enough supervised hours to have my own practice? What then? Will I fall into a state of restlessness and vague dissatisfaction without these very specific goals? What if I do not have the very specific goals? Why don’t I seem capable of setting out my goals in a totally self-motivated fashion, in the extremely organized way that I wish they were? What happens if I am not self-motivated enough to accomplish all the things I vaguely dream of accomplishing, because they are too vague? Am I really stressed out because I don’t currently have the goals for basically the rest of my life laid out on a literal map in front of me, with color coded signs and flags? Probably the answer is yes, in case you are all wondering.

I could talk about how many great things there are in my life but I’m not going to, not this time. I will just let this stand. Life transitions suck and I pretty much always lack confidence in the landing.

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Not That Kind of Life

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There are a lot of things I could write about today. Part of why I didn’t write yesterday is because I just could not decide what to write about. How vulnerable do I get? What exactly do I address right now? So I think I have decided to hold off on a couple of things and talk about something that is related in a way to everything but is not any of the things I had initially planned on writing about. Confusing enough yet? How exciting. Also, sadly you all get no pictures this week because everything seemed too trite or too inspiring in a weird way to me.

I have been thinking about the concept of saying “I’m not the kind of person who…” I have tried to get rid of a lot of those in my life. I usually equate it to something like saying “I’m not that kind of girl.” It’s sort-of hateful at it’s core, even when it is ostensibly not supposed to be. Generally you are implying that you are better than that “type” of girl (or person of varying gender).

However, there’s another use for this type of phrase that I have been thinking about a lot recently, which is to deny what is currently happening to us (this does not actually discount the other meaning, they can definitely both work at the same time, but we’re just going to focus on this for now). An example might be “I’m not depressed, I’m not the type of person who gets depressed” or “I am not the type of person who has trouble sleeping because of anxiety” or “I am not the sort of person who gets jealous.” None of these are particularly related to current concerns of my own, by the way, but they are all ways we can try to deny our current experiences.

I found myself thinking a lot about this in the past couple of days. I have been thinking about it particularly in connection to my Psychology of Mindfulness class last quarter. The problem is that what we are actually saying when this happens is that we don’t perceive ourselves that way. What is currently happening in our lives is going against our self-narrative, against the story we tell to define who we are. But even though we have a very good source for that story, we still have blind spots. In fact, the story itself causes more blind spots.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which religious stories give specific sets of blind spots. But that is perhaps a different post, and more than that I’ve been thinking about how all of it rests on the idea that we are any single thing or set of things at any one time. I struggled a lot with this concept in class last quarter but just now I feel like I am starting to come around to it. Five years ago or five minutes ago, I did not experience things in the same way I do right now. Over my lifetime I have taken a set of those feelings or reactions, usually ones I liked, sometimes ones I just felt like were too ingrained to move away from, and I have said, “This is the type of person I am. This is the set of experiences I have.”

Except of course that’s not true. Like everyone else, who I am is a constantly fluid concept. It shifts with age, circumstance, experience, and any number of other factors. It is not inherently good or bad. When I try to think of what the things are that make up who I am without question, I can think of a lot of things but most of those things have changed over the last 10 years. Some of them have completely altered, some of them have just matured or shifted focus. But none of them are the same. Probably that is what growing up is. Possibly that is the whole point of the living in the moment idea.

So I suppose the point is that I have had a lot of thoughts lately about all of the things that I am experiencing that go against what I consider my story to be, or at least parts of it, and just having that dissonance is enough to cause some anxiety. Maybe the most important thing isn’t trying to bend my experience to fit my story, but to make my story flexible enough to encompass whatever the experience might be.

Depression and Change

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I think that, as a control freak, the single most frightening thing in the world to me is to realize that I have been being crazier than I realized. I have always had a really conflicted relationship with my panic and general craziness. I mean, on the one hand, they have always been behaviors that meet needs for me. That’s not something I’m super proud of but I know it’s true. I know that’s why it started to begin with. So there is a part of me that, particularly when I was younger, took comfort in feeling “crazy.”

Crazy, which is not a very descriptive word. Therapists always ask me to “tell them more about that” and it’s very hard for me to do so. It covers a multitude of sins. It is when I am afraid of people leaving or feeling trapped and claustrophobic and retreating from everyone. It’s when I’m sending endless emails, having panic attacks, my head is full of static, I cry a lot, I create drama, sometimes I dissociate. Essentially I can’t distinguish individual emotions very well at that point so it all goes under “crazy.” I think calling it that distances me too. It writes it off, it makes it stupid. I feel stupid about it. Because when I was younger I really valued what I felt like it gave me; it made me feel like I could force people to see me, like I was part of the world even when I felt like I was drifting. It made me feel like I could force people to care about me and I always kind-of felt like that was what I needed to do. But now, now that I am older I feel much less that way. Now that I’m older I feel like it is this thing I can’t control and that brings me up short and reminds me of how much I am not the person I want to be.

The worst though, the absolute worst, is when I have descended so far into whatever is going on and I haven’t noticed. Because if nothing else I expect myself to be self-aware. I am supposed to be that. To not know what’s going on, to just be lashing out and hurting people I love and not even know I’m doing it – that is beyond unacceptable. That’s treading dangerously close to my mother territory. It’s a really cruel cycle, of course. Because when I realize that has happened, I’m already in a bad place and realizing that sends me into a whole self-hating spiral. It is not super useful. As it turns out, not all of my responses are actually useful. Who knew.

Here’s the thing – I’m really bad at transitions. Like… really bad. I feel like a lot of people say that and that when I say that people nod and smile and say oh yes, I am not good with change either. And I think that’s true. Very few people are good with change and the people who are, those people are awesome and possibly hyper-evolved individuals. But one of the things I have learned over the last few years is that I respond in a lot of ways and some of them are very counter-intuitive.

For example, you might think that when a very intense and fairly brutal quarter ends that I would be ecstatic. Or when I’m graduating and essentially just have a couple nothing classes to mop up before heading up to a whole new thing. I want to be ecstatic because dammit, that makes sense! Also that sounds like a lot more fun. But that’s not what happens. However I also don’t melt down in a really convenient and recognizable way, where I get right away what is going on. I feel, retrospectively, that I should get right away what’s going on. I’ve done this a lot of times now. But instead what happens (and when I say happens, I mean happened because I’m talking about my last two weeks here) is that I just start… cracking. Suddenly David and I are having all these problems and I’m having to have talks with him all the time. And maybe like two are legitimate and the rest even I can’t figure out why I’m upset but I know I’m really, really hurt and really, really need to deal with it right now. Because everything is an emergency. I start having bad dreams, I am suddenly  more sensitive to everything. I am eating more (or less, it can kind-of go either way), I’m suddenly way more tired all the time and taking a lot of naps. I cry a lot. Now see, when I look back at this and put that all together now, it seems really obvious to me that I’ve been depressed. But I didn’t figure that out until yesterday.

It’s hard for me to recognize patterns. I live very much exactly in the present moment. I also have not had a lot of time with trying to identify my feelings or figuring out how you’re supposed to deal with those in a healthy manner. I’m really very challenged in this way and I forget that partly because I just don’t want it to be true. I really, very much want to just be chill. Like you have no idea how much I just want to be cool with things and not need to have things planned in advance so I’m not anxious about them or have slow and hurtful meltdowns over school breaks or drag people I love into my emotional mess. I really just want to be an easy person to live with and to love. It is very hard for me to accept the reality that, although I will continue to work very hard on myself and try to get healthier and more self-aware and treat the people in my life better and all of those things, I will probably never ever be the low maintenance person I really, really want to be. But since that may never happen somehow I have to figure out what is maybe sometimes challenging but okay versus what is harmful. I know that no one is without problems or baggage or whatever. I know that. But man, it would just be nice to have a little less of it.

So you know. That’s pretty much where I’m at and why I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging and all. I’m going to try to do better. I actually wrote a blog on Wednesday but I felt like it was awful. I don’t know if it was or not but either way, it’s not getting published. 😛 Next week I should have a good amount of routine starting back in my life with more work and soon school starting for summer and stuff. I cry a lot about being busy but that’s actually what keeps me okay. So hopefully I will feel better soon, both for my sake and the sake of the people I love. Who are, for the record, all disgustingly patient with me. The end.

Christmas and Things

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For my whole life I have loved Christmas. My mother loved Christmas and so, in spite of how messed up our family might have been at any given time, she was happier around the holidays, things were better. I have always found Christmas lights soothing and peaceful and giving gifts is one of my favorite things to do and also kind-of one of my superpowers. I’m pretty awesome at it. Honestly there’s not much about Christmas I haven’t loved. I would even intentionally go to the mall to look at the decorations and watch all the people. I even like the obnoxious and repetitive Christmas music that plays everywhere.

The last few years have been harder. As things with my parents got more tense, Christmas became more a source of stress but I still held on to the things I loved about it. I’ve added different traditions, tossed out a few things occasionally. I found ways. But here I am and it’s Christmas Eve and there’s not a lot I can do with this year, to be perfectly honest. I’m not going to see my family this Christmas. Really that’s for the best. This isn’t nearly as bad as if I was seeing them. But it’s a situation with no good answers. I watched A Muppet Christmas Carol tonight, which is the movie that we have watched as a family every single Christmas Eve for probably over 10 years. I pretty much know it by heart. In different times my mom and I used to sing the love song from the movie together. For the first time in possibly ever I found myself crying at that song. Not so much because of Scrooge’s lost love, just because of what I’ve lost, I suppose. A week and a half ago I came home to find that my mother had left my family Christmas stocking and stocking holder in a plastic bag at my house. Which I guess answered one question I had been kicking around – would they hang my stocking this year even with me gone? Obviously the answer is a resounding no and she wanted to make sure I knew it. My mother likes to send messages and now that I’ve cut off most of her forms of communication, I guess it was what she had left. It hurt, just like it was intended to.

The truth is that to some extent what hurts the most if I’m being honest is not knowing what, if anything, I will get back. I may never love Christmas again like I have, I honestly don’t know. This year is all transition and it seems impossible to say what may happen going forward. Hopefully some year (maybe even next year) I will have at least a little bit of money and can buy presents for people again. Probably the level of pain associated with everything right now will fade given time. But I can’t know what I’ll come out with. It’s possible in some far off future that I’ll end up with my family again for Christmas. I have no idea if that would be good or bad. Right now it seems like it could only be bad and painful but things change. If there’s one thing I have learned over and over again this year it is that things change. But even if I did end up with my family again some Christmas Eve, it’ll never be the same. I’m not the same and there’s no going back. Not that I would want to. But what does that mean for Christmas?

I’ve gained so much this year and I would never want to downplay a single bit of it. I’ve learned so much about myself, I’ve had the opportunity to attend school and I’ve had new people come into my life that at this point I literally don’t even know what I did without them. But gains come with losses. And tonight, and really most of this week, what I’m feeling most keenly is the losses. I walked away from my parents because I felt I had no choice… but it was still a loss. I still miss feeling like I had parents, like I was part of a family. I don’t know if or when that goes away. I’ve lost some friends over the last couple of years, some who I cut out intentionally and some who have just drifted for various reasons. I adapt, I’m actually pretty good at that, but I wish people didn’t leave, I wish I had handled some things better. There are people I miss. I don’t regret my choices about walking away from my faith this year, it was the truth of where I was at and it was what I needed to do but I don’t think you make a call like that and don’t end up with moments of missing things. Even if it’s just feeling like you knew where your place was, feeling like you knew what you were supposed to do or be. And it leaves me wondering about Christmas. Does that change too? Almost every single thing in my life has changed this year. This is such a dumb little thing but it’s always been one of my defining pieces. Am I going to lose it too? No way to tell at this point, I guess. Nothing to do but wait and see.

Sorry for such a sad entry but, you know. It’s a sad night.

Merry Christmas to all.