Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”
So here we are, at the near-end of another month, with another catch-up post. But there’s actually not a lot to catch up on, because I’ve spent most of this month brain dead and trapped inside a leaky apartment. Continue reading “Catchup.com”
Do you ever have those moments where you’re all, I’ve been here before? Continue reading “Flashbacks”
I showed up to my writer’s group tonight and couldn’t wait to share how productive I was last week – an outline! Research! Narrative! Character design! I AM PRODUCTIVE! Continue reading “Twinkies (or, Notes on Inadequacy)”
On New Year’s Eve, our group started talking about resolutions. My friend Michael asked me about mine. I proudly said, “I resolve not to have any resolutions.” to which he said, “but that is a resolution.” and I was all “Well, shit.”
As I’ve said before, me making a list of resolutions is like me making a list of things I’ll only get worse at/not do. But this doesn’t stop me from thinking about them. And they’re always the same goals/desires:
- spend more time pursuing dreams, less time worrying about day job
- eat better so my arteries won’t crap out by the time I’m 50
- move more so I don’t go into cardiac arrest when I’m climbing stairs; also so pants will stop not fitting
- take better care of my skin so I won’t look like I’m still in puberty
- read more so I don’t rot my brain
- do more so I don’t one day die with regrets (spoiler alert: likely to happen no matter what I do)
- make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants
2016 was, for the most part, an extremely hard year. Going into January, I was super confident. I thought, “this is going to be a good year. I have my new, awesome job where I get to contribute creatively and work with great people, my hair is growing out (this is important), my office is organised, I have a writing plan, and everything will be gravy. I’m happy, I’m content, and I feel like I’m on the right track.”
And then, it hit me. I woke up on the last day of my Christmas holiday with an unshakable sense of impending doom. And on January 4 I woke up in an anxiety attack that didn’t dissolve for almost a week. So I went back to the doctor for a benzo script, after close to two years of not needing xanax. And that sucked.
I thought I was just anxious because we had a big month at work coming up – there was a lot at stake, so I was nervous/excited to be a part of it. But January blurred into February and February blurred into March. March blurred into April. April into May. It never got easier. I wasn’t sleeping without having nightmares. I dreaded every single day. And at some point I came to and realised that all my savings had been burned through, the apartment was constantly a mess, our bills were late, and I found myself paralysed without my phone, jumping at every notification as if someone’s life depended on it. It was easier to count the days that didn’t end in some form of panic. Every weekend included some sort of sobbing breakdown, either to Joel or to my Mom or in text messages to my friends. I just couldn’t control myself.
It was hard to admit to myself that I was back in a shit place. I spent so much of 2015 in denial that I was so homesick it spun me into depression, and there I was, robbed of 6 months because I refused to admit defeat. I mean, I knew I was good at standing in my own way, but it turns out I’m really good at putting myself in harm’s way to prove a point to no one.
After I quit my job and took some time off, I realised my two rough patches were the result of me pushing myself for a career that I knew I wasn’t suited for, but that I felt I needed to be suited for, and thusly wouldn’t let myself quit. I realised I have to listen to my own red flags – it doesn’t matter how cool your job is, how awesome the people you work with are, if the stress makes you go back on medication and back into therapy, it’s not a good fit.
So this year, I would like to focus on one things only:
do not be a passive aggressive asshole to self
And really, that’s it. I don’t think of this as a resolution, because it’s not like losing 20lbs or drinking less alcohol. It’s the “be kind to yourself” bullshit that’s not actually bullshit but a really important life skill.
Naturally, I want to develop better habits and achieve things, too. But I’m not going to make a giant posted list, because I’ll feel like I have to achieve them all RIGHT NOW or I’ll be a failure. So I’m going to take it one step at a time and you know – not be an asshole to myself about it. I need to get myself to a place of stability and consistency before I can stack myself full of expectations and plans.
I’m taking this year one month at a time. For January, my goal was to find a more interactive writer’s group and a class of some sort. I got the Master Class for Christmas and I’ve already started it, so now all I need to do is find an additional group to join. I don’t know what my goal is for February, because I haven’t gotten there yet. That’s February’s problem.
See? I’m already applying my resolution. (ha)
ALL THAT BEING SAID – here are things that Joel and I plan to make happen and that I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT for 2017:
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Taking driver’s safety course and getting more experience on the road so that we can
- Go on non-staycation holiday! (although Joel and I had 4 uninterrupted days together for the first time in 2 years and it was fabulous. I’d rather have the time in the Blue Mountains or on a beach somewhere tho)
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Upgrading to a queen size bed
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Becoming an Australian resident and finally putting all the visa jibba jabba behind us (fingers crossed this happens around July)
- ADOPTING A DOG
- Investing more time in myself
- ADOPTING A DOG (my biological clock is barking)
- make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants
I mean, not having to put real pants on every day is the dream.
Set the bar high, folks. And be nice to yourself.
Last week, I set out to make cookies. And by set out, I mean I had a sudden attack of restlessness and felt an obsessive need to make something – anything – just as long as it involved measuring and baking. I landed on cookies because they’re the easiest thing to make when I’m scattered and NEED TO DO SOMETHING. Thus, I set out to make easy, no fail, made them 500x, have the recipe memorised chocolate chip cookies.
I didn’t have a lot of chocolate chips, and only half the butter I needed, so instead of going to the store (which would take too long), I decided to only make half a recipe. I weighed the butter and cut it into cubes. I knew the butter wasn’t soft enough and if I didn’t wait an hour, I’d make a giant mess of sugar and butter crumbs when I tried to cream it (oh, the perils of hand mixers and shallow mixing bowls). So I waited maybe 5 minutes while I measured everything else and prepped the pans. And then I couldn’t wait any longer so I got to creaming.
As predicted, butter and sugar went flying. Instead of waiting for the butter to soften, I mashed it with the potato masher, and tried to “fold” the sugar into the butter. It still made a mess. Instead of waiting for it to soften again, I added a bit of milk. Bingo. The sugar and butter creamed without making a mess, and I didn’t have to wait an hour (even though by this point I had already wasted another 15-20 minutes). I mixed in the dry ingredients, the chocolate chips, and scooped them into the pan.
I thought something was strange when the dough was sticking to my fingers, and not really staying in a ball like shape. That’s weird, but whatever. I put the pan in the oven to bake, and 10 minutes later, was welcomed to this:
A burned disc of butter sugar shit. And the next pan was the same.
The disappointment was palpable.
I quickly realised what happened – in my ADD MILK haste, I needed to compensate with a bit more flour – which I didn’t. I also chopped it up to being bad at math and not reducing the ingredients correctly. I reduced the flour from 2 1/4 cups to 1 cup, 2 tbsp, which Google and a quick fact check by Leah confirmed was correct. But later that evening when I was washing up, I discovered that I used a 1/2 cup measure that I thought was a 1 cup measure. So really, I’m good at math, and bad at reading.
Small mistake. It sucks. If you’ve been following along the blog recently, I haven’t exactly been batting a thousand this year. I’ve felt more way failure than win, like a lot more failure. And as I looked at this pan of greasy, dried elephant dung that I created, something that I’m normally amazing at, and yes, shamefully scooping it up with a fork and eating it in much the same manner as the way a dog eats its own vomit, I knew I really need to get my own shit together.
I make small mistakes that avalanche into big mistakes because I rush. Because I’m ridiculously anxious and impulsive. It’s OMG I HAVE TO DO THIS NOW I DON’T CARE IF IT’S NOT READY inside my head and then FUCK WHY DIDN’T I JUST DO THAT THING I NEEDED TO DO when it turns out badly. It was like this pan of baked diarrhea was a direct metaphor for my life – hurrying and making small mistakes just to get it done rather than taking the time to do it right.
If my internal failure cycle were an Ouroboros, it would look like this:
It’s a vicious, vicious cycle. Anxiety > Rush/Stall > Small Mistake Avalanche > Fail
Most of the time, I’m of the “OMG, I really need to do this, but I see these issues will prevent this from being the best it can be, so I’m going to take X step and X step so I don’t make a mistake.” persuasion. For the past few months though, I’ve just overlooked all of that so I can get something done and feel some sort of personal gratification or sense of accomplishment. I’ve fallen into this “oh it’s just a small mistake so it won’t matter” kind of thinking that just doesn’t work at all. Because small mistakes turn into an avalanche. So even if I’m accomplishing things, those things aren’t the best – or they’re just wrong. Which makes me feel like more of a failure.
And I’m desperate to learn how to derail the cycle. How to instil thoughtful, deliberate, mindful actions in everything I do, instead of rushing to get to the finish line. After all, I’m not winning any ribbons by finishing projects, goals, or baked goods that look like shit – literally.
So on Sunday, I decided I needed to regroup, since Saturday was a panicky waste of good breathable oxygen. So I made of list of everything I needed to do, gave myself time frames to do some chores while Skyping with Cara, get a giant chunk of work done, and then I went to the store to buy more cookie ingredients. This time, I measured everything carefully, I let my butter soften on the counter, I made way less of a mess, and the cookies turned out crispy on the edge, soft in the center, all over golden, and delish:
I was even able to finish my weekend work with a little more satisfaction than I normally have. And I think it’s because I took my time to slowly and considerately do everything. The cycle of OMG GET IT DONE is a hard one to beat, and over the past week, I’ve realised I just need to take it one day at a time. Of just being careful and aware – I mean, I want to be HIGHLY AWARE, but I’ll accept general awareness and perseverance for now.
Basically, the point of this blog is I learned a lesson:
If you don’t wait for the butter to soften, you’ll end up with shit.
Eating half a pan of melted butter sugar dough will make your pants suddenly shrink over night.
I love Bob Ross.
I love the simplicity of his show. I love how the sound of his voice is like a someone wrapping a warm blanket around you. I love his positivity, his “maybe… maybe…”. I love the way he says “whiiiish wiiiiiish wiiiiish” when he uses the fan brush to make waves. Every touch and every sound he makes is soft, gentle, and deliberate, no matter how “accident” he says they are. Whenever I’m watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, I’m transported to a rainy day in elementary school, watching him in art class while we waited out the clock for Christmas Break. The whole show has a calming, tranquillizing effect on me, and I couldn’t be happier that there’s a whole heap of them streaming on Netflix.
I’ve had one of those days – can’t get out of bed, can’t have 1 thought without 47 thoughts behind it, can’t find a coping mechanism besides sleeping that helps, just feeling restless and anxious and essentially paralysed. Eventually, I convinced myself to take a shower, and I sat down to scroll through Netflix, desperate for something to take the edge off. And I saw that Beauty is Everywhere collection of Bob Ross episodes. And I was all HECK YES.
Five minutes into the first episode, he was painting some clouds (using the number 2 brush in a circular motion so that “it looks like there’s a lot happening”), and he said it was going to take a while to finish. Then, he says “… while I’m doing this, I want to show you a video of some little characters that are living with me – baby squirrels. And I want to show you how we feed them.”
And then there was a video of Bob Ross holding baby squirrels and feeding them from a syringe attached to a creepy looking extra long nipple.
I g-damn love squirrels. They’re wiley, they’re fluffy, they make really questionable decisions, and they’re adorable. When I was 14, I created a character called Squirrel Man, a Jewish Crime Fighting Squirrel who wore tighty whities and a red cape, and never went anywhere without his truth seeking acorn. I have a bit of an obsession with them. And very sadly, they’re not in Australia.
Bob Ross and baby squirrels. Two of my most favourite things. It was like God reached down, patted me on my head and told me, “everything is going to be ok.”
And it was. For a little bit anyway, which is cool.
Things have been much better around these parts.
Last week started with the amazing news that my visa was granted. Which, based on the all consuming sense of relief and fantastic good feelings that came with it, must have been weighing heavier on me than I originally assumed. I had a few moments throughout the week where I thought I might lose it, but they passed pretty quickly. I got some weird, sad news about my grandfather on Friday that left me pretty worried for my mom, but it didn’t send me into a tail spin like I thought it would. I also started therapy on Friday.
Meeting with a therapist for the first time is a lot like going on a first date. There’s a lot of small talk at first, a lot of awkward answers to questions like “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “Is there a history of mental illness in your family?” Just like a first date. Except in this date, one person is asking the questions and is sometimes writing notes or giving you confused looks bordering on judgemental. This is the 4th therapist I’ve seen, technically 5 if you count the social worker/guidance counsellor that we were required to see freshman year of college to make sure we weren’t falling behind in class, but who I saw as weekly (or some times 2x or 3x a week). So I’ve been on some strange first dates.
In the weirdest first visit I had, the therapist told me that I was likely bi-polar, and obsessive compulsive, but said it was ok because everyone was to some degree. She went on to make an example by telling me, “Your bangs are covering your right eye just slightly, and so I can’t see both of your eyes fully. It’s really bothering me. In fact, it’s bothering me so much that I want to ask you to put your bangs back with a bobby pin.” And she immediately shot up, got to her desk, pulled off a bobby pin from its package, and handed it to me. I looked at it, like what? * In the saddest first date I’ve had, I showed up in my pj’s with dirty hair, sobbed at an uncomfortably loud volume for the whole hour, and left without paying my bill.
My new therapist and I seemed to hit it off. She had a nice, comfortable office and she let me guide the session and ramble without end, only offering her opinion when I came to a stopping point, which was extremely helpful to me. I think that’s important for a first session, to just get everything out on the table without judgement. She did say one thing before I left that really resonated with me.
“I think you’re exceedingly hard on yourself. I think we should start discussing the idea of ‘good enough.'”
I understand what she means, because I am exceedingly hard on myself. I’m my own disappointed parent. But I don’t like the idea of being good enough. I’ve always been the one that wants to be the best at everything. I want to over-excel and be the most badass at everything I do. And what comes hand in hand with that is a near-paralytic fear of failure. So you can see how well this desire to be the best has done for me so far – i.e. a lot of untouched goals, missed opportunities, nights where I stay awake counting heart palpitations.
I’m slowly beginning to realise that there’s no point in having this drive to be only the best when it prevents me from getting anything accomplished.
However… I don’t think the answer is simply accepting good enough, and not pushing myself. I think the answer is managing my expectations, and acknowledging that mistakes and failure are a part of any process. I shouldn’t be so afraid of what isn’t guaranteed to happen. It’s going to take a lot of work to train myself out of these depressive habits, but I’m looking forward to feeling confident one day. It’ll take baby steps.
A few weeks ago, I got Medicare – and universal health care is pretty sexy. Lately, I’ve been seen at a private hospital. So I pay 100% up front, and then I get an immediate rebate. If I went to a bulk billing hospital, I would pay exactly $0. And I don’t have to pay $600/month either. In fact, I pay nothing apart from what I give in taxes. And I’m ok with that. And now I can get assistance with my upcoming therapy. Which is hip hip hooray because that shit is expensive.
As I was setting up my therapy appointment, I was told I would need to get a “mental health plan” from Medicare before they would pay for my sessions. It’s like the referral/in-network authorisation that I had with my insurance back in the States. So tonight I sat down with my general practitioner to get my mental health plan squared away. He called Medicare, gave them my name, a code, and in 45 seconds, I was approved for 10 sessions (admittedly I was a bit shocked at only 10 sessions – even in the States you get 20). Then, my doc had a bunch of questions for me to answer, which I’m sure I’ve answered before in a “Are you Sad” online questionnaire. Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? Do you experience feelings of dread and worry? Do you think it would be easier if you were hit by a bus? And so on.
And then he filled out a background profile on me to take to my therapist. Which was about half an hour of me over-answering every question he asked while crying. As he was typing, I looked over and saw one of his notes under the “Explain Patient’s Current State” and there was one sentence. It said:
poor tolerance to minor disruptions
And I was all, “Wow.”
I felt like shit, oversharing and crying in the office of a GP who has seen me 4 times in the last 3 weeks and who scheduled my assessment but still asked me “What brings you in tonight” – but seeing that little sentence gave me a morbid chuckle. Shit seems so easy when it’s broken down into it’s medical terms. Poor tolerance to minor disruptions* sounds like a kitchen appliance that doesn’t work when connected to a low power source. Like it’s a physical condition with an easy fix. I just need a tune up. Or a connection to a stronger voltage. It doesn’t sound like racing thoughts, elevated body temperature, stomach and muscles tightening so fast and so hard you almost double over, fuzzy eyes, constricted throat, desires to run away so strong you want leap out the nearest window but you can’t because your legs are simultaneously numb and weak. It doesn’t sound like waking up every morning feeling like you were punched in the gut. It doesn’t sound like lapsed memory, slurred speech. It sure doesn’t sound like sometimes I hate myself.
I used to be well above average at taking things as they came – I used to be the person calming down those with poor tolerance to minor disruptions. I’m wondering what happened. Did I abuse my high tolerance? Did I roll with the punches so hard and fast that now I can’t roll at all? Is my tolerance gland crapped up with cirrhosis?
Time will tell – and to that end, therapy starts tomorrow. I’m crossing every crossable appendage that it’s a good match. I’ve had a much better week this time around, with a few uncomfortable moments that didn’t last long. But I still feel like I could fall off the balance beam at any second.
*side note – I finally have a title for my autobiography.
AND I NEED TO REMEMBER THIS.
Patience isn’t one of my strong suits. I’m the person who gets irrationally irritated with slow internet, stop and go traffic, long lines, babysitting, making pancakes, etc. My lack of patience is one the biggest hurdles when it comes to getting better with myself.
Take for example, this past week.
Between Sunday and Monday I had a few big talks and I felt like everything was going to be A-ok. Monday was fucking fantastic. I woke up feeling good, I had a good work day, I came home and everything was great – not a single panicked thought and no real worries. Then Tuesday. I woke up optimistic, and by the time I got in bed, I was numb and exhausted. Wednesday, more or less the same. Thursday, no panic attacks, but I felt on edge all day – in flight or fight mode so intense I could barely think straight. Friday, more of the same. I came home, ate fast food, took a shower, and crawled into bed at 8 PM with 2 books and The Wire. Saturday was great until about mid-day when the edge kicked in. I felt better by the end of the night, but there were some bad moments. Today has been touch and go. I did spend about 3 hours on the phone with my mom, which helped a lot.
I start therapy this week, and I’m so relieved to be 4 days away from help that I could cry – well, everything has made me cry today (hooray anxiety + PMS), but this really makes me feel like I could cry. I feel like I’ve dug myself into such a hole that the slightest kick of dirt makes me curl up, ready to be buried. I feel worthless, overwhelmed, and like a big fat pile of sweatpants, fail, and panic. And I’m exhausted of going through each day feeling like I can’t make it. Even making lists – my go to worry reliever – makes my mind race.
It’s hard to convince myself that everything is going to be ok, even though I know it will be. It’s hard to believe that it won’t always be this hard. That I won’t always feel so far behind. That I won’t always feel so paralysed and scared. It’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel because I’m so distracted by the now and how I’m not dealing with the now particularly well.
I need to make the half of me that knows I’ll be ok stronger than the part of me that hates myself and thinks it’ll never get better. And that takes time, it takes energy, and above all, it takes patience.