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”
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.
Being in transition is irritating. Mostly because it feels like there’s no guarantee of stability. And contrary to my recklessly impulsive, leap and the net shall appear style, stability is crucial for me. Lack of stability makes it hard to plan for the future, which makes me unable to enjoy the now. I mean, I have a hard enough time enjoying the present because I’m usually re-hashing the past or making unattainable goals for the future, so the lack of stability or predictability makes me worry even more.
The stability I’m talking about here is financial stability – and my irritatingly persistent need for it.
At this point last year I was on the job hunt, and so I was at this time the year before that. Looking for a new job, and the first 3-6 months of working a new job can be shitty and stressful, not to mention what happens when you spend months looking for a job and ducking work so you can go on interviews and then you score a new gig and then you start and it’s really promising and after a few months you realise it’s not the right fit for you but you don’t want to give up and you really don’t want to start job hunting again so you deny that you need to find a new one until you almost have a nervous breakdown and you finally admit you need a new job. So there’s that.
Two years to settle might be a normal time frame for someone moving to a new country. But being someone who is not only recklessly impulsive but who also plans to run marathons when I should be crawling, I’m really disappointed in myself that it’s taken so long. I’m disappointed because, even though finding a stable job is really important for things like rent, student loans (thanks, mom and dad!), bills, and groceries, my reasons for not settling down and creating a full life here all feel like excuses. I just kept thinking “as soon as I find the right job, I won’t have to worry about money anymore. Everything will fall into place. I’ll start writing more, I’ll feel better, and I’ll start doing more.” And really, all that thinking did was keep me in an obsessive little bubble. I feel like I’ve been so consumed by the worry of instability that I’ve robbed myself of time. I’ve robbed two years from myself. Two years of living in a new, exciting country, two years where I could have been doing more. Could have been living more.
Basically, I’m getting a bit sick of my own shit. I know depression is difficult to fight, and it manifests in so many different ways that you feel like you’re fighting a 60-front war, but I’m so tired of it. I’m tired of not being in control. I want more. I need more.
And that’s it. I’m sick of it. I want things to be better. I may wake up tomorrow morning hating myself again, and I don’t want to jinx it, but I’ve been taking more and more baby steps to getting my shit back together, and I feel good. Empowered, if I want to use my therapist’s language. It means working hard. And working hard when all I want to do is NOT work hard. Which admittedly, will be the hardest part.
I want to thrive again. I want to make up for lost time and make the rest of this year count.
Happy October, everyone!
Let me tell you about my friend, 3 Day Birthday Weekend. She was pretty badass, and her surprise visit helped me jump into 32 with much awesomeness.
Here’s what happened: on Thursday night, we made chilli hotdogs and watched Goodfellas. We decided to go hard core with the chilli dogs and we replaced the buns with Turkish bread rolls. The result was CHILLI DOG MOUNTAIN, a gut busting pile of meat and bread and coleslaw that left us struggling to live after we cleared our plates and feeling ill afterward. I’m not sure why we felt compelled to have a whole pile each. This meal shall hence forth be known as “Chilli Dog Hubris”
On Friday, we woke up to eggs and bacon, and made our way to my mothership – Ikea. I could go to Ikea every weekend, because Ikea is goddamn awesome. It’s a wonderland of Swedish modular design, $1 hotdogs, and words with Ü’s in them – much awesome. But really, I love walking around the show room and touching everything in the tiny apartments. Joel likes Ikea, too, but not on the slightly concerning level that I do. And he really hates crowds. But he came along because he loves me. Yes.
Although, now that I live in a tiny apartment, I’m bummed out that Ikea’s definition of teeny tiny apartment living and reality’s definition of teeny tiny apartment living are drastically different. I would love to see a 500sqft Ikea apartment where the kitchen is in the lounge and the lounge is actually a small rectangle shaped room that’s a lounge/dining room/office/bedroom and where you can’t nail or drill into, or use command hooks on ANY the walls. Show me how you’d make this space the most efficient, Ikea. SHOW ME.
After some fantasizing about a place big enough for a butcher block kitchen island and full size sofas and comfy arm chairs, we wandered to the market place to get what we came for – new dishes. No more stolen plates with scrape marks and no more stolen pint glasses. Come over for dinner, and you’ll be served on the finest stonewear that Sweden has to offer (totally). And your spoons and forks will be shiny and matching. We are officially adults.
I really wanted to get a shelving unit that would make better use out of the space we have for Joel’s camera gear, but we didn’t plan it very well and couldn’t agree on what would work best. So instead of buying something that might work, we just scrapped the plans altogether – like a real person would do. This was an Audrey first, as I am queen of “just buy it and hope for the best, or return it later.” I feel like I grew up a little.
We left Ikea with our big blue bags and spent the rest of the day napping and obsessively rearranging (ok maybe that was just me). That evening, we met up with some friends at the pub down the street for a few games of pool (I’m improving at a glacial pace, but it’s still fun), and then home for a late dinner and Casino (one of us has been on a crime flick kick. It’s Joel.)
Saturday brought us MY BIRTHDAY! Joel woke me up with presents in bed, and we had coffee and sat around until it was time for brunch with Joel’s mum’s side of the family.
We finally got to try the Italian place we’ve been curious about, Dulcis Domus. The food did not disappoint, and I was spoiled within an inch of my life because Joel’s family is ridiculously thoughtful when it comes to gifting.
Stuffed with lunch, I came home to play with my presents and make the ultimate birthday pie for us to eat that night – Honey Walnut Banana Cream Pie.
And in true Audrey style, I didn’t re-read the basic recipe before I waited til Saturday to make the pie, and thus I forgot that it takes 4-6 hours to set, and is actually best when you let it set overnight. Shit. So I made the pie anyway, and later we had Birthday Ice Cream Pint while we watched Sherpa, a documentary about sherpas rebelling on Mt Everest.
Sunday I basically spent in planning mode – scouting and measuring and drawing up ideas for our office space:
Followed by lots of reading and chill, an amazing salmon dinner by yours truely, and one glorious Banana Cream Pie photoshoot by Joel.
All in all, it was a great weekend, full of fat and naps and food and friends and a surprisingly large amount of Ray Liotta.
Last year, my birthday came about during a time when I was really unhappy with myself, my work, my health, and yeah, everything because I was really just in a shit place. I didn’t want anyone to know it was my birthday, I didn’t want presents, and I just wanted to hide. I had a busy day at work combined with a lunch outing that stressed me out because it meant talking to people when I just wanted to lie under my desk in fetal position, then Joel took me out to dinner after work, and not only could I not eat, but I threw up three times. It was awful. And I felt wretched about the entire fiasco, so I set myself up on a strict GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER plan that I of course, failed because giving yourself too many challenging goals too soon is exactly what you need when you have the emotional strength of wet paper. So for the next two month I stagnated, miserably obsessing over who I was and what I was doing and all the time I was wasting. I ended up going from a shit place to a real shit place.
Ah, 31 was a fuckin’ banner year.
I’m much happier to report that this year, I felt the exact opposite. I told everyone who’d listen that it was my birthday. I don’t know if it’s therapy, or the change in jobs, or what – but I feel more … optimistic. Like everything is going to be ok. And last night as we sat in Julian’s kitchen with friends and everyone eating the rest of the Banana Cream Pie on a night that I would have bailed on before, I thought to myself, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
32 feels good, you guys. And I’m excited.
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.
On Christmas night, Joel and I were beached on the couch in a combined food and Netflix coma. All week I’d been thinking how I was half shocked that the end of the year was almost here, and half shocked that it took so long to get here.
2015 went by in a blur. Until about mid-October, I went through the year like a slug, hitting salty patches and shriveling, and then taking a while to… un-shrivel? The beginning of the year wasn’t the greatest. I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself of a bunch of different things: that I wasn’t homesick; that it wasn’t hard to talk to my parents only once a week instead of nearly every day; that it wasn’t hard to not see my siblings and my friends; and that I wasn’t having a complete resurgence of near-crippling social anxiety. Trying to live in denial was exhausting, and it started to wear on Joel and me. With a lot convincing and talking, Joel helped me work through the hardest parts (with one or two crying phone calls to my mom on my lunch break – sometimes I’m a scared 7 year old). Things got better around March-April, but then I was faced with a job hunt. And the final steps of our visa application was hair raising. And I went through another difficult 3 months after getting a new job when I was broke and really struggling to stay positive.
SO yes – a few of downer moments, a few of meh moments, but that wasn’t all that happened. 2015 definitely had HEAPS of awesome. Joel and I rang in the New Year laughing, and I can say that it carried on throughout the year. Living with Joel is so much fun, that I’m always having a good time – even when I hate myself. It’s been a year of sweet gestures, laughing til we cry, lazy late mornings sharing comics, shared goals and support, learning how to cook, learning how to bake, many (too many, if you ask my expanding waist) wonderful Chinese take out meals, lots of little adventures, coffee dates in the park, Netflix binges, home building, and plan making. Joel even taught me basic photoshop magic and more tricks with my camera.
Also, on a totally important
and not at all shallow note – I finally learned how to blow dry and curl my hair. And I learned how to apply liquid liner to my satisfaction in less than 7 minutes. I also learned that I will never wake up in time to do all three before work. Or get dressed properly. Or shower. I’ma do me.
So yes, while it doesn’t feel like I accomplished a lot, I did survive. Survival, employment, and a finished visa application. That’s what 2015 boiled down to.
So I was thinking about ALL of this as we were in the afore-mentioned beached whale state. And it got me thinking, “shit, there’s been a lot to distract me over the last few years.” Being lazy and easily distracted are my two worst traits. That and in my personal life, I can barely handle more than two things happening at once. There has been something significant to distract me from and to excuse me from achieving for the last few years. But I couldn’t think of what’s coming up in 2016. Like, what will distract me? What big thing do we have to plan or prepare for? So I brought it up with Joel.
“What’s happening next year?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what big thing is happening? In 2013, it was therapy and you + me and you coming to visit; in 2014 it was preparing to move and me finding a job in Sydney; in 2015 it was applying for the visa and us finding new jobs. What’s going to happen next year?”
“How about… we just live? Have good times.”
And I was all, #lightbulb – that’s a great idea.
How about a year with no excuses? A year of getting shit done. A year of working hard toward being who we want to be. A year of ta-da! A year to look back and be like, sheeeeeit. A year well spent. It’s been years since I’ve started a year with no Giant Thing to Plan Around in the forecast. I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish.
I just typed “but first, I’m going to take a nap.” and I deleted it. That’s how serious I am. But I will make a batch of the World’s Best Chocolate Chip cookie first.
The word “funk” annoys me. The phrase “I’m in a funk” bothers me even more. Maybe because the word “funk” seems dismissive, a word used to describe a bad smell – or something gross growing where it shouldn’t. Like toe jam.
With that being said, I just came out of a two week funk. Usually, I’m pretty good at pin-pointing the reason why I’m feeling less than absolutely awesome. But this time around, the funk was more nebulous, more like everything had a cloud of “I’m so sad and I don’t know why” / “everything gives me anxiety” / “waking up and getting ready is excruciating.” Funks are unfun and they make life hard to live. Not impossible, just hard. Like when you’re wearing socks that keep falling off the back of your ankle and you have to stop and readjust them constantly and you’re all “I can’t wait to go home and change this pair of socks.” Except I can’t wait to change my fucking attitude toward life.
So it was a hard couple of weeks. And I’ve been thinking of my coping mechanisms, and how they helped me to some degree of success. And since this is a safe space, I thought I’d share some of my Funk Survival Skills. I’m in no way a qualified mental health professional (no matter what the internet says about me), but I’ve had 18 or so years of dealing with mild to severe depression, I worked 3 years at a therapy center, and I spent a year and a half of twice a week intensive therapy. So I’ve had a lot of trial and error. This shit works for me.
- Talk about it. It’s amazing how much it helps just to talk it out. I can’t count how many times I’ve built an issue up in my head so much that it became the end of the world, only to talk about it with someone and realise it actually wasn’t a big deal. I’ve found that if I keep my negative thoughts to myself, I get suffocated, overwhelmed, and start to feel out of control and helpless. There’s something about verbalising your feelings. It’s like releasing a pressure valve in your Feels Grid.
- Take an inventory. I sit down and think of any outside influences that could be at fault. Is my medicine affecting me? Am I sick? Have I been drinking too much? Not getting out of the house enough? Having problems at work? Conflict with friends or family? Low blood sugar? I was nearly suicidal for 6 months before a doctor suggested the hormones in my birth control (the patch) could be sending me into a tailspin. I stopped using the patch and felt better within a week. You never know, sometimes.
- Make a list. This goes a bit hand in hand with “talk about it” and “take an inventory.” When I’m really mired in a funk and I don’t think I can talk about it yet, I write a list of “Shit That’s Bothering Me.” This list ranges from the most troubling (“I feel like I’m failing at my job”) to the most shallow (“cookies make me gain weight”) – if it bothers me, it’s going on the list. Making a list has duel benefits. 1) I’m releasing that pressure valve in my Feels Grid by letting it all out on paper, and 2) I can examine what’s wrong with me, and I can see what is and what isn’t in my realm of control. Failing at my job? In my control – I can ask for training, feedback, or guidance from my supervisors. Cookies make me gain weight? Out of my control – but I can limit how many of them I eat, and how much I exercise after eating them. It’s like making a battle plan for getting yourself back.
- Show gratitude. I like list making. After I make my “Shit that’s Bothering Me” list, I make a “Shit that’s Good” list. I think of the positive things that are happening so I keep perspective. I get as real or shallow as I need to. Previous lists of mine have included, “My parents love me”, “I kicked ass at on that email”, “I took a shower today”, and “I’m glad I like tacos”
- Indulge, but don’t binge. It’s good to take some comfort for yourself when you’re down. But don’t make your home there. It’s the difference between taking an evening to yourself to skip your shower, eat a brownie and watch Teen Mom; and calling out of work so you can eat an entire pan of brownies while watching an endless marathon Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2. Not that I’ve ever done this (twice). If your self care turns to an excuse for apathy, or “it’s just easier to do this“, it’s a red flag.
- Don’t drown yourself. This seems pretty obvious, but it took me a while to catch on: listening to sad music, watching sad movies, and reading sad words when I’m sad makes me more sad. *lightbulb* I used to love that commiseration and that charge I’d feel when an artist or a movie would channel exactly what I was feeling. Eventually, though, I learned that depression is fertile, and it doesn’t take much fertilization to make my mind a breeding ground. Now I seek out material the opposite of what I’m feeling. And I stay away from known triggers – like TV shows and movies with sentimental attachments, and basically all music. Distraction gives me a good break from the negative thoughts.
- Move. There’s heaps of science that backs up the positive effect of exercise on depression and funks. And it’s true. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, or sitting out on the balcony. Prying my ass out of bed or off the couch and into the outside world does a bit of good. And back when I was periodically active at my gym, it felt good to zone out while lifting weights. Also it makes me feel like I have control over something good happening – like I’m working out. I’m making myself do this, and it’s good for me, so that’s good. I’m awesome.
- Confront your anxieties. You know what makes anxiety 800% worse? Avoiding it. I think I’ve had the same anxiety since I was a kid – something will happen, it will be my fault, and I’ll get yelled at. Seriously. I can trace most of my anxiety attacks back to the initial fear of “I’ll get yelled at.” sounds silly, until I’m shaking at my desk having heart palpitations with a red face and vomit rising in my throat. If I think I’m going to get in trouble, or in a situation where I might be talked sternly at, my first instinct is always to do everything in my power to avoid it. But, therapy helped me learn that confronting whatever is giving me anxiety is so much better than leaping to the worst conclusion. Problems at work? I’ll convince myself to ask questions about it until I understand and feel good about it. Stressed because you don’t have money to pay a bill? Call the company you owe and see what your options are. Feeling like you have a million things you want to do and not enough time? Write it out in a list and prioritize it. Think your friend/parent/family member/co-worker/facebook friend is mad at you? Ask them about it.Think your friend/parent/family member/co-worker/facebook friend is treating you badly? Say something about it. Dreading opening up your junk drawer or junk room because it might be out of control? Just open it. Take a small pile and work through it, one pile at a time. I’ve learned that no matter how hard it is to confront your problems, it’s much better than holding it inside and worrying.
- Take a super shower. Literal self care: when I’m in a funk, showering is the first thing that falls to the wayside. I’ll sit in a dirty funk forever with absolutely no concern for myself. So I’ve found that taking a Super Shower – an extra long shower where you not only shampoo, rinse and repeat, but you also scrub, exfoliate, polish, use the loofah, use the pumice on your feet, shave, use body oil, use every toiletry and indulgence you have. Take the time to wash and pamper what usually gets a quick scrub in a morning shower. Then, dry off, lotion up everywhere, comb your hair, and put on clean clothes (or pajamas). I follow this up with mascara and eye liner, and blow drying my hair straight. It makes me feel human on the outside, even if I’m feeling like pudding on the inside.
- Get dressed. If I have to go to work while I’m in a funk, going in unshowered and dressed with no effort makes me feel a million times worse. If I take a shower, get dressed with a purpose, and put on make up, I can trick myself that I’m in control and that my life doesn’t feel like a complete mess. But, I’ll admit that I usually talk myself out of this because I want to stay in bed for the 30 minutes it takes me to shower and blow dry my hair. You can’t win them all.
- Do something. I’ve been trying harder than ever to funnel funk feelings into productivity. 90% of the time this means baking. I do my best baking when I’m in a funk. It’s a nice distraction/respite from being mired in the shit. I feel productive and in control, and after all is baked and cleaned and put away, pretty satisfied. And when the treats come out amazing, it’s not bad on the ol’ self esteem. I also like to write, draw, obsessively sort, re-organize or clean. Anything to keep my mind occupied and my ass moving. Except vacuuming. Vacuuming is the bane of my existence and is guaranteed to make my funk worse.
- Be kind to yourself. This is the most important lesson I learned in therapy. Being kind to myself means listening to what I really need, be it alone time, sleep, help, a tantrum, or a hug. It also means reminding myself to think positively in the midst of all the shit. “This too shall come to pass” is one of my mantras. I remind myself of all the other times I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and how it I’m still here. Don’t belittle or hate yourself because you’re down. Give yourself the time, the space, and the encouragement to get through it. I’m my harshest critic, judgiest judger, and worst nightmare. It’s taken a lot deliberate action on my part to change the way I think about myself, but I’m glad that I did – and even more glad that I can enact positivity now.
Basically, the only way to get through a funk is to take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically, as well as emotionally. Be encouraging, be honest, and be open to those you trust. And above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help – asking for help is much easier than you think, and much better than suffering. And anyone who tries to tell you different is a dick. True story.
It gets better. And there are always good things happening. Like tacos.
Just remember that.
When it comes to work–my job, chores, writing, etc.–I’m better and more focused when there’s a TV on in the background. Yes, I am an over-stimulated, easily distracted, child of television. Silence drives me crazy, but the drone of an open floor office–the mish-mash of typing, too loud conversations, kitchen clanging, phones ringing, printers going, etc., drives me more crazy. What to do?
Music. The first and most obvious solution: music and head phones. Unfortunately, I’m working in an office where our internet usage is strictly monitored. So strict that I checked The Weather Channel two days in a row, and on the third day, it was blocked. With Youtube, Pandora, and Spotify definitely out of the question, and since I don’t want to eat up data on my phone, I was left wondering what I’d do for entertainment. Just anything to make the time go faster. Because anyone who’s worked in an office knows that the minutes drag by like hours when you don’t have something to keep you occupied, and office work isn’t always the most captivating. And that’s when I remembered I packed my ancient iPod with me.
It hadn’t been played or updated since 2007, and I’m not sure why I brought it with me. I hadn’t intended on using it, and I wasn’t even sure it would work. The ravages of time had taken their toll: the screen was almost entirely blacked out, and it struggled to stay on. But, after charging for 24 hours, it finally started to play. And it was like opening a time capsule.
I grew up in a very music friendly house. My mom sang and toured with her church choir, and my dad was a piano prodigy. All my siblings and I sang or played instruments, and we all had our own stereos before we had our own TVs. There was always music playing in our house and in our cars. And when I was a teenager, music became my life. I loved movies more, but music got me. After all, when you’re a teenager, no one understands you — except drug addicted rock stars. Naturally.
Music was always a great comforter, helping me gain perspective on whatever was making me sad that week. It was also a great social binder. I’m pretty sure that 90% of the friendships and relationships I’ve made have started off with shared music interests. I also love the history that music creates. My mom has mix tapes from when she was young, and when we listened to them on car trips, she would tell us the stories behind each song and why it was important to her. I remember snooping through the crawl space in my grand parent’s house and finding crates of “devil music” like Led Zeppelin and The Doors that my uncles had hidden away. I like hearing about how couples find “their” song. I was always thrilled to get a mix as a present, because it was like a little story made just for me. And conversely, I loved to make mixes for other people, and I took the task very serious. Yes, I loved High Fidelity. Nick Hornby is the man.
As I got older, though, music started to carry too much baggage. Lyrics, albums, mix CDs, everything had significant backgrounds and associations with people and places that, eventually, I was trying to move on from. The music that used to give me comfort and commiseration became a landslide of memories and too many feelings. And I felt all of it, all at once, all the time. It began to cut me to my core. Even an inspirational song could turn me into a mess. Shit. I can’t count how many times a song reduced me to tears, giving me goose bumps and heart palpitations. It was exhausting, and really counter to what I was struggling to do in my 20’s, which was “be happy.” So, a few years ago, I gave up on music. I liked a song here and there, but I stopped searching for it, and I stopped investing my energy in it. I downloaded all my old music to iTunes and gave away my CDs. I used my iPod for TV shows and movies, until someone broke into my car and stole it out of the glove box–savages.
So I was half excited, half dreading to open this little Nano and listen to all its treasures. It was definitely like opening a time capsule. The first song that played launched me back to 2001, and then year after year, until I was engulfed. There I was, driving home from college in New York, crying to A Perfect Circle. Singing Tool at the top of my lungs with Leah. Driving around in the rain with Holly, listening to The Killers. Writing a story against a deadline and getting stopped dead in my tracks by Modest Mouse’s Spitting Venom. The Whiskey pool party to the tune of Journey’s Greatest Hits. Every sad or weird moment in my life was documented. Since the screen was blacked out, I couldn’t see what song was playing. Every new track was like Time Warp Music Roulette, and I was hooked. I had my ear buds in from the moment I left our building until the moment I got home from work.
As silly as it sounds, putting music away was one of the few times in my life where I’ve felt actual closure. Compartmentalizing is definitely not something I’m good at, whereas re-hashing and beating the dead horse that is my feelings is something I excel at. So at first, I couldn’t get enough of the time warp. I remembered all the good associations, all the fun and happiness that happened with the music. I liked thinking of those memories, and I re-living the feelings that came with them was like riding the sweetest wave of nostalgia.
A week or so into my music mania, I started feeling sad. It was that indeterminate sad that doesn’t leave, isn’t triggered by anything, and makes your days shitty and worthless. I chalked it up to the crazy homesickness that came with the approaching holidays, and tried to move on, thinking it would be better once the summer was over. But the holidays passed, and it just got worse. I was stuck, dwelling on the past and shit that doesn’t even matter, but becomes all consuming when you’re sad. Everything I wanted to do was coated in layers of apathy, especially the small things I normally do to cheer myself up. Even my exciting rekindling with music was more of drag. I was worried that my depression might be coming back — which was a suuuuper exciting prospect.
I was at work, over-thinking things as usual, when I figured it out. It was a Monday, and I surprisingly woke up that morning feeling a bit more ok than I had been waking up. And I noticed that I had gotten progressively more sad after I started my iPod. And I thought back and realized I would be better at home after work, and over the weekends, but I was worse at work. And it dawned on me. That sweet wave of nostalgia I was riding had crashed and drowned me: music is making me sad. I had gone from a happy nostalgia to a sad nostalgia without even realizing it. It all made sense when I put the two and two together.
So I put the iPod away. That night, I talked to Joel about what was going on, charged my Kindle Fire, and downloaded all the TV shows and movies from our cloud. And that’s how I get through my days at work now, with the Kindle face down, and me listening to it. I’ve seen a drastic improvement to my moods. And my productivity!
Thinking in depressive patterns is a really hard habit to break. I became so accustomed to it, that it felt like normal. Depression is stealthy, and will use any avenue it can to sneak back into your life. I have to work at my perspective and reactions everyday to stay on top of it. I thought I was just feeling homesick for the holidays. But I was actually getting mired in the shittiest parts of my past, thanks to daily reminders coming out of my iPod. I might have missed my family and friends, but I was more focused on hating myself for reasons beyond my control. The music itself isn’t to blame for my sadness, it’s me and the associations I have with it, and how I have a hard time handling those associations. Music still carries the same baggage. And even though I’m in a completely different place in life than I was years ago, some of that baggage is still hard to handle. And that’s okay. It won’t get better with time alone. It’ll get better with the hard work that I put into myself. And that’s also okay.
I’ll be better with music one day. Until then, I have my kindle.