Sometimes I feel positively glorious

In the interests of providing a little contrast to the bleak and bitter here’s me making an effort to recall times that I felt absolutely high on life… Because sometimes this is me, sometimes I am fearless, social, confidant and poised.

#1

It was a huge backyard and that night a pair of DJ’s were tucked into the open garage, fairy lights were draped in all the trees. There was a small bonfire in the middle of the driveway and bench seats/tables dotted the deep green expanse of lawn allowing for moments of seclusion and conversation. Close friends and total strangers were mingling, all friendly, all happy, a sense of positive energy permeated everything. I slipped from group to group chatting, exchanging compliments, anecdotes, and side-hugs, laughing and offering glasses of champagne from the bottles stashed in my over-sized handbag. I must have spoken to every person there. I met so many kind people, and a couple of very friendly small dogs. The air was crisp, the stars were bright, bright, white and it seemed they were sparkling just for me.

#2

He opened the door of the bar, held it wide for me, and the music rushed out at me and filled up my heart, just as the smell of drink and bodies and warmth enveloped me. My head fell back at the rush of sensory data, I inhaled the bar deep into my lungs, and as I stepped across the threshold I sang along to the stereo in drunken abandon, at full volume. I was drunk on the moment and I saw nothing but a film-style blur of faces and bodies as I swayed through the swarm towards the bar, I sang on to the final note of the song, then smiled at the bartender “Hi!” He made me prove my sobriety before he’d serve me, a fair call. As I waited for my drink not one but three strangers approached me to tell me they thought my voice was extraordinary, that I’d just made their night, to ask me if I was in a band. I glowed with the high of the praise all evening, enmeshed in a sense of communal well-being and joy.

#3

The boardroom was over-full, my boss, my bosses boss, his boss, and an array of people on their levels, only a handful of people on mine. A room full of suits, cologne, and styled hair and little ol’ me waiting to step into a spot-light not of my choosing. They all talked, empty vague words betraying their lack of basic comprehension of the topic at hand. I listened and my confidence grew – I know more than them, and my boredom also grew – patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. Finally they began to settle and I spoke into the relative quiet with the pep of a high-school gym teacher, “Shall we get started?” I spoke for three hours, an hour and a half of prepared material and an hour and a half of Q&A, I rode high on a wave of confidence as I acted out my very best impression of my very best Consultant. I took questions with a considered ease and backed myself with statistics, I referred questions to my peers for details when required, and credited the work of others when it applied. Everybody walked out on the same page as me, everybody walked out happy. I ran that meeting like a goddamn pro, and I walked out feeling like a queen. I couldn’t remember the details of what I’d said, but the buzz lasted me days temporarily banishing my impostor syndrome and leaving me calm.

 

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TMI – of Lexapro & Periods

I just experienced a slew of very, very, bad days, but, and I say this with caution and mild suspicion, today was good.

Since beginning Lexapro my relationship with my monthly hormonal cycle has become a confusing roller-coaster. Last month I had no period at all, this month I seemed to have six months worth of periods all at the same time. It has been an absolute horror show of cramps, headaches, nausea, exhaustion, depression, and enough blood to make a girl question if she ought to report to the emergency room. Seriously. I looked like an NCIS crime-scene victim.

On the upside I’ve definitely been sleeping! On the downside I’ve done virtually nothing else for the last seven days. I think my cat got worried about me, rather than sleeping at the far corner of my bed in a tight little ball he curled up against my chest and allowed me to wrap an arm around him, occasionally patting my face with a soft paw to wake me up for his meals. But today I sprung out of bed in the morning and he is back to his feisty self, currently napping on top of my wardrobe, no more cuddles.

Today I did two loads of laundry and prepared myself healthy meals, today I had a shower, today I colored for stress relief and watched some B-grade science fiction on Netflix. Today I did not take a depression nap in the middle of the day, and I did take all of my prescription meds. Today I reached out to my landlord about a problem with the plumbing in my apartment, and today I didn’t beat myself up for not calling sooner.

I don’t know if I should see my doctor about trying a different medication, as much as Lexapro has done wonders for my anxiety the sleep issues and the hormonal issues it’s causing are just destroying me, and there is no way that I can hold down a full time job with these problems. You can’t take a week off every month to lie in bed bleeding (you ought to be able to, but here we are.) If only we could find a way to treat the side-effects…

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Today I left the house

I was feeling so energetic that I walked all the way to the shops! Granted it was a nervous energy that drove me and I walked up the street in a rapid jolting pace in my dark glasses and big black hat, but I did it, and I made it there and back unharmed, unmolested.

I lost my breath in the health food isle, I lost my balance, my heart fluttering in my throat like a moth beating itself against a hot globe, it was a few seconds of confusion before recognition clicked – oh hai, panic attack. But I held on literally and figuratively, and I took some steadying breaths, I reminded myself that if I needed to just put down my basket and leave then I could, I reminded myself that I was safe, but that it was okay to freak out if I really needed to. And the chattering faded back down to background noise.

When I got home I looked in the mirror and saw that my jaw was shaking, looked down and saw my hands were too. And I think I’ve used up all my spoons for the day. But I did it. Ha. Cop that psychological monsters. I got shit done.

Today I am grateful for:

  • Harissa
  • Clean water
  • Sunglasses
  • Determination
  • Big black boots that make me feel like a badass
  • Amy Lee cover songs

Changes

Four days ago I made a change – I dropped dairy and eggs out of my diet. I am now a completely plant-powered human. At the same time I’ve started tracking/managing my caloric intake (no more 2,000 one day and 0 the next,) and I’m sourcing as many of those calories as I can from whole-foods.

It’s only been four days, but I think that it’s sustainable for me and I know that it’s healthy. I’m glad that I’m no longer participating in animal agriculture and its environmental and ethical problems. And I’m wondering if the sudden influx of micro-nutrients along with the removal of animal fats is going to have much of an impact on my physiological state. So far exercising my compassion feels good, making a decision feels good, taking control over a facet of my life feels good.

I was a vegetarian for twenty years before going vegan, and accounts of this particular transition are few and far between online. It seems the normal evolution is omnivore > vegan, no stops in between. So, I guess at least there are no expectations to be dashed, and I’ll discover it as I go.

My sleep cycle is changing again, on the upside so far this week I have been sleeping ~8 hours in each 24 hour cycle (huzzah!) the downside is that those 8 hours aren’t falling where I’d like them too – the last two days I’ve failed to sleep at night but fallen asleep against my will around 11am. I resolve right now that however little I may sleep tonight, I am not going to be a day-sleeper tomorrow – I will drag myself out of the house if need be.

The day I started eating vegan is the day I started sleeping 8 hours. It’s far too early, and there are far too many variables for me to draw any genuine conclusions but, I think I’m literally sleeping easier.

Today I am grateful for…

  • Nutritional Yeast
  • My kitty housemate
  • Aloe Vera facial masks
  • Chia seeds
  • Music
  • Hope

My path is crooked.

I spent four weeks in solitude. I spoke only to my cat. I fasted, and stopped bathing. I lay listening to the blood in my veins for hours. I lost track of time and all other things we use to measure reality. I began to feel like a ghost, haunting herself. Occasionally I dreamed; I remembered things I had forgotten, cruelties to the child I used to be and I awoke to a tear-soaked pillow in fresh agony each time. I tried to comfort her/me.

The last few days were the beginning of emergence, a clumsy crawl out of a chrysalis, still forming, wings sopping wet… I feel as though I’m slowly, slowly, rediscovering myself and re-calibrating my sense of place within the world. The process is so organic and slippery I daren’t try to grasp, grab, pull myself forward in case it all just dissolves. But there have been tiny steps forward, a fluttering of wings, and hope is stirring in my chest.

I slept four nights in a row and woke up without a battle each day. I washed my hair and cleansed my skin to nurture myself. I fed myself a bounty of plants and whole-grains and fruit. I drank down water til I was sated. I said to myself in a tiny rasping fearful whisper I love you. I walked to the end of my street. I let a friend come to visit me. And I created art with passionate urgency.

The little victories of compassion built one upon another until last night, the restlessness in my belly returned, one long low wattage panic spilling adrenaline into my veins like fire, leaving me trembling and sleepless. I write this heavy-lidded, thoughts slow moving as syrup, but – I write this. And tomorrow might be better.

butterfly

If I responded to cat-callers the way my cat would…

…there would be a trail of bloodied, traumatized men behind me. Luckily for them, women are not in fact cats.

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I felt so good at the start of today, I felt elated, I went for a walk early in the morning and the air smelled clean, my body felt like my own and it felt capable, I felt like a past version of myself – out in the world, being strong-willed and engaged and sane. But then events unfolded and enfolded me in them and they derailed my good mood. And I’ve been fighting off the fugue ever since, I think I’m loosing the battle today. I’m sitting here with my cat now, and it’s warm and it’s safe but I feel trapped in my house by my fears. And I’m not sure if I’ll make it outside again this week.

Today I cared for myself, I; 

  • Got up on time (I didn’t sleep, but I’m not tired)
  • Showered and washed my hair
  • Put on an outfit that made me happy (a pretty dress and combat boots)
  • Cooked myself a healthy breakfast (toast and a poached egg)
  • Played with Mr Kitty for half an hour
  • Went for a walk outside
  • Pottered around the local shops
  • Made myself lunch
  • Listened to some classic Ani DiFranco and sang along

Today’s hardest moment came upon me as I was walking up the street, I felt it first in my fists as my hands clenched and then I registered the sound of footsteps staggering behind me and a gruff voice with an alcoholic whine growling out obscenities at the world. And then anxiety was quickening my heart and tugging at my insides pulling me forward, speeding my pace with a growing need to escape. I got to a crossing and paused, used the moment between pushing the button and waiting on the light to glance out to the middle distance on my left with a feigned casualness which he saw through immediately, “Fat Slut! Whore! I’m not going to jump you bitch! You’re fat, nobody wants you! I don’t want you!”

The out of focus glimpse showed me a short, gaunt, male figure limping rapidly towards me, I didn’t react to him externally. I just crossed the street, but I could hear him following me, yelling louder now, “SLUT! BITCH! Fuck You! Frigid Bitch!” I sped up even more blessed with long legs and comfortable shoes, but it was too early for the stores to be open so no safe haven appeared. “Fucking whore I could have you if I wanted to! Slut! BITCH!” I chose my ‘higher ground’ – a glass-walled bus stop that I could stand in facing the street with my back comfortingly to a wall, I pulled out a cigarette, I lit it, smoked, and braced myself for confrontation. “WHORE!” I reminded myself that it was perfectly acceptable to defend myself by any means afforded to me, that it was okay to fight dirty, and a few moments later he passed by, he grunted at me then said “HA!” loudly in my face – I didn’t make eye contact, he moved on.

I stayed where I was. I got on the next bus and went a few stops watching out the window to ensure I was well past him before getting off and then went into a shop to fake-browse in safety for awhile. I pried my fists open, I took a few deep breaths, my heart gradually slowed down to a normal pace. Still hyper-aware, but no longer on the brink of fight-or-flight, I walked back out into daylight, and went on with my day…

I went into the mall and did some grocery shopping, I was wandering around just looking in store windows trying to get my mind right and considering what I needed to buy, when a very tall and broad shouldered man walked out in front of me, blocking my path. I stopped and looked at him questioningly, he looked me up and down provocatively and said “Awwww, girrrl.” My heart sank, I looked away at the ground and I walked around him, too tired to be more direct than that about my disinterest. He trailed along after me and followed me into two shops in succession, hanging out in my peripheral vision, not shopping, just staring at me smiling, in the second store I frowned at him but he was not discouraged, he said “Smile for me bae-bee.”

Beginning to panic I headed to the wide-open center of the building and started looking around for security, he was coming up to me from the side cutting off the exit doors in the manner of wolves running down prey in nature documentaries, saying “Hiiii, hey girrrrl” when I saw, and bee-lined towards, a security guard. The man kept pace with me for quite a few steps before he figured out what I was doing and huffed loudly “Okay, ok girl, Jesus.” and changed his direction. I stopped a few paces on, fear still cold in my veins and stared at the security guard a few feet away – his posture was attentive, his eyes were following the man as he walked away from me, then he looked to me and made eye contact, gave me a sympathetic smile and a nod. I gave him a tight smile and fought back tears. He said something to me but it didn’t register, I just gave him the same half-smile half-grimace and walked away sweat-soaked and tunnel-eyed.

Adrenaline was my companion until I got home and locked the door behind me, and now I feel weak, I feel sad, I feel like crying again just writing this out. It’s so fucking exhausting. I’m trying so goddamn hard and these assholes have to show up and go out of their way to chase me – I mean, physically chase me… what. the. actual. fuck. goes through their minds? What kind of world do we live in where I am not allowed to just taser the bastards? (jk. sort of.) If there had been a third incident today I think I would have snapped, I think I would have screamed and shouted and made a huge scene and escalated the situation. I was on the brink of some sort of primal instinctual freak out – I still kind of want to scream now, just let out a great big “ARRGHHhghHHHh LEAVE ME ALONE! GET AWAY FROM ME! GO AWAY YOU OBSTINATE OBTUSE FUCKER!”

I just want to be safe, I just want to be allowed to be in public spaces without being viewed as an object for consumption.

humph.

Even Playboy knows cat calling is a bad idea…

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Of pills and employment

I have a beer, and cigarettes, and my cat’s taken my spot on the couch.

I went to the doctor today and she prescribed a new sleeping pill because the melatonin didn’t work, I’m going to try it tonight, I have everything crossed for it – fingers and toes.

I had a real estate agent inspection today and I realized about 15 minutes before they were due to arrive that I should probably hide my assortment of medications. I shoved them all into my underwear draw. It felt strange.

I went to the pharmacist today to get the shiny new sleeping aide and a repeat on my Valium, it was a different person to usual, much older, and when he grumpily went through my meds he loudly exclaimed “VALIUM!” it made a couple standing nearby scurry away, eyes averted. He had nothing to tell me about the Valium, he just felt like shouting it. I stared him down. I said nothing. I’m not really doing emotions at the moment.

I was fired this week – too many days out sick and a really bitchy micro-manager who was looking for an excuse to get rid of me. She giggled when she said “It must seem terrible to you, that I would terminate a person while they’re having health issues.” I said “Yup” because it was true, which momentarily removed her smile. She reminds me of that nasty teacher with the cat fixation in the Harry Potter books. Oh well.

How do I get up?

I am an agoraphobic, hypersomniac mess just now.

I haven’t left the house in a week, I’ve been asleep for most of that time. Feeding my cat is the only reason I’ve been getting out of bed at all. I don’t know how to haul myself out of this. I haven’t managed to contact the EMDR specialist my psychologist recommended, though I did manage to get to my GP for a referral on that last day I left the house. I still feel tired. I’m scared to go back to work I’ve been so useless and absent for so long.

Going outdoors is scary right now, the idea of being one more human commuting to the city pretending to be sane/okay/normal seems intolerable, I don’t feel capable of living ‘my life’, it all feels unnatural and fake, my clothes, make-up, hair, feel like an artifice. A part of me just wants to scream, wants to cause a scene, wants to shout and rant about the injustices of the world – how do we go on acting the way we do when so many horrible things are going on? How am I supposed to just get up and put a smile on my face and act like everything is okay when I’ve been through what I have? I feel like I ought to be taking up a sword and going into a battle, channeling this sense of injustice and rage against an enemy. But I can’t. This isn’t an era with an enemy you can point at and go out and fight with swords. And in any case I think my enemies are within. Depression feels like truth, anxiety feels like common sense.

I have to do something… I know this isn’t a tenable state of being, nor is it pleasant, but how do I break free of the muck? I know that I need to just get up, but how do I “just get up”? How do I put my mask back on?

All of the short term goals and tasks in the world seem unachievable, I feel wretched, and I feel so much guilt over all of it. All I want to do is go back to sleep. How am I even this depressed when I’m on anti-depressants?

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Working with very limited spoons

When things get bad (as they have lately,) I break my to do list down to the most granular level that I can, and I give myself imaginary points for every task that I complete. Just waking up at a reasonable hour scores me a few points, getting of bed scores more, and this way I can recognize and celebrate even the tiniest achievement – it lets me feel a sense of accomplishment when I need it the most.

I used to use hand-written lists, but these days I work online it’s easier on my hands, highly portable, and password protected. I add all the little ‘to do’ tasks to a virtual task board and I color code them – pepto-bismol pink for medical, bright green for healthy habits, yellow for personal administration, bright red for stressful, etc, and plop them all into a ‘backlog’ list. Every item can have as many labels as are applicable, I add due dates to appointments, and checklists to tasks that need them (e.g. “go to the damn grocery store”.)

For every 24 hour period (that I am awake in,) I move a selection of those tasks into a list titled ‘today’, and I make sure that every today list includes as much of the rainbow as possible, and no more red tasks than I think I have the spoons for. At the end of the day I celebrate every task that I can move into my ‘Complete’ list. I keep the Complete list running cumulatively so that over time I have a cool visual of just how much I’ve managed to achieve – reflecting on it inspires me.

If you’re curious about trying this out for yourself then I recommend Trello, it’s free and easy to use. (This post is not sponsored, I just think it’s good software.)  I find this practice really activates those ol’ reward circuits in my brain, and I notice that the longer I keep at it, the more I manage to pack into each day.

/this ends the out of character practicality, your regular programming of cursing and introspection will return shortly.

Kitty!

Sleep: I spent about 48 hours awake and then slept from 7pm until 7pm, I skipped a day, I wonder what it was like. 

Today I went to my local cat shelter. He was in a cage when I met him, hiding under an over-turned kitty bed looking out at me with big round golden eyes and flattened ears. I let him sniff my hand and then stroked his extended paw, he curled his claws around my finger and held on. I picked him up and he tucked his head under my chin, held on tight with his front paws, and purred a very soft little purr.

He is a beautiful champagne-ginger mackerel tabby, he’s 7-ish years old but still very small, and he’s hiding under my couch right now purring. He was taken in off the street by the shelter a couple of weeks ago, they neutered him just two days ago and gave him all his shots, flea, and worming treatments. He’s cuddly when he wants to be, but he’s a fellow introvert and loves to hide, I think he will become more of a lap cat once he feels at home. I’ve set-up lots of blanket caves and comfy spots for him, and shown him where the water, food, and litter are. I told him is very beautiful, and that he is safe here. He’s very quiet, my tiny ginger ghost. I hope he feels welcome.