Archive | June, 2020

On dust clouds and mid-life

24 Jun

12:29 pm

So, we live in the vicinity of the Godzilla dust cloud from the Sahara, and um, it is making things almost hilariously apocalyptic. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, considering the pandemic, the BLM protests/riots, and now, one of the worst dust seasons (it is a seasonal thing) in history! I tried jogging the other day and felt like I just had to stop after two miles, I was so…heavy all over. Yesterday, we went to the beach and I almost fell asleep in my chair; this dust makes me tired, which seems like a really strange reaction to me. Sure, I can feel it in my lungs, a tight burning when I breathe; in my eyes, which burn; it gives me a headache; but, falling-asleep-tired? Stranger things have happened, and at this point, I have become sort of used to taking things as they come, in stride, and moving along.

I thought about whether I wanted to write this post, about my mid-life transition, and I am posting a truncated version of what I wrote yesterday. Yes, I want to share, but eh, not in THAT much detail.

Suffice it to say, I was finally able to follow up with my gynecologist and get all that woman stuff taken care of, including blood work to test my hormone levels. As I suspected–things changed this year, and I sort of knew, somehow, in my body/mind that things had changed–I am now menopausal (versus perimenopausal). At the ripe old age of just-turned-46. Haha. It’s all good, and I knew it was coming early for me. Actually, I feel better than I have in almost two years. My night heat (I guess my version of hot flashes will have been this intense burning up at night along with dry chills) has improved and I don’t have insomnia nearly as often as I used to.

The past two or three months, as the night heat has gotten better, I’ve found myself letting go of caring about making it better or controlling it or just worrying about it. It sucks, but I have found ways to cope (cooling showers, deep breathing–yeah, that really does work). Maybe it’s partly a sense of relief and hope–this shit actually DOES get better. When you’re going through it, and can’t find a damn thing online that matches what you’re experiencing, there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.

In general, I feel like I care less about everything, am more willing to just let things go, to stop trying to control everything. Maybe it’s the series of events this year that has made me go, you know, you just cannot control everything/anything, and your reaction–and chain reaction to your reaction–is key to staying sane, at least for me (I don’t have clinical depression or anxiety, so I am not talking about people for whom it’s not as easy as “think positive”). I mean, maybe it’s what our move back to the island taught me recently–there is only so much you have control of here, and so much you can care about or try to change. Maybe it’s the changing nature of our friendships; when you “go home again,” they have changed, and you have to change your expectations (otherwise, you’re just going to be irritated all the time by expectations being not met!).

Mabye it’s the coronavirus, these protests, the fact that I was furloughed from my job. I don’t know, but I am holding on less and less to the idea that I have control or even should care–and that has done wonders for my mood! I am focusing more on the life in front of me, on the “now,” mostly because I don’t have a clear view of the past or the future anymore–I am forgetting/letting go of the past, and the future is way too uncertain to make any predictions.

On the “menopause” (in quotes, because there is no rule book) front, I think I’m relieved to have finally gotten some “answers” (my hormone tests came back showing much different readouts than last year). I am no longer in this limbo, in a way, searching for information, for some kind of absolute truth–it does not exist, and frankly, most of the information out there is conflicting. I chose a gynecologist who seems current in her knowledge and is very pro-treatment/hormone therapy. Others might choose to not take hormones. Both are OK.

The maddening search has ended, mainly because I am through the worst of it (I guess?) but also because I just gave up trying to find what I was looking for, which was my experience! I literally found zero information on my version of “hot flashes,” which are that I burn up at night, have dry chills, but as far as I know, have never had the kind of hot flash that you think of when you think of menopause (drenched in sweat, red, panicky) during the day; I have never had that kind of hot flash, actually…unless it was so slight that I didn’t distinguish it from just being hot.

Anyway, the point is that, it’s gotten better, and as it’s gotten better, I’ve started to care less and hold onto EVERYTHING less, to let things roll off me more–in all aspects of my life, it seems.

I went through a period of mourning, years ago, actually, for my fertility, for my youth; I came to the, gasp, “shocking” realization that I am going to age and die, like everyone else! (Actually, I am glad I had to confront this early on, and not wait until my 50s.) The thing that still makes me a bit sad is that I never shared this experience with anyone. For the most part, I kept it to myself. Sure, my boo knows every detail–thank Goddess, he is cool about it all and offered as much advice and support as he could. However, I’ve never told my mom (a different post, but she would just make it worse), rarely talked about it with close girlfriends, never revealed the emotional aspects to my gynecologist (she was too busy and not interested in that angle). No one seemed to care–moreso, I didn’t want to talk about it myself, actually. I just wanted it to pass so that I could move on with my life.

Yet, it was a HUGE part of the past few years and in some ways, all-consuming: What is happening to my body, why am I burning up every night, will I ever feel normal again?

I’m just glad I’m through it, knock wood. Glad my only symptoms are/were mild, relatively speaking. If there is more to come, I can keep on keepin’ on; no one is going to die, as a hilarious coworker of mine used to say in the face of the extreme–and ridiculous–concern over the building of the company’s website pages. Haha.

I have to say, being an active alcoholic for at least a decade has definitely made my tolerance for pain much higher than the average woman’s! I mean, pfft, a little burning up at night, chills, and waking up after four hours is NOTHING compared to being blackout drunk for 12 hours and then hungover for another 48 (and all the mental anguish, the suicidal thinking, that ensues). NOTHING can be worse than that except maybe paranoid delusions or drug-induced psychosis, in my opinion. So, another silver lining to having been a drunk!

On a different note: I am still off social media–since mid-April–and it feels great. It’s really working for me; literally, it’s doing wonders for my sense of calm, peace of mind, ability to focus on what I need to do, which is stay focused on a job search. And, as for our pup, she is still fighting; she doesn’t have much control anymore over her hind legs, but she is a fighter and has a strong will to live. She has always been a happy dog, a dog who loves life; so, when she lets me know that her pain (so to speak; I think she is more numb back there than in pain) is greater than her will to live, then we’ll think about next steps.

Happy week, all! Thanks for reading this post…

Eight years as Drunky Drunk Girl

15 Jun

11:33 am

I can’t believe it: yesterday was the anniversary of starting my blog, on June 14, 2012, EIGHT YEARS AGO!? It feels a lot longer than it sounds; like, eight years, sure, but eight years ago, I was a totally different person. Mostly for the better, a little bit for the worse.

Frankly, this blog has not only kept me sober, but it’s become a defining experience in my life; for that, I will be forever grateful.

Back then, I was lost and alone, drinking alcoholically, unsure of what I wanted or, even if I did know what it was (I did), too afraid to make the change to get it. One day, though, I DID make that change–I don’t know why the night of June 12, 2012, (and into the wee hours of June 13) was different from other drunken escapades or hangovers; as I wrote in my first post, and as you hear in the rooms, I had just had it. I was done. I was so tired of avoiding what I needed and not getting what I wanted; I was so exhausted of never being able to drink just one…and the ensuing drama that always came with this “failing.” I was tired of failing–others, sure, but mostly myself. I wanted to never black out again, to never say or do the horrendous things I said and did, ever, ever again. And, so it was born; I was re-born in a small studio apartment in the big city where I did my graduate degree and figured I’d live forever (but that I eventually left, after realizing that big city was part of my old drinking self).

I wrote my first blog post during a hellish, two-day hangover. I had no idea that starting my blog would not only allow me to get and stay sober, create an online sober community, and continue into long-term sobriety; but that I would still be blogging, eight years later!? I turned quite a few of my blog posts into story ideas, actually, for my day job (when I was a freelance science journalist). These days, I am not writing journalistic stories, but I still consider the years of 2013-2015 to be precious in terms of how “on fire” I was re: science journalism. Why did I stop? Well, it paid shit and I was burnt; yep, I have come to simply accept that after two years as a freelance journalist–and by then, close to a decade as a journalist–I was tired of it. And, I’m still kind of there; I mean, I think it would take a change in subject matter (back to something that truly intrigues me, like addiction, maybe other areas) to get me to want to interview, transcribe, write, and edit journalistic “stories” again. We’ll see–I mean, there is still a flicker, so that’s encouraging.

This blog–and my sobriety–have allowed, and continue to allow, SO many things. I have grown as a person, a human; I have grown up. I have come to appreciate and be grateful for every moment, everything that I have and that has come my way–mostly due to quitting drinking. I chose to move to an island, to get into freelance writing, to make it work here; I chose a man, a dog (well, dogs) to share my life with; I chose to live consciously and intentionally, regardless of how crazy or sad or neurotic it made/makes me feel sometimes to be sober, to feel alone in how aware I must be all the time. I am proud and grateful for this blog–and, I am indebted, really, to the community that has supported me and encouraged me, HERE, all these years (when others didn’t, when the in-real-life relationships faded away).

The only thing I regret, somehow, is remaining anonymous; however, I promise that one day (soon?), I will come out.

On the “for worse” side, um, I think I’ve just sort of settled into a not-pink-cloud reality; like, I got sober, it was thrilling, and then, all of the sudden, life got real again. And, maybe that coincided with me taking a corporate job and leaving journalism (I did it because I needed to start earning some real money, putting away some real savings). Anyway, I do feel a bit more jaded, or cynical, or maybe just in touch with the day-to-day rhythm of “real life”–it’s not pink clouds forever. On the other hand, that reality is not something I wish wasn’t so; it just is, so this has become an exercise in how to cultivate joy and excitement and “fire”…even when you’ve seemingly plateau’d in your sobriety.

Anyway, I recently learned that my furlough has been extended, likely forever. SO, I will be job searching (and soul searching) the next few days, likely offline.

Stay safe and well, y’all, and I hope everyone has a great start to a grateful week…

This is community, not social media

13 Jun

12:44 pm

Hey, all. SO, I have been offline for a few days–it was my birthday yesterday, and it was one of those semi-perfect days that just unfold because you don’t make a bunch of plans and/or don’t put that much pressure on having the “perfect” day. ANYWAY, I ended up going on Facebook for the first time in literally 60 days, and what did I find?

The short answer is, not much! I only got three birthday messages, which might be because at some point, I hid my birthday from my profile (I don’t remember doing that, but apparently I did). I would normally have been bummed about that, because half the fun of Facebook was counting how many happy birthdays or messages you got from your “friends” on your day. I wasn’t bummed, though; I was just sort of like, eh. Aside from that, I really did not miss anything–maybe one event that I would have liked to have gone to, and maybe one or two things that I would have seen if I had been going on regularly these past two months.

What I didn’t miss was the overwhelming amount of not only useless and irrelevant information, but the inability to normally interact with “people” on the platform (normally, as in, what humans have been used to doing and what we are wired to do, which is thoughtfully and intentionally engage in a a social exchange, not a lobbing of comment here, sentiment there).

What I got in return was this realization that I was taking Facebook WAY too seriously–seeing how I never posted regularly, I can’t really imagine (and don’t want to) what it’s like for people who post everything, all the time. For me, it doesn’t mean that much after having been off for 60 days; when I’m on the ‘book, though, it’s like, that, inside there, becomes my world, the platform takes root in me and just sort of owns my mind, forcing me to seek validation from it.

Anyway, last night, I almost immediately found myself scrolling mindlessly again, not really all that interested in the posts, feeling actually more disconnected from people. I liked finding things out, but I didn’t like it enough–or more than I like/love–how clear and calm and FREE I feel when I’m not participating on this platform. It really just reinforced my desire to keep actually living, with intent; reaching out in person; finding out the news from actual people, local news sources, second-hand from my circles of in-real-life friends who are spending hours a day scrolling, mindlessly. I mean, the point here is that, I was mindless in my scrolling, and it was like, I wasn’t even able to engage with my so-called friends (which is maybe the point of social media, is that, you get to do and say whatever you want, in a relative vacuum). It was an exercise in frustration and disappointment.

I do miss “On this day/Memories,” but I have my photos and journal to remind me of my past life/lives, right? I actually miss my groups, but I can always go on every few months to catch up on those. I did miss a few events–someone’s going-away party; a business down here closing–but, eh, in the grand scheme of things, it’s SO worth the sense of clarity in not knowing everything about people in exchange for missing a few parties or events.

I have started blogging more in the past two months, have reconnected with this community, and truly get something out of blogging and reading/commenting on others’ blogs. It is a real exchange, a true sense of community–nourishing and stimulating rather than draining and boring! I am glad to be blogging more as it’s given me a comparison as to how one can connect and build community virtually, in ways that can actually work (for me, anyway). Social media dos not work, and I believe that it’s partly due to the lack of true exchange, a lack of anything but short sound bites (from you) and insincere replies (from others), insincere because no one is all that invested in you, in-real-life, unless you are actually friends (at which point, ya don’t really use Facebook to sustain your friendship, you call and/or hang out!).

Anyhoo, I had a good birthday: we actually went to a restaurant, where the tables were six feet apart, parties were limited to six people, and the servers has to wear masks. I mean, I felt fine, not in any way scared or paranoid. We have only had about 75 positive test cases in our area, which could be because there just haven’t been that many people tested rather than we just didn’t have the community spread that other places had. I will say that my family (living in multiple different US states) are really, truly scared. And, I don’t envy the sense of fear and paranoia that’s sort of infected the mainland alongside the coronavirus. I cannot comment on if that fear has been stoked, but I can say that people here are, in general, used to natural disasters like hurricanes (and the ensuing make-the-best-of-the-chaos-and-keep-living mentality that comes with these events) and therefore, I think, more community-oriented (what’s mine is yours, and vice versa; there were no land-grabbing wars around toilet paper here when the shortage arrived). That being said, it’s just going to take a while for things to go back to normal, but, they will; they very much will, whether we are ready for it or not.

Happy Saturday, all–may it be peace-full…

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

About expectations

4 Jun

8:05 pm

The other day at the beach, I was thinking about depression, and how (my) expectations always seem to have some play in it. I want to preface this by saying, I am only talking about myself, and I know there is a difference between clinical depression and feeling down or low. That being said, I think there is a significant connection between unmet expectations and depression.

Admittedly, I would say that I tend toward depression. WHICH IS WHY, I believe, I tend to two-dimensionalize people. I mean, if I don’t embrace their fullness, they won’t be able to touch me, to let me down, to disappoint me. However, being let down–having my expectations not met–is a construct of my mind: if I did not create these expectations, there would be no letting down. I think we all naturally tend to expect things, from people, sure, but from general situations as well (which boils down to people). It’s just, a lot of the time, these expectations only create problems, usually for us and usually around our reactive thoughts and feelings! It’s ironic that even though expectations totally involve other people, most of the time, these other people have nothing to do with it!

Yes, there is ruminative thinking, which I do and which does get me down; black-and-white, this-or-that, catastrophic thinking does get me down. However, over the course of getting sober and recognizing these thinking patterns, I’ve learned how to better manage these looping thoughts.

On the other hand, creating expectations in my mind–thoughts that have been collected and put into present and future scenarios that will affect me, is how I’ll describe them–these are more difficult to recognize and ultimately, let go. For instance, I get pissed because a friend doesn’t behave the way I would have behaved, or wanted her to behave. That does not mean, however, that she should have behaved the way I expected or wanted her to behave! I would say that my expectations contribute more to feeling frustrated and walled in (depressed?) than ruminative thinking. And, I am trying to work on getting rid of my expectations–and getting rid of this belief that somehow, my expectations are naturally good, or moral, or healthy!

Anyway, it’s been a long week, with all the protests, the COVID, the Man in Orange. It’s hard, but I just try to absorb as much as I can tolerate, and then, compartmentalize it and/or let it go. I have to remind myself, I can have good days while also fully recognizing that the shit is hitting the fan on both sides!

On a different note, I am getting more and more used to not working, and feeling less and less confident in my desire (and ability) to work! I mean, I know that taking a forced break can lead to lethargy, but these days…let’s just say, the job boards are not lighting up.

Stay on track, let it go, and remember to look up at the moon.

(btw, how awesome was the SpaceX launch? something to be truly proud of, in the midst of all this destruction)

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