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And…2021? What?

2 Jan

11:59 am

I remember when it was Y2K! Haha. Remember that? Y2K. Remember when that was a thing–I mean, almost as “big” of a thing as Covid? Ahh, to think that we were worried about that, when THIS was what was in store for us, 21 years later.

Jesus, 21 years?

Um, 21 years is sounding like a LONG time to me, at this very moment. Of course, lately, since my dad has been having dementia-related memory problems–and as we (meaning, my brothers and myself) learn how to talk to him in a way that is helpful and constructive–it’s got me thinking a lot about time, aging, and the reliability and (d)evolution of our memories as we get older. Sometimes I wonder if I have some form of early-onset dementia–organizing and cataloguing my thoughts just makes me feel irritated, and I definitely have had moments lately where I’m like, wait, why don’t I remember every gory detail anymore of what happened when?

It’s been saddening, shocking, and angering–yup; this feels like grief, as in, all of the sudden, you’re angry at the thing before you melt into tears (on the inside)–to watch my dad’s mind stop working. And, as a life scientist, I do wonder what is happening up there, with all those neurons. His thought patterns remind me a lot of someone in a blackout; he does not remember minute to minute, sometimes second to second, yet, he is present, conversing, and remembering other things. I noticed that his sense of sequential time is all mixed up, too; sometimes, he’ll recycle the same words or conversations that we have had more than once, months ago, as if he is still there, in that moment. Maybe he is? The other night–he was tired, and I’ve read that people with dementia “sun down” and get looser and more confused at nighttime–he kept saying the same thing, in response to anything I asked him; and, it was totally unrelated to anything. He has been fixated on a couple of things–getting out, and getting to the cordless phone at the nursing station so that he can call strangers to get him out–since Thanksgiving, when he was in the first ER/hospital. He was uber-combative then. Now, he seems to just have accepted what is, or, he has more awareness and/memory around why he is inside to begin with (I guess?).

It’s all really, really hard to understand, what’s going on in his brain. We are doing our best, trying to get him from point a to b to c–some days, I feel really deflated, like someone stunned me (the same feeling I had after the hurricanes ripped through our area and tore many a house down). Some days, like tonight, I rally, do what I am supposed to, and stay on track (tonight, I had to start looking at community-based residential facilities, which is just SO, so sad; with my dad, it’s definitely going to be like putting a rare creature who is used to running on the African savannah into a cage in a zoo). Fortunately, I have my brothers to lean on…

Otherwise, yeah, 2021 feels…a bit quiet so far. It was a busy holiday season, actually, since we did almost everything we usually do as well as I had this whole Dad situation to think about. We had a nice dinner at a friend’s place, went sailing on a catamaran (well, the captain motored us around!), and managed to get to three beaches (it’s been like, hurricane-windy here for the past week, which does not make for great beach days). Many days last week, I vowed to give up writing; most nights, I remembered how grateful I am to have a (writing) job to go back to come Monday (my contract was extended). I watched a movie and started watching “Long Strange Trip”–I can’t believe how young Jerry Garcia was when he died!

I managed to patch up a rough spot with a friend of mine, love more on our neighbor dog–we have a special connection since she was my Best Girl’s “angel”–and just lounge around with our new pup on my lap (he is quite the needy boy!). I’ve been running, too, but the hills are not easy on the knees and uh, I have some residual joint pain from the estrogen patch (sure of this; I have no clue why estrogen replacement therapy would cause your body to react as if its joints were arthritic, and I have honestly stopped wondering–see, is this dementia? I am just too tired to care anymore; I am not dying, so all is well, right?).

We actually masked up and went out for sushi on New Year’s Eve; it was quiet around town, and we were home and in our jammies by 10:30. LOL. I really Could Not Even with this year’s New Year’s Eve; I mean, everything was messed up, tossed around, twisted into a new shape during 2020, so, “celebrating” NYE took on a different meaning for me this year, as in, who really cares? Haha.

I haven’t felt much like dwelling on the literal lately, as I said–and so, it’s been hard to come up with some sort of “yearly word.” At first, I was like, God, I’m too tired to care. However, the more I journaled today, the more I felt something brewing…

This year might just be about finally letting go of my expectations, my past projects and goals and dreams–and setting new ones that I want to do, that fit, that feel right. And, if they stop feeling right, move on. It’s like, I don’t have the energy to hang onto my old self and old dreams anymore, you know? Maybe because my heart feels crushed by watching my dad lose his mind?

One of my fondest memories of my dad keeps coming back to this (and, it makes me want to cry every night, because I look up at the sky every night): because he was a trained merchant marine (a sailor), he knew the night sky very well. He knew a lot of things very well, and he could entertain people endlessly with his facts and figures. Anyway, whenever we’d be outside on a summer night on the farm, looking up at the stars–so many, so bright–he’d point and say, Look, that’s Sirius. There, that’s Benetnash and Mizar; there’s Alioth, Megrez, Phad, Merak, Dubhe–all the stars in the Big Dipper. It was ridiculous because, well, most people never even heard of these stars let alone could point them out in the night sky.

Maybe that’s why I go out now, and look up; I want to remember him.

And, I want him to remember, too. I want him to look up, to see the night sky, to remember pointing up, There, that’s Benetnash and Mizar; there’s Alioth, Megrez, Phad

The parent trap

5 Dec

10:12 pm

No, not the movie. MY parents–or, rather, parent…though, both have their issues.

I haven’t really felt like writing lately, considering work and life. We did have a nice Thanksgiving–with old friends and new, a small group; so far, so good re: Covid–and I took a SWEET day off to go hiking with a friend. It was THE best thing I’ve done in a while, to get out of my ‘hood, my house, my head for the entire day, to spend it talking and walking and swimming with a new friend. Today, we went by the shelter to check on our new boy–YES, we’ve finally decided that we’re ready to welcome a new dog! We get to take him home on Monday. (Actually, it was my boo’s pick, so I guess I should say, HE is ready to have a son again. I had my eye on another dog at the shelter, but when I walked her today, I just didn’t feel like we had a connection; I feel bad for her, since she’s been there a year, but…I don’t know if I am ready yet. My old dog, who we put down almost four months ago, was such a smart, ridiculous friend–she was part chow, part shepherd, and I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a girl like her again, so maybe I should lower my expectations? It might be that I’m just not ready for another pup yet…)

Other stuff hasn’t been so good or easy, but I’ll get through this, too. The older I get, the more I realize that I will get through anything; and, a positive, selfless (as in, it’s not about ME, ever; I don’t ever have to choose to take anything personally) attitude goes a long way toward keeping self, others, and events in perspective. However, this thing with my dad has really thrown me for a loop!

Past couple months, shit has truly hit the fan with my dad. To summarize, he has always had what I would call a personality disorder (the closest I can come to describing him is narcissistic–like, according to Wikipedia, he has all three of these: exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy; in fact, I would say his lack of empathy has always almost bordered on sociopathy, mainly because he has often had very little regard for others’ well being and he lies a lot). BUT, he’s also had lifelong UNTREATED bipolar disorder (yeah, it took me until 40 years old to unravel my issues from growing up with that shit!), which seems to have morphed into a full-blown dementia somewhere between five years ago and now–which seemed to be kicked into high gear by going under general anesthesia during a recent hip surgery (in fact, he has had serious mood/personality changes from past surgeries, too, it seems).

Anyway, it’s been a trip trying to deal with him because he’s not incompetent, but…he can’t do what he used to do (work-wise) OR take care of himself anymore. It’s very bad; I don’t really have the energy to go into details, but he is 100% unable to take care of himself (as in, he does not shower, he has not been eating, he didn’t think it was a big deal that he has no heat–it’s freezing cold where he lives now), and he seems 100% incapable of making rational decisions, of executive level thinking. Yet, he is also 100% in denial about this and does not believe anything is wrong.

Tomorrow, a social worker is coming to the house; I guess she will interview him and make the decision on whether to send him to a care facility. It will be interesting to see if and how he takes that; he has been extra-belligerent with my step-mom, and there is NO forcing him to do anything. I don’t know. It’s interesting to wonder about all the mental health stuff–I had no idea that people could pass for so long, as in, hide their dementia; I had no idea that dementia can include all sorts of mental changes, like delusional thinking that can be so very subtle that you don’t distinguish it from “normal” personality-disordered thinking; I had no idea that untreated mental health disorders can actually cause issues like this or wreak havoc later (he’s only 73; pretty young to be this bad, right?).

I have spent hours on the phone with him, my brothers (yep, plural; first time I have talked to the one brother who wrote me off in 3.5 years–eh, I am so over it that I felt next to nothing), my step-mom, trying to get him to understand that he needs care, that he can’t go home–he has no bridges left to burn, and at this point, I am not sure what the future holds for him.

I have thought once or twice about how this would feel if I had wine to rely on for escape; probably just more muddled and overwhelming. No, thanks–I like the extreme clarity re: other people’s “crazy” that being sober affords me these days! It has caused me some anxiety, though…

Anyway…just a short post. Even though I haven’t blogged much lately, I am always reading and following your posts, so keep ’em coming!

A painful truth vs a beautiful lie

21 Nov

9:23 pm

One day last week–sorry, it’s been SO LONG since I’ve posted a blog; I’ve been buried under work, the kind that makes me not want to read or write for “fun” after the day is over–I came across someone’s meme on Facebook that read: You hate me (haha; only on the ‘book can you feel assaulted and insulted after three words of a half-read meme) because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.

Ouch. And, huh.

Well, for one, I don’t hate this person (or anyone, for that matter!) and I really haven’t been thinking about it all that much–her life, I guess, and how it’s turned out these past oh, 30 years since she got pregnant at 16 and dropped out of high school (and went on to build a nice life and family, btw)–but, now that you mention it; yeah, it’s kind of true. Not the hating anyone part, but the difference between beautiful lies and painful truths *on social media*.

The sad (to me) reality is, we don’t ever tell or talk about our painful truths. I mean, not really. Not ever, really. And, I guess that’s the challenge of authentic living–how to talk about your painful truths without scaring people away. I am still figuring that one out, but, I will say, social media turns that battle even more uphill because of what it encourages, which are glossy, doctored misrepresentations of a life. It’s not real!

I think I might just need to take a break from Facebook again…

Speaking of real, things are still pretty real here. It’s been quite the trip these past four months/three effing years (haha), trying to “balance my hormones.” After years of dealing with the most disturbing symptoms of perimenopause (which, after going on some Facebook groups, mine have not been bad at all, compared to what some other women go through), nothing really scares me about it anymore. However, I have kind of resigned myself to the fact that, it’s just going to take trial and error, time, and hopefully, not becoming an exhausted lunatic before either *I* get my “hormones balanced” once and for all, or, they balance themselves out over time.

The insomnia comes hard the majority of nights, and I usually don’t get more than three hours in a row–it truly sucks, but there is beauty in those wee morning hours. I see new constellations now–a reminder that a whole season has passed since I was sitting on the floor next to my dying dog, trying to comfort her as she freaked out all night. I find solace in knowing that the light I see is ancient, some of it from sources that have long since burned out; that that light will be here LONG after I am gone. There is immense beauty in getting a momentary glimpse of what is really here, which is so much bigger than me, and my life, and my dog’s much shorter life. I don’t know.

On a different note, today marks ONE year since we flew back here–a place that we lived for many years, left for about two, and then came back to last year (we moved back into the same house, with our old furniture even!?). It’s been a strange year, actually, and not just because of the Covid. It’s been a year of, well, painful truths, honestly. Good truths, but still painful ones. I feel like the vast majority of people we called friends here have either moved on physically/literally or just aren’t really friends anymore. Maybe they weren’t to begin with? I feel like I have aged two decades in two years and am really done with passive aggressive behavior.

Good also came: I was forced out of a job by the Covid but ended up finding well, a better job. I am slowly but surely getting over putting our dog to rest (sweet girl!) and becoming ready to love a new furry best friend again. I would never in a lifetime have volunteered to make the turkey, but–this year, I feel safe enough in my own skin and um, cooking abilities, to have put that into motion! I am heading up the Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing-making! What? Yup! Add a key lime pie to the mix (I swapped desserts for drinking when I first got sober), and we’re going to be very good to go next week. (we are doing a small thing, just a few close friends who practice safe Covid’ing)

Yeah, so, that’s it, in a nutshell. I mean, lots more on the parents front–aging sucks; mental health disorders left untreated over the course of a lifetime suck even more!–but I will save that for another Saturday night. 🙂

Happy sober weekend, all!

Quiet mind time

19 Jul

4:34 pm

I took a few days off this blog, just to quiet my mind. It’s helped, among other things.

Lately, I’ve gotten off Facebook (mostly; I went on the other day, and I ended up “using” it in the same way I would a bottle of red wine, all at once and nothing at all); I’ve been trying to focus on the few job prospects that I have leads on (rather than continuing to troll the job boards, day in and day out); and I’ve sort of distanced myself from some other people’s drama (not to be mean, but out of needing to stay centered on maintaining my own mental health in the time of COVID).

Whew, just writing it all down makes my head spin. Over the years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into sharing my getting-sober process–sometimes, re-reading my blog makes me go, Wow, I can’t believe how thoughtful I was back then, but at the same time go, What happened to me, I can’t even figure out what’s for dinner anymore? I’ve spent a career consuming information, wrangling my head around science writing, and in general, trying to stay on top of my own tendency to overanalyze everything, thought-wise. I am kind of burnt out on it, to be honest. I just want to take a step back sometimes and embrace what is around me–my “right now,” I guess you could call it.

What IS around me is glorious: bright pinkish-red hibiscus flowers springing randomly out of a bush just outside my window; several bunches of mangoes, hanging from a neighboring big-leafed tree. There is green all around me, actually, from the bush right outside, lining our walkway, in all shapes and sizes; to the hillsides covered in greening foliage (it’s been a long dry season; soon, the rains will really green up the bush); to the water below, which can range from bright baby-blue to green-tinged or deep blue-black.

We went on a boat trip yesterday, and it was tiring but nice; SO nice to just remove my mind, take it off its usual course, and train it on the sun and wind and water, on blue and yellow and bright-white. I sometimes think it’d be SO NICE to silence my mind forever, to stop all my thoughts before they start. Then, of course, I get to thinking, should I completely discard my thoughts? Maybe some of them are worth holding onto? Right now, I write it all down, then let most of it go; maybe one day, I’ll be able to just let it go.

Lately, I’ve been job searching; trying to read (eh); wondering if I should start freelance pitching again (eh); and, kind of spending my time just trying to set up a new normal. I had a “normal” with my old job–which allowed me little time (and so, no option!) to freelance or work on personal writing projects–but now, the slate is blank, so… It’s up to me to draw some new pictures, to create a new normal. It can feel intimidating, sure, but that’s where staring off into space once in a while helps; centering on the sound of the waves, the neighborhood dogs barking, the roosters crowing; turning it all off and heading out to the water–turning it off and realizing the power of embracing the silence, the stillness, the calm.

It starts with forgiving yourself

13 Jul

1:35 pm

So, as I was powering–yes, I believe I can use that word today!–up and down the hills here on a HOT and HUMID (af) jog, I started to think about how I got here, to being sober and being able to go jogging after a night of 3.5 hours horrible perimenopause sleep (there was some rage, too).

How did I get here? Simple: I forgave myself. Of course, it wasn’t simple or easy, and I am still working at it, but, that’s the gist of it!

In order for me to be here, now, jogging through this heat–giving myself this gift, not as punishment, but as reward–I had to forgive myself for last night, for my belief that somehow, I caused my insomnia; for getting angry; for all the negative feelings that insomnia leaves you grappling with, the next day. In order for me to be doing this good thing for my body, I had to respect myself, like myself, love myself enough to say, I forgive you and you deserve to be treated kindly.

I truly believe that getting sober–shit, getting through every single hangover–required first and foremost that I forgave myself; I forgave myself not only in spite of hating myself and feeling guilty because I didn’t believe I deserved to be forgiven and to have a better life, but also in spite of almost everyone else not forgiving me, too.

Self-forgiveness, forgiving oneself–it is an act of radical self-love. Getting sober starts with deciding to forgive yourself for the night before, the two or three weeks before, the months, years before. It is necessary, EVEN IF everyone else in your life believes that you don’t deserve forgiveness, thereby reinforcing your doubt and your guilt.

You are allowed to forgive yourself in order to move forward; you HAVE to forgive yourself in order to move forward. Moving forward involves the practical step of quitting drinking–of practicing not drinking when you really want to, because shit WILL go down and you are so tired of shit going down. Moving forward also requires something less tangible, which is the active step of loving yourself enough to say, It’s OK, I still believe in you, to say, I forgive you, and you get to try again today–you got this, and no one, not even YOU, can convince me that you don’t deserve it.

As I was running, I kept thinking that, so many people wouldn’t have forgiven me for the many nights, weeks, months, and years of my drinking; many still haven’t. But, *I* did, and I am glad I did–I believed, in spite of what my mind told (and tells) me, that I deserved it. It is right to forgive yourself, and it is right to love yourself! I wouldn’t be running up and down these hills, doing pretty good at it, I must say, if I didn’t believe I deserved to offer this exercise to my body, mind, and spirit (all of which really needed it today!).

On that note, I continue to prepare for my next interview, which is tomorrow. I had one last week, and I am now moving into what will hopefully be a series of interviews over next few weeks. A friend of mine is worried about finding a job in the time of Covid, and I have to admit, I could let it make me feel anxious, if I let it. I choose to not let it; what will be, will be.

One more thing: we took our doggie swimming the other day, and it totally helped her walking the next day. So, time to incorporate some water therapy into her regimen. Love my girl WAY TOO MUCH! Haha…

Helping or enabling

1 Jul

11:22 am

I used to think that I knew the difference between helping a person and enabling them–until I was no longer on the receiving end. As someone who drank alcoholically for years, I never had to wonder if I was helping someone or enabling that person. It was their problem, and they had to figure out how to help me without enabling my ill behavior.

These days, I am the one having to decide between helping and enabling during every phone call I make to both parents. I can say, almost without doubt, that both my parents, by choice, are living with untreated mental health disorders that negatively affect their family members.

It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

What is this called? Transgenerational something–issues, addiction, trauma? I can clearly see my own workaholism in my dad’s behavior; I can clearly see my neurotic thinking and tendency to catastrophize in my mom’s behavior. Yet, both my parents either don’t see it in themselves or choose to not see it. I chose to see it, and I chose to try to fix it, within myself. It’s a work in progress, but I decided that I could no longer live in denial–that was eight years ago.

Let me give a few “for instances”: I recently found out that my dad and his second wife are divorcing; she served him papers, and he seems to be in this state of “I don’t know why on Earth she would want to divorce me” haze that is just, well, utter bullshit. He knows; the problem is, on our calls, he denies knowing and spins a tale of what he believes has happened (versus the reality, which I know, because my step-mom and brother have seen or heard different versions from him, and they’ve told me about those). The question is, do I listen and not say anything, or do I confront him on his denial? I have tried a version of the latter, but he is deep in his denial so it doesn’t work. Yet, allowing him to go on without being questioned just reinforces this behavior–enabling him to keep it up without facing any kind of consequences.

The last time I talked to my mom, she was complaining about her health issues, about she was feeling overwhelmed and alone. I feel bad for her, but, after decades of telling her what she knows she should do, she’s chosen to not expand her social circle to include even one friend! She chooses to obsess about her health issues instead of letting them go/be; I get that it’s hard, and she has a lot of problems. However, no matter how “bad” you’ve got it, at some point, you have to choose to stop the mental looping and try something else–maybe, meditation, or yoga, or staying on medications consistently, or believing that these medications will help (there is power in placebo; she knows this, as a former nurse). Now, I could tell her, again, that she should do this, that, and the other; she can say, yes, I know I should do that, and then, she can not do it–or, I can just listen and then hang up, not really telling her how I feel because it doesn’t seem to change her behavior, which is in essence, a form of enabling as well!

Why do I feel guilty–and somehow responsible–that my parents, both of them well into their 70s, are very seemingly stuck and unhappy? And, even more guilty that I have decided to give up on helping both of them, wishing their choices were different but not trying to engage anymore in a discussion about any of it? What if it does not end well for my dad, who is soon going to discover just how much of the physical, daily burden my step-mom carried? Should I feel like it was my fault, that I didn’t help him enough by literally screaming the truth, as I know it, into his ear? Same with my mom: should I just let her be, grasping but unwilling, or should I continue to force the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own happiness?

I have chosen, after all these years of getting sober–it was a lot of work to extricate myself from these learned behavioral patterns, some of which really affected me and “caused” my drinking problem–to just let it go. Let. It. Go. I can’t care that much about their problems; I can’t keep trying to “reason” with them when they don’t want to change, essentially.

Is this what it feels like to try to help an addict or alcoholic who is not ready to get sober yet? Maybe…

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)

The deep end

28 May

1:03 pm

I don’t have much time today, so I’m going to dive right in (no pun intended!).

So, as everyone with depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive thought “disorders” knows–at least, intuitively if not consciously–our dark thoughts can intrude on us, control us, and pull us down. They float us toward the deep end, and if we are not careful, they pull us under to a dark, motionless place, a place that is hard to get out of, a place that controls us, a place that traps us. We feel trapped by–and within–our dark thoughts, which may be true (at least for the while that we’re under them, in the deep end).

I don’t know how to explain this any better than with the recent example of the dark place(s) that my picking up trash alone took me; or, talking to both my parents with (relatively) untreated mental health disorders (I have yet to blog about this, but will one day soon). Regarding the former, I just felt pissed off, but almost irrationally so. I mean, yes, there is trash on the side of the road and it sucks that people throw it down, but that does not mean that I necessarily need to get angry about it, think bad things about EVERYONE who lives here, believe that I am defeated and there is no reason to ever go outside again. I don’t need these thoughts, and I don’t need to allow myself to be trapped in this deep end. I can permit myself to let go of, or forget, these thoughts–they are not “real” in the sense that, they are not truth; they are not necessary to think, or to hold onto, in order to find truth in my daily life or to live truthfully.

Same goes for the thoughts I find myself having, uncontrollably, when I talk to either of my parents on the phone. I listen to them, I hear their thought patterns, and I wonder why they have constructed such dark–paranoid, angry, anxious–world views. I think to myself, what you believe, dear parents, how you live your lives, are these really your idea of truth? Yet, I struggle to justify their thoughts and behavior, to try and overlay them on what I would consider a more general construct of reality–most people are not obsessively thinking about doing ONE thing and not doing it for months, years, decades at a time (mom); most people are not setting up businesses on a whim, trying to borrow money against a negative bank balance (dad). I fail to see their realities fitting within the lines of this general construct (which, I admit, is simply based on interacting with many other, different people over the years).

In truth (I believe), I am trying to reason with what is unreasonable–and, that takes my mind to a dark place, a place where thoughts have no doors, no windows, no outlets.

This is a place, I have come to believe, where I do not need to be.

I used to think that I had to think all these thoughts; that these thoughts were supposed to hold court, keep me thinking them until I figured “it” out. I have come to realize that I am either creating an “it” that does not exist (everyone here is a litterbug) or trying to make common sense out of others’ affected or deluded thinking. I do not have to do either! Moreover, I shouldn’t! Not unless I myself can tolerate drowning in the deep end, coming up for air once in a while to glimpse my lighter reality (consciously constructed to be so, over the course of years of getting sober and practicing avoiding the behavioral pitfalls of my own obsessive and/or deluded thinking).

Maybe this post is just crazy-sounding, but honestly, I am beginning to think that all thought might just be a by-product of evolution gone wrong (haha).

I will, one day, write a post about my parents’ mental health; but, I have come to understand that I don’t really know shit (I do know that having a “normal” conversation with either of them is really hard; then again, what is “normal”?). Plus, I never want to talk about other people’s mental health without their express permission and input. Too often, people talk about these things as if they know; mental health “problems” are intricate expressions of the human experience, which comes in infinite forms. Who am I to judge, to talk about someone’s “reality”, especially considering my background and difficulty finding footing in a version of a livable reality of my own?

Anyway, it’s time to go out for a jog since the rain stopped. SO glad we got some rain here, it was getting pretty darn dry!

Our dog is hanging in there; she seems to have had a slight recovery. She can go on walks now, with the help of a sling for her hind end/legs–and most importantly, she WANTS to! I’ve been seeing the puppy in her come out once in a while, which is sweet; she tries to get up and drink water on her own more often than a few weeks ago; and, she regularly wants to go and lay in her spots outside (she loves being outside, always has). I dote on her a LOT, but, I figure, she needs it and um, I need it!

Facebook-free for six weeks and counting. Admittedly, I have kept messenger on my iPad (I do want to receive messages, if people choose to chat via that app versus phone text); and the other day (well, a few times), I clicked on a few Facebook stories and…got sucked in and got annoyed within a matter of a minute or less. SO, for me, it’s better to just stay off it; for reasons that are probably my issue, I just dislike the FOMO and I dislike the feelings that come from FOMO–I am off Facebook because MY mind and heart are much more at peace if I just don’t connect with my “friends” on that platform. I am still considering deactivating after two months, so we’ll see…

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