Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer!

Dear mostly hypothetical reader: it wasn't intended to, but this post turned into a long whine, so feel free to skip it if you so choose.

As a season, I like summer. I appreciate the (occasional, since we are in Pittsburgh after all) blue skies and sunshine. I like being able to do stuff outdoors and enjoy seeing everything go from barren and dead looking to vibrant and green every year. But to be completely honest I've come to dread the end of the school year and the start of summer break.

Last summer I was completely miserable. I'm terrible at anything and everything social, or at least I feel like I am. When I go to classes and can hang out with my friends in between them it's less of a problem, but I don't know how to plan things with people, so over the summer I end up losing contact with pretty much everyone but a select few, basically those who make the effort to keep in contact with me. Of course I don't blame the friends who don't take it upon themselves to do all the work. They shouldn't be expected to do that and I'm a grown ass adult who should be able to do this social stuff. It's simply something I need to work on.

Nevertheless, the result of all of this is that I've come to dread the summers because I'm just so lonely. I've tried to get a job this summer and succeeded but after a single day realized that it was clearly too high stress for me. I was so anxious by the end of that first day that all I wanted to do was sit down and cry. I felt like a complete failure, like nothing I did could possibly be good enough. I just clearly am not in the right headspace for that kind of job yet. And I'm so angry with myself about that, and anxious and disappointed and terrified about what it means for my future and a whole lot of other things but I think it warrants its own post so I'll leave it at that.

Point here is that I'm lonely. I spend a lot of time alone. This year is a lot better than last summer, but I'm still really, really lonely. I don't do much with friends, and most, if not all of it is only if it's suggested or planned by other people. I want so badly to learn to be better at this but I don't even know where to start. I feel like I've had so many instances where I've completely burned out friends by relying on them too heavily so now I keep everyone at arm's length or more, but more than that, I don't even seem to be able to make plans with people to just hang out or whatever. There are a couple of people I'm comfortable with and that's it. When those people are busy I'm pretty much guaranteed to spend a lot of time on my own.

So this summer one of my goals was to find ways to stay busy, both by finding things to do that make me feel productive and useful like a job or volunteering and by working on actually having a social life. The only problem is that I don't even know where to begin with this. And that's not even considering the issue of my complete lack of a love life. :sigh:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Doing Things

It seems like a really simple thing to do, but I'm really bad at it. "How silly!" I hear you, dear (probably imaginary) reader, say to yourself. "Of course you must do something every day." Nope. I assure you, I am fully capable of doing absolutely nothing all day.

I'm not saying that I'm not being productive or that I'm wasting a lot of time or doing things that I don't think are a good use of my time. I mean that I am finding that many days I look back at what I did and find that, not only did I do nothing productive, but I also did nothing enjoyable, or useful, or really anything of any use at all.

During my long absence from blogging I once again did stupid, unsafe, and inadvisable things that landed me in the hospital (and led a police officer to go to my Arabic class inquiring after me, which was kind of awkward to explain later) and one of the consequences of that was that they took me off my meds and readjusted them a bit. In the shuffle the medication I was on for ADHD was never restarted in the hospital since it wasn't considered urgent and outpatient hasn't decided what to do about it yet. Now, it could be the lack of strattera making me incapable of focusing on and completing tasks, it could be the fact that it's summer and I'm just anti-work over the summer, or maybe I'm just a lazy bum who lacks any trace of work ethic. Maybe it was a placebo effect. But I'm getting nothing done. I spend all day chasing stray shiny thoughts and I'm lucky if I manage to make a to do list and do maybe an hour's worth of work in a day.

Now, it's summer so really I don't have all that much work I need to get done, just some school stuff I need to catch up on that I missed while in the hospital as mentioned earlier and a few odds and ends but I don't do very well when I feel aimless. Writing has never felt very much like work, so I figure if I make a concerted effort to put blogging back into my daily (or at least weekly?) routine it may help. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Insanity of Another Kind

It's been a while, I know. Way too long, though again I'm not entirely convinced anyone actually reads this. In any case, my apologies. Things here have been crazy. Not the kind of crazy I generally write about though, more the kind of crazy where I'm trying to do well in classes while also fulfilling my responsibilities for the fellowship I'm currently doing and still making time for friends and family.

Things have been okay. I'm currently going through a bit of a rough patch, probably due to being so busy and being a bit stressed out about that, and also because I'm currently in the process of choosing a new therapist. I'm not at all pleased with this but it's not like I didn't see it coming, I've known it was going to happen for two months now. I should probably get over it soon, but it's kind of a big deal. It took me about a year to become comfortable talking to my current therapist and just as that started to happen I found out about having to switch. I'm not very good at transitions, hence the rough patch.

It's still a marked improvement on the last time I had to switch therapists, which is sad considering that I once again landed in the hospital. But this time was just a short stay and I didn't do anything destructive to necessitate hospitalization. I'm having increased trouble eating and a lot more suicidal ideation but unfortunately I'm just going to have to learn to get through stress without dealing with it through unhealthy coping strategies, and that includes learning to do so without resorting to the hospital.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Being an Ally

Sometimes when I'm bored I like to read hilarious internet drama disasters. If this isn't one of your hobbies then a) what is wrong with you this is the best use of time ever and b) I should probably fill you in on one of the more recent blog disasters that happened was on xojane. Long story short, a young white woman went to yoga class and there was a new person there who happened to be black and overweight. Naturally this led to a complete meltdown of guilt over the author's white privilege. She went on and on about how terrible she felt, about all the things she imagined this woman was thinking about her.

Now, I'm a minority and when I'm out in public my thoughts are very rarely all about some random person standing in front of me. I highly doubt that the black woman was so incredibly consumed with thoughts about the lady with the "skinny white girl body" in front of her. To be fair, I hate yoga with a passion, so I'd probably be aiming my thoughts of death and destruction towards whoever had convinced me that this was a good idea, but that's neither here nor there. And yet the author says that
"Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body."
I doubt that that was actually the case, but oh well, let's assume that she's not mistaken. This woman is pissed off about being the only black woman in class and she's decided to aim that frustration at the author, and the author, bless her heart, feels bad about the situation. She feels guilty about the lack of inclusivity at her yoga class. I assume this means that she wants to do something about it, an assumption further supported by the fact that she then proceeded to post a blog about it where it'd be seen by lots and lots of people. Maybe she hoped that this gripping tale of woe, full of gnashing of teeth and such, would be a call to action for others. Maybe it'd spur other skinny white women to try to ensure that everyone is welcome at their yoga class, regardless of whether or not they have the requisite tastefully tacky attire.

But the thing is that her assumed good intentions don't mean much in this situation. If this was a bid to be a good ally she didn't succeed. In the comments section for a reaction to the original post I came across a comment that resonated with me (and, it appears, with a lot of others as well based on the other comments):
Personally I have no need for "allies" who think it's okay to hijack my struggle for their own ego validation.
And this comment points out exactly what's wrong with that original blog post. It did nothing to actually help any marginalized group. It neither ensured that women of color would feel more welcome in yoga class nor made the class any more accessible to overweight women. All it did was assuage the author's own guilt and it erased the woman who prompted the entire post. It made the entire situation all about a woman who is, as far as I can tell, fairly privileged. This is not how to be an ally.

And yet when I see people talking about mental health this is a common mistake. All too often the discussion is framed as one of ensuring that the crazy people get the help they need to keep from hurting normal people rather than one of ensuring that people with mental illnesses get the help they need to live a full, satisfying life or the help they deserve because they're people too. It's all about how to erase us so that we're no longer a problem for everyone else.

This post is getting a bit long so I'd just like to point out what I hope is the take home message here: If you want to be an ally to a marginalized group that's great. But you have to remember that the cause you're helping fight for isn't about you. It's rarely a bad idea to take a step back, shut your mouth, and spend some time listening to the people you're trying to help. They're the experts here, not you.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Triggers (oddly enough, this post may be triggering, who'd have thunk?)

I don't know about everyone else, but when I first started seeing trigger warnings on the internet and learned what exactly that meant I developed an idea of what being triggered is like. I imagined sudden, violent flashbacks or abrupt mood changes, or something similarly dramatic. Maybe some people do get triggered that way. I'm sure that not everyone has the same experience as me, but I never experienced that.

For the longest time whenever I was reading blogs or talking to a friend or whatever I was doing, whenever a trigger warning was mentioned my reaction was "psssht, I don't get triggered! I don't have triggers! My problems aren't that bad!" I was very nonchalant about the whole thing, but in the past few months, and the past few days specifically, I've realized that I was mistaken.

Now, if I use my old definition of what being triggered is like then my prior statements still stand. No, I'm not going to suddenly have a panic attack or get really abrupt, dramatic symptoms. But where it actually matters I was very, very wrong because I can indeed be triggered.

The thing is that I don't immediately feel it all the time. Occasionally something will happen that reminds me of something traumatic and I'll be caught off guard. But the thing is that that's definitely uncommon. The majority of the time when I'm triggered it's more subtle than that. So yes, if someone is having a hard time and wants to talk about it I'd usually listen and try to be supportive. If they were to ask if I'm sure I won't be triggered I'd brush it off and reassure them that I'm fine. And I would be. Sure, I might have a slight increase in suicidal thoughts or be a bit more anxious than usual, but overall I'd be fine.

But what if I'm already stressed out over other stuff? And maybe this isn't a single isolated conversation but actually a friend relying on me for support as they go through a rough patch? The fact of the matter is that I will probably be fine for a while but eventually it'd get to me. Like it did today. Things have been hectic, I've had a bit of conflict with my family, I have a lot to do for school, and the fellowship is about to be added to the teetering pile of things I need to do. And for the past week or two a friend has been having a hard time. But I've been fine up until now. I'm good in a crisis (as long as that crisis is not my own, in which case I'm pretty shitty at handling a crisis) so I've been trying to balance it all and be supportive. I've been okay.

Until today when I found myself becoming unusually anxious for no discernible reason, idly contemplating what I'd need to do to kill myself. It took about two hours of that for me to realize what was happening. When I actually decided to more closely examine how I felt I realized that I'd taken on too much. I felt completely overwhelmed. I still feel overwhelmed. As much as I want to be a good friend I can't do that if it means doing this to myself. The fact of the matter is that I think the worst friend I've ever been is when I was too wrapped up in despair to do much of anything. I don't know whether to be happy that I've realized this rather than doing what I've done before and simply allowing myself to spiral down into a deep, dark depression or to be disappointed in myself for not noticing months ago. Or at least not noticing enough to actually act on the knowledge and change what needs to be changed if I'm to be healthy, maybe even happy. Oh well, better late than never I suppose. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Good news but HOLY CRAP!

Classes are going well, eating is going well, and the interview last week went well. Well enough that I got the fellowship, apparently. Which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum. I'm taking classes full time (14 credit hours), spending 3.5 hours a week in therapy, and the fellowship will be roughly 15 hours a week. And then of course there's the studying and homework and whatnot. Basically what I'm saying is that I've got OMG SO MUCH STUFF TO DO.

I look at it all written out like that and it seems easy. As long as I manage my time properly of course I can do it. No problem. But last semester I only took one class. Yes, it went well, but I haven't managed to get through a full semester of full time classes in a while. It's been over two years since I successful did that, and I wasn't doing particularly well before that. I don't want to simply get through the semester, I want to do well. I want to get good grades and do awesome at this fellowship and get an idea of what sort of career I want. I want this semester to be great in every way. Which is definitely a bit much to expect but I suppose I'm going to aim high. 

Basically it feels like I'm hoping for the impossible, like there's no possible way I can pull this off, but I can't let the fellowship go, and I don't want to withdraw from any of my classes. So I guess all that's left is to figure it out and pull off what seems impossible.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New beginnings?

Things have been a bit tumultuous for the past two weeks or so. A lot of changes and some opportunities. I already knew for a while that my psychiatrist would be leaving, so that switch isn't all that big of an adjustment. In any case I only see my pdoc once every month or two and visits tend to be pretty routine. The news that I'd have to switch therapists came as much more of a shock. I found out a little over a week ago and it kind of threw me into a tailspin. I felt like everything had been starting to fall into place, things were finally looking consistently better, and all of a sudden there would be this huge change. I was convinced that this would ruin everything.

But honestly it doesn't change much, does it? Sure, it'll be a big adjustment. Yes, I wish it didn't have to happen. But I'm still taking the same classes, so if I could do them before why can't I do well now? The things I need to do to stay safe and continue to do well are the same. I still need to get eating under control, still need to keep stress levels low, interact with people regularly, and use healthy coping skills. I'm not denying that these are challenging tasks, but they're simply what need to be done.

I'm actually kind of excited for the weeks to come right now. I've gotten over the "HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS WHAT AM I GOING TO DO AAAAARGH!!!" flailing part of things and have gotten to the part where I just kind of have accepted this and am focused on making the transition as smooth and uneventful as possible. Despite being extra stressed for the past week I've still kept up with classes and don't feel like I'm out of my depth. I'm quite confident that I can do well in classes this semester as long as I stay on top of things. And I have a thing that may or may not be happening that I'm really excited about. If it does work out I'll end up being incredibly busy, and if it doesn't I'll still be busy enough to keep myself out of trouble. But if it does work out it could be a really awesome opportunity for me and help clarify what I might want to do after graduation, so fingers crossed.

In short, I'm feeling a lot more optimistic right now than I did a week ago. A week ago I felt like this was inevitably going to be a disaster, that, what with the sudden changes, there was no way I could do this. I'd end up withdrawing from classes, getting super depressed again, hurting myself, who knows what I'd do but it was sure to be a complete disaster. But I've gotten a grip and renewed my intention to kick ass, take names, and get shit done this semester. Or at the very least pass my classes and not go completely crazy. I'm hoping that if I aim for the moon and miss I'll still end up overshooting and evading the complete batshit crazy. Or something like that. I'm a bit loose on the details of that particular metaphor but you know what I mean.