Life · mental health · Uncategorized

Finding a Bright Spot (Or, a black-and-white one)

**Trigger warning: Depression, Suicidal Thoughts

In an earlier post I alluded to the fact that this year has been a challenging one. It feels silly to even say that. So many people have been struggling, for one reason or another, that it feels too obvious to even point out. (“Oh, you mean dealing with a pandemic, social unrest, and numerous political monstrosities has been a sucky time for you? No shit, Sherlock.”) So many people have had it worse than I have, too. Hence the reason every time I’ve tried to write the post I deleted it for fear of sounding whiny. It’s good to get things off your chest though, isn’t it? So here goes…

I haven’t shared much about my year, minus a few quarantine tips. Like everyone else, I started off this year hopeful and excited about what lay ahead: vacations booked, cons to attend, stories to write, etc. Then, in March, most things in North Carolina shut down due to the rapid spread of COVID throughout the state. I started working from home most days of the week, only going in to the office when absolutely necessary, and Boyfriend and I had to adjust to sharing the same space 24/7. Not to mention, his daughter was with us half the time, attending school remotely. The house, which was already on the small side, never felt more cramped and uncomfortable. Alas, we tried to make the best of it. Our Spring and Summer trips had to be cancelled. Every convention I had tickets for was postponed or became virtual. My in-person yoga and Pilates classes were cancelled. By the end of the first month, I was stir crazy and bored to tears, not having much to look forward to in the near future. But, we sill tried to make the best of it. By June, little had gotten better. Things were still closed, people were still getting sick, and I hadn’t had social interaction with anyone outside of the house or my team at work. I went from feeling stir-crazy and bored to lonely, to extremely lonely, to super anxious, to depressed. My insomnia went from being an occasional issue to a nightly problem. My appetite decreased and my exercise habits went up (a desperate attempt to maintain some semblance of control over something). I felt myself slipping further and further down into a pit of despair, self-loathing, and hopelessness that I eventually snapped.

Eventually I had to face the uncomfortable truth: I relapsed. Those who struggle with depression and anxiety often struggle with it on and off throughout their lives, like I have. Over the last 15+ years, however, even at my worst, I always knew that it could be worse. I’d seen rock bottom before, but at least I could always say I wasn’t that bad anymore. Until this summer. I found myself staring in the face of a full-blown relapse. Not just with my depression, but with my anxiety and eating disorder, as well. I was losing weight and became so obsessed with food again that meal times literally sent me into panic mode. I had no motivation, no desire to take care of myself, and my brain felt like it was “fuzzy” all the time. On more than one occasion I contacted the suicide hotline, desperate for someone to help me find a reason to keep wanting to live. My medicines had been changed multiple times and my psychiatrist almost checked me into the hospital on two occasions. It was bad. I was as low as I remembered being in the past 15 years. And I didn’t even care.

Fast forward a few months: I am much more stable now, thanks to the countless sessions with my therapist, psychiatrist, and regular doctors. It turns out that some of the medication I had been put on was making me suicidal. It’s a scary and unfortunate thing that happens sometimes. I’m still seeing my therapist, because things aren’t perfect by any means. I still have a lot of shit to work on and really need some less destructive coping mechanisms. I’m still working on my relationship with food and trying to evict my eating disorder. It’s been a slow (and often frustrating) process, but I’m getting there. I wish I could say I was proud of how far I’ve come over the last few months, but I’m not quite there yet. One day at a time.

One good thing has come out of this year that I am grateful for…

Meet Noddy. I adopted Noddy about two months ago and he’s been a huge help in keeping me focused on getting better. It’s been almost two years since my last dog, Beaker, passed away and my therapist told me that it might be time to finally move on. You know, she was right. Noddy is two years old, but he never had a home outside of the shelter, so he’s like a giant puppy. He’s been a lot of work, but we love him and he makes us all laugh. (The cats did not share these same feelings, however, when we brought him home. Fortunately, Merlin has finally warmed up to Noddy and they are slowly becoming friends.) If being forced to go back into therapy is what brought me Noddy, then maybe it’s not the worst year ever, after all.

Life · mental health

Fuck You, Cranberries

[Trigger Warning: Don’t read if easily triggered by talk of depression or suicidal thoughts]

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I had a meltdown over tea today. I couldn’t figure out why my shitty bladder/kidney problem has been so flared up the last few days. That’s when I decided to check the ingredients in the new pomegranate-green tea I recently purchased. Lo and behold, there the culprit was, right in front of me the whole time: cranberry. Fucking cranberry. Cranberry is a giant no-no with the condition that I have, as it’s one of the many foods/beverages on the long list of things that will most likely have me writing in pain on the floor an hour later, whining about the utter injustices of bog-grown fruits.

The meltdown wasn’t really about cranberries or the tea that I am no longer able to drink (Although I did really like that tea). The meltdown was just one of many that I’ve had lately over a completely arbitrary event – sometimes real, sometimes imaginary. Because that’s what life with mental illness is like. Combine it with chronic pain and you have a recipe for disaster just waiting for you. A recipe which probably contains cranberries.

I mentioned a while back that my brain was starting to mess with me again. My depression had crept it’s way back in and was starting to be a real jerk. A few weeks later I went to my doctor and asked them to increase my dosage of the medicine I was taking. Because my luck and my body are absolute garbage, upping my dosage did not have the intended effect. In fact, it had the exact opposite effect. Within days I stopped sleeping, my anxiety skyrocketed, and I became so depressed that I forgot how to function. The only good thing is that I wasn’t sad anymore. I wasn’t anything, actually, as I stopped feeling almost all emotions entirely, except anger. When I wasn’t acting like an angry, irritable psychopath, I felt absolutely nothing at all. Not happy. Not sad. Just…nothing. My medicine numbed me out so much that I became this big empty void of bitterness and exhaustion. My energy levels disappeared and I was in pain all of the time because all the stress made all my other health issues flare up. I was miserable, but I stuck it out, hoping that within a few weeks my brain would balance itself out and that the medicine would start helping.

But it didn’t.

Fast forward another few weeks and I was laying on the couch in the middle of the day (I left work early that day because I was tired and couldn’t concentrate on anything and, frankly, I just didn’t give a shit anymore. It was not the first time.) telling Boyfriend that I wanted to be dead because nobody cared about me anyway. I don’t have many friends in my real life to talk to and my family isn’t here. Even the few people who knew what I’ve been going through didn’t seem to really care that much. They might say things like “Sorry you’re feeling bad,” but when you’re so depressed that you can’t remember to shower and are having suicidal thoughts, “Sorry” doesn’t really mean that much.

Yesterday I went back to the doctor and was put on another medication and given the recommendation to see a psychiatrist. I know there should probably be some relief in the fact that maybe this medicine will help me and I’ll finally feel like a normal functioning human again. But, if I am being honest, I’m so broken down and empty lately that relief feels pretty far away.

I hate this feeling. I hate depression and all the terrible ways it has ruined my life. I hate my anxiety and the way it makes me afraid of everyone and everything. I hate getting up every morning, feeling like all I want to do is crawl back into bed. I hate not feeling like I’m never good enough and that everyone hates me. I’m tired of turning into this raging Hulk-like person (minus the muscles) for literally no reason at all. I’m tired of going to bed every night wondering if I’ll actually get some sleep, then worrying about it to the point that I give myself a headache.

There are some things in my life coming up that I should be excited about, but it’s been hard to feel excited about anything. I really hope things start to look up soon so that I can actually enjoy them. In the mean time, here’s a giant FUCK YOU to my depression…and to cranberries.

Life · mental health

Self-Care and the Art of Forgetting How to Breathe

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Earlier this week I got a much needed massage after work. While I was there I thought about something I wrote last year when I was working on short stories for a self-care book idea I’d been throwing around. I have no idea if that idea will ever go anywhere (probably not), but I felt like sharing my story about massages with you anyway. (It’s a little lengthy, so I apologize if you were looking for a quick post.) Enjoy.

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I got my first massage when I was 25-26 years old. It’s somewhat absurd that I even waited that long, given that at that point I had spent a good 10 years whining about the neck and shoulder knots that I suffered from frequently. Prior to that I had been a little weirded out by the whole concept. Laying on a table with a stranger touching your naked body sounded more like something you’d see on Pornhub, not something that I would voluntarily pay money for. (I mean, porn is free nowadays. Why would I pay for it?) I finally changed my mind when one of my massage therapist friends, who I imagine was tired of listening to me bitch about my shoulders constantly, told me to man up and just do it already.

And that’s how my career as a porn star began.

Not really. It was, however, a life-changing moment for me. It had opened up a whole new world of pain-relief and relaxation that I had never experienced before. I walked out of my first massage feeling like I was swimming in a bowl of warm Jell-O. There wasn’t a single tense muscle in my body. Why had nobody told me how amazing massages were?! (Oh, yeah, they did. I was just too busy creating pornographic scenarios in my head to listen.)

Since that day I’ve gotten one or two massages a month. It’s a tad expensive, but the effects it has had on both my physical and mental health have made been totally worth it.

Despite how much I enjoy massages now, I can’t lie to you and pretend that it’s not still a little bit awkward at times. If you’re as socially inept as I am, receiving any kind of service from a stranger is going to be at least mildly uncomfortable. I am one of those people who will literally pay an extra ten dollars to have food delivered to their house so that they don’t have to go to a restaurant and interact with the people there. This solution does present its own set of problems. Like the fact that I have to answer the door and talk to the delivery person. I never know what I’m supposed to be doing when they show up. Should I be ready, waiting at the door when they arrive? Should I just open the door before they even knock or is that creepy? Should I be in some other part of the house, pretending that I actually have better things to do than stand around and wait for my food for an hour? And let’s not forget what I’m wearing. Am I supposed to change and put on a normal-looking outfit or is it okay to be in an adult onesie, completely unzipped in the front with my bra hanging out? I mean, delivery drivers are probably used to seeing all kinds of stuff when they show up at people’s houses. Would they even notice if I was half naked with bunny-clad feet?

I always envision myself acting completely normal in situations like this: There’s a knock on the door. From somewhere down the hall I casually yell “Just a minute!” because it’s Friday night and I am actually doing something other than stalk the pizza guy through the window. Perhaps I have a cute outfit on and am in the process of getting ready for a date. Or perhaps I have my glasses on and a pencil tucked behind my ear, indicating that I’ve been working on the next great novel. I answer the door with a smile and say something like “Oh, that was fast!” Then we exchange money and make brief small talk about the weather or our plans for the weekend, before I calmly shut the door and go about eating my dinner.

That’s how I always expect things to go. That’s how it probably plays out for normal people.

For me, this is what actually happens: There’s a knock on the door. Having been pacing back and forth, staring out the window for the past hour, I already know the delivery person has arrived. At the first sight of their car I quickly duck behind the nearest piece of furniture so that they can’t see me looking out the window. Once they knock I panic a little, wondering if they saw me act like a spaz through the curtains. I try to casually yell “I’m coming!” but it comes out much higher-pitched than intended, because apparently I’ve turned into a twelve year old boy going through puberty. I open the door just a crack because I don’t want the animals to escape. I don’t open the door far enough though and end up tripping over myself in the process of trying to get onto the porch. Meanwhile, the dog senses that someone has arrived with either food or the intention to kill us (possibly both), so he gets in the window and barks his head off like a small fluffy asshole. The pizza guy mumbles something at me that I can’t hear because the dog is so loud, so I just stare at him blankly. He repeats himself, this time a little louder and more slowly, because obviously I don’t understand English that well. We exchange money and he hands over the food, which is the perfect cue for me to try to make the situation even more awkward for both of us. I try to say something clever, but it comes out in one long mumbled string of words. Howaboutjsjfjhrummphummmsausage. Heh. He then realizes that I am completely unbalanced and possibly contagious, so he says good night and runs away from the porch as quickly as possible. I then attempt to squeeze back inside the door with as much grace as possible. This proves to be difficult, however, as the dog is still in a frenzy and trying to run past my feet and because I now have a pizza box in one hand. At that point, I abandon all hope of resembling anything close to normal and hope I just gave the guy a good enough tip that he doesn’t black list my house.

Is anybody else hungry now? I feel like I need to order a pizza.

Can you see why having to spend an entire hour in the presence of a stranger could be a little bit of an issue for me? (We haven’t even gotten to the part about being naked yet.) I can’t even interact with a delivery person for thirty whole seconds without going into full moron mode.

The good part about massages is that you aren’t expected to talk. You’re allowed to talk, but if you prefer to lay there in total silence the entire time then that’s fine, also. It’s supposed to be your hour to relax and unwind and it’s probably a lot easier to do that by not talking the entire time. This works out in my favor, given that chit chat is obviously not one of my specialties. Howaboutjsjfjhrummphummmsausage. Heh.

My comfort level with a massage therapist depends on how well I know the person. If I am receiving services (That sounds dirty, doesn’t it? I swear that was unintentional.) from someone that I have met previously I am going to be more relaxed and less self-conscious about the whole thing. If you’re lucky, like my friend Christy, who is a massage therapist and services me regularly (Okay, that one was intentional.), then I will be comfortable enough to show up, get naked on the table, and proudly announce that I haven’t shaved in a month and am starting to look like Sasquatch. Poor Christy. Why she even lets me schedule appointments with her anymore is a wonder.

Now, on the occasions that Christy or my other preferred therapist is unavailable, I am willing to see someone new. This is where things can get a little weird. There are very few places you show up, are told to take all your clothes off, and try to relax. At least when you go to the gynecologist, or some other medical appointment, they know how uncomfortable you are and try to make the whole thing go as quickly as possible. It’s probably super uncomfortable and embarrassing for them, also, so it makes sense. When you show up for a massage, however, it’s a completely different kind of atmosphere. There’s dim lights, soothing music, and the pleasant smells of aromatherapy. (At least, I assume they are supposed to be pleasant. Personally, I think it just makes you smell like a hippie.) There are table warmers and soft, comfy blankets. It’s easy to see why most people are instantly relaxed in that kind of environment.

As you’ve probably noticed, I am not like most people.

Having anxiety means that I have a very difficult time relaxing. Even when I am actively engaging in a calming activity, my brain never shuts off. Nobody’s brain ever really shuts off (except those people who think that “raw water” is a thing), but you know what I mean. Most people can quiet their brains and stop thinking about important things when they need to. They can just enjoy the moment they’re in and experience what’s happening around them. I hate those people. I am jealous as fuck of those people. For me, turning my brain off means that I am slightly less fixated on the one hundred potential things that could go wrong at that given moment or in my life, in general. I can’t even turn my brain off at night when I’m supposed to be asleep, which is why I frequently have insomnia. (If you’ve never stayed up all night worrying about whether or not fleas were going to form a small battalion and take over your bedroom you’ve never really lived, my friends.)

Compound my anxiety with my general self-consciousness, it’s virtually impossible for me to just relax around strangers. I make a valiant effort when I am on the massage table. I know that I’m not going to get much benefit from the whole thing If I am tensed up and feeling stressed out the entire time. Even still, there’s no way I can just lay there and put my brain on “Do Not Disturb” mode. (It would be really handy if this was an option though, no? Dear smart people, make this happen in the future.) Instead, I oscillate between forcing myself to relax and being hyper aware of myself.

Here are some examples of the things that pop into my head while I’m getting a massage:

Therapist: “Just take deep breaths and relax.”

Me: Am I breathing deeply enough? Did they say that because they know Im not taking deep breaths? Okay, try to focus on your breathing. Just breath in and out, very slowly. *Takes a few deep breaths* Who the hell needs to be told to breathe? Me. Thats who. I cant even be good at BREATHING. What is wrong with me? Okay, stop. Just freaking breathe and stop worrying about it. *Takes a few more breaths* Am I breathing too loudly? Am I supposed to be breathing through my nose or through my mouth? Oh shit, has my mouth been open this whole time? What if I fucking drool on the table? Thatd be so embarrassing. I wonder how many other people have drooled on this table before.

*Therapist pulls blanket down to massage my lower back*

Me: Wow, this feels amazing. Im basically laying here topless. I wonder if he/shes picturing me naked. Im glad they cant actually see anything, even though Im technically naked right now. Oh my god, is my vagina hanging out?! Im freaking naked in front of this person and Im probably exposing my vagina. *Panics* Okay, seriously, stop it. The blanket is draped over your bottom half. How would your vagina be hanging out? Youre being ridiculous. Just focus on your breathing. Fuck, have I not been breathing again? How do I keep forgetting to breathe? *Takes a few deep breaths* I wonder if theyre going to touch my butt. The last guy touched my butt without any warning. I mean, I guess its okay because hes supposed to do that, but still, it would be nice to at least warn someone before you go touching their ass. I wonder I anybody has ever farted while getting a massage before. That would be so embarrassing. *Represses the urge to giggle* Mmmm, this is nice…”

*Therapist moves blankets so they can access my legs*

Me: Is my vagina hanging out?! How do I check? Should I say something? If I was exposed they would be nice enough to readjust the blankets and cover me up, right? Stop it, Kiersten. Your vagina isnt hanging out. Relax, damn it. *Takes a few deep breaths* I really hope I remembered to shave this morning. What if I did, but I missed a big spot? Theyre probably going to tell the other therapists that I dont even know how to shave my legs properly. Ugh.

Therapist: “Okay, you can flip over now.”

Me: They didnt even touch my butt. *Repositions self under blanket* Now what am I supposed to do? Should I keep my eyes closed? Otherwise its going to look like Im staring at them. Yeah, thats it, Ill keep my eyes closed. *Opens eyes to see what therapist is doing* Oh shit, they saw me. Do they think Im being creepy? Should I say something or just keep quiet? Just close your eyes and breathe again. *Takes a deep breath* But seriously, how do I know if Im breathing right? Why dont they go over this with you in the beginning? Oh my god, did I just fart?

Therapist: “Okay, our time is up for today. I’ll meet you out in the hall once you get dressed.”

Me: “Thank you.” *Checks to see if vagina is hanging out*

By the time the whole thing is over my muscles feel fantastic and I have no choice but to feel relaxed, as my brain is so exhausted from playing ping pong with itself that it eventually goes numb. I put my clothing on, thinking about how great I feel, and wander over to the mirror hanging on the wall. That’s when I discover that I am as much of a mess on the outside as I am in my head. My hair is typically in a bun directly on the side of my head, there’s black makeup smudged all over my eyes, and I’m so greasy from all the oil the therapist has used that my skin is actually shiny. (Not to mention that I smell like a hippie.) At that point, I walk out of the room to meet my therapist and casually ask “So, was it a good for you as it was for me?”

Fortunately, most of the paranoia I experience during my massage sessions are unjustified. Pretty much everything that I am worrying about has never actually happened to me. There was, however, one particular incident that had me wishing I could crawl under the table and light myself on fire.

I stopped by the massage studio after a particularly exhausting Monday at work. The therapist was someone I hadn’t been to before and he was really good. So good that I actually let myself decompress and just enjoy the massage, rather than lay there overthinking about whether or not I was breathing. (For the record, I don’t take very deep breaths. My anxiety makes my breathing somewhat shallow most of the time. This may or may not be why therapists are always reminding me to breathe. They’re probably paranoid that I’ll pass out or die on their table and that wouldn’t be very good for business, would it?) I was proud of myself. I was being less weird than usual that day. The therapist and I even chatted a little bit at the beginning of the session. Maybe I could act like a sane personal after all!

That’s when I touched his crotch and ruined everything.

To clarify, I didn’t intentionally grab his crotch. It just ended up in my hand. I don’t go around touching other guys’ genitals at random, even if I find them attractive. This was completely by accident.

I had been laying facedown on the table while the guy worked on my neck. He went to reposition himself from the side of the table to the top of it, near my head, and that’s when I got a handful. At the exact same moment I lifted my arm to move my hair out of my face. The movement was intercepted by the therapist’s junk, which came directly into the path of my hand.

For a few seconds I wondered whether or not I had actually made contact. “Maybe I just brushed his leg,” I pretended. But alas, I couldn’t even lie to myself to make it less embarrassing. I most definitely touched his crotch. It was like an unseen force had guided his penis directly into my palm so that for the rest of all eternity I could look back on that moment and be forever humbled. (“You got a promotion at work? That’s great news. But hey, remember when you accidentally felt up your massage therapist? Haha. You suck.”) Well played, universe. Well played.

My heart rate spiked as I silently panicked over what I should do. Should I apologize? Should I assure him that I was not trying to sexually assault him? Should I make a joke to lighten the mood? I couldn’t have thought of a joke even if I had tried. The universe was already laughing its ass off at me. I was clearly the joke here.

I did nothing. I was too mortified to even say anything, so I just laid there for the remainder of the session (which, thankfully, was only another ten minutes) and tried to will myself out of existence. The therapist never said anything either. He went about his job and pretended that nothing ever happened, which I suppose is a sign if professionalism. Or perhaps he was also as mortified as I was. Who knows.

I got dressed and left that place as quickly as possible, but not before leaving my digits with the lady at the front desk. I didn’t want to make him feel cheap after that tender moment we had shared together. Believe it or not, he never called.

Since I’ve started getting massages I’ve learned a few things:

  1. For starters, massage really is a good form of self-care. This won’t be the case for every single person, but for me it’s been beneficial. Despite my awkwardness and my tendency to be slightly paranoid while I’m on the table, it has been great for my overall well-being. My depression and anxiety can make me feel pretty shitty, both physically and mentally. Even on my good days, my body is pretty tense, which causes a lot of knots in my neck and shoulders. This tends to cause headaches. I can’t speak for everyone, but I find it difficult to go about my day and try to maintain a positive attitude when I’m in pain. Massage has been a great way to help me alleviate some of that pain and make me feel a little better overall. I’m not going to call it a cure for anything, but it’s a nice way to unwind and make my body feel good.
  2. I suck at relaxing. I’m not even good at relaxing when I am actively trying to relax.
  3. Apparently, I also suck at breathing.
  4. Under no circumstances is it ever okay to grab a random stranger’s crotch.
  5. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, you should always check to make sure that your vagina isn’t hanging out.
food · Life · mental health

Ice Cream Blues

I realized today that it’s been some time since I last posted anything. I’m not sure if my last few posts even count, as most of them weren’t book-related or terribly interesting. I’ve been in a bit of funk for weeks now – not super depressed, but just depressed enough that I don’t have much desire to do things I normally enjoy. I’ve been reading, but it’s taking me forever to finish the books that I start. I keep telling myself that I should try to blog or write, but my stupid brain always leads me back to the same question each time: “Why bother?” (Hello, Negative Nancy, so nice for you to stop by and visit a while.) I’ve been feeling quite lonely lately, as well. The people I used to be close to have all moved away and the few friends I still have here I am not particularly close with, or they just never seem to have time for me. While I normally prefer to do things on my own for the most part, lately I keep finding myself wishing I had some other people to do things with, even if it’s only on occasion. This past weekend I took a short trip by myself. I did my best to enjoy myself and did all my usual activities – exploring, checking out the local bookstores, and eating lots of yummy things – but the whole time I kept feeling like something was missing, like I would have really enjoyed having a travel buddy with me for once.

On top of all that I managed to injure myself over the weekend. I’m not sure whether it’s a stress fracture, a sprain, or what (I’ll be going to the doctor tomorrow), but I managed to mess up my foot from all the walking I did on my trip. Having to lay around all week with my foot elevated and shooting pain whenever I try to walk really hasn’t been doing much to brighten my spirits, believe it or not.

I don’t have a happy note to end this on. I just wanted you guys to know that I’m hanging in there and that I’m still here. I thought about writing this post earlier in the week, but even that felt like too much effort, especially considering the entire time my brain has been trolling me and telling me that nobody wants to hear about my problems anyway. *sigh*

Thank you, as always, for being here. I appreciate you all. ❤

(Since I don’t have any book-related things to talk about, I offer you this delicious picture of some taiyaki ice cream. Because ice cream helps make everything better.)

Books · food · Life

How You Doin’?

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This have been rough lately. Two people that I know passed away last week, both somewhat unexpectedly. My heart aches for the families and people affected by the loss of both individuals. It’s a very discouraging feeling when you want to help someone who’s grieving, but there’s little you can do other than say “I’m here for you.”

On top of such heavy news, the weight of my own personal issues have been dragging me down quite a bit. My mood has been pretty low lately – the familiar feelings of loneliness, anger, and insecurity brought on by depression settling in the cracks that they had temporarily vacated. As always, my eating disorder likes to sneak appearances in, as well, particularly when (or because) I’m already down. Every morning he rears his ugly little face out from the folds within my closet, or at the edge of the mirror, and whispers nasty things in my ear that make me feel horrible about my appearance and my worth as a human being.

*sigh*

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It hasn’t all been bad, I guess. I went to cat yoga a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I plan on going back either this week or next and incorporating it into my regular repertoire. I’ve also been working on a new routine for a dance show that’s coming up soon and planning for my solo Spring/Summer trips. Of course, I’ve also been playing around in the kitchen, experimenting with new foods and recipes. There have been multiple trips to the Asian market recently, so I could find new ingredients to play with and to feed my obsession with steamed buns and mochi ice cream.

What I’m Reading:

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How YOU doin’ this week? What are you currently reading or working on?

Life · mental health

Cranky Bitch, Party of One

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Good morning on this day that we call hump.

I feel like I’ve been a bit disconnected from the blog world lately. I’m  not posting as much, not commenting as much, am completely behind on everyone else’s posts, etc. For a while I was attributing this to all the extra effort I was putting onto finishing the draft of my book. In part, some of that was the cause, but now that I’m taking a break from that I realize that there’s more to it. I’ve been feeling pretty crappy, both mentally and physically, the last couple of weeks. After having been doing really well n recovery the last 10-11 months, I feel myself slipping backwards and becoming that miserable, depressed person I was a year ago.

I don’t have much energy or interest in things lately, even the things I enjoy. I’m starting to worry about food/weight stuff again – not enough that it’s causing a problem, but enough that it could easily become an issue. Rather than be proud of all the work I did on the book this past year, my brain keeps trying to convince me that it’s not good enough and, as a result, I’m feeling like garbage. I’m cranky and angry all the time and I can’t even stand being around myself at the moment. UGH.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Maybe it’s just seasonal. Depression can often get worse for people during the winter months because of the lack of sunlight. My kidney problems have been acting up lately, causing me a lot of pain, which I am sure is also contributing. Maybe it’s a delayed response to Beaker’s passing. It’s been two months now. Everyone said I’ve been coping really well with the whole thing, but now I’m wondering if I was just in shock and it’s only starting to hit me. Maybe it’s hormonal. I’ve switched birth control twice now in the last few months, so it’s possible that this is the reason I’m a raging bitch. It’s most likely a combination of all these things.

I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think I can handle slipping back into a full-blown relapse after working so hard to get myself to a better place these last several months. I know I don’t owe anybody an explanation or excuse for why I haven’t blogging as much, but I do like to keep you guys in the loop, considering how supportive you’ve been this past year. I’m working on figuring it all out and hope things start to look up soon.

As always, thank you for reading. ❤

Books · food · Life · mental health · travel

Reasons to Stay Alive (2018)

I wasn’t going to do a reflection post on 2018 this year. With all the “Top 9s” on social media, the New Years resolutions, and the look backs, I figured that everyone would be growing kind of sick of hearing about it at this point. This morning, however, I had a change of heart. You see, today was the first day back at work after a four day weekend. (Even longer for those of my co-workers who have been off since Christmas.) Like any day back after a mini vacation, I expected work to suck today. Surprisingly, everyone was in a cheerful mood – wishing each other a happy new year, talking about how they spent their holidays, and just generally pleased to see each other. What surprised me even more was that I was one of those people.

LIVE

This time last year I was really struggling. I’d been in therapy for a few months, but hadn’t clicked well with my therapist. Rather than make any sort of progress, I felt myself slipping further and further into the abyss. While everyone else was wishing each other a happy new year, I was walking around feeling angry with everyone and hating myself. Shortly after the start of the year I started to have all sorts of health issues. I injured my shoulder and had an almost non-stop kidney pains/infections, which would last for almost six months. My eating disorder still had a strong presence in my life, despite all the weak attempts I made to kick it back. I was eating, but not always enough. I was so focused on my weight, what I was eating, and being “good enough,” that every time I ate a meal I practically burst into tears.

By Spring I was reading books and articles expounding on all the reasons that I should not kill myself.

I was certainly not the “New Year, New Me” poster child. Slowly, I kept dragging myself along anyway until one day I began pulling myself out of the hole I’d dug. One inch at a time. With the help of my therapist, medication, and a lot of hard work, I began to understand what I needed to do to really help myself. In June, I took a huge leap outside of my comfort zone and took a trip to New York all by myself. The trip itself wasn’t wholly responsible for the transformation I made, but it definitely set the wheels in motion. During that trip I rekindled my passion for life and food, and discovered my newfound love for travel. (You can read more about that trip here.)

Since then I’ve done so many things that I’m proud of. I’ve put a ton of effort into writing my first novel (Something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was a child). I’ve faced my fear of doing things alone and learned to enjoy my own company. I traveled to Portland, OR and began planning future solo trips. I’ve taken charge of my health, despite my eventual diagnosis of chronic bladder/kidney problems. I’ve read the books I wanted, made more time for the things I enjoy, and spent more time with friends. I jumped back into the kitchen with abandon, trying everything I can. I’ve made things (like my holiday Buche de Noel) that sent me through the roof with joy. I started living my life again.

Of course, life will never be perfect. I’ve still had my moments of frustration, doubt, fear, and anxiety. I’ve had setbacks and bad days. About one month ago, I had to say goodbye to my dog, and best friend, of fourteen years. It was hard and I still miss him every single day. But, I know that loss is a part of life and that Beaker will always be with me, even if it’s only in my heart. Despite the setbacks, the bad days, and my grief, I am still ten times better than I was this time last year (even on my best day).

I’ve come quite a long way since the start of 2018. I not only endured and pulled myself through, but I found at least a dozen reasons to stay alive. I can’t wait to find a dozen more this year. Here’s to 2019.

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Life · mental health · Uncategorized

Enough

enough

Yesterday I was feeling super anxious about something, which manifested in the form of bitterness and anger. Anger is a common symptom of anxiety for me, one that I don’t really know how to cope with. I wrote an entire blog post about it yesterday, with magically got erased. Believe it or not, this didn’t do much in terms of making me feel any less rage-y. 😒

Today, my brain has decided to take all that leftover anger and anxiousness and turn it inward. I can no longer be mad about the event that was plaguing me yesterday, so today I’m just mad at myself. Again, this is a common occurrence for me. My brain loves to find any and every excuse to tell me that I’m not good enough, creating further anger.

Me: “I no longer feel close to most of the friends I used to have.”

Brain: “Why would anybody want to be friends with you? You’re a terrible friend.”

Me: *makes suggestion that gets ignored or scoffed at*

Brain: “Why would anybody listen to you? Your ideas and suggestions aren’t good enough.”

Me: “I wonder if I’ll ever finish writing this book.”

Brain: “You won’t. You’re a terrible writer and nobody wants to read your story anyway.”

Me: *feels crappy about my body*

Brain: “Why should you feel good? You’re not skinny enough or pretty enough.”

Me: *feels stupid around Boyfriend and his family*

Brain: “You are stupid, what do you expect?”

Etc. etc. etc.

I could fill up an entire post with the bullshit that’s playing out in my head today, but I’ll spare you. I spend a great deal of time telling myself that I’m not good enough and look for others to make me feel validated as a human being. Which is stupid, because I know that I’m not supposed to do that. As part of recovery, I’m supposed to remind myself that I am good enough, that I’m perfect just the way I am. I’m supposed to tell anyone who says otherwise to go fuck themselves. I’m not supposed to care what others think about me, period. Sometimes I’m great at remembering all of this and it’s not an issue. Then, there are days like yesterday where my anxiety sneaks in and attacks from all angles, making it virtually impossible to think rationally.

I’m not sure where I intended to go with this post. I guess I’m just sharing my frustration. I wish this was ending on a more uplifting note, but it is what it is. I know some of you out there can relate and can use the reminder that they aren’t the only ones who deal with this kind of stuff.

As always, thank you for listening. ❤

Books · Life · mental health

Waiting Out the Storm

This past Friday I decided to play hooky and take a day trip to Asheville, NC. Given how many mornings I’ve had to take off for doctor’s appointments as of late, I probably should have just gone to work. To be honest, I didn’t care. I really needed that day off.

For a little over a month now I’ve been dealing with some sort of kidney issue – infection, possible stones, etc. I haven’t even gotten the results back from the CT scan I got last week, despite the fact that the nurse promised to call me back 3 days in a row. Waiting like this is making me super anxious. I felt so crappy the last few weeks that I had barely even left the house, except to go to work or the doctor’s office. (Fortunately, the pain seems to be going away now.) Eventually, the physical pain started taking a toll on my mental health and my brain was sending me to a very scary place.

So, I took the day off. Not for doctor’s appointments or for any other kind of adult bullshit, but just for me. Asheville is one of my favorite cities. Filled with art, books, music, good food, and laid-back vibes, I feel an overwhelming sense of contentment and belonging whenever I visit. It’s a beautiful feeling – one that I hadn’t felt in a while. I spent the day walking around in the sunshine, shopping, looking at art, eating, and perusing my favorite bookstore. As evening grew closer, I found myself wishing for more time.

And you know what? I got more time.

An unexpected rain storm hit the streets of downtown, precisely at the moment I’d been walking back to my car. One minute the sun had been bright and shining, the next the sky was dumping buckets on all our heads. I took refuge in the doorway of the bookstore and waited to see what would happen. I was about a mile away from my car and had no umbrella. “It figures,” was the first thought to pop into my head. My brain was ready to sink back into its negative wallowing and leave the beauty of my day off behind me.

Instead of letting my brain win, I laughed. I stood in that doorway, getting splashed with rainwater, and fucking laughed. Neither my brain nor the weather was going to dampen my spirits that day. I went back into the bookstore, ordered a coffee, and sat at a table for an hour without a care in the world. By the time I was ready to drive home, the sun was out again and I was still smiling.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but wait for the storm to pass.

Life · mental health

Sleep and Sea Analogies

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Things I do when I should be sleeping:

  • Stare at the wall for 3 hours
  • Toss and turn like the sea during a storm
  • Make up sea analogies
  • Marvel over the fact that the Benadryl I took to help me sleep did exactly the opposite
  • Read angry Twitter posts (Spoiler alert: Most people on Twitter are angry)
  • Have anxiety-induced chest pains
  • Panic that I’ll never sleep ever again
  • Write super random blog posts (like this one)
  • Listen to the animals having orgies fighting in the backyard
  • Watch cat wrestling, conveniently in my living room (No pay per view required!)
  • Worry about the tiny trolls in our bedroom
  • Debate about whether or not I should eat something
  • Fight off my eating disorder’s invasive thoughts (His answer: “No, you absolutely can’t eat anything in the middle of the night, even if you’re starving.”)
  • Listen to Boyfriend snore
  • Listen to the new, annoying sounds the ceiling fan makes
  • Get anxiety over whether or not the ceiling fan is going to come crashing down from the ceiling and kill me
  • Turn off ceiling fan
  • Steal all the blankets and turn myself into a blanket burrito (For safety reasons)
  • Toss and turn because it’s too hot being a blanket burrito
  • Feel lonely
  • Cry in frustration
  • Come up with new chapter ideas or short stories
  • Beg the dog to stop eating his damned feet
  • Wonder why there are no bookstores or coffee shops open at 2:00 a.m.
  • Have an existential crisis
  • Wonder if my stomach hurts because I’m hungry or because of my anxiety
  • Wait for my Hogwarts Letter
  • Wish that the tenth Doctor would show up and whisk me away in his TARDIS
  • Get anxiety about being tired from lack of sleep