#607 – Reaching Out

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Regular readers of my blog – well, the ones I had before I took most of last year off – know that I use my blog as a coping mechanism whenever my mental illnesses get rough. I’d guess that most of my posts here for the first year and change I was writing were very much me coping. But since mid-2017, my symptoms have been largely dormant. There have been brief dips in my mood here and there, but the past year and a half, things have been on a pretty even keel. Until recently.

Let me catch you up on the relevant bits of the story. In August 2017, I started taking classes at the local community college. Within a couple days of winter break starting in mid-December, a friend came to stay with us for close to two weeks. A day or two after he left, my wife and I flew to Florida to spend some time with family celebrating a milestone birthday. Once we came back home, we immediately started packing for our most recent move at the end of January. And then classes started the third week of January. The move was scheduled for the weekend of the second week in school, so there was actually some overlap between move and school. Spring semester was 14 credit hours that ended in mid-May 2018. I took one class over the summer, so I pretty much had about ten days to myself before I was right back in school mode. That class ended mid-August 2018, and then two weeks later the fall semester started, and that lasted until the middle of last month. Since then, I’ve pretty much had my time to myself, with the exception of a trip to visit family over Christmas that ended up with my wife and me in quarantine for two days thanks to the flu. So I told you all that to tell you that I’ve had from December 27 to today to myself, with minimal school obligations and not much else from there.

I had gotten used to the school routine over the previous 16 months, and having my time all to myself came as a bit of a shock. I miss the routine of classes and studying. I miss having that structure in my day. And having my day to myself means I’m idle with very little to do. This gives my lying brain ample opportunity to tell me that I have no interest in pretty much anything, and my mood has pretty much tanked in the void. Tonight, I realized that I need some help getting over this, so I’m reaching out to my friends for a bit of a boost.

I know that I’ll be better once I’m back in the routine of school, but it’s still a couple weeks away. Fortunately I have an appointment with my therapist next week, so I’m not too far away there, but I think for the time being I’m going to ask that we meet more regularly (I’d gotten to the point that I was meeting her every six weeks) until I’m sure I’m past this.

If you’re my friend and you’re reading this, I wouldn’t mind if you reached out and checked in from time to time over these next couple weeks. You all make my day better, and I could use the smile.

#606 – The Embarrassing Epiphany

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First off, hi there, I’m Steven, and this is my blog. I haven’t written in it for most of 2018. I’ve been busy with school and life, and honestly, my therapeutic need for writing on a regular basis is mostly in remission. When I started this blog I was pretty much house-bound because of anxiety. Today, I am a successful college student carrying a 3.893 GPA and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. I’m back to doing all the things I was terrified to do a few years ago and I’ve been like this pretty steadily for over a year with only low-grade, brief dips into anxiety and depression in between.

The name of this site, MWMISOSELF.com, is an acronym, meaning “Married White Male In Search of Self-Esteem, Living Fearlessly.” While this originally applied to my mental health, there are other situations in which my self-esteem is suffering, and so I’m returning to my blog to work on those.

A little bit of background about me. I’m 49 years old. If I stand up straight, I’m five foot eight, and as of this morning, I weigh 296 pounds. That clocks me in with a BMI of an even 45, 20 points higher than the threshold of being overweight. (For the record, I put little stock in the BMI, I’m just using it here to illustrate just how morbidly obese I am.) My extra weight is causing me a wide variety of health issues, primarily type 2 diabetes and dangerously high blood pressure. Both are under control, but between these two conditions, I’m taking 15 pills a day with a weekly injection to do so.

I carry my extra weight primarily in my belly, although I’m a little bigger everywhere because of it. That means that my waist measurement is markedly longer than my hip measurement, and because of my body shape my pants are constantly slipping off my waist and down to my hips. As a result, I’m very frequently hitching my pants back up around my waist.

I promised you an embarrassing epiphany, and finally, here it comes.

Yesterday I spent the day traveling from Chicago, where my mother-in-law lives, to Austin, where my wife and I live. Both of us have the flu, my wife much worse than me. (PSA: She’s in awful shape, I barely have any symptoms. I had my flu shot, she did not. Coincidence? I think not. Get your flu shot.) As a result of the fatigue she was experiencing, and also because of a herniated disc in her back, we reserved a wheelchair to get her to the gate more easily. We traveled with her purse and my backpack, as well as two carry-on-sized rolling bags. She carried her purse and the backpack in her lap as she was being wheeled, and I had the two rolling bags trailing behind me.

The guy that was pushing the wheelchair set quite a pace for us, and at one point during the journey, I felt that tell-tale slip of my waistline migrating to my hips. But I had a rolling bag in each hand and couldn’t just hike them back up as I went. So I walked for several more yards, feeling them continuing to slip lower and lower on my hips.

Finally, my pants slipped off my left hip and there was no longer anything keeping gravity from doing its thing, and my waistline fell to my knees before I could catch it. My pants were pretty much the only thing keeping me from an indecent exposure charge and they were in full mutiny. Fortunately, I was wearing my jacket and it was long enough to avoid doing anything obviously criminal, but it was a very close thing. I was mortified, and the only thing that kept me from having a panic attack is knowing that no one that I knew was watching and therefore no one would have any way of knowing it happened. (Except, of course, for this blog post of admission, but I have my reasons for ratting myself out.)

I called out to the guy to stop while I pulled my pants up as quickly as I could, and once I was again properly dressed we continued on to the gate, a trip that involved walking underground from one terminal to another and then to the far end of that.

We got to the gate only to discover that our plane wasn’t even there yet, so we sat for some time before we could board. I was very warm from all the exertion, so once we got settled I took my jacket off and then noticed that the collar was pretty damp with sweat.

It took me a full fifteen minutes to catch my breath from the brisk walk that we took, but in that fifteen minutes, I had time to think about what had happened to me on the way. The waistline incident was just one more reason that I had to lose weight. I’d been tossing the idea around for some time, but nothing more serious than making an appointment for three classes with a nutritionist in January. I know I need to lose weight because of my health, but having my pants actually fall off in public was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It suddenly became a high priority.

At the same time, I was realizing that the trip through O’Hare was the most actual exercise I’d gotten in months, possibly years. I’ve walked plenty, but it’s all been leisurely strolls rather than purposeful workouts. I was scared of how my body would react to doing something that rigorous for that long, but now I knew. I was dripping with sweat, I was heaving trying to catch my breath, and I was doing it all in a very public setting, so there was no ability of me to hide that struggle away – but I survived it. And as I was resting, I realized that I felt more alive at the end of the journey than I did before we set off through the airport. There was an immediate benefit from exercising, one I hadn’t foreseen, and I liked how it made me feel.

So now that I’m home and the holidays are behind us, I’m finally ready to commit to losing weight and all that comes with it – the dietary restrictions, the cardio, all of it. And the timing is such that it can commence with the new year. That’s not to say I’m making losing weight a New Year’s resolution – I don’t believe in resolutions because they’re set up to crumble at the first sign of difficulty – but I will make a goal to lose ten pounds as soon as possible. And when I hit that, then I’ll make a goal to lose fifteen more, and then twenty. At the end of those three short-term goals, I’ll have lost 45 pounds and will be at my first target weight of 250. And then I’ll keep working on goal after goal until the excess weight is gone. My future depends on it. And so does my state of dress, apparently.

#605 – I Survived

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Once again, I find myself in the unfortunate position of catching you up on a couple months’ worth of activities instead of writing a little bit as I go through the days and weeks. This entry will be shorter than my last one, since there’s really not that much to report on, outside of school.

This will be repeat information for many people on my Facebook feed, but I just completed my second semester of college. This semester I took 14 credit hours, up significantly from the six I started with last fall. I was taking Anatomy & Physiology I, one of my pre-requisite courses for my cardiovascular sonography degree program; Applied Physics, another pre-requisite; English Composition I, a co-requisite course; and Effective Learning, the college’s introductory course in learning and life skills that it requires all students to take early in their degree program. Physics and A&P are both hard classes, designed to weed out students before they get into the program. English Comp is pretty much just that – I was worried about it, though, since I generally don’t write well when assigned a topic. Effective Learning was a comparatively easy course, but outside of labs was the only instance where I had to work with other students on projects and the only instance of doing a class presentation at all. I was very worried about how I’d be able to respond to that much schooling at once.

I survived the semester! I was worried about my grade for three of the four classes – I was pretty sure I’d made at least a B in them but wanted to do as well as I could on the final exams. I must have done well enough. I got straight A’s for the semester!

Throughout all my years of schooling, I have never gotten all A’s for a grading period. While I was an intelligent child, I was also lazy, and in my early years in school was promoted from grade to grade based simply on my ability to perform well on tests, rather than taking into consideration my homework, or lack thereof. That habit started to cost me in middle and high school, though, and my grades suffered for it. I never learned effective time management skills for doing homework and studying and I was a champion procrastinator. So this accomplishment is very special to me.

It puts me on the President’s Honor Roll for the semester, the first time I’ve ever been on any honor roll at any level. It also makes my overall GPA a 3.85 and my pre-requisite GPA a 3.73. The pre-requisite GPA is important for my program application in the spring of 2019. My degree program requires a 2.0 GPA on pre-requisite courses, but I’ve been advised that a 3.5 is competitive to enter the program. My performance so far puts me in good shape heading into the fall, when I’ll take my final pre-requisite course.

So my plan for the rest of my pre-program education looks like this.

In the summer, I’m taking Essentials of Medical Terminology. While this is technically part of the degree requirement, it can be taken prior to applying for a small number of points on the application worksheet. It is an online course and will be the only one that I take for this degree. I hope that I’ve learned enough discipline to keep up with my studies without the structure of an in-class schedule.

In the fall, I’ve got Anatomy & Physiology II, Ethics, Interpersonal Communication, and Introduction to Psychology. A&P II is my final pre-requisite, the others are my final co-requisites. It’s 13 credit hours, but if I can get all A’s on 14, I can do it again this fall.

In the spring of 2019, I’m going to be taking the Certified Nurse Aide program. My degree program requires formal patient care education, and the minimum requirement that meets that is the CNA program. It’s an intense three-week program, Monday through Thursday, 9:00 am-3:30 pm, so it will leave most of the spring semester free for me to prepare for the TEAS exam that is also required by my degree program. And then it’s just a matter of sending in the application and waiting.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this path and to the work that lies ahead of me in the profession. And I’m looking forward to writing more this summer.

#604 – Been a While, Hasn’t It?

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So hey there, how are you doing? Been a while, hasn’t it? I have over two months to catch you up on, and that has been a hectic time. My apologies for disappearing, but there have been reasons.

The last time I wrote to you, I was just getting ready to start the spring semester with 14 credit hours and was preparing to move. There have been a lot of things going on, so I’m going to split this up into categories instead of trying to remember the last two months chronologically.

School: Fourteen credit hours is a lot to take on at once, and with two pre-requisites and two co-requisites on my schedule – and a target of applying to my program a year from now with at least a 3.5 GPA – performing well is very important. I’m taking anatomy and physiology I and applied physics (both pre-requisites) as well as English composition I and something called Effective Learning (both co-requisites), and none of these are really easy courses. I’ve been worried about my performance, especially since I’ve missed at least two class sessions in all four classes thanks to various illnesses, and my reading is falling further and further behind. However, here at roughly the halfway point of the semester I’ve got a high B, in A&P, and As everywhere else. That’s on target for my goal GPA – now if I can just maintain this for about eight more weeks, and hopefully bring that B up to an A, I’ll be very happy indeed.

Home: We’re moved! On moving day we’d not packed up even half the apartment when folks started coming around about 9:00 am, so we knew we were in for a long day. However, we had a lot of friends that came to help us, and by noon we had packed everything up and gotten the vast majority of our stuff down to the truck and assorted vehicles, ready to take it to our new apartment. By 4:00 pm everything we’d brought over in the first wave was either inside the apartment or on our patio. All the furniture was in place and my wonderful mother-in-law had almost completely unpacked our kitchen. That left only a few things to do on the second day we’d set aside for the move, and it seemed like in the blink of an eye our environment had transformed. We had moved from a 34-year-old 2/2 apartment in a less-than-ideal part of town to a ten-year-old gated community in one of the nicest places in town as well as a freshly renovated unit. We moved in about two months ago, and even though we’ve still got some stuff in boxes it still feels a little like us moving into a resort. And then the bills came in. We are estimating that our rent and water bills would be comparable between the two apartments – but our rent includes a surcharge for a reserved covered parking spot, something that wasn’t even offered at the old apartment, so, all in all, we’re paying less here than we would have been at the old place. Our water bill is half of what it was, as is our electric bill, and our internet bill is cheaper for service faster than we had by an order of magnitude. Even our car insurance has gone down. The only expense that’s gone up is our monthly fuel bill – my wife’s commute has doubled in length and four days out of five that trip is being taken twice to allow me to have the car for class.

Health: My anxiety has been doing very well given the added stress of a heavy course load, and only in recent weeks has my anxiety been really elevated. (More on that in a minute.) My blood sugar has been slowly rising, and this morning I recorded the highest glucose reading I’ve had since my diabetes has been controlled, so I’ll be going to the doctor soon to talk about that. Good thing too – my blood pressure has been on the rise as well, although part of that is likely due to school stress.

Family: I got a call from Mom one day a few weeks ago with her telling me that she was in Dallas strolling around the thousand acres that she’d just bought, and wanted to know what kind of cars we wanted her to buy for us, and took special care to point out that she had a private plane on call to whisk us from Austin to her property in about an hour and a half. Since that point, my dad has apparently taken over $2000 out of her account and changed her banking password and disappeared with her car. She figured he’s gone for good and is talking with a divorce lawyer about what she needs to do to file. Fortunately, her brother and sister-in-law have been visiting on the weekends and keeping her company. Here’s the problem: Mom is in a skilled nursing facility in North Carolina and has been unable to walk for well over a decade. My father passed away in 1995, and both her brother and sister-in-law are also deceased. There’s no property in Dallas, there’s no money for his and hers cars, there’s certainly no private plane. My thought is that she has a chronic infection that’s been causing hallucinations for weeks, and despite the facility supposedly treating it her symptoms have not abated. If she were living in the past, then I’d be more concerned about dementia setting in, but this is all new stuff that she’s telling us, so it seems to be more hallucinatory than memory loss. The good news is that the ball has finally started rolling to make me a secondary medical power of attorney for her, which means that the facility will now start calling me, her actual son, when they need to advise us of treatments and progress in her conditions, as well as the family friend who’s local to her and who has been taking care of her for years – and who is her primary medical power of attorney due to his proximity to Mom.

Community: This is where the elevated anxiety comes in. It is not internal. I live in Austin, which has until earlier this week been dealing with a domestic terrorist that planted seven bombs in town, six of which detonated with two fatalities and several more serious injuries. The suspect had started to change up his level of sophistication as well as his delivery method, with one bomb exploding in a FedEx facility south of town, which had the whole of Austin on edge. That fear was almost palpable in the 48 hours leading up to police catching up to their primary suspect, only to have him die in a self-triggered explosion early Wednesday morning. The whole thing hit home with me on several fronts. A friend of mine lives just a couple miles from the sites of multiple explosions and was seriously considering keeping her kids home from school until the perpetrator was caught. Another friend of mine was told by police to stay in her apartment while they investigated a suspicious package left at the high school next door to her. One of the explosions was just a few doors down from a fellow physics student and she was being told to stay indoors until the all-clear had been given – she’d gone so far as to write our professor and tell him she’d likely miss class that day.

So that’s pretty much been my last two months. My schedule has been hectic and a lot of things I used to do on a daily basis have fallen by the wayside since the semester started. I mentioned this to my therapist a couple days ago and she brought up the excellent point that the important things, the medical reasons that I started keeping a daily checklist in the first place, are all being done more or less without fail, so I shouldn’t worry so much about keeping up with everything. She’d also like me to write more often, so I’m going to try my best to get back to at least a couple times a week. On that note, I’ll be around again in a few days with a shorter post.

 

#603 – Hello 2018! and Taking a Stand Against Racism

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So it took me half the month to get here, but let me catch you up on things.

The trip to Florida went well. I got to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time, we had some time in the hotel room on our own so we didn’t have to be “on” all the time (the reason sucked – there was apparently a bout of food poisoning that went through the family and we were asked to stay away for a day), and on the last full day we were there we went to LEGOLAND Florida.

We started out the day going through the park with my brother- and sister-in-law and their two kids. I wanted to be there for that, because I wanted to get photos of my nephew and niece enjoying the day. We also kept an eye on the kids while the adults went on adult rides. My nephew had a complete meltdown every time Mom walked away, but it was worth it to see how ecstatic he was when she came back around.

We split off to spend most of our time at Miniland USA, where they had tons of cityscapes from around Florida and the United States, as well as a section devoted to the Star Wars saga. Altogether, I took almost four gigabytes’ worth of photos and videos and probably spent close to two hours just taking in the builds.

We headed back to the hotel and met up with a friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in a couple years and her wife, who we hadn’t yet met. We had a wonderful dinner together before heading back to the hotel for the night to pack.

I cannot overstate how big this is for me. A year ago, it was all I could do to leave the house for doctors’ appointments, and now I’m happily going through a major theme park with no anxiety, no stress (except for the nephew, but even that was tolerable) and no incidents.

We came back home and started prepping for school and the move at the end of the month. All my books and supplies are bought, and everything’s done for the move with the exception of actually, you know … packing. That’s taking a while and we keep putting it off, and we’re running out of time, so things are getting a little tense around the house right now.

And that’ brings us, more or less, to today.

A little bit of background for the highlight of the day. I’m on a few Discord servers (Discord is a text and voice client geared for gamers. Our radio station was my introduction to Discord.) and one of them has had issues with a member not playing well with others. Constant one-upmanship, lie after lie (he couldn’t keep them straight and he would often contradict himself), subtle trolling, moving the goalposts in arguments – he was the personification of everything you don’t want to deal with in a social situation. The thing is, he would always stop just short of being a disciplinary issue. Many people complained about him, but there was nothing they could really do, despite wanting to.

Until tonight.

Earlier today, the guy posted a link to a game called Comedy Night. It’s a game where the player performs comedy over voice, and a live audience reacts to the routine. It’s a great concept in theory, but in practice it is apparently a haven for racial insults and hardcore trolling. That’s not my thing, so I mentioned that it would be interesting if not for the racial problems. And the guy tried to defend people’s right to be racist.

Now, understand that I abhor conflict. Nothing gives me impostor syndrome faster than getting into an argument. I always think that the other person can run rings around my argument and punch holes all through it.

But I just could not let this guy say the things he was saying. So I put my foot down. And things escalated.

Eventually the guy all but openly defended racism, and that’s when the moderators got involved.

After reviewing our conversation, they banned the guy. Every trace of his presence disappeared from the server.

There’s more! The guy immediately created a new account and was immediately banned for trying to circumvent the ban. And he did it again. And again. And again.

The best part is the names he was coming up with. His original handle was The Phenomenal One. He first came back as Simply Glorious. The next name was Chosen One. The guy was rather full of himself.

If he comes back, they’ll know. He’s got a definite pattern to his naming and his conversation, and he was prolific, talking mostly at people rather than to them.

The most important thing is that I stood up for what was right and prevailed. And it feels amazing. To be fair, I still get the willies thinking about the conflict. But it was worth it.

I fortunately haven’t had much occasion to speak up against racism – the circle of people I associate are very inclusive and it’s just not something that ever comes up. But it’s nice to know that I’m capable of being a more active and effective ally when the need presents itself.

#602 – Goodbye 2017!

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This will be my last post this year. I am packing for a flight to Orlando to spend some time with my wife’s family for a few days. We leave very, very early in the morning so tonight’s post is going to be short, but important.

One of my first posts of 2017 was on January 21, where I talked a bit about what everyday life was like for me. I was barely being social, I was pretty much a shut-in, I was only driving if it was absolutely necessary, and I was very prone to anxiety attacks at the drop of a hat. I was still pretty early in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition, and my meds were keeping my mood low but stable.

Fast forward to today. I’ve completed the Workbook and had my meds tweaked to a super effective combination, and together they’ve allowed me to make progress that I could never have foreseen in January. I’ve recently completed my first semester in college, with both classes being taught in the classroom and not online. I started driving pretty much anywhere and going to stores on my own. My confidence started to come back, although it still has a ways to go. I have far more good days than bad. My mood is usually fairly medium but it’s easy for it to spike and rare for it to plummet even for a brief time.

This has been nothing short of a transformative year for me, and I’m hoping that 2018 is going to be more of the same. I’ve got a hell of a workload in the spring semester that starts next month, and just at the beginning of it I’m moving, but if I can get through that with mostly A’s and the occasional B, then I’ll consider myself very prepared for anything else that college – and life – can throw my way.

I want to thank you for following me through this banner year. Your words of encouragement and wisdom mean the world to me, and I appreciate every one of you for taking time out of your day to read my (sometimes nonsensical) musings about my life.

See you folks next year. Enjoy the turn of the calendar and all the promise and hope it brings.

#601 – What a Lovely Day

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Today was a fantastic day. I got to spend the afternoon with one of my favorite people, and when I picked my wife up from work found out that she had an even better day after a conversation with her supervisor.

The evening’s been spent lying in bed and goofing off on the computer. I’ll enjoy this little bit of respite. We’re going to be packing tomorrow night for a flight to Orlando Saturday morning to spend time with my wife’s family for New Year’s. Once we get back, the packing and preparation for our move is going to start in earnest, and it won’t be many days before I’ll be back in school.

Gotta enjoy the downtime while I can. There’s not a lot of it on the horizon.