NaBloPoMo Day 30: Adulting is Overrated

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First off, before I get into the meat of today’s blog post, I would like to thank awriterbecoming for introducing me to the concept of National Blog Posting Month. I didn’t go register on the NaBloPoMo website, but according to their own rules, I met the criteria for a win – at least one blog post a day, every day, for a month, regardless of whether I register with them. I’ve tried National Novel Writing Month twice and I think at this point in my life I’m too intimidated by the concept of writing 50,000 words that tell a cohesive story. I wanted to try this first and prove to myself that I was capable of writing every day for a month. There were times that it was difficult coming up with something to write about, but it all worked out in the end. Now that I’ve done this, I think maybe next year I might try one of the Camp NaNoWriMo challenges. Camp happens twice a year, in April and July, and accepts word counts as small as 10,000 words to count as a winner. It’s more open ended, and I think challenging myself to a shorter story would be the next logical step in my progression to novel writing. Besides, April and July are considerably less hectic on me emotionally and logistically, and I’d be more prone to stick it out rather than let my outside environment take me out early.

Wow, that was almost a blog post in and of itself, wasn’t it? Okay, with that acknowledgment out of the way, time to get to the real post.

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Today I adulted very hard.

I know it’s not an actual word. Urban Dictionary defines its use as a verb as “doing something grown-up and responsible.” I like its usage because it makes me feel less like an adult and more like a kid, which is very much how I want to feel at the end of a string of productive activities.

Today I made sure bills were paid after the snafu with the bank, took care of a long-standing problem with my wife’s tablet, cleaned house, made dinner, and cleaned up afterward. Today is the second day in a row that I’ve been outside the house to face other people, and I handled myself pretty well.

It seems like one of the most basic things to have to write: “I left the house and faced another human being for the second day in a row.” The last time that I did that was over a month ago, when I went camping for the weekend with a large group of my friends. That was the most concentrated socializing I’d done since a similar situation last May. Anxiety can render you very helpless in the face of some of what should be the most mundane situations imaginable.

I mentioned yesterday that I went out to purchase some filter packs for our Keurig. I did well in the store, in part because we were in and out in ten minutes, and that included a spot of window shopping. What I didn’t reveal was the fact that I almost had a panic attack in the traffic on the way to the store, even though I wasn’t driving, and the fact that I wasn’t alone. I haven’t driven to do anything but visit my therapist, make a doctor’s appointment, or drop my wife off or pick her up from work so I could have the car to do one of the two aforementioned things, in over a year. I have not willingly driven somewhere nor have I been the one to drive when my wife is in the car in almost two years.

I think I’m going to mention this to my therapist when I see her on Thursday, this crippling inability to drive unless it’s absolutely necessary for me to do so. I keep talking about wanting to get out and be more social, but if I’m unwilling to get in the car and drive somewhere, I’ve got bigger problems than being around people.

And sooner or later, I’m going to have to start working on the reasons I’m on disability in earnest. I don’t like being on it, but the stipend each month is absolutely vital to keeping us afloat financially, and if I can’t get in the car and drive anywhere, how can I expected to handle the stresses of the workplace?

So I adulted very hard today. I think the best thing I can do for myself at this point in the day is acknowledge what I’ve done, and take it easy for the rest of the evening. I can’t really say that I’ve earned it, but I certainly would welcome the mental and emotional break of a little leisure time.

And who knows, maybe there’ll be a reason for me to get out among people again tomorrow, and it’ll be three days in a row.

Baby steps, I keep telling myself, gotta start with baby steps.

NaBloPoMo Day 29: Old Tricks Aren’t Working

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My brain is a weird place, and sometimes I do not like how it works.

Early yesterday, I realized that on the 27th I broke a two month long streak in logging my vitals. I missed my evening blood pressure, the first time I had failed to log a reading since late September. I brushed that off like it was no big deal – just time to start a new streak.

Last night at about 11:40, I realized that I hadn’t blogged yet, nor had I done my learning exercises. I got the blog post done, I managed to complete my Duolingo, which actually tracks the number of consecutive days you meet your learning goal, but I failed to complete my three exercises in Elevate before midnight, and it reset my progress to start over with two done.

And as midnight started getting closer and closer, I started getting sloppy with my answers, as I was rushing through to meet this self-imposed deadline. When it became obvious I wasn’t going to make it in time, I became furious with myself, yelling and slamming my phone down on the couch (it’s fine). I finally got calmed down after my wife ran through the old centering exercise that I hadn’t needed in weeks. Satisfied, I went to bed.

I’d like to take a moment to stress that the most important parts of these activities were completed. I blogged in time to count for day 28, and my streak on Duolingo is still active.

Now, normally, sleeping will reset my brain and have me waking up thinking about fresh starts and optimism. Not this time.

I woke up furious with myself that I had lost my cool the night before and dove straight into an irrational argument with my wife over anything I could to demonize myself and turn myself into evil incarnate. Finally I got calmed down and we went to go brave the throng of shoppers at Bed Bath and Beyond to go pick up another set of cheap but effective filter cups for our Keurig. (Two of ours have broken through overuse. They’re reusable, but not quite permanent.)

Failure to reset after a night’s rest is a recent and disconcerting trend. used to be, there was nothing more effective at getting me to stop the downward spiral. Now it seems like I’m waking up remembering what an idiot I was the night before and it starts all over again, thoughts of fresh starts completely gone from my mind.

The impetus seems to be the belief that I’m in trouble, despite no one telling me that I am and nothing to outwardly show that I am. “I was such an asshole last night,” my brain seems to be telling me, “so of course I must be in trouble, because who could possibly forgive the outward manifestation of the symptoms of a chronic illness that I sometimes have little to no control over?” Even confirmation by my wife – the one I usually believe I’m in trouble with – that I’ve done nothing wrong doesn’t dissuade me from my errant belief. The more she tries to convince me, the harder and deeper I dig in my heels.

There are times that I really, really dislike having a mental illness. (I’m never crazy about it, but I mean a passionate hatred of my symptoms and how they affect me and those around me.) This morning was one of those times.

I’m doing better now, but even recanting that episode is putting the seeds of doubt in my head, that now that I’m TALKING about what happened, NOW I’ll be in trouble for sure. I’m fighting it as best as I can, but my evening is starting to go south and I’m not sure what I can do about it except go find a distraction.

NaBloPoMo Day 28: A Day Out

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Today I did a fair amount of face-to-face socialization, in addition to the usual online socialization I do during a radio show. My wife and I went out to pick up some crochet patterns from a friend of ours and got the chance to see the lovely renovations they’ve done on their home. Once we left there, it was straight off to have lunch with another friend we haven’t seen in well over 10 years, plus her fiancee and his mother, neither of whom we’d met before. I didn’t do much talking, but that’s pretty standard for me whenever there’s someone new that I’m talking to. My anxiety was getting to me by the end of the meal, however. I caught myself kinda zoning out on the conversation at times and really wanting to get up and run, outside, anywhere. The restaurant was quite crowded and I think between the interactions face-to-face and the hubbub of the crowd, it was getting to me. Still, I had a very enjoyable time despite my anxiety.

I need to start remembering that I am capable of handling my anxiety in public for short periods, and start getting out there to spend more time with my friends.

 

NaBloPoMo Day 27: Black Friday

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I think that regular readers of this blog will be able to suss out that I would rather chew my arm off at the shoulder than go shopping today. I can appreciate the desire to get a head start on the holiday shopping, but Black Friday has become this monster that we’re only now starting to fight back against.

It got to the point that some retailers were opening on Thanksgiving Day in order to one-up their competition, and sure enough families were descending in packs to the stores within hours of – and sometimes instead of – eating a big traditional Thanksgiving meal.

It pleased me greatly to see that REI, an outdoor supply cooperative that I am a member of, closed not only for Thanksgiving Day, but also Black Friday. A handful of other retailers followed suit and announced that they, too, would remain closed Thursday and Friday. I made note of those companies and will do my best to frequent them because of their commitment to their employees’ families during the holidays.

Online shopping is taking a bigger part of that pie every year. It’s become so popular, in fact, that Cyber Monday is now a thing. The first day that many people are back to work and have computer access is now the biggest day of the year for online retail.

The draw of online shopping is that you don’t have to brave crowds, leave the house, or even get dressed to get what you want. With Amazon Prime Now, certain items can be delivered to your door within an hour in some locations. (My home is one of them.) You also don’t have to present a physical credit or debit card, either; you can just take down the data from someone else’s card and use it without their permission with some online retailers.

Which is precisely what happened with my wife’s debit card yesterday.

I went to go pay the electric bill this morning and was surprised to see the card continually being declined. I couldn’t figure out why this was the day after payday when neither of us had spend a dime, so I went to the bank’s website, pulled up our account information, and lo and behold, someone had stolen my wife’s debit card data and used it on two transactions totaling more than half of my wife’s paycheck. Neither of us have ever heard of these two retailers, much less would have spend hundreds of dollars without consulting the other.

I immediately contacted the credit union, canceled her card, and formally disputed the two charges. Apparently they’ve already been approved by Visa, so we wait and see whether they’ll reverse on their own or we’ll have to complete paperwork and an investigation into the charges to get the money back. They’ll be sending my wife a new card within seven business days, and we can go to the bank tomorrow morning and get a temporary card for her to use in the meantime.

The temporary loss of that money will affect us profoundly with regard to our bills, as we’re especially tight this week, what with the first of the month coming out of this check. If Visa allows the transactions to clear, then I don’t know how long we’ll have to wait to get that money returned to our bank account, and we can’t afford to have it gone for very long.

So despite neither of us going shopping, it looks like a Black Friday for us as well.

Generally speaking, I kind of hate humanity right now.

NaBloPoMo Day 26: Just Another Typical Thursday

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I wrote yesterday about the things that I’m thankful for. That’s because for all intents and purposes, this is just like any other Thursday at our house. My wife is still working, I’m still doing a radio show. We had leftovers for lunch and will be having leftovers for dinner. In fact, the only two things that make today different than any other Thursday is that my wife is working 10am-7pm instead of 2pm-11pm, and she’ll be doing a radio show just after mine. Oh, and there’s been a call to my mother and will be one to my daughter and my wife’s side of the family when my wife gets home from work.

Our big Thanksgiving dinner is going to have to wait until another time.

But that’s okay with me. Holidays tend to stress me out because despite everyone having the day off to do whatever they want, tradition holds that we spend it with family and prepare a tremendous feast of a meal to celebrate. The only stress that we’re going to experience today outside of the usual Thursday stress is the hurried programming of a second radio show tonight. We’re going to be able to counter that with the fun and shenanigans that usually happen during our joint radio show on Saturdays once my solo show is off the air. There’s also the logistics of cooking a turkey with sides in our galley kitchen. There’s precious little countertop space and it’s not very conducive to getting a big elegant spread on the table.

I’m perfectly content to push that stress off to another day.

It’s not like I don’t like big holiday meals; I do, and I especially love making sandwiches out of the leftover turkey. But given how this week started, I’m content to not have a crazy day piled on to the way I was feeling earlier in the week.

So, for my readers in the United States, happy Thanksgiving, and for my readers in other countries, um … happy Thursday. Nothing says you can’t have a turkey dinner tonight too if you want, except that it’s kind of past dinnertime in Europe, so that basically leaves North and South America with enough time to work that turkey in. If you hurry. And if you like turkey. It’s okay to not have to like turkey.

I forgot where I was going with this. I appear to be rambling. I guess I’ll just wrap this up, then.

NaBloPoMo Day 25: Giving Thanks

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(This one’s long, but I would ask you be patient and read the whole thing. The best part is at the end, I promise.)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. Many families gather around the dinner table to spend five minutes expressing what they’re thankful for and an hour or more of small talk about one another’s lives while eating a meal that could feed an entire village in a Third World country before settling in to spend the rest of the day watching football on television in a tryptophan-induced haze or climbing in the car and getting a head start on the holiday shopping.

Please don’t misconstrue the above paragraph to mean that I’m not a thankful person; I am, as you’re about to read. I just think sometimes we put a bigger emphasis on the meal or the football or the sales and not as much thought into what we’re truly thankful for.

So with the day looming tomorrow, and with tomorrow’s blog post already outlined in my head, today I want to take a moment to talk about the things that I’m truly thankful and appreciative of every day.

I am thankful of our men and women who serve this country in uniform, to make sure that we are safe in our homelands. This country stands on the shoulders of those who defended our freedom and our way of life in the face of those who would take that away from us. All gave some. Some gave all. And for every sacrifice that was offered with the Oath of Enlistment, I am eternally grateful.

I am thankful of the men and women that serve this country during times of strife and crisis. Our police. Our fire departments. Our EMTs. Our ER doctors and nurses. They are the faces that we see whenever things go wrong in our lives and they often suffer right alongside of us when they do. Each of them plays a critically important role in our country’s infrastructure, and they very frequently receive neither the pay they are worth nor the appreciation.

I am thankful of the volunteer corps serving this country and around the world. Stop and think about the incredible things that are being done by volunteers around you. Houses are being built for the homeless. The hungry are being fed. Companion animals are being rescued, brought to health, and care for until they find their forever home. Villages are being provided basic needs like food and clean water and basic sanitation and healthcare. People are raising awareness and funds to fight diseases for which we have no known cure yet. There are millions of people working in their own way to make this world a better place to live in, with no more payment than the experience of a job well done and the thanks of those whose lives they touch. Without them, this world would be a much darker place.

I am thankful that my basic needs are met. I have a roof over my head. I have clean clothes on my back. I have food and clean water every day. I have doctors to tend to me when I am sick and to treat chronic illnesses that I suffer from. I have a method of transportation to be able to carry me from place to place. I have often noted that my financial struggles don’t allow for a lot of discretionary spending. I don’t note enough that my family is, for the most part, self-sufficient and not lacking in meeting basic needs.

I am thankful that I have a loving wife who knows me as well, and often better, than I know myself. She can point out that I have a headache often before I myself am aware of it. She sacrifices so much in order to make sure that I’m well-cared for. Above all, she is my very best friend in the world. There is no one on the planet in whose company I would rather be. She makes me laugh, makes me think, makes me cry at times, makes me smile even when I don’t want to, makes me see reason at times when I really can’t find it myself (although it admittedly takes some time for me to see it), makes me feel loved and special, and above all, makes me want to be a better person on a daily basis. I cannot thank her nor love her enough. I know she will be reading these words. Most of them are for you, the reading public, but these are just for her: I love you more than there are stars, and until they all go out.

I am thankful that I have a good relationship with my immediate family. My mother and I have a history of not getting along well from time to time, and I’m very glad that we’re growing tighter as time marches on. My daughter and I still have a blossoming relationship, as we’re still trying to get used to the idea of being in one another’s lives, but I am inordinately proud of the young woman that she’s become and cannot thank her enough for being willing to accept me into her life at age 23.

I am thankful that I have an astoundingly large support network of friends and acquaintances that encourage me, challenge me, and welcome me with open arms, faults and all. I can’t thank them enough for making me feel at home with them when I have spent so much of my life feeling like an outsider. If you are reading this and we’ve met one another in passing, even for a moment, know that I am including you in this and that I’m very grateful that you are a part of my life, even if my anxiety keeps most of you at a distance. I really wish that weren’t the case; I love your company and wish that we could spend more time getting to know one another. You have been there for me more often than I can count, and I want you to know I am here for you, no matter what, no matter when.

I am thankful that a small tuxedo cat wandered through our door one May morning. She left of her own free will that first day, came back, left again, and came back once more. She’s never left our home since. She has calmed me in times of stress, made me laugh at her antics, and given me a faithful companion during the many hours that I would be otherwise home alone. She has often been capable of pulling me out of a rough emotional spot just by offering her belly for rubs, something that is very frequently a genuine offer and not a bear trap in disguise. (I once spent almost an hour straight rubbing her belly. She fell asleep soon after I started and slept the rest of the time.) She is the sweetest, most adorable cat anyone could hope for, and there is a reason that some people swear they visit our home to see the cat and not the people.

I am thankful for the good days that I have. Regular readers of this blog, regular listeners of my radio program, and my followers in social media all know that I struggle from day to day, and that sometimes a bad day will come out of nowhere. Presently there are more neutral and good days than there are bad, even though there were some bad days of late. i am also thankful that I have the presence of mind to realize that I’m having a bad day and that I need to practice even more self-care on those days than I usually do.

I am thankful that I know when times are getting desperate and when I need help more intensive than can be provided by medication and therapy alone. I have never actively attempted suicide, despite having ideations for much of my life. I am so very grateful that I’m still here, and that I’ve beaten my mental illnesses up to this point, and that I’ve been strong enough to ask for help when I need it the most.

Lastly, I am thankful that, despite my struggles from day to day, I cannot remember the last time I had even a passive suicidal ideation. I’ve often wanted the pain and suffering of mental illness to go away. I’ve sometimes wished that a headache or backache would pass quickly. But I’ve never wished to be dead or even to disappear, as so many despondent people wish for. Given the saga that has been my year in mental health purgatory, I am genuinely surprised that the thought of suicide or of “not being here anymore” hasn’t crossed my mind at least once. That tells me that no matter how bad things are getting otherwise, I’m not ready to stop fighting, and I’m not getting bad enough that I need intensive help in doing so.

For these things, and for so very many other small ones too numerous to mention here, I give my unending and deepest thanks, today and every day.

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Digging Back Out

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So far today, my mood’s been fairly stable. I won’t go so far as to say it’s GOOD, mind, but at least it’s not pinging wildly back and forth between joyous, distraught, and angry anymore.

I think one of the things that has helped as much as anything is sleep. For several days before my mood tanked the other day I’d been getting somewhere between four to six hours of sleep a day. Last night, I got a full eight, plus a couple of naps this morning and afternoon. I feel rejuvenated, and I think honestly sleep had a lot to do with it. I’ve been productive more today than I have been over the last couple of days, even given the extra sleep that I’m getting, and I feel more accomplished because of it, which in turn is boosting my mood.

It makes sense, though. Experts talk about how important regular sleep is to mental health. I’m living proof of that. Several years ago, I was getting about two to three hours of sleep a night for about four months. The extreme sleep deprivation started affecting my decision making ability, and I decided that I needed to come off my medications. A week later, with no medications in my system and barely any sleep to speak of, I had a full-blown psychotic episode that lasted a week. It was the worst time of my life, and I’m thankful that my wife listened to me when I got thirty seconds of lucidity and begged her to take me to the hospital.

Part of the struggle with getting my care right is understanding that my body is changing as I grow older. I turn 50 during our next presidential term of office. That’s not that long off. My body has been regularly changing since I turned 40, and learning my new aches and pains and limitations is a growing experience.

Somehow I think I’m going to have to find a way of tracking my sleeping habits to see if there’s a more consistent correlation between the two. In the meantime, I think it’s going to be important to ensure that I get regular sleep from here on out. It seems to be affecting me more as I’m getting older. One long night once in a while won’t do much, but if I’m getting less than six hours of sleep a night for a few nights in a row, I’m going to need to listen to my body and let it rest for a while to head off episodes like this in the future. And if it won’t listen, I’m going to have to force the issue with a sleeping pill.