#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.

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#593 – Finally

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Today I finally got my grades for algebra. I pulled down an 85.76% for the semester, for a solid B. I’m very, very happy with this, given the struggles I had with the second half of the semester.

Today has also been a very lazy day, and I’m going to enjoy it while I can, despite feeling guilty that I didn’t do more around the house.

It’s a far cry from last year this time, when I was doing very little because that’s all I could do at the time. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but what was once the status quo feels like so much less today. I know I was doing the best that I could, and I’m trying to go easy on myself about it, but the guilt about not doing more today and about not doing more then is still fairly strong.

Don’t Worry, Little Brother, There’s More

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I’m so tired right now I’ve tried three times now to write this blog post so it makes sense, so at this point I think I’m going to do something quick and dirty.

Today was another algebra day. That’s what I get for putting off a month-long homework assignment until the last week. Next assignment I won’t be doing that. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve got a half-day’s worth of work to do tomorrow in between my algebra class in the morning and my biology class in the evening, plus I also need to be studying for a biology quiz tomorrow night. Then on Tuesday, I have a full day’s worth of homework to do to wrap up the assignment, as well as an algebra test on all this material at the Testing Center sometime before it closes Tuesday evening. Then Wednesday morning I turn in the homework. Going to be another busy week for me.

It makes me wonder if I can handle a full class load. Handling these two have been challenging enough, although I am doing quite well in both classes, so there’s that. I just hope that when I move from two classes this semester to four next semester I won’t get overly stressed about it. That’s one of the things my therapist and I have been working on together, preparing me for this level of stress and human interaction.

It still seems strange to me that at the beginning of 2017 I would barely leave the house for anything other than a mandatory trip to a doctor’s appointment. I would sometimes go out to eat on a slow night at a slow restaurant, or go see a movie I really, really wanted to see, but those occasions were uncommon. I never drove unless I had to, I usually had to be coaxed out of the apartment when I left it, and I was going out of my mind with boredom. But this year has been transformative. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of time, and I have my excellent, excellent therapist and equally wonderful psychiatrist to thank for this. The therapy that I’ve been receiving for years worked up to a certain point, but things really started to click when I got on a more effective medication regimen earlier this year. The meds helped the therapy stick, and it’s been that way every since.

Whatever happens next semester, I’m sure I can handle it. Might be tough going, but I got this.

(Okay, that wasn’t so quick and dirty. Sorry for rambling, y’all.)

And There’s More

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Today I set an appointment with Austin Community College’s Student Accessibility Services office to discuss my disability and what they can do for me, if anything. The perceived stress of school might be enough to trigger a notable setback in my progress. I’m hoping not, but I’ve noticed that really stressful times tend to be difficult for me even now.

So I have three outstanding appointments with school, one tomorrow to see my academic adviser, one next Tuesday to talk about my disability, and one on the 26th to officially introduce me to the Health Sciences program.

Three months ago, I would have probably lost it over so many changes to my status quo happening all at once. It still boggles the imagination to realize how far I’ve come in such a short period of time.

But this also reminds me of how bad things were for me at one point. When I moved back to Texas in 2012 I was not the best, but tolerable enough to be somewhat active in the SCA and somewhat social. Then things took a turn for the worse and sometime in 2014 I had a very steep decline in my condition. I almost refused to go out and do anything, I stopped driving unless I had to, I couldn’t go to the store, even with my wife with me. Things were bad and they stayed that way for several months, with only rare instances where I would step outside my comfort zone for anything.

I started to really turn the corner earlier this year, occasionally testing the waters to do things like go out to eat and go to the store with my wife for short trips. I didn’t have the annual dip in my activity level during the winter that I’d recorded the previous two years. I wasn’t really looking forward to change, but knew it was going to have to come soon, and I’d better be ready, so I pushed myself to try things again. And then I changed my anxiety medication. Once that happened, and once it had had a chance to build up in my system, I started making rapid progress.

I often attribute the change to the medication, but in reality I’d been working on this change for well over two years. The meds just changed my brain chemistry enough for it to suddenly be easier to do the things I was already doing, and without the biological obstacle in the way the behavioral progress sped up.

I still have bad days, but they’re few and far between now. They’re not really bad days anymore, more like bad moments in the day, suddenly there and gone just as quickly. It feels more like what I imagine “normal” is like.

And I’m kind of liking the difference.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

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Okay, not really, the fight was Sunday. Therapy was today, and that’s what we talked about the majority of the time.

I was honest that I couldn’t remember what started the fight. I couldn’t at the end of the day Sunday, and I’m even more clueless about it today. I think it was me reacting poorly to something that my wife said, and she got frustrated at me putting myself down, and I got defensive about that, and she got more frustrated, and then I started getting frustrated, and the next thing you know we were yelling at one another’s symptoms again.

Our fights tend to follow a pretty cut and dried format. Once we’re actually fighting, almost always following the pattern above, we will move rapidly from topic to topic. Topic A is directly relevant to topic B, which is directly relevant to topic C, and so on – but topic A hardly ever has a thing to do with topic C. This is why we think that we can’t ever remember the thing that started the fight – we get so distracted from the original argument that we never can remember how to get back to it to resolve it, and so we individually sit and seethe all day, knowing that we haven’t resolved anything and are very prone to getting right back into the thick of arguing and fighting.

It’s important to note that we hardly ever have a rational argument, much less a fight. I can count on one hand the number of rational, lucid fights that we’ve had in 17 years. It just doesn’t hardly ever happen. My therapist understood the issue about our symptoms fighting one another though, so that was a good thing.

We arrived at two realizations, that kind of go hand in hand. Generally when we fight, we’re each trying desperately to fix the complaint that the other person has, rather than trying to reflect their emotional state back to them. An example of this would be “It seems like you’re feeling really down on yourself, do you have any idea why?” The other part of this is that when we argue, we don’t need to be right, although we’ve erroneously thought that was the case for me most of the time. We need to understand what the other person is experiencing.

It was recommended that the next time we have a fight, we stop for a moment at the beginning and ask ourselves “What is it that I need to understand about you and what you’re experiencing right now?”

We also covered the progress I’m making on my checklists, and she’s really pleased with the progress that I’ve made so far. She wants me to keep it up, though, and she’s fine with me changing the goalposts to achieve a check mark, like I did yesterday with my back, rather than just blowing it off. It’s important to continue hitting full marks rather than allowing myself a cheat day, because one day off will lead to two, then three, then the next thing you know I’m off my checklists for another couple months again.

So that was therapy in a nutshell today. I went into the detail that I did this time because it’s important that I remember all this stuff for future reference, and it’s easier to put it here in the blog than write it down for me to try to remember another day.

Quarterly Report

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Went to go see my psychiatric medication manager this morning.

She had an intern sitting in with her, which I was fine with, and she wanted to know about the fatigue that I’d been experiencing during my last visit with her. I told her that I think there’s a combination of my prescriptions that’s conspiring to make me drowsy in the morning, and we discussed the potential of adding Provigil to my medication regimen to offset that. I’ve been on Provigil before so I know that I’m not allergic or anything, although I don’t know about contraindications with current medication. She referred that question to my sleep specialist in April, and we moved on.

She was pleased to hear about my recent socialization and my very gradual tendency to be more comfortable in social settings, although I have to admit I’m still a little nervous in them, especially if there are people that I don’t know. I neglected to tell her that since my last visit with her I’ve socialized twice with people I hadn’t met in person before and that I’ve been to multiple SCA events and didn’t even have a panic attack before the most recent one, but I did let her know that I’m getting out of the house more often and that Pokémon Go is a help with that.

She’s especially pleased to hear that I’m going back to school in the fall, and she believes that the additional structure that will accompany that will be beneficial to me, and especially with regard to this rut that I seem to feel I’m in lately.

She also noted that two sessions ago I could barely keep my eyes open, and she’s overjoyed to see that I was alert and much more participatory in my session today. I confessed that her front office had a lot to do with that – one more cancelled or late appointment is likely going to end my relationship with the practice, so I tend to get there very early now, and today I got there almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there was a little bit of a nap in the car before I came up for my appointment.

She thinks I’m making good progress, although I think it’s slow going. But slow progress is better than none at all, or worse, regression, so I’ll take it. New appointment at the beginning of May has been set and I made plans to work out an issue with my account.

Sleepwalking Through Psychotherapy

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I saw my therapist today.

I was drowsy for the whole session – in fact, I came home and took a nap for about an hour – so I don’t remember a lot of details.

I remember that we talked how I tend to let others, especially my wife, have their way about anything that also involves me, so I am to work on becoming more assertive in establishing boundaries with others regarding my needs. We talked about possible exemplar situations that I could try this skill in the future.

We also talked about trying to find ways of not feeling attacked when my wife is trying to get clarification from me in certain situations. If I’m the least bit irrational I think everything is a criticism, even if it’s an innocent question to gather more information.

My therapist wanted to know one thing that went well since the previous session, and I told her that I’m making steps toward getting my SCA office into high gear, including reaching out to others whom I’d like on my team. I also told her about reporting my lack of progress to the person that oversees me, and how that went

My homework this week is to list ten things that I’m grateful for, and to make a list of rewards for when I accomplish certain things. (I’m complete pants at working on a reward-based system and so I’m trying to teach myself how to function this way.)