Progress on Several Fronts

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I met with my therapist today.

We talked about the last two weeks – about the SCA event over the weekend, about how I managed to avoid much anxiety, how much fun I had, and how glad I was to be getting back into an area of the SCA that I used to enjoy very much. She was very pleased to hear about everything, and when I was quick to give credit to having the Zoloft on board she was just as quick to correct me. She said that most of what I did over the weekend was me, and not the medication. The Zoloft might have taken the edge off, but the complete lack of panic leading up to the event and the relative low amount of anxiety I felt during the event was because of my progress over several months and my own efforts were what kept the panic attack at the event at bay.

We also talked about school, and she mentioned that my classes over the weekend will go a ways toward preparing me for my classes in the fall. She was concerned that I was going to be doing four classes at once, but she was relieved to hear that I would be doing them sequentially. I told her that Austin Community College offers an associates degree in Health Information Technology that would expand on the learning that I would receive through the certificate program, and that the associates degree transfers to the Health Information Technology program at Texas State University for a bachelor’s degree. She asked if I could go back to Texas Workforce Commission and ask if they would greenlight the associates degree instead of the certificate program. It’s six semesters versus two, but it would open more doors for me at the end of my education, and presumably increase my asking salary. I told her that I have a new counselor at TWC and that I’d send something over to her tomorrow.

We also touched on my fear of dying. I mentioned that it had come up in the book that I’m reading on her recommendation, and that the entry wasn’t very helpful. The end result of that conversation was a little surprising. She wants me to do some soul searching to arrive at what I believe happens when we die. I’d never given it much thought beyond “if there is something, living a decent life on Earth is the best way to secure a happy afterlife, and if there isn’t something, living a decent life on Earth is its own reward.” But I suppose that over the next couple weeks I’ll be deep in thought about this so I can report back to her.

It was a good session today.

A Great Time Was Had By All

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Today my wife and I attended an SCA event a little over two hours from home, the longest we’ve commuted for an event in over a year. It was a symposium of classes, and I took five during the day. All the classes were very well taught and I learned a lot about how things are done now. (There were some major changes made to the rules governing this aspect of the SCA back in 2011, when we were inactive and out of the region, and this was our first foray into learning the new rules.) We both took the warranting class (local branch officers need to be warranted to hold office) and I got some new information and a lot of new resources for an area that I already knew a bit about. There was a court (for those not in the SCA, it functions as, among other things, an awards ceremony at the end of the day) and several people we’re friends with got well-deserved awards. Two of them were announced to receive the Society’s highest award for service at a future point in time. (For the Society’s highest awards, there’s usually a period where the recipient receives counsel and congratulations from individuals that wish to pay them respects, followed by an elaborate presentation ceremony. When the recipient is announced, they are usually given a choice of receiving the award on the spot or choosing an event in the future in order to better plan the ceremony and to make sure that those people important to the recipient are all in attendance.)

It wasn’t until the end of the day that my wife remarked that I hadn’t had a panic attack at all regarding this event. Events that I’ve gone to over the past few years were usually marked by a panic attack the evening before the event and another one the morning of the event – this time, there was nothing. She also mentioned that I wasn’t exhibiting any signs of anxiety during the day, something that usually gets me at some point – that’s because she wasn’t there for the one time I did start to panic.

I was in a class where I was asked a question that I didn’t have an immediate answer for – I could have answered it given a few seconds of thought, but I was panicked that I didn’t have the answer right on the tip of my tongue, and so I begged off answering it. For a good portion of the rest of that class, I was fighting that part of my brain that was telling me that I was a screw-up, that I should be embarrassed, and that I should run screaming from the class. But I used my tools to counter all the things my lying brain was telling me and eventually I calmed down to the point that I went to the instructor – a friend of mine – and apologized for freezing up. She said that it was fine, and that it lent itself to something that she was trying to accomplish more often in her classes. The same friend later told me that while she rarely comments, she follows this blog, so if you’re reading this – and you know who you are – thank you for the opportunity to put the tools I’ve learned into use.

The day was a wild success and I’m very pleased with how I came through the event. Now time to fall down and go boom. Five in the morning was a long time ago.

Preparing for Tomorrow

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My wife and I are planning to travel out of town tomorrow for an SCA event. It’s a symposium of classes centered around one aspect of the SCA, and it’s one that I’ve been interested in since my earliest days in the Society.

The trick is, since my mental illnesses have gotten worse, I’ve lost all interest in doing anything active in the SCA. It’s not that the desire isn’t there, it’s that the confidence that I used to have in my abilities has completely gone away, and I’m essentially starting from scratch. And I’ve been terrified of starting from scratch.

This weekend marks the first time since I’ve gotten worse that I’ve expressed any interest in trying to get back into the things that I once loved to do, and my wife is thrilled that I’m taking these first steps. To me, it’s not that big a deal. I don’t anticipate putting what I plan on learning tomorrow to immediate use, so it’s not like I’m actually getting back into anything just yet. I’m just preparing for the day when I’m ready.

Two of the classes that I plan on taking deal with the use of a database to gather and check information, and that means that a laptop is suggested for the class. My main laptop’s battery and keyboard are shot, which means that if I take it, I’m going to have to plug in and carry my wireless keyboard with me. My laptop is pretty cumbersome to carry with all the accessories that I’d need to take with me, so I’m planning on using the 2-in-1 that we had initially purchased to be a broadcast laptop. (It’s an ASUS Taichi. The screen is only 11 inches across on it, which rendered the broadcast software so tiny as to be unreadable, so we had to drop back and punt for broadcasting purposes. It means there’s a spare laptop for us to use just in case.) It should be serviceable for the purposes of the class.

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated Windows 10 on it, however, and I’m in the process of going through what is apparently all the updates. The software that controls my Bluetooth mouse needed updating, Microsoft Office needed updating, and there are several Windows updates that are trying to install as I write this, plus the battery needs a good charge. I plan on taking the power cord for the Taichi, and plugging in if I have the opportunity, but the battery should last long enough to get me through the class if necessary.

The Windows updates are trying my patience. They’re going very slowly, and I’m used to the faster processor on my main laptop. But I have all day to get them done, plus the battery is still charging, so I have nothing but time.

I’m nervous about tomorrow, though. That will likely dissipate once I get to site, but for now, it’s pretty high.

 

What I Did With My Saturday

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Today’s been a good day. Started the day with another viewing of Doctor Strange. Being able to watch it at my leisure has left me very impressed with the director and visual effects coordinator. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t give anything away, but the movie has absolutely stunning visual effects. In several scenes, the very fabric of reality is dynamically fluid and ever-changing, so much so that tracking which way is up in a foot chase is nearly impossible. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Being the person that first visualized the storyboards for these scenes takes a kind of creativity that I just don’t have and never will. It’s one thing to combine existing terrain and actors and stunt people to create an exciting scene, but it’s a whole different matter when that terrain doesn’t follow the laws of gravity and physics. This movie is unique in its visual effects and creates something that I’ve never seen on film before. It is truly breathtaking. Plus, the acting is solid and the story is well-written, dramatic and action filled with just the right dash of comedy. I really enjoy this film and I’m glad that I own it.

We were supposed to be at an SCA event this weekend, but my wife’s strep throat kept us home. I’ve been fine with this decision up until this evening, when I found out that a friend of mine received an exceptionally prestigious award that I’ve long believed that he deserved. I really hate that we missed being there for that. It would have been magnificent.

We’re ending the evening with another comic book movie, one that we’re greatly familiar with at this point – Deadpool, another brilliantly written movie. It’s a background movie at this point, one of several that we own.

There Should Be Stickers

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Today I had a friend come over to visit for a few hours. It’s the first in-person socialization that I’ve done in weeks.

There was a purpose to the visit, however. She came over to teach my wife and me a few embroidery stitches. In between we watched a couple videos on YouTube and sat and shot the bull for a while and generally had a really good visit.

The embroidery is a needed skill. The one tunic that I have for the SCA is currently unadorned, and the plan is to put a white and gold double herringbone along the edges of the sleeves and a running stitch along the neckline in one of those colors. I have some ideas for trimming the bottom hem, but I don’t think that I’ll be a speedy enough embroiderer to get anything done there; I think I’m going to have to trim it in strips of rough silk to approximate silk samite (for that matter, I might do the neckline in silk as well, now that I think about it.)

I really should get a sticker for the adulting that I do. “I was social today!” “I finished my to-do list!” “I made a phone call!” There are times that I think that I’m at that level of progress in my pathway back to a more-or-less normal life, and then there are times when I realize that I have made great strides to get to where I am. I hate days that I question that progress. Fortunately they’re not as frequent as they were even a year ago. I guess that really is progress.

A War With No Enemies

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In the SCA, especially here in Texas (and Oklahoma), spring break usually means Gulf Wars, a nine-day long super-event held in Lumberton, Mississippi and pitting the armies and populace of the Kingdom of Ansteorra (that’s the part of Texas in the Central time zone and the whole of Oklahoma) and their allies versus the Kingdom of Trimaris (that’s peninsular Florida) and their allies. It’s a camping event full of both armored and rapier combat (including archery), equestrian activities, arts and sciences competitions, classes, shopping, partying, and generally thousands of people having a good time pretending to be someone else for the duration. Today is the official start of the war, and my Facebook feed is full of people who are traveling or are already on site, starting to set up and socialize. Through this next week-plus, the updates will be fewer in number, but I’ll be hanging on every word that I learn from the event – who won what, who received what awards during the week, that sort of thing.

I’m torn about Gulf Wars. On the one hand I’m a little envious that others have the time and the financial ability to take that much of a vacation – don’t get me wrong, it’s camping, but it’s still an expensive endeavor – but I’m more envious that people have the mental capacity to be able to handle that much socialization at one time. I have trouble making it through a day long event at this point, which is why I’m torn. It makes no sense to pack to go to Gulf Wars for only a long weekend, since the site is a ten hour drive one-way from home, and I really don’t think I could take that much nonstop time keeping my mask on for people. My anxiety would get the better of me so regardless of whether we had the money and time off or not, right now it’s best that I not go.

This is one thing that I hope we can return to when I can get over my anxiety and other mental illnesses. I’ve been to Gulf Wars twice and had a great time both times, even though one of my trips was cancelled early on account of bad flooding throughout the site.

So for my friends at war – fight well, fight cleanly, learn lots, party hard, and generally have the time of your lives. We’ll be there in spirit, this year and every year until we can make it there ourselves.

Anachronistic Socialization

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Today was the local SCA group’s winter event, and my wife and I dressed up like good little Norse people and went. It was very good to see a lot of my friends there, and to get hugs from them, and to be told that we’re both missed. I attended a class on a piece of local SCA history, and my wife taught a class on beginning lucet (in simplistic terms, it’s cordweaving, but actually a bit more complex than that). There was bardic, which is my area of expertise in the SCA, and for once I was a spectator rather than a competitor or judge. It felt good, until it didn’t feel so good anymore. I was standing on a concrete floor with very little cushion in my shoes, and by the time the second round of competition was over and done with, my back was screaming at me and my legs had gone numb, so I beelined to my chair in the hall and sat for the rest of the time that we were at the event. I wish we’d have been able to stay longer, but the hall was beginning to set up for the evening’s feast and my back really needed the heating pad, so we started saying our farewells and left for the day.

The socialization was a good thing, and something that we both should be doing more often. There’s a regular standing event on Tuesday nights that we could attend, but that would mean some creative planning for dinner that night in order to get us fed sooner rather than later, but it is doable. I think I want to try for more evenings at fighter practice/populace in the park.

We’re home now and looking forward to a relatively quiet evening. I did a fair amount of exercise for the day and completed my reading and learning before going to the event, so it will be easy for me to make today day 19 of full marks in my checklist.