Tag: anxiety

Out Here in the Weeds

musard in field

I keep telling myself that it’s time I stopped sharing my own personal meltdowns publicly and instead put them in books where fictional situations and characters can chew on them righteously without making me feel scraped out personally.  Time to truly become the puppeteer behind the curtain pulling the strings and making people believe in levitation and other untrue things.  I think my motivations for making my anxiety attacks and depressive episodes public aren’t particularly nice.  Mostly I want everyone to suffer – I want them to have to go through this shit too because I think there will be a lot less bullshit attempts to convince me that mental illness isn’t really an “illness” so much as a vitamin imbalance or a lazy person’s descent into negativity that is completely avoidable with daily positive affirmations, ditching wheat, ditching meat, ditching sugar, or whatever it is YOU ditched that changed your fucking life forever so that everything is coming up disco pants and summer days.

Fuck that.

Disco pants is #72 on the list of 127 Things That Freak Me Out.

It’s funny because my dad (not the biological father) and I had a great lunch together the other day during which the question of my mental illness came up and, typical of his generation of wishful thinkers, he wants to believe that this mental problem of mine was created by the fucked up start to my life (the commune years) that made me never feel safe.  And then the part where he and my mom fought all the time.  And then the part where they split up and my mom had a major breakdown at the same time I did.  He thinks that these circumstances are why I have anxiety, that I wasn’t BORN WITH IT.

We agree that experiences in life can play a big hand in a person’s mental state. Zero argument.  But he really doesn’t believe that people are born with different wiring.  Like so many other people.

Science has already proved that some brains really are wired differently – that some minds physiologically function differently or less optimally – depending on the brain you’re talking about.  I think it boils down to people experiencing existential discomfort at the idea that human emotions and thought patterns can be boiled down to little more than chemical conversations between the brain and the nervous system.  It implies a lack of control and it also implies that feelings don’t come from our spirits or whatever essence you think makes us uniquely who we are.

As if it’s somehow frightening to think that our chemical makeup, the quality of our blood, the size of our arteries, and the electric pulses in our brains are IT.  I have no patience for that fear.  I am much too busy fearing real things like being murdered or raped or ending up homeless with Pippa living inside my coat.

It’s all well and good to discuss the whys and wherefores and the origin story.  But when you’re in the trenches it doesn’t fucking matter one bit.  You know it isn’t good.  You know you didn’t do anything on purpose to bring it on.  You want it to not happen and you try everything in the world that people swear will change your life and in the end you’re still just in the head you were born with and its now got all the extra baggage it’s acquired from living life as a person whose brain doesn’t work optimally in the world it must function in.

The only part of this that I’m not sure about is whether I can claim that I’m not actually broken, that I’m just different?  When one is in the Autism spectrum it’s much easier to make a case for simply having a different operating system.  People with autism actually have different brains – differences you can SEE with EYES in imaging.  So do people with ADHD.  Their brains literally look different when functioning, work differently than the average brain.  Certain parts are less or more developed than in the average.

But mine – mine may not really be built differently.  If I’m being honest when I’m looking at all the data that’s available to me so far, it really does look like I’m not a different model of brain but a brain that came off the conveyer belt with some missing screws and a permanent oil leak.

What does that mean for my self esteem.  How can I frame my shortcomings as strengths?  How can I make it seem like having a few screws missing is a blessing?

I’m getting off the boat now.

What if I told you that I have no ego invested in being the top of the line model human being but I wish to fucking god the radioactive emotional meltdowns could be surgically removed?

They used to call that a lobotomy.

Today I’m all calm and post-meltdown philosophical but yesterday I wanted to tear my own heart out and if it weren’t for the mess, I would have done it.

If I’m going to continue being honest then I have to say that I AM a broken human with band-aids holding my pieces together.  It’s not popular to admit this.  Why am I not framing it in a positive awesome superhero way?  Probably because when you spend so much time using all your superhero powers to keep your violence from going inwards you become too tired to parse meaning nicely.

Us broken people and us people who are wired differently and us people who are neurologically atypical all have something in common.

We can see things the average person is blind to.  We know things the average person can’t know.  We feel EXTRA.  We smell MORE.  We hear EVERYTHING.  We see in the dark.  We understand your raw heart and we can fill it with empathy in a way you can’t describe but you’ll FEEL long after we’re just a blurry memory.  We can find answers that live in places most people can’t get at.  We’re intense.  We’re exhausting.  We’re pretty LOUD when we aren’t completely SILENT.  A lot of us die of drug addiction, suicide, heart implosions.  Our natural death rate is higher than yours because we live harder just staying alive.

We have gifts.  Gifts that have lit this world from its first experiments in agriculture and rolling wheels to the elegant quantum theory we take for granted now.  We are the wild ones who leap farther, swim deeper, jump higher, run faster, think more abstractly, and articulate the dumb-water from which humanity dragged itself to find the light.

I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t materially matter whether we were born whole but different or born broken and are therefor different.  What everyone else needs to recognize is that we are your storytellers, soothsayers, and collective memory.

Out here in the weeds is where I belong.  Out here with the body dumps and strong medicine.  Out here between the chain link and the luxury cars.  Out here with the homeless and the litter.

I know you can never be completely comfortable in my company unless you’re part of this wild tribe of mine.

I don’t mind if you lie and say you never feel out of your depth with my violent feelings.  I don’t mind if you lie and say I never trouble you.

Out here in the weeds there is no drowning.

The Devil’s Circus

hills from bus

I want to smash things.  I want to smash everything.  I want to destroy all the delicate beautiful things and all the arrogantly strong things.  I want to rip down the shades and tear the curtains and I want to stab pillows and throw drinks in all the faces.

Except that I don’t ever want to see another face as long as I live.  And please god, erase mine first.

I want to claw into my skin to drag out the toxic disease that makes me constantly self destruct.  I can feel it in my body like it’s got its own corrupt soul, moving around in my bones treating me like a goddamn marionette.  I want to rip it out of my body and smash it against the walls.  But I know, I still know that it’s really just me I want to smash against the wall.  I know I’m the only one in this suit of flesh and I just need to find something specific to burn.  I keep lighting my own skin on fire.

I see it all coming down before it starts.  I try to stop it and everything I do to stop it makes it worse and it happens slowly – this B movie scene I can’t rewrite – so I have to live each frame without mercy.  I give it different words and I make it wear a denim tracksuit but it’s still naked and now I am too.

The words coming out of my mouth are always the ones I definitely wasn’t going to say.

I can’t be around people.  I can’t be around myself.

So many people think all I have to do is meditate or change my habits or remind myself it doesn’t have to be this way.  That if life made me this way I can unmake myself.  Bullshit.

Go fucking unmake yourself bitches!  Tell me how that’s working out for you.

If it’s working for you then go fuck your smug self.

I was supposed to go to the city today but I infected my people with my stress, it seems, and then fucking pounded it into their skulls for good measure.  Because people like me do shit like that.  Then I felt so fucking bad I wanted to knife myself.  No matter what I do, no matter what therapy I get, no matter what meds I take, it always comes back to that inward thrust.  The desire to destroy what wants to destroy me first.  To punish myself for fucking everything up AGAIN.

I haven’t cut myself or intentionally harmed myself for 28 years but it’s always there.  Saying it out loud makes me seem more diseased than I want anyone to know.  I want people to think you can just will that shit away and OVERCOME.  Maybe some can.  I can only speak for myself.  That desire to garrote myself is my second shadow.

I don’t want you to know about it because it will make you see me differently.   It shows my illness more than any other behavior or obsessive thought I can share.  The only human deviance worse than one who wants to hurt itself is one who wants to hurt others.

But I do that too.

The spirals are fast and brutal most of the time.  I don’t have time for last rights or explanations until it’s all over and then I feel like such a loser I let myself slip down the sink drain with the black mold and the tangled hair.

I am not fit to be around people.  Or in the world.  Or in a body.

I get whiplash sometimes between the good days and the bad.  The good minutes and the stopped time.

Animals know when they’re sick.  I know I’m sick in the mind.  It angers me when people try to make excuses for my irregularity.  It’s insulting to be lied to for someone else’s sense of comfort.  So they can feel better about themselves.  If I’m sick it means there are others who are like me who are also sick.  If I admit to being sick they question whether they are obligated to admit they are too.  They fight so hard against it.  Because having my sickness is ignoble.  It’s not nice.  It’s pretty fucking ugly in the corners no outsiders can see.  It’s the devil’s circus in here.

I made my child cry.  My wonderful child who suffers from some of the same things I do.  I made him cry because I was hanging on by a thread to my plans and he had the audacity to be barely hanging onto his.  I lashed out at him for deciding, right as we set out for the city, that he was going to have a bad time.  I tried to help and inadvertently made things worse, as I do.  So I got angry.  He cried.  He was so stressed out and he’s new at this stress of the unknown.  Poor kid inherited my awful awful anxiety and I fucking lashed out at him for it.

I am having a hard time forgiving myself for that right now.  That kid of mine is pretty fucking amazing.  I have the opportunity to give him support and empathy and teach him to live in a world that doesn’t understand people like us, and what I did was make him feel like shit for being sensitive to stress and outings he’s no properly prepared for.

I already apologized to him when he came into my office where I was busy not breaking everything and said he was sorry for ruining my day.  I apologized to him for making him think my ruined day was his fault when it was really mine.

My guys have gone to a movie and are, I think, recovering from that madly awful hour.

I am not.  Not yet.  I lie in bed for a couple of hours forcing self harming thoughts from my head, listening to my cat purring on my shoulder.

I want to break things.  I want to break everything.

I think I’m going to go get more beer and some Chinese food.  How’s that for a strong shot of bathos?

127 Things That Freak Me Out

teeth 4

Things That Freak Me Out

A List

For Sharon Who Wants Me to Make This Into a Book

For the purposes of this list it is important to understand that what I mean when I say something “freaks me out” is that it causes an irrational panic, involuntary physical shudder or turn of the stomach, general distress, or in some selected cases an alarming bridge-jumping anxiety.  Most of the time you will never know I’m freaking out or diverting a panic attack.  In some cases it’s obvious why I might be anxious about something – like when people wear white saggy tube socks – and in other cases – such as standing on cliff edges – your guess is as good as mine. 

I have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, as well as misophonia.  So if you don’t have any of these things and you wonder what it’s like – this will give you a little taste of how uncomfortable a lot of ordinary things are to people like me.  On the other hand, sometimes I have a lot more fun than other people because everything is SO FUCKING WEIRD.

  1. Muscular spiders
  1. People drinking water or other cold beverages out of mugs instead of glasses
  1. Cheap poorly designed metal forks – I will admit that they offend me as much as they bother me to touch and eat with.  What excuse is there for poorly designed silverware?
  1. Returning merchandise – even if it’s faulty and clear that it should be returned and obvious that no clerk will fistfight me for trying to get my money back
  1. The sounds of people eating
  1. The sound of cotton balls being squished
  1. Vibrato singing
  1. Grown women who sound like little girls
  1. Putting clothes on in the wrong order
  1. Dull pencils
  1. People in socks without pants on
  1. Tube socks
  1. Saggy socks
  1. Baseball caps worn very high on the crown – very hard to resist the urge to blow on them to see  if they fly away
  1. Getting food from buffet situations – it’s not the germ factor, it’s something I can’t even explain to myself
  1. Group activities of almost any kind where someone calls them “group activities” – I can become ornery and dangerous when pushed to participate
  1. Spittle collecting in the corners of people’s mouths when they talk
  1. People wearing shirts but nothing else
  1. Turtlenecks – I’m convinced they will choke me to death the second I let my guard down
  1. Putting my hands in gloves
  1. When my skin gets really dry – makes me want to crawl out of it, as do many things on this list
  1. Feeling breath on my skin – so blow on it at your own risk and remember that I’m good with my fists
  1. The sound of people breathing – loud breathing in particular but sometimes it’s any sound of breathing, a very hard anxiety to live with
  1. Grown ups drinking milk – this is a sick and wrong thing.  It makes me shudder.  It brings to mind phlegmy mouths which ALL people get when drinking milk.  If you drink milk in front of my and then try to carry on a conversation I will either leave immediately or plot my revenge on you
  1. Pranks of any kind – you’ll be sorry if you play a prank on me and I die of a heart attack, though probably not as sorry as I’ll be
  1. Cutting off pieces of carcasses – in cooking applications.  I have never tried cutting pieces off of human carcasses or wild animal carcasses but I almost passed out cutting the tip of a chicken wing off
  1. The thought of people eating meat – philosophically I’m okay with it but secretly I find it really distressing
  1. Meat breath – it’s a thing people who eat meat get that I imagine only a lifelong vegetarian could smell but it causes me to back away
  1. The smell of fish – yes, even fresh fish smells like fish if you hate the smell of fish
  1. Finding half a worm on my dinner plate
  1. Using a cutting board that meat has been on
  1. Floss breaking in my teeth
  1. Visible tooth rot
  1. fuzzy teeth
  1. loose teeth – mine, yours, everyone’s – if you show me or you talk about it I will claw the walls to get away
  1. dentures
  1. getting dental x-rays
  1. cotton tubes the dentist stuffs in your mouth during root canals
  1. Squeaky noises
  1. people mindlessly humming
  1. people mindlessly whistling
  1. Repetative noises
  1. Competing noises
  1. long nails on men – especially when just a couple are long
  1. really long nails on women – it’s hard for me to stop fantasizing about what it would feel like to rip them off which makes me uncomfortable because things like that are called “assault” according to the law
  1. plastic surgery
  1. being pregnant – I still have nightmares about it
  1. other people being pregnant – for god’s sake don’t be offended, I have a very visceral panic about people being pregnant
  1. women having babies – the whole topic distresses me for a number of reasons both rational and unhinged
  1. overpopulation
  1. people who love having babies – I can’t even talk about this it weirds me out so much and presents the big unsolvable mystery of how I came to have one on purpose
  1. people who love spending all their time with kids – WHY? I can’t even talk about this
  1. People chewing with their mouths open
  1. crunching noises
  1. slurping noises
  1. squelching noises
  1. the feel of the shower water on my boobs – fuck you for being normal!  It hurts but it also gives me the same sensation that a snagged nail does
  1. dishes washed with dishcloths
  1. using someone else’s towel
  1. Taking off a pair of socks and then putting them back on – I have a lot of socks so I never have to do this even if I fail to get my laundry done at the appropriate time.  I don’t like to give you too much power over me or anything, but let’s just say that if you ever need to torture me for information, this is the thing to start with for guaranteed results
  1. Using pillows others have slept on
  1. snagged nail
  1. people I don’t know standing too close
  1. mullets – I have used exposure therapy to work on this and have used CBT to learn to “appreciate” them in the wild
  1. pants that are too tight – and no this isn’t because I’m a prude or an old lady
  1. Crossing bridges
  1. standing on bridges – because some day I’m just going to jump off of one the compulsion is so strong and creepy
  1. cliff edges in any situation – (see #67)
  1. taking plane rides
  1. being underground in close spaces
  1. windows that can’t be opened
  1. disco pants
  1. competition of any kind – I can’t handle competitive behaviors or games or sports or – you know – LIFE – anxiety is a real sonofabitch
  1. the sound of football games
  1. wind chimes – makes a black hole of nothing open up inside me when I hear them
  1. being aware of the moment you slip from consciousness to unconsciousness
  1. vomiting
  1. all things relating to vomit including the thought of vomit – emetaphobia is what it’s called
  1. Escalators – convinced I will be caught and killed by one some day and have never told anyone that before
  1. any unidentifiable rash, ache, pain, or medical mystery
  1. people who are super gentle and calm and quiet and never ever swear – I get the irrepressible urge to BREAK THEM which is a terribly stressful compulsion
  1. religion
  1. people yelling – PTSD
  1. hospitals
  1. being touched unexpectedly – come up behind me and surprise me with a hug at your own risk
  1. doctor exams
  1. any carpet that is tacked down to the floor
  1. wearing slippers
  1. the smell, taste, and texture of cold butter
  1. watching people put cold butter on bread and eat it
  1. wearing socks to bed – other people wearing them to bed also freaks me out
  1. wearing anything to bed that you’ve been wearing all day – particularly if such garments were worn outside
  1. dizziness
  1. nausea
  1. mayonnaise
  1. pulling – (oil as toothpaste and please let’s never talk about this again)
  1. the word giggle – makes me feel violent
  1. the word chuckle – see above note
  1. clowns of ANY kind – are there truly people out there who love clowns besides people who ARE clowns?
  1. balloons
  1. games of ANY kind
  1. magic tricks/shows
  1. Las Vegas
  1. potato bugs
  1. ticks
  1. anything that burrows under your skin
  1. stickiness on hands
  1. [redacted] – you can’t handle knowing about this one
  1. super saggy pants
  1. grown men wearing baseball caps backwards
  1. camel toes
  1. moose nuts
  1. kids with colds
  1. people spitting phlegm on the ground
  1. old sponges (more than one week old is pretty old)
  1. collections of teeth lying around – my child saves all the teeth he loses (see image at top of page) and I will suddenly see them and I can’t describe how it makes me feel which is why I can’t account for why it gave me so much pleasure to photograph them even though the whole time I was having the FEELINGS
  1. tongues –  all of them.  Let’s not talk about them ever again.
  1. gristle  – biting down on it, which I had the misfortune of doing when a relative who shall remain nameless forced me to try a hamburger (knowing I was a vegetarian kid) over 30 years ago and I’m still haunted by that experience
  1. Styrofoam squeaking – makes me want to kill people
  1. threads or fibers you can’t shake or get off of you no matter what you do – panic inducing
  1. flannel sheets
  1. sitting with my back to the door of a public place
  1. parties
  1. tasting condiments by themselves – don’t ever ask me to taste a spoonful dressing or dip please
  1. washing stemware and glasses in general
  1. sinks full of dirty water
  1. carolers – one of my most well-known anxieties

*Milk as an ingredient in baking or in black tea is fine.  Milk for babies is pretty much the thing mammals DO.  So those milk applications don’t bother me.

You are Your Enemy and Your Enemy is You

the NYC brooch

Privilege has become one of the dirtiest words but I don’t feel like sharing my thoughts on it right now.

There are so many skirmishes in progress at every hour of the day.  Between people and government.  Between governments and governments.  Between men and women.  Between conservatives and liberals.  Between religion and atheism.  Between religion and religion.  Between race and race.  Between straight and gay.  Between rich and poor.  Between lower class and middle class.  Between middle class and upper class.  Between lower class and upper class.  Between nationality and nationality.  Between sisters and brothers.  Between mothers and fathers.  Between haves and have nots.  Between mental health and mental illness.  Between old and young.  Between parents and children.  Between education and ignorance.  Between us and them.  Between you and me.

It needs to stop.  All this fighting hurts my head.  It hurts all of us.

All of us.

The deep irony being that my mental illness draws lines between me and everyone else all the time without any intention on my part.  And I spend so much time trying to rip the walls down only to find that other people build them almost as fast as me with about as much intention.

What I live with inside myself is never going away.  It isn’t there because of anything I want for myself or those around me*.

The hardest part of my mental illness is controlling the urge to turn everything against myself.  Self harm is the only way I’ve ever known how to control pain, anger, discomfort, exclusion, loneliness, and fear.  Not just my own, but everyone else’s too.  When people I love are hurting in any way I want to absorb their pain and kill it inside myself.  When people are angry with me I want to hurt myself.  When I see animals being abused and I feel rage against the abusers and there’s nowhere for that rage to go and nothing I can do, I internalize it and try to cannibalize it.

Lately I’ve been getting pulled down by overwhelming negative stimulus from the media and from all the people I know and the biggest mouthpiece for this is facebook.  I’m tired of listening to people drawing bigger lines between us and them every day.  I’m tired of everyone being the constant watchdogs for right and wrong in the world where really they’re just pointing out the wrong and not embracing the right.

Everyone is saying “Listen!” and I took it to heart and I’ve been listening a lot, to a lot of people.  No one wants to be invisible.  No one wants to be ignored.  I’m listening hard every day and I’ve come to this conclusion:

Crusading of any kind makes people blind in dangerous ways.  Crusading of any kind inevitably turns angry and evil and becomes a way to bludgeon anyone who isn’t just like you.

The only way good change is possible is when the listening goes both ways.  When we try to find what we all have in common instead of pointing swords at destroying the apparently insurmountable differences between us.

I am constantly being reminded of how different I am and the only reason I can still be in this world is because I have learned to connect with people over the things we have in common.  That’s where compassion and empathy grow.  That’s where healing is possible.  That’s where bridges are built between disparate populations.  I may struggle constantly with myself and my place in the world but I also find the most peace in sharing my struggles with people who live in the same shadows I do.  And I find the most peace with people who have lived completely differently from me by understanding that no matter how different we are from each other – we all have universal things in common.  I look for those.

I don’t know the best way to speak to people who are different from myself but I always try to speak from my truth and listen for theirs.  We’ve got things connecting us.  All of us do.  I don’t give a shit if you look different from me or speak differently from me or come from somewhere different.  I know you’ve experienced heartache.  I know you’ve lost things dear to you no matter how much money you have or how much privilege or how much you’ve lived without.  There are some things we’ve all experienced no matter how different we are in other ways.

That’s the only way forward.  You want a revolution or do you want peace?  Because right now it feels like everyone I know is taking up arms whether literally or metaphorically and I know where it’s leading.  The only way forward is by seeing yourself in everyone around you no matter how hard that is.

I’ve been struggling harder lately against my instinctual need to hoard all the hurt of the world and break it down in my own body.  But all the hurt in the world is bigger than the ocean and wider and longer than all the human lives that created it.

I know that this self harm, this pain absorbing quality is not healthy.  Feeling angry at others but turning it inward to myself is unhealthy.  This is mental illness.  Feeling anger at others and bending it back into myself is not healthy.  Feeling devastated by pain that isn’t even my own isn’t healthy.  I can’t filter it out.

Maybe it’s also what allows me to see myself in my enemies.  To see that there aren’t a whole lot of true enemies in the world besides ourselves.

One thing’s for sure – if everyone had the same pain absorbing quality that I do, there would be no war.  You would see yourself and your family in your enemies’ faces and when they were hurt you’d feel their pain in your own body.  You wouldn’t be able to trick yourself into believing that the people you’re bombing are bad.  You’d see that killing other people’s children in political or religious wars is exactly the same as slaughtering your own and there is no way you would lift a gun against anyone.

Everything is personal to people like me.

The deep irony that it keeps us outside most circles of humans.  In a way that they can’t always tell but I always feel.

Listening is one of the most important things we can do.  Listen to each other.  I was about to say I don’t have a choice but to listen to people because I can’t shut their voices out of my head but that’s not really true.  I can choose to isolate myself completely and allow myself to become agoraphobic.  I can choose to shut out absolutely all outside stimuli to the point where the world’s voices only enter my head in the general hum like hearing the hum of a room full of partying people through a closed door.  You can’t pick out specific conversations though you can’t stop hearing their buzz.  I can choose to go completely off-line.  I can choose not to read any news stories as I have done in the past, back before the internet found ways of shoving them at me all day long.  For four years I worked for an online network and I couldn’t shut out people’s opinions because my job was to read them on blogs.  Now I have a huge network of genuine online friends and a valuable support system that comes with the price of exposure to the whole world’s pain and anger.  So I can choose to cut myself off or I can choose to continue to struggle harder with my mental illness which is exacerbated by such exposure.

I have a choice.  It’s not a nice choice.  That’s often the case.  It’s not a set of choices I think are all that great.  But I DO have a choice.  If I choose to protect myself mentally then I will also expose myself more strongly for what I am.  Agoraphobia is a much more obvious manifestation of people like me, it outs you 100%.  I have isolated myself in some ways already by never going to parties or concerts or shows or large gatherings but I still walk the world appearing to be mostly normal.  If I completely shut myself off from the things that exacerbate my mental illness then I also lose all my camouflage.

For now I think the best way to create better protection without shutting myself off completely is to not engage in any social media until the afternoon.  I need to wake up earlier and write for at least 5 hours a day before letting anyone else’s voices into my head.  All it does is paralyze me.

I’m going to start by waking myself up early tomorrow and spend the first 5 hours writing.  Then I’ll do something around the house like my dishes or cleaning the bathroom.  Then I’ll let myself check in with my online people.  Just in time for my kid to come home and need me so I can’t focus on other people’s shit.

It’s worth a shot.  My psychologist told me that anything I do to that helps me function better in this world that doesn’t hurt other people is not a crutch but a tool to better mental health.  I’m not ready to cut myself off from the mixed blessing of my online life or my physical every day world, but if I end up having to do it, I’ll be in good company I’ll never meet.

Get it?

Special note: this post is not about  a single bad day or a bad period.  This isn’t about a mental illness flare-up.  Things are really good in my life right now.  This is what I experience on a regular basis.  This is normal for me.  I just don’t express it very often because it makes me as uncomfortable as it makes other people.  It isn’t something that can be fixed, either.  I don’t need or want pity and I don’t need help.  I know how to ask for help when there’s something anyone can do.  The one good thing about saying all this stuff out loud, and why I do it, is that every now and then someone hears me who desperately needs to know they aren’t the only one like them.  That makes it worth the discomfort every single time. 

*That is the only lie in this post.  I DO kind of wish you all had to experience exactly what I do.

Outside Looking In

points of light

Every day there are people getting excited about doing things like traveling to far away places, eating interesting food, getting together with large groups of friends to enjoy each others’ company, and getting dressed up for nights out on the town.  There are shows and concerts and balls and dances and parties that fill people’s lives and they look forward to these things.  Other friends are excited to take spontaneous road trips to the beach or the woods.  So many of them love camping and hiking and other healthy pursuits.  So many people I know are giddy about taking their children to amusement parks and big family gatherings.  Most people I know are excited to see the end of winter and get the sunshine back.  Normal people like games and group activities and sing-a-longs and loud busy restaurants at which the whole world wants a seat.

With near-constant bravado I cheerfully joke about how much I hate summer weather, balloons, parties, board games, any games, amusement parks, swimming in lakes, hiking, sporty pursuits, big groups of people in any circumstance aside from anonymous groups of people at outdoor markets or on busy city streets where no one has the slightest expectations of me.  I say I’m totally cool with the fact that I don’t yearn to travel the world, I don’t want to get together with all the people I know in the world, or even a quarter of them, or any number of them above 4 at a time.  Though 2 at a time is the only time I’m truly comfortable.  I like going to bars completely by myself and getting lunch by myself is a treat I greatly look forward to.  Amusement parks depress the shit out of me and it depresses me that other people enjoy them.

I mostly like to hang out with my tiny family and just a small handful of my closest friends, but never all at the same time.  I don’t like spontaneity and it bothers me that others value it so much.  I loathe surprises of any kind.  I don’t like new experiences and though I love the ocean in theory I don’t want to spend much time near it because it makes me anxious.  Woods make me anxious too.  People make me anxious.  Crowded restaurants make me anxious.  Places too full of human noise make me anxious.  The thought of travel makes me anxious.  Going to new restaurants makes me anxious.  Car travel makes me anxious.  Airplane travel makes me anxious.  (Though airports are actually one of my favorite places to hang out and one of my favorite parts of the travel

Behind all the bravado is a constant slow torture and near constant anxiety.

I wish being different didn’t so often make me want to scour out my insides because it makes me so uncomfortable. It’s so many little things that add up every day. Not being able to be part of things everyone around me is excited to be part of. Not wanting to be part of it but then wishing everyone else was like me so I wouldn’t feel so outside of things. It’s like looking into other people’s windows and seeing them all happy and warm and they reach out and invite me in but I can’t come in because I will bring the outside with me where-ever I go. I want to invite them to come outside with me looking into other people’s windows but they don’t want to come outside because it’s always so fucking cold where I’m standing. Cold and dark.

It’s not me who minds the cold and dark, it’s most other people.  People naturally seek warmth and light.

I am filled with dark matter.

The Long Explanation for a Mean Monkey Kind of Day

I’m having a mean monkey kind of day. And this is one long-ass post to tell you all about it.

When I went upstairs to wake Max up and get him dressed for school I noticed Penny circling around pillows and other things on the floor with that intent look cats get when they’re looking for something good to pee on to invoke your anger.  Or to let you know that the litter box could kill a mouse from the ammoniated fumes it’s putting out because someone hasn’t cleaned it for a while.  The box looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks.  I wouldn’t make Hitler use that litter box.  Seriously – it was THAT BAD.  So the first thing I got to do this morning was replace all the litter with new litter, spilling a bunch of it on the bathroom throw rug.  Which I haven’t had time to go clean up yet.

*and then there was my midmorning incarceration*

Right now I’m locked in my office with my tense dog because my mom has two movers helping her shift around a bunch of furniture.  They don’t seem motivated to meet Chick.  She, on the other hand, is very motivated to meet them.  At the same time all this has been going on my mom has been talking with the people who came to buy her car.  People who brought their four YAPPING dogs who I can hear through the walls of the house as though the walls were made of rice paper.  Chick can hear them out there too.  You’d have to be literally deaf NOT to hear them.  The people buying the car are really nice.  But there’s a lot riding on this car being sold and I have some pretty serious anxiety building up over it.

Beware: saga ahead!

You are probably not in the know because I haven’t talked about this to very many people and definitely didn’t put it on facebook.  I will put you in the know: our home insurance inspector came to reassess our house now that it is once again owner occupied.  That actually happened two months ago.  My mom received notice that we have to replace our roof by March or they will drop our insurance.  No one in this house can afford to replace a roof.  It was decided, after many more dire plans were scratched, that my mom would move into our part of the house and rent out her little apartment and also sell her car.  I’ve been stressing pretty much non-stop about this, as has my mom.  Four people living in a 2 bedroom place is a tight squeeze.  Since that plan was drawn my mom has had many roofers out to get their professional opinion and in the end 3 out of 4 roofers don’t think the roof needs to be completely replaced – that repairing it would be fine.  So my mom has to convince the insurance people to agree to let us simply repair it.

Pissing contests for everyone!

It’s looking like that might work out.  If it doesn’t I don’t know what we’ll do because my mom has declared that she refuses to send her cats to a shelter.  Which, I don’t blame her.  We were going to try to find them homes because 4 people and six pets (4 of whom do not get along with each other) all living in a two bedroom space is untenable.  The pissing contest between my mom’s pisser and my own pisser would be so epic it would have to be televised to be believed.  How do you find homes for a cat that pees?  Anyway – this problem was not just painful and worrying for my mom but also for me because I can’t bear the thought of finding other homes for my own cats – and my mom’s cats are part of this family too and how could I insist they go live somewhere without my mom?

My mom still has to sell the car.  And she seems to have done it.  But those buyers were outside for almost an hour with those yapping dogs while Chick sat in here with me whining and aching to go play (or brawl) with them… I have visions of these people never leaving or that they’ll change their minds about the car.

In which a mistrustful person is mistrustful:

They’re finally gone, as I type this sentence.  But I am a person who is mistrustful of luck long into the night.  It might be a week before I trust that it’s all going to work out.  My mom, meanwhile, with her happy facility to immediately brush all concerns away and make assumptions that all will be exactly as she wants it to be – believes that it’s a done deal, which it probably is.

The movers are still here.  So we’re in this office and I’m realizing that I haven’t had any real peace and quiet for weeks with my  mom worried and having roofers in and now movers and car buyers and – and – and –

I’ve been listening to Chick whining that awful high pitched whistle-y noise for over an hour.  It’s making my insides curl up and knot.  I can’t think, I can’t breath, I can’t work, and I can’t drink my coffee.

But the coffee isn’t Chick’s fault.  It’s cold and gross now.  And I wasn’t committed enough to drinking it in the first place because I went to bed at 3:30 am.  Again.  For no better reason than I wanted to be up with no one making demands of me.  No one talking to me or interrupting my work and my thoughts and my writing.  God I need alone time.  Alone and completely quiet time.  But I also need sleep.  So this morning I planned to crawl back into bed after Max left and try to grab a little extra sleep.  But I didn’t.  So I’ve been half-heartedly sipping it all morning and it’s just not good.

The movers are done.

Maybe now I should go and nap.

But wait!  There’s more! Other things that have been stressing me out:

  • An acquaintance who I really liked unfriended me on facebook.  We didn’t fight and I’m unaware of doing or saying anything she would have found offensive.  It was a fluke that I found out she’d unfriended me at all.  But – as I’m learning – the people who need to be in your life will be in your life.  And if someone doesn’t want to be in yours?  It’s okay.  Feel the hurt and let it go.  I’ve had too much big hurt in the last few years to hang onto little hurts.
  • I also seem to have lost a good friend.  I’m not going to share the gritty on this one – I just want to say that I have learned to stop reaching out to people who don’t reach back and to stop investing time or emotion in people who don’t invest the same in me.  I’m becoming the expert on this and may start a column about it.*   I’m letting go of this too because I don’t have time to give to people who don’t have time to give to me.
  • My dog has been whining a lot.  She seems to be stressed out like the rest of us.  And I KNOW it’s because she isn’t getting enough exercise.  I feel like I’m constantly struggling to keep up with everything else – I can’t handle the obligation of meeting her needs too.  I turn to Philip to do this and he often seems to resent me asking this of him.  Whatever.  Dude has not been cleaning the litter box.
  • My fridge broke last week.  It cost lots of money to fix it.  But fix it we did.  We also have all these bills due and Max needs new shoes, new backpack, more sweatshirts, more socks, and eyeglasses.  Plus it’s his birthday so there are presents for him and he already understands he does not have total request freedom.  We’ve agreed to buy him the big thing he really super desperately wants.
  • Cooking.  Cooking is usually something I greatly enjoy.  Even after deciding not to restrict my dairy buying to make it easier – I can’t seem to get in the kitchen often enough to make really good food.  I’m always scrambling and am rarely inspired.  It bothers me a lot.
  • My mom has been stressing me out.  She has lots of her own big stresses but it has been my way for the past 42 years to be stressed when my mom is stressed and then to stress out on my own account and – I could probably do with a higher dose of Celexa but I won’t do it right now because I’m terrified of med-related weight gain.
  • Philip has been stressing me out because he’s really keyed up a lot these days.  When he’s keyed up I get keyed up.

(I think I’ve just figured out the underlying cause of 90% of my stress: EMPATHY.  If I would just stop empathizing and became impervious to other people’s stress – I might not need any anxiety medication at all.  No, that’s not true.  Even if I wasn’t so empathetic I’d still be filled with rage every time someone leans right close to me chewing really crunchy food or slurping coffee.  Slurp slurp slurp…)

I spared you at least 3 bullet points.

In spite of all that stress – things really are okay.  They really are.  We had an internet crisis yesterday and I zipped over to my friend Sharon’s house to borrow her computer and it was like dropping in on family.  I had a cup of tea and tasted her home cured olives (we embarked on this adventure together but I’m lagging way behind and mine aren’t even in their second brine yet – while hers are done and turned out really well!) and I just breathed deep after spilling my tale of mom-unplugging-the-snake-pile-of-cords that connect us to the world and then I felt better.

Under all the incidental stress-of-life crap I’m a pretty happy person right now.

*However, it remains curious that I only seem to have trouble losing friends in one county on earth: Yamhill.  WHAT THE FUCK IS IT ABOUT ME AND THAT PLACE?!  I do still have few good friends there that I cherish.  But, fuck it.  What the hell is it?  You know who I’m still friends with?  Everyone I’ve been friends with here in the Bay Area for the past 25 years minus 2 people.  I’ve lost 2 friends in 20 years here in the Bay Area.  Out of many many friends.  I’m used to keeping friends for the long haul.  One of my best friends here is someone I’ve known for 20 years and been close to for about 15.  My other best friend here I’ve been friends with ever since I met her 13 years ago.  We stayed friends after I moved away.  We’re still friends now.  I’m a LOYAL person.  I’m a really good friend.  Except that I suck at birthdays.  Yamhill County is my Kryptonite.  Jesus.

My Work Table Standing in for My State of Mind

(This mess is now half cleaned up)

My work table is reflecting the state of my head.

My main canning/preserving season has just ended.  I’m playing with foraged olives and soon I’ll be playing with drying produce to make zombie-soup with but the big projects – the few hundred pounds of tomatoes projects are done.

Max is mostly doing okay in school right now so I’ve had a little break from dealing with all that.  Though I’m surprised the school never contacted me about Max’s long fight over “The Pledge of Allegiance” which he has been refusing to stand up for or say on the grounds that he isn’t religious and won’t make any pledges that include “God” in them.  More than that – he’s expressed that he’s not all that keen to pledge allegiance to a country he’s not so proud of.  After many weeks of irritating his teachers with his refusal to cooperate they reached a compromise this Monday when the PE teacher finally agreed that Max didn’t have to say the pledge but he does have to stand up with everyone else.  Max is not overjoyed with this compromise but has accepted it.  I can’t deny that I’m proud of my kid for fighting for his right to not make religious-based pledges.

Or political ones for that matter – no pledge should be automatically demanded of any citizen because that is how dictators and fascists roll.  Anyway – children should not be giving pledges of political allegiance until they are allowed to vote and when that day comes they should be free to give that pledge or not, according to their political beliefs.

(And no, I did NOT put him up to this!  He has no idea that I stopped saying the pledge when I was a teen and only stand up when others do it but never put hand to heart or say the words.  But damn – he sure didn’t fall far from the parental tree)

I have not had the time nor the spark to do any fiction writing.  It’s beginning to weigh on me pretty heavily.  I shouldn’t let it.  I have plenty of non-fiction to work on – fun nonfiction even.  But the Jane Doe story won’t shut up in my head.  It won’t shut up but it won’t come out either.  Meanwhile I need to finish the real edit of Cricket and Grey because the chapters I’ve published online are catching up to the chapters I’ve actually re-edited.  It’s time to plunge into the world of e-publishing so I can make the first book available in e-book format followed by print-on-demand format.  I’m hesitant to try and make it available for Christmas buying because in my experience – people don’t buy shit from me.  That would represent a lot of energy most likely to result in no return.  Yet I still want to make it available – to symbolically finish the book.  To take it to the end.

I’m not sure if I will be writing more Cricket and Grey books.  I suppose it depends on whether or not people would actually be interested in reading more of them.  That was two years of work for the first one.  I know the next one wouldn’t take quite as long since so much of the character development has been done already.  Still, would it be a waste of my time?  If I am only writing to please myself and not trying to develop an actual career – then I would write the whole series only because I love the story so much and want to see all the seasons completed (I planned one book for each season of one year in Cricket’s life).  But I AM trying to create an actual career out of my writing and that’s where I have trouble knowing where best to put my energy next.

The truth is that it would be most awesome if one of my blogs would get so much traffic I could make money off my ads (I currently make zero dollars from them and mostly have them on my blogs out of solidarity with BlogHer and my company and partly because I like to keep even the most unrealistic dreams alive).  It would be cool if I could do something with one of my blogs that it took off and became my way to earn money – then I could write the fiction merely to please myself and those few others who might be interested in it.  But this question always drives me in circles of madness.  I don’t have the magic it takes to make a popular blog.  In fact, over the last several months both of my blogs have been dropping traffic like crazy.

So.

There it is.

I suppose part of the answer is that to make either of my blogs (and let’s face it – we’re really talking about Stitch and Boots because Better Than Bullets is just too all over the place to attract a crowd) to make it really thrive I would need to stop paying attention to the fiction all together and put a lot more energy into the blog(s).  But I’ve done this in the past without any resulting benefit so I’m not all that hopeful.

Then there’s the newest blog: The Post Apocalyptic Kitchen

Which I’m super excited about and we’re slowly figuring out how we want to set it up so we can start writing it.  I think it’s a great idea with a solid premise that links up really well to current trends of interests and concerns.  I dare not hang any specific hopes or dreams on this project.  I am simply going to work on it because it absolutely has to be done – it needs to be created.  Plus it’s going to be so much fun to collaborate with my friend Emma who is also really excited about this.

So.

There’s that.

Meanwhile I am bogged down by feelings of dread that are nonspecific and irritating.  I know there are lots of specific reasons for me to be stressed out but I’ve been handling all of them pretty well.  Or, so I thought.  Perhaps I am mistaken in how well I’m handling everything.

One really good thing is that Netflix finally put all the Saturday Night Live episodes from the 20000’s on the streaming site.  So I’ve been watching all the years I missed and now Max is hooked on them too.  His favorite SNL comedians are Kenan Thompson, Amy Poehler, and Seth Meyers.  Mine are Bill Hader, Kristen Whig, and Fred Armisen tied with Kenan Thompson.  Though it’s so hard to pick favorites because they all have such different strengths.  I think if I had to pick just one favorite of all of them it would be Bill Hader.  We’re watching the 2007 episodes and it’s so weird seeing all the presidential election skits from the last election while we’re up to our eyeballs in the current one.

It’s time to get more coffee and get to work.  I hope you all have a great Wednesday.  And try not to use the word “giggle” too often.

I’m not a hypochondriac, I just think I’m dying all the time.

(A pretty picture of a serene landscape.  Why can’t my brain be like this?)

I need to stop looking up medical conditions I think I might have.  Right now I’m convinced I have the following:

colon cancer

hemorrhoids

liver disease

acid reflux

cervical cancer

cancerous moles

I have my reasons for concern.  Just like I had “reason” to be concerned that I had AIDS 20 years ago (I didn’t) and got laughed out of the clinic (because I was so low risk and had been recently tested).  There’s a weird thing that happens sometimes that really bothers me – I can hear what sounds like fluid moving from the back of my head to the based of my neck – it sounds constricted and fizzy.  I can also slightly feel it.  I have no idea what that’s all about.  I sure as hell am not going to go to the doctor and ask what it might be.  It’s all in my head.  Haha.  I thought I had good reason to suspect a thyroid problem and had myself tested a couple of years back (as you may remember).  I didn’t have a thyroid issue.

Other people were concerned that I might have an issue with bone density considering that I broke my hip when I was thirty five.  I got tested for that too and guess what?  My bone density is completely normal and healthy.

I hate it when other people have medical concerns for me because they often bring up possible problems I’m having that I hadn’t even thought of before which I then have to look up and become secretly convinced I have.  If I’m a hypochondriac then I’ve definitely set some boundaries for myself: I never imagine I’m afflicted with boring easily treated problems.  Isn’t your classic idea of a hypochondriac someone who is constantly thinking they’re getting sick with colds, flus, and other common things?  I’ve got Poirot in mind.  Wearing scarves against a summer chill, excessive use of antibacterial wipes and products, getting what everyone else has the minute he finds out they have it…

I go for things that typically can’t be cured or can’t be cured without horribly invasive procedures and lifestyle changes that include feeding tubes or portable oxygen.

I just looked up the official definition of hypochondria and if Poirot has hypochondria then his case is very mild.  I have to say that I’m pretty textbook except that I try not to talk about my fears of illness all the time to friends and family or my doctor because I’m aware of my tendency to obsess over what I think are dire symptoms and I don’t like to be made to feel ridiculous about them.  So usually I either keep it to myself or make a big joke about it as I did with the leg dent incident.

Here’s what I’m telling myself right now:  I’m probably going to be dead within the next year or two.  That Filipino palm reader I worked with at Radio Shack who said I would live a long life was obviously not wearing much needed glasses.  So if I’m going to die soon, I shouldn’t spend my time looking up all the things I could be dying from.  Instead I should just enjoy the scenery and clean up my dog’s corn cob vomit and go sit with my kid.

(I hope my family isn’t reading this because they have the same problem I do* and if I admit to medical concerns they’ll take them up with anxious enthusiasm.  They are not a reassuring bunch.)

*I’m not actually sure they’re aware of this.

Moving Anxiety Has Finally Set Up Camp in My Head

There is no way we’re going to be able to fit everything we own on a 27′ truck.  There is no way I can get everything packed in two weeks.  How the hell are we going to manage the whole move?  My mom shouldn’t drive 600 miles on her own because she has vertigo and isn’t supposed to drive much at all.  I can’t help her drive.  Philip will have to drive the truck.  Where will all the animals go?  Where will the kid go?  In the cab of a 27′ truck with his dad, his dog, and two cats?  Or with his vertiginous Grandma and her dog and her two cats?  Will Philip be flying up and then driving down with us or driving?  Also – Philip has two days only to move us.  So that’s one day to pack the truck which means I need someone to pick up the truck in the first place and bring it to our house and then I will need people to help us start loading it or it will be too much for Philip and I to do in one day.  What about my precious plants that must come with me?!

I’m in official moving freak-out mode.  Cause this whole thing is so impossible.  Moving up here was much easier – we paid a moving company to move us for the first (and only, I think) time in our lives.  It was fantastic!  It also cost a fortune.

Do I need to leave a bunch of furniture behind?  I’m already making a mental list of what I’m willing to let go of and what I’m deeply attached to.

-two days and mucho panic later-

I’m much calmer now.  We got a lot of packing done while Philip was here.  He’s headed back south today and won’t come back for two weeks when he’ll come back just to pack up the moving truck and drive us back home.  Last night I went through my desk and my files and wonder why I’ve let it all go for so long.  I love having my things organized and cleaned out.

Oh right.  That bitch, depression.

Anyway – I have rediscovered how cool my desk is.  Now I can’t wait to be set up in my new office.  I’m trying to focus on how great our new house is and not on how we’re going to get there.  I’m definitely enjoying how much less shit is coming down with us than came up with us.  The feeling of shedding belongings continues to refresh me in the midst of all my anxiety.

Max is out of school now too.  Summer is almost officially here.  Philip has a good new job he’s really excited about.  I have artichokes to eat from the garden.  There is fresh cool air rushing through my window which I’m grateful for after yesterday’s heat.  I’m lucky in my friends.  I have so many good friends looking out for me and rooting for me.  I still don’t like radishes.  The sight of my calendula blooming always makes me happy.

And now I have to catch up on my paid work and get back to packing and organizing and not freaking out.

Obsessively Shoving Nuts in the Trunk

Sometimes what I write on one of my blogs seems to belong on both of them.  Today I wrote about gardening and how it’s changing in my town.  Very much an urban homesteading topic, except that it turned out to also be a philosophical look at my town through its garden style and philosophical topics I usually save for this blog.  If you want to know my thoughts on how you can tell who people are by what they grow, please go read today’s post on Stitch.

This week has been exhausting.  I have yet to find a rhythm with my working hours (we have some new systems in place in my job that I’m still getting used to) and I’m still recovering from my cold and cough and my back is still weak.  Sleep has been shit.  I was going to give a talk about local eating for the Rotary Club but made a complete ass out of myself by assuming it would be an evening talk when, in fact, it was an early morning talk.  I had already canceled the talk once due to getting sick.  My credit with the organizer is now completely sunk and I’m mortified.  I had a big debacle with plums this past weekend.  I had to throw out 13 lbs of cooked plums because when I started to cook them a bunch of insect eggs rose to the top.  I’m not punk rock enough or pioneer enough to have strained the eggs and carried on with plans to eat the plums.

I have sent zero queries out to agents in favor of a continued fervor of preserving.  I made a batch of (amazing!) Damson jam which makes me feel very Miss Marple.  I can’t wait to make some scones this winter and have a friend or two over for tea and whip out my Damson jam.  I have quinces needing picking now (very cool) and processing (what?  more preserving?).  I have grapes to make into syrup.  I have more plums for more jam as well a savory sauce and liqueur and wine.  This weekend I’m picking apples and will make them into sauce.

Wait, wasn’t I going to be done preserving two weeks ago?

I can’t stop.  I literally can’t stop.  My body is tired.  I haven’t been to Kung Fu in two weeks.  My back is aching.  I have no room in my head for anything.  Why does this happen to me?  Last year I simply didn’t engage at all in preserving (okay, obviously I did some) but I was busy writing my book.  Here I am at the most crucial point in the book writing process (trying to get it published) and I’m frittering all my time away making food for the winter.

I think finding out that we are approved for the HAMP trial period and knowing how much harder things are going to get has gone to my head a little.  If I can get some apples for free how can I, in good conscience, pass it up?  That’s free food.  FREE.  That’s a nice word.  I don’t like free anything else, actually.  I don’t trust the word “free”.  I hate free samples. I really do.  They freak me out.  I won’t take them.  Usually they’re crap I don’t want anyway.  But even if I did, I fear anything “free”.  Except for fruit or vegetables from friends or neighbors.  Free produce I don’t know how to turn down.

I really offended the mushroom guy at our Saturday market last year when I refused to taste his mushroom samples that he’d carefully cooked up on an electric cooker.  He thought I thought they were unsanitary.  I reassured him it’s because I don’t like free samples.  I explained that it was the free-ness that made them suspect.  I also explained to him that this dislike of food samples and free stuff is an irrational thing I feel because I have generalized anxiety.  When he looked at me disbelievingly and, I think, a little disgustedly, I said “I’M CRAZY” and walked off.  I really threw a bomb in his works.  Poor guy.

Oh, I almost forgot about the rose hips.  I have a bowl of rose hips I collected on a walk I took with my friend Laurie just to the right of the picture in this post.  I think I’m going to make rose hip syrup with it.  So that’s another thing I need to do.  I’m not really complaining.  I’m just a little overwhelmed.  I don’t really want to stop preserving.  I love it.  I really love it.  But if I’m being totally honest, I’m starting to feel itchy not working on a major writing project.  I think I already mentioned my realization (while looking for agents) that I need to write the next Cricket and Grey book instead of working on the Jane Doe book.  So I have projects to work on and I’m getting itchy to get going.  Life is a very full affair and I can’t understand people who are bored with their lives.  How is it possible to get bored with life?

I’m off to get dressed (at the crack of noon) so I can start making things out of plums.  I hope you all have a smashing Friday!