Tag: self care

362 to Go, If I Was Counting

LOVE

I have just 362 more days of not drinking alcohol and I feel fine.

TOTALLY FINE, FUCKERS.

I’ve been burying myself in food prep and preserving. No exciting beverages to drink is a thorn in my side and please don’t tell me how good kombucha is because I’m telling you that NO BEVERAGE IS AS GOOD AS BEER.

If you’re going on this ride with me then you have to let me be all up in my feelings. That’s part of what this whole year of not drinking is about, because one of the marvelous things about alcohol is that is has a great capacity to take the edges off of one’s feelings. But if you’re like me and you have ALL THE FEELINGS IN THE WORLD AT ONCE INSIDE YOU PRETTY MUCH ALL THE TIME – you come to look on alcohol as a cloaking device. It’s blissful. No tea or juice or fungal beverage is going to compare to that. Believe me, I’ve tried them all.

It’s no big mystery why people like me seek out substances that can quiet down the noise in our heads and hearts. In my opinion we shouldn’t have to live life in such torturous conditions. There are those who suggest embracing all the noise as a beautiful part of life. I think people who say that don’t actually know what the fuck they’re talking about. I suspect they don’t know the level of noise I live with every day. If drinking tons of beer every day weren’t one of the main things keeping me fat and my pocketbook empty (and let’s face it, if people weren’t so fucking judgmental about it) I wouldn’t bother quitting drinking alcohol ever.

Don’t think I don’t know what I’m doing either. I’m 45 stinking fat years old and I was born an old person who grew up super fucking fast. I’m no novice in dealing with life’s gnarlier side. I’m not new at this struggle with my mental illness. I’m not a 20 year old just realizing for the first time that maybe I’m different and maybe JUST MAYBE I might be mentally ill and in need of self care and medical care. I knew I needed help by the time I was 13 years old. I just want to make that clear. When I open up about this kind of stuff there are always people who (in a genuine – I like to believe – wish to be supportive) make suggestions as though they imagine I’m completely un-selfaware and totally new to the problems I’m facing and also weirdly incapable of doing my own research.

This lights a flame to my already hugely flammable irritation. One of the main things I experience when I’m fully up in my super raw feelings is irritation that is easily fanned into rage. I usually turn this onto myself when it reaches the rage stage because I feel guilty for being so irritated and it’s no one’s fault I’m such a mess anyway BUT SERIOUSLY, CAN YOU ALL STOP BREATHING FOR A WHILE SO THE NOISE OF IT ISN’T IN MY HEAD ALL DAY LONG?!

Luckily for me (and everyone around me) I AM actually medicated with psyche meds. They really do help. A lot. Like, a lotlotlot. If I stay off of alcohol for long enough they very likely may work better than they do when I’m drinking alcohol. The fact that I’m on two psyche meds at significant (if not large) doses and still feel the level of irritation and noise I do should give you an idea of how bad it is when I’m on zero medication.

I’m especially suspicious of anyone handing out ideas that sound cultish and/or anti-medication. Nope. I grew up around a lot of cultish people and it gave me a strong allergy to them. One might even say that the commune I was in the first few years of my life was basically a cult. I can sense out a cultish vibe even when the person emitting it isn’t aware they’re doing it.

So here I am. Only 3 days in. What will I do today to take care of myself? I think I’m going to do a little cleaning. Cleaning is hard to start but it’s the same as writing – it clears out noise. In this case it’s physical noise. The dirt on my floor. The grime in my sink. All noise I can scrub away. It comes back practically immediately, of course. But the act of doing it is an act of self care because it’s giving yourself a cleaner space in which to exist which gives you more space to fling out the unwanted mental crap. It reduces the distraction of noticing all day long how long it’s been since the last time you cleaned and consequently reduces opportunities for self flagellation which can be a dangerous to people like me. We’re masters at finding reasons to punish ourselves.

I might not do a lot of cleaning but I know I have to do some laundry and I know I have to clean the kitten’s area in my office with an actual mop. I’ll start with that. Because I also have to clean the litter box and will need to use the tub for that, I’ll probably end up cleaning the tub because otherwise I’ll think about how gross the tub is after using it to clean the litter box. We’ll see what all gets done. I will NOT allow myself to kick myself for anything I don’t get done. Them’s the rules today.

This constitutes writing for the day. Though I’m thinking about fiction projects and my desire to sit down to some good fiction writing since I haven’t in ages and ages – I must ease into new routines slowly. So first is the daily writing to self (either here or in my private journal).

What are you doing to take care of yourself today?

365 Days Alcohol-Free Started 2 Days Ago

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Today is the last day I will be drinking alcohol for a year. Unless I fail miserably at my self-imposed challenge. I haven’t been that loud about this. I don’t need too many people doubting me or suddenly confessing that they think I should have done this a long time ago.

I declare the next 12 months a year of healing.

A year of mental health care. A year to cleanse my body and get healthier. Things I will NOT being doing:

Dieting * Yoga * Meditation * Nature Communions Hippie Style * Saying “fudge” instead of “fuck” * Finding Jesus * Getting Fitted for a Trump-style Toupee * Going Paleo * Taking up Macrame * Wait, maybe I want to take up macrame, I take that back!

Things I most certainly WILL be doing:

Becoming the Mocktail Queen * Learning to Make New Food Dishes * Journaling * Writing * Swearing * Screaming * Watching Tons of Comfort TV * Continuing to Work on Becoming Miss Marple * Wearing Make-Up Again * Selling Herbal Remedies * Re-Discovering the Art of Self Care

***

Whoops. I meant to finish this as my last day of drinking post but my last day of drinking slipped by quietly and now I have 365 days to get through without booze. I think I must take it easy today. Super easy.

***

Oh for crying out loud! Another day and this same post languishes. Tuppence the fluffy tiny foster kitten has required much energy from me as she has a terrible case of the runs and requires several cleanings a day. Also – FOOD PRESERVING IN FULL SWING! In a few minutes I will be going with Philip to forage for elderberries and later I might have a bunch of pickling cucumbers to pickle. Day one of my year of not drinking has already slinked by. If I’m being honest (and why wouldn’t I be?), the first day wasn’t hard. It was just a mild irritant in my head knowing that normally I’d be drinking and drinking is my routine and I don’t like my routines being upended. Other than that, I think my body was really happy to not have beer. It will probably be like this most days with the irritation ranging in sharpness from mild to angry-red on Fridays. Maybe. Or maybe not.

All the other times I didn’t drink there wasn’t really a physical craving component, just a little outrage that I was denying myself one of my favorite things. If any of you have a hard time relating to not drinking alcohol when it’s one of your favorite things in the world, put in your mind’s eye your very favorite comestible. Right now. Is it there? Pizza? Cheese? Bread? Pasta? Chocolate? Cake? Now imagine that a doctor told you it was very bad for you and you need to not eat it again for at least a year. Take yourself to that place where you can’t have it for a really long time, maybe forever.

If you don’t feel some kind of irritation or full blown panic, I don’t think you’ve imagined going without your favorite thing. So for those of you who don’t care that much about food, usually it means that sex is your favorite thing and you crave the feeling it gives you. Am I right? Go there. Doc says “Hey, you have a really unhealthy relationship with sex. For most people it’s a healthy part of life but NOT FOR YOU. You need to give up sex for at least a year, maybe forever.”

ARE YOU WITH ME NOW?

I thought so. Now you can feel my pain.

***

Are you kidding me, me?! Three days and you still haven’t posted this? Ridiculous. I’m posting it right now, as is.

Self Care: Part 2

Tiger versus Art

*Continuted from Self Care: Part 1*

One thing standing in my way is alcohol. Going sober last year for 3 months and earlier this year for 5 weeks has shown me that I’m fine when I don’t drink but that when I allow myself to drink I feel that the only way I can feel calm and mellow is when I drink many drinks. I revert so fast to many drinks because it’s so damn effective at soothing my frayed nerves and convincing me that everything will be fine. What I’ve lost is the ability to drink one or two drinks and then move on to something else like tea. I used to be able to do that. But it’s become all or nothing. It’s a favorite mode of being for me, the all-or-nothing way of life. It’s dangerous and unhealthy.

If it’s going to be all or nothing with alcohol then I’ve come to the point where it needs to be nothing for a long enough period of time that I can re-establish my dependence on other ways of self-soothing. It’s not working for me the way it used to. I now have a lot of anxiety about the fact that the only way I seem to be able to soothe my anxiety is to drink a lot of alcohol every day. I also have a lot of anxiety and self loathing about being so weak and also that this mode of self soothing is keeping my body so fat. The fat weighs on my joints which means I can’t exercise without being in pain or injuring myself. This is a vicious cycle. Exercise is another way to work out some anxiety but it has become a source of pain and anxiety in itself.

I’ve talked so much over the years on this blog that all of this feels like old news.

The real news is that I’m going to stop drinking for a year. From August 1st 2015 to July 31st 2016. It feels impossible but it also feels necessary. I don’t actually know how to socialize with people without alcohol in the evening at gatherings where merriness and fun is meant to be had. The thought of trying to do this while others drink and I don’t makes my brain flicker into an abysmal darkness. So I may have to simply not gather with other humans outside of my family and my home in the whole time.

Though that would be a disservice to my mission which is: to learn to live life without alcohol as the prophylactic between me and other humans and me and my anxiety. What I intend to do is retrain myself. To hitch myself to the earlier me, the one who knew how to socialize and BE without alcohol. The one who drank a lot of coffee and tea. So perhaps I won’t socialize much for the first few months. But at some point I have to be able to navigate my whole life without alcohol being a factor. I have to rebuild my whole life foundation so that alcohol gets put back in its place as something that is meant to be enjoyed and not used as a floating island of comfort.

Who knows what will happen after that. I think I’m going to need to get some fresh therapy which means having to audition a new psychiatrist through Kaiser because the last time I tried to tackle this my psychiatrist seriously let me the fuck down. Then I went to a substance use counselor and SHE pissed me the fuck off with her inability to actually LISTEN to me, her assumption that she could know me better than I know myself after knowing me for less than 15 minutes. So navigating healthcare to find a good support stresses me out but I think it’s important.

I may check out going to group meetings but only if I can find one that is completely non-religious or spiritual based. Not sure that exists. No steps either because I still don’t believe the appropriate word for my problem is straight-up alcoholism. There are different schools of thought on this these days and I hold out to explore what my own deal is. Is it repairable? Can I put it in its place?

One thing I DO know is that I can live without it. The problem is that I never want to.

So here I am. Again. With the beer thing. With the self care thing. With all the THINGS.

Growing up I drank a lot of herbal tea. And then a lot of herbal and black tea as a teen. I want to find my way back to that as a comfort. Iced for when it’s hot and hot for when it’s cold. I think I’ll develop my own chai. And I plan to experiment a lot for possible good blends to include in my Sugar & Pith product line.

I also plan to write about self care as content for my business website because that’s what’s at the root of an natural remedies and teas and herbs – self care. But I’ll keep the more raw content for Better Than Bullets. You know, all the swearing and really creepy inside-head stuff I let out sometimes.

I have to work hard at my daily and weekly routines. Finding what works best to keep my interests balanced. Most of my interests ARE self care. But the most important of them all is writing. I can’t let that slide.  Not the brain purges (here) and not the fiction writing. I need them. They keep brain clutter and chaos from derailing me completely. It’s my internal housecleaning.

A year of purposeful healing and self care. I can do this.

Self Care: Part 1

move along

I haven’t been writing much at all lately. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like how disordered my mind feels when I loosen my discipline with writing. I have let it slide because there are only 24 hours in a day and I needed to work on setting up my business. Now my labels are done, I have added a few new products to my apothecary line and have started working on my website. I’ve also been cooking more and doing some preserving. My garden is in disrepair because I need to do some major soil amendments and then mulch and actually get my drip line set up because keeping a garden thriving during drought conditions and with giant privet trees dumping an inch of leaves and pollen on it every year is brutal. Plus, there’s only 24 hours in a day and my back is pretty weak.

The lack of time is a fact, not an excuse. There are so many things I always want to be doing. I feel lousy when I miss out on food preserving opportunities. I feel lousy when I don’t write. I feel lousy when my garden flounders. I also really need some new clothes and can’t afford to go buy all new clothes even if I could find ones that fit me okay. So I need to sew. Then there’s the every day things. Hanging with my family. Giving them some energy. Making doctor’s appointments for Max. We need eye exams. He needs to have his teeth cleaned. On and on and on and on.

On top of all that is my need for hours and hours of mind numbing so that I can handle my anxiety and depression and other mental and emotional discomforts. Plus the large quantities of alcohol I drink to keep myself calm and mellow.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about self care. About what constitutes self care and how much of it I’m actually doing. About what undermines it. I’ve been thinking a lot about a period of time when I was first learning about it when I was 19 years old until I was 20 and living in my own apartment all by myself. I didn’t drink much alcohol (being under age) and I stopped smoking. I began to learn to cook and bake bread and that was the first time I ever got interested in herbology on my own. And I wrote a lot. I wrote a lot of nonsense  bullshit crap that’s awful to read now, but I wrote all the time when I wasn’t reading. OR talking to the cockroaches. Or leaving the cockroaches notes to read while I was at work. I drank a lot of coffee. Too much coffee if I’m being honest.

One of the things I developed during that time that I’d never done before on my own was to be on a weekly apartment cleaning schedule. Naturally I always had a schedule for that when I lived with both my parents. But before I was 19 I took no pride in my personal space. I took no care with its upkeep. I was, basically, a slob. But I missed the order of routine. So for the first time in my life I started cleaning once a week, every week. It became a pleasurable routine. I got dressed up to do it. I always put on lipstick and played jaunty housecleaning music like Carmen Miranda or Fats Waller. Then I’d go do my weekly shopping. Also a newly discovered pleasure. Grocery shopping. Though on a tight budget it was the first time I even truly had a budget for groceries like a grown up. I began planning meals for leftovers because I couldn’t afford to eat out at work every day. I loved (and still do) grocery shopping. That was the first time in my life that I started to understand what making a life is all about. Making rhythms and finding ways to take care of myself. Some of those things seem really basic, I know. But these activities are the foundation of self care.

You can meditate, get great exercise, see a therapist, take psychiatric medications, take St. John’s Wort, do great philanthropic works, be a mentor – but if you aren’t caring for your living space, however modest or meager it is, your mental, emotional, and spiritual foundation is not strong enough to support you during the worst of times. Think of depressive episodes as earthquakes and your living space and your daily routines are the foundation of your house. If you don’t reinforce your foundation, if it’s full of cracks then it can’t weather even mild earthquakes (let alone big ones) and your whole house can topple down around you.

I’ll tell you why it’s important to keep your life foundation strong through routines of self care:  the first thing to suffer (for most of us) during a depressive (or other mentally disruptive episode) is our daily routines like cleaning. How can you tell a disorderly mind and spirit? It’s reflected, often, in the environment of the body. You let the laundry slide. You start getting irregular about cleaning. Your exercise routines go by the wayside. And it isn’t our fault. But when these things start to slide our environment can start exacerbating our mental disorderliness. The stronger your foundation of self care routines are, the longer it takes for them to deteriorate and the longer it takes for our environments to become as chaotic and dark as our anxiety or manic swing or depression. Some of us may be lucky and clean our houses even more during these times but in my experience this is not often the case. Few of us are lucky enough to eat better during mental episodes than when we’re at our most balanced.

The last ten years have been a tremendous challenge to me and I’ve struggled this whole time to regain my footing, to re-establish my daily routines of self care, to strengthen a crumbling foundation beneath my feet. My health has suffered. I’ve undermined myself in so many ways. I find myself middle aged and at a crossroads. I’ve actually been at this same crossroads for a couple of years. Moving back to Santa Rosa saved my life. I’ve become healthier mentally and have slowly been reclaiming my space and cleaning more regularly. But I’m so far from having the kind of strong foundation I need to support myself during bouts of bad anxiety and depression.

*Continued on Self Care: Part 2*