naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
 Saw the doctor yesterday, had my foot X-rayed, they haven't gotten back to me yet (?!?) but it's irrelevant at this point.  I'm walking on it again, if not comfortably for long distances.  I also got a good look at the X-rays after they were taken, courtesy of the two kind techs who let me behind the barricade to see my lovely little foot-bones!  I saw nothing amiss in the slightest, although a hairline fracture might not have been apparent.

And, more importantly, we discussed my worsening -- or at least, not improving -- depression, and she raised my dose of Lamictal.

We talked a little.  I told her that I have been dealing with this for years, and that I'm good at it, and that I'm not feeling the urge to hurt myself, so for me to ask for help really is unusual, and she agreed.  She basically said "Yeah, that's really worrisome, since you're usually so on top of it.  You were absolutely right to come to me, I'm really glad you did.  Good call." 

Which made me feel like a strong person in a rough place, rather than a weak person.  And made me feel . . . I don't know.  Respected.  Valued on a personal level.  I really like her.  I like her so much.

It was exhausting, though.  Running around to get signed in to the hospital proper and get to the lab and get X-rayed and back to the parking lot in the thousand-degree heat.  Much much much thanks to Sargon who came along and helped me out.  I really appreciate it.

I felt a mess later and only realized belatedly that, despite being EXTREMELY excited to have radiation shot through my extremities, the environment had nevertheless jabbed me in a really nasty spot and I had to fight off a few stray gross feelings yesterday and today.  But I'm fine.  I am.

Took the first raised dose of Lamictal this morning.  Really hoping it works.  Really hoping it does as well this time as it did last time.  I felt so much better.  I hope it's the same this time.

Thank you guys.  For everything.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me, that this might make a difference and let me get back on top of everything.
naamah_darling: Spotted hyena teeth. (Teeth)
I'm climbing out from under the rock of another depressive episode. I currently have about a dozen things on my plate, things I have to do, major things, not minor things. Projects. Ponies, book edits, covers, formatting for print. Things that will take days each. And that's on top of stuff like keeping my bathroom from looking like the guest toilet in R'lyeh and not burying myself under disposable dinnerware in my bedroom. It's a neverending cycle, and no matter how I fight, I can't keep up.


"Annnd it's still there. Lovely."
Image:
"Untitled" by Olivier Ortelpa on Flickr.

That's one of the worst things about depression -- or, I suppose, any other debilitating condition -- you're not just dealing with your own cycle of broken or not broken, you're dealing with the everyday outside world, too, and its rhythms, imposed on you with no regard for your level of ability to cope with it. It keeps running. It leaves you to catch up.

And that weight of catching up, the mountain that builds up and you suddenly have to climb, is a thing that can easily drag you back down. I'm doing well right now, I think. But the morass of stuff I have to do keeps piling up, higher and higher, faster than my ability to deal with it, even when I'm functional.
 
I need to take steps to address that, and I'm working as hard as I can at it -- and being humiliated by the fact that sometimes that is not very hard -- but the simple truth is that even though I'm doing better lately, I'm overloaded. Things are good now, but I know that they will get bad again, and I truly don't think I'll have enough time to clear this workload and deal with incoming work before that happens. I will have to do damage control and muddle along as best I can and pray that the people around me, including the people on whom my continued survival depends, are understanding.

Our concept of disability doesn't really take these cycles into account. Just because a sick person can do things sometimes doesn't mean that it's all fine and dandy during those times. Those are often busy, difficult times, when we try to both clear the backlog of shit that needs to get done, and make some progress moving forward. They are times of normal functioning but not normal workload, and very few of us are equipped with support systems that clear all that work away for us so we can move forward, unimpeded.

That's why things like laundry, or vacuuming, or lawn maintenance can pile up for me. And by the time I get to it, it's a much bigger task than it would have been if I'd just been able to take care of it at the outset. The nature of many mental illnesses and other disabilities is that they can not only screw your ability to buckle down and get things done, they can screw up your ability to do just a little here and a little there. One of the signs that I'm doing better is that I'm cleaning up in five-minute spurts a few times a day. That's an improvement. I'm now stuck with all the work of cleaning up after myself, clearing away the mess left over from all the days I couldn't do anything. I stop, when I am depressed or ill, but the world goes on around me. And it's the same for others who have to deal with this shit.

Another frustrating side effect for me is feeling guilty for doing anything fun, anything for myself. Anything that is not productive. Even at my very best, I feel like I don't do enough. Now, I know that's bullshit, that the idea that I have to earn my place is bullshit, but it's an intellectual knowing, not a knowing-in-my-heart knowing. And I know that not being able to work consistently hurts me. It worsens my circumstances. It makes life harder. It makes my odds poorer. And because that scares me, doing things for myself gives me anxiety. Because mostly, all I have the energy to do is low-impact stuff. Stuff that makes me happy when I'm feeling well, but when I'm not, just provides background noise to cancel out the constant depressive roar. So I look like I'm doing bullshit and fucking off, when . . . really . . . that's all I can do. So when I could choose to do something else and I choose to do what makes me feel good instead (because it's finally actually making me feel good instead of just whiling away the time), I feel terrible.

I do my best to navigate the web of obligation, guilt, and survival, but it's hard. I'm having more good days than bad lately, but even on the best of days it's a lot of work. I'm not miserable today, but I have a hell of a stone to roll uphill, and it sucks that it's never going away.

I want to be able to wrap this up in a pretty bow. I want to give an answer, or say something supportive.

All I can say is that for everyone like me, you aren't alone, this is a normal part of the cycle. And to everyone else, this is what we have to deal with, so please try to understand where we're coming from.
naamah_darling: Glass of tawny port on a table branded with a seven-pointed star. (Port Wine and the Morning Star)
Panic attacks suck.

At one point I had them daily, often multiple times, and for hours each time – but that was a long time ago. I’m much better now.
I want to talk for a minute about what that really means. What improvement really looks like. Because it doesn’t look like I thought it would, and I don’t see that talked about as much as I would like to.

So here are four vignettes from the last year or so, all of which I consider victories.

 


FIRST.


I’m at Planned Parenthood, and I am not holding my shit together. I’m not as triggered by exams as I used to be, so normally this annual bullshit is not a huge issue, but this time I have reason to believe it is going to be a lot worse, involving things that are, like, turbo triggering. Also, I still have a lot of lingering hostility over some bad shit that went down at a Planned Parenthood many years ago, so I don’t feel safe at their clinics. I wasn’t expecting it to be as bad as it is, but it’s so bad this time. I drop the pen three times signing in, my hands are shaking so badly.
Read the rest. . . . )

I want “success” to mean “never has panic attacks.” It’s hard to accept that “success” actually means “better equipped to handle them, and also they happen less often.” Even when I head them off, it’s uncomfortable. They are a thing I have to think about, plan for, and . . . it’s still very hard, even after all this time, for it not to make me feel weak. I hate them.

If success does not mean “never has them”, though, then having them does not mean “FAILURE.” It just means I had a fucking panic attack. It sucked, but I didn’t screw up.

The only part I have control over is the coping with it. Sometimes “coping” means that I can actually shut it down, control the symptoms, until it goes away. Sometimes all “coping” means is that I manage not to throw up. Seriously, sometimes that is the best I can do.

And the times I utterly blow my Sanity check and lose it, totally freak out, those are part of the illness, too. Panic disorders do that. They remove your ability to Cope With Shit. So not being able to do that sometimes is forgivable. It’s not a failure of strength or will or cleverness, it’s a physiological response over which I have considerable but not total control. Initially I had no control, so this is pretty awesome, comparatively.

Being good at dealing with panic attacks doesn’t mean they never happen. It means that I am not usually scared of the panic attack itself while it is happening. I know what is happening, I know what to do about it, and I know that it will 100% for-sure end. It means that I don’t live in fear of having one. It means that they have become a really obnoxious but ordinary event. Yes, it sucks that anyone should have to be used to them, should have them often enough to be good at dealing with them, but I really do think that the fact that I’m in a place where even if they are causing me terrible fear they don’t scare me anymore is an amazing thing.

So if you are dealing with this shit, know that “better” means “better at dealing with them” and not “all better now.” Know that “coping” means “doing your best and trying to learn from every experience, good and bad.”

On the one hand, sorry to bust your bubble, if you were hoping that it would all go away. It might, but I strongly suggest assuming that it will stick around long enough that learning to deal with them will pay off.

On the other, realize that you actually can get better at this. You probably already feel like you have no control over the panic attacks, and to a considerable extent, you probably don’t. But you have control over how you respond. You can learn to deal with them. You acquire tools. Deep breathing, relaxation exercises, rhymes, numbers, imaginary people. Medication is an amazing tool, don’t let anyone tell you it’s “weak” or “cheating” to take that form of help. It won’t be a trip through HappyFunUnicornLand, but you can learn to deal with it, and sometimes you will be able to kick its sorry ass.

Eventually, the thing that used to beat you into the mud will only be able to bring you to your knees. Eventually, you’ll be able to meet it standing. I can’t promise you’ll beat it every time, it might still kick the shit out of you sometimes, but I can promise that with practice you’ll get your feet under you faster, and go on about your business of being awesome. Being you.

I can promise you that.

Originally published at Silver Into Steel.  Comment where you like!

naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
All y'all who have been reading me for a while know I often have highly-symbolic, narrative dreams.  I’m told that’s common with bipolar disorder, but people like ascribing things to mental illnesses, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in that.

I dreamed I was at some sort of combination SF/F convention and home and garden expo thing held inside a really big mall.  All the "shops" were suites where people basically lived, doing their thing.

There was a huge glassed-in house -- a really nice one -- right in the middle of the three-story open area right in the middle of the mall.  I don't know why, but I knew I had to go live there.  I didn't want to, though.  It was furnished and looked comfortable, but the walls were see-through, and there were people going in and out all the time.

I couldn't get into any of the other suites.  The doors were locked, or they wouldn't let me in.  I didn't have anywhere to go, and was getting pretty frustrated, when some guy came up and said I could go into his room with his friends where they were having a party with drums and dancing, and I was welcome to come and stay there if I would dress for the occasion.

Not having any alternative, I agreed, and went to get dressed.

I got my black wolf-skin and put it on.  I dropped to all fours and trotted back.  I could see my reflection in the glass walls of the house, the glass walls of the elevator, and the glass below the rails.  I looked like a wolf trotting, only the occasional flash of knee or elbow to break the illusion.  I thought I looked pretty good.

I went back to the guy, who was waiting for me.

"I'm dressed," I said, bouncing from foot to foot.  "Hey, hey, look, I'm a wolf!"

"What the fuck are you wearing?" he said.

"Well, these are the only dancing clothes I have," I said, then added, defensively: "Wolves can dance."

"Where the hell did you even get something like that?"

"It was going to be thrown away after the wolf died and didn't need it anymore, so I took it.  It's all right.  What's left of her doesn't mind.  Isn't she beautiful?"  I was naked underneath, but he couldn't see it.  The wolf-skin wrapped all the way around me.

"Well, you can't come to the party," he said, and I realized that he had only wanted me there to fuck him and his friends, and I got angry.  I pulled the wolf mask over my face and growled at him.  He ran away, back to his room.

Downstairs, a commotion started.  Screaming, the sound of things breaking.  I looked over the rail and the big glass house was on fire.  Everything inside had been made of flash paper.  It hadn't even been real.  I watched the orange flame blossom inside the walls, watched black smoke flood against the cracking glass ceiling.  I laughed.

Still in my wolf-skin, I trotted outside into the dark and sat on a hill, watching the mall burn down, smoke streaming up into a heavy sky.  The moon hung over it all, huge and yellow.

There was still nowhere for me to go, and I had nothing but the wolf-skin, but it was strangely satisfying watching everything burn.

. . . Yeah.   Not symbolic or anything.

It was a pleasant dream, though I can't say it's a particularly hopeful one.

Originally published at Silver Into Steel.  Comment wherever you like.

On Gifts

Oct. 18th, 2013 05:46 pm
naamah_darling: Spotted hyena teeth. (Teeth)

Shunning, Shaming, Renaming is a moving piece by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg about the power of reclaiming your identity while navigating disability and ostracism. I recommend you read it now.

There seems to be a desire on the part of abled people to try to balance the unpleasantness of disability with a belief that it somehow confers gifts equal or exceeding the burden of illness.  There seems to be a tendency to conflate a person's mental illness and their gifts, whatever those are, as though the former caused the latter, as though they were inseparable.

There's also a tendency to say that adversity brings enlightenment – often true – and that therefore adversity is, in itself, a positive thing, even when that takes the form of being severely disabled.  Even when that takes the form of being suicidal.  People want to believe that misfortune bears gifts.  Worse still is when these sentiments are expressed with envy.

I have a big problem with that.
 


I accomplished this in spite of depression.


The fact that I can bring beauty and goodness out of badness is something beautiful and good about me, not beautiful and good about badness.  It is a skill I developed out of necessity – if I had not, I would get nothing out of it.  If you must fight bears, it's good to learn to use their hides and bones as armor and weapons.  Better still is not having to fight bears.

Now this excellent quote from Rachel's article, which articulates something for me that I have long fought to explain.  Now this quote, which allows me to see the part of the problem that had been hidden in shadow: this assumption that disability comes with valuable prizes at the bottom of the box removes my agency:

When the anger rose, I was determined to turn the language of deficit and disorder and brokenness into the language of blessing. If the “experts” said that people like me were hyperfocused on our obsessions, I said that I was passionate about the things I loved. If they said that we had splinter skills, I said that I had talents. If they said that we had deficits, I spoke of brilliant adaptations.

I reclaimed, and renamed, and rejustified my existence.

And suddenly, I realized that it was all wrong. Because ultimately, this reclamation project wrote me out of its script altogether. I was no longer talking about myself. I was talking about the gifts of Asperger’s.

My analytical mind, my focus, my visual acuity, my way with words, my musical talent, my passion for justice, my honesty, my sensitivity, my gentleness: these had always been my gifts. Not the gifts of Asperger’s. My gifts. But they were no longer mine. All those precious moments of pride and work and love and family that had made up the fabric of my life had been stolen from me and made the fabric of a construct I had never named.

The gifts of Asperger’s. The gifts of an abstraction, of a word that a stranger had created.

My creativity, my sensitivity, my ability to empathize, to articulate complex ideas, my gift with words, these gifts are powerful.  They are without a doubt mingled with my disabilities.  But aren't these my gifts?

They did not come from my illness.  The process of dealing with my illness has taught me powerful lessons which have helped me help other people.  But my illness itself did not do that – I did that.  I'm the one who fought.  I'm the one who carved a path.  My illness did not carve it for me, I did not simply walk effortlessly into understanding.  I had to fight my illness to get it.  And I have to fight my illness to use that understanding to help others.  I have to fight my illness to use the gifts some people say it gives me.  How can these be gifts bestowed by my illness?  My illness is not a gift.

Some people may feel differently about their disabilities and challenges.  If so, I am glad for them.  I think that's really cool.  People are amazing.  Our relationships with ourselves, how we see ourselves, is so variable.  Two people with the same condition can feel completely different about it.  There's a quiet understanding among disabled people that each person gets to define their own experience, they get to define how they relate to their illness.  My experience of bipolar is not going to be the same as another person's.  I relate to my anxiety in a unique way.

For me, my disability is not a positive thing.  It is a dangerous thing that I must fight over and over, lest it consume me.  There are positive aspects to it – the hypomania can be quite wonderful – but those aspects are rare, and do not redeem the negative.

I do not want people taking me out of the equation.  Just as I do not want people assuming that my illness prevents me from being gifted, I do not want people assuming that without my illness I would not have any gifts.  Both assumptions do me no service.

My illness has played and will continue to play a role in the development of my gifts, my skills. Because it is a prime shaper of my day to day life, it shapes my abilities quite profoundly.  It is not, however, all that goes into the making of me.

To say that taking away my illness would make me other than who I am is, in the strictest sense, true.  But to say that taking it away would lessen me, that I do not agree with.

I am lessened by the inability to work due to anxiety or depression.  I am lessened by my inability to spend more time with the people I love because I cannot tolerate leaving the house very often.  Seriously.  those things diminish my life, and I do what I do in spite of them.  To imply that the illness that causes those things is somehow a gift because I am also creative and insightful is cruel: there's plenty of people who can do what I do who aren't crazy.  I somehow doubt they feel that they are missing anything.

Respecting my illness and what it does to me is necessary.  Respecting me and my gifts, apart from my illness, is necessary, too.  Mental illness is part of who I am, but it is not what makes me extraordinary.

I spend a lot of time trying to navigate that line between acknowledging my limits and letting my illness define me.  Muddying things by conflating my gifts with my illness doesn't help clarify anything.

Originally published at Silver Into Steel.  Comment here or there.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Possibly submerging for a while.  Possibly not.  You never know.  Sometimes being in a bad place just makes me talkier.

I'm having an immense amount of trouble processing emotions and responsibilities right now, and am feeling really angry and resentful and tired a lot of the time.  Doing the things I absolutely have to do is taking up all of my RAM, all my spoons, and I'm not even able to cope with that much.  (Some of it I just want to curl up and cry even thinking about.)

I'm not in a scary-bad place, but I'm really not happy right now either, so I may be scarce for a bit.

I appreciate your understanding.  I'm trying to keep up with everything, but I am not doing a very good job.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Blood Oath)
I've decided to make a dedicated blog for my mental health related posts, disability stuff, general social justice stuff, etc.  Everything there will crosspost here, I'm not leaving LJ, but I want a non-LJ place to put my stuff.

I have three names picked out.

Lunar Caustic. AgNO3.  Victorian term for silver nitrate.  I've wavered including it in my personal werewolf headcanon: it's either a powerful toxin to werewolves, or something they could use to desensitize themselves to silver's effects.  Either way, "Lunar Caustic" is just a cool phrase, and caustic is a thing I can do.  The cleverest option.

Silver Into Steel. It's a badass Grand Magus song.  A reference to taking what hurts you and making it into a weapon.  Googling it would mostly just get you Grand Magus lyrics, though, and not bring up my blog.  Possibly a minor consideration.  The coolest option.  I like it very much.

The One-Beast Menagerie. A sideways allusion to The Girl With the Lion's Tail by S. J. Tucker ("I don't want to be the girl you tame, an oddity locked away somewhere safe, . . . your one heart menagerie, lonely.") but also a reference to the fact that at any given time my inner identity is a fusion of many different beasts and people and identities.  Unfortunately, Lucia was a terribly unhappy person, and that song hits brutally close to home.  But I like it.  The most personal option.

[Poll #1934886]
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
I've decided to make a dedicated blog for my mental health related posts, disability stuff, general social justice stuff, etc. Everything there will crosspost here, I'm not leaving LJ, but I want a non-LJ place to put my stuff.

I have three names picked out.

If you don't read LJ, could you go here and vote in the poll for my new blog's title?

BEHOLD, A POLL!

You can always comment with your vote, if you can't vote in the poll itself for some reason.

Thanks!
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
The steamponies are DONE. I will be photographing them ASAP, and hopefully they'll go out next week. Then y'all can have pictures once they're in their new homes, and the project will be complete. They are gorgeous, and I am foaming at the mouth to make you all look at them. It's taking reserves of self-control I was not aware I had not to post a teaser, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for the recipients.

More good news: test results say my thyroid is definitely out of whack, so I am starting on a higher dose of Synthroid tomorrow, and should be feeling better in a few days. I get my blood re-tested in a few weeks, and hopefully that'll be the end of that for another six months to a year. I'm just pleased that I was right, and we don't have to go looking for another explanation for the vaguest of all possible symptoms: always kinda tired.

I had a small meltdown today . . . probably unwarranted, but Monday and Tuesday were full of frustration and long waits, Wednesday was okay but I had company and was very tired and by the time I hit bed I felt unbelievably shitty, and today I find out that we are going to have to argue with Medicaid to cover the two really expensive meds I'm on. I've been trying to get these fucking meds refilled for a week, and it's one roadblock after another. BUT I would prefer not to talk about that, and I feel like an asshole complaining when so many people have it worse, and I really do not want to trigger the flood of "I needed a head transplant and insurance would only pay for a dog's body so now I spend all day licking my junk" stories because I think if I hear one more fucking depressing "I died three times while I waited for them to refill my nonaddictive anti-spontaneous-combustion pills, and then they repossessed my donated kidney to pay for the hospital bills" story I swear to god I will go drown myself in a bathtub full of bees, so, moving on.

Smooch is having some trouble with his not-actually-an-eye, and I think he may have gotten scratched inside the lid by Asshole during a play-fight. It's a little bit of clean blood and clear fluid, nothing foul or gross-colored, not inflamed or anything. I'm going to watch it, but if it doesn't improve quickly I'm taking him to the vet. Not that he can lose the not-an-eye, there's literally nothing in there, but I don't want any sort of infection settling in and potentially spreading into his sinuses or something. Poor baby. I will definitely be asking for help if we have to take him in. I'll ignore my own health problems, but not my boys'.

We're watching Supernatural, nearing the end of Season 2, and it's terrible. Just terrible. It doesn't take itself seriously, which -- besides the boys -- is its one saving grace. I am enjoying it immensely. I think I could eat Jared Padalecki three times a day, seven days a week, and not get tired of the faces he makes. I need to find or make a list of the episodes in which he cries, and see if anyone's made a montage of him making that earnest and sympathetic face he does so well. It'll be interesting to see if knowing that the show has horrendous gender issues ahead of time makes it tolerable, or if I'll be put off anyway. I suspect I'll sit through a lot of punishment, because if you like boys, you don't find that kind of eye candy every day. In other news, I need to start on Teen Wolf.

Next month is the campaign for the new Adventurotica novel. I'm already exhausted thinking about it. I'm so tired of having to beg for money. I'm tired of spending a month stressed out of my wits. I'm tired of scrambling to finish things that should never have taken me that long to begin with. I'm tired of it not being my writing -- not that there's anything wrong with Sargon and what he does, but . . . it hurts. I don't know how long we can keep this up, or what will happen when we can't. And I feel like an asshole again for complaining because it's really unprofessional, I know it is. I'll definitely ask if we need help for the cat or my meds, but if you want to help just in general, and maybe get something for your trouble, save your dollars and donate through there, help us reach goal.

I was doing really well a couple of days ago, and I suppose I still am, in that I'm not having a panic attack, nor rage flares, nor do I feel like stabbing my eyes out with plastic forks just to keep myself from crying, so I'm actually doing all right -- it doesn't sound like it, but I'm better than I could be. I'm trying to take my own advice. I'm worth fighting for. Never give up, never surrender. I'm just tired. I'm tired of having to do it. I don't doubt that I deserve better, I'm just tired of trying to kick "better" out of the disgusting Greyhound station vending machine of life while rich people deny that there's anything wrong. But I don't want to talk about that, either. Because if I hear one more "the government is full of evil fucknecks who want to take our rights away and then kill us" story, I'm going to fling myself into a vat of yak snot, because I'm pretty sure that'd be more pleasant.

Have a video of a leopard purring. He looks and sounds like Etrigan, adjusted for size. Listen to the harmonics on that purr!



I have to say, those big chuffs that are basically happy snarls are scary as shit, and yet also utterly adorable, and I wish I could pet his throat and feel him rumbling. From the fur sample I have, leopards are shockingly soft.

Ugh. I'm so cheerful tonight. But I said I'd update more, so there. That's an update.
naamah_darling: The Punisher skull with a red ribbon barrette. (Punisher Ribbon)
There's a comic by Jenny Yu that I want y'all to see:





I said this on Tumblr already, but most of you don't follow me there, and I want it here for reference in any case.

This is sincerely one of the more powerful pieces of art I’ve seen in quite some time.  Like, I can't remember the last thing that spoke that kind of truth to me besides the song I'm listening to right now.

It’s easy, when you have a chronic illness — whether it’s physical, mental, or both — to forget the value you have to yourself as an ally.  A big part of getting through diagnosis and early treatment that nobody much talks about is learning to be your own advocate, learning to use the power you have, learning to be whatever sort of ally you need.  It’s not easy, and sometimes I fail at it completely, but I work at it.  I work at being kind to myself when I need kindness, at being firm with myself when I need firmness, at being loving to myself when I need love.

It sounds nauseatingly cheesy, okay, but it’s not.  It’s fierce as fuck, because most of us have spent years being told that we shouldn’t be this way, that people like us are worthless, useless, leeches and burdens.  Most of us have to overcome the cumulative results of years’ worth of passive loathing directed at people like us, and which we maybe never even questioned before, but which suddenly applies to us.  Most of us are too afraid of being demanding, of being a drag on those who love us.  Most of us are afraid of inhabiting the world around us, because we feel like we take up “too much” space just by existing.  Most of us are not narcissistic and selfish and too proud, most of us do not think too much of ourselves.  Most of us are the opposite.  Most of us have been ground down in the name of keeping us humble, because gods forbid that us broken people stand up and demand to be treated like the badass motherfuckers that we are.

Here’s the deal: deciding that you care about yourself, that you want to genuinely help yourself, deciding that you are worth fighting for, whether you are any good at it or not, is a transgressive act, because it flies in the face of a cultural narrative that says that we shouldn’t even exist, and we have to pay the price by remaining perpetually apologetic for the fact that we are here in the first place.

We are expected to live our lives ashamed of ourselves because shame is the only way we can make amends for not being what the world wanted us to be.  We’re expected to live small lives that do not force awareness of us and our shameful imperfections on other people.  We’re expected to live in a way that doesn’t make other people feel guilty or uncomfortable, even when it leaves us feeling guilty and uncomfortable.

Sometimes, due to circumstance, that is how we must live for a time.  But that is not how we are meant to live.  That is not how we should have to live.  Just knowing that, believing that, even if you can’t change your situation, is a victory.

Nobody should have to go through this alone, but there are going to be parts of it that you are alone for all the same. And it’s worth cultivating a fierce sense of protectiveness about yourself, because that is a powerful source of strength when those moments come.  Truly, nothing in this world is as powerful as our human urge to protect what we love.  When we work to become our own ally, we gain the support of the one person who understands us better than any other, who has the most invested in our survival, who is most likely to care.  We just have to learn that we do care.  We have to go through this messy process of remembering ourselves, or finding ourselves, or whatever you want to call it.

When I say that I love myself, I don’t just mean I stand around in cute panties and fondle my butt and think about how adorable I am, or that I have learned to be kind to myself with ice cream and music that I love, or that I write affirmations on my mirror, or that I try every day to respond to the world with gentleness and love, even when that is very hard.  I do those things -- or fail to, but I do try -- but there’s more.

I also mean that I have learned to become angry when someone hurts me for no reason, I have learned to defend myself against people who actively or passively threaten my well-being, I have learned that appropriate, justified rage is not something that hurts me, but something that protects me, I have learned that a little selfishness is sometimes a valid answer, that I deserve respect as I am, that it is not my duty to be pleasant always and never have bad days or never lose control.  I have learned that I am worth loving even and especially when I am not at my best.

I do write affirmations on my mirror.  What kind of cuddly-wuddly, wafting, fluffy shit do I remind myself of each morning?  Here’s the new one:

HUNT HARD
KILL SWIFTLY
WASTE NOTHING
OFFER NO APOLOGIES*

Most people couldn’t see self-love in those words if you paid them.  But for me, it’s there, because this is a bloody, fierce thing.  I have to aggressively go after what I need, take it, work it for everything it’s got, and never apologize for doing what I have to do.  I don’t usually succeed at this -- in fact, I downright suck at it -- but, you know, that’s why it’s written on the mirror.  To remind me that it’s okay to do what is best for me.  We are not talking about wanting the world on a silver platter, like my mother always said I did.  We are talking survival, here.

Most days, my mental illness is me fighting ennui and frustration and being very tired, but sometimes it stops being small-scale and becomes for-real fighting for my sanity, for my life.  The cuddly butt-fondling and ice cream part is the comparatively easy part to reach.  The part with the spears, that’s harder, because when you most need it, that’s when it is hardest to maintain.  It takes practice, but it’s worth it.

There’s a reason assholes don’t want you to love yourself, okay?  Self-love is fucken scary.  It gets shit done.

I know my love for myself can be broken by my mental illness.  But I also know that I will forgive myself for that, I will bandage my own wounds, and I will get back up to fight again.  And there’s a kind of joy in that.  There’s pride.  The way the hero in an action movie will look up after he’s been punched in the face by Nazis and give a bloody smile, because every hit turns a little of his fear into rage, and he knows that if they give him even one chance, he is going to kick the ever-loving shit out of some Gestapo thugs.

I’m not invulnerable just because I’ve decided I am worth caring about.  I have to deal with a mental illness that can lie dormant for years, and then rise up and try to murder me almost overnight.  It’s no longer terrifying, but at the core of my reality is a simple truth I can’t ignore: maybe someday this thing will get me.  Being your own hero doesn’t mean you will have a happy ending, unfortunately.  It doesn’t mean you will never fail yourself, or that you are the only hero you will ever need, or that you will win every battle you fight.

But it does mean you have a much better chance, that the journey will be more awesome, and that you will have damn good, damn faithful company on the way.

Maybe you aren’t ready for any of this second-year Being Broken 201 stuff yet.  Maybe you aren’t able to love yourself yet.  Maybe “fighting”, for you, is simply getting out of bed.  Maybe it’s deciding not to hurt yourself for another twenty minutes.  Maybe it’s just being aware that you shouldn’t think hateful things about your body, even if you can’t stop yourself from thinking them yet.  Maybe it’s making one phone call.  Maybe it’s facing up to one more doctor visit.

But you came this far.  Congratulations.

You are worth fighting for.  Fight.

*Falconer Teddy Moritz



Mad levels of thanks to Jenny Yu for this gorgeous art.  Give her a follow if you're on Tumblr.
naamah_darling: Cartoony picture of a black panther with curved horns and a red ball in his mouth. He wants to play. (Jandar Sad)

So a tiny internet kerfuffle blew up when a cartoon owl that I like very much said something true in a way that wasn't actually very helpful to people in a really bad place.  There was some dialog and some discussion and some civilized disagreement, there was resolution, and things are good again.

Boggle's creator is awesome and has been in the same bad place as many of us, and this was in no way a failure of compassion or an act of deliberate victim-blaming, it was someone saying something to a group of hurt people while forgetting that another group of hurt people with different and possibly more immediate needs was listening.  People got upset at some of the phrasing used.

At one point I got upset at the failures in communication happening on both sides.  Basically, everyone was agreeing,  there was a lot of upset that didn't need to be happening, and it made me sad to see, because Tumblr is generally awesome and Boggle's readers are good people.  I posted a thing that seemed to help bridge the gap for a few people.

The explanation of how the miscommunication happened is sort of beside the point now, you can follow the progress in the links above, but I do want to address one of the things that came up, the thing that jumped out at me most strongly: the idea that you are never powerless to fight your mental illness. This is some of what I specifically addressed to Boggle about that, and I thought I should put it here so that I can refer to it again sometime without trying to navigate Tumblr's nonexistent content management interface.

Excerpted and slightly edited from this reblog.

* * * *

I had the stomach flu a couple of years ago.  For about six hours I was too weak to leave the bathroom, so I just lay on the floor and waited for another bout of doing the disgusting things you do when you have the stomach flu.  I couldn’t even get up to get a blanket.  I was freezing cold, sweating like a pig, using rolls of toilet paper as a pillow, because I couldn’t hold my head up.  The best I could do was rake some towels over the air conditioning vent so I didn’t get even colder.

If a nine-foot tall four-armed demon wolf with a moray eel for a head had broken into my house at that very moment and menaced my life with a chainsaw, I would have laid there.

Helpless.

No, seriously, I don’t think I could have mustered a good scream.  I certainly couldn’t have fought, or called for help.

You often say that mental illness is like physical illness.  Well, it’s true this way too.  There are times in a mental illness where you are literally helpless.  Your experience, and mine, is that there is a time when you say “This has to change,” and you change things.

You are right. There are times when you say “I don’t have the strength, I am helpless,” and that is not at all true, it’s just the voice of the sickness.

But there are also times when you say “This has to change,” and you actually for-real not-even-kidding don’t have the strength to change anything.  You don’t know how.  You lack the money.  You aren’t able to yet.  And there is no shame in that.  There is no shame in being that broken.  And in my experience, way more people are broken on the bathroom floor than are lying to themselves about being broken on the bathroom floor.

I was genuinely helpless when I had the flu.  I eventually got off the bathroom floor, though, obviously.  So, for most people, there will come a time when they have the strength to seek help for their depression/anxiety/PTSD/OCD/eating disorder/insert other life-mangling illness here, and I think what you are essentially saying is hold on to the hope that change is possible, that one day soon you will be able to take the next step and the next, because this is the truth.  And that is an immensely valuable thing to hold on to.

. . . .

There were days when my victory was not killing myself, and I am pretty darn sure you understand that feeling.  I had the strength to fight off the urge to just lie down and die.  I didn’t have the strength to get up and run for help, though.  Organizing “help” on my own was . . . not in the cards.

. . . .

I understand that some people need to be told different things at different times.  I, myself, have given the same advice: “You can do this.  You have more power than you feel like you do.”  There are times when that’s exactly what a person needs to hear.  Your overall message of “I am a cartoon owl, and I care about and believe in you; you can do this” is . . . ridiculously powerful.  And I don’t think that’s ever, ever a bad thing to say. 

But saying “You could do this right now,” that’s not always true.  Sometimes people need to lie on the bathroom floor and get their strength up.  Then they do it.  But “right now” is not a sure-fire thing.  And I think more depressed, sick people need to hear that it’s okay if they can’t Do The Thing RIGHT NOW.  I think you may even have said something like it before!

That time of lying on the bathroom floor is the absolute pits, because there are people telling you that you should get help (And I don’t already know this?), that you can do this right now (I guess not, since I’m unable to even leave bed or talk to anyone?), that you could leave the bastard/call a doctor/just decide to stop cutting/starving/pulling.

Meanwhile, you’re on the metaphorical bathroom floor, going “I can’t even wipe my own metaphorical butt right now. You want me to try to schedule an appointment?” Or worse, try to even find a place that can see you if you have literally no money to work with, or no car, or no phone … and worse worse, what if you’re gay or trans or disabled or something, and your access to things is limited … you can’t leave the house, all the free/low cost stuff is run out of churches, etc.  And an almost unbelievable number of people are in those very circumstances.

It’s a big thing to do.  It’s a series of steps, and while you can take each one alone, being really sick means that you sometimes don’t have the strength to take each one alone and bear up under the weight of knowing you have ten thousand other steps coming after that one.

The bathroom floor sucks.  And people who are on that floor are really sensitive and in maybe the worst place of their lives. . . . It does hurt to be told that it’s definitely within reach right now, RIGHT THERE.

. . . Here are some things my mother never taught me, because I do not think she believed them.  These are things I had to learn by being broken over and over again: Favor the weakest.  They need you most.  Be gentle to those who have least.  Be kind to those who are at their worst.  When a wounded thing bites you, be gentler, not harder.  When someone cries, do not tell them to stop.  Tell them it’s okay to cry.  Sometimes you will undoubtedly be kind to pikers who just want to fish for sympathy and not do anything about their crappy situations.  Those people exist and they are jerks. Most of the time — like, 99.999% of the time — you will be helping people who need it.  It is obvious which is more important.  Better to be kind to people who don’t deserve it than to dismiss people who do.

. . . .

In a world that tells us we are weak and stupid and shouldn’t be hurting at all, sometimes the best and most compassionate thing you can do for a human being in distress is to acknowledge how hurt and helpless they really are, and to say “That’s okay.  If you cannot run, walk, if you cannot walk, crawl, if you cannot crawl, drag yourself by the fingernails, if you cannot drag yourself by the fingernails, just take the next breath, and the next breath, and the next breath, until you can drag yourself until you can crawl until you can walk until you can run.  But if you can’t do anything but breathe, and keep breathing, that’s okay.  Breathing is sometimes as brave and difficult and scary an action as saying ‘I think I might hurt myself, and I need someone to help me right now.’  So just try as hard as you can.  You can get there.  The first step is always the same: SURVIVE.

* * * * *

So that's what I had to say about that.

I have more to say about the whole interaction itself, and about the nature of what I try to do here, and what Boggle's cartoonist does, but that will have to wait.  I'm tired, I have a headache, and I have some other things I need to see to.  For now, I will just say that Boggle the Owl is really sweet, and if you are not following Boggle already, you probably should.  Boggle isn't perfect, but Boggle has the right idea, and many of the strips, while very simple and short, are surprisingly affecting.

Sometimes it's easier to listen to a cartoon owl than a person, is what I'm saying. Thank goodness there's cartoon owls out there.

Good night, everyone. This gunfight ain't going to write itself.

naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
A few weeks ago I was having a rough time and realized I was heading into a mixed state. These aren't fun. They're the emotional equivalent of channel-surfing with the volume at 11 and really irritating static everywhere. Depression, panic, and agitation in varying proportions. This one was mostly panic and agitation.

I upped my dose of Seroquel, which I don't like to do because it makes me lethargic, but I even though I don't take it primarily as a mood stabilizer I knew it would still put a damper on the mixed state and possibly arrest it. Things improved and I shifted my dose down again after a handful of days.

On the surface, not extraordinary. It represented a victory, though. I saw what was happening, levelheadedly took action to minimize the negative effects, and my strategy was successful.

Maybe it was going to be a mild mixed state anyway, but I think it was going to be average, which is plenty unpleasant. Even if it wasn't, what I did represented a success. I was able to recognize what was happening before it bottomed out. Not so long ago that would not have been possible.

I had another small success when we went to go see Pacific Rim. I knew that it was going to be a big, loud, overstimulating movie. I accepted that I was going to have a panic attack as part of the price of admission. Indeed, the movie was big and loud and thoroughly awesome, and I did indeed come home with a panic attack brewing nicely in my guts.

As with the mixed state, there was no distress associated with this realization. I saw it coming, accepted it as normal, and took steps to ameliorate it. In the case of the panic attack, I lay down and told myself that if it wasn't better in half an hour, oh well, no big deal, I would medicate it. By their nature panic attacks are sometimes impossible to accept with equanimity, but this time I was able to cope with it in a minimally dramatic way, and that combined with several similar incidents recently leads me to conclude that while these may be really well-behaved panic attacks, I'm also getting better at managing them.

One of the most uncomfortable parts of my personal crazy is the fear. The feeling of not being in control. The sick plunge when I realize I am having a panic attack or am plunging into a mixed state. Of course I don't want to. It's scary being in those places. It's scary and it hurts. When will I come out? How bad will it be? Will this be the worst one yet? How much of me is this one going to break off and grind to powder?

Successfully navigating these things makes it easier. It gives me hope that I might be able to control it a little better next time. It builds my confidence that even if I can't, I will at least come out okay. There are still times when my ability to cope fails. There always will be. This isn't a journey to the Land of Not Actually Crazy. But this makes it easier not to worry about the not-so-bad times that genuinely don't warrant worrying about.

This is what I mean when I say I am doing well, or when I say I'm feeling better. I mean I am riding the crazy horse, not being dragged. I don't mean no symptoms, and I definitely don't mean I'm all better now and the crazy has gone bye-bye. I'm not functional as far as living a normal life, and I think I never will be, but within the boundaries I've set up for myself I do okay, and having a little extra energy to push at some of those limits is good.

In many ways, my current state represents a best-case scenario. If this could be my new normal, that'd be great.

I get afraid to say these things. It's tempting fate, and I'm also (understandably) paranoid that some government puke will see this and yank my benefits because I'm "better" when I am not and never will be. But I make a point in this space to talk about the reality of mental illness to help those who have it feel less alone and to help those who do not have it better understand what it's like. If I'm honest about the bad, doesn't it behoove me to show the less shitty parts? I think it does. Maybe this little beacon of "I'm all right, it's not always that bad" will reach someone who needs to see it.

I feel like a pompous asshole sometimes, saying that shit, but if it weren't for the people I was reading when things were really ugly and I'd only just been diagnosed, I might not be here. I suspect I would, but in a much greater state of disrepair, and probably with a great deal more self-loathing.

I just feel like I should pay that back.
naamah_darling: The Punisher skull with a red ribbon barrette. (Punisher Ribbon)
Okay, I wrote this as a response to someone on Facebook asking for advice on a chronic illness support group, and the response came out so honkin' long, and so potentially useful, I wanted to post it here. Permission to link, as with anything I post publicly, is granted.

The problem:

A) They are having problems telling people that their limits have changed because of their illness. Like a lot of folks in this situation, it's upsetting to them to admit that they can't do what they used to be able to do.

B) People are assuming that this person's illness doesn't have that much impact, because they still look happy and don't look sick.

C) They still push themselves to act as though nothing has changed, even though they know acting like nothing's wrong is not good for them.

They want to know how to be clear about their new boundaries with the people in their life.

Guys, this is such a common problem. If I asked everyone with a chronic/invisible/mental illness who has not had to deal with this to raise their hands, I would expect crickets and cat snoring.

The super-quick elevator version:

It gets easier with practice pretty fast. Be specific and firm about what you need, be patient with yourself, do not get drawn into arguments over whether something is possible, and remember that you are not the problem here.

Here's the TL; DR version:

Being explicit about your limits with people close to you gets easier. Having accommodating and understanding friends and family is obviously helpful, but that's not entirely within your control. Sometimes they are actively hostile, and dealing with that is a whole different barrel of fish, so it's possible not much of what I say will apply to abusive situations like that.

When this shit started for me, I had to fight the urge to downplay everything because I found it embarrassing to have limitations. If there was a 70% chance that I would not be able to do something and not feel like shit afterward, I'd be like "Yeah, I'll do it!" and then kind of soldier through and – surprise – suffer for it later, meaning I could do even less. Diminishing returns.

When discussing whether or not to do something, I try to be really specific about what I'll need. "I'm not sure how long I'll be able to stay" is useful as long as I remember YO, NAAMAH, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUSH YOURSELF TO STAY OUT LONGER JUST SO YOU CAN LOOK NORMAL TO PEOPLE WHO ALREADY KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT NORMAL.

"I'll have to leave at 9:00" is useful, specifics are useful. Examples from me and from friends: "I will need to eat twice while we are out." "I need to make sure there are bathrooms. I don't mean 'maybe we can find a place' or 'there's a portable toilet one block over' but 'there is definitely a bathroom available'." "I'm down with the road trip, but if I start having a panic attack we'll need to pull over and let me walk it off." "I can go, but I cannot stay the night/share a room, I need to sleep in my own bed/need my own space."

If I can't do something, I try to be up front about it, and I try to be explicit about why. Sometimes people try to be helpful and say stuff like "If you have a problem with X, we can do Y and Z!" and negotiate around a "nope". A little of this is fine, but some people have a tendency to deploy this the way Nice Guys will argue with women who turn them down for dates. "You're busy on Friday? How about Saturday." "You don't want to do dinner? How about drinks at the pub?" It's not always deliberate assholery, but it can get annoying fast.

That's when it is good to say something like "Even optimally, this is something I cannot do. This sucks for me, and I know it sucks for you too, and I'm sorry we will not be able to do ABC together. Maybe we can try again some other time/get together at home/chat later on Skype/exchange letters via Weasel Express/whatever the cool disabled kids do these days."

Getting drawn into debates/arguments, even well-meant ones (on their part), allowing yourself to be drawn out to defend your boundaries, is not an effective strategy, nor an efficient way to allocate already scarce resources.

"I know that in our quest to have awesome friendsfun, we've gone to the movies a lot in the past, but I've come to realize they are a really nasty panic trigger for me. Obviously, that makes them NOT fun. I need to cut way back on the times I go. I apologize, and I'm not happy about it either, but I won't be joining you this Sunday."

"But X theater has comfy seats and is quiet and hardly anyone goes there even though they serve free drinks and provide puppies to snorgle and are in every way ideal! We can pick you up and everything!"

At this point it's tempting to explain why those things don't help in your particular case.

If they are a very good friend, you might go ahead and do that explaining, because it can save effort later by helping them understand the hows and whys of your limits.

If they are a chronic negotiator, and you fucking know the people I mean, don't do it.

Don't.

Do not debate. Do not explain. Do not justify.

Go straight to: "Thank you, but it's not doable right now. I know it sucks. I want to hear about it, though, and maybe we can watch it on Fred's 2000-inch TV when it hits Blu-Ray."

End of conversation. Seriously, that can be the end of the part of the conversation where you expend any effort whatsoever beyond typing a half-dozen words and clicking "send". If they persist, drop the politeness and hit neutral. "Sorry, I can't come." Repeat.

Is it fun? NOPE. It's awkward. And if they persist in not respecting your limits and become pushy about it? Fuck it! LET IT BE AWKWARD. That doesn't come from YOU. You aren't being rude. You're treating your boundaries as a given that does not need to be defended because that is what boundaries are.

People mostly adjust, and the ones that don't adjust will have to be handled separately, because you don't necessarily know who those will be. (Sometimes you do. Sometimes you think you do, and then they surprise you by being okay with it.)

A big part of it for me was getting used to making those decisions without feeling ashamed.

"No, I cannot do the thing."

"No, I should not eat that/go there/watch this."

God, I felt so . . . I'm gonna use the word "lame," because while it's ableist, THE WAY I WAS THINKING ABOUT MYSELF WAS ABLEIST. That WAS the word I was thinking, and by itself, that encapsulates what was WRONG about how I was thinking.

I don't know if you – the original poster, or any random reader – are as self-hating as I was or if it's more of a "Jesus, I'm such a party pooper" thing as opposed to "Oh, god, I am fucking worthless and should go and immediately smother myself in a vat of concrete" thing. But dude, I was being such a serious dick to myself about it.

That's understandable, and I have major sympathy for people who are at that stage.* I am not criticizing! But getting past that was a big part of me being able to make my needs known. I had to stop being ashamed of them. (And clearly you, OP, already realize this is a problem, so I apologize for saying "stop feeling shitty about the way you are" in response to "how do I stop feeling shitty about the way that I am". But it's something I thought it might be good to open up and poke at, and to demonstrate that yo, I know those feels. And, lucky for you, I covered this in a vaguely relevant post quite recently.)

Part of getting people to accept your new normal is being firm about your new boundaries, and even when you are used to it that can be an awkward thing to have to do. But it gets easier! And when you respect your boundaries, you will probably find you actually have more spoons and feel better about yourself in general because you're doing what's right for you and allocating your resources more effectively.

Respecting the panic disorder bullshit that was sucking up 50% of my social energy freed up spoons I had been having to use on cleaning up the fallout. It was like . . . like having someone come into my kitchen and do the cleaning after I cooked a huge meal, and put everything away.

Suddenly I didn't have to worry about the messy aftermath as much, and could just focus on cooking, i.e., dealing with my shit as it happened. And that freed up a ton of energy I was able to use elsewhere! It didn't stop the panic attack stuff, but not spending two days jumping at shadows because I'd pushed myself too far meant I had the energy to interact in ways I found safe, or do things that didn't trigger it in any way. I had to change how I did things and am not and assume I never will be as capable as I was before it was an issue, but it was ultimately a net gain over how I functioned while I was trying to cover it up. And lo and behold, I stopped feeling (as) shitty about myself as soon as I realized that working within my limits didn't always mean a lessening of what I was doing or who I was.** It's a form of self-respect, and that is a thing that I strive to have.

Which is a long-ass way of saying to the OP that what you are doing is awesome, and keep doing it, and you will see benefits. It gets easier, and leads to good things, and I am giving you a huge thumbs up for taking even the smallest steps toward doing it.

Another thing I found helpful, although this is not an option available to everyone for many reasons, or one that works on certain sets of friends/relatives (some perceive it as whining or pity-fishing) is to write about what it's like for me. I do that here on Livejournal, less on Facebook, but this is mostly where my friends get me-updates.

The "care and feeding of" sheet that detailed how to handle me when I'm having a freakin' panic attack apparently proved helpful to people close to me. That's the kind of thing I mean. (And only a real dick of a person could perceive that post as fishing for pity.)

Someone in comments on Facebook mentioned linking toThe Spoon Theory. I've found that can be incredibly helpful. Not so much if they are unimaginative or jerks, but usually it helps clarify what it's actually like, and why our tolerances seem to vary randomly.

Something people reading this might need to hear:

Ultimately, even people who LOVE you and WOULD change things for you, and move heaven and earth to be with you, cannot do that if they don't know what you need, so the more explicit you are about your limits, the more direct you are about your needs, the better things will be. This can be embarrassing, but all avoiding it does is spare you embarrassment. It does not stop your discomfort, it does not avert misunderstanding, and it does not make things better in the long run. All it means is you will be confronted with embarrassing moments more often, and have to expend the energy to negotiate that.

When you are explicit about boundaries of any kind, some people take it poorly, and think that you are faking, or are being lazy. They may be offended that you aren't prioritizing them over other things, or will assume that you are only looking for pity or are complaining just to complain, or are wallowing in it. (That last one is extra special.)

Those people have a PROBLEM. They have a problem understanding chronic illness. They have a problem understanding not being healthy enough to be able to do whatever they like most of the time. They have a problem understanding that a person can be sick and not look it, or that they might be fine while something is going on, but have to pay for it later, when nobody sees it.

They have a problem.

That problem? Is not YOU!

It is their problem, and while being friends with someone does sort of obligate you to try to build half a bridge over communication gaps where they genuinely do not get it because they don't have the requisite background, nothing obligates you to bridge the whole thing, and short of circumstances where you have to make nice with a nasty person for reasons of survival (Hello, several of us! Hello, past me!) there's nothing that obligates you to keep people around who refuse to adapt or do not want to understand.

You don't have to terminate the relationship with extreme prejudice and burn bridges, but some friendships cannot take the strain, they fade, and things change. Maybe you fall out of friendslove. That happens. It's not because YOU are a problem. Incompatibility between two people is not a problem unless one of them is deliberately being a dickbag.

If you have a chronic/invisible illness, you are not being a dickbag. Not on purpose and NOT IN ANY OTHER WAY. You are being you, and you are a person who, like ALL people, needs certain things to be able to function. Yours are just more numerous, and not in line with the lives most people accept as normal. Sometimes the other person isn't being a dickbag either, the friendship has just changed enough that neither party has anything much to offer. That's okay (even if it feels shitty). You won't lose everyone to that.

If they can't handle the price of admission to Awesome Friendship, starring You, when all they have to pay is attention to what you are saying and where you draw the lines, that's their problem. You don't have to try to solve it for them, you aren't obligated to do all the work, and sometimes it's not even possible to lead the metaphorical friend-horse to water, let alone make it drink. People gotta deal with their own shit, you know? You can't own it for them. They gotta own it for themselves.

I'd say don't sweat the people who don't get it, but we often can't help it, because those can be painful relationships to have problems with. I can say that not respecting your own limits will mean that you have real problems actually expanding them, if that is possible (it often is, but is not always, and that's okay . . . don't blame yourself for getting dealt a shitty hand) and part of respecting your own limits is enforcing them.

Other people don't gotta like it, but good ones learn to deal. Keep those people around.

The others will find friends who suit them better. Good luck to them.

By all means, link if you want to.

* And I still am, on bad days; I suspect this is a "stage" that I will experience from time to time for the rest of my life, and I'm more or less okay with that by now

** Only sometimes. Sometimes it is. Illness is isolating, and it makes parts of our lives smaller. An illness that never ends, and maybe becomes progressively worse, is even more isolating. It pares away parts of your life in a brutal way that most people have trouble imagining. It is hard and sometimes impossible not to feel the circumstances of chronic illness as an actual diminishing of self, as a diminishing of the value of your self and your life. I'm still finding my way through that one, personally. It is very hard work, and you do not have to take it well when people demand things of you that make that work even harder, or impossible.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Stabbity at Not Just Bitchy brings us "Oh, just stop worrying about what other people think", which is a nice thought-provoking read that can be summed up by this worth its weight in gold quote:

A depressingly common piece of advice I’ve seen given is to "just stop worrying about what other people think". That’s not advice, that’s a goal.


FUCKING A. The piece is about the difficulty submissive men have accepting their identities and shrugging of societal pressures, which is a fantastic thing to be talking about. The entirety of it also applies to basically everything else. I'm feeling it on the "being a big fat fatty" front, and the "being a crazy person now officially on disability" front especially, those being more or less the only remaining difficult things I am still struggling with accepting in myself.

Even though it's not as orderly as I'd like, here is my comment, distilling what I've learned about Not Caring What People Think. I am not an expert on this, but I've been around the block a couple of times, and I do think that what I have to say has potential value to people struggling. I offer it here in the hopes that it might help someone. Cheers. (Discussion welcome.)

Naamah says:

This applies to SO DAMN MANY of the ways in which we are encouraged to feel shitty about ourselves.

It’s not even about not caring what people think. As you point out, we all have to care what people think to some extent just on a practical level, and we all NEED approval from at least some people in order to feel fully human.

It’s a matter of narrowing your focus, until it’s ONLY the opinions of PEOPLE who matter to you THAT matter to you on an emotional level. That’s a thing I learned to ask myself often: Does that person matter to you? Do they have power over you? Now, do you REALLY care what they think? Sometimes the answer to one of the first two is yes, but more often, the answer is no, and I can feel free to be outraged by their bigotry but not personally hurt in the feels by it. You cannot allow yourself to define your value primarily by what people who do not value you think. Un-learning that, internalizing it, is difficult.

I don’t have to deal with this on the basis of being a submissive man, but I am fat, and I’m disabled, and so I have a lot to fight against when it comes to people looking down on folks like me, and I have had to undo a hell of a lot of damage. It’s a lot of work. So pardon me if I wax intersectional, and kind of random.

I try to surround myself with supportive people and supportive energy. And by “people” I absolutely do mean online contact. Tumblr has been great for that. I try to find places where people talk about their experiences, both positive and negative. I try to find people like me that I think are awesome and that I admire, and I remind myself “X person is fat, and she is awesome, and I LOVE her because she is an awesome fatty, and I am also fat, which means I CAN BE AWESOME TOO.” I remind myself that X person is also bipolar, and one of the best people I know, which means that I can be good, too.

Whenever I can — and I realize that this is something that’s difficult and risky for many people for many reasons — I start conversations. I talk about being mentally ill on my Livejournal a lot, and part of the reason for that is to increase visibility of people like me, so that others won’t feel as alone, and will have a space to talk about stuff if they’d like to that isn’t their own space, subject to scrutiny in a different way.

Another part of the reason is that doing all that talking has REALLY helped me come to terms with a lot of what I’ve had to deal with. It has helped me sort out feelings, and boosted my confidence, even when I am talking about being scared and hurt. Saying “here I am, this is who I am, this is what I am,” even if I am only saying it TO MYSELF in a private entry or in my print journal, helps. So I suppose I’m recommending something I always found annoying when people recommended it to me: journaling. But writing down the truth of yourself, writing your own story, can help you see the value and validity of it.

A lot of it comes down to that: seeing, believing in, your own value. And when you believe in your own value, you stop caring as much what people think. Rather, you do care, I — maybe most people — probably can’t ever stop caring that some people think I am pathetic scum, but it stops hurting as much. (Then you might go through a phase where you’re full-time pissed off, but that’s better than pain, and after that comes the blissful not-giving-a-single-fuck phase, which is glorious and worth the trip.) If someone looks at you like a bug, when they make it obvious they think you are worthless, you become offended THAT they think that, but WHAT they think stops hurting as much, because you’ve moved past feeling that about yourself. Does that make sense?

I consume media where people like me are represented favorably, when I can. This is often difficult, and I am sure it’s difficult for submissive men to find that sort of representation in a non-porn context (not that there’s anything wrong with porn, I love it — when it’s not fetishizing my identity in a gross way — but I don’t find porn featuring fat women empowering in the way that I find other stories and imagery empowering — people in porn are not often depicted as fully-realized people, just snapshots of parts of a person’s identity, but not a depiction of a whole person or character).

I am creative, so I have that outlet too. I can use that to tell stories or make art that affirm my identity. Not something everyone can do, but it should not be neglected for those who can. It can be very powerful. And I’m not talking about serious FINE ART shit, here, I’m talking about I make a custom My Little Pony and decide that part of her backstory includes having a girlfriend on another pirate ship, or I decide that the boy pony I made out of a girl pony is in fact a little trans pony. I draw fat mermaids giving people the finger. LITTLE things. Playful things. Silly, but that shit is actually really affirming.

And I have tried to create a support network — everything from doctors to friends to professional contacts — where as few people as possible are douchebags, so that the majority of my important interactions are safe. This is not possible for many people in all circumstances, and I understand that all too well, but it’s something worth striving for, and something to be aware of. It’s worth clinging to the relationships that don’t make you feel shitty about yourself, and reminding yourself that THOSE are the people who really matter. “Asshole McFuckstick thinks I am scum, and I have to deal with him every day, and that’s toxic, but Joe Awesome and Kickass Jane are good friends to me, and my online support group of People Who Are Actually Incredibly Cool is full of people who Get It, and one of my parents loves me.”

A lot of this feels to me hopelessly inadequate, because so many of these things are terrifically complicated on their own, or they are things that aren’t accessible to everyone, or they are things that aren’t going to appeal to some people or help some people (journaling, for instance, is not always good for people, it just makes things worse for some people by causing them to dwell on the bad/scary things — not how it works for me, but that’s why it’s a potential tool only, and not a solution).

We crave approval. This isn’t learning to not need approval, it’s learning to give it to yourself in enough measure to sustain you so that you are not seeking it from sources that are more likely to harm you. It’s learning to hold yourself up until you can hopefully form a support network around you, and if you can’t, if you have to go it alone for a long time, it’s learning to bounce back from the blows — ’cause you can’t avoid getting hit. You just can’t.

It’s a constant struggle to retain your sense of worth in the face of deeply ingrained society disapproval. The final piece of advice I can offer is that you aren’t going to win that struggle overnight, and it’s not a steady thing. You will be at 70% one day, and the next day is a bad day and you are down to 15% again. And those days are not failures. They are part of the process. You weather them, and in doing so you learn you can weather them, and they stop having as much power over you.

Gregory above points out that it requires a strong sense of self. That’s so very true. And a strong sense of self is not something everyone just HAS. I sure as hell didn’t. I grew up being told I was a spoiled, worthless, cowardly brat. I had to develop it, it took time, it was hard, some of the hardest shit I’ve ever had to do, and at the same time it was deeply worth it and deeply rewarding.

I wish anyone struggling with it the best of luck, and strength, and peace, and I offer my assurance that it’s a *skill* and you will get *better* with practice.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
The Insanity Virus

The title is unnecessarily sensationalistic, but this is a must-read article containing information that should be much, much more widely-known.

Short version:

Schizophrenia, and potentially bipolar and MS and maybe some other stuff too, are related to HERV-W, a retrovirus found in the DNA of every human being. Apparently, HERV-W becomes activated by certain common illnesses (herpes, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis), usually in the very young, and this appears to lead to the conditions we know as schizophrenia/MS/bipolar/who knows what else.

The idea that some mental illnesses might be traceable back to viral or parasitic infection is not new information, but this is the first I've heard of an individual virus being a common factor linking those illnesses. This changes the playing field dramatically. It is at once tremendously exciting, and fucking heartbreaking and tragic.

This carries with it the potential for treatments more closely related to areas of science we understand. Parts of medicine far more understood and less arcane (and less stigmatized . . . even the medical profession itself often treats mental illness as a severe personality flaw). It presents us with the hope that more effective treatments and cures might be available within a human lifetime.

But even if we pin it down and figure it out, even if it's the underlying cause of bipolar disorders, it's likely too late for me, and many others like me. And even if there were treatments, I probably won't live long enough to see them become accepted and affordable. The best I can hope for is that those who come after me won't suffer the way I have.

As I often say, I stopped being surprised and delighted by the advances made by science long ago. We achieve incredible, unbelievable things every day. I have started being surprised and delighted when those advances become available to the people who need them, which for a host of reasons, almost never happens.

But hey, knowledge is good.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
I already linked this and posted this on Facebook, but I want to put it here, too.

More on the idea that positive thinking can unfuck your life.

My favorite quote:

Moreover, for disabled people – as for any group of marginalized people – these kinds of messages can become oppressive, because they feed into the idea that if only we tried hard enough, or had a good enough attitude, we could single-handedly make our lives better. For disabled people, this way of thinking can take the pernicious form of being blamed for the state of our own bodies, as though we somehow caused our disabilities with poor psychological habits and could somehow cure them with the proper way of thinking. It leads away from self-love into self-blame.


I'm just going to repeat the really important part of the last line in all caps:

IT LEADS AWAY FROM SELF-LOVE.

If I believe, truly believe, that I can overcome anything, achieve anything, just by wanting it enough, working hard enough, being positive enough, GOOD enough, and then I find a thing that I CANNOT do, I have literally no choice, NONE, but to blame myself. If I am the only thing standing in my own way, and I fail, who or what else is there to blame?

If I accept that I have limits, and respect those limits, and work to push them gently, where and when I can, to achieve as much as I am able, then I am allowed to be proud of what I have accomplished.

There are very real things standing in the way of my dreams, and some of those will never change, and there are things I have always and will always want that I know I will never, ever have. I'm poor. I'm mentally ill. Do not tell me that if I fail, or if I cannot do something, if I never get something that I want, that it happened because I screwed up or was projecting the wrong energy. I'll cut you right the fuck out of my life. I don't want people around me who don't respect me.

By all means, help me find and question and expand my limits. Challenge me. But if I say "no," or "I can't" or even "I don't want to," respect that.

Also, be aware that things come with a cost. Yes, I probably could go to a party and stay up all night. But there would then be things I could not do the next day, and probably for several days afterward. I have to measure things, balance things, work things out. And I prefer for the people around me to help take care of me by respecting my ability to do that. If anything, friggin' err on the side of telling me to take it easier.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
The National Institute of Mental Health is abandoning the DSM.

This is potentially monumental, and I've seen very little mention of it anywhere. Partly, I think, because people don't really grok how big a deal this is.

This is a very good thing, and for those who don't grasp why, I will try to explain. (Though the link does a really great job of it, so really, you can just go read it.)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a big-ass book released by the American Psychiatric Association that provides a standard method of categorization for mental illnesses based on related symptoms. Like a dictionary, it has given doctors, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals a common vocabulary with which to describe and define mental illness, so they are using the same terms in more or less the same ways, and arriving at consistent (even if they are sometimes inaccurate) diagnoses. It has been revised several times since the first edition in 1952, and has been released in four, soon to be five, major versions.

It has been a useful tool, but it is now insufficient. Over and above the fact that it has always and still does pathologize certain normal, healthy behaviors, which I won't go into here, it relies on a primarily medical definition of mental illness. It does not place a diagnosis in context with the patient's environment or upbringing, etc., or even with their experience of their symptoms.*

That would perhaps be tolerable, but . . . the DSM does this by relying on a purely symptomatic mode of classification, without taking into account underlying neurological/biological causes – different things may cause similar symptoms. So, it reduces mental illness to medical causes . . . but doesn't then require there to be a common cause. Disorders are defined by symptom clusters, and not by actual, you know, hard data about neurotransmitters, brain activity, and so forth.

To liken it to something more familiar, chest pain might be caused by blocked blood vessels in the heart, or might be caused by acid reflux. If we were working by the DSM model of diagnosis via symptomatic classification, they would both be the same, yet I am sure every single person reading this understands that a heart attack and heartburn are not at all the same thing. Classifying them under the same category and treating them the same would be disastrous. (The linked article uses the exact same example, yes. Because it's perfect.)

The more we learn about mental illness, the more we learn that it is a tremendously complicated thing. What seems to be one category of illness (depression) can actually be two or more conditions which appear similar but stem from very different biological causes. Depression might be caused by a lack of serotonin. It might be caused by a lack of dopamine. It might be caused by a thyroid imbalance. There is more than one chemical irregularity responsible for the set of symptoms we call "depression."

As an example from my actual life, until recently, bipolar disorder was not divided into bipolar I and bipolar II. There was just bipolar I, which is the classic "manic-depression" that everyone's probably heard of. You didn't get classified as bipolar unless you had manic states. Because this automatically excluded people whose bipolar disorder skewed toward the depressive side and seldom or never ticked into the manic, or excluded people who didn't recognize mania for what it was, bipolar II was often diagnosed as unipolar depression.

When you treat bipolar II like unipolar depression, you can get a very sick and possibly dead bipolar II person. At the very least, you get a person who doesn't get better, because bipolar disorder does not just go away. SSRI drugs, often the first line of defense against depression, usually do not work on bipolar depression. You can see why this sucks.

This mistake is part of why my mother was never diagnosed properly, and why her depression was never managed. She suffered needlessly because of it. For a long time, I did, too. There are ugly real-world consequences to the symptoms-only approach. Not just human suffering, but jacking up data that could have led to better treatments.

Imagine all the bipolar II people who were thought to be depressed who were doubtless included in data collections, in experiments, altering the results. SSRIs don't work on bipolar people, but bipolar II people totally made it into SSRI testing. We can't know what kind of effect this has had. We can know that it isn't good. It's not leading to better drugs. It's not leading to better treatment. It's leading to mistakes. It's leading us to ditch treatments that only work on 10% of people with a particular symptom, when those 10% are mostly people with a totally different underlying condition. That treatment, applied only to the people with that condition, might be 60% effective or more. We have lost opportunities because of this. It is a certainty.

Back in the dark ages, we went at everything symptomatically because we had no way to understand what was happening inside us. We thought that fevers were caused by poisonous emanations from the earth, or evil spirits. Medical treatment was often "bleed more, poop more, puke more, one of those will make you feel better." Well, now we understand things a lot more thoroughly, and we acknowledge that treating the root cause of a thing is better than going after the symptoms and not resolving the issue. Why address lethargy, weight gain, depression, constipation, high cholesterol, and infertility with who knows how many drugs and treatments when you could just treat a simple thyroid hormone deficiency with one very cheap and easy to obtain drug?

This approach has not really spread to mental health yet. Frankly, that's because we do not yet understand the causes well enough to treat them. Without understanding the causes, something like the DSM has some value, diagnostically. It gives us something to go on, and its not completely horrible or inaccurate or anything, just inadequate and far too broad. Clinging to it is unjustifiable.

NIMH's new protocol, the Research Domain Criteria project, or RDoC, is not a new classification system, it will be the framework for gathering data to fill in the gaping holes in our understanding of how mental illness actually works.

Essentially, NIMH, which carries out a great deal of very important mental health information-gathering and research, is jettisoning the DSM as a classification system for purposes of that information-gathering and research. Currently, the DSM classifications are used when researching mental illness, which biases results inherently in favor of those classifications.

It is not going to transform what doctors do and how they treat mental illness starting tomorrow. What it will do is lead us to a better understanding of mental illness, and over time that will lead to radically better treatment.

This is a big step forward for mental health research. In my opinion, we will start seeing results surprisingly soon, as the first waves of research yield more accurate information. There is so much we don't know that increasing the data set even a little bit is going to improve things.

I'm excited about this. I look forward to seeing what new things we learn.

(The fact that NIMH's announcement comes only a few weeks before the DSM-5 is released amuses me.)

* Example: I "hear voices." Also, I am sometimes other people, a little bit. The DSM doesn't acknowledge those things as a deliberately and carefully cultivated coping mechanism, only as a bad thing indicative of other bad things. In context, it is healthy. In the book, it's pathological. Regardless, it's a sanity-saver, and one I continually seek to reinforce. Doesn't matter how it looks on paper. Say hello to the boys. They keep me safe.
naamah_darling: Spotted hyena teeth. (Teeth)
You know, I'm not really proud of myself for this one.  But I think I should talk about it, in the spirit of my ongoing dedication to make mental illness at least a little more transparent to others, and to support other folks who have it by making words available where there weren't words before.  Solidarity, expression, visibility.  Yay, things.

So, I was trying to read up on some stuff tonight to see if anyone else had X issue, and wound up triggering myself a little.  And now I'm getting gnawed on by little panic weasels with their little weasel-teeth.  And I kind of felt . . . good . . . once I realized that was happening.

You are likely to ask: "What the fuck, Naamah?"  And you would be right to.

But this isn't an uncommon thing for me.

This isn't a function of being lazy or selfish or drama-queeny.  What it is, is a reflection of being nearly perpetually in a state of near overload, and being fearful of being pushed into actual overload.  Part of the awfulness of being A Person Who Has Panic Attacks is that a huge trigger for having them is . . . wait for it . . . being afraid you will have a panic attack.  It's a horrible experience.  We are afraid of it.  This is natural!  So being close to panicky, but not quite there, results in this state where your already fragile state of mind is being further thinned by the fear that you are about to lose the shaky footing you already have.

Dudes, I live in that place.

So, if you can find a way to turn off that fear of being about to lose your shit, you feel much better.

It's the equivalent of having eaten something that disagreed with you, and nothing too bad has happened yet, but if you're out in public, you're going to be feeling a whole lot more stressed out about it than if you were at home near a bathroom and could say "Well, if it comes back out, it comes back out.  I have a bathroom.  I can camp out in here.  I am safe here.  I am prepared for this."

So when I say that sometimes, it feels good to be able to say "I'm freaking out a little," that is . . . kind of what I'm talking about.

These are things that my inner panic beast thinks are true, and which are responsible for that comfortable feeling:
  • People around me understand that I have panic attacks, and are really nice about it, and will make accommodations as necessary, with no drama or complaint. (This is objectively true, 100%.)
  • If I'm panicky, people will not be mean to me.  People will know not to do things that frighten me.  They will be gentler with me.  Because yes, sometimes I need the kid gloves.
  • If I'm panicky, people will not ask me to do things, and I will not be put in the position of having to put them off, refuse, do it, or cope with the guilt of procrastination.
  • If I'm panicky, I have a good reason for hiding and not doing anything stressful.  The "YOU SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING ELSE" klaxon shuts right down.  What I "should" be doing is holding very still and not doing anything that requires even moving my arms.
  • If I'm panicky, I don't have to worry that my mood will change.  It just did.  I am therefore in the process of regaining control, which is inherently a stronger act than trying not to lose control.
  • If I'm panicky, I don't have to worry that my behavior is not useful.  I can focus on what makes it stop, without feeling guilty about letting other things go.
  • If I'm panicky, maybe [person] won't ask me to do [x thing that is stressful and hard even without being panicky].  I will have more time to deal with the issue.

I don't think any of those are selfish, if selfish means "using something to get what you want at other people's expense" or "using your issues to manipulate other people."

Then there's this, which is somewhat selfish:
  • If I'm panicky, nobody around me can complain unless they feel worse than I do.  People (the ones I spend time around) are more likely to stifle any negative/disturbing behaviors, and I won't have to deal with those.  It makes other people easier to deal with.
Now, this is not totally selfish; people make things so much harder!  Even more so, when you live with another mentally ill person. Sometimes it hurts and you just want to say "I need you to not be the crazy one today.  I seriously cannot take it."  You want to ward it off.  The problem is that you can say things like "I'm going to need you to not ask me to leave the house tomorrow, because that's overloading" and not come across as a complete asshole; saying "I'm going to need you to be mentally stable tomorrow, because I am barely staying afloat, here, and I need you to help make life good and fun instead of way too scary" is a super asshole thing to say.  "Here, ignore your own painful and terrifying issues and concentrate on me!"  (And I admit, I DO that sometimes, because I am not a perfect, or even necessarily a very good, person.)

You can see, those all mostly come from places of damage or fear.  They come from a fear of not being able to trust the environment around me.  They come from a fear of the people around me not helping me, or making things worse, often without meaning to.  They come from a lack of control, and wanting to withdraw completely from everything.

Notice what is not on this list:
  • If I'm panicky, I have an excuse to be mean to people.
  • If I'm panicky, I have an excuse to not care about people and concentrate on myself.
  • If I'm panicky, I have an excuse to be lazy and not do things I find boring or annoying. (This is not the same as avoiding stressful things, though getting people to understand that can be hard.)
  • If I'm panicky, that automatically excuses any behavior.  Even the really bad stuff that shouldn't be excused at all.
  • If I'm panicky, then I can justifiably demand to get my way and have whatever I want.
Everything on the not-horribly-selfish list involves pushing things away and relieving pressure.  That seems like a reasonable response to a stressful situation, and my entire life is pretty stressful.  (Lots of people have it worse.  Sadly, I am not very good at coping with shit, so that doesn't really make a difference.)  Having an anxiety disorder is, by its nature, stressful.

Panic, whether pathological or healthy, arises as a response to threatening conditions (in a panic disorder, the response is disproportionate/inappropriate/reflexive/uncontrollable/based on something totally imaginary or even unknown/pick one or more).  Therefore, this hunkering down, the retreating, serves as a relief from the threatening thing.  Panic drives us to fight or flight, and if we choose flight and go hide, then we are (ideally) rewarded with an increased feeling of safety and control as the scary, negative circumstance retreats or resolves itself or as we simply unclench and start figuring out how to deal.

So a mild state of panic, that pre-pre-panic oogy feeling, that is the beginning of flight mode.

Each day, a lot of my energy goes toward controlling this:

Oh my god there's things I should be doing I can't cope with the one I should be doing most and the others are so hard and frustrating and I don't feel too good today maybe and I'm afraid I might feel worse later and what if I eat something that disagrees with me and then it hurts but I don't know what it was so I can't avoid it again and maybe it's not food just something wrong with me or just stress and god I hope I don't have a panic attack or a breakdown or just feel more depressed tomorrow or crash later tonight and what if I get to do the fun thing I want to do and then maybe have drop afterward and wait to do it again and feel guilty for not doing fun things for/with other people wow is this what my life will be like forever and if so what on earth is the point in living it when it's just a sad thing that won't have meant anything when it's over like one of those stupid art movies where nothing happens and you just feel depressed at the end despite nothing happening and I'm scared to go to bed or even open my bedroom door because what if the person I live with has a really bad day tomorrow because I'm already shaky and how can I cope with that too all this stuff I have to keep control of and just KEEP MOVING.

So when panic rears its ugly, stupid head, being able to go to emotional lockdown is actually a relief.  Nothing comes in, nothing goes out.

It becomes a world of it and me, and nothing else, and panic, unlike the rest of this fucked up, cruel, crazy-in-a-bad-way, hateful, lying hellpit of a world*, is a thing I know how to fight.  Because I have fought it so many times.  And I have won, every single time.

It's trading off juggling a bunch of pressures for throwing off one big weight that's actually a bear.  But I've fought bears.  I suck at juggling.

Now, severe panic, the "I think I might throw up" panic, the "no, seriously, I am flipping the fuck out" panic, that is different.  That is WORSE than all the other bad things, because it is the very ESSENCE of BAD THING, it is the worst fear you've ever felt turned on full with the tap knocked off, and there's nothing comforting about that.  It corners you and skullfucks you.  Seriously.  It is some bad shit.

But just enough fear, and the world draws away a little bit and I feel like I have breathing room.  The way mothers sometimes get that rush of relief when they're down with a bad cold or something, and somebody else has to take over the housework and kid-wrangling.

It doesn't happen every time.  But when I've had a cluttered week, like this week, and been scared a lot, then it does tend to work like that.

A tiny part of me, very tiny, is sort of concerned that people might read this and take it as evidence that these feelings are all faked or exaggerated for sympathy, when that is so not the case.  This is not the case at all.  What I'm trying to show here is that it is a massively complicated thing, and that living with it for as long as I have does things to you, to the way you see things, interact with the world, and interact with yourself.  Some of those things are adaptive in the short term, but not the long term.  Some are conditioned responses that are less than ideal, but do not have a net positive effect.  Some are simply ways that it makes you different from other people, and thus makes them less likely to understand and help you.

The larger part of me thinks that saying this stuff has a lot of value, which is why I'm doing it.

I don't think I do this on purpose, just to get the relief it gives me.  Like, tonight, I didn't set out to push the wrong buttons just so I would have an excuse to close up shop and go home.  I don't think this is a wholly dysfunctional behavior I've developed for lack of any better approach; I think it's natural, in many ways, a result of the panic attacks, not just a response to them.  And I don't know about wanting to make this behavior go away.  Replacing it with something better might be a good idea, but I don't know what that would be, yet, and unless I think of something, I'm not going to try to push away what is obviously a functional, if fucked up, coping mechanism.  (Look, the last thing I need is to feel like I'm being a Bad Person by getting jittery.  Guilt added to fear is just . . . shitty.)

I am mostly just curious if anyone else knows the feeling -- I mean, I'm sure somebody does, but I've never seen anyone talk about it.

* I don't actually believe this, but when I'm in a bad way, it's the only truth I can see.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
No check in my bank account yet.  Haven't heard from anyone.

It's going to be like this.  Calling people, bothering them to keep the wheels turning, re-applying for things when necessary, letting them look at my financial records whenever they want basically forever, never saving money or owning anything of great value.  No assets.

I'm trying to reconcile myself to a life spent waiting for other people to do their jobs so I can lick up the scraps they throw me, trying to live off those scraps, and I'm not having a lot of luck.

I got approved, and I'm supposed to be happy.  Things are supposed to be getting better.  And I'm reacting to this whole thing really, really badly.  I didn't expect that.  Maybe I should've.  I mean, there are about a thousand reasons for this, and they are all completely legitimate.  I'd just expected . . . I don't know.  I'd expected that maybe things wouldn't be so bad.

I'm trying to just . . . let it go until we know more.  Until we have a chance to sit down and crunch the numbers and see how badly we're screwed.  So I'll save my enumeration of all the ways in which that is very likely to happen for another time.

There is no "should", when it comes to how you feel about something like this.  You don't get anywhere by telling yourself you "should" feel differently, that you "shouldn't" be angry or hurt or scared.  I know that.  I do.  But this bleeds outward.  It's affecting my husband, who has his own serious issues to deal with, and doesn't need my relentless grieving over the whole mess.  It's affecting my ability to do anything constructive.  It's making me angry and bitter, extraordinarily so.  It's affecting my attitude toward just about everything.  I'm having a hard time, just now, understanding why I wanted this.  I don't understand how it can possibly help, long-term.

I don't know what to do.  Because honestly?  Killing myself is not an option, lord, no, but . . . I feel like I'm having my life taken away from me.  Again.  And when I do die, eventually, I don't want it to have been . . . like this.  I'm tired of being helpless and having no options.  I'm tired of feeling guilty for hating my life when I have so much more and am so much healthier than other people I know who are going through similar things.  I'm tired of digging my claws and teeth in and being able to do nothing but slow my slide toward the edge.

I'm tired of being scared.  Tired of being unable to want things, because I've forgotten what it feels like to be able to dream bigger than what I can do tomorrow, or maybe next week.  I'm tired of being melodramatically upset.  Tired of being sick.  Tired of everything.

I thought the hard part would be getting approved.  Turns out it's the part where I have to live the life that limits me to.  Who knew.

Note: I don't want to hear anything even remotely "WELL HERE'S A STORY OF HOW I GOT SCREWED" or "HEY HERE'S ANOTHER WAY THEY COULD FUCK YOU SO MAYBE WATCH FOR THAT OKAY."  No advice, either, please.  I'm not in a place where I can even contemplate making a phone call because it's all just leading to more shit I can't fucking handle.  Questions they won't answer.  I fucking hate this.

naamah_darling: A tiny week-old tabby kitten with her paws raised and her eyes half-closed. (Kittens)
They screwed up the appointment, but we still got in to see someone after waiting for two hours. So, approved, will get money, they can't say how much, but I might find out in the next week or so.

Can't celebrate yet, but at least the gears are still turning.

Gives me at least a little satisfaction to spend the time I'm forced to wait in a government office writing perverted incest porn.

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naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
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