Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

diagnosed bipolar and pissed about it

Category: Expression

dia de los muertos

the last day of our first workshop was upon us.  linda was back, so she taught the last day of classes.  by then, i had relinquished the idea that the students would get as much out of the workshop as i put into it.  linda hadn’t prepared the materials.  she hadn’t engrossed herself in the topic like i had.  even though i had presented all of this information in our u.s. trial run, most of the details were glossed over, meaning that students missed out on a lot of the applicability and integration of the subject matter that i had built in to the “curriculum”.

thor didn’t seem to mind.  he didn’t mention it; in fact, he said the presentation was great.  i’m not sure why; there was so much missing, educationally.  it felt like a sham.

i felt frustrated.  i had spent so many hours working to make the course seamless.  in the midst of the end of term clusterfuck, i still pulled together an awesome course with cross-referencing materials…the whole enchilada.  i didn’t sleep a few nights, but i fucking pulled it off.

in other words, my work was going unrecognized and that pissed me off.  i had set the bar high and met it, but clearly i could have done a lot less and it would have been just as well.  i could have slept, maybe.

we called it a day early because the next day we were getting up bright and early to go visit some women in a poor town.  these were abused women, which thor seemed to take lightly but i knew i wouldn’t be able to.  after some reflection, i decided to tell him that the experience could upset me because of my early environment.  i didn’t go into detail.  he seemed surprised to find this out, but said it was fine and that i could leave if i wanted to.  but that i should still go if i wanted to collect any data using this “sample”.

suit yourself, thor.  i’ll give it a whirl.

we woke early and got ready.  the mexicans were late to pick us up, as usual.  the ride was long, over an hour.  i wasn’t prepared for the level of despair i was about to see.

the town was, by far, the most dilapidated collection of “buildings” i’d ever seen.  god had clearly abandoned this place long ago.  it was like a ghost town.  the people, like rats, scurried to and fro, quickly hiding within buildings.  it was apparently not safe to remain outside long.  old, worn, dejected faces stared without expression, eyes vacuous, as we rode by slowly in the van.

we arrived at some kind of compound.  it was completely surrounded by a tall fence, completely covered by graffiti, and we had to wait for the gatekeepers to let us in.  the little compound turned out to be some kind of school.  young children in uniforms darted around.  a few older women with painted on smiles greeted us.  i accidentally used the informal “you” in my introduction.  the smiles disappeared.

we walked into an old classroom, empty but for the group we’d been teaching and a few of the women.  no abused women yet.  i scouted out the joint for a seat with an easy exit, just in case.  but when the old audio system was set up, i realized i wouldn’t be able to hear from the back of the room so i picked one in front, off to the side.  slowly women trickled in.  i felt my stomach turn.  in each of them i felt and saw my own experience.  there was nothing physical about their appearance that would cause this; i was merely projecting my experience on to them.  i saw one man come in too, and thought, yikes, how many ways could this go wrong?  i’d assumed he might be one of the abusers, coming in to see what ideas these outsiders were putting in the womens’ heads.  i have no idea if that was actually the case, and i didn’t like that i’d thought that way about a perfect stranger.  but i knew i was off center in this whole thing, so i let it slide.

finally thor began to speak.  he asked first who’d been involved in an abusive relationship, or who’d had parents who were abusive.  almost all of the hands shot up, and that’s when the tears started.

i tried to hold it together, but they came in a steady stream.  i tried to stifle my sniffs and turn my face away.  women in the room saw me crying and were expressionless.  their glances passed over me without indication or acknowledgement.  instead, they listened intently to my advisor’s questions, and were more than willing to share their own experiences, through tears.  their voices were filled with so much desperation, so much need for help or guidance, plagued by pain and hopelessness.

but we weren’t there for help or guidance.  we were there so we could put on our little scientist hats and collect data.  what a fucking sham.

i made it 30, maybe 45 minutes, before i realized i was just sinking.  i couldn’t stop the tears, and i’d felt myself leave the room and go into a void.  i couldn’t process, i couldn’t translate.  i could only hear pain.  i left the room.

i went back to the van and sat and stared.  my mind was blank; i felt empty.  linda came out and sat with me.  i didn’t feel like talking so i just didn’t.  i didn’t care that she felt uncomfortable in the silence; her presence was more of a nuisance than anything, not of any fault of her own.  i was just in a dark place.  i went to the back of the van and laid down on my stomach, staring at the floor.  linda got out of the van and started talking to some of the school children.  i continued staring at the floor.

a long time passed.  finally, the “meeting” was over, and the van door slid open and i could hear thor asking where i was.  i mumbled something to indicate my location.  people started loading into the van and i realized i had to get up.  the kids we’d been teaching climbed in; i gave them the same vacuous expression offered by the townspeople.  i didn’t speak and was only looking forward to returning to the hotel and hiding under a blanket for the rest of the day.

as it would turn out, we had a full day ahead of us before we’d return to the hotel.  i came to understand this through bits and pieces of the conversation.  they wanted to take us to some archaeological site nearby.  i didn’t give a fuck, but we were over an hour away from the hotel, so i didn’t really have a choice.  we went to the dig.  i got out of the car just to get some fresh air, and walked around like an empty shell.  i climbed the side of a pyramid and sat on a corner overlooking the town, which i discovered was actually an extremely large city spanning an entire valley and up a mountain across the way.  i saw a lot of gilded domes.  churches.  these people were gonna need god to survive this mess.

finally, we got back in the van and i hoped we were returning to the hotel then.  instead, we drove through the town and came upon a huge crowd of children filling the streets.  school had gotten out.  it was a sea of people, and we crawled through slowly.  old merchants sold trinkets and candy to the kids.  it must have been the most lucrative time to open up shop.

the sliding door opened again.  a few people got out and i breathed easier for the space.  but then, the students we’d been teaching started getting in.  they filled the seats beyond capacity and loaded into the back and filled the floor.  i was squeezed tight between the side of the van and another student.  i started to feel claustrophobic, but again, i was an hour away from the hotel so i didn’t really have a choice.

i gathered from bits and pieces again that we were not returning to the hotel, but instead going to visit the city center.  i placated myself by imagining the hotel room.  i felt my pj’s on, lying on a pillow in cool air conditioned air with headphones on and some random show passing over my retinas.  when i came back to, i was still a sardine and we were heading into traffic.  so now i was a sardine in a van that was a sardine in traffic.  i couldn’t breathe.

i don’t know if you’ve ever experienced traffic in mexico city but it is despicable.  the van was old and the air conditioning couldn’t compete with the 15 hot bodies inside.  it was so hot i wanted to peel my skin off.  i started to sweat.  now i was a sardine in a van in a microwave.  i got very close to screaming and launching myself over four people to get out of the van.  i closed my eyes and practiced my breathing exercises.  this is temporary, this is transient.  it won’t be this way forever.

finally we arrived at the city center.  i had to get out of the van so we could walk around.  i was suddenly in the middle of a huge metropolis.  we passed by fancy restaurants and boutiques, filled with shiny and expensive things.  i felt offended.  the juxtaposition of such despair with such extravagance was painful and disgusting.  we walked into a restaurant.  i walked straight back into the bathroom and tried the door.  it didn’t open.  i stood there, mind blank, face empty for probably 7 minutes before someone came out and i realized i just hadn’t used the knob correctly.  i walked in and saw in the mirror that my shirt was inside out.  i don’t know when that happened.  i was a mess.

i went out and sat at a large round table.  there was a brief, few minute period of respite before a live musician began to play.  the sound was disproportionately loud for the space.  the music notes filled the empty space in my head and i couldn’t escape.  maria sat near me and turned to me.  she said, in her broken english, that she was so sorry for my experience.  she said her students are trained for a full year before even getting to interact with these women and i’d gone in with no training and a history that made the experience hit too close to home and she felt terrible.  she, too, had a similar experience growing up and she, too, leaves and cries for having seen it again.  tears welled up in her eyes, and then tears welled up in my eyes and i felt her pain and she felt mine and we kind of cried there together in the middle of the table, surrounded by 15 other people going about their conversations.  i decided to try to snap out of it on her behalf.  so i put my fucking game face on and swept my dissociative state under the rug.  i’d have to deal with that later.

the day continued.  we walked around and i made conversation with the students; i think most of them had grown to like me, and that feeling congealed when i made some smart-ass comment in spanish in the giant church in the city center.  i don’t remember what it was; i only remember them choking on laughter with looks that said “THIS gringa!”

i don’t recall much about the rest of the day.  i was depleted.  i went to bed, and awoke early again the next day for our visit to the giant pyramids an hour and a half away.  it was our “play day” and by that time, we deserved one.

 

[un]loading zone

i think i’m ready to write again.

i’ve not been able to until today.  i haven’t been ready to face it all again.  and there is a lot, which is good because my evaporative cooler broke and it’s too fucking hot to move.  besides, the computer is in the coolest room of my house at this hour, so win-win.

i’m not sure why i’m ready to write now.  i realized while i was running an errand that i feel really uncomfortable.  a general feeling of anxiety and i feel uncomfortable in my skin.  this could be for a number of reasons, including some of the events i plan to describe today.  it’s not been helped by the fact that at least 3 different people unloaded a bunch of vitriol on me; not toward me, but about events going on in their lives, but i can tell it has taken its toll.  just unhappy fucking people.  and unhappy fucking people are energy suckers.

i’m going back to mexico to describe the rest of the trip, because it will become relevant in another story and plus i still have some processing to do with regard to that trip.  besides, it’s a pretty good story on its own.

so brace yourselves, if you plan to read this.  it’s gonna be a wild ride.

ouch

So, I decided to take a little break from work around 9am…I worked through the night to prepare materials for a workshop I’m teaching on Tuesday, and then again in Mexico (twice…and in Spanish).  I need to get back to grading term papers and exams, because grades are due tomorrow.  I got a random inspiration to read my blog, starting from the beginning.  Four hours later…

Holy FUCK.  What a shit show.

My heart is literally breaking…for myself, which is something that has never happened before.  Reading my old posts was like reading another person’s story.  I mean, I had the memories, but didn’t share in the deep, debilitating emotions I described.  By the end, I found that I was mourning for myself.  And the magnitude of suffering that I went through hit me, and forced me to realize how awful of a period it was and that I need to remain active about caring for myself and healing.  I’ve been so busy over the last academic year…even though I have made some great strides, I think I could really use some self-love and attention.  I still have healing to do.  And building, and improving, and thriving.

While I recognized that my thoughts and feelings were enshrouded in depression, I couldn’t help but notice how awful I was…to myself.  How many times did I say I was an asshole, or made of suck?  Or how engulfed I was in self-hatred and loss and confusion and suffering…and the very real, very serious intent to hurt myself and the sincere wish for death that would have been a relief to the pain I was experiencing.  I can’t identify with those feelings now.  So much has changed.

Really, the most significant (or, perhaps, noticeable?) changes and improvements have occurred in just the last 3 or 4 months.  That’s crazy when I think about it.  Although my mood improved substantially in October, I was so overwhelmed with work that it was all consuming, leaving little time for myself.  This semester has been better, but not by a whole lot.  I suppose I succeeded in one goal last fall: finding confidence that I can accomplish things again.  When I think back to last summer, and the cognitive deficits that plagued me, I shudder.  I remember the fear I felt that I wouldn’t recover.   That I would have to change all of my life goals because my brain had simply shut down.

I think the benefits and changes I’ve experienced recently have a lot to do with a conscious decision to focus on myself and creating a healthy life.  I realized that going out and partying until the wee hours didn’t serve me well, neither the amount of alcohol consumed, nor the recovery period that prevented me from achieving other goals.  I’ve done very little of that in the last few months, instead electing to stay in and do things that are more substantive or have longer term benefits.  It’s can be as simple as taking care of my home and my animals, and giving myself space and time to pursue personal interests.  I’ve also been connecting, meaningfully, with friends.  Interestingly, I have even found enjoyment living in this city, which is something I never thought would happen.

I signed myself off of online dating.  Honestly, I got bored with the whole thing, and I also realized that I don’t want to find people to date.  I’m perfectly okay being on my own and focusing on myself.  In fact, I prefer it.  For a long time, that preference arose out of a feeling of repulsion about relationships, largely due to my last experience (good GOD!).  Now, I’m not repulsed by the idea.   I’m more focused on creating a healthier, happier self that is prepared to accept something more substantive.  When it comes, it will come.  Meanwhile, I have a life to live.

I’ve come to a place of acceptance, but not complacency, about my body and fitness, and am working toward lifestyle changes, like eating healthier in general and being active.  My expectations for weight loss have changed, so that I will work at it in moderation, which I think will go a long way toward facilitating my success.

I discovered, in therapy, how my expectations of myself lead me to self-destruct in many cases.  In fact, reflecting on the past year or two, I can clearly identify some of the self-imposed expectations I didn’t meet and link them to my extreme mood and behavior fluctuations. I’ve had to think very carefully about setting appropriate expectations so that I don’t set myself up to fail because that failure leads me to lash out against myself, disregarding or even destroying personal goals I’m trying to achieve.

I’m pleased to have gotten a lot of my life back in order and that I’m still making progress.  I still have a box full of unopened mail from 2011-2012, but I’m slowly sorting through it.  It’s painful.  Not only was the emotional turmoil costly psychologically, but it was literally costly, financially too.  I have worked hard to fix my financial situation with a lot of success, and I was even able to save enough money so that I could leave this summer and stay with my aunt in Washington.  I am so looking forward to a restorative summer experience in a beautiful, abundant place.

I am in a place of peace with my family, for the most part, although hearing stories of my sister stealing from my grandma, or claiming she’s still sick but treating herself with LSD, ecstasy, and a host of other drugs, still upsets me.  I vent about it.  And then I try to move on.  I can’t fix it.  My mother flips out about how awful her boyfriend is (pfft), so I let her vent and listen.  It makes me sad.  But I have to let it go.  I can’t fix it.

I’ve found a comfortable distance from people in my life, whether it be from work or elsewhere, who have inflicted emotional pain on me in the past but who I still need to interact with for one reason or another.  For the first time since I moved here, I am not in conflict with, being bullied or threatened by, or feeling afraid or anxious about anyone.  Those people with whom I’ve had excruciatingly painful experiences exist only as an incidental part of my life…not as an integral part, as they once were.

I cannot believe how far I’ve come, especially after reading my own blog.  The truth is, I still have a ways to go.  The beautiful part about that, though, is that I am open to it, and welcoming it.  I actually find the possibilities exciting.

I turned 30 this month.  I hear that some women cry about this.  Not me.  I don’t understand what’s worth crying about.  I’ve been so happy because I believe that the second third of my life will be what I make of it, rather than being tied up in other people’s problems, or wrapping myself so tightly around other people that I experience my own problems as a result.

I’ve noticed that steadily, my priorities have shifted toward things that will help me grow and be a better person, and away from things that will hurt me or not serve me well.  I’ve been setting healthy boundaries for myself, although I could stand to do a better job with my teaching responsibilities.  🙂

I am able to look to the future with optimism and a deep sense of satisfaction about what will come.  I will be focusing on my dissertation beginning in July, and hope to be able to graduate in a year.  The post-doctorate possibilities keep coming my way, and I’ve been offered opportunities to take various jobs in Italy, Mexico, Sweden, and various places in the U.S.  The greatest realization, though, is that I am going to choose the one that is best for me, in accordance with my values and life goals.  I don’t know which option that is yet, or if I’ve even conceived of it.  I am in a place where my decisions are based on multiple dimensions and, rather than revolving solely around career opportunities, include things like love, connection, quality of life, hobbies and recreation, and friendship.

I am thankful for who I am, even though I am pained to see the full magnitude of self-criticism and self-defeating behavior that I am capable of.  I am satisfied, impressed even, with my recovery and my life choices these days.  I still struggle, but I have actively sought out skills to deal with those moments when shame, self-criticism, and self-destruction try to take over.  It’s rewarding to observe myself practicing those skills and to see them be effective.  It gives me hope for what is to come, for the healing and happiness I may permit myself in my life.

As for being bipolar…honestly, I haven’t thought about it in a while.  I suppose I decided to forget about it for now, because I likely won’t get any answers any time soon.  My life has been improving so much that I thought maybe I’m not bipolar at all.  I question that conclusion now though, after reading my blog.  The difference is that I’m not experiencing the resistance, anger, pain, and despair in response to the possibility.  It’s a factor that I need to consider when making decisions, but it has lost its centrality in my thinking and in its role in my life as a whole.

Looking at my blog categories, I see that there is not one positively-valenced category.  I’m glad to say, this post will have the first.  🙂

first world problems

<bitchfest>

i can’t believe it.  i’m seriously sitting here dumbfounded because i’ve never been in this situation before.  it’s so frustrating that i just want to shout or cry.  i also feel completely ridiculous.  here’s why.

so, i wrote about the guy who never called last time.  i am alternating days where on some i am totally okay with it, and on others i am bugging. the. fuck. out.  today is one of the latter.

i mean, i’m doing this to myself.  i keep looking him up on the other dating websites i’m on and every single fucking time i conclude that we are completely fucking compatible and should be dating NOW.  or at least getting to know each other.  texting even?  fuck…

our chemistry/personality/relationship needs quizzes all show the same outcomes.  his descriptions and style are right up my alley.  i just can’t fucking believe that i found someone so compatible but who DIDN’T FEEL THE SAME WAY.

i might sound like an ass, but THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE.  i am just unable to comprehend this situation.  acceptance is NOT happening.  i want to bang my head against a wall.

i try not to spend too much time dissecting my behavior.  he was all into me, it seemed, and then… silence.  what did i miss?  was it something i said?  did i have food in my teeth?  what part of me isn’t good enough for you, mister?  what turned you off?  what changed your mind?  why didn’t you give me a chance?

</bitchfest>

the sting of rejection – or lithium withdrawal

i have successfully compelled psychiatrist numero tres to let me eliminate lithium from my daily regimen.  i went down to 300 mg in december-ish and stopped taking that this past tuesday.

i have noticed what appears to be a downswing in my mood corresponding with these time periods.  in december, i kept an eye on it but also kept in mind that i was dealing with far too much stress and work to distinguish between depressive-symptoms-due-to-work versus depressive-symptoms-due-to-less-lithium.  regardless of what the case may have been, my mood bounced back in full force once winter session started and i had a moderate breather.

now i am also experiencing depressive symptoms, and since the lithium is expected to be out of my system completely by saturday, its depleted levels may be taking a toll.  alternatively, my mood may be the combination of a very long, very productive, but very busy week, plus the sting of rejection from the aforementioned “soul mate” a few posts ago.

i have to admit, i was pretty excited at the prospect of dating this person.  we seemed to have a lot in common (enough to sustain several hours long conversations, anyway), i thought he was attractive, smart, etc.  things seemed to be going well until i dropped him off last thursday and i had this sinking feeling that he wouldn’t be asking me out again.

backing up.  the week we started talking, we spent two hours texting, followed by two and a half hours on the phone.  that was followed up by intermittent texting during the week.  saturday rolled around and i went out with some friends.  i admit, the second place we went was influenced by an eensy weensie suspicion that eharmony-guy might show up there.  incidentally, i was right.

i was playing air hockey and i saw him come in the door out of the corner of my eye.  i didn’t dare look directly, but i just knew it was him.  my adrenaline soared.  i played it cool for a while, but when i walked by him i noticed he was kind of staring at me so i smiled and kept going.  under no circumstances was i going to approach him; that’s against “the rules”.

this happened several times.  when i was on the dance floor with my friends, i noticed him off to the side, looking at me.  he was “on his phone” but who the hell talks on their phone next to the dance floor?  yeah right.

he finally came and stood right in front of my friends and i, and took a couple of drags off of his electronic cigarette. once that happened i was 100% sure it was him.  he was just standing there alone but i still wasn’t about to go up to him (besides the rules, i was so unbelievably giddy that i would have made an ass out of myself anyway).  his friend came out of no where and whisked him out of the bar.

my friends suggested the next bar, so i don’t have to take responsibility for the fact that he was also there, too.  again, when i looked at him, he was kind of staring at me so i smiled and kept going.  sadly, he never approached me in person.

but…around 1am he texted “was that you?” and we had a little back-and-forth about why one didn’t approach the other.  i was drunk and i probably texted too much, but it didn’t stop him from calling me the next day.  we got on the phone for another whole hour, after which he interrupted me to ask if i was hungry and wanted to go to lunch.

forgetting any “rules” ever existed in the history of mankind, i agreed to go on a spontaneous lunch date.  it went really well.  i knew he was still interested because he texted me later that night “about a video game” we both played.  we then moved on to e-cigarettes, and he called me to give me the deets on how to get one (they are quite good!).  he also offered to go with me after he got off work to get the liquid you put in the e-cigarette.

monday, he added me to facebook.  i’m not even going to go in to the degree of facebook stalking i did, but let me just say it was shameful.  i did, however, discover that eharmony-guy is a poet, and writes some really racy stuff.  the first time i read one of his poems, i literally froze in space for like 20 minutes, followed by an hour of pacing and trying to get myself back to work.  i failed, and said poem became my fantasy du jour for a few days.

we got together on thursday to head to the e-cig shop.  it was fine, although i noticed he was a bit distant-ish.  i was extremely nervous though, and i think it showed.  i left most of the direction of the conversation to him and he asked how my day was twice, showed me around the shop, but really the conversation was pretty minimal.  i dropped him off, thanked him for coming with me, and he told me to let him know if i had any questions about the e-cig and associated accoutrements.

since then: radio silence.  i’ve had to keep myself jam-packed and still i’ve felt like pulling my hair out, hoping he’d ask me out this weekend.  i was good and followed the (goddamn) rules.  by yesterday i had begun to accept the possibility that “he’s just not that into me” when my friend and fellow rules conspirator confessed she’d broken down and texted her guy.

it never fails…whenever a comrade-in-crime gives in a little, all of my resolve goes out the window too.  i gave in and “liked” his profile picture, which was taken the night we “met” but didn’t actually meet.  in fairness, i exploited the fact that he had recently posted a status update so it could appear as if “i saw it for the first time” on my newsfeed.

speculation abounds as to why i’ve been rejected.  i’ve got a couple of reasonable hypotheses, all while bearing in mind that i really have no answer at all, nor will i ever.  some possibilities include that i was way too nervous to be sexually attractive.  i have a pretty strong sexual presence, but if i’m nervous, forget it.  it also could have been something about my facebook page. in particular, i suspect it may have been the old album of pictures of my ex and his family.  he did mention the “short” lapse between the end of that relationship and signing on to a serious dating website the first time we talked.

whatever it was, it really doesn’t matter because the outcome is the same.  i’m processing rejection from a dating prospect for the first time in a long time.  it’s disappointing and frustrating and aggravating and i keep wanting to scream, hello, i’m awesome and we should go on a freaking date!  (and then make out while you read your poetry to me)

it turns out that anything resembling psychotic behavior (such as that which i’ve already displayed here) is definitely against the rules, so my inclinations are definitely out of the picture.  i’ve coped so far by filling my days to the brim, getting to the gym every day, talking to friends, family, and getting more work done than i have in months, but i found myself sitting here this friday evening just feeling kind of down despite the massively successful week i’ve had otherwise.

(although to be fair, it has waned a bit since i’ve gotten this off my chest)

so thank you bipolar-blog-diary-dealie.  if it weren’t for you, i’d be an awfully scary human being.

 

over-responsibility

today’s topic in al-anon was feeling a sense of over-responsibility for others.  at first, i was not interested in the topic because of the direction the speaker took it.  but as i thought about it more and more, i fell into a deep musing about my relationship with that concept.

one of the most difficult things for me to understand is a line in the serenity prayer we say at the end of meetings.  it goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t have a firm grasp on the difference.  when action on my part is warranted.  how to distinguish between the times for acceptance and the times for action.

i thought of my family, and fell in to a deep state of contemplation.  i heard some of the things others were saying, but i fell farther and farther way, processing my thoughts and feelings.

it wasn’t hard to find something to think about.  hell, it was just the holidays, and i saw my family in full form.

i have not been home in a year, because i was in the middle of a bone-crushing depression.  they didn’t visit me during this time; it’s just as well.  i wouldn’t have wanted to see them anyway.  i barely told them what was going on, and when i did, it wasn’t taken seriously.

so when i arrived for a 6-day visit, i was looking forward to some quality time.  i shouldn’t have had this expectation.  both my mother and sister were either completely shit-faced or hung over any time that i saw them.  my mother reserved all of one day to see me.  starting at 4pm in the afternoon, by the way, before she left to head back home with her boyfriend.  look, i already know that i will always take a back seat to a man when it comes to my mother.  that’s just how she is.  i’m just glad she finally picked one that was worth knowing.  i like him a lot.  he’s completely enamored with her and expresses how amazed he is by her all the time.  i try to be as polite as possible.  it’s great practice for my poker face.

the first thing my aunt said to me when she saw me was, “are you pregnant?” and as much as i hate to say it, it completely threw me for a loop.  i know i’ve gained enough weight for it to be noticeable, but i don’t think i look pregnant for god’s sake.

the first thing my grandmother said was, “if you think i’m happy to see you, think again”.  she was in a bad mood as a result of other family members’ behavior, and we were able to resolve it quite quickly.  it’s always that way with her, but it doesn’t mean that what she said didn’t hurt.

everyone was caught up in their own shit.  my sister, too.  when she met up with my mom, her boyfriend, and me for dinner, she pulled me away to tell me how she’d taken acid at 1am that morning.  over the course of the few times i hung out with her, i learned that she is dating a coke dealer.  she has no job and doesn’t want to talk about school.  i honestly don’t even think she has the intention of getting a job any time soon.  we met at a bar, of course, and she lost her purse because she left it at a table.  it had her phone, wallet, keys, gift card from my mom, etc.  of course, this was horrible for her, but my aunt took care of helping her to fix the situation.  only to go out with her again, and to see her leaving her purse around, where ever.  when i mentioned it, she didn’t even seem to care.

my sister lives with my grandma right now.  i blogged about this sometime in the summer because i had plans to move in with my grandma before my sister swooped in and took the room.  now, the whole family was trying to be supportive at that time because she was recently hospitalized for a suicide attempt or threat or whatever.  mind you, i completely lost my mind when this happened.  i had a complete melt down.  so, it wasn’t especially pleasing when she told me that she had been doing cocaine every day for three weeks, right before the hospitalization.  when i heard that, i felt so many emotions.  anger. resentment. sadness.  it was as if she did not know, nor care to know, how her actions affected others.

as i said, she’s living with my grandma.  but she’s out every night.  getting high or drinking or whatever.  she is not available to help my grandma most of the time, and my grandma doesn’t understand my sister’s behavior, or why she’s not looking for a job or going to school.  i try to be compassionate, because i know that this the first time in her life that no one is telling her what to do or who to be, and that she was in physically and emotionally abusive relationships for 10 years.  i can’t imagine what that is like.

a couple days after i left, my grandma got sick.  the members of my family all have complex relationships with food.  my sister, for instance, admitted that she had been bulimic for years.  she might still be, but she is too gone right now to address it.  my aunt is extremely obese.  my mother is extremely skinny and compulsively exercises and doesn’t eat much.  my grandmother’s poison is laxatives.  she takes them every single day.

as it turns out, the day everyone left, she took 7 different laxatives.  over the next two days, she was very sick.  no one was around though, because my sister “had plans”.  my aunt had to fly back down earlier than planned to take care of her.  just a couple of days ago, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital.  again, my sister was mostly unavailable, not to feed or walk the dog or to sit with my grandma in the hospital.

it was after her hospitalization and my complete breakdown that i learned i could not take responsibility for her.  i had done so, up that point.  overly so.  i thought, if i had been a better sister, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten, or stayed, in a relationship with someone who beat her up.  who, by the way, she is now talking to again.  when she was hospitalized, i believed i wasn’t there enough, that i had failed her.  because i completely broke down, and because i got a stern talking to by my aunt, i had to face the fact that i needed to take care of myself, rather than take care of her.  i’ve been processing the letting-go ever since.

i haven’t let go entirely though.  when my aunt and my grandmother are angry or confused or frustrated with her living there with no goals or action, i remind them that this is the first time she’s ever had to decide something for herself and that it’s probably scary.  that she thinks that she has to come up with the ultimate answer for what to do, rather than taking small steps toward progress.  i do this because my family, when scorned, goes about things completely the wrong way.  take, for example, my aunt, who confronted my sister about this and got so caught up in her anger toward *my mother* (and taking it out on my sister) that she said horrific things and even threw a glass of water on her.

so i’ve told them to give her the space to sort it out, and i’ve told them to set boundaries and expectations that work for them so it doesn’t end up blowing up in anyone’s face.  i’ve thought that i was mostly staying out of it but encouraging my family to be better at being a family.  but now i’ve seen my sister and i’ve seen what she’s doing.  and i don’t anticipate it stopping any time soon, especially since my grandma gave us a good amount of money for christmas.  so i watch this unfold, and sometimes i wait for the phone call that she’s pregnant or was in a car accident or some other horrible thing.  and there’s not a goddamn thing i can do about it.

some have told me to be the “model” for her, to show that i am happy and healthy and that she can succeed.  what i learned on my trip is that she feels horrible about my success because it highlights her failure.  she did not like it when her male friends talked to me.  she was put off when school was mentioned.  she sounded disappointed when she told a friend i was getting my phd.  so now i’m in a position where i’m doing well with my life, and it only reminds her of her failures, feeding into her already negative self image, fueling her inability to act because she is so afraid that doing anything will be the wrong decision.

my family is made of entropy.  that’s what’s been done my entire life.  in observing it again, i was constantly reminded of one of the bill of rights we discuss in al anon… i don’t have it exactly, but it is something like “i have the right not to participate in the crazymaking of my family”… i heard it echoing again and again as i watched and mourned the self-destruction that consumes my family, and sometimes, of me.

it’s painfully difficult to realize and to accept that all of that hurt and pain they experience is one of the things i cannot change.  that i only can change myself, and that they call that “courage” instead of “abandoning my family”.  that “wisdom” means separating myself instead of getting down in the ditch and trying to help them out.

some people say we’re all so connected to one another, but when i process these feelings and experiences, it just leaves me feeling so alone.  because my experience is all about my own experience, not what others are doing.  that “helping” sometimes means leaving, or distancing, or “focusing on myself”.  and then i just feel stupid because i don’t understand what connection looks like or how to do it “the right way”.  i try, and keep getting brought back to myself and what i’m doing and how i’m interpreting something.

that’s all i’ve got for now.

the rumor mill

i keep saying to myself, it’s just one more opportunity to be awesome.

i actually have a lot to process on here today, but this issue takes emotional precedence because, well, i just found out about it.

there is a young man who loves to stir the pot.  unfortunately, i have been a target of his for a long time.  he moved to another state for a job, and i thought the time and distance might permit us to have a cordial relationship.

as it turns out, i was wrong.

a bit of background.  actually it’s not a bit, it’s a lot of stuff and there’s no minimizing it.

when i moved to this city for graduate school, it was the scariest thing i’d ever done.  leaving friends, family, and everything i knew turned out to be even more difficult than i anticipated.  before leaving, i thought it would be an opportunity for me to turn a new leaf, to become a new person, to grow and mature…well, i have but it has been a harrowing experience.

unfortunately, rather than finding a different niche, i fell right into one that matched my home niche in many respects.  i got involved with someone who was not good for me, but who felt familiar.  i think in large part, because i could never care about this person (the aforementioned “satan spawn”) the way he cared about me, it exacerbated his insecurities, leading him to act in absolutely horrific, unforgivable ways.  his behavior dismantled me and left me such an anxious wreck that, as others have put it, ‘it was difficult even to watch me walk’.

just as a way to process this a bit more deeply, i want to describe some of my memories:

  • on several occasions when i wanted to leave his house and go home, something bad would happen.  once, he started shouting loud enough for his roommate to hear, “why are you doing this to me?!”.  on at least two occasions, he would get into or remain in my car…for HOURS…when i wanted to drop him off and go home.  he refused to get out because he either wanted me to come in, or decided he was coming with me.  when asking or telling nicely failed, and i lost my cool and yelled at him to get out of my fucking car, he would give me this long stare that said, “look at you, look what a horrible person you are for yelling at me like that”.
  • we were speaking on the phone once, and he said he wanted to come over.  i said no, it’s late, i don’t want you to come over.  he just hung up on me and didn’t answer any of my calls or texts.  he showed up at my door and i told him to go home.  when i closed the door, he started SCREAMING at me through the door, pounding on the screen, in my very quiet, very nice apartment complex.  he continued to do this until i got on the phone with the police.  when i opened the door after he’d run away, there was a big hole in my screen.  which was made out of metal, by the way, not that flimsy mesh.
  • he picked me up after i had been drinking once and took me to his place.  i was ready to pass out, so i was lying on his bed.  he climbed on top of me and tried to have sex.  i didn’t respond, and pretended to be asleep.  he continued to take my pants off and keep going, and then said “wow, you’re really out aren’t you”.  he got up off of me, and i heard shuffling around the room.  then silence.  i opened my eyes, and he was standing there, with a camera, taking pictures of me.  i rushed up toward him, hit him in the face, and tried to get the camera.  we wrestled for it, he hurt me in the process, but i got the camera and ran out of the house with no pants on screaming.  a jogger was going by, who stopped, and he came out of the house saying i asked him to take the pictures.
  • when things were pretty much in the dust, and it was ending, we weren’t together at the time, but we were still talking.  i met someone new, and told him that i was moving on and that i was going to date someone else.  he came to my house with a letter and read it aloud.  he indicated that i needed his permission to go on a date with someone else.  he stated that if i go on that date, he will hate me, and more than that, that he would become my enemy.  when i asked for the letter, he refused to give it to me.  the next day, he showed up with a different letter that said how much he loved me.  he gave me that one.

so, satan spawn indeed.  this other guy, the one i started talking about, was another student in my lab.  he and satan spawn were friends.  when all of this was going on, he was there, stirring the pot to make it worse.  he spread rumors, and gossiped at every chance.  he told satan spawn i said he tried to rape me, among other things.

when he left for his new job, i breathed a sigh of relief because it meant his antagonizing would stop and i could move on without that in my life.  i have barely had contact with him, and my intention was to have a polite acquaintanceship with him, nothing more.

well, he came to town over the holidays.  i didn’t see him because i don’t like him as a person and i didn’t want to get involved in any drama that might possibly occur.  as it turns out, i didn’t even need to be there.  he was able to come up with something all on his own.

after today’s al-anon meeting, i was sitting with a close friend talking about life, updating each other and so on.  she said she needed to talk to me about a few things.  apparently, while in town, this guy told her that i was really drunk and trying to sleep with one of [that group’s] friends.  yep, i was out there slutting it up, getting shitfaced, and acting a fool.

when i heard this, disappointment draped over me.  i felt the potential for more drama, more stress, more anxiety.  between him and satan spawn, that period of my life completely destroyed me.  i explored possible explanations for this new story.  i knew that if he had heard it from anyone, it would have been satan spawn.  satan spawn is our only connection.  i recalled going out a few times in december.  i did indeed drink, but i didn’t act out of place.  although i’ve had several offers to engage with male callers, i haven’t taken anybody up on it.  i was attracted to one guy, but that barely got off the ground before it was over.  so this story…that i was chasing some guy to sleep with him, that i was slutting it up and trying to get laid while being really shit-faced drunk…doesn’t have a lot of merit to it.  so why…WHY is this happening?

this kid has invited me to his wedding.  i had planned to go to be polite and not burn any bridges.  besides, i’d enjoy knowing that he is making a mistake with this girl who he never even seemed that into, but who wants kids within two years.  apparently, his friends concur with my assessment too, so that made the possibility even more amusing.

now, i don’t know if i will go.  i also am not yet sure what to do with satan spawn.  we have developed a “friendship”…although with different agendas.  his agenda is to show me how different he is and how much he has grown, while he periodically tells me how important i am to him and our relationship was to him.  mine?  well you know the old saying, keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

i’ve also mulled over the idea that satan spawn’s on-again-off-again, open relationship significant whatever she is might have something to do with this.  although i don’t fully trust anything satan spawn says, he has told me that she is completely in love with him (of course) and that he doesn’t feel the same way.  there may be something to this.  at least a few times, she has brought up the fact that “he still has feelings for me” or that “he is still in love with me”.  she may feel threatened.

ultimately, this is about my behavior.  i can’t control all interpretations of it, clearly, and it seems the rumor mill will survive no matter what.  but i can either fuel the fire, or not.  i clearly let my guard down in even drinking with satan spawn and his woman.  this is unfortunate because i often hang out with that group and we have a good time going out.  i thought i was behaving honorably, to be honest, considering the number of proposals i’ve gotten and refused.

it’s so disappointing to have come so far out of that situation to see it rear its ugly head again.  but then it occurred to me that i am not the same person i was before.  i am happy and i am stronger.  i do not have to react to this situation and i can focus on letting it go in one ear and out the other.  i can become better at not feeding into this situation.  it doesn’t have to hurt me and i can see it for what it is, and assess whether and how i am contributing to it.

that realization made me feel far better and far more proud of my growth.  so while it’s difficult and disappointing, part of me is also glad for the opportunity to see the different person i have become.  as hard as it is, we learn who we are through challenges, what we are made of when things go bad.

i’m ready to see who i’ve become, and where i still have to go.

so, i met my soul mate

just kidding, but seriously.

i’ve been on the site all of four days.  i don’t mean to toot my own horn but it turns out i’m kinda popular on the site.  problem is, most people seem a little too…straight edge.  it also turns out that eharmony is designed to facilitate the m-word and honestly, it feels a little creepy.  plus, keeping up with all of the emails takes up a good chunk of time!

it’s not all bad though.  there are a few that manage to keep my attention beyond a blip.  such as s, for example.  he caught my eye because he has sexy features, seemed moderately unconventional, and he fosters dogs.  he was also the one who asked the multiple choice question about doing frightening things.

so i asked what “frightening” thing he enjoyed most.  hell, he could have said trying a new grocery store.  you never know.  his answer: the low gears of his motorcycle.  interestingly, this immediately made me extremely horny.  i gave him my number.

he called this evening.  we just got off the phone.  we talked for over. two. hours.

first impressions: his voice makes me wanna rip off my panties and swing them around my head.  he has his shit together.  his sense of humor might jive with mine.  he is a gamer (woohoo!).  he doesn’t think i’m completely bat shit crazy.  and that is impressive, especially since i impulsively offered to be completely blunt and honest for one hour while he could ask whatever he wanted.

haha, so you can guess how that went but let me tell you instead.  s now knows that my dad’s side of the family consists of convicted felons, my mom and i didn’t speak for two years, that i was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that i am taking psychiatric medication.

in hindsight, i’m kind of glad to get all of that out of the way.  otherwise it’d be hanging over my head and i’d be wondering when the right time was and blah blah blah.  plus, he had the opportunity to bail when he wanted to hang up and call back due to phone call quality and he didn’t.

okay but here’s the kicker.  he was talking about finding true love and all that and i’m thinking well, this guy has a probably narrow view of what that means.  and do you know what he says?

he says: i don’t even care if it’s polyamorous as long as it’s with the right person.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i couldn’t believe it! it was music to my ears.  even if i never engaged in polyamory in my life, the key is that he is someone who is open minded about all of the different shapes that relationships take.  it’s so nice to hear, especially in comparison with my ex, who could only conceive of love and marriage as being between two people and for whom attraction to people outside of the couple was unacceptable…unimaginable, even.

so, my new polyamorous gaming friend is a win, at least for now.

where’s the checkbox for deviant nympho?

i got a wild hair up my ass the day after christmas to sign up for eharmony.  i find this very mystifying because i am on a sabbatical from dating.  i suppose i figured that by the time i found someone worthwhile, i might be ready to start seeing people.

but mostly, i wanted to see if a computer algorithm could pick out compatible mates better than i can!

and i suppose part of me wanted to know if there really is anyone i’m compatible with out there.

it’s come to my attention that eharmony may not be the best forum for me though.  for instance, i get the sense that the people on it are pretty conventional.  there’s not really a space for broaching the topic of polyamory or open relationships…the next best thing was to rate the importance of monogamy really, really low.

i feel pretty constricted answering the questions.  one guy sent me a short-answer question that was something along the lines of “if i had a bad day, what would you do to make me feel better?”.  i typed some bs about giving him the space to vent while making comfort food but what i really thought of was “a fucking awesome blow job!”

or the other one that was like, what’s an ideal day like with someone you’re dating?  i mean…of *course* the answer is to spend all day naked, alternating between lots of fucking, movies, naps, and ordering in chinese.  you just can’t say that though.

i don’t do well in contrived situations, and eharmony is completely contrived.  there’s only been one guy that i thought *might* be able to keep up and that’s because one of his multiple choice questions was “with which sentence do you agree most?” and the two options were: 1) a sensible person never does anything dangerous (or something like that) or 2) I sometimes like to do things that are a little frightening.  i’ll give you one guess as to the one i picked.  plus, he gets bonus points for proper grammar.

another guy wanted to meet in person already.  had to put the brakes on that one.  another called me out, suggesting that i was on eharmony as an experiment (ding-ding-ding!).

eharmony guarantees that you will end up in a serious relationship by the end of a year, or you get another year for free.  poor eharmony.  never saw me coming.  😉

the fat suit

i’ve been gaining weight since i started taking lithium in may.  7 months later and i am wearing a full blown fat suit, with 20 lbs added on my frame.  most of my clothes don’t fit and i’m uncomfortable in my skin.  in order to feel sexy, i have to get completely decked out; otherwise, forget about it.  i don’t want to take pictures and i refuse to have some people see me like this.

i’m really disgusted with myself, and in order to make any changes, i have to dedicate time and energy to implementing my no sugar-no flour diet.  i haven’t had the time or space to do that, and i won’t really for another few weeks.  in the mean time, i keep punishing myself with food, which feeds further into the disgust and the cycle gets worse.

i’m down to one pair of jeans…from two only a few weeks ago.  a pair of shorts that fit me two weeks ago is strained over my waist and thighs now (in fairness, i made the mistake of putting them in the dryer rather than air drying them like usual).

this extra weight is not just physical.  it’s emotionally heavy too, and i feel pretty low all the time because of it.  i can sense it all the time, and it’s this constant burden in the back (or often, in the forefront) of my mind.

interestingly, despite perceiving myself as an utter failure, lard-ass, fat, disgusting pig, other people do not seem to share this opinion.  i’ve had people expressing interest in me without fail any time i go out.  strangely this even happens when i’m not all decked out.  unfortunately, because of my self-perception, i’m less inclined to reciprocate anything.

it’s been an exercise in self-compassion.  i gave myself the semester to get back into functional mode, and swore i would deal with the fat when i had successfully returned to something resembling normality.  i often have to remind myself that i have permission to be this way, that a lot of factors influenced where i am now, many of which were out of my control, and that it’s acceptable, given what i’ve been through this year.

but i can’t lie.  i will cry tears of joy as i shed this weight.  as the constant feeling of fatness wanes and as i am able to fit into my clothes again.  as i feel increasingly comfortable in social situations and in less and less clothing.  as my sex drive increases with every pound lost and i’m happy to be naked and free, and comfortable at the prospect of actually having sex–on top, with the lights on, for as long as i like.

it will take work.  i have to plan out meals for every day over a span of about 2 months (my estimate of how long it will take to get back to my old weight), go grocery shopping regularly and prepare and freeze meals, not drink or go out to eat, and get regular exercise.  once i get back into it, it will come off easily.  last year i lost 16 lbs in a month and a half or less using this exact regimen.  it was a glorious, unbelievable experience and i’m looking forward to doing it again.

and again, i’ll promise myself that i will never get like this again.  it’s just that this time, i’m much more aware of the factors that lead me to gain weight.  lithium, for one.  depression, for two. if i can moderate or eliminate those factors, then i should be able to keep my promise.

my primary goal is to remain emotionally stable, which is one reason i’m taking a vacation from dating.  besides the fact that i’m fat and disgusting.  🙂

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