So, it's March now, of a new year, 2013. And I'm 7 weeks into a new semester at UW. I've been seeing a new therapist since Jan 21st, and started a new therapy program called Neurofeedback, both at the insistance of my mom.
I guess over the past several months to a year it's really become clear to me just how much I have been struggling. Especially when I had just the most awesome class last semester, Women's Health & Public Policy Perspectives, with this professor that I'm just absolutely in love with, Professor Higgins... That I'd been just chomping at the bit to get into since the previous semster when I was waitlisted... And yet, I still had all these feelings. And I felt awful that I couldn't fully show up to be present in this awesome class, with this awesome professor, and I barely finished this totally awesome research paper on emergency contraception which was so fascinating to research!!!! And yet I had to turn it in late, and was still working on it after final exams were technically over and just barely squeaked it in, emailing it to her two days before final grades were due. That was just... so... bad.
So I finally decided to take my mom's advice and made an appointment to see this new therapist... While I was waiting for my appointment over winter break, I started really thinking about and looking for different ways to improve my life, the way I organize it, and do things, because... LOL Clearly. What I'd been doing, was So. Not. Working. So after I submitted that final paper, and didn't have any more immediate stresses demanding my time and energy, I knew I would have about 4 or 5 weeks where I would probably feel a lot better and hopeful about the future before the new semester started to wear on me... So I wanted to make the most of that amount of time.
My parents were asking me what I wanted for my birthday/hannukah presents since we hadn't done any gift exchanges yet... So I decided I wanted a new phone (iPhone) and a new iPad, hoping that with a tablet I might be able to keep track of all of the various reading assignments on Learn@UW instead of wasting tons of paper at the library on printing, or running the risk of getting distracted by mindless time-suck websites if I were to try and read off my laptop.
I didn't really sit down and make a list, but it became clear that the major problems I was having consisted of:
- The internet is a distraction. Therefore, my laptop is a distraction. Sitting down at my laptop, even to "work," presents a huge potential for distractions via twitter (Tweetdeck); facebook; tumblr; webcomics; even reading lots of interesting, noteworthy news articles on politics and whatever, while informative, was counterproductive if what I was supposed to be working on was reading for class.
- Readings for class are not getting done. Often, I don't have them readily available, and the process of making them available (going to the library, printing them out, knowing which ones I'm supposed to be reading when) was a huge deterrent to actually getting it done,and left open a lot of opportunities for distraction. It also wastes paper, and requires carrying around tons of paper.
- I never knew what I actually needed to do. I just knew, "there's probably homework I should be doing." But not what, or how much, or how much time it would take up.
- Setting priorities. Even if I made a list of all the homework I needed to do for the week, I didn't know where to start. It all seemed equally important, and that was parallyzing.
- Papers. I don't know how to plan for paper writing. They always seem to take much longer than I anticipated once I actually sat down to write them.
- Time Management. This seems obvious but it's not actually that informative unless the "managing of time" actually solves all of the above problems, which I really had no idea how to do.
- I don't get enough sleep?
The real reason I started this post was actually, that I wanted to make a total list of all the major changes I've made, to sort of congradulate myself a little, because I really want to tell someone about it but I don't quite know who?
- Every Monday I go see Dr. Gill for Neurofeedback. I go, happily, enthusiastically, without dragging my feet. In fact, I kind of look forward to it? This is kind of a new feeling for me. I think that I have finally found a good therapy relationship, even though Dr. Gill doesn't specialize in ADD per se, she seems to really understand the long-term goals that I'm working towards and in addition to the actual Neurofeedback treatment, gives me good advice about reaching some of those broader academic goals beyond the B.A.
- the iPad solved some of the logistical barriers on assigned readings, and it also limits the amount of multi-tasking that I can do instantaneously while trying to read, so I'm not surfing the internet or constantly checking FB while "working." My iPad is WiFi only, which also limits how much I can even access the internet on it. I download all of the files I need when I'm at home or at the library, and then it doesn't matter whether I have internet access anywhere else because it's primarily an e-reader for me.
- I installed/enabled LeechBlock on Firefox to limit my time on various sites. I've been continually tweeking the actual times that it completely blocks or limits access as far as what is necessary versus how much time I can allow goofing around on the internets.
- I installed/updated some "save it later" reading add-ons for articles I want to read, just not right now because I need to work. I've also become much more aware of when I start sinking into the follow-the-links rabbit hole, so I just start saving articles and come back to them in my break times between classes or in the mornings over breakfast, when I don't feel like trying to squeeze work into every waking moment.
- I discovered Microsoft OneNote. This was an amazing discovery to me, even though apparently it's a program that's been around since 2003??? So I changed the way I organize my school documents. OneNote now has an entire "notebook" dedicated to this semester.
- I made a Consolidated Syllabus with all of the long-term assignments for the entire semester, for all my classes. It's in an Excel file that's then imported into my OneNote notebook, under it's own tab. So I have a clear picture of when important projects are due. I learned this trick last semester from AES, a 1-credit academic counseling class I took.
- I set start-dates for all of my major projects. This is also a trick I learned from AES, to actually plan for when to start working on a paper, a large project or studying for an exam. It seems like a small thing, but it was a huge revelation to me, to think that I might need to start working on a paper a week or two earlier than it might actually take me to write it, because-- uh, you know, I have other work to do during the week also.
- I created a Weekly Homework Schedule for every week through the entire semester, with all of my reading assignments and so on listed for each day, each week. This also has it's own tab in my OneNote notebook. I can quickly look at what needs to be done for today, tomorrow, or over the weekend for the upcoming week. I can also easily see what week in the semester we're in and how many more weeks till spring break or finals week, which is new and helps me plan better. It also means that I actually have work schedule specifically for doing during spring break.
- I practice estimating how much time various tasks will take, and then record their actual times to see how close I was. This is purely a practice in learning how to estimate time, since it's impossible to plan for assignments if I don't know how long they'll take-- and I clearly didn't know previously. Some of the texts I read for AES suggested a rate of 4 min/page for reading school texts. I've found that this is accurate for dense texts (JS Mill, Marx, de Tocqueville), but smoother narratives that are easier to skim I can get down to about half that. Meanwhile, it takes me about twice as long as I used to estimate to write things because I have to organize my thoughts into words.
- I take all my class notes in OneNote, except for ones that are written by hand, which is minimal. This means that when I'm studying for an exam or whatever, all my notes are searchable and it's super easy to find a topic, important name or key concept term from a lecture.
- I make some limited use of EverNote, mostly for taking notes while reading texts, which I keep well organized with tags. It's also how I take note of things visually by taking photos of things (like fliers) with my phone instead of having to find a piece of paper and write it all down. It's a little awkward, but EverNote also gives me the option of digitizing hand-written notes as well.
- I've switched back to the old 3-Ring Binder for keeping all of my papers for all of my classes, instead of the spiral notebooks I used to use. It allows me to keep as many folder flaps as I want for storing papers, but I also punch holes in any thing I need to keep track of so that it can go in it's proper section without flopping all over the place. My one binder makes me feel a lot more organized, and I always know where everything is.
- I made a Mindbloom tree to track lifestyle things, things like: going to bed on time and brushing my teeth and making sure to eat breakfast before class and make dinner at home. It sounds dinky and pointless, but my tree stays green and healthy by doing good things for me, so whatever.
- Lately I've been creating more Daily To-Do Lists, using a 1 to 4 priority scale to then set the priority for what homework things I need to get done. I discovered that this solves a lot of the anxiety and stress related to figuring out "where to start" when I feel like I have too much (or not enough?) to do. My priority 1's and 2's get color-coded as "Pink -- Do Right Now" and "Blue -- Do These Next" and then 3's and 4's are things that would be "nice" to finish, but aren't going to be graded or tested in any way and so I can let go of any stress related to them if they don't get done.
- I set up an Evening Schedule. I read a couple articles about establishing a firm sleep schedule and figuring out how much sleep your body really needs in order to feel healthy and accomplish goals. I don't always hit my targets right on the dot, but I have a schedule that, after several weeks of testing, I know that I need to stick to, in order to get about 8 1/2 hours of sleep and feel like myself.
- 8:30pm -- STOP WORKING. Turn off the laptop, turn off the iPad, no more staring at bright blue screens. If you have to keep working, make sure it's on paper/out of a text, so your body get start getting sleepy.
- 9:30pm -- Relax with a cup of bedtime tea, it's time to get sleepy! Watch a 1/2 hour show.
- 10:00pm -- Time for bed! 15 minutes of reading and you'll probably be out like a light.
- I set my alarms consistently for 7am every morning, regardless of what day of the week it is. I don't always make it out of bed right when the alarm goes off, for some reason I can never seem to actually get my body up without at least 10 minutes of laying in bed thinking about it. (Really, I've tested this.) I don't know why this is, but I know my butt needs to be out of bed within the first half hour so I can shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and pack a lunch/snacks for the day. On Weekends I have to keep this schedule or else my Mondays are made of butts and fail.
- I continue to use my iPhone to track my sleep, energy, moods and stress. The sleep tracker also has a much better alarm that goes off when it predicts you're in the lightest phase of sleep, and my mornings are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better because of it. I mean, I wake up, and don't immediately wish for a hammer to smash the alarm. It also helps me track my sleep in relation to moods and energy. I also use Juice to keep track of my daily energy and stress levels, and Mood 24/7 sends me daily texts asking me to rate my mood for the day. This way I let the apps keep track of things so I don't have to think about it.
- Eat breakfast in the mornings!
- Pack a lunch! (A NOVEL IDEA)
- Learn that I frequently need snacks in the middle of the day to keep my energy up. So I pack extra fruits or veggies with my lunch.
- Learn that I have a LUNCHTIME ENERGY CRASH which is nearly unavoidable, around 1 or 2pm. Thus, this is a horrible time to schedule a lot of reading, because I will fall asleep. (On the weekends, I often take a power nap around 2 for this very reason.)
- Learn that EARLY MORNINGS ARE REALLY PRODUCTIVE TIME FOR ME, contrary to all prior evidence suggesting that I'm not a morning person at all?! When I wake up, my mind is clear and I have far less distracting thoughts invading in on my study time, so it's especially good time for all that dense, political theory reading.
- Learn that I NEED ABOUT 8 1/2 HOURS OF SLEEP, for about 3 or 4 nights in a row, in order to really feel rested. It's not just about getting enough sleep "the night before," it's about a consistent schedule of getting enough sleep.
- Fully prepare for that midterm exam, and still have time for other homeworks!
- Finish my statistics project, ON TIME-- it took forever but I did it!
- My first paper of the semester just barely squeaked in on time-- I was still writing and editing it on the bus on my way to and from a therapy appointment, but it got done!
- Prepare successfully for a class debate, and a group presentation in the same week
- Also, I learned that there seems to be a key step in the paper writing process that I had previously been missing: TALKING OUT THE TOPIC and WRITING AN OUTLINE. Somehow my thoughts tend to get jumbled up when I'm just trying to think it out myself, and even if the person I'm talking to doesn't really know what my assignment is and hasn't read any of the texts I'm working off of, talking out the topic helps me to think about how to structure the argument to actually be coherent. Also all my previous outlines sucked because I lacked this step.
- Learn: When in doubt, scrap the keyboard and find pencil and paper. Don't know why, but this works.
- Start getting to the point where I'm caught up enough on homework to actually get most of the regular assignments for the week done the weekend before, hurrah hurrah!
- Brush and floss my teeth regularly
- Learn how important a clean kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are to how I feel overall-- but not prioritize those things over homework.
- Learn to make time to call my parents-- and of course, not feel so stressed about school things that I want to avoid talking them just to avoid having to talk about school
- Clear out all the old unread junk in my email inboxes, because I learned that as soon as I made my email accessible on my phone, the number of "notices" of unread mail irritated me so much, I just cleared it all out. Now I see my important emails (esp. from family) immediately and they don't get buried, and I only keep newsletters I actually really will go back and read, and not just ones I think I "ought" to read.
I also haven't quite figured out how to make yoga, meditation and gym time part of my regular schedule with everything else going on, or blog writing, or how I might fit art/ceramics, or a part-time job so I can earn some actual moneys. These are things that have been set to the "back burner" for a while, and I would like to move them forward soon, but not without destabilizing what I already have. So... I'm still working on it.
And finally... I finally feel like I'm in control of my life, my time, and my schooling. Which is something I haven't felt since I moved to Wisconsin two years ago. I feel like I am in charge of why I'm at University and what I do with my time here. And that's a nice feeling.
... So that's my life now.
My feelings of deja vu are often like the flash of a photo, it's only this exact frame right here that seems familiar, and I'm certain that if I could just remember properly, I could fill it out to a whole picture or a short video and then I could figure out what I was remembering. Sometimes I have the same deja vu multiple times, and that's when it starts to sound especially insane: "I know that I've almost-not remembered this exact thing that I don't remember now, before!"
I'm never certain what things are memories of actual events and what things are dreams. I can only really distinguish the dreams when they defy obvious laws of physics or rationality.
For example, I am certain that nobody has ever tried to force me to buy lots of chapstick, because as I reasonably pointed out in my dream, I have way more than I actually use and I keep acquiring more, so there's no logical reason for me to need any. But there was something else in that dream before that, something with flavors of D/s and not being able to take care of myself or maybe I was injured, I'm not sure, but I can't remember the rest of it.
I was trying to remember events before I moved to Madison, the chronological order of my previous relationships, and I got lost enough and uncertain that I wasn't even sure that the last time I remembered talking to Tony was actually real. I recall once having a week or two long conversation, he was telling me things that had happened in the year since we had ended all communication, and he was trying, I think, to engage me in a friendship again. I was struggling because I found his voice attractive and it was hard to not be reminded of our old relationship. ... But then, I couldn't place these events in any kind of time frame. I was certain they had happened... but how? I was almost certain that he had tried to come back and play on Myth Drannor under a new login. But when did that happen? And I became confused and uncertain that they ever really did happen. And now, in fact, I'm still confused.
You see, I've lost my mind.
And it’s overwhelming.
I have a postsecret photo on my bedroom wall that says,
“Sometimes I am envious of women unburdened by the freedom to be anything they want to be when they grow up”
I’m not really envious, but otherwise this accurately sums up how I feel about life. How it feels to be trapped in intelligence. By “promise” and “potential.” I sometimes wonder if I became depressed as a child because I found the burden of being quick-minded but trapped in mediocre settings too unbearable. So much freedom to choose becomes paralyzing and intimidating.
I find it difficult to express how there are so many things I
want need to write and want to do but they’re slipping past me because I keep losing track and forgetting.
I certainly don’t have “genius” levels, but I feel alienated by the modern world because I can’t ever turn “it” off. I’ve been criticized by past lovers for being too “analytical” and “rational”, and people think that intellectualism means being out of touch with one’s emotions, but the truth is I’m a highly emotive person.I, despise, with every. fiber. of. my. being. the question, “So what are you going to do with that [degree]?”
I feel like my dreams are too big. There are so many things. Things I want to do. I don’t know how to get there.
- Sex Education
- Gender/Sex Research
- Grad School/Master’s/Ph.D
- Women’s/Repro/LGBTQ Rights
- Political Art
- Health/Nutrition, Vegetarian/Veganism
- Animal Rights
There’s this huge person that I want to be, and I feel so tiny, tiny ineffective in comparison. Things I feel like I should be able to do but I constantly… can’t. I fall apart. Reaching and grasping and losing out.
My dreams feel like flights of fantasy, delusions of things that I’m only likely to achieve while manic-crazy and never sleeping. But never will, because it just doesn’t last long enough, and crashing is inevitable.
I feel… out of control, like I have absolutely no control over whether I’m productive, or otherwise. Whether I get to reach the things I want to do, or not. Failure just sort of looms, my intentions are meaningless. My own desires even, become sort of pointless, or worse… Desires and hopes and enthusiasm all become scary, dangerous things. The feeling of enthusiasm literally becomes scary because the concept of tempering expectations or goals towards practical reality is just completely… Impossible. I always fall head first into obsessing about something, there’s no middle ground. So enthusiasm begins to always sound like hurdling out of control just at any random thing, and I can’t trust that it’s not just a passing flight of fancy, that it’s real, and will survive to the other side of the next faceplant-depressed-crash.
Trying to plan for anything is just completely… nonsensical, because I can’t plan for crashing. I want to pair up my projects with my periods of hypomania but I have no control over that, it’s just… you know, being flung along from one distraction to the next.
Even something as small as trying to plan to, say, go home, and go do some laundry, and sit down to work on X paper for just as long as one load of laundry takes… that seems so comforting, you know, just small enough to be manageable. But I’ll get home and look at my laundry and become overwhelmed and just… I don’t know. I don’t cry, I just sort of… turn away. I don’t sleep. I just… fell stuck, so maybe I’ll read and play on the internet and the next thing I know it’s 11 at night and now there’s no time for anything.
I mean… my inbox is intimidating, because I get all these newsletters that I want to read because I want to stay informed but I don’t have time to read because I’m supposed to be doing something else but I’m too stressed about all of the work I’m not doing because I’m distracted by these messages, so I’ll refuse to check my email at all and be depressed instead … This. This is called crazy.
While I was there, I gave in to the fact that it probably really wasn't working any more to have every single bra attacking me in the throat with escapist-underwires. And also, not fitting. I'm not sure that they always didn't fit, but certainly, it's an undeniable fact now because there really is just boobage escaping everywhere constantly.
In fact, if I didn't believe it before, the process of TRYING NEW ONES ON CERTAINLY CONVINCED ME. Why? ... Because the 40DD's didn't fit. (The ones I've had/bought over the past three years prior, were 38DDs.) I mean, in that way that it's not just because they're jostling around a lot, but actually in fact are bigger than the cups. Grrr. I do not approve of this boob expansionism! Now see here boobs! You stop this right now!
... So I wandered into the bras/panties section, and went in search of the larger sizes (why do they even sell a-cup juniors? I don't understand.) So I found the "full figured" isle, and... You ever have that feeling where you're in amongst the larger bras that are all boring because they're so big, and you go, "Omg these are huge! They're like hats!" And then, when you try them on and are all, "NO! THEY'RE TOO SMALL WAAAHHH!"
... That's when you know your boobs have gotten bigger. Fyi.
I couldn't help myself. (This actually happened while in the store in the dressing room. I was just like, "Oh what the hey..." but I didn't have a camera at the time.)
So on to my quest for sneakers.
... Dear target: your concept of "women's" running shoes sucks. I hate pink. I don't particularly like white and purple either. Please stop trying to sell this shit to me. I actually got so fed up that I started looking for the men's sneakers to see if there was anything better. And you know what? They were too big. I ended up buying a BOYS size 6, navy and red running shoes. You know, it's not so much that I care about the gender of my sneakers, after all. ... But I had to find them in the kids' section. :(
I also got underwear. What a thrilling shopping trip.
I came home, told BF #1 that I had a shitty day. He insisted that I call. I proceeded to make a lot of grunting noises and then cry on the phone and refuse to agree to see him. I am the most fabulous partner ever.
After which, I spent almost two hours laying on my bed, flailing and screaming (singing) to Tori Amos until I was more or less too tired. ... And then I took pictures of a bra on my head.
So I had a few sessions with the therapist and then stopped going. I was having that thing where I just didn’t want to go because trying to discuss things was too painful and fuck I don’t know. Also, I didn’t feel so bad for a while. I liked Susan, I think I appreciated her perspective and the way she would rephrase things, but it was just ugh I don’t want to go, thinking about going is, by itself, depressing. Wtf?
It’s the end of the semester, and now I’m feeling pinched and crushed again and wondering where the fuck the semester went because I have like… really two weeks or so left and that’s it, final exams and it’s over. And rather than being excited I feel… depressed about that. Not just because OMFG exams and papers and AHHH! But also:
Where did the semester go? Why don’t I feel like I enjoyed it? Four months of my life, at least three out of the five classes I signed up for I expected to be really enthused about. And yet… it’s most just been a drag. Even though… like, when I focus on reading for LGBT Studies or Feminist Theory, I love the work. I love the readings, you know—so why is this so hard? Why do I hate doing it?
As Susan put it to me, what’s in my head is definitely the Language of Depression—but fuck, WHY?! I’m so tired of this shit. I want to do well! Why do I not want to do well! Why is there so much crazy!
In therapy, we discussed the possibility of feelings of resentment and frustration towards a) the world at large and this whole “Goddamned stupid piece of paper” degree bullshit, and why oh why do I have to jump through these hoops to prove things to the world and b) my parents, because I am currently completely financially dependent on them and it makes me feel… bad, whenever I do absolutely anything other than just work on school work (which, frankly, I spend a lot of time doing things other than school work, which should naturally lead to the conclusion that: I feel like shit a lot.)
I’m not… really certain that’s enough though. It doesn’t feel like enough.
I feel like the phrase “Time Management Skills” (and it’s obvious association with organization, and ADHD, etc.) is far too weak to describe how I feel.
I have this desperate need to find the pause button and make everything just STOP. For a minute, a few minutes, an hour, a few days—something. The whole world to STOP. So I can reorient myself. I don’t mean breaks, like spring break or a weekend or summer break—those are all too long and too short at the same time, because time is still slipping franticly by. The “Monday,” the point at which the break is over, is still careening at me through time, along with all of the commitments and due dates and things that I can’t get a handle on. It feels like whack-a-mole, you know, you turn in one assignment and five more appear!
That, and I don’t really know what to do with myself during these predetermined breaks. I feel like I “should” be doing something, in order to… I don’t know, how do you make the most of relaxing? It’s never restful. Most of my memories of summer, winter and spring breaks from school involve lounging idly, sleeping late and staying up late, doing absolutely nothing of importance (often despite my prior
plans fantasies of “productivity” or “catching up”), royally fucking up my sleep schedule. And when it’s time to go back to work/school/whatever, I don’t feel the slightest bit rested or rejuvenated.
Which is why the whole notion of “taking a break” and getting a drink with some friends or going out or whatever (you know, aside from social anxiety potentials) just doesn’t even… like this doesn’t seem like a solution at all. It will only compound the amount of time I’m losing because it’s all slipping through my fingers like sand and I can’t make it stop.
Which reminds me: That fear of sleep. Because sleep means losing time. Sometimes I just want to do nothing but sleep because it’s the only way to escape, but sometimes I just become afraid of sleeping because I can’t afford to lose more time.
I feel like I’m… falling through Time. Like it’s not at all firm or stable, like it moves too fast or too slow or both.
My sense of time flowing is insane, I know. Or at least, I think. During the semester I can simultaneously feel like everything is rushing by too fast and I don’t have time to get anything done and I have no time during the week and I can’t afford to focus on anything but school—but also that it moves so slow, because I’m waiting, waiting, waiting to do something else be somewhere else I’m not really sure.
I think this is related to the insanely long list of all the “things” I want to do. I have this frustrating sense that I’m never in the right place. I’m 27 and I’m still working on an undergrad degree and that’s frustrating as fuck because I want to be in grad school. So of course all of my work seems tedious and like I should be past this even when it’s genuinely intriguing and ought to be able to hold my attention. I ‘m here in Madison supposed to be focusing on school but I want to be writing and doing research on sex, or I want to be working on advocacy campaigns for women’s health and reproductive rights, or I want to be out Occupying the streets and not stuck here in classes. But the thing is, I am pretty sure, that I want to be here too, but I want it to be over, finished. So I can get on to the next thing. I’m tired of this thing already.
But I’ve felt this way… so much. I wasn’t working on the things I wanted to be working on when I lived in Gainesville, or Fayetteville, or when I moved back in with my parents. I spent a year and a half being hard-core focused on school so I could get the fuck out and now that I’m here—I don’t want to be. Or don’t feel like I want to be. At one point I thought it was just the feeling of “I need to get things together.” Now I’m not so sure that it’s not just a persistent feeling… Particularly when, I put so much energy in my mind in 2009-2010 trying to get here.
I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that I don’t really feel like I live here, in Madison. I think I sort of, float in a listless sort of way. I exist, but I don’t really feel like I live here. And I have no idea how to solve this because again… Time. Falling through it. It won’t stop.
Sometimes I attempt to Corral Time. (Trust me, I do not “manage” it, it’s more accurately a battle of trying to figure out who is in control of this universe…) I try to schedule my assignments on multiple calendars and even jot down reminders like a week or a few days in advance (depending on how large the project is) and I try to make lists of all of the readings that I should be working on for the week—This. Takes. So. Much. Energy.
But otherwise, I will go to my classes and then between classes I won’t have any idea what I ought to be working on or how to prioritize anything, and I’ll get out of class around 1pm and think, “…I have no idea where I should be. I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I have no idea where to go.” And I’ll just stand there, lost, uncertain.
Sometimes I will try to make lists in my head because I am walking and lose track of them before I even get to sit down. Which just increases the sense of “there was something I was supposed to be doing, but now I can’t remember…”
(Fyi, trying to google ways to articulate what I’m feeling is not helping. Now I’m wondering if I’m having bipolar symptoms. Are they still bipolar symptoms if I’m fairly confident about their cause? i.e., the pinching feeling of the end of the semester?)
Screaming. In my head.
Not everything in the article resonated with me, but it struck me anyway. I have come to believe, unlike the author, that most people in abusive relationships have to find their own "point" for leaving-- I don't think you can effectively negotiate or force someone out safely very often. (Note that most homicides from abusive relationships happen after the woman has left the relationship, not during.) You can leave openings, attempt to be supportive and advocate for the victim even when they can't advocate for themselves in their own head, but pushing too hard can put people on the defensive very quickly. And if you're experiencing abuse, you're already on the defensive.
I never really know how to talk about this anymore. On the one hand I hate feeling like it's something to tip-toe around, on the other I am kind of tired of listening to myself talk about it. Many of my old friends who knew me while I lived in Florida and North Carolina I'm no longer close to, and explaining the whole sordid mess to new friends can be exhausting. Because of course, anyone hearing the story for the first time will want to be extra compassionate and sympathetic and "I'm so sorry" and obviously I get that, but at the same time, it's still exhausting. But keeping silent can be alienating, especially when it's an experience that spans so many years of my adult life and experiences.
I guess most types of "recovery" are like forms of grieving. I think of this poem a lot. I stumbled upon it years ago in a collection of jewish poems and rituals for mourning.
The Five Stages of Grief
By Linda Pastan
The night I lost you
someone pointed me towards
the Five Stages of Grief.
Go that way, they said,
it's easy, like learning to climb
stairs after amputation.
And so I climbed.
Denial was first.
I sat down at breakfast
carefully setting the table
for two. I passed you the toast
you sat there. I passed
you the paper you hid behind it.
Anger seemed more familiar.
I burned the toast, snatched
the paper and read the headlines myself.
But they mentioned your departure
and so I moved on to
Bargaining. What could I exchange
for you? The silence
after storms? My typing fingers?
Before I could decide, Depression
came puffing up, a poor relation
its suitcase tied together
with string. In the suitcase
were bandages for the eyes
and bottles of sleep. I slid
all the way down the stairs
And all the time Hope
flashed on and off
in defective neon.
Hope was a signpost pointing
straight in the air.
Hope was my uncle's middle name,
he died of it.
After a year I am still climbing,
though my feet slip
on your stone face.
has long since disappeared;
green is a color
I have forgotten.
But now I see what I am climbing
written in capital letters,
a special headline:
Its name is in lights.
I struggle on,
waving and shouting.
Below, my whole life spreads its surf,
all the landscape I've ever known
of dreamed of. Below
a fish jumps: the pulse
in your neck.
Acceptance. I finally
But something is wrong.
Grief is a circular staircase.
I have lost you.
I just emailed my dad, to tell him I just spent an hour crying while laughing and nearly peed my pants. I AM TOTALLY AN ADULT.
To be fair, it was a totally logical email.
I spent—okay well actually like three hours chatting with my friend Lauren over AIM, a lot of which consisted of random non sequiturs screaming in all caps. Because that’s how we communicate with each other. It’s because of the distance. Long distance relationships take WORK you know. It helps to yell in typeface. But anyway.
So I was actually just browsing craigslist (NO I AM NOT ADDICTED! I CAN STOP ANY TIME I WANT WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?) looking at things and I found… This:
According to the ad it is some kind of “exercise chair.” … I am convinced that the “exercise” involved is the fact that you DON’T ACTUALLY GET TO SIT ANYWHERE. (Upon further inspection after I learned to read I realized it was an exercise ball chair. Which makes way more sense. … Not.)* But it reminded me of this game my dad used to play with us when we were small. When I say small I mean smaller than last week when my jeans still fit me before I ate all that ice cream. (Oops.)
ari 2:31 am
oh I figured it out
you're supposed to put an exercise ball in it
which is not pictured
is that like falling into the toilet as a small child
ari 2:31 am
AND THAT EXPLAINS A LOT
I about peed my pants brb
Mr. Toad 2:32 am
I once fell into the toilet
I was like 4 or something
I slipped in
while doing my business
it was terrible/hysterical in retrospect
ari 2:32 am
Mr. Toad 2:32 am
ari 2:32 am
I don't know if I ever told-- I did
Mr. Toad 2:33 am
you fell into the toilet?
ari 2:33 am
The toilet flush game was the-- NO
I peed already
Mr. Toad 2:33 am
ari 2:33 am
the toilet flush game was THE GREATEST GAME EVER my dad used to play with us
Mr. Toad 2:33 am
ari 2:33 am
Which sounds HORRIBLE
Mr. Toad 2:33 am
what did you do
how does one play this game
is it like that youtube video of that cat repeatedly flushing a toilet?
ari 2:34 am
Well he would sit in his lazy chair thing, with his one leg crossed over the other with the ankle on the knee, you know...
so that there was an open triangle in the middle
and, by the way when I was little everybody wanted to sit in mom/dad's lap
but my dad always wanted to read the paper in the mornings on Saturdays
Now that I think about it, this may have originally came about because he was trying to get a kid off his lap or something
And he puts out his arm like the toilet lever
and you push it down, and his leg drops and you go FLUSH (with appropriate WHOOOSHing sound effects mind you) sliding down his legs to get dumped on the floor.
THIS. WAS. HYSTERICAL. when I was like 6.
Mr. Toad 2:35 am
that's adorable lol
Then there was some other gabbering for a little while, and yet another story time episode of my youth:
ari 2:39 am
seriously I adored my dad. mom too but she never played the toilet flush game.
also she never played "Puffin Attacks" right either.
I once asked my mom why they had kids
and she said, "because it was fun"
Mr. Toad 2:40 am
ari 2:40 am
and that answer never made sense to me until just. now.
Mr. Toad 2:40 am
I'm SURE she meant that she knew it would be fun to have children.
Mr. Toad 2:40 am
and what was puffin attacks
you had all these games!
ari 2:41 am
no I mean I asked why she decided she wanted to have kids and she said well they had me and they decided it was so much fun that they wanted to have a few more.
Mr. Toad 2:41 am
ari 2:41 am
LOL "Puffin Attacks" was how dad woke us up when we were being really stubborn
when my sister was still a baby and before my parents built the addition onto the house, my brother and I shared a room
....And... we... had... an... avalanche of stuffed animals.
Mr. Toad 2:42 am
I did, too
ari 2:42 am
We had so many stuffed animals that if you put them on the beds there would be no room left for any kids.
Mr. Toad 2:42 am
ari 2:42 am
if you let them collect on the floor you could barely walk
It was wonderful
... but not according to the parents.
Mr. Toad 2:42 am
but stuffed animals are awesome
ari 2:42 am
So somewhere they acquired this "toy organizing system"
That was in fact... plastic chains that hung down the walls with clips on them
so you could clip all the animals up on the walls and then they wouldn't be on the floors or the beds or anything
Also, the first time this contraption was put together, I was HORRIFIED!
That they were going to hurt the stuffed animals and they were going to be tortured hanging on the walls by their little ears or arms or legs.
Mr. Toad 2:43 am
NOOOOO THEY LYNCHED MR. SNUGGLES
ari 2:44 am
I figured that the clips were pinchy and must hurt, and then dear god, to hang there for hours by just one arm!
.... I am pretty sure that my parents about died trying to hide their laughter
I'm sure I would have too
but you know AT THE TIME I really was very serious
because I remember being worried about them.
Mr. Toad 2:45 am
ari 2:45 am
anyway so now we had all these stuffed animals all organized-- also some of them collected up on top of the bookshelf
and now at 7am on a Sunday morning little people are not very good early risers when they know that there is hebrew school awaiting
so my dad just decided to start attacking us with stuffed animals
(Perfectly normal decision, obviously. Who wouldn't? All the ammo is just hanging.right.there. after all.)
My brother, for some truly unknown reason, had a stuffed puffin.
And my dad would take it and hold it in his hand with his thumb and pinky finger holding it ‘just so,’ so that the wings would be wide open like it was flying
And scream in a high pitched voice, "PUFFIN ATTAAAAACKS!!!”
And dive bomb us. Repeatedly.
this story sounds ludicrous as I try to explain it in text, by the way.
Mr. Toad 2:47 am
…So then I emailed my dad with a much shorter rendition of the evening, because I figured that if he is going to be the main event of an hour long conversation that leaves me nearly in tears and also very nearly in need of a change of underwear—Doesn’t he deserve to know about it? Doesn’t he deserve at least that much, after all these years?! Also, who knows how much longer we have and anyway when you love someone you should really tell them about how much they make you nearly pee your pants. Also after I hit send, I was reminded of my grandma/his mom, who always wanted to know “why don’t you ever call?? You never call, you never visit! You never write!”
So yeah. I love my dad. I adored him as a child. And I swear I wasn’t abused or molested or anything, it’s just that my dad was really weird. (Also, I really miss you grandma.)
…Which hopefully explains a lot for you, generally speaking.
*Note: Upon serious further inspection, apparently you’re supposed to ADD an exercise ball to the pictured chair monstrosity, which you then sit on said ball itself. But I am still convinced that this is actually one of those “exercise” contraptions that are secretly torture devices.
2nd Note: I have since been informed, at various points in my adult life, by my mother, that there were quite a number of these episodes when I was little wherein my parents were barely hanging on by a thread trying not to fall over themselves in hysterics, only I didn't realize it because I was so.srs.face over such very.importantbizniz things as stuffed animal torture. There's an episode about shoes talking too loud on the stairs, I think, among others. And now I realize talking to my friends that have kids, that this is actually what parenting is about and it has nothing at all to do with raising responsible adults and everything to do with DearGodJustPleaseDon'tLetThemSeeMeLaughi