Compliance

My prescriber wants me to take a low dose of Clonazepam approximately 30 minutes before bed every night. She prescribed it after I told her about the anxiety I’ve been experiencing, and the fact that I haven’t been sleeping. I thought it was a sleep aid, but apparently it’s used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, seizure disorders, and bipolar. My more rational side says it was probably a miscommunication, but I think she intentionally misled me into thinking its primary purpose was to make me fall asleep more easily.

I might become dependent on it. Possible side effects include a ton of issues I’m already experiencing such as aches and pains, sore throat, depressive symptoms, irritability, difficulty sleeping…. and of course there’s the risk of it causing suicidal thoughts. That’s my biggest fear, especially this time of year. I’ve had my share of suicidal thoughts, thanks; I definitely don’t need to have them as a result of the medication I’m taking to recover from one of their primary causes.

I had an anxiety attack from just looking at the basic information about this drug, never mind the official list of side effects. It actually proved quite helpful in getting myself to sleep: I said, “we can lie down and try to sleep or we can take this medication” and next thing I knew I was curled up on my side under blankets, the phone OFF and my body starting to relax. I’m acutely aware of the fact that it’s completely within my ability and my rights to just not take the medication; I don’t even have to feel guilty because it only cost my insurance a couple dollars. But the good patient in me is saying I should comply with treatment and trust my prescriber.

I don’t know who to trust.

I’m tired.

No Rest

I’m doing everything I can to avoid going to sleep (it’s mid-morning and I’ve been awake for over 20 hours) and I’m trying to convince myself to at least lie down and close my eyes for a minute. “We can lean on pillows so we’re not fully reclined – or lie on our side.” “Just put the phone down for a minute, just try it, we’ll be okay.” “We need to sleep sometime…” “I’m so tired, can’t we just take a short nap? All I’m asking is an hour or two!”

It’s All In Your Head

ER

Chest pain, stabbing, waking me from sleep

Tightness, shallow breaths

No rest for me, no rest for me

No rest for me

It could be fatal

“Seek medical help immediately!”

So I go

I go full of doubt

I go full of fear

I go feeling guilty

“I’m just seeking attention”

“Sure,” the nurse says, “I can be accommodating.”

She smirks as she orders the EKG and takes my blood pressure

Just a little too tight

They go through the motions

Pee in this cup

We’ll give you an IV

At least she listened, chose the right vein, and got it in on the first try!

It hurt worse than the chest pain

But I bit my tongue

We waited for hours

As fluids slowly dripped into me

We waited for results – all normal

“The only thing wrong with you is your weight,” he said

Then he touched my leg “reassuringly”

I wanted to bare my teeth

“You have anxiety”

Really? I never would have guessed.

Here are your discharge papers. Follow up with your primary doctor.

The discharge papers say:

Well, it isn’t your heart. But it could be any of these other things…

… most of which could kill you.

If you feel chest pains

Go to the ER

The Power of Music and Metaphor

I had one of my most intense and effective sessions ever with Wakana last week. She supported me by alternating between A Major and A minor chords on the piano, adjusting her style & chords to complement the emotions I was expressing. I sang, nonverbal melodies at first and words as they came to me – statements and images and raw expressions of anger, grief, triumph… She sang too, reflecting and supporting and occasionally making suggestions. It was very intense; we peeled back most of my defenses as I became more and more relaxed.

It’s one thing to know, cognitively, that one’s self-judgment is the result of early, most likely pre-verbal, experiences of being judged and found lacking. Of not having one’s emotional needs meet sufficiently, and so on. It’s relatively easy (now, after studying psychology for over a decade) for me to connect my current emotional difficulties and insecurities to past experiences. (And yet I’m still surprised how often certain ones come up in therapy.) I’ve built this narrative about my life that organizes the chaos, giving it purpose and meaning; I can reflect on it and pat myself on the back for all the things I’ve overcome.

Yet, time and time again, Wakana tells me the same thing: “You’re too hard on yourself.” She asks what it is I dislike so much about myself. And other than this nonverbal sense of being Wrong, I can’t really answer her. Not in straightforward prose, anyway.

It’s another thing entirely to go through the process of seeking the cause of my self-judgment as it exists deep within my psyche, much as one might search a room for an item one has lost. Several years ago I moved into the other apartment in my mom’s 2-family house; she had been using its closet and cabinets for storage but was happy to have me move back in with her. As Banji helped me clean and re-organize, we identified items that were not mine. Then we moved the items to a space where Mom could sort through them without entering my apartment. We called the items “someone else’s problem,” which made it easier to remove them from my space.

I felt like I was doing that again as I searched for what could possibly be so “wrong” about me. What did I find? The Single Thing I most want to change about myself is this feeling like there’s something inherently wrong with me, which makes me depressed and anxious and keeps me from fully living my life. It keeps me from loving myself. I judge myself for judging myself for judging myself.

… Or so I thought during the session last week. The judgment is definitely what I want and need to change, but I’m still judging something about myself… Perhaps something that doesn’t need to change after all. As I wrote and re-read the above, I realized that I judge myself for having intense emotions – especially when they come up at inconvenient times. The sadness, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, etc. take over my body all too often, usually at times when my “rational side” considers them to be utterly inappropriate.

Today I tried to acknowledge and accept how I was feeling without judging or fighting it. I felt anxious while getting ready to leave the house and considered taking the medication my nurse practitioner prescribed, but decided instead to accept that I felt anxious and continue getting ready. I felt tears welling up in my eyes during conversations and let them flow, inwardly acknowledging why they were there while continuing to share my ideas and experiences.

The problem isn’t my emotions. The problem is that it is risky to allow one’s emotions to show in most social situations. It’s that I have been judged and punished from a young age whenever I expressed strong emotions – especially if my doing so inconvenienced the adults in my life. It’s that, until recently, I haven’t had the support and tools I need to express and manage my emotions in healthy ways, instead of suppressing them.

My emotions are inextricable parts of me that serve vital functions, even if they’re often not what I want or (think I) need at the time. The judgment isn’t mine. It belongs to cultural norms that should be obsolete and caregivers who internalized those norms. As humans we both create and adapt to our environment (society)… and we have an uncanny knack for creating unhealthy environments for ourselves and our children. Self-judgement and internalized stigma are two related ways in which we adapt to some of the most toxic elements in our environment.

(I feel the need to include that not everything in Western society is toxic; some aspects are actually quite awesome. Also, just as we create our environment, we can change it for the better.)

The thing is, it’s one thing to know that cognitively, to think it and talk about it with other people. It’s something else entirely to, as in the movie Inception, delve deep into one’s own mind and find something that was placed there by someone else. Wakana helped me do that last week; now I’m looking for the “someone else’s problem” box.

Therapists

First off, I’d like to apologize for disappearing for 2.5 months. I’ve been caught up in the Skyrim Let’s Play, other games, working on my thesis proposal, and other stuff. The blog has been on the edge of my radar, but it’s only in the past week or two that I’ve started seriously thinking about posts again. I guess we all need a break from time to time?

Anyways there was a long time when I was first gushing about how much I’ve benefited from my work in music therapy with Wakana, then avoiding her. I’ve been sort of considering termination, but I don’t like the idea in part because that means I’ll stop seeing her and in part because I have this nagging suspicion there are things I still need to work on.

Then I finally met with her in person last week and did that thing you learn about when training to become a therapist that clients often do because transference and it’s awkward and wrong and you definitely can’t act on it… I, well, I started saying things that implied I’m interested in a romantic relationship with her. I even thought the words “I love you,” then pushed them back because I can’t love my therapist, that’s a violation of the boundaries we need to maintain a good working relationship and of ethics and ugh she knows, doesn’t she? Fuck. I have a crush on my therapist. I couldn’t even look at her for the rest of the session without being taken aback by how vibrant and radiant she looks. Why the fuck did this have to happen?!

I can deal with having crushes on many if not most of the people I meet and/or have been friends with for, gods, over a decade. It happens. It’s healthy. It’s kind of fun. I can enjoy the good feelings and focus on enjoying our interactions, which most likely are not romantic. But that’s okay because I’m crushing on them because their personalities are what I find most attractive, and I get to enjoy their personalities when we’re being silly nerds and geeks. (It doesn’t hurt that I find them visually attractive, too.)

But my therapist?

I told Wakana about the crush when I met with her over Skype on Wednesday, because I knew there was no hiding it from her. I just wanted to deal with it so we can get back to the therapy I’d been gushing about because it’s really helped me so much. I feel whole, or at least a lot closer to it, and stuff that used to cause me a ton of emotional turmoil is so much easier to deal with now. I’m actually quite happy with where I am in life and confident that I’ll work out the stuff that still needs a lot of work, such as (finally!) applying for internships so I can begin my career.

You know what she told me? She said this is a normal stage that most clients go through and that it’s a good thing because it means I’m starting to love myself. She explained that she holds so much of me – everything I share with her in our sessions – and acts as a mirror for me to see the aspects of myself that have been hidden away for most of my life. I can finally see them, and I’m realizing I think they’re awesome, and now I can reclaim them. “These are mine, I’ll take them back now, thank you.” She said I can also let go of things that aren’t mine, such as thought processes I learned in childhood and adolescence that aren’t helping me.

We can totally work through this crush, processing the feelings I’m transferring to her, so I can focus my love on myself.

It almost feels kind of wrong. Selfish.

She said we could explore whatever fantasies I’m having – not do anything of course, but talk about them and what they symbolize. That was kind of awkward because to be honest I hadn’t gotten that far – and I’d really rather not go there. I almost don’t want to tell her I’m not fantasizing about doing anything specific with her, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She embodies much of what I want to be, and I’ve come to feel a strong connection with and positive regard for her. I guess if I’m having any fantasy it’s that I want to move away from our interactions being therapy for me, toward a more mutual emotional sharing through the music we make together. It’s hard to accept that we can’t do that while I’m her client. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about termination: if I’m no longer her client, there’s a possibility we might make music together as a more mutual exchange in the future.

Shifting gears a bit (or perhaps not really) I have finally started meeting with the therapist who will hopefully use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help me overcome my social anxiety (so whatever anxiety I feel before/during social situations won’t hinder me). We just completed intake – so there hasn’t been much time to develop rapport, and we haven’t actually started CBT.

She seems nice and I like her, but I feel like I have more experience as a client than she does as a psychotherapist. I’m trying to resist the urge to ask her about her qualifications and experience because frankly it seems kind of rude, and I’d hate for clients to do that to me (in the near future). Perhaps I’m projecting my own insecurities about becoming a therapist, I don’t know. I don’t want to over-analyze myself.

The thing is, she keeps using stereotypical responses – the kinds of things we learn not to do in active listening. As I was answering the intake questions, she filled the pauses with “mmhmm,” always in the same tone of voice, which kind of gave me the feeling she wasn’t really listening. Then when I was done answering almost every question she said “okay” – again always with the same inflection. It felt like she was doing things she was trained to do or thought she should do, not like she was being genuine.

I want to tell her that these vocal habits are bothering me, but I’m not sure how. I don’t want them, nor my efforts to/not to talk to her about them, to interfere with therapy. I just want to go, do what I need to do, and come out feeling empowered to live my life the way I need and want to. Why must emotions be so complicated?

Sims 3 Legacy Challenge: Orlanna Faust

Orlanna Faust didn’t remember much about her childhood or adolescence, except that they had been unpleasant. Whenever she tried to access memories from even her late teenage years, she became overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and grief.

All she could remember clearly was a surreal and yet vivid dream – it had to have been a dream – in which she had begged for a new life far from her mundane, dreary world. A sim-like being in a long, black, hooded cloak had answered her. She could not make out the being’s features, nor understand their words, and yet she had the sense she had agreed to… something. Then she awoke, alone in an empty field, overlooking a valley unlike anything she’d ever seen…

A light-skinned, female-presenting sim sits cross-legged in the grass. There is a thought bubble above her head with an image of a black bird. She is outdoors on a sunny day on a grassy hill, with trees, mountains, and a waterfall in the distance.

Orlanna contemplates her current situation.

I’ve decided to try the Sims 3 Legacy Challenge one more time. I created a new founder and moved her into one of the 64×64 lots in Dragon Valley, then used the “familyfunds” cheat to reduce the family funds to $1800.

For an overview of the challenge and its rules, visit the Sims 3 Legacy Challenge website. In short, the challenge is to play for 10 generations without using cheat codes, extending your sims’ lifespans, raising them from the dead, etc. You start with just one sim on a very large empty lot and $1800 starting cash.

I decided to alter some of the rules for my challenge run:

  1. I added a total of 10 days to the “normal” sim lifespan.
  2. I decided that the camera in the founder’s inventory at the start of the game may not be sold.
  3. I added “No Bills Ever,” “Fireproof Homestead,” and “Young Again” to the list of forbidden Lifetime Rewards.
  4. Updated: I set up my own rules governing the traits I choose for sims that are born in-game (instead of requiring them all to be random):
    1. They must have the family trait.
    2. There is a 50/50 chance that female descendants of the founder will be born with the “Lucky” trait. When present, the “Lucky” trait takes the place of one of the requirements below:
    3. One trait must be from the mother.
    4. One trait must be from the father.
    5. One trait must be random.
    6. I have unrestricted choice of one trait.
    7. If the sim acquires an additional trait (e.g. from completing a degree) I will keep whichever one is suggested by the game.
  5. I’m playing a matriarchal family: I have a female founder and “only female children may become the heir to bring in the next generation.” Males born into the family may (but are not required to) stay to help take care of their nieces and nephews.
  6. My goal is for each heir to have children with whichever unrelated male sim(s) she chooses – without the need for marriage or other committed romantic relationships. (This way I don’t have to take control of non-player characters.) In fact, I’ve chosen “Commitment Issues” as the family trait to support this play style.
  7. I’m going to try to make additions to the legacy house without altering the existing structure. That means existing walls, exterior wall coverings, doors, and windows will remain whenever possible.

Founder: Orlanna Faust

A light-skinned female-presenting sim dressed in firefighters' pants, boots, and hat stands with one hand on her hip in front of autumn foliage and a barrel of pumpkins.

Orlanna dresses up as a firefighter for Spooky Day!

Orlanna began her life in Dragon Valley with no coherent memories, a digital camera, a high school diploma with the name of a school she did not recognize, and $1800 – hardly enough to buy or build a house. She wandered the town somewhat aimlessly at first, awed by the strange appearance of the locals… – were they… elves?

Fortunately for her, it was not long before Orlanna learned that the fire department was hiring, “no experience necessary.” The job description stipulated that applicants must be willing to live at the fire house during the workweek; that was perfect. In exchange for risking her life to save strangers, Orlanna gained a home that satisfied her basic needs.

Left: Two female-presenting sims - one of whom has white skin, purple hair, and pointy ears - shake hands. There is a fire truck in the background. Right: The same individual sleep in twin beds with "zzz" over their heads.

Left: Orlanna joins the fire department. Right: Orlanna sleeps in the fire house dormitory.

Fighting fires was hard work, but Orlanna found it rewarding. She began to make a name for herself around town. Yet – although people applauded her bravery, thanked her for saving their lives, and even seemed to like her – Orlanna struggled to make and keep friends. Try as she might to adapt to the local customs, she was prone to accidentally offending people – which caused her to lose their trust. Orlanna was often lonely; she turned to brooding to fill the void.

Left: A firefighter sprays the contents of a fire extinguisher on a large fire in someone's living room. Right: A male-presenting sim with yellow skin, blonde hair, and pointy ears covers his mouth and stares wide-eyed at the firefighter, who has a speech bubble over her head with a bouquet of flowers in it.

Left: Orlanna attempts to extinguish a large, dangerous house fire.
Right: A townsperson is impressed by Orlanna-the-firefighter’s dedication and courage.

Over time, Orlanna learned to tread more carefully in social situations. She made a friend or two and began to feel less lonely. And then she met Orion Lawless, a concession stand vendor at the winter festival. They fell in love almost instantly…

A booth with a cash register and menus on either side fills the foreground. Behind it, a female-presenting sim embraces a male-presenting sim with off-white skin and purple hair.

Orlanna and Orion embrace at the winter festival.

Legacy House

By working hard and spending wisely, Orlanna saved up enough money to build and furnish a small house in the field where she had first entered Dragon Valley. Far from the center of town, it served as a sanctuary where she could be fully herself.

A small one-story house with a porch. Icicles and holiday lights hang from the roof. It is covered and surrounded by snow.

Orlanna’s cozy little house on a snowy day.

It was with great joy that Orlanna hosted her first gift-giving party, which turned out to be a huge success!!!

A large open room with kitchen furnishings in the foreground, a couch in the left background, a table with chairs and bedroom furniture in the right background. Male- and female-presenting sims sit or stand around a large pile of presents near the center of the room. One male-presenting sim is opening a present.

Orlanna’s friends and acquaintances gather in her home to open presents.

Thanks for reading!

Still Here

I haven’t posted in 3 weeks, so I thought I’d just mention that I’m still here. I’m taking Thesis Seminar this semester; so far my topic has been approved and I’ve got some ideas bouncing around regarding it. I’ve been rather preoccupied with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, – not just my Let’s Play, but mods as well. I’m also concerned/depressed about my health. I might have some kind of neurological problem (besides my psych issues) that’s affecting my visual perception and giving me headaches. To make things worse I’m between HMOs and my state’s program sent Fox a “reminder” to verify my citizenship, even though I’d addressed that 2 months ago. I’m trying to get myself to spend some time outside in the beautiful weather we’ve been having, but lately I’ve been more inclined to hide in my nice dark nerd cave. Basically hanging on to my life preserver, trying not to get seasick, and praying for this storm to pass.