Fourth 3-Month Review

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now – one year and 12 days, to be precise. Wow. I will try to review the whole year before December is over, but for now here’s a look at what the past 3 months have been like.

For your convenience, here are links to my first, second, and third 3-month reviews.

Fox is now up to 5 posts:

  1. Masculinity, Tools of Violence, (etc) (01/15/2013)
  2. From a supporter’s point of view (05/22/2013)
  3. When supporting starts to hurt (06/29/2013)
  4. …and the storm’s energy too. (11/09/2013)
  5. Dancing in the Eye of the Storm (11/10/2013)

I’ve noticed some interconnecting themes in my own posts, namely:

  1. guilt over my rat Schmoozer’s death
  2. frustration with the federal government
  3. getting married
  4. trying to “find a cure” for anxious depression
  5. feeling like my ego/sense of self is under attack
  6. fighting back

Guilt Over Schmoozer’s Death

Schmoozer was a very sweet social rat; I made friends with him as soon as we met. He would eat the treats I gave him right on my lap, hang out on my shoulder, run to me when his brother was bullying him, and willingly do tricks. We had a lot of fun and shared a lot of love with him.

Sadly, he also had respiratory symptoms that got worse and worse. Antibiotics seemed to help the first couple times we tried them, but they eventually became ineffective. I was having a hard time with my depression, wedding planning, adjusting to sharing my apartment with Fox, mourning the death of one of my undergraduate mentors, and lack of healthcare. It made it very hard for me to also cope with his illness.

I became addicted to a new video game at just the wrong time: when Schmoozer’s symptoms started to become severe. Instead of bringing him to a vet right away, I tried to block out the sounds of his labored breathing, wishing they would go away. We tried to get him help, but too late, way too late.

The guilt was horrible, and can still become horrible if I let it. Taking Trouble to the vet when his respiratory symptoms flared up brought on a whole new wave of guilt. We were able to implement a treatment that seemed to help a great deal (his symptoms have been less severe since), but I wished I’d been able to do that for Schmoozer and hated myself for it.
(The Trouble with Feeding Demons)

The past few weeks I’ve started to be able to think about Schmoozer and just reminisce fondly, feeling a little happy remembering the good times while sad that he’s gone. I’ve started being able to forgive myself for not taking the best possible care of him. To accept that we just have one rat now, Trouble, and to bond with him.

Trouble is quite a sweet and loveable little critter himself, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to really get to know and love him. That doesn’t make me miss Schmoozer any less – but it does allow me to be present in the here-and-now, caring for my loved ones and myself. I’m no longer imprisoned by the guilt.

Frustration with the Federal Government

I, along with the rest of the U.S. population, found the government shutdown in October very frustrating. If I could do one thing with my life right now, I’d fix the government to make that kind of irresponsible behavior impossible.

I love my country and want it to be the “land of prosperity” it’s been advertised as, “with liberty and justice for all.” It drives me nuts that the reality of living in the U.S. is so divergent from these ideals, especially since it doesn’t have to be this way. We have plenty of models for how we can make life so much better for 99% of the population, but our “representatives” in government care more about lining their own pockets with diamonds than making sure every citizen of this country is fed. (Diamonds are the most expensive substance it would be practical to line one’s pockets with, according to this site.)

And while they’re playing golf, picking their noses, or making arbitrary decisions about women’s health – and allowing vitally important bills affecting millions of people to rot on their desks – I am in a financial crisis. I have student loans to repay, I’m still waiting to find out whether I’ll have health insurance in January, my savings are basically gone, and I’m lost regarding where to find a job – assuming I can function well enough to successfully apply for and then keep it.
(Shut Down; Running Red)

For sake of argument, let’s say I can. I think I’m much better qualified to represent everyday people and make laws affecting them than most members of the GOP – especially the Tea Party. I would love to have their job; I might even be able to cope with the frustration of having to deal with them directly. At least then I’d be able to take some kind of action (and get paid!) instead of just feeling hopeless. I’m kind of wishing I’d had any success in leadership of school clubs, taken at least one political science course, run for local office, otherwise become involved my community, and/or saved money for a campaign …

But seriously, will someone please pay me a living wage to fix the government via activism or something?

Getting Married

About the only thing that went the way I expected it to was that Fox and I were beaming at each other through most of the ceremony. And the toasts – especially Banji’s – were awesome. If I ever do run for political office, I know who I want to write my speeches.

I was very, very anxious about getting married. In October I spent inordinate amounts of time playing The Sims 3 to try and convince myself that there was, indeed, life after marriage – and that I could still accomplish my goals (including having a successful career while also raising a functional family).
(Aarghle Flarghle Blarghle!!!)

As the day drew closer (and I accomplished necessary tasks such as getting my dress hemmed) I started to feel a sense of peace. I accepted that I didn’t know what would come next, but I felt ready to face it with Fox at my side.
(The Calm Before the Storm – Um, Wedding)

Then I learned that people have their own ideas about what being married means, and at best they will assume that you share (or conform to) those ideals without asking you first. Loved ones condensed my glorious name into “and Mrs.” (Fox Tamesis), put their concepts of the divine in the middle of our relationship, and assigned us gendered roles. My mom’s friend commented on how (she thought) my deceased father would feel about a daughter who never got to develop an adult relationship with him marrying a man he never met. Worse, she was commenting on a picture of my mom and me, inserting him into the memory of a special moment between us.
(Breaking and Entering)

Whatever my wedding meant to me, everyone else saw it through their own lens. Come to think of it, no one has asked what the wedding meant to me, or Fox for that matter. They seem to prefer telling us what it means, what we need to do, etc.

Right now it means that I have to spend The Holidays changing my name on important legal documents because the county clerk’s office waited over a month to certify my marriage. Right now it means I’m wishing I’d elected NOT to change my name, to save myself the headache. I’ll let you know what it means after all this BS is said and done, and I’m not in some weird transition period that NOBODY TALKS ABOUT even though the majority of women who marry in the United States go through it.

(It means that when I’m twitching after writing the above sentence at 1 o’clock in the morning, the love of my life can reach over and touch me and look into my eyes reassuringly, because he lives here, and no one has any reason or “right” to question it.)

Trying to “Find a Cure” for Anxious Depression

It all started with a Daily Prompt by the Daily Post: “If you could create a painless, inexpensive cure for a single ailment, what would you cure and why?”

In my attempt to answer the prompt, I learned that I’m not alone in viewing my anxiety and depression as symptoms of one disorder; there is even a name for the disorder: anxious depression. One article in particular linked anxious depression to a unique biological condition: hyperactivity in the HPA axis. If only there were a way to address this directly through a safe, effective, affordable pill, I wouldn’t have much to write about on this blog.
(A Cure for Anxious Depression)

I know even less about developing medication than I do about being a successful politician, so I’ll leave that to the experts. In the meantime, there are a lot of lifestyle changes I can make to help myself feel better, maybe even fully recover from anxious depression. (Gosh, I’d practically be a different person. I can’t even imagine it.)

Thing is, in case anyone missed the dripping sarcasm in “I Dream of Jarvis,” changing one’s entire lifestyle – and being consistent with it – is really, really hard. Especially when coping with mental illness. Fight maladaptive patterns of thought and behavior by changing your thoughts and behavior – seriously, if we could just do that, we wouldn’t have mental illness.

It seems to be the only viable solution, though, so I decided to try and use technology – affordable, portable, accessible (without having to make phone calls), and did I mention affordable technology – to make it easier. Technology that won’t resent you for making it use all its energy to meet your needs. Technology that won’t care if you curse at it. Technology that won’t have anger or unmet narcissistic needs or mood swings to take out on you. Technology that won’t get sick or oversleep or want a vacation – well, as long as you keep its battery charged.

To be completely honest, I need to go back to my notes (if I can find them) to remember my specific ideas about what this technology should be able to do. But the thing that would make it unique is that it would have a way to pick up on the user’s mood and attempt to help if the user seems anxious, very sad, stuck, etc. It would be able to learn what to say to help the user become unstuck, break the cycle of increasingly devastating thoughts, and focus on whatever is important in that moment. Kind of like the loving mommy voice that’s developed in my psyche, but louder and more reliable.

I’ve started taking a Coursera course about developing Android apps, acquired an Android tablet, and discovered some apps I’ve found quite useful. I’m not always consistent with using the apps and I have some catching up to do in the course, but it’s a start.
(Taking the First Steps; There’s an App for That)

I recently had a few days when I forgot to take my SAM-e, Omega 3, B Complex, and Vitamin D supplements; those days were really horrible. When I realized that feeling horrible coincided with not taking the supplements, I started taking them more regularly. And lo, I’ve felt better – not amazing, but functional, even in fairly stressful situations. I don’t know if they’re as effective as psychiatric medication, but they do seem to be helping.

Under Attack!!!

A second theme in several of the posts I’ve already reviewed is feeling like my ego/sense of self is under attack. The person underneath my strengths, weaknesses, achievements, shortcomings, and quirks is under attack. To be honest I’m not even sure such a person exists, or ever fully developed; “I” feel more like a compilation of emotions, interests, thought patterns, etc. than a coherent whole. Sometimes I even have opposite responses to the same experience at the same time, as though “I’m” two (or more) people with different tastes and perspectives.

In this quarter, the theme first emerged at the end of Running Red, when I wrote about the “gory, unsettling” images that haunted me. They were a part of myself that’s been hidden for some time, that I thought died when I learned my father had passed away. She’s been suffering for a long time, collecting the wounds from all the times I’ve been hurt psychologically, especially the thoughts I’ve had of (intentionally) hurting myself. If anyone is under attack, she most certainly is.

In Escape to Dragon Valley pt. 2 I almost become defensive of one of my sims, Carina, who focuses more on her career than on raising her family. She wants to belong and be a loving mother, but she also has very powerful work-related aspirations. How does one balance those drives? Is it even possible? What do I want, and how can I achieve it? I don’t know.

Mom said some very hurtful things, which I wrote about in The Trouble with Feeding Demons. Hearing that money is more important than my psychological well-being really does not help me feel like a person.

Around the time I wrote The Calm Before the Storm – Um, Wedding I read several “feminist” articles about why a woman shouldn’t change her name when she gets married, arguing that it’s giving up your identity. I think they have a point (especially given how the rest of society seems to perceive the tradition), but what about the opportunity to define one’s own identity? What about personal choice? How about a break from being told what to do?

The truth is, I questioned my choice, after I’d made it and could no longer change it, and that scared me. But I stand behind my reasons for making it and like how my new last name sounds with my first (and middle) name(s). I just wish there was more room for me to get used to it and express what it means to me, without other people imposing their own opinions. I’ve been meaning to write an article titled “Do you want to change your name when you get married?” that makes it clear it’s a personal choice, while providing useful information and perhaps some different perspectives.

Breaking and Entering was all about feeling like my ego was under attack. I don’t really have anything to add to what I already wrote under “Getting Married” – except that I really needed my mother to back off on the ride home and let me enjoy my recently-formed memories.

The theme also comes out quite powerfully in Permission to Be, which describes a lifetime – my lifetime – of hiding who I really am to please (or avoid intimidating) others. It’s really hard to feel like a person when I can’t even fully own my strongest talent.

Fighting Back

I’m (almost) always fighting back in my posts, if nothing else by writing them. Some of the stronger examples of this are:

  • learning from the experiences described in Hole and using them to give Trouble a much better, longer life
  • allying with my hurt inner child in Running Red
  • saying I’m not ready to put my toys away at the end of Breaking and Entering
  • deciding to create the thing I need and wish I had to facilitate recovery in I Dream of Jarvis

Perhaps the strongest way I’m fighting back against the attacks on my sense of self is by taking care of myself. By recognizing that important elements of self care are things I do just for me – not to make life easier for anyone else or because society dictates that I must. If I want a space to exist I need to carve it out and defend its boundaries. There are little things I can do every day to accomplish that and feel good.
(Just for Me)

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!


Suicide is not “selfish”

A very well-written and powerful post.

Radically Mad

Trigger Warnings:  suicide, mental health stigma, claims that suicide and suicidal people are selfish, psychiatric abuse, psychiatric hospitals

I just read on another blog that I follow that someone was stuck on a train because someone had jumped in front of the train.  Rather than feel sympathy and sorrow for their fellow human being who had felt so sad and desperate that they chose to end their own life, this person claimed the person who committed suicide was selfish to have jumped in front of a train, causing people to be late.  This is what they said:

“Something needs done about this, it happens too often and now my train is delayed again. These people should be locked up for disturbing all these timetables”

First of all, this person valued getting wherever they needed to go on time over the life and mental health of another human being.  I…

View original post 1,024 more words

Just For Me

At the end of the music therapy session I described in my last post, Wakana told me to make a list of all the things I’m doing “just for me.” She often gives me homework without holding me accountable for doing it, but this time I want to make an honest attempt at it.

I feel the need to justify doing anything “just” for me; to be honest it feels kind of selfish. I’m not sure if that’s the gender training talking (“women should put everyone else first”) or the depression; they’re most likely interrelated.

Whatever the case may be, and as much as I may struggle to believe it, my justification is this: everyone needs to do things that are just for themselves, it’s a vital part of self-care and all-around health / wellness. Doing things just for oneself does not reduce or limit the things one can do for others. On the contrary, it helps one to be more capable of helping others.

I can’t really help others while I’m hurting myself – especially not as a therapist. Even (especially!) with my mom, she asks me for help all the time and I try to help her, but I resent her and end up doing something to hurt her in my attempts to reestablish some kind of boundary (or just as a reaction). Ultimately, it’s not healthy for either of us.

If I want to help people – if I want to do anything! – first I need to take care of myself. That’s what this post, and ultimately this entire blog, is about.

Things I’m Doing Just for Myself

  • Writing this blog
    • As much as I hope readers benefit from it, too, it’s primarily a safe place for me to process my experiences and feel seen and accepted.
  • Receiving music therapy as a client
  • Playing, listening to, and composing music
  • Playing video games
    • I might spend unhealthy amounts of time playing and thinking about them, but I also enjoy them for the story, strategy, and as a means of self-expression. If Fox and I are playing the same game, I need to play at my own pace, make my own decisions, and remember that I’m playing the game for me.
  • Watching awesome TV series
  • Reading
  • Trying to eat healthy food whenever possible
    • I only get one body (in this lifetime, at least); my body is me. Taking care of myself means ingesting things that will benefit my body me as much as possible and hurt me as little as possible.
    • I focus on eating minimally-processed foods free from weird chemicals, and on trying to balance my diet. Chocolate is a delicious treat to enjoy every day, but I need much less of it than I do vegetables, fruit, protein, grains, vitamins, minerals, garlic, and healthy fats.
  • Cooking
    • Cooking is a fun and often social activity that helps immensely with trying to eat healthy food. It’s also a great opportunity to try new things and be creative.
  • Exercising
    • I feel much better on the rare occasions when I do exercise (usually taking a walk); it’s beneficial to my body (me).
  • Meditation/Relaxation
  • Receiving massages
  • Sleeping
  • Maintaining personal hygiene
    • Showering, brushing my teeth and hair, moisturizing, applying deodorant, and wearing clean clothes all help me to feel good. I can go out in the world and do things – if not confidently, then at least without worrying about how I smell.
  • Cleaning
    • Cleaning gives me some control over my environment and makes it more pleasant, which helps me feel good. Fox and I are both responsible for cleaning.
  • Having pets
    • Pets are a huge responsibility; you have to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources taking care of them – even when you don’t feel like it or have other responsibilities. But they also bring a lot of joy and comfort, sometimes just by existing. I try to provide a good home for my pets where their needs are met; other members of the household may benefit from their presence, too. But I have pets because I benefit immensely from having cute warm fuzzy critters to hold, pet, talk to lovingly, be groomed by, teach, feed, watch, build box forts for, take walks with, etc. They are also most excellent at getting me out of my head and back into reality.
  • Learning
  • Developing adaptive software for people with anxious depression and other mental health issues
    • I have ideas for a program (or possibly several programs) that would help me take better care of myself – if not to overcome my anxious depression, to at least have an easier time living with it. If I’m successful, I want to share the software with others at low-to-no (preferably no) cost to them. But my primary reason for developing the software, the reason why I thought of it in the first place, is because I need it. I need the software to help me function and do the other self-care items on this list more consistently. Perhaps more importantly, I need to actively create the software for the experience of identifying a problem and working toward my own solution – taking active steps to meet my own needs.
  • Choosing to live

Permission To Be

The knots in my muscles
Were my cage armor
But you smoothed them out
Taught sore muscles to relax
And set the demons free

My massage on Thursday was bittersweet. The therapist did a really excellent job of massaging the areas that really needed it. She succeeded in getting muscles to relax that had been clenched for so long, I’d forgotten what it felt like not to be tense.

Physically, and to some extent emotionally, it felt wonderful. But those muscles held thoughts and memories that were too difficult for me to deal with at the time. As they came flooding back, the primary emotion I felt was guilt. I felt guilty for everything.

As I realized this, I tried to figure out who it was I needed to apologize to. Deep, very deep, inside, I found the little girl who is hurting so much. I apologized – for not protecting her, for not listening to her, for siding with the people who questioned and ridiculed her.

And she forgave me.

It’s not your fault. You were hurt just as much as me. My pain is your pain, my anger your anger. We’ve both been wronged.

I find it easier to feel guilty than to accept that reality. If I’ve done something wrong, at least there’s something I can do about it: I can punish myself. Take that away and all I have is sadness and anger. Unquenchable anger I cannot direct at anyone.

To a child, the adults in hir life are gods. Any anger they provoke is best turned inward; better to suffer one’s own wrath than theirs. I learned that one the hard way and spent most of my life thinking I’d deserved to be physically and emotionally abused. I’ve been emotionally, and at times physically, abusing myself.

Fox and I visited with a couple of friends only hours after the massage. We played two board games. Through a combination of luck and (dare I say it?) excellent strategy I won the first game twice. The second game is very complex and challenging and I was struggling with severe depression symptoms, so I (felt like I) wasn’t able to use as good a strategy. I was winning for most of the game and came in second out of four players – despite being on the verge of tears, having trouble making decisions, and thinking I was doing poorly because I hadn’t advanced in certain areas as much as the other players had.

I think, deep down, I was proud of myself for doing as well as I did. I’m proud now, as I write this. But at the time I didn’t – couldn’t – feel it. Instead I felt guilty for winning the first game because my success required that my friends didn’t do as well, and therefore were disappointed.

I started the second game with a strong strategy, but backed off in response to innocuous comments about how it was affecting the dynamics of the game; without that strategy I felt lost, like I was constantly trying to catch up. I couldn’t see how well I’d done or that it was a good thing; when I realized I’d managed to come in second I felt worse.

I noticed a disconnect between my thoughts and emotions / emotion-related bodily sensations that I found very disconcerting. I mentioned it to Wakana during our session on Friday and told her about feeling guilty when I won the games.

She tied it into my experiences growing up (and my relationship with my mother). From what I remember, at least, I really lacked adult advocates. The staff at the after school program punished me when the other kids knocked down the zoo I’d been building (Breaking and Entering). The teachers and principal at my elementary and middle school didn’t know what to do with a gifted female student who consistently got much higher grades than her predominantly male classmates. They tended to penalize me – by not calling on me, taking away the book I was reading because I was bored in class, and raising the other kids’ grades to be comparable to mine without giving me any praise or benefit for doing as well as I did. They didn’t stand up for me when I was bullied by the male students, but punished me when I retaliated.

When I entered high school I wanted to remain as anonymous as possible to avoid the wrath of my peers. I had some friends whom I unfortunately didn’t have many classes with; I didn’t make friends with the other students in my honors and AP classes. That was a mistake; I felt ostracized most of the time and resented by my “friends” for consistently earning first honors.

My experiences in college taught me that I’d focused on academics to the detriment of my social and emotional development; though I still did well enough in school to graduate magna cum laude I feel like I’m wrong for “boasting” about it. I know it’s an accomplishment, but it doesn’t seem like something most people in most settings would appreciate.

The graduate classes I’ve taken so far have been wonderful because I’ve felt about average to perhaps above average among my classmates – definitely not the smartest, most capable, or most talented person in the room. I’ve felt like my contributions have been appreciated AND I’ve learned a lot from my classmates.

The undergraduate classes I took while in graduate school expanded and enriched my understanding of the world a great deal; I feel very fortunate to have taken them. I learned a great deal in them, from the other students as well as the course materials. But I did notice a difference in the level of critical thinking I’ve become accustomed to, compared with what is expected at the undergraduate level. I often felt very different from the other students because of this.

Maybe masquerading as an undergraduate student wasn’t the best idea. It taught me to once again hide a very significant portion of who I am, to deny one of my greatest strengths. I’m smart. I love to be challenged intellectually. I’m very good at learning – not only ingesting knowledge, but thinking critically about it and applying it to situations. I’m also very good at doing research, organizing the information, and drawing conclusions from / making an argument based on it. I have at least 8 years of experience. References available upon request.

So I’ve focused on my academic development to the detriment of my social and emotional development, lacked support in developing healthy, honest relationships with the majority of my peers, and learned to hide the very thing that has been my primary strength in some weird misguided effort to “fit in.” I like to think that I would have done very well in school anyway, because I’m naturally good at learning and take pleasure in producing well-written (and edited!) papers.

But I did most of it – especially in my younger years – because it’s what my parents needed. They needed their daughter to get straight As, so I did. An A was never an accomplishment (until I reached college). It was making ends meet. Getting by. Survival.

Wakana beckoned me to the piano to sing and express how I felt about all of this. She started playing chords and asked if they sounded appropriate to how I was feeling; I just kind of went along with it because I felt like I didn’t have an opinion, and if I did it didn’t matter.

I apologized for not being the perfect daughter. Wakana sang that there is no such thing as perfect, and started repeating “I’m enough” in the defiant, insistent voice that comes out when we’re practicing setting boundaries. She tried to get me to join her, but I couldn’t say it with conviction. I asked it once or twice before breaking down into tears.

The whole world says I’m not enough, and I’m afraid to show them the truth because it goes against the dominant values in society. I don’t want to be further ostracized. I don’t want to be hurt any more than I’m already hurting myself.

Relaxation: There’s an App for That

I’ve been taking some steps toward taking better care of myself, largely relying on the apps that are available to me now that I have an Android tablet.

Icon for the app "Stop Panic and Anxiety" by Excel at Life

Icon for the app “Stop Panic and Anxiety” by Excel at Life

The app I’ve found most useful so far is called “Stop Panic and Anxiety” and is available for free. It plays “audios” (streamed from the internet, which admittedly is not always ideal) for panic assistance, emotion training, and relaxation. I’ve been listening to one of the relaxation audios – essentially, guided meditation with music – to help myself fall asleep at night. My muscles seem to melt as I listen to it and I start to feel better. It should help even more if I listen to the other audios (not the one I use to fall asleep) at different points during the day.

Icon for the app "Depression Inventory" by Handcarved Software

Icon for the app “Depression Inventory” by Handcarved Software

I’ve also been using 2 other free apps, “Depression Inventory” and “eMoods”, to track my symptoms. My score on the Depression Inventory has been remaining steady in the mid-40s, securely in the “moderate depression” range.

Icon for the app "eMoods" by Yottaram LLC

Icon for the app “eMoods” by Yottaram LLC

eMoods is nice because I can track some contributing factors (medication, hours slept, verbal therapy, etc.) as well as my depression, irritability, and anxiety. I’m not entirely sure how useful tracking is right now as I’m not really seeing any change, and it can be very easy to keep giving the same responses. I think eMoods would be more useful if I had a way to measure my anxiety and irritability, as I’ve been using the Depression Inventory to measure depression. Back to the app store!
(eMoods is intended for people with bipolar and also measures elevated mood.)

Icon for the app "Assistant" by Speaktoit

Icon for the app “Assistant” by Speaktoit

Another app I’ve been using is “Assistant”, which I found by searching for Android equivalents of Siri. It’s the only one I’ve found that lets you set reminders that repeat every day (but not weekly, e.g. every Thursday). In theory it’s very useful, except that I find it way too easy to just ignore the reminders. If I pay $3/month or $20/once I’ll be able to teach it my own commands, customize its appearance and voice, etc. I’m still debating whether I think the upgrade is worth the cost. It might be if I can teach it what “every Thursday” means – and decide to stop ignoring the reminders!

Finally, I’ve renewed my commitment to actually using all the prepaid massages I’ve accumulated at Massage Envy. The way their membership works, you pay about $60 per month and can get a 1-hour massage at no extra cost (other than tip/gratuity). Any additional massages you get that month are at a reduced cost. If you don’t use your prepaid massage one month, it carries over to the next. And so on.

I let so much time pass between massages that I estimate I have about 13 prepaid massages available to me after using 2 of them on hot stone therapy on Sunday. I can’t afford to keep paying the membership fee while I’m not working, but if I cancel my membership I’ll lose the prepaid massages and have wasted hundreds of dollars! Ideally, if I use the massages they will help me feel well enough to find and keep a job; then I might be able to afford to continue my membership. Otherwise, I’m hoping to gain some benefit while using up my existing massages so I can cancel my membership guilt-free.

The massage on Sunday was good, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. I think the biggest factor was that the muscles in my scalp and face were very tense, but my therapist didn’t massage them because doing so was not part of the hot stone therapy (nor, I learned later, one of his areas of expertise). It was very hard for me to feel relaxed and rejuvenated when my jaw was sore from clenching, even though I’d enjoyed most of the massage and felt the muscles that were massaged relax. I also think (and realized then) that I was wearing depression goggles: it’s really hard to feel good about something when you feel completely drained and sad.

The most useful part of Sunday’s appointment actually happened afterward. I politely told the receptionist that my face and scalp were very tense, but the therapist had not massaged them, and asked why. She suggested a different type of massage and went out of her way to schedule me an appointment with the best therapist available on my preferred day who specializes in the technique. We made it a 90 minute massage (using 1.5 prepaid massages), with 30 minutes of cranial sacral massage and an hour of full body. Based on the recommendation of the hot stone therapist, I might request that the hour be spent on just my upper body.

Ironically enough, Massage Envy also has an app. It’s not compatible with my device, though, and several of the reviews advise against using it because it’s not for making appointments. That’s okay, though, in this case I think I’d much rather talk to a human being.

15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief

A useful reminder. Thank you.

Identity Renewed

After a year of grief, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also made some mistakes along the way. Today, I jotted down 15 things I wish I’d known about grief when I started my own process.

I pass this onto anyone on the journey.


1. You will feel like the world has ended. I promise, it hasn’t. Life will go on, slowly. A new normal will come, slowly.

2. No matter how bad a day feels, it is only a day.  When you go to sleep crying, you will wake up to a new day.

3. Grief comes in waves. You might be okay one hour, not okay the next. Okay one day, not okay the next day. Okay one month, not okay the next. Learn to go with the flow of what your heart and mind are feeling.

4. It’s okay to cry. Do it often. But it’s okay to…

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Today I completed the tasks for Week 1 in both of the Coursera courses I’m currently taking. I got about 80% on the quizzes. I can go back and take them again to try to get a better score, but mostly I’m just happy that I’ve stuck with something this long.

Speaking of sticking with things, this blog turns 1 year old next week! I’m planning to do a fourth 3-month review and debating whether to review the whole year. I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but I think it will be helpful to review the major themes and how things have (and haven’t) changed over the past 12 months. It might also help new readers become acquainted with the blog.

A big Thank You! to everyone who’s chosen to follow, like, and/or comment on my blog. It really helps to know I’m not alone.

Taking the First Steps

Fox and I have started taking a course about developing Android apps on Coursera. We started accessing the Week 1 materials yesterday, watching videos and downloading the software development tools we’ll need to participate in the course, and beyond! It felt really good to be focused on learning, get new software, and start playing around with what I’d just learned. I’m very glad I have a structured course in which to learn how to use the software development tools, so I can take advantage of all their features should I choose to use them to develop new apps.

I’m also eagerly waiting for my new tablet, which runs Android, to arrive on my doorstep. It will be the first time I’m able to fully and freely access “smartphone” technology, including all the apps that already exist. Even if I never develop new software of my own (or decide tablets and smartphones aren’t the right platform for it), I’m hoping that I can use my new tablet to help improve my own mental health (and not as yet another time-wasting device!).

As awesome as it felt to DO SOMETHING toward a goal I feel passionate about, I do foresee some areas of frustration and obstacles I’ll need to overcome:

1) Software development seems to require a different way of thinking from what I’m used to; none of the material covered in the videos we’ve watched so far seemed intuitive to me. I felt like some of it might’ve gone over my head. I’m not really used to that – if anything, I’m used to material being easy for me to understand.

But, I was able to learn algebra by copying everything the teacher put on the board until I started seeing the patterns in it. I decided to major in music because I was similarly challenged by the first semester of music theory, so I wanted to take the second semester. I can face this challenge! I just need to be aware of it and willing to accept some frustration while I navigate it.

2) I’m very codependent with Fox. He’s been very supportive of me since I first came up with the idea to develop software that might help me overcome some of the difficulties I’ve been facing. He suggested Android apps and offered to take the Coursera course with me.

But I don’t know how interested he really is in learning this stuff for himself, and that could make this process difficult. He seemed annoyed with the course creators for requiring students to interact on the forum, frustrated because if his laptop is able to run the required emulators at all they will be painfully slow, and less enthusiastic about the learning process than me. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do something he’s not really interested in or doesn’t find satisfying.

I was hoping that he would help me stick with the course and complete it – if nothing else so I could recall that experience when faced with uncertainty, instead of perpetuating this image I have of myself as someone who never completes anything. But now I foresee being faced with the difficult dilemma of wanting to watch the next video lecture, but also feeling like I should wait for him because we’re “taking the course together.” I need to stay firm and focused on what will be best for me – what I can do to learn and keep up with the course, whether we’re watching videos together or not. If he decides it’s not for him, I need to be able and willing to fly solo.

As much as I wish I could let go and trust him to take care of me, the truth of the matter is this: it will only lead to resentment when my needs aren’t met. We both need to figure out how to take care of ourselves, and each other. It’s not easy.

3) I’ve gotten some encouraging responses from people I’ve told about my idea, but for the most part I’m frustrated by lack of response. I’m especially frustrated by lack of comments on this blog.

I know I need to take at least some responsibility: I’ve been intentionally vague about the software I want to develop, how I want to develop it, and what I want it to do. I’m not sure how much is safe to disclose online; I don’t want someone to steal my idea (especially not some big wealthy company that will use it to make money and prevent others from making free or inexpensive versions, or worse use it for even more invasive advertising). But if I’m going to get feedback I need to give people something to respond to, something they can understand and connect with and want to respond to. How do I protect my idea AND get the feedback I need to create a program that others might also find useful? Well, I’m also taking a course about entrepreneurship on Coursera, maybe it will give me some ideas.