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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.
(Hole)

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!

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