New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

Last year I resolved to remember that my episodic mood disorder NOS is part of me – not all I am, but not somehow different from the “real me” either. I think I did a pretty good job of that throughout the year.

This year I want to renew that resolution and make a few more:

  1. to be physically active – let’s try 10 minutes per day
  2. to join and regularly attend in-person meetings of a group
  3. to express my spirituality
  4. to do something musical every day
  5. to keep in touch with people I care about

Why these resolutions?

1. I’ve been saying for a while now that including physical activity in my daily routine would be good for my physical and mental health. I feel so much better when I do something that gets the blood pumping – usually walking for longer than it takes to get from one room of the house to another, or dancing. I’ve seen what an extremely sedentary lifestyle has done to my godmother (who is still in the hospital, doing better but Mom wouldn’t say she’s “okay” yet) and it scares me. The extent to which I was winded after carrying a chair up one flight of stairs yesterday scares me. I don’t need to be in tip-top shape, but it’s important that I improve my stamina. I want to be able to do things. I want to feel alive.

2. I’ve gotten a lot better at being with myself or interacting with one other person, setting boundaries and asserting myself and the like. I’ve always been more comfortable with one-on-one interactions. However, especially since I realized I’m an extrovert, I have increasingly felt the need to be a part of some group. I had my friends over yesterday to celebrate the holidays and, as crazy and overwhelming as it got at times, I felt great. I was tired last night but today I want to do it again; I hate the idea of being alone. I know I can’t be interacting with people in groups all the time, but I need it to be a more regular part of my life. Hopefully the classes I’ll be taking in the Spring semester will help, but I need non-academic social groups, too.

One group I’m considering is Clutterers Anonymous because I don’t even know where to start trying to clean my apartment. Fox is just as much of a clutterer as me – if not even moreso – and I learned the behavior from Mom. Ideally the three of us would all go … but he has work and I don’t want to be dependent on her to interact with this group. I need to be able to attend it myself regardless of whether they come with me. I would have specified this group in my resolution, but if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I want to be able to find another group and have it count. The most important thing is to get out of the house and be social.

Another possible group is that Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group I attended once and haven’t been back to since. There are also a ridiculous number of Meetup groups in my area; all I have to do is join and actually show up. I’d even be willing to count going to different groups’ meetings toward this resolution, as long as I stay remotely consistent with it (say, at least twice a month?).

3. Spirituality is an important part of who I am that I had been neglecting until very, very recently. I used to feel at one with nature, dance under the stars, direct the energies of the various elements as they flowed through my chakras, practice zen Buddhist meditation, and pray. Even though I didn’t always agree with the lyrics, I found the act of singing or playing sacred music to be a profound spiritual experience. All of that fell apart as situations changed and I withdrew instead of adapting.

Now Fox is going to work most days and I worry about his safety. About a million things could happen to him; I could lose him. You just never know these days, and the world just seems to be becoming more and more dangerous. If I get caught up in thinking about this stuff, it could destroy me. So instead I pray: “Keep him safe.” I close my eyes and visualize him coming home to me. I send out my love and wishes for his protection and clothe him in armor made of positive energy. It helps me feel better. And so far he’s been safe.

I want to expand on this to more fully live my spirituality, especially acknowledging the seasons as they change.

4. Music is another important part of who I am, that I’ve also been neglecting. Among other things, I got too caught up in trying to do it perfectly; I was so worried about making mistakes that it interfered with practicing! That bright, cheerful, simple song would become painful and strained, until I’d drop my instrument and start crying. I was trying to force something that wasn’t there, and suppressing what I needed to let out. I need to find a way back to making music that is for me. It starts with picking up an instrument – any instrument – and trusting myself. Wakana helps in our music therapy sessions, but I only see her once a week. I need to build on what she’s given me.

5. This resolution is kind of difficult and I’ll be honest, I’m tempted to take it off the list for this year. The people I care about are kind of scattered, living in different states and/or busy with their own lives (and/or lacking funds for transportation). I intend to call or text or email or contact via Facebook or something, but then the time just keeps going by and … nothing. People aren’t exactly the best at contacting me, either; many of my family members go through Mom.

I want to maintain and strengthen the connections I have, so I want to try and reach out to them more often. Maybe send a text when I’m thinking about them or something. Emails. I still need to send out thank-you cards. I need to address why I don’t like calling people on the phone. This could probably be its own post, but at the moment I’m struggling not to fall asleep…

Yuletide Blessings and Happy New Year!

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All I Want for Christmas Is to Breathe

trigger warning: nicotine/cigarette addiction, hospitals, life support, potential anxiety medication side effects

My godmother is addicted to smoking cigarettes, struggles with depression and anxiety, and is socially isolated. She’s been doing less and less and getting tired very easily. She’s been in and out of the hospital with respiratory issues, but this time was extremely scary: at one point on Christmas Eve she was actually turning blue!

I hate hospitals. I watched my father deteriorate when he was dying from lung cancer in a hospital. I was powerless. I could do nothing to help him, my other family members, or even myself. The environment inside (traditional) hospitals is the worst for healing. There’s a whole awesome movement – arts in healthcare – to transform hospitals into healing environments with natural light, curved surfaces, open spaces, pleasant colors, nature scenes, less toxic noise… but I don’t think they’d even started researching that stuff when my father was in the hospital. And the hospital where my godmother currently is has never heard of it, either. This hospital is a contender for a version of Hell. We would have wandered lost in a maze of spaghetti box hallways in drab colors with ominous doors and incomprehensible signs for hours if the nurses hadn’t decorated the area around their station for the holidays. When I saw that I said, “Let’s go toward the bright colors before I have a panic attack.”

When we arrived on Christmas afternoon, my godmother was on her back with a mask suctioned to her face, practically forcing her to breathe. I wasn’t sure if she was conscious. She squeezed my hand with a pulse. When she tried to talk I couldn’t even make out syllables, never mind words. She sounded so small and scared. We told her we were here and we loved her and spoke to each other in hushed voices. I tried to find a song on my phone that she might like, but my data connection was limited and the songs that came up weren’t exactly conducive to healing – for her nor anyone else in the room. I felt foolish as well as powerless.

The hospital staff were talking to her father, brother, and son about putting a tube down her throat that would require her body to make even less of an effort to breathe. Life support. I don’t know what her or their views on life support are, but in my mind it’s worse than death. If a person dies they can be at peace and the family can mourn. Existing for god-knows-how-long on life support is just torture for everybody. There’s no peace, no healing, no recovery, no closure. Just life-destroying medical bills.

I didn’t even need to express my views; the family members with the right to make such a decision made it clear that it was unacceptable. Her brother and son told her she needed to try breathing on her own, it was the only way she could recover so they’d be able to take her home. She was scared, but they convinced her to switch to a mask that would just provide extra oxygen – without forcing air into her lungs. We were asked to leave the room; I was an emotional wreck.

I don’t even know how long I was folded in the cocoon of Fox’s arms, while he worked some kind of magic, before I was able to relax. It was amazing! When I stepped back and looked at him I felt calm, grounded, like my whole world wasn’t shattering.

With the new mask my godmother was awake and able to speak coherently. She wanted to sit up – to stand even! The nurse and everyone else kept telling her she’d exert herself too much and she was fine lying in bed, but she wouldn’t hear it. I asked her why she wanted to stand and she said the wires and tubes they had attached to her were pressing on her chest and neck. As far as we could see they weren’t, but she insisted. After some more back-and-forth, she sat up – practically without assistance.

Only then did her complexion approach normal and she said she was feeling better. She asked for water and talked with us, even smiled at our jokes. I felt connected with her and inspired by her determination as I watched her work to hold a seated position – without back support – and to breathe. In a whirlwind of “you need to do this” and “you look like this” and “are you sure you don’t want to do this” I did my best to remain the voice of empathy. “How do you feel?” “What do you want?” “Is this helping?” “I can relate.” She really seemed to appreciate it.

Physically, she was working to breathe and she said she felt like shit, but otherwise everything was normal. Her lungs are okay considering how long and how heavily she’s been smoking. Her resting heart rate and blood pressure were a bit high, but not enough to cause concern; her blood had plenty of oxygen in it.

But her anxiety was through the roof, to the point where if we weren’t there comforting her it would have interfered with all the physical stuff. In the moments when she was able to retreat into her own thoughts, we could see the pain they were causing her on her face. Guilt. Self-hatred. Anxiety. The realization that she could have died. Knowing she has to give up the one thing that’s been consistently there for her through loss and change and loneliness and the most difficult times. She’s tried to quit smoking and failed because overcoming the chemical addiction to the nicotine isn’t enough. She needs emotional support. She needs something to replace the role the cigarettes play in her life.

The solution she was handed was “Don’t be anxious.” I looked her in the eye and said, “Yeah, but how?” I told her about anxiety goggles, the idea that sometimes it’s like someone has put these goggles on me and everything seems overwhelming and I’m lost and I don’t know what to do and I can’t imagine how the world would look without the anxiety… but if I remember that I’m wearing the goggles I can think, “Maybe it isn’t as scary as it looks right now. Maybe that thing that seems so horrible isn’t as bad as I think. These goggles are distorting my view.” and I can try to separate myself from it. I wanted to suggest meditation or something she could do to channel the anxiety out somewhere or something, any of the number of measures people have suggested to me and I’ve found helpful. But it was hard to think in that room, hard to get my voice in among the people saying “Don’t be anxious,” and I felt a bit self-conscious about it, too. Would my contribution be taken seriously? More importantly, would she actually find it helpful?

My godmother requested a particular medication for anxiety – not the one the hospital staff seemed to want to use because that interferes with her breathing – so a doctor came in to talk about it. He said something to a nurse about giving the patient her medication when the family leaves, because that’s when she becomes the most anxious. When my godmother told him about the medication she wanted, he expressed concern because “it could cause your stomach to expand and force anything in it to come up and you could choke on it.” “Well, that’s not a problem, I haven’t eaten in three days.” “It’s still a concern. You could suffocate on your own secretions.” A doctor seriously told his patient who was struggling to breathe moreso due to anxiety than any physical ailment that she could suffocate on her own secretions! I don’t even have the words.

Self-consciousness be damned. I raised my voice to make sure he could hear me. “Let’s lower the anxiety in the room please!” I asked if they had any interventions for anxiety other than medication. He said he’d have the psychiatrist evaluate her. I backed off, mostly because I didn’t know what my godmother wanted so I didn’t feel comfortable trying to speak for her. I also didn’t know if the kinds of interventions I could think of would cost the family more than they could afford. But I don’t think – and I didn’t at the time – that she needs a psychiatrist. I learned later that the psychiatrist had already seen her and clearly wasn’t helpful. In the time since that moment, I’ve refined what I wanted to advocate for: someone to calmly inform her of any available alternatives to medication for managing her anxiety while in the hospital, and to follow through on whatever she said she thought would be the most helpful. Bonus points if they could also give her resources for when she leaves the hospital. Someone to listen to her. Why oh why would no one else listen to her?

Hours later, after she had decided she wanted to lie down and we had left to go have dinner, I learned that her son had been permitted to stay with her overnight. The nurse had advocated for it. I was so relieved to know that at least one need could be met: he was better than all the rest of us at noticing when she was retreating into her mind’s torture chamber. He could pull her back out of it.

Overall, I actually consider it to be a relatively positive Christmas experience. I got to connect with family members I’ve been feeling disconnected from, talking and joking and being honest with each other. We didn’t have TV or other convenient distractions; we were each other’s distraction from the hospital. We were there for each other.

Music was supposed to make me invincible, but it didn’t. My cousins’ compassion and determination – and her courage – were what got my godmother breathing on her own again, sitting up and conversing with us. All my years of schooling – and maybe even the lifelong involuntary therapist training – were worth it, because in the middle of hell with all of everyone’s (especially my own) anxiety I was able to help someone by empathizing with her. By being with her in that moment. By being honest about my own vulnerability. And by speaking up. It was a valuable learning and healing experience for me.

All I’ve heard since is that she’s still in the hospital. She texted hugs and kisses to Mom; when Mom asked if she could talk she replied “no.”

It’s ironic. I talked Mom into decorating for the holidays even though she didn’t want to. She put up a little ceramic Christmas tree and an ice palace. She put garland around one of her tables and she has some cute holiday-themed stuffed animals that I assume she’s going to put around the house. It’s just a little bit of cheer in her apartment that’s kind of nice.

I had all these plans: I wanted to put lights outside the house, but that didn’t happen and now it just seems kind of pointless. I wanted to get a tree and even cleared an area for one, but now I keep looking at the floor there; I want to vacuum, but if I’m gonna vacuum I should vacuum the whole floor. There’s so much stuff on the floor and nowhere to put it. And I need to dust but there’s so much stuff on the surfaces I need to dust and I don’t know where to put it! there’s so much clutter in this house and I don’t know where to put anything!

So I’m just sitting here crying and talking to my phone (to write this post using speech-to-text). I feel like such a hypocrite because I got my mom to decorate for the holidays – Mom would’ve been content not to bother – and yet I – the person who cared about it in the first place – haven’t done anything! I might not be able to do anything. I don’t know, Fox said he might be able to help me out a bit before work tomorrow because he has the late shift; I hope we’re both up for it. I want to do something myself. I want to something that I don’t need him to lean on for, but I can’t. I need somebody. I need some kind of support; it doesn’t have to be much. I just feel so alone.

a day with episodic mood disorder not otherwise specified

Today I asked my APN what her official diagnosis for me is, hoping (among other things) it might help me present myself more accurately on my blog. She confirmed that, especially based on my past response to anti-depressants, uni-polar “depression” doesn’t capture the whole picture of what’s going on. I guess she’s not sure what’s going on. To the extent that I do know, I have no idea what to call it. I was hoping she could give me an idea. But “episodic mood disorder not otherwise specified” just doesn’t have a good ring to it – even when shortened to “mood disorder NOS.” I might as well just say I have emotional issues. Well, almost. I have clinically-relevant emotional issues.

In other news, she decided to lower my Lamictal dose from 75 mg to 50 mg due to concern about possible side effects. On the one hand I’m glad she’s taking my concerns seriously and being cautious with the only brain and body I have. On the other hand, Wakana had suggested I should increase the dose – that the lower doses aren’t enough to be therapeutic – and I’d been expecting us to move in that direction. I guess there’s still the possibility of increasing the dose if that seems to be the best course of action; it’s probably better to trust the person who has the required training, certification, and experience to make decisions about this sort of thing.

But APN is talking about adding a new medication (that I’ve never taken or heard of before) to help fight the chronic lethargy I’ve been experiencing. I’m really not a fan of taking multiple medications. Even just being on one medication has me concerned about long-term effects and my ability to safely be a biological mother on my own terms someday. Let’s say I do experience side effects: how am I supposed to know which medication is causing them, or whether it’s an interaction between the two? More medications also means more risk of interaction with environmental factors, food, caffeine, and alcohol.

I may not be too thrilled with how today’s appointment went, but I still have confidence in my APN. She’s not just prescribing medications, she’s looking at the whole picture. She suggested I get blood work done so she can get a better picture of my physical health, including how it might be affected by the new medication she’s considering. She also re-encouraged me to have a sleep study done. Maybe if I do that, they’ll address the lethargy well enough that I won’t need to take a second medication! Finally, I appreciate that she asked me if I was seeing a therapist or would be interested in therapy. It shows she considers therapy to be an important part of treatment. She also encouraged me to work on setting boundaries, so I can distinguish between what I’m feeling and what others are throwing at me. That’s what most of the posts in this blog and the work I’ve been doing with Wakana are about, so I guess I’m on the right track. It’s just taking an uncomfortably long time to get where I need to be.

a day with depression turns 2!

Yesterday (December 12th) was my two-year anniversary blogging on WordPress! They sent me this lovely notification:

"Happy Anniversary! You registered on WordPress.com 2 years ago! Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!"

A “W” with a laurel wreath around it in a circle, shades of blue. The text above and below the image reads: “Happy Anniversary! You registered on WordPress.com 2 years ago! Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!” Created by the wonderful people at WordPress.com

I’m very happy with how my blog has been doing! So far it has 357 followers and has been viewed over 16,620 times by people all over the world! Here are some images from my stats page:

A bar graph showing monthly visitors (dark blue) and views (light blue) from December 2012 through 1:29pm EST on December 13, 2014.

A bar graph showing monthly visitors (dark blue) and views (light blue) from December 2012 through 1:29pm EST on December 13, 2014.

A map of the world showing countries color-coded according to how many views were by people in that country. Colors range from pale yellow (least views) to bright fushia (most views). Countries are listed on the left side of the image in order from most to least views. Most views of this blog are from the U.S. (10,323) the U.K. (1,446), Canada (1,196), and Australia (781).

A map of the world showing countries color-coded according to how many views were by people in that country. Colors range from pale yellow (least views) to bright fushia (most views). Countries are listed on the left side of the image in order from most to least views. Most views of this blog are from the U.S. (10,323) the U.K. (1,446), Canada (1,196), and Australia (781).

So much has happened over the past 2 years, I really don’t think I could do it justice if I tried to write a summary. I do want to point out that my very first post – which I broke into 3 parts – was about my not-so-successful attempts to find the right medication to help manage my symptoms. I later realized that what I really needed was to find the right psychiatrist, then eventually learned that the best person for me to see (whom I could afford and access) was actually an advanced practice nurse. Her willingness to listen to me and trust me as an expert in my own needs and experiences saved us both a lot of time and headache, and I think I’m now on a very good if not the best currently-available medication for me (Lamictal/lamotrigine). We’re slowly increasing my dose to a therapeutic level and I’m already seeing some benefit, with minimal side effects. Finally!

I wrote quarterly reviews during my first year of blogging; they express my slightly-longer-term perspective on what was going on at the time. I suppose you could say 2014 has been less efficiently documented. I started out the year by making a resolution to remember that, whether I’m having the best day of my life or the worst, I’m always the “real” me. I think I did a good job of keeping to that resolution. I also renewed my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health Project.

In February I let go of the emotional burden I’d been carrying around since my father died 16 – now almost 17 – years ago. It was a great healing experience but I still miss him; sometimes I think I miss him more. In March I announced that I aim to misbehave when it comes to talking about depression – that is, to talk and write about it as honestly as I’m able when I’m experiencing my symptoms at their worst, not just “after the fact” when I can put it all in a neat, “sane” package. I also allied with the part of me that fears “recovering” – getting a job, raising a family, all the stuff we’re supposed to strive for – because of the risk that I’ll stop taking care of myself. That theme has recurred during the year, including quite recently, as I struggle to be responsive to my own emotional and other needs and also get back into the activities and goals that were (are?) important to me. To be honest, I think I need to let the storm that is the “holiday season” blow over before I can really focus on such things.

In May I wrote a bit about shame and how it is addressed in Frozen, particularly in the song “Fixer-Upper.” During a family reunion I also wrote about my need to detach emotionally from the intense emotional chaos that was going on around me. Later I realized that a lot of the not-so-savory emotions I was feeling were “borrowed” from one of my aunts; had I taken a step back to say, “that’s how she feels. How do I feel?” the whole experience probably would have been a lot less intense.

June was a difficult month, particularly for my marriage. I was feeling more energized and motivated to pursue my career goals, and very frustrated with Fox for not being on the same page. I actually broke up with him – or at least tried to do so, but he convinced me to give him a chance to make things better. I realized I needed to separate myself from Mom, who I’m sure meant well but was encouraging my feelings toward separation from Fox more than I needed – not providing the balance that would help me figure out what I really wanted. Toward that end I revisited addressing my codependency and the ways in which I’m a reactionary. I realized that my worst fear is that I will give up on myself and commit suicide. Finally, I decided that I needed to listen to myself and went back through blog posts leading up to my legal marriage ceremony in November 2013 to find places where I expressed problems in our relationship, doubt, or insecurity. Now I’m thinking it’s probably not very helpful to dive into all that negativity without also looking at the positive aspects as well – a key tendency in depression – but at the time it was what I needed to do. It helped me find and assert myself and, most importantly, address those issues.

In July we started the marriage counseling that has not only revitalized and strengthened our marriage, but also benefited our mental health as individuals immensely. Most of my posts from that month have to do with taking time to figure out what I want and asserting myself in my interactions with others. Very importantly, this includes expressing my emotions even – especially! – when I think they will be difficult for others to hear. I had my first meeting with my advanced practice nurse (APN) on July 31.

August. The good news is, Fox started seeing a psychiatrist (part 1, part 2) and taking the medication (Wellbutrin/bupropion) that has been helping him a great deal over the past four months. I also started tracking my depression symptoms / severity on the Burns Depression Checklist – something I was able to do consistently for 3.5 months (and only stopped because I’ve found something better!). The bad news is, Robin Williams committed suicide… I still don’t think I’m ready to write about how that has affected me. The month ended soon after our pet rat, Trouble, was having so much difficulty breathing the only humane thing we could do was put him to sleep.

In September I went to my first (and so far only) depression / bipolar support group meeting, but was more frazzled by it than anything else. It’s good to know that it’s there for if and when I decide I’m ready to try it again. I also (finally) read The Drama of the Gifted Child, which helped me face the reality of my own childhood and commit even more strongly to nurturing and expressing my true self – emotions, needs, wants, etc. I started taking Lamictal/lamotrigine on the 29th. On the 30th something extraordinary happened: the persona who had been controlling my interactions with the rest of the world – often if not practically always at the expense of my true self – resigned, allowing zir adaptive aspects to be integrated without the not-so-desirable consequences. That left, well, me – the true self – in charge.

In October I recognized that the (now deceased/integrated) persona I’ve taken to calling the Censor, and my “mental illness” in general, are a collection of once-adaptive behaviors I developed to ensure my own survival. That’s a far cry from them being separate from or imposed upon me, and much much closer to that original resolution I made back in January. It helps me to be much kinder to myself and more engaged in the process of healing, becoming whomever I want and/or need to become. Speaking of need, I decided that the next step in the process is to get out and interact with people in groups and develop my social skills, but so far I haven’t been able to face my fears. Finally, October marked the first time in way too long that I was able to go for multiple days – even multiple weeks – without having any suicidal thoughts.

By early November my emotional norm was to be considerably less depressed, in the “mild depression” and even “normal but unhappy” ranges according to Burns. It was quite a nice place to be, I’d like to get back there. On the first anniversary of our legal marriage, Fox and I reaffirmed our commitment to each other in front of our combined family and friends. Then we threw the best party ever! I had an absolute blast and will enjoy reminiscing about the experience, well, hopefully for several decades. I needed some time to process and integrate the not-so-good aspects of the experience, but I think I’ve accepted them… adequately. It was a very complex, intensely emotional experience, and I’m so glad I got to have it and share it with the people closest to me.

I’ve been in a difficult low since the wedding. At first it was exhaustion from the event, and over time I became more and more frustrated with not being able to do the things I’d hoped I could, riding the energy from all the planning and joy of the event itself. I lost my motivation. Now, with the holidays looming, I feel like I’m hanging onto a raft in the middle of a raging sea; I need to find solid ground before I can try to build anything. At least the work Mom was having done on the roof is finished, so I’m able to get a decent night’s sleep and wake (more or less) on my own terms. I enjoy spending time with people I care about and try to get a healthy dose of social interaction every day. It seems the healthiest thing I can do right now is just accept that I need to focus on my emotional needs and “take care of myself,” as Wakana put it.

In short, I’ve grown a whole lot over the past year, and my first year of blogging definitely helped set me up to be able to do it. This blog has benefited me immensely. I hope it has helped others as well.

Here’s to the beginning of year #3…

I enjoyed nearly 2 hours of being poked, prodded, and x-rayed by a very friendly and thorough dental student… whose diagnosis is what we already knew: Root Canal Molar needs a root canal – apparently it’s dead but worth keeping around because I can use it to chew – and we don’t know what’s wrong with Endangered Molar. It could also need a root canal – that’s what he suspects – and/or I might need to see a periodontist. I think it’s a bit telling that I feel more confident about his assessment of the situation than my primary dentist’s – mostly because he listened to me and took my concerns and feedback seriously (and had the agreement of his professor). He was even willing to use unconventional means to get the best picture of my molars possible – resulting in the clearest x-ray of that area I’ve ever seen! I especially appreciate that he’s addressing the problems of both teeth.

The x-ray of Endangered Molar looks even more ominous than the one taken 6 weeks ago. There’s a giant dark area that shouldn’t be there. It suggests to me that there is something very seriously wrong with the tooth and its roots, but my responses during the examination suggest that it – unlike Root Canal Molar – is still vital. Quite the enigma. The dental professor said it may be something as simple as a piece of food that got stuck up there and needs to be cleaned out by a periodontist. (Good luck getting a referral…)

Despite my readiness to pull the teeth and get the whole thing over with, I’m going with the dental student’s decision to treat and attempt to save the teeth. He gave a much better argument than “I don’t want to feel guilty.” The last x-ray clearly shows that both affected molars meet the ones below them and are therefore functional for chewing – definitely worth saving. I’m convinced that I’ll be better off receiving treatment for them and not “giving up so easily,” as the dental student put it. If nothing else, having those teeth will help me make a better case for treating the ones below them, should it ever become necessary. I hadn’t thought of that before…

The person in the endodontist department verified that the school was submitting a referral for both teeth to receive root canals, gave me her card, and said, “if you don’t hear from me in four weeks, call me. If you have any problems with your teeth in the meantime, call me and I’ll try to get it expedited.” I liked that she took ownership of the situation and expressed willingness to advocate for me. It was a nice personal touch.

Everyone I interacted with helped me feel like a fellow human whose well-being was important. I’m going to see about changing it so the dental school is my primary dental facility. In addition to having more competent dentists, it’s in a better location for me and has a far more pleasant atmosphere. They even included “transgender” as an option on the patient registration form!

Mom accompanied me and was patient and supportive through the whole process. She seemed more upset than I was about, well, everything. I took it to mean she was concerned about me and that felt good. I treated her to a casual dinner as thanks. It wasn’t an ideal bonding experience, but it gave us time to talk and connect with each other and I found that to be meaningful.

I never thought I’d call a day that involved going to the dentist a good day, but it kinda was. Chew on that…

Breaking Down

I’m not doing so well. I don’t think anyone knows. I’ve only gotten a couple good nights’ sleep in the past week and a half. Mom’s having some much-needed work done on the roof, so most mornings I’ve woken up to loud banging and yelling – at random intervals so I can’t tune it out. Fox gets home from work very late, and I generally want to spend some time with him before bed. We’ve been seeing 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. regularly, sometimes going to bed closer to 5:00 a.m.! Then banging and yelling only a few hours later.

The worst part is the tone and content of the yelling as of late. I could deal with “pass me this” or “put that there” or even the occasional cursing. But a handful of days ago, a very angry voice joined the original,  obnoxious one. The things he yells border on verbal abuse. It reminds me of my father on our bad days. It’s like someone is amplifying the abusive voices in my head, which I thought I’d silenced. They’re growing bolder, trying to see how much they can get away with. How much will I let them torture me before I suppress them again?

It’s bad. All I want to do is sleep but I can’t. I spend most of my time playing The Sims 3. I’m very happy with how my game is going; I’ve played well past the point where I would usually stop playing a particular family and start a new one. But it comes at a cost: no matter how happy I am with my progress in the game, I’ll never really be satisfied with it. There’s always a new goal. And the time I spend on it is not only wasted, it seems to undermine my ability to be creative and motivated and active when I’m not playing. I find it difficult to think or talk about anything else. But I don’t want to stop!

I feel like I’m two distinct people each day. Pre-Sims Ziya is dedicated enough to learning to essentially re-do the first week of zir Coursera course, because ze misunderstood several important concepts the first time through. Ze downloaded music instrument apps and has enjoyed creating melodies and chord progressions with them and feels so alive while doing so! It’s a first step toward playing the actual instruments again. Ze is doing things like registering for spring semester classes and trying to access medical (dental) care despite the difficulty. Ze wants to be more active and uses the pedometer app on zir phone to track and encourage more movement.

Post-Sims Ziya is tired, apathetic, frustrated, and so hungry ze doesn’t feel hungry anymore. The only thing ze can think about is zir Sims and that is rather depressing – but possibly safer than anything relating to the real world, where ze is dissatisfied with zir life. Ze feels anxious and guilty about what used to be zir aspirations and now feel like obligations, a debt to be repaid (both figuratively and literally). Ze doubts whether ze can do it – and, more importantly, whether ze wants to do it. Does what I want even matter?

I feel like other people – mostly Wakana – are pushing me to get out of the house, be social, find a job, be productive, contribute to society. I look at society and think, “I don’t want to contribute to this! I want to burn it.” Everything going on in the real world is so fucked up. I used to want to have a life but lately it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. When I’ve tried to join new groups people have just talked all around me. I don’t want a retail job and it just seems like a bad idea to take any job right now, with the winter holidays looming. My schedule the last week of December is too busy to fit a job. It’s bad enough not knowing Fox’s availability. You know, assuming I could manage to impress someone enough for them to offer me a job, with the issues I’ve been having. I feel like crap.

I feel worthless, useless, a waste of time. I wanted to be with Fox on his day off (a rare one when we don’t have any plans) but he’s asleep, snoring loudly (so I can’t join him). I don’t really blame him: he’s been even more sleep deprived than I am and he’s working. Busy, on his feet, or traveling all day. But it hurts when he wants to take time for himself (usually going on the computer) in the only time I have to spend with him (or anyone) all day…

My thoughts are spiraling out of control. Images and urges to cut myself. Statements that are increasingly suicidal. I’m trying to argue against them, trying to hang on, but it’s getting harder. I don’t know how much longer I can do this. And winter is a very bad time of the year for me. It’s probably just going to get worse.