Resolutions shMEHjzolutions

Trigger Warning: video game addiction, particularly RPGs (role-playing games) and The Sims 3

I hadn’t played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim since August 15th. Four and a half (4.5) months!!! That’s not to say I was abstaining from video games; I have been playing The Sims 3 a lot, to the point where my first generation of sims born in-game are elders and the second will be young adults soon. But Skyrim had practically become a thing of the past…

Then a friend posted about it on Facebook, and I started wanting to play again. She was talking about a quest line I thoroughly enjoyed, but have already completed. Other people have talked about the game since, increasing my tendency to think about and want to play it. My desire to do a Let’s Play of Skyrim has resurrected itself; I’d like to say “against my will” but I’m not entirely convinced that’s true. To make matters even worse, the new expansion for World of Warcraft (WoW) has a close friend of mine playing and talking about that game again; I think to some extent the discussion of WoW by a handful of friends at our New Year’s Eve celebration pushed me over the edge.

I had a mixed Holiday Season: there were a number of good things that happened but it was also very stressful, perhaps more so than usual. I tried to acknowledge Yule but I’m not entirely happy with the extent to which I did so. Christmas sneaked up on me somehow and I failed to decorate for it. My godmother almost suffocated on Christmas Eve (while I was celebrating with Banji) and is still in the hospital. I had some very enjoyable gatherings with friends and family over the past two weeks, but it was a lot of socialization all at once, without much of a break in between. I became very irritable – possible manic symptoms? – leading up to New Year’s Eve. I haven’t been getting satisfactory sleep and I’ve been eating a ton of sugar, salt, and fat in lieu of the nutrients my body actually needs. Fox and I had been planning to enjoy today as a chance to sleep in and have a restful time to ourselves – but then he learned a that cousin he rarely sees is visiting with his parents, and decided to go see them instead.

So, the first thing I did when I got home yesterday was load my old game of Skyrim. I was extremely tempted to start a new game (again) but I really want to experience the stuff I haven’t gotten to do yet. I put in several hours of gameplay yesterday and have already played for an additional 4 hours today. It’s been surprisingly easy to just pick up my old game where I’d left off, thanks largely to the quest log. If only it were so easy to just dive back in to real life…

Part of me is upset because the whole point of New Year’s Resolutions is that you’re supposed to start working on them the first day of the new year… right? “A new year, a new you!”? I could have worked on at least one of the resolutions yesterday, but I didn’t. Well, I guess I was socializing in a group for a decent chunk of it, and I was interacting with people I care about. I guess I need to accept that I can’t do all of my resolutions every day, but I regret not at least trying to get in 10 minutes of physical activity.

The rest of me says: let’s be honest. Midnight on January 1st marks the beginning of a new year because we say it does (and ostensibly because the earth has begun a new revolution around the sun – but we could put the point at which revolutions begin and end anywhere along our orbit). It’s a cultural construction that has everything to do with what we want to do – have a clean slate on which to draw our ideal lives – and nothing to do with reality.

In reality the earth making a full revolution back to a particular point on its orbit associated with January 1st is no different from it making a full revolution back to a particular point on its orbit associated with any other month and day. In reality, time is continuous. It is cyclical, but each cycle is affected by events during the cycles preceding it. The cycles do not begin and end at preset points, but flow continuously from one into the next. The way we divide time is arbitrary.

I might have decided that midnight on January 1st, 2015 marked the beginning of a new year, and here are some things I want to focus on. To be honest, I think that’s healthy. It’s important to live life with intention. Saying it’s a new year helps with that: I can forgive myself and the universe for whatever I didn’t like about last year, and focus on what I want to do going forward.

But in reality, my life and my Self have continued on without the luxury of being wiped clean, over countless arbitrary culturally-determined divisions of time and at least thirty new years. I’m still the same person I was at 23:59:59 on December 31, 2014. I still have all the same habits, the same very cluttered apartment, the same mental health issues, the same worry and guilt about what’s going on with my godmother, the same need to have some time to rest before I move on with Life After the Holidays. I’m still clinging to floating debris trying to figure out where I should put my feet.

That’s not going to stop because I’ve decided it’s a new year, as of midnight on January 1st, 2015. Just like I can’t arbitrarily decide that now I’ve recovered and I no longer have depression and anxiety, or bipolar, or episodic mood disorder NOS, or whatever the hell it is. I just live. I need to take care of myself always – not “starting” at x point in time. I can’t do it continuously without fail; I’m going to mess up and backtrack and have another episode and need another break. I’m going to have times when I become obsessed with something and use it as an escape from reality. It just is. I forgive myself preemptively.

What I can do is accept that and do my best to love myself. “Okay, we’ve played Skyrim for four hours, let’s take a break.” I was feeling hungry as I wrote about neglecting my nutritional needs, so I decided to go eat some leftover vegetables. I’ve been having trouble getting a restful night’s sleep, so last night I listened to a guided meditation – that worked perfectly. My resolutions reflect my needs, so it’s important that I do my best to stick to them. But I let go of the temptation to want to do them all perfectly every day. It’s just not realistic. I can celebrate what I do. If there’s something I consistently don’t do, I can try to figure out why and address that need.

That’s what this post comes down to. I made a bunch of resolutions, then proceeded to ignore them in favor of not just playing Skyrim, but becoming obsessed with starting a project that would eat up all my time. In other words, I chose was am severely tempted by a path that would make it impossible more difficult for me to do what I need to create the life I want for myself. Why? What is all this really pointing to? What am I trying to communicate to myself? What needs aren’t being met?

I’m not sure I’m ready to answer that directly, but I’m reminded of a post from last March: Whose Goals are These Anyway?

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.

We all know it’ll never happen, so why do we waste our breath?

The things I seem to struggle with the most are knowing my limits and setting boundaries. By “setting boundaries” I mean asserting them and enforcing and defending them no matter what efforts the people I love make to tear them down. This keeps happening, over and over and over again. And at the end of the day, who’s hurt by it? Me. I might say or do some things that hurt other people, too, but guess what? That also hurts me!

The past couple weeks have been crazy. The end of the semester is always insane. Then on Wednesday 12/19 I had to pick my best friend up at the airport and pack for a 2-day road trip. Thursday and Friday we drove around like crazy people so she could find a new apartment. We’re thrilled because she’ll only be 4 hours away instead of 14! But it was also a lot of driving with her dad (who is awesome! – but: 1. adding a third person changes the dynamic so we interact less, and 2. I seem to fall asleep the instant I’m in the back seat of a moving car). So, I feel like I lost 2 days. Saturday my roommate had a party at the apartment, which was fun but also a bit draining (for an introvert).

My mom is having the area of her house where I’ll be living fixed up, which is incredibly nice of her. I’m really excited about it. On Sunday we went to the hardware store to look at paint colors and some other items, with limited success. Spending time with her and my fiance simultaneously was nice … but can also be quite stressful because somehow I end up being the one who has to deal with the things they both do to get on each others’ nerves.

Monday has its own post and there isn’t much more to say about Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were crazy. I was at Mom’s while the contractors were working. I blinked and suddenly two rooms were painted, with ALL THE THINGS in a third room and a fourth room – my new bedroom – completely empty. The contractor wanted to paint the bedroom, which is the only room I hadn’t picked a color for yet, so I had only a handful of hours to make my decision. We went to 2 hardware stores and picked out several color swatches, then came home and helped move everything out of the bedroom, then Mom asked if I’d picked a color. Of course not! I had to consider colors with Mom and the contractors watching me, making me feel like I was being indecisive and taking forever.

Finally I made a decision, then rushed over to my best friend’s parents’ house to celebrate the holidays with her and five of our mutual friends. We had the gathering yesterday because my fiance and I had plans with his family for today and two of our friends wouldn’t have been able to come if we’d had it tomorrow. I enjoyed spending time with people, but found it difficult to remain engaged. I was too tired to put in the effort to fully participate. I feel like I missed out on a lot.

I wish I’d known my limits well enough to anticipate that I would need a day or two between events to recuperate. And I wish I’d set boundaries by scheduling in those days, regardless of protests by others who would be inconvenienced by them.

Today I was supposed to go celebrate the holidays with my fiance’s immediate family, who already consider and treat me as one of their own. Driving to their house can take up to 2 hours and tends to be very stressful. I would have had to make the drive alone.

I thought I’d be up to it, but this morning I woke up feeling dead. I explained my decision not to come, but they tried to talk me into coming anyway with promises of tasty food and information about why today is really best for them. I abandoned my attempt at a boundary by agreeing to come, but in the evening instead of afternoon.

Then they asked (via text message) if they should wait for me to have dinner, and I snapped. Dinner is the family coming together to share a meal and connect with one another; it is nourishment for the spirit as well as the body. They shouldn’t have needed to ask if I wanted to be a part of that. They should have wanted to share it with me and decided on their own to make that happen. That they would even consider not doing so felt like the gravest offense – especially after the sacrifice I had agreed to make out of consideration for them!

I sent an angry text telling them to have their dinner and holiday celebration without me, ignored my fiance’s calls and even turned off my phone. I did my long-neglected laundry. I took a shower for the first time in almost a week. I scribbled in my sketchbook and wrote this post and relaxed in bed. While it was still light out I looked out the window and admired the beautiful blue sky.

Maybe I’m starting to feel human again. And as a human I know I can’t go on like this. I plan too much because I want to make everybody happy, but I ignore my limits and my needs. Then instead of asserting myself and maybe making someone a little unhappy, I let myself get pushed and pushed and pushed until I have no choice but to push back. We all feel horrible. Rinse and repeat.

This is the time of year when everyone’s probably posting their New Year’s Resolutions, so I guess I’ll jump on the bandwagon and share mine:

  1. I will figure out what my limits are. For some things I might be able to write out “rules” to follow later, such as “I can only plan 2 social events for one week” or “I must get 8 hours of sleep.” For others I’ll just need to listen to what my body is telling me in the moment.
  2. I will set my boundaries. That means letting others know my limits and using my limits as a guide to set boundaries with others. It means maintaining my boundaries no matter what. I will not compromise until I learn to do so without sacrificing my own needs. I will risk hurting someone’s feelings a little bit now to avoid hurting them (and myself) a lot later.

Christmas Eve: An Emotional (and functional) Rollercoaster

On Christmas Eve, I awoke knowing I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and determined to claim the last hour or two I required. My fiance got up, got dressed, and tried to wake me gently. Eventually I acquiesced, had breakfast, and took my morning pills (Zoloft, omega-3, vitamin B, and vitamin D).

Then we launched into baking cookies. I did most of the work mixing the ingredients while my fiance cleaned and got some Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas music playing. We worked together to put the cookie dough on the trays and get the trays in and out of the oven in a timely manner.

I was on top of the world through the whole process. Between the music and sharing a favorite holiday tradition with someone I love, I simply could not imagine anything better. And the results of our labor were some of the most delicious, satisfying, euphoria-inducing cookies I have ever had. I couldn’t wait to share them!

I felt like everything was right again and I could stop taking my medication.

Then my fiance took about half the cookies and left to spend the holiday with his family, an arrangement we’d agreed on days earlier. I worked on a project with my best friend over Skype, an endeavor which was fun and satisfying but also more stressful than I think either of us had anticipated. Once we finished, it was time for me to get ready to go.

The plan was for me to spend Christmas Eve with my best friend at her parents’ house, then go to my mom’s that night so I could spend Christmas Day with her. I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of not only getting ready to visit with people, but also having to plan what I would wear for another day or two and put together an overnight bag.

I’m moving back in with my mom in a couple of months, so she had suggested that I bring some things over with me as part of that transition (which is stressful in its own right). Deciding what items I could live without for a couple of months – and packing them so they’d be manageable to carry, along with the other items I was bringing – was just too much for me to handle. I decided pretty quickly to let that one slide; there will be plenty more opportunities for me to go through things and bring some of them to Mom’s.

I showered, then sat down on my bed with my towel draped over me. It’s an organizing tactic that admittedly slows me down, but feels necessary when I’m stressed about going somewhere. My roommate was watching a movie in the other room with the sound so loud it was making the whole apartment vibrate.

I froze. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t tell you what emotion(s) I was feeling.
I was stuck.

All of my energy went into holding my rigid position and taking things in through my senses: I saw the objects within my range of vision, heard the catastrophically loud music and sound effects and walls vibrating, felt the bed under my hips and legs and the towel draped over my shoulders. I was aware of my heartbeat and respiration. That was all I was – that, and a sense that I should be doing something else.

Finally, I got myself to move. I stuck out a leg, suspended it horizontally from the bed, and froze again. My intention had been to get up and start getting dressed, but I became stuck in this new position. My leg shook slightly with the effort of keeping it in place, but I did not move. Waves of fatigue, sadness, and anxiety washed over me.

Eventually, with much effort, I was able to get dressed, put together an overnight bag, remember to bring my viola so my friend and I could play string music together for the first time in seven months, check the weather and decide I should wear my winter boots in case of snow, etc.

I forgot to get gas so I had to drive around in a circle. Then I got boxed in at the gas station. Then when I was about a third of the way to my destination I realized I had forgotten the one Christmas present I’d managed to pick up – my present for my mom. I felt horrible. I was already an hour late for dinner, the weather was getting gross, it was dark, and I was tired. I kept driving toward my friend’s parents’ house, furious with myself for “messing everything up.”

The thought of committing suicide entered my mind, but I fended it off with the conviction that it would be horribly cruel to subject my loved ones to that much sorrow – especially on Christmas Eve.

People were still eating when I arrived at my destination, so I joined their meal and conversation. It was very pleasant. My best friend and I played a few duets, then it was time to exchange presents. I felt awkward receiving presents when I had none to give, but I was happy with the gifts I got and enjoyed seeing the exchanges among family members and friends.

Once the exchange was complete, we went back to making music together, which at least started out as an enjoyable activity. I felt insecure about sight reading, but did my best and had some fun playing Christmas duets.

Unfortunately, I had to stop playing viola before long. I’d fallen back on bad habits, was holding my left wrist in a very awkward position, and had pain shooting down my left arm whenever I moved my fingers. I felt depressed and tired, but my friend was understanding.

We sat down on the couch to listen to some recorded viola music and I fell asleep, occasionally twitching.

Soon after I woke up we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, one of my most favorite movies ever. I love the music and I resonate with the message behind the story: no matter how much pain you have experienced, you can still find love and cheer if you’re open to it.

I sang along to all the songs and felt fantastic!

Visiting with Mom after that was very enjoyable. She didn’t seem angry that I had forgotten her present. I enjoyed opening the presents she had gotten for me and expressing my gratitude for them. Eventually we went to bed, tired but content.

Today Mom and I were late leaving to visit with family, but otherwise had a pleasant Christmas. Yes, I took my medication. My mood – primarily content – was a lot more stable than yesterday. My energy levels fluctuated from moderate to low enough that I had to fight to stay awake. Speaking of which, this entry needs to end because I’m losing my current battle. Good night!