Just Say ‘No’ to Telepathy: Part 2

After the high that was Monday, I’ve spent the past couple days feeling completely exhausted. Physical tiredness I could deal with. Aches and pains are to be expected: my body isn’t used to me being so active, and I’m not exactly “young” anymore. What’s got me concerned is that I feel emotionally exhausted, like someone sucked a year of my life away. For a while I was wondering if maybe I’m sick (again) but no, that’s not it. I might get sick if I don’t take care of myself, but this is definitely emotional exhaustion.

The exhaustion is bad enough that I stayed home from my music therapy on Tuesday, and ended up doing a phone session with Wakana. She listened to me talk about how great it was to be surrounded by so many awesome people, and reflected my joy that I’ve “found my tribe” – and (possibly) my calling. (If only I could make money doing it.)

Then she, being my therapist, took the conversation in the last direction I would’ve liked it to go in. “I seem to remember you complaining that you don’t feel that connected with Fox lately. You’re both just kind of coexisting, you’re not connecting.”

Continue reading

Just Say ‘No’ to Telepathy: Part 1

I participated in a May Day rally on Monday; it was fantastic! The people, the energy, the solidarity, hours of being active outside, getting to practice public speaking (by introducing someone, nothing major), connecting with some of my Green Party friends and other activists, … (very briefly) hanging out with Ron, Carl, and Mo all at the same time …

Yeah. I thought Mo was gone. But suddenly he was walking toward me, arms outstretched, a giant smile. It was like seeing a ghost. I was so happy to see him! I gave him a warm hug; I asked him about his recent experiences, how long he’s gonna be around, if he wants to get together …

He and Carl were both kind of there but not there. They each seemed more interested in talking to other people. I keep telling myself it wasn’t really the place to try to connect with anyone on a meaningful level – I myself was bouncing from one person or small group to the next. But I had some great conversations with people, friends and acquaintances – maybe I was able to appreciate those interactions more because I was focusing on what was, not what I would’ve liked? I don’t know.

Well, it was good to at least smile, say “hi,” and hug them. I think the feeling was mutual.

Ron and I continued hanging out after everyone else had left. Ze taught me how to throw a football, emphasizing that it’s about feel, not brute force. I approached it like a meditation: feeling the movements of my body, putting my intention into every muscle. My best throws were made with eyes closed.

Continue reading

A New Milestone in Therapy: Part 1

[CW: descriptions of ways alcoholics and people under the influence of alcohol behave that can be harmful, especially to others]

Okay, this is becoming antertaining – yes, fingers, ants. “Ants” pretty much sums it all up.

So, cast of characters:
Mo – the “friend” who manipulated me, then moved
Ron – the “friend” who keeps saying things that make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong
Carl – the person I know is actually my friend, even though he occasionally annoys me

I was telling my music therapist, Wakana, about the above individuals – all of whom I’ve had crushes on, by the way – in a rather interesting session on Tuesday. Continue reading

Transformation

Wow. I spent 2 days totaling 12 hours registering voters outside my town’s public library. 4 new democrats, 7 unaffiliated (who can declare party affiliation at the polls). I handed out several additional registration forms and information about my state’s and town’s upcoming primary.

Okay, the not-so-great stuff first:

  • I got a mild sunburn even though I was in the shade the whole time.
  • I spent most of my shift yesterday having a conversation with someone who talks like a Bernie supporter but actually supports Trump because she hates immigrants and people in the US who are undocumented. Despite being an otherwise reasonable, educated person, she would not listen to rational arguments about why a Trump presidency would be disastrous for her and “[her] people.”
    • That person seemed to be manipulating my voter registration efforts, worst of all by saying bad things about Latinos while people who looked like they might be Latino/a were walking by.
    • She said stuff about LGBTQIA people that made me feel uncomfortable – and misgendered me.
    • I didn’t know how to ask her to leave.
  • I seem to have developed a cyst in a most awkward location as a result of sitting for too long wearing tight jeans. It’s painful enough to affect how I walk. I’m reluctant to go to the doctor because 1) I might have to wait a long time for them to be able to see me 2) I don’t know if I’ll be able to set the boundary that I only want them to deal with that specific problem 3) the word “surgical” was included in the description of how the cyst is typically treated. (If you’re so inclined, please pray, send positive energy, etc. for it to heal on its own.)
  • I seem to have forgotten what “regular meals” are.

In much better news, I feel like I’ve transformed overnight. I had been “developing agoraphobic tendencies,” feeling unmotivated to do anything, intimidated by the idea of contacting voters or recruiting volunteers, and depressed that I was “wasting my life.”

Then I started working with the current regional manager for the campaign and everything changed. I spent 2 days outside where anyone could see me calling out to random strangers and talking to them about the primary. I dealt gracefully with people who said weird things to me, like implying that my efforts were futile or that I had “nothing better to do” with my time. (grr.) I received a number of compliments from people who were grateful for the convenience, found my information sheet informative, or found me helpful. I even got the satisfaction of knowing that high school students who are too young to vote are interested in it. I’d love to recruit some of them for Bernie’s campaign! (Dunno where/whether it’s legal for me to do that, though.)

After my shift yesterday, instead of being exhausted and wanting to get away from people, I was eager to get back to work for Bernie’s campaign. When doing voter registration I couldn’t represent the campaign – at least not officially – so I couldn’t wait to shed the illusion of “impartiality” and go talk to people who aren’t walking contradictions. I got to the office late because I needed to eat something, but then I spent a couple hours recruiting volunteers – many of whom were enthusiastic to have the opportunity to go knock on doors of potential voters.

Remember when I said knocking on the doors of strangers was the last thing I wanted to do? Now I can’t wait!

I also figure I should do it myself at least once before I get to be the one training people and sending them out Monday night.

I am so happy I’m alive because I get to do all this stuff! I love feeling so energized. I get to do something about all the things I’ve wanted to change in the US for years now; I get to act on the things I’m most passionate about. There’s a real, meaningful role for me to play – and I’m doing it right now.

I’m also thinking a bit about my career: The leadership opportunities I’m engaging in will look great on my resume. My current and upcoming regional managers, as well as the co-leader for my town, may be willing to serve as references. Resume and whatnot aside, the experience I’m getting is fantastic for my personal and professional growth. I feel so much more confident that I can do this stuff – because I’m doing it!!! This is fantastic!!!

I’m very fortunate in that I can decide this is the most important thing for me to do, and I can choose to pour all my time and energy into it. I’m determined to make a difference!

Therapists

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

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

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

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

But my therapist?

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

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

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

It almost feels kind of wrong. Selfish.

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

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

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

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

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

Sims 3 Legacy Challenge: Orlanna Faust

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

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

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

Orlanna contemplates her current situation.

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

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

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

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

Founder: Orlanna Faust

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

Orlanna dresses up as a firefighter for Spooky Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orlanna and Orion embrace at the winter festival.

Legacy House

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

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

Orlanna’s cozy little house on a snowy day.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

A Line Through Time

One of the worst things about my mood disorder is feeling disconnected from my past self/selves. I feel like I’ve lost something and I want it back, but I’m not even sure what it is. Most of my work with Wakana has focused on reclaiming aspects of my Self and my life experiences that I’d repressed, abandoned, or otherwise been ashamed of. It can be very painful It is excruciatingly painful, but with every step I feel closer to being whole.

Last night I decided to make a timeline of my relationships. I started with meeting Banji over 15 years ago and continued through college, my first full-time job, grad school, meeting Fox, Banji moving away, getting married, all the way to this year. I realized there was at least one major transition – including but not limited to beginning, losing, and ending relationships – in every calendar year since I graduated from college about 10 years ago.

There is a concentration of intense transitions from 2011 through 2013. As Banji was preparing to move away, I essentially proposed to Fox – despite only knowing him for a handful of months. Spring 2011 was the last time I facilitated music therapy sessions for actual clients. Banji moved over the summer. I applied for an internship and thought it was a sure thing, so I waited months to learn whether I’d been accepted… only to be rejected twice. By the end of that year I’d moved in with a friend from college.

I don’t have much written down about 2012. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right medication and psychiatrist, and ended up taking some meds that probably did more harm than good. I adopted a pair of rats early in the year, one of whom died about a month or two later, and I had to euthanize the other by the end of the year.

Banji moved much closer to home (but still 5 hours away) around the beginning of 2013. I followed suit by moving back in with Mom; I’ve barely seen or talked to my former roommate since. Mom got knee replacement surgery, my uncle died, I had to drop the classes I’d waited 2 years to take because they were triggering my worst symptoms, Fox moved in with me that summer, and we got married in the fall. Looking back on it in that context, I think I must have been crazy!

Some of the above transitions were out of my control, but others (like moving) I imposed on myself. I honestly don’t regret them; they were necessary for me to reach the point where I am now. But they definitely added to my stress and were not entirely beneficial to my mental health. I couldn’t do most of the things I was used to doing; I stopped doing things that had been meaningful to me. I made at least one decision that I do regret now. In hindsight I think my worst problem may have been the guilt and shame I felt because of the problems I was facing – particularly as they affected my pursuit of a career.

Things have been improving since last summer, when Fox and I started marriage counseling and finally gained access to the medication we need (thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”). Fox has been working full time for several months now. I did well through a challenging semester on a sub-therapeutic dose of my medication. Now I’m on a therapeutic dose. We’re regularly using the skills we learned in marriage counseling (which our therapist terminated 2 months ago). Our relationship brings us both a lot of comfort and joy.

Of equal importance is that Banji and I have worked through at least some of the issues impacting our relationship; we’ve become closer as a result. We’ve adapted to the current physical distance between us. Whenever we meet in person, we blend continuing fun traditions from the past with planning for the life we intend to build together. We’re not where we want to be – living within a 10-minute drive of each other – but we’re hopeful.

I haven’t been putting off applying for internships because I’m afraid of rejection. I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say I’m afraid of success. Starting an internship would be Another Huge Transition: new relationships, new routines, new responsibilities, even a new role/identity. The dynamic between Fox and me would change – hopefully for the better, but it would still be a change.

This is something I actually have some control over; I am exercising my control. I am not procrastinating and I do not have anything to be ashamed of. I am choosing to postpone another huge world-shattering transition because I’ve learned that it’s harmful to have too many of them in such a short period of time. There’s a lot of pressure to start my internship as soon as possible, and a lot of benefits that could come from doing so. But there are also benefits to waiting, at least for few more months.

I need some time to breathe.