It’s really because of the friendship thing. Him, me, it doesn’t matter. I’m just mourning the loss.

This was a dream. I loved listening to him talk about it, loved all the awesome ideas he came up with for it. I wanted to be part of that dream.

but for some reason I couldn’t? or i didn’t… I don’t know, I mean I complained about having to pay for parking but honestly I could’ve done it at least a couple times to hang out with a friend. I’ve done crazier things.

I never got to see how he set up the office. never got to hang out with him playing video games. never got to have the sense of camaraderie while struggling to meet a deadline on one of those stupid (or not-so-stupid) articles. it seems exceedingly unlikely I’ll ever get to be in one of the videos… all the stuff we’d talked about, gone.

and there is something I could have done to prevent this. I could’ve gone into the office, just once. but I didn’t. “because I needed to compose.”

well now I can’t focus on composing.

(can’t? or won’t? because if it’s won’t for the love of everything…)

I emailed him saying I was saddened by the termination with no discussion, but we’re still friends, right? … no response. I should probably call. dunno if I want to.

I just need to acknowledge the loss.

and we’re coming up on the 18th anniversary of my grandmother’s death. that one was particularly painful because near the end she stopped recognizing me. I was trying to help her and all I saw in her eyes was fear – not the kind, loving woman who’d helped raise me. so in her final days I couldn’t even give that back. And I guess I missed my chance to say goodbye…

gods I hate this time of year

alright, back to composing.

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A Step Toward Oblivion

I’m playing Skyrim to numb the pain. It comes when I’m not distracted by socializing, when I’m alone with my own thoughts. I feel like it’s always here, waiting for my loved ones to leave, for the electronics to go off, for me to get tired. I’m always tired. The voices – well, one very mean voice – told me I should drown myself because I dropped one of my favorite bowls (now considered “vintage” because it’s from the 70s) and it shattered. One of the other voices stood up for me: “It’s a bowl. Ze had to clean it up. I think that’s punishment enough.”

I helped Fox get out the door this morning, so he could be on time for an early shift. That felt good. I saw the sun rise. I got to hug him. I got to feel like I was doing something meaningful.

Now he’s gone and I’m surrounded by clutter. I’m tired. I look at my music instruments and feel sad, like my best friend has gone away. Oh, wait, she has. Banji was visiting for the holidays – but she had to go back to where she’s been living, a 5-hour drive away. It hit me much harder than I’d expected. She’ll be back soon. And I can visit her. Weather permitting, of course. But I still miss her. My heart’s been torn out and driven 5 hours away.

Courses. I need to get an extension so I can finish my degree. I’m afraid the dean will say “no,” or that it won’t be enough. I don’t think I’ll be accepted again if I have to re-apply to my program, and I can’t afford to re-take courses. My student debt is crushing enough.

I’m supposed to re-take the courses I had to drop 2 years ago because they were provoking suicidal thoughts. I was hurting myself – not doing any real damage, just causing lots of physical pain – on a regular basis because it was the only way I could get home from classes in one piece. So much was supposed to change between then and now: I was supposed to get better, to improve my music skills so I’d feel more confident using them in class, to become a normal functioning adult. Now I can’t carry a bowl from one room to another without it shattering at my feet.

I was doing better for a while – or so I thought. I learned a lot. I think that stuff is still with me, it’s hard to say. These depression and anxiety goggles are so thick and heavy I can barely lift my head.

But none of that matters. What matters is that something as simple as the holidays being over can still throw me into a deep depression like this. How can I live? How can I accomplish any of my goals and dreams?

Skyrim is my stasis chamber. It’s how I (am currently trying to) survive the long journey through the void of strong depression between planets of… mild depression.

Disappointment is Necessary

I crashed and burned after the wedding, there’s no way around it. I was a whir of energy leading up to that day, emotions all over the place, a near-constant stream of goal-directed activity. It felt fantastic. The celebration itself was fantastic. Being surrounded by so many people I love and who love me …

Now it’s gone. It’s been gone. I didn’t get enough sleep and it left me exhausted. Over a week later, I’m still exhausted. I felt so good; I thought I could build on the energy and do things to improve my life. Clean the apartment, find a job, join a group, get out and socialize more, even just maintain some kind of contact with some of the people who came out to see me. Anything…

I’m too tired to do anything. I’m pouring what energy I do have into The Sims 3. I think it appeals to me because my sims can go out on the town and have vibrant social lives that I control and accomplish their goals in a much shorter amount of time than in real life: combine control, vicarious living, and instant gratification. After I restarted my current game for the second time I realized that my perfectionism was taking over, forcing me to give up progress in a game that was going really well because there was one thing I didn’t like and couldn’t fix.

I think part of why my perfectionism is taking over is because of how much I had to suppress it to cope with the reality of the wedding. There were a lot of things that didn’t go the way I wanted; I’ve been trying really hard not to dwell on them because if I focus on them I’ll feel like it was a complete disaster. But keeping the focus on the positive is exhausting, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure it’s healthy. We need to acknowledge the not-so-good aspects of our lives, even if we can’t do anything about them.

The thing that’s bothering me the most is that, because of how the space was set up and where my bridal party ended up standing, it was very difficult for my guests to see what was going on during the ceremony. I felt doubly bad about that because we hadn’t invited the majority of the guests to the legal ceremony last year, so this was their chance to see us ‘get married’. At least they were able to hear it?

Worse, I completely forgot about the audio recorder I’d brought specifically to record the ceremony and especially our vows – a compromise so we wouldn’t have to pay for a videographer. I don’t have the audio recording, and no one was able to take video because they couldn’t see it, and my memory of audio input leaves much to be desired… So, in short, the only record of the most important aspect of the entire affair – our vows – is written notes that exclude the parts we improvised.

I don’t know if I would have remembered to set up the audio recorder if things had gone differently, but we could have at least had the bridal party positioned so the guests could see. (Then maybe someone would have taken video!) We didn’t have time to have a rehearsal because we were late getting to the venue and then I lost track of time and I don’t even know where everyone was, so I probably would have had a difficult time getting them together. And some people – mostly members of Fox’s family – came early and started talking to us. So no rehearsal, and bridal party pictures had to be taken during the reception … but at least the space was partially cleaned and the handicap-accessible restroom didn’t smell of cigarette smoke.

Part of why we were late getting to the venue was because it took longer to get things together than I’d been expecting, and part was because I got in an argument with the bridesmaid who’d been kind enough to do our centerpieces. She wanted to get them from her parents’ car (which would be at the venue a little bit later), but I knew we wouldn’t have time for her to find her parents, get their key, unload the centerpieces, and reload them into Banji’s car. We were both butting heads for a stupid amount of time before I realized I could (and should!) just go. Then I felt bad for leaving Banji to deal with the situation, and I thought we were an hour later than we actually were because I’d forgotten to set my car’s clock back, so I was a furious raging mess. People kept telling me to calm down but to be honest I was glad I could express myself, and I needed to do so; it was what was healthy at the time. Can you imagine if I’d kept all that in? It would have been a nightmare.

No rehearsal meant that random things happened during the procession and introductions that weren’t what I wanted, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. “The show must go on.” For the most part it was fine; none of the guests have complained. No one has even said anything about not being able to see the ceremony. I think, really, they’re just happy to have come together and enjoyed themselves for an afternoon. That was my goal, the rest of it was just details.

I had a nice long conversation with Mom in the middle of writing this. We talked about all the things that went wrong before and during the wedding and complained to each other about annoying things that people did. We both expressed how we felt about all these things. She assured me that no one’s upset about not being able to see the ceremony. We also talked about some of the things that went well – mostly good ideas she had. I found the conversation to be helpful and energizing; I meant it when I said I enjoyed talking to her (as we hugged goodbye for about the 5th time).

I think I just really needed to process this stuff. Now that I’ve done it, I might still need a while to get my energy back and get back on my feet doing useful things, but at least I don’t have to waste energy suppressing part of my experience. There were some things that were disappointing, that I wish had gone differently. I accept that and you know what, I allow myself to feel disappointed that they didn’t go the way I wanted. That’s okay. It’s natural and healthy.

But I also choose not to dwell on them. I choose not to focus on them at the expense of the important things. I’m missing a couple of items I’d brought to the venue with me; finding them is very important so that’s a good way to direct my energy. Going forward, I choose to focus more on the stuff that went right: most importantly, that I got my big family wedding and everyone had a great time – including me. I choose to remember dancing with my loved ones, seeing them having fun, goofing off with my friends, and the love, all the love! Feeling so fully and vibrantly alive. That’s what’s worth remembering.

Extrovert?

The wedding was everything I’d hoped it would be. Almost everyone came, it was a beautiful day, the food was excellent, the music was varied enough that everyone had something to connect with and enjoy, and all I heard were compliments.

Even the things that went wrong were fantastic: the thing that was forgotten was a pair of cufflinks, of which we had two extra. The injury was an annoying scratch on my finger that I forgot about and no one noticed. The moment when I froze was an opportunity to practice stand-up comedy, which was well-received. The wardrobe malfunction was a detachable cap sleeve that came undone in the middle of my and Fox’s first dance and stayed attached so we could continue dancing unimpeded. People said they liked the dress even more without it and its counterpart! We ran behind schedule and yet things ended up happening at the time I’d planned for them to. The lulls in music and activity were great opportunities for people to talk and connect with each other.

There are some things I wish had gone differently, but they’re minor compared to all the things that were good. My guests had a wonderful time and thanked and congratulated me and told me I was beautiful. Our families came together as one and wished us well. We took a risk and started a new tradition that worked out beautifully. The cake was gorgeous. I succeeded in getting some of it on Fox’s face.

And best of all, I was able to be fully engaged in the celebration pretty much from the moment I woke up. I didn’t even need to use the restroom from the time I got into the dress until I was on my way back to the bridal suite to take it off! The dress was gorgeous and fit me perfectly (yay lace-up back!) and moved with me while I danced uninhibited. Mom kept track of time and gave me reminders so I could just enjoy interacting with guests. I was totally in the moment, expressing emotions as they came up (mostly joy), asserting myself, connecting with people, and feeling secure and confident and loved. So loved!

I thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention. One of the highlights of the afternoon was when Mom was bugging reminding me to do introductions (of the bridal party) and a song came on that I wanted to dance to. I ran out in the middle of the dance floor and started dancing, completely improvised. I had so much fun! Everyone was watching me and people even clapped along with the music and it was so fantastic! No second guesses, no insecurity, no worries, no fear, no nerves, just confidence. I was performing. I was gorgeous and graceful and one with the music and so full of joy! People got amazing pictures that show off the dress and my radiance. I loved every moment of it.

I was exhausted after the wedding and my feet hurt so much I could barely walk upright. For about a quarter of a second, I considered collapsing on a couch in a private room that was part of the bridal suite and happened to be empty. But then I thought, “No, I need to be around people right now. If I’m alone I’ll crash too hard.” So I chilled with my and Fox’s friends who were sitting around the main room talking. We went back to the hotel and went in the Jacuzzi for a bit, which was excellent for my sore muscles and helped me calm down while still feeling happy. I felt motivated to interact with my family members as much as possible that evening and the next morning and was able to connect with them and that felt fantastic. I loved being surrounded by people I love who love me and were saying things that made me feel so wonderful! Like my uncle saying he wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

I really shouldn’t have been driving around on Monday because I was too tired, but I was happy to spend time with Banji and her family. Yesterday I was so exhausted I decided to Skype in for my session with Wakana. I told her all about the wedding and she was just beaming to see me so happy. She said she thinks I’m an extrovert and being around people is what gives me energy – not to say that I don’t need or can’t enjoy some alone time, just that being with others is what makes me feel the most alive.

I thought about my life and realized she really has a point. Just being surrounded by people isn’t enough, I need to feel like I’m connected with them – otherwise I might as well be alone. (Actually, it’s worse than being alone. It’s lonely.) But when I am able to interact with others and they respond to me and we feel a connection, that is how I feel like a person who exists in the world and matters and can be expressive and creative and free. That is when I feel the most joy.

Even when I’m enjoying my time alone, it seems I want to socialize. As a kid I would play pretend and make up imaginary characters to interact with. My thoughts have always taken the form of at least two people having a conversation. I spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook and checking email or other social media. I socialize vicariously through the books I read, video media I watch, and how I play The Sims 3. My favorite video games are RPGs in which the player gets to run around talking to a variety of characters; even when I’m traveling or exploring a dungeon I like to have a companion with me. Blogging is a great opportunity for introspection, but I also use it to connect with other people. I thrive on readers’ feedback.

For so long I thought I was introverted; when I realized my experience and needs were different from introverted friends I thought it was just because I was less introverted than they are. But I think the reason why I predominantly preferred to be alone for much if not most of my life was because I felt insecure, out of control, and ostracized in most social situations – particularly large groups. That has nothing to do with introversion; it’s from having an inaccurate understanding of my place in the world as a result of trauma from birth through adolescence.

I still generally prefer smaller groups, or at least to only have to interact with a handful of people at a time. But the point is, I find it energizing.

As long as whomever I’m with isn’t actively draining me, I don’t need to be alone to recover my energy after socializing. Since the wedding, I haven’t wanted to be alone; I’ve actually made a lot of effort to avoid being alone. Today there might not be anyone else in the living room with me, but I’ve been hungrily eating ‘likes’ on Facebook. I keep reading people’s congratulations and staring at pictures from the wedding. I’m trying to regain that experience of being surrounded by almost a hundred people who had all come to celebrate me.

Listening to Myself – Part 3

I’ve been feeling much better since I wrote Listening to Myself – Part 2 about a week ago. I want to thank the people who reached out to me in response to that post: your support has meant the world to me. I’ve come to realize that I influence more people than I can possibly be aware of, often for the better… even in this time when I feel like I’m barely doing anything with my life. I may never see the whole, but I’m part of something important; something that needs me just as much as I need to remain a part of it. Connected.

I really needed to express what I wrote in my last post: feeling trapped, like I couldn’t express myself, like I needed some really big changes to happen or I wouldn’t feel like my life was worth living. Expressing those things – writing that post – was engaging in the very process of Creation that I felt cut off from. It was uncomfortable, and to be honest I feel guilty about the discomfort it caused others, but the very act of expressing those thoughts and feelings provided some of the relief I sought. It’s also helped me to start making some of the changes I need: volunteering, applying for jobs, spending quality time with Fox and Banji, creating art to enjoy the process, and starting to learn Tai Chi.

I’m so grateful for this space where I can express my most powerful, “dangerous” emotions safely. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who respond with concern and a desire to help however they can, without denying me my autonomy or pressuring me into silence.

I’ll admit my first instinct is to want to apologize for causing others – especially people I care about – discomfort and anxiety; sometimes it’s tempting to just take it all back and pretend to be “fine.” Let the machine run smoothly. But human emotions are important; they inspire us to do what is necessary for our individual and collective well-being. To say I “made” anyone feel a certain way is just plain inaccurate. I wrote a post expressing painful thoughts and emotions I couldn’t express anywhere else or in any other (safe) way. People read my post, experienced emotions (gasp!), and responded however they were willing and able at the time. That some responded with concern is nothing to feel bad about. It’s something to be celebrated! I’m part of a family; members of that family care about and do what they can to help each other through times that are more difficult, times of vulnerability.

Creating a Space for Me

I had every intention of getting to Banji’s parents’ house on time. I packed the night before, set an alarm, even got up in a reasonably timely fashion (largely due to Fox’s insistence), had breakfast, etc. But by the time I was out the door, it was almost the time I was supposed to arrive.

I pushed through feeling light headed and nauseous, overcame my guilt-driven urge to use my non-hands-free cell phone while driving, and got there in one piece. I moved quickly, expecting them to be ready to rush out the door, and prepared my apology.

But as I came in, I was greeted by smiles and open arms, as though I had just come home. There was no need for apology (they weren’t quite ready to go yet, either). We had a pleasant conversation, transferred my stuff to their car, and hit the road to Banji’s house.

Conversation was intermittent, especially later in the drive when I kept falling asleep as soon as the car started moving. But during the conversation, whenever I started to say something, Dad would turn down or even turn off the radio so I could be heard.

These little things – the warm greeting, them making an effort so I could be heard, never being rushed at rest stops – helped me to feel valued & respected. That means so much to me, especially when I find it hard to value and respect myself.

Invasion

Two of Fox’s friends came over Wednesday evening. I enjoyed spending time with them, particularly connecting with one whom I’ll call “T”. The thing is, “connecting with” ended up meaning “listening to,” largely in the supportive role I seem to enter automatically, regardless of whether that’s healthy for me at the time. I know some mutual support in conversations is good and expected, the problem is that I have trouble setting and enforcing the boundaries I need to keep the support mutual. Sometimes I feel like everyone just wants me to be their shrink … and I’ll admit that feeling came up several times Wed. & Thurs.

Fox’s other friend, “D”, was on call for work. D got calls after midnight. He got calls from people who didn’t leave a message or didn’t call back. He got calls from people who wanted him to wake a coworker up in the middle of the night for emergency service. He missed the fireworks on Thursday because he was dealing with a customer who blamed his company for serious damage to their house. He was understandably stressed out, and so was I. I find it very hard not to get caught up in someone else’s anger and feel like, somehow, it’s my responsibility. That’s the last thing I need right now.

Other friends (whom I know through Fox) came over Thursday and for the most part we had a very good time. Good food and good conversation; I even learned a few things.

But they made me act as navigator in search of an open supermarket at the last minute on a national holiday “because you’re the only one who knows this area.” And I had to hear their frustration with businesses closing at a sane-for-a-holiday time because where they’re from you can always find someplace that’s open, within walking distance, no matter what day and time it is. WE HAD FOOD COMING OUT OUR COLLECTIVE EARS. There was really no need to get additional stuff to put in the salad. I think the lettuce I’d picked up (at a sane time to be in the supermarket on a national holiday – Fox and D needed to pick up a few things and had let me know of their plans in advance) would have been enough for everyone to have a small, simple salad. The extra stuff they insisted on getting is now sitting in my refrigerator – along with other leftovers. I resent being dragged out against my will to get things other people claimed were important to them and then didn’t even eat.

The fireworks were spectacular. We were able to sit on my front lawn and see 3 different shows, for free. There were times when they were a bit too bright and/or too loud, but for the most part I had no problem enjoying them. No funky sensory stuff provoking anxiety reactions like when we went to see Into Darkness.

I was able to be completely in the moment, joy exploding with each burst of light and washing over me in a rain of changing colors. The booms and crackles and fuzzy visual texture of some of the fireworks practically tickled me, causing additional happiness as I laughed.

I knew it wouldn’t last. But for those precious moments I was free, and I cherished every one of them. Even through the negative commentary from the peanut gallery that made part of me want to fly into a murderous rage – or at least tell everyone to shut up or leave – I had my fireworks. My own internal demons were silent. No worries, no guilt, no second-guessing, just fireworks. Big bold loud gorgeous colorful fireworks. All I had to do was sit there and watch them.

And Fox got to see me happy.

By the time everyone left we were both completely exhausted. We dedicated Friday to being bums; I spent most of it playing Oblivion and you know what that’s okay.

Then yesterday happened. I’d made plans to go out with Banji, who’s in the area for the holiday weekend, and her parents. I couldn’t get ready to leave in time to get to her parents’ house by the time they wanted to head out, so I cancelled. She invited and encouraged me to join them later in the day, but I couldn’t deal with my own emotions. Thoughts about harming, maybe even killing myself. Crushing guilt because I cancelled on my best friend who’d said she really wanted to see me, and whom I’d really wanted to see. Guilt for staying in and repeating the same pattern I could any day instead of getting out, seizing the moment, doing the thing that’s special and new and different with someone I love. Fear that I’ll never get out of this mess. Hopelessness. Sorrow. Bone-melting grief.

And underneath it all, a simmering anger. If she wanted to see me so badly and knew I was having trouble, why couldn’t she come to me? Why should I have to go out?

More guilt for feeling that way, thinking those forbidden thoughts. Mom’s “advice” echos in my head: “You need to force yourself.” But what if I can’t? Am I so horrible? Incompetent?

I ran into Oblivion to escape all these thoughts and feelings. There I could focus on completing a task; I organized my decisions around training certain skills and earning money so I could buy furnishings for my character’s house. I felt tense or even angry while fighting enemies, but there was an outlet for the emotion and I could be sure it would pass. I could even murder an entire room full of guards (one of whom had insulted me), somehow survive to tell the tale … and then load a recent save to escape the game-breaking consequences of my actions. That was the most fun I had all day. Fox seemed annoyed with me for doing it.

I’ll admit I felt guilty about playing Oblivion – instead of, say, spending time with Banji – but I thought it was the most adaptive thing I could handle at the time. While I was focused on the game I was not having self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I was making decisions, focusing my energy into something other than actively destroying myself. (Whether I’ve been passively destroying myself is up for debate.) I was even – though admittedly to a lesser extent than I would like – having fun. Imagine that! Is it allowed? For Ziya to have fun? Oh no, this is an offense that cannot be forgiven. Let the flogging commence.

And Fox. Poor Fox. I don’t know how he can tolerate living with me. I’ve been such a horrible fiancee. It really doesn’t help that the TV is so big and commands such a presence in the room and doesn’t have a headphone jack, so if he’s in the living room he kind of has no choice but to be at least minimally involved in me playing Oblivion – even if I could somehow manage not to make comments, whether directed at him or not, he’d still have to hear the inane “dialogue.” (Seriously, Bethesda, hire some writers – or anyone who’s ever witnessed a real-life conversation. Please!) I don’t envy him at all for having to put up with me, nor do I blame him for trying to have some control over what he’s forced to witness – whether on screen or sitting next to him. Never mind that he could go to another room or leave the house. This is where he’s comfortable, where his stuff is, and where there’s a chance that I’ll pause the game for a moment to make eye contact with him.

But he’s driving me nuts. I want to play the game – whether that means fixing up “my” house just so, running around jumping off rocks like an idiot, seeing how many guards I can kill before I run out of health potions, carefully choosing the ingredients for a potion based on their effects, sneaking everywhere, or going on a mission that seems interesting. He keeps giving me advice on how to “optimize” my character. Don’t do that quest yet because the reward for it gets better the higher level you are, so you’ll benefit more from it if you wait to do it later. You need to raise Endurance so you’ll gain more health points each level; the most efficient way to do that is to raise your Heavy Armor skill (which is ridiculously low in comparison to my other skills, so it will go up more quickly than the skills I’ve been using regularly). You have no interest whatsoever in doing anything with heavy armor, so why not get a set of it, put it on, go out to a cave, and let enemies beat on you? The Heavy Armor skill will rise quickly, and your Endurance will go up, and you’ll gain more health points each level. And be bored to tears while “playing” a game.

I’m playing that game because I want an escape from reality and I want to be in control. I want to try random crazy things knowing that the consequences 1) don’t have any effect on real life and 2) are avoidable if I have a recent save to load. I want to practice making decisions and exercising agency. I want to forget that I’m a generic human living in the 21st-century United States and become immersed in the fantasy world of the game, where I’m spell-casting combat-capable stealthy problem-solving money-earning humanoid lizard who can breathe underwater and isn’t afraid of anything doesn’t suffer from guilt, indecisiveness, and social anxiety is confident in her ability to make a positive difference in the world and motivated enough to get out of the house and do things.

I’ll admit that I do ask for advice – or at least information – about what to do next, particularly along the lines of “will I get a truly useful reward if I do this quest now, or should I wait on it?” Maybe it would be better if I stopped asking Fox for his input and just looked up the information I need to make the decision myself. Or maybe I should be clearer about what I want/need from him. Yes, please do answer this specific question as accurately and honestly as you are able (or decline and I’ll look up the info I need to make my decision myself). Yes, please do point out if you think I missed something important. No, please do not tell me the solution to this puzzle. I suppose it’s reasonable to remind me to save before acting on a decision you disagree with, but please don’t try to get me to change my mind. I’m the one playing my game.

That’s what it comes down to in real life. I’m not even sure what “my game” is, but I wish everyone would take a step back and let me decide how – or whether – I want to play it. And by “everyone” I largely mean the voices inside my own head, who amplify their interpretations of messages from loved ones and society, until there’s no room left for Ziya.