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.

Pretend that You’re Feeling a Little More Pain

On Friday I was awarded 5 out of 5 possible experience points (XP) for role-playing my (tabletop RPG) character exceptionally well. My secret: I genuinely felt the wide range of emotions she exhibited, from pride to concern to fear to sadness to disgust at the vengeance another player character (PC) took out on an adversary (non-player character / NPC). I was raw and in the moment, responding to what was going on around me with relative ease… while still thinking about how my character would react, what she would say, etc. It was … brilliant, really. I had a lot of other exceptional, long-time role players to, well, play off of. We just get into character and go, and a story weaves itself, and the next thing I know I’m both exhausted and elated having experienced and expressed just about every emotion possible for the past several hours and having accomplished something meaningful… albeit in our collective imagination.

Then Fox and I took the weekend as down-time, which for me meant playing The Sims 3. All weekend. I’m happy with how my game is going and I’m getting to explore aspects of the game that I haven’t already beaten to death, so it’s a mostly neutral-to-positive experience. Except that my body hates sitting at the computer all day and the sims do really stupid, frustrating things and I’m starved for meaningful interpersonal interaction. I know I could pick up the phone or leave my house or actually interact with Fox (not that we haven’t been interacting at all, it’s just been sporadic and not satisfying enough to counteract the effects of staring at a computer screen all day) … but I’m kind of having some issues with intimacy. I don’t want to talk about how I feel or what’s going on in our relationship or my goals and dreams. He gets so angry whenever anything related to his career goals or working comes up that I find it best to just avoid the topic and let him exist on my the couch consuming the internet nonstop. And he comments on so many things that I do – how I’m sitting, whether/what I’m eating, what I’m reading or (heaven forbid) laughing at online, how I’m responding to the sims – that I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself musically or decluttering or otherwise doing anything really noticeable (heaven forbid I should distract him from his videos). If I were to actually go out and do something, then I’d have to explain myself and he might want to come with me so I’d have to wait for him and so on… *sigh* It’s a mess. To make things even worse, I’ll be sexually aroused sometimes but grossed out by the thought of any sexual acts (e.g. “what goes where? eww!” and don’t even get me started on bodily fluids) so I just try not to get too expressive when we are affectionate. Between that and the pain I’m having in my bad tooth and jaw and sinuses and ear (possibly affecting my hearing) I just want to leave my body for a while… but if I could, I might never come back…

Anyways I was playing The Sims 3 yesterday and, out of nowhere, “Cry” by Faith Hill starts playing on repeat in my head. Here’s a link to the official music video on YouTube.

If I had just one tear running down your cheek
Maybe I could cope maybe I’d get some sleep
If I had just one moment at your expense
Maybe all my misery would be well spent

Could you cry a little
Lie just a little
Pretend that you’re feeling a little more pain
I gave now I ‘m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

If your love could be caged, honey I would hold the key
And conceal it underneath the pile of lies you handed me
And you’d hunt those lies
They’d be all you’d ever find
And that’d be all you’d have to know
For me to be fine

Yeah…. And you’d cry a little
Die just a little
and baby I would feel just a little less pain
I gave now I’m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

Give it up baby
I hear you’re doin’ fine
Nothins gonna save me
I can see it it your eyes
Some kind of heartache
Darlin give it a try
I dont want pity
I just want what is mine

quoted from AZLyrics.com

At the time I interpreted it to be my frustration at not being able to feel anything while I was playing The Sims 3. The game has a nice numbing effect and I tend to turn to it when I’m feeling miserable. I’m still not ready to cope with the death of Robin Williams and I miss my pet rat Trouble terribly and I’m questioning whether it’s wise to even try to finish my masters’ degree in part because I had to get an extension for my summer class and I still have an F on my transcript from the last time I did that and my finances are in shambles and I can’t keep my act together long enough to take a course never mind finding and keeping a job and I have to wait two weeks before I’ll even be prescribed Lamictal and I don’t know if it will work and the infection in my gum will probably spread to my brain by the time I can have a dentist look at it and I don’t even know what I need to do to plan for my wedding in less than two months that my aunt might not be able to make because of her boyfriend’s health issues and I just want to take a walk outside and enjoy the nice weather and maybe enjoy some of the nice “yay it’s autumn!” activities friends post about on Facebook but I can’t pull myself away from the computer and FOX DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE ABOUT ANY OF IT AT ALL!!! All he cares about are the games he’s playing and what he’s going to eat and maybe the occasional hug, when he wants one. Well, based on our interactions as of late.

It would be nice if he would show that he cared about something like “hey, it’s gorgeous out, let’s go for a walk” or “hey, let’s finally straighten up like we’ve been saying we need to for over a year now” or “you said the mum needs to be watered, would you like me to do that?” or even “I love you, let me massage your feet while reciting Klingon love poetry” … yeah, that’s not going to happen. Once upon a time he was actually romantic but now… Now I don’t really want him to be romantic. The sexiest thing he could do now is get the fuck off the computer and go out with his scores of 7 on the Burns depression checklist since he started taking Wellbutrin / bupropion and earn a steady income we could use to get out of credit card debt (that’s affecting my credit rating, not his) and feed ourselves.

I spent most of the day yesterday numbly playing The Sims 3 and directing Faith Hill’s scathing lyrics at myself instead of him, followed by a couple of hours literally roaring at him. I mean I looked at him and yelled “Roar!” and he yelled back (playfully) “Rawr!” and I got even angrier and yelled “Roar!” and eventually he started sounding angry when he replied, “Roar!” and it felt good to get the anger out but it didn’t do anything useful. And then I went to bed and poured my heart out in my paper journal and had weird dreams about floods and dancing and actually feeling the wind on my skin for once which was awesome. Today I woke cold and alone and in pain. He got angry at me as I was looking online to find him someone else to call because the person he’s supposed to contact about his internship is never in his office and doesn’t have office hours posted and doesn’t reply to emails. He yelled at me and didn’t thank me and didn’t apologize. And he’s content to know this post is “going well.” I can’t live like this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m better at feeling the emotions of fictional characters than my own emotions because the latter are overwhelming and largely in response to factors I feel I have no control over. I’m angry at Fox for not seeming to care and not taking initiative. He apologized after reading this post and we talked a little, but we’re still having trouble connecting. It’s so tempting to just disappear.

Depression Pool

I felt very tired and sad all day today; it took all my energy to do anything. I felt like I was trying to interact with the world from the bottom of a pool.

We went to talk to the representative at the venue where we’re having our wedding celebration; I felt like he was being very curt, talking down to us, lecturing us, and trying to get us out of there as quickly as possible. It had to be at least partially depression goggles; I can’t imagine he would still have a job if he treated everyone the way I felt like he was treating us. We accomplished most of what we wanted while we were there – I think, the whole thing felt very disorganized – but I left feeling as dissatisfied as if we’d missed our appointment or something.

We went grocery shopping on the way home. We kept to the list, found everything we needed, and headed home tired but satisfied. At one point I even found myself dancing to the music playing in the store. When we got home I just sat in the car for a couple of minutes, then got stuck holding the same weird position for a while as I was trying to get out of the car. I was sitting sideways in the seat, one or both of my feet on the ground, leaning against the door frame and staring at a spot about 5 feet away. My limbs felt too heavy to move.

I’m kind of amazed that I managed to stay awake for about 13 hours today. If my body had its way, I think I would’ve spent the whole time drifting in and out of sleep. Should I be proud that I accomplished things even though I was feeling so miserable?

I’m moving ahead with wedding planning and the summer course I signed up for begins on Monday and I have a job interview over the phone tomorrow morning (which I already postponed twice because I was sick). Maybe this lethargy is a sign that I’m not ready to pick up my life again just yet… or at least that I’m trying to do too much at once.

Back on the Healthcare (Headache) Bandwagon

Wakana has been urging me to see a psychiatrist, so I’m finally starting to move in that direction (now that I have health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act). I found a local psychiatrist in my plan, but I think I need a referral from my primary care provider to go see her. I was concerned because my healthcare ID cards have my birth name on them, but I’ve updated my social security and driver’s license to reflect my married name. I don’t want to be denied healthcare because of the inconsistency.

So I called my HMO, and had to talk to a machine, and finally got to talk to a person, who gave me a number I’d already tried and gotten a busy signal, then transferred me to an automated health screening. (The person was nice and as helpful as possible, given the bureaucratic red tape.) When asked to rate my overall health, I rated it as “fair” – but the other questions led me to think perhaps it’s a bit better than that. I don’t need the equipment or assistance they specified (though help remembering to take medications might prove useful, and I’d love to have someone come in and help me declutter on some kind of regular schedule). I only answered “yes” to one of the conditions mentioned: symptoms of depression. The thing is, there were no questions about the severity of my symptoms. The only other clearly mental-health related question was “Have you been diagnosed with schizophrenia?” There was no mention of bipolar, anxiety, PTSD, dissociative disorders, or other mental health issues.

After being screened, I tried calling the bureaucracy again and selected the option to talk to a human being. I was forwarded to an answering service, which then disconnected me because the mailbox was full. I don’t know if going through the automated service would have worked better, but think I would have been transferred to a human answering service disconnected anyway.

“Oh, well,” I thought. “I’ll just have to go there in person and deal with whatever stupidity awaits me. I’ll bring water, snacks, and a good book.”

Of course I didn’t feel up to it today. I was barely able to keep myself from crying while I was on the phone, and I’m sure some degree of distress came through in my voice.

The human being I’d talked to assured me that healthcare providers would accept my insurance as long as I had the relevant ID, even though the name on it doesn’t match the name on my state-issued photo ID.

So, I tried calling my primary care provider. Might as well make that appointment, right?

“The office is closed. Please leave a message after the tone.”

I think I’d rather go eat some ice cream…

Taking the First Steps

Fox and I have started taking a course about developing Android apps on Coursera. We started accessing the Week 1 materials yesterday, watching videos and downloading the software development tools we’ll need to participate in the course, and beyond! It felt really good to be focused on learning, get new software, and start playing around with what I’d just learned. I’m very glad I have a structured course in which to learn how to use the software development tools, so I can take advantage of all their features should I choose to use them to develop new apps.

I’m also eagerly waiting for my new tablet, which runs Android, to arrive on my doorstep. It will be the first time I’m able to fully and freely access “smartphone” technology, including all the apps that already exist. Even if I never develop new software of my own (or decide tablets and smartphones aren’t the right platform for it), I’m hoping that I can use my new tablet to help improve my own mental health (and not as yet another time-wasting device!).

As awesome as it felt to DO SOMETHING toward a goal I feel passionate about, I do foresee some areas of frustration and obstacles I’ll need to overcome:

1) Software development seems to require a different way of thinking from what I’m used to; none of the material covered in the videos we’ve watched so far seemed intuitive to me. I felt like some of it might’ve gone over my head. I’m not really used to that – if anything, I’m used to material being easy for me to understand.

But, I was able to learn algebra by copying everything the teacher put on the board until I started seeing the patterns in it. I decided to major in music because I was similarly challenged by the first semester of music theory, so I wanted to take the second semester. I can face this challenge! I just need to be aware of it and willing to accept some frustration while I navigate it.

2) I’m very codependent with Fox. He’s been very supportive of me since I first came up with the idea to develop software that might help me overcome some of the difficulties I’ve been facing. He suggested Android apps and offered to take the Coursera course with me.

But I don’t know how interested he really is in learning this stuff for himself, and that could make this process difficult. He seemed annoyed with the course creators for requiring students to interact on the forum, frustrated because if his laptop is able to run the required emulators at all they will be painfully slow, and less enthusiastic about the learning process than me. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do something he’s not really interested in or doesn’t find satisfying.

I was hoping that he would help me stick with the course and complete it – if nothing else so I could recall that experience when faced with uncertainty, instead of perpetuating this image I have of myself as someone who never completes anything. But now I foresee being faced with the difficult dilemma of wanting to watch the next video lecture, but also feeling like I should wait for him because we’re “taking the course together.” I need to stay firm and focused on what will be best for me – what I can do to learn and keep up with the course, whether we’re watching videos together or not. If he decides it’s not for him, I need to be able and willing to fly solo.

As much as I wish I could let go and trust him to take care of me, the truth of the matter is this: it will only lead to resentment when my needs aren’t met. We both need to figure out how to take care of ourselves, and each other. It’s not easy.

3) I’ve gotten some encouraging responses from people I’ve told about my idea, but for the most part I’m frustrated by lack of response. I’m especially frustrated by lack of comments on this blog.

I know I need to take at least some responsibility: I’ve been intentionally vague about the software I want to develop, how I want to develop it, and what I want it to do. I’m not sure how much is safe to disclose online; I don’t want someone to steal my idea (especially not some big wealthy company that will use it to make money and prevent others from making free or inexpensive versions, or worse use it for even more invasive advertising). But if I’m going to get feedback I need to give people something to respond to, something they can understand and connect with and want to respond to. How do I protect my idea AND get the feedback I need to create a program that others might also find useful? Well, I’m also taking a course about entrepreneurship on Coursera, maybe it will give me some ideas.

Running Red

Banji and I arrived at her aunt’s house last night, after a full afternoon of driving through mountains covered with glorious yellows, oranges, and reds. We had a fun drive and good conversation and I think I even managed to stay awake through most of it! (though I did nod off a bit in the middle, oddly enough while listening to Led Zeppelin) It felt great to talk with her and her aunt once we’d arrived, though I’ll admit I felt a bit left out during some of their conversations about their family members.

I woke early this morning; my first reaction was to try and go back to sleep. My mind kept berating me about Schmoozer’s death, telling me it’s all my fault my adorable, sweet, uber friendly pet rat is dead. “Fine, if you’re going to torture me, I’ll get up.” So I did. And, genius that I am, I went online and looked at information about the Speaker of the House. I think it’s ridiculous that one person has so much power he can keep the government shut down indefinitely by refusing to allow his colleagues to vote on a bill. I wanted to create a petition asking for Boehner to be kicked out of that position and replaced with a non-partisan individual whose immediate job it would be to call the clean funding bill to a vote. But there is no higher authority to appeal to, and it seems most likely that if we could convince the House to “encourage” Boehner to resign, House Republicans would immediately elect someone worse.

I read an article that said the Tea Party is actually pleased with Boehner and that this shutdown is part of his career strategy. That’s right folks, starving mothers and babies, survivors of rape and domestic violence put out on the street, head start programs ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of people without work or pay, parks and monuments closed, a lapse in veterans’ benefits, etc. etc. etc. … merely the pawns in Boehner’s game of chess. If he’s winning, he’s not going to listen to our petitions – unless perhaps there is a massive outcry by the people in his district, who can vote for his opponent in the next election. Without their votes, all the support and campaign funds from his party will be nothing. One district in Ohio may determine the fate of us all.

I decided to give myself a break from the futile & infuriating and do something useful. My student loans will go into repayment soon, so I thought I should take a look at my account and repayment options. The instructions I’d received were to select a repayment plan or apply for deferment before my loans enter repayment. Makes sense to me. But the site wouldn’t even let me view some of the options, much less make changes or try to defer repayment, because I’m still in a grace period. That’s right folks. I’m supposed to do something before the grace period ends, but I can’t do it because of the grace period. That makes so much sense!

Eventually I gave up on the Internet and decided to attempt an idea I had for a Celtic knotwork panel. Banji took a nap nearby, said the design looked good when I showed it to her, and used her smart phone. I felt really guilty for doing something that didn’t involve her, but I also really wanted to complete my design. It was like I literally couldn’t put it down.

But of course my mind wouldn’t let me just focus on the knotwork! It insisted on ruminating on Boehner and the Republicans and how effed up the federal government is. I felt so angry and at the same time so helpless; it’s really infuriating. I talked with Banji about it a bit but she didn’t really want to get into it too much, and really I think she’s taking the healthier course of action. So I fumed a bit, and I compulsively completed a very convoluted knotwork design, including tracing the outline in ultra fine black Sharpie and erasing most of the pencil lines. The perfectionist in me still wants to tweak some things, but overall I’m proud of my day’s work.

We left the house late enough that we only had 20 minutes to peruse the bookstore in town – a tradition that is important to Banji. Of course I was ambivalent about going until we got there, then once we were there I wished we had longer to look at ALL THE BOOKS!!! But maybe it was better we were so short on time because we got to look around and be entertained without spending inordinate amounts of money. Any longer would have been bad for the wallet and might not have actually been any more fun.

Dinner with Banji’s aunt, then we came back to the house and started chatting. I kept fading in and out, almost like I was bouncing between two realities. The one behind my eyelids was quite gory. I wanted to talk to Banji about it after her aunt had gone to bed, but I felt so weird trying to describe the images that were haunting me – precisely because they were so haunting. I couldn’t get myself to say anything about them. Banji was tired, too, so we agreed to call it a night and try to do creative things together in the morning.

I’ll describe the gory, unsettling, potentially triggering images behind a cut, so you can choose whether to read about them.

Continue reading

Shut Down

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. Their smug lies are difficult to tolerate on the best of days, now they might as well be physically tying my intestines in knots while force-feeding me spoiled milk. All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. I don’t think they’re capable of having an honest conversation anymore. The meaning of your words gets twisted in their minds before you’re even finished saying a single sentence; it’s almost like they can’t help dodging the question or spewing blatant lies because they’re not perceiving the words or the situation realistically. I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing women’s access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the house where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage. Maybe if we keep enough pressure on they’ll realize that the best thing to do – whether it’s to save their jobs or because deep down they actually do give a damn about this country – is to give up the Tea Party’s ridiculous demands and frelling fund the government. We only need about 18 of them to rejoin reality.

Anyways, it’s not just the shutdown that’s got me, well, down. I’m having my own financial crisis. I wiped out my checking account paying credit card bills (in full, on time), then received 2 very unwelcome pieces of mail. One was the bill from the animal hospital where we’d taken Schmoozer; they’re charging me an additional $400 on top of the $200 deposit. I was very angry when I first received it, but the vets and other staff worked hard and they do need to be paid. The financial cost just adds to the pain of losing him. The other offensive bit of mail was regarding my student loans: I need to contact them about repayment or deferment because I’m not at least a half-time student. I’m hoping I can defer repayment, but I’m dreading the call I’m almost guaranteed to have to make. Again, not at all unreasonable (or entirely unexpected), just horrible timing. I’d much rather disappear into a hole than deal with bureaucracy.

I managed to fill out most of the information to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act – which went into effect a week ago – but the site (HealthCare.gov) was “unable to verify my identity.” I haven’t been able to log on since to view the message that’s waiting for me; I hope it’s not time sensitive! I could call but I really feel a lot more comfortable with written communication, which allows me to ensure my own comprehension and make sure I’m clearly communicating my true intention. On the phone I feel pressured to agree with whomever I’m talking to; I might agree to something that’s not in my best interest.

I’m frustrated because I just want to see what plan(s) I’m eligible for and take some time to compare/evaluate them, but I can’t even log in. The more rational side of me is saying to wait a month or two. Then Fox and I can apply as a married couple, I can use my new legal name, and less people will be trying to access the site at once, so it should be a lot easier. But that doesn’t jive well with the part of me that feels an urgent need to Do Something Right Now to change my current status: unemployed and uninsured. Being unemployed and uninsured goes against the values I was raised with, the sense of identity I wanted. It’s hard to accept; it grates on my nerves. But it’s the truth and I want to do something about it. I hate that when I finally get up the guts and energy to try, then I can’t even log in to a website.

I’m also feeling a lot of pressure to get a job, but I find it difficult to get up, feed myself, and get dressed in the morning; my mind fills with doubts about whether I’d be able to be on time for the job, ever. The idea of going in for an interview paralyzes me with anxiety. Mom says I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life, and I agree. But I question whether I really want to and can continue on the career path I’ve already started out with; for the time being, at least, even role-playing a therapist is dangerous. I would love to write professionally (even though I lack a degree in English), but I’m not sure how likely I’d be to actually get paid; most of the jobs I’ve seen posted online would provide unstable income at best. I have the minimal degree I need to enter a career in music composition / arranging / orchestrating and I think I’d enjoy it a great deal … except that I have trouble getting myself to work on my own compositions for fun. Assuming I could even get anyone to pay me for my work, would I be able to stick with it consistently enough to finish commissioned works? Right now I’m full of doubt. I doubt I could be successful in any career.

Mom says I should try to find a small office job or something local. The idea fills me with so much anxiety I have to end the conversation. But then I doubt myself again. Am I really suffering from a mental illness that makes it so I can’t even try to find work? Or am I just being lazy, making excuses? To what degree do I need to take responsibility? And to what degree do I desperately need support? Whose responsibility is it to make sure I get that support? I feel like I should know where to look, but I don’t. I’m lost.

Crossroads

I’ve been playing phone tag with Psychiatrist C-1 for over a week now. He said, “I’m unlikely to answer when you call because I’m with clients all the time, so let me know when’s a good time for me to call you.” So, I gave him a few hours today, which I spent within arms reach of the phone. Nada. He couldn’t take 5 minutes between clients to call and make an appointment.

Now I’m at a crossroads. I have a strongly-worded voicemail prepared in my head, which includes the following:

Are you even taking new clients? If not, please let me know. In fact, please find a colleague who is taking new clients and have them call me. If so, call me back with a day and time to meet next week, and I’ll be there.

Yeah, I’m pissed. Dunno how much it comes through in the typed version of the words, but if I spoke them aloud, you could tell that I’m pissed.

I’m glad I’m pissed. The anger gives me energy. So much better than sleeping all day.

The thought occurs that this is a really crummy way to start a new therapeutic relationship. I’m already resistant to going to see a psychiatrist, if I’m angry with him I’m more likely to do stupid things like not show up for appointments, or not take my meds. That would be such a waste. Maybe I should call him and say:

If you couldn’t take 5 minutes between clients to call me today, then clearly you’re too busy to meet my psychiatric needs. Please have a colleague who is accepting new clients call me.

Or maybe now just isn’t the time for me to be dealing with psychiatrists. What do you think?

In other news, I decided to take a course called “feminist theory” at my school. It’s not directly related to my major, but I’m insanely curious about it. Just as if not more importantly, it keeps me matriculated with part-time status, so I can still get health insurance at a remotely-affordable rate from my school. Win!

Stop having Cancer so you can Find a Doctor who MIGHT be able (and willing) to Treat your Cancer

It’s been over a year since I conceded that I need medication if I’m ever going to recover from depression. “Recover” seems so far away, is it even possible? How can I “recover” from how I’ve been my whole life? Maybe “manage” is more appropriate. I need medication to manage the symptoms so I can live.

Attempt 1: A Depression Study

image from rodale.com

image from rodale.com

A year ago I learned of a study in my area that seemed like a good opportunity to receive medication, earn a small amount of income, and possibly even help others with depression through my contribution to research. I answered countless uncomfortable and redundant questions on the phone while feeling incredibly emotionally vulnerable. I let them take my blood (I hate needles). I submitted to other medical tests. I was honest, maybe too honest: I admitted to feeling suicidal.

The study psychiatrist seemed concerned when we sat down to talk about my participation. He said they would have to put me on a medication and just keep giving it to me for the duration of the study, whether it was working or not. In my case, he thought that wouldn’t be safe; that I should receive more personalized and flexible care – care designed to treat my depression, not gather research data. I appreciated his honesty.

Attempt 2: Psychiatrist A

brand Wellbutrin XL 300mg

I can’t help wondering if this could have worked for me.

Wakana referred me to Psychiatrist A. He prescribed Wellbutrin and gave me 2 weeks worth of the actual brand-name drug. For the first week I took 150 mg/day and thought it was helping. In the second week I (following his instructions) started taking 300 mg/day and found it to be too much. He prescribed 200 mg/day, split over 2 doses. I received generic bupropion HCl when I filled the prescription.

I felt like it wasn’t working and wanted to increase to 250 mg/day. Instead, he added Lexapro. Due to a miscommunication, I ended up taking 200mg of bupropion HCl in one dose, followed hours later by the Lexapro escitalopram (generic). I had symptoms of serotonin poisoning and became very upset when Psychiatrist A said they were due to “anxiety” but I could stop taking the Lexapro escitalopram if I wanted to. I did so and, under his advisement, cut the 200 mg bupropion tablets in half so I could take 100 mg twice per day. I became incredibly irritable and was almost always angry with Fox, through no real fault of his own. Wakana and Psychiatrist A both urged me to stop taking the bupropion, so I did.

My trust in Psychiatrist A had been shattered, so I refused to go back to him. Part of my justification was that Fox’s sister – a registered nurse – had talked to him and expressed anger at how he responded to her. In other words, it wasn’t just me! But now, in hindsight, I’m wondering if there were factors none of us could see; maybe I was too quick to judge and too harsh in my judgment. I was seeing him through the same lens that makes me feel worthless, makes me overly judgmental of Fox, makes every obstacle feel completely insurmountable. I’m trying to look back at the situation through a different lens; who’s to say my perception now is any more accurate?

I had terrifying experiences while under Psychiatrist A’s care, and – whatever his intentions were – he failed to help me feel supported and cared for. Lens or no lens, I can’t risk that happening again.

Attempt 3: Psychiatrist B

Zoloft blob, sad, in cave

a good depiction of how I’ve been feeling, both on and off sertraline HCl

I switched to Psychiatrist B just before starting this blog in December. At first I was hopeful that he would help me – if nothing else, he seemed very confident when he prescribed Zoloft. I, of course, received the generic, sertraline HCl, from my pharmacy. It made me very sleepy but seemed to help calm some of the chaos in my brain – the racing thoughts and raging emotions – without intolerable side effects. When I told him about anxiety-related symptoms I was having, he added Buspar; I received buspirione HCl.

At the very least, those medications haven’t been enough to help me through the difficulties I’ve been having this year: moving, the death of my uncle, having to drop my graduate courses, Mom’s surgery, Fox moving in with me, my rats’ health issues. It’s hard to say whether they’ve been hurting – via side effects such as increased sensitivity to clanging sounds, suicidal ideation, and temptation to self-harm.

Whatever was going on with the medications – I’ve been off them for about 2 weeks now, so they should be completely out of my system – the bottom line is Psychiatrist B didn’t take my symptoms seriously either. He interrupted me in the middle of telling him about my suicidal and self-harm thoughts. He wouldn’t talk to Wakana about my case. He didn’t seem to care at all.

Okay, maybe it’s not really a psychiatrist’s job to support his patients emotionally. It’s his job to evaluate their symptoms and prescribe medication. Psychiatrist B failed to do his job. He interfered with my ability to report on my symptoms. He did not seriously consider the connection between my reported symptoms (suicidal ideation) and known side effects of the medication he was prescribing (also suicidal ideation)! Whether I am inclined to act on the thoughts or not, they are extremely disturbing – and quite the opposite of what successful treatment of depression should entail.

Attempt 4: The Ongoing Search for Psychiatrist C

frustrated woman holding cell phone to ear

why me?

I’ve been procrastinating, but Wakana has been urging me to actively search for Psychiatrist C. On Tuesday, July 9th, she supervised while I searched my health insurance company’s website for potential psychiatrists in my area and called one.

The psychiatrist’s receptionist called back on Wednesday; I returned her call on Thursday. She asked a few questions (What are you coming in for? What medications have you taken previously? Any substance abuse?) and said that the doctor would contact me to make an appointment if she thought she could help me.

Excuse me? I felt like I was applying for a job – when, really, it should be the other way around! I couldn’t even make an appointment because I felt the need for one, sit and talk face-to-face with the Almighty Doctor before she made a decision about me! (I should be the one evaluating and making a decision about whether she’s worthy to treat me!) What is this?

I expressed my anger to Wakana and she agreed that that is no way to treat a potential client. It’s been a week, by the way, and I have yet to hear back from the psychiatrist. To be honest I didn’t really expect her to call me, and I’m not holding my breath until she does.

Riding the wave of my swelling anger – that is, energy – I went to HealthGrades to try and find a psychiatrist in my area who is recommended by patients. I have contact information for one who received 5-star reviews from all 9 of the people who reviewed her. She has 2 offices, both of which are within 15 miles of my home. And I was also able to find her on my health insurance company’s website.

All I need to do is pick up the phone … but that’s where the wave crashes into the shore and I’m left lying there, soaked in sand and struggling to breathe, feeling like any moment the undertow will pull me back out into the ocean. I don’t want to experience any of these disappointments again: the unreturned phone call, the discomfort reporting my symptoms, the lack of being taken seriously, the unhelpful and potentially harmful meds. So it’s been a whole week and I’ve “done nothing” to secure the health care I need; how can I expect anyone to take that need seriously?

.

I’m trapped behind a lens through which every obstacle seems insurmountable, every effort doomed to failure, nobody cares, and I don’t really deserve the help I need, anyway. Somewhere there’s the tiny part of me who knows that none of this is true, that hopes that if I just keep trying I’ll be successful, eventually … but right now its voice is very soft and, through the lens, it looks quite naive. Asking me to call another psychiatrist is like if someone had told my mother she had to climb Mount Everest unassisted in order to get her knee replacement surgery. (No one climes Mount Everest unassisted, even if they’re in “perfect” shape.) The reason why she needed the surgery is because her knees were hurting her so much she could barely climb the stairs.

“I Just Want a Day Off”

Every so often, I feel energized and motivated to do the things I need to take care of myself. But many days – most days – I really don’t want to be bothered with anything.

I don’t want to take a shower and get dressed. I don’t want to go anywhere. I certainly don’t want to do whatever Mom has asked of me! (We got a new dehumidifier for the basement that she keeps asking me to set up. “Sooner, rather than later, please!”) The rats are overdue for a cage cleaning. The living room is still a mess. I still don’t have a new psychiatrist – though Dad gave me some things to think about so when I am ready to find one, I’ll know what to look for and what questions to ask. In the meantime I might go back to Psychiatrist B just so I don’t go have to go off my meds again … assuming I can get myself to be bothered with making the appointment to see him.

Ugh! I want to get out and do something interesting – maybe try out archery at a local place that offers lessons and use of their equipment for $12 total one night per week. I want to neaten this place up. I want to spend quality time with Fox and other loved ones. I want to get better … AND I want to play Oblivion / watch Star Trek: Voyager. Or just relax. Read – I’m a couple chapters into yet another reread of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

But trimming some yellow leaves off the plants in my vegetable garden feels like it should be enough of an accomplishment for one day. (I was quite pleased to see small green fruits on the tomato plant. And, equally important, I was able to request and receive useful advice from Mom regarding what to do about the leaves.)

Why do I have to constantly question my choices, feel like they’re “unhealthy” (or morally wrong), feel like I have to change? Why can’t I just breathe?