Another Kind of Loss

I hate Father’s Day. The commercialism, especially, and the obligation to be cheerful and celebratory of something that has caused me so much pain… Fox’s dad invited us to a special restaurant in honor of Father’s Day and I wouldn’t miss it for anything, but thinking about it and listening to Fox talk about it is ripping my heart to shreds.

I know some people whose fathers died, but it happened when they were adults. Others whose dads left them, who never knew their father, who are estranged from their dads… But I can only think of one person I know whose father died when she was a child – I’m pretty sure she was a child – and to be honest I’m not sure she’d be willing to talk to me about it. We’re not that close.

I feel like there isn’t anyone who can really understand the grief Father’s Day brings up for me – the deep, aching loneliness of watching others celebrate something that has been lost to me for most of my life, and knowing they cannot possibly understand how I feel about it.

To make matters worse, I threw away a perfectly good friendship with the one person I’ve ever met who understood what I was going through.

This person joined my class in school a mere seven months after my father died. He was an orphan, living with a relative. I don’t remember how we got to know each other, or even if we ever talked about our experiences, just that we became very close. We shared an understanding with each other that neither of us could share with anyone else in the school. At recess and lunch we would spend as much time as we could together, just talking. Connected.

People made assumptions about our relationship that I thought were completely unfounded… but that had a kernel of truth: he had a crush on me. I did not share those feelings, but I agreed to a romantic relationship anyway. It lasted a weekend; the bullies descended upon me almost as soon as I set foot in school. I panicked and broke up with him. Then summer came, and we went our separate ways.

I’ve thought back on that parting with regret, but I’ve never really mourned it. Today may be the first time I’ve ever talked about this person with anyone. I think I can forgive myself: I was much younger then, and less assertive. I prioritized romantic relationships to a degree that was probably unhealthy, and I hadn’t yet learned how to salvage a friendship from disappointment. He may not have been able or willing to work with me, even if I had made the effort. It’s gone, it’s done, all that’s left to do is mourn.

I’m recognizing that I lost something that was important to me, and that would be even more valuable now: a friend who understands the pain of having lost a parent when I was very young.

To be honest, I’m not sure I want to try to get back in touch with this particular individual. I doubt I’d have much to say, other than “I’m sorry.” But I do want to find a group – at the moment I’m leaning toward online – for adults who lost one or both parents when they were young. Maybe then I’ll feel less isolated.

Oh! How It Burns! (depression checklist)

I have now been tracking my scores on the Burns Depression Checklist for four months straight! Go me!
(July-August, August-September, September-October)

This month, my average score was 18. My scores for more than half the days were in the teens (the low end of mild depression); I had an unprecedented 5 days when my score dropped below 10, into the “normal but unhappy” range. To put things in perspective, my usual level of functioning is mild-to-moderate depression; “normal but unhappy” days are the best days of my life! This month’s scores are a huge improvement over previous months (linked above), when I was moderately depressed on most days.

Ziya's scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17, 2014 to November 18, 2014.

Ziya’s scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17, 2014 to November 18, 2014.

Ziya's (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17 to November 18, 2014. The subcategories are Thoughts and Feelings (blue), Activities and Relationships (red), Physical Symptoms (green), and Suicidal Urges (purple).

Ziya’s (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from October 17 to November 18, 2014. The subcategories are Thoughts and Feelings (blue), Activities and Relationships (red), Physical Symptoms (green), and Suicidal Urges (purple). I only had suicidal urges (mostly just thoughts) on 6 days this month!

The Lamictal / lamotrigine I’m taking definitely seems to be helping. I’ve consistently taken it around 4:00pm every day, starting September 29th. My dose doubled from 25 mg to 50 mg on October 27th (purple vertical line). I’m very pleased with the benefits I’ve been receiving from it and especially the lack of side effects. It also seems to be helping with my anxiety symptoms, and I feel less irritable (though to be honest I haven’t been tracking those symptoms).

There are definitely environmental / situational factors that influence my depression symptoms (not to be confused with situational depression). For example, on Election Day (red vertical line) my score shot up from below 20 to 43 and I experienced my first suicidal urges in 2 weeks. To be honest, I think that’s the only sane response to the new Congress that – among other things – has vowed to repeal the reason I can afford medication! I don’t want to know what else they plan to do, but none of it is good for the vast majority of the people in this country.

There was also my and Fox’s big family wedding on November 9th (green vertical line). I felt really good leading up to that day and had a ton of important things to do. I got to be creative and problem solve and collaborate with Mom and get my hair done at a salon full of awesome people I enjoy talking to and wear a gorgeous dress and be congratulated about a million times. Sure, there were some aspects of it that were stressful, but a lot of it was fun. I was proud of myself for running the rehearsal on the night before as well as I did. I got to forget about all the stress at the combined bachelor/bachelorette party our friends threw for us; that was a fabulous time! And then there was the day itself… I’ve already written about it twice!

My scores on the depression checklist increased gradually from 6 on the 8th and 9th (OMG, 2 consecutive days with such a low score! That’s heaven for me!) to 34 on Monday (eww). I felt every point of increase and it was incredibly painful. I didn’t have the energy to connect with Fox and I’d cry when he left for work each day. I’d cry for no obvious reason. I had no motivation. I just wanted to fade away and stop existing. The worst part is I knew that if I stopped playing The Sims 3 and went out to socialize I’d feel better. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it!

Finally, yesterday (Tuesday) I dragged myself out of bed to go see Wakana for our regularly-scheduled music therapy session. Just being able to do that felt awesome. She witnessed me expressing how I felt through words, body language, and music. She empathized. She helped me address some of the things that are really getting me down. For example, Mom had brought up how much it costs each month to see Wakana, with the very strong implication that I should stop draining her of that money. She doesn’t seem to get how much I need and benefit from it, and I feel like that matters less to her than “getting ahead” financially. Sometimes it seems like she sees my whole life as a financial transaction; she’s “investing” in me and losing all her money. I can’t repay her – at least not financially. My love, the joy in my life from experiences like getting married and having children someday, whatever academic success I can muster, even the financial security I’m still striving for … these things cannot be a repayment of some debt! I owe her my whole life, but I can’t live it for her. I have to live it for me.

Wakana heard and understood and strongly encouraged me to apply for jobs. She also said I could invite Mom to one of our sessions. I’m kind of dreading it – assuming I can convince her to come – but I think it may be necessary.

Jobs. I signed up to be a tutor, which is kind of hit or miss depending on whether students decide to contact me. I think I’d be okay in the subjects I said I could teach. Today I was going to apply for a job I found yesterday that sounded awesome, but when I went to look at it the listing had been deleted. That undermined any motivation I had to do useful things.

Anyway, I decided to hang out at a nearby cafe after my session yesterday and enjoyed myself quite a bit (including saving potential job listings to apply for later). The food and drinks were good, it was a pleasant atmosphere, it got me out of the house and away from The Sims 3, and best of all I got to socialize a little bit. Even just being surrounded by people who were all doing their own thing was energizing. I’m still coming to grips with this whole being an extrovert thing. I like being around people. I need to stop isolating!

But how?

Aarghle Flarghle Blarghle!!!

Please bear with me. This stuff is all a jumbled mess and I need to get it out but I don’t know where to start.

Our legal marriage ceremony is in a week and a half. I let anxiety get the best of me and put off getting my dress hemmed by another day. I procrastinated by finally doing some of the other things I’d been procrastinating.

I don’t even know what I’m so anxious about. I know the person who will be hemming the dress, she’s a very nice supportive person and we’ve made clothes for me before. I’m even pretty sure I know what to expect. I’ve driven to and from her house a million times at all hours of the day and night. But just thinking about it makes me feel sick with anxiety.

I know I want to marry Fox and gain the legal recognition for what we’ve felt for some time. But I can’t shake the anxiety, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m boxing myself in. Maybe it’s because we tend to fall into the trap of being each other’s only social interaction for days at a time, and because I’ve stopped doing a lot of things I used to enjoy since we met. But I can start doing those things again; we can and do spend time with other people both together and apart. We just need to make more of an effort to do so consistently. It’s a big problem but I don’t think running away from marriage is the answer. I think I can – I really want to – make it work with him.

Because there are times when it feels so right, like we were made for each other. Lately, those have been the times when we’ve turned off our computers and talked about the discussion questions in our premarital counseling homework. I’m hoping those will be valuable tools to keep us connecting with each other on the important things.

I’ve been playing The Sims 3 to reassure myself that life after marriage can work. The game I’ve written about most recently (Escape to Dragon Valley pt. 1 & pt. 2) started with a recently-married young adult couple – precisely what Fox and I will be in a week and a half. I stopped playing that family because the game kept crashing when I had the wife – who had just become an elder – try to plan her outfits. I started a new game with more of a focus on raising children, but it became nearly impossible for the sims to do anything without being in each other’s way. When the husband/father couldn’t eat breakfast because his teenage daughter was brushing the cat (and there wasn’t really a better spot available where she could have done so) I snapped and deleted my save files for both of the above families.

Just like that, they’re gone.

Now I’m playing a new family in the Sims 3 that started with – you guessed it – a recently-married young adult couple. I put them in a starter house with the goal of moving them to a small but easily-expandable house I had built on a generously-sized lot. They moved up their respective career tracks quickly, largely because they had access to skill books in the library (Moonlight Falls). Before long they were able to afford the house I had built them and start producing offspring, the first of which just grew up into a child. My primary focus is actually on her; the young adult sims exist to provide their children with the best possible foundation for a very promising future. Everything they’ve been doing – their financial success, all upgrades to their home, even the family portraits – all of it is for their children and future generations of this family. The young adults don’t even get memories, only the children do (one child so far, but I intend for them to have two).

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of balancing the parents’ needs, career development, friendships, and contribution to their child’s development. Their relationship with each other is suffering, though. It’s kind of rare for me to have them interact; I think part of it is how the game – especially its artificial intelligence – works, and part of it is mirroring my disconnection from Fox (which ironically manifests in and is worsened when I play the game). The bottom line is that having sims interact, especially in ways that build or maintain their relationships, takes consistent intentional effort. If I’ve learned anything from premarital counseling (and life in general) it’s that real-life relationships are much the same.

I’m wary of putting in that kind of effort because I’ve been hurt in the past. My mother requires a ton of it but tends not to give me what I need in return; if she does it’s at a very high cost. (For example: after supporting me in working through some of my anxiety today, she insisted on taking Fox’s shirt to be pressed without his knowledge or consent.) My father physically abused me. Other loved ones have died, moved away, withdrawn emotionally, taken advantage of me (or tried to do so), etc. I want this relationship to be different; I want to trust that it is. But I can’t. I’m constantly wary. I feel like it will all fall apart as soon as I relax.

And in a week and a half it will be legally binding. Mom says I can still back out; it’s entirely my choice. But I feel like I’m watching a train wreck … while bound to the front of the train.