Resolutions shMEHjzolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

Last year I resolved to remember that my episodic mood disorder NOS is part of me – not all I am, but not somehow different from the “real me” either. I think I did a pretty good job of that throughout the year.

This year I want to renew that resolution and make a few more:

  1. to be physically active – let’s try 10 minutes per day
  2. to join and regularly attend in-person meetings of a group
  3. to express my spirituality
  4. to do something musical every day
  5. to keep in touch with people I care about

Why these resolutions?

1. I’ve been saying for a while now that including physical activity in my daily routine would be good for my physical and mental health. I feel so much better when I do something that gets the blood pumping – usually walking for longer than it takes to get from one room of the house to another, or dancing. I’ve seen what an extremely sedentary lifestyle has done to my godmother (who is still in the hospital, doing better but Mom wouldn’t say she’s “okay” yet) and it scares me. The extent to which I was winded after carrying a chair up one flight of stairs yesterday scares me. I don’t need to be in tip-top shape, but it’s important that I improve my stamina. I want to be able to do things. I want to feel alive.

2. I’ve gotten a lot better at being with myself or interacting with one other person, setting boundaries and asserting myself and the like. I’ve always been more comfortable with one-on-one interactions. However, especially since I realized I’m an extrovert, I have increasingly felt the need to be a part of some group. I had my friends over yesterday to celebrate the holidays and, as crazy and overwhelming as it got at times, I felt great. I was tired last night but today I want to do it again; I hate the idea of being alone. I know I can’t be interacting with people in groups all the time, but I need it to be a more regular part of my life. Hopefully the classes I’ll be taking in the Spring semester will help, but I need non-academic social groups, too.

One group I’m considering is Clutterers Anonymous because I don’t even know where to start trying to clean my apartment. Fox is just as much of a clutterer as me – if not even moreso – and I learned the behavior from Mom. Ideally the three of us would all go … but he has work and I don’t want to be dependent on her to interact with this group. I need to be able to attend it myself regardless of whether they come with me. I would have specified this group in my resolution, but if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I want to be able to find another group and have it count. The most important thing is to get out of the house and be social.

Another possible group is that Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group I attended once and haven’t been back to since. There are also a ridiculous number of Meetup groups in my area; all I have to do is join and actually show up. I’d even be willing to count going to different groups’ meetings toward this resolution, as long as I stay remotely consistent with it (say, at least twice a month?).

3. Spirituality is an important part of who I am that I had been neglecting until very, very recently. I used to feel at one with nature, dance under the stars, direct the energies of the various elements as they flowed through my chakras, practice zen Buddhist meditation, and pray. Even though I didn’t always agree with the lyrics, I found the act of singing or playing sacred music to be a profound spiritual experience. All of that fell apart as situations changed and I withdrew instead of adapting.

Now Fox is going to work most days and I worry about his safety. About a million things could happen to him; I could lose him. You just never know these days, and the world just seems to be becoming more and more dangerous. If I get caught up in thinking about this stuff, it could destroy me. So instead I pray: “Keep him safe.” I close my eyes and visualize him coming home to me. I send out my love and wishes for his protection and clothe him in armor made of positive energy. It helps me feel better. And so far he’s been safe.

I want to expand on this to more fully live my spirituality, especially acknowledging the seasons as they change.

4. Music is another important part of who I am, that I’ve also been neglecting. Among other things, I got too caught up in trying to do it perfectly; I was so worried about making mistakes that it interfered with practicing! That bright, cheerful, simple song would become painful and strained, until I’d drop my instrument and start crying. I was trying to force something that wasn’t there, and suppressing what I needed to let out. I need to find a way back to making music that is for me. It starts with picking up an instrument – any instrument – and trusting myself. Wakana helps in our music therapy sessions, but I only see her once a week. I need to build on what she’s given me.

5. This resolution is kind of difficult and I’ll be honest, I’m tempted to take it off the list for this year. The people I care about are kind of scattered, living in different states and/or busy with their own lives (and/or lacking funds for transportation). I intend to call or text or email or contact via Facebook or something, but then the time just keeps going by and … nothing. People aren’t exactly the best at contacting me, either; many of my family members go through Mom.

I want to maintain and strengthen the connections I have, so I want to try and reach out to them more often. Maybe send a text when I’m thinking about them or something. Emails. I still need to send out thank-you cards. I need to address why I don’t like calling people on the phone. This could probably be its own post, but at the moment I’m struggling not to fall asleep…

Yuletide Blessings and Happy New Year!

Welcome 2014

Before today I felt like I was on an upswing and I wanted to make the most of it.  In the past I’ve thought it was the depression going away completely and wanted to move forward as though the depressive episode had never happened. I’ve learned the hard way that such an attitude only makes it harder to cope when the more severe symptoms come back.

It’s hard to say whether this is a remission of symptoms due to natural course of the illness or perhaps interventions … or just a temporary improvement because of the holidays. Banji was staying at her parents house, which enabled us to spend a good amount of quality time together.  Fox and I have spent most of the past couple weeks socializing with loved ones. We had two holiday parties with friends, the first of which was a successful reunion of my closest friends from undergrad. It was so wonderful to relax and have fun with them. I felt fully myself, like the depression was gone.

That thought process is quite interesting actually because to my knowledge I’ve never been free from depression, so how can the depression being gone mean I’m more myself? If anything I’d be less myself! Whether I like it or not, my psychiatric disorder influences my thoughts, emotions, and perceptions; it helps shape my experiences and how I respond to them – arguably even my personality. If I didn’t have anxious depression, I would be a different person entirely.

What I really mean to say is that I had a refreshing reprieve from the symptoms; this allowed me to express myself, experience what was going on around me, and act unhindered by the impairments I’ve become accustomed to since my symptoms have been more severe. It reminded me of other times when my symptoms have been less severe; of course I want those times to be the norm, the “real” me!

The truth is, whether I’m currently struggling with depression and anxiety symptoms or not, I’m always the real me. As tempting as it may be to turn my back on 2013 and move forward as though it never happened, deciding to do so wouldn’t make the events, my responses, or the effects they had on me any less real. If I can own them, then I can learn from them, living in the present to influence the future to be more like what I want it to be.

I’ve been very sad today because Banji went home, so I have to cope with the reality that we can’t hang out whenever we want (we have to plan ahead and drive 5 hours each way) and we’ve both changed since undergrad. It’s been making it harder for me to be hopeful for the future and feel like there’s any point to trying to be healthy, apply for jobs, declutter, etc.

Today I cuddled with Fox, watched The Muppet Christmas Carol and Star Trek: Voyager, and tracked what I ate on Sparkpeople. Tomorrow I need to go out and deal with bureaucracy so my legal name change can actually occur.

My goals for this week are to update my resume, apply for at least one job (there’s a good one on campus that I’m qualified for), and exercise for at least 10 minutes on 3 of the 7 days. I’d also like to spend several hours of at least one day with a friend or two – because I’ve learned that I feel a lot happier and healthier when I do so.

Having these goals doesn’t mean I won’t experience symptoms that make it harder to accomplish them. If I struggle with those symptoms, I’ll still be the same person with the same goals. This illness may be part of me, but it’s not the only thing that defines me. Remembering this is the resolution I’m going to make for 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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