Exhales slowly

Potential crisis averted, I think. I had some concerns regarding the code of ethics that was posted for the entrepreneurial project (EP) this morning. But when I shared my concerns in the group chat (which is currently our official means of communication), it didn’t go over so well. I didn’t respond so well either, at first. Then someone wrote something that, to be honest, I found mocking and offensive… but I decided to focus on their last question: “why are you still here?”

I answered that I think the EP is a great idea with a ton of potential and I appreciate the creativity my friend brings to it and I’m proud of what it’s becoming – all true. I want to be a part of it – in particular, part of what we’re working toward. I have to admit, what we’re doing now appeals to me considerably less, and I want to find a role that will help us get to where I want to be, that isn’t the thing I’m not enjoying so much, you know? So I tried communicating with my friend about this, didn’t get a response, felt forced to bring it to the group chat so folks would understand what I was trying to address in my comments on the code of ethics… and yeah, explosions.

The problem I had this morning was with the HR person basically slamming me (I felt), instead of there being the mutual understanding dialogue I’d hoped for when I raised my concerns in the first place… I mean the ethical standards say let’s resolve this amicably, using terms like “collaboration” … I don’t think saying “no you’re this now do the thing you just said you don’t want to” is particularly amicable or collaborative. And then one of the board members basically said “if you don’t think you’re a fit for this company, leave.”

Excuse me? Tempting as it is to say “good bye and fuck you” I… I dunno, maybe I’m just being too stubborn for my own good, but I do want to see this endeavor succeed. I’m trying to challenge them to be less butts and I dunno, develop some people skills or something. I’d say maybe I should be the HR person but that sounds too much like emotional labor, and it’s not what my friend pulled me into this project for. The HR person was kind enough to remind me what that was, so I said “well if you need me you might want to refrain from driving me away” and wished everyone a good day.

Basically I feel like my options are 1) shut up, put my head down, and accept that this will be that soul-crushing job I’d hoped to avoid… oh, except that I’m not currently being paid 2) invest enough capital to be on the board and then I get to tell everyone else what to do mwahahahahaha!!! 3) tell them I don’t want my current position, but they can hire/contract me later as what I want to do… who knows, maybe by that time I’ll have found a better job! 4) walk away.

This is really pointing me toward “I’d much rather just dive in and be an independent content creator,” but I don’t really know what I need to do in order to make that remotely sustainable. To be honest that’s the thing I need from this company, possibly the main reason why I haven’t walked away: if I’m part of the company I benefit from my friend’s business knowledge and the sponsors he’s reaching out to and the equipment he has or plans to acquire… Though most of what I lack is stuff I could learn…

But I’m not even sure it’s something I’d want to do on any kind of regular basis… or if I can do anything on any kind of regular basis, considering my mental health and trying (failing) to be a good offspring / significant other (x3) / family-type person / friend. I think to make content creation work I’d need to be part of a team, so it’s not all on me to be whatever form of entertaining I’m going for… especially if the goal is to post every day. I mean, look at this blog. 😛

But when I think about composing… yeah, there’s gonna be stress in a profession like that, there’s stress in every profession. There will be times when I sign on to a project and things don’t go the way I’d hoped and I have to work with (or under) people I butt heads with… but they’ll be paying me, and I’ll know I’ve been hired as x, not think I’m gonna be q and find myself relegated to z without any kind of meaningful discussion and agreement. I hope. Right?

And I mean everyone needs a day off from everything, but I think composing is something I can do full time and be happy doing. I think. I hope. Though I thought writing would be and to be honest it’s not. Part time maybe. Or maybe I need something that involves a variety, some writing some composing some video-related stuff and something that’s not creative at all because as much as I love being creativity sometimes that needs a break, too.

(Yes, I wrote “being creativity” and decided to keep it because it makes sense in my brain.)

I just… I don’t know. People have told me I tend to latch on to one thing and that becomes my identity and my world and when it falls through or is over or moves or dies or whatever I fall apart. Completely. and I need to not do that. This isn’t worth risking that. Composing isn’t really, either. Nothing is.

“It’s not you, it’s not permanent, it’s not going to solve all your problems and make you happy.” So what is? Is anything? Is it possible to find a something – like a higher power – that can fill that role? Or is that just an illusion… kind of like how the ‘Self’ is the psychic embodiment of never truly being one whole coherent entity, if nothing else because there’s always the person and their concept of their Self, co-existing as two different things. (Jungian something-or-other, I’m not studying psychology anymore.) Maybe I’m just not meant to have one profession or identity or whatever; maybe I need more fluidity than is allowed by typical understandings of careers and whatnot in the U.S. I don’t know, I just have this weird urge to go make something and post it on YouTube.

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Progress

Last night’s class was great! Whereas in the past I’ve been terrified to show imperfection and extremely critical of myself, last night I was eager to receive feedback. I was uncomfortable about the class watching last week’s video of me acting as therapist in my small group, but the instructor pointed out something I’d facilitated without being aware of it. This element had been very effective in supporting the goals for the group: free expression and interaction among members.

Then we broke up into groups for hands-on experience, with the task of dealing with “problem group members.” The instructor recommended lyric analysis; for once(!) I immediately knew which song I wanted to use. Another group member was a bit better prepared and group consensus seemed to be for her to go first, so she did. I’m kind of wishing I’d gone first because the instructor came in while she was leading and gave a lot of useful feedback. The whole thing got video recorded, which meant (unbeknownst to us) that there was not enough memory left on the device to record a second mini-session. (Spoiler: So there’s no video of me leading.)

I left plenty of room for one of the other group members to go next, but there was an awkward silence as we all looked at each other. So, I volunteered. Perhaps I could have been a bit more direct about my desire to take a turn leading, but that’s working against an entire childhood, much of my adolescence, and even some of my (young) adulthood spent learning to step back and “give the other kids a chance.” (Including teachers refusing to call on me unless I tricked them into thinking I wasn’t paying attention.) I may have taken it to a bit of an unhealthy extreme, but I’m working to correct that…

I felt so good to go because I wanted to go, not because I had to. I felt ready. I presented the song in the way I felt comfortable with and that left me free to focus on connecting with the group members as we sang. I facilitated a verbal discussion that helped one of the group members come to her own conclusions that were supportive of her therapeutic goals, despite initial rejection of the primary imagery in the song. I tried several strategies to engage a silent group member without losing the ones who were participating. Even though she was quite successful in remaining disengaged, I felt good about the creativity I’d employed and eager to keep working. She later told me that it had been very difficult for her to resist engaging with the group, and that the only way she’d managed was by diligently avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Best of all, I felt accepted by and connected with my small group-mates, and comfortable in the class as a whole. I feel like I’m back on track and more alive than ever!

Awesome

Awesome things have been happening the past few days!

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an unexpected package on Wednesday. It turned out to be 4 pounds of modeling clay from Banji!

Mom encouraged me to take a holistic approach to treating my depression, including aromatherapy, a better-balanced diet, and seeing a chiropractor. To be honest I’m inclined to take some of her advice with a grain of salt, but it means a lot to me that she’s been looking into things that might help. I figure it can’t hurt to look into holistic approaches and adopt the ones that help me feel better; things like diet are basic to everyday self-care. (And, frankly, I’ve come to see psychiatry as a bit of a Hojo science: “Try taking this random substance that will affect your brain and we’ll see what happens …” If we’re going to be doing that, I might as well get to relax while inhaling a smell I like, thanks.)

More importantly, she’s willing to be involved in my exploration/implementation of these things: cooking for me, covering costs, even going to the chiropractor with me. I just hope this is a step toward her helping me with the things I think/know I need – and not an attempt to distract me from effective treatments that she’s uncomfortable with (because they might change our relationship?). :-/  I’m inclined to be a bit wary, but for now at least I’m focusing on the positive/potential for good: she wants to help me.

Fox has been positively wonderful. Among other things, he lets me read my blog posts to him – even if he’s tired or trying to focus on something else (or both).

He and his Dad both agreed to (collaboratively) make important mental health care decisions for me, in the event that I am unable to do so myself. This means a lot to me because while Fox knows me incredibly well, Dad is in a profession where he gets to see both sides of the coin; he knows what’s available, red flags to watch out for, how to translate from Human to Doctor and back again, etc.

I pushed myself to meet with Wakana today, despite desperately wanting to go back to sleep. It was very good that I did so. We spent most of the session talking about things related to asserting myself, primarily in the realm of receiving the mental health care I need. Then, seemingly out of the blue, I started playing one of the instruments that had been calling to me the whole time; as I played I started to hum; as I hummed, I started to sing:

This is what I need
Listen to me
Fuck your red tape
Listen to me

Forget your procedure
Listen to me
I’ll tell you what I need
Listen to me

Can you do what I need?
Listen to me
Answer truthfully!
Listen to me

If the answer is “No,”
Then I’ll say, “Goodbye,
Have a nice day.”
Listen to me!

At the end of the session I was even able to express, in the moment, how I felt about leaving (sad, and a little anxious). We were able to talk a bit about our (therapeutic) relationship, though a bit awkwardly (from my perspective). I expressed my anger about only having an hour with Wakana – while acknowledging that we need such boundaries and listening to her explain that she needs to make a living and this is how she’s chosen to do it; that doesn’t make our relationship any less genuine. It wasn’t the most comfortable or satisfying thing in the world, but it was a huge milestone in my emotional development.

Best of all, the melody filled me with a strong sense of Self that I’ve been desperately missing. It filled my whole body and spread beyond me to the people, buildings, trees, grass, sky, etc. all around me. The whole world, maybe even the whole universe, reverberated with it. I don’t need labels/categories, hobbies, a profession, relationships, even a name to define me. I just am. And I’m already whole. No matter how chaotic things may be, around me and inside me, I am. (We are.) It can be embodied in that melody. Or whatever melody best fits in the moment. It can be silent, or played by orchestras around the world, or anywhere in between.

Peace.

Giving In

Sometimes I feel like I don’t exist anymore. My The Sims 3 game has eaten my life. I spend whole days playing it; last night I stayed up most of the night trying to find a particular item that one of my sims needs to accomplish her lifelong goal. I wasn’t even playing the game anymore – which for me is largely about telling stories – I was just having her do the same thing over and over and over again without achieving the desired result.

In the end I think I broke that save game by using too many cheats. It takes too long to load and might never load. Last night This morning I was torn between sleeping on the couch while waiting for it to load and actually going to bed. I chose the latter, but as soon as Dog woke me up a few hours later I was back to trying to play that game. I finally gave up and deleted it … then started a new game with (mostly) the same characters.

It’s gotten to the point where sometimes I don’t even really want to play, but I find myself turning on the computer and loading the game anyway; before I know it Ziya has disappeared and the sims have taken hir place.

Banji and I often talk about writing, especially writing fiction. She’s suggested I should write the stories I’ve been “playing” ad nauseam – including dialogue, character development, world building, etc. It’s a very tempting idea: I can take the creative energy I’ve been putting into that game and use it to (also) hone my writing skills. I’ve felt energized by thoughts about creating a new blog where I would tell my sims’ stories, updating after each play session.

In addition to giving me practice writing fiction, it would also provide a means of exploring the potent themes that come up in that game. Death is a particularly important one, particularly the inevitability of death via aging. What choices would I make in a world where such a fate can be delayed or even avoided entirely? (by specific supernatural types of sims or through potions any sim can eventually unlock)

So far I’ve noticed that I tend to abandon games when my original sims are nearing elder-hood and it is time to pass the torch to the next generation (born in the game). Is it really because the additional sims (and additional roles each sim must play) make the game too complicated? Or does it evoke my anxiety and grief – about loss, abandonment, missed opportunities, an imperfect childhood, etc.?

I often feel as though I’m standing on the edge of a dark cliff, looking my own death in the face. Whether it takes the form of what my loved ones would call “death” as they grieved at my funeral – or of transitions such as weddings and births and new jobs and new homes, etc. they would celebrate – to my eyes it’s all the same: Dark and nebulous and largely outside my control, requiring me to make sacrifices I don’t even fully understand.

So what’s “giving in”? Missing my music therapy session to write this post? Going along with what everyone says “life” should be? Playing a life simulator while ignoring real-world pleasures and responsibilities? Choosing what everyone else calls “death”?

I have no idea. I just keep holding on to this notion that I want to do something meaningful before I leave.

First 3-Month Review

I wanted to take another look at the more important posts I’ve made in my now-3-month-old blog – not just rehashing them, but finding the connections among them that can lead to new insights. Toward that end, I have organized the posts primarily by theme, but also (somewhat) chronologically. The themes include:

  1. Medication
  2. Web Mandala
  3. Stigma
  4. Limits and Boundaries
  5. Gender
  6. My Inner Menagerie
  7. My Healthy Side

Medication

I started out a day with depression with my search for the right medication (much as I do each morning). As I see it, the role of medication in treating (my) mental illness is to “take the edge off” the symptoms so I can live each day and do the important psycho-therapeutic work I need to heal. Both aspects of my treatment are an ongoing process; I’ve reflected on my experiences with medication (and mental health care providers) in the following posts:

Web Mandala

Web Mandala 2012-12-13My earliest non-medication-related post was the Web Mandala I colored. In short, the star-burst in the center represents everything good about me: my strength, creativity, spirituality, intellect, life energy, determination, etc. – while the grey pillars on the corners represent my mental illness. It’s hard to say whether the pillars are invading, or the star-burst is driving them away. Which interpretation is more accurate really tends to change from day to day. The point is that they are both present in the same moment and in the same person: both the illness, and everything I need to overcome it.

Stigma

I wrote Mental Illness and Mass Shootings after the tragic events of December 14, 2012. Writing that post helped me to develop a stronger awareness of the stigma associated with mental illness. That stigma poses a real danger to people with mental illnesses and to society as a whole.

blogformentalhealth20131As part of my commitment to helping end this stigma, I have pledged to Blog for Mental Health in 2013 and joined the Mental Health Writers’ Guild.

Limits and Boundaries

Christmas Eve was An Emotional (and functional) Roller Coaster for me. I was happy while enjoying music and holiday traditions with people I love. But I had a lot of difficulty coping with lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks I needed to complete and stressed about my pending move, loud noise coming from my roommate’s TV, guilt and frustration over my mistakes, and insecurity about playing viola. I might have also felt some ambivalence about spending the day with Banji, due to the emotional effects I experienced while she was living 14 hours away.

In my post: “We all know it’ll never happen, so why do we waste our breath?” I described the other stress and difficulties I experienced during the winter holidays, including cancelling plans at the last minute. At the end of the post I made 2 New Year’s Resolutions:

  • to figure out my limits
  • to set and enforce clear boundaries

I’m not particularly confident that I’ve been doing either of those, but I have been making at least a small amount of intermittent effort. Continuing work on My Efforts to be Codependent No More and Detachment should help. I just need to stay focused – which is not always easy!

Gender

genbenjanI wanted to focus on gender-related issues during January, so I called it Gender Bender January and planned to write gender-related posts multiple times per week. I learned that keeping up with a theme-based posting schedule is hard! – and not always in line with what I need this blog to be. Gender-related issues do play an important role in mental health, though – particularly for me – so I think it is an important topic to come back to.

One gender-related issue I’ve written about since January is the ideal of the slender body, to which I say: “FUDGE THAT!” I felt liberated while reading a chapter of Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo (1993, University of California Press). The messages about the body that the article exposed have been hurting me my whole life, but I was finally able to get angry at them instead of at myself. On February 13th I recast them as the enemy and allied with my own body – cellulite and all! “FUDGE THAT!” was my first post to be reblogged by someone; I consider that a great honor. 😀

My Inner Menagerie

2013-01-11-02On January 10th I began a multi-post process of connecting with different aspects of myself that I generally would prefer to remain hidden.

The Dark Horse represents my difficult emotions – especially anger – which tend to cause me a lot of pain, but can be valuable allies if only I can harness them.

The Critic voices my self-criticisms, doubts, and insecurities – often very harshly. Although it tends to hurt me, the true problem with the Critic is that I have not accepted it as part of myself. If I can own those thoughts, I can word them in a nicer way and use them as constructive feedback.

Mushussu-Sirrush, dragon of chaos. Drawn in mechanical pencil. Colored with oil pastels.

Mushussu-Sirrush, dragon of chaos. Drawn in mechanical pencil. Colored with oil pastels.

Mushussu-Sirrush is the chaos in my life, some of which stems from early childhood experiences and much of which is self-inflicted (for example, by allowing my home to become cluttered). In that (February 5th) post, I expressed my feelings about the 15th anniversary of my father’s death and explored the theme of chaos.

wyvernOriginally, I did not want to draw the Wyvern because it is a dragon that spreads disease and death; I prefer Anne McCaffrey’s portrayal of dragons as allies. However, I cannot deny that disease and death have both had a profound impact on my life. If I have to deal with something and often experience painful emotions related to it, I might as well take some time to make it something I can see – and make it as ugly and mean-looking as possible. At the time I did not want to color it in, but every time I look at the image online I want to add color to it.

The Ostrich in my poem, Trapped, represents the part of me that fears change and believes that I cannot recover / free myself because of some aspect of who I am. The Ostrich thinks I would have to change my very nature to be free.

Li-Ying comforts her husband; though sad herself, she thinks she can only imagine what he must be feeling.

Li-Ying comforts her husband; though sad herself, she thinks she can only imagine what he must be feeling.

I featured several secret aspects of myself in my post, Ending a Life. I’ve summarized the ones I consider most important here:

The Comforter  is the part of me who places others’ emotions and needs before my own, believing that their needs are more important.

Surrounded by the guests at the funeral, Elaine is completely unable to connect with them. All she can feel or think about is her sorrow.

Surrounded by the guests at the funeral, Elaine is completely unable to connect with them. All she can feel or think about is her sorrow.

The Ghost represents my reaction when I feel too overwhelmed by my own painful emotions to connect with others; when I feel alienated from them and from the life energy around me.

Ruth pours drinks for the guests to enjoy, feeling detached from "their" sorrow.

Ruth pours drinks for the guests to enjoy, feeling detached from “their” sorrow.

The Servant is the part of me who sees the good in death: it ends the suffering of the person who dies and allows them to move on, and it allows loved ones to mourn, move on with their own lives, and sometimes have aspects of their lives that are better. This part of me feels detached from others’ sorrow but at the same time obligated to participate in the rituals that have meaning for them, but not always for me.

Yuan cannot even bear to be present at her grandfather's funeral. She escapes to the kitchen and plays with her imaginary friend instead.

Yuan cannot even bear to be present at her grandfather’s funeral. She escapes to the kitchen and plays with her imaginary friend instead.

The Deserter is the part of me that wants to leave this world – and all its pain – behind. It is the part I struggle with regularly to remain engaged in my own life.

So far, I’ve been doing fairly well: I’m still here. But I’d like to be doing better; I’d like the struggle to be easier.

I revisited the Deserter on March 5th, literally taking a walk with it in darkness (i.e. at night). In the process, I came to understand that the Deserter is extremely frustrated with the lack of stability in my relationships.

My Healthy Side

On January 30th I was challenged to look at myself in a more positive light, and responded by considering two “What If …” questions:

  1. What if  instead of seeing myself as a person who struggles with depression, I see myself as a person who successfully lives with depression – one day at a time?
  2. What if  I have recovered from depression?

These questions give me a break from focusing on pathology and turn my focus instead to my strengths, the characteristics I already have and need to overcome depressive symptoms, possibly even the disorder in its entirety. Focusing on the ways in which I live successfully with depression, the ways in which I am already living the recovery I seek, also requires me to take personal responsibility. I can’t cower like the Ostrich: hoping someone will save me from the predators, and wishing I could be someone/something else. I need use my existing strengths to protect and free myself.

overnight.org

theovernight.org

I have been interested in the Out of the Darkness Overnight for a couple of years now, and on February 7th I finally committed to walking this year. The final push I needed came during one of many instances when suicidal thoughts invaded my mind, but this time they asked a very useful question: What do I have to live for, besides other people? I replied with little things that I enjoy, many of which are sensual. That post serves as a very useful reminder of what is truly important to me; it can help me stay grounded.

When I realized what it would take to be able to complete the Overnight, I didn’t shy away. Instead, I recognized the changes I need to make to my lifestyle to be healthier and decided now’s as good a time as any to start acting on them.

Week 1 of training for the Out of the Darkness Overnight

Week 1 of training for the Out of the Darkness Overnight

Although it took me almost a month to really start training, I remain determined to take action to improve my own quality of life – and achieve a goal I can be very, very proud of!

Last, but certainly not least, there are strategies I can use to rewire my brain to focus more on the positive: my positive attributes, positive things that happen in my life, positive aspects of interactions with others, etc. It can be hard to do this, especially if I’m having a bad day. Even on the days I find difficult, I can find 3 things that are positive – or at least one:

I’m still here!