A Line Through Time

One of the worst things about my mood disorder is feeling disconnected from my past self/selves. I feel like I’ve lost something and I want it back, but I’m not even sure what it is. Most of my work with Wakana has focused on reclaiming aspects of my Self and my life experiences that I’d repressed, abandoned, or otherwise been ashamed of. It can be very painful It is excruciatingly painful, but with every step I feel closer to being whole.

Last night I decided to make a timeline of my relationships. I started with meeting Banji over 15 years ago and continued through college, my first full-time job, grad school, meeting Fox, Banji moving away, getting married, all the way to this year. I realized there was at least one major transition – including but not limited to beginning, losing, and ending relationships – in every calendar year since I graduated from college about 10 years ago.

There is a concentration of intense transitions from 2011 through 2013. As Banji was preparing to move away, I essentially proposed to Fox – despite only knowing him for a handful of months. Spring 2011 was the last time I facilitated music therapy sessions for actual clients. Banji moved over the summer. I applied for an internship and thought it was a sure thing, so I waited months to learn whether I’d been accepted… only to be rejected twice. By the end of that year I’d moved in with a friend from college.

I don’t have much written down about 2012. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right medication and psychiatrist, and ended up taking some meds that probably did more harm than good. I adopted a pair of rats early in the year, one of whom died about a month or two later, and I had to euthanize the other by the end of the year.

Banji moved much closer to home (but still 5 hours away) around the beginning of 2013. I followed suit by moving back in with Mom; I’ve barely seen or talked to my former roommate since. Mom got knee replacement surgery, my uncle died, I had to drop the classes I’d waited 2 years to take because they were triggering my worst symptoms, Fox moved in with me that summer, and we got married in the fall. Looking back on it in that context, I think I must have been crazy!

Some of the above transitions were out of my control, but others (like moving) I imposed on myself. I honestly don’t regret them; they were necessary for me to reach the point where I am now. But they definitely added to my stress and were not entirely beneficial to my mental health. I couldn’t do most of the things I was used to doing; I stopped doing things that had been meaningful to me. I made at least one decision that I do regret now. In hindsight I think my worst problem may have been the guilt and shame I felt because of the problems I was facing – particularly as they affected my pursuit of a career.

Things have been improving since last summer, when Fox and I started marriage counseling and finally gained access to the medication we need (thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”). Fox has been working full time for several months now. I did well through a challenging semester on a sub-therapeutic dose of my medication. Now I’m on a therapeutic dose. We’re regularly using the skills we learned in marriage counseling (which our therapist terminated 2 months ago). Our relationship brings us both a lot of comfort and joy.

Of equal importance is that Banji and I have worked through at least some of the issues impacting our relationship; we’ve become closer as a result. We’ve adapted to the current physical distance between us. Whenever we meet in person, we blend continuing fun traditions from the past with planning for the life we intend to build together. We’re not where we want to be – living within a 10-minute drive of each other – but we’re hopeful.

I haven’t been putting off applying for internships because I’m afraid of rejection. I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say I’m afraid of success. Starting an internship would be Another Huge Transition: new relationships, new routines, new responsibilities, even a new role/identity. The dynamic between Fox and me would change – hopefully for the better, but it would still be a change.

This is something I actually have some control over; I am exercising my control. I am not procrastinating and I do not have anything to be ashamed of. I am choosing to postpone another huge world-shattering transition because I’ve learned that it’s harmful to have too many of them in such a short period of time. There’s a lot of pressure to start my internship as soon as possible, and a lot of benefits that could come from doing so. But there are also benefits to waiting, at least for few more months.

I need some time to breathe.

Hemming and Hawing

When I shared last night’s post with Fox, he told me that he was also feeling anxious about the wedding and showed a lot of support and understanding for what I was going through. That helped so much to relieve my own anxiety, especially since he acknowledged that “it’s a big change” – yeah, it’s huge!

Especially with it being Samhain, I’ve been thinking about doing something to mark not just the beginning of our legally-recognized (and binding) life together, but the end of my life as a legally single person. I’m just not sure exactly what to do, since to my knowledge the only equivalent in this culture is a bachelor party. My and Fox’s idea of a fun bachelor party is a game night. But I’m not really looking for it to be something fun, I’m more in the mood for something solemn. There’s a lot I need to let go of because I’ve never had it and I never will. I could also really use something to help me reconnect with my spirituality.

Today (Thursday) was a good day. Mom and I had a pleasant lunch, then Fox joined me when I went to get my dress hemmed. Once we were done with the initial pinning and I didn’t have to stand still anymore, the process actually became kind of fun. We talked and laughed. I sewed the final hem in the bottom of the dress. And possibly for the first time in my life I have long sleeves that actually fit me the way they’re supposed to!

It felt wonderful to be able to walk around in that dress without having to hold the skirt up and to have the sleeves fall to just the right length. When we got home, Mom let me try on a couple of necklaces for my “something borrowed.” We agreed that a string of pearls looked the best.

Poof! Just like that, I have precisely what I’m going to wear on the big day. It feels wonderful. Even before the dress was actually hemmed, I was finding it hard to believe how stressed out I was yesterday/Wednesday. I had to tell myself that yesterday I was “wearing anxiety goggles,” which distorted my experience of everything. Today I wasn’t wearing them, so I could no longer relate to the experience I’d had while wearing them. It’s like the experiences belong to completely different realities – if by “reality” one means the current setting of my brain.

Things are falling into place and I’m finally starting to feel at peace with this whole thing. I have hair and nail appointments scheduled for next week, then we just need to show up on time with the license!

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.

Insomnia

So, here I am at the end of a fairly productive day. I completed not one, but TWO assignments for my online class! They were a nice challenge; I definitely learned some things. I’m kinda looking forward to, kinda apprehensive about taking on the next assignment challenge! In my mind, that’s a good place to be.

I also acquired groceries, spent time with my rats (one of whom was surprisingly cuddly – at least for a short while), and played The Sims 3 responsibly. By which I mean I played for a handful of hours, then decided I’d reached a good stopping point and went off to do something else. I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off, but I don’t feel any particular urgency.

I was even able to take a bath without my mind wandering off into horrible, dangerous thoughts.

Fast forward to the present; I’m sitting here thinking, now what? The clock is telling me it’s time to sleep but I don’t really feel like it. In a way I feel like I haven’t really started my day – I haven’t exactly done any physical activity. Maybe that’s my problem, I need to exercise. Then my body will feel like I’ve done something today and decide it’s ready to sleep. Maybe my mind will follow suit.

Of course, right now exercising is the last thing I want to do. That tends to be how I feel most of the time – otherwise, I’d actually do it! In fact, given the choice between exercise and sleep, my body and mind seem ready to choose sleep. Well, if that’s what it takes to overcome my insomnia …

I think what it comes down to is that I’m afraid. If I stay awake, I can be pretty sure I can predict what will happen. I’ll do … whatever I want. I might be tired, maybe anxious, maybe sad. Okay, I’m used to those emotions, I can deal with them. Who knows? I might be happy! It’s nice and quiet. Maybe I can even be creative. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn or colored or improvised.

If I go to sleep … when I let my guard down the darkness starts to creep in. I feel anxious and it takes a while for my body to relax. I have bad dreams.

Dreams where the rules that govern reality don’t apply. In reality if I have an irrational fear I can use my understanding of logic and science to talk myself out of it. The empirical evidence usually supports this calming self-talk. Usually.

In dreams the fear manifests as something that my dream-self thinks is real; in that moment, it poses a real threat to me. For example, the “badly drawn babies with sharp teeth” in my previous post really had the potential to devour me if I did not get away! Even when I think I’ve woken up, often it’s just a dream-within-a-dream. Maybe the new reality is better, maybe it’s worse. It’s probably just as dangerous.

And when I finally do wake up, I feel groggy and drowsy. I don’t want to face reality. My dreams often haunt me, weighing on my mind. Sometimes I feel like I left something unfinished. The worst is when my dream-self was interacting with a loved one who really died, but in my dream they’ve just been gone for a while. When my waking-self remembers that said loved one is dead, it’s like a stab in the heart. I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again, and I probably won’t have any control over what I do or say next time we meet.

To say I’m going back and forth between dreams and reality is a bit misleading. It feels more like I’m moving between or among realities. Who’s to say that this one is any more real than the dream worlds? Sometimes the dreams feel more real.

To make matters worse, if I go to sleep, inevitably I’ll have to wake up again in this reality. Then, some unknown amount of time will have passed – time that I could have spent doing, I don’t know, something.

I’ll probably wake up less able to deal with reality than I am now. I’ll probably be haunted by bad dreams. Who knows what will be happening? It could be anything! My mother might want to impose on me before I’ve had a chance to put my guard up or, you know, eat something. I’ll have to face the uncertainty of feeling like I should do something useful with my time, but lack the motivation or energy or organization. There could be some disaster happening …

I think I’ve made my point. Going to sleep is scary because I don’t know what I’ll have to face in my dreams. Waking up is scary because then I have to deal with reality when I’ve just woken up and who knows what I’ll wake up into. I’d rather just deal with one reality full time instead of switching back and forth and having to adjust after each transition.

So I keep trying to think of things to do, anything but sleep. Lately it’s been The Sims 3. It just dawned on me that going through stuff and cleaning might actually be useful. I’ve probably made this blog post longer than it needs to be because writing is a viable alternative to sleep. Maybe I should try writing fiction. Or another poem? Or maybe one of the other posts that’s been sitting on the back burner …