Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Although I mostly deal with anxiety on a daily basis, on occasion I get bogged down with depression. But it's often not a deep-I-can't-get-out-of-bed depression, but much more of a melancholy-what's-the-point kind of depression. I've been there for about a week or so. 
 
I'm not entirely sure what caused it...maybe because I had to lecture about abortion...which although it's one of my most important lectures and one that I get a lot of positive feedback from students about...it's just a draining not-so-fun topic that I have to cover. I worry about students freaking out and going all "BABY KILLERS!" in the middle of class, worry that I'm being too preachy-too liberal and not presenting the information in as neutral a way I can as possible...and it drains me. My teaching style is very much one of letting students figure out their own feelings, morals and values about topics and not shoving things down their throat. So while I am wildly pro-choice, I try as best as possible to not be the shouty scary feminist that turns off students from the message. I believe in attracting bees with sugar. But it takes a lot of effort. 
 
Actually it might have more to do with all the political hubbub in Indiana. Day after day after day of people debating whether or not it's ok to shun you is mentally and emotionally exhausting. So exhausting that that's all I'm going to say about that for now. I'll write more about it later. 

The weather here has also been weird. Raining, cloudy, cold, tornado warning the other day. After weeks of sunshine and warmth this feels like a step back. And that usually hurts my moods. I don't want to take off my sandals and put my sweaters back on! 

My therapist has been out sick for a couple weeks. Not having my weekly therapy sessions is a drag. Not that anything major has been coming up for me that I NEED to process with her, but there's something calming and reassuring about checking in with her each week. It gives me a stability that I worry I can't maintain on my own sometimes. 

The hard part about the melancholy is making sure it doesn't spiral out of control into larger fatalistic moods. Those are much harder to rebound and recover from. I'm getting better at reaching out to my support system when I start to feel that happening. I used to keep it all bottled up inside. Or would suffer needlessly because I couldn't stand to burden anyone. So when I realized that I was spiraling to the "OMG WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION AND I CAN'T MADE GOOD CHOICES ANYMORE" I knew I had to reach out to one of my most favorite melancholic confidantes because she'd know exactly what I was feeling and would be able to help me find perspective. It's lucky that my friends and I rarely fall of the edge of sanity at the same time. There's always one of us to support the other(s) when shit starts to get too real. 

And then I talked to my lovely, neverendingly patient partner. Who listens and doesn't judge. Who seeks to understand and doesn't strike out. Who reflects and responds rather than scolds and blames. Lord she's the best. 

And now here I am blogging two days in a row. Maybe the fog is lifting. I hope so.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Music Moves Me...To Laugh or Sing or Cry

Like any good kid growing up in the 90's I dabbled in all of the popular "alternative" bands. We might call them emo now, but in the day, they were all "alternative." It was in my teens that I first noticed how much I used music to evoke emotions and work through things that were weighing on my mind. My family didn't really do emotions and feelings and talking, but we did do music. Both of my parents are big music fans. They also both like pretty different music so we were exposed to wide ranges of musical tastes.

Remember how I have OCD? Yeah, that fucks with your musical inclinations. At least it does with mine. I don't like change. Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty can be uncomfortable and that's just scary. So it's really hard for me to venture into new music. I'm usually about 6 months behind everyone else in listening to new music. I've had to be exposed to it a zillion times in various public places before I can even think to adopt it into my musical library. This has drove many partners and friends nutty.

Another side effect of not liking change is that I am VERY comfortable with a certain level of monotony. I can listen to the same playlist every single day for months. Which is usually do. If I liked that music enough to download it and put it in a playlist, then I'm probably going to like it for life and probably ok with listening to it every single day. Again, this tends to make other people batty.

Another thing about me that combines my upbringing and my OCD is that music often will work on feelings that I'm having deep deep down that I am not yet able to consciously access. And often times that means one particular song will get stuck in my head. And I'll fall asleep hearing it in my head, and I'll wake up hearing it in my head, and I'll listen to it 793 times on repeat for days on end. Even I can recognize that this is very strange. Most people cannot listen to the same single song for a week straight. But they don't have compulsive behaviors that soothe them. So I try and refrain from playing the same song eleventy million times in a row when other people are around. But when I'm alone? Bam. Back to repeat.

Most of the songs that get stuck in my head tend to evoke some sort of negative emotion. I rarely have a problem with being happy. But I often have trouble processing harder feelings. So I listen to a lot of emo music when I'm struggling. It's one of the easiest ways Andrea or close friends can cue in on my mood. If you hear Jane's Addiction "Jane Says" playing...watch out. Dark, gloomy and wounded mood. Marilyn Manson? Angry, angry, annoyed, pissed. Certain Goo Goo Dolls songs...wistful, clingy, wanting love and reassurance.

Sometimes when I've been down for many many days and I'm struggling to overcome I'll listen to insanely happy music. And usually fake big goofy smiles. I read an article one time about how if you fake smile it activates endorphin releasers in your muscles and eventually you'll feel actually happier instead of just fake happy. So if you ever hear me listening to Judy Garland "Come on Get Happy" and looking like I'm having some sort of spastic happy stroke? No worries. Just trying to dust out the gloom in my head and doing it one of the most accessible ways I know how.

Monday, March 30, 2015

YOU DON'T KNOW!


"YOU DON'T KNOW!"

That's one of my favorite phrases. It's also sort of my Hail Mary desperation statement. When all my logical (or illogical) reasons for why I'm scared, anxious, worried, what-have-you have run out, I usually end with "BUT YOU DON'T KNOW!!!"

Andrea has created the perfect retort: "No I don't know, but neither do you." Boom. She always roasts me with that one. 

Anyone with anxiety will tell you that most of the anxiety comes from what we don't know. What could happen. What if. And that's hard. But it's even harder if you have OCD. Because not only do not know what could happen within the reasonable, rational world, but you can also dream up eleventy million implausible, maybe impossible, totally ridiculous things to also worry about.

I think it's important to note that we/I do not sit around thinking of ridiculous scenarios that COULD happen just to annoy people around us. Those things just pop into our heads that seem just as likely as any of the "real" sort of things you could/should worry about. Is it likely that the stranger walking behind me at a restaurant will all of a sudden grab my head and snap my neck and kill me? Highly unlikely...but you never know! And the more I worry about it the more likely it seems that it could happen. That's the main difference between people with OCD and everyone else. Other people might have that thought but then say "Oh, that's silly" and laugh it off and continue with their day. People with OCD might know that it's silly, but it's no laughing matter. And the more we try to NOT think about it, the more we think about it, and then the more it becomes real life. Believe me, if I could stop these ridiculous thoughts from a) entering my head and b) leaving quickly if they do come in, I would be a much happier person! But the problem with having OCD is that your brain conveniently disposes of logic and reason for you. Even if you can say "I know this is silly and unlikely to happen" the small part of your brain where OCD lives whispers "But what if it does?" and then you spend time quieting the OCD and in the process obsessing over why it might be right. It's exhausting.

The best thing about having a completely non-anxious, calm, steady partner is that she can act as a nice port in the harbor of crazy town that is my brain. When I come up with a particularly ridiculous "what if" she can respond that it would have never occurred to her that that could happen, but yes, maybe it could but it's super unlikely. There's something immensely calming about her responses. She doesn't act like I'm ridiculous, so then I don't feel shame and embarrassment -- which often heighten worries for me -- but she considers it like it's a serious potential and then says it's unlikely to happen. And I'm much more likely to believe her because I know her brain is more rational than mine. And the fact that it has or never would occur to her often makes me think "Hmm, that probably means it's really unlikely to happen or she would have thought about it." Not always...sometimes I say "WELL IT'S A GOOD THING I WORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING OR WE MIGHT DIE 12 TIMES TODAY!" And in her steady, reassuring way she says "You're right. It's a good thing we have you to keep us safe. And a good thing we have me to make sure we don't become agoraphobics and keep us moving forward." Ah, yin and yang.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What if I maim a garbage collector?

In 7th grade home economics (yes it was really called that and yes we were required to take it) we learned how to properly dispose of broken glass. If you broke a glass or a mirror or anything glass you were to put it in a paper bag, tape it up securely, and mark it BROKEN GLASS.



To this day I still do this whenever I dispose of broken glass.

Because if I don't? I may maim the garbage man (or woman).



I cannot have that on my conscience. Even if most garbage collection is automated these days and most garbage collectors never handle the garbage themselves. Because what if behind the scenes there is someone sorting through garbage that I don't know about? What if they are sorting my garbage and I haven't placed my broken glass securely in a paper bag and clearly marked BROKEN GLASS? What if they reach in my garbage and my broken glass slices off their hand? What if they are alone in the garbage sorting area and they bleed to death because of my improperly disposed of glass? No. Cannot risk that. I better wrap up my broken glass and write in huge letters on every inch of that paper bag CAUTION: BROKEN GLASS. Just once is not enough. I need to cover every side of the bag. Just in case they only see one edge of the bag and think it's just a bag. Nope. Gotta make it clear. Someone's life might be riding on my broken glass. I cannot fail them. Their life depends on me. Whoever they are.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brain Aneurysms



When I was in junior high a family friend died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. She was in her mid-30's. She had just given birth to her 3rd child in the past year. I babysat for their family sometimes. I remember my dad told me after softball practice. And I was like "what the heck is an aneurysm?" And then my life was never the same.

Every time I have an intense headache...which lets face it, is often since headaches are triggered by stress and hello? My life is stress. But luckily, as I've gotten older, understood my OCD, my anxiety and started taking meds my stress has gone down and so has my frequency of headaches. Thankfully. But every time I have an intense headache I am sure I'm having an aneurysm.






Welp here it is. My fatal brain aneurysm. I'm ready to drop dead at any moment.

Every.

Single.

Time.

And every time I don't die? I think whew. Just a regular headache this time.

But it's probably a headache because there is a clot forming in my blood vessels. So next time I'll die.

And then I massage my head vigorously because I reason that massaging my blood vessels externally will break up any of the clots that are starting to form. Because obviously I have magical de-clotting fingers and if everyone would just massage their brain blood vessels more often we could stop dying of brain aneurysms.

See how OCD works? Obsess, obsess, obsess...oooh. Some sort of compulsive, repetitive solution to soothe the obsession. Brain aneurysm -> magical de-clotting massage -> reduction in anxiety...and then the cycle starts all over again. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You'll Poke Your Eye Out!

Continuing with the theme of ridiculous fears this week, today I'll share my fear of 4 way clothing racks. Yes, 4 way clothing racks. Like these:




Gah. Just looking at them makes me all blinky. This obsession didn't start until I worked in retail at the age of 16. I worked at Fashion Bug for years. At some point I started worrying that I would turn around too fast and gouge my eye out with the end of one of the racks and lose my eye. This made it unbearable to go to work. I wanted to wear safety goggles to work, but I knew that was weird so I just made sure I walked slowly around the store when putting things away and tried to work the cash register as much as possible.

Even today I'm scared of them. When I go shopping I'm always on high alert for eye stabbage. I'm always afraid I'll be unaware of my distance from a rack and smash my face into one. Which is ridiculous since I'm hyper aware of the racks and my distance to them. But I'm also clumsy. So what if I trip on the carpet, my own feet, the air and land eye first onto a rack arm? So risky. I just try to stay away from those kinds of racks in general. And mostly online shop. Eeek.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Realistic Dolls...They're All Chucky to Me

I almost couldn't even post a picture on this blog post because I'm that terrified of realistic dolls. I most DEFINITELY could not post a picture of the worst doll of all time...Chucky from Child's Play.  Hooooo. Leeeeee. Shiiiiit. That was most definitely the start of my doll fears.

When we moved to Indiana and I was in elementary school horror movies were just becoming THE THING to do at slumber parties. I hated horror movies. But I wanted to fit in so I would enthusiastically join in with movies that would give me nightmares for months. The worst movie I ever say was Child's Play. That scared me and scarred me for life. After watching that movie, all of my realistic looking dolls had to go.

Especially Pamela.






Pamela was a talking doll much like Chucky. I got her for my birthday from my Grandma Gatlin. She was very expensive at the time, and as a child who grew up in a thrift store hippie family, was totally out of character for me to own something so extravagant. So when I became terrified of her I also had a tremendous amount of guilt. How could I get rid of a doll that I had wanted SO bad and was SO not worthy of having? I was in a pickle. At first I just tried hiding her in my closet at night time, because that's obviously when dolls come alive and kill you. But then I realized if Pamela was coming to life then she would be able to open my closet door and murder me anyway. So then Pamela had to go farther away.

Our house in Indiana had a storage attic. You couldn't walk around up there or anything, but it did have a little attic ladder that pulled down so you could climb up there and store things.





One day when I was home alone I climbed up there and stuffed Pamela in a box. I scurried down and put the ladder and hatch back up. I felt immensely better and not as guilty as I would have felt if I would have given her away.

Over the next few days I started worrying that putting her in the attic would make her really mad and therefore more murderous. I would lay in bed listening for the sounds of a doll walking around in the attic planning my murder. I was worried she would figure out how to open the attic ladder and come through the garage and THEN kill me. But the attic door was really heavy and strong. It was hard for me to pull it down and I was much bigger than Pamela.

At one point the ladder broke and we had to use a regular ladder to access the attic. I was so freaking happy. I figured if she somehow could open the heavy ass door she might be injured from the 15 foot fall onto the concrete floor of the garage and definitely not be able to come and kill me. I could mostly stop worrying about her. Mostly. Weeks and months would go by and I wouldn't think about her. But every once in a while I'd panic and think "What if she's REALLY PISSED NOW? She's been up there for years stewing in her anger. She is totally going to develop superhuman rage and find a way to come murder me."

Years ago I finally got the courage to get rid of her. Donated her to Goodwill so she can terrorize someone else. When I still lived in Indiana I would occasionally worry that she would find me and kill me. Now that I live in California I know I'm too far away and she'd never find me. Obviously.

But realistic dolls still scare me. There are none in my house. They few collectible ones I have are packed away in a special box in my garage labeled "Dolls" and if I never look at them then they won't know I put them there and they won't develop murderous plots to kill me. Obviously.