Managing My Mess

This is the moment I make myself.

In the Dragontree Dreambook and Planner, this was the mantra I wrote for my year, the power phrase utilized not only to trigger my future-oriented mindset while planning, as the book’s creators intended, but to check myself, to pump the brakes when I’m at the crossroads between the right call and regret. I have not used it as much as I meant to and I all but stopped saying it when planning. Even so, it resonates with me every time I remember it. It reminds me that the now, this moment, is all I have and every moment builds it, builds on the last, creating the next, making me what I am. It’s a lesson I shouldn’t ever forget. And yet I do.

This semester has been a shit storm. Just check the dates between this post and the last. I drastically lowered my medication, my mood stabilizer of 13 years, to half the original dose. Even doing this with my shrink on board, it was shit timing. I was only just starting school again after over a year off, and I was not coping well. My parents routinely fight, making home toxic. Two of my best friends were going through break-ups and near-breaks ups, and my sister, who has five kids, is defeating a deeply abusive relationship. Everyone kept asking for my help with school, their own emotional needs, favors, watching kids, watching animals, editing, and even just boredom and amusement, and I kept saying yes. Throw in the group work in my classes, volunteering for the homeless and in-need, doing piles of bookwork, essays, struggling in a shitty French course, and my free time became sleep time. My partner was destabilizing due to his own mental health, living situation, and horrendous luck. Then, before he’d had even two days to breathe after his last crisis, his father died, leaving him a mess while I was a mess without either of us having a partner fit to lean on (which was predominantly circumstances rather than either of our faults directly). I broke. I broke hard and I said I was going to leave for a while, delete our chat app and deactivate Facebook. He didn’t believe me. And why would he? When I got dark I’d said that before but codependence and loneliness always spurred me back within a day, if not an hour (I call it the borderline bounce-back effect). But when he said, “I’ll probably see you tomorrow.” I just…I couldn’t. It resolved me to prove both of us wrong.

We ended up not talking for a month, during which I neared a nervous breakdown and fell back into the savagely dark and self-destructive side of borderline traits. I deactivated my Facebook for the first time ever, which was actually a smart move because it’s an addicting, shallow, and dopamine-driven timesink (I regret recently reactivating it as my addiction has completely surged). I dropped my French course because it was so poorly designed that the only way to pass was with Google and I was not learning anything, even with independent study to supplement it. I hate the idea of cheating, and the stress was chest-clenching so I dropped it to spare myself and my GPA. This choice also cost me my ability to double major in Communication and English, as the latter requires language credits which I didn’t get in high school. So boom, yet another worry, another stressor. Things got so bad that not only was I talking to my other two teachers about accommodations, but I got a note from my shrink. I got a fucking doctor’s note from my shrink.

It fucked me up. I don’t know why. I’m a mental health sufferer and outspoken advocate. I talk about my baggage publicly to normalize it, and yet the idea that I needed a doctor’s note to explain why I hadn’t turned in assignments and why my work was slipping chafed my pride. But why? If I’d gotten the flu or broken a leg I wouldn’t have felt shame or guilt. I’m friends with my teachers. They knew I was crazy long before it fucked things. So why did I feel so shitty about it? Because even I wonder how much is my head and how much is an excuse. I don’t think the line is clear. I’m not even sure there is a line.

But I know it was becoming self-perpetuating, an excuse. The more I focused on my condition, the more power I gave it. While I was away from my partner and Facebook I journaled and talked to friends who reached out. I vented, and initially, it helped, or so I thought. But the plan had been for isolation, contemplation and detoxing. That didn’t happen. It took me a couple weeks before I realized it. Instead of gleaning perspective, I fell into the BPD narrative rewrite mode, constantly repeating and bitching about my perspective and my view of the situations fucking things up. Constantly bitching about him. But it wasn’t all his fault. Yes, we have several years of unresolved issues. Yes, a fair chunk of that is on him. But the more I focused on that, the more I lost sight of the present context, of just how much shit had been dumped on him, how much bad had happened, how much he hurt, how stressed he was, and how fucked his head was. I objectively knew these things, but with each repetition, each venting of my own issues, I erased a little more objectivity with subjectivity, a little more him, a little more us, coloring it with a little more me.

When we started emailing to resume contact, his letter slapped me back to reality. Or as close to ‘reality’ as anyone can get (as Nabokov says, it’s a word best used in quotations). My partner wasn’t right about everything, maybe 60%, but he was right about enough. And I needed that reminder. I needed to stop talking about shit and start thinking about it. Interrogating it myself. Reminding myself to question my reads, assumptions, opinions, and feelings, to find the sources, to ask more than I claimed.

We’re doing better now. I’m no longer sick with terror that I’ll lose the love of my life. I’m no longer swinging like a broken pendulum at the slightest thought or stimuli. I’m not riding out rapid ups and decaying downs, or snagging on every fear until it tangles and traps me. My moods are moving with the destructive, reactive and unstoppable force of magma, melting away reason even as it tries to contain them. The lava leaked into the ocean. It’s hardened, solid. I’ve stabilized. I’m recovering in my two remaining classes and sorting out my head. I still don’t know if going to finish dropping my medication completely. I’m afraid to given the spiral it contributed to before. I don’t know if moving will happen in June or house-hunting in May. I’m not ready. But will I ever be? Is anyone ever? I don’t even know if my friend will be able to be my roommate. And my family needs me right now, but I’m so fucking drained. Stable, but depleted. They only seem to take anymore. It’s killing me. Everyone needing me is killing me. It’s no longer fulfilling, just emptying. I just need space to be. I need boundaries that are respected by everyone, and most of all by me. So I think a change is for the best, scary and fiscally idiotic though it may be. Even so, it’s difficult to know what the right path is, assuming there is one.

I meant to write this, and did mentally, dozens of times over the last couple months. It’s changed in form and content every time. I don’t know what I originally planned to write, and I know that there are things I’ve forgotten. I also hate that it’s mostly just an update again. Narrative is my strong suit, and thus it is equally my failing because it overshadows the takeaway. The point of writing should always be to give something, preferably to someone else, unless we’re talking journals (then that someone else is you). So then, what’s the takeaway?

Check yourself. Check-in, be critical but not cruel, be analytical, question, and play devil’s advocate with your habits and comfort zones. I’ve fallen off the wagon with all of these. Two of my goals for the year were to be mindful and to be deliberate, to act with both awareness and intention. I’ve grown reflexive and thoughtless. I need to slow down again, to talk less (so much less), to draw lines around my alone time and not cross them. Both mindfulness and deliberateness are practices. You do not stop practicing. They’re mental muscles that strengthen and grow, getting easier as you use them. If you use them. So I need to pick up the damn weights and start pumping again.

When I slouch, I need to straighten. When I gossip, I need to still my tongue. When I assume, I need to ask why and on what I base that assumption. When I get offended, I need to find the hurt behind that hurt, the reason it was able to touch me. When I repeat myself, telling the same story to multiple people, I need to ask why and if it is necessary. When I reach for the phone—for Facebook, texts, messenger, TV, whatever—I need to stop and consider if it’s the best use of my time. When I move to get a snack, I need to freeze and feel into my body, to feel if the hunger is in my stomach or my mind. Which emptiness am I trying to fill with these things? Why? Is that choice good for me? In the words of Lady Speech, I need to follow my fucking instinct. I need to hold space for myself and my silence, to hear what my body, my instincts have to say. I know what is right. And I can tell myself if I’ll just stop talking and doing long enough to listen.

So this is me managing my mess. This is me pausing to see it. This is me stopping to feel it. This is me listening.

This is the moment I make myself.

Scheduling *or* Dancing with the Day Star

Goals: so many goals. It’s always a struggle to narrow my focus to the next step, to the one I need to take. Always aching for the horizon, my eyes abandon the path. But a horizon isn’t much help if I’m about to trip. Wanting the clouds can’t keep your feet safe from a sightless walk. You must look down. I must look down. So, I am.

What’s the next step? Well, yesterday I filled out credit card applications for the first time. I have no credit and I make just below-poverty-level income. Dad thinks they’ll reject me, and they might (naturally, we both hope he’s wrong). My finance books suggested going for a gas card to start, and I’ve heard PayPal is pretty accepting, so we’ll see.

This is something I’ve been putting off for years. I was hoping to have some advice or insight to impart on the matter, but right now there’s not a lot. I filled out the forms online (and grabbing my tax return to figure out how much I make; yes, I really should know that I’m aware). They said they’d get back to me in one to two weeks. I guess it’s just waiting. Maybe I’ll have something to say once they do. That step is taken, though. So again: what’s the next step?

Right now, my primary focus is getting on a set schedule. I’ve been at war with this for literally a decade or more. When I initially left high school sophomore year my schedule swerved nocturnal, and it’s been swerving that way ever since. It started because I could be alone at night and all my friends, who I roleplayed with, were nocturnal. Gradually, things became more of a swing-shift.

I’d wake up for classes, and later work, roughly on time, but often at the expense of sleep. This only worsened as time went on. Last year was a breaking point. I’m too old to subsist on only four hours multiple times a week. Sleep deprivation literally poisons your brain with waste products that can’t be removed as efficiently while you’re conscious. You can’t make it up. That’s why chronic sleep deprivation kicks your ass so hard. It’s long-term poisoning.

Thus, sleep has become a huge priority. I strive not to go below seven hours (I’m ironically pushing that limit as I revise this), and if I do, no more than once a week. It’s an adjustment. Work and classes just started, and I failed to get on my new, dramatically AM schedule over Winter Break or even the interim, two-week semester, which I worked. So basically, it’s make-or-break time.

My classes are at 9AM Monday/Wednesday and 10:30AM Tuesday/Thursday, followed by work three of those days. That means my usual bedtime of 4AM to 7AM is not remotely viable. Nor is my ‘right schedule today, opposite schedule tomorrow.’ I need to be in bed midnight to 1AM depending on the day. Preferably 11PM. It also takes me on average two hours to do my bed prep stuff (tea, pills, journals, teeth, shower).

It’s a struggle. Luckily, my partner is supportive and gets why I need to be gone (he’s more likely to send me to bed than I am, to be honest). I’ve also used my phone calendar to give me work, school and bedtime alerts—little alarms that tell me to sign out of chats and why. It really is my messenger and Facebook use that are the biggest culprits in both my lack of productivity and my sleep deprivation. But I think I’ve hit enough of a breaking point and period of self-awareness to motivate me to dial them back.

Last week was the first week of school and work. Surprisingly, I managed alright. I got to bed around 1AM to 2AM on average right up until Friday, then I veered. I also had some sleep issues caused by anxiety (fought to get to sleep, suffered false-start wake-ups, etc.). Once my weekend hit, however, I fell into waking at 11:45AM, then noon, then 1PM yesterday. It’s frustrating, but ultimately, not an awful backslide. The goal is to make this week better.

Right now, though, I’m pretty much subsisting on alarms and willpower, while trying to cement a new and definitive bedtime ritual that’ll put my brain in sleep mode. After a decade of a schedule constantly in flux, it’s going to be a challenge. If anyone has any ideas how to improve the process I’m open to them. That said, I already take herbal supplements, have bedtime tea with valerian root oil, journal, write a gratitude list, check my planner, use a Himalayan salt lamp, sometimes burn essential oils, and before all of that, prep my stuff for the next day. I know meditation and yoga would help, but that’s a matter of time. I don’t want to cut out more time when I still haven’t managed to use what I have and do what I need to effectively.

Speaking of, I also need to schedule more than work and school. After I get sleep down, I need to start having set times that I do homework, eat, workout, play, talk, exercise, etc. It’s a bitch. Zero to over 9000 in a week. I know that I need to not focus on that stuff right now. I need to focus on getting the foundations laid: sleep, work, classes. Fit in homework where I can, as early before it’s due as I can, prioritizing whatever is due first. But again. It’s…a challenge. I’m trying to look at it as a good challenge instead of a WHY-ARE-YOU-RUINING-MY-LIIIIIFE challenge. Particularly given it’s fixing, not ruining, my life. Unfortunately, the changes are causing a lot of stress and anxiety when coupled with the colossal amount of shit I have to do and have chosen to do. But the anxiety, so sayeth my 12-hour attack and tension and fight-flight-or-freeze-adjacent mode yesterday, is a big enough topic for its own post. I’ll probably hit it next time.

For now, you hit me with ideas about how to make getting to bed and sleeping better and easier. Have you switched from a fluctuating (as someone in the Amanda Palmer patron group I’m part of said: broken cuckoo clock) schedule or swing-shift sleeping pattern? Nocturnal? How did you come to terms with the day star? Inquiring L’s want to know.

Endless Academia

Preface: 

Yet again, I have failed to meet my self-imposed deadline by a truly spectacular number of days. The post-semester slump triggered by a paradoxical overabundance of free time and excess of things to do naturally left me lounging in the heart of T.V. Land, shielded from the reality of its unpleasantly bright light by the shadow of my monolithic mountain of things left undone. It’s amazing how much easier it is to ignore something when it’s stuck in the crevices of a thousand other things just like it. I need to write my blog entry? No problem. I need to write my blog entry, revise my essay, sort through potential submissions, check the submissions’ criteria for the aforementioned essay, email my future boss about my hours, put things in my car so it stops looking like a rental, clean the office, clean my room, prepare for my boyfriend’s arrival in a couple weeks, and buy how many Christmas presents? Oh look! A new episode of Dexter recorded, better clean out the DVR first. Anyway, excuses aside, I’m suffering from a far too often squandered bout of inspiration so I thought I might try using it and finally post the Academia blog entry I promised so long ago. But hey, it’s not like I started writing it three times already or anything. Without further ado, here’s a very fracturally Frankensteined blog post built across days and delivered at last in the form of something resembling done:

Beginning Again: 

And lo’ from the depths of the mostly dead she arose once more to give words to the world’s wide web. As known as: I’m back. As promised (though delivered with undo delay), today’s topic, in the spirit of aced finals and the frosty freedom of winter break, is school.

I love school, I really, truly, and with ardently excessive amounts of adverbs, do. If I did not have to, I would never leave. When I think of taking one or two classes every (or every other) semester for the rest of my life, I think of contentment. There are even some classes I wouldn’t mind taking twice (I’ll try to resist the urge to make this post an ode to the English department).

I have a lust for learning that borders on a pathological compulsion. The tiny drops of trivia that trickle down my gullet each day are rarely enough to satiate the thirst that dries a tongue with “Did you knows” a moment later. Every word learned is one regurgitated to whoever is unfortunate enough to be at hand to hear it. “To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach.” This is a credo I lived long before I drank the tea whose tag taught it to me (it’s amazing how much wisdom a tea bag can hold). But while randomly collected factoids and snippets of synopses are as much a passion as they ever were—many of them entering and exiting my present education to add their unique highlights—there was a time when they all but made up the whole of my education, a time when the call to formally complete or even attempt that education came not from my mouth but from the mouths of modern mandate, from parents and the state. Yes, there was a time when even reading and writing repulsed me, a time when four notebooks and one trusty pen weren’t my constant companions. Indeed, in the early years of elementary school, I was actually in Special Ed. for reading.

My hatred of the book-bound act was sourced in part in the dreaded and diabolical Hooked-On-Phonics. This “educational” program was, for many right-brained children, either pure misnomer or a twisted metaphor (every time those cards were put before me I screamed and drenched myself and the staircase I clung to in tears that could only otherwise be inspired by a liberal application of rusty fishhooks). I was four or five when first exposed to the torturous teaching device. My parents thought it was necessary because I did not take to words like my gifted sister who began reading on her own at the age of three. Sadly, being force-fed H.o.P. had a violently counter intuitive effect upon me and landed me squarely in Special Ed. several years later. To this day, I still read and write slowly, at least by the standard of readers and writers. A decade and a half later and sweet irony took control of the table and left me holding a logophilic hand (sometimes I truly believe this lifelong game is rigged to favor the most poetic outcomes). The first card dealt was imagination, an innate desire to deviate from reality into the realm of something more. It outlasted my childhood and left me addicted to what fictions I could find. The second card in the Royal Straight, was storytelling. I did and do talk incessantly, always telling and retelling even the most trivial tales as though getting dressed were an adventure worthy of the word “wondrous.” The third card was written roleplay. Discovered in middle school, it gave me a way to write out another life, a different me who dared to do what I would not. Naturally, others followed her until my head was overcrowded with femmes and fellows all clamoring for their own voice, their own stories. Roleplay led to the fourth card: a need for new words, new ways to describe and vividly delineate. This was fostered by other writers and roleplayers whose styles steadily influenced my own until at some point I turned into a bona fide word nerd and a monger of metaphors. The fifth and final card was genetics. My yaya (that’s Greek for “grandma,” in case any of you were curious) was an English teacher and grammatical tactician of the highest order. According to my parents, she passed that on to me and I’m fairly convinced it’s where my English instincts come from (“No, that doesn’t sound right, it must be this…”) because truth be told, my formal knowledge of grammar, like those of so many in my generation, is lacking in the logistical whys of language.

And that, after a winding, scenic detour and a hand of cards, brings us back to academia. It seems so strange to me that I begrudged working in elementary through high school to the extent of nearly dropping out of the latter. I was distracted by so many meaningless things—social situations so silly as to be par for the soap opera course, clothes that now make me cringe, and video games whose names are no longer known—that I did not find the value latent in my classes or the folly in failing them. I suppose it was a necessary lesson though, for after a long absence from high school, when I finally began attending college, as cliché as it sounds, I did so for me. As a result, I treated the classes with far greater care and attentive appreciation than I had ever done before. Every semester I got better at doing the reading, at completing homework on time, and as of late, at being on time. With each improvement my grades gained momentum until they plateaued on the peaks of A’s and have been holding there for several years. I have changed my intended major and minor three times (a major in Business Management with a minor in Psychology, a major in Business Management with a minor in English, a major in English with a minor in…I’ll get back to you on that). Originally, I intended to only write in my spare time but in the last year and a half I’ve realized that would be a mistake. The more I write, the better I become at it and the easier the words come to me even when inspiration ebbs. And frankly, nothing makes me happier than writing, than stories (mine or others). But still, I do not think it would be wise to depend on my words as a sole source of income and as such I’ve decided that I want to become an editor. Doing so would allow me to constantly experience and aid in the inception of new stories and works, drinking in the changing styles and interests of readers and writers to quench my own muses with new knowledge. I would also become more aware of common errors and issues in writing, which would again strengthen my own. And perhaps most importantly, it would give me a foothold in the industry from which I could launch my work, a map of where to send them and who is looking for what.

However, if I want to be an editor of any renown, I’ll need either bountiful luck or choice schooling. This takes us back to the point of this blog, for, as with so many things, obtaining what I want and need requires first, a confrontation with my Minotaurs and the solving of the riddles they read and the fears and failings that lurk between their lines, haunting my life’s labyrinth. I have already bested my fear of college, but now I’ve become too comfortable at this little two-year school and have dragged my feet through interests rather than requirements, leaving me degree-less after five years of never taking more than three courses in one semester. Three semesters from now, at that same pace, I will have my Associates degree with an emphasis in Creative Writing. But what’s next? First, I suppose I need to stop procrastinating and clinging to finely tailored excuses about time and other things to do, and look at last into four-year colleges and universities. Yet, therein lies the next Minotaur. I have never lived away from home (as previous posts have touched upon) and I could not imagine living out-of-state. I am not yet capable of crossing that rope removed from the safety nets sewn beneath it. There’s no need to lose hope though. As I mentioned in my interim post, I have a new anchor in mind for this blog and my collegiate future ties in tightly to it. So on that note, this ramble has run its course.

Stay tuned for near-future posts on:

  1.             The outcome of my driving test.
  2.             The blog’s new focus.
  3.             Adventures in employment.