Giving It Another Go

What’s it been since my last post? A month? Two?

Time got away from me, which is nothing new. My depression hit its winter peak (or rather, its valley) around the time I last posted, which didn’t help much of anything with me after what had already been just a not-great autumn. So I took some time and didn’t feel all the guilty about not writing, even though there were times I wanted to. But anyway, this is not a post to complain.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the hell I am going to do in the coming months and years. Like I guess I mean work-wise? What kind of jobs can I find that won’t make me so miserable and stressed that after six months to a year that I end up crying every morning before I have to go? Working from home helps, and part time. One thing I do know is that I do not want to work 40 hours a week or have to wake up at six or seven in the morning or drive home in the middle of the worst window for traffic. I have other things I want to do with that time, and I don’t think these things are too much to ask for or that I should feel ashamed for wanting them (read: I am very ashamed for wanting them but am pretending I’m not because damn it I shouldn’t be).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. And stressing. And giving up before I begin. There hasn’t been much this last year that made me feel proud or that I’ve been able to look forward to. I really don’t want to wake up in another year with everything exactly the same. That’s hardly all up to me, of course, and these special COVID brand of new or exaggerated stressors are some real shit, but I need to do something.

Thank fuck the weather is turning. I am so looking forward to spending spring and summer out in the yard. I didn’t realize how much that helped me get through last year until it was long gone. It was the first year I ever really tried out gardening, and I loved it instantly. Weeding no longer feels like a punishment like it did in my childhood!

I just wanted to get some words written on here. I don’t know if I was trying to make any real point or what. But thanks for reading!

I’m Writing A Thing About Procrastination But This Isn’t It

I started writing a blog post like an hour ago but it’s sort of turning into a whole big thing that might have essay potential so I saved that as a draft and am going to start over, haha. Writing a blog post was on my to-do list today and I want that sweet, sweet check mark.

My to-do list is actually what got me thinking in the first place about what I am working on. I’m taking a second (or third, or fourth) stab at (adapted) bullet journaling / planner keeping and I started off by writing today’s six-item to-do list before bed last night. I get progressively more discouraged with each new attempt at a previously-failed habit and that was very much on my mind as I still diligently wrote out things I wanted to complete the following day. That got me really thinking about productivity and my relationship with it, and after writing a few paragraphs on the subject tonight I realized that procrastination is what I really know a lot about. I know already that my compulsion to procrastinate and my desire to be productive are painfully at-odds with each other and it takes its toll on me, but actually typing things out and having to admit things I thought I already knew about myself in virtual ink is unexpectedly… rough. So. I’m going to set the maybe-essay aside and come back to it (if I don’t procrastinate it into sight-out-of-mind nonexistence) later. There’s more to unpack there than I thought and it is 11:30pm and I did things today and I am tired.

I hope everyone is hanging in there okay.

A Blog Post In Three Acts: Dentistry, Politics, And A Lingering Pandemic

Here we are, rounding up to the last week of the first month of the new year.

On a personal level, this month meant the birthdays of my mother and my husband (with one sibling’s birthday still to come). Also, in the last week, I was finally accepted into a low-income health insurance program! I can go to the dentist again (!!!), which is both awesome and anxiety-inducing. I haven’t had a proper dentist appointment in almost four years since I turned twenty-six and lost access to my step-dad’s insurance; I did have one appointment during my last term of college, but I waited in the chair so long that all they were able to tell me before I had to get to my first class was, “Wow, this is pretty bad and you’ll probably need two appointments just for a cleaning.” So I am understandably nervous, because that was over a year ago. I had an awesome dentist from late childhood until that fateful twenty-sixth birthday–he was ridiculously gentle in his work and just just so fucking nice. I had two cavities that needed filling when I saw him the last day of my twenty-fifth year, but he could only do one that day and I needed to make a second appointment for the other one.

“So here’s the thing. It’s my birthday tomorrow and am getting kicked off of my parents’ insurance.” I didn’t even get the chance to propose the idea I had because he immediately replied,

“Well I guess we’ll just have to bill the insurance today for both, and you can come back in a couple weeks for the second filling.” Fucking legend.

Anyway, the point is I am very sad that I will not be able to go back to him and I’m sure whoever my new insurance sticks me with will not be able to give me the same pain-free experience Dr. S did for so many years. But I am grateful to have the privilege to see anyone at all. (And, for the record, I think it’s bullshit that dental care is a privilege and not a human right. Best country in the world my itching asshole.)

And speaking of ‘best country in the world,’ the US got a new president this month. I am not a Biden or Harris superfan by any means, but 1) Trump is fucking gone, and 2) I do celebrate the fact that not only is there for the first time a woman holding the office of the vice presidency, but a woman of color. It’s fucking stupid (though evil or cruel or oppressive might be better adjectives here) that it took so long, of course, but you gotta keep your expectations real fucking low in American politics if you don’t want to become utterly hopeless under the towering shadow of the greedy power-hoarders playing tug-of-war with the lives of its citizens.

I went personal, I went domestic, and now I want to talk about something more global: surprise, it’s the pandemic!

As I’ve already mentioned, I live in the US. Not only do I live in the same country and state as an upsetting amount of people vehemently against the idea of wearing a damn mask, but it’s in my family as well. Back in March of 2020, either right before or right after the first stay-at-home order, my mother and one of my siblings needed to come pick up a car seat I accidentally kept when I had given my sibling’s kid a ride a couple months before. I washed my hands, put on gloves, put the car seat in a garbage bag, and waited outside for them to drive up. My husband is an artist who often works with noxious chemicals (and sometimes even wears a mask while doing it!), and the only masks we had on hand at the time were respirator masks like this one, so that’s what I was wearing when they arrived. I was expecting them to laugh, sure, because it was early on in the pandemic, but I wasn’t prepared to hear “Are you SERIOUS?” with such disbelief and even a twinge of offense. As I was loading the bag into the trunk, I had to listen to them start in on how this is all blown out of proportion, how they’re just trying to make people afraid, how the flu kills more people every year, and et cetera. The whole thing left me feeling shitty, especially when my mom marched around to the back of the car to proudly exclaim, “I’m your mom so I’m going to hug you anyway!” Thanks, mom, for making it very clear early on that you’d rather be sorry than safe. This is the same woman who didn’t love the idea of my friends and I giving each other piercings when we were thirteen because “it could paralyze you!” and the same woman who didn’t vaccinate the majority of her kids because “it could give you autism! Here, fill out this religious exemption, quick!”

I guess because of the anti-vax thing I shouldn’t have been surprised that she would have this attitude. But we weren’t even at a vaccine at this point, we were talking about a fucking mask. All I can do is sigh at this point.

Which I think might speak to a greater feeling happening all over in places where the virus is still raging. I am freaking tired. I am so tired and stressed. While my household and my family have been so-far spared from any virus-related deaths or even serious complications, I don’t know what the hell is going to happen this year. Will my husband and I ever get to go back to working with the public again, which was our main source of income pre-COVID? When will our savings run out (which we started because we want to buy a house–our chances of that working out were low already, and with the pandemic have down-right plummeted)? Will our landlord have to sell the house we are renting? Have we rode out the biggest wave of infections yet, or is the worse yet to come? What will the tax situation be come April? Will the $600 dollar per person stimulus be the last that we see, or maybe the $1400? What the hell happens when the student loan repayment freeze ends in October, will I be able to make the payments? Did I ever catch the virus, and if so how many people did I asymptomatically spread it to? Will I catch it in the coming weeks or months? What’s going on with the mutated strains? How bad is it really going to get?

I don’t mean to be so negative; I know that I have it damn good compared to so many. But like I said, I am tired. I am worried. And it feels like all I can do is just… wait.

December Evening

Christmas Eve, 2020. The first year my family breaks the tradition.

Christmas Eve has always been the bigger day over Christmas proper in my family. The holidays of my childhood were spent playing games and setting puzzle pieces together, eating finger food and seasonal candies and baked things; come evening we would gather around the tree in the living room with a different name and exchange presents with each other (candles and puzzle games and journals and gel pens and pet rats and Super Nintendo cartridges). In the earlier years, the children would put on a variety show–with singing and dancing and poem recitation and usually a short play–that had been curated and rehearsed in closed bedrooms hidden from adult ears in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.

Not much stays the same, of course, and predictably my family’s ‘traditional’ Christmas has been adapting already over years of divorces, marriages, moves, health issues, new ideas, changes in the definition of ‘convenient,’ and one death. This year we get to add ‘global pandemic’ to the list, and with it comes my first ever Christmas Eve spent without at least some of my parents or siblings. It is not the end of my world, but a change nonetheless and one I am interested in documenting.

A Good Day and Some Reading Talk

Been a little over a week, I think, since I last posted. So here I am.

Today has been a very decent day. I cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom. Washed the sheets and made the bed. Washed a load of cleaning rags and a load of clothes. Bought almost all the presents for my nieces and nephews, and all but one item will be here / wherever they are going in time for Christmas! Husband made chili; I made brownies. We even tried to put together our ‘tree’ idea out front, but we broke a bulb each on all three strands of lights we had and it started to rain. So we’ll pick it up tomorrow: if it turns out well, I’ll post some pictures here maybe.

Hell, if I manage to actually take a shower and remember to floss tonight, I’ll say I did pretty well today! My last week has been up and down, mood-wise, so it feels nice to have a productive day I can feel good about (even if the feeling good only lasts until I wake up tomorrow morning).

One nice thing that happened since I posted last is I read a bunch over the weekend. I even did the thing where I go right from one book to the next, which just felt good. It’s what inspired the theme of gifts for the nieces and nephews this year: books! Everyone in my family is big on reading, or at least were at one point in their lives, so it make sense that my siblings would pass on their love of books to their kids.

I think reading is how I’ll spend the rest of my evening, actually. I went on a mini true crime bender last year, and still have a couple books left over from that in my Kindle library that I want to get through before moving on to something different. I would like to finish my reread of the Lord of the Rings trilogy before the end of the year. Unfortunately I highly doubt I will be able to add the Silmarillion to that tally before the new year; while I can finish an LotR book in a couple days, the Silmarillion is quite a different beast. I’ll just have to be okay with tackling that in January.

Some Words re: Depression, and A Sort-Of Story

This post was drafted about four days ago. It was suggested to me by someone to go ahead and post what I wrote, so that’s what I am doing. The three bad days have since stretched into, I don’t know, a week or more? But here I am. Thank you for reading.

The last three days or so have been a little rough. I’ve been feeling worn down, distracted, and otherwise useless. I’m writing this in the hope to remind myself somehow that this is probably just a dip. I felt noticeably more positive last week, and most likely will land back thereabouts eventually.

So I will persist. Which is one of the shitty parts about having depression this long (for fuck’s sake, it’s been over twenty years since my first symptoms. I mean I know plenty of people have been dealing with the same things for longer than I have and I shouldn’t complain). I’m just supposed to . . . keep going? Keep trying, I guess? There’s this all-consuming weight that has been looming over me for damn near as long as I can remember and my only option right now aside from The Bad Thing is to continue to exist, no matter how exhausting it is. Because it will get better? Because I will get better? I am aware that whatever I am searching for (contentment, I suppose) does not happen with any accidental, sudden fix. It takes work and mindfulness and all that. I know that. The problem lies in that I can only muster the motivation to move ‘forward’ (maybe ‘expand’ would be a better word) in minuscule bursts; then I go right back to remembering that I am not worth any time or effort and the more I move the more otherwise-precious time and space I am taking up. When that line of thought gets louder and louder until it becomes physically oppressive, those are the days when I don’t get out of bed; when I can’t even play video games or watch a show that cheers me up; when I am reduced to powering down my phone because I cannot bare to either reply to or read the reply to a given text message; when I delete online pictures or posts or entire blogs; when I burn my journals (a ritual of release, in circumstances, but I use it as a form of, for lack of more accurate illustration, self-harm).

I guess I am just trying here to express that this is hard. I am inescapably self-destructive and the idea that I just have to keep making better choices, when all I want to do is anything other than things that are good for me . . . is tiring. I am continually disheartened when the short glimpses of hope that all-too-soon are eclipsed by another, seemingly longer and drudgier than the last, dive back into the mud. I am still here, trying. But I am not all that pleased by it right now.

Some unnecessary backstory of that night: I needed to call a particular government agency. They sent me a letter, and I can only respond to the letter over the phone. Nothing inherently major, as I understand, just some verification. Now, I don’t know if anyone reading this in the US has tried in the last few months to get on the phone with a person representing any government or social service office, but in my experience during this pandemic it has been an absolute shit show. To have any hope of actually talking to someone to get an issue resolved before the end of operating hours, one has to call the agency more-or-less the exact minute the phone lines open. ‘We’re sorry, but due to extremely high call volumes experienced at this time, we may be unable to answer your call’ is a line I can now recite in my head with crystal clarity. Calls drop regularly. Everything is overloaded, understaffed, or otherwise unprepared for the aforementioned ‘high call volumes’ that are clogging up the phone lines in lieu of clogging up in-person offices.

Some background on the background: As I may have mentioned in a previous post, my sleep schedule is roughly one-hundred shades of twisted right now. My husband and I stay up so late that it is not unusual for me to not wake up for the day until three, four, even five o’clock p.m.. Not very conducive to getting on the phone at seven, eight, or nine a.m., as one could imagine. Because of this clashing of rhythms, I had the bright idea to just . . . not go to bed one night. In my mind, this idea for a plan solidified into an idea for a good plan after reading a Reddit thread about other people’s experiences getting someone from the office I needed on the phone; I understood one particular comment to suggest that my best bet was to call at four a.m. my time, which equates to seven a.m. on the other side of the country where I assumed their main offices were. I thought, awesome! If they open at four a.m. my time then all I have to do is stay up until a time I end up getting to bed at on the regular anyhow! Easy peasy.

Well the big night came. Staying up until four wasn’t even a thing; I’d had a couple shots throughout the night, was starting to wind down, and my husband and I had our phones at the ready. Four a.m. rolls around, and . . . customer service is still closed. Four-o-one, four-o-five, four-fifteen–same deal. I read through the letter I was attempting to respond to, again, and see these three damn letters next to their listed hours of operation: PST.

For those not familiar, that is west coast time. West coast. The coast on which I live. Meaning that the offices opening at seven a.m. PST equals seven a.m. for me, too. Not, in fact, seven a.m. east coast time as I had the impression. I couldn’t believe it.

Well, I could believe it, but I did feel like an absolute idiot. I had seen PST as the timezone the first time I read the letter, but let it get wiped from my memory the second I read that comment on Reddit. (Please don’t judge me too harshly: I usually vet info I find online a bit more thoroughly, by at least cross-checking it with what I already know; but I had such a good experience with similar how-to-get-a-damn-person-on-the-phone threads from my local subreddit with a lot of helpful info that did in fact assist me with said getting-a-damn-person-on-the-phone a few months back when I was trying to get someone in the unemployment office.) Anyway. I had done goofed.

I did end up staying up until the office opened up for real. It basically sucked, though I did eventually get someone on the phone to resolve the thing and now it is taken care of. My sleep schedule, which was just starting to level out into something a little more manageable, went even further off the rails. I’m chipping away at it. I don’t think only an hours-worth of daytime is great for me right now.

Just a Few, Tonight

A few nights ago I wrote a draft for a blog post about some of my history with depression and how it affects my daily life, specifically the doing of tasks. I didn’t post it.

I wonder if I could see a dip coming. Or that I had finally realized I’d been in the dip for a while. Maybe this blog will help me keep track of my cycles.

Baked Potatoes and Video Games

After I made my last blog post, I finished dinner. Baked potatoes, which I had never really made before I don’t think. My dad used to make them all the time; it was one of my favorites. I used the leftover ham from Thanksgiving, pan fried with garlic, onion, bell pepper, and a little jalapeño. Heaped the mess onto an open potato and topped with cheese, green onion, tomato, and sour cream. Fucking delicious. I am hardly a great cook, but I’ve been putting in the time and trying things I’ve never tried before. My husband is the superior chef between the two of us, for sure, but over the last year I’ve been practicing and now it’s nice to not have to rely on my husband to make dinner every night we aren’t prepared to have something microwaved, boiled, egg-based, or a sandwich.

Then I played video games for a few hours. I’m something like three-quarters of the way through Horizon: Zero Dawn, which for the record is a super fun game. I’m a bit of a completionist when it comes to video games, so I’m working my way through finding all the collectables. I’d touched the main quest as little as possible up until a week ago (to put it into perspective, my character is level fifty-seven. The suggested level for the next main quest is level fifteen), but I’ll have to finish eventually. I’ve been playing the game off and on for a couple years now, and am getting tired of forgetting how to play every time I pick it back up after forgetting about it for a few months. I will probably finish up before the end of the year.

Now my husband and I are watching Bob’s Burgers and avoiding going to bed. It’s a bad habit, the avoiding bed thing. I don’t know what to do about it at this point beside roll with it. As long as I wake up at one p.m. I can feel some sense of normalcy.

Another Not So Terrible Day

Today has not been as productive so far as I would like, but it has not been unproductive.

I woke up later than I expected, but not so late as to send my sleep schedule over the edge into the deeper abyss, so I’m calling it a win. I spent the first part of my day on the phone with family members. Talked to two of my siblings and my parent.

During our conversation, one of said siblings ventured the idea of my driving up there to stay and help them with their baby so my sibling and their spouse can get some work done. The money is good, so it’s hard to pass up (COVID has utterly upended my husband’s and my business, and, due in large part to the bitterly laughable lack of assistance from the government during this whole pandemic for people in my tax bracket, the future is uncertain), but there are also a lot of difficulties associated with the trip. For one thing, my sibling would need me to quarantine and get a negative test before coming up there; this part isn’t the hugest deal at all. Another challenge is that I would have to make the three- to four-hour drive, each way, by myself. This wouldn’t have been an issue five years ago, when I was driving regularly . . . but then I lost my license (a story for another time; it’s not a good one) and haven’t driven regularly since. I got my license reinstated just last month, but have only taken a few short trips since then. I’d only have a little over a week to get comfortable enough to spend three-plus hours on the freeway, and considering I’d be quarantining I’m not quite sure how that is supposed to work. I also wouldn’t be able to smoke. THAT would be difficult. Even though I will be (sort of) forced to quit in the very near future, the idea of that starting ten days from now terrifies me. Then, of course, is my more selfish hang-up about the job: I’d have to be away from my husband for over a week. I really don’t want that, as much as I’d love to see my sibling, help them out, and of course finally get to meet the baby and get to know it a bit. My husband and I haven’t spent that much time apart since very early on in our relationship. I do not welcome the idea one bit.

A few weeks ago I remembered that I want an apron for working in the kitchen, so I relayed that to my husband. I’d already forgotten again but apparently he ordered one and it arrived today. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift, I think; if my husband is terrible at gift-giving it only because he sucks at waiting to give them. The deal doesn’t work out too bad for me, because I got my apron today! So I made oatmeal raisin cookies. I used to bake more frequently when I was younger, but fizzled out of it in adulthood. Thanksgiving sort of rebooted my interest in it all, and I’d like to practice at it more often. My husband is partial to baked goods, so it works out for him, as well.

Things I Did Today to Fight Depression

Today I did some things that fought my depression.

For one thing, I got dressed. I put on a new shirt, done up by my husband, and my now-favorite pair of stretchy pants (i.e., any pair that actually fits). Usually, I spend most of every day in whatever clothes I slept in, which I know has not been doing me any good for a while now, so I am going to try to make this a habit. Tomorrow is an out-of-the-house errand day, so that makes it a little easier to keep the ball rolling.

For another thing, I did house-cleaning chores for two days in a row; this reflects a macro-theme over the last couple weeks of actually making progress on the house, so I am happy. Today, I reorganized the clothes and went so far as to label the drawers. Socks go here, leggings here, long-sleeves here. I had been avoiding the direct labeling thing for some reason, but my husband and I have been struggling for a few years now to find a way to organize our fabrics in a way that is as functional and as ergonomic as possible–we’ve tweaked the method so many times already . . . so, labels it is.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am not very good at taking care of myself.

Though I am, surprisingly, a damn good house-cleaner. My at-times obsessive attention to detail, paired with a genuine joy that comes to me after scrubbing away a scuff mark or polishing a toothpaste-splattered faucet, makes me frankly awesome at that type of work (and I don’t compliment myself so freely often, if really at all). I’m good at it, I enjoy doing it . . . so why, in the name of all that is good and holy, can I not keep my freaking house clean?

I’d like to point out there that I am not being dramatic when I say that. This is not a case of, “Oh, you simply must excuse the mess, I am so terribly embarrassed!” Cue a single load of laundry, unfolded on the living room couch (no shade if this actually would embarrass you). No, my situation is a bit more dire. Not only do I have my own demons to wrestle with as far as motivation is concerned, but I have never lived in such a shitty, dusty house as the one I live in now. Cobwebs build up quicker here than in any house I have lived or worked in, and this is speaking from almost a decade of professional house cleaning experience and a lifetime of selective dusting in my personal life; the vacuum pulls up more crap out of the carpet than could possibly be healthy for the human lung to be around, even when used semi-regularly. People would, in a perfect world, not live here, let alone visit.

So I’ve got my work cut out for me. I have to fight both my depression and this house, and honestly, neither opponent is exactly “beatable.” I suppose I am mostly trying to figure out how to live with them.

Because truthfully, I don’t think I can continue as things have been. They say your environment has a lot of pull when it comes to your health, both mental and physical, and my environment is doing very little besides draining me. I am really fucking trying to make change, and that was one of the things on my mind when I was making this blog: this is in a lot of ways a probably misguided attempt at accountability.

The at-fault habits, or lack thereof, seeded in childhood. Over the years they rooted deep and thick under the surface, tough little suckers that continue to pop out into the open air as quick as I can stomp any of them down. It takes constant mental vigilance and fortitude to keep things even close to under control, and in that realm I tire easily.

My bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, cars, and any other spaces I have had at least partial reign over all end up disaster zones. My cars’ ash trays would overflow and energy drink cans would crunch underfoot; old clothes; paperwork; a knitting project getting progressively grimier until it becomes ultimately unworkable; a small piece of furniture going to or from Goodwill on a six-month trip (minimum). Every item of clothing I own probably spends more time on a floor than in any sort of dresser or hanger situation. Dishes are always piling up around me. I am suffocating.

The rhythm to which I naturally swing does not serve me when it comes to chores and obligations. I learned early on in life to to procrastinate, due in some part, I believe, to my family size and the finite amount of attention my parents had to divide between the two of them and such a large number of children. I mean really, my parents never had a chance. They were heavily outnumbered. And by transitive properties, we–as the children–didn’t have the best odds either. Don’t get me wrong–my family has a lot of problems, sure–but not all of my siblings ended up like I did. Almost all of them are great at picking up after themselves!

I wonder what it was for me that made taking care of mundane things so positively unbearable. I remember always either 1) putting The Thing off for as long as possible (“The dishes need to soak!” I say, over the sound of whichever video game I am trying to squeeze as many hours into as possible), often to the point that I miss deadlines completely (which, for the record, does not always make the obligations go away, and can, in fact, compound any issues that stopped you from completing the task in the first place), and / or 2) racing through The Thing as quickly as possible by only making it appear to be finished. The former is the habit that really stuck; the latter was only more prevalent in childhood (i.e., only folding the top layer of clothes in my dresser to cover up the unorganized dump of the rest of my wardrobe, or pretending to brush my teeth instead of actually doing it–which, for the record, took the exact same amount of time and water as actually brushing my teeth would have). Today, in my late twenties, the submitting of shoddy work only comes up to bat when made totally necessary by an especially reckless implementation of the putting-it-the-hell-off method.