Blame the assholes.

before-you-diagnose-yourself

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for weeks, labeling it as situational and/or blaming it on my annual Seasonal Affective Disorder.

But now, thanks to the power of the meme, I have a whole new outlook! My emotional despair is due to all the assholes around me! Let’s list them, shall we?

  • The American voting public
  • The president elect
  • His band of xenophobic cabinet and advisers
  • The equally hateful majority in Congress
  • My direct supervisor, who has become a master of prevarication and of avoiding communication
  • Certain members of the governing body of our church, who are not particularly dedicated yet have created policies that completely screwed loyal, long-time employees
  •  Okay, this one’s not an asshole, but he’s definitely a very significant contributor to my emotional state: The member of my immediate family whose symptoms due to his diagnoses create constant stress.

All joking aside, I understand that blaming others for my own problems is a slippery slope. My addiction to navel-gazing intense introspective skills have helped me see my own part of the mess, and I’ve been deliberately engaging in shitloads of self-care as a defense.

But seriously, there’s only so much we can do when we’re drowning in assholes.

 

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How to torture an introvert with SAD.

Actually, much of life is torture for us introverts. And winter is always a slog for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But last night hit all the sore points: 

  • Had to go to a meeting with people I don’t know well.
  • At 7:00 at night.
  • Which is after dark.
  • The meeting was at work, where I’d already been all day. Where shitloads of stress is giving me serious anxiety symptoms. Led by the person who is causing pretty much all the stress. 
  • Was forced to interact appropriately at a time of day when all I’m fit for is p.j.’s and my cozy bedroom with only my family around. 

As you, dear reader, reach for a Kleenex to wipe away tears of sympathy, I’ll tell you how I managed this torture session:

  • Wore sweats yesterday. Even all day at work. I can get away with sweats almost any day I want, but this time it was a deliberate nose-thumbing to the prospect of the evening meeting.
  • Put supper in the Crock Pot before I left the house this morning, to decrease evening stress.
  • Toyed with the idea of coming up with a fake excuse for missing the meeting, then righteously decided to adult like a boss and actually go. 
  • Promised myself an enormous latte on the way to work this morning as a bribe. It’s DELICIOUS.
  • Arrived at the very last second I could possibly get there and still be reasonably on time. 
  • Was the first person to leave, rather than hanging about and “visiting.” (BARF)

So. I survived. Anyone else out there have coping strategies for this sort of indignity?

Image credit: Cram Crew Blog

I’m left with “Mas.” And that’s just weird.

Some years it’s harder to get into the Christmas spirit.

This is one of those years. 

The Husband said once, when we drove past a yard sign imploring us to keep the Christ in Christmas, “Well, duh. If you take the “Christ” out of “Christmas,” all you’d have left is “mas.” And that would just be weird.”

This year that’s what it feels like. Like all I’ve got is “mas.”

It’s not that I just can’t be arsed with it. We’ve decorated. The tree is up. The Christmas music is playing. I’ve been baking. I’ve even wrapped a bunch of gifts. 

But the intangible joy of the Christmas spirit is missing this year. 

I can point to a shit ton of reasons. Over-the-top work stress. A 91-year-old mother-in-law who had a serious health setback and has been in rehab. Kids not home yet. The very real demise of our nation as we’ve come to know and love it. 

It’s kind of a bummer. 

On the other hand, I can enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds and scents of the season on evenings like this, when I put on my pj’s at 5:30 pm and had a quiet supper on my own (okay, to be truthful I often have my pj’s on by 5:30 this time of year.)

Maybe it’s best if I focus on enjoying what I can. I guess just “mas” is better than nothing. 

Creating order out of chaos.

I’ve always jeered at blog posts that begin “Sorry I haven’t posted for so long…”  Unless you’re a celebrity blogger, I can’t imagine that anybody really cares that much.

And yet I feel compelled to explain the reasons why I’m just coming off the longest blog hiatus I’ve had in my four years on WordPress. It has a lot to do with this:

It all began with the devastation and, quite honestly, depression I’ve been working through in the aftermath of November 8. In my mind, it’s not a matter of histrionics to call that humanitarian disaster by its date, just as we do September 11.  So much has been written about this travesty I won’t go into it again (just now) but suffice it to say I feel sharply the fact that we are now living in a very different and very ugly world. I will admit, though, that since that infamous day my house has been remarkably clean and tidy – it’s the one place I have control over, and I’ve been compulsive about keeping it nice. Order out of chaos.

Then came an insanely hectic schedule. For this introvert, the string of major events I attended and participated in, in a very short span of a week, did me in for a long time.

A Friday night benefit choir performance at the world-renowned Kaufman center.

The next night, at “Marriage of Figaro,” Middle’s birthday present, also at the Kaufman Center. Which came after a three-hour rehearsal that morning for the next concert, taking place the following day…

An All-Saints Day performance of Faure’s Requiem

And four days later, a six-hour round trip to adore The Boy in his senior recital.

And then there was a noisy and raucous, but very happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Only two of these people were not staying in our tiny home for the long weekend.

Lots of fun and many memories created.

But hovering in the background of all the above was the most stressful period of time I’ve ever experienced in 12 years at my current workplace. And that’s saying a lot, considering that seven years ago a cow0rker I’d despised since day one was finally fired for refusal to do any work at all and, several months later, was charged (and eventually sent to jail) with taking sexual liberties with a minor.

Turns out that extreme building renovation in the workplace can bring out either the best or the worst of people. And it turns out that when it’s bringing out the worst, it’s a RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE to get your boss to follow through on his word, communicate with you, or support you and your co-worker in a time of transition to a promotion and a new job share.

So, yeah. Stress.

And now, here it is Christmas. It says a lot about my current state that the season that gives most people over-the-top stress feels anticlimactic for me this year.

It’s nice to be back on WordPress and reading the thoughts of people I care about all over the world.

Thanks for still being there.

Caution: Slippery roads ahead.

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Q: Combine a killer stressful election season with a crazy-busy two weeks with crappy perimenopausal symptoms with  Seasonal Affective Disorder, and what do you get?

A: I don’t know, but hang onto your pants because it’s sure to be a dangerous ride.

Election Season: With only two weeks to go until election day (and thank God it looks like the apocalypse of a GOP victory is looking less and less likely), the suspense and fear is still making me sick to my stomach. Our family plans to vote this coming Saturday…and I’m already nervous about the likelihood of being in the same room with crazed supporters of the Candidate Who Must Not Be Named.

Crazy-busy schedule: In the next two weeks I (and our Middle) have five choir rehearsals and two concerts. The Husband and I travel six hours in one day to attend The Boy’s choral concert, in which he’s a featured soloist and is conducting a song in concert for the first time. My leadership team meets with the CEO of the foundation we work closely with. And I begin gearing up for the new duties involved with an upcoming promotion.

Perimenopause: Fear it. Okay, maybe it’s not nice of me to discourage my younger blogging friends. But it really does suck. I’m enjoying my fourth year of flop-sweat hot flashes. And recently I’ve been treated to two – count ’em, two! – periods each month. Joy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: I’ve been taking antidepressants through the fall and winter months for several years, and this year my doc suggested bumping up the dosage. I have to admit my mood has been great, but I’m also struggling with some freaky sleep patterns (two hour afternoon naps, 2:00 am wakefulness. and sleeping until 8:00). Oh, and I’ve been in bed by 7:30 for the last week. Not asleep, mind you, but totally over the day and ready to retreat to my cozy room with a book and Netflix. Definitely time to break out the light therapy box – otherwise when we “fall back” in a couple of weeks and it’s dark by 5:00, I’ll be crashing by 6:00.

So…

I don’t like wine, and a person can only eat so much caramel and sea salt dark chocolate.

Suggestions for coping strategies currently being accepted.

Looking for smiles

It’s the end of what started out as a hellish week. Most of the hellish-ness has not really been resolved, but I guess I’m starting to sit down next to it and let myself get comfortable with it. Is that a good thing? Hmmmm…

Anyway, I’m back to needing to watch for things to smile for. 

One smile is coming tonight – this hyper-introvert is going “out” (meaning down the street and around the corner – it’s all relative) for a dinner and game night with a couple of friends. Friends I can laugh with, relax with, and speak the truth with. 

Another smile snuck up on me last night. Middle Sister, quite out of the blue, brought her Samantha doll downstairs to change her clothes and arrange her hair. Twenty-one years old, and this was her go-to activity for the evening. So sweet and peaceful and cozy. 

Much needed.

  

Breathing a sigh of relief and holding my breath at the same time

Something I learned a long time ago: When you have three children, you’ll have something serious to worry about – and often something to celebrate – pretty much all the time. Someone will be in the midst of a big decision, a health problem, an emotional issue, a victory, an award or recognition – pretty much all the time. If it’s not one of the kids, it’s your partner or yourself. The trick is to carry all those ups and downs without either dropping something and watching it shatter OR straining yourself until you’re exhausted.

Today I’m sighing with relief on a couple of fronts.

Firstly, The Boy is finally starting to return to himself. Our adventure with severe bleeding and the Emergency Room set him back nearly a week in his recovery from tonsil surgery, but his pain is finally lessening. He’s finally backing off the pain meds that make him so weird. We’re hopeful he’ll be cleared for regular activity at his follow-up in a couple of days.

Phew.

Second, The Husband put an end to his own empolyment anxiety and seems to be back on an even keel. After 27 years of dealing with his crises (that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s accurate) my sigh of relief on this one is extremely cautious. But I’ve got to take it at face value, hope for the best, and move on. Because…

Life continues, full steam ahead, and I’m holding my breath.

Today Middle Sister heads off for a few days for a shortened version of the leadership training I started in May. I’m sure it will really benefit her, and she’ll have a great deal to contribute. But, being a mom, I can’t help but worry just a bit because it’s her first trip out of town solo. She’s extremely intelligent and capable, but I know her well enough to know I’m likely to get a panicky phone call later this morning when she’s trying to navigate in a strange city. Guess what? Panicky phone calls from my 21-year-daughter are not tops on my list of great ways to start the week.

We’re still managing with only one bathroom. The renovation has been stalled for a week and a half, since Middle and I completed the priming and painting. Fingers crossed that The Boy will be cleared for normal activity this week, because a houseful of people lining up for one toilet is not optimal.

And – dare I say this too loudly? – I actually have a heaping pile of issues on my own plate. I’m juggling more projects at work all at once than ever before, with deadlines looming. Performance anxiety all over the place. Of course, with everything else going on in my world, work issues have been pushed to the back burner. They’ve got to come to the front now and be attended to, before they boil over and make a mess that can’t easily be cleaned up. Hah! Cooking analogy!

So…sighing with relief and holding my breath. Just like any other mom.

And trying not to suffocate while doing it.

My week in review.

Virus. Gross.

Rally. Back to work.

STUPIDLY eat a Trader Joe’s frozen Tandoori Chicken. Instant relapse for a day and a half.

Talk to and text all three of my faraway family members multiple times. Even enjoy several conversations initiated by The Boy, who generally is uncommunicative while away from home. Joy!

Run around like a headless chicken at work on a three-day workweek, sewing up all details for the first day of Sunday School.

Don’t kill anyone, even when they make requests that are so ridiculous you could easily strangle them without a qualm.

Wrestle with technology for several hours, again in preparation for the first day of Sunday School. Win one huge battle, lose another. Figure out a work-around.

Leave work for three hours on one of the busiest days of my work year, to co-lead a support group downtown.

Have an excellent conversation on the way home with good friend.

Work later than I have for months. Come home and don’t quite collapse, but have less than no interest in cooking dinner. Wisely decide NOT to have a Trader Joe’s frozen dinner.

Write a quick post and hope to have time later in the evening to catch up on some of my favorite writers.

Weekend and a return of autumn-ish weather.

The end.

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What happens next?

imageWell, we did it. We’ve got The Husband on the road for what should be at least six weeks, and we all survived.

We had one last visit together to our farmer’s market, on the way to pick up his rental car. About half an hour ago we said our goodbyes and now he’s on his way to Little Rock.

I say it should be about a six-week absence because I’m having a hard time believing there won’t be some crappy cosmic joke that sends him back home before his training is over, unemployed and having to start over again. It happened twice in the first quarter of the year. I’ve been burned twice now, and I can’t help but expect the same again. But here we are one more time – “Once more into the breach.”

The Husband and I met when I was a freshman in college. Started dating at the end of that year. Since that time the longest we’ve been apart was when I was at a three-week continuing ed. course in Iowa. If living without him for six weeks or more (I hope, perversely) isn’t a paradigm shift, I don’t know what is. I truly don’t know how to react or what to expect.

To be honest, there is a part of me that is incredibly relieved to have him gone for awhile. I think all long-term couples need some time away from each other, but with his long stints of unemployment in the last year, we’ve had WAY too much together time. I fully admit to being impatient and easily annoyed, and I seriously needed a break from my husband’s ADHD, OCD tendencies, and depression/anxiety. Just a few days minus stupid, hyperactivity-induced noises would be heaven. A few days without constant questions/panic about where his personal belongings are. A few days without feeling responsible for someone else getting out of bed at a reasonable hour and having a productive, grown-up day.

imageAt the same time, the closer we got to saying goodbye, the more I appreciated him. The more I enjoyed his presence, his jokes, his generosity and thoughtfulness. The more I wonder what on earth it will be like to try and be a family without him. Thank goodness Middle Sister is here, and The Boy will still be around for a few more weeks.

So here I am with fear and a feeling of impending doom, mixed with relief and extremely cautious hopefulness.

Sigh. I’ll just have to wade through it, one day at a time.

High Anxiety…

I already knew that I was becoming more introverted with every year. But guess what? I’m discovering that stress and anxiety make the thought of human interaction about as attractive for me as surgery minus the anesthesia.

This week, I’m still reeling from last week’s round of constant illness in our middle daughter AND experiencing paralyzing anxiety in The Husband as he prepares to be off on job training for six weeks. (He’s really looking forward to the training and the work. The preparation to leave may kill us both.)

And in the midst of all this joy, three HUMAN CONTACT TORTURE TECHNIQUES have been thrown at me in one day:
•Dental appointment this afternoon. Should be no big deal, right? Logically it wasn’t a big deal. But having a stranger with surgical gloves WAY UP in my personal space for forty minutes was a big enough deal that this alone would have screwed up my day.
•A reminder mid-morning that I have a meeting tonight at 7:00. I knew about this event at some point – in fact later in the day my iPad gave me a *ding ding!* reminder – but in my mind it was still way in the future. So what that the meeting is with people I truly enjoy and respect – coworkers and former coworkers who I know for a fact would have my back at any time, without me even asking. It still looks like a ruined evening for me because I have to LEAVE THE COMFORT OF MY COCOON.
•And the worst of all, a seemingly innocuous event that has been looming unscheduled for months was foisted on me today: The Husband and I are suddenly scheduled to have dinner with The Boy’s girlfriend’s family Thursday evening. An ENTIRE evening with people who I have met one time, who I know are extremely pleasant. I think I’m going to hurl.

Yeah, I know. It’s all in the attitude. I could look at all this stuff in a positive light:
•Hooray for dental hygiene! And I don’t have to go to the dentist again for six months!
•I get to see awesome people who will make me laugh and make me think. Spending time with them will be healing and restoring! Whoopie!
•I don’t have to cook Thursday night! And I’ll get to know better the family our son spends quite a bit of time with! Yay!

There was a time in my life when I would have gone all Pollyanna and bent over backwards to see everything with those rose-tinted glasses.

Today is not that time.