Paella

The guys came over last night and I made paella for them. They were a little dubious at first. And then they went back for seconds. Huge piles of seconds.

It made me feel like I had powerful magic.

It also made me a little sad because I was planning on leftovers for dinner tonight.

New kitty has taken to pooping in the bathroom (on the floor, not any place useful) when there are fireworks. The litter boxes are clean but she doesn’t seem to care. She must register her displeasure, though there’s nothing I can do about it.

Still

I think I made the dog and myself a little sick yesterday by walking too far in the heat and humidity. Well, not just the head and the humidity. It’s that there’s no breeze. You sweat but it doesn’t do any good, because there’s nothing to evaporate the water off you.

Today we just took a shorter walk and the dog is still sleeping hard.

I’m making a Batman cowl for my step-nephew, which I might finish up today. I ordered the yarn for my next two projects–another mermaid tail, this one for my niece, and yarn for this what I’m hoping is a really cool afghan. I’m supposed to have an afghan before these, but the recipient wants a colorful scrap afghan and my stash is low.

And then I went and bought the yarn for another afghan, which I want to immediately start making. It’s a kind of complicated flower design and I’m going to do it all in this amazing red I found. I hope it will really be striking.

I got rejected this weekend, too, which kind of ruined my dad for a minute, and then it make me laugh because it was a rejection that took a long, long time. The sure sign of “This made the short list.” And I was going to let that ruin my day after my secret good news? No.

Okay, maybe a little.

The Thing

Welp, something may be happening, which I can’t talk about. At least, outreach has been made and plans have been alluded to and time-frames referenced. And I know these kinds of vague posts are annoying, but this is literally all I’m thinking about and I want to have some signpost, should I ever come back this way, that this was the moment I was like “What? Yes. God, okay, yes.”

Sadly, though, it doesn’t involve Cocktapusses or Jason Statham, so those dreams are still unrealized.

I mean, I really only have one question for Jason Statham: What is the cutest thing you could make scary merely by glaring while holding it? Like, Jason Statham holds a brand new born thirty seconds ago baby and gives you a look that says, “This baby and me are going to fuck you up.” Do you believe it? Or he’s holding your grandma’s hand. Or 500 Beanie Babies. How far do his menacing powers extend?

But even this question is not enough to distract me from my happiness.

Here’s an unrelated thing, this week Radley Balko quoted me in the Washington Post. I was thinking about that this morning as I was walking the dog, how weird it is to find myself here at this late date. I mean, I’m 43. And I’m the same old person I’ve always been, I think. And yet, now, suddenly, sometimes, people say “Well, Betsy Phillips said…” or “Betsy Phillips found…” and that matters, carries weight.

And I don’t really know what to make of that. I mean, I like it and I’m proud of it, don’t get me wrong. But I haven’t done anything except be curious in public for a long time. And, like, I know that’s not nothing, but…

I guess here’s the thing. For a long time, I was not a person for whom this stuff happened. I tried and I tried, but stuff didn’t congeal or it congealed in small ways and then petered out and that was awesome, but I thought that was as good as it got for me. I wasn’t raised to believe that things like this happened to people like us. There was cool shit out there, being done by cool people, but we didn’t get those opportunities. We just did our own thing and tried to live small, interesting lives that somewhat satisfied us.

But something happened. Some barrier was crossed. And I know it because here I am on the other side of it, but I don’t know when or how it happened.

Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

There’s a window of about 20 lbs where I’ve lived every since my PCOS diagnosis, which I am relieved about because before the diagnosis, I was just gaining and gaining and gaining and having the joy of my doctor acting like I was lying when I told him what I eat.

Anyway, I’m at the lower end of my 20 lb window these days and my trips to the doctors have taken on a weird tone. I get all this praise for “working so hard.” And then when I’m like “Um, no” they seem disappointed. Like, if I’m not going to tell them a story of suffering, they’re not interested in hearing it.

I don’t think they know that. Of course. But it is weird to me how often doctors seem okay with fat if you’re suffering from trying not to be fat.  How much praise they’re ready to heap on you if you have some tale of misery to recount.

Which is not to say that I don’t sometimes make myself miserable over it. I do worry that no one could ever really love this body, myself included. I worry that people are staring or grossed out or whatever. I worry about being confronted by assholes in public.

But when I can quiet those voices, I don’t suffer from being fat. I don’t like it, but I don’t dislike it. I mean, yeah, I wish I were pretty and everyone loved me. But I also like how soft I am and I think my toes are adorable and I like having gigantic boobs.

And I like not suffering. I don’t think there’s any virtue in suffering. And I think it’s a trap to believe that your good life starts when you’re thinner or prettier or I don’t know. Some other thing. This is your life, now, what you make of it. And I don’t believe that my life would be improved by me “working so hard” and suffering.

I mean, I assume people who hardcore diet and exercise do it because ultimately they like it. I don’t think Jason Statham looks that way because there’s virtue in suffering. I think he looks that way because he really likes to look that way and he really enjoys the things he does to look that way. I mean, if his trainer said, “Jason, you can do one hundred pull-ups and have shoulders like a god OR I can kick you in the nuts one hundred times and you can have shoulders like a god” he’s obviously doing the pull-ups, right? Even if the pull-ups kind of suck, there’s the suck of “Yeah, this bit’s not going to be fun” and then there’s the suck of “I am in pain and can’t move and want to die.”

So, it’s fun and he likes challenging himself and he likes how he looks in the end.

I don’t know. I lost the thread once I brought up Jason Statham and started thinking about his shoulders. If he were a cocktapus, you know somehow he’d be glaring at you with his face and each of his eight dicks.

In a fight between The Rock and a cocktapus, who would win? Tell me in the comments below.

Okay, I think I remember what my point was. I would not be a better person if I accepted more suffering into my life. But I am disturbed by how much of an assumption medical professionals have that I would be better off if I were suffering more.

How Far?

Thanks to therapy, the dog and I have been walking to school every morning, even though the hill is steep and scary. When we get back, the dog is exhausted. I feel really proud of that–that I’m able to wear out the dog.

I don’t know if we’ll keep up going that far when the weather turns hot again, but man, when it’s lovely like today? I feel so lucky.

I pissed a dude off yesterday. He called me at work to complain. I don’t know if he was satisfied by the exchange. It didn’t seem like it. You ever talk to someone and where they’re coming from just makes so little sense that you can’t exactly even tell what’s happening in the conversation? I felt like that was happening to both of us.

I do sometimes feel like I have gotten way off the beaten path and not noticed. I will say that.

 

Here Comes the Rain Again

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had any kind of tropical storm blow through, but today we’re starting to see Cindy, who I guess will be here through Saturday?

I will never not be awed by the size of these storms, the fact that something that is still churning in the Gulf reaches me, way up here.

Mouse Wars

I was so busy this weekend that I don’t feel like I really had much of a weekend. I went to war with the mice in the kitchen, which involved emptying three cabinets, washing most of my dishes, washing said cabinets, and then stuffing the holes I think the mice are coming through with steel wool. I also had to run to Target and the grocery store and do a bunch of research at Special Collections and then, as you know, I’m also trying to get a very rough draft of this story together so that I can see where holes are and where I need more research. Plus some out of town friends were in town and I got to see them.

Also, the stupid orange cat bit me on Friday and I yelled so loud that he exploded off my bed and hid from me for two days. Then, on Sunday, when he finally did come out–though let me also be clear that his “hiding” still involved sleeping with me. He just left my bed when he realized I was awake.–and he seemed kind of stiff and sore and wobbly and I was like, Christ, if that dumbass cat hurt himself leaping off the bed, I’m going to feel so damn terrible.

But he wouldn’t let me touch him to feel if he was in any pain.

So, I sent a text to the Butcher asking him to come by when he got off work. That damn cat was fine. “Oh, hi, The Butcher. You want to give me some head rubs? You want to see me scampering across the house? You want I should leap up on your lap?”

And then, after the Butcher left, the cat came and sat on my lap, like now that I saw how things were, we could be friends again.

I’m like, dude, I’m the one who texted the Butcher! You didn’t bring your big mean man over here to put me in my place and teach me a thing or two about loud yelling. I brought my soft-hearted brother here for a second opinion about your squirrelly behavior.

But you can’t convince him of that.

Hard Work

I just want to reiterate how working on this baby blanket compared to the spiral afghan is…god damn. Like, I’m almost done making squares. On a blanket I started on Thursday. Granted, what I have in mind for the border will take a while, but the spiral afghan was SO HARD!

I’m glad I did it, but I don’t want to forget that it was tough and I probably don’t want to make a thousand of them.

Also, on another subject, can I just say that going grocery shopping on the first day of your period is stupid unless you want to come home with seventeen pounds of pasta and two expensive chocolate and caramel candy bars and some cookies you both want to eat and kind of want to throw up to look at?

I mean, I also got some protein and some vegetables, but I got home and emptied my grocery bags and laughed. And then damn straight ate one of those candy bars.

I’m slowly working on my draft. I’m trying not to freak out by how large it is. I’m already at 1,000 words and nothing’s gotten blown up. But I feel like I just need to vomit out everything I know and then I can work on shaping and trimming it. In other words, I know this draft is supposed to suck, but I’m still worried about it sucking.

I also had this dream that the Butcher told me a secret about one of his friends and I then went on a trip with her and blabbed her secret–which she did not know I knew–to everyone and she found out and was pissed. And all day I was like “Oh man, I really fucked up with so-and-so.” And I felt so bad and then remembered, no, it was just a dream. Everything is fine.

Ah, brain, you sure are fun.

Obsessive Thoughts

–I have been trying to figure out what the significance of the April 19th date for the Looby bombing is. The Hattie Cotton bombing took place the evening of the first day of school. The JCC bombing was coordinated with a bunch of other bombings of Jewish buildings across the south. But why blow up Looby’s house then? The sit-ins had been going on since February. The school desegregation lawsuits were on-going.

If something had provoked the bombing, it’s hard for me to figure out what.

So, does the date mean something? If a black man’s house were bombed on April 19th, 2017, we sure as fuck would think it did, but I don’t know about then.

–I have a weird rash on my arm, so I spent a great portion of my weekend washing everything in the house I could find to wash–bedding, couch slip covers, clothes, towels. I’m also trying very hard not to scratch it. When it itches I rub it, but I try not to use nails. It kind of works. It also kind of is not fooling me.

–One of the most personally embarrassing things about going to therapy is having to admit to myself how I have these weird, obsessive thoughts, which are sometimes paranoid. A few weeks ago, I woke up and a cat was in my bed and I became overwhelmingly convinced that it was not one of my cats. I get overwhelmed sometimes by the thought that I am fat and ugly and no one will ever love me and the people who like me only like me out of pity. And this shit is hard to talk about  because it’s not low self-esteem. Because low self-esteem would mean I felt bad about myself all the time.

But I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve accomplished and, sure, while not in love with the way I look, I like how I look in pictures and I’m kind of in awe of how, when I smile, I can see that it radiates. Like, okay, it must feel nice to be smiled at by me.

And I have a lot of friends who love me and they have big and interesting lives and they have other stuff to do beside be someone’s friend out of pity.

I say all this to try to make clear that these are obsessive thoughts. They don’t go away because they’re disprovable. They’re not satiated by being true–in the case of me being fat. They come out of nowhere, hit hard, and leave me reeling. There are some things that make them more common–me being tired or stressed or upset about something else but not dealing with it. But it is like being swept up in a storm my brain is having.

So, on the one hand, the medicine helps a lot because it seems to slow down the storm and, if I can recognize what’s happening before it blows up into the emotional hurricane, I can usually dissipate it. Oh, that’s just the anxiety.

But another thing we’ve been working on is that I like to have order and schedules. If I could keep my whole life by calendar, I would. And that’s great when it helps. Setting a recurring task of cleaning the litter boxes on Monday evenings means I get into the habit and the poop goes in the garbage can the day before garbage day. The schedule works for me and makes my life easier. Why wouldn’t I then schedule everything?!

Because I also sometimes, okay, often, then get caught up in the ritual of the schedule. In other words, I do scheduled things because those are the “rules” and I don’t want to break the rules or my life will be infinitely harder, whether or not I need to do the things.

And here I think you can see how close kin anxiety is with OCD. “I have to check the door five times to feel confident that it’s locked” is not the same thing as “I have to go to the grocery store on Sunday morning because… um… that’s when I’m scheduled to go to the grocery store.” But you can see they’re cousins.

So, I’ve been working really hard on separating what I feel compelled to do from what I need to do from what I want to do. So, Sunday, I was reading a book. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Did I need to go to the grocery store? Actually, no. I have enough stuff in the house that I can skip a week. But it still felt really weird and like I was going to regret not going to the grocery store.

The thing is that I think I like schedules because it lets me kind of put my life on autopilot. I can zone out through stuff I find boring or unpleasant, trusting on my schedule, my to-do list to keep me productive even while my brain is checked out.

But I think that coping mechanism has soured for me and I have to find ways to be present more in my life.

And a thing I find baffling and funny is that, without the checklist, I often don’t know what I want to do. I’m 43 years old but when faced with a truly empty day, I often don’t know how I’d like to fill it. And I pride myself on being so insightful and shit. And I don’t even know what kinds of small ordinary things bring me pleasure.

But I am having fun figuring it out.

Busy

I’m having the kind of week where I’m getting a ton of stuff done, but it’s none of the stuff I was hoping to get done.

I feel like this afghan will never be finished because I just don’t have time to work on it. Which, of course, is not a problem that will necessarily last.

One of the things I’m trying to put into practice from therapy is being present in the moment and not just going on autopilot. But man, weeks like this, I kind of want to put my head down, power through, and not think about things too much.

Another Year Older

I had a really nice weekend of birthday activities. I even failed to get to the grocery store because I was busy making spontaneous decisions to do other things. I don’t know if I could live that way all the time, but it felt nice for a while.

One question I keep asking myself that has grown out of therapy is “If I could be doing anything right now, what would I want to be doing?” And the answer a lot of the time is “I don’t know.”

That, I guess, sounds a little depressing, but from the inside, it feels kind of freeing to admit.

Anyway, here’s to another trip around the sun. I hope it’s a good one.

Po-tay-toe Sa-lad!

My birthday’s not until Monday, but the Butcher’s family had me over for birthday lunch today. We had bratwurst, corn on the cob, delicious potato salad, and cake. And then Mrs. Butcher let me take home some potato salad. I’m going to eat it for dinner and I’m not even going to pretend like it’s healthy.

Stuff

One thing I’ve noticed since the Butcher has moved out is that I feel like I have so much more time, which at first struck me as weird because it’s not like we socialized together or did housework together or whatever.

I think it’s really because I almost never turn on the TV. It’s not because I’ve become some virtuous hippie. It’s just that I listen to podcasts, which I can do while doing chores or crocheting, and so it feels like time has opened up. I mean, I had three days in a row off, most of which I spent at libraries and socializing and yet, still, the dishes are done, laundry is done, dog is walked, FOIA requests have been made, etc.

And I think I may have found the trick to making the off-kilter squares go faster–more stitch markers. It’s a little weird because in crocheting, before this project, I think I’d only ever used one stitch marker in a project. For a long time, I didn’t even have stitch markers because I had an old safety pin and then I lost it so I picked up a small thing of stitch markers and only ever used one.

But this project, once I figured out that three stitch markers would make it super easy, was eye-opening. So, when I got to these off-kilter squares and struggled so much through that first one, on the second one, about halfway through, I thought–what if I just marked every repeat? That way, when I get to the end of a row and the pattern has been “(2dc in stitch; dc in next 14 stitches) repeat 5 times; 10 dc” I can just look back and count my stitch markers and see, yep, did my five repeats. It’s super handy. I’m just going to stitch-mark the fuck out of it for the rest of the squares.

I may stitch-mark the fuck out of everything. Having a meeting to discuss a thing we’ve discussed before? Now we’ll know how many times we’ve had that meeting. Find a man with multiple penises, but you don’t want to be rude and ask him if he’s a cockapus? Just discretely count the stitch markers. I mean, I feel bad for the person with multiple penises who also goes to a lot of redundant meetings, because they’re just going to be awash in stitch markers, but whatever. It’s for the good of all humanity!

Setbacks

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, panicked because I realized I had forgotten to tuck in the ends on the middle of my last spiral, which, in real life, is not that big a deal. I also couldn’t remember if I’d approved my assistant’s timesheet–again, not a big deal in real life, because the system sends a reminder Monday mornings if you forgot to do it on Friday.

As I was laying there, the orange cat came over and demanded head scratches. I became convinced, utterly convinced, that this was not my cat, that it was some strange cat that had been coming into the house at night and sleeping with me and, if I turned on the lights, there would be this stranger.

I was completely panicked about it. And then I thought, this is insane. How would a strange cat be this comfortable? Why would the dog be so nonchalant about it? And then I was like, oh, yes! This is insane! You are having anxiety. And that dissipated it.

But a thing that’s been very hard and embarrassing for me to admit through this whole process is that I do have a lot of obsessive weird thoughts, which bother my life, and which I have just assumed were normal things everyone goes through, so, if I can function, why bother to worry about them? But waking up from a dead sleep and becoming convinced a strange cat is demanding head scratches from you is not really functioning.

Still, I find it deeply embarrassing, though I don’t know exactly why, to realize how much of my adult life was me being all “I’m utterly normal except for these few things, but I understand them and avoid them and all is well,” when really I have been fucked up in this minor but affecting way that I was just ignoring.

Anyway, I know part of it is that I fucked up my medication this weekend. And part of it is just the disappointment in getting rejected. But this weekend felt like backsliding. And that sucks.

Is Happiness Interesting to Me?

I like to think of myself as someone who has no great enjoyment of drama. But one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about as I’m doing my feelings journal is that I don’t analyze and dwell on and poke and prod at happiness the way I do other emotions.

I think part of that is that I worry that happiness evaporates under too much scrutiny–if you think about it too hard, you come up with reasons why you shouldn’t be happy.

But my goal for this whole hard process is not just to stop metaphorically jumping at shadows in the dark, but to learn to live not scrutinizing the dark for shadows. Ha ha ha. But I don’t know if “scrutinize the light” is the way to course-correct.

The Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid came over for dinner last night. We were watching TV and it said something like “Interesting people make jokes. That’s what makes them interesting.”

And the Red-Headed Kid said, “Is that true? What about people who make jokes to mask anxiety? I don’t want to be interesting.”

The Feelings Journal

I remain surprised by how much time I have. Yesterday I cleaned out the litter boxes, took out the garbage and the recycling, framed some art, talked to my brother, talked to my parents, and still had dinner before seven and it took me forever to get home because Nashville cannot drive in the rain.

Partially, this is because I never think to turn the TV on. All last weekend, I watched a couple of episodes of Law & Order and the The Rock/Jason Statham portions of F&F7 and that was it. I prefer to listen to podcasts. I prefer someone to tell me a story, rather than show me a story.

I’m keeping a feelings journal. Yes, aside from this. That was my thought as I was doing it. Feelings journal? Please, I have a blog. I know about feelings journalling. But it is different. It still feels a little decadent to be spending so much time on myself. But I also find it really interesting. And strange.

Look at this happy dog. He recently discovered that he likes to be brushed. He especially likes his face brushed. And, as you can tell from this picture, he is made of sunshine. His feelings journal would be full of “today I felt alive and it was wonderful. Also, I pooped, and it was wonderful. And I ate and it was wonderful.” His feelings journal would be named “My Life: It’s Pretty Great.” Maybe he’d have an entry like “Carrots. Bleh.” or “It’s confusing to me that Betsy keeps putting this stinky expensive joint crap in my bowl when she knows I won’t eat it,” but they’d be very infrequent. “Kids! Did you know humans came in smaller sizes? And you can chase them and they’ll chase you? It’s wonderful.” would be much more common.

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Easter

Over on Facebook, an old friend of mine took the occasion of Easter to announce to her world that Christ is dead and he’s staying dead for her–she’s not a Christian anymore. I laughed. Just the audacity of it delighted me. I always thought she had an inner “drive through town in a convertible with both middle fingers raised” desire, but I was still surprised to see her doing it.

For the first time in my life, I’m not going to Easter services. My middle brother is up in Illinois with his family and my parents. The Butcher is with his family. I can stay home and no one will notice.

What I talked about with the therapist was that it’s not just that I think I have a lot of anger that manifests itself as anxiety, it’s that I often don’t know when I’m angry until I’m super pissed. But more than that, more upsetting to me than that, is that I don’t know how to feel happy at the same magnitude that I feel anger or upset or hurt. I would like for happiness to linger the same ways for me and to come back up when I least expect it, the way all my hurts do.

I’ve said as much here. But admitting it out loud was terrible. And yet, here I am, today, with nothing to do. I already turned in my Pith post. The dishes are done. I vacuumed. I can do anything today that would make me happy. And I don’t know what to do. Which is not to say that things don’t make me happy. But I often don’t know if something will make me happy until I do it. It’s hard for me to plan for it.

I mostly achieve happiness by working hard to avoid sorrow or upset.

You know, I also wonder if this is a problem in my writing. A lot of my stories are about women reacting to things (or sometimes men). A situation develops. The characters respond. They deal with things. That’s the central drama in a lot of my stories. A thing has happened. Can it be dealt with?

It’s hard for me to imagine how stories go when they start “They decided to do a thing. What will happen next?” Because it’s hard for me to imagine deciding things.

Anyway, after therapy and before the movie, I went out to try to find a cemetery someone told me about and I ended up on a winding road with a drop-off on the side, one of my least favorite things in the world. And yet, instead of a voice in my head screaming, “Holy shit! You can’t do this. You’re going to die.” because of what we’d talked about, I said to myself “You are fine and you can do this.” Over and over. And I did. No symptoms of panic. No panic attack.

It seems simple really. What I want is to be able to do the things I want to do and to not do the things I don’t want to do. And yet, I’m going to have to figure out how to decide what I want and don’t want.

So, I admire the decisiveness of the friend who’s just like, “You guys, Christ is dead and gone,” on Easter weekend. And her willingness to deal with the fallout that comes from deciding to do something and following through with it.

The Fate of the Furious

Okay, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Jason Statham, of course. I love that the women get to be strong and smart and add value above sex appeal to the plot. I love that we have a big blockbuster where the epitome of manhood is being a good father. I hate Scott Eastwood’s smug face. I wanted the prison escape to go on for ten more minutes. It was just so glorious.

I think the criticisms of the director not letting the camera linger long enough on the spectacle is spot-on. Like, there’s this amazing scene where we’re in a car as it goes out a window and heads toward the ground. We cut before the car hits the ground. It makes no sense. This is the rollercoaster ride you can’t do in real life–falling and hitting the ground and being destroyed. Why would you deprive your audience of the visceral thrill of experiencing it in the movie? And there are a lot of other scenes were it seems like they should be like two seconds longer, so that you can see the reactions of the other characters in the scene.

And it’s weird that, in order to keep it PG-13 we don’t get to see the deaths that are supposed to be meaningful. And physics means nothing in this movie. The whole last third, when Jason Statham isn’t on the screen, a little corner of my mind was screaming “I don’t think this is how any of this really works!” So, maybe that’s the trick of putting Jason Statham in your movie. I mean, nothing about the prison break was physics-accurate, but he was in it, so who fucking cares? But he’s off-screen and suddenly, you notice that’s not how things work.

Anyway, it was glorious. My biggest complaints were that you have to sit through Scott Eastwood and that, even though the movie was so, so long, a lot of scenes were a hair too short. But I’m all in for whatever movie The Rock does with Jason Statham.

The therapist was not easy. So, ha ha ha, going to a movie where the villain is psychologically manipulating the hero, maybe not a good thing. I don’t quite know how to talk about it or what I want to say about it. Even just two sessions in, it is helping. I know that. But it’s fucking rough.

I really want it to work, so I’m committed. But man, just damn.

The Workbook

I’m slowly, very slowly, reading through The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. I have to go slowly because it often gets my hackles up and I have to wait and see if that’s just a defense mechanism or a legitimate complaint.

I do think, though, that I do have one legitimate complaint–some of this stuff may be too “woo” for me. I know. Me. Who has a ritual to talk to her dead ancestors and the gods who might be interested every October.

But here’s the thing: if you’re doing something in a spiritual context and it’s full of woo, then that’s fine with me. I get it. In my mind, there’s Something or Some Things powerful going on in a realm we don’t really have good access to and we try to understand what’s going on over there through a series of metaphors and symbols that are, always and forever (or at least until we die), going to not quite get at it. In that way, to me, religion is like poetry. You’re using the words to make room and evoke something that can’t quite be put into words. And, so, if I said, “Frigg, work on my brain so that it’s not so fucked up,” I would expect weird shit that didn’t quite make sense. If my dead grandmother came to me in a dream and said, “Be a better mother to your inner child,” I would think that was wise, albeit confusing, advice. If some other ancient ancestor came to me and said, “You must move the negative energy out of your body,” again, probably advice I should take.

But if you are just a person–and in this case, not even a person I know. Just some person who wrote a book.–and you want to start rewiring my brain, I want science. Like, what does “energy” in the context of this book mean? Like, I have to start moving calories around my body in some way? Or is there some way I can control the electrical impulses in my nerves and rework them?

Or where does my “inner child” live?

Or fine if “energy” and “inner child” are woo metaphors. Do you, author, know that they’re woo metaphors? I’m not sure.

But also, I may just be being defensive. The author says that a lot of anxiety is unrealized anger, or at least, starts out that way. I was thinking about that while I walked the dog this morning. And you know, that’s not quite it for me. My anxiety arose when I finally felt I was angry. Before that, before I felt it was okay for me to be angry, I was just depressed. Not “just.” I was very depressed.

But I do think that I don’t always recognize that I am angry, not right away. Or, even if I am angry, I don’t know what to do about it. And looking back on the early big anxiety attacks I had, the ones that stick in my mind, I was angry about something and didn’t know what to do with it.

So, I don’t know. It’s also taking a long time to get through it–and I’ve not even started the exercises, the “workbook” part of it; I’m just reading–because it’s bringing up a lot of feelings I’m not sure what to do with. And I’m sure my defensiveness about the book is tied with that.

Sleeping Beauty

Since it’s allergy season here in Nashville and also “40 one day, 80 the next” season, I was sniffling and sneezing last night, just a little bit. I took some nighttime cold medicine, hoping to knock it out. I went to bed a little before 10.

I think I got up at some point in the middle of the night to pee. And then I didn’t wake up again until I heard the dog barking at something outside at 9 a.m. this morning! All the shit I was supposed to get done this morning? Apparently not.

But here’s what I wanted to ask y’all. I have suspected that, since I started taking the crazy pills, that other drugs work different on me. Like, this scenario a year ago, I might have slept in until 7:30 or so, but today I could have kept sleeping. Soundly. I literally only woke up because of the dog. Who knows how long I might have slept?

And, in the past, when I had a headache, I would just go ahead and take three pills, even though the dose is only two, because two never worked. Now two work.

And, and I’ve had to cut way back on my sugar intake because too much sugar especially on an empty stomach makes me feel really gross, which I think may mean that something is happening different with the metformin.

I will also be asking my endocrinologist about this, but I wonder if this is common. I mean, it makes sense to me that all these things should be interconnected. But man, it also seems like it would be really fucking hard to ever really figure out what was wrong with anyone. Like, why would you treat PCOS with an anti-depressant, and yet, I can tell it’s changing a lot of things in my body.

I guess what I’m feeling is that part of having an endocrine disorder probably means that all my body chemistry is a little out of wack. And you start trying to bring any of it into wack and it’s going to affect all kinds of things.

But man, it also makes me wonder, do they ever check people with depression for endocrine disorders? Like, once your body chemistry is wonky, do they ever check to see how wonky? I mean, no one has for me. I’m just finding this stuff out as I stumble across it, but it has me thinking.

But shit, I need to go shopping.

Slowly Getting the Rhythm

Regardless of how much I think I do around the house, I have to admit that I’m not yet in the rhythm of doing my things and the things the Butcher used to do. I could have spent all weekend just trying to get house things done, but instead I also hung out with friends, met a puppy, and watched most of Wrestlemania.

Yesterday, I got down on the ground so that the puppy could climb all over me, and when I tried to get up, I got the hugest charlie horse. I thought I was just going to have to live on the ground or maybe roll over to the steps.

And the rest of the day, that spot was really tender.

I thought that letting a puppy climb all over me would be smelled as instant, unforgivable betrayal by Sonnyboy, but he did not seem to care in the least.

Anyway, I wish I had today off to do stuff around the house, but alas, work calls. I think I’m just going to have to do better about doing stuff in the evenings after work and also getting enough sleep.

I expected to be lonelier, but the animals won’t even let me be alone. Everyone has to sit on me or near me or sleep with me. I get chaperoned everywhere in the house.

I think once they realize that the Butcher is still around, just not sleeping here, it will be easier.

Anxiety with Insight

So, I went to the therapist yesterday. She seems good. I mean, we’ll see how it goes, but so far I like her. I told her that one of the things I find so frustrating about this is that I know what my problems are. I have good smarty-pants friends. We sit around and hash and rehash stuff and try to understand it.

And I have always placed my faith in the belief that knowledge is freeing. So, as you know, it’s frustrated me a great deal that I can’t just think my way out of this or understand it into stopping. And she said that there are two broad general categories of anxiety–anxiety with insight and anxiety without. And basically, I fall into the first category of someone who has given a lot of thought to this and kind of understands how I tick.

But that wasn’t the interesting part (except to reassure me that I’m right to seek help because if this is something I could fix on my own, it would be fixed, because I’ve devoted enough mental energy to it).

No, so I was talking to her about how frustrating and scary it is to be in the middle of a panic attack and to have my rational mind saying “Everything is fine. Nothing bad is happening to you.” and have my body doing what it wants anyway, as if something bad is happening. Because it seems pretty straight forward–you’ve mistakenly thought something bad was happening. You realize your mistake. You stop responding as if something bad is happening. How hard can that be? And yet, that doesn’t work.

But she was explaining what’s actually happening in the brain and it blew my mind! The thing isn’t just that there’s a mistaken bad trigger. It’s that, in avoiding the bad thing, you make a positive connotation with the thing you do to avoid it and then, in doing the thing you do to avoid the bad thing over and over again, it reinforces in your brain how great it is to do the avoidance thing. Does this make sense?

Let me try a concrete example. I have panic attacks when I go up the stairs in my building so I take the elevator instead. I have been thinking of the “taking the elevator” part as having no intrinsic value. But no, the hundreds of times I have taken the elevator without panic have developed in my brain a pathway of positive experience. So, the panic attack serves not just to keep me from the action my brain has decided is negative, but to push me toward the soothing behavior. So, it’s not simply “You can’t take the stairs.” It’s also “Man, wouldn’t this be so much easier if you took the elevator? Isn’t the elevator awesome? No troubles on the elevator, man. Just go for the elevator. DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS MY GOD DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS. But wow, the elevator is cool.”

So, when I’m freaked out about, say, standing on the edge of a drop, my brain isn’t saying “don’t get closer or you’ll fall and die.” It’s saying, “MY GOD WOMAN, STEP BACK SO YOU DON’T DIE.” And then, when I do step back, boom, pleasure and relief.

If I’m understanding what she’s saying, the panic attack isn’t just about keeping me from doing a thing my brain has decided is negative–therefore it’s just a matter of showing my brain that the negative connotation is a mistake–it’s also about pushing me into an experience that is positive–in that it relieves my anxiety.

Now, I think I see why some people believe anxiety and OCD are similar. I do have these kinds of relieving behaviors. They’re not as extreme as “I have to check the lock exactly seven times before I can leave the house or I can’t be sure it’s really locked,” because I usually just have to do one thing once. And it’s not as noticeable as “I have to touch every lamppost or my mom will die,” because the positive action is very closely linked to the negative thing I’m avoiding.

But man, understanding that the panic attacks and the anxiety are not just about avoiding negative outcomes but shifting me toward relief is kind of blowing my mind.  Like, yeah, that makes sense with my experience and it explains why it’s so fucking hard to deal with–there are two things going on, not just one.

Anyway, there is also homework! Which I find delightful, but also, man, trying to figure out what all my triggers are…I mean, just on my walk this morning, I realized I hate walking across bridges on the greenways. And I just don’t do it. Like, I’d forgotten that I just don’t do that anymore. So, I’m going to have to do some digging to see what else I’ve just cut myself off from and then, whew, problem solved, forgotten about.

Nerves

Today I see the therapist for the first time and huge scary storms are rolling through this evening. I’ve already made the executive decision that my department is going to close early so we can get home before the weather hits.

But if the behavior of the dog can be used to predict the severity of the storms, his squirrelly-assed behavior this morning makes me think it’s going to be pretty bad.

Also worrisome was how there was both a really hot breeze and a really cold breeze and I wanted both to take my jacket off and wished I’d brought a heavier one.

Family Time

I’m not saying that I’m feeling anxious about much of my family descending on Middle Tennessee for the wedding, but I dreamed that one of my cousins was running around the reception demanding we all weigh ourselves publicly so that we would all know our “health.”

I have been trying to reassure myself with a constant mantra of how awesome I am and then a listing of my accomplishments. But it doesn’t matter. I love my family, but they don’t give a shit. So, it’s not really a good defense. Am I still fat and ugly? Well, then, there you go. No one loves you, but us. And how could they, really?

The fucked up thing is that I’m not even sure how much that narrative comes from the outside and how much of it is internal, but triggered by the presence of my family. Like, I keep thinking of Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia, which I know I talk about all the time, but it really has influenced my thinking on a lot of things.

Anyway, in the book, Walker talks about how conspiracy theories are self-reinforcing no matter what. “Evidence” such as it is proves the theory. The lack of “evidence” just proves that the conspiracy is wider than you realized and that they have allies to help hide shit. And it’s apparently nearly impossible to get someone to give up a conspiracy theory (if it’s going to happen, basically, it’s because belief in the conspiracy by the conspiracist becomes untenable for some reason that’s incredibly hard to predict and not usually sparked from the outside).

And the thing I’ve slowly come to realize is that, even if it is true, my conspiracy theory that I am fat, ugly, obnoxious, kind of suck at everything, and unlovable is just that–a conspiracy theory. I find evidence of it in the words and actions of my family. My belief in it is reinforced even when they’re nice to me, as if they’re being nice to me because my situation is so unfortunate. And like any good conspiracy theory, it has a great ability to withstand logic and evidence to the contrary. Others cannot talk me out of it or provide enough outside evidence to shake my belief.

And as much as I am starting to see intellectually what’s going on here, I’m still feeling hella anxious and worried about how the weekend is going to go. Whatever it’s going to take for me to find the belief in this conspiracy theory untenable in my bones hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t know. I don’t really have a point other than that understanding is not always cathartic. I understand my situation, but it hasn’t freed me from it.

If You’re Not Salty, What Are You Worth?

My parents always call me on Tuesdays, on their way home from dinner with my grandma. Last night, they wanted to talk about their friends who they’d seen recently and my dad was on a tear about how abusive–his word–they are to their daughters-in-law. “We all know [our ex-in-law], but I don’t blame her at all for [my brother] being a jackass. That’s his choice.” Which I thought was funny, but it also makes me sad. Why do my parents hang out with these people they think are terrible?

My cousin is still made that my other cousin came to her town and didn’t see her dad. The Butcher has done the same thing and that’s all right. But that’s probably not germane to my story. I think it’s been almost two years she’s been pissed about this. And I’m not saying I can’t hold a grudge. Y’all read me. You know how I am. But she’s not walking along all okay and then something brings it up and she’s pissed again. She’s actively still trying to litigate this and get people on her side and…like…whoa. It’s tedious and disturbing and sad. And she’s wrong, which also may be beside the point. But why is she still so actively engaged with being pissed? I suspect it’s not that my other cousin didn’t stop to see her dad. But that, unlike the Butcher, he didn’t stop to see her.

Third, I know a person who is well-respected in his profession and extremely well-respected in his hobby and who has incredible opportunities based on his hobby and, I mean, really cool shit. Radio interviews, displays at local museums, etc. And he’s still really hung up on whether or not these people he wants to respect him do. And based on some imagined slights he’s decided they do not and so everything he’s accomplished seems to not feel like a sufficient enough victory.

In all three cases, it seems to me that the people involved do not see their own worth. Don’t believe that they can have happiness and good friends or that their accomplishments count without the right validation.

And maybe this is myopic on my part, but I’m trying to learn to be happy. Which means finding a way to heal–and not just top off–the gaping hole in my soul that can’t be filled. So, I observe carefully the ways that hole tricks people into continuing to feed it.