the junk drawer — it begins.

this is not an overhaul. this is a de-junking. i am not salvaging from the rubble the pieces of healthy habits and coping mechanisms. i am excavating. i am brushing off the dirt to reveal things that once lived here.

i don’t have so much to change. i have so much, already. all that needs to be done is to wipe off the grime that has caked itself around what i have to work with. grime that has made everything unrecognizable, but that – with the right tools – is easily removed.

this is my metaphorical teeth-cleaning?

cleaning out the junk drawer takes some time. we are going to start out with 100 days, and then re-evaluate where we are at that point in time. so, call this the 100 days of de-junking.

this is day 1: i know how to make food.

i have historically had a difficult time feeding myself. i am an expert when it comes to staring at the pantry, and then the fridge, and then the cupboard, and then back to the pantry. looking at the ingredients and turning them into a meal? that’s something i have struggled with. but, it turns out that i really do know how to make food. in fact, i know how to make food that also tastes good. amazing. today’s lunch was pretty low-key in terms of preparation. but it contained some good veggies, whole grains, fruit, and some protein. those are the important food groups, right? let it be known, world, that i can feed myself, after all.

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My Sandwich of Awesome: mustard, spinach, tomatoes, black olives, alfalfa sprouts, and pickles on whole grain bread.

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My Sandwich of Awesome, carrots, celery w/ peanut butter, banana, and glass of water. This constitutes lunch.

Nightmares.

I haven’t been very dedicated to taking my meds. Jennifer reminded me last night that I have to take them consistently, in order for them to work. I am on a few different meds. One for the anxiety. One for the sleep issues. One for the nausea caused by the other two, and to help with the migraines. One or a combination of them results in crazy nightmares that leave me feeling paranoid in a different sense than how I usually feel. So, I haven’t been incredibly diligent in taking them, thinking that the nightmares would go away.

Nooooope.

They are always the same. I’ve invested a fair amount of time and effort trying to ensure someone else’s safety. Then whatever was after said someone else comes after me, and I am left to my own devices. I pace through my mom’s house, my old schools, my old church buildings, my workplace, waiting for the arrival of some terrible force that is dedicated to my demise. The building that has become my fortress of safety starts to turn against me, with locks breaking and walls disappearing and windows shattering–making my fortress significantly less fortified. I call for help, and no one comes. I think about the people in my life who have inspired and believed in me (a group consisting mostly of previous teachers/instructors/professors), and wonder how they are doing. One of them shows up to tell me how I have become a disappointment, and the people who are after me arrive just after the disappointed person leaves. They talk for a great length of time about how I am all alone, a disappointment to everyone, replaceable, forgettable, and all alone. No one is going to help me. And then I wake up.

Dear Subconscious. Calm down. I don’t need my mind’s daily preoccupations magnified in Dream Land. What happened to dreaming about unrequited love or vacations on a Grecian Island someplace? Let us return to that place, yes?

Yes.

For the sake of my sanity.

In other news, I am looking for a place to go hiking. Jennifer and I are trying this new thing, where we do physical activity. Apparently it is supposed to have health benefits. I am skeptical, but Jennifer seems pretty convinced. Either way, neither of us has been hiking in quite some time. Do you think any of the snow has melted in the mountains, yet?

Me either.

In the words of Martin Freeman: We’re going on an adventure!

My Stewing Brain.

I hate the word “blessed.” It feels like a passive reception of something, rather than the result of actions. However, I do not have another word to quite convey what I am feeling.

I am blessed, I guess, to be in the company of good people.

In reality, I am not blessed. I have worked hard to make and keep the company of good people–their presence was not bestowed upon me.

But I have good people. And for that, I am grateful.

 

I am freaking out. About finals. I have so much to write, and my new meds make writing very, very difficult.

Oh, yes. In the month where I was absent, I became medicated. Good for my sanity. Terrible for my productivity. I am tired and sweaty all the time, but showing signs of decidedly less crazy. That, and excruciating pain has become tolerable and, at points, even ignorable.

But, I am freaking out. I have developed a drug-induced narcolepsy. Brain decides that any intellectual excitement should be coped with through naptime. I am an adult. I need my naptime.

So, I sleep. And I eat, occasionally. I sit down to write, and my brain refuses to cooperate. So, I blog about my brain being uncooperative–which feels sort of like brain cooperation, until I pause the blogging and return to paper-writing. Nooooope. Zero cooperation.

Brain? You suck.

I was hoping to be done writing by Tuesday, and that is not going to be a possibility. But it needs to be. Because I NEED THE BREAK. Only get a few days off, and I need every one of them to calm. the. frick. down. Read a book that I want to read, so I can remember why, in the name of all that is salty and crunchy, I decided to major in ENGLISH. Perhaps spend some time baking. Plant some herbs. Watch terrible comedies and laugh so hard that I cry. Break.

From my brain.

And then there is the part where I cannot SEE. I mean, I have dealt with vertigo-ish sensations throughout the majority of my life. I get dizzy. A lot. No. I had never known real dizzy until these new meds.

And the migraines get more frequent. And everything I eat makes me feel like there is a monster clawing at my stomach lining. (Truth be told, that could just be an ulcer. Or two. Or three. Anxiety.) And my panic attacks get more intense, albeit less frequent.

But I don’t feel like dying. And some of the sleep I get actually feels like sleep. And I am in better spirits, overall. These things have not happened in years.

It feels good.

So, I keep taking the friggin meds. And I blame my inability to focus on the fact that there is something wrong with my pituitary gland — even though I know my pituitary gland is not the part of my brain that makes writing happen.

But, since there is obviously something wrong with that part, too, I like to pretend.

Minimize the parts of my brain that are seriously messed up, you know?

Passion.

I am sitting in the hallway, just outside my classroom. I am nervous as all broken-loose hell, because I have a presentation to give today. On Joan Didion.

I love Didion.

This is my problem: in all my academic endeavors, I choose to write and present on topics that are close to my heart. I read myself into the readings I am assigned. I would stop it if I could–actually, it is what makes me so passionate about my work. Which is a good trait to have. Passion.

It also makes me nervous about everything I hand in. I never just hand in some random rant on something that doesn’t have any pertinence to my life. I cannot compose things that I cannot connect to my own life in some way. That is just the mode in which my brain functions.

So. I am nervous. Because I am passionate about things. About school. About writing. About composing my own story. About Joan Didion and how she has composed her own story.

*taking deep breaths*

Wish me luck.

Pro-crastination.

My mother got me a Zen Garden for Christmas.

It sits in its box, on my desk that functions as a dresser. I haven’t quite settled in to my “new” abode–force of habit, living out of boxes.

But, today, I wish I had it set up. I am sick, and tired, in the way that an anxiety overload makes one sick, and tired. I need some way to calm down. My coping method of crawling into the fetal position and sleeping for a few hours doesn’t seem to be helping me in the productivity department. I just need to clear my head.

103 pages to write. Two semesters’ worth of work. Seven days. Ready…go!

I just want to read Joan Didion essays. Once I get started, the writing will go smoothly. The getting started part is the problem.

C’mon, brain. Kick it into gear. Whatever “it” is. That cool productivity thing that makes us write copious pages of intelligent stuff.

Ready…go!

Something Clever about Eyes and Beholders.

Hi kids. It has been a while. A long while, I know. I have been thinking about you. Often. Life moves at such a neck-breaking pace, and I can barely keep up. I have so much to tell you, and no words to communicate. But things need to get out of my head. So. Here goes:

Since we last spoke, I went to the Land of Happiness and returned. I got a t-shirt with Maleficent’s face on it because she is, by far, the greatest Disney villain. I usually don’t root for the villains, but she’s so elegant and her monotone voice is somewhat intoxicating. That, and she turns into a friggin dragon. Take that, Captain Hook.

I went to the beach. I hate the beach. Sand is like glitter, in that it never goes away and you find it in places you didn’t put it. The ocean is dirty, and smelly, and I arrived at the beach thinking about my genetic predisposition to melanoma. Pass the spf 4000, please. But then I laid my body and my brain down on a blanket. I closed my eyes and just listened to the waves. For a brief moment, I was peaceful. Not at peace–I don’t know that I am capable of “at peace.” But peaceful. Someday, I hope to live next to the ocean. Someplace with more cliffs and less sand than Newport Beach, but someplace where I can listen to God’s easy listening playlist…if God were a concept my mind could entertain, and easy listening were differentiated from musak. God wouldn’t condone using the ocean as a Kenny G metaphor.

Speaking of God, I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic for him. Him? I really don’t know. Deity is an abstract idea that does not fit in my brain, though I have spent a lifetime pushing and shoving and folding it, hoping it will fit in one of my boxes. Instead, I have music and language that bring me a sense of belonging and a glimpse of something divine. But then Easter comes, and General Conference weekend, and I remember the times when my appreciation for those moments were more than academic. But who I was and who I am are separate people, with others between us, and it would be silly to wish to be someone other than who I am.

But I do it anyway, somedays.

Like today.

Today, I wish I were Beautiful.

I have been reading Joan Didion again, preparing for a presentation I am giving next week. I think, foolishly, some days that I could be a writer. And then I read Didion and I collapse at her feet. Please, Joan. Teach me to mold language the way you do. Teach me to speak, and not just talk, as I put words on paper.

And I read blog posts talking about conventional notions of beauty, and how campaigns designed to make women understand that they are more beautiful than they think they are still teach women that they are only important insofar as they are beautiful. And I say, “Yes. YES.” and Jennifer looks over to see what I’ve become so emphatic about. I tell him, and we agree that the point is spot-on.

And then I lay there, staring at his ceiling while he naps and I fixate. What would I be willing to trade, to be beautiful? What would I give to have someone tell me that even when I show up on their doorstep at 2am, head bowed, eyes filled with tears, feeling so pitiful and vulnerable and heavy that my knees barely support my weight, that I am a beautiful person? Conventional definitions be damned; I just want someone to think, somehow, that I am beautiful.

I am certain that this desire stems from years of abuse. If I were uncertain, the many mental health professionals I’ve sat across from would certainly make it certain for me. I know. I’m broken, and I am trying to build a new self from the shards of old ones.

But people are like gardens, and they need to be nurtured. And while some may think that they are a secret garden, flourishing because of their attentiveness to themselves and their own needs, I prefer to think of people as public gardens. The words and actions of all who pass through contribute or detract from the well-being of the garden proper.

And discrediting the source of my desire does not make it any less real.

I am feeling self-conscious, as I am trying to figure out — for the first time in my life — what it means to be my own person. Freedom is a lot of work, and the work is terrifying. This is me, asking help of no one in particular. Writing crappy similes about gardens and people and being beautiful.

Maybe I should try sleeping.

I want to keep writing, because I am trying to convince myself that if I keep typing, something worthwhile will come out. That the Joan Didion in me will come out to play.

Speaking of coming out, I’m queer. Part of putting new me together is actually being me, and me happens to be “bisexual” but prefers, simply, queer. Don’t tell my mom, or my brothers, because I don’t think I’m ready for them to know and I don’t know how to tell them. If you are reading this and happen to be my mom or one of my brothers, I am perfectly happy if you go on pretending you don’t know, and would appreciate you not telling anyone else? Cool. Thanks.

And on that slightly awkward note, I think I will bid you adieu for the time-being. Did I tell you Jennifer is teaching me how to speak French? Well. Jennifer is teaching me how to speak French. I can conjugate ten-ish verbs, and ask, “Comment dit-on ____?” Or, how does one say <insert English word/phrase here, in the hopes that Jennifer will respond with the French equivalent.> I have to be somewhat fluent in French before I can go to grad school (and I have to publish, present at some conferences, write something that can be used as a writing sample, and finish a few more semesters in one piece).

Beautiful.

In Stereo.

Somedays it is all I can do to keep from bursting. I feel…that’s just it. I feel. Everything. So intensely that being conscious is a burden and sleeping is a piss-poor respite. I’m learning things. I love the sound of breathing. Listening to someone inhale, and then exhale, as they sleep. Me, brain moving at mach 5 and hyper-aware of every sound. Car doors slamming. Footsteps. Doors opening and closing. Cursing from neighbors. Rain on the windowpane. Everything in stereo, and I don’t know how to tell it to be quiet without also disturbing the music–inhale, and then exhale. I’m learning that loving and being in love are not the same thing. I don’t know if I believe in being in love. But I believe in loving. And I’m so full of feeling that I might burst. I just want to give and give and give until there’s nothing left…and maybe then I can learn to take some for myself. To ask. To nuance. Maybe then I will be healed, and whole, and I can listen to the breathing, the music, without panicking that it is only a matter of time before it goes away again and I am left alone, in silence.

Body Talk.

My body is telling me to drop out of school. It is tired. It needs sleep. I don’t get sleep when I go to school.

I’ve always had weird sleeping problems. I can’t fall asleep. When I do fall asleep, I’m only half-asleep. When I wake up, I feel like I never slept. In fact, I felt more rested before I went to sleep than I do when I wake up. It’s always been like this, to some degree. But it’s gotten worse with time.

I think it’s my anxiety. I was talking with a friend (I’d like to call her a friend, so I’m going to do so) and classmate today about what stress can do to a body. My anxiety has been poorly managed for…how old am I?…21-7=…14 years, but it’s been especially disastrous throughout my collegiate experience. Oh, the school part of college rocks. It’s my sanctuary. Where I’m in my element. Et cetera. It’s the part where I’m no longer involved in newspaper/band/theatre/volunteering/church…also known as the part where my anxiety is no longer sublimating into being involved in EVERYTHING. And something about six years of 4-hour-a-night sleeping habits that caught up with me, and demanded I start sleeping at precisely the time when people stop sleeping: college.

Not sleeping does terrible things to your brain. Especially when your brain is already messed up.

When I was 7, my hair was falling out in massive chunks. I’m talking about adult-sized fistfuls, each time my mom would comb it. I had very thin, slow-growing hair to begin with, so we were worried. Went to a dermatologist. Had some blood work done to check my thyroid, which came back as negative for any abnormalities. (A foreshadowing of every other blood test for the rest of my life, apparently.) And in the same nonchalant, self-assured manner as every other physician I’ve seen in this lovely state, the dermatologist said, “Hm. Well. It’s probably just stress. Have a nice life.” “Um, she’s 7. What could she possibly be stressed about?” was my mother’s annoyed reply.

Precursor to the rest of my life. Things are wrong with my body, but we can’t figure out why. It probably is a result of stress. Untreated anxiety disorders galore.

But it’s SO DIFFICULT to find good help for anxiety, or depression, or PTSD resulting from something other than military service. And if good help is to be had, it is expensive. Can I afford expensive? Of course not. And I’m not interested in playing musical therapists until I find a good “fit” if I’m going to have to pay out the nose the entire time.

I went to the doctor in January of last year, complaining about migraines and sleep issues and an average of 16 panic attacks a week and suicidal thoughts. So. Like my life now, without the inexplicable, debilitating pain. Doctor thought that seizure medication would be a good solution. I’ve never had a seizure. I haven’t been to see her since.

My current primary physician doesn’t believe in prescribing me anything. Of all my visits to the doctor since November, four of them were made specifically because I was in excruciating amounts of pain and I didn’t know what to do. I go to the doctor and we discuss why this may be the case. RA or Lupus — the ultimate in masochism is an autoimmune disease. MS — I’m a high-risk candidate. Fibromyalgia — that label they assign you when they don’t know what the hell the problem is. Each time, I’m told to take some ibuprofen and come back in a few weeks.

When my face froze, the hospital gave me some Lortab for the pain I was experiencing, in the hopes that lowering my pain would help me sleep. A double dose succeeded in barely taking off the edge of the pain I was in. I was high as a friggin kite (opioid highs are the best highs) but I wasn’t free from pain.

I stopped taking ibuprofen because I was beginning to be concerned about how my anxiety and my college-student diet and my ibuprofen use were affecting my stomach lining.

I don’t sleep because I’m in pain. And when I’m not in pain, I barely sleep. So my body is telling me to drop out of school.

One year from now, I’ll be in my final baccalaureate semester. Hooray! And then I’ll have a whole year of being able to sleep. And getting my anxiety under control. And then it’s back to school. For another 5…7…10 years of intense course load and little sleeping.

So, hush, body. You present a convincing argument, but I won’t be persuaded. Be nice to me, help me make it through one more year, and then we’ll go on an extended north pole vacation. You know. Where it’s dark for 18 hours a day.

Totally conducive to sleeping.

Titled.

I used to have a blog, different from this one, that I loved because most of the words weren’t mine. The titles of all my posts were derived from the lyrics of songs. The content dealt with ideas that had spent so much time inside boxes, inside my brain, that I couldn’t remember life without them–but they weren’t my words. I found myself feeling uncomfortable in class today because people were discussing their lives. Their words. I hastily redirected the conversation to the text at hand.

I have always had trust issues.

Today, I received feedback on a paper I wrote. I got an A. I panic when instructors hand back papers. I consciously slow my breathing as I read through the comments and see the grade I have…have earned? Have been assigned? I am surprised each time I get an A. I am vastly disappointed each time I don’t.

Jennifer told me that I need to write. I told Mom. She told me, “Duh.”

But it doesn’t feel that way, you know? I spend hours agonizing over the terrible quality of papers I have yet to compose. Each piece I write is the worst thing I have ever written. And I’m no writer. Other people are writers. I am simply…a person who writes. Writing is something I do. It is not who I am.

But it is.

But it isn’t.

I don’t know how. How does one write? How does one go about becoming a writer?

I thought, momentarily, about choosing a Creative Writing emphasis instead of a Literary Studies one. I abandoned the former because, in the latter, the words are not mine.

It is not me who is lying there on the desk, being poked and prodded and dissected and reconstituted. I am the one poking and prodding and dissecting and reconstituting. I am the reactionary.

Maybe someday I will be one of those healthy, anxiety-free people who can take being pared down with a grain of salt. I hear those people exist, but I think it’s a myth. In the meantime, I’ll stay trapped inside my skull, paralyzed with fear at the prospect of spending my life doing this thing I love–and perhaps one day being good at it.

Here goes.

Sob Story.

Today was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Technically it was yesterday. But, I haven’t slept yet. So, it’s still today.

I won’t go into all the details. Something about the possibility of being kicked out, mixed with a 16-hour panic attack, mixed with midterms, mixed with the inability to focus because of the pain, which is exacerbated by the anxiety, which is exacerbated by the insomnia, which is exacerbated by midterms and the possibility of being kicked out.

So, earlier this evening, I hopped in my car and headed north. I called my mom, and asked if I could come hang out for a few hours. Aaaaand…I promptly broke down and sobbed my way through a five-minute phone conversation. Mom told me to come on over.

I probably should have been doing homework. But, I couldn’t think straight and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything accomplished if I just went home and stared at my computer screen. So, I drove to my mom’s house so I could get in a good venting session and get a therapeutic hug or two.

When I was a teenager, I never imagined my relationship with my mom would be like this. I remember so much fighting between us, and I just wanted my mom to have my back. Then again, my relationship with my mom has always been like this, and she has always been the only person to have my back.

It’s been a rough go. I’ve seen a lifetime of pain and sadness in my short 21 years; a lifetime I would never wish on anyone. And through it all, my mom has had my back. It typically isn’t in the way I want her to. She makes sure I know when I’m being irrational or when my world is falling apart because I’M the stupid one. Some days, it’s precisely the way I want her to. Like today, when she let me just ramble on for three hours, and told me that it isn’t me who is overreacting. But whatever the circumstances, and however “in the loop” she is about the situation, I can count on her to be my shoulder to cry on and to give me that reassuring hug that let’s me know she’s in my corner, no matter what.

She helps get me out of my head long enough to do a bit of regrouping. Which I appreciate, because heaven knows I can no longer get out of my head by myself.

Anyway. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And then it became a little less terrible, and a little more bearable.

Thanks, Mom.