Recovery

Trigger warning: mental illness, depression

Recovery is a strange thing. It doesn’t really seem to matter what it is you’re recovering from – an illness, injury, or loss – the process is more or less the same. I suppose the five stages of grief would apply in a lot of cases, possibly even mine. Anyone who has dealt with the five stages knows that the stages aren’t linear, they aren’t predictable, and you spend a lot of time repeating them. Eventually you come out on the other side, some other side, be it a good one or a bad one, and you learn to live a changed life.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with chronic depression. It was neither surprising nor pleasant to hear. Depression is something that has lurked around my life for a very long time. I have several definitive moments in my life that are filed under I Will Never Forget This Moment:

1. The hell of 8th grade – something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy
2. The day I was walking to work in college and realized I was depressed
3. The past three months (give or take)

Having dealt with depression for so long has made it a grim sort of companion for me. It is always nearby and it has, for a majority of my life, ebbed and flowed quite gently. Some drops were more difficult than others but they always ended and I could get back to some sort of even keel.

Then the even keel disappeared. Any semblance of balance and rationality left with it. Then my concentration exited the building. All of it, anything I had inside, was then replaced by a very dark fog. I began having panic attacks. I stopped cleaning. Stopped cooking. Stopped caring. I pushed through the week just to get to the weekend, and then I spent the weekend crying on the couch, wrapped in my blankets, and wondering how I’d get through another week.

I stopped sleeping. I went to bed very late, woke up very early. I became obsessive. I listened to the same song for hours on end, all day and all night, for a week. It began affecting every corner of my life. Every single corner.

There was a breaking point, as there almost always is with stuff like this. I am fortunate to be surrounded by supportive and kind people who understand, who help when they can. And then I decided, after another Saturday spent terrified and panicked and fragile on my couch, that I couldn’t do it anymore.

I needed help.

There are many, many layers to this story. Many chapters I could write, many things I could tell you about all of these journeys and experiences, but that’s not my intention for this blog or this blog post. (And seriously, it’s just way too…what’s the word? Depressing.)

The short version: my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant and it’s working. I noticed a change within two days. I started humming one morning when I got to work. I was putting my things away and what? Why am I humming? Like, I don’t even want to stop! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

It was followed by quite possibly the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had in my life (and THIS, my friends, is finally the point of this blog post). I didn’t hate writing anymore. In fact, I was kind of infatuated with it. Well, not so much the IT of writing but the IDEA of writing, and that’s huge. The tummy tickle happiness and freedom that I used to feel when I thought about writing came back. I don’t know when it left. I don’t know when I turned that corner. I do know that it was like someone had severed one of my limbs. My identity has been, for the longest time, tied up in writing.

I know, it’s weird that I’m that way. The audience who gets to see anything I write is handpicked and even then, you kind of have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. And then there’s that whole I rarely even write anymore, I’ve never had anything published, and I have very little desire to even TRY to get something published thing. Everyone has her process, amirite?

Ah, yes. Writing. Writing! I’ve missed it over the past however many years it has been missing from my life. The void is not completely filled in yet and there is still so much more I need to do in terms of myself and my writing (and a million other things), but there is a spark of hope. A tiny blip of light, like a single firefly in a giant field.

It’s the first step of Recovery. That’s what I’ve taken to calling the gentle breaking in of my atrophied writing muscles: Recovery. It started on Sunday with something horrible and elementary and a moment of sheer frustration where I wanted to throw my laptop out the window, but I took a deep breath, reminded myself that a lot of crappy gunk is going to come out first and that later, down the road a bit, better and cleaner things will appear.

So baby steps into Recovery. It all starts here.

ANGRY TYPING

Trigger warning: rape, rape culture

 

I just read something on Tumblr about Daniel Tosh that I wish I could erase from my consciousness. Like, seriously it made me so angry that I have indigestion. INDIGESTION. CAUSED BY DANIEL EFFING TOSH. This guy is, for a lack of a better word, a total piece of shit. You know, hahaha rape jokes are soooooooooooooooo funny, man. I still haven’t figured out WHY they’re funny, just that a lot of people (A LOT OF PEOPLE) find them SUPER HILARIOUS.

And you know what’s the absolute killer thing about Daniel Tosh’s unending rape joke schtick? Statistically, he knows women who have been raped. And to stand on stage and make money JOKING about it? Are you effing KIDDING ME? What could you possibly be accomplishing with that aside from adding to your piles of money and teaching other people that it is TOTALLY fine to mock and laugh at rape and rape victims? Someone said he was probably satirizing rape. Um. Satire only works if you’re good at using it, douchebag. And if that’s your idea of satire, lord help us all.

Seriously though, Daniel Tosh cannot fade into obscurity quickly enough. And sadly enough, I doubt that’s going to happen because too many people find abusive, mean, and wildly inappropriate and vile humor appealing. It’s a sad, disgusting commentary on our culture.

When baseball and reality collide

TRIGGER WARNING: mental illness, anxiety

 

The buzz among the Giants faithful today was the placement of Aubrey Huff on the 15-day DL. The reason? Anxiety. When I saw the first message about this, my heart sank for several reasons. First, because people are douchebags who will be really, really mean about this, and second, because I am intimate with anxiety.

People are Douchebags

It’s common knowledge for most people who use the internet with any frequency, but some people just aren’t aware that you should never read the comments. On anything. Ever. (Except on this blog!) Comment sections are where the lowest of the low go to wield their imaginary internet schlongs around so we all know that they exist. And that vague pronoun is vague on purpose. These are the people who will blatantly ignore an entire article or blog post just so they can submit a dissertation on the exact opposite point of the article/post. Or they submit a dissertation that proves the article’s/post’s point perfectly.

I was surprised when I started seeing mentions here and there about Giants fans and “are we going to be stereotypical or are we going to stop being dicks and start being Giants fans?” Sigh. Cool it with the jokes. This is a serious matter. Which brings me to point numero dos.

I Am Intimate With Anxiety

I will not divulge details but I have dealt with anxiety and panic disorders both personally and with loved ones for years. As I’ve grown to know anxiety and its aftermath, I’ve become more aware of its non-stop presence in my world. Friends of friends suffer from panic attacks, musicians I love experience crippling stage fright, baseball players I get frustrated with crumble under the weight of stress caused by high intensity jobs.

I wouldn’t wish a panic attack on anyone. I had a fairly horrendous one a few weeks ago, and I’m still trying to recover from it. Anxiety is no joke. When people I have a particular interest in – yes, even baseball players – get struck down by something so silent and insidious, my heart hurts. I am a fixer. A caretaker. If there’s a problem, yo I’ll solve it*. I’d love to give Aubrey a hug (I excel at enveloping), make him some tea, and just sit quietly nearby in case he needs more tea or a new movie in the DVD player or someone to talk to. Because I’ve been there and it’s terrifying and you ARE alone, because no one can be in your panic with you, but sometimes people can be BESIDE your panic and that can help an awful lot.

Whatever Aubrey Huff is dealing with is none of our business until he makes it our business. I hope he’s able to identify the trigger and work to resolve it. I hope he’s given the space he needs to figure it all out. Anxiety and panic disorders cannot be rushed or ignored. And I hope when we finally see Aubrey on the field again, we let him know that we’re pulling for him and wish him nothing but the best.

I mean, c’mon. How can you not wish this guy well?

 

 

Baseball feels

 

*Earworm!

Writing is a love/hate sport

Sometimes it feels like a curse. Sometimes it feels like death is the only preferable option. Sometimes it feels like there’s an elephant on my chest or sand in my lungs. Sometimes the pain is exquisite, delicate and sharp behind my lungs, resting on my stomach. Sometimes the person trapped inside screams, thrashes herself bloody against the walls, retches until her sides split open and everything rotten inside pours out onto my floors.

Tonight it is dark, deep blue, velvet under my fingers. Tonight it is bittersweet, staring out a dark window into a dark night. Tonight is cutting out my heart with a dull knife. Tonight is cold, stale, filled to the corners with emptiness. Tonight is mourning a friend who turned out to be a stranger. Tonight is evidence and conjecture, tonight is hopeless. Tonight is unending.

*

I have a very volatile relationship with my writing. I have for a very, very long time. If pressed, I think I’d call it my longest, most emotionally unstable relationship ever. I’ve thrown it away, only to pick it back up ten minutes later. We’ve experienced uncomfortable alienation from time to time. At best, we are antagonistic toward one another these days.

The italicized bit up there is how I felt about writing last night. Tonight I feel less. Next to nothing. I can’t decide which night is worst: the one where words won’t come or the one where I am apathetic toward the process.

The void we’ll fill

You know what sucks about going to the internet for inspiration and workout routines? You can’t escape bullshit fitspo blogs, websites, and “advice”.  I say bullshit because it’s not fitspo (fitness inspiration), it’s just fat hatred or worse, pro-ana or pro-mia (pro anorexia or pro bulimia) stuff woven into talk about fitness. It’s frustrating when your goal isn’t to lose weight but rather to make your body function better. That’s all I want to do. I’m in my 30s now and that means things slow down a little and joints tighten up, and I don’t want to be hobbling around right NOW because what will that mean in twenty years?

The problem, again, is that almost every single place I look online for new workout ideas, I’m overwhelmed with WOULD YOU RATHER WORKOUT OR WOULD YOU RATHER BE A BIG FAT FATTY and honestly, as a big fat fatty, that kind of hurts my feelings. Because you know what? I have a really awesome life. It’s fulfilling and happy and more than I ever thought I’d achieve. The blanket assumption of fat = unhappy is annoying to many, many fat people. NEWSFLASH. We are not all miserable and hoping and praying that we’ll one day find the silver bullet to our fatness. No. Some of us are just fat. Deal with it.

Today I found this winner of an image on Pinterest and it REALLY PISSED ME OFF. Both of those things fit into my busy schedule. And because both of those things fit into my schedule, and the schedules of other fatties like me, my BFF and I are going to start a new blog. For exercising fatties. There will be no bullshit diet talk. There will be no YOU SHOULD EXERCISE TO BE THIN. There will be MOVE YOUR BODY IN ANYWAY YOU CAN BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD and EATING LOTS OF CALORIES IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT WHEN UNDERTAKING A DEMANDING WORKOUT REGIMEN. Because it is. OMG you guys it so is.

For years and years, I struggled with food. Being a woman, I was taught from a very young age that fat was not desirable or good in any way, shape, or form. It never came from my parents, a fact for which I am eternally grateful, but it came from pretty much every other source. Schoolmates, strangers, magazines. So I developed a really unhealthy relationship with food. I developed a really unhealthy obsession with not eating. Because one summer, I discovered that not eating worked really well at keeping the ol’ poundage off. I spent a lot of time beating myself up because I caved to my hunger pangs like some sort of pansy and then not only did I eat, I binged, and thus began the starve-binge-starve-binge-starve-binge cycle.

And then one day, I had had enough. I had just finished that stupid Special K diet (I advise you to never, under any circumstance, undertake that diet. You are starving yourself and depriving your body of seriously needed nutrients.) and I was sick. My BFF knows more about this because she witnessed it as an outsider but I was sick. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had had enough. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of tears, but I finally started to separate my thoughts about food from the act of eating.

It’s been years since that happened and it isn’t easy. Still. I slip back into it, especially when I’m stressed out, but I’m better at catching myself and making myself eat when I’m hungry. I eat as intuitively as I’m able (like, I’ve been craving shrimp for like two weeks and have yet to partake in any UGH I WANT SHRIMP SO BADLY) and ignore as much dieting talk as I can. Because when I listen or when I let it bore its way into my psyche, I fall off the wagon. I start restricting. I start craving the headache and the dizziness and the little thrum of adrenaline that shoots through my veins. And I can’t live like that.

So this is why we’re starting the blog. To give people a break from the diet talk. To talk about how to realistically workout when your goal is movement and not weight loss. To talk about how you will be hungry A LOT ALL OF THE TIME when you workout everyday. To talk about how you need to eat when you get hungry because otherwise you’re depriving your body of much-needed energy. Because it’s been a challenge for me, undertaking a workout routine and dealing with the onslaught of hunger. More than anything, it has taught me that I have so much farther to go in my battle against my disordered thinking. I wasn’t eating enough before. Most days I still don’t eat enough. I’m working on it, but I think that’s why our forthcoming blog is important. There are so many people like me who go online to find inspiration, help, or ideas, and they’re met with all of this fake fitspo that does more harm than good. And in the meantime, if you’re looking for someone to chat with about working out that doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss, send me an email!

My spoon is not too big

I used up all my spoons today. You’re going to have to Google that (I suggest pairing the terms ‘illness’ and ‘spoons’ for the best results) because I’m typing this on my phone. And that is because my spoons are all used up.

Here are some topics I’ve been thinking about writing on: mercy, weird things that happen when someone dies, Christmas traditions, whether or not I should send holiday cards this year, my life goals/bucket list, food.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I’m going to put my phone down now and get some rest. Hump Day!

A little of this, a little of that

A few thoughts before I head off to bed.

A very bad thing happened yesterday (which was also my father’s birthday, coincidentally) and I’ve been mulling it over since then. In case you were unaware, a man name Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. Regardless of the truth, a life was taken to avenge the taking of another life, and this logic doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand taking a life because a life was taken. I just don’t. It’s a hard thing to believe when so many horrible, soulless people walk the planet, people who don’t care about anyone or anything. It’s hard to see the light within, hard to believe that a life that values nothing is valuable to the universe. But it’s what I believe and strive to live. So I mourn the lives lost, innocent and otherwise, and do not glory in the loss of anyone. I said this a few other places online last night and I will repeat it here so it is known: if someone takes my life, do not take theirs.

**

Changing gears to baseball. Our Giants aren’t faring so well and tomorrow (Friday) is the day, more or less. Cain on the mound, a song in our hearts…or maybe just a little bit of fight buried deep down somewhere, which pushes us through to next Wednesday. We’re tired. We’re battered. We’re playing injured with lots of working parts that can’t seem to connect reliably. Electric Girl pointed out tonight that we went to four games this season, and that’s four more than last season, and that made me happy. Then we daydreamed about becoming the Giants Grannies in about 30 years, when we travel down to Arizona for spring training in our big motor home covered in Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Giants bumper stickers, and we scout the players and score games and during the regular season, we take care of our boys and bake them cookies and bring them soup when they don’t feel well. WE HAVE ACTIVE IMAGINATIONS. But it sounds like a nice way to spend my later years, don’t you think?

**

At the start of last weekend, or the beginning of this week (I can’t remember), I was laying on the floor and I moved to get up. I somehow slammed my big toe into the strip that divides the flooring of our entry and the carpet, and I split my toenail in two places in the middle. It didn’t chip off though, so I removed the nail polish I had on, made sure everything looked okay, and then repainted my toenails. After spending all week making sure I didn’t snag the nail on anything, I stopped paying attention for about five seconds and ripped off that piece of toenail. It didn’t really hurt for as much as it bled. And now my toenail looks terrifying. The worst part is that I can’t wear flip-flops tomorrow because I don’t have any bandaids. Well, I do. They’re in my car. So theoretically I could. Hmm…

**

We’re nearing my favorite time of year. October-December are the best months for me. I mean, I might have a new opinion on that because now I have baseball in my life, but I really can’t imagine anything thrilling me more than impending autumn. Dappled, golden light. Rain. Cooler temperatures. The smells. The sights. The crows that gather in the trees in Midtown at dusk. Fall is wonderful here. October is right around the corner. My favorite month!

Stay well, readers. Reflect on the gifts in your life. Smile at a stranger. Hug a loved one.

On second thought

I’m kind of glad I wasn’t home to watch the game today. OUCH, boys. Ouch. But it’s all good because August thumped us good last year and I love the Giants no matter what.

So while I lived in North Carolina, I missed California immensely. I missed the delta breeze, I missed the eucalyptus trees, I missed the smell of the ocean (doesn’t smell the same on the east coast). I missed San Francisco and the fog and the deceptive weather and the marine layer and the Financial District and the bridges, even though I have to white-knuckle it when I drive over them. I missed the palm trees and the rainy Novembers and I even missed Sacramento. Mostly I missed San Francisco. I spent hours on Google Earth, street viewing my favorite neighborhoods, looking at pictures and remembering things: sleeping in Washington Square Park, hiking up to Coit Tower with Meredith because we were stupid and AWESOME, standing under the Kerouac Alley sign outside City Lights, Matt Nathanson at the Swedish American, Matt Nathanson in Berkeley, Howie Day at the Fillmore, Dave Matthews Band at the Polo Field and the horrible Muni ride back to our BART station. I looked up real estate listings and apartment listings and daydreamed. Daydreamed of so many things. Wrote so many stories.

I had, for all intents and purposes, left my heart in San Francisco.

Now I’m back in California, settled in Sacramento, and I have not spent enough time in San Francisco. I haven’t spent ANY time in San Francisco except for the Giants game last month, and we didn’t even have time to do anything else. That’s why I took so many pictures of the Bay Bridge, of the ships moving through the bay, of the sun painting the water and the sky at dusk, of the skyline through the mesh behind me. I am in love with this city. I am this city. This city is me. I miss it even now, feel the ache in my bones like I did when I was 3,000 miles away. If I could grind myself down into sidewalks, become a fleck of fool’s gold, I would.

In September, we’re heading into SF for the Dodgers series and I am already torn. There are so many things I want to do and see in addition to the games. I want to spend an afternoon reacquainting myself with North Beach, browsing the poetry room in City Lights, and sitting in the park. I want to spend some time in Berkeley because it’s been too long. We won’t be able to do all of those things, and that’s okay. But every time I leave this city, I leave another piece of myself behind. Someday I’ll have the time to pick up all of those pieces and sort them back into place. Maybe in a new order. Maybe create something new and precious. Maybe I’ll have help (those eyes I’ve dreamed of so many years).

Someday I’ll be whole again.

1985

It’s hard to find articles about the drought in the Horn of Africa in major U.S. publications. It just is. I have trouble finding them in the ‘World’ section of the email alerts I get from various papers. Today I was surprised to see it featured front and center in my New York Times email. The article is pretty thorough and points out a lot of the political and logistical nightmares that exist. It paints a very grim picture: a country held hostage by a group that overpowers the majority (that is, number) with force during a widespread drought. Aid can’t move in because either this group will skim off the top or take it outright, or to do so – send and provide relief – would break a number of laws.

I’m a child of the ’80s and much of my initial exposure to Africa involved emaciated kids my age who looked like aged infants and jagged cracks of earth that looked familiar – we experienced a drought of our own – and there was, of course, Live Aid. It was an event not without its trouble, which is another post for another day (how best to help when we cannot help at all, which sounds like a post for THIS post but it’s not), but when I think of the ’80s and how I first began to learn about the continent, I think of Live Aid.

We’re kind of in that situation again, but with more roadblocks and red tape holding us back. We don’t want a repeat of what happened in the early ’90s (Black Hawk Down), and we don’t want to stand idly by while an entire country falls to famine. People want answers and they want solutions, things they can do now to help. People want to know why we’re always looked to first in situations like this (hello, super power anyone?), and people want to know why Somalia’s neighbors aren’t helping more. In the comment section of that NYT piece, there are a lot of gross exaggerations and broad statements concerning the nature and behavior of Somalis, and a few calls for the involvement of the African Union. I had to take a step back when I read those comments because a) not every Somali child we managed to “help” in the early ’90s is a terrorist pirate with a gun, and b) not every Somali citizen we “helped” in the early ’90s turned a gun on us. Got it?

As far as the African Union is concerned, people need to stop thinking of it like the United Nations. They might strive to be like the UN, and I think that’s a noble ambition – the UN, though far from perfect, does the right thing from time to time, and they are an unbelievable resource for information – but right now, they don’t have the numbers. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have much of anything, and are you all aware that there’s STILL genocide going on in Sudan? How about DRC? The invisible children in Uganda? Hutu rebels attacking people in multiple countries? The already strapped AU cannot handle this situation on their own. Somalia’s new slip-shod government, if one could even call it that, struggles to govern. What the NYT article does say is that Somalia is more unreachable than Afghanistan.

More unreachable than Afghanistan.

I know Americans understand references to Afghanistan. Does that help put things into perspective for you?

Yes, the country is full of corruption, greed, and violence, but the perpetrators of violence aren’t the ones who suffer. If you know of an aid organization you trust, please give to them. They will find a way to siphon the aid into the country. The relief agencies and NGOs in the surrounding countries will need help. Give to them. Because as the Somali people find ways out of the country, they will overwhelm already crowded camps. Educate yourselves. Remember that this famine is a culmination of many things: drought, lack of access to food, corruption, politics, and greed.

For more information, visit Al Jazeera’s spotlight on the drought, the International Rescue Committee, and this blog post about food access.

For future reference

In the hopes that I will make an actual post about it this week, I’m dropping a quick post in to remind myself…then I can’t just let it slip, can I?

So in a part of the world beset by war, a non-existent government, and poverty, there’s also a drought. I grew up in the ’80s, when there were droughts everywhere, particularly in Africa. I’ve come to associate droughts with that continent, however unfairly, since there are lush, thick forests there but the picture painted for us in the ’80s was just abject poverty, misery, and suffering beyond belief.  (The trouble with the media’s portrayal of Africa is another post all together because colonialist mindset much?)

This week, I hope to gather some information to share with you on the drought and the region, along with some resources on where to donate, what you can do, etc.