Chemistry Lessons

Some days you hear a voice taking you to another place
Some days are better than others
–U2

I haven’t been blogging much lately. I haven’t been writing much of anything lately, aside from posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. This is in part because it’s summer, and I don’t do well in summer. But it’s also because my anxiety has been off-the-charts bad for some time now. It’s been a while since it was this bad. Every day I make it through without having a panicky meltdown is a success. Every day that I’m able to leave the house and interact with people without crying is a success. Every day that I’m able to write a coherent sentence is a success.

My therapist and I are working on it. We’re looking at possibly changing my meds, because my brain chemistry is clearly fucked up and the meds I’m taking don’t seem to be cutting it. She also made some suggestions (well, something between “suggestions” and “orders”) on how I should change my diet. I’m trying to go easy on myself while also taking a really hard look at what the hell is going on in my brain.

This is complicated stuff, especially when you don’t have much in the way of an attention span or patience, especially when your self-esteem is erratic at best, especially when you’re friends with amazing writers but you’re having trouble putting two sentences together. (Writing this post is like slogging through a bug-infested treacle swamp.) But even at my worst, I’m optimistic about life. I don’t always feel like I’m capable of living in this world, but I’m in love with this world. And I have an amazing support network of friends and family who remind me as much as possible that this is a fight worth fighting. I can get through this.

I’m hanging in there. I’m doing my best. And I’m looking forward to figuring out the best way of dealing with my wonky brain chemistry, getting this mess sorted out. I’ve been better. And I will be better again.

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Broken and Loving It

A few years ago, a psychologist suggested I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety and depression throughout my life. A year ago, a therapist suggested I have ADHD. Both of these diagnoses explained a lot of what I’ve dealt with in my life. A lot of the time, I feel like this: poohs heffalump halloween movie 9 - piglet is scared

Other times, I feel more like this:tigger-bouncing-pic

Both have been strong forces in my life.

I’ve had a pretty rough few weeks, and for much of the time, I’ve felt small, scared, and insecure about my ability to cope as an adult. My demons have been screaming in my head, repeating things I’ve been told all my life. “You’re immature and irresponsible!” “You spend too much time daydreaming!” “You’re unrealistic!” For a long time now I’ve felt broken, doing what I can to take myself apart and glue myself back together, new and improved. I’ve been trying to learn new habits, chastising myself when it seems like I’m not learning them fast enough, not getting better fast enough.

And then I thought about my recent post on refusing to apologize for some aspects of my personality. I thought about the self-help books I’ve been reading, the medication I take, the therapy I’m in. And I decided I AM NOT BROKEN AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I mean, I know I’m not perfect, I know I have my faults, I make mistakes, I fuck things up. But not any more than anyone else I know. And yes, there are changes I want to make so that my life is easier for me. But I’m not on a timetable. There’s no rushing deadline of “I have to be relaxed and focused by such-and-such date OR ELSE!” There’s no end goal of “I’ve finally achieved mental stability and life focus. I’M DONE!” And I don’t have any responsibility to anyone else to get “better,” to be “unbroken.”

I think the biggest impediment to healing is the belief that you’re horribly fucked up and broken, when what you should be doing is accepting yourself for who you are and loving yourself for it. Today, I’m loving myself for who I am and not stressing about all the “horribly broken things” in my head that “need to be fixed.”

No Retreat, No Surrender

I’ve been giving some specific issues some serious thought lately. I’m usually giving some issues (both specific and general) some thought (serious and comical, drunk and sober). But right now, I want to address my not-faults.

See, I know I have some faults. We all do, right? Nobody’s perfect (and thank goodness for that!). I have my anxieties, my insecurities, my neuroses, my obsessions, my blind spots, and I’m working on those. But I also have qualities that I’ve gotten a fair amount of flak for over the course of my life, and frankly, I’m done apologizing for these. I don’t think they’re faults. In fact, I’m proud of some of them (and the rest are simply things I live with, not bad, not good).

  • I talk a lot. Telling me that I talk a lot is also a waste of breath and time. I know I talk a lot. It’s because I have a lot of things in my head that I want to share with the people around me. If you have interesting things in your head, you should share them, too. (Unless you don’t want to share them, but that’s your deal, not mine.)
  • I get very enthusiastic about the things I like. Which means I’ll talk about them a lot. Moving my hands around wildly while I talk. I have a lot of energy, folks. I’ve got to do something with it. I won’t be offended if you don’t want to hear about my favorite books, comics, movies, TV shows, etc, but I’m also not ashamed to talk about them a lot.
  • I’m an extrovert. I need external validation. Which means–again–that I talk a lot, including about some pretty personal things. I won’t be offended if you don’t want to hear personal details of my life. Just walk away. It’s cool.
  • When I meet someone who seems to understand me, who I have a lot in common with, I charge into friendship like a rhino. I’ll want to talk to you and hang out with you A LOT. If you need time away from me, that’s fine. Just let me down gently, OK?
  • I’m very sensitive and emotional. I cry watching movies and TV shows, reading books and comics, listening to music. If friends are hurting, I’m hurting. I don’t take criticism lightly. (That doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear it, just that my immediate reaction might be to get hurt and cry.) Thanks to Free to Be…You and Me, I know that it’s all right to cry.
  • I crave touch. I haven’t always been comfortable with this (worrying that touching other people would be misinterpreted or unwanted), but I really like to touch people and to be touched. Hugging, hand-holding, cuddling are all very important to me.
  • I get crushes on people easily. That doesn’t mean I want to be their boyfriend, it just means I really like their personality, I think we have good chemistry, and want to interact with them a lot.
  • I like to flirt. I’m not saying I’m all that good at it, but I enjoy it. Again, it doesn’t mean I want to shag someone. It’s a form of playful intimacy, a way to express that I think someone is attractive. The point is to make us feel good about ourselves, not to make someone feel threatened or creeped out. (But I do want people to think I’m attractive. I can have my vain, shallow moments.)
  • I’m not punctual. If we’re meeting at a certain time, I will probably be late, or possibly be early. But the odds are good that I won’t be on time. I think punctuality is a weird thing to stress over and I’m tired of worrying about it.
  • I don’t usually like routines. Routines feel oppressive, robotic. If I feel I’m getting too much into a groove, I’ll push myself to break out of it. I don’t like doing the same thing every day. I like variety and spontaneity.
  • I like sleeping, but I don’t like going to bed. I like being up late, when it’s dark and quiet, and I only go to sleep at all because I have to sleep at night to fit into the schedule of my job. Sometimes, I’d rather just crash on the couch in my clothes than go through the ritual of getting into my pajamas and getting into bed.

There are a number of things I struggle with on a daily basis. The things above? I’m done struggling with them, trying to defend them, explain them, apologize for them. In the war against depression and anxiety, I claim these as my territory, and I’m not going to retreat.

ADDENDUM: Over on Twitter, my step-brother Adam suggested, “maybe one of your not-faults is your tendancy to enumerate your not-faults?” I love that! Add that to the list!

Press the Start Button and Go!

I procrastinate. A lot. This is no big secret. I think everyone knows this by now. The bigger mystery is “why?” and “what am I waiting for?” When it comes to things I hate or are at least uncomfortable with, there’s not much mystery there. But what about things I enjoy, things I’m excited about, things I want to do? Why in the world would I put off things that make me happy and clearly improve my life?

I have a number of books on art and writing that I’ve been reading or planning on reading. I love writing fiction and poetry (and blog posts, obviously) and I want to get better at writing. Now, I know that you don’t really get better except by doing it again and again and again, and yet, I find myself thinking, “I need to read these books before I do any serious writing.” (Bonus question: what the hell is “serious” writing? Please answer in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet.) I’ve also found Chuck Wendig’s blog posts on writing to be incredibly inspiring, although as inspired as I get, I still find myself thinking, “I need to read all of his posts and commit them to memory before I really dig into writing my own stuff.”

To better get a handle on my anxiety, depression, and ADD, I have various self-help and therapy books, as well as books specifically on meditation and attentiveness. I also have a number of websites I read for self-help and therapy. (I talked about some of these in an earlier blog post.) In my second consultation session with Ellie Di, we talked about me trying things for 30 days, to see if I could develop them into habits or see if they just weren’t for me. We decided trying 30 days of meditation would be a good start for me, for a number of reasons. Well, I haven’t actually begun the 30 days yet. I got it into my head that I needed to read up more on good meditation techniques before actually starting.

Stop. Wait. Think.

There are often good reasons to study up on something before you dive in. If you’re going to be running a marathon, you want to make sure you know the best ways to stretch, the best running techniques, the best breathing, and…well, whatever it is marathon runners need to know. (My lifestyle is best described as “Hobbit-like,” so long-distance running doesn’t play much of a factor.) But with writing and meditation? What are the dangers there? That I’ll sprain my imagination? I’ll calm myself down too much?

Long, long ago, when I was a wee lad, one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was a cartoonist. My parents signed me up for art classes. I read books on drawing and cartooning. Now, my parents didn’t get me lessons and buy me books simply because I declared, “I want to be a cartoonist!” They did it because I was already drawing and wanted to get better.

I didn’t think about it. I just started doing it.

How did I forget that? At what point did it become so important for me to read about things before even starting? I mean, I know I’m anxious and self-conscious, but seriously, what the fuck is that all about?

And the funny thing is, I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think one of the reasons there are so many books on self-help, so many how-to books on art and writing and crafting, so many books on how to get up in the morning with a fucking smile on your face is because so many people think they have to know all the right things, have all the right tools, allocate the right amounts of time, get the conditions to be just right before taking one step forward. I don’t know why we think that. I don’t know what the fuck that’s all about. But I know we’re all wrong.

The first thing you have to do is start. Don’t wait, don’t think about it, just start.

The second thing you have to do is don’t stop. Don’t second guess yourself, just keep going.

And along the way, you can read, study, take lessons, get feedback. But you’re not going to get any better unless you start and don’t stop. And you’re never going to be ready to start as long as you keep worrying that you need to be ready to start.

(All the times I say “you” here, I’m really talking to me. Well, and people like me. We.)

Are you ready? No? Too fucking bad. Get set. GO!

Reflections and Echoes

After a couple of great consultation sessions with Ellie Di (who rocks the block, in case you didn’t know), a couple of important things have crystallized for me.

1) I’m much more comfortable talking about personal issues with women than I am men. My general physician is a woman, and I’m perfectly comfortable talking to her about all kinds of medical issues, including ones related to my man parts. I wouldn’t be as comfortable talking to a male physician, even when it involved my man parts. I’m also much more receptive to advice given to me by women than I am to advice given to me by men. There are a number of reasons for this, but it really just boils down to: I’ve never really felt all that comfortable with men, and although there are some men I’m very close to, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about my health, my emotions, my sex life, etc. But I’m completely comfortable talking about that stuff with women, even women I don’t know all that well.

2) When it comes to dealing with mental and emotional issues and making changes in my life, I’m much more receptive to enthusiastic, energetic people who deliver good-natured kicks to the ass than I am to calm, reflective people who give gentle, moderate advice. It’s one of the reasons why Ray Bradbury has always been so important to me: his essays and stories were always enthusiastic kicks in the ass to LIVE. It’s why I love blog posts by Chuck Wendig and Johnny B. Truant. What I need in a therapist/life coach/mentor is the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, except inspirational and good-humored, rather than abusive. I need to be pushed and pulled, inspired and excited.

As it happens, the therapist I’ve been seeing is male. He’s gentle and soft-spoken, and his advice to me is often to slow down and not rush into things. He’s been very helpful, but I often find myself hesitant to make new appointments with him and not always excited to go to sessions with him. In sessions, I often feel uncomfortable bringing certain topics up. I believe I’ve hit on why this is, and it’s clearly something I need to address.

Vacation, of Sorts

I’ve had a pretty monumental change happen in my life recently–one which I’m not ready to talk about publicly yet, but probably will soon. It’s a very good change, but one that has thrown my brain into something of a muddle. So I’m taking some time off from blogging for a week or two while I figure out what I’m going to do next.

Hang in there, friends! New adventures are coming!

Turn, Turn, Turn

I haven’t been writing much fiction lately. Or poetry. Or…well, really much of anything. And when I say “haven’t been writing much” I mean “haven’t been writing at all.” This happens at times, and I generally chastise myself for being so “slack” and lament being “lazy and uninspired.” I should just power through this, right?

A recent discussion on my new favorite internet hangout got me thinking about cycles of creativity, energy, and inspiration. I realized that I’ve often felt uninspired, easily bored, spectacularly unfocused and fairly depressed during the summer months. I can remember summers when I could finish a single book I started reading, had no energy whatsoever, and couldn’t concentrate on anything except superficial things. I’ve never done well in heat and humidity, and I’m starting to suspect that lots of bright sunlight overwhelms my senses. On the other hand, during autumn, winter and spring, I tend to feel incredibly inspired, bursting with energy and creativity and enthusiasm. When it’s dark and rainy or snowy outside, I want to stay in the house and devote long hours to writing and creating.

Realizing this is helping me stop scolding myself for not doing much this summer. Instead, I’m thinking of ways I can prepare myself for the rush of energy and creativity when autumn gets here, getting ready to focus that energy and creativity, rather than waste it in true ADD style.

To everything there is a season, and I think I’m finding mine.