Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

The State of My Mind

It’s time to come out and say it–I am depressed. I’ve alluded to it before, but now I’ll just say it. I’ve been low-level depressed for a few months, and I don’t know why. I think it’s partly because of the anniversary of Raven’s death, partly because of being physically sick (though maybe I got physically sick because my depression lowered my immune system. It’s hard to say), and partly because it’s just how I roll.

The thing is, in the past, when I was depressed, it literally incapacitated me at times. I remember losing countless hours to depression because I simply didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to do anything other than sit on the couch and stare into space. It was chronic, and it was serious. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it out of my twenties, and it’s still somewhat unbelievable to me that I have. There were periods of higher activity, but in general, I was barely functioning.

Now, I am doing the things I need to do. I am productive every day whereas in the past, brushing my teeth was an accomplishment. In addition, the depression isn’t a part of me, and it’s really strange to feel it coming at me from the outside. Back in the day, I felt as if I was just a ball of depression and it was the only thing that defined me. Now, it’s more like an annoyance such as an ingrown toenail. Persistently there, infected, but not paralyzing me.

In addition, when I had chronic depression, I was numb most of the time. I’ve described it as being frozen, and I couldn’t identify an emotion if my life depended on it. I was really good at pretending emotions, but it was because I’m adept at quickly reading other people’s emotions. It was a bitter irony that for many years, I felt other people’s emotions more intensely and immediately than I did my own. I had no idea what my own emotions were as they were buried under layers of depression.

Now, I have emotions, and sometimes they’re out of whack. I have anger issues, and while I normally keep an iron tight grip on it, when I blow, it’s quick and ugly. It’s difficult because I don’t know all my triggers–well, to be more accurate, I know the broad topics in which there are triggers, but I don’t know exactly what will set me off. After years of not being allowed to express my anger, I still have difficulty expressing it appropriately. It’s all or nothing, and the times it’s all are terrifying to me.

I’m also feeling a lot of sadness. There is no specific reason, but it’s there. I’m grieving, and I don’t even know why. I’m sure part of it is Raven–I’ve been missing him intensely lately, but that’s not all it is. It’s also the feeling that I’m wasting my life and if I die today, what do I have to show for it? I have put so many obstacles in my own way, I feel defeated before I even take a single step.

Also, I’m still fighting a relapse, and my sleep is shit, and everything is difficult. Here is the latest The Mazzy Show; she never fails to make me smile.

Sniffling and Moaning

I. Am. So. Tired of being sick. I know I have to go to the doc, but I’m not good at making doctor appointments. I am thrilled about the snow, which is appreciable. Anywhere from nine inches to a foot, and I’m hoping we get more in the near future.

I have the sniffles and a lump in my throat that I can’t get rid of, no matter how much I swallow. I’m hoping it’s allergies and not the continuation of My Year of the Neverending Cold.

Here is a video that makes me appreciate Michael Bolton in a way I never thought possible.

Kung Fu Fightin’ This Cold

I am still fighting off the third round of this cold, and it’s wearying. Not only on my body, but also on my soul. My body doesn’t know its own mind. I’m tired all the time, but I cannot sleep. This should indicate I’m getting better because I have a long, sordid history with sleep that doesn’t allow me to sleep decently no matter what I try. It’s actually one of the things I like best about being sick–I can get a decent amount of sleep in one stretch. I know I’m getting better when I’m unable to sleep more than six hours.

I’ve been practicing the Long Form alongside the new Medium Form, and it’s surprising how quickly I’ve forgotten the sequence of the Long Form. Scary, really. Once I check the list, it all comes flooding back to me, but I’m afraid of losing it forever. I will say that I like how streamline the new Medium Form is. It’s clean and concise, and there’s absolutely old fat. However, I don’t want to lose the Long Form, so I’m still practicing it.

I need to get my thyroid meds checked, but I’ve been dragging my feet over it. Rightly or wrongly, I associate going to the clinic with getting sick as the last two times I went, I got horribly sick. Anyway, I’m tired. Here’s the Tiny Hamster and friends having a Tiny BBQ on Independence Day.

Sickness of the Mind–and Body

I’m on the mend, and it’s not been a smooth road back to recovery. I have the sniffles right now, but I’m hoping it’s just because Shadow was sleeping on me during the night. Every time I’m sick, there is a moment when I feel like I could either get better or get worse. It’s an actual definable moment, and I felt it yesterday. I know I’m getting better because my sleep is getting worse. For whatever reason, my body decides that the only time it will allow itself to get the appropriate amount of sleep is when I’m sick. Side note: I heard neuroscientist, Matthew Walker, an expert on sleep, on NPR. He’s a big proponent of getting eight hours of sleep a night, which is an anathema to me. He was saying how if you get much less than that, your chance of catching a cold is (and since I was just listening, I may not have gotten the percentages exactly right) three to four times more likely. In addition, if you’re not well-rested before getting your flu shot, you only absorb 50% of the antigens.

Most people know about the connection between sleep (lack thereof) and susceptibility to illness, but I didn’t realize it was so stark. He is an evangelist about getting eight hours, but I had to leave before I could read the tips about how to get better sleep. I know the usual, don’t use electronics before bed (which is not something I’m good at), don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep (I don’t actually sleep on the bed), don’t nap (which I normally don’t). The last, he explains in an article I looked up is because if you nap, you won’t be able to sleep fully later. Which makes sense, of course, but it’s the wrong way around. Most people don’t nap with the intent to wreck their sleep later–they nap because they are so tired, they simply have to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and simply telling people to sleep more at night isn’t going to work. Dr. Wheeler knows that, which is one reason he despairs. Being sleep-deprived is such a badge of honor in our society (in many societies), that many people won’t get a good night’s sleep because it would make them look like slackers.

The thing is, I’m not against sleep because I think it’s immoral–sleep is against me. I’ve never been an early to bed, early to rise type. I never went to bed before midnight, even when I was eight or nine. Dr. Wheeler also talks about how criminal it is that school starts so early, and I agree. He said it would be best to start at ten, but that probably won’t happen. Even when I had to get up early, I could never go to bed before midnight–ever. In my first year at college, I had a 7:45 a.m. class. I rarely went to bed before four in the morning, and on those days, I was a mess. I remember one morning, I got up and couldn’t find my alarm clock. It was a portable one, and it was nowhere in the room. I opened the mini-fridge to get a Diet Pepsi (I drank six a day at that time), and there was my clock. I was continually sleep-deprived, and every time I went home for the holidays, I would sleep for fifteen hours the first day I was home. Then, I’d get as sick as a dog for the rest of the stay. So, yeah, I know about the link between sleep and the immune system.
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Behind the Veneer of Health

I am fat. I am not zaftig or big-boned or padded or anything like that. I am fat. I say that because I don’t think fat is a negative word as it simply describes a state of being. I want t reclaim it as it were, and besides, it takes the sting out of it when it’s hurled at me. Granted, it doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but it’s almost amusing when it is. As Margaret said (paraphrased), “Why do they think fat dyke is an insult? To me, it means I’ma gonna eat fried chicken and pussy. That’s why I bring the Wet-Naps.” I can’t find the clip any longer, damn it, but I swear it exists. I’ve successfully neutralized the word, but I’ve had less success in actually being OK with being fat.

I have documented my long history with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I have been painfully thin and grossly obese, and everything in between. Right now, I am technically at the latter stage, and I hate it. I rarely talk about it because I don’t want to feed into our society’s obsession with fat phobia, but I cannot deny it in my own head. I know how sick I was when I was anorexic, and I can see in pictures from that time that I was unwell, but a part of my mind wants that again. My thighs not touching. Wearing a size zero. Being stereotypically hot even  if I didn’t recognize it at the time. By the way, it’s a part of my EDs that when I’m at my thinnest, I don’t feel sexual at all. I think it’s because I’m so focused on food (I would look at pictures of desserts for hours–it was my porn) and because my brain is so starved, I have little room for anything else. In addition, anorexia shuts down nonessential functions, which, sex is, biological imperative aside.

I want to find a happy medium between where I am now and anorexic, but I’m not sure I can do it in a healthy way. The second time I slid into disordered thinking, I had started with what I considered to be a healthy plan. Sure, it was rigorous, but it was nothing like the first time I fell into it. As the months went on, however, I slid into more disordered thinking. I don’t know if I can diet in a healthy way, and I know that dieting isn’t the optimal way to lose weight, anyway. Which, let me be clear, is the reason I’m contemplating a diet at all. I can give you all the argle-bargle about it being for my health, but that would be a lie. I am very clear it would be to lose weight, even if it’s only in my own brain.

I keep coming back to changing the way I eat. I don’t cook, but it’s not as if I can’t. I can. I just don’t care for it. The endless prep and the mounds of dishes. Ugh. Add to that the fact that I’m now dairy-free and gluten-free….Come to think of it, that’s a good reason to start cooking–so I don’t have to rely on others to prepare reasonable repasts for me. I’ve thought about doing a cooking for dummies (me), gluten-free, dairy-free version as a YouTube show because cooking shows are popular.

I know that I need to exercise more as well, but I’m chary because of my obsessive nature. I can easily talk myself into doing twice as much as I had planned on doing and to slowly increase my exertions to the point of ridiculousness. I always move the goalposts when I set my goals, and I don’t know if I can stop myself from doing that. I also hate all exercise except taiji and dancing, so there’s that as well. I used to walk four and a half miles a day, and I hated every step. Sit-ups, push-ups, hated them. I did enjoy weightlifting, and I need to get back to the taiji weight set once I’m completely recovered.

I’m tired now. Here is an adorable video of Maru and Hana being hand-fed cat grass.

Resting My Little Grey Cells With Hercule Poirot

People who know me might or might not know something rather strange about me–I am a rabid Hercule Poirot fan. I say it’s strange because my tastes run more towards the contemporary and what some would call noir or ‘gritty’. Poirot is none of those things, though later in the TV series, they tried their damnedest to make it so. I want to make it clear that I read the stories voraciously when I was a teenager, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I’ve read each at least three or five times, and some up to dozens of times. My two favorites are The Big Four and Curtain, and I’m trying my own hand at writing a Poirot story. It’s dashed hard, though, to write in someone else’s voice and not make it sound like parody. There is someone who has written two new ‘Poirot’ novels with the blessing of the Christie estate (money already running dry?), and I tried to read the first one. It wasn’t Poirot at all, and I didn’t make it past the first few pages. I didn’t even try to read the second one. Anyway, writing a Poirot story has been a good exercise, but I don’t know if I’ll finish it.

Back to the books. I loved Poirot’s finickiness, his preciseness, his ego, and his little grey cells. I didn’t care how ludicrous his denouements were. In fact, the more ludicrous, the better. I love modern murder mysteries, but I do have to say the insistence on verisimilitude can get tedious. I love the internet, but it makes it far too easy to check up on the details. “There’s no such place as Shop and Cop in Boston!” Who cares, really? It’s funny, but it even happened in the days before the internet. Agatha Christie had a character in her later novels named Ariadne Oliver whose famous detective is a vegetarian Finn named Sven Hjerson. Ariadne is clearly a stand-in for Agatha Christie, and she’s always lamenting about how she shouldn’t have made him a Finn and that people in Finland have too much time to read. It’s hilarious, and I’m quite sure it was Dame Christie’s way of venting her frustration because it’s said she came to hate Poirot by the end of her career.

I started watching the Ustinov movies, but he never really was Poirot to me. Funny note: David Suchet played Chief Inspector Japp in one of the Ustinov movies, and, um, let’s just say it wasn’t the right role for him. He IS Hercule Poirot, and there shall be no other. Yes, I will watch the (ugh) Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, but I won’t like it. The trailer is atrocious, Kenneth Branagh couldn’t be more wrong for the part, and everything about is wrong. Then again, all three of the prior versions of the movie are terrible, too (including, sadly, the David Suchet version which got all Catholique at the end), and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better as a novel. Interestingly enough, even though it’s one of the more famous novels, it’s not one of my favorite. It’s too convoluted, even for a Poirot novel, and there’s no way to cram it in an hour and a half to two hours. Anyway, I don’t think there should be any more Poirot portrayals unless it’s done by an actual Belgian. It’s time to let it go and let David Suchet remain the gold standard.

I know as I watch that there are problems with the series. One, the way they portray the working class, often making them appear thick, slow, and conniving. Another is using English actors for other nationalities. Speaking of which, Dame Christie had some pretty provincial ideas about other nationalities, which is one of my least favorite part of the books. In watching the series again, I’ve been wincing at some of the portrayals (both as how they are written and the English actors portraying them). The biggest strength is also the biggest problem, and I hate having to talk about it, but talk I must. It’s David Suchet as Poirot. Now, my admiration for Suchet as Poirot knows no bounds. I am currently watching the first episode, and how he grew into the part until he embodied the character is amazing. He is Poirot to me that any time I hear him speak in his regular voice, I am jarred. It is a performance of the lifetime, and I adore every aspect of it.


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Merry Happy Jolly–Or Not

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. If you’re someone who loves eggnog, elves, tinsel, Christmas trees, and all that fun stuff, I hope you enjoy yourself, but this post is probably not for you.  This post is for those of us who are not into Christmas for one reason or another. Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you were raised in a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe you’ve had a shitty year and don’t feel like celebrating this year. Maybe you’ve had something tragic happen in the last month–lost a job, a family member/friend, an animal companion, a relationship–and being holly and jolly is the last thing on your mind. Maybe you struggle with chronic depression, and you don’t want to pretend that you’re feeling the Christmas cheer. Maybe you have a toxic family situation and you’ve cut them off for the first time, so everything is weird and strange. I’ve been several of those before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Or, maybe you’re like me in that you don’t understand the need for forced bonhomie during a very specific time of the year. Maybe the hypocrisy of ‘good will towards all humankind’ for two weeks gets to you, and you want to point out that we need to be a better country all year round, rather than do feel-good things in the last two weeks before the end of the year.

I’ve said this year, the holiday season hasn’t been as annoying for me personally as it has been in the past. I used to feel as if people were having their holiday cheer AT me instead of just doing their own thing. It’s hard not to feel suffocated by it, however, as it’s everywhere this time of the year. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t bothered me as much this year, which I’ll take as a boon. I don’t think it’s because there’s less hawking going on because there’s not, but because I’ve reached a better place in my life, emotionally, I mean. I’m able to deal with things better than I used to, and that apparently includes holidays.

I’m still not rah rah about Christmas, however. I’m at best indifferent, and I would like to ignore it completely. I still have the crud, which is really sapping my energy. I went to the store today (Christmas Eve day), and I was dizzy while I was there, and I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I’m going to the doctor/TCM/acupuncture in the new year because this shit has been staying for far too long.

For anyone who’s not feeling the holiday spirit, I wish you peace during this difficult time. I’ll probably binge-watch Poirot while munching on sweet kettle popcorn, sipping my ginger lemon honey tea. Hopefully, Shadow will be snuggling on my legs, and I’ll be feeling better physically. I’m not going to lie. I’m a bit glum. Partly because of the time of year, and partly because I’m ill, but also because I’m contemplating my life, and I have some difficult choices to make. If you’re struggling this Christmas, vow to do one thing just for you. Read a book. Take a walk. Soak in a bubble bath. One thing just for you. It may not make things all better, but it will certainly not hurt.

Here are two atheist Christmas songs that I quite enjoy. First up, Tim Minchin with White Wine in the Sun. This version is from a week ago on James Corden (and the first time I’ve heard it. There are a few updates!)

Next up is Vienna Teng with The Atheist Christmas Carol.

Both of these songs make me cry because they’re so lovely.

And, of course, I’m going to wrap it up with ‘O Holy Night’, the only Christmas carol I like. This version is done by Angelica Hale, a finalist from America’s Got Talent.

Patience, Grasshopper

Situation status quo, so no real reason to talk about it. What I do want to talk about is taiji. Yesterday, we worked on the third section of the new Solo Form (Medium), and it’s a real mind-fuck. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s so different than the Long Form. All the movements (use to be called postures) are the same (well, mostly. There are a few new variations), but they’re in a different and more abbreviated order. I’ve been practicing the first and second section at home, but haven’t touched the third because we hadn’t learned the whole thing until yesterday.

It’s rather overwhelming because I’m so used to doing the Solo Form in the old way. My brain would go on automatic, and I would cruise my way through it. The change is good for that reason because now I have to actually think about what I’m doing. Being mindful is a core principle of taiji, but it’s something that I struggle with. My brain is always thinking of a million things at a time, and it’s hard for me to focus on just one thing. There are many reasons for this, but it’s something I’ve both embraced and fought against all my life. Learning the new form forces me to think about each movement because the changes are plentiful, but there are also stretches of the old form in between.

I’m not good at change. I’ve been grumpy about the pace of the changes in the form for several reasons. One, it feels like I’ve wasted a lot of time learning the old form that is now being negated by the new one. The stated reason for the new form is to allow new students to master taiji more quickly, which is good for them, but I feel somewhat ripped off by it. Oh, so I spent all that time doing things the inefficient way? It doesn’t make logically sense because practicing taiji is good no matter what, but it’s hard not to feel a little bitter that I would not wasted so much time on the Solo Form if I had started learning taiji now. Yes, I know I have many benefits having studied it for eight or nine years, but still. I also feel a bit like the old timer sitting on the lawn spitting tobacco into a can. “When I was your age, we walked ten miles in snow up the hill both ways to school!”

Overall, I would say that I like eighty to eighty-five percent of the changes to the movements, which is surprisingly high. I like that the martial arts applications are clearer, and I can’t deny that less Cloud Hands makes me a happy camper. It’s not the changes, but the pace of the change that is freaking me out. I don’t adapt well to changes, and they’ve been fast and furious. Here is a video of Master Liang doing his form (the Long Form).

 

Holding Steady is Better Than Relapsing, I Guess

I don’t like being sick for many reasons, some obvious, some not. The actual sickness, the lack of energy, the no motivation to do anything–all of these things are pretty obvious. The worst part, though, is that I become incredibly selfish when I’m sick. My whole life falls away, and all I can think about is how miserable I am. When I am at my lowest (most sick), all I do is the basics, and sometimes, not even that. Hm. Once I write it out, it reminds me of when I was depressed. I’ll have to think about that some more, but at any rate. needless to say, it sucks.

I’m holding steady from yesterday, which is better than feeling worse, I guess. Still tired and exhausted, and that’s another thing I hate about being sick–it’s fucking boring. You can probably tell I’m really grumpy right now. Ugh. But, hey, Alabama didn’t elect an asshole who preys on teenage girls, so win??? Republicans really are showing their asses right now. They rather elect a sexual predator–and by the way, that’s not a pedophile. I don’t know when this started to change, but it’s really annoying. A pedophile is attracted to prepubescent child, but it’s slowly morphing into someone who likes teenagers. I have a big problem with that, but even news sources are using it that way, so I think the ship has sailed on that one. Anyway, it’s still gross and disgusting that Republicans would rather vote for a man who had been banned from a shopping mall for pestering the teenage girls there too much than a Democrat. Family values, indeed!

Anyway, here is Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony doing ‘Baby Got Back’. Dance like you’re the woman in the front row with the black dress on.

Focusing When Sick and Tired

One of the side effects of being sick is that my mental acuity isn’t where it normally is. Simple things take more energy, and I feel slow as molasses in the brain department. I went to the store today, and I had to put extra effort into interacting with people. It’s not my bailiwick to begin with, though I’m usually adept at it, but being sick makes it even harder. I can’t take for granted that my automatic responses will flow as easily as the normally do. Plus, just walking around exhausts me. When I came home, I grabbed my three drinks (including tea) and two snacks, and I brought them to the living room. I set down the pop, leaning over as I did, and poured some of the boiling tea onto the back of my left hand. This is the second time I’ve done this, and I know it’s partly because I’m sick. It’s also because I tend to be lazy and want to make as few trips as possible. I’ve hurt myself countless times before by overloading myself in an attempt to save time. My taiji teacher has a saying about a donkey and laziness that I don’t quite remember, but the bottom line is that it’s better to make multiple trips with lighter loads than one trip all bogged down. She is right. Hopefully, I will internalize that one day.

OT: Nioh. Ah, Nioh. I’m having complicated feels about the game, but I don’t want to get into that in this post. I just want to say as a pro tip that if you’re a scrub such as I am, weapons matter. I recently faced a boss that was whipping my ass, though she really shouldn’t have been. She wasn’t that hard, per se, but I do the worst against fast humans. Which she is. Sort of. Anyway, I kept tinkering with my load-out and my different magicks, and I was really frustrated because I felt I had her. I also thought she had a couple bullshit moves, but that’s par the course for these kinds of games.

Anyway. My axe wasn’t doing it. It was too slow. The dual swords/sword (both infused with fire, which I thought would be beneficial for this boss) didn’t do enough damage of stagger enough to be viable, and I watched my stock of elixirs steadily deplete. I decided to try my odachi because the strong attack staggers enemies, which seemed to be what I needed. It was a miracle. I used the appropriate magicks for defense, then I just chopped the boss into oblivion with six or seven hits. OK, I’m sure it took more than that, but it was really short. Moral of the story: I’m sticking with my axe/odachi/magicks combo for the rest of the game. Of course, I’ll swap out to other weapons  if I need to, but the axe/odachi duo is really my jam.

Here is a video of Jun’s Kitchen. He’s a Japanese man with some serious knife skills. In this video, he’s making sushi for his lucky cats. Enjoy!