Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Mental Health

A fine line between well-informed and overwhelmed

overwhelming anxiety.
SO stressed!

I was a reluctant adapter to social media, but now am a heavy user. I have written before how I’ve cut back on my social media intake by not checking on Wednesdays and Saturdays (unless there are very special circumstances). I’m considering cutting out Mondays as well because I still feel as if I’m ingesting it too much.

I get my news from Twitter, then I check it at other venues to verify that what I’m seeing on Twitter is legit. The downside to social media is that anyone can post anything, and there are many people who are gullible and prone to falling for everything they read. I’m rigorous about checking my sources, but I’ve fallen for the ‘satire’ pieces once or twice myself. I haven’t posted anything fake in years, but it’s always hovering at the back of my mind. I remember the last time I fell for a fake piece of news. I carefully checked the website, and it looked legit. It was MSNBC or NBC or something like that, but it ended in .de rather than .com, and my eyes had glossed over that part. I distinctly remember that one because I had checked it so carefully I thought. Now, I make sure to cross-check before I post/tweet anything, and I wish other people would do the same.

Side note: I really hate all the ‘satire’ sites that have cropped up lately. They seemed to have died down somewhat, but there was a time when it seemed as if every other piece of news was from a fake website. Yes, there’s The Onion, but everyone* knows it’s satire. In addition, it’s not just satire to make up a crazy story about someone without any social context to it. I remember getting caught right after marriage equality was passed by a story that Michele Bachmann’s husband had left her to live his very gay life. That was on me because I was too eager to believe that story, but at the same time, what was the point? Just to say, “Hur-de-dur, he’s closeted!”? Even if that were true, there’s no bigger picture to that joke, no social context jab that they were making. “He’s closeted” isn’t satire–it’s either a lie or the truth.

I do feel a twinge of sympathy for The Onion because it’s really hard to lampoon this current administration. Anything that sounds too outre, they’ve done. In addition, I would hesitate to spoof something even worse in case they decide it’s a blueprint and not satire. However, all those other sites can go straight to hell–they’re only doing it for the clicks.

Anyway, my mom called the other night, and she said, “So, about that president of yours.” I immediately said, “I don’t want to talk about him. It’s too depressing.” I have to think about him and his dreadful administration way more than I want to, and it’s the last thing I want to talk about in a casual chat with my mother.

I’m an empath, and it’s tough in these times. All my life, I’ve been able to feel the negative feelings of others around me, and it’s taken me decades to erect a decent shield around me so it’s not constantly bombarding me. It’s one of the reasons I suffered such deep depression. Not only did I have to deal with my own shit, I had to feel every bit of anger, sadness, depression, and pain around me. It was one reason I isolated myself so much–I couldn’t deal with the constant negative sensation input that I was feeling.

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Patience is a virtue–just not mine

taiwanese tai chi sculpture!
I don’t want to be made of stone.

When I was learning Dvorak, I forgot QWERTY within days because it never felt natural to me. At the same time, I wasn’t anywhere near proficient in Dvorak yet, which meant I had to muddle alone typing roughly 30 wpm. Before that, I typed closer to 80 wpm, so it was agony to be able to do less than half of that. It took a few months for me to feel comfortable with Dvorak, but now I type roughly 100 wpm.

I think of this often now because of all the changes in taiji. My teacher, my classmate, and I had a candid talk about it yesterday in class, and it felt good to get some of the frustration off my chest. I told my teacher while I knew rationally that things were going to be better in the long run, and I trust that because I trust her, emotionally, it’s difficult not to get frustrated by all the changes. One, I don’t deal well with changes in general. It’s part of my PTSD and obsessive nature, and while I’ve gotten better at it with age, it’s still something I struggle with. Two, it’s hard not to be resentful of the newer people because they’re learning all this for the first time rather than having to unlearn an old form in order to learn a new one.

A part of me feels like all the stuff I’ve learned before is wasted now that so much of the Single Form has been changed. Intellectually, I know it’s not a waste because the core of it is still there, and the fact that I know the old way means that I can understand the newer concepts more easily. The problem is, I learned the old form fairly easily, so it doesn’t seem as if there’s much added benefit in the speed of learning the new form. That really isn’t a humblebrag, though it sounds as if it is. It just underscores the fact that I’m grumpy about all the changes. There was a time when it seemed as if the changes were happening every week, even though it was more like once a month. Still, after doing the same thing over and over for years, it can be overwhelming at time.

For example, there is a posture–movement–called Parry and Punch (well, the actual name is longer than that, but that’s the short name for it). There are four of them, and in the old form, they were all the same. In the new form, they’re all different. In the old one, they were all Parry Outward (I think) and Punch. Now, they’re Parry Inward and Punch, Parry Upward and Punch, Parry Outward and Punch, and Parry Downward and Punch. They’re all slightly different, and they’re giving me one hell of a fight. I have the first one on lock, and I’m slowly getting better at the second, but the third and fourth are kicking my ass. It’s doubly frustrating because I’m used to learning things quickly (at least the basics) so not being able to do so with the Parries and Punches is making me irritated. I will say it’s partly because I practice the first section more than the second and third, and the first Parry and Punch is in the first section. The second and third are in the second section, and the last is in the third section.

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Feeling under the weather

too damn hot!
Saunas are not my friend.

We’ve been experiencing a heat wave in Minnesota this week, and to make matters worse, my a/c is busted. This is my own damn fault. It broke at the end of last summer, and when I called the repair guy, he said it would be better to wait until this spring to fix it so I would have more time on the warranty. That made sense as last summer was fairly cool, so I agreed. Then, as you probably guessed, I forgot. To be fair, we had a 15 inch blizzard on April 14th. The last thing I was thinking about was air conditioning. So, yeah, my fault, but I’m ruing it now.

We hit 97 degrees on Saturday and 101 degrees on Sunday. It hit 90 before it was even noon. Now, if you know me, you know that I cannot stand the heat. 60 is about my level of comfortableness, and anything over that ratchets up my irritability. When we hit 70, I want to throat-punch somebody. If it hits 80, I start to lose the little bit of energy I have. 90 makes me incapacitated, and 100? Forget about it. I was outside in it for a few minutes at a time, and it was incredibly draining.

How am I dealing with the heat with no a/c? Poorly. I have three iced drinks with me at all times, which helps. I’m in as little clothes as possible (usually a tank top and boxer shorts) with my hair up. I have an old big box fan that only works on high that I have blowing on my face. When it gets really bad, I go into the basement because it’s so much cooler. It’s not great, but if I make like a slug and don’t move, it’s barely tolerable. I blasted the air when I was in the car, though, I’ll tell you that much for free.

My sleep, which is shit, anyway, is even more erratic now. As I said in a recent post, my sleep goes nuts when I’m sick–which I was in the near past. Currently, I’m going to bed by midnight and getting up around six. I used to go to bed around four or five in the morning and get up around ten or eleven. Before that, it was even worse. I went to bed at six or seven in the morning and got up four hours later. Now, it’s an average of six hours a night. I can’t get used to getting up at the crack of dawn, even though it’s been more than a month.

I’ve been exhausted since the heat wave had started, and I’m pretty sure it’s heat-related. No matter how much I sleep, I’m dead tired when I wake up. Not just sleepy, but drop-dead exhausted. I literally can’t keep my eyes open at times. It’s disconcerting because even when I was sleeping four hours a night, I wasn’t this tired. I’m blaming the heat, but I’m thinking it might also be my sleep deficit catching up with me. Also, still not completely 100% (about 93%), and I’m nervous about a relapse. I’ve been coughing a bit in the past few days, which isn’t good. Plus, my left ear is all crusty again. These are both signs that maybe I’m coming down with the sickness again.
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How to be (mentally) healthy, wealthy, and wise

burnt to a crisp!
Sleep is hell.

I was listening to NPR or MPR yesterday on my way to taiji, and the topic was mental health. Funnily enough, when I talked about it with my taiji teacher, I called it ‘mental hellness’, which I think is often apt. Anyway, the topic more specifically was how can we talk about mental health and being proactive about it in the same way we now talk about, say, how to prevent a heart attack (the example given by the host). One of the guests was a psychiatrist, and he said there was one thing that was most important above all else. I immediately shouted, “Sleep!” I knew one-hundred percent that was what he was going to say, and I was right. He went on to say that after thirty years of practicing psychiatry, he had three linchpins of good mental health. Sleep was one of them, followed by self-compassion and a deep connection with someone else.

There was also another guest who was the director of a cultural wellness center (I gathered it was a mental health center for minorities, specifically black people), and she said it was important to tell the truth to yourself, especially right before you go to bed. If someone wrongs you, you acknowledge it and ask what you’re going to do about it. If you did something wrong, you acknowledge it, too.

I think all this is important, but I immediately thought of a few questions. With the latter woman, I wondered if this worked for people who continually blame themselves for everything, anyway. Like me. What I actually had to do was learn how to NOT blame myself for things that I didn’t actually do wrong. I will admit there was a side helping of resistance when someone else pointed out I did something wrong because I was already so self-critical, and it miffed me that I had to think of something else that I might be doing wrong. However, I also have to admit that part of the reason I blamed myself for everything was the ‘do it to myself before someone else does it to me’ mentality. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. If I was already being hard on myself, then other people weren’t as apt to come down on me. Then, I didn’t really have to do anything because, hey, I acknowledged I did something wrong! That’s enough, right?

My other question was for both guests. How do you help people get to the point where they can do these things? People are notoriously bad about recognizing their own flaws (and strong points much of the time), and we are not known for our self-reflection. So, yes, it’s good to tell the truth, but what if you don’t know what the truth is? I see many people walking around in denial, and it’s exceedingly difficult to get someone to see something they can’t–or won’t–see. In addition, what if someone is in a position where doing something about the truth is extremely difficult? Say, for example, an abusive relationship. I’ve learned that the time someone tries to leave is the time when an abusive partner is most likely to be deadly. So, it’s not as easy as, “I’m being abused. I must leave.” You have to plan it out very carefully and still recognize that it’s going to be hard. On the other hand, though, maybe just being able to acknowledge the truth of the abusive relationship and have others validate what you’re saying may be empowering in and of itself. I don’t know, and I would not dare profess that I have any kind of expert knowledge.

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Adjusting to change

childish stamping of my feet.
Wah wah wah!

I hate change. I’ll out-and-out say it. I’m highly resistant to it, even when I know it’s good for me. No matter what I can tell myself about it, I still hate it. I’m slowly getting better at it, but it’s still something that can put me off-kilter for the rest of the day, even if it’s a small thing such as a change of an appointment. I bring this up because my sleep has been fucked up ever since I was sick. My normal sleep pattern is roughly go to bed at three/four in the morning and get up at nine or ten. It used to be go to bed at six or seven in the morning and get up in the early afternoon. In general, I slept through the morning because it’s my least favorite time of the day, and late night is my favorite. Since I’ve been sick, however, all bets are off. I’ll go to bed at any time, which means getting up at any time. I also sleep more when I’m sick–sometimes up to a whole eight hours! It’s one way I gauge whether I’m getting better or not–when I start sleeping less, I know I’m getting better.

This time, I’ve noticed that after twelve-fourteen hours of being awake, I’m exhausted. I’m mostly better (think 90%), but the exhaustion is the same. This has resulted in me going to bed between eight-thirty and nine-thirty at night, then getting up at four-thirty in the morning. I’m currently writing this at four-forty-five in the morning because I write my posts when I first get up, and it’s really strange. This is normally the time I go to bed, not the time I get up. Waking up to dark is messing with me more than it really should. I’m groggy, only half-awake, and grumpy. I have my thermos of ginger lemon honey tea at hand as well as my Diet Coke, and I’m still barely awake.

I think I’d rather get less sleep and feel more awake than get eight hours and feel as if I could sleep endlessly. I think my extreme tiredness of the last few days might be because of my dental work as well as it’s still a bit achy five days later. I’m so tired, I feel as if I could sleep for the rest of my life. It’s so weird that I my usual habit of getting less sleep makes me feel more rested. I still feel like shite (watching too many Brits on the YouTube), but it’s marginally better than I do now. Another frustrating thing is that I can be dropping from exhaustion when I finally go to bed, and then I lie there, wide awake. It’s as if my brain takes it as a challenge. “Oh, you’re going to sleep? I think not.” Everything I’ve pushed to the back of mind during the day comes flooding back, and all I can think about is how much everything sucks. That’s always been the case, but it’s even more annoying when I’m so fucking tired.

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Getting better takes work

I’m probably at 90% right now, and I haven’t felt this good physically in over a month. I went to taiji twice in three days, and while I’m a bit tired, I’m fine otherwise. Actually, I’m very tired. That’s the lingering thing about this whatever it is. My taiji teacher told me that this cold has been affecting people for up to six weeks, and I can attest it’s true. I’ve had it for six weeks, and only in the last week have started feeling human again.

The only thing concerning is that after approximately fourteen hours of being awake, I’m suddenly exhausted. If I don’t immediately try to sleep, I’m no good for anything. The problem is, when I try to sleep, I can’t. That’s normal for me, though. What’s not normal, though, is that I sleep hard and long when I actually do sleep. Like seven-and-a-half to eight hours long. I normally sleep six hours or so at a time, so I know I’m sick when I sleep more.

Anyway. I’m glad I’m finally on the road to recovery. The one thing I’ve done every day (physically) was my taiji routine, but it wore me out when I was sick. Less and less so as I get better, and two classes in three days was doable.

The other worrisome detail is that my ears cleared up for a bit, but they’re now all crusty and scabby again. I don’t know what I’ll do if I get sick again. I won’t deal with it well, though, I’ll tell you that much.

Here’s Ricky Martin singing in Spanish because that ALWAYS makes me feel better!

The slog

Day whatever of being sick. I’ve lost count and my motivation to care. My left ear is still achy and scabby (so gross!), and the toilet is my best friend right now. I’m wondering if I have a sensitivity to something other than dairy and gluten, and if I had a guess, it’d be corn. Glands still tender, and I’m drinking so much tea/juice/ginger ale/water, I should just be floating around. I have writer’s block, which is frustrating the hell out of me. Everybody knows when you’re sick, chicken noodle soup is good for what ails you. Here’s Maangchi’s version.

A vague plan for better living

all tuckered out.
Were I so cute!

I’m fat. I have been most of my life except for the times when I was anorexic/bulimic. I’ve dealt with eating disorders (ED) for most of my life, and any time I try to lose weight in a sensible way, I plunge deeply into the abyss. No matter how reasonable I am when I first start, my ED-thinking takes over, and I end up in the same bad place. I will fully admit my desire to lose weight has always been for vanity reasons. I don’t give a shit about the health benefits–it’s all about looking in the mirror and feeling gross.

I’ve spent twenty years getting fatter and fatter. I lost weight more than once during that time, but it never lasted. One time it was because I was trying out antidepressants (for a second round), and they were making me feel deeply suicidal. I lost nineteen pounds in two months because every minute I was fighting the urge to kill myself. When I told my doctor, she kinda laughed and said, “Well, whatever it takes” or something like that. I immediately changed doctors because even though she was joking, that was completely inappropriate. Quick side note: SSRIs work well for me on the first go-around (Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa) for about a year. Then, the effect wears off, and I switch. When I re-try the same drug, it makes me suicidal. I don’t know why, but it’s highly unfortunate.

Anyway, I got off the Celexa right quick, and I stopped feeling suicidal, but I also regained the weight. I’m the fattest I’ve ever been, and it’s way out of hand. I would have thought cutting out gluten and dairy would have led to natural weight loss, but my guess is it’s the rice. I’ve added it back into my diet, and it’s calorie-dense. Jasmine rice because it’s delicious. It also doesn’t help that I don’t cook and mostly rely on deli food. It’s not so bad when it’s the co-op, but when it’s Cubs? Yeah, not the healthiest food of all. Also, I gave up fruits for some years even though I love them because my mom was very rigid about them when I was growing up. I’ve started adding them back. I eat an orange every day because it’s good at easing aches and pains (as told to my taiji teacher from a weightlifter), and I try to eat other fruits. I have grapes in my fridge right now, but I haven’t been very good about eating them.

I’ve also decided I’m going to do the ‘add one healthy item a week’ thing with the hopes that snacking on healthy food will slowly overtake my desire to munch. Earlier, I cut out chips and popcorn, but I added them back for whatever reason. Side note: There are two ways to deal with cutting out ‘bad’ foods. One, cut them out completely. Two, slowly wean yourself off of them. I’m more of a number one kind of gal because if it’s not there, I can’t eat it. But, I’m nominally a grown-up now, so I’m going to try a combination of the two. One, once I’m done with my current bag of popcorn, I’m not going to buy any more chips/popcorn. Two, I bought individualized bags of baby carrots and a bottle of pickle spears. In theory, I’ll munch on those when I have an impulse for the salt. It’s kinda working, but we’ll see what happens once the munchies are gone.

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Riding the Waves of Depression

I’m swimming in the sea of depression and riding the waves of crushing hopelessness. I’m having a hard time keeping my head above water, and some days, I don’t want to even bother. Today is one of that day. So, I’m just going to post a depressing video and hopefully wait it out.

I also have a doctor’s appointment to check my thyroid, lie about my depression, and maybe get my annual. Rightly or not, I relate getting really sick twice last year with going to the doctor, which makes me even warier of returning. Anyway, I hope it goes well. Here’s the depressing emo video.

Medium-grade depression

I’ve been depressed all my life for as long as I can remember. My mother talks about me being a happy child, but I don’t remember that at all. My first real memory is when I was seven. I realized I was going to die, and I jumped out of bed and ran screaming from the room. I fell into a deep depression that year (not because of that, though it didn’t help), and starting when I was eleven until roughly mid-thirties, I wanted to die every day of my life.

I never had the courage to kill myself, but I saw the opportunities everywhere I went. Driving was a struggle because I constantly had to stop myself from running into embankments and such. If I walked on a bridge, I thought about how I could throw myself off it. These weren’t conscious thoughts, but stray thoughts floating in and out of my brain. I had no control over them, and they felt as if they were driving me.

Sometime in my mid-thirties, I started to stop having suicidal thoughts. Or rather, suicidal impulses. I was still depressed, and I still hated my life, but I didn’t have to stop myself from driving into embankments any longer. Again, it wasn’t a conscious thought, but it just happened. I think it’s at least in part because of starting taiji, but whatever the reason, it was a welcome change.

Starting in my early forties, I began to stop having suicidal thoughts as well. Let me be clear. I’ve never loved life, and I doubt I ever will. But, it was a relief to stop having intrusive thoughts all the damn time. I downgraded my depression to low-grade, and I muddled on with my life.

Unfortunately, in the last few months, the depression has ramped up again. Not to the extent it used to be (which was crippling and chronic), but more than I’m comfortable with. Intrusive thoughts of hopelessness and self-disgust. Thinking that life is worthless and why am I alive. I don’t feel as if I’m contributing anything by being alive, and I have a hard time dragging my ass out of bed (off the couch) in the morning (afternoon).

I’m discontented with, well, everything. I was always the girl with so much potential, but my own self-doubt and loathing has held me back. I’ve always had great ideas, but major difficulties in implementing them. It’s part of the problem of being very intelligent, and that is NOT a humble brag. I never formed good work habits because school came easily to me. I work for myself, so I don’t have to stick to someone else’s timetable.

I need to figure out what I want to do with my life, and more to the point, I need to stick to something and give it more than the good old college try. It’s time to see what I’m made of–and maybe the depression will subside.