Monday, July 09, 2018

Feelings are sometimes a choice

I periodically wonder if there's any purpose to keeping this blog. It's essentially a public journal, more for processing my own thoughts and feelings than any sort of social interaction. Though, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I do like to know when people are reading.

I recently turned thirty years old. I'm about to embark on the biggest move of my life, across the country to California. I've been married five years. My cat is finally at a normal weight. I'm almost done getting my entire left leg tattooed. So you can see there's a lot that's been going on.

I will miss my dirty city.

Turning thirty is not a huge deal and I actually kind of enjoy telling people that I'm thirty now (and still haven't ever broken a bone). Every year around my birthday, I think about what it feels like to be a different age. It's all relative. Age really is just a number. I am just as insecure in some ways as I was many years ago, but there are plenty of other ways in which I have grown. I'm fairly proud of the person I am now and who I continue to try to be. It's very true that you're only as old as you feel and that includes emotionally as well as physically.

Sometimes I still feel like I am a lost teenager inside, with an inadequate vocabulary to intelligently express myself and exceptionally low confidence. Every age I have been or phase I have lived through is still a part of me. I get to become a more complex person as every moment passes and can choose to keep or throw away different aspects of myself. It's pretty amazing.

With that self-awareness, I have discovered that I sometimes (more often than I'd like) choose to be miserable. Being depressed felt like a default state of being for a long time and it's easy to slip back into that mindset. More often now, I am able to recognize that choice of being self-defeating and reconstruct my thoughts towards something more productive. Rather than just wallow on the topic that makes me feel upset ("woe is me, my life sucks, I hate everything"), I take a doubt that's floating around in my head and try to address it.

As an example, if I am really stressing about the move to CA, I try to answer one of the questions that's bugging me. "What if the moving truck catches on fire?" Well, we have renter's insurance, so we'll submit a claim and get a much money as we can to replace our belongings. "What if insurance won't cover enough?" We have friends and family who would be willing to put us up until we get back on our feet. If I don't answer those questions, I tend to just keep spiraling into what-ifs until they get really disastrous. The worst questions are the "What if someone I love dies?" and that's the only one I try not to think about.

And when I'm really really struggling and I'm alone (because otherwise David would be the one to soothe my worries), I think about Baba. I think about how proud she would be of David and me. I think about the stories she told me about her move to America with her family and how brave she was. I think about the stories I would get to tell her about my move and any crazy obstacles we had to deal with along the way. She would believe in me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Memory Eternal

I cannot accurately say how much I miss her.
May 13, 2017

Before Baba died, I knew she was ready for it. We all did. She was impatient for her time to come and more than a little grumpy with God for not having taken her yet. That's not an easy thing to be around, though I think I was one of the few people that appreciated her morbid jokes about it. I'll save those for another time. Frankly, it was hardest when she talked about her inevitable death for the seventeen years between my grandfather's passing and her own. "When I die, do you want the bedroom set or the dining room set?" I was probably in my early teens the first time I remember that coming up. Conversations with Baba could easily become one-sided, but I never minded.

I think she knew what she was doing. She prepared us for her passing as best as she could. She wanted nothing more than to know that we were all taken care of. She passed on so many stories and so much wisdom to every life she touched. Those are the things that make someone's memory eternal.

So I miss her and I am glad she is at rest. I keep thinking "I'm glad she's gone," but it sounds heartless and she isn't truly gone. My religious or spiritual views are variable at best, but I still like to think that her soul is happy somewhere without the burden of her body and that she is reunited with my grandfather.

And if I ever need to talk to her, I know where she is. This time, she will be the one who gets to listen.

December 24, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Understanding grief


Every day of this process has made me realize how removed I am from death. When I was eleven years old and my grandfather passed away, I did not want to see his body. We got the news as we were driving up to Maine on Christmas morning, my dad pulling over in a parking lot to take the call on one of the family's first cellphones. We went straight to the hospital from there and I would not go in to his room. At the funeral, I would not go into the visitation room until the casket was closed. I remember seeing the top of his head just peeking over the edge of the casket as I glanced from the hallway. It was unnerving. That head, which had been his, but wasn't anymore.

My mom has likened a dead body to that of a glove, after the hand has been removed (I always internally added to that, "but retains its shape"). We come up with all kinds of analogies to explain death because it's not something we are exposed to often, and then when we are, we are not ready for it. We use analogies to explain all kinds of things about the human body. We explain things in terms of machinery and computers, when the reality is, our bodies are the inspiration and source for all of those patterns and mechanisms.

I polled a few people in the days preceding the funeral. Have you been to many funerals, especially as an adult? Did you view the body? Was it weird? I did not want to tarnish my memories of my grandmother with the image of her vacated body. I was afraid it would look like her, but somehow wrong. Ultimately, I realized that as much as she meant and still means to me, this made her body the best and not worst for me to view as exposure to death.


I was actually impressed at the care taken with her body when I finally stepped up to see it. She looked like herself on a good day, still old, but maybe less tired. Some of the wrinkles were smoothed out, but in a relaxed way. It was like a very accurate wax figure, where it really looks like the person, there are just a few things that simply cannot be recreated. The one thing I did expect turned out to be true: it is eerie to see a body that does not breath and where you cannot see a pulse. Something in my brain kept telling me that it should move, like the moment you watch a sleeping pet or loved one and you aren't sure if you saw their chest rise, but then it does. Except in this case, where it never rises again.

There will be more to say and more grieving to do as time goes on. My feelings are confusing to me now. When I am surrounded by my family, I can feel their grief, but not my own. With my husband by my side, I can feel anchored and calm, and can then quest inward to find my buzzing thoughts and questions. I am still as impatient ever. I hate the unknown. I hate the waiting. There is a lot to do of both.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thoughts for the week #9 - Stitch Fix #3

I've got some money burning a hole in my pocket because I don't have free time for a new tattoo :(.

So new clothes it is! Just in time for a new job.

I got my stylist fee waived from this order, so if I hadn't bought anything, I could've sent it all back with no charge (usually $20). If you want to try Stitch Fix, click here to read my last review and here to use my referral link to sign up!

This was a mixed bag. I'll start with the two items I kept for the discount, but sold on a Facebook group (so I got the 25% discount for keeping everything).

Clement Scoop Neck Blouse



Eh. It felt too loose to me, especially around the armpits. The color is not good either. I learned today that summer tones are best for me. That means pink, red, and orange have to have a blue base in order to look okay with my skin tone. Yellow can only be pale, but I don't like wearing yellow anyway. Even with how small these flowers are, I just didn't feel like it worked. Status: sold to someone who wanted it.

Malaika Henley Blouse




Eh, again. The second photo of the skirt shows the only way that I felt like I could wear this. And I don't wear high-waisted skirts very often. The colors were okay, but I felt like it emphasized my shoulders in a bad way and was just too flowy for me. Status: sold to someone who wanted it.

On to the good stuff!

Nancie Pointelle Detail Open Cardigan



A good color on me and very soft! This was a no brainer. Status: kept.

Phillip Printed Straight Leg Trouser




Whoa. Okay. My first thought was "Grandpa". And then "Grandpa whose pants shrank." I'm not a fan of cropped pantlegs. It especially sucks that I can only wear one particular pair of sneakers right now so I look extra dorky in these. Buuuttttt the color is good for me and it's something different. I'll risk it. Status: kept.

Dorianna Skinny Jean



My favorite item from the box! Cropped pants again, bummer, but the color works for me, I think. Plus they're really soft, look great on my bum, and are insanely comfortable. I'm not sure I could make these work appropriate because they're technically jeans (business casual with the right blouse?), but I'll definitely wear them outside of work. Status: kept.

Overall the total price for the order with the discount was $279, which is more than I usually pay. That averages to $55/item. I hope they hold up well!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Thoughts for the week #8 - ADHD testing

In keeping with the theme of brains (braaaiiinnnssss) for blog topics this week, today I am reporting on my experience getting tested for ADHD as an adult. Sorry, this is another long one.

First, a definition:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. - National Institute of Mental Health
Generally, there are considered to be two types of ADHD, though they have a lot of overlap. Inattentive type is also known simply as ADD and is often characterized by difficulty sustaining attention, failing to meet deadlines, difficulty in organizing tasks, easily distracted, and a proclivity for losing things. Impulsive-Hyperactive type is characterized by fidgeting behaviors, difficulty keeping seated/still for extended period of time (most commonly demonstrated in classroom environments), inappropriate physical activities (running around when they shouldn't), interrupting activities and conversations, and having trouble waiting. There is also the Combined type, which is some kind of combination between the two.

Based on my own experiences, I believe that it almost doesn't make sense to differentiate between the types. I have almost all of the symptoms for the inattentive type and some for impulsivity/hyperactivity. I was never one to run around, but I am most definitely someone who can't sit still or comfortably for very long. I am impatient and have to fight myself so I don't interrupt people/events. I think that I can sometimes talk a LOT without any sense of whether it's been too much. I could also describe how my thoughts work as hyperactive. It's too difficult for me to wrangle my thoughts to stay focused. I also think that there are various degrees that someone could experience a disorder like ADHD. Someone might have it very mildly, so much that they are able to compensate for it in other ways and never worry about needing additional support. I wish that more disorders were researched in a way that considered them "normal" variations of brain activity, but the classifications are needed for insurance and liability purposes, unfortunately.

My psychiatrist described the way that medication for ADHD works like this: as it was tested and the dose was lowered (initially was a drug for raising blood pressure), side-effects like "calmer" thoughts were reported in only some subjects. The drugs are technically stimulants, but it seems that some brains process them in such a way that it calms things down just enough to make operating a whole lot easier. If a feeling of stimulation like too much caffeine is felt, that means the dose is too high. They eventually figured out that there was something about the brains of those people that was different than expected and the diagnosis of ADHD was born.

When I was 17, I started going through a neuro-psychological evaluation to test for a possible learning disorder. The testing was initiated by my parents after I'd recovered from a very bad depressive episode, but was still struggling in school. What I found then and now is that a lot of the signs of a learning disorder overlap with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The obvious examples are inability to focus and meet deadlines, but there are many others. Part of the testing was to rule out depression & anxiety as potential factors in my reduced academic performance. The evaluation included a variety of tests, things like:

  • verbally tell a story based on pictures presented to you
  • write a story based on pictures presented to you
  • solve a puzzle made of different geometric shapes
  • various "never, sometimes, often" questionnaires
I believe the testing took at least two sessions. The end diagnosis with Executive Functioning Disorder. This can exist with ADHD as well as independently, but it's more of a symptom than an actual disorder. I believe I was not diagnosed properly, but the end of the report basically deferred to my public school to do evaluations in a classroom environment. That is something the school wasn't really willing to do even though they were legally bound to do it. Fuck them.

At my current psychiatrist's suggestion, I am undertaking testing again. As an adult and since this is a focused test just for ADHD and not anything else, it's mostly discussion with the doctor and one of those questionnaires. My husband filled one out based on behaviors he's seen in me, and I filled out one for myself. After two meetings, the doctor concluded that yes, I do have ADHD and I get to try out a prescription to help. Hooray!

The part that I love about learning about ADHD and mental illness is knowing the ways in which I function are not my fault. Obviously I am responsible for myself and my behaviors, but when I screw up, it's often not "I didn't try hard enough", it's just my brain screwing something up so that I can't do it properly. It's important for me to be aware of these "shortcomings" so I can learn to work around them, like the key system I mentioned in my last post. Obviously, those workarounds are not always foolproof and they often waste a lot of mental energy that I really wish I could expend just doing things without all the processing time and effort

Also, obviously, I will take responsibility for my mistakes either way. It's not always easy to tell if my mismanaged communication is "just me" not coming at something from the right angle, or my brain function preventing me from doing so. I can certainly learn to do better and makes changes, but whether those changes will stick is up to the disorder, not by my choice. My experiences have certainly helped me to be more patient with others and consider that their brains process information differently than mine. How I share information may not be translatable to their learning style and I have to be conscious about taking a different approach if someone doesn't understand me. I think that awareness has made me a better tech support person.

Some people probably think it's a cop-out that I like to blame some of my problems on disorders/illness, but I think that's a misunderstanding in how mental illness and brain disorders affect our behavior. It's something I think we should all learn about in school so that teachers are more adaptable to their students' learning styles and educational needs, and students are more vocal about their challenges. Maybe with the right adaptations in our environment, medication isn't even needed, but I certainly see no shame in taking it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Have I told you about my memory?

...I can't remember.

My brain is like a messy room.

Sometimes, I know exactly where to find information and I walk straight to the correct drawer to access a memory. Other times, I spend a while rummaging around in different cupboards, bins, and under the bed to remember something. I might see it out of the corner of my eye, but when I go over to it, it's gone. More often than I'd like, I stand in the middle of the room with the door closed, unable to figure out the muffled conversation from the other side, or completely distracted by something I just found that I thought I'd lost, so the thing I was looking for rolls off the desk and suddenly I realize that I wasn't paying attention. What did you say? Never mind, I'll try to figure it out as you keep talking so I don't feel embarrassed by drawing attention to my inattentiveness.

Most people probably do not have systems to keep their systems in place. I have to decide that I am going to make a habit, like keeping my keys in only a few specific spots so I don't lose them. At any given moment, I might decide that a location makes perfect sense and of course I'll remember where they are. You can probably figure out that doesn't work most of the time. My currently used purse, a purse that lives on the shoe bench, and my pocket/belt loop are the only acceptable places to leave my keys. Yesterday, I put them in the pocket of my sweatshirt and then later left them on the dining room table at my parents' house. Of course, I spent a minute racking my brain to figure out where I'd gone and where I might have "wisely" left them. I also couldn't remember where I parked my car when I left work because I swore the place that I parked it was where it was yesterday, not today after I got back from my appointment. That's fortunately a rare occurrence. Stress makes it worse.

The system to keep my key system in place is "don't forget you have a key system," which really isn't any easier than remembering where I left my keys in the first place. It just makes me feel like I'm a little more organized, even as I'm dashing back and forth through the apartment, picking up things I need before I go out and unable to subconsciously prioritize so I don't have to go back to the same room for something else a minute later. The hardest part of all this for other people to understand seems to be that none of it is by choice. My brain is just wired this way and I have to make the best of it.

The combination of depression, anxiety, possible ADHD, executive dysfunction, and habits built on all of those things are... interesting, to say the least. Let's not also forget soft-spoken because that is an important part of how this affects my relationships with other people.

I got into the habit of repeating myself during conversations because

  • I speak quietly, but it sounds like a perfectly reasonable volume to my ears so I don't try to adjust it much
  • People wouldn't respond to or acknowledge my comment so I figured they didn't hear me
  • My anxiety told me that people were ignoring me so I should try again
  • My depression thinks that people don't like me so they don't answer me
  • My executive dysfunction would have me repeat my comment without me consciously deciding to because of the habits ingrained from all of the above
  • If I really want to be heard, I sometimes try to raise my voice a little, which my anxiety worries is making my friends annoyed with me
  • I often misjudge how loud I am and feel like I am being really rude, even if what I have to say is important
  • If I give up on being heard, I feel depressed and like my friends don't care about me

It's only after I've repeated myself that I realize I've done it and most of the time it just seems so natural that I don't think about it at all. "They definitely didn't hear me, let me try again." "I can't tell if they're ignoring me, let me try again." "I really want someone to respond to me, let me try again." It's involuntary, I can't slow my thoughts down enough to figure out if it's necessary to repeat, and my anxiety makes it too difficult to assess whether the concerns about people's response/lack of response to me is rational/real.

Another fascinating commonplace occurrence in my mind is losing my train of thought. People have different ways of picking up the thread of a thought. Mine is to mentally walk through any part of the conversation I can remember until I get to the topic at hand. Sometimes, I get to the end of the rails and the train is there, but I keep slipping on the steps and somehow that means I have to go back to the beginning until I can latch on.

So, welcome to my brain. This is why I'm in the midst of getting tested for ADHD. While I definitely fit the mold for the "inattentive type", I can see how my brain's processes could be considered "hyperactive". My doctor described the way medication for ADHD works; the medication essentially calms the brain down so things can be processed at a reasonable and accessible pace. It's not a sedative, but somehow its stimulating properties work better for those hyperactive brains. Weird and cool!

While it's easy to categorize people with labels & types because we can have so many similarities, the way minds work can be so varied. It's a shame it's not discussed more because I find it fascinating! It can be a little difficult to think about thinking and figure out how to talk about it too.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Thoughts for the week #7 - mostly shopping


  • This isn't a sponsored mention or anything, I just really like this product! So the past 3 times I've been to the dentist for cleanings: very little plaque and hard build-up, a regular amount, and very little plaque and hard build-up again. The difference was that the 1st and 3rd time, I was using OraWellness HealThy Mouth exclusively, in place of regular toothpaste. You can get a 3-pack, which makes it more affordable, and they include special toothbrushes. There's also a particular way to brush that is far more effective than your usual back-and-forth or even circular methods. The 2nd cleaning, I had been using Crest ProHealth for a while because I ran out of OraWellness. Even if you added a drop or two to your regular toothpaste, it would probably help and last a lot longer! It also helped reduce my tooth sensitivity (still fairly sensitive to cold, but not as bad). This is all coming from an infrequent flosser, so you know it has to be good.
  • I'm cleared to swim and bike, according to my physical therapist, for my shin splints. I went swimming on Wednesday and it didn't aggravate any of my injuries so that was awesome! Biking is still an issue because I a) can't carry my bike down the stairs b) have nowhere on the ground floor to store it except outside, which I might end up doing anyway and c) can't lean on my wrists. So I'm going to look at cruiser bikes, which have you sitting more upright and put less weight on your wrists. They're not as fast for commuting, but it should be very comfortable. And I don't know, they're cute I guess.
  • Another product plug (again, not getting paid for this or anything): Land's End! Their clothes are really durable and classic. They are often used for companies that require uniforms because of the clothing quality. If you sign up for the email newsletter, you'll get notified of their sales and their sales are really great! I saved 30% on some new business casual clothes and this week there's a 60% off sale. All of their dress shirts are very washer/dryer friendly and many of them don't need to be ironed as long as you pluck them out of the dryer as soon as it's done. They do have a refer a friend option, so if you contact me before you order anything, I can send you a referral email and we both save 25% :).
GIF of the week
I've been re-watching Community. It's still hilarious.

Photo of the week

This is one of the bikes I'm thinking of, but I'll probably test ride some local ones.