Friday, June 14, 2013
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
|No, nothing like this. AT ALL.|
|I deployed doilies, people. Doilies!|
|Just look at them. You can tell they're up to something.|
Thursday, June 06, 2013
|Carol: Radiation victim, or bold fashion statement?|
|Ooh, baby. No head lice, and the hottest guy in Georgia. Gimme my clippers and a crossbow!|
Saturday, October 06, 2012
I haven't written about a lot of serious topics here, and I don't recall (without looking it up, and I'm too lazy) whether I've written much about anxiety. Today is that day.
I don't think about it often, truthfully, because it's usually fairly well-controlled. Sure, you all know about my aversion to venturing into the Out, where there are Others. It's a running joke. Most of the time. If I can find a reason to stay home, I will. I tend to cluster necessary errands into one or two days so I can string as many "don't have to leave the house" days together as possible.
It's been two years now since I've regularly attended a "day job." I managed, though sometimes I wonder how. Dealing with clients, co-workers, employees, vendors, and still finding time to cook, clean (shut up, I do it sometimes...a little), and write. But my days off were largely spent mentally checked out, because I simply could not engage in any way while my socially-anxious brain worked to recover enough equilibrium to go out and do it again.
Now, the daily pressure is less, and I normally manage to function when necessary. Once in a while, though, it sneaks up behind me and seizes me in its crushing grip. I don't know why, but this always surprises me. Yeah, I know, it was being sneaky, and sneaky leads to surprise. But the worst is usually in the fall. Every fall. Yet when it hits, I am always caught unaware.
I can understand why people would be unsympathetic. My "panic/anxiety/fall funk" looks suspiciously like my day-to-day "lazy-ass-ness." But, believe me, it's a whole different critter. It's nearly impossible to explain to someone who has never experienced it. Tom does a pretty good job of understanding, as much as anyone could, and helps in any way he can. But he has to go to work, and sometimes the hours waiting for him to come home again actually leave me trembling with anxiety. When he's here, I'm okay, regardless of what else is going on.
People might say, "What do you have to be afraid of? Jeez, it's just the grocery store!" But that's not it at all. I'm not "afraid," exactly. Anxiety is a kind of embryonic fear. Fear that something, something I can't anticipate, predict, or prevent, is about to happen. And that anxiety can spike to full-blown panic at any moment, and I don't want to be in the produce aisle when it happens.
Have you ever stood in the break room at work, your hands pressed tightly over your nose and mouth, screaming, while inside your head you're begging for this out-of-control feeling to just go away? I have. That was a Very Bad Day.
It makes no sense, though there are sometimes triggers. We're not afraid OF anything, or maybe we're afraid of everything, or nothing...it doesn't matter. These feelings come when they come, and you find a way to cope.
It's typical for me to resist any sort of social engagement. If we have a night out planned, or I've arranged to have lunch with a friend (yes, I do have a few), as the hour approaches I begin quietly looking for a reason (okay, an excuse) to cancel. Or I hope they have to cancel or reschedule. In the end, I usually have a good time, though I often have a drink or two more than I should, because that shuts up the "oh, shit, get home or you will DIE" part of my brain.
I know some of you have similar experiences, and these things will sound familiar. If you're at the store and need something in a particular aisle, but there are a few people already browsing that area, you'll bypass it, either coming back when the aisle is less populated...or skipping that item altogether, regardless of how badly you need it. Simply passing others in the aisle, that polite "hi, I'm walking by you right now" interaction, even if no words are spoken or direct eye contact made, is too much.
If you can't find something on your list, you do without it. Asking? Seriously? Ask a person? What if I say or do something stupid or embarrassing? It could happen.
I'm very upset if I can't park in the particular row or section I prefer. What if I park somewhere else and there's something (wrong? different? confusing?) about the new space or area? What if it impacts my routine, disrupts my thought process, causing me to do something wrong?
I know it often confuses Tom when he comes home, knowing I'd been out that day, but I hadn't brought in the mail. Know why? Because sometimes when I pull into the driveway I am so frantic to get back into the house that the additional twenty or thirty seconds necessary to retrieve the mail from the box at the end of the driveway feels like twenty or thirty days. All I can think about is getting those shopping bags inside. As long as I'm outside the house, there is the danger of seeing someone or being seen. (It occurs to me that I really need a cloak of invisibility, which would solve a lot of problems.) Sometimes I'll even leave a case of pop or bag of dog food out in the garage rather than carry it in - requiring another trip from the house to the garage. Not because I am physically incapable of lifting it. But it takes time. So I tell Tom I'd like him to carry this heavy thing in when he gets home, while I'm (finally) safe inside with the dogs.
I dread having work done in/on/near the house by contractors or service providers of any kind. It totally wrecks me, and the dogs, either because they're territorial, picking up on my stress, or both, are nearly as bad.
I had gastric bypass surgery eleven years ago, and am on some pretty high-dose supplements to compensate for the malabsorption caused by the reconfigured digestive tract. When those get out of balance (sometimes I'm not as careful about taking them every day as I should be), I get fuzzy, vague, and twitchy. And something about fall makes me morose, unmotivated, fearful, and depressed. When these hit at the same time, look out. It might look like I'm being an even bigger lazy-ass than usual, but I'm screaming inside my head. "I hate feeling like this! Someone please do something to make it better! Make me happy and productive!" But nobody, not even Tom, can do that.
Pharmaceuticals are not my solution. Personally, I don't take any prescription medication, and I don't plan to without a really overwhelming reason. My anxiety, as I said, is usually manageable. Occasional discomfort, moments of stabbing fear, but not full-blown, ongoing episodes. Thankfully, those are few and far between.
This doesn't mean they don't suck kangaroo balls when they happen, though. The past week has been one of those times. I've adjusted my supplement doses, especially the B12 which impacts neurological function, and now I'll wait it out. Or wait it IN, because I will keep trips into the Out to a bare minimum for a while. I don't enjoy being out in the best of times, and these ain't those times. It's like the survivors of a zombie apocalypse trying to slink silently through the streets of an overrun town, avoiding notice of the shambling undead and criminally-minded humans alike. But, sincerely, I sort of think I'd rather do that than have to try to function around regular people when the inside of my head feels like it's full of radioactive spiders.
I know there are plenty of people out there with anxiety disorders far worse than mine. I don't mean to belittle their suffering. But just because you have one broken leg, and someone else has two, doesn't mean your leg doesn't hurt. And anxiety hurts. It hurts your brain, your heart, your ability to catch your breath or sleep at night. It hurts your self-esteem, your productivity, your relationships, your ambition, and your hope for the future. While it's happening, it is suffocating and demoralizing.
The only good part is it ends. Eventually. Sometimes you can help it along, sometimes you just have to ride it out. If it doesn't go away, you have a bigger problem than anxiety or panic disorder, and should investigate further.
Right now, I'm riding it out. In coach. With my knees drawn up and a blanket over my head. But I know I'll see the light again soon.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Sometimes the simplest little memory can sneak up on you, ambush you, and practically bring you to your knees. It can be hard to tell if the overwhelming emotion is a sense of loss, or the bittersweet joy of remembering a more innocent time.
I grew up on a rural hilltop in northern West Virginia. Our property adjoined my grandparents', and between Pap and Dad, they had well over a full acre in cultivation. Several enormous garden areas. Every night, Dad came home from work, ate dinner, then headed to the garden, usually with me right on his heels. I loved spending time with him in the garden, and today one of those memories was resurrected so vividly, I could almost close my eyes and relive it.
One of my favorite things was the spring tilling. Earlier, Dad would have used the tractor and plow to turn the earth, and that was entertaining in its own way, but I really loved when he got out the tiller to break up the soil into a finer texture in preparation for planting. Dad would maneuver the huge red tiller back and forth over the garden, followed closely by a skinny little girl with long, uncombed dark hair, skinned knees, and skin brown from the sun - and generous layers of dirt. I might have pokeberry juice on my fingers (they were so fun to pop!) and mosquito bites all over my arms and legs. I loved to dig my bare feet into the soft, damp, sun-warmed earth, wiggling my toes. Dad sometimes scolded me halfheartedly. "Here I am tilling this up all nice and loose, and you're right behind me packing it all down again." He didn't mean it, though, because he never made me stop.
Sometimes when darkness began to fall and we headed back to the trailer, the dew had already dampened the grass in the field. I was warm through and through, but the cool moisture on the grass chilled my toes, and washed away a bit of the garden dirt. The rest of the evening might be spent on the couch, curled up in a crook made by Dad's legs, watching Truth or Consequences, Wild Kingdom, Davy Crockett, or a football game. Yeah, I was a pretty major Daddy's Girl.
Tonight, Tom was tilling up our garden area, something we just started doing last year. I was "helping," because there are still quite a few roots and rocks in the soil, and I try to spot them and pick them out so they don't catch on the tiller's tines.
But there I was. Tom maneuvering the red tiller through our garden, and me behind him, barefoot, digging my dirty bare toes into the soft, damp, sun-warmed earth, wiggling my toes.
For a few minutes, it was forty years ago, and I was seven years old again, in the garden with my Dad.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Sometimes I hear people say things like, "I've been stuck in the house for two days, and I'm going crazy! I need to get out of here!" Though, technically, I don't hear people say it, because I do not interact with actual human beings, so I'm seeing this on their Facebook updates. But it seems strange to say, "I saw someone say this," even if it's technically true.
The only human I'm really comfortable with is Tom, but he's my husband, so he's in a separate category. Let's call him "super-human," because it's painfully accurate. Seriously, if you knew half the things he has to put up with. He has more patience than the Dalai Lama. (I'm assuming the Dalai Lama is patient. If he's not, he has an incredible public relations team.)
The point is, these people who claim cabin fever after a couple of days at home are nuts. Do you know what's out there? Have you been paying attention? There are Others. There are sales clerks and cashiers who insist on speaking to you, including the ones in the bank drive-through, which is infuriating because the whole reason I go to the drive-through is to avoid talking to people.
There are people who hold the door open at the convenience store and insist on making eye contact. Even in the safety of the car, one must deal with other vehicles, all of which seem to be driven by senile chimpanzees with cataracts.
I avoid the Out as much as possible. Normal humans might consider my reluctance to run errands a sign of laziness. Well, there's home-lazy and out-lazy, and (as is typical for me) I excel at both. Having to plan for every possible contingency before leaving the house is exhausting. What if I can't find the 40-watt light bulbs and have to ask someone where they are? What will I say? What will they say? What will I say back? Never mind, I'll just stay home. I know what the dogs will say. ("Bark!") I know what I will say back. ("Brody, shutthehellup!")
But occasionally something comes up, and I can no longer avoid putting on shoes and a bra and going out to pretend I'm a real person. Usually this involves cigarettes or chocolate. Stop judging me. Everybody eats chocolate.
Yesterday, we were out of both dishwasher detergent and trash bags. The dishwasher and the trash were both full. But we did have some heavy-duty 55-gallon construction grade trash bags. You know, the kind you can load with chunks of drywall. I transferred the contents of our last regular trash bag into one, then added the contents of the bathroom trash and some decomposing stuff from the refrigerator just so it wouldn't seem as wasteful. Problem solved. Empty (if slightly slimy and probably smelly) trash can in the kitchen closet. Win!
The dishwasher was still full, and this morning I considered taking some of the dishes out and hand washing them. Then I realized it would take about five times longer to wash these dishes by hand than it would take to simply go to the store and buy dishwasher detergent. Plus, I hate washing dishes.
And there was one more factor I had to consider...
Once every eight and a half days, the thing requiring my presence in the Out involves dropping our auto insurance payment off at the State Farm agency. Tom swears this is, in reality, only once a month, but I'm pretty sure he's lying. It certainly feels like every eight and a half days, or nine and a half if it happens to be leap year.
For some reason, he refuses to put a stamp on the envelope and mail it to the office, claiming it's only a mile away, it's really not a big deal, and why is it so damned hard to go hand someone a freaking envelope. Well, for one, the receptionist insists on asking me, every single time, if I want a receipt. I never do. We have this conversation every month. (Or every eight and a half days.) Can't she just assume it's the same as every other time, and spare me this unnecessary exchange? How inconsiderate. I need a new insurance agency.
I understand we can't put the payment out in our own mailbox, because several years ago we had some outgoing bills stolen. The thieves "washed" the checks and tried to cash them with different "payable to" information and amounts. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful - arrested! - but we now know we can't pay our bills using our own mailbox. Tom drives most of them to the public boxes near the location of the old post office. These boxes are, ironically, a block from the insurance office, but I'd totally drive there and stick the bill in the box rather than get out of the car and see that receptionist. Or receptionists. I'm not sure if it's always the same one, because I never look at her.
The alternative would be for Tom to take the bills to work with him and put them with his store's outgoing mail. The insurance bill would be driven 35 miles to be mailed, only to arrive at a destination one mile from where it was when we put it in the envelope. Tom thinks this is ridiculous. I think it makes perfect sense. That's what the USPS is for. If our mail carrier gets laid off and out of his mind with assault-rifle-toting rage, I'll explain to him that it's all Tom's fault.
Since I'm not looking at people, I tell myself in my head they're not looking at me, either. Still, I make some concessions to personal appearance when venturing into the Out. I change my furry sweats, shirt, and filthy socks for jeans, shoes, and a bra under my probably-fairly-clean shirt. I even brush my hair. I've pretty much stopped wearing makeup, but I wear glasses, and that's sort of like eye makeup. Plus, I'm probably going to Walmart, and I'm relatively sure if I showed up there stylishly dressed, with clean, well-groomed hair and impeccable makeup I would not be allowed inside.
It doesn't matter, really, since I'm wearing my "I'm not looking at you" cloak of invisibility. Logic would dictate that one of the three or four people I actually know could see me and assume I've fallen on hard times, might even be homeless, and am shuffling around Walmart pushing a cart full of things I can't actually afford to buy, but enjoying the fantasy that I can actually take these fabulous Ramen noodles back to my refrigerator box under the railroad bridge. But I refuse to subscribe to this logic, and choose instead to believe nobody can see me. Which is why it's incredibly rude for anyone to speak to me, because it sort of blows the whole theory.
We're all much better off if I just stay here and talk to the dogs. The people who like going out there are the crazy ones.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Today's words of wisdom: Never say "never" unless it's followed by something like "pour gasoline on a bonfire." Because, generally speaking, if you say you "never" do something, you'll eventually turn out to be a liar.
I've been known to say "never" a lot. Three examples:
1) While I have the TV on all the time, I never really watch it.
2) I never go to movies.
3) I will never, ever, neverever touch a gun because I'm not exactly stable and have poor impulse control, and I'd totally end up on CNN or featured in The Darwin Awards.
And, of course, I'm a big fat liar about two of those things. I still don't go to movies. (Too loud, too cold, too many people.)
Other than The Walking Dead, there has been nothing on television in the last, well, lifetime I couldn't live without seeing. Then Santa doomed me. And by Santa, I mean my son and daughter-in-law. Because I had zero knowledge of essentially every series and movie in the last twenty years (at least), they gifted us with a Roku device for our television. This miraculous (cursed) gadget allows me to have Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, among many other viewing options I have yet to explore fully.
My already infinitesimal productivity plummeted. It's a good thing I hadn't previously been more productive, or the fall would've killed me. However, I have produced seven afghans this winter, which I think counts for something.
So. Many. Things. To. Watch. And when you discover a series which ran for five or six seasons, it takes a while (like maybe two whole weeks) to cross even one item off your "must-see" list. Buffy, Angel, Dexter, True Blood, Jericho... just to name a few.
My current obsession is Leverage, thanks to a certain super-hot guy I first encountered on Angel. There seriously aren't enough hours in a day.
The dogs are starting to hate me. First, I sit on the leather couch - not the Sofur - while watching, because I'm always working on an afghan and there's less fur on the other couch. Also, barking is not permitted (certain low, husky, sexy voices are difficult to hear over Brody's territorial hysterics). Drooling and shedding in the vicinity of my lovely yarn is not allowed, either, and since they do both pretty much constantly, they feel skritch-deprived.
But I have a couple of decades of popular culture to catch up on, so they'll have to deal with it.
All this TV-watching indirectly led to breaking the other of my Never Commandments. It became obvious society is sure to fail, possibly because of zombies, and we were totally unprepared. And if books and television shows weren't enough, try watching the news. It's the scariest program of all. Actually, it was Tom watching Jericho that tipped the scales. He started to feel very anxious and vulnerable, and he has enough to worry about. So we got a gun and started learning to shoot.
The gun range is a strange and foreign place. I learned right away that hot shell casings down the shirt are not good, and those things fly everywhere. But as it turns out, I'm a pretty good shot. I'm not quite as good at putting on my ear protectors, though, and almost lost a fingernail when I got my finger stuck between the ear-muffy part and the thing that holds it to the head-bandy part.
But until I'm a whole lot better, we might have a gun...but no bullets at home.
So when you hear yourself saying "never," think about it. If you say it too often, about too many things, you might be missing out on some fun, interesting new experiences. Plus, when the zombies show up, your weapon choice will be limited to dog toys and sticks you pick up from the yard. Eliot on Leverage could totally bludgeon several dozen zombies to death with these objects, but odds are you can not.
Maybe I should find a way to incorporate a multi-tasking approach into these lifestyle changes. I bet I could crochet a holster. Or a gun cozy. There are free patterns online for everything.
PS: Be sure to visit my author page for excerpts and links to buy my books, Make or Break and Monsters Unmasked!