Accidental Fudge

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Winter Blahs

I am having a very blah sort of week. I’m not sad, exactly. I just feel very unmotivated, and tired, and nothing sounds like very much fun or like anything I want to do. All I really want to do is hibernate.

It wasn’t until I was on my way to therapy on Monday that I realized that this is probably a weird instance of the depressive side of my Bipolar cycle sneaking up on me. Usually when I’m heading into a depressive episode, I can tell – I feel really down. But “down” doesn’t feel like the right word for this. It’s just…blah.

It was a struggle to get anything done at work last week. It was a struggle to write my song for songwriting class (and my goal was actually to write TWO songs last week). It was a struggle to get myself to show up for my volunteer shift and for the social things I’d committed to doing (even though all of those things ended up being fine). I had a minor breakdown last Thursday evening, because I got home at the end of a long day, and even though I’d made a plan and knew what I should get done, none of those things actually happened. I got things done, but none of them were things on my to do list, and I felt like an enormous failure.

Since I was able to identify this as depression on Monday, it’s been a little easier – if not to find motivation or give-a-damn, at least to sit quietly with the blah-ness of it all and recognize that this, too, shall pass. Yesterday the sun was out, and I had the same revelation I do every time we get through a cloudy spate of days and come out the other side into sunlight – I am incredibly affected by the weather. I should probably definitely be taking vitamin D.

In the meantime, I’m finding ways to cope. I’m listening to a lot of Dar Williams (even when I’m not listening to Dar Williams, my brain’s playing The Christians and the Pagans or The Babysitter’s Here or When I Was A Boy). I’m taking time to write down what I’m anxious about. I’m thinking a lot about the Starfinder game I’m going to start playing soon. I’m dreaming up new tattoos (even though I can’t afford a new tattoo right now). I’m celebrating the fact that I pushed my credit card debt down under the next $1000 since making a payment last week and getting a disputed charge taken care of. (I’m trying not to be disappointed that I haven’t gotten farther in the process of paying it off.) I’m trying to remind myself that while yes, I probably should be reading and knitting and writing more, the fact that I’m not doing it right now does not mean that this is what my life is going to be like forever. Once again: this, too, shall pass.

Plans

After I posted last week about my word of the year being “Action”…I promptly caught the cold from hell and lost several days to that nonsense. I was out of the office for three of the last five work days, and spent a lot of time annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t breathe through half my nose and kept waking myself up coughing. But I finally (FINALLY) and starting to feel more human again, so now I feel like it’s time to move forward with starting 2018 (a little over a week late, but hey, who’s counting?).

I’m continuing PT for my knee, which is helping a lot. It also makes me whine a lot, because the exercises are HARD (but feel like they shouldn’t be). I’m working on being more gracious about it and grateful for the progress I’m making.

Songwriting class started this week, and I’m trying to hit the ground running, so I have a shot at hitting my goal of 40 songs written this year (twice the number I’ve written each of the past two years).

I’m working on anxiety coping mechanisms in therapy. One of the things I’m trying this week is writing down my anxieties, in the hopes that getting them out of my head onto paper will make it easier to talk myself down. So far it seems like it’s helpful, but it’s only been a couple of days, so jury’s still out. I left my session this week with several ideas to try, though, so if this doesn’t work out, I have other options.

One of the things I want to do a better job of this year is actually planning out my weeks. There’s a big part of me that hates the idea of being boxed into a rigid schedule, but I also recognize that I’m more productive if I have a plan. If the only way I will make time to write songs or read books or whatever else I want to do is if I block out time in my schedule every week, then that’s what I need to do.

I’m trying to keep my goals reasonable, to not bite off more than I can chew in the first two weeks of the year, because I don’t want to burn out. Finding the balance there is a challenge.

Action

Happy New Year, readers! The adventure(?) that was 2017 has ended, and 2018 has begun. Last year was a rough one on a global level, but while my generalized anxiety reached new heights, I can’t say it was a terrible year for me personally. Sure, I didn’t knit as much as I usually do and I spent a lot of the year feeling an overwhelmingly hopeless sense of doom…but I also strengthened some really meaningful friendships, went to Song School, wrote 20 new songs…and I survived. A lot of pieces of my life that felt chaotic and unsettled for a long time have calmed down significantly, to the point where I feel like I’m coming out of survival/energy conservation mode and into a place where I can DO things.

Which brings me to the point of this first post of 2018. I don’t do a lot with concrete resolutions, but I’ve liked the idea that I’ve seen of choosing a word with which to frame the new year. My word for 2018: Action. I am still sussing out exactly what that means for my year, but I know it means a few things for sure:

  1. Taking better care of my mental health, particularly in terms of anxiety. I am back in therapy with a new therapist, and my goal is to work on finding better coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the anxiety that has become a constant under the current political administration in the U.S. I’ve identified some triggers and some key areas where I shut down, and while I know this will be hard work, I am at a point where I feel like I can do it.
  2. Taking better care of myself physically. I’ve started physical therapy for my right knee, which has been acting up since Thanksgiving, and as long as I keep up with the exercises, it really does help. Today I’m going to the doctor to follow up on some high blood pressure results from the last time I was there. I have a few other longstanding issues that I want to work on, too (chronic pain, follow-up on some issues I had before we moved to Chicago that should probably be checked out).
  3. Being more politically active. I want to call congresspeople, and be involved in local politics somehow, and stay outraged and stay active. Because this nightmare of an administration isn’t going away on its own. I can’t do everything, I can’t fix it all, but what little bit is in my control, I feel like I need to follow through on.

The brilliant S. Bear Bergman wrote a really wonderful bit about this in his Ask Bear column this week, and you should read it here if you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed here at the start of 2018. Here’s to tackling this new year “bird by bird” (to quote Anne Lamott), or “one penguin at a time” (to quote Bear’s article). We can only do what we can do. For myself, that means better self-care and more external action. Inertia is hard to overcome, but it’s time.

Sometimes Self-Care Looks Like…

We’re less than one week from Christmas. On Saturday, my partner and I will get up at an ungodly hour of the morning and drive to Minnesota, where we’ll spend a week with family. (Incidentally, there may or may not be a blog next week, on account of the holidays.)

As 2017 draws to a close, and I find my life in a relatively stable place overall, I am allowing myself some time to more closely examine the areas of my life that have long been neglected in favor of what felt like more pressing crises.

One of those areas is anxiety management. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so I’m no stranger to anxiety, but with the current state of the world, I’m finding the coping mechanisms I have aren’t sufficient. I’m also noticing where my anxiety is affecting other areas of my life – how it makes me shut down around conflict, how it destroys my productivity at work, how it keeps me from enjoying social situations that didn’t used to be a problem. I had my first visit with a new therapist on Monday. Sometimes in therapy in the past I’ve had trouble articulating why I was there, and what I needed, but this new therapist was able to sort of draw that out of me and help me frame my goals for therapy more solidly than I’ve been able to in the past. I think things are going to work out well with them.

Another area that I’ve been neglecting is more physical. There are a lot of aspects of my physical health that I am not great at paying attention to, but I’ve been having particular trouble with my knees lately, as a joint issue I was diagnosed with in high school has flared up again. It’s done this occasionally over the years, but now my right knee has been swollen and stiff for a month, and my left knee is getting sore from compensating for it. Thankfully, this time when it flared up, I made an appointment with my doctor right away, who referred me to a physical therapist. I had my first PT appointment yesterday, and it was kind of miraculous how much of a difference a single, half-hour appointment made. I have instructions to do some stretching exercises every few hours during the day for the next couple of weeks, until my next appointment, and it’s encouraging to see progress on the first day.

Sometimes self-care looks like finding a new therapist, even if the process of finding a new therapist is, itself, kind of anxiety-inducing.

Sometimes self-care looks like making that doctor’s appointment that probably should have been scheduled months ago.

Sometimes self-care looks like knitting selfishly after working on a rare unselfish project for a couple of months. I knit my nephew a sweater for Christmas, and while it was fun and it looks super cute and I think he’ll like it, there’s something immensely satisfying about working on a sweater for myself with tons of cables (which is far and away my favorite type of project to work on).

The holidays are rough for a lot of people, for all sorts of reasons. My own holiday is looking like it’ll be bittersweet – I get to spend time with all sorts of people I care about, which will be lovely, but my 15-year-old dog (okay, she’s my parents’ dog, but we got her the summer I turned 14, so she’s still my dog) is not doing well, and it’s almost certain that next week I’ll be saying goodbye for the last time. I’m already sad, thinking about it, as much as I’m grateful that I will get one last chance to see her. Sometimes, for me, self-care looks like blocking out some time in my schedule to process the feelings I don’t have space for, say, at work. Which is all to say that this is a time of year where self-care is particularly important, and that self-care is going to look different for everyone.

I wish all of you the happiest holidays you can manage, and I hope you all find ways to take care of yourselves through the rough patches.

Brief Bright Spots

It feels like it’s been a long week. In reality, I stayed home from work on Monday after waking up feeling feverish, and I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping as I try to fight off this annoying cold that isn’t awful but just won’t leave. I’m still dealing with anxiety. But there have been some distinct bright spots in the week, so I’m going to focus on those today.

  1. We started putting up holiday decorations in our apartment. We have lights around the windows, and the (fake) tree is up. We still need to get the lights on the tree plugged in (we had to acquire another extension cord first – there’s a paucity of outlets in our apartment), and put the ornaments on, but that should happen in the next few days. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (it no longer holds particular religious significance for me, and the capitalist overtones of the secular side of the holiday are overwhelming and upsetting), but I do like the decorations, especially the lights. So that’s been fun.
  2. I found out my knee is not untreatably messed up. My right knee has been swollen and achy for a few weeks. Finally made it to the doctor last week, and while it looks like I need physical therapy (currently waiting on a referral), it doesn’t appear to be anything irreparable. So that was encouraging.
  3. I scheduled an intake appointment with a new therapist. My last therapist, who I adored, moved to Portland in September. I felt like I was doing mostly okay, but I’m recognizing that I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety. I’m also finding, as my life in general becomes more stable, that there are areas of my psyche I have avoided dealing with in the past that are now coming to the surface, so it feels like a good time to find someone to process all of that with. I don’t know whether things will work out schedule-wise with this particular person, but I’m optimistic.
  4. I wrote a letter. I have this pen pal in Germany who I’ve been corresponding with off and on since 2013. He is a great pen pal and regularly sends me postcards, interspersed with occasional longer letters and some photographs he’s taken. I have been a horrible pen pal, and have maybe written to him once all this year. But this week, after receiving yet another postcard from him, I finally sat down and wrote him a proper letter. It reminded me that I really enjoy letter writing, when I actually sit down to do it. I am hoping to do more of this in 2018.
  5. Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama seat in the Senate. I had not fully processed how much tension I was carrying about this until I got a text from my dad on Tuesday night announcing that Jones had won. It’s restored a little bit of my faith in our collective humanity, and has me feeling tentatively hopeful about next year’s midterm elections. I’m still disgusted that it was a close race and that the majority of white people (including the majority of white women) voted for a pedophile. In fact, 80% of voters who self-identified as white evangelical/born-again Christians voted for Moore. (Stats found at Washington Post and NBC.) White Christians, do better. Call this out. This is not just a southern problem – the whole country was complicit in electing 45. This is a white people problem, and especially a white evangelical problem. I found this opinion piece in the Washington Post really on point – worth a read.

All that to say that while things still feel pretty shaky on a global level, personally, I’m doing okay. Or if I’m not exactly okay, I’m finding ways to get there. And really, that’s about all I can ask for right now.

Anxious Days

I’m having an anxious week, and I don’t really know why.

It might be the regular stress of the upcoming holidays.

It might be the minor (but still stressful) drama and health issues happening with my team at work.

It might also just be my brain.

In any case, my body decided yesterday that it was a great time to develop an eye twitch. And not just one eye, but both, sporadically, all day. Obviously I’m a huge fan of this development.

There have been bright spots this week, mostly revolving around music – a songwriting classmate’s concert, meeting new musician friends, having the new song I’d talked myself out of liking go over okay in class on Tuesday. Unfortunately, all of it has been underpinned by this frantic activity in my brain.

It’s not even that I’m anxious about some specific, concrete thing. (I guess that’s why they call it Generalized Anxiety Disorder.) I just can’t get my brain to shut off.

I’m also really, really tired. These two things are probably related.

I feel like I’ve been drinking excessive amounts of coffee – I’m jittery, my eyes are twitching, I feel wired and like I’m crashing simultaneously. Only, I drink decaf coffee these days. This appears to be entirely fabricated within the confines of my brain.

Anniversaries

November is a month of anniversaries.

The beginning of the month marked my four year anniversary of starting testosterone. The day after Thanksgiving was the three year anniversary of my legal name change.

As of the 17th, my partner and I have been together for seven years. It’s been a wild, wonderful ride, and one I don’t intend to get off of anytime soon.

And on this day, four years ago, Accidental Fudge was born. What started as blog about the adventures of transition has morphed into a blog about the adventures of my life in general. I can still count on two hands the number of Thursdays I’ve missed since I started this thing, and that, to me, feels like a significant accomplishment.

I don’t have a whole heck of a lot to write about this week, but I wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who stop by every week to read what’s on my mind. This is a pretty self-indulgent blog, and I never really expected to have any sort of audience. There aren’t a lot of you, but there are a lot more than I expected, and I appreciate you.

In the spirit of what this blog has become, let’s wrap up this post with a handful of happy things from the past week, shall we?

  1. I wrote last week about my general distaste for Thanksgiving/Black Friday. I do, however, like to support local spots on Small Business Saturday. This year I went to four or five different shops in my neighborhood and the surrounding area, and got about 80% of my holiday shopping done. It was exhausting, but I also had fun.
  2. On Monday, I went to see Thor: Ragnarok with a friend. I was not expecting great things, but oh my god, it was wonderful. It’s hilarious – basically slapstick with swords and explosions and superheroes. And there’s gothtastic Cate Blanchett, and…yeah. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  3. Yesterday, I took a sick day because I was completely exhausted when I woke up, and felt mildly feverish. Which sounds like a not-so-happy thing, but I slept a ton and had a really relaxing day, which means that I’m feeling 90% better today.

Gratitude Every Damn Day

It’s Thanksgiving in the US today. The last two years, I’ve posted about my discomfort with this holiday. White colonialism isn’t really a thing I’m into celebrating, particularly when it hasn’t ended and we continue to refuse to own up to that.

This year, I’m thinking about Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and how they relate.

My initial thought was, “oh, what contrast there is between a day that’s ostensibly about gratitude and the very next day that is all about capitalism and the acquisition of stuff.” And then I thought about it some more, and realized that there’s not a lot of actual difference between the two days at all.

Thanksgiving is the holiday where we pay lip service to gratitude and ignore our history of colonialism and the slaughter and displacement of Indigenous people, all fueled by greed. On Black Friday, we have our external demonstration that our values haven’t changed.

People literally die on Black Friday in their quest to get a good deal on stuff they probably don’t need. Let’s put that another way: People literally kill other human beings over stuff they probably don’t need on Black Friday. And we don’t do anything about it. If anything, the craze gets worse every year. Which seems to be the quintessential America way of dealing with preventable tragedy. (See also: the 95 mass shootings that have happened in the US since 1982.)

I don’t want to pay lip service to gratitude; I don’t want to do it one day a year, and I certainly don’t want to save it for a holiday that’s built on lies. I want to be grateful every damn day. To that end, I’ve been trying for the past couple of months to list three things I’m grateful for every morning when I get up and every night before I go to bed. I want to keep an attitude of “thanksgiving” every day of the year.

Part of being grateful is sharing what we’ve got when we recognize we have more than we need. There are links in both of the blog posts linked in the first line of this post to organizations that I’ve suggested donating to on past Thanksgivings; here a few more:

The Marsha P. Johnson Institute

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Chicago Community Bond Fund

Transgender Law Center

Planned Parenthood

 

Writer’s Block

I put this week’s blog post off to the last minute this week (I’m writing this less than half an hour before my posts usually go live), because I just don’t know what to write about.

My songwriting class has been…frustrating, if productive so far, but I don’t really want to rant about that.

I’m still learning how to be a morning person. It’s been mostly going well, although the last couple of days have been rough, probably because of the weather.

Work is going okay; this week I took an eight hour online class (over two days) to get a better foundation in my knowledge of how to pull data out of our system.

I’m incredibly sleepy this morning. I’m working from home, waiting for someone from the building maintenance team to come and take a look at our tub, which has been draining slowly and dripping incessantly.

Basically, life is happening, moving right along, but it hasn’t been especially eventful or exciting this week. But in an effort to have something to post this week, here are three things I’m happy about right now:

  1. The songwriting class has been frustrating, but I’m getting back into the project I started a couple of years ago of writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. That’s 78 songs, and I’ve only finished four or five, so I’ll be at it for a while. But it’s fun to feel excited about it again.
  2. I’m working on some fun knitting projects. I’m making a sweater for my nephew for Christmas, a sweater for myself, and I started some socks last night that have an interesting construction that I’m excited about.
  3. We hung out with some new friends last night, and it was a lot of fun. I love finding people that I can laugh with.

Reading Deprivation

I’m currently in the middle of week four of The Artist’s Way, and this week I’m supposed to try “reading deprivation” as a means of getting my own ideas out into the world. It is what it sounds like: this week, I’m not supposed to read. The idea is that, while reading is not an inherently bad thing, it often serves as a way for us to distract ourselves from our own thoughts and ideas. If you can’t read, eventually you get bored enough that you start to entertain yourself in new and creative ways, I suppose.

Now, I’m having to make some exceptions – I can’t do my job without email, and reading emails and text messages outside of work doesn’t tend to take up a huge amount of my time, so I haven’t really counted that as reading, either. Where I see myself wasting time and avoiding my own thoughts is in the moments where I get lost on Facebook or poking around other odd corners of the internet. So I’ve basically been off Facebook all week (with a couple of under-60-second exceptions), I’m checking Instagram less often, and I’m trying to steer clear of Google. I’m also not picking up the books I really want to be reading.

It’s been interesting so far. I’ve done more journaling. I’ve been doing tarot readings for myself (a different type of reading altogether that I sort of arbitrarily decided didn’t count), but haven’t cracked open a guidebook when I feel stuck on the meaning of something, which means I have to lean more on intuition and my own interpretations of things – not a bad practice, really. I’ve been looking for ways where I can use my imagination more, because I’m aware, when thinking about all of this, of how little I stretch those mental muscles these days.

I don’t know if it’s related to The Artist’s Way or not (I’m always skeptical), but I have actually been pretty damn productive this week, both creatively and at work.

Last week, I was feeling a little bit dubious about the new songwriting class I’m in – it’s pretty entirely self-directed (no predetermined assignments from the instructor), and I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed and not driven to get things done. But I didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand just because it’s not the format I’m used to, so I decided that I’m going to use this eight-week class to work on my ongoing project with no deadline – writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I wrote my first tarot song in months over the weekend. I really liked how it turned out, and then I got some really useful feedback on it in class, which is ultimately what I want out of a songwriting class. So that was exciting.

And yesterday, at work, I managed to make some solid progress on a project that I’d been avoiding for weeks for no real reason. It was getting to the point where I’d avoided it so long that it felt impossible to do anything about it, but when I finally sat down and broke it into a couple of different tasks, it became suddenly manageable.

It’s been pretty challenging to stay awake through my morning pages this week, but I’ve managed. Some mornings I can get the three pages written in about 40 minutes…other days, like yesterday, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes or more. But I think it’s worth it, if for no other reason than it seems to be turning me into more of a morning person.

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