Accidental Fudge

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Tag: holidays

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.

All the Feelings

In the week since my last post, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Our time in Minnesota went really well. Hamilton was the soundtrack of the weekend, which I didn’t warm up to immediately (despite REALLY wanting to love it), but now I’m pretty totally sold on it.

The drive up was rough – it usually takes about eight hours, but it took ten, six of which were getting to the halfway point, driving about 40 mph for a large stretch due to snow and slick roads. Once we arrived, though, we had a good time.

We saw my family the morning of Christmas Eve. I got to see my dog (she’s an old lady at almost fifteen, but still feisty, and was happy to see me and very tolerant of how affectionate I was being), and my nephew (who was hilarious and chatty, bringing out all of his toys and then all of the dog’s toys to show us), along with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. It went well.

That evening we hung out with my partner’s dad’s family. Christmas Day was very relaxed; we spent the evening with my partner’s mom’s family. It was late nights all around, but fun to spend time with family. And Monday morning, we got breakfast with one of our dearest friends in Minnesota, which was lovely.

The drive home Monday was, thankfully, totally uneventful compared to the drive there. It was windy, but otherwise was pretty easy going.

Tuesday, I headed back to work. That was hard enough, but then about halfway through the day, we got the news that Carrie Fisher had died. It took me all day to process enough to put coherent thoughts together about it, and I’m still reeling a bit. This is what I wrote about it on Facebook:

I was raised on Star Wars and Disney movies. As much as I love Disney movies, Princess Leia was my first real role model for how a woman could be a kick-ass leader who takes no shit from men (or anyone else). As a young girl, she meant the world to me.

Now, as a Bipolar adult, I still appreciate Princess Leia (and her later iteration as General Organa), but more than that…I appreciate Carrie Fisher. She dealt with her mental illness with a delightful blend of irreverence and grace. She actively fought the stigma against mental illness. She stood up for herself when held to the impossible standards to which we hold female celebrities. She was open about her struggles and her triumphs, even though the public did little to deserve that openness (we just demanded it).

She was witty. She was funny as hell. And I am struggling to accept that she’s gone. I usually feel pretty detached from celebrity deaths (aside from being distantly sad at the loss of life in general). This feels more personal. Still, I am comforted to some degree by the thought that at least in the end, it wasn’t her Bipolar brain that killed her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. The world is less bright without you in it. Thank you for everything you were.

Pre-Travel Panic

I’m writing this on my way to work Thursday morning. Usually I write my posts Wednesday and schedule them to go live Thursday, but that didn’t happen this week. 

Last night, we stayed up late doing chores and wrapping gifts and planning what we’re packing for our weekend in Minnesota. I’m feeling a little frazzled and overwhelmed. This is my least favorite part of travel: the pre-travel anxiety that my brain so loves to latch onto. 

Tomorrow morning I pick up our rental car. Tomorrow afternoon we hit the road. Once we’re actually underway, chances are I’ll be far less anxious. Until then, though…

Thankfully, we’re getting together with some of our favorite knitters tonight. On the one hand, this means we won’t be packing until late tonight. On the other, though, it’ll be a good distraction from my anxious brain. 

Tiny Happy Thoughts

I’m still feeling pretty tired this week, but I think I’m slowly adjusting to the colder weather and darker days, and (hopefully) coming out of the funk I’ve been in for the past few weeks. It’s been a good week, overall, and I have a few things I’m smiling about:

  1. Our new passports arrived on Saturday! My partner and I took last Monday off from work to get passports squared away (we needed to reapply in person since we were both changing names and gender markers). We paid for expedited service, because we wanted to be sure they were done before the end of the month. They estimated the wait time at two or three weeks. Five days later, there they were! We’re still waiting on the passport cards and our old passports to come back to us in the mail, but the actual passport books are here. It’s a huge relief to have that done and to know that our applications were approved, because while we were pretty confident we had everything in order, but you never know what’s going to happen with gender-related changes. Also, my passport was from when I was 16, so it’s nice to have one that’s not expired and that actually looks something like me.
  2. We put our Christmas tree up. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (really, I have complicated feelings about celebrating Christian holidays in general), but the lights and decorations have always been some of my favorite parts. We have a fake tree that I got the first Christmas I was in my first apartment by myself, so it’s been around a few years now, but it’s still in pretty good shape. I have more ornaments than will fit on the tree without even figuring in my partner’s ornaments (I got at least a couple every year growing up), so we had to do some thoughtful curating of what we wanted to actually put up. The end result is quite lovely.
  3. We’re planning Christmas travel. We’re going to take a whirlwind trip north to Minnesota over Christmas weekend. We won’t really get to see friends, but we’re seeing both of our families (something I would not have predicted had you asked me two months ago). So that’ll be an adventure.

Winter Weirdness

I’ve always liked winter. The past two, in all their polar vortexiness, were a bit rough, I’ll admit, and snow is less enjoyable when I have to walk through so much of it on my commute. But as someone who’s always been on the warm-blooded side of things, I always welcome the cooler temperatures, and snow is pretty, and the lights and various holiday decorations often make me smile.

So the fact that it’s been in the 50s Fahrenheit and raining the past couple of weeks is kind of throwing me for a loop. This winter is promising to be much like our first in Chicago – more rain than snow and much, much warmer than a Midwestern winter has any business being.

And then…and then there’s Christmas.

Christmas was, for most of my life, my favorite holiday. The lights, the evergreen everything, the baking, the general feelings of good cheer…I’ve always loved it.

But as I’ve taken steps back from the Christian faith of my upbringing, the holiday no longer holds much personal religious significance. And I am super not into the commercialized business of an American Christmas.

So I’m finding myself feeling a little weird this season, and I think it’s more than the unseasonably warm weather that’s causing it. I’m still exchanging gifts with a handful of people, and I’m enjoying the holiday cards we’re finding in our mailbox. I’m still enjoying the lights, and the evergreens, and I hope to get a little baking done at some point. The good cheer, in light of the current state of things in the United States (bad politics, police violence, denial of climate change, etc.), is a little harder, but I am trying to find hope and to be a little more patient with people. I’m just…not really sure what the purpose of the festivities is. Maybe there doesn’t need to be one aside from looking for a little light in this dark time of year. It’s just a new and still-strange perspective, I guess.

Holiday Blues

It’s Christmas, but it doesn’t really feel like it.

It’s too warm and rainy, for one thing. I could maybe cope with the warm, but the lack of sunlight is definitely getting to me.

I’ve been struggling the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the weather – I think I’ve seen the sun once in two weeks. Maybe it’s the fact that my back has spent the past week giving me grief (for the second time in a month). Maybe it’s continued frustration with my family, or the fact that a lot of people I care deeply about are having an especially rough time right now. Maybe it’s just that I’m on the depressed end of a Bipolar cycle. It’s probably a combination of all of the above.

The chronic-ness of my longstanding back issues has been hitting close to home in ways it hasn’t in a while. I am acutely aware of the fact that I am facing a drastic decline in mobility if things don’t change, and am struggling with a lot of emotions surrounding that – I have this horrible fear that if I lose my ability to be a strong physical presence (helping friends move, shielding friends from harassment, things that have apparently become more ingrained in my identity than my gender ever was, because they’re proving harder to let go), I will stop being useful…and maybe, in some way, stop being me. I recognize that this is a problematic, able-ist mindset (even if it is almost entirely self-directed), which adds a whole extra layer of complexity to what’s going on in my head right now. I am not coping at all gracefully. I have been feeling angry and whiny and ungrateful and overwhelmed and selfish. There is a very large part of me that has spent a large portion of the last week wanting to throw a major temper tantrum (complete with screaming and throwing myself on the floor, which I would pound with fists and feet).

Still, despite my tendency to be particularly cynical and growly these days, there is a part of me that is evidently an eternal optimist, and that part insists that I find something less sad to end this post with. So here are three things I want everyone I know who is struggling to make it through this holiday season to hear:

  1. Regardless of whether you, your coworkers, your family, or strangers on the street can see it right now, I want you to know that I believe you have value. Even if you think that’s not possible, that you’re too broken to be worth anything to anyone, please try to at least entertain the thought for a moment that the simple fact of your humanity, in all of its complexity and confusion and rough edges, makes you beautiful and gives your life value. My life would be less without you in it.
  2. I was reading Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay this week, and at the end of the book, one of the characters declares, “Either all days are holy, or none of them are. I haven’t decided yet.” I found this idea immensely comforting. In the end, a holiday is just another day. It doesn’t have to be any more or less than that for you unless you want it to be. No, that doesn’t remove societal pressure, but perhaps it will alleviate some of the pressure in your own mind.
  3. I can’t see the future, so I can’t promise when (or if) things will get better. I do know, though, that holidays can be a special sort of hell, and that it can be much easier to breathe on the far side of them. I came across the sound advice a few days ago that one should never make important decisions during the holidays. Hang on for the clarity on the other side.

Bah, Humbug

The holiday season is in full swing. And I just want it to be over.

Usually, I really enjoy this time of year. I like the colder weather, and the lights. I’ve bought or made pretty much all the presents I’ll be giving. (Considering that there is still a whole week to go, I’m ahead of my usual game.)

But I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year.

It seems like everyone I know is having “one of those weeks.”

I have several friends dealing with some really awful things right now, and no matter how much I want or try to help, I know that there’s nothing I can really do to make it better for them.

I’ve spent the whole week feeling angry and bitter about my own family’s dysfunction (and consistent refusal to deal with that dysfunction). Because, let’s face it, there’s no time like a holiday to bring out family dysfunction.

Like many people I know and love, I’m in a rather tender place right now. I desperately need some time to decompress and process and deal with a whole slew of emotions that have surfaced in the past few weeks, and I have no idea when that time is going to happen.

But because it seems like a rough week for everyone, I hate to end this blog post on a disconsolate note. So here are a couple of happy things from this week that are not at all holiday related:

  1. One of my coworkers brought her Great Pyrenees (who happens to be a therapy dog) with her to work on Monday. This meant that I got to take a few minutes out of my day to pet an enormous dog who wanted nothing more than to flop on the floor and be loved. Puppy therapy is, to me, just about the best kind of therapy there is. It didn’t make everything better, but it definitely brightened what was otherwise a very Mondayish Monday.
  2. I got to work from home yesterday. I answered emails and worked on other work-related things, but I did not open my mouth to utter a single sound from the time my partner left in the morning to the time I met him at the train station to help him carry home groceries when he got off work. I still really need a day to just sit and wrestle with things – I still had to work, after all – but it was wonderful to have some quiet space to myself.
  3. I’ve been unusually excited about my knitting this week. It’s kind of a problem, in that I want to start all the projects and not finish anything, but it’s nice to feel excited about something amidst everything else.

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