Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: self-care (page 1 of 3)

It’s been a bit of an off week. My partner got sick at the end of last week with a nasty summer cold, and while I never developed all of his symptoms, I definitely got the fatigue side of it (along with some sniffles and a sore throat). It meant weekend plans had to be canceled, and I missed work Monday. I still feel like I’m a few steps behind in everything, I’m still tired, and I’ve had a pretty persistent headache that has not been helped by whatever the weather is doing here in Chicago this week. 

That said, it hasn’t all been awful. There is a certain sense of relief that comes with being forced to slow down. On Monday, since I stayed home, I was able to craft and watch movies and play some guitar and take naps, and that was all a nice break from the stress of work. 

This week at work has seen the (mostly expected) onslaught of complaints about the new project that we launched last week, mostly by people who didn’t read their (many) emails about the changes that were coming and then found themselves scrambling to catch up. It’s frustrating, but again, not exactly unexpected. I’m now trying to pick up the threads of other, smaller projects that were put on hold as we pulled together the final details of the big project, which has been a challenge, since I’m still not feeling great and the persistent headache has made it hard to concentrate on anything for very long. 

I’m looking forward to the weekend, not for any particular plans, really, but just for a chance to hopefully kick the rest of this cold. Right now I feel like I could sleep for days. That’s not an option, but even a couple of extra hours here or there might help.  

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Digging In

The past week has been a pretty introspective one. I’m continuing to work on expanding my repertoire of self-care techniques. As I mentioned last week, I signed up for a three-week intro to yoga class, because it’s about damn time I started taking better care of my body. That started on Saturday. It came with the bonus of giving me free access to all of the other basic yoga classes at the studio for the duration of the three weeks, so I did yoga twice over the weekend, and am much less sore than I expected.

I’ve been continuing to try to reincorporate meditation and tarot into my daily routine. It’s been an anxious week, but I’ve been trying to give myself space when I need to in order to focus on my breathing and ground myself. This, along with yoga, has made me very conscious of something I was only dimly aware of before:

I am really bad at breathing.

I’ve never had a huge lung capacity, but wearing a chest binder for five years did me no favors in that regard. Today marks seven months since I had chest masculinization surgery, but even though I haven’t been binding for months now, I haven’t gotten out of the bad breathing habits my body developed over those five years. When I try to breathe deeply, I find that it all feels stuck high in my chest. Belly breathing is a mystery to me. I can visualize how it should work, but in my body, it’s not. At least not yet. So that’s a major piece of grounding that I’m going to be focusing on for a while, I think.

It feels like my life is taking a very meditative direction lately, and my initial reaction to that was to feel guilty: after all, there is so much to be done, such chaos in the world around me that needs to be confronted. I brought this up in therapy on Sunday, and my therapist pointed out that self-care is essential to resistance. Resistance is in large part about stamina, going in for the long haul, and that’s not possible if you don’t take time to dig in and build a solid, sturdy foundation for yourself.

I still feel guilty, but I recognize the truth there: I’m no good to anyone if I’m not taking time to take care of myself. I’m acutely aware of the privilege I hold that allows me to take that time. I hope that I ultimately use that privilege for good.

A Brain Full of Pollen and Bees

Spring has officially sprung and is out in full force in Chicago: there are fresh, bright green leaves on the trees, flowers everywhere, fearless bunnies in our courtyard…and pollen. Pollen, everywhere.

This is the glorious time of year when I want so badly to be outdoors, drinking in the signs of new life…but alas: I’m allergic to damn near everything outside. Trees, grass, flowers, weeds…if it can spew pollen into the air and over the sidewalks, it’s going to make me sneeze.

I’ve been walking around in a sort of pollen-induced haze for the past couple of weeks as a result. I’ve had a lot to get done at work, and I’m worried that I’m not doing enough of it, or that I’m forgetting important things because my brain is so foggy.

In the past couple of days, my brain has decided to up the ante: the pollen appears to have attracted bees.

I think I have mentioned on this blog before that ManicBrain feels a lot like having a head full of bees, and that is exactly what’s happening right now. Thoughts buzz around in my brain in so many directions that, at least half the time, I have no idea what I’m actually thinking about. So far, it’s mostly been the mental equivalent of bumblebees: busy, but generally harmless. I feel on edge, though, because my own personal hive mind tends to turn from bumblebees to wasps if the anxiety starts to spike, and if you’ve read the news or are even dimly aware of current events, you probably understand that there is no shortage of reasons to be anxious right now.

I’m working on expanding my repertoire of techniques for keeping myself grounded. After a couple of months’ hiatus, I’m getting back to incorporating tarot and meditation into my morning routine. I signed up for an introductory yoga class. I’m continuing to see my therapist even though a lot of the time I don’t have a clear vision of what I want to get out of therapy, because I find therapy a useful time to sort of check in with myself and a neutral third party about where my head is at. I’m trying to remember to breathe when I start to feel flustered. I’m listening to a lot of Deathmole.

Mostly, I’m just doing my best to dig in and hang on.

Coming Up For Air

Last month I mentioned that I got a promotion. I’m now project manager for my tiny IT department. Where I was primarily doing direct user support around our client database, I’m now responsible for taking our request list for changes and improvements to the database (a list which stretches back at least three or four years) and actually getting things checked off of it. And I’m still doing direct user support, because we don’t have a replacement for that position in the building yet.

It’s all very exciting, and I’m glad to be in a position where I can develop some skills and learn others. But it’s also rather overwhelming, because in the past couple of weeks I feel like my slow easing into the position has started to exponentially pick up speed. I was expecting this, for the most part, but it’s still been a bit of a wild ride.

I’ve been so, so tired this week. I’m mostly blaming allergies (which had plenty of time to wreak havoc before it snowed again), but that’s also made it difficult to do much outside of work. I haven’t been particularly productive. I’m trying to balance self-care and the rest of life, and it’s a constant juggling act that I haven’t quite mastered.

So this is me taking a brief break to come up for air and acknowledge the rest of the world outside of my windowless office. Everything I need to get done at work feels very pressing, very urgent and important, but as long as I can hang onto the perspective I gained when working at a hospital – that no one will die if I fuck something up – then I think I’ll be okay. Yes, my ability to do this job well will have a pretty big impact on a lot of the other employees in my organization, which is something I don’t take lightly (truly, it’s more than a little terrifying). But no one will die.

Taking Care

The people who know me best know that my brain never really stops racing.

This is still true, despite the fact that as of yesterday I’ve spent ten minutes a day meditating (using Headspace) for 27 days straight.

It remains true despite the fact that I am spending large swaths of my life feeling exhausted.

Last week, I mentioned that I was getting back into embroidery for the first time in about a decade. Last week, I embroidered the corners of nine handkerchiefs in six days:

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

It feels a little silly, and I have some complex feelings about indulging in a craft that doesn’t have a lot of practical application. When I knit, 99% of the time it’s something I am going to use, or give to someone else in the hopes that they use it. I knit beautiful things, but I knit beautiful things with a purpose – things that I will wear, or that my nephew will play with, or things to snuggle under. Embroidery doesn’t really make anything, it just makes existing things prettier. Which is, I recognize, a perfectly valid reason to do a thing, and my internal resistance to the idea of doing something that a part of me finds “frivolous” is likely largely rooted in misogyny and the devaluation of things deemed “women’s work” by society. So that’s my own bullshit to work through. And it’s (clearly) not stopping me from doing it.

A large part of the reason why I keep making one tiny stitch after the other is the fact that embroidery requires focus. Not so much that it feels strenuous, but enough that it occupies a significant portion of my mind. I noticed pretty early on in the week that when I was carefully stitching away, following the lines of the patterns, that my brain slowed down. I didn’t stop worrying altogether. The anxiety was still there. But the cacophony of thoughts quieted down to a more manageable volume. It gave me a little space to process some of the ideas pinging around in my skull.

Of course, there’s the rest of my life that still needs living, and I can’t continue to let the time I take out to embroider consume the time I need to get things done around the house, get knitting projects with deadlines done, and otherwise take care of myself.

So this weekend, I have a massage scheduled for the first time since October (I haven’t been in since just before I had surgery!), and I have an appointment with my new therapist. Because embroidery is a great coping technique in its right (and is certainly a less expensive coping mechanism than some that I’ve used over the years), but it can’t be the only tool I have tucked into my belt. I want very badly to get involved in whatever forms of resistance I can, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that I’ve been finding it difficult to do much above and beyond my regularly scheduled activities. I can’t take care of the rest of the world if I’m not taking care of myself first.

The weekend won’t be without its own anxieties (I have a gig scheduled for Monday night, and I’m planning to play the songs I’ve written in the 8-week class that just ended yesterday, so I have a lot of polishing and practicing to do), but I am determined to do what I can to get my brain in a better place, both in the short-term and into the future, uncertain though it certainly is.

Inhale, Exhale

I’ll be honest, I’m really not sure what to write about this week. The world continues to be a scary place full of bad news, and that continues to be overwhelming. So I think I’m going to fall back on my usual I-don’t-know-what-to-write-about strategy, and give you a list of three good things from the past week:

  1. Knitters are the best people. A bunch of our knitting group got together for brunch over the weekend to celebrate someone’s birthday. There was good food and an adorable baby and lots of reminders why I love these people so much.
  2. I found a new therapist. I had been going to someone else, but they weren’t really up for helping me through my anxiety around the current political climate, so I ended services with them a couple of weeks ago. On Sunday I met with a new therapist that I think is going to be a much better fit.
  3. I took a day off. Granted, it was because I was feeling pretty miserable (I’m on round two of this horrible cold), but it felt good to listen to my body and take some time to get extra rest and just relax, particularly in the midst of what is turning out to be a pretty packed month.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go…

Monday marked my first day of work after a three week absence for surgery and recovery. I worked from home to catch up on emails, and was back in the office on Tuesday.

When our office manager saw me Tuesday, he asked if I’d been bored taking so much time off.

I wasn’t.

It was really, really wonderful to not have to worry about work for a few weeks. The fact that I came back to an office packed pretty much wall-to-wall with computers and peripherals that need to be re-homed (which is not my job, but part of our department’s function sometimes), nearly preventing me from even getting to my desk, did not help to ease the transition back. I’ve felt claustrophobic in my windowless, packed office, achy and tired from so much extra activity, and just generally grouchy.

Still, it’s been nice to see the enthusiasm of coworkers at having me back in the office. Someone informed me on Tuesday that when she told her team I was back, they applauded.

I’m still healing well, although I’m trying hard not to push myself too much with being back at work. The last thing I want is to set myself back to the point where I need to take more days off from work, because I burned through all of my remaining personal and sick time for the three weeks I already took. I’m definitely in the place where I feel like I have more energy than I do, which means I crash a bit at night, and mornings feel like a challenge (although challenging mornings are sort of par for the course for my entire life).

Because I’m feeling like I have my energy back for the most part, and because I’m increasingly happy with how my body looks as it heals, I’m getting really excited about the prospect of self-care in the form of exercise. The problem is that I can’t really exert myself yet, and so I have all of this motivation to work out and very little ability to act on it for the next two or three weeks, by which point the motivation may or may not still be there. Meanwhile, I’m researching various gym and fitness program options and trying to figure out what my budget is for that.

The most exciting news from my week was that I learned that my insurance officially paid for surgery. I may still have a small portion to pay depending on how the hospital billed, but the $30,000+ bulk of the surgery has been covered, and that is an enormous relief!

It’s Been a Long Week

It hasn’t been a bad week, exactly. I wrapped up one songwriting class and started two new classes – another songwriting class and a guitar class that is already kicking my ass. I’ve been a little bit sick, but mostly in the typical-for-the-season sniffly way that is more a mild annoyance than anything. My debit card number was stolen, but the bank caught it right away, so even that wasn’t as terrible as it could have been.

I’m just…exhausted. I’m having stress dreams about work, which is absolutely a reflection of how I’ve been feeling at work every day. I’m swinging into a manic phase, which usually means more energy, but this time around is mostly resulting in restless nights and anxious days and me feeling like I’m running on empty.

So I’m trying to do little things to cheer myself up. Yesterday, I got a (much-needed, way overdue) haircut after work, which improved my mood immensely. I’ve been trying to remember, when I feel overwhelmed, to stop and do the little meditative visualization that made up the practical part of the druidry lesson that I’m on this week, and that does help. I started rereading (from the beginning) a web comic I’ve been enjoying for years. I’ve been listening to Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel on my lunch breaks and some of my commute. I’ve had Ben Wallace’s new album on heavy rotation in my daily soundtrack, occasionally switched up with a Bach cello suite.

And all of these things are helping. I’m okay, really, just tired and sometimes more on edge than I’d like to be. I have plenty of resources at my disposal, plenty of healthy ways to make myself feel more settled. I just need to remember to use them.

Three Things

  1. Over the weekend, two of our favorite ladies from the Twin Cities came and stayed with us. We cooked a rather ridiculous amount of food. We went to Zoo Lights. We enjoyed hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. And we spent a lot of time just hanging out. It was really wonderful. I am so incredibly grateful to have friends who are such lovely and charming houseguests of the sort who don’t leave me feeling particularly drained when they leave. My people are the best people.
  2. There’s so much going on in my brain that I feel like I don’t even know what half of it is anymore. I really, really need to be more consistent with taking time to meditate in the mornings. I’m also thinking I maybe need to start utilizing some meditative techniques outside of tarot – focusing more on breathing and on posture.
  3. Last week, without realizing it, I hit the two year anniversary of this blog. I’ve posted something damn near every Thursday for two whole years! Sure, a few posts went up late, and one or two maybe never went up at all, but on the whole, I’ve been consistent. I often feel like I don’t have a lot to say; I’m often scrambling to come up with something to write about on Wednesday evening. But it’s a good exercise, getting myself to write something each week, and something I feel like I can be at least a little proud of. Thanks for being along for the ride, folks!
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