I’m feeling depressed and agitated.

I know that I need to go back to the habit my therapist told me to get into, of writing down every day a few things I’m grateful for. I know I should do that. But I really don’t want to.

Because when I do that, I have to totally ignore all the bad things I’m feeling and not write THEM down. I have to couch everything in this positive language that feels totally dishonest. I have to ignore most of my feelings.

I know that a lot of battling depression is focusing on the good things and not the bad. I know that focusing on my bad feelings reinforces them. I know this. But it’s how I feel. And I want so badly to have someone validate how I feel.

I really want my mom to comfort me at this juncture. But she’s SO uncomfortable discussing my depression that I really can’t talk to her about this stuff. I had a discussion with her the other day about my health, and we were talking about how a hysterectomy increases your chance of heart attack and stroke, and I said, laughingly but actually kinda serious, “Honestly, everything sucks so much, if I’m gonna have a heart attack and go quickly, bring it on.” And my mom, instead of doing ANYTHING to comfort me or engage with my feelings, almost INTERRUPTED me in order to change the subject to the cat. “Rexie, what are you doing??!”

I need verbal validation. I need hugs. Not just over the internet, but in real life. And from the person whose opinion matters most to me: my mom. And I can’t get them because she doesn’t know how to validate me. We speak different love languages, and she just can’t seem to figure out how to speak mine.

I just feel like such shit.

EDIT: I just realized I’ve been having trouble with my hormonal birth control, and that might have caused the depressive mood swing I’m currently in. Guess it’s time to make another appointment with my Ob/Gyn… *sigh*

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train of thought rambling on stories you’ve prob heard before

My life hasn’t been my own.

I mean, when you’re a kid, of course someone else plans your day and decides what you’re going to go. And there’s always that expectation: you’re going to go to school. You’re going to go to church. You’re going to go to your extracurriculars. You are going to behave yourself. You are going to clean your room. You are going to do your homework. You are going to do well in school. And someday, you are going to grow up, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, live out your dream career.

But at some point, expectations become a prison. Who HASN’T sat in class on a beautiful day, staring out the window, thinking, “I should be out THERE, not in HERE.” And that “dream career” thing became a prison, too. Because you really CAN’T just  be whatever you want when you grow up. I loved art as a kid, but I never even CONSIDERED becoming an artist, because I knew that wasn’t a practical way to make money and support myself. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was little, but I learned very early that professional ballet is an INSANE world and that I simply didn’t have what it took, so I dropped that idea, too.

All your life, especially if you’re a “good girl” and an overachiever like me, you are hedged in by expectations. I had to keep doing well in school. I had to devote energy to that. I HAD to do what my parents wanted. My parents were constantly pointing out whenever I stepped out of the lines they had drawn of their expectations. It gave me the feeling I was never good enough: I was never doing enough. I was overachieving, and it wasn’t enough. Only perfect was enough: only perfect would make the criticism end. And perfect was always just out of my reach. Every time I fixed something, something else was wrong. It was a moving goalpost. (I’m not, of course, saying that my parents were emotionally abusive. But they grew up with high expectations, and they carried that on into their parenting style.)

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Yesterday I sold copies of my books at a local sale. I had been worried that I would be overly fatigued by it–carrying the heavy box, interacting with people, etc–but I was okay. A friend visited with me for the last hour or two of the sale, and she kept urging me to participate with her ballet studio. I kept saying no, that I didn’t have the energy. I was surprised at her persistence, because at one time she was extremely ill with Lyme disease, and she continues to have some chronic problems with it. In fact, she was the one who first introduced me to spoon theory.

Since I’m prone to self-doubt and recrimination, I began to find myself wondering yesterday if I really did have more energy than I thought I did and if I was just being lazy and not wanting to do things rather than not actually having the energy to do them. So I began reminding myself of a few facts last evening, and I decided to type them up here to be able to find them again in the future if I start to feel like this again:

I am not simply “being lazy.” I reached a point where the demands on me–mental, emotional, AND physical–were increasingly unbearable. Slowly, and with major resistance, I gave up on various activities: ballet, swing dance, job applications, subbing. Those last two required the actual commands of God to make me give them up because my sense of responsibility for those activities is so strong. God TOLD me this was the right decision, and otherwise, I probably never would have made it.

And this break has been good for me. I have finally reduced my activity level to match my energy level (which is why I am no longer experiencing the extreme fatigue that reminds me of how sick I am). I have made a wise decision. I have also, through this enforced rest, learned that you shouldn’t do things out of a crippling sense of guilt and obligation, and I’m beginning to believe that the practical choice–in things like career trajectory–isn’t always the right one. If I have true faith–willing to do the “impractical” thing for the sake of God’s plan–then I will keep resting as long as he tells me to, and without guilt.

Our associate pastor, Dale, preached today on 2 Chronicles 36:14-23. He particularly mentioned the fact that after the Israelites went into exile, the land finally had the Sabbath rests and Years of Jubilee that had been owed to it and that the Israelites hadn’t given it over the centuries. Dale suggested that the land was allowed to rest in order to prepare it for the return of the Israelites. I really felt like God was saying that this was my Jubilee rest. Situations and my own sense of obligation had kept me from really resting for years, and I never would have truly rested unless God had forced me to. But this rest, which feels to me like a waste, is actually a time while God is preparing the next portion of my life: preparing a career and/or a future for me. I just have to remember all this and keep myself from falling into despair and self-recrimination.

Unhook the Train

I’ve been really upset the last couple of days, first by an argument with my parents, and then by finding out that the sleep study I waited MONTHS for in order to get a CPAP machine (and hopefully kick some of this debilitating fatigue) came back negative, which I’m SURE is false. So I was feeling pretty crappy when I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep.

You know what it’s like when you’re worried and upset about something: it just keeps running through your mind, over and over, and you can’t shut it down. And especially when the problem is anxiety/depression, the more it cycles, the worse it gets. You know the kind of thing: “Doctors never listen to me, they just run tests and get false negatives, and what if I’m wrong and it’s NOT sleep apnea? We’ll NEVER figure out what’s wrong with me, and I’ll feel like this FOREVER and I can’t do anything with this fatigue, and I’ll never get a job, and I can’t exercise, so I’ll just get fatter and fatter and…”

And then I realized: I had been feeling kind of crappy for the last few days ANYWAY. It’s probably hormones, because it’s about the right place in the cycle for it.

Which means that these things going wrong are NOT what’s making me feel depressed. I’m feeling depressed, so these things are BUGGING me more.

So it’s not that my situation is terrible and that’s the problem, and since I can’t fix the situation, I can’t fix the depression. Actually, the situation isn’t that bad, as long as I separate it from the depression. It’s like unhooking the train from the engine: it stops that train of thought from going around and around and around on that circular track.

Just that little intervention of thought–“This is my depression making me feel hopeless. The situation itself is NOT hopeless”–was enough to totally disrupt the cycle. I soon fell back asleep, and I feel MUCH better today (despite having a headache from the insomnia).

I share this in the hope that someone else may find this approach helpful–and so that I can remember to use it again in the future!

WHAT IF

I realized something last night. What if… God is not like my mother?

Lemme esplain.

My mom is a lovely person and a lovely parent. There’s one big thing I’d criticize her for, though: she’s a perfectionist. Like most perfectionist parents, she is highly critical of herself and of others. And she feels like she needs to point out to me every thing that I do that she doesn’t entirely approve of. Though she tried constantly to express unconditional love, she did NOT express unconditional approval. I had to do things RIGHT for her to approve of them, and since her idea of RIGHT was, in practical terms, unobtainable, I feel like I have never had her complete approval as a person/adult/professional, etc.

Having this as my basis for understanding my self-worth, basing my approval of MYSELF on the approval of my mother, I have unthinkingly believed for decades that God views me the way my mother does. Like this impossible standard (Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect) is somehow obtainable, and I’m falling down on the job. Like I SHOULD be doing better than I am.

But what if… God is nothing like my mother? What if God actually DOES provide justification–that is, he actually DOES view me as righteous simply because I’m trusting in him, and not because of anything I’ve done to deserve it? What if my worth in God’s eyes actually has nothing to with my behavior or how perfect I’ve managed to be?

And then–what if the things my mom has made me feel guilty about for all these years aren’t sins? What if there’s nothing wrong with swearing as such, unless I’m doing it in a way that is being unloving toward others? What if there’s nothing wrong with accepting gifts? What if there’s nothing wrong with being proud of my accomplishments? What if there’s nothing wrong with sexual thoughts as long as they don’t lead to sin? What if… I’ve been feeling guilty for years for literally NOTHING?

It’s a lot to take in.

Three Kinds of Attraction

(Reposted from my Tumblr)

I’m going to write today about three kinds of attraction: sexual, sensual, and aesthetic. It’s very common for sexual people in our culture to mix all of these together, but there are plenty of cases where they happen separately, especially to people who identify as being on the asexual spectrum.

Sexual attraction: When you find someone sexually arousing or you kind of wish you could have sex with them (even if you would actually choose not to if given the chance, for instance, for religious reasons or because you are in a monogamous relationship.)

Sensual attraction: When you desire to be physically intimate with someone yet not sexually intimate. Could involve cuddling and/or kissing.

Aesthetic attraction: When you enjoy looking at someone (or hearing their voice, etc) because you find them in some way beautiful.

I have frequently had people who otherwise accepted that I am asexual express surprise or disbelief that I could possibly BE asexual because I find some people physically attractive:

Me: “Oo, he’s hot.”

Them: “Wait–are you SURE you’re asexual?”

When they say this, they are mixing up sexual and aesthetic attraction: just because I don’t want to have sex with anybody doesn’t mean I’m blind: I can still find their faces or bodies beautiful and enjoy looking at them.

Here’s an idea

One of the things I’ve been discussing lately with my lovely friend Bea, a newly-minted local pastor, is the idea that a lot of the things I feel guilty about actually aren’t sinful: things like not working enough, or not doing things around the house the way my mom would, or not eating right, etc. Combined with the thoughts of my last couple of posts, I’ve come to view myself, my desires, my preferences, differently. Instead of feeling guilty about not wanting to become a teacher/prof after studying for it, I feel like I’m not SUPPOSED to follow those careers. God doesn’t WANT me to. This means that my own personal desires might not be selfish, sinful, prideful, unrealistic, irresponsible, wasteful, or any other guilt-inducing thing I might have thought them before. What is in me that is not sin is gifts God has given me to do his work and carry out his plans. God made me what I am, with these desires, these personality traits, these preferences, because He has a specific plan for my life that these things will help me find and accomplish. I should therefore feel free to pursue my non-sinful desires, because they represent God’s desires within me.

Some of the things I should feel more free to pursue and to value in my life because I have an inherent desire for them include:

–creating art/literature
–beauty (and the collecting of beautiful images/objects, within reason)
–curiosity
–knowledge
–freedom (including free time and the option to be spontaneous rather than rigid and regimented)
–delight
joy/sehnsucht
–romance
–contentment (including financial stability and pleasant home/surroundings)

If these are NOT what God wants me to pursue (or not NOW), He will tell me so, as long as I continue to seek His will, or He will give me something else He wants me to pursue instead.

I find this idea tremendously liberating, encouraging, and exciting, and it makes me wonder what kind of career and life God is leading me toward!

A decision

This summer, I felt like God was saying I should stop looking for jobs temporarily, probably partly because I’m so fatigued and the job search was making it worse. I’ve been feeling freer to take more days off of work at my subbing job, too, as part of my attempt to take it easier on myself and my increasing realization that if I’m really dreading work, it means I’m actually too exhausted to do it. Well, since posting yesterday about my situation, I’ve really taken the pressure off of myself totally: I’m going to continue to take off work until I REALLY feel like I can do it again. I worked a grand total of one day in January, and as soon as I got home afterward I had to go straight to bed. There’s no point in my torturing myself like that, and torturing myself emotionally/mentally for not working when I feel like I “should.” As someone online with chronic fatigue reported that her doctor tells her, “You keep thinking that you can play basketball and you keep trying to. Don’t you realize that you have a broken leg, even if no one can see it?” 

I feel like my new paradigm really helps me to see that I’m faultless in this situation and that a lot of it has probably been enforced rest because I’m so physically messed up. (Last week I got diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause musculo-skeletal pain. Until I read that, I didn’t really think about how much I hurt sometimes: I frequently wake up feeling like I’ve been beaten up or run over by something!) I keep mentally downplaying my symptoms, partly because they’re so invisible to everyone else, so I feel guilty if I claim them. But I feel like God is saying, “It’s okay, sweetie. Take a break.” And I intend to.

As long as my parents don’t get on my back about not working… :/ (Which, to be fair, they haven’t been lately. It’s been nice. 🙂 )

A new way of seeing it

It’s a lovely snowy day and I’m supposed to be paying attention to the sermon, but I’m going to update here: I’ve been meaning to do it for a week. I’ve recently realized some things that have made my situation a lot easier, and I thought I’d share it.

I’ve been feeling stuck in my life for about two years and I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Why would God put me in this situation–sick, depressed, underemployed, increasingly hopeless–and not let me out? A lot of the devotional stuff I read didn’t help much: they kept talking about difficult times as God’s way of fixing problems with our attitude or making us grow in difficult ways, and I just kept feeling like that meant there was something WRONG with me or something missing. What was I doing wrong that I was hagving to go through this? What did I have to achieve or learn to get OUT? I felt like it was Groundhog Day and I had to do it ALL RIGHT before I could escape my situation.

I began to feel like I must have made a bad choice somewhere in my life to not be able to get a decent job. Not a WICKED choice, but an unwise one. I shouldn’t have gone to grad school for a job I ultimately didn’t want. I shouldn’t have picked the major I did. I should have gone into IT–there are LOTS of jobs in that, and I find it interesting–why on earth didn’t I think of that as a major?!

…And then I remembered WHY I chose the major I did and WHY I went to grad school: God told me to.

I’m not in this situation because I did something WRONG: I’m here because I did something RIGHT. This isn’t the result of failure: it’s the result of of success. I did what I was told to do, even though I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time. I did well in it. God got me through it, and I did what I was meant to do.

This moment in my life, which feels so difficult, is not an aberration; it’s not a side track I had to be put in before I could go back to following godsG plan for my life: this is PART of God’s plan for my life. I was always meant to do this. It’s like Stewart in Kate and Leopold saying, “I thought I had pretzeled fate and it had to be untwisted… But I was SUPPOSED to go back! He was supposed to come forward, then he was supposed to go back again, and so was she.” I was always supposed to be here, in this situation, at this time. This is not a punishment or a  lesson (though I may learn things from it). It’s just part of the plan, part of my perfectly planned quest.

So since there’s nothing wrong with where I am, it’s a lot easier to be content with what I’ve got and what’s happening. It’ll change eventually, and until then, might as well enjoy it as well as I can. It’s what God has sent me at this season in my life. It makes it a LOT easier to be patient and contented. I only hope I can continue to have this kind of patience, contentment, and hope throughout my life.

EDIT: Incidentally, I have not been actually ignoring the sermon while I wrote this, and the pastor is preaching on taking our identity from what God expects us to be, not from what our parents or friends or society expects us to be, which was also part of my unhappiness with my situation. 🙂

So I had this dream the other night that I had one more class to pass before I could graduate (college? grad school? not sure). It might have been an English class–but then, it might have been math. In any case, it was a class I hadn’t been keeping up with like I should. It was getting down to the last couple of weeks of the semester, and I realized that I had all this unfinished work, some of it almost due, some of it overdue, all of it really difficult (MUST have been a math class…) and it was going to be a struggle to finish it all. But I was telling myself, it’s okay, this is the only class you have this semester, you can put all your time toward studying, and you only have this final to pass, you can do this! And then the teacher started giving us MORE work, very DIFFICULT work, and I just started to freak out. Because there was no way I was going to be able to do it all in time and pass and graduate. So I ran out into the hall to try to get to the bathroom, and people in the hall were being jerks, and I used some possibly unnecessary violence on them, and I finally got into the bathroom, and I couldn’t find an empty stall with a door that worked, and the stress was just building and building and I started sobbing, about to burst into tears–

–and I woke up, gasping for breath. Because I have sleep apnea and my throat had closed. My chest muscles had also really tightened, trying to get my lungs working, so I had an intense physical stimulus of stress long after I wasn’t stressed about the dream anymore.

And I realized, this is what sleep apnea has been doing to me for YEARS. My body spends most of every night on high alert, trying desperately to keep me ALIVE. It invades my dreams, it exhausts my body, it gives me stress signals even when there’s nothing to stress me out. It’s no WONDER I’m exhausted. It’s no wonder I’m depressed! Even though I’m rarely conscious of it, my body knows perfectly well that it’s been struggling to keep me BREATHING every night for nearly a decade. It’s no wonder my brain thinks everything is hopeless. I can’t concentrate–because I never get into the deeper levels of sleep my brain needs to repair itself. I can’t find enjoyment anymore in activities I used to love–because I never get peace, uninterrupted dreams necessary for a healthy psyche. I can’t exercise–because my body spends every minute of the night fighting for breath, so my asthma kicks in the moment I try to make my lungs fight for breath during my waking hours. I’m irritable–because my body is in a life-and-death struggle for at 8+ hours a day, so every little bit of stress that’s added to my life causes a backlash. If I can sit through a day in front of my computer and not get suicidal, and not fall asleep at the wheel when I drive to town, and occasionally have enough energy to supervise high-schoolers for seven hours–I’m doing pretty damn well!

Knowing that part of my problem is as simple and visceral and intense as sleep apnea is really helping me make sense of symptoms. It’s one thing when you say, “I have hypothyroidism and every cell of my body is struggling with an energy depletion and that does funny things to me.” It’s something else to say, “I spend several hours every night in a desperate struggle to breath and I probably haven’t had a good night’s sleep in nine years.” It really concretizes it all for me.