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!


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)
–freedom (including free time and the option to be spontaneous rather than rigid and regimented)
–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.

I’ve been having a really rough time lately with my depression and fatigue. I went to see my thyroid doc for a checkup, and took with me a veeeerry long list of my unexplained symptoms. He told me that most of them were symptoms of hypothyroidism–and I later discovered a list of 300+ hypothyroidism symptoms, of which I have more than a hundred. So the doc put me on a higher level of hypothyroid medication.

Unfortunately, after about two weeks on the meds, I’m not seeing any actual improvements yet. My Christmas was okay, but shot through with depression and fatigue. Luckily, I have an appointment on the fourth with a pulmonologist to get a sleep study. It’s extremely likely that I have sleep apnea: all three members of my immediate family have it, I’ve woken up a couple of times this year gasping for breath, I experience abdominal convulsions and weird sensations in my chest while sleeping which are likely my diaphragm and chest muscles going, “BREATHE, DARN IT!!” Sleep apnea can cause a number of problems (two links there) that I have, such as obesity, chronic fatigue, post-exertional malaise, night sweats, sore throat, irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, difficulty thinking, focusing, or concentrating, brain fog, teeth grinding, digestive problems, drymouth, and more.

I’m really hoping that getting my apnea taken care of with a CPAP machine will make a big difference in my health and mood. So many times before I’ve thought I found the answer as to what’s wrong with me, and it’s failed in the long run to change anything. But thinking this is sleep apnea causing this is at least making me be gentler on myself. I haven’t been getting a good night’s rest for YEARS; it’s no wonder I’m upset and I can’t concentrate!

For those of you who pray, I’d really appreciate your prayers right now.


I’m really hesitant to post this, because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, but I’m going to anyway.

So I had an interesting experience last night.

I’ve been thinking that my fatigue problem might be caused by sleep apnea—since the other three people in my immediate family all have it, and there have been a couple of times this year that I’ve woken and couldn’t breathe. And I was lying in bed last night, trying in vain to get to sleep, and I thought, It’d be really nice if I just stopped breathing in the middle of the night and died quietly in my sleep.

Now here’s what’s interesting about this little macabre thought: I’m not suicidal. My depression has been doing much better. In fact, I’ve been keeping a little health diary lately to see if my mood/fatigue is affected by my menstrual cycle, and for the last two weeks I’ve averaged a mood of 7 out of 10—almost every day. I’m not sure it’s dipped below a 5. I still shy back from the very idea of suicide, and I would feel too guilty about the people I leave behind to ever think of planning it.

AND YET, I think it would be very nice to just die, at this point in my life, as long as I could do it quickly and pretty painlessly.

So why is that?

I think the problem is that I can’t imagine a future for myself.

I used to imagine dying, and think about whether I was ready or not, and my answer was always, No, I have other things I want to do! I have books I want to write, I want to get married, I want to find a good job, I want to get a place of my own, I want to paint…

The problem is that now, I have either done those things and found that they didn’t fulfil me, or I don’t think I’m going to ever do those things.

Now, if you ask me to rationally tell you whether I think I’ll ever get a job and a place of my own, then I’m sure I will. The problem is that I cannot imagine it at this point, and if I imagine it, I might believe it rationally, but I don’t BELIEVE it emotionally. (Just like in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.) I’ve been so unsuccessful in my job search—and I am currently so unsure of what kind of career I would even want to go into—and I actually cannot really imagine myself getting a good job and being able to move out of my parents’ house and support myself and have a happy and independent life. The job hunt has simply burnt that hope out of me.

At the age of 31, knowing that I have never had a boyfriend and am on the asexual spectrum, I think it unlikely I will ever find anyone or get married. I have published two books, and neither of them have brought me anything like the happiness or recognition—or even money—I dreamed they would. I have spent this year painting and embroidering, and though I enjoyed making the art, I’ve reached a point of boredom and lack of ambition to do more. So all the things that might make me feel like my life is unfinished, I either have no desire to do anymore, and no hope that I ever CAN do. So just quietly, with no guilt, finding a quick and immediate end to everything just sounds really nice right about now.

This is the problem with taking “one day at a time.” My mood has certainly improved, and yet my hope for the future has not. And it’s hope for the future that makes further life desirable.