Just Stoppin’ By

I realized recently that part of the reason I don’t make quick, simple posts here is that I usually do regular “stop-ins” via Facebook. Unless I have a Real Blog Post to write, I don’t post anything here. Which, since I haven’t had much time for a Real Blog Post in a while, means I haven’t posted much here.

So I’m gonna try to post more regularly, even if they’re short posts. I’m currently working on packing what’s left of my belongings (what didn’t get sold in the yard sale or get taken by friends or given to charity), I’m moving out Thursday. Thankfully I’ve had several friends help me with stuff, I definitely wouldn’t have gotten everything done in time without them. I have a bunch of last-minute errands to run tomorrow, as well as more packing to do. I did take a break and went to see Ghostbusters with a friend, and it was awesome (hopefully I’ll have time to write more about it soon). So everything has been going okay for me. I hope it’s going well for you too!

Decluttering

So I’ve been pretty busy the past couple weeks, not just struggling with my mental illness, but also trying to go through my stuff and figure out what I want to take with me and what I don’t.

I think I mentioned in my intro post that I’m planning to move to Germany. And that’s still true, but since I still haven’t gotten a job there (which is necessary for me to get a visa, which I need to get an apartment and stuff), and my lease in my current apartment ends on July 28th, I’ve been preparing to move.

As a 30-year-old adult, I have a lot of stuff. Not just the stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years, but a fair bit of stuff from my childhood that my mother made me take (she’s not a sentimental person at all, basically she said “get your junk out of my house”). And I do like stuff. I have the tendency to buy anything that tickles my fancy, including things I have no real use for. And once I have it, I want to keep it. Even if I have no use for it. This is partly because, as a child, I always felt like my mother was taking my things away. Every time I turned around, she was getting rid of my toys, my stuffed animals, my clothes, my furniture. It seemed like we couldn’t go six months without her taking a box to Goodwill. I was so mad every time, but she seemed to have no pity.

Of course, the reason she was always getting rid of my stuff was because I had TONS of it, and we moved many times when I was a kid. I think we’d lived in more than ten different houses (mostly rentals) by the time I was ten years old. And since my father was busy being a doctor, and my brothers and I were kids, all the packing fell on my mom’s shoulders. So yeah, over time she got pretty ruthless about getting rid of things. If I hadn’t played with a toy in over six months, she wanted it gone. There were exceptions, of course, I was allowed my collection of Barbies and my special stuffed animals and my blankie, because I still used them regularly, but everything else came and went. So when I became an adult and got my first apartment, I pretty quickly started collecting things I didn’t really need. And it took a few moves (including the harrowing year where I was stuck in a bedbug-infested building and couldn’t break my lease) before I began to realize just what my mother had been dealing with all those years. I had enough stuff to fill a midsize U-haul truck, and I was living alone with my cat. How much stuff did two adults and three children have? Way too fucking much, I’m sure (which also explains how my favorite teddy bear went missing for 3 years, and only when my mom unpacked an abandoned box in the basement in anticipation of the next move did she find him).

The thing is, even though I’ve started purging during every move, I still end up collecting stuff. It isn’t even a conscious thing for me, most of the time. A lot of stuff is just “oh, I might use that eventually” but then I pack it away and when I need it I have no idea where it is (or even forget I have it), and so I end buying a new one. While going through a bin of things I’d never unpacked from my last move, I found seven sets of stationary. I haven’t written a letter in years (although I do like hand-writing letters). I found a whole box of pens and pencils and markers that I definitely could’ve used for school.

But this time, because of my plans to move overseas, I’m forcing myself to be much more ruthless than before. If it’s something I can buy elsewhere, it goes. If it’s something I haven’t used in a year, it goes. If it serves no discernible purpose and isn’t worth anything, it goes. Kitchen stuff that I can replace easily (plates and bowls and silverware) are going. My Rock Band set for XBox 360 is definitely going (I haven’t used it in years). My board games that I never play (as opposed to the ones I play regularly) are definitely out. I’ve had friends who have been coming by and helping me, reinforcing the purging by asking me if I really NEED such and such (the answer is usually no). And I’ve mostly paid them for their services by giving them anything they want that goes into the “no” pile. 😉 I cut my yarn stash in half and gave the overflow to a friend who crochets. Most of the stationary went to another friend who’s an artist. Most of my furniture is already spoken for as well (and some of it has already been taken, I’m down to only one bookcase).

Everything that’s left is going in a yard sale I’m having tomorrow. I created a Facebook event and invited everyone I know in the area (which ended up being over 40 people), and I’m gonna put up signs at the end of my street to point more my way. I have friends who are going to help me with set up and take down and taking money and stuff (I even have a cash box, I bought it for a bake sale last year). I still have a lot to do before I’m ready for tomorrow, but the yard sale doesn’t start until 10 and my friend is coming at 8:30, so I think between us we’ll manage to get everything done that I don’t manage before I go to bed tonight. 😉 And once it’s over, everything that’s left will get loaded into my car and taken to Goodwill to be donated.

The goal, by the time I move out, is to only have enough stuff (including clothes and cats) to fit in two cars (my stepdad’s SUV and my sedan). So that when I do get a job in Germany, I have less to ship over there (including clothes and cats). I’m not totally sure what I’ll do in the meantime (I’m moving into my mom’s place for a month while I try to find a job, hopefully it’ll only be a month because my two cats and her cat and dog is a lot of animals for a small house), but I’ll deal with it when I get there.

Pokemon Go and Mental Health

[Content Note: discussion of mental illness]

Pokemon Go is the only reason I left the house today.

That’s not an exaggeration or an excuse. Even though I had planned to go to the library to do some translation work, because I can’t focus at home, I didn’t want to. This is part of what I’ve been struggling with for the past few months, the constant need to get work done and the overwhelming apathy and dislike of leaving my comfort zone battling each other, and usually apathy and comfort win. Even though it stresses me out more in the long run to not get my work done, I’d still rather not leave my house and deal with the outside world on any given day, unless I have to. I will go to work or class, usually with a minimum of grumbling, and do my work diligently (if not excitedly), but on days when I have no set schedule, I prefer to become an unresponsive lump lying on my couch, playing on my Nintendo DS or watching Netflix.

So where does Pokemon Go figure into this equation? Well, it’s pretty simple, really. I love Pokemon. I’ve played the Pokemon games for years, only excepting a couple years during and after college when I couldn’t afford to get a new handheld game system and thus had to make do without. I still have my Blue, Red, and Yellow Gameboy cartridges, the original Pokemon games that were first released way back when. I’ve only beaten the various games a couple times, and I’ve never filled out the Pokedex, but that doesn’t really bother me. I enjoy them, I enjoy the battles and the stories and the cute little creatures I can catch and nurture. So, like all the other avid Pokemon fans, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Augmented Reality app game that would make it possible for me to catch Pokemon in the real world (so to speak). And, like other avid fans, I’ve been frustrated as hell since the release on Wednesday, since getting logged into the server is often futile. And since I hate the heat and it’s summer, I haven’t spent much time outside since it came out. And I’ve also had other things on my mind (I attended a vigil on Friday for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile), so although I’ve caught a few Pokemon in and around my apartment (Friday after the vigil I went out with friends, but my phone’s battery died so I just had to watch them run around and catch stuff), today was the first day I’ve actually been outside and working to catch Pokemon. It’s a bit cooler today, and overcast, so I’m not too hot and not too worried about sunburn. I parked further from the library than necessary so I could walk across campus and catch Pokemon, but I stuck to my path and didn’t wander around, so I missed out on a couple. And when I got to the library, which is a PokeStop (place where you get free items like PokeBalls and healing items), I caught a bunch of things and then settled in to work. Every fifteen minutes or so I check my phone, catch anything that’s come around, get my free items (the PokeStops refresh after a certain amount of time, so if you sit at one for a while you can basically get unlimited items), and then get back to work. And it’s great.

When I got out of the shower this morning and contemplated going out, I made all the usual excuses. “Well, it’s already 2 pm and the library is only open until 5 on Sundays, so it really wouldn’t be worth it.” “I could easily get my work done here and not leave.” “I just don’t feel like going anywhere.” And while I’d opened the app, my phone was having trouble connecting to the server, so I sat there with my excuses rolling around in my head. But then, it connected. There was my little avatar, and a couple common Pokemon (Rattatas and Pidgeys, mostly) that I quickly caught and traded for items, and I was ready to go. I swiftly gathered my laptop and wallet into my messenger bag and went out to my car, carefully keeping an eye on my phone in case anything else popped up. I drove to the parking lot at the student union, not too far from the library but a nice walk, and held my phone out to see what I could see. I quickly caught an Eevee and a Nidoran male, then went on my merry way to the library, catching several other Pokemon (although nothing exciting) along the way.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve caught multiple Weedles, which I traded in so I almost have enough to evolve my Kakuna into a Beedrill. I also caught a Shellder and a Growlithe. I’ve used the PokeStop multiple times and now have 8 eggs (I only had one this morning) as well as plenty of PokeBalls and several Potions and Revives. I’ve leveled up twice. And, although slightly less exciting, I’ve translated over a page of text. I’m not translating any slower than normal, since I usually take multiple breaks to check social media or rest my brain (every few paragraphs, basically), and the most important thing is that I’m getting it done.

The number of people I’ve talked to in just the last few days has been staggeringly high for me, and it was almost all because of Pokemon Go. After the vigil on Friday, when I went out with my friends, we saw roaming groups of people, all with their phones out, excitedly tracking Pokemon and sharing their joy and camaraderie over successful catches or rare finds. People I didn’t know would come up and say “I just caught an Eevee over there!” or “Hey, did you know you can get Pikachu by that landmark?” Because any Pokemon that pops up on the map can be caught by everyone in the vicinity, it inspires cooperation with others, rather than competition. In fact, although there are battles and Gyms in the game, you don’t battle any other player directly, instead you battle against Pokemon that various players have assigned to the Gym, and so even though there’s a fun element of competition (you can choose one of three teams. and teams can take over unclaimed gyms to make their team stronger), it’s more against the game than any other player. The amount of joy and cooperation I felt whenever a big group would congregate (usually multiple small groups converging on a PokeStop or a Pokemon everyone wanted) cannot be overstated. I felt like part of a real, physical community, for the first time in a very long time. I’m not someone who usually feels welcome in most places. I shy away from a lot of communities I can choose to join simply because I fear rejection or dislike various aspects of that community. I don’t spend much time in fandom communities because there’s almost always an unpleasant aspect or subgroup that I find spoils the community as a whole. But so far, the only thing I’ve felt from other people playing Pokemon Go is joy, and friendship, and acceptance. It’s possible that could change, as the newness wears off. It’s possible that people will get tired of it and stop playing and it’ll become commonplace and not exciting anymore. But for right now, for me and all the other people I know who are playing, it’s joyful and new and friendly, and for a lot of people who struggle with mental illness, it’s a reason to go outside. It’s a reason to join our community, even if only briefly, to catch a Pikachu or Squirtle, to see the sunshine, to feel like we belong in this world.

Sometimes, it’s a beautiful world.

Struggling to Function

[CN: mental illness, emotional instability, family dysfunction]

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. The biggest problem is that I have a whole lot to get done and not much time left to get it done in. My lease is up on July 28th (20 days from now) and I still need to pack, have a yard sale to get rid of the stuff I’m not giving away to friends, finish my graduate work (it’s very close to done, but I’ve been struggling to do it), try to find a job so I can find a place to live, and try to figure out what to do with my cat Sen (he probably needs a knee surgery that is both expensive and perilous, and I don’t want to subject him to that right before moving him, especially if we move far).

If my lease runs out before I get a job and a new apartment, I can move in with my mother, however there are myriad other problems there. For one, while I love my mother, we don’t do well living together. For another, she lives in NC, while I’m in OH. There’s a reason I don’t live in NC anymore, and I’d really rather not go back. And lastly, she lives in the middle of nowhere, and I have no friends where she lives (very rural and conservative part of NC, not where I grew up), so I would have nothing to do and no one to see and that would be very bad for me. I already have too much of a tendency to hermit, but I also get very lonely very quickly, and my mood gets very bleak when I don’t leave the house or see friends for too long, so my depression could very well go into a tailspin.

Unfortunately, my depression and anxiety have already made a difficult situation almost impossible. My anxiety about having so much to do ends up paralyzing me so I don’t do anything, which in turn causes me to become more depressed as I feel that I’m getting nothing done and the deadline looms closer. I end up in a loop of frustration and fear that just gets worse and worse until I implode. It also doesn’t help that I realized recently that my parents embody the main voices of disapproval in my head. My mother, even though she is a good person and a good mother, doesn’t understand my anxiety. She gets frustrated with me and tells me “well you can’t just mope, you need to DO IT” and that turns into the voice in my head telling me “you’re a failure as an adult, you can’t do anything right”. My father berates me similarly, although with different language.

I remember, when I was in college and my mother took me to get my driver’s license. I resisted getting my license for a long time, in large part because driving gave me enormous amounts of anxiety (the first time I got behind the wheel I had a panic attack), which was probably because my earliest childhood memory was being in a car accident at 18 months old (I don’t really remember it now, but I remember remembering it as a child). My entire childhood and young adulthood I had nightmares about being trapped in the backseat of a car with no driver, careening wildly down a hill toward a busy intersection. I was very afraid to drive. My parents got very frustrated with me (and my older brother, middle of us three, because he was the same). They both grew up in Michigan and had been around cars their whole lives, had learned to drive even younger than was technically legal, and my oldest brother had jumped at the chance to be more independent, so they truly didn’t understand why my middle brother and I refused. Eventually, though, through a combination of threads and bribes, they got their way. I took driver’s ed, made it through my panic attacks, and practiced enough that I felt I could take the test. And when my mother and I went to the DMV, the day before I had to go back to college for the spring semester, their entire system was down. I had a panic attack in the parking lot and became hysterical. I was supposed to drive 3 hours to college the next day but I wouldn’t be able to do it without a license, and I sobbed uncontrollably like a small child in the middle of a public parking lot. My mother was FURIOUS. She yelled at me, she almost slapped me, dragged me back into the car and berated me for acting like a baby. I couldn’t calm down, especially in the face of that, and when we got home she stalked inside and left me sitting in the passenger seat, desperately trying to function enough to leave the car, get inside the house, and get to my room so I could feel safe and calm down.

My mother probably doesn’t remember that. There are a lot of moments in my life that I remember vividly that she doesn’t remember. And if she does, she probably remembers it very differently. She didn’t think I was having a panic attack (I didn’t even realize that’s what it was until years later). She thought I was acting like a spoiled child who had been denied a treat, not like a very sensitive and anxious person who’d just had all their careful plans upset. She was embarrassed that her 21-year-old, 6′ tall daughter was sobbing like a child in public, she wanted me to stop because she was afraid someone would notice and think there was something wrong with me, she wanted me to stop because no rational human reacts like that, she wanted me to stop because it annoyed her.

It all ended up fine, of course. And she knew it would, which was also why she got so mad at me. But she couldn’t understand that for me, in that moment, NOTHING was okay. I couldn’t see past the next 24 hours, I couldn’t consider my options, I was already so incredibly anxious about taking the test that just one nudge set me off and made the entire world stop being a safe and logical place for me. And the one person I was with who could’ve helped, instead made it worse.

Part of what’s probably unhealthy about my relationship with my mother is that she’s had to bear the brunt of my emotional instability for a lot of my life. My father simply wasn’t around, and when he was, he didn’t know how to deal with me. So I learned to try to suppress my emotions around my father, which just made my outbursts around my mother worse. And although sometimes as an adult I am able to suppress my anxiety long enough to function in certain situations, I still use my mother as an emotional relief valve, which she doesn’t have the time or energy for. There is a big part of me that wants her to just say “I know, I know, it’ll be okay” and gets so frustrated and angry when she instead says “just put on your big girl pants and do it”. I KNOW I need to do it. What I want from her is acknowledgement that it is difficult for me, and for her to say she’ll help if she can, and that everything is going to be okay. Because when I’m anxious, I don’t know that. I don’t know that anything will ever be okay again, and I need someone to tell me it will.

Sometimes my friends can help. But most of them don’t really understand either. And the ones who do understand are the ones who have similar problems, and also need help (which I give, when I’m able). My therapist helps too, helps a lot, and I’m also scared because I’m going to lose her after I move, and finding a new one is very anxiety-inducing as well. Will I live somewhere that has a free clinic like here, if I don’t find a job with insurance? If I do find a job with insurance, will I be able to afford the copay?

As a person who suffers from anxiety and depression, I need a bigger and stronger emotional support network than the average person. And yet, I often feel like I have no one. My issues make it more difficult for me to make friends, especially friends who understand and can help me in the ways I need help. The fact that I’ve moved so many times in my life (as a child, even before adulthood) also means I don’t have a lot of long-term friendships with people either. The difficulties inherent in trying to make friends as an adult are also a barrier. So I end up falling back on my mother, who is not as young as she used to be, and has her own life and worries and problems to deal with.

And all that is part of why I’m struggling to function. Many of my local friends are gone for the summer, and I’ll be gone before they get back. The few that are here have their own lives and schedules and can’t help me very often. I struggle to escape this weight that’s pressing down on me, and I feel like if I had a couple other pairs of shoulders to share that weight, maybe it would be easier. But I don’t know if that’s even possible. So instead I just struggle, and mostly fail, and feel worse and worse.

So that’s where I’m at right now.