Staycation Life Update

staycation
image: Ron Mader

This week I’m off work.  Not doing anything except recovering my equilibrium.  I was feeling my mental state getting too close the edge of the abyss.  And I just did not want to fall in.  So I took off a week.

Already I’m feeling better.  So I think it was a good choice.

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I only have one, possibly two work related things I need to do.  One is to catch up a report that I’ve been neglecting all month.  It’s tedious and it’s easy to say to myself, I don’t have time today.   It’s supposed to be done daily.  I think I’ve got 5 days in the report so far.

The other is to possibly go into work for a visit from a tech guy for our reservation/dispatch system.  I have thoughts I want to share.  Many, many thoughts.

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I have become addicted to a game on my phone called Wordscapes.  Like I just started playing 3 weeks ago and I’m on level 1241. Each puzzle is a level.  I hate when computers  make pretending it’s not that bad impossible.  At least it’s a mind exercise, but it is far too easy to do the game rather than do my life.

I find it easier to break a habit by replacing it with another habit.  So I bought an embroidery kit to see if I can start a new habit to keep my life occupied.  At least there is a sense that I accomplished something tangible with the embroidering

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I’ve recently become obsessed with keyboards.  I want a mechanical one.  Like we had in the old days.  Where there was a tangible click when you pressed down.  And you could feel the key go all the way down.  And the keyboard wasn’t flat but had a pleasant upward curve.

I know it’s probably a bit more fatiguing to your hand if you have to type a lot, but I am mostly not typing long form.  I’m working in accounting software.  I mostly use 10key skills.  And doing 10 key wants to feel more like I associate with those horrible giant adding machines.  So I want to have a mechanical keyboard.

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I have decided that the small daily changes – like a different keyboard are the things that make life better. So many things in life that we just accept, but are not really that comfortable.  So I’m going to start paying attention to those things.  See if I can get my life to feel more like it’s moving smoothly, rather than being dragged over gravel.

 

Things I just can’t deal with right now.

Life Generally.

Flat tire, specifically.

I had a flat at work about 3 weeks ago.  I work for a transportation company, so I just refilled the tire and watched it.  It kept inflated for weeks.  I thought perhaps it was an April Fools joke as it happened on April’s Fool Eve.

But today, the tire is flat.  Indeed, it was flat yesterday.  My neighbor knocked on my door to tell me.  I was feeling like the struggle bus had run over me and then he showed up with more cheery news.

I ignored it.  I have a portable electric air pump.  But it does need to be plugged in and that is where it all sort of falls apart.  I live on the second floor of the building but I don’t have an extension cord long enough to handle it.

I also have a roadside assistance contract.  They will come and change the tire.  Presumably they might have an air pump as an alternative option.  But it’s not a guarantee.  I cannot change the tire.  I know this from previous attempts, when I was in better shape than I currently am.  I have little to no upper body strength,

Right now my trunk is full of various forms of detritus that have formed in the last 7 years.  It’s in desperate need of a clean out.  And if I call roadside assistance, I’m gonna need to clean it out, so the spare can be removed.   My desire to do that clean out of the trunk is damn near nil.  But it must be done.

All of this is just me whining about a perfectly normal hitch in life, which the stillness in my brain has enlarged into a mountain of gargantuan size.  So much so that my plan to take care of it today did  not happen.

 

It’s been a very busy week.  Very stressful.  And it was capped today by a mistake by omission that sent me home in near tears.

We are putting in a new software system and I have been given quite a lot of extra responsibility with that.  And since it’s implementation was supposed to be Friday, the last week was fraught with various glitches and various things not done.  All while my full time job was not done by me with any great focus.

In the end we did not go live on Friday because there were too many roadblocks.  I was relieved because a good portion of my responsibilities on it were unfinished.

To add stress and work to this, Friday was the monthly close for billing.  On the 1st I am normally putting in at least a 10 hour day.  But due to the system it was just impossible to even get done, after my 12th hour.  So.  I left and came back today.

Needless to say, I have set aside a whole lot of non-urgent tasks during the last month.  And one of them was a contract my boss gave me to read.  It outlines the new rates etc for our biggest client.  I read it today.  After I sent the invoices, which were based on a conversation I had with my boss on how much the fares were.  I don’t know if I misunderstood him or if the contract was not written to his verbal agreement, but it specifies a whole different rate structure than I billed at.   And it doesn’t matter what he or I understood, because what he signed says these things.

When I say it’s our biggest client, I had 1500 line items on one invoice and 600 on the other.  And all of it is wrong.  I have pull it apart and redo it.  Then apologize profusely to their AP folks.

I couldn’t face it and I walked out tonight  on the verge of tears.  I called my coworker and she talked me off the full on breakdown.  She’s good at that.   I might go in tomorrow.  Because Monday is going to be yet another day of system issues and I won’t have time to do it.

But I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Last time I felt this shitty was when I literally stopped moving, lost my job, and after exhausting my savings became homeless.

On a positive note though, I notice I’m handling it better this time.  I have tools to deal with it, I guess.  Last time I refused to acknowledge it.  Because I had a great life, I couldn’t possibly be depressed or anxious.

But now I see what’s happening and have more tools.   I am better prepared and more aware of it.  When the feeling of near breakdown was worst was the beginning of this week, I just sat myself down and realized I had to let things go.  I had to stop internalizing things I couldn’t control and recognize the limits of what I could do in the space time I was allotted. .  And after that, things got a lot easier.  Although I’m still prone to snapping at people, and all of my coworkers recognize that I’m a bit overwhelmed, I’m not internally as ready to just curl up into a ball and not participate.  Which was how I was at the beginning of the week.  And how I was when I fell apart years ago.  Back then I did just curl up and stop participating.  But I won’t do that this time.

I won’t let this kill me.  I’m fighting for my own sanity this time.  Maybe the odds don’t look in my favor, but I think I got this.

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Passing the Doctor’s Office Visit

I had a physical and follow up visit with my doctor yesterday morning.  I very much was not interested in going when I woke up.  The stillness was enveloping me.

But that was the reason I needed to go.  Also I have a spot on my leg that my anxiety has diagnosed as skin cancer.

But I went.  Using all my mental resources to push the rock up the mountain and get moving.  I love my doctor.  She is kind and thorough and responsive.  She listens.

So.  We adjusted the depression meds.  And she told me I don’t have skin cancer.  And she ran a calculator on my risk factors for a heart attack and found it’s only 2.5% in the next 10 years – which is basically just the standard of the general population.  And since I’ve been harboring an anxiety that I will die of a heart attack at 55 like my father did that released another anxiety.

I normally feel like I flunk every doctor’s appointment.  Something is diagnosed as wrong and then we have to treat it and then we follow up for what feels like dozens of times trying to get it fixed.  So it feels nice to have only depression which feels like the normal.

Which is, of course, why it’s problematic.  I think this way I’m living is normal.  It’s not.  It’s just the life I’m used to.  But when she ran through the questions for anxiety/depression it struck me that this REALLY IS WRONG.  It’s amazing how awful living just stops feeling wrong and just feels like awful is normal.  And in many ways, my ability to manage my depression and keep functioning is why it feels OK.  I never felt like it was OK when I was unemployed and stayed in bed 23.5 hrs a day.  But now I have a job and an apartment and I keep a minimum standard of living going.  It tricks me into thinking life is supposed to be this way.

Hopefully the meds will kickstart a new path in my brain that I can take advantage of.

Cross fingers.

 

 

Work: The Mountain

Both my coworkers have been off since last Thursday.  The back up girl was unexpectedly off last week but thankfully returned this week.

But since she was off for the birth of her newest grandchild, who is now in NICU I don’t think I can count on her.  She needs to be her daughter’s biggest support and that is more important than anything else.

So.  As the days past, the things that don’t get done remain undone and those piles get bigger.  I’m reminding myself daily that tomorrow is another day.

Last night I was there until 11pm.  And still the giant pile remains.  And expands because poor back up now has her own pile.  She took on half my job on the busiest day and she has a full time job of her own.  So.

Life happens as it will, however we plan it.  Only one person was planned to be off.  But my other co-worker ended up in the hospital.  And as I said the back up has the new grandbaby.  None of that could have been predicted.  It’s just how life works.

However.  I intended to go to work over the weekend to clear it to a fresh starting point.  But I didn’t.  So as a result I was there until 11pm last night and didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped.  That weekend choice was something I could control and didn’t.

We always pay for those moments we don’t do something.  I knew it when the stillness of my depression kept me in bed.  But the knowledge didn’t move me.  I wonder why knowledge isn’t motivating?  Imagine how many of our personal problems would be solved if knowledge was enough for us to change.  All the smokers would quit smoking, we all would exercise and eat well.  No one would be overweight.  We would all work on climate change… It’s odd how knowledge is just so useless as a catalyst for changing personal behavior.

I wonder if there are people who learn something and adapt their personal behavior immediately and permanently to the new information?  If so, what is going on in their brain?  Can I get that wiring?

I find emotion is mildly motivating, but not permanently motivating.  Fear, of course, being the best motivator.  But I think because we don’t remember emotions in the same way that we remember events or information, it’s not as permanent.  And we obviously aren’t supposed to because when you remember deeply negative emotions like that, you have PTSD.

Anyway, all of this is to say, I’m not thrilled with my choices this past weekend.  They were mostly dictated by the stillness that envelops my weekend, but it remains true that motivation is elusive, especially with depression.  To the point of being useless.

Watching People be Busy and Productive

I adore youtube channels where people make things.  I watch makers do things I have absolutely no interest in doing myself, I’m just fascinated with their productiveness and the creation of a thing.  I follow woodworking, metal working, cooking, gardening, and artists of all kinds.

Yesterday I binge watched a channel of a young man who is rebuilding a 108 year old yacht.  I think he he is going to be lucky to keep 20 yards of original board on that boat.  It was a mess.  It will take years and years to rebuild it.  And he’s filming it.

He’s a boat builder, so it’s not like he’s inexperienced.  And he threw himself into this project heart and soul.  It’s hard work.  Both mentally and physically.

A few weeks ago he cut off his finger.  He was quite philosophical about it.  Life is about taking risks, he said.  You don’t learn anything or experience anything if you don’t take risks.  Sometimes you get hurt, but it’s all part of the process of living.

I don’t do anything.  Even in smaller ways.  People like Leo, the ship builder, fascinate me.   They just do it.  It might not work.  But the doing is worth it.  My grandmother was like that.  I’m not.  I’m stillness to their wind.  I want to be more like the wind – changing things, making things, doing things.  It seems like it’s just as simple as Just do it.

But something in my brain, Depression, makes the space between thinking about a thing and doing a thing enormous.  It’s like the Grand Canyon and my brain doesn’t seem to be able to cross to the part that makes me move into action.

I call it Stillness.  It’s the antithesis of a well lived life.

I think I watch these youtube channels so I can live the life of productivity vicariously.  That might be making the stillness worse.  It’s possible my brain marks my experiencing the video as a thing accomplished.  Our brains are fucked up wonders.

Saturday

I work 6 days a week.  Saturday is my only day off.  You would think this would be my day of activities and joy and friends and projects.

It’s not.  It tends to be a black hole of nothing.  It the day my depression induced stillness can get it’s way.  I mostly lay in bed reading, scrolling through various websites and basically doing nothing of value.

I have managed my depression in most of the areas of my life.  But my days off continue to be a problem.   Today I want to just clean the apartment a bit, do a couple of loads of laundry and cook something for meals for the next week.  Even as I write that I know it’s more than I can manage.  Despite the fact that it’s a normal amount of stuff for a person to do.

I really need to choose just one of those tasks as my priority.  Probably Laundry.  It’s the most necessary for the next week’s needs.  I can live in a messy house but I still need clean clothes for work.  And this defines why I’m not really getting farther than the treading water.  I do the barest minimum to make my life work.

I’m really just one of the people in those bleak movies.  Trudging along in greyness.

What is even more necessary than all the tasks I think I should do is to find some joy in this life.  To get more social.  To find creative things that bring me personal satisfaction.  I think a Good Life is about the people and making things.  I’m doing nothing to promote that in my life.

I’m so much better than I was 6 years ago.  But only in that I’m not homeless and penniless and jobless.  I’m working and self sufficient and I don’t feel like my life is out of control.  I’m able to interact with my family better.  But I’m not even close to content or happy.  I’m… grey and blank.

 

 

Noticeable Improvement Plan

Because of my depression, normal everyday tasks often feel huge to me.  In the past this has created a lot of stupid chaos in my life.  Including living in disaster areas, otherwise known as my apartment.

The advantage of growing older is that you learn coping skills.  And one of those skills was to recognize that small improvements over time make A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

So now my goals are tiny and I only task myself with noticeable improvement, not perfection.

The holidays have not been particularly happy for me.  And this has led to me not putting things away and not keeping up on the tasks that keep the chaos at bay.  So the floor around the kitty litter didn’t get swept after I scooped and kitchen counters are littered with ingredients that didn’t get put away and the table is littered with various small gifts I got from work, etc.

The things that slowly turn a home into a disaster area are starting to build up.  So today is my day off and I started to do the things.  But I don’t intend do an intensive clean and leave this apartment in shining order.  I intend to improve the situation in a way that I will notice.  So I swept the floor, I didn’t mop it.  I will clear off the clutter but I won’t dust and polish the furniture.  Next week or next month the improvement task will be polishing furniture or waxing the floor.  But it’s OK that it’s not today.

An interesting thing happens when I look at life as an ongoing process of improvement rather than a defined goal of perfection.  I look for and find a thing that will improve it.   And when I no longer need the thing to be perfect, doing it is less burdensome.  I’m not chasing a fantasy of golden perfection.  I just want to see a difference.  I can find satisfaction in the improvement, rather than dissatisfaction at the perceived ways I didn’t meet the perfection goal.

My brain is very good at twisting things into huge hairy deals.  And I think that was part of what made keeping my environment in order when I was in my 20s so hard.  To 26 year old me the house needed to look like a magazine cover or there was no point to cleaning.  All of it should be cleaned to perfection at once.  So cleaning was a huge task.  And so I put it off and things just kept getting worse not improving.

Now I just want my house to feel comfortable and neat.  I no longer feel any burden if at the end of the day there is dust on the tables.  Because that is a task that can be done tomorrow and no one is any worse for it.

As a result my apartment is nearly always in a fairly decent condition.  It may need to be dusted but there is never so much stuff on the floor that I need to step around it.  The dishes are done and the kitty litter is always kept clean, there is no laundry on the floor and the garbage is always taken out.   Because of that, now when I’ve had a bad month, the only things that need to be done to make it feel better about it will take me less than 45 minutes to sort out.

Noticeable improvements.  It’s the only way to live life.

 

I need a list

of things to do when my brain is functional.

Inside my brain are a dozen or more nagging things I should do .  Things that don’t get done because during the brain stillness, I function on a rail.  I do the habits. I walk through the day by doing the next habit.  I focus on conquering the small stuff.

But depression is not a static state and when it moves into the zone of normal I very often get less done than I should because I can’t really seem to put my thoughts into gear to get those nagging tasks done.  I can’t remember them.

I think I need a list.  It has to be on something easily accessible.  So when the nagging thought shows up, I can put it immediately on my list.  Thus removing it’s anxiety from my head.

And when I realize I am in functional normal mode, I can grab the list and do something I wouldn’t normally get done.

I also need the list to be already set up as a functional to-do.  Ie – task broken into it’s component parts.

I will try to do it on one of my phone apps I think.  Although I find writing things down easier, I no longer carry any pad of paper.  I have a phone after-all.

But breaking down the task means it can’t be an app like Remember the Milk.  It has to be a proper to do app.  But that will be an additional electronic nagging rather than a place to put my nagging thought that safely removes it from the anxiety place until I can do it.

I think finding the right app might end up being the first thing on the to do list?  Or at least figuring out how to make an easy app like Milk work for this.

Anyway – that is my current state of mind.  I need more lists in my life.  My brain is way to full of holes.

For the 1st time in 7 years I put up Holiday decorations.

I strung lights around my front window.  I’m rather proud of that step into normal behavior.  I haven’t involved myself in Xmas since my mom died.  But I feel more human and interested in making a pretty place for myself.  So I pulled out a box of lights I bought in an after Xmas sale, with the vague idea of making some kind of decorative element for the bedroom.

Now I need to watch the kitten and how he treats them.  He and Bijou were on the balcony while I put them up.  It’s a beautiful sunny warm winter day and kitten hadn’t been out on the balcony much.  Bijou supervised.  NO GROWLS!!

But I think it was serendipitous because then they weren’t involved in putting up the lights and didn’t see them bouncing about like a toy.

You know.  I really am a WHOLE lot better than I was 5 years ago.  It’s been a long VERY slow slog that feels like nothing gets better.  But it really does.  And it has.  I doubt I will ever be Mrs. Mental Health.  But I’m getting to be Mrs. Mental OK Sometimes.

Maybe I will buy tiny tree too.