I’d never really planned on them because they have always been a little trite to me in the abstract, but here I am…the second of the trite posts that I can’t help myself, but to write. The first is a gratitude post around Thanksgiving, though I’m not sure there was much gratitude in the one I wrote this year…I tried. The second one…this one is usually a reflection and hope for the next year. I feel that this year I need to write this more than just a vague want. That need stems from me feeling internally scattered, and maybe getting things out in my words will bolster me a bit…keep me from feeling as though my substance might fly away.
For a long while I didn’t spend too much time discussing my mental health stuff. Certainly there is a stigma with some of it, but I think part of my hesitancy is that I don’t want to sound as though I’m whining when my life is actually pretty good…maybe even objectively very good. But, then there is this other part of me that knows or has encountered so many people struggling. I have people in my life I can be open with, but that’s not always the case for others. So, maybe if I can communicate what my experience is, then someone else won’t feel alone or as an outsider…that’s the hope anyway.
I’m not unfamiliar with anxiety or depression. What I’m experiencing now is not nearly as arduous as what I’ve confronted at other times in my life, but I’ve also not had lives depending on me the way I do now. I’ve also never had another point in my life that I have virtually no time to myself. Usually it’s quite the contrary…endless time to myself balanced with a job I don’t like. But, at the very least I wouldn’t be struggling and also have a perpetual external demand placed on me and limited capacity for an outlet. I mention this because many of my coping mechanisms currently can’t function in the way in which I’ve always depended on them. That translates to a lesser severity anxiety/depression mix feeling more incapacitating than I might otherwise experience. I’m functioning, more or less, but the general struggle to get my head in the game has been grueling.
The presence of depression means that I’m not able to move how I would with my mania. I enjoy my mania…I miss my mania. All of that before I even touch the psychosis piece…or my learning disability and processing piece. And, for all I know I could still be rocking brain damage from the oxygen loss from the pulmonary embolism I had in March. Or maybe it’s all just existing in COVID land and the trauma we all have the shared experience of. That’s my head space, and it’s very hard for me to think clearly.
Historically I rely on tasks to occupy me and carry me along. That would mostly be my prison work. COVID means it will be on hold until spring at the earliest. I’m on blood thinners, so will I be able to be vaccinated? I guess I may or may not find out in February for my next appointment with the team that treated me in the hospital. I almost died from this COVID complication, so the prospect of relying on vaccination herd immunity for something that may or may not yield such a result is not something I don’t want to think about. But, who am I kidding? Of course, I’m thinking about it, and I don’t have the gray matter to spare.
Warrior Queen is too young to spend much time concerned about her school stuff. Little Man is in the first grade. Our district does a reasonable job with his education right now, but it’s not like a good job is possible. We have access. He’s more or less self sufficient and doesn’t give me a hard time. That’s a good thing because some days it takes virtually all of my reserves to help him with his meager schoolwork commitments.
I’m trying to avoid making this sound like a complaint. Mostly I just want to be honest because I don’t know that people feel they can be. My sleep is erratic. I recently learned that insomnia has been linked as an after COVID thing…lovely. Does that mean it will or will not resolve? No one knows…wheee! I’m grumpy with little patience most of the time, and I want to crawl out of my skin as a default state of being at the moment. I don’t know when it will change, other than it will at some point. My prison work will likely come back. I will also probably have some new things to glide into when all of this resolves…eventually…months from now. I wish it felt emotionally helpful to remind myself of such things.
I’m someone who likes projects. I crave them. I’ve written something like seventeen programs for the Department of Corrections in the last three or four years depending on how it’s tallied. There is a hold on new programming, so while I was about to write-up another one, there is no point in puzzling through it. I’ve been reserving some focus for remote solitary confinement programs, but with the approved one in the wings waiting to start at some point, I was hoping to see what barriers arise before constructing something new. When the approved program is implemented, it will probably be popular. I think I can probably get it in another couple of states when COVID restrictions ease, so at some point I’ll be quite busy. That will also be around the time I’m allowed back into the facilities. If I’m lucky, the federal literacy program thing will work out. I’m also building some other connections, so this isn’t wasted time. I can probably get at least one university to fund some of my work, especially if students are involved. That will also put me in a position to approach other institutions. There is a need for criminal justice reform stuff, I think. What I offer is someone who has access to facilities and active, successful programs. It’s important I remind myself regularly about all of this stuff because it’s been a devastating hit for me to have my years of hard work gone indefinitely.
None of that helps me now, though. I’m doing my political stuff. It’s important, but it also requires consistent and reliable blocks of uninterrupted time I don’t have. And, while I enjoy these political things, it doesn’t feed me in the way I need in this struggling moment in time. I’ve done little else but reflect on the last year, so what do I need from the next, at least in the short term?
I’d been vaguely planning to write a book about my prison work. I’ve published excerpts about what I’m thinking it will be like in my other blog. In my mind I wanted to be at a certain programming level before beginning that project. I was on the cusp of that point just before COVID, so…that’s on hold. I’m not really a book writer. It’s a pretty massive undertaking for me. I toil with short things. I’ve been writing more consistently the past six-ish weeks or so, which I’m endlessly delighted about. I’m partaking in a couple of short/micro story contests. I’d like to write more fiction. I struggle to sit down to write more fiction even though I love it. Then it occurred to me that I can legitimately write a story under 500 words. The past week I broke out my box of prompts and wrote three stories.
That isn’t the entire picture. I follow someone on Twitter who will self-publish a collection of short stories soon. Something like that never occurred to me, but now that it has, I think I’m going to go for it. I dug through my darkened file reserves and opened a document of various short stories…maybe I’ll include some essays and poems too. For whatever reason, people seem to like my poetry. Much like my afghans, it’s comforting to have something that I can tinker with little bit by little bit, and eventually I’ll have a book. Though, truth be told, I’m struggling to envision people paying to read things I write, but nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess…story of my life.
I need to make sure I’m doing my needle craft. I’m better about my afghan because I have it sitting on the floor next to me and my computer. I spend so much of a day sitting here sometimes, it’s more in my mind to work on it. That’s helpful. I should probably make more of an effort to find the yarn I want for another scarf and some socks. I really did enjoy those projects, and I need to enjoy things.
I’m sure there will be more savory moments, but I guess I want to mark an explicit priority to recognize them when they happen…like when I’m listening to my latest musical obsession on the computer while I crochet my increasingly massive afghan. At some point Little Man enters the room wanting the song he likes. I barter that he must finally get dressed before that can happen. Eventually he complies with another dozen instances of me nagging him. The annoyance decreased as he steps to me in his underwear to scratch my back because of how much I love having my back scratched. Clothing on he presses into me and we watch the video for the song he loves. At some point Warrior Queen stumbles in and sits on my lap that is covered by my stitching. I’m snuggled against two children listening to music while I crochet, and it’s a wonderful moment. I want to have more instances when I recognize those kind of small moments when they happen. No matter how irritable and frazzled I am, I want to be able to pause and stretch those instances for the wonders that they are. That’s been a struggle for a while now. It will continue to be a struggle, but I want to succeed in appreciating such value more times than I don’t. I want to record them in these online files because I want to feel them long after the the excerpt of time has passed. One day I’ll read through these random months and years, and I want to be transported back to the feel of my kids resting against me while my fingers move on their practiced impulse. I want to remember that even though I’m not really happy, and can’t seem to control it; I’m loved. I feel the love in every minutia of a burrowed body.
Before the hospital I was really great about stretching many days a week. For whatever reason I’ve not been able to get my act together to stretch lately. I’m middle-aged. Stretching is super important now. My routine is maybe five minutes. I don’t know what the barrier is because I love doing it. I love how I feel after. Getting started to do anything has always been a problem for me…transitions, in general, are a struggle. More than most everything else, stretching has been an insurmountable task completion that I don’t really understand, yet can’t seem to correct.
I need to get back into calling Congress weekly as well. Up until about two months ago I was super consistent. Lately it’s been hard for me to make the calls. Or, if I make the calls, it isn’t all of them. I’m in touch regularly enough with my State Senator; I hound the poor guy on Facebook all the time to the point that he periodically invites me to things. If I catch something in the moment that requires specific action…like calling or emailing my Governor or something, I can usually swing that. But, the ongoing contact has been slipping, and it doesn’t make me happy.
And, then there are the hopeful things I want to pan out. I may or may not have met a friend in my town that has the same political values as me, beyond party affiliation. We would like our town’s Democratic Party to take on certain things. I don’t have the wherewithal to head something like that, but I can definitely support it. He has the ambition to lead that kind of effort, so maybe it will turn into something. A side note, I’ve reached the age when I meet accomplished professionals that are ten years my junior…such a strange thing. I’m not so old, but I guess I’m no longer the spry spring chicken I was. And, some of that is me existing with my kids at home. My world shrank in some ways, and expanded in others, while time does this funny thing that’s hard to describe and explain.
I read a lot, and I mean A LOT…total smut these days, but very well written smut. I’ve found some authors I adore in the process. I usually have a range of things I read based on my attention span, which is a wispy thin hair these days. Consequently my higher brow, more sophisticated and more challenging of a read books cannot happen. I miss my nonfiction stuff, but can’t attend to it still. I ended up renewing my Smithsonian magazine subscription, which I haven’t had for years now. I finally received my first issue, which is full of random information goodness. I suppose that feels like progress to me. With all of my learning and probably complicated with my mental health stuff, it feels good to feel like I can return to nonfiction text, even if it’s in a limited capacity. Anything moving in the right direction is a good direction no matter how minuscule that momentum is. I looked at the Table of Contents, and didn’t know where to start, so I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any.
And, as much as I’m not a fan of outside, I think I need to try to get out more…get some fresh air. I don’t leave the house anymore unless it’s to drop-off Warrior Queen at school. But, I can feel my world getting so small. I miss my friends and the semblance of a social life I’d managed, but I’m crawling inward, I think. Lately it’s been a hardship to reach out to others altogether. I’m doing it, I suppose. If I know someone who is having a challenging time, I try to make the effort, but it takes quite a bit out of me to do it. It’s worth the effort, though. I remember when I was depressed in my twenties. I was particularly low and I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t have depression friends…people who would reach out to me no matter how I pushed them away. I’ve always been good at pushing people away, so I try to fight for others even if I’m not so terribly close to someone. I remember the desperation at the time and there was no one and no where to go until I met my husband. Nothing good happens from that kind of suffering.
That probably circles back to small things. I can do small things, and hope it’s enough for someone out there. I think, however, is that I need to start doing a better job at paying attention to myself as well. Intellectually I take notice of my life’s components; sometimes when they are happening. I recognize my dysregulation, even if I’m powerless to do anything about it. I think I need to spend the next year not letting myself get to an extreme before I’m willing to nurture myself. Maybe that will make a difference, not waiting for the bottom to completely fall away.
Asking for help too, though that’s probably not something I can tackle in the next year. It’s too hard. I’ll put a pin in that one and hope to work on it at some point.
What I really want for the next year is out of my control. I want a normal to be more…normal…maybe that will happen, and maybe it won’t. I’m hopeful to return to some normalcy where I can feel good about the tasks I take-on without it feeling like a need to regulate endless and unrelenting anxiety. The new year is poised to bring on a good deal of change on my end…for my whole family. It isn’t bad change, just change. I don’t do well with change as a general statement. I abstractly recognize I’ll be fine, but emotionally I don’t do all that well. I can’t control any of that…the change or the feeling surrounding the anticipation of it, but maybe I can control what I look forward to and what I focus on. It won’t take the nerves, sadness, or anything else away, but maybe it will keep me from sinking or staying in an emotional place I don’t want to be. So, while in the next year I hope for the things outside of myself to improve, maybe in my direct world I’ll try to focus on the progress, and the good. I’ll feel what I feel, but try to let go of the things weighing on me. I’ll try to identify what I need in any given moment or segment of time, and do my best to chase it. I can’t…or shouldn’t hope for things that are outside of what I can impact or control, so circling back to recognition of the things I can. So, while I wait for normal to be a more normal thing…eventually, I’ll take care of me a little more…a little better. I won’t pressure myself to be a way that I’ve come to unrealistically demand of myself. I’m proud of my drive and what I’ve accomplished, but at some point it becomes a torment, so I need to be practical with the entire process. If the world isn’t forcing the pressures on me, then I shouldn’t be either. Ambition is good, but it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of my peace…maybe in the next 365 that peace will feed the ambition that I haven’t been able to achieve in the distraction of misery.