August, My Least Favorite Month, Is Finally Over

One more week in the bank as I trudge through a spate of incredibly draining and difficult weeks with the hope of some kind of peace and rest on the horizon. The exact kind is to be determined still, from where I’m writing this (nor do I expect to have any answers soon), given the on-going health issues I’m dealing with on top of the work-related stress, world-related stress, and constant pandemic stress. I don’t know what things are going to look like once this flurry of activity has come to an end. It’s difficult to tell from the middle of things, especially given that I’m partway through a bunch of medical tests, none of which indicate that this is going to be a temporary issue if I’m reading the supporting documentation correctly. I, of course, could be wrong, but since I have to wait to speak with one or more doctors and then get one or more additional tests before I know anything, all I can do now is speculate. Which isn’t super helpful for me, but I’m grasping at straws and unsure of what else to grasp at.

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Stress and Sleep Troubles

It was another rough week. I got everything done I needed to and most of the things I wanted to, but I’m now struggling through another (thankfully silent) Friday and I want nothing more than to turn into a puddle for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. I bet puddles don’t have insomnia or anxiety. I bet puddles can get all the rest they need or want. I bet puddles don’t feel depressed and isolated from everyone they care about because anxiety is mean and they were raised to take on responsibility for the happiness and well-being of everyone around then, frequently leaving them feeling inadequate and like they’re hated whenever they protect their own mental health by not putting in extra effort to help other people who are struggling. What a life that would be, to be a puddle.

I sometimes find myself wishing that I had the “sleep all the time” type of depression. It’s one of a group of intrusive thoughts centered around ways that I could be visibly ill instead of invisibly ill and I recognize it as my mind considering solutions to current problems that I, the collection of organized electrical signals piloting this meat suit, would never genuinely wish for or desire. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have too much sleep. I know people with sleep-heavy depression generally feel as unrested and awful as people like me with my anti-sleep depression/anxiety combo, but the appeal isn’t really in the idea of feeling well-rested. I know what that’s like because I’ve managed to make it happen every so often. Once or twice a month, usually.

What keeps the idea lingering in my head is the thought of being simply unconscious for that much time. As an insomniac of almost two decades, I’m used to nights that last forever, days that stretch into weeks, and time as a concept slowly unraveling as minutes become meaningless in the face of the sheer number of consecutive hours I’ve had to experience. I can’t help but wonder what the opposite issue feels like. Days that vanish in a blink, time that compresses, chunks of life missing or let slip by. I’ve managed to make the most of my insomnia by learning to manage my caffeine intake, figure out how to be productive even when mentally, physically, and emotionally drained, and picking up tricks to help decrease the toll a lack of sleep takes on my body. I wonder if there’s a similar version of this for people who feel like they sleep too much. I bet there is.

Honestly, the idea of being able to go home, take a shower, climb into bed, and have it be partyway through Saturday before I know it sounds pretty appealling. I know that I’m going to run my errands, make my dinner, watch something on TV (a comfort show, after the week I’ve had, and especially after almost my entire to-watch list on HBO Max got deleted from the internet last week, which is a post for another time when I’m more mentally present) and then finally get to bed around 12 or 1 because I’m too anxious about feeling exhausted and not doing anything fun with my weekend to feel tired any sooner. I’ll sleep until 830 or 9, wake up feeling groggy, and then lay in bed trying to get more sleep as I listen to something that may or may not take my mind off my exhaustion and inability to sleep more. If the podcast works and I don’t have a sore neck/shoulders from sleeping in a weirdly contorted position, I might get another hour or two of sleep. Then I’ll get up, make some kind of food, do some laundry, and it’ll be time to repeat the process all over again.

There are familiar patterns, comforts, and good habits mixed into that and this was perhaps the most bitter representation of my weekend I could write without being abjectly awful to myself, so it will probably be better than this sounds. I’m just really tired today and am struggling to avoid thinking about how nice it would be to not have trouble falling asleep almost every night.

Ongoing Pandemic Life

The pandemic has recently introduced itself into my life in new and frustrating ways. I don’t have Covid-19, thankfully (at least so far as I and my rapid tests can tell), but at least one of my estranged parents has it, as does my youngest sibling who is similar levels of estranged but for very different reasons [my single non-estranged sibling who still lives with our parents also caught it eventually]. Closer to home (emotionally and physically), one of my close friends who happens to also live only a couple blocks away also has it, though they seem to be in recovery rather than just starting out like my biological family. Many of my coworkers have been impacted by it recently as well, some of them showing the signs but never testing positive or having family members who test positive while they continue to test negative. I returned from vacation, had time to do laundry, and then discovered most of my day-to-day world had been turned upside-down and that the on-going emotional difficulties related to having estranged parents had only grown more difficult. Which kinda sucks, not gonna lie.

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Managing Vacation Anxiety

As I begin the careful calculus of packing and planning for my vacation, I’ve started weighing the various options I have for types of entertainment to bring with me to this isolated cabin. I have so many options that are portable enough to consider bringing with that I’m concerned I might be packing more tabletop and video games than everything else put together. It has been a long time since I’ve done anything to relax that didn’t center being at my apartment for an extended period of time, so I’ll admit I’m overly anxious about how to adequately prepare for my vacation. To be entirely fair to myself, something bad has happened every single time I’ve taken more than one or two days off of work for the past two years, so these anxieties aren’t entirely unfounded. Since one of the main strategies for processing anxieties involves acknowledging the parts that are actually reasonable or at least reasonable-adjacent and then taking steps to mitigate them, I’m giving myself space to over-plan and over-pack.

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I Have A Low Bar For What I’d Call A Peaceful Day

This has, so far, been the first week where nothing has happened by the end of Wednesday (please keep in mind this was written a week before it was posted). This will mean it is the first quiet week I’ve had in about a month and something I sorely needed after the tumultuous few weeks I’ve had immediately prior to this one. Not all of that time has been bad, of course. A lot of fun and/or good things happened during that period of time, but a lot of bad, unpleasant, and awful things also happened during that time period. It has just been a lot without much of a break for me to catch my breath. I couldn’t escape the constant happenings anywhere I went. Even the refuges I had built on Twitter for moments like this had been overrun by happenings. Long overdue happenings by the sound of it, happenings that I support wholeheartedly (for the most part, more than one thing happened after all), but still stuff that was a drain to encounter.

As I’m writing this blog post, it is the end of the third day since anything new happened to me. I’ve had no new issues to deal with, no new occasions to celebrate, no new happenings to work through, and none of the old stuff has reared its head anywhere beyond my anxiety. It has been quiet and I’ve had time to feel exhausted without worrying that I’m missing something vital. As boring as my days have been, this is exactly what I’ve needed. I even found an extra bottle of mouthwash when I thought I was entirely out of it, so even the small stuff has stayed incredibly uneventful.

As I write this, there is no noise in my apartment aside from the quiet whir of my fan, the distant gentle cheeps of my bird who is upset with me for walking past her without spending the rest of the time she’s awake interacting with her, the clack of my keyboard as I write, and the soft rumble of distant thunder as a series of heavy storms roll past to the north of me. I’m under a tornado watch, as is most of my state right now, a severe thunderstorm watch, and an incredibly enjoyable “watch the dark storm clouds roll in” watch. Given my history with storms, this is incredibly calming rather than worrisome and I’m looking forward to whatever tonight brings as the storm rages outside. It might be a tornado, which would be terrible, but there will definitely be plenty of rain, lightning, and thunder.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my evening. My attempts to make plans met with no success, so I suspect I’ll be reading or playing video games by myself while listening to a backlog of podcasts. The exact activity will depend on whether or not I still have power of course. Even now, I’m actively saving my work every line or two since it looks like the kind of weather that steals your power away without warning. That would suck, since it is hot and humid as all get-out, but it would definitely make tonight a quiet night with no demands placed on my emotional energy. Unless, of course, my apartment gets wrecked by a tornado. The one exception to the hopefully peaceful night I have ahead of me.

Still, a tornado does one thing and there’s only one thing I can do about it, so it is a relatively simple situation to handle when you’ve studied weather patterns and lived in the Midwest as long as I have. Feels so much easier to hypothetically handle than a difficult conversation about why I chose to remove someone from a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or why I think we absolutely need strict gun laws in a way most pro-gun people around me don’t seem to comprehend given the way the second amendment to the US constitution has been misinterpreted for years. Even writing those out was exhausting.

My New Mental Health Cycles

As I sat on my porch this morning, drinking my coffee and enjoying some direct sunlight as I cooled down after my morning workout, I was forced to admit that my struggles with depression this year weren’t entirely due to the long, bitter winter we had. That definitely contributed to it, of course, there’s no denying that. My struggles with work and the increasing solitude I feel as one of the only people I know who is avoiding all but the most necessary trips into public places are also contributing factors of course. However, there is no denying the increased severity of my depression from previous years to this one. Even last year wasn’t as bad as this one, in terms of my general depression.

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Imperfect Rest Is Better Than None

As I’ve been working on recovering from all the stress of the past few months and trying to find ways to still make progress on my goals without worsening my current degree of burnout, I’ve realized that my most restful days of late are days that include a mixture of actual rest, enjoyable activities, and moderate productivity. While I’ve always known this to some degree or another, I’ve never been able to nail down a formula for it. Experimentation over the last few weeks though, has had startlingly positive results. If I have enough rest and relaxation intermingled with a moderately busy day of self-directed activity, it is usually a net-restful day for me, even if I’m cleaning my apartment and doing all my laundry. If I can be a little productive on a day set aside to not need productivity while also engaging in restful occupation, it is usually quite restful.

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Stress, Coping, And Not Tempting Fate

Of course, the week I wrote about being resilient and capable of managing my stress is the week the world takes another step down the “gone to hell” path. My workplace announces an end to mask requirements, Russia invades Ukraine (keep in mind I wrote this on February 24th and February 24th Chris has no idea what has happened between now and then), and the conservatives of my country have continued to do their best to prove what absolute shithead fascists they are. I really need to stop writing about how I’ve finally gotten my feet underneath me or how I’m managing my stress. It feels too much like tempting the fuckers to fuck something up in the world at this point.

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Managing Mental Health Over The Holidays

I need a t-shirt that says “I went outdoors to treat my depression and all I got was this mild tan.” One of the efforts I started last year to combat my feelings of isolation and worsening depression was to make sure that I take daily walks. I didn’t really expect it to solve all my problems, but I did hope that it would have a more marked improvement on my mood and general mental health. The daily walks sure help me make sure I can get my average of six hours of sleep per night, but the emotional benefits of getting daily sunlight or daily fresh air have largely vanished at this point.

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I’m Just Gonna Unload All This Anxiety Over Here, By The Other Anxiety

I had an enjoyable day, today. Facebook was down for most of it and, as much as I’d like to say I got a lot done as a result, I definitely did not. Partly because I have already taken steps to disconnect myself from Facebook and partly because it was hard to focus while enjoying the feeling of being free from one of my larger, more nebulous anxieties.

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