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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If You Bite Your Cheek And No One Sees It, Are You Really Injured?

I bit my cheek the other day. It was a rather ordinary moment, by any measure. I was eating my afternoon apple and, in my genuine enthusiasm for the fine fruit, accidentally bit the inside of my cheek. It hurt, of course. It always does, no matter how frequently you bite yourself. But it didn’t bleed very much. After doing my best to examine the injury, I was able to determine it was quite deep, given the way I’d bitten it, even if there wasn’t much blood. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I rinsed my mouth out and returned to my apple. It was painful, but I was able to avoid worsening the injury by chewing carefully and finished my apple. Eventually, I also ate dinner and managed to avoid worsening the injury through another great deal of careful chewing. It required ignoring a decent amount of pain, of course, but I’m fairly used to ignoring pain so I was able to cope well enough. I couldn’t just avoid eating, after all. That would only make things worse in the end.

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Saturday Morning Musing

One of the biggest problems I face from day-to-day is where to draw the line when it comes to investing my time. I like to keep myself busy or entertained, so I’ve constantly got a large number of projects I can work on, games I can play, and books I can read. I could also put in the effort to get my friends together for a movie or some kind of activity, there’s always the option of staying at work longer to get some more overtime, home improvement or cleaning projects, and almost my entire family lives three hours away, so visiting them is always a bigger investment as well. I also occasionally need time just for myself, I want to spend time with my girlfriend, and I am constantly on the verge of forgetting stuff like birthdays and Christmas present shopping. Lastly, (the fact that it is the last thing I’m listing definitely says something about my priorities), I need to make sure I get enough sleep and take care of myself.

Ideally, I’d find a way to do everything, perhaps by combining things like time for myself and my projects, games, and books, or those same things but as time with my girlfriend instead of just by myself. As long as I’m talking in terms of ideal situations, I would also clean in my sleep, take care of all birthday and Christmas stuff during drives to visit my family (along with audio books, of course), and my friends would take on the burden of planning stuff that fits my schedule. Also, I’d be a millionaire and never need to work another day in my life so I can do nothing but write or spend my time studying literature and language. Might as well dream big if I’m going to dream, right?

I want to do everything, but I’ve only got so much time an energy. Additionally, because feeling tired or over-committed for long periods of time can cause my depression and anxiety to spike, I need to make sure that I’m not constantly using all of my energy. I need to balance recharging with video games, books, or spending time by myself against things that drain my energy like large social gatherings (including family), tracking and doing chores, and working more. Too much recharging can leave me feeling like I’m wasting my days, but not enough leaves me tired and barely capable of doing anything that’s going to be draining. If that drained feeling persists, then it causes a flare in my depression and the feeling of tiredness to advance to full exhaustion. This quickly snowballs unless I can catch it, which is always tricky because managing myself in order to catch it can be tiring and discouraging at well.

As a result, I tend toward habits and repeatable planning in order to take some of the burden off of myself. Monday night is a free night to play video games online with people or read, whatever I want. Tuesday is often date night. Wednesday is my weekly gaming night. Thursday is either a social activity or reading. Friday is usually chores and a social activity or chores and time with my roommates. Saturday is all of my obligations, like grocery shopping, non-weekly chores, pre-writing for my blog, and home improvement projects. It can sometimes be a date-day. Sundays are for laundry, reading, preparation for the week, time to myself, and usually D&D. Scattered throughout is work, writing when I’m not too tired, and family on major holidays. It’s a loose system that can change as needed, but my habits from weeks past usually give me enough of a nudge so that I’m never sitting around, bored and trying to figure out what I want to do. That feeling, being bored and entirely uninterested in everything I have to do, is responsible for more depression spikes than anything else I’ve ever felt. I avoid it at all costs.

My problems always come in when someone wants to change my habits. I have some degree of flexibility and usually enough energy to add it into my week, but not always. I’m not always good at saying no, either. Not in a “people make me do things I don’t want to” sort of way, but a “I’m not very good at advocating for my own needs” sort of way. I’ll almost always go along with what someone suggested and then spend a couple of days feeling extra tired. It isn’t always bad. If I’ve done an alright job of managing myself earlier in the week, I’ll be able to bounce back just fine. If I’ve been extra stressed or away from my habits for a longer period of time, it can take a while to get back to feeling well.

I’ve struggled for years with this feeling of constantly using my energy reserves to get through the day thanks to my depression, and I’ve only ever really gotten it to go away when I get invested in some big project like National Novel Writing Month. The problem is that, when it ends, I’m super exhausted and usually spend a week or so fighting against my depression. Feelings of low-energy and minor emotional exhaustion can persist for almost an entire month afterward. I can usually deal with it by taking extra time for myself and cutting out some of my social engagements, but that often presents problems of its own. Most of my friends get it, they know I might be a bit of a hermit for a while but I’m fine as long as they can actually communicate with me via the internet.

Most of the time, I alternate between wishing I could just become a hermit and never need to worry about it again or wishing I was never alone and was constantly surrounded by people who energize me. It isn’t a good feeling, since it is a part of the “I wish I wasn’t like this” feeling that makes it hard for me to accept myself and my mental illnesses. I try not to think about it too much, but every so often I need to take the time to look at how I spend my time and double-check that I’m spending it not only in a way that balances my energy but in a way that I feel is consistent with my long-term goals and values. If I’m lucky, I need to do that only at major life events, holidays, and every few months. If I’m not lucky, it is a lot more frequent. A high frequency is usually indicative that something else is wrong, so I get to spend a few days putting it off and then my weekend trying to figure out what’s causing me to constantly reconsider how I spend my time. I’ve got a lot of driving to do this weekend, thanks to the holidays, so hopefully I’ll have something figured out by the time I’m home.

It’s like an itch you can’t scratch or the quiet, nagging certainty that you left something important behind that you won’t miss until you absolutely need it. This is going to be all I can think about today. Hopefully your holidays are going better than mine are, so far.