Archive for the ‘pain’ Category

NoHo Hallway

20 APR 16 (completed 21 MAY 16)

Maybe they just didn’t notice. At 11:58pm, I posted on Facebook, 4/20’s Eve, my results of a BuzzFeed quiz by Tanner Greenring called “Where Do You Fall on the Kinsey Scale?” I got “Mostly heterosexual,” which of course, I already knew. But you – probably didn’t. I’m not even sure if proclaiming mostly heterosexual even counts as “coming out.” I took the quiz because social and regular (anti-social?) media was making such a big deal out of James Franco saying “Yeah, I’m a little gay, and there’s a gay James.”

I actually took a mindful moment for reflection on whether or not I wanted to post the results for all to see. Granted, my Facebook is supposed to be private and only open to my friends and family and of course several hundred Facebook “friends.” I’ve probably had conversations about this topic with a select few, but it’s really the family finding out that gives me pause. I don’t know if my mom can handle another kid whose sexual proclivities are… let’s just say – questionable at best. I fear my step-father might have a stroke and what of my über religious aunt? She’s a woman with a heart of gold and a penchant for pandas, my aunt, who is unintentionally becoming a spinster in order to care for our grandmother who is slowly being lost to Alzheimer’s Disease.

I was much more cavalier about posting the result on my Twitter account, as most of my followers really don’t know me and frankly, Twitter just feels like a warm blanket of Anonymity despite being just the opposite. Pressing “Tweet” didn’t sting or require the extra exhale as posting it to Facebook. I’m still rather stunned that 48 hours later there are no comments, but two likes – at least sometwo saw my post. [Four weeks later when I actually posted this, it had still gone unacknowledged. That’s a good thing, right?]

Upon reflection, I can carbon date my familial shame back twenty three years and my societal shame about a smidge and a half more than that. I have been asked time and time again if I am a lesbian, as long as I can remember. Is it because the manner in which I sit most comfortably is the man-spread? Is it the sports I played most of my life (the big three, by the way: Softball, Tennis and Golf, not to mention Shot & Discus)? Is it that I always just wanted to be “one of the guys”? I always wanted to be the “cool” girl who was down for anything. But I was also very much the “anything you can do, I can do better” tom girl. In many ways, I still am.

Having had very few openly gay classmates, I was kind of trying to figure shit out on my own. I knew I wasn’t a lesbian because I liked guys and I also like gay guys. Not to mention my parents introduced me to Rocky Horror Picture Show in our living room at the tender age of 13 or so, I was in love with Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) at first sight. Coincidently, Halloween a few years later, a man (whom I still have no idea who was) came rushing up to my counter at my mall job in full drag; I was piqued by his beauty and visual sexuality. He said he just wanted to show me his outfit, as though we were bosom buddies. I was actually turned on by this guy in drag and I had no idea who he was. It was then that I decided to have a conversation with my mom about the way I felt. My memory of the incident is vivid as far as the environment; I remember the lamp and where it was positioned on the end table which was in between me, sitting on the couch, and my mother, sitting in my stepfather’s lounge chair. However, it’s the exact words that were exchanged between us that escape me. I merely have a residual feeling about the situation, that of her being mortified and trying not to show it. I vaguely remember her implying it was “just a phase.” Much to my chagrin, that was not the response for which I’d been hoping.

Of course, at this point I was still in high school, pining over a theater friend of mine, the first openly gay man I personally knew. He also turned out to be the first person I knew to have and die of “an AIDS-related illness.” He was probably not my first gay-man crush, and certainly wouldn’t be my last. That being said, how confusing do you think that was for me to not just like boys, but to like boys that liked boys? Of course, I also liked boys that liked girls… I just wasn’t usually one of them. A seemingly unfortunate situation that would lend credence to a future wildfire that was subconsciously brewing inside me.

Now when it came to women, I usually said that I could “see the beauty in a woman’s body, admire it, but not be attracted in ‘that way’.” I think I said that so much and it happened so infrequently, I even made myself believe it. I may have been a Pathological Heterosexual, which sad to say, I may have not just invented. I was drinking the Kool-Aid sold by society and believed the societal stigma that surrounds sexuality, orientation and gender-fluidity.

So flash forward a couple years, I made out with a girl while I was in college. And a few more when I was in the Navy. That was pretty much it in the experimental category. I always knew though, that I did not want to be in a relationship with a “chick” because I was “one of the guys.” I thought chicks were crazy – naturally, present company excluded.

And what was I raised on? Sex. Pure sex. They say sex sells, but I’m beginning to believe that it also buys, creates, and destroys. And before I lost my virginity, it was my ears that were gratefully penetrated. Madonna’s Immaculate Collection is dripping with musical ecstasy. George Michael “Wants] Your Sex” and has “Faith” in “Freedom! 90.” Color Me Badd only has to say “I Adore Mi Amor” for you to know they “Wanna Sex You Up.” And I’ve always been a sucker for Joey, my favorite New Kid on the Block. Now, I’m not blaming music, movies, video games, etc… I’m just saying having the predispositions that I have, I believe that I experienced all sensory stimuli in a very different way than most. For being so strong and independent I’m influenced by my environment easier than I would like to admit and it’s only now that I’m realizing it. Is Robert Palmer right, am I “Addicted to Love” (and sex; that’s a good question for another time [thanks Maz]). Mmmm… Foreshadowing.

Up until recently, this topic was taboo for me, especially being raised with the whole “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. The first time I felt even remotely comfortable thinking about my sexuality in more than a one-on-one repartee was in 2011 when I played women’s professional football, where 95% of the players, it seems, are lesbians. I found myself attracted to a few players and fantasized about trysts that could have but didn’t exist. I was asked by one of them one night if I was gay and I responded: “I could be.” She found that amusing, but not amusing enough to call my bluff. Was it a bluff? Regardless, none of those school girl crushes were ever realized, but I felt that I could be whoever I truly was around these women – gay, straight, or otherwise.

It’s partially with the help of RuPaul Charles that today I’m able to finally say that *I think* I’m a gay boy who’s a transwoman drag queen in the body of a nearly forty year old mostly heterosexual cis-female teenager. At least, that’s as far as I’ve worked out so far. It seems to add up to this: 99% of the time I’m 100% strictly dickly.

Truth is, I’ve still got a lot to learn about myself, and the path is being constructed as we speak? Read? Whatever… I’m working on a better version of me. The real me. I’m not even sure I know who she is yet, but the road to Recovery is underway and it’s through honest assessments of myself, continued conversations with others and moments of clarity like this that will get me to where I’m going. Thanks for reading. Peace.

~ Carol Ann M. Van Natten

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For Uptown Eebony Browne

My November was spent writing a novel. My December was spent with holidays and volunteer projects. My January has been filled with more volunteer work and an over-shadowing foreboding sadness. I’ve felt a deep depression to the point of almost becoming 5150’d by my doctors a week ago and then today I lost another dear friend. A comedienne. A keeper of secrets and magic. A guardian of insights into our psyche. A light that once extinguished leaves the world a little less bright and a little more jaded.

My very good friend Mat told me just to keep writing. Keep writing to let it out; keep writing to keep sane. All I keep thinking about are the tears of a clown. No one has any idea what anyone else is going through. My hardships and your hardships are completely different and yet individually, they mean the world to us. They are the end-all be-all of our existence. Our troubles are the reason we try to sleep more and whatever small amount of happiness that we can find becomes the reason why we wake up in the morning.

There are so many perplexing things in this world. Why is my light allowed to continue on as dimly as I think it shines when someone else’s flame that is brighter than the sun can be extinguished in a moment? There must be some rhyme, some reason, as to why it all comes down to the moments we string together in this life.

Supernovas and standard candles – that’s all we are. Some are made to be constant whereas others are meant to be that spectacular, yet temporary, light show in the sky. The fact that death is the black hole we know nothing of and we try to live each day as though each ended at the event horizon, not knowing to where it leads but thinking that it could be our last. And what if it were? Are your affairs in order? Are mine? We don’t know what tomorrow brings. And yet we cling to abstract concepts like hope, peace, chance, wishes, prayers… love. When what we really should be clinging to is today, right now, everything in the world around us. Breathing in and out a thousand times. It’s in those thousand moments that occur in the here and the now, those are the moments that matter.

It’s knowing that even just today I am growing and have grown. I am bigger and better than I was yesterday, I am smaller and less knowledgeable than I will be tomorrow, yet even without tomorrow – right now – I am where I’m supposed to be. And I am trying to understand and accept that YOU are where YOU are supposed to be, whether that is in the space time we shared or if it is on an entirely different ethereal existence.

Rest in peace, Uptown. All my love.

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You Don't Look Sick23 SEP 14: Today was one of my most noticeable examples of The Spoon Theory as how it pertains to my life. Or at least the life I am still coming to know, living with Fibromyalgia, Depression and Anxiety, among other things.

The Spoon Theory explained on Wikipedia, in a nutshell:

Spoons are an intangible unit of measurement used to track how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity ‘costs’ a certain number of spoons, which might not be recharged until the next day. A person who runs out of spoons loses the ability to do anything other than rest.”

The origin of The Spoon Theory can be found here, in Christine Miserandino’s essay of the same name. It describes her struggle with Lupus and how she explained it to her friend, who did not understand and like many others may have at one time told her: “but you don’t look sick.” I know I have heard that phrase more times than I remember. Fibromyalgia (as I have), Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other chronic pain diseases and syndromes have taken to using this neologism of The Spoon Theory to explain the struggles we all face with our respective malady/maladies.

So many different things can and do affect the level of pain and aggravation I have each day. One of the worst culprits is not enough/lack of sleep. I don’t usually get up early anymore, but because I was going to a taping of The Price is Right with Drew Carrey (hoping to get asked to “Come on Down” by George Gray) at 0830, I got up between 0600 and 0630. As the late great Robin Williams said in Good Morning, Vietnam, “what’s the ‘oh’ stand for? Oh my God, it’s early!”

Now, despite having lived in California for just over eleven years, I have never tried to get on The Price is Right – why? I don’t know. I guess it never occurred to me the amount of time involved to get in line to get in another line, to get green screen pix in front of the wheel, to wait in another line, to interview with/impress “The Dude,” Stan, to move to another line, to get to order and eat lunch, while waiting for another line to be randomly scattered throughout the audience and wait for just a wee bit longer to finally get the show on the road. Holy hell. But that was not even all that bad as all the lines had seating areas and we are no longer experiencing 100+ degree weather. It was once things got rolling that there was this need to ride the emotional roller coaster along with each contestant, whom, if you are social you have probably already talked to at least once outside during the five hours you were herded about like cattle. It wasn’t long until my arms and hands were sore and weak with what seemed like endless clapping. Of course, this is in addition to the soreness in my throat from screaming at 100% of my all every five minutes, not to mention having the worst dry-mouth ever – a combination of medication side-effects and the fact that no food or drink is allowed in the studio.

As is my tendency, I just kept going full-bore and tried to relax in the few commercial breaks we had in the show. The studio itself is extraordinary. There are hundreds of lighting fixtures and beams, poles, curtains and lights and squiggly designs that made me think this must have been the set of Laugh-In back in the Smothers Brothers days. The stage and audience space are optically intriguing as they are a fraction of the size they appear on TV. But I digress…

By the end of the taping I was spent. I picked up my green-screen memento picture and a deck of The Price is Right playing cards for my collection. I headed back to my car and just sat there for a while trying to decompress and was already dreading the fact that I had planned to go to another taping just a couple hours later. I already knew that I would need reminding to never plan two tapings in one day again. I already felt like I was borrowing spoons before I even went to pick up my friend for the @midnight taping.

Thankfully much shorter an adventure, the @midnight taping completed whatever I may have had left. Endless clapping to muscle fatigue. I had no idea “fun” could be so exhausting and ultimately – painful.

When I got home, I couldn’t do anything but lay on the couch at 7pm and tried to set an alarm for 8:30 to go to The World Famous Comedy Store. That didn’t happen. 3 hours later still groggy and asleep on the couch. I woke for just a little bit. To Facebook, to Twitter, to play @midnight’s #HashtagWars. By 12:30am I was in bed and was able to watch an episode of Deep Space Nine before passing out. Nine hours later… I may have gotten most of my spoons back.

From Miserandino’s essay:

“Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything.”

At 12:30pm the next day I typed this with heavy eyelids and prepared for my next outing – a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with guests William Shatner Jackie Geurrido and Judd Apatow. Le sigh… And the beat goes on. Dada doom dadoom dada

You're Almost There

You’re almost there…

“But it’s over now. It must have been good, but I lost it somehow. It must have been love, but it’s over now. From the moment we touched, ’til the time had run out…”

This past Monday night I severed a tie that was seemingly unconditional and as eternal as a sapphire would have you believe. Earlier, I had learned that my comic idol, Robin Williams, had reportedly killed himself that morning. Both of which happened while I was in San Diego saying goodbye to my second family who have welcomed me into their lives for the last six years, who were now moving to Washington on military orders. Any of those, individually, would make one hellacious day. All three together? I’m surprised I made it through the day without a psychotic break. And afterwards I still drove two hours home to Los Angeles and the Comedy Store to drink a shot to the dearly departed.

But it’s that first one that cuts me to the quick the deepest. Fifteen years. Fifteen years of hoping and truly believing that the fantasy in my head and in my heart was to come to pass – someday. More than half of my adult life I thought things would work out a certain way with a certain man, so I allowed myself to be misled, mostly by my own wishful thinking and delusions of grandeur. This relationship was my everything and I allowed it to consume me. Most of how I live my day-to-day is based on the huge influence he has been to my life. I like certain things because of him, I dislike certain things because of him, but mostly I hurt myself because of him. He was always more important to me than I ever was to myself. I enabled him in his own addictions and he enabled me in my addiction to him. What we thought was symbiotic and mutually beneficial was parasitic instead.

He’s known all along that I loved him and that I’ve been in love with him for more than half the time we’ve known each other. And I’ve always known that he loves me, but he’s not in love with me – never has been, in fact. And I never cared. I did know however, that it wasn’t anything against me (which kept hope alive)… it was that he wasn’t going to get involved with anyone seriously while he was still in the military. When he retired, he could give 100% to family. He had always encouraged me not to wait for him and not to pass up happiness with someone else, if I ever found it. The few times I thought I “met someone else” and was happy, he was genuinely happy for me but the relationship would fail at some point and my heart would fall back in love with him with the greatest of ease.

Through the years, what little he could give me was always good enough for me. I took anything he would give me and somehow my hope would thrive off of it. That was until mid-October 2010 when I had to stop our physical relationship, because I was just not getting what I needed from him emotionally anymore due to other life events he experienced. I thought I needed time away from him and I thought I could do it because it killed me that I rarely saw him anymore due to work and living arrangements (“You know I love you, but I’m In Too Deep,” as Genesis put it so succinctly). Unbeknownst to me, this is when the relationship became an unseen cancer that would grow untreated for years. The stages of grief came and oscillated from anger and depression to bargaining and denial – never acceptance. That lasted only 3 months until in a drunken stupor I called him on Christmas Eve at midnight in tears because I missed him so much I could have died. We began a short lived Christmas morning tradition of having breakfast together. We were friends again – the best of friends, in fact, which we had been all along. Nothing more and certainly nothing less, except still being just friends without benefits. I still felt in my heart and soul that my someday would come. That one day he would wake up and realize that I was The One and that he couldn’t live without me. I relied on someday, as movies and love songs have raised me to think… I always felt it was just around the corner, like in the song Almost Paradisealmost being the operative word. I even have a saved fortune cookie that reads “You’re almost there.” It’s astonishing how much faith I have put into those three words over the years. I was always Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I have always known that I need to work on myself; I’m not my own person, I tend to have low self-esteem and I live my life based on the opinions of others. I see a psychologist and a psychiatrist for my depression and anxiety and have been slowly but surely working on psycho-analysis trying to better my mental health, my self-image and my behavior. I thought I would have the time to do that, to catch up to his progress. There was a time when this man needed me, but that time passed long ago. He’s made so many positive changes in his life in the last four years that he is basically a new person. I’ve always seen him as My Hero and then also as a role model – the whole package. I assumed that when I changed for the better that someday we would come at the relationship again and finally have our time, being two grown-ups who were ready for that kind of relationship as we knew who we were and that we were no longer living co-dependent lives.

Four abstaining (from each other that is) years later, we were still best of friends, but I always wanted more and I always expected more to come. Until the day I had dreaded for fourteen and a half years came to pass; early spring 2014 he told me he’d started seeing someone and that it had just kind of happened. The parallels in their lives eerily just made sense. She too had planned to focus on career and to not get into a relationship if it was to disrupt that plan in any way. Now that they are both on the cusp of retirement, in the same age bracket, and work together – everything just started falling into place and they both couldn’t believe it, but they were beginning to have feelings for each other. It was a perfect storm of heart-wrenching devastation to me. It was then that I was certain that I was still in love with him and that I will always love him and that it was quite likely that I could no longer be friends with him. The cancer that was this relationship had hit stage 4 and it was terminal. But to hear him speak with such excitement and awe of something he had never really known before started to fill me with joy and I thought maybe, just maybe I can be happy for him and still be his friend.

Four months went by with less than a handful of texts, as he was away on trainings, and all the while my mind transitioned from almost accepting that “the love of my life had found the one, and that it wasn’t me” to realizing I could no longer put myself at his mercy, my delusions needed to stop, and that I needed to face reality. This relationship is and always has been toxic and I knew I could no longer use Band-Aids to cover the small hurts him or I caused my psyche over the years – it was time to amputate the cancer.

Monday night, as we sat on the patio of Panera Bread, I bided my time while we caught up with each other as we usually did, still unsure if I had the fortitude to do what I had to do. Finally, it was time to bring it up. And somehow I did. We’d had this talk before, about four years before, but I knew this would not be quite the same. That one ended with him thinking that, after I felt better, that we would always be the best of friends, playing with each other’s kids and always being there for each other. This one was not dissimilar, but I knew there was a permanence in the words I spoke to him. I told him that I did want him to be happy, but that I didn’t want to know about it – it would hurt me too much to know that someone else made him happier than I ever could. I do want him to be happy, but not to my detriment, and the only solution to that was to never know about it. And severing our friendship would ensure that. Or at least that’s what I am hoping. So through tears I realized the truth in the words I was saying to him: that I would not be at his pinning ceremony, I would not be at his retirement ceremony, and most assuredly I would not be at his wedding. All events at which I always thought I would stand next to him as I always have. The reality of that still brings tears to my eyes (and will continue to do so, no doubt, for some time) while I type this and listen to my Spotify playlist “Love Exsanguinated.”

Saying goodbye to the man I love, is one of the hardest and shittiest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Time After Time I composed myself, but when he realized it was not just the loss of him, but also how it tied into my loss of my job in the Navy and the loss of my dreams and fantasies that had grown over the years, he began to understand. It is all just too much for me, I’ve got to be true to myself. I was crushed by the tears I wiped from his face as I hugged him for the last time. It was so hard to let him go from my arms, but when I watched him head around the corner to his car, I got into mine. I sat there crying for ten minutes before the tears eased to the point that I could see to drive. And I left, sobbing on and off, on cruise-control, up 5 North to Los Angeles.

In time, I know that I will slowly feel less and less of a connection with him and perhaps even be able to smile when thinking back to all the good times that fifteen years of best-friendship brings without crying and without resentment in my heart. I dread the day he becomes just “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Fifteen years of laughs and references and inside jokes… It’s hard to foresee a friendship like that being formed again. The pain that comes with that thought is Sobering. But for now, I feel the Schism that has probably always been between us.

The stages of grief begin all over again without the pressure of some unforeseen future where I will be able to be friends with him afterwards. Granted, it’s happened with other exes that one day it’s no big deal and we can be friends again, but I cannot guarantee that will happen, nor can I hope for it. In fact I need to stop hoping for anything. Hope has never helped me produce results, it has only ever set me up for failure. If I want something, nothing short of actually doing something will change a thing. “I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” Wishing and hoping and fantasizing and dreaming have gotten me nowhere. Just like I’ve heard from him for years – the fantasy is always better than the reality. So Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road. It’s time I work on those dreams and goals that only pertain to me and not others, whom I have no control over, born out of fiction and fairytales.

“And so, Castles Made of Sand melt into the sea, eventually.”

Option Paralysis 2 I am swimming in to-do lists and quite sure I’m on the verge of drowning due to option paralysis. I had always thought my best friend coined that phrase, but alas I was able to find it in Urban Dictionary.  It has always been such a great way to describe how I often feel; when faced with so many choices/options I get overwhelmed and in not knowing where to start – I just don’t.

Apparently I am not alone, as many people feel overwhelmed and inundated with “options” these days. I’m sure the ebb and flow of technology and all that can be achieved at a moment’s notice on the interwebs has aided in this phenomenon. Robert M Brecht, Ph.D. writes that “psychological research over the last forty or so years has established the correlation between providing choice and increases in intrinsic motivation, perceived control, task performance and satisfaction with life. […] There comes a point when the choices available to us become counterproductive.” More of his conclusions can be found in his blog post “Consumer Marketing: We All Want Choices… or Do We?” Another blogger, M. Farbman, had this trouble in youth when going to Baskin-Robbins – 31 Flavors – the perfect analogy in the blog “Option Paralysis.” Although it must be harder now, as my last count put them somewhere over 57 flavors.

My most pressing issue: I’ve recently been served – no, not by a crowd of dancing teenagers – rather, with an eviction notice (again?!?! That’s another story). This is due to my recent working cessation while dealing with severe anxiety and depression, sprinkled with this awesome nervous system disorder of Fibromyalgia. I have been trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the upcoming homeless horizon that I am staring at like a sun, burning holes into my retinas. I had hoped that I could get assistance from New Directions, an amazing organization whose mission “is to empower veterans and facilitate their successful return to families and society.” They helped me get into the apartment I am in now when I had accepted a local job; now not working, I am in more need than ever. Unfortunately, due to funding constraints they are no longer able to assist me.

I am seeking help from several other organizations, but I have a feeling I will still need to leave the apartment I am in for different accommodations. I am finding that a room, or even a shelter is going to be difficult as I have my companion dog who has been with me for three years and is not able to be with me at most of the options I have; I cannot give her up as she is the only family I have locally and she relies on me as much as I do on her. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find accomodations that are better for her, with a yard she can run in and not be so confined.

Logic surfaces from time to time, through the Fibro Fog and Anxiety (a steel wool-like cloud that ceases most logic, clarity and cognitive thought), and I realize whatever my next place of residence is, I will have to pack up what remains from my last move and put it in storage. It will be much easier to go from place to place in search of the right one with just my dog, my car, a duffle of clothes, and an air mattress. Easier said than done, however, as money, a truck and movers are required to facilitate this… oh – and a storage unit. I look around my apartment and shudder to think about packing …again. It’s so time consuming and energy sapping, but it has to happen. There’s laundry to do, dishes to wash, clothes to weed through to lighten the load followed by the subsequent donation to Good Will. When I get overwhelmed I sit on the couch and watch TV; God help me if there’s a marathon on, whether it be Law and Order, The Matrix, the Alien Quadrilogy, Family Feud… enough is enough. BACK TO WORK!!! My body hurts, my mind hurts, my heart is uncertain and the World feels like it’s closing in around me – but I must do SOMETHING.

I’ve never given myself a solid routine to maintain my own life – even a simple routine for when I wake-up or go to bed. Those little things seem so easy …and yet go undone. My mind freezes and my body follows suit until some day or hour or minute finally comes when I know that there is no other way but to act. It’s that last minute action that has always saved me, but it would be so much healthier, I am sure, if I could just learn to get my shit together on a regular basis. My success at last minute projects has done nothing but give me negative reinforcement of my bad habits. I hope and hope that I can start giving myself structure but something always gets in the way, the flow of my day-to-day always changes, I think I get ahead and an unexpected expense happens, things are swell and then I have a nervous breakdown. For the love of Pete – it’s always something – my life in retrospect seems so chaotic. Is it because I am better suited to a structured life, a life with fewer options, less choices? The military was perfect for me – but that, of course, is no more I am sad to say and I must live with that – or not, I suppose.

I know I’m not the only one going through these experiences, but more often than not – I feel that I am.

HYE 2013According to Wikipedia, a veritable wealth of reliability, “88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.” I stopped making Resolutions a long time ago, not because it’s a bad idea to challenge yourself, but because I always seem to fail at them. This year, I’m trying something a little different – my solution to the Resolution – psychology and maybe a touch of reverse psychology.

First, let’s review 2012 for those of you keeping track at home. It started well with eating better in an attempt to lose the weight I had previously lost and regained, I quit smoking (for a time), I fell in love, I learned first-hand about Baby Mama Drama, I got heat exhaustion at work, I got engaged to an old flame, I cut off my hair for Locks of Love, I got laid off from work and went on unemployment, my dog got fleas for over a month, I fell out of love. Unemployment got messed up for six weeks and I couldn’t pay my rent and started to get evicted. The VA finally approved my disability for Fibromyalgia, but lowered one of my other ratings. I broke up with my fiancé, missed my Grandmother’s wedding, got a job offer in Los Angeles, moved to Los Angeles and started a new job. Stress started to weasel its way back into my life again and led to severe Anxiety and Depression like I had not known in a long time, I stopped working and started to go to more doctors and get on more medications. I started a blog, I started a Twitter account, I started to wonder if my day-to-day had changed forever. I ended 2012 not wanting to be anywhere, not wanting to see anyone and not knowing what to do – about anything.

So here we are, January 2013, and I have decided that rather than make resolutions, I will state a few things that I don’t want to do this year – some I truly hope not to happen, others I think that if I fail at them, it will be a good thing. Here goes: I’m not looking for a relationship, I don’t want to torture myself trying to quit smoking, I don’t want to keep feeling useless and afraid of myself, I don’t want to get fatter, I don’t want to be destitute and wonder when my next meal will be or where I will live. I won’t go off my meds because I forget or think I am better without, I will try not to sweat the small stuff, and I’ll try not to forget about consequences and what leads to them. I don’t want to miss out on family gatherings, I will not rely on others for my well-being, I won’t overwhelm myself with tasks and impossible goals and I won’t forget that I am only human.

Aside from a scant number of references of theological beginnings of New Year Resolutions, Wikipedia cites a Wall Street Journal article, “Blame it on the Brain” by the controversial journalist/blogger Jonah Lehrer focused on “The Science Behind Failed Resolutions.” It explains how the portion of the brain that controls willpower, the frontal cortex, “is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.” An overload of tasks and subsequently a lack of willpower (giving into temptation) seems inevitable when you set multiple resolutions for yourself at once; you may believe you are trying to improve yourself but instead you are setting yourself up for failure. Pace yourself, research what it takes to form habits and plan how you will reward yourself. Give yourself enough time to attain the result you are looking for before moving onto the next goal.

In the past, I’ve started eating better, quit smoking, started exercising and maybe even threw in one or two other behaviors that were not my usual habit. That is why I have failed. Knowledge is power – and learning more about the brain and how it works, not to mention more about my specific disabilities, may give me the knowledge to harness my willpower – or at the very least, give me a better understanding of how to get my hands on some.

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As anyone with Anxiety, Depression, or frankly, active brain waves knows, it’s good to have someone you can trust that you can talk to about anything. Among those I consider in my life – my psychiatrist, a man I trust beyond words who, other than diagnostically speaking, doesn’t judge me. I can be completely honest without fear of being alienated due to my unfiltered verbal regurgitation.

I value his sessions so much that even though I’ve moved to Los Angeles, I still go down to the San Diego VA (Veterans’ Affairs) just to see him. I had an appointment just the other day. I had almost not gone due to how piss-poor I’ve been feeling these last few weeks and seriously considered a phone call to him instead. Thankfully as the appointment drew near I’d been feeling better and made the trek. I spent two hours and forty minutes driving and I just made it on time. We had one of the most productive sessions to date and I even told my doctor about starting a blog. He is very supportive of my efforts.

My last trip to San Diego I mentioned to people too late and no one could hang out; this trip I thought ahead and had plans to see one of my friends and his family and then dinner with a few old teammate’s of mine (I used to play Women’s Pro Football – but that’s a different story). I wound up not having much time before getting to dinner and my friend had to get his exercise in before the evening was out so we went for a walk with one of his sons and caught up on the last few months. Low and behold, forty-five minutes and 1.8 miles later it was time to go. My ankles had been hurting since about half way, my legs were relatively on fire with the onset of circulation in them for once and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Not the best way to take care of a chronic pain/headache/mental condition such as I have, but I like to live dangerously.

Off to the sports bar to see two of my dear friends and finally get something in my tummy; I ordered a huge greasy bacon burger (no tomatoes, no onions, medium rare as usual) with a side of tater-tots. Tater-tots always remind me of high school lunch, cracked plastic green trays, sporks and pints of chocolate milk (sometimes 2%, depends). Maybe it’s just me.

It was a great time and it’s moments like these that remind me that even in my darkest times, solitary confinement is not the best idea. It’s always hard when you’re in the thick of it to remember the good things and hold onto them.

By the time we wrapped up it was about 9pm and I was dreading the two hour plus ride home to Los Angeles. I decided since I was in the area and it was only about ten minutes out of the way, I’d hit up my old stomping grounds at The La Jolla Comedy Store. I got to see most of my friends there and had some great laughs. While I was there I realized I was starting to have a Fibromyalgia flare-up. This is when, instead of this or that hurting and the pain going from here to there throughout the day, it’s in multiple areas at once and it just won’t go away. The longer the pain goes on the more distracted and irritable I become. My arms were aching something terrible and the pain started to make my whole torso feel like I’d been hit by a train. I tried to stave off the pain with light-hearted conversation with my friends and continued to fidget over the next hour or so. As they were closing I decided to hit the road.

Since it was only about 10:30 I figured that by the time I made it up to L.A. that The World Famous Comedy Store on Sunset would still be open. It would be fun to hit up my new favorite spot as well as the old in the same night despite how I was feeling; it was relatively on the way back home, so why not? The drive back was shorter, just over two hours and I pulled up to the Store at around 12:30am. My hips were killing me from all the time in the car but I was happy to be there and enjoying more laughs. A few hours there and I was home by 3am.

Boy, did I pay for the prior day’s shenanigans. I couldn’t get out of bed until at least 1:30 in the afternoon and even then, I was a zombie. If it wasn’t for my too-smart-for-her-own-good dog, who has the wherewithal to let me know when she has to go out, I may not have gotten out of bed that day at all. I’m quite sure I only had some instant oatmeal and stared at the TV for an hour before deciding to go back to bed. I slept on and off for several more hours and finally had some strength by 6:30-7:00pm that night.

This is part of my many ongoing problems. I throw my circadian cycle off by having fun into the wee hours, or by being in pain or having racing thoughts and being unable to sleep so I toss and turn for hours. I’d rather do it by having fun, but the results are generally the same. Bedtime gets later and later. Wake time gets later and later. Afternoon naps come into play and nutrition, amongst other things, goes to the wayside.

Although easier said than done, I need to take better care of myself, that’s really all there is to it. I need to force myself into a routine and even if I maintain late nights I have to get up by a certain time and work – work hard – at taking care of myself. It’s not that I can’t try to live a full and fun-filled life, it’s that I have to work on making it healthier and more manageable. I need consistency in my life. Moreover, it’s a matter of having indifference for myself and daily – struggling against it.