I’d like to be a Luddite

…she says, while typing away on her blog, on a laptop, connected to wi-fi, with her Android cellphone and her Kindle Fire sitting next to her.

Seriously though, I think my world was a happier place before I became so “connected” with it. I don’t own a television. For some reason, modern Americans think that’s strange and often give me recommendations on the best kind to buy when I say I don’t own one. I don’t want one. When my last television died, back in 2007, I got rid of it and never replaced it. I’ve never missed it.  I own a Kindle for reasons of convenience; it’s easier to carry a thousand books on it than to have them in paper and binding. That’s not to say that I don’t like books, I have boxes of books that I have carefully transported through at least a dozen homes, all the way across country and back, and they are stored more securely than some people store their diamonds.

Remember back when we were kids? We rode our bicycles around the neighborhood – without helmets – and we played with our friends outside, making up games with balls and sticks, until the lights came on and we went home to dinner. I remember being 10 and walking to school by myself, and no one thought it was strange. Now, as the mother of an eleven year old boy, I am torn between wanting to give him the freedom to walk home by himself and worrying about strangers abducting him. This is why I hate technology. It’s so easy now to hop on the internet and read about child abductions all over the country (or the world) and think that it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to your own child, so you must protect them. And yes, we must protect our children, but we must also allow them to be children. We want to lock them securely behind doors to keep strangers away, and then complain that we have an obesity problem because kids these days would rather sit inside and play computer games than run around with their friends outside.

My son is not fat by any means. I’m not saying that as an overprotective mother, he’s inherited my metabolism and seems to be able to eat an entire horse without gaining a pound. I was the same way when I was young. The last time I saw him was in July, for his birthday, and one of the things he wanted to do was go hiking, which I was more than happy to do, because I enjoy being outdoors and moving around. We went to a nearby hiking spot and settled on a fairly flat 4 mile loop. Since this is Arizona, in July, I made sure that he was wearing a hat, had coated himself thoroughly in sunscreen, and had a full bottle of water to drink. Less than a mile in, he was done. He was too tired to continue, so we turned around and went back to the car. I was able to get him interested in an art museum after that, but it was a bit of a disappointment that a mile of hiking was too much exercise for him when I remember riding my bicycle for miles at his age.

Of course, this enforced resting of my knee is driving me insane with the desire to exercise, to move around, to do something other than stretches and strengthening moves and wearing this constricting brace that pinches after too long. I want to pull a Henry David Thoreau and walk out into the woods and live a life of purpose. I want to have a little shack for just me and my cat, heating it with wood that I cut with my own axe, and with water pumped from my own well, and living from sunrise to sundown, with candles for light instead of harsh electricity. Maybe there are still places like that in the world. If so, does anyone know where they are, so they can point me in the right direction?

Of course, I’d miss my car, but I wouldn’t miss my car payments, or dealing with car insurance and maintenance (although, to be honest, I actually love working on cars). I wouldn’t miss the sirens from the local fire station or the helicopters flying overhead. I wouldn’t miss watching people wandering around with their concentration so fully on their cell phones that they don’t see the world around them. I realized this about 10 years ago when I noticed that when I’m taking photos, I try to make sure there are no people in them. I take pictures of things; flowers, trees, sunsets and sunrises, mountain ranges, falling down buildings, and so on, but I try to frame my shots to keep the people out. I guess, subliminally, I was separating out the things I think are beautiful by removing the people. Considering that I have worked in customer service for most of my adult life, I don’t really like people very much.

There are individual people that I like, but as a group, I don’t like humans. I don’t like what we’ve become, as we crowd ourselves into cities and try to seem more important than we are. I think that’s part of why I hate San Diego so much. It’s too big, and it’s too crowded, and everyone is so centered on whatever they’re doing, they don’t notice how they inconvenience everyone around them. I’m guilty of it myself, sometimes. I try not to, but sometimes the technology creeps in when I don’t want it to. There has been more than one dinner where my date spent more time fiddling with his phone than talking or interacting with me. I can understand if you have an important job and it’s a necessity, but just texting with friends or checking on your facebook page while on a date is selfish and rude.

My 39th birthday is coming up in a week and a half, and I’m taking some time off from work to unwind (and also to allow some contemplation of whatever my knee surgeon says), and I’m thinking that it will be a good time to unplug for a while and detach myself from the digital world. Maybe I’ll take my cat on a vacation somewhere with a few good books to read. By candlelight.

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Another night of insomnia

I don’t remember how long it’s been since the first sleepless night. It seems to go in cycles; I’ll sleep wonderfully for a time, & then things flip over and I’ll spend the night tossing and turning instead.

I don’t think I do anything different from day to day, but maybe I’d I start journaling my activities again, I’ll see a pattern that can be corrected.

I know that cardinal rule #1 is that you never, ever take naps during the day when you have insomnia. The problem is, by the time you get home from errands or work, or whatever, that nap is all you can think about.

Maybe that’s another thing I need to make a list of. There are plenty of things I need to do, that I’ve been putting off. If I start tackling those projects instead of allowing myself to nap, maybe I’ll get better sleep at night. I do try to go to bed & wake up at the same time each day.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for things I might try? Prescription sleep aids don’t help me at all; I still wake repeatedly throughout the night. I don’t drink milk, so warm milk is out.

What is home? Where is home?

There are a lot of quotes regarding what home is:

“Home is where the heart is” – Pliny the Elder

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” – Robert Frost

“When you finally go back to your old home, you find that it wasn’t the old home you missed, but the childhood” – Sam Ewing

“Home is any four walls that enclose the right person” – Helen Rowland

People frequently ask me where I’m from, because I work in customer service and it’s a nice friendly question. Depending on the phrasing of the question, I will either respond with, “I was born and raised here in San Diego” or I might add on “…but I consider the Carolinas my home.” I am a firm believer in that just because you were born somewhere, that doesn’t make it “home.” I have never felt comfortable in California. I don’t fit in here (unless you count the crazy colored hair) either in ideology or in personality. I didn’t realize this until I moved away and then came back. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t realize how much I dislike this city until I returned. I don’t think it necessarily has anything specifically to do with San Diego, per se, but cities in general.

Some people love the hustle and bustle of high-speed city life, and others, like me, prefer the slower pace and open spaces that you can only find in small towns. I miss the friendliness that comes naturally to small town people. When there are only 2000 people in your town, you run into the same people over and over again, so it seems natural to be nice and polite to those people. True, in small towns, it’s hard to keep your private life completely private, but I’d rather that than to be invisible in a city of millions.

The older I get, the less social I become. I have no interest in going out and meeting new people just for the sake of going out and meeting new people. I’d rather stay home with my cat and a good book. Maybe I’m destined to be the stereotypical crazy cat lady. I’m okay with that. To me, home is a quiet place filled with books and at least a cat or two. I’m trying to save up to move out of this city that drives me crazier every day and back to a place where I feel like I fit in better. I feel like I was born in the wrong decade, in the wrong place. I don’t fit in my own life. As soon as my knee is “fixed” then I will seriously start planning on my move away from here, to get back home again.

May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”

I’ve never understood the reason for dedicating certain months to certain “causes” or “illnesses.” Shouldn’t we be a more vigilant and caring society where we are aware and understanding of others every day? I’ve gotten a lot of private messages from people lately who have lauded my openness regarding my mental issues. For many years, I was taught by action and word that depression is something that you have the choice to either have or not have. THIS IS NOT TRUE. True depression (not just sadness – everyone gets that occasionally) is an actual disease that is caused by an imbalance in your brain. Yes, trying to be cheerful may be of some help, but deep down inside, I know the depression is still there, and it’s fighting me to get back to the surface and cause more grief.

I am completely open and honest on this blog. I’m not out to change the world, but I do sincerely try to educate people on depression, and other anxiety disorders, because if no one talks about them, then no one thinks there’s a problem, and then no one works to find a cure or a solution. Burying your head in the sand is not going to help anything, except perhaps to give you a temporary reprieve.

Here are some facts about me, that may or may not come as a surprise to anyone with depression, as there are certainly “triggers” that can cause a mild problem to blow up into a huge, life-threatening situation.

In 1991, 19 days after my 16th birthday, I was raped. He was renting a room at my friend’s house, and I was spending the night over at her house when he attacked me sometime in the early hours of the morning. He told me that if I told anyone, he’d kill me. I believed him. At the time, I was living with my grandmother, and when I went home to her, I told her what happened. She took me to my pediatrician (whom I’ve always disliked, because he was very misogynistic and obsequious). He told me that it wasn’t rape because I knew the boy who did it, and I must have given him some indication that “I wanted it.” I believed him. He told me that I should never spread such lies around, because it could ruin the boy’s reputation. I believed him. I was just 16 years old. I didn’t know any better. There was no such thing as date rape back then.

Soon after that incident, I attempted suicide for the first time. I downed an entire bottle of Tylenol (because that’s what we had in the house) and chased it with a bottle of tequila. Bad combination, because it made me throw up and it obviously didn’t kill me. To this day, I cannot stand the smell of tequila.

That began my downward spiral into depression. You know you suck at life when you can’t even kill yourself properly. I started engaging in dangerous behaviors like driving fast (at that time, I think the fastest I ever went was 120, but cars just didn’t have the horsepower then that they do now) and shoplifting. Since I never got caught, I figured that my behavior wasn’t that bad.

In 1995, I got engaged (much too young) to a man who was several years older than me. We moved in together, preparatory to actually getting married. One day, I came home sick from work and found him in bed with a girl whom I thought was my best friend. Obviously, she wasn’t. I turned around and left and went to my mom’s house to sleep for a while. When I came home, he was gone, and so were his belongings, and I haven’t seen him since. I did eventually forgive her, and we did become friends again for an all-too-brief period of time before she passed away.

That was my first realization that I suck at relationships. I expect truth and honesty, and open communication if something is going wrong, and that just doesn’t happen – at least with the men I’ve dated. I’ve had a horrible history of dating “the wrong men.” I’ve dated men old enough to be my father, and 10 years younger than me, and everything in between. They all have the same thing in common: they are unable to commit. Somehow, subliminally, I always choose men that I know will not commit to me, because subliminally, I’m looking for someone like my father, who did not want to commit to me. I was the antithesis of a daddy’s girl. He would probably describe me more as daddy’s pain in the ass, entirely too much trouble to deal with, girl. When my parents separated, I was about 7* (yes, I know I’m jumping around) and for the first time in my life, my father chose me over my sister as the child he would list as his dependent on his taxes. I later figured out that it was because I was the younger child, and so he’d get the child tax break an extra two years than if he had chosen my sister. My father was always deserting me, either to spend time with my sister, or to go out on dates, or whatever he chose to do. When he wasn’t going out, he wanted to watch his TV shows and didn’t want to communicate with me at all. I don’t remember a single meaningful conversation with him that didn’t relate to cars in the first 13 years of my life. When he decided to marry his current wife, we all sat down together to have a “family meeting” and discuss the issues that we had, because our “family” was very warped by this time. One of the things I remember telling him was that I don’t ever remember him telling me that he loved me. He told my sister, and he told his wife to be, but he never said it to me. He said that I should just know, and it shouldn’t have to be said. Somehow, this is the type of man I kept finding and dating. Men who could not or would not love me, and would not commit to being even semi-permanent in my life.

Around this time, I attempted suicide for the second time. I tied a rope to the bar in my closet and tried to hang myself. I managed to suffocate myself to unconsciousness, but the rope broke, and I ended up falling back to the floor. Yeah, I have either really good luck or really bad luck.

After the fiance incident, I dated several other men who fit my profile. A couple of them were already married, some just had girlfriends, others weren’t looking for any kind of commitment, and then there were the abusers. Some were verbal abuse, and some knocked me around. One held a knife to me neck and told me he’d kill me just for the fun of it if I didn’t do exactly what he said. I tried going the Tylenol route again, but this time, I chased it with straight water instead of tequila. I ended up throwing up again instead of dying, and I’m sure I’ve done irreparable damage to my liver by now, even without heavy drinking.

By this time, the pediatrician that I hated had his practice taken over by a new, younger doctor who had more modern sensibilities and was open to listening to me. In 1998, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, a chronic, low grade depression. I was prescribed an anti-depressant, and it worked for a while, and then a different one, and then a different one; each one working for a few months or a few years before I’d be back to suicidal again. By this time, I’d learned that trying to kill myself is obviously futile, so instead of actually attempting it, I’d just fantasize about it. I’d think of all the different ways I could do it, and what I’d need in order to accomplish it. I think if I had access  to a handgun at that point, I would have actually succeeded, finally.

After having my son, I suffered from Postpartum Depression, although I was unaware of it. My husband was not very good at helping me with anything. He didn’t clean, he didn’t cook, he very rarely took care of his son (and when he did, he called it babysitting, which pisses me off. You don’t BABYSIT your own child, you PARENT them.) And yet, he was constantly critical of everything I did. The house was never clean enough, I didn’t have dinner ready for him, etc. It didn’t matter that I was only getting 4-5 hours of sleep every 24 hour period. During my entire pregnancy and through the end of breastfeeding my son, I wasn’t allowed to take any of my anti-depressants, which didn’t help at all.

Skipping forward over several years and more of the same, I separated from my husband and he and our son moved to a different state, which made all of us happier. Around this time, I started getting really bad headaches. My doctor diagnosed them as migraines and put me on migraine medication. Just like with the anti-depressants, they’d work for a little while, and then the next time, they’d do absolutely nothing. It took 5 years to diagnose the reason for the severe headaches is a bone spur in my spine that’s slowly pinching off the nerves. Eventually, without my even trying, it’s going to likely kill me.

2012/2013 were terrible years for me. I once again got involved in a relationship that didn’t work out. Things seemed great in the beginning, even to the point where we moved in together. Unfortunately, it was the moving in that caused the undoing of our relationship. On the day we were scheduled to move, we ended up spending the entire day moving his belongings, and then had to return the rental truck. I ended up having to move my own belongings to the new place a few boxes at a time, whenever I had the ability, because he wouldn’t help. Then, I went up to Fresno for a friend’s wedding, and was coming home on New Year’s Eve. He knew I was coming home that day, and we had planned to go out and do “something” although that was never defined. I sped down from Fresno only to get a message from him when I was 20 minutes from home stating that he decided he was going to go hang out with his friends and he’d see me the next day. He pulled a similar stunt on my birthday  6 weeks later by refusing to ask for time off from work to spend any time with me. I didn’t even get a card or a “Happy birthday” from him. The closest I got was, “well, you knew that I close on Saturdays, so if you wanted me to be able to go, you should have planned on  Sunday instead (with him in full knowledge that I was starting a new job on Monday and didn’t want to go out partying the night before I started). After that, it all just fell apart. He decided he didn’t even want to sleep in the same room with me, so he took to sleeping on the couch in the living room. When it came time to move out, again, he moved all of his belongings and left me to take care of all my belongings by myself. I am pretty capable, so I did manage to move all of my stuff, a couple boxes at a time, to either storage  or to my mom’s house.

November came around, and for some reason, all of a sudden, the depression came back like a major slap in the face. I went back to see my doctor, and he said that I’ve now progressed to Major Depressive Disorder.

* I’ve actually blocked out most of what happened in my life for several years, and haven’t been able to get those memories back, because they are too painful for me to face, still. What’s the difference? With the Dysthymia, I was always just a little “bummed.” All of a sudden, I hit this wall where it took all of my energy just to get through a day without crying, and as soon as I got home from work I’d crawl into my bed and cry myself to sleep and stay there. Some nights I never got up at all, until I had to go to work. On my days off, I’d stay in bed all day, sleeping or reading, and trying to ignore the outside world. My doctor gave me a new prescription to see if it would help me, and it has. I still have days when I start crying for no reason, or don’t have the energy to get out of bed. I’d binge eat. Some days I wouldn’t eat anything at all, and other days I’d gorge myself until I felt I couldn’t move.

This is probably more information than you’ve ever wanted or needed to know about me, but this is who I am. I have depression. I have panic disorder. I have mental illness. Not just in the month of May. This is a battle I fight every single day. I know I’m not alone. I’m tired of the misconceptions surrounding depression. “Just be happy” is not an option. I am a generally happy person on the outside. You just can’t see the cracked container on the inside that I’m desperately trying to hold together. I have attempted suicide 4 times, and thought about it at least 400 other times. I’m no longer at the point where I want to kill myself, there are certainly plenty of times when I want to die. This is what depression looks like from my perspective.

Frustration, aggravation, & depression

I’ve been writing a lot about my knee lately, and I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record, so I thought I’d switch back for a while to the other ailment that occupies a majority of my life.

I have Major Depressive Disorder. I also have chronic Panic Disorder. Add both of those to an excruciating headache like a migraine that’s been with me since April 2005.

Chronic pain is well known to cause depression. I don’t know where the Panic Disorder came from. Just lucky, I guess. The headache is caused by a bone spur that is slowly pinching off the nerves at my C5. Without surgery, it may eventually paralyze me from the neck down. With surgery, I run the risk of death or paralysis anyway, and bone spurs can grow back. Neither is a really good option for me, for obvious reasons.

While I am depressed, I work closely with my doctor while we try to sort out the best combination of medications that will ease my symptoms while causing the least amount of side effects. The most efficient combo seems to work decently on the depression since I rarely break out in spontaneous bouts of crying for no discernable reason. Unfortunately, it’s brought my insomnia back in a major way. Even with high dosages of sleeping pills & meditation each night, I fall asleep just fine, but then I wake up every couple hours throughout the night. I can’t win for losing.

I keep trying though. I won’t give up. Eventually, if I can just hold on long enough, maybe some brilliant scientist will create something that would help me. People who know me don’t always know about my depression and they wonder why I’m always in such a good mood. I’ve just discovered that it’s easier to just fake happiness than to try explaining depression. I don’t like having to hide who I am from friends, so I don’t, but co-workers & strangers can keep on believing that I’m just a cheerful, happy person.

Three good things
1) I rearranged my desk at work today & love that I have more room & that my desk is distinct from everybody else’s.
2) I bought my mom a pot of daffodils, simply because I know she loves them.
3) My car registration came in the mail today, which means my vanity plates can’t be too far behind.

Waiting is the hardest part

I had my MRI done on Monday, and was told that the doctor should have the results in by Wednesday or Thursday. Now, even if they haven’t had a chance to really look at them yet, I was hoping to at least hear that they were received. I called the surgeon’s office today around 4:30 (they close at 5, so I wanted to give them the most possible time) to ask if the results had been received yet. I was transferred to voicemail, so hopefully I’ll get a call back tomorrow to let me know what I’m doing next.

In other news, (mom and) I got pulled over as we were headed to the PetCo to do my volunteer time there. I know I have expired tags, because I’m still waiting on the new ones, although the car is obviously newly registered, since that was done when the car was purchased. So, I pull over and get out my license and proof of insurance. I don’t have a registration yet, because it hasn’t arrived yet. All I have is that silly thing they put in your window when  you buy the car. So, he asked me to please pull that out for him as well. Mom grabbed it and I handed it to him. He asked me what date I purchased the car and I said 11/11. He asked me what the dealership told me as far as getting new registration and I said 6-8 weeks. Hopefully it will be soon, since it’s been almost 2 months. He handed me back my registration form and took my license back to his car to run it, comes back a couple minutes later and hands me my license and tells me to have a good day. Personally, I don’t really object to being pulled over if I’m doing something wrong, but pulling me over for expired tags when you can see the temporary registration in the window is just pure time-wasting on the part of the cop.

So, we finally get to PetCo and set up the pens for the cats. Two of our other volunteers popped in for a while to submit an application for one of our kittens, plus Julie and me (we’re the regular Wednesday crew) and my mom and a trainee were all there. So, six volunteers, four of whom are experienced. I was transporting two of our newest kittens, who are extremely timid, into the exercise pen when one of them made a flying leap out of the box, over me, and out the open door of the pen. Kitten on the loose! She made a mad dash towards the front door, and thankfully changed directions to go to a different corner in the store. We spent a frantic 10 minutes or so searching every nook and cranny of the store to find her, which we eventually did. It was a really heart-stopping moment, because we’ve NEVER lost a cat before. Thankfully, that was the most excitement of the night, but it was definitely not my usual Wednesday, end of the week relaxation.

We’ve been crazy busy at work lately and so I’ve been doing as much overtime as I can and still have time for me. I figure no more than 4-6 hours a week won’t hurt me, and it won’t be every week, but the extra money will be nice for my birthday. So there you have it, an entire post with almost no complaining or whining. I think.

Three good things:

  1. I pulled the crinkly paper out of the box from an item I had ordered, and Tiggy has been having a blast playing with it and rolling around on it (much more so than the plush cat bed that I bought for him)
  2. I cleaned my room and put it back in order, which always makes me feel more balanced
  3. I had a desperate craving for Cheetos last night, so when I stopped for my morning coffee, I also grabbed a bag of Cheetos and ate some for lunch. They tasted fantastic.

I’m having a bit of a grumpy day

I generally try to stay positive when I can, but it’s very disheartening when I find out that some people whom I thought were friends were whining to each other that I whine too much about my medical conditions and health problems. I don’t see it as whining; I see it as sharing what I’m going through, and hoping that it either a) makes someone else feel better about what’s going wrong in their own life, b) have advise they can share that might help me, or c) like me enough to sympathize with what I’m going through. It’s frustrating because it makes me want to not share anything, except in direct text messages or phone calls with the people I know who actually do care.

So… stop reading if you don’t care. Really, I mean it. I’m going to talk about my health and medical issues.

I had my MRI done today. It was as quick and painless as I expected it to be. I’m not claustrophobic by any means, so I just laid very still and meditated for the half hour or so while she took images of my knee. After we finished, I asked how long it would be to get the results back, and she said my doctor should have them by Wednesday or Thursday. Then, I’ll know how badly my knee is torn up, and what the next step is to fix it.

I’m still terrified of surgery. I never really thought that I was scared of anything until I had to go through that series of epidural steroid injections in my spine and realized that I’m one of those freaks who can’t go unconscious when under general anaesthesia. I just get the fun of being paralyzed and wide awake and feeling everything that the doctor is doing. That’s when I realized I really, really don’t want to have surgery. Ever.

I’m so frustrated with people right now that I want to either throw something or cry. It didn’t help that when I got home, my darling cat had decided to climb the shelving in my room and systematically knock everything down that he could get to. I guess that means I’m frustrated with cats, too. Or at least one tubby tabby.

There is so much more I want to write about the thoughts swirling around in my head, but I think I need to let them percolate a bit more before I write them down. Or, they’ll end up only getting written in my private journal and not published for the masses to read. I’ll just say that I’m not happy with where I am in my life right now, and I know how I want to fix it, and the steps necessary to fix it, but that I have to do things in a certain order, and the timeline isn’t moving fast enough for me.

I’ll close this out with my “three good things” I’m supposed to think about each day

  1. I brought my sick coworker cold medicine to help him feel better
  2. I had a great conversation with my neighbor
  3. Even when he’s naughty, I have a fantastic cat who loves me and loves to snuggle with me

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