Work, Day One of Infinity

 

Today my OCD looked like:

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  1. Shaking too badly from panic to pour coffee in the morning
  2. Hiding in the car to eat my lunch (it was pouring rain, it was kind of nice)
  3. A lot of handwashing (lost count around 25 somewhere)

I got through work without any outward nuclear meltdowns (#goals) which is more than I thought would happen. Leo stayed up late last night cooking me lunches for the week, telling me “I think it’s important right now that you have food made by someone who loves you.”

Which it is, not just on the “love is good for my mental health” level, but also because food safety is one of my huge OCD things, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble eating lately. Having food that my brain thinks is “safe” is basically dictating my eating. Still been drinking my blasts though, which I think have been responsible for most of my vegetable intake this week.

My brain is already trying to talk me out of going to a team workout tomorrow night, so I’m going to spend today and tomorrow trying to convince it otherwise. My long run this weekend was…less long than a lot of my teammates, since I’d recently missed a few long runs, but I did run for 2 hours, and was generally pleasantly surprised at how far I made it in that amount of time. A lot of people made a point to tell me they’d read my blog and offer support, which means a ridiculous amount. This continues to be really, really hard, but knowing that there are people in my corner is incredibly helpful.

 

2015 in Books

Firstly – thank you! The response to my last post has been so wonderfully overwhelming. I got so many supportive and wonderful comments, texts, and messages from so many friends, teammates, and family members. There’s nothing better than realizing you really aren’t alone.

My medication has not involved any crazy side effects so far, which I’m happy about, but it will still take time for it to kick in really thoroughly. So I’m still spending a lot of time at home, but doing my best to take care of myself and get out when I can.

And since that’s the case for this New Year’s Eve, I thought it was only fitting to end the year talking about my reading for 2015.

According to Goodreads, my totals for the year were 61 books, with 18,886 pages. Although many of them were good, I generally only take the ones that really stuck in my mind as the absolute best of the year.

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Carry On – by Rainbow Rowell: I squealed through this entire book because reading it was such a delightful experience. Probably my happiest reading experience of the year. Meta-commentary on fiction, fantasy, and language, with a great love story.

California Bones – by Greg Van Eeckhout: This was a weird little book that stuck in my head so thoroughly that it had to make the list. It’s set in Southern CA, and doesn’t just use landmarks, but really delves into the mythology and ethos of Los Angeles. A great fantasy with some really horrific touches, and a unique magic system that I haven’t seen in fiction before.

Parable of the Sower – by Octavia Butler: This book was so relevant to current events that I had to keep flipping to the Library of Congress data page to see when it was written. Water shortages, political unrest, and religious riots all combine to make a futuristic story with a beautiful take on humanity and our future. This book should be mentioned more as a relevant and timely sci-fi novel.

The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue – by Maggie Stiefvater: I….don’t even know what to say about these books.

That’s a lie.

I have tried to read several Maggie Stiefvater books several times. I’d even tried to read The Raven Boys at least 3 times in previous years. It just never really clicked, and always seemed to move too slowly.

For some reason, I picked up The Raven Boys on Christmas Eve, and it was AMAZING. It’s fantastic fantasy on par with the best of Neil Gaiman. The kind of books that you finish, and can’t imagine a world in which these books don’t exist. Some of the best characters, story, and writing that I’ve ever come across. I can’t wait until April when the last book in the cycle is set to be released.

 

I’m having a quiet New Year’s Eve in with my books…I hope that whatever you’re doing is enjoyable and safe. Here’s to a 2016 that is better than the year before.

Mental Illness and Me

Trigger Warning: discussion of mental illness (specifically anxiety and OCD)

This post was inspired by something I saw float across my Facebook. It was one of the many “fitspiration” images that are sure to get more plentiful as the New Year starts up and it said something along the lines of “The state of your life is simply a reflection of the state of your mind,” superimposed over a lovely picture of a person being active.

This isn’t one of the blog posts that makes a (very reasonable) argument about what kinds of bodies are often represented in “fitspiration” and what they can do to the person viewing them. This bothered me for a different reason.

It bothered me because I’m mentally ill.

I don’t say that to exaggerate. I’ve been mentally ill since I was 13 years old. I’ve written before about my struggle with depression, but that’s an issue that arose from my main mental illness, one that’s more difficult to talk about, less romanticized (although nowhere near as stigmatized as things like BPD or schizophrenia).

I remember, sometime that year, I was struck with the deep certainty that I needed to touch every poster on my wall before I went sleep to avoid getting sick. There was no need to argue the logic behind this certainty. I couldn’t rationalize it away. It was merely True with a capital “T” in my head.

Around the same time, I also started needing to spell everything I said out in my head, matching up the letters into pairs. If the letters didn’t pair up evenly, I’d silently add extra words onto a sentence until they did. I also, any time I touched my leg when walking or swimming, I had to touch the other one an equal number of times.

I got very good at hiding most of these things, because I knew, just like I knew that I had to touch every poster before I went to sleep, that the things I was doing were absolutely not logical. After I checked a few books, I was pretty sure that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I figured that since none of my compulsions were interfering with my life, I was probably ok. Plus, according to everyone around me, they were ALL OCD because they liked to clean their rooms or straighten their pictures on the walls.

The compulsions and symptoms have changed and morphed over the years, and I’ve generally been good about hiding them, although they’ve often changed my behavior in strange or unexplainable ways. But over the past few years, it’s slowly gotten worse. I’m often too anxious to leave the house, afraid of illness and any number of things outside (sorry to everyone I continuously cancel plans on). Getting myself anywhere uses up most of my courage and my energy reserves. I don’t touch doorknobs anymore. I know exactly how many things I’ve touched since the last time I washed my cracked and bleeding hands. It has affected my behavior and my relationships to an extent that often I’m not sure what they’d look like without my OCD being a factor.

I know how ridiculous most of this sounds to anyone who isn’t inside my head, which is why I generally don’t talk about it to anyone. It’s humiliating to admit that there are no numbers or logic or statistics that can change the way I feel. It’s even worse to try to figure out how to refuse a handshake, high five, or hug as I weigh which is worse – the humiliation of the refusal and explanation, or the hours of anxiety that will follow as I try to navigate the next few hours with hands that are no longer clean enough to touch food or my face or anything else that I’d like to stay clean. I know the things I do and fear are irrational, even as I’m compelled to do or feel them, which adds more anxiety and stress on top of what’s already caused by my illness.

Christmas Day this year, I had a 2 hour anxiety attack (the latest of many this month) which ended when I took a Xanax for the first time (a security blanket prescription I’ve held onto for 8 months…my OCD also makes it difficult for me to take new medications). I also emailed my doctor and finally accepted the prescription for Lexapro (an SSRI that has a good track record of treating OCD) that she’s recommended since she prescribed the Xanax. I’ve long been a proponent of people not being ashamed of taking medication if it helps their mental illness, but it’s curiously difficult to admit out loud that I’m actually taking it myself.

Back to the inspiration for this post…obviously, I don’t think that people posting things they find inspirational are trying to do anything beyond share something that inspired them. And I don’t think there’s necessarily anything inherently bad about fitspiration. But for me, one liners are never going to be able to sum up the complexity of my mental experience when it comes to something like just walking out my door, much less trying to stick to any sort of training schedule.

I have to believe that the state of my life can be better than the state of my mind, because I’ve tried to improve the state of my crazy* mind through willpower, healthier eating, exercise, and better sleep schedules, and it just hasn’t worked. Hopefully chemicals can give me the leg up I need so that all the other things can work better. I haven’t run in a week and a half, partially because of physical illness and partially because of mental illness. I haven’t run the last 3 long runs. I’m having trouble leaving the house to run today. I have to go back to work in 8 days. And there are 7 weeks until the marathon. Right now, I’m feeling like it’s all a little bit impossible.

Here’s to hoping it’s not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*about the word crazy: it is very derogatory to describe someone who is mentally ill as “crazy.” I like to use the word descriptively sometimes because to me it captures the unbalanced perspective my mental illness provides. But to talk about someone with mental illness, it is much more respectful to use the term “mental illness” or to use the specific name of their diagnosis (i.e. OCD, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, etc.)

Birthday Music

This idea was borrowed from my friend Sheridan over at Five Awesome Things. She posted a birthday playlist of songs that had moved her over the past year (don’t have to be released in the past year, just songs that were important to you). It sounded like such a cool idea that I wanted to join in on the fun. So, in no particular order, here are the 9 (in honor of my 29th birthday) songs that were most important to me in the last year.

1. Indaco by Ludovico Einaudi

I discovered Ludovico Einaudi a few years ago, but I was reminded of his existence by KUSC, which I listen to on the way to work. He had taken all 10 spots on the iTunes Classical chart recently, and I so liked the piece they played on the radio that I downloaded it immediately. It reminds me of a (much much much) more restrained Keith Jarrett. There’s always improv piano music in my house, and this sounds so very similar to it.

 

2. Thousand Eyes by Of Monsters and Men

When the trailer for Jessica Jones came out, I had to go Google what song it used right away. I knew the show was going to be very personally important to me, and the song just resonated so much. After looking up the band’s information, I realized that I somehow keep being drawn to Icelandic music groups. I have no idea why.

“I’ll be the calm / I will be quiet / Stripped to the bone / I wait / No, I’ll be a stone / I’ll be the hunter / A tower that casts a shade”

3. Try by Tyler Ward (cover, original by P!nk)

Found, as many good covers are, through Grey’s Anatomy. I loved the original by P!nk, but I hadn’t thought about it in awhile until I heard this cover. Lyrics are always really important to me, and I love every word in this track.

“Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame / Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned / But just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die / You gotta get up and try, and try, and try”

4. Fight Song by Rachel Platten

Who hasn’t heard this song this year? This is my “turn it up loud in the car and play the final drum breakdown on the steering wheel” song.

“And all those things I didn’t say / Wrecking balls inside my brain / I will scream them loud tonight / Can you hear my voice this time?”

5. Ghost Town by Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert’s new album was a little hit-or-miss for me, but the sound of this song was just so catchy and the lyrics were amazing. Such a perfect “drive cynically through Hollywood at night” song.

“Died last night in my dreams / Walking the streets / Of some old ghost town / I tried to believe / In God and James Dean / But Hollywood sold out”

6. Here by Alessia Cara

This song is, and I quote the artist, “about everyone who secretly hates parties.” Ever wondered what it’s like to be an introvert at a party? THIS.

“I’m sorry if I seem uninterested / Or I’m not listenin’ or I’m indifferent  / Truly, I ain’t got no business here / But since my friends are here  / I just came to kick it but really / I would rather be at home all by myself not in this room / With people who don’t even care about my well-being”

7. Take Me To Church by Hozier

Again, everyone heard this song. But it’s incredibly beautiful.

“In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene / Only then I am human / Only then I am clean”

8. Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 by Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski)

I bashed Bach for a long time, because his music sounded mechanical and all the same to me. But since I started listening to classical music on my commute, I’ve actually gained a lot of appreciation for his music and the mathematical complexity it holds. This is one of my favorite Bach pieces that I heard this year. The huge ending just kills me.

9. To Be Alone by Hozier

Another Hozier song to close out the list. I just love the dirty bluesy sound of this piece.

“Never feel too good in crowd / With folks around, when they’re playing / The anthems of rape culture loud / Crude and proud creatures baying”

 

 

Everyone You Meet

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“Let us be kind, to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.” – Ian MacLaren *

When I was younger and my family would go on long drives, I’d spend a lot of time staring out the window at the other cars. I’d think about how many cars I was seeing, and the fact that inside each of those cars was at least one other person. That other person, like me, was living their own life, having their own problems, and thinking their own thoughts. The sheer amount of individuality and complexity of the idea was staggering to me, and still is when I really stop to focus on it. We are surrounded by the complexity of humanity, and it’s a struggle to imagine it accurately.

The quote at the top of this entry* is something that came to mind when I thought about this weekend, and about my experience so far on Team NutriBullet. Being on a team, or a part of any group that is focused on a similar goal, is a good way to really see the value of that mindset in action. On my team, we have people who are dealing with chronic health problems. People who have had their abilities drastically change due to accidents and injury. People who have recently had children. People who are having marriage difficulties, work troubles, deaths in the family, and on, and on, and on.

Every one of us is fighting through something, whether inwardly or outwardly. And that “something” necessarily influences our actions and our abilities, whether outward observers know that it does or not. When that “something” isn’t necessarily visible, it’s all too easy to slip into judgment of someone’s words or action, without realizing that they are doing their best – just like you.

Which is why it’s so nice to be a part of something like Team NutriBullet, where we are all reaching for such a big goal that we need to reach out to each other for support to make it. To be in a place where we trust that we are all doing our best gives us all the room to imagine each other complexly, and to see that we are all working as hard as we each can to be the best we can be.

We ran our first race as a team this weekend, the Calabasas Classic 5k. It was really fun, partly because I love racing, but also because it was exciting to be surrounded by teammates who supported every single team member from the one who got second place overall, to the one who finished his first race since an accident left him in a wheelchair. While we were standing at the starting line, Michael, a teammate, tapped me on the shoulder.

“You look nervous,” he said. “I can see it in your face. Just relax. I believe in you, and we believe in you, and you’re going to do great.”

It was exactly what I needed in that moment. I’m pretty shy, and not great about speaking up and reaching out to others, but Michael inspired me to try more to remember that everyone is fighting as hard as they can, and it never hurts to reach out and help them along in whatever way you can.

Imagining people complexly is hard. And sometimes, when I’m going through my own shit, it feels like maybe it’s not worth the effort. It’s so easy to rest in a lack of imagination and empathy. It’s funny, when you tell someone about something big in your life, sometimes people respond with “Oh man, I could never deal with that. I don’t know how you do it.” I mostly find it funny, because that’s exactly what people say when I tell them I’m running a marathon in February.

I do it the same way you do, the same way we all do. We get back up off the ground, we keep breathing, we keep putting one foot in front of the other (or we keep our wheels rolling), and we survive it together.  It’s hard to reach out when you’re wrapped up on your own battle. But I’ve been realizing over the past several weeks that it’s so very worth it.

*Not who you usually see this quote attributed to? Click on the link and you’ll be taken to a blog that traces famous quotes back to their sources. I usually try to check out famous quotes there first, to make sure I’m not perpetuating too much misunderstanding.

#WNWW: Wednesday Night Warrior Workout Hill Training

I was a very whiny athlete on Wednesday.

My achilles tendons are no longer injured. There have been no bumps on them for months, and I don’t have anything I’d call “pain” in them after runs (although that doesn’t stop me from pinching the hell out of them after every run in a paranoid fashion, just to make sure. Yes, I’m aware I might do more damage that way, my anxiety isn’t listening to you). Generally they’ll get a weird tingly feeling if I push them too far. And that’s all I’m trying to do at this point in training, push them far enough to get stronger, and not so far that I injure myself. I make smart choices: I warm up slowly by walking for 5 minutes first, and then run/walking, I modify workouts, I stretch carefully, I sleep in a brace that keeps my right foot from pointing in my sleep (since my right was by far the worst off).

This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m always happy about all these smart choices. And this Wednesday was especially difficult because I LOVE hill training. One of my favorite memories from a Coyote training season is when I managed to do 6 repeats of the “washing machine” hill loops. They sucked and they were amazing, and I felt on top of the world after I finished the last one. But I knew going into this workout that I wasn’t going to be able to run the uphills (and probably not the downhills, given that they require even more pounding and stress than an uphill). I’m dying to push myself again, and as I get stronger and stronger, it only gets harder and harder to hold myself back.

So most everyone took off running, reflective vests glowing up the hill, and I marched my smart ass up the hill and back down. And did it again. And again. When Coach Nicole asked me how I was feeling after round 2, instead of giving a dutiful athlete report of how my tendons were doing, I snarked off “Bored.” And continued to march my ass up and down the hill, probably with an epic case of RBF (I am genetically gifted at Resting Bitch Face – if I’m not actively thinking about looking pleasant I look simultaneously bored and like I’m planning a murder. I’m a Slytherin, I can’t help it).

It was not a workout that left me feeling particularly fulfilled, and also not one that made me particularly happy afterwards. Apparently my cardiovascular system and muscles weren’t quite stressed enough to get any good endocannabinoids going.

But I have to keep reminding myself that every workout makes a difference, even the ones that inspire a kind of boredom that I normally associate with staff meetings. One step at a time.

Musings from the Pacific Coast Highway

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I don’t understand when people tell me they are comforted by the ocean. Or by nature in general. “Comfort” isn’t a word that captures what I feel when I’m running the mountains, or standing by the ocean. It’s not peace either. The quiet of the places is often peaceful, but the essential places themselves do not make me feel restful and calm.

Nature, to me, is very much like space. It’s vast, changeable, and it doesn’t hate us. Nor does it love us. More terrifying than both of those possibilities, it gives absolutely no fucks about us. Our living and suffering and dying doesn’t register at all on that scale. Despite how harsh that sounds, it’s not a negative feeling to me. It’s almost akin to a…respect? An excitement?

The feelings I get in nature are the same as those I get from reading an excellent piece of writing that turns my chest inside out. Or listening to music that makes my “self” -everything that makes me, ME – disappear. It’s a feeling that makes me think about connection back through the whole of humanity, a connection to everyone who has ever connected with stories or music or to the overwhelming power of the world that has surrounded us for the entire duration of our history.

But to me, none of those feelings are described in the word “comfort.” I feel adrenaline, an aching hunger in my soul, a feeling that a sense of a cosmic completion is just out of reach.

Language is necessarily imprecise. We use it as shorthand, to hopefully convey the essence of things that we are thinking and feeling and doing. But it falls so short, and we fall so short in our use of it.

Take “I love you.” The words that make your heart beat faster when the person you’re hoping feels the same as you do says them. The words you say to a mother or father or sibling at the end of a phone call. The words that you say to a friend when they hand you a coffee after a long morning at work.

We use those same three words to mean so many things – I desire you sexually. I desire you romantically. I feel a deep connection with you. You are family. You are important to me. I would die for you. I would die without you. I’m grateful for you.

We assume that the listener understands what we mean from context clues, and from past experience. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But it’s rare that we stop and acknowledge that what we say doesn’t always communicate exactly what we mean.

I’m thinking about all this because I just drove up the coast to Malibu. I’m working at the annual 7th grade retreat for the next few days. When we got there, the staff asked the teachers to join the introductions, telling the kids where we were from and what our deepest fear is.

I said tsunamis, because I’d just driven up the coast, and because the ocean always has an edge of malevolent possibility in mind. It’s not true that it’s my deepest fear, although it lurks somewhere in my Generalized Anxiety Disorder pantheon. I don’t know if I know what my deepest fear is. Or, to be accurate in my language, I’m not sure I want to think hard enough to find out.

I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with the meanings within and behind words. Sometimes I wonder if I’m bored by the everyday routine of my life and I get wrapped up in ways to complicate and analyze the hell out of it. Maybe it’s because I often feel like spoken words fall short of what I’m actually trying to get across. Or maybe I just read too many books.