the end of self-flagellation?

When I first started seeing my current therapist last year, he told me that part of my problem was that I thought I was SUPPOSED TO do too many things.  There are, of course, things that one really IS supposed to do, like eat and sleep, pay the bills, feed the dog, etc.  Those items were getting accomplished, but I was also thinking about all the other SUPPOSED TO things.  When I came home from work in the evening, I was doing the same stuff other people do–eating dinner, checking the internet, reading, watching tv–but in the back of my head was this flashing, scrolling marquee that read, “I’m supposed to be writing! I’m supposed to be posting to my website! I’m supposed to be doing something productive!” Half the time I didn’t even have anything in mind for the “something productive,” but it really bothered me that I wasn’t doing it, whatever it was.

At the height of the SUPPOSED-TOs, I wasn’t enjoying anything I was doing, because whatever I did paled in comparison to some nebulous task I should have been accomplishing instead.

Last night I got home from work at 6, hot and tired from my commute. My evening plans had fallen through, so I had some ideas about other tasks–putting hooks in the bathroom for swimsuits and extra towels, moving the folding chairs to make room for the vacuum cleaner, straightening up the living room, and so forth.

But then I decided to finish watching the episode of True Blood* I’d started on Tuesday, so I got in bed with the dog and my computer** and watched it. Then I didn’t want to get up because I was comfortable, so I put on a South Park episode, and then I fell asleep.  When I woke up at 10, I took the dog out, called my boyfriend, read a little, and ate some grapes while watching another South Park. Then I fell asleep again.

And I didn’t feel guilty about it at all.  The scrolling marquee in the back of my head hasn’t disappeared, but it’s off a lot of the time these days. I can come home and watch TV and fall asleep on the bed, and when I wake up three hours later, instead of thinking “OH MY GOD I DIDN’T GET ANYTHING DONE!” I think, “Gosh, I must have needed that.”

In part I have therapy to credit for this, but I think I’ve also come to terms with what it means to suffer from chronic (albeit well-treated) depression and anxiety.  To keep myself on an even keel, I need to get enough sleep. I need to leave the house every day. I need to eat right and try to exercise. And sometimes I need to turn myself off and do absolutely nothing. If that means I get fewer things done than other people do, that’s okay. Those other people aren’t me.

And I’m getting pretty good at recognizing when I need to turn myself off.  Having my brain is pretty stressful most of the time: I overthink everything, I’m always planning and planning and worrying about worst-case scenarios, and I almost never truly relax.  A brain like that can’t keep going without a little rest, and whether that rest is sleep or just spending an evening doing nothing at all doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m off work all next week, and for awhile I thought I wanted to take a trip somewhere. Why waste my week off staying at home and doing nothing? I thought. But look at this list of places I’ve been so far this year:

Fredericksburg, TX
Houston, TX
Bryan, OH
Long Island, NY
Des Moines, IA

I’m planning a trip to New Orleans this month and a trip to Minnesota for a wedding in September and a trip to St. Louis for Christmas probably, and who knows where else I’ll go. When I thought about that, staying in Austin started to sound pretty good. I can read and sew and do stuff to my apartment, I can go swimming a LOT, I can take day trips to San Antonio and the Guadalupe.

Or if I want, I can do nothing at all.

*This show is not good. But I’m invested in the plot for the time being, so I watch it anyway.

**When I go to work in the mornings, I leave the bedroom A/C on and the living room A/C off, since the former has a thermostat and runs more efficiently.  I turn on the living-room unit when I get home, and then hang out in the bedroom until the living room cools down.  This makes for a lot of watching DVDs and such on my computer after work.

why do you overestimate the size of the lie?

My recent dreams come with vivid background music.  A few weeks back I dreamt that my friend Kari and I were on our way to meet B at the movies, and Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors” was playing on the car stereo.  We both sang along for the whole song, in real-time.  The other night Mike Doughty’s “Rising Sign”* was playing in the background while something or other dreamlike happened, I can’t remember what.  But the song was very real.

Two days ago someone wrote me an e-mail that contained the following sentence: “Nostalgia, for me, is as deadly as heroin.”  When I read this, I knew exactly what it meant.  Too often I become so mired in my own past that nothing happening presently is as good/bad as what happened before.  It’s dangerous in the sense that it prevents me from enjoying what’s happening presently, and renders me unable to view what happened before in an accurate light.

When I am thus mired (or mired in any swamp of negative thought as I’ve been lately), it becomes important to remember the following things:

I am not what my friends think of me.

I am not what I think my friends might think of me.

I am not my friends.

I am not my ex-boyfriends.

I am not my boyfriend.

I am not what anyone I used to know used to think of me or thinks of me now.

I am not anyone I used to know.

I am not the way I look.

I am not how much I weigh.

I am not what anyone says about me.

*Which I’m now playing on repeat, and I don’t know why.

to illustrate a point

The other day I was telling my therapist about how much I enjoy talking to a friend of mine who is a much calmer person than I am.

“When I’m talking about something really serious, he takes me seriously, but he doesn’t get so serious himself that it magnifies my seriousness and makes it even worse.  So even conversations about heavy subjects aren’t depressing or nerve-wracking.  It’s interesting.”

“It sounds pretty good,” my therapist said.

“Yeah. I think I need to spend time with people who are more relaxed than me.  It helps me relax a bit, too.”

“You should try to wear life like a loose blanket and not like a cement suit.”

“Yes! Or a straitjacket!”

“Or a straitjacket, yes.”

So this is me, trying really hard (but not too hard!) to wear life like a loose blanket and not a cement suit or a straitjacket:

what is wrong with this woman?