Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

Grim and Bare It

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It’s been sort of a morbid time around these parts in some ways.  The husband’s grandmother (who made it to 97 feeling perfectly spry, mentally sharp, and with no health complications outside of a little cataracts) has been told now that she’s got only a few months to live.  At the same time, today I just got news about my good friend’s mother.  We had been commiserating because she too had been having “mysterious” physical problems and kept being brushed off by doctors because they couldn’t find anything obviously wrong so the problem must be “all in her head.”  Yeah.  Not so much.  Stage 4 lung cancer, spread now to her bones.

Thankfully we’re not personally close enough to either of them to be truly broken up about it, but still.  My heart is going out to them both.

And damn doctors and their unwillingness to look beyond the most obvious explanations.  Doesn’t exactly reassure me about my visit to the ear specialist yesterday either, in which I was told that what’s happened to me is “probably genetic” although no one on either side of my family has these issues at all. 

I’ve actually been doing well mood-wise for the past couple of days.  I continue to be a little stymied by how dramatically my mind-state changes from one day to the next, but on a good day I really can’t complain too much.  At least there are more good/indifferent days than bad days now.  And the bad days aren’t nearly what they used to be.  Really I need to focus more on the progress I’ve made rather than being continually frustrated when I think things have finally turned around and then a really hectic week (and last week was the mother of all of them – I swear I had at least two different appointments every single day, 45 minutes to an hour away, often in different directions, on top of a really heavy week of coursework and assignment deadlines) reminds me that I’m still more fragile in some ways than I would like.  I am back to the stage in which most of the time I can hold it together and people outside my head would never know if I chose not to enlighten them.  …But I can feel that frantic edge now and then.

There is progress, though.  I was realizing yesterday how far I’ve come with trying to battle down some of my areas of anxiety.  It wasn’t particularly crippling, but still, nice to have minimized.  Even a couple of months ago, I would never ask someone for help in a store unless I really needed it.  Asking the counter person at Starbucks how to log in to their internet would have been an effort.  Changing an appointment time or meal order after the fact would be extremely unlikely to happen.  Making waves or drawing a lot of unnecessary attention to myself that way was pretty strictly avoided. 

(I know – the people who watched me in Montreal are laughing out loud right now.  But I’ve always been a person of contradictions.  I’m really very shy.  Really.)

Anyway, I’m getting much better at putting myself out there without much of a second thought.  Just in what I did yesterday while waiting between two appointments, I can see evidence that I’m different.  I went looking for a laptop bag for my Shiny New Laptop (yay!!!).  Unfortunately, Shiny New Laptop is shiny enough that it’s kind of…how do I put this delicately…It’s kind of a beast.  And common-use laptop bags were not made for beasts.  Past a certain threshold of teeth and fur, they just don’t fit.  But I was unabashed about letting the store-boy help me.  And when he had finished drooling longingly over my computer, looking dead confused that a 33 year old woman was carrying a fine gaming machine, calling over the other store-boys for input, and telling me that I would probably need a really extra-large bag to have a chance of carrying it, I unabashedly asked the group of them to show me the “prettiest extra-large bag they had.”  Even a couple of months ago, I would not have drawn that much attention to myself.  Side note:  It’s not pretty.  I’m not even sure it strictly qualifies as ugly.  More of an “inspiring of disbelief,” I think.  I refuse to give in yet.

(Apparently people with high powered computers don’t often have the urge to store them in the purple bags with flowers on them.  Dang.)

As a side note, my new laptop comes with the following three mysterious buttons in the upper left corner.  I have decided that they mean “Stop Cows from Being Milked,” “Point To Shrek’s Ear When He’s Hiding,” and “Make Eyebrows Angry.”  My machine is multi-purpose.

Anyway, I am progressing.  I’ve even managed to keep myself from doing the Absolute Best Job Possible with my coursework.  There is no mark attached.  There is only “pass” or “honours.”  And as far as I’ve been able to tell, nobody even knows which one I got on my last course.  And as much as my nature screams to get the higher grade anyway just in case it somehow matters in the future, this is not the time to kill myself trying to knock this out of the park.  So I am doing what needs to be done for the pass and no more.  I didn’t even edit my work – I’ve been working that hard at lowering my expectations for myself.  I am going to EXCEL at not excelling.  I will be the PERFECT non-perfectionist.  I am going to be the MOST MEDIOCRE EVER

It’s a start, I guess.

Undisputed Overlord of All Things Mindful

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

My desktop computer’s having some issues.  Nothing that The Man can’t fix for me, but for the next few days at least I’m thinking it’s probably safer to just not turn it on.  I’m in an odd sort of computer-limbo anyway these days, as since starting to use the laptop, I hardly ever bother with my desktop anymore.  But everything else is still stored on there.  Including Outlook with all my e-mail.  It’s basically a great big e-mail machine right now.  With its own room.  …But it seemed like an important room at the time.  In my defence my husband’s desktop is in there too. The desktop that he doesn’t use much either since he got a laptop from work.  Sigh.

The laptop we own is a few years out of date and was the absolute cheapest possible option at that time, though (it was really just for word processing and playing videos at our wedding.  …Separately, that is.  There was no word processing at our wedding that I know of), so I don’t think I’m likely to be able to sever ties from the E-Mail and Storage Machine anytime soon.  Also, any video games I indulge in must be really, really old.

The downside to trying to make do without Outlook for a while is that I have a billion different e-mail addresses for different things (give or take 999,999,990).  I like different stuff to have a different address.  Makes me feel all organized, or compartmentalized, or something else that’s good and ends in ized.  Stuff from this website, stuff from my real life, stuff that’s sketchy or likely to generate spam… I have a lot more addresses to check regularly than patience to do it one at a time.  I think I have successfully set up things to forward to one address for a while.  Probably took longer to do than it would have to just find out what needs to be done with my computer and fix it, but ah well.  And yes, of course, I created a new e-mail address just for forwarding things to. :)

I saw the new therapist again (who I suppose will soon need a reference that doesn’t involve the word “new.”  She could be the Hugging Therapist, maybe.  She seems fond of hugging me).  I have the issue that receiving positive feedback and the feeling that I’m doing a good job makes me super crazy happy, but any indication (however small) that there’s more that I could be doing makes me feel terrible.  So this was a great session.  A deliriously happy session.   I’m not sure it was for entirely healthy reasons, but I’m happy this week.  In line with my distortedly high expectations for myself, I am also going to do the BEST JOB AT GETTING BETTER EVER.  I’m torn on whether or not this is a problem.

The hyper SAM-e energy continues. I’m starting to really love this stuff. The thoughts about my future continue also, as a result of the increased energy. It’s really hard to tell what I might be capable of if I actually had a normal amount of energy and a stable mood all the time. It’s amazing what a person can adjust to as “normal.”

Some of my biggest worries are that I won’t be able to do a good job, or that people will be dissatisfied, or that I won’t measure up to my competitors anymore.  …But if I look at them objectively, there’s no reason at all to believe that.  I’m good at work stuff.  That’s one of my strengths.  It comes from my insanely high expectations of myself.  Realistically, I imagine that any service I provide will end up being extremely high quality compared to the rest of what’s out there.  Because I’m like that.  And as much as I would ideally like to tone that down a little, the likelihood of my doing a crappy job with this stuff is slim.  If I was taking on a carpentry business or something else I’m not at all trained for, maybe.  …Though even then, I imagine with the amount of preparation it’s in my nature to do, I might even be okay.   I think truly the biggest danger to my success with this is self-doubt and getting in my own way.

Like usual, then.

Sometimes I wonder what I would be capable of if I was a completely confident person. And not just because I’d be the only one on the planet who could claim that.  ….Well, maybe one of a few.  But I bet the other couple are douchebags.

I bet he secretly likes Oprah

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’ve decided that I need to be better about doing different things just for the sake of doing them.  I think I’m falling prey too easily to the illusion that I can’t do anything until I’m feeling better, or that a certain activity might not be that enjoyable so I’ll skip it.  …Not even in the dramatic depressive way, but just in the everyday sort of way.  I’ve been in the clenches of this mentality for a long time, I think.  Sometimes it’s just the thought that I’m too tired to [do paperwork, exercise, go out, play a game, raise chickens…whatever] on a particular night, so I should wait for some other night to do that.  This is true from time to time, but more often I feel better once I’m living my life more fully.  I need to experiment with getting back to that again.  Richer activities take a lot more energy, which is daunting these days, but maybe once I’m in the habit it will be easier.  Plus, it’s rare that those energized evenings ever actually get there, and I don’t want to be missing out.

Of course, this is really all stuff that I had mastered a full year ago.  Sometimes I re-have a particular epiphany several times before it actually starts to sink in for good.

So yes, working towards doing stuff even if I don’t feel up to it, and doing things just to see what happens rather than needing to wait for something reliably good.

It’s a fine line for me, because I have to pay close attention to the difference between deliberately choosing not to do anything because that would be nice for me in that moment versus not doing anything for the reasons listed above.  I’m not so good at that whole “balance” thing, so there’s always the danger of pushing myself beyond the point that it’s good for me and into the point where a bagpipe lesson in carnivorous plants would be more pleasant.  I am not, in fact, a robot, and even if I was I probably couldn’t go at full steam all the time.  I’m sure even the Terminator was lounging on the couch in some of the scenes they didn’t show.  Between blowing up that thing, and killing that guy?  Yeah.  Totally watching TV.

And just because I’m on the topic of rediscovery, I came across this picture of our boy yesterday and have to share it.  Is that not the cutest damn thing you’ve ever seen?  He is the indeed the master of trying things for the experience without worrying about how they’ll turn out.

Sleeping Cat

Except once in a while for dessert-related variety

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I love, love, LOVE that it’s nice outside again so I can spend some time in the sunlight and fresh air.  It’s amazing what a sincere difference that makes too.  Logically I know that sunlight triggers serotonin production, but practically sometimes its importance is easy to minimize.  I sat in my back yard for a very long time today, curled up in this big round patio chair we got (because it was much cheaper than a big rectangular patio couch, or vaguely square patio daybed, or most patio triangles), reading the latest in the series of depression help books.  And somewhere between the sunshine and the feeling that I’m actually actively doing something about the depression or have some control over my situation, I feel refreshed.  I feel like right in this moment, maybe I could reorganize something, or tackle a phone call, or fix something, and it wouldn’t be so bad.

This book is quite decent so far, by the way.  I keep meaning to mention it, because there are definitely some duds out there.  It’s called “Undoing Depression,” by Richard O’Connor.  At the very least, he definitely understands what it means to be a depressed person, and I see a lot of myself in what he writes (including a bunch about perfectionistic, driven, go-go-go, depressives. …Which I hadn’t heard before.  The common perception is that a depressed person sleeps all day and can’t get going).  It seems so far like a pretty good collection of a lot of the best strategies and techniques I’ve come across (or at least the well-known ones).  Enough to at least get the basic idea, and to be able to get started with some things even if someone hadn’t read anything else on the subject.  Even having already read more about most of what’s in there, I’m enjoying it.  I may yammer more about bits at some point.

It’s refreshing to walk away from the read with a positive feeling.  Often the first three quarters of these books leave me feeling like crap about myself.  …They tend to start off with all the ways in which depressed people are (with deliberate word choice, as that’s the way I feel it) broken or defective.  Then they move onto the problems that can cause, and how hard it is to fix.  …And then finally, sometimes in one tiny final chapter, they actually lay out their strategy for improving things.  You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, here’s hope.  Consequently, launching into these things can be a bit of a rough ride.  I still felt down about it when starting this one, but now I’m doing okay.  Maybe it’s the sunlight.

Maybe it’s the pastries and crack I’ve had today.

(Just kidding)

(I don’t particularly like pastries)

Should have stuck to just getting tissue paper and the occasional pair of junk drawer scissors.

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I feel like posting, but am not especially inspired today.  I seem to be missing those initial bursts of energy lately.  My moments of “flow” have ebbed into a sort-of-okay and sometimes not-so-great haze instead.  Which, at best, leaves me writing a lot of sort-of-okay and sometimes not-so-great posts about sort-of-okay and sometimes not-so-great topics.  And more now, to be honest, because I committed to myself that I would try to keep writing, then because I feel especially excited to say anything in particular.

The Luvox trial that was not in any way supposed to support the fact that I am having legitimate withdrawal symptoms supported that I am having legitimate withdrawal symptoms.  So we’re doing it again this week in case it was random chance.  And I was just starting to come to terms with them maybe being correct that I couldn’t be having withdrawal signs again – getting over the what-do-you-mean-my-body’s-not-crazy indignant denial and moving on to you-mean-I-don’t-have-to-go-through-that-again-then acceptance and pleasure.  Nope.  Still in limbo.  How low can you go?

I will say that I had an overall lovely long weekend.  The hubby and I scheduled in a bunch of pleasant activities together.  If we try to choose one on the spot, inevitable I just end up feeling this insurmountable irrational pressure to choose the BEST ACTIVITY EVER.  …And then eventually just end up going with whatever he wants to do.  I need those happy things to keep my spirit alive, though, so the plan-in-advance strategy is working out okay.  Anyway, we sat outside, and read, and talked, and walked, and played games, and went out for breakfast, and laughed together, and even (gasp) had a lot of sex, and just generally hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.  And I felt more alive at the end of yesterday than I have in a very, very long time.  We need to make a point of having more weekends like that.

Granted, even during Happy Fuzzy Bonding Weekend, there were still a couple of temporary disasters.  I think we’re both so run down by everything now that we can’t help but be a little on edge or overly sensitive to any negative sign.  We came through it, though, and although there were a few unpleasant hours in there here and there, it didn’t take over the experience as a whole.  And that’s a good thing.  I am holding onto hope that things will start to get better for us now.

Maybe there will be a Happy Hairless Bondage Weekend on the horizon.  You never know. Also, that statement may or may not make any sense at all.

I think I need to find a way to change my own weekly routine, though.  I can feel the newfound energy starting to fade.  Stupid dollar store mental batteries.

It really does sound like a feminine hygiene product. …Or the admission of a twelve-year-old girl

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Instead of going to bed last night, my husband and I got into a conversation about the iPad.  For the life of me I don’t remember how.  Of course, as most conversations do in our household, this eventually degraded into a series of progressively worse puns on the topic.

“Maybe their next microphone will be called the iScream.”

“Maybe next they’ll start diversifying, and launch some sporting goods.  They could have the iBall!”

“And then they could add running shoes, and call them iRan!”

“And breast implants!  ….iRack.”

“And then when they have enough money, they can create their own empire and have an iLand.”

It’s no wonder I have nightmares sometimes.

Things are generally going well at the moment.  Tentatively well, but well none the less.  Of course, as mentioned previously my definition of “well” is a little bit skewed at the moment, but I’ll take what I can get.

No therapy for the past couple of weeks.  I get a little impatient waiting a week in between, so this is enough that I’ve almost forgotten it existed sometimes.  Apparently that rush, rush, rush, strive, strive, strive perfectionism is actually a common symptom of the depression and/or of people who become depressed.  I know because I’m reading yet another book now.  Because I’m a perfectionist.

The last therapy session was interesting.  She had me sitting down across from my critical voice (or an empty chair where it supposedly was sitting), and talk directly to it.  And yes, this probably sounds a little odd, but I’m pretty willing to make a complete and utter fool of myself if it will kick this thing.  I would strap on some chickens and a goth wig every day if I thought it would help.  A little empty-chair-conversation is nothing.

Anyway, I had to recall a recent situation in which it was vocal.  To be honest, I am terrible at this now.  Always have been, really, if I’m being entirely honest.  It’s part of the reason I either kick ass or suck ass at job interviews depending on what they ask me.  Unless I’ve pre-selected things in advance, I have a terrible time trying to come up with examples of situations on the spot.  My mind is totally blank on those things.  This is why I have also deliberately committed to memory an “embarrassing moment,” “most frightening experience,” and a bad joke or two.  In case somebody asks.  Because they tend to from time to time.  Sometimes I feel like I was absent the day that they covered my life experiences.

(which isn’t actually surprising, since depression literally EATS YOUR BRAIN where it’s responsible for creating long term memories.  …But I digress.)

So I sort of gave a very vague explanation of the sort of situation that tends to come up often for me.  There is a lot of “you look stressed and/or disappointed and/or irritated and/or bitter, therefore I am unlovable” in my life.  Which yes, makes no sense, but as mentioned I am depressed.  So these things happen sometimes.  Then I had to switch chairs to look at myself from the critical point of view, and let myself have it.  I will admit that there were a couple of awkward moments after the first wave where I ran out of things to say for a while, but overall it wasn’t as hard as I might have thought.

Switch back to being “myself” and tell the voice how I’m feeling.  At which point I described the appropriate emotions and the reasons for them, and then began to go to town on my critical voice.  Because it pisses me off, damn it, and I’ve been stuck with the darn thing long enough to know it.  I also have this habit of getting belatedly angry when I realize that I have been in an extended unfair situation and I haven’t spoken up for myself or demanded better.  Like, really angry.  All the built up anger that was warranted that whole time kind of angry.  Belatedly angry is really the only kind of angry I can do at all yet, but I’m damn good at it.  Anyway, nothing’s been more unfair than the crazy belittling voice in my head, so I gave it what for.

Switch back to the voice, at which point I sat there kind of abashed for a while, and then started to mentally criticize my ability to successfully criticize myself (yes folks, my internal critical voice has its very own critical voice.  I am the never ending Russian nesting dolls of admonishment).

I had a pretty good idea going into this what criticisms I was likely to heap on myself in the beginning.  I knew clearly the emotions that resulted from them too.  What threw me a little was that in that moment, while my critical voice was sitting there chastised, I had the overwhelming awareness that it felt bad because it was only trying to help.

I guess this makes sense in a twisted way.  It’s a defense mechanism.  I’ve been burned now and then, and by keeping right on top of me, or pushing me incessantly, or pointing out what’s going wrong, or making sure I’m aware of potential flaws so that I don’t get myself into challenging situations, I can avoid getting into situations where I might get hurt again.  In fact, I can avoid getting into pretty much any situation.  I had never thought of it that way, though.  I always assumed that voice in my head was somebody else’s, and definitely up to no good.

Now I know that it’s well-intentioned.  It’s just also horribly incompetent.

Which makes it more annoying, but less powerful, I guess.

Filling in the Gaps

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

In reading another site, it occurred to me that an overview of events thus far might be helpful to have here.  In case people started reading.  And wanted to know what’s gone on.  But don’t want to read all of my archives.  Because they really don’t care what I had for lunch in July.

I’m still boggling over the fact that anybody’s reading this at all, but if you’re interested, there is now a brief overview of the history of all this over at the sidebar. Of course, once I got started writing I got characteristically overzealous, so by “brief” I mean “somewhat less elaborate than writing out a full minute-by-minute transcription of the events in question.” But if you know me at all by now, that shouldn’t come as a shock.

And if you don’t, well there’s this handy overview in the sidebar…

What’s so funny?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

So the need for coffee in my life has clearly won out over the desire to change medications during the withdrawal process.  Unfortunately the new quarter dose of Luvox is starting to make me sleepy again.  The brain-zapping seems to have mostly petered out for the moment, though, so I can start weaning off again.  I think this time I’m going to crush the pills and do the dissolving-in-juice thing so that I can taper off in extra minuscule amounts.

Not feeling especially inspired to write at the moment.  I’ve been doing better.  My therapist has had me working on tending to and eliminating ANY feeling of sadness/anxiety/upset that comes up.  In trying to cope for so long on my own, I’ve become a master of distraction, and shoving things down, and ignoring them until they fade away a little.  If I don’t actually resolve them, they stick around forever, though.  Just in subtle, insidious ways.  They wear away at my self-image, or provide ammunition for internal voices that I don’t want getting any stronger.  It just always seemed like there were SO many little upsets in the course of each day that I couldn’t possibly be expected to take the time to get myself feeling peachy about them all.  Apparently I could.  And I am.  So I’ll try.

Seriously though, fully identifying and resolving every little tight feeling in my stomach is a bit of a tall order.  Sometimes a disproportionately lengthy process too.  Worth it, though, if it’s actually possible to live without daily feelings of anxiety or worry or sadness that are anything more than brief or transient.

And of course, like everything else that’s tasked to me, I feel compelled to fully master this as quickly as possible, and come back next week an entirely new person able to instantly identify and eliminate any potentially unpleasant emotions.  Because I’m like that.  This is why my therapist laughs at me.

I like big projects, and I cannot lie. …Okay, I can. But I’m not. About that.

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I don’t listen to the radio for much more than an hour a week now that I’m no longer commuting to work every day. I get my news from the Daily Show. All of our T.V. shows are recorded for viewing at our convenience. I never really see actual commercials anymore. This means that I can now pass by a movie theatre without recognizing any one of the many titles they’re advertising. Also that if humankind ever discovers a meteor hurtling towards Earth that gives us only one hour to live, there is a not insignificant chance that I may spend that hour doing my taxes.

I’m relatively conscious so far today. This is good. Also means I need to fight the seductions of the Big Project, though. I have difficulty resisting Big Projects, with all their pretty Big Project details and their elaborate Big Project wiles.

I think, to be honest, that this is probably something that requires a bit more focus and investigation than it originally seemed. I find myself constantly drawn into one thing or another (organize the closets, plan my wedding, create work materials, complete this online course, pack the apartment, unpack the house, create a scrapbook, blog seven pages of antidepressant information…), and always in a big way. The kind of way that takes over my existence a little until it’s complete. The kind of way that I have trouble taking breaks from, or combining with other projects, or that sits in the back of my thoughts from an hour before I wake up until an hour after I go to bed.

I can feel myself getting drawn in various directions with some of the things I’m exploring now that some of my energy is back. I start off intending to just dabble with something and end up resisting the urge to be at it at all times. I want to get to it as soon as I’m awake in the morning. I want to downplay how much time it’s consuming. I want to sneak off for fifteen minutes when my husband is home. These are signs of ADDICTION. I am addicted to…everything. WTF? What the heck am I trying to avoid?

I like completing things, and have trouble truly putting stuff out of my mind when it’s only partially formed. I like making things great. This tickles my perfectionist side. It isn’t good for me to function like that in the long run, though. Particularly when some of those projects overtook me for months at a time. And it’s not like I’m still enjoying them after that time. Anything that used to be fun isn’t, and anything that wasn’t fun to start with leaves me excessively grumpy. I get frustrated. I get burnt out. I need to learn balance. My current attempts at balance seem closer to throwing myself whole hog into something different instead.

My previous therapist suggested setting a timer, and doing any daily activity for no more than an hour at a time. After an hour, even if I felt like I could push on, I was obligated to stop and do something different. Very effective for my particular hang-ups, though more difficult than I would have imagined. Perhaps I need to reinvestigate this.

At the very least, I guess it would cut down the chance of taxes when the meteor hits.

More Somber Than Intended

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I had a blog before this one. It was random, and shared freely with friends and family (well…my sister at least), and patched together in embarrassing HTML that I had learned myself. It had a camel at the bottom. I cannot remember why.

That blog goes pretty much straight through the period of time in which I now figure I probably developed the precursors that led to this bout of depression. I didn’t talk much about how hard things were there. I wrote mostly about amusing thoughts, and undramatic insights, and questions from friends, and things that I had found on the internets (and apparently ninjas. …or so the search stats told me). I just read through some of those posts, looking for something unrelated. At first, I was struck by how jovial I sounded about most things. I was envious of then-me. And then I came across a comment here, and a brief post there, and a little reminder that even though I would never have admitted it then, most days I came home from work and cried.

My therapist asked last week what was going on at this time that might have been stressful. I had identified it as a time of high stress, and one that might have contributed to the issues I’m fighting now. It seemed a likely starting point to look for times that my stress responses could have worn down. I am one of those “somebody’s always got it worse than me” kind of people, so I have a hard time finding the line where I can allow myself to label something as legitimately “stressful,” but I am now recognizing that despite having no missing limbs, or sudden demises, or natural disasters, it is okay to call this time in my life stressful. Legitimately so.

This was the time that my now-husband and I had just completed our respective post-secondary-educations. We had been together for about a year or so. With miniscule job prospects where we were studying, we picked up our lives and moved them to a larger city. We had no money, no jobs, and a whopping pile of student debt. We rationed out how much we allowed ourselves to eat each day, since the rice we purchased was going on the credit card. Once we splurged and each got a 99 cent mini-hamburger at the fast food place down the street and then felt guilty about it. We worried a lot about what would happen if we ran out of credit before we found work. We lived in a friend’s walk-in storage closet for two months.

When it became clear that the job market was such that we could no longer rely on the hope that we would find employment reasonably soon, we left our friend’s place and began renting a room from an aunt of mine. We kept to ourselves. She had a rather lecherous husband. We ate in the room. We slept in the room. We worked in the room. We watched a usually functional small T.V. No one had hired us yet in our chosen fields. No one would hire us at the mall because we were too overqualified. I kept hoping that if we could just find “real” jobs, things would get better. They got worse.

My now-husband’s first career job was CRAZY old-school hellish. They worked incredibly long hours (like sometimes home at 2am and back to work for 6am kind of incredibly. If he had nothing left to do an hour after his workday officially ended, they would find actual MAKEWORK activities for him for another two!), for lower-than-industry-average pay, expected complete perfection/obedience/involvement, and had all kinds of absurd social expectations. We had make sure that we were socializing with the “correct” people at the holiday parties, and that we didn’t talk with any one person or group for too long, and that I didn’t speak too much or too openly (he was REPREMANDED about this once. …I am an INTROVERT.), and he (no joking) got chewed out from his boss once for politely declining to get totally drunk near the end of a gathering where he was the DESIGNATED DRIVER. And to top it off, his coworkers were the most infuriating, misogynistic asshats I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. And they were that type of asshat that would make my then-husband’s life miserable if he said or did anything that indicated he wasn’t one of them. My husband’s first career job cannot accurately be explained without excessive capital letters.

My job was hellish too at this time. It is apparently widely acknowledged in the industry that the first few years are hellish for just about everyone. Oh good. Top it off with sweeping judgments, a huge age gap between me and any of my coworkers, long hours, unwritten rules and unspoken expectations, an unusually difficult load, and lots of open-ended opportunities for me to run myself ragged (very ragged. I often literally worked through every moment of free time. Including the vast majority of the weekends. …But it always felt like there was just so – much – to – do.). And I was sick. At least every other week. For a year. I only missed two work days, when my eardrum ruptured and they made me stay home. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. Then I got back up and cried myself to work.

We had one vehicle between the two of us, so I would drive him the half hour down to the nearest subway station before work, and then drive back the opposite direction for another hour or so to get myself to work. And pick him up after. Sometimes at 2 or 3 am. We never got a full night’s sleep. We barely interacted with each other. He got testy because I was “willing” to have sex, but not interested enough. We fought often. We had a few interactions that still break my heart.

We never had time to visit our group of friends from out of the city. And since we were working pretty much around the clock, we didn’t really interact with the people we knew in the area either. I was desperately lonely, and desperately sad.

I have been told, by both therapists who have had time to actually know me, that I have a tendency to severely under-represent my symptoms and side effects when talking with other people. This has caused problems in trying to get my medications sorted out. When asked how I am, I will say “I’m okay. Really sleepy,” with a tone of voice that implies that it’s not that big a deal. If someone were to press and ask if a person could live a “quasi-regular” life with that level of fatigue, I will say “absolutely not!” I am honest, at least.

I think this undervaluing habit applies to my life experiences as well. Just because there are other, shittier things out there that have happened to other people, doesn’t mean that things that have happened to me can’t be shitty too. Even as I write this, I am overwhelmingly compelled to qualify that statement by adding that they weren’t entirely shitty, and feel like I should be looking at the positives – I had a place to live even if it was very small, I had my mate even if we weren’t very close at that time, none of my health issues were serious, we both did find jobs, we bought a cheap car. It was fine. I shouldn’t be complaining.

Because that’s how my brain works.

I feel guilty now about even having written this. I feel ashamed of the judgments people may make when they read it. I can see vividly all the mistakes I made. I feel like it shouldn’t have been a problem for me.

Had I known then what I do now, maybe it wouldn’t have been.

Or maybe it just would have taken me longer to crash. As it is, I hung in for another six years after that.

…Which, they tell me, is probably why finding a successful treatment for me has been so hard.

Damned good intentions. Always ruining things.