Who, Exactly, is Steering This Ship?

Someone said I needed to update my blog. I’m guessing they meant with actual new content, not just republishing random satire.

So. Hi.

It’s tempting to just leave it right there and call that an update. No? Not good enough?

Zach has been out of town for two days, and his departure coincided with me getting the plagebola cold from hell.  I had all these supermom ideas for what we would do, just the three of us, on Sunday.

Here’s how that went:

At some point it basically devolved into anarchy. And then somehow I managed to get both kids in bed by about 7:30 and they both slept until 6:30. I wish I could tell you it made me feel human again, but alas, the cold kept waking me up. I left work early yesterday and took a nice long nap, followed by some cleaning. And my god, this is all really boring.

My brain is being weird. I know, I know, what else is new? But this is a different weird. I’m having trouble thinking deep thoughts, because my brain has finally realized there’s danger there? My brain’s current answer to the thoughtloops, anxiety, depression, and general out-of-control feelings is to take fucking control. By which I mean, cut all those feelings off at the pass. Avoidance isn’t my go-to coping strategy — but I guess my brain has decided to give it a try? But even that doesn’t quite explain it. It’s like whenever my brain sees something that would normally cause some sort of tangle of thoughts, it throws a handful of apathy at me. And I’m feeling sort of… apathetic about that.

I had a catheter ablation heart surgery when I was 20 for Supraventricular Tachycardia (AVNRT, to be specific). A few years later, I was having frequent premature ventricular contractions (PVC), which is what most of us would refer to as a “skipped heartbeat.” I went to the cardiologist, and he said that it was basically my heart trying to go into tachycardia, but because the ablation was successful, it couldn’t actually get there.

That’s how my brain feels. Like it starts down that road, and then NOPE TURN BACK DON’T GO THAT WAY. But it’s not exactly a pleasant feeling itself.

Example time.

Let’s say I’m getting that sort of restless, lonely, want to connect with people feeling. Generally there are two ways I deal with this. Either email my therapist or reach out to friends. We’ll use the friend example for this. Let’s call my friend “C” (Like half my friends’ names start with the letter C, and any of them could fit here). Here’s how it goes:

I’m bored. I want to do something. Anything to relieve this deep itchy, existential restlessness. Maybe C wants to get together. Ha! Funny. All my friends whose names start with C are incurably busy. But it could also be that they don’t really want to hang out with me. I mean, why would they? Most of the time I don’t want to hang out with me, but I don’t have a choice.

Then, the ideas of reaching out starts to feel like a compulsion. Desperate for connection. So I ask. And the result doesn’t even matter. They say no, I let that prove my worth or lack thereof. My thoughts circle and cross and spiral. Why am I being so narcissistic as to think it’s about me? But what if it is?

They say yes, I invalidate it, getting stuck in self-doubt and general criticism. Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say that? Why didn’t I ask them about themselves? Why did I talk too much? Why WhyWhy. Then I fall down into that hole of self loathing and need for someone to tell me I’m ok, good enough, worthy enough. And then I reach out again. Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance. And the cycle continues.

Then my therapist talks about self compassion, then I email her, then I beat myself up for needing to email her, then I email to tell her how I’m beating myself up for emailing her. If I don’t email her, I think I’m somehow being manipulative, or looking for attention by the absence of… asking for attention? And then I get all unsure. So I email her. And I can’t win.

Then maybe I ask my friends to hang out. And then I second guess myself. Still can’t win. Around and around and…

*record scratch*

A few weeks ago my brain, without my permission, decided to try a new tack. Now it goes something like this:

I’m bored. I want to do something. Anything to relieve this deep itchy, existential restlessness. Maybe… meh. Yeah, but, if I don’t ask them to hang out, what does that say … meh. I should email… meh. But if I don’t then… meh. Interrupting cow wh…MOOOO.

Every effort to refute, or to think more deeply, or to circle around is met with apathy. And furthermore, the apathy is met with apathy.

It doesn’t feel like depression. It doesn’t feel like anxiety. It doesn’t even feel like numbing. It just feels like a lack of drive towards anything. Usually the apathy is met by this sudden fear of itself. But… meh. It’s not giving up. Not quite resignation, though that is closer to home. Complacency? No? I’m not sure, because my brain won’t let me think it through.

I am relatively sure I am not steering this ship, and my brain has killed the engine and is letting us drift. And I’m fairly indifferent, while knowing I’m not actually indifferent at all. I’m aware of how I would usually feel. It hasn’t actually changed. I am under no delusion that this apathy is acceptance. It’s trying to fake acceptance. It’s devious, I think. Trying to convince me that there’s no point, but then trying to convince me to be ok with that feeling. I’m pretty sure I’m not ok with it, but my brain hits the emergency derail button before I get too close to that train of thought.

To stay afloat, we’re just ignoring the water? I’ve compared my brain to Wile E Coyote before… the way he doesn’t fall until he realizes he’s off the cliff. I hope I’m not hanging out in mid air right now, waiting for a crash. But at the same time… meh.

It’s difficult to prove a negative, and even more difficult to explain it. It’s like there is some sort of hazy wall between me and my brain. Like I’m watching my thoughts with curiosity, but not in the happy mindful way. More in a, “Huh. This is weird,” detached sort of way. Wondering exactly how this is going to play out. I’m one big shrug emoji.

I’m trying not to ask too many questions about it. Or, maybe my brain isn’t letting me ask too many questions.

I’ve been reading. That is one nice thing about my current mental state — my brain is letting me read. I’ve read some dystopian fiction because man, do I love good dystopian fiction. And then I’ve read two novels with characters with OCD. OCDaniel and Turtles All the Way Down (affiliate links, because why not?). I think more honest fiction with accurate mental illness portrayals should be part of the required reading for middle and highschool students. If these books had existed, and if I’d had to read them, maybe I would have discovered some important things a decade or two earlier than I did.

I’ve never highlighted things in my Kindle before. But I did with these books. It’s interesting, because the characters in each book represent completely different manifestations of OCD. Of course, both are more severe than my own personal flavor. Honestly, reading about mild OCD would be sort of boring. But severity aside, the base of that struggle is familiar. They way they describe their thoughts. The anxiety and fighting with their own brains. The desperate desire to have it be different. The anger at oneself. I read 95% of Turtles All the Way Down in one night (incidentally, the last book I did that with was Fault in Our Stars, also by John Green). I was in the tub, reading this back and forth conversation between the main character and her brain, and I sorta kinda started crying. Like… a lot. Because, it was my brain. The disjointed, logic vs anxiety battle.

Both of those books left me feeling shakey. Sort of caught off guard seeing such scary parts of myself written down and understood by someone else. And understanding the characters so deeply that it hurt.

But that’s not exactly bad.

Also in the meantime, I’m doing the things that need doing. Acknowleding the incoming winter. Buying Christmas presents. Making plans. One of my best friends is coming to town next week.  I’ve taken three days off work. I’m using my Washington Post money for a massage and a day at the Umstead spa. I’m going to see Dar Williams. I’m going to see Eddie From Ohio. Zach and I are going to have our first kid-free night since before I got pregnant with Rowan.

I’m trying to muster a Christmas spirit. I suspect this is Lorelei’s last year really believing in Santa. I’m actually ok with that. I have mixed feelings about the whole Santa thing to begin with. And her entitled attitude doesn’t help. But at the same time, I want to give her this last Christmas where everything feels magical. But I’ll be damned if Santa is getting all the credit for the best gifts.

Here is the freaking novel she wrote Santa.

I want to go on record that she doesn’t think I need to write better. Literally, my computer won’t keep up with my typing. And it takes it ten minutes to start up. But joke’s on Santa… I already ordered myself a new one.

This is the first year that Rowan might actually “get” Christmas somewhat. Though, my more immediate concern is whether or not he’ll destroy a tree if we get one.

The dog is getting a new bed, so she’ll quit sleeping on my dirty clothes. It’s like she doesn’t even care that I was going to dig through that pile to find something to wear.



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