What I Mean When I Say I Don’t Have the Energy

The library has a holiday outing every year. We go out to dinner at one of the local places and then we go to the CH Moore Homestead for the candlelight tour of the mansion. It’s really pretty. We did it the first year that I worked for the library. Last year’s was cancelled due to Covid. This year we’re going again.

I’m not going. I don’t have the energy.

When I say this, people assume that means I’m tired and how can I possibly be tired weeks in advance? That’s ridiculous! Come on! You should go! It’ll be so much fun!

First of all, never pester me about something. It will activate my spite and that’s a great way to make sure I never do it.

Second of all, I’ve been tired since 1994. It’s a permanent condition at this point.

And lastly, what I mean when I say that I don’t have the energy is that I don’t have the energy necessary to do sufficient battle with my anxiety and/or depression in order to allow myself to have a good time.

I’m using this specific example of the library’s holiday outing because as I’ve written many times, this is my least favorite time of the year. It tends to be hectic. Even not having to split my time between multiple family holiday gatherings anymore, I still find myself stressed out over presents and baking and cards and mailing. This is the time of year that my mental illnesses can be more affected due to that whole lack of daylight thing combined with the need to go out more.

Even during with ideal conditions, my energy reserves in December are low.

But I’ve spent the last year plus in a pandemic, keeping up with the changing library policies regarding Covid safety and arguing with people who walk past THREE signs that say masks are required because they don’t want to wear a mask.

I barely have enough energy to get through the requirements of my day. I do not have the energy to do anything extra.

Some people refer to this as not having enough spoons. If that is the metaphor you require to understand me, then that is the one I’ll use. I have no extra spoons. I rarely have any at this time of year. I’d say they get lost in the dishwasher, but we don’t have one.

I know some people feel like this is bullshit. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a full-time job (and if my job at the library was full-time, it’s minimum wage, so it wouldn’t count as a real job anyway). In their opinion, there’s nothing depleting my energy. I should have a plethora of spoons. I’m just lazy.

And to them, I say…I am, as a rule, fucking exhausting to deal with. Even in small doses. Imagine putting up with me all the damn time.

In conclusion, I have no extra energy to accommodate any more requests at this time. Thank you.

Gratitude and Blessings

I wrote about doing this back in 2014, but the idea has evolved in the ensuing years.

So back at the end of 2012, I came across an idea on Facebook called The Good Things Jar. Everyday you write down something good that happened during the day on a slip of paper and you put it in a jar. At the end of the year, you dump out the jar and review all of the good things.

I started in 2013 and for the first few years, I did it just that way, with a twist. Not only did I go through the jar and review, but I also wrote them all down at the end of whatever journal I kept that year. It was fun and enlightening and I learned that I often struggle knowing what day it is.

I also learned that I could save myself some paper if I refined the process.

I got rid of the jar and started writing my blessings directly in my journal. The switch made sense as I write in my journal daily anyway. At the end of the year, I can flip through my journal and review my blessings.

In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed a few things.

I have a lot of gratitude for food. -Food makes me happy. I know what you’re thinking. Not surprising given my fat ass. But when you think about it, food is a simple pleasure. The right flavor at the right time can brighten your day. (And when you take into account the food insecurity that plagues this country, having adequate nutrition IS something to be grateful for.)

Many of my blessings are simple things. -A pretty sunset. Reading outside. Opening the windows after having them shut all winter. Those tiny moments that we take for granted or overlook, I often find myself savoring them.

I’m very grateful for the people in my life. -I’m not the best person, and yet there are people in my tiny universe who think of me randomly and are willing to help me when I need it (even if I don’t ask for it) and who just in general brighten my existence with their presence. I don’t express that enough and I need to work on that.

Sometimes I’m just grateful to make it through the day. -Some days are shit. Some days it’s hard for me to find that blessing. So, I’m just grateful to have made it through somewhat intact. Surviving the garbage is the blessing.

I feel like the active cultivation of gratitude has helped improve my mental health over the years. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not touting this as the cure to depression and anxiety. But I think it’s one of the healthier coping mechanisms I have in life, especially when my brain chemicals are particularly off balance. The habit of identifying one good thing every day helps when it feels like I can’t see anything but the bad.

I like harvesting the little good bits.

They don’t spoil.

Everything Is Terrible

Between the pandemic, the politicalization of the pandemic, a corrupt and cruel government that continues to fail the people -Hell, there was a failed coup attempt just this past week which will probably see no punishments and will be normalized- and the constant daily stresses of it all, it’s easy to ask “How do you create in a time like this?”

Counterpoint: How do you do ANYTHING during a time like this?

There is this foolish notion that circumstances like this somehow lead to great and productive creativity. That art is like a diamond and it’s brilliance can only be created through intense pressures. Well, I’m no artist and I don’t create anything that would qualify as art, but let me tell you, this is wrong, especially for a hack like myself.

It’s no secret that I was struggling before all of this shit came crashing down on our heads. My productivity was down, hampered by self-doubt, depression, and stress. I actually felt, though, at the beginning of 2020 that I might be coming out of that. I thought what I needed was a shift in direction to get my productivity jump started.

And then came the ‘rona.

This past year has just been miserable. Writing has been relegated to an afterthought for the most part. I had several projects planned for 2020. I always plan more than I know I can do in a given year just because it gives me a big picture view of what I need to do and helps me pick my priorities. I did two of the writing projects on the list (I did finish Book ’em, Danno Season 1, but that isn’t really a writing project) and one of those was NaNo. That’s it. For most of the year, I didn’t even have the energy to think about writing. Hell, I couldn’t even blog on a weekly basis like before.

And that really bums me out.

I feel like a failure on a daily basis. Not just with the writing, but really, with everything. And that feeling doesn’t contribute to a lot of productivity in any area of my life. There’s a list of things that I’m going to spend my vacation week doing because I just haven’t had the energy to get them done. They aren’t difficult things. Maybe a little time consuming, but nothing that requires a lot of effort. And yet, I don’t feel like I have the energy to do any of it.

I’m just scraping by, day to day, bit by bit. It’s overwhelming, it’s too much. I’m constantly exhausted. I cherish the days that feel almost normal, that I feel almost normal. I try to be as productive as possible then because I know that it won’t last. It’s a drag.

I know that I’m not the only one that feels like this. It’s a collective trauma that we’re dealing with here. We’re all tired, pushed to the brink, doing our best to get through.

I guess that’s what this post is.

Acknowledging that we’re all doing our best while everything is terrible.

The Seattle Break

The Seattle trip was a good one. We did the touristy things like going to the Space Needle, MoPop, the zoo, the aquarium, and Pike Place Market. We also ate really well as I’m now convinced that you cannot get a bad meal in Seattle. We drank at the hotel bar while watching playoff baseball and ordered room service so we wouldn’t miss any of the final Cubs/Nats game. The weather was cool, but pretty every day but one, when it was rainy and chilly, and we spent that day at the aquarium, so we didn’t notice. We fed penguins and touched sea cucumbers and petted Muppet fur and I ate a donut at the top of the Space Needle. Our hotel had a magnificent view of the water and the mountains, a gorgeous sight to wake up to. I ate breakfast at a little table looking out at that view every morning and watched the sunset from the balcony every evening.

Most importantly, I refrained from obsessive social media checking during the trip. Oh, I posted pictures to Facebook and Instagram and posted a few tweets during those six days (several during the last stretch of the trip home since our flight was delayed and it was starting to look dubious that we would ever leave Gate G5), but the obsessive checking and scrolling that I had vowed to refrain from before leaving was indeed refrained from.

And my sanity feels so much better.

In a way, the trip to Seattle was almost like taking a trip to a different reality. There, the agenda was different. My focus was on the immediate, the tangible. I was there to do some exploring and a little research. I was there to experience. And so I did. I forgot about the rest of the world for six days and I just experienced my immediate surroundings.

It was glorious.

I came back from Seattle feeling better than I have in months. My anxiety isn’t quite as close to critical. I feel calmer, more clear-minded, more relaxed. Refreshed. Hell, even while I was there I felt the shift in my sanity’s equilibrium. I was able to solve the outlining problems I was having on The Stories of Us After Them while I was there. I felt inspired, which helped with the bit of research I had planned. Seattle ended up being a salve on the open wound that was my mental health.

I am restored.

Now, I acknowledge a few things about this whole break. First of all, I know it’s a privilege for me to get to take this break. I’m lucky enough to have a roommate who was willing to drag me along on her trip and provide me the opportunity to get away for a bit and explore and research a new city. Not everyone has that sort of opportunity and I am forever grateful to her for providing this one for me.

I also acknowledge that not everyone has the privilege or the opportunity to disengage, especially for that long. Not with the way this government is operating. I think it is important for everyone’s mental health to take a break now and then, but I understand why it’s not possible for some people.

The final thing I realize is that I think it’s vital for me, at least, to disengage more often, more regularly, to take breaks from the obsessive checking and scrolling, to forget the world for a day. I think that I’m going to start doing this at least once a month, if not more often, just to try to maintain a little of that equilibrium I found out in Seattle.

I like that feeling of peace. I’m in no mood to lose it now.

For the Sake of My Sanity

mirroredYesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day on social media. It happens once a year to raise money for mental health and end the stigma around mental illness. Naturally, I participate on Twitter by using the hashtag. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, mental health is something I think about probably more than people who don’t suffer from any sort of mental affliction.

I say that I deal rather than struggle because honestly, I deal more than I struggle. Last winter was a struggle with my depression. This winter I’ve been dealing with my depression. I deal with my anxiety far more than I struggle with it. I deal without any sort of meds because that’s my choice. I’m sort of lucky that I have the option to deal without meds because I know that some people don’t have that choice. Meds are necessary for them.

I was first officially diagnosed with depression when I was 20, but there’s no doubt that I’d been suffering from it for several years by then. And here I say suffering because I was truly suffering. I had no concept of how to deal with what I was going through because I had no real grasp that there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was just a shitty, defective human.

Since then, I’ve learned how to deal. It’s been a slow process because I do everything the hard way and I’m a stubborn person. I’ve also had to overcome the fact that I’m prone to self-destruction and a lot of the way I internalize the outer world has led to forming ideals that are harmful. It’s only recently that I began to accept the concept of self-care as something that I deserve.

It seems that in the last year or so I’ve taken a giant step in owning the shit that hinders my mental health. I’ve come into so many situations lately, situations that I would normally subject myself to because reasons and be totally miserable, and instead of doing the normal, I asked myself, “Why the hell am I doing this? It does nothing for me.” And then I’ve excused myself from the situation.

For example, I avoided Facebook for like a month. It was doing nothing for me. My friend’s page looked like a Klan meeting happening at a tent revival while a cryptic Days of Our Lives episode played and the English language was repeatedly mauled. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things, some funny things, some accurately spelled things. But I had to wade through such shit to get to them. I was checking Facebook multiple times a day because I didn’t want to miss anything, didn’t want anyone to feel slighted if I didn’t like the sixth profile picture in a week or that album of baby pictures or that status about how their life was so great or whatever. It was a chore to scroll my feed. No, it was a stone drag to scroll my feed.

And one morning I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of this?”

The answer was that I wasn’t getting much more than aggravation out of it.

So, I didn’t check Facebook that day. Or the next. Or the next. Nor did I play the games on Facebook that I felt a duty to play every day because reasons.

As a result, I had more time. When I wasn’t playing the games or refreshing my feed every thirty minutes, I suddenly had this abundance of time that I never felt like I had before. It was much easier for me to focus on my work when I wasn’t suffering from eye strain from rolling my eyes so much and I wasn’t half-pissed from repeated exposure to the ignorance and hatefulness and inability to work a fucking homonym. My overall mood and peace of mind improved.

I felt better.

Now, I check Facebook once, maybe twice a day. I scroll for a bit, like a few things, play one of my games, maybe wish somebody happy birthday, and then I’m done. Sorry if I miss your stuff, but I’m better off if I don’t hang around too long. I’m sure you understand.

Except I know there are people who don’t, friends and family members who’d gladly tell me what a fucking wuss I am and I need to suck it up and deal with it.

Good news! I am dealing with it. Been dealing with it for years. I’ll be dealing with it for the rest of my life, thanks. I’d apologize for not dealing with it to your satisfaction, but I’m not sorry. You can fuck off.

My mind is a fucking hellscape most of the time. It’s loud and messy and some days it doesn’t work worth a shit and other days it works overtime. This is my normal. For me, being comfortable in my own head is my sanity.

My mental health has, rightly, become one of my top priorities.

If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should check in on your own.