Daily Archives: January 5, 2013

Penguins in the Dark

I mainly ride on the road.  I haven’t been out on my Mountain Bike for quite some time.  There are different skills involved in riding off – road, for sure.  And, yes, I am much, much less experienced riding off – road, but there’s another – ideological - reason that I ride a Touring bike.  Riding amongst the traffic – and sometimes dozy pedestrians – means that I am at the heart of society, part of the life of the place. I hold the road, communicate with drivers, acknowledge others, and they acknowledge me, my place in the world, their world.

One of the symptoms I find most difficult is the sheer speed at which my anger flares. There is nothing unusual about this.  Anger management courses abound in the treatment of disorders like mine, believe me.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t get angry with good reason.

I got pretty angry recently, as a matter of fact.  With good reason.  Yet another car driver was lecturing me  – finger wagging included – on the well-worn theme of How Dangerous Cyclists Are.  Don’t worry, dear reader, I barely so much as missed a beat, as I was told (yet again) how dangerous cyclists are.

Let’s crunch some numbers. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the United Kingdom (sorry to all my readers across the globe, but to include international statistics here is beyond the scope of this particular post.  I will return to what happens elsewhere in a future post). 107 cyclists were killed and 3,085 were seriously injured. These men, women and children were all hit by motor vehicles.  Virtually every single one of these people were hit by vehicles driven by people who failed to have additional (optional) mirrors fitted. Most were killed or injured at road junctions.

How many drivers are killed by cyclists in the United Kingdom every year? I hear you ask. I know of two cases in 2011.  Both were deadly cases of physical violence on the part of cyclists against motorists. I knew one of the victims.  His name was Tony Magdi.

You can see what I’m driving at.

People like me are pilloried twice over.  Once for being cyclists, out amongst the traffic, and then again for being – well, mad.  Sorry, that’s a technical term, I meant mentally ill.  That’s better…because we’re ill, aren’t we?  Infectious.  It runs in families, you can catch it by, by…..being a man born and raised in the United Kingdom of Afro – Caribbean descent.  Just check out the in – patient statistics for men diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia in hospitals here.

Or by being a gay man. Oh no, that’s an out – dated, discredited view…isn’t it?

But I digress. What’s all this about penguins?

The other night I was cycling home – lit up like a Christmas tree, I might add – when in the light of the headlamps of the car wheezing up the hill behind me I saw two King Penguins waddling along the pavement ahead of me.

A moment later I saw them for what they really were: litter bins. I smiled to myself as I passed the traffic island, and swung left to allow the car behind me to overtake.

We can all think we see things that turn out to be, well, rubbish.

We’re not all Stephen Fry or Spike Milligan.  Some of us – even the suicidally depressed among us – are just trying to stay alive.


You’re beeswax and I’m bird shit
. I’m mostly harmless. You’re irrational.
If I’m iniquity then you’re theft.
One of us is supercalifragilistic.
If I’m the most insane disgusting filth
you’re hardly curiosa.
You’re bubble wrap to my fingertips.
You’re winter sleep and I’m the bee dance.
And I am menthol and you are eggshell.
When you’re atrocious I am Spellcheck.
You’re the yen. I’m the Nepalese pound.
If I’m homesteading you’re radical chic.
I’m carpet shock and you’re the rail.
I’m Memory Foam Day on Price-Drop TV
and you’re the Lord of Misrule who shrieks
when I surface in goggles through duckweed,
and I am Trafalgar, and you’re Waterloo, 
and frequently it seems to me that I am you,
and you are me. If I’m the rising incantation
you’re the charm, or I am, or you are.
Nick Laird (1975 – )

The panic files #3-self imposed exposure therapy

I think the notion of exposure therapy is cruel and potentially dangerous. I once watched a reality show where this woman was terrified to drive on highways and interstates and became so panic ridden, she got physically ill and took to her bedroom for weeks at a time after having to drive on them.

Some brilliant shrink locked onto the idea of “exposure therapy” and took her out-behind the wheel of a car in full panic mode- all the while repeating “panic attacks will not kill you, they are uncomfortable but they are harmless.”


I once had a panic attack and smashed into a pick up truck in my haste to exit the stressful traffic situation.

Panic is not harmless.

And the notion that you can overcome it by gradually or suddenly exposing yourself to things that initiate the panic does not sit well with me. I can’t argue with a technique that has worked for some.

But the “one size must fit all” thing is asinine. How many meds have I been on that were a living hell for me but magic bullets for others?

That being said…

The past month,out of desperation to not get my ass kicked by my fears and panic, I have been purposely taking baby steps and doing stuff that sets off every panic receptor in my body. Things that make me so freaked out, I become physically ill.

Last month,it was a trip two hours away to Christmas shop, with my dad and his clan. I don’t like being 20 minutes from the safety of my home. Two hours, at the mercy of other people…Facing that down was a huge step for me. I was uncomfortable, I was scared, and by hour three,I was under the impression I was having a heart attack, my heart was pounding so hard and rapidly. I wanted to go home NOW. And of course, they were taking it at their own leisurely place and I was trapped.

The aftermath was that I did not leave the house the next day. It just took way too much out of me.

Then the outing to the country bar with my stepmonster. That was a barrel of panic attacks.

Today, for the first time in two years…I took my kid out to lunch, at an actual sit down get served restaurant. It was anxiety provoking but once the lunch herd filtered out, it wasn’t entirely bad.

Of course,I have had enough frustration from humanity today,and my mood was low anyway so…time to retreat and vegetate.

Do I feel brave for facing my panic triggers?


Do I feel any less apprehensive about placing myself in situations that make me freak out?


But I’ve tried everything else, might as well give this asinine exposure thing a try.

Though a Xanax salt lick would probably be more useful.



today’s topic in al-anon was feeling a sense of over-responsibility for others.  at first, i was not interested in the topic because of the direction the speaker took it.  but as i thought about it more and more, i fell into a deep musing about my relationship with that concept.

one of the most difficult things for me to understand is a line in the serenity prayer we say at the end of meetings.  it goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t have a firm grasp on the difference.  when action on my part is warranted.  how to distinguish between the times for acceptance and the times for action.

i thought of my family, and fell in to a deep state of contemplation.  i heard some of the things others were saying, but i fell farther and farther way, processing my thoughts and feelings.

it wasn’t hard to find something to think about.  hell, it was just the holidays, and i saw my family in full form.

i have not been home in a year, because i was in the middle of a bone-crushing depression.  they didn’t visit me during this time; it’s just as well.  i wouldn’t have wanted to see them anyway.  i barely told them what was going on, and when i did, it wasn’t taken seriously.

so when i arrived for a 6-day visit, i was looking forward to some quality time.  i shouldn’t have had this expectation.  both my mother and sister were either completely shit-faced or hung over any time that i saw them.  my mother reserved all of one day to see me.  starting at 4pm in the afternoon, by the way, before she left to head back home with her boyfriend.  look, i already know that i will always take a back seat to a man when it comes to my mother.  that’s just how she is.  i’m just glad she finally picked one that was worth knowing.  i like him a lot.  he’s completely enamored with her and expresses how amazed he is by her all the time.  i try to be as polite as possible.  it’s great practice for my poker face.

the first thing my aunt said to me when she saw me was, “are you pregnant?” and as much as i hate to say it, it completely threw me for a loop.  i know i’ve gained enough weight for it to be noticeable, but i don’t think i look pregnant for god’s sake.

the first thing my grandmother said was, “if you think i’m happy to see you, think again”.  she was in a bad mood as a result of other family members’ behavior, and we were able to resolve it quite quickly.  it’s always that way with her, but it doesn’t mean that what she said didn’t hurt.

everyone was caught up in their own shit.  my sister, too.  when she met up with my mom, her boyfriend, and me for dinner, she pulled me away to tell me how she’d taken acid at 1am that morning.  over the course of the few times i hung out with her, i learned that she is dating a coke dealer.  she has no job and doesn’t want to talk about school.  i honestly don’t even think she has the intention of getting a job any time soon.  we met at a bar, of course, and she lost her purse because she left it at a table.  it had her phone, wallet, keys, gift card from my mom, etc.  of course, this was horrible for her, but my aunt took care of helping her to fix the situation.  only to go out with her again, and to see her leaving her purse around, where ever.  when i mentioned it, she didn’t even seem to care.

my sister lives with my grandma right now.  i blogged about this sometime in the summer because i had plans to move in with my grandma before my sister swooped in and took the room.  now, the whole family was trying to be supportive at that time because she was recently hospitalized for a suicide attempt or threat or whatever.  mind you, i completely lost my mind when this happened.  i had a complete melt down.  so, it wasn’t especially pleasing when she told me that she had been doing cocaine every day for three weeks, right before the hospitalization.  when i heard that, i felt so many emotions.  anger. resentment. sadness.  it was as if she did not know, nor care to know, how her actions affected others.

as i said, she’s living with my grandma.  but she’s out every night.  getting high or drinking or whatever.  she is not available to help my grandma most of the time, and my grandma doesn’t understand my sister’s behavior, or why she’s not looking for a job or going to school.  i try to be compassionate, because i know that this the first time in her life that no one is telling her what to do or who to be, and that she was in physically and emotionally abusive relationships for 10 years.  i can’t imagine what that is like.

a couple days after i left, my grandma got sick.  the members of my family all have complex relationships with food.  my sister, for instance, admitted that she had been bulimic for years.  she might still be, but she is too gone right now to address it.  my aunt is extremely obese.  my mother is extremely skinny and compulsively exercises and doesn’t eat much.  my grandmother’s poison is laxatives.  she takes them every single day.

as it turns out, the day everyone left, she took 7 different laxatives.  over the next two days, she was very sick.  no one was around though, because my sister “had plans”.  my aunt had to fly back down earlier than planned to take care of her.  just a couple of days ago, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital.  again, my sister was mostly unavailable, not to feed or walk the dog or to sit with my grandma in the hospital.

it was after her hospitalization and my complete breakdown that i learned i could not take responsibility for her.  i had done so, up that point.  overly so.  i thought, if i had been a better sister, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten, or stayed, in a relationship with someone who beat her up.  who, by the way, she is now talking to again.  when she was hospitalized, i believed i wasn’t there enough, that i had failed her.  because i completely broke down, and because i got a stern talking to by my aunt, i had to face the fact that i needed to take care of myself, rather than take care of her.  i’ve been processing the letting-go ever since.

i haven’t let go entirely though.  when my aunt and my grandmother are angry or confused or frustrated with her living there with no goals or action, i remind them that this is the first time she’s ever had to decide something for herself and that it’s probably scary.  that she thinks that she has to come up with the ultimate answer for what to do, rather than taking small steps toward progress.  i do this because my family, when scorned, goes about things completely the wrong way.  take, for example, my aunt, who confronted my sister about this and got so caught up in her anger toward *my mother* (and taking it out on my sister) that she said horrific things and even threw a glass of water on her.

so i’ve told them to give her the space to sort it out, and i’ve told them to set boundaries and expectations that work for them so it doesn’t end up blowing up in anyone’s face.  i’ve thought that i was mostly staying out of it but encouraging my family to be better at being a family.  but now i’ve seen my sister and i’ve seen what she’s doing.  and i don’t anticipate it stopping any time soon, especially since my grandma gave us a good amount of money for christmas.  so i watch this unfold, and sometimes i wait for the phone call that she’s pregnant or was in a car accident or some other horrible thing.  and there’s not a goddamn thing i can do about it.

some have told me to be the “model” for her, to show that i am happy and healthy and that she can succeed.  what i learned on my trip is that she feels horrible about my success because it highlights her failure.  she did not like it when her male friends talked to me.  she was put off when school was mentioned.  she sounded disappointed when she told a friend i was getting my phd.  so now i’m in a position where i’m doing well with my life, and it only reminds her of her failures, feeding into her already negative self image, fueling her inability to act because she is so afraid that doing anything will be the wrong decision.

my family is made of entropy.  that’s what’s been done my entire life.  in observing it again, i was constantly reminded of one of the bill of rights we discuss in al anon… i don’t have it exactly, but it is something like “i have the right not to participate in the crazymaking of my family”… i heard it echoing again and again as i watched and mourned the self-destruction that consumes my family, and sometimes, of me.

it’s painfully difficult to realize and to accept that all of that hurt and pain they experience is one of the things i cannot change.  that i only can change myself, and that they call that “courage” instead of “abandoning my family”.  that “wisdom” means separating myself instead of getting down in the ditch and trying to help them out.

some people say we’re all so connected to one another, but when i process these feelings and experiences, it just leaves me feeling so alone.  because my experience is all about my own experience, not what others are doing.  that “helping” sometimes means leaving, or distancing, or “focusing on myself”.  and then i just feel stupid because i don’t understand what connection looks like or how to do it “the right way”.  i try, and keep getting brought back to myself and what i’m doing and how i’m interpreting something.

that’s all i’ve got for now.

the rumor mill

i keep saying to myself, it’s just one more opportunity to be awesome.

i actually have a lot to process on here today, but this issue takes emotional precedence because, well, i just found out about it.

there is a young man who loves to stir the pot.  unfortunately, i have been a target of his for a long time.  he moved to another state for a job, and i thought the time and distance might permit us to have a cordial relationship.

as it turns out, i was wrong.

a bit of background.  actually it’s not a bit, it’s a lot of stuff and there’s no minimizing it.

when i moved to this city for graduate school, it was the scariest thing i’d ever done.  leaving friends, family, and everything i knew turned out to be even more difficult than i anticipated.  before leaving, i thought it would be an opportunity for me to turn a new leaf, to become a new person, to grow and mature…well, i have but it has been a harrowing experience.

unfortunately, rather than finding a different niche, i fell right into one that matched my home niche in many respects.  i got involved with someone who was not good for me, but who felt familiar.  i think in large part, because i could never care about this person (the aforementioned “satan spawn”) the way he cared about me, it exacerbated his insecurities, leading him to act in absolutely horrific, unforgivable ways.  his behavior dismantled me and left me such an anxious wreck that, as others have put it, ‘it was difficult even to watch me walk’.

just as a way to process this a bit more deeply, i want to describe some of my memories:

  • on several occasions when i wanted to leave his house and go home, something bad would happen.  once, he started shouting loud enough for his roommate to hear, “why are you doing this to me?!”.  on at least two occasions, he would get into or remain in my car…for HOURS…when i wanted to drop him off and go home.  he refused to get out because he either wanted me to come in, or decided he was coming with me.  when asking or telling nicely failed, and i lost my cool and yelled at him to get out of my fucking car, he would give me this long stare that said, “look at you, look what a horrible person you are for yelling at me like that”.
  • we were speaking on the phone once, and he said he wanted to come over.  i said no, it’s late, i don’t want you to come over.  he just hung up on me and didn’t answer any of my calls or texts.  he showed up at my door and i told him to go home.  when i closed the door, he started SCREAMING at me through the door, pounding on the screen, in my very quiet, very nice apartment complex.  he continued to do this until i got on the phone with the police.  when i opened the door after he’d run away, there was a big hole in my screen.  which was made out of metal, by the way, not that flimsy mesh.
  • he picked me up after i had been drinking once and took me to his place.  i was ready to pass out, so i was lying on his bed.  he climbed on top of me and tried to have sex.  i didn’t respond, and pretended to be asleep.  he continued to take my pants off and keep going, and then said “wow, you’re really out aren’t you”.  he got up off of me, and i heard shuffling around the room.  then silence.  i opened my eyes, and he was standing there, with a camera, taking pictures of me.  i rushed up toward him, hit him in the face, and tried to get the camera.  we wrestled for it, he hurt me in the process, but i got the camera and ran out of the house with no pants on screaming.  a jogger was going by, who stopped, and he came out of the house saying i asked him to take the pictures.
  • when things were pretty much in the dust, and it was ending, we weren’t together at the time, but we were still talking.  i met someone new, and told him that i was moving on and that i was going to date someone else.  he came to my house with a letter and read it aloud.  he indicated that i needed his permission to go on a date with someone else.  he stated that if i go on that date, he will hate me, and more than that, that he would become my enemy.  when i asked for the letter, he refused to give it to me.  the next day, he showed up with a different letter that said how much he loved me.  he gave me that one.

so, satan spawn indeed.  this other guy, the one i started talking about, was another student in my lab.  he and satan spawn were friends.  when all of this was going on, he was there, stirring the pot to make it worse.  he spread rumors, and gossiped at every chance.  he told satan spawn i said he tried to rape me, among other things.

when he left for his new job, i breathed a sigh of relief because it meant his antagonizing would stop and i could move on without that in my life.  i have barely had contact with him, and my intention was to have a polite acquaintanceship with him, nothing more.

well, he came to town over the holidays.  i didn’t see him because i don’t like him as a person and i didn’t want to get involved in any drama that might possibly occur.  as it turns out, i didn’t even need to be there.  he was able to come up with something all on his own.

after today’s al-anon meeting, i was sitting with a close friend talking about life, updating each other and so on.  she said she needed to talk to me about a few things.  apparently, while in town, this guy told her that i was really drunk and trying to sleep with one of [that group's] friends.  yep, i was out there slutting it up, getting shitfaced, and acting a fool.

when i heard this, disappointment draped over me.  i felt the potential for more drama, more stress, more anxiety.  between him and satan spawn, that period of my life completely destroyed me.  i explored possible explanations for this new story.  i knew that if he had heard it from anyone, it would have been satan spawn.  satan spawn is our only connection.  i recalled going out a few times in december.  i did indeed drink, but i didn’t act out of place.  although i’ve had several offers to engage with male callers, i haven’t taken anybody up on it.  i was attracted to one guy, but that barely got off the ground before it was over.  so this story…that i was chasing some guy to sleep with him, that i was slutting it up and trying to get laid while being really shit-faced drunk…doesn’t have a lot of merit to it.  so why…WHY is this happening?

this kid has invited me to his wedding.  i had planned to go to be polite and not burn any bridges.  besides, i’d enjoy knowing that he is making a mistake with this girl who he never even seemed that into, but who wants kids within two years.  apparently, his friends concur with my assessment too, so that made the possibility even more amusing.

now, i don’t know if i will go.  i also am not yet sure what to do with satan spawn.  we have developed a “friendship”…although with different agendas.  his agenda is to show me how different he is and how much he has grown, while he periodically tells me how important i am to him and our relationship was to him.  mine?  well you know the old saying, keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

i’ve also mulled over the idea that satan spawn’s on-again-off-again, open relationship significant whatever she is might have something to do with this.  although i don’t fully trust anything satan spawn says, he has told me that she is completely in love with him (of course) and that he doesn’t feel the same way.  there may be something to this.  at least a few times, she has brought up the fact that “he still has feelings for me” or that “he is still in love with me”.  she may feel threatened.

ultimately, this is about my behavior.  i can’t control all interpretations of it, clearly, and it seems the rumor mill will survive no matter what.  but i can either fuel the fire, or not.  i clearly let my guard down in even drinking with satan spawn and his woman.  this is unfortunate because i often hang out with that group and we have a good time going out.  i thought i was behaving honorably, to be honest, considering the number of proposals i’ve gotten and refused.

it’s so disappointing to have come so far out of that situation to see it rear its ugly head again.  but then it occurred to me that i am not the same person i was before.  i am happy and i am stronger.  i do not have to react to this situation and i can focus on letting it go in one ear and out the other.  i can become better at not feeding into this situation.  it doesn’t have to hurt me and i can see it for what it is, and assess whether and how i am contributing to it.

that realization made me feel far better and far more proud of my growth.  so while it’s difficult and disappointing, part of me is also glad for the opportunity to see the different person i have become.  as hard as it is, we learn who we are through challenges, what we are made of when things go bad.

i’m ready to see who i’ve become, and where i still have to go.

Doing… Something

I think I’m having a slight hypomanic patch, which leaves me in a conundrum. Do I try to do things, or do I hunker down and try to avoid being annoyed (difficult at best) so I don’t risk overdoing it? Neither option is exactly ideal, but I think… I think… I’ll try to do some things, if I can. I’ve got my crochet on my desk. I’ve got my Word doc with my poor neglected NaNoWriMo story in it. There’s also a basket of laundry that is calling me, and is probably the starting place. I will consider it a victory of a day if I manage the laundry, methinks.

I was talking to a good friend last night, and I was relaying to her my specific issues with exercise. This time of year, we all have lots of friends who mistake losing weight for getting healthy, and I was hitting a fed up point watching otherwise intelligent people spewing bullshit at each other to ‘support’ each other in disordered eating and exercise regimes they will never keep. Now, I’m wiggly and move quite a bit; this is probably tied to probable ADHD. It’s always been problematic because people assume that means I am energetic when I absolutely never am. I’m sort of like a laboratory frog being electrocuted; I keep dancing ’cause there’s random currents jagging through, but they’re not of actual use or durability. So we start with a baseline of no real energy or spoons, a loathing of all forms of traditional exercise, and severe obsessive-compulsive issues when it comes to trying to maintain anything resembling exercise. I’ll fixate on counting up calories burned and how long I’m doing it and will push very hard for that lovely endorphin high… and injure myself in pretty short order. Even if I do manage to keep a routine going for more than a few weeks, my hatred of the concept of exercise negates any endorphins that might be garnered, and makes me dislike something I might otherwise like doing. And because I will push myself to the point of injury no matter what I mean to do, that means recoup time, which means mega-crash. It’s just absolutely not worth it, ever. I do try to sneak in a few sit-ups and maybe a minute or two on the bike when I can, but that’s about all I can do without risking harm to myself. Joy!

But yeah, the long and the short of it is that all my chemicals are wonky, har har har. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that my probable endometriosis is on the rise again, and that adds several wrenches to the works. Another of my friends commented to me that my physical ailments of yesterday sounded like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, to which I had to point out that endo is frequently misdiagnosed as such due to similar gastrointestinal issues. So while it was painful and obnoxious, it’s another arrow in my bow. Maybe, if I can get that looked at and treated (it requires laparoscopy to diagnose//treat), that will help me get better stability. The joys of both body and brain being spiteful, right?

Right, babble off, attempt at laundry victory on.


2012 in review Monkey Version with a Lizzie Twist

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog and your blog too I know,  I like to share. We love those WordPress Monkeys don’t we? [...]