Archives for category: anhedonia

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. 🙂 My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. 🙂

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

Sometimes it is a thing; we are creatures of emotion and reason. Just like that sentence, emotion generally arrives to the party first. Reason shows up later. I’m super grumpy today. I don’t have any sort of reason for that, it’s simply how I am feeling, at this moment (and for several hours worth of moments since shortly after my work day began). There is nothing specifically “wrong”. I’m just… grumpy. Correction. I feel grumpy. I feel cross. I feel irritable. I feel prone to taking things personally. I feel “out of sorts” and generally aggravated. I feel impatient. These are how I am feeling.

…Still, they’re just feelings

Emotions are funny things. We can argue the factual basis of a subject. We can disagree with each other regarding our understanding of circumstances, and our recollections of details; we are each having our own experience. We’re not seeing the world from identical perspectives. We can’t actually argue against an emotion, though. Those are our own. Not subject to disagreement. Period. I feel grumpy. No one actually gets to tell me that’s “incorrect” as an emotional experience. (People may try, but as arguments go, an argument against someone’s emotional experience is rife with thought-errors, fallacies, and a peculiar assumption of entitlement, inasmuch as it presupposes that other person’s emotional experience is somehow superior or has more substance or value.) I’m mostly not even letting my grumpiness “be a thing”, generally, but it is still there in the background.

…I would have been camping next week. All week. Out under the trees. No other people. Only my own agenda. Quietly sitting. Hiking. Cooking out under the sky. Sipping coffee in the morning chill. Watching the leaves unfold, and the spring flowers bobbing and swaying in the spring breezes. Content, relaxed, and face-to-face with the woman in the mirror for a few days of solitude. Pandemic life being what it is, the location where I would have been camping closed, and canceled all pending reservations, some weeks ago. So, not going is not a surprise. Hell, I’m not unhappy to have the opportunity to still enjoy a couple of those days off, in the good company of my Traveling Partner…but…

Today, right now, for no obvious reason, I feel exceedingly put out by every tiny inconvenience. I feel prone toward anger, over shit I’m not generally angry about. I really “want to rest” – but I’m not talking about physically resting this meat puppet. I need cognitive rest. I need time with myself.

It may be awhile, for all of us, before we get some needs easily met. For some folks, solitude is hard to come by right now. For others, what’s hard to come by is community. Whether we call time spent alone “solitude” or “loneliness” is largely a matter of perspective. The emotions involved belong to each of us as individuals. I sigh and alternate between sips of cold coffee left from this morning, and fizzy water that has gone flat. I don’t care for – or about – either one. It’s almost reflexive, as if I am seeking to satisfy a craving, but doing so quite incorrectly for the craving that it is. So… now what?

Eventually the emotional weather will shift, and “this too shall pass”. I could take the mood, and the moment, very personally, blowing it way out of proportion, catastrophizing it, creating monsters out of miniatures. Or… I could let this shit go. Again.

…And then again, if necessary. And again after that. Yep, again once more if I have to. Maybe another time after that. Just keeping putting it down, letting it go, and beginning again. No reason to vilify the emotions themselves; they are not the bad guy here. Far more valuable to look them over tenderly, honestly, and with as much self-compassion as I know how to practice. Then try again if I miss that mark. There is no limit on the new beginnings I can offer myself.

So… I do.

My Traveling Partner comes in for a moment, and glances at the page in front of me. “I’m sorry you’re grumpy.” He says it tenderly. Kindly. Honestly. This, too, is a moment. A pretty nice one, actually. He gets back to what he was doing. I get back to what I am doing, while taking some time for me – to savor this moment. Far too easy to become mired in my less pleasant ones, even though the lovely ones are so much more worthy of my attention. Human primates and their negativity bias. I shake my head, smiling at myself. So human.

…It helps to take a moment, for myself. Some quiet. Some solitude. A moment to begin again.

 

Warning: this may be disordered ranting, in whole or in part. If you continue, please don’t get sucked into my bullshit and baggage, and know in advance that I’m okay, for most values of okay. Still just 100% made of human.

Well… yesterday was unexpectedly unpleasant. I don’t mean to minimize, and frankly, I don’t do myself any favors to do so; I lost my shit completely, reduced to actually yelling at someone I love in a fit of unrestrained, wholly excessive, temper, frustration, and despair. I let myself down in a remarkable betrayal of a commitment to myself that my living environment be maintained as a “no yelling” space. My neighbors, here, for the first time since I moved in two years ago, have heard me raise my voice in anger. None of that is okay with me. Not any of it. (And no, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable about that; I made myself a promise, for reasons of my own, and now that promise has been broken. It’ll be some time before I’m “over” that.)

It probably matters to have context around it, but I don’t feel emotionally up to a deep dive of the details; I over-reacted to something I could have let go of. I regularly let go of lots of things, and in a wiser moment, I’d have understood to do so then, too. I didn’t, though, because I got caught up in feeling misjudged, feeling misunderstood, and struggling to express my frustration and irritation. I got taken by surprise by my own long-lingering feelings of resentment left over from a relationship I have long since exited, and a few left from early in this one I have, which is so precious to me. It went badly. There were clearly things I was “wrong” about. There were things I wasn’t “wrong” about, but nonetheless handled poorly. It was only a matter of minutes that overwhelming strong emotion got the better of me, and at that point it didn’t matter at all who was right or wrong (how many relationships die on the back of someone’s insistence in being right?), it really only mattered that we treat each other well in that moment. I did not succeed in that requirement. None of this goes to explaining why… I don’t have that for you. I don’t really know.

Failure stings. Disappointment is painful and filled with sorrow and regret. Anger burns in one’s veins, and tells lies to one’s heart. It was a mess. The aftermath wasn’t a huge improvement; my chemistry didn’t reset very quickly. This is telling; my resilience isn’t what it was even a year ago. Why? Why on that is easy; I haven’t been properly caring for myself with the same strict standards that I had been. Again… why? Well, shit… that’s also too easy, and kind of dumb; my Traveling Partner moved in with me, and omg – I love spending time with him. I’m not saying that’s a healthy choice, just very human, and it’s what I’ve done. But… that isn’t all of it.

There’s the pain management piece, too; it’s hard to live in pain. People do, and yeah, a lot people other than me, and a lot of people in more severe pain. The VA, once again, had provided me an Rx solution to use “as needed” (let’s move on from the fact that I suffer from chronic pain), and that drug… um… has “mood altering effects”, and is actually in a category of drug I absolutely should not be taking (for that reason), and this is a known thing, documented in my medical records. My civilian physician even called me at home at some point, expressing concern, reminding me not to take it with specific other medication, and I was already noticing some personal “concerns”. So… I stopped taking it, at all. It’s probably not a coincidence that soon afterward, I became more fragile, less resilient, and then, yesterday, simply “broke”. Fucking hell. I am so vulnerable to poor medical practices, and decisions made without regard to my actual needs, but rather based on some doctor’s comfort with this drug, that drug, or ignorance about the details of my medical history. I am so vulnerable to the demands within relationships to change this, change that, catch up on something, move on from something. I am so vulnerable to my own desire to please, my own need to be comfortable, to have agency, to feel valued. Yesterday’s chaos and damage was brought to me by… me. I overlooked the considerable impact likely from discontinuing that medication, and doing so in the context of not maintaining – very strictly and consistently – my meditation practice in the way I know I must. Tons of this is about my choices, and I’ve got to be accountable for it. I can do better.

I fled the house in hysterics, and despair, and had no business driving a car in the condition I was in at the time. “Driving while crying” is an impairment of note, and I sought somewhere close to stop. It’s not like I had someplace to go in mind. I found an empty parking lot, backing up to trees, and a verdant hillside. I parked. I wept. I sobbed. I wailed. I let go, and had that painful moment of altogether losing my shit on this whole other level. No lie. There was no dignity in those moments. My Traveling Partner tried to heal the wound, texting me, pleading with me to be safe, to care for myself… to come home and just talk. I didn’t, for some time, have that in me. I’m still glad he tried.

Eventually, my tears dried, and I drove home. We went to breakfast. I was still fragile. We gently sidestepped all the emotional landmines we could. We shared the day together. I did my best. He did his best. Eventually… the day ended, gently. I went to bed and enduring nightmares of great dragons attacking civilization, and the persistent frustration of The Party People playing loud music and flashing lights, even knowing that the fucking dragons would thereby know our location. Fucking idiots. Then there were those who kept insisting that the dragons were as scared of us as we are of them, and if we’d just leave them alone… oh, hey, another one of those, torn to bits, and consumed. Well, then. Fuck. Rough night. I survived.

…Rough life. So far, I’ve survived.

I woke this morning, grateful to see the dawn, and that the house around me was not the charred ruin of my dreams. Had coffee with my partner, grateful for his love. I’m still pretty volatile, vulnerable to feeling easily hurt, struggling with my feeling of being disappointed with myself. (No, it doesn’t much matter that it may have been, again, an Rx I was given by a doctor, putting me at risk. I am collateral damage in “the opioid war”, as are a lot of other chronic pain sufferers. Doctors don’t want to prescribe them, even to very low-risk-of-abuse patients, even when we’re talking about very low dose, very mild drugs; liability concerns, more than patient care, in my experience. People get hurt not being able to ease their pain. No one much cares about that, so long as we can put a lovely “we’re winning the drug war!” headline out there.)(Sorry, my personal bitterness is showing there, that’s baggage I need to deal with.)

So… another day, another chance. Another time in my life when I have to just admit that the drugs available for pain management don’t work for me, for a variety of reasons, and learning to live more or less graciously with pain is what’s left over. Didn’t I already know that? Why do I keep trying?

I finish my coffee. Frown at this post, already annoyed with it, for no particular reason beside “failure”. Pretty sick of that right now. I guess I’ll let that go, shower, dress, and begin again. :-\

Yesterday was weird. Started well. Went well. Then… rather unexpectedly, my mood just went straight to shit in an instant. I wasn’t even sure why. My noise sensitivity got crazy intense, and the frown on my face seemed to “come from within” from this whole other deep deep place that felt like “this is me,now”. It was hard. I looked over my work calendar, and cleared off the meetings I had remaining; none of it really required me, that I could tell, and all of it could be rescheduled. So, I did.

I was still fussing with an analytical question I was wracking my brain over, when I left, and committed to finishing that off, from home. I looked at the days ahead, and determined I could spend this one (today) more wisely as a “training day”, tackling annual “tick the box” training regularly assigned to everyone and due in just a couple weeks, and finishing off some certification training and testing I’d committed to earlier in the year. It seems a practical and efficient way to give myself some room to sort myself out without the risk of infecting my workplace with my toxic bullshit and baggage. 🙂

…Sitting here with my coffee, I feel fairly “grown up”, having managed this piece of self-care adequately well. Yesterday was weird though.

I got home tense and cranky. I stayed tense and cranky long enough for my Traveling Partner to make other plans for his time that evening, while I was in the shower trying to “wash off” my shitty mood. (No surprise, I was not able to wash off my mood. lol) I wasn’t surprised; his self-care skills are very good, generally, and he knows that it does neither of us any good to sit by and endure each other’s bullshit. There are better ways. 🙂 He was heading out for the evening, shortly after I was changed into “comfy clothes”. A few minutes of conversation. A kiss. He was gone.

I sat quietly for a time. Still so cross with… whatever… I was irritating myself without trying. I made a salad. I the dishes in the dishwasher. I sat a while more. Distracting myself was harder than usual; noise sensitive, cross, anhedonic… I wasn’t fit for my own company (and these days I really like me). At some point, I dozed off on the couch, wrapped in a snuggly soft throw. The phone woke me. My Traveling Partner calling, some time later (I never looked at the time)… did I want to join them for dinner? …Italian. Um… I’m sleeping. Deeply. LOL How rare is that?? I thanked him (I think. I hope.) and declined.

…Some further time later, I heard someone in the house… I felt disoriented in the darkness; I had lights on in the living room, where I had been dozing on the couch… I was waking out of context – in bed, no clear recollection of going to bed. I slipped out of bed, still confused, and quietly went to the door. Home intruder? Break in? Um… probably not; I hear the sound of someone using the hall bathroom. I call down the hall way, “hello?”. My partner answers, and I relax, finally pulling myself fully into the present. I’m not really awake though, and hadn’t even put my glasses on. Staying up long enough to connect, to embrace, I went back to bed pretty soon after he got home.

I woke reluctantly when the alarm went off. I feel pretty well-rested this morning, but I’m also glad I adjusted my work plans to make room for self-care. I needed to ease up on myself, and although I still don’t know what the hell went wrong with me yesterday, I’m pretty sure caring for myself in a way that demonstrates that I matter, to me, remains important, today.

Self-care choices are not always easy. It’s taken me years to break habits of self-abuse, self-exploitation, and inwardly directed mistreatment of all sorts. I still practice self-care, because I still need to. It still takes commitment, effort, and deliberate willful consideration, to choose to care for this fragile vessel, and the being of emotion and reason who resides within.

I’ve got a work day of training ahead of me, self-paced, isolated by headphones and the door of my studio. This suits me, although I am already feeling much better this morning. I find myself wondering if my poor sleep is something I need to be taking more seriously at this point… I smile and sip my coffee. The short to do list I’ve got for later seems wholly manageable and it’s not driving any stress at all. So far so good. I finish off my coffee while I rock out to this playlist… it’s time to begin again. 😀

Tooth extraction. I guess I’m more than a little grateful how far dentistry has come. It was, as suggested, not all that painful. Even getting the shots to numb the area was insignificant, pain-wise. The extraction, itself, was peculiarly… forceful. I mean, seriously? My dentist basically pulled a living tooth with no interest in being removed right on out of my jaw, where it was pretty permanently lodged, right? The amount of force required was… impressive. I couldn’t really feel anything but the pulling, and even now, I am ever-so-grateful for the advances modern dentistry has made. It got a tad grim when I could literally hear bone snapping, breaking free, and the taste of blood isn’t particularly pleasant. Still… no pain.

“…Oh, just one thing to cover before you leave… after we get an x-ray…” Yeah, well… okay. A “complication”. A small perforation of my lower sinus, which is, I guess, not an especially uncommon complication of an extraction of one of those back molars. I walked away, face beginning to ache, equipped with care instructions, and feeling very grown-up; I got through it, and it’s done, and I’m fine.

I arrived home. Relaxed for a few minutes with my Traveling Partner. Reviewed those care instructions… carefully. Wondered about what I’d be able to eat for the next few days. Frowned at the likelihood that it may be 2-3 weeks before I could vape again, or drink through a straw, or do literally anything that results in any notable amount of suction (trust me, this affects my quality of life! lol). I was pretty quickly overcome with a serious case of “I don’t actually care about any of this, actually”, and crashed out for a “nap”, that turned into about 18 hours of solid sleep, interrupted only long enough for interludes to sip water, sit up for a handful of minutes, go to the bathroom, and have a few very finely minced calories with great care. lol I still feel like I’ve been hit hard in the face, several times. I still taste blood, faintly. I’m still incredibly careful about every swallow of liquid, every bite of food.

…2-3 weeks??

Fourth of July. Well… no BBQ for me. I’m still “injured” enough that I don’t actually much care about that. I’m grateful for Ibuprofen; it’s getting me by nicely for pain management. My mouth “feels weird”. Talking, too, seems affected by the change in the shape of my mouth, the swollenness of my gum, and the pain in my jaw. I know it will pass.

…I think I’ll have another nap. LOL