Pokemon GO (Going Outside)

I started playing Pokemon GO a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing when I first started playing. It’s silly, I know, but augmented reality is pretty exciting. It feels a bit like magic in stories: the protagonist lives their life in a mundane routine, and then one day, they realize that there is so much more than they’ve ever seen. It really feels like a hidden world layered on top of the normal one. I love it.

In one day, I went from pretty much hiding indoors to walking several miles a day around my neighborhood. This is kind of significant. I have no flowers or landscaping because my neighbors live too close to me, and I don’t feel like I own the space. I also only walked around the nearby pond during the rain, because when the sun is out, other people are out there, and I felt like I was intruding. I couldn’t mow the lawn because people could see me. Some days, I couldn’t go get my mail because I might be seen. It was bad.

But for the last few weeks, I’ve been eager to walk, even though people can see me. Even though people can probably tell that I’m an adult playing Pokemon GO (which is somewhat shameful, albeit quite common around here). Even though I am sweaty and disgusting-looking during this heat wave. It doesn’t matter. I just want to catch things, to collect them, to hatch them, to move.

I stretch. I drink about 60 oz of water a day. My muscles are sore, from my legs through my chest and arms. I get antsy if I sit still for too long. It’s good for me, except for my need to drive to reach pokestops. I can usually make time to walk, but I can’t always just drive around on a whim. And I need to find places to park so that I can walk and play- I do not play Pokemon GO while driving, even though it would make it easier to find locations in augmented reality. So, I’m either stuck with the 3 hotspots that I know of, or I need to fins a friend or family member who will drive me somewhere, even though I’m just going to click frantically on pokestops as they drive briskly past them.

Well, anyway, I’ll keep walking and playing for as long as I can, and I do hope that I’ll become healthier and happier as a result. Wish me luck! Sileko out.

Book Club: Unholy Ghost, #2

I’m back, and as promised, I’m starting with the first essay in the book: “A Delicious Placebo” by Virginia Heffernan.

Heffernan was not always depressed; she went through a difficult breakup and found herself in the clutches of depression afterwards. I was interested in her description of her descent into despair and of the changes occuring within her and around her. For me, as for some others, depression and despair came at birth, or at least, so early that we have no true concepts of “normal” or “healthy.” Depression is like breathing for us: it is simply a part of life, and existence without it is nearly impossible to imagine.

Even though Heffernan’s path and mine are different, they led us to a few similar places and feelings. For example, she found that explanations for why things happened in a particular way seemed more reliable if they found fault with her. (Such as: ‘Jimmy and I fought at the party because I am impossible to get along with or to like,’ being more plausible than ‘Jimmy and I both hold strong views regarding the environment and industry. Unless we both become more willing to listen to other views, it may be wisest to avoid a similar conversation in the future.’)

Another aspect of her experience that I understand is energy rationing: as depression squeezes its victim more tightly, that person wakes up with less and less energy in the morning, so they need to decide which one or two activities to accomplish that day. At her lowest point, Heffernan only had energy for 1 hour worth of life per day. At my darkest point, I slept for 20 hours per day and barely did more than eat and use the bathroom when I was awake. I couldn’t handle any more because the despair and agony of being awake was smothering. It’s awful.

Heffernan interpreted her depression through a personal philosophy and code of conduct, developing several “pillars” to build her daily life around. Essentially, they are activities that she decided were healthy or beneficial for her, so she completed them each day through sheer willpower. She looked for sad friends to relate with and non-medical treatments for a while, but it wasn’t enough. Eventually, she filled a prescription for antidepressants and went to a spa with her mother. Regarding this transitional time in her life, she wrote:

I could not find in myself a trace of love-of-life or even self-preservation. But a small readiness to be somewhere new- I found that. I envisioned a place that was not pining and not terrified, a view drained of the color saturation of bruised hearts. (18)

I liked this quote because of its honesty: life changes aren’t always motivated by things that make sense to healthy people. Love-of-life and self-preservation are much more important to happy people than they are to people who are miserable, or falling into delusion, or so sleep-deprived that they can’t process things, or so anxious that tiny changes from the norm causes panic or… 

Well, you understand.

So I appreciate that Heffernan was able to believe that things could be different, even if that existence had to be defined by what it was not, rather than what it was. (‘Not dangerous’ is different than ‘safe,’ because the concept of danger is more salient, more real, than the concept of safety is for the speaker.

In the end, she finds a different existence for herself, but the shadow of depression and the whispers of her pillars remain at the edges. This is true for me as well. I have moved past the worst part of my depression (I think) and into a healthier stage of life, but there are still remnants of my past littered around me. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll ever manage to forget it all or to move so far past my body’s frailty that I won’t be affected by depression or anxiety at all. Instead, I just want to be functional, even with the burdens that are welded onto my body and the weaknesses seared into my mind.

Book Club: Unholy Ghost, #1

I thought I’d try processing a book with you guys, reading chunks and writing about them. I’m going to start with Unholy Ghost; writers on depression, a collection of essays that was edited by Nell Casey and published by Harper Collins in 2001. This book is available on Amazon here.

Epigraph

This section consists of two poems by Jane Kenyon describing aspects of depression. I was struck by the poet’s sheer powerlessness in the face of her depression and by the way she captured how moments of beauty are wrapped in despair. It can be difficult to explain to someone why a joyful moment can turn sour so quickly, so I appreciated her words. I think that Kenyon understands that each time beauty or pleasure is discovered, even in something small, like a flower’s shape or a food’s flavor, those feelings are quickly followed by the realization that you have never felt this way, never noticed this phenomenon before. For years, or decades, you have walked these streets, eaten these foods, seen these people, but something invisible has kept you at a great distance from life’s pleasures.

This happened to me rather frequently when I was growing closer to my husband. The better that he treated me, the happier I was, but then the sadder that I became. It was wonderful to be loved, supported, listened to, respected, but… I also realized that I had not been treated like this before, which hurt. It’s like every time that my life gets fuller, richer, or better, I have to cry over all of the years when it wasn’t full or rich or good. When I first had antidepressents, I started seeing more colors than usual, like the world had suddenly become a vibrant place instead of a dull gray mess. It was the most magical afternoon of my life! I still remember the bright yellow flowers, the sunlight, the level of detail in my surroundings. It was… it’s very hard to describe.

Acknowledgments and Introduction

The most noteworthy part of this section is the backgroud  for the book. Each essay is written by someone who has depression or by someone within the blast zone (spouses, siblings, parents, friends). Every author has had their life changed by mental illness, has felt the changes in themselves or a loved one. The editor walked through her sister’s depression, and presumably created this collection because of those experiences.

The acknowledgments and edior’s note were written by Nell Casey, and the introduction by Kay Redfield Jamison.

——

Next time, I will cover “A Delicious Placebo” by Virginia Heffernan and see how far I get.

Life After Kuno

Readers who have been here for a while will know that my cat, Kuno, and I have had some difficult times since she moved into our new house last fall and that she left to go live with my parents a little while ago. I’m glad to say that it’s been for the best. 


Since moving back to the countryside and returning to life as an indoor/outdoor cat, Kuno’s chronic illness has gone into remission. She got a disease as a kitten; I think the vet said it was feline herpes, but it’s been nearly 8 years since that appointment, so my memory is rusty. It doesn’t affect her day to day, but when she gets stressed, it flares up and she gets respiratory infections. If her stress is alleviated or she adjusts to the change that stressed her out, the infection dissipates, and she recovers. If not…


Kuno was sick from November through June. Constantly. Her coughing spasms would almost knock her over sometimes, as she would lean further and further backwards, trying to clear her sinuses. Her eyes watered. Some days, she just looked tired. I took her to the vet at the beginning of it. I was worried because she had been ill for 14 days or so. They gave us pills and medicated treats to help her recover, but they didnt help. She stayed sick.

The two of us would watch the feral cats from the windows, Kuno’s tail swishing wildly in anger. I hoped that the house was airtight (smellproof), but knew it wasn’t. She could smell the cat colony, see them in her yard, yowl at them, but never interact with them. Never chase them away or claw at their faces. I was happy that she wasn’t spraying the house or defecating in the hallways. I bought her a pheromone diffuser. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.


And so, my cat lives with my parents now. Not with me. But she is the only cat for several acres, the only cat claiming territory. She can feel secure and rest well. And I… I just enjoy and mourn the silent days and empty house. She is doing better. No one is pulling down my curtains, breaking my posessions, or crying and scratching at 3 am. But no one is purring on the couch, coming over to see me, or calling when I enter the room. 

It’s bittersweet, but I will be ok.

´╗┐Suminagashi Update

I bought a set of Boku-Undo dyes this time, so I would actually have the supplies I needed. It went much better, but there are still areas to improve my technique. I need to find a better floating paper if I want to have any control over my results. Also, I’m just using notebook paper until I feel like I have an acceptable level of control over the outcome, so just ignore the blue lines.

 Anyway, here’s the first batch:

Muddling Through

Many people on Facebook are talking about racism in America currently, and it’s depressing. Note that I am not saying they should stop because I don’t want to be depressed; on the contrary- things need to change. Soon. It’s just that I don’t know how anyone can look at societal injustice issues on a deeper level than they ever have before and not be hurt by it.

It’s like finding out that Soylent Green is made of people. Yesterday, your world was fine. You got up, ate, performed tasks, and went to sleep. Today, you know that your way of life is built on the suffering (and in this case, death) of other people. If you don’t feel sick after that, then I don’t understand you.

So, I’m white. And from a northern state. The Underground Railroad traveled through here, helping people escape to Canada. I live in a fairly homogeneous white area. Racism has always been abstract for me before. I seldom see a person of a different race, let alone have the opportunity to try to start a friendship (via my awkward social skills) in order to gain the opportunity to hear someone else’s life story.

And yes, there is the Internet, but because researching atrocities has historically made me near suicidal, I try to be wise when deciding to traumatized myself further. (Also, I have genocide-related trauma that hasn’t been dealt with and sometimes causes flashbacks, so maybe it’s ok if I don’t drown myself in injustice every waking moment. I hope it’s ok. Some days, it hurts just to breathe.)

… Right. Not what I came here for. I meant to point you to this article. It’s about white privilege: what it can look like, and why it’s invisible, and how we should take the time to sort out human privileges (things that every human deserves to have- these need to expand to include everyone) and oppressive privileges (things that require one group to suffer in order to benefit the other group- these need to be torn down).

It’s a good article. It starts with a discussion of the similarities between white privilege and male privilege, and I think it provides a good (if basic) framework for both of them. It helped me understand why some things that are obvious to me (as a woman) can be infuriatingly invisible to some men (and women) in the same culture. I read with an open mind, and when I reached the list of things that the author, as a white woman, could expect to be true in her life, while her colleagues of color could not expect these things… I was horrified. Enraged. Appalled.

I really thought that everyone’s life was like that list. That everyone could feel safe and dignified. I hate that it’s not true. I feel sick again just typing this. Because it’s wrong! Horribly, inhumanly wrong! And I have no idea how to stop it, how to change things, or what on earth can be done to make this country safe for everyone.

So I’m glad that I know more now, because I can stop sounding like a dismissive idiot. But I’m sad too, because I can’t do anything about it. I feel so powerless, but I know I need to give myself time to finish internalizing my new reality and to prepare for new social contacts (because meeting strangers is terrifying), and then I can try to find people near me who are doing something. 

I just wish that one day, when I learn something new about the world, I won’t have to refile my whole brain again in order to incorporate a new type of brokenness into the whole.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age 2- Unpacking Part 3

It feels like a million things have happened since I wrote the last entry. The tidbits I pulled out of it just feel… Empty? I mean, yes- I think parents should protect their kids as much as possible, and yes- I did develop a nasty complex in real life where I had to be miserable in order to be alive. Both true. But hatred? Hatred comes from pain.

I guess that I just feel empathy for my Hawke because her mom wasn’t there for her as a kid and mine wasn’t there for me either. In my life, there are a zillion small strong tied to why my mom didn’t provide what I wanted, but with Abigail and Leandra? It seems so simple and small. She never protected me, so I had to protect both of us.

The pleasant, idealistic belief under all of this hurt is this:

It is possible to protect someone from the bad things in the world.

Spoilers: This is a lie. 

I couldn’t protect mom from her anxiety and she couldn’t protect me from my depression. Any parent can look at their child with a lifetime’s worth of love, but eventually, there will be someone who sees them as ugly, stupid, stuck up, weak, lazy, too emotional, too cold, boring, or worse. Someone will hurt them personally.

Beyond that, there are larger issues- social, societal, political, religious, sociological, biological, psychological, et al.- that will eventually hurt that child as well. Exponentially more if they happen to belong to one of the oppressed groups in the crosshairs of the powerful.

They will get hurt. Torn to shreds. They might hate the world some days, and they will likely be justified in that hatred. So, if you can’t protect them, what should you do?

I guess that maybe it’s enough to teach them how to handle the darkness without being destroyed by it (if possible). Or how to value themselves in spite of the darkness (if it attacks them directly). Or how to recognize the times when it absolutely sane to be hurt and angry because of injustice, and how they can channel that energy to change things (if possible). 

And maybe, you help them to find the bright spots in the world. How to love friends and family deeply and without distractions. How to focus on the people in front of them without phones or Facebook getting in the way. Maybe you teach them to find a tenuous balance between pain and joy.

Maybe that can be enough.

*sigh* I’m sorry, Leandra. Your life and death were both difficult. I just wish they had written more dialogue for us so that I could have felt loved as well. Rest well, virtual mother. I’ll see you again someday, and we will run away from Lothering together.