My Brain in Pictures

There’s a lot going on in here…

I have a lot going on right now, but don’t we all? With anxiety, though, “having a lot going on” is as much an internal thing as it is external. For every outside “thing” happening in my life—changes at work, an upcoming conference, adapting my schedule to go to the gym—there are at least two or three things happening in my head.

Overwhelmed and Overrun

There are a couple of nightmares I tend to have when I’m really stress out. In one, my home is infested with bugs: wriggly ones, skittering ones, flying ones, big and small. They’re everywhere and I can’t get away. The other is usually me facing some sort of enormous natural disaster: fire, hurricane, tornado, flood.

Giant Wave Tiny Boat.jpg
original here

I am cognizant of feeling a sense of dread sometimes, of that squeeze in my chest that tells me panic is trying to take over. I suppose my subconscious depicts panic as bugs and tsunamis.

Weight of the World

With the state of the world right now, my… hero complex? Sounds too grandiose. My “I have to fix everything” complex comes into play. I want to do more, be more of an activist, but I just can’t handle it right now. So then I feel personally guilty for not single-handedly fixing things for my fellow humans. The weight of that (unnecessary and frankly absurd) guilt presses down on me, as the anxious part of my brain screams at me to “DO SOMETHING!”

godzillafoot
from Godzilla, 1998

I tell myself that just taking care of myself, doing my best in my work, and being as kind and compassionate to those around me as I can is enough right now. And sometimes I even believe it.

Frozen in Fear

There have been times when my depression and anxiety have paralyzed me. I can recall a time many years ago, when I sat on my sofa the entire day and stared at the TV. I’m not even sure it was on. I had a million important things to do and could not figure out where to start. The fear of failure left me unable to make a decision, any decision.

deer-in-headlights
original here

I’m better about that now, but I still tend to procrastinate out of fear of making the wrong choice. That seems to be a common issue, so at least I’m not alone there.

Hanging by a Thread

Recently, when I was going through a particularly bad patch, I remember telling someone that I felt like an action movie, paused as the bomb has 1 second left on the clock. That sense of dread I mentioned earlier comes into play here. Sometimes, when things are really bad, I feel like a tightrope walker or a mountain climber: one wrong move, and I’m done for.

cliffhanger
from Wikipedia, “Free Climbing

Aside from the fact that I’m not fond of heights (well, not so much the height, as the concept of plummeting from it), this image reminds me that sometimes just staying on the path of one’s life is a struggle. You can’t always just stroll along. Sometimes you have to cling to it with white-knuckled determination, just to keep from losing your way.

I feel like things may be looking up. But this past year has been a series of ups and downs, and I’m not sure whether I’m reaching the top of the cliff or just the crest of another wave.

Out of Control

This rant is my “scream into the void,” I guess.

Cuts to the budget for public land (i.e. OUR land). Taking away health care for millions. Cuts to educational funding for children with disabilities. Drastic, possibly institution-eliminating cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Appointing people violently opposed to science, education, social support for the public, and civil rights. Sycophants who disrespect veterans, the disabled, women, and minorities, who insult our allies and vilify our own government operations, while fawning over a foreign leader who has strenuously worked to deny his own citizens their basic rights.

This is what basing your political choices and actions on panic, fear, and hate has wrought. This is what happens when you trust unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo over facts and evidence, when you value ignorance over knowledge, when you believe click-bait articles on Facebook over documented history and science. This is what happens when you let a single issue define your entire worldview. You don’t want the “deaths of unborn children” on your conscience? How about the pain, suffering, and deaths of thousands, millions of your fellow “here-now-existing-on-earth” citizens? That’s fine, huh?

I cannot believe our country is being led by people who so obviously have no place leading. I cannot understand how nominally intelligent people can look at a bombastic, materialistic, narcissistic, childish, emotionally unstable blowhard and think “Yes. This man is the best choice. This man has my interests at heart.” I cannot believe so many people so enthusiastically voted against their own interests. And I cannot understand how these same people were furious about emails being possibly sent from a secure server, but are fine with the possibility that Russia hacked our electoral system.

There are reports of people who hated “Obamacare,” but loved their insurance obtained via the Affordable Care Act (not realizing they are the same thing). These people voted to get rid of Obamacare, and they will lose their health insurance. People will die, some of whom don’t even realize they voted for their own deaths.

If I sound panicked, I am. This makes me sick. Literally. Migraine, dizziness, nausea. My anxiety is through the roof. The closer this weekend gets, the more frightened I am. My anxiety issues are centered over feeling impotent, weak, unable to control the world around me. This is absolutely my nightmare come to life. I cannot fix this. I cannot change anything. I cannot even really express how I feel about all of this to others in my life. They say “God is in control”, or “we just have to hope things work out for the best,” and they think that settles it.

Everything is out of control. The world is out of control. Some people think it’s the end times. Some people voted for this megalomaniac because they want the end times. Some people are celebrating the ignorance and obliviousness of the population who voted him into office. Some people are smugly thinking of the 3 million votes for Clinton that don’t matter in the face of the electoral college (and possible manipulation of voting results by foreign interests). Some people are laughing in the faces of those of us who are afraid, telling us that “now is the time for unity.” Those people are forgetting–or ignoring–the 8 years of of Congressional obstructionism, of rumors of Presidential illegitimacy, of accusations of treasonous ties, of simply hating having a black man in power.

This is not the world I want to live in. This is a world in which people are suffering and dying because others believe lobbyist-generated propaganda over the truth. This is a world in which those who claim to follow the one who said “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “blessed are the poor” have voted for the elimination of health care and other social support for millions. How un-Christian. How cruel. How disgustingly immoral.

This rant is my “scream into the void,” I guess. Those who read it will likely agree with my fear, at least in part. Those who should read it probably won’t, or will dismiss it as the hysterical diatribe of a “hapless old harridan,” a “nasty woman” who should keep her “trap” shut.

We are in the age of the “Ugly American” stereotype, turned up to 11-billion. We are on the precipice of a regression the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Dark Ages. Extremism in politics and religion has taken over, and those of us who live by reason, compassion, and tolerance must fight to keep going.

But it’s a long, dark, road. And I’m scared.

Climb

Climb

Looking up at a circle of light far above
I want so much to be in that place
To feel the breeze on my skin
To see the world around me
To dance and to spin and to stroll away
 
The walls are so smooth, I can’t find a hold
The circle of light is so far above
The air is stagnant and smells of decay
All I can see is darkness around me
I stretch searching hands below and around me
Looking for purchase, seeking escape
 
I want to climb, I need to climb,
I must make that climb, but I can’t see a way
I will make that climb when I find the way
I will see the world, feel the breeze on my face
But now I can only raise my face
To that circle of light far above, and wait.

Gratuitous Guilt and the Burden of not being a Burden

I think I apologized to a wall once…

A few weeks ago, I accidentally disposed of my recycling in the dumpster instead of the recycling bin. I felt so bad about it that I considered trying to go in and get it. I did the same thing earlier today, and actually used a bungee cord to fish the bag out of the (thankfully empty) dumpster so I could move it to the bin.

A couple of days ago, I turned down an outing with friends because I wasn’t interested in seeing the movie they were going to. I felt the need to apologize several times to the friend who invited me, even though I know she is a kind and generous person who wouldn’t be angry at me for that.

And just the other day, I learned that my ex seems lonely across the country in his new life. While at first I was sort of glad, later on I cried over it, feeling so guilty about it. Even though it was his decision and his decision alone to break up with me and move away.

When we were together, he told me I apologize too much. My first instinct was to apologize for that. I apologize for everything, even things that I have no control over. I think I apologized to a wall once.

If a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, I’ll apologize for the typhoon it caused in Japan.

A corollary to my guilt over everything that happens ever is that I try to avoid that guilt by never bothering anyone ever. Apparently what I wanted to be when I grew up was “not a burden.” My motto is “I’m okay. I’m always okay.” I have worked to be self-sufficient so that I don’t have to burden anyone else with my foibles, my quirks, my crazy brain.

I know I was not a burden to the ex. And yet, based on our conversations around the breakup, I ended up feeling that way. That he left because I was too much trouble. My logical side can counter this with example after example of how I have managed to take care of myself over the years, and how I not only took care of myself, but also took care of him during our relationship. And I know that the times he took care of me were not infrequent, but also were totally normal in the context of a serious relationship.

And yet. I go to my friends for support and feel guilty for doing so. I have been asked how I would feel if the roles were reversed: if one of my friends needed me, would I think of them as a burden? “I would just want to help them,” I replied. “So why is it different for you?”

I have no clear answer for that, except to say that I have this deeply ingrained need to not bother anyone, as well as this guilt for the times in which I may have done so. I don’t know where it comes from. If one were to liken the human brain to a library (which, of course, I would do–see the name of the blog), mine contains a book that holds the answer to this and many other “why am I so weird and crazy?” questions. That book is large, with densely printed text and massive amounts of scribbled marginalia. But the book has been mis-shelved on a range of shelves with similar looking books. That range of books is in an old dusty room with a locked door whose key is missing. And the door is hidden behind a massive microfiche cabinet that no one has touched for years. And I don’t know the room exists anyway.

I’m tired of feeling guilty for being who I am. It’s a hard habit to break. I want to do what is expected of me, to make sure everyone around me is happy (or at least content) and that I am not causing anyone any trouble. But it’s exhausting. Sometimes I feel as if I’m standing at the edge of a massive storm, and the only thing holding it back is me doing everything right. This is a ridiculous thought. But I know that there are others out there who feel the same way.

Someday I hope to discover that secret room, to break down a wall and avoid that locked door entirely. Perhaps I will discover why I strive so hard to please others at the expense of my own peace of mind. Or, at least, I’ll make sure the books in the room are shelved correctly.

 

 

Mixed Messages

Mixed messages

A girl can be anything in this day and age
Her mind and her body are no one’s but hers
She’s free to explore and to learn all she can
Science and reason will improve the world

Emotional creatures like women can’t lead
She must smile and give hugs and kiss on command
If she’s not a mother then she’s not a woman
Progress is evil and must be restrained

Men like strong women

Obey without question

Be pretty, be sexy

Women are sluts

Using her talents and knowledge is vital
She can think what she wants in the land of the free
Everyone’s equal and deserves basic rights
She can live how she wants, walk in public with pride

Boys don’t like smart girls, she should play dumb
She must keep her thoughts private to be safe in the crowd
Some deserve scorn because they are different
If she does not conform she’s a hag or a whore

Be true to yourself

Be a good little girl

Live an authentic life

Live a perfect life

Her feelings are hers, she does not have to hide them

She is ordered to smile by strange men in the streets

She is told she is special and loved and respected

She is told she’s a sinner, unworthy of grace

Her intelligence shines and brings her success

She is never to boast, she must humble herself

Why aren’t you happy?

Why are you angry?

Why won’t you smile?

Smile, bitch, smile.

The World is not Black and White

Absolutist thinking only makes things worse.

(I originally posted this as a response to someone on Facebook, but I decided due to its length it would work better here.)

My problem with simply making abortions illegal is that without finding ways to eliminate the perceived need for them — through programs such as nation-wide comprehensive sex education and access to birth control (https://mic.com/articles/98886/the-states-with-the-highest-teenage-birth-rates-have-one-thing-in-common#.dZnzMbb69), free or low-cost access to comprehensive medical care for pregnant women and new mothers, extensive paid maternity AND paternity leave (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/these-10-countries-have-the-best-parental-leave-policies-in-the-world), and massively increased social and financial support for all new mothers, especially those from low-income families or those whose children have severe disabilities (http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/04/18/another-nation-giving-parents-free-box-baby-supplies) — making abortion illegal will not make it go away. It will merely drive it underground, and women will suffer and die needlessly as a result:

The world is not black and white. All living creatures have sex; they are driven by biological forces to do so. And while many species do so only because of the drive to pass on their genes, many others (not only humans) also do so for pleasure. When societies ignore that fact by simply saying “sex is bad and don’t do it; if you do, the baby is your punishment,” without preparing for what will happen when (not if) that directive is ignored — whether intentionally or through coercion (incest or rape) — they criminalize women and girls simply for the fact that they contain a reproductive system that functions like reproductive systems are supposed to.

Until our society fills in all of the gaps to prevent unwanted pregnancies, rape, incest, poverty due to the cost of raising a child, or bankruptcies due to paying the long-term medical expenses of a disabled child who will never have any sort of quality of life, abortions will continue to happen. And as long as people hide behind morality to avoid REALITY, billions of dollars will be spent on protecting potential humans while ignoring the millions of actual, here-on-earth humans who are suffering every day.

I have to rant, or the rage will eat me alive.

I’m disgusted, enraged, and terrified by the whole thing.

It disgusts me that a small, misinformed portion of the country has decided the future for the rest of us. I understand that anger at the establishment led a lot of voters to choose whom they thought would change things. I agree that many in this country have sunk into the lower middle class (and beyond) because of decisions made by the government. I acknowledge that fear and ignorance can lead to desperate choices.

But, come on.

That government everyone thinks has made those bad decisions? It’s not the President alone. So many people in the country don’t understand how the national government is organized. They don’t get that the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches are separate. They think the President alone is responsible for every good and bad thing that happens. So when the country “goes bad,” blame the President and re-elect all the Senators and Representatives who blocked any opportunity to improve things, even at the expense of their own constituents, just to give the finger to the other side of the aisle?

So many “establishment Republicans” were re-elected to the House and Senate. These are the same Republicans who have railed about how bad the country is and how they want to make it “great” again. They’ve been in charge for years. They’ve been vigorously obstructing any possible positive change that the House and Senate tried to put into place. Even bi-partisan bills co-authored by Democrats and Republicans were blocked by these people because they have demonized the opposition. And these same folks were re-elected to their offices.

Think about it. The same people who ranted about how badly the country was being run are the people who have been running it. And they were re-elected.

So, sure, 25% of the country has decided that an anti-establishment demagogue billionaire will change things up. But they also decided that all the old establishment Republicans that have been running the Legislative branch for years should just keep on blocking any positive changes because Heaven forbid they try to compromise. The establishment is still in charge, folks. And, worse, they’re being joined by actual real-life white supremacists. They aren’t even pretending anymore.

And millions, millions, of votes were discarded because of overly-strict voter ID laws that do nothing to stop voter fraud, because there is hardly any voter fraud to stop — voter fraud is a lie perpetuated by the right-wing establishment to disenfranchise ethnic minorities and those who would vote against them (https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/voter-fraud). North Carolina’s most recent attempt at voter ID laws was struck down for being blatantly and intentionally racist (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/court-north-carolina-voter-id-law-targeted-black-voters/). You want voter fraud? This is voter fraud. This is disenfranchisement. It is unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral. And in no way will any of it make this country “great again.”

This country will only be great when its most vulnerable, least powerful citizen can enjoy his or her basic human rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness — without being denied those rights simply because he or she doesn’t fit what 25% of the country has decided is “American.” This country will only be great when every citizen who is of the legal age to vote can walk into that polling place and cast his or her vote without being stopped because laws have been passed that say he or she isn’t “American” enough to vote.

This country will only be great when Republican voters realize that “Small government” and the current right-wing establishment — an establishment that has put forth laws to prevent people from voting, marrying, or getting birth control; laws to allow billion-dollar corporations to fire whoever they want, for no reason, and to prevent their own employees from standing up for their rights; laws that blatantly mock the separation of church and state by promoting one, narrow, extremist view of Christianity over every other religion and religious sect in this country; laws that allot billions to the military but gut medicare, medicaid, educational funds, and infrastructure; laws that promoted the interests of large corporations over the interests of the people affected by those corporations; laws that allow people to own guns that can kill millions of actual, existing humans in a moment, but ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or an unborn child who will not survive outside the womb and whose birth will kill the mother — could not be farther apart.

“Government so small it fits in my uterus,” indeed.

I can’t pretend that none of this matters. My vote was sort of counted. I’m “American” enough, though the White Supremacists would prefer I was barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen while my husband works, bending my will to his and not standing up for myself. But otherwise, I’m “American” enough for my vote to be counted as a legal vote. And yet it wasn’t enough. The electoral college has invalidated my vote and the votes of millions of other people in my state. I used my voice, and it was silenced.

Don’t anyone tell me that this election was the result of “the country” speaking. Only one quarter of the country made this choice. Disenfranchisement prevented millions from being able to choose. Apathy and misinformation kept others from even trying. And now we’re stuck with a self-important billionaire who has been accused (with good evidence) of so many different types of crimes it’s not even funny; who was denounced by all of our living past presidents and was endorsed by the presidents of Russia and North Korea; who is planning to give offices to white supremacists and KKK supporters; who wants to wall us off like East Berlin so that we don’t have to deal with any of those icky foreigners who don’t look like good old fashioned white Americans; who wants to criminalize the act of living for so many people just because they’re different. His associates want to revisit WWII internment camps for Muslims; want to criminalize protesting and journalism that goes against them (goodbye, first amendment); want to force women who have undergone abortions and/or had miscarriages to pay for funerals for the fetuses; want to take away affordable healthcare from those who desperately need it (medicare, medicaid, ACA); and want to flat out make this nation a nation for white people only (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/donald-trump-presidency.html?_r=0).

(By the way, here’s the Merriam Webster definition of ‘fascism’: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism.)

I see all of these things, I hear about all of these things, and I think about all of the people I know and respect and care about whose lives will be damaged and even destroyed by these policies. And I think America is far from great, and is only going to sink farther still.

I’m sick about all of this. And I’m far from the only one.