Subway Sociology #6: I Seat Drunk People

Did I ever mention that I am an irony magnet?

This is an important baseline state of reality to establish for new readers who might otherwise question how my Partner and I, specifically, ended up being the second and third of (hopefully only) three residents of a large urban city stuck explaining the intricacies of Pokemon Go to a drunk “friend” supposedly hiding from his “ex-girlfriend” at our table at Shake Shack while thousands of gaming confederates across the country caught their Bagon unaccosted during Community Day.

Since that drunk “friend” specifically requested “cover” while he snuck away to the nearest subway entrance, our experience thus represents the sixth valid trial of my subway sociology experiment. My original hypothesis was that the line I take to improv is statistically “weirder” than nearby lines. My current tally of blog-worthy baffles runs 4:2 in favor of the line in question. Suggestive, but not at all statistically significant, especially when properly controlling for my own frequency of line ridership.

My Partner, however, wishes for me to note that I have potentially overlooked two additional hypotheses worthy of testing: a) my irony magnet superpowers extend to subways and b) there are statistically higher rates of oddball experiences on all subway lines (as well as in general) whenever I am nearby. He pointed out that my having previously mentioned hydration drinks being advertised on public transit as hangover remedies without actually describing any real-life interactions with their target audience could be construed as daring the universe to offer me up a live specimen. Irony. Magnet. (He also suggested, after he had finally forced our “friend” out into the wilds again, that I should refrain in the future from being the one to nab seats for the two of us even in a crowded fast food joint well over its listed capacity of 131 people. The risk of my irony powers kicking in is just too high whenever I’m talking to strangers for even a minute…)

Continue reading “Subway Sociology #6: I Seat Drunk People”

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Read Bad Books

Why do Targaryens make terrible stockbrokers?

Their assets always end up in a fire sale!

I am no longer sure I’d call anything George R.R. Martin writes “good.” He burned some bridges with this leal reader with Winds of Winter. I finished a real-life Ph.D. with ADHD in less time than it has taken GRRM to write one book. I’m more than fine with HBO scripting the only conclusion to a Song of Ice and Fire to ever see the light of day. At least it means that there will be a conclusion. There is, however, still something disheartening about getting most of the way through the book GRRM wrote instead and realizing he only covered the first half of 300 years of Targaryen history. Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before Game of Thrones (a Targaryen History) is an epic monument to paid procrastination and GRMM still couldn’t even finish it? Really?

That is…disappointing. Especially given the fact I am listening to the prequel on audiobook, and it is 26 hours long! I’ve been encouraged by my neuro-ophthalmologist to rest my eyes when I don’t need them for work because their ability to focus together continues to decline. Thanks, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Listening to GRRM’s words instead of reading them makes certain quirks of his writing almost painfully apparent. (I wonder if his editors were equally burned by this point and so desperate to ship anything new of his that they only gave Fire and Blood a minimal once-over?)

Three-quarters in, I’m not sure from a literary standpoint whether Fire and Blood is actually well-written.  It overuses words. Like, seriously overuses them. Like “overuses them so much that it has become a game for my Partner and me to take a non-alcoholic drink every time he uses the word ‘leal.'” (GRMM is obsessed with loyalty, but our ‘drinking’ game has to be non-alcoholic because I’m pretty sure we’d both die if we tried to use alcohol during the playing of The Leal Deal. GRRM has singlehandedly ensured that even this girl who is dysautonomic has consumed many more than her recommended liters of water daily this week.) It also has an annoying habit of setting up mysteries that are never resolved. “What was in that letter” will never be known to readers. I’m fairly sure GRRM knew what was in the letter – it’s his imagination after all – so would it have killed him to tell us? What does playing coy accomplish in a one-off?

I am not sure, for these reasons, whether what I’m currently reading is actually good. I am sure, however, that admitting I’m reading it is, at least, not embarrassing. That is not true of many of the other books I have read over the years.

Continue reading “Read Bad Books”

Where’s Whoopsie #20: Snow Wrist

Career lessons for the chronically ill:

  1. Write out your routine in your planner, including basic self-care essentials like physical therapy and tracking water intake and medications, alongside your work deadlines. It’s a nice little shot of dopamine to cross off basic self-care tasks in your planner, and it helps with managing energy levels at work.
  2. But, write all appointments in pencil because life is unpredictable. Sometimes you will, for instance, have to reshuffle an entire week’s predictable routine of physical therapy, actual therapy, meals and the like to attend a beneficial career training. It helps if you can erase to adapt.
  3. If and when you willingly disrupt your usual daily work routine to attend an onsite continuing education training that will likely make you more desirable to positive unpredictabilities such as career advancement in the future, suck it up and ask to take notes on a laptop. Planners can be written out by hand. Course notes cannot. DO NOT try to take notes by hand with a pen for two hours. It can – and will – destroy your wrists.
  4. If you ignore the advice in #3 above, at least do not further compound the problem by then attempting to write a full blog post within 48 hours of failing at the above.

I am guilty of #3 this week, and my wrists and hands are screaming at me for it. I will attempt to take my own advice and not also be guilty of #4. Full blog posts will resume as soon as my joints have forgiven me for thinking I could still take hand-written notes this far along in a progressive diagnosis. I couldn’t take notes by hand even back when I was still in undergrad. I don’t know why I forgot that fact during professional training this week?

In the meantime, have a picture of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It is, after all, the reason (alongside Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and a bully-in-my-brain that still feels toxic shame over asking for accommodations like using a computer instead of just taking hand-written notes like everyone else. The Evil Queen has nothing on the bully in my own brain.) I should have just said I can’t handle hand-written note taking, even if the training did take place over a “working lunch” and most people were capable of balancing food in one hand and a notebook and pen in the other. I didn’t. Because toxic shame sucks…

See you all when I’m finished paying for that lack of self-advocacy. (The artwork, for anyone wondering, was created before the aforementioned overdoing it.)

EDS_WheresWhoopsie - Copy
<Image> The Evil Queen staring into her magic mirror. Magic mirror asks her whether she means the age a body looks or the age a body feels when she says “fairest,” as that distinction will affect its answer. In the second panel, a zebra’s ears are burning. The zebra wonders if it means someone is thinking about them or if it’s just a new symptom. <Image Text>: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: when your skin is as fair as Snow White, but the pain turns you into Grumpy Dwarf!

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Shooting for the Spoons

A lot of popular wisdom is rather dubious when actually examined. For instance, the common career advice to, “Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you will still land among the stars.” Unless the flat-Earthers know something I really don’t, even good old Sol is much further away from us than the moon…

Another bit of dubious popular wisdom I hear regularly from would-be experts (who have usually never heard of most of my diagnoses before) is, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I certainly am careful with my diet, but an apple a day does not keep the doctor away for me. In fact, following the common wisdom for most of my working life to eat as naturally as possible on business trips to minimize GI symptoms has been about the worst possible choice for me. On travel per diem – and thus not responsible for remembering expiration dates for the fresh veggies and fruit that I so often forget in my fridge for weeks until they spoil – I would load up on all of the fresh fruit in an attempt to keep the gastroenterologist away. And, yet, I always felt like my IBS symptoms were worse on business trips anyway. The inevitable refrain from the “apple a day folks” – and many of the doctors that were supposedly being kept away – was that it was just “my anxiety” exacerbating my symptoms. So, I both had to plan for disaster each time and for the bully-in-my-brain to refrain how it was my fault since I couldn’t just “relax.”

Continue reading “Shooting for the Spoons”

Improv #15: Twitterpated

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there”

“Hashtag”

“#who?”

“#whoknewTwitterwasoccassionallyuseful? Not me, at least not until today…”

I do not take the full – or even the half – advantage of social media that a blogger is supposed to, so I can’t actually add my contribution to the #AbledsAreWeird Twitterstorm on Twitter itself. I can say I have been laughing myself silly over that hashtag today. For any spoonie who hasn’t seen it, I highly advise you to check it out when you need a break from the world today.

Since I am not twitterpated by the idea of adding yet another form of social media for my poor ADHD brain to have to manage in general, I’ll add the contribution I would have tweeted if I bothered to maintain a Twitter presence for my blog here instead. (But, though I’m only posting here, seriously go check out the actual hashtag on Twitter too!) I will, though, at least conform to Twitter rules and keep my contribution to 280 characters:

Improv actor share:”Doc 1st thought symptoms were chronic, but thank God my infection was acute. How could I live w/pain forever? Life wouldn’t be worth living!”
Lav(next up w/visible cane):”I guess my share is I’m chronically ill & life is worth living? Kthanxbai”#AbledsAreWeird

Yes, that’s a true story, and from very recently. No, I have no idea what, if anything, I should do about it. The person who made the comment was just a student in a class with me. That class is now over. In principle, I won’t see them again? (I mean, it’s not like I’m going to choose to perform in an indie troupe with someone who’d speak like that when I’d previously shared that I occasionally require accommodations for the physical parts of improv because of my chronic illnesses and they still thought that was an appropriate way to phrase a weekly highlight…)

But, the instructor, who is a regular and very serious theater performer, also did not seem to get that there was anything amiss about that comment. This speaks to the broader complete cluelessness about spoonie sensitivity that the hashtag also makes apparent. There’s clearly a need for more awareness among the theater crowd about a) why a spoonie’s life is worth living, even with their chronic illnesses and b) why if an abled performer doesn’t happen to agree, they should still keep their big fat mouths shut about it since at least 1 in 4 of their audience members will also be living with some form of chronic physical or mental illness.

The theater has been encouraging “tough conversations” around diversity and women’s issues in the theater recently. So, it seems like it might be an appropriate time to point out that many performers – and audience members – are also members part of the largest minority group in America. It is just as critical to have “tough conversations” around how to speak about disability as it is to discuss how to speak about race, class, culture, religion and sexual orientation. I am getting really sick of even so-called Progressives managing to include just about every possible form of inclusiveness except disability in their sensitivity training. I’m also not really high enough up in the theater to know where to start to change the narrative, unfortunately…

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Crushing it

Things that went through my mind in the process of composing this week’s blog post:

  1. To Partner: “We need more of those crushable baking potato chips that are not potato chips…”
  2. Hey, there is an entire site devoted to logging prior weather in the U.S.! Someone anticipated the deep-seated need of the ADHD community for a site to fact check them when they write, “Even though it seems hard to believe when we hit the 70s this week, we were in the 20s just last week” and they can’t perceive time well enough to remember if it really was “just last week” – or only felt like it.
  3. Good. My Partner added bread crumbs to our order.
  4. That historical weather site was probably intended for historical fiction. Solipsism is great in theory, but the idea that my mind shapes all of reality falls apart immediately upon being reminded that there is (still) no site to determine the actual word I am looking for from the random descriptions of my ADHD/brain-fogged mind. If the Internet were built around me, there would be. Ipso facto, my mind is not the only one that exists.
  5. To Partner: “You are right that if we order bread crumbs instead of making them, then they are not ‘crushable’ but ‘already crushed.’ Isn’t tense relative to the frame of reference though? By the frame of reference of the bread crumbs, the description is ‘already crushed.’ Potato chips don’t come pre-crushed. So, didn’t I use the correct tense for their frame of reference?”
  6. The moment an AI can obtain ‘bread crumbs’ from ‘crushable baking potato chips that are not potato chips’ – regardless of tense – is probably the moment we achieve the Singularity.
  7. This list of random thoughts is about to be longer than the rest of the blog post.
  8. This is also why my Partner and I crush games like Taboo and Heads Up. Maybe I should just go with that and make this post about how effective communication in relationships becomes even more convoluted with brain fog?
  9. I should still explain why I was originally looking up the weather last week to fact check myself, even though it seems kind of anti-climactic now to state that chronic illness and ADHD can lead to word-finding difficulties when I’ve clearly shown it.
  10. Wait, my original example works just as well as an example of effective communication with chronic illness! I can just relay the original conversation from last week’s cold snap that was intended to become a polished blog post verbatim! Crushing it.

Continue reading “Crushing it”

Trust in Mental Health Treatment (Part 4): Choose Your Own Adventure

So, I potentially have good news. I’ve gotten to the final round of the interview process for a new job in my same city. It’s what I do now but with a different organization. I’ll update eventually whether I got the job, but talking about it right now feels a bit too much like tempting fate. I’m not a fan of pure CBT, but even I’ll admit I’m engaging in a bit of magical thinking by staying silent. I know, I know. However, PTSD and its sense of foreshortened future mean talking about anything positive that hasn’t happened seems like it will only make me look like a fool when it doesn’t happen.

I have no such qualms, though, about talking about my fears of what will happen if I get the job. C-PTSD is fine with that. The commute will be just far enough that I won’t be able to make it to my therapist during her normal business hours. She was able to do a limited number of phone sessions while I was in the 9th Circle of Hell last summer because she knew that was an active trauma crisis, but she can’t, unfortunately, do regular phone sessions. I’ll also have to go to trauma yoga on Saturdays instead of during the week. That’s…not terrible. But, it will mean a bigger class in front of which to modify my yoga-for-hypermobility. There will probably be social anxiety compared to the three people that regularly go to the class I currently attend, but I guess I can live. How unsettled I feel not being able to attend weekly therapy, though, is one reason why I never fully wanted to develop trust with a therapist in the first place. Not all therapists are the abuse-permitting social workers of the 9th Circle of Hell, but, in the end, they are all running businesses. They’ll only modify so much, so my brain (bully and other parts) says don’t depend on someone for whom helping me lasts only as long as I am convenient. (Alongside the issues I wrote about in the first three parts of this series.)

Forget attachment. I’m still a survivor of enough systemic abuse that I’m shocked I even got to trust with anyone who is part of a system. But, shockingly, I did, and I don’t see myself being the kind of person for whom lightning strikes twice. My therapist attempted to suggest there might be others closer to my potential new workplace whom I could trust, but she shut up quickly upon seeing my look. She then switched to, “Ok, I think you are strong enough that you could do more like once a month. I think you’ve been through enough with irregular support during the Crisis of 2018 that you can manage in 2019.” I’d be willing to take a half day to see her once a month during her hours. I’ll admit to being scared of tapering therapy, but not scared enough to contemplate finding another therapist. The legacy of systemic abuse runs deep, and the system she is in – and the others that both my insurances have covered for outpatient therapy – are really not trauma-informed. She’s the rare exception in a clinic I’d otherwise bitch about. (My psychiatrist, who is not necessarily trauma-informed for most but likes me, has Saturday hours. I could keep seeing him.)

I’d actively choose once a month therapy over trying again with anyone else. But admitting out loud that therapy was an important part of my support system during the Crisis of 2018 was terrifying. What if I’m not really strong enough yet to taper? Last year was pretty damn re-traumatizing.

What if I shouldn’t even be looking for a new job at all because I don’t have the spoons? The commute isn’t just too far to make therapy: it’s also a commute at all. I’m currently a remote worker, and that saves a lot of physical spoons. It doesn’t save mental spoons, though, I’m only a remote worker because I exist within a limbo wherein my boss finds me too useful to purge, but too much of a hassle to talk to.

When I started to panic-think maybe I should just stay with my current company, my therapist very quickly shut me down by reminding me how many of my boss’s communications she has read while I cried. As she has stated, she “can’t ethically diagnose someone” she hasn’t met. But, while she can’t speak clinically, she did suggest that I do some serious research into the various presentations of narcissism and think hard about why my current boss was able to trigger full-scale PTSD episodes when I still saw him in person. 2018 wasn’t the first time I had to testify to ongoing abuse in the 9th Circle of Hell. I testified against the Thesis Defense Rests Stop the same week as my thesis defense (hence the moniker). Yes, each successive trauma adds a straw to the camel’s back. But my boss…also reminds me of someone who abused me personally in a way no one outside the 9th Circle of Hell ever has in my entire life.

The day of my end-of-year-review – which perhaps I will eventually write about – was a perfect example of my the way my boss can start the day in such a towering temper I wonder if I will still have a job at the end it, but then whiplash to being conciliatory to the point he asked if I could use more physical accommodations. What changed in between? A combination of a) something I produced being very well received by clients on a call between the beginning of the day and my review and b) letting him take all the credit for it. With my history, my instinct is to roll over and hand off intellectual credit for anything I do to anyone who scares me because C-PTSD says “stay safe by staying out of sight.” That…works with my boss. It’s probably a big part of why I got concessions and the rest of my office got fired last year.

But, as my therapist notes, he exacts a cost in mental spoons that is likely more damaging to me than the cost of the physical spoons from commuting. It’s not generally a smart idea to work for someone who pings your PTSD to flashback to childhood abuse. Even if I hadn’t experienced childhood abuse, working for someone who can flip moods so drastically and so quickly is not a great idea, period. Nor is working for someone who has flat out stolen the academic work of all those who are under him in a field that typically recognizes subject matter experts as experts. There’s also the pesky fact that I still have the gut instinct that the company itself isn’t financially stable, and I could lose my remote job by 2020 even if I’m able to keep my boss perfectly happy until the day the doors close for good. I’d rather choose my own adventure now, while it still is a choice.

Therapists don’t usually tell you what to do, exactly, but mine seemed worried enough by the prospect that I’d not take a job if I got it because of the fear of losing one piece of my support system that she ended with “we’ll work out what happens with therapy, but I really don’t think you should trust your boss longer when you have another option.”

We’ll see what happens. I don’t know if I will know yet by next week whether I’m their final candidate. Whether or not I do, next week’s post will be a review of the strategies that kept me sane while testifying to abuses in the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 without consistent access to therapy. Maybe if I write out what helped me then, it will help others unable to access good therapy now, whether because of a therapy break, because they only have access to those horrible therapists in their area that are the reason I’m so afraid of ever starting over with someone new, or because they can’t afford decent care. (The U.S. sucks at mental health, did I ever mention that?) And, maybe it will also help to reassure myself that I can eventually return to working in a real office – with its increased physical demands upon my EDS/dysautonomia – because the mental benefits from reduced anxiety, depression, PTSD and panic are worth it. Maybe it’ll convince me that I can be strong later since I was strong enough before.

Also, if I flat out state that I won’t be writing about what happened with the job next week, then perhaps  I won’t feel internal pressure to “follow up” with the “bad news” my brain thinks it will inevitably receive. I write a lot about failure on this blog, but I’m trying at least this week to tell myself someday I might also write about success.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

 

Written on the Prophetic Plates?

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
<Image>: Smug cat on a ledge with a broken vase on the floor. <Text>: This is why we can’t have nice things.

My Partner and I are going to a game night tonight hosted by someone I met through an ADHD support group. So, of course, I had a dream that the hosts kept serving me party food on real plates, and I kept progressively dropping them. I desperately tried to explain, “Please stop giving me nice things. I drop things constantly,” but somehow the china I was handed just kept getting progressively finer…

On the one hand, I hope that doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is wet and slippery out today. I also didn’t sleep well – no thanks to that dream.  And, it would be nice to actually make “friends” with people before I break something (of theirs or of mine) in front of them. On the other hand, if there will ever be a household where, “I know I’m clumsy, but I forgot to put my plate down before my hands got too tired” might actually make for an understandable explanation, perhaps it would be a fellow neurodiverse household?

I’m sure this dream has nothing at all to do with the fact that I read the Ehlers-Danlos Society’s “Mental Health Care Toolbox” on Facebook yesterday or the fact that it noted that people with EDS and HSD have a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Or the fact that I have fallen down in public places twice recently. Nothing at all…

I'm Not Clumsy. It's Just That The Floor Hates Me, The Tables And Chairs Are Bullie And The Wall Gets In The Way T-Shirt
<Image text>: I’m not clumsy. It’s just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, and the wall gets in the way.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

 

Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers

*Knock knock*

“Who’s There?”

“Wobbly”

“Wobbly who?”

“Wobbly out in this weather when I know I will fall over? I’m very dedicated to my art, ok? Now offer me a seat on this train before it’s you I fall onto…”

Amtrak preemptively canceled some Acela routes and other regional commuter routes in advance of the snow this weekend. City transit authorities are posting their standard “expect delays on above-ground routes.” In addition to keeping us abreast of their plans to keep us safe – albeit possibly not on time – during the winter weather, both agencies also seem to be touting themselves as the solution to all the city’s partying needs lately.

On the way to Improv today, I saw ads introducing several bus and train operators who “skip the party, so you don’t have to.” I’m guessing several other class members also noticed the recent uptick in public transit emphasis on how their employees ensure we can have a good time by working while everyone else is playing. “Partying” was a prominent theme in our montages today.

There’s nothing more thematically appropriate for that inevitable first time I sublux something on stage and fall over than during a scene in which the administration of a “party school” with a name one letter off of the Ivy League discuss how to improve their image. This was a class, not a live show, so people stopped scene work and asked about me. I almost wished it had been a public show, though, as I doubt I will ever again get such a gift of a scene to play off a sublux and associated fall as “intentional” than during that one.

With a class, it’s…well…as awkward to bring up EDS in advance as it is to sublux something on stage. I’m in the dual position of both performing in indie shows with a troupe, but also simultaneously being a student. I have to actually graduate from the theater’s comedy school if I ever want to audition for anything solo, and graduating to each next level requires not just an instructor thinking I am ready in my performance capabilities, but also having missed no more than two classes out of any session. The Crisis of 2018 ensured that I wasn’t in the position to even contemplate that kind of attendance commitment for the past two sessions, so I never even bothered to register. I also fainted just before the first class of this current session and thus missed its very first class. So, no guarantees I will make the attendance requirement this time around either. My indie troupe – who are all now graduates – didn’t drop me when I got behind last year. I could conceivably have had my first onstage sublux happen during a real performance, with a team who have been warned in advance to just keep going and use the exquisite thematic timing to heighten, heighten, heighten.

But, as with last week’s hair appointment, I don’t typically get that lucky when introducing my diagnoses to new people. Explaining how I occasionally fall over – and to just give me a minute to see if I can reorient my own joints before treating it like a big deal – is still just…awkward. I never know how to respond to the sort of excessive solicitousness that people offer immediately after they first see me faint or pop a joint.

Continue reading “Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers”

Striped Girls Can Jump?

Reminds me of a few people I know!!
<Image Text>: “Your flexibility amazes me. How do you get your foot in your mouth and your head up your ass all at the same time?”

People have the strangest reactions to learning about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. So, telling them about it when you are already socially awkward quickly becomes a study in ridiculousness. For instance, I got to have that discussion recently with my hair stylist. It ended with me jumping up onto things alongside the majority of the salon staff. I promise there was no alcohol involved. I just would rather do practically anything – including impromptu social experiments – than make “small talk.”

My stylist knows that I have dysautonomia. I hadn’t exactly planned to tell her, as how does one broach that conversation during “small talk” at a salon, but fainting in her doorway last year kind of forced the choice between sharing the diagnosis or paying whatever the deductible would have been for an ambulance ride when the owner was afraid otherwise I’d die on him – or worse sue him. My old office, before my bully-of-a-boss fired everyone in it and made its lone survivor a fully remote worker, used to have a faulty heater. I had to wear a sweater, an undershirt, and a camisole just to keep from turning blue in that office most of the year. In winter, I’d then add a big heavy waterproof coat, scarf, gloves and hat on top of it to walk the about ten minutes from my office to where I get my hair cut. I learned last winter that just because it is 50 degrees inside your office and about 20 degrees outside, some salons will inexplicably choose to keep their facilities at about 80 degrees. If you walk into one of those salons wearing all those layers, you’ll pass out in the doorway from the dramatic temperature change. At that point, the cat’s out of the bag.

Continue reading “Striped Girls Can Jump?”