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.”
CW: mentions of an attempted robbery on New Year’s Eve that did not result in any injuries or financial loss. Mentions of past acute traumas, including a threatened mass shooting, that I have experienced, fortunately also without injury.
Does acute trauma add to the mental trauma load if you’ve already experienced the 9th Circle of Hell? I know that every experience of abuse – past and present – in the 9th Circle of Hell has been one more piece removed from the fragile Jenga tower of my mental health. I know that 9th Circle of Hell trauma compounds, but should I count non-9th Circle of Hell trauma? Does something that I would definitely call traumatic if it happened to others – but that will never take up residence in my nightmares because the price of that mental real estate was set too high by the 9th Circle of Hell – count as part of my “trauma narrative?”
I read a post recently from a blogger with a severe trauma history who witnessed a guy open-carrying a gun in a coffee shop. She was triggered, but she had her coffee there anyway. She had to ask if she should have left or if she was overreacting. Go through enough childhood trauma and your perspectives can get very skewed on things. I commented that the statistics on mass shootings in the U.S suggest that it is wise to leave such situations as soon as it is safe, and maybe even to hang out down the block to call 911 if shots are heard. I almost added that I am very wary of guns “even though guns aren’t a part of my trauma history.” Then I stopped and realized I might be being an idiot. I do have a prior scary history with guns, though I don’t think it is contributing to my PTSD symptoms. I briefly considered writing a future post about whether it is possible to be “triggered” by something while thinking you were unaffected by an event. Then I promptly forgot about it, because ADHD, until my Partner was on the receiving end of an attempted robbery on New Year’s Eve.
We both recovered from the fear within hours, but I wonder – given that other post – if that’s completely accurate, or if we’re just a bit too numbed from the 9th Circle of Hell to respond normally to things that should shake us up for a few days. The robbery wasn’t successful – or I guess very successful – but threats were involved. My Partner did take them seriously until he was able to get into a place with others around to not take them seriously anymore. It was a scary situation while it was happening, even if it ended ok. What is considered “normal” for recovering from acute scares – as that other blogger similarly asked – if your baseline isn’t Hell?
We were heading home from dinner on the subway. Our subway system isn’t accessible in many places. In some places, it’s only “accessible” if you get off at a stop on a line close by, take an elevator, and walk through an underground ramp at a gentle grade that can handle a wheelchair at least a block to the other station. The alternative to walking a block is to have to climb what I unaffectionately refer to as “Stairs of Death.”
Did I ever mention that my Partner and I are weird people? Like “gallows humor” and “eat anything on the planet at least once” weird? Or that we’re advocates for social justice? If not, you have officially been warned.
I may have mentioned before about how my kitty has PTSD from being abused, starved and abandoned before we got her. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that she also has kidney issues, old injuries that limit her mobility, and even more allergies than I do. If the abandonment anxiety alone wasn’t enough to prove she is my spirit animal, then the rest ought to guarantee it.
We suspect that her complicated medical issues might, unfortunately, have been the reason she was ultimately abused and abandoned. I mean, we’ve seen it done to vulnerable humans. It’s not much of a stretch of the imagination to assume it happens even more frequently to vulnerable kitties.
We didn’t know about her issues when I first started fostering her. I was just told to shove as much food and liquid into her as possible. She was too sick to eat, so anything I could tempt her with was automatically approved. I fell back onto gold-standard kitty addictions: tuna water and Fancy Feast. She ate both with gusto, and my Partner and I both quickly realized never to combine cheap cat food and smelly tuna in her tummy again. Let’s just say what she produced was thick enough to mortar a bunker and lethal enough to weaponize to use to clear out the bad guys holed up in that bunker at the same time. She put my two-ply lullaby to shame.
Nothing says a “third date” like an emergency trip to the grocery store to buy every possible form of air freshener in the aisle at nearly midnight. I say she’s “our” foster failure. And, in her mind, she is. She met both of us on the same day. But, technically my Partner and I hadn’t even DTR’ed at the time I got her, and her adoption papers are under my name alone. She’s “our” cat in hindsight, but, at that time, I think my Partner really showed his character by helping clean up after her when he had no official responsibility towards her, or me. I don’t regret it. That experience didn’t require half the strength that actually marrying me and handling my caregiving responsibilities demand. Heck, by the standards of my life it was humorous. It even had an actual resolution, which is particularly unusual in my life. One veterinary specialist, some kitty Prozac, and a lifetime commitment to buying her expensive allergen-safe cat food later, and her tummy troubles cleared up. (However, if her special food ever goes off the market, please send gas masks. We’ll need them.)
That experience has become a running joke for the trajectory of our relationship – and spawned another running joke that our kitty eats better than we do. How many people can read right on the can that their pet’s food is safe for human consumption?
We also watch a lot of Food Network, and while we were dating my Partner dared me to make him a meal that “highlighted” her wet and dry food in the same dish, Chopped-style. If I could successfully fool him into going back for seconds, he’d fork over for a Michelin 3-star restaurant willingly. I never quite remembered to do it when he’d remind me. We’re now married, so any gourmet meal would be funded out of pooled money anyway now. But, the challenge has always stood. And, I’ve always had on my mental bucket list – at least I have every 6-9 months or so when something reminds me of it – to undertake it anyway.
It’s that time of year again: end of year reviews at work! As my trusty Passion Planner reminds me, this year has mostly been a trash fire. Also, I’m only “self-reflecting” upon nine months of work, because I spent three months on leave. Yet, I did fill out the monthly reflections for those three months because I did “freelance” work during that period. That “collaborative” spirit (aka running away from one set of problems by digging deep into another) turned out to be some of the best work I did all year. Strong enough that it may have saved my job when my mental-health-stigmatizing bully-of-a-boss fired the rest of my team. It sucks to re-read those months of “self-reflection” when there is so much 9th Circle of Hell crap alongside it, but there is no way I’m not reminding my boss of how pleased he was with the work I did on leave when my next year’s salary is being determined.
Unless you are a data analyst or are an avid gamer, the concept of RNG probably doesn’t mean much to you. I am both. I don’t believe people are inherently good. (Sorry, I’ve seen too much. We’re neutral at best like every other species. We can choose to be otherwise, but it is an active choice.) I don’t believe everything “happens for a reason.” I do, however, believe in RNG and the Central Limit Theorem. If you roll the dice often enough – even accounting for psychological phenomena like streakiness, recency effects and/or salience, which violate true statistical independence – sometimes jerks give you positive accommodations amidst a general office purge. Sometimes, truly random events happen that even the best statistical analyst – or the bully-in-my-brain – could never have predicted. Being granted the greatest accommodation my ADHD/C-PTSD brain could ever ask for – the right to be left alone – is something I could never have predicted.
If the same set of circumstances happened to 100 people, likely 99% of them would be fired (within my office alone, in fact, as I was the only survivor of nearly that percentage of purge!) Somehow, though, my boss never stopped loathing the visible indicators of my multiple diagnoses, but he realized during my leave that he could avoid having to deal with his employee-in-crisis and still get work out of her by just never speaking to her again. We meet as little as possible, I submit my work remotely, and somehow we’reboth satisfied. Somehow the RNG that is life rolled such that I think I am actually more confident in myself during this review than last year.
My boss is a bullying arsehole, but I found a way to make it work? My Passion Planner really missed the mark there. About a month before I went on leave, it included a quote for the week that read “If you need a sign, this is it.” I made a little note in the margin that even my planner wanted me out of the company! The base set of variables (horrible boss, layoffs, financial instability as a result of the instability of the government we rely on for contracts) have not changed. Yet, I’m still employed. My end-of-year review seems like a perfect example of how you can’t always expect the worst, but it would be equally naive to conversely expect the bad to be rewarded with an equal amount of the best. The best you can remind yourself during Depression is often simply that RNG exists.
And that irony magnet superpowers violate randomness in blog-worthy ways. Today is National Cupcake Day. I learned that from another blogger who wrote about Random Acts of Kindness and receiving a cupcake during a rough day at work. I did not receive a cupcake from anyone at work the week my Passion Planner told me to expect a “sign.” All the good people who would have bought me one had, sadly, been fired already.
I did, however, stop into a corner market the first week of my leave. It was summer, the heat had been getting to me, and I had been an idiot to try and walk to my doctor’s appointment. Dysautonomia doesn’t care that I needed to move to avoid thinking about everything happening. I tried to buy a Gatorade and beef jerky, but I didn’t meet the minimum $10 to use a credit card. I had no cash. It triggered a bit of mental panic at the cost. It was, after all, my first week without a salary. I tossed some filler Hostess cupcakes by the register onto the pile anyway. I needed liquid and salt.
I must have looked as panicked as I felt at that moment, spending money I wasn’t sure I could replace and wondering if I’d ever get another paycheck from my company. I was thoroughly befuddled when the cashier suddenly nudged me to take my stuff and move along. The guy behind me had paid for my entire purchase. He had told the cashier I looked like I needed something to go right, then left before I surfaced from my spiral to thank him. I wrote that incident down in my planner with the note, “People think East Coasters are jackasses, but I bet nobody in the 9th Circle of Hell would buy me a cupcake while they screwed my family over.”
My Passion Planner, my own stats training and the bully-in-my-brain all couldn’t predict what my job would look like in December 2018. RNG can be a comforting surprise. However, my Passion Planner’s note from the week of June 10th, 2018, about signs also wasn’t entirely for naught. I’m an East Coaster now, by choice.
Things don’t happen for a reason. People aren’t inherently good. It’s a choice. I never got – nor expected – any cupcakes in the 9th Circle of Hell. My planner and that other blogger remind me, though, to keep being better than the 9th Circle of Hell or my boss. I probably owe a stranger an RNG cupcake…
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.
CW: keeping secrets about child abuse, descriptions of child abuse, discussions of death and systemic abuse, swearing, and standard “never go to the 9th Circle of Hell” trauma.
I’ve said before that I’m open to being challenged on even very sensitive topics on this blog, as long as basic trust and safety is maintained. One blogger I really respect, Mishka of Crafts, Chronic Illness and Adulting, challenged me with her comments on my last blog post exactly because she never doubted me when I said that, in the 9th Circle of Hell, a profoundly disabled minor child in the foster system would probably have died without a protector. If that same disabled adult nearly died from systemic abuse as an adult even with multiple guardians attempting to protect him, what hope would the same child split up from his sibling have had?
And, since that is true, what choice really did any “family” member have but to stay silent about my own abuse – the same way I did – to protect him? I was struggling with that question in the post itself, and, knowing more now about Mishka’s history, I can see why she was struggling. The stereotype of the “abused child” is that they become the abuser. But, really, that is quite rare. The vast majority of us only abuse ourselves. And, well, was that adult who warped my reality by not only staying silent really not also destroying herself? How do you “choose” between one child’s possible death and the warping of another child’s soul, sense of self and continuity of memory through denying what is true until they have to fragment their reality into a dissociative disorder to survive it without tearing off pieces of your already tattered soul too?
I struggled with that question when I wrote the post. I struggled again when I thought how to answer Mishka. I – who has written on her own Glossary of Terms that ADHD’s one upside is that it enables me to think so far outside the box that I “don’t know where the box is” – couldn’t think outside of “pick one abusive situation or another.”
Trauma keeps us in a box of our abusers’ making. We are ever so good at convincing ourselves that we are both all-powerful and powerless at the same time. We are so powerful that somehow if we’d just said the right thing, done the right thing, recognized the tells, and played the game, we could have prevented what happened to us. We are so expert at controlling others that if we fail to keep them from abusing us, we believe at heart that we are to blame. Yet, we are simultaneously so powerless that when an abusive system sets up two abusive choices, we are too powerless within our abusers’ reality to ever question the foundations upon which it was built.
My Partner, who has no ACES, has no such coercively imposed limitations, and no such moral doubt as to whether my “family” member should ever be excused. My Partner called my life the ‘Murican Red State version of the good-old philosophical “Trolley Problem.” If an out-of-control trolley is going to run over five people if it stays on the track it is on, but you could flip a switch and have it only run over one person, would you? Most people would say yes, but the vast majority of people never even consider any of the other options. Most people never think outside the box to realize that staying within two fundamentally abusive choices is victimizing to the switch-thrower as much as it is to the six people on the tracks and that perhaps the only solution is to break the rules themselves. A person could throw themselves in front of the trolley. They could daringly leap aboard the train and try to speed it up to the point where it derailed when it hit the track switch at a dizzying rate of speed. (I live in the Northeast. More than one Amtrak train has derailed by taking a track change at too high a speed. It could work!)
This CW is so important it should be in neon flashing lights. This is a serious post. Serious like: mentions of 9th Circle of Hell current systemic abuse, mentions of the same kind of systemic abuse on another blog, and mentions of past suicidal feelings and coercive control. I really meant it when I said the lights were off this month, so please please be careful when reading this blog post. There is no date on this “past” post because it’s not truly a post written in the past. It’s a memory, from a time when I would never have written anything down, that has been bothering me. I think I need to write to exorcize that old ghost and thus fight my new demons more effectively. Be safe.
Did you know that the term procrastination comes almost directly from the Latin procrastinatus?
This is relevant because I have a new blog page on my main site that does not have a Latin title. This pains my Partner deeply. I think it pains my Partner almost as much as typing pains the hands of someone with Ehlers-Danlos!
My Partner pointed out recently that the saga of the 9th Circle of Hell has probably become so complex that any potential new readers will have a hard time figuring out what the heck I’m talking about on a weekly basis. (The bully-in-my-brain, of course, immediately added: “even more so than they would normally have difficulty just in understanding the ramblings of someone with ADHD with pronounced hyperactivity alone.” Thanks for that, brain.) I replied that I actually take great pains to try and link at least the most proximally explanatory blog posts, so readers can catch up if they want.
He then pointed out that that effort probably costs me more in hand cramps trying to back-link enough blog posts each time I write a new one to make my story make sense to new readers – and to those of my readers with brain fog in general – than it would to just maintain a dedicated page. Because he is sensible – and my hands really could use the rest – I followed his advice.
I created a Glossary of Terms this weekend. It should contain all the key descriptions needed to understand my rather topsy-turvy life. My Partner desperately wanted me to call it the Dramatis Personae page – because Latin is awesome – but it turns out that I write a lot more about places than people, with the possible exception of him. I claim it’s because I respect the privacy of others whenever possible. It might also just be that I am socially anxious and don’t have a lot of close in-person friendships…
Either way, I couldn’t justify the Latin page title. And, the effort to create that Glossary of Terms seems to have sapped my creativity to write another blog post this week. I’ve been procrastinating long enough that I now concede that writing a blog post telling readers to read my not-a-blog-post will probably be my only post this week! But, that confession at least does allow me to honor my own and my Partner’s creative styles and kill two birds with one Latin pun title. (I hope my Partner is pleased.)
I think my brain has struggled to write another post this week because it thinks it already has written one. It turns out there are enough “Easter Eggs” in the Glossary of terms – including how I got the pseudonym Lavender, an introduction to the not-horrible therapist whom I keep claiming I will write something about someday, a new Where’s Whoopsie, and even a link to the very first piece on mental illness that I technically ever wrote – to maybe back-justify that I even truly did kind of write an original post. (The aforementioned Easter-Egg article was written on a whim for the same reason I started my blog. It technically was posted on another blog two weeks after I started my own, but I wrote it first and submitting it probably also helped inspire this blog. But, I – in true ADHD fashion – kind of forgot that it existed at all or that at one point I was open to maybe trying to guest post on other blogs eventually. Oh, well. My life is too complicated to need anymore rejection therapy right now.)
Have a look at my Glossary of Terms and hopefully learn something new about me. I’ll write a real post next week, I promise! (Though, at least on the plus side I’ve actually managed to be more productive working from home. Not having to see my bully-of-a-boss on a daily basis at least reduces the amount of time I spend frozen in panic unable to even start a project for fear of him already despising it.)
CW: Panic attacks in progress and the reasons for them.
So, this is not the type of post I normally write. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a true post. If this were Facebook, I’d be vaguebooking to the point of parody. However, I will explain more later, when I feel able to and when I know more. So, I ask you all to stick with me for the moment.
I’m currently sitting in the staff break area at a hotel. I’m on my second week back to work and attending a conference.
And – because my life is a perfect shit storm – I just got a call about the 9th Circle of Hell. The situation at the bedbug place didn’t resolve after all, despite what it seemed. And – because I am apparently cursed – it fell apart even more while I was traveling, instead of safely working remotely where I could at least claim the dignity of falling apart in private.
I’m supposed to be presenting tomorrow, damn it! Yet, before that I have to somehow get from hiding with the cup of tea handed to me by a kind hotel staff member, trying to keep myself from completely shutting down by writing incoherent blog posts, to having a voice strong enough to give a presentation on data.
I need some serious help to get there. The chasm between those two states of Lavender existence seems insurmountable at the moment. And, the bully-in-my-brain, using the time-worn tool of the trade of the panic spiral, thinks I’ll crash and burn if I try to do anything about either the presentation or the 9th Circle of Hell.
Could you all just tell me that:
1) You believe me that I don’t want all the bad things that have happened this year to keep happening. You believe me that if I knew how to escape this systemic trap, I would. (I fear my colleagues probably won’t understand if this situation somehow impacts my ability to present tomorrow. I’m not sure I can handle them not.)
2) You believe that I can somehow pull myself together and make it through this. I can’t reach my Partner. I’ve called him multiple times. I’m in a city I don’t know. I’m here with coworkers who will likely follow my boss’s lead on how to treat personal situations to protect themselves from his wrath even though he himself isn’t onsite. I’m feeling like I just can’t anymore. It’s too much. I’m overwhelmed and frozen and probably way more dissociated than I should safely be in public. The idea of leaving this breakroom seems thoroughly impossible right now, though objectively I know that three hours ago I was feeling pretty competent and in control, and technically I’m still the same Lavender who felt that way not so long ago.
I need some serious “buffering the effects of trauma through witnessing and not shaming” right now, if it’s not too much to ask…
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.
I am not saying “B is for Bedbugs,” because supposedly things are “happening” with that. The home is hiring a new exterminator to come tomorrow and – again supposedly – is going to deal with the code violations that resulted in the scary green notice. I’m not sure how much faith I have in either of these things, but there’s not much I can actively do until I’ve given them a chance to fail all on their own.
Having learned entirely too much about what to do to keep bedbugs out even before an exterminator comes by when a complex I lived in during graduate school got them – and finding the agency rather lackadaisical about learning from my lived experience – I’ll share it with you all. Food-grade diatomaceous earth lining the walls and furniture is a great way to stop bed bugs and other nasties from getting in if the neighbors have an infestation. It’s also a cheap and surprisingly effective after-care product once the exterminator does treat. I did my research as soon as I discovered my neighbors had them, bought that, and was the only person in a ten-unit apartment that didn’t get bedbugs back in the day. I don’t think it was strictly allowed by my lease to do my own treatments, but at the time management didn’t care since it worked.
There’s no point in putting it down in my sibling’s room until the infestation is handled with entomological nukes first, but I keep hoping the agency will at least allow me to do the same after-care measures for my sibling’s room later. I’m not quite daring enough to just do them anyway as I did in grad school, because I’ve seen agencies use any technicality to boot someone, they barely wanted someone with a trauma history to begin with, and there aren’t really any other openings.
So instead B is for Blog Awards like C is for Cookie. If I have an enforced sit-on-my-hands week, I probably should get back to that “mental health sabbatical” portion of my not-FMLA. I’m hoping to do some baking. Baking too often seems incredibly overwhelming and not worth the spoons when the world is falling apart. But, I’ve always deeply enjoyed it when I can manage it. My original “balanced scorecard” included playing with inventing recipes as a thing that made me feel more like me.
Today’s other balanced scorecard questions are courtesy of Fibronacci: