Candy Canes

Image result for pokemon go pikachu santa hat
Image: Pikachu in a Santa Hat from Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go had a super event this weekend, in which all their previous special events were combined. Increased spawn rates for all prior Community Day Pokemon were available all weekend, but, within the weekend, there was one three-hour period wherein all the prior Community Day event bonuses (including double candy and stardust) were also available at once.

Because it is winter, everyone is sick, and I’m still destined to catch every acute illness that I am ever exposed to, I was getting over being sick and the concomitant flare this weekend. I was aware of the spoon cost to participate fully, but self-care sometimes means caring for my mental health even when it costs my physical health.

I’ve considered mobility aids before. There’s probably some residual feeling that I’m a pretender who doesn’t deserve one wrapped into my prior avoidance. It’s hard to get over a lifetime of ignoring your own needs because someone else has it worse. Mostly, though, I haven’t used one because I haven’t seen how it would help.

All the canes I’ve ever been exposed to are sturdy, wooden things that have to be held onto like an umbrella.

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Top Ten Things I Hate About Top Ten Posts

I went away to a place that was not the 9th Circle of Hell this past long weekend with my partner. It was just a long-weekend getaway, and – given that my Partner had literally been to Hell the week before – it doesn’t quite imply everything is fine. However, it was enough of a mental reset for me that I don’t want to think or write about that other place if I can avoid it for a week.

I wasn’t sure at first what else to write about. The 9th Circle of Hell and the soon-to-be-introduced-on-my-blog replacement for the Bedbug Motel still occupy entirely too much of my brain space. It was harder at first to not think of the 9th Circle of Hell than even to not think of an elephant. Until suddenly, I realized…

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Blog Awards Series #4: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Blogs Grow Up to Be About Cowboys

Anyone who ever thinks that the ADHD brain can be turned off has never had to deal with one while blind for a week. The days of wearing an eye mask on doctor’s orders did help me get more sleep than normal. It’s logical to fall asleep when it’s dark all the time anyway, but that didn’t necessarily make that sleep any less, um, “active” than my waking thoughts.

I had some bizarre dreams during my enforced lack of vision. For instance, have you ever seen those megachurches along interstate highways in the Southwest or Midwest – or just in California, period! – that look like ranches and have testosterone-laden names like “GUTS Church,” “Cowboy Church,” or “VIVE Church?” They feature boxing matches, baptisms in stock tanks, and battle-ready women’s weekends? Well, my brain created one for the horses those cowboys rode in on! It was called the Whipped Church and was led by Rev. Tacky, who preached that if parishioners were obedient to the Triple Crown in this life they’d roam free – unbridled and unwhipped – in the next. It had a food court where you could literally make hay about your faith and even a bookie onsite. (The horses, too, needed to get in on the betting action to be able to afford their “suggested” church donations.) Of course, as in many megachurches, Rev. Tacky was also known to stirrup some political diatribes alongside the entertainment!

I first assumed I should be ashamed for admitting to such a rowdy dream itself, but my Partner discovered a show called BoJack Horseman on Netflix uses a similar premise – horses running Hollywood – to satirize current events. Rather than being ashamed that my brain is so far out there as to produce that dream, I should instead probably be ashamed that my dream wasn’t quite far enough out there. I managed to somehow subconsciously mind-meld with Will Arnett and Amy Sedaris without ever having so much as received a Netflix recommendation about their show. (I actually kind of wonder how Netflix hasn’t ever suggested it? What demographic profile don’t I fit? Will I have to subvert Netflix’s impression of me by watching the show just because?)

My brain also decided it needed to write a YA dystopian novel. Full-length, with eight named characters, a beginning, middle, climax and denouement. And, of course, because my life is ruled by trauma right now, it decided that YA novel needed main characters who were more realistically affected by mental illness and the impact of worldwide trauma – that’s what dystopia is, after all – than most dystopian fiction I’ve read. I’m pretty sure the dream was prompted by the fact that the first book on tape I listened to during my week of no vision was one of those progressive feminist novels (not YA at all) that was clearly very proud of itself for including characters that were neurodiverse, but whose characters hit me in the uncanny valley about their mental illness portrayal. I couldn’t figure out why the book unnerved me so much initially, but my Partner agreed with my assessment of it after listening for a bit. He’s becoming a connoisseur of the trauma experience himself, sadly.

My subconscious apparently felt the need to continue considering the problem and ultimately determined that the characters felt like DSM-V checklists of their supposed diagnoses rather than people. They displayed all of the symptoms on the diagnostic questionnaire, but with none of the messy bleed-over between diagnoses or unique expressions of those symptoms built upon their own personality that have characterized my experiences and most of what I’ve read from other bloggers. It felt like the author did a lot of research, but she had no lived experience to make her symptom portrayals convincing. My brain is still so stuck on its soapbox about how we further stigmatize ourselves within the mental illness community by claiming some diagnoses are worse than others or that a person is better off if they are “high-functioning” vs. “low-functioning” that it had to create an entire book in my brain about the impact of within-group stigma in a future world with even more inequitable and ineffective mental health care to further prove its point.

I’d roll my eyes at myself for being that preachy in my dreams – literally and satirically – but I had my first generic PTSD nightmare last night since the spate of randomness. Even an entire YA “novel” about a terrifying possible future is a refreshing change from a replay of my real past. I got to at least direct the terrible things happening to my characters instead of having to (re)live them myself as the captive actor. I’ll happily stay diligent about wearing my eye mask for an hour daily to rest my eyes – my neuro-ophthalmologist recommended it after reviewing guidelines for eye care with Ehlers-Danlos – if it will continue to bore my brain into re-deriving better comedians’ ideas or playing novel writing instead of endless nightmares. My brain has already demonstrated that it can write trauma from re-deriving my own story. Anything my brain creates that isn’t a variation on my own trauma is a treat.

That said, my answers to Mackenzie’s questions prove why, nightmares or not, I would rather trust my own brain to write my story than anyone else’s.

Today’s questions courtesy of Life with an Illness:

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Houston, We Have a Problem

Explaining_is_Hard

That problem is, apparently, that I sound like an astronaut communicating through a crinkly 1960s com unit from the Moon – while my space suit springs a slow leak and I rapidly lose oxygen.

Did I ever mention that social anxiety makes absolutely no sense? I may be a bit underconfident when I perform on stage, but I at least can speak in multiple sentences without choking, in either the figurative or the literal sense.

This is not the case with job interviews.

Despite the protracted visit to Hell this month, I did manage to get off a small batch of applications to potential data science positions. This is a reasonable accomplishment, as these applications, even outside of academia, are not short. There’s no simple “slightly modify your resume, change a paragraph of a cover letter” and go. Each one requires references up front, transcripts, lists of published papers, and other odds and ends to create a complete portfolio. Each one has its own specific hoops** to jump through. Some I have seen even want samples of publicly available code on GitHub! We don’t even really use resumes. It’s all C.V.s. Oh, and I’m pretty much mentally broken right now and my typical protective mental walls have been dangerously breached by all the workplace bullying and 9th Circle of Hell full-scale substantiated systemic abuse.

All of those lodestones aside, I was able to complete one stage 1 phone interview. One of the rare legitimate benefits of ADHD is that if you truly enjoy what you do – and I do, just not always the workplace culture that surrounds it – hyperfocus can be harnessed to your favor. You can, for instance, pull off reading everything a lab has published in the past five years, plus review what consulting gigs and patents have been pursued in tandem, the work of their external research partners, and even their potential security of grant and/or venture capital sources. (I’m pretty sure a big part of the systemic breakdown of the current workplace culture is ultimately funding-related self-protective offensive attacks. I’d like some indication I’d be with a more established, stable entity instead of out of the frying pan and into the fire.)

There was nothing about that organization I didn’t know, and I had really carefully thought-out answers for the standard interview questions and what my background could contribute. Those answers were even good!

I managed to answer with great content, but the rushed breathiness of someone who basically was fighting a potential panic attack the entire time. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you can’t take deep breaths to calm anxiety, even if you try? You get physically stuck in a kind of hyperventilation. If I had forced deeper breaths (I briefly experimented while on mute), I risked going into a sort of coughing/retching fit. Being somewhat rushed and breathy – but not dry heaving – seemed better.

So, that sucks. I’m pretty sure in the past I’ve sounded like I speak a mile a minute and likely talked over people (because ADHD), but I at least haven’t sounded like I exhaust myself with my talking. Now, I seem to have the “don’t overwhelm with too much content too quickly” more under control, yet I get no benefit because some form of anxiety + idiotic autonomic nervous system functioning literally starved my brain of oxygen while I spoke! Did I mention I wasn’t actually – at least so I thought – even that anxious? My anxiety over this interview was nothing compared to the traumatic meetings I’ve had recently with the 9th Circle of Hell. My answers were good. I felt confident in them. If I had managed to speak like someone breathing the air around her instead of from deep inside a malfunctioning space suit, I’d even have said I felt pretty confident I’d get a second interview. But, apparently, when giving interviews after a lifetime of Hell, the devil is still in the delivery.

Has anyone else had that experience? You actually feel confident in what you want to say, but your lungs seize up and you can barely draw the breath to say it anyway? Any tips? This is kind of a scary new expression of my anxiety. Everything about my stress responses lately have been new and scary.

** For anyone who is going to suggest that perhaps I could actually make good on my claims about using statistics for social justice by applying to an advocacy organization, I have bad news. 1) There really aren’t a lot of grass-roots mental health or chronic illness groups that employ data geeks. 2) I am, still, a data scientist not a computer engineer by training, so sys admin positions don’t quite fit. 3) The ones that do have openings seem to want you to have already worked in advocacy. I saw one that actually seemed cool, but they explicitly stated their technical staff need to be “camera ready” to give solo press conferences about findings. Because even the data staff need to be PR-savvy, I guess the socially anxious aren’t the target mental illness demographic for mental illness advocacy by default? I still like the idea, but it seems like breaking into the world of making the world a better place is surprisingly complicated?

Blog Awards Series #2: Veteran of the Blog Awards

Back in college, I was an RPG gamer. I didn’t actually start with D&D, though. I started with a few more “freeform” type systems where I could create my character with all sorts of attributes that don’t fit into the standard D&D class system. I’ll be honest, D&D felt kind of limited after having freeform as my introduction to gaming. (If anyone ever wants to run an online game in some weird indie system, I’d totally join! I’d just be years worth of rusty at it!)

One of those more open-world systems had a trait you could offer your characters called “Weirdness Magnet.” It was exactly what it sounded like: weird things would just keep happening around your character. I remember the description was something akin to “If there was exactly one talking alien dog that would ever visit Earth, they would immediately stroll up and say hi to your character.”

I created a character at one point who had a variant of that trait, who was an “Irony Magnet.” Whatever the most ironic possible consequences of what they stated would come to pass. I’m feeling a little like an irony magnet – and not just in improv – myself today.

I talked about the kind of Little List that I usually think about – or, rather try not to think about – in my last set of blog award questions with regards to the 9th Circle of Hell. I legitimately did not give any mental attention to that other type of list that also exists, AKA the list of registered abusers with substantiated claims against them who aren’t allowed to work with the vulnerable.

Those lists haven’t been of much help in most of my dealings with the 9th Circle of Hell. Even when I could substantiate the abuse itself, the system protects the perpetrators to the degree it is virtually impossible to pin the action on the specific person accountable, which makes the substantiated allegation itself worthless, for all intents and purposes, since no one pays for the crime that is documented. Assuming that I ever did hold someone accountable, the list, I assumed, would be useless, as providers also don’t bother to actually do the background checks to determine they are employing someone who isn’t allowed to work there.

Well, that generally useless list has some additional names on it, and I’m the reason they are there. And, based on the date of the official letter, they may have been put there while I was studiously avoiding thinking about that other kind of list in my last blog award. Irony magnet, thy name is Lavender…

I feel like I should feel more victorious over this. I especially feel like maybe I should feel more victorious because, if a couple of others we’re working with are to be believed, further investigations are in the works and perhaps they will lead to more far-reaching actions. (I won’t say any more than that, because, well, I don’t want to be the idiot that jeopardizes future outcomes by speaking about them prematurely. I will only allude to what has been substantiated.) Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, there is a persistent habit of not bothering to check the lists before hiring decisions, so does a list that isn’t enforced really exist at all? Also, I’m honestly just exhausted. I’ve been dealing with this for longer than I’ve been a legal adult, and I have lived the brunt of so much crap over the years that any tiny victory feels irrelevant in the face of how broken the overall system remains. Hell, I’m doing any entire light-hearted series of “get to know me” questions just in the hope that there will still be a me left over after this journey through Hell ends. Years of trauma take a toll.

I said this to my Partner, and he asked if my blog award series included any questions about songs that represent my life. (Another fun fact: I used to assign my RPG characters songs that would help coalesce their personalities when I designed new characters.) If any do ask, he told me that I should include the song Veteran of the Psychic Wars as my song for my backstory, both with my family of origin and with the broader 9th Circle of Hell. I have to say, thinking about that other list and the new names on it, I see the applicability. My primary response to the new names on the list – when I can manage to muster anything beyond just psychic numbing – is just to agree that the line “wounds are all I’m made of…did I hear you say that this is victory?” certainly describes how I feel about this “victory.”

Still – given the irony magnet that my first set of answers ended up affording – let’s see if I can find a way to answer these next set of questions with something akin to me winning the lottery, eh? Or maybe just winning a free trip somewhere on my bucket list, since I’ve written about travel more often than I’ve written about little lists and, to date, no conveniently opportunities to cross things off have shown up. (I’d live with whatever irony came along with the trip just to have a free trip, at least so long as my irony magnet didn’t somehow lead to me winning that trip from the 9th Circle of Hell state tourism board…)

Today’s Questions Courtesy of Alison at The Unabashed Autist

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Where’s Whoopsie #12: Hear Me Tyranit-roar

Hi, I’m Lavender and I’m a geek.

You’ve probably already picked up on that by now, but just in case you haven’t, telling you my Partner and I have been eagerly anticipating the Pokemon Go Community Day with abundant tyranitars for weeks now probably confirms it.

Today was a rare good day. We went to one of the biggest parks in our city. We each managed to collect enough candy to evolve multiple tyranitars, and we participated in some rare legendary raids with enough people to actually win (even though we *cough* don’t have enough friends to field a team outside of these community days due to *cough cough* social anxiety). We both even managed to get high-level shiny tyranitars to evolve. (It seems only fitting that someone with ADHD – stereotyped as “ooh, shiny” – should need shiny pokemon). My spoons did give out before my phone battery and the event did, but with appropriate planning for water, meds, rest breaks, shade and cooling aids, I lasted longer than I expected to. The heat and sun weren’t unbearable, and we stopped for burgers and ice cream sandwiches in the A/C when I needed to rest.

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Apps that Ad(h)d Up

There is an inherent contradiction that I have noticed in a lot of workbooks, apps, and other tools for mental and/or physical health. The tools themselves require a tremendous amount of attention to detail, dedication and memory for recording precise events at precise times. If those things were intuitive for me, I wouldn’t need those tracking and reminder apps in the first place!

It’s a great idea – in theory – to record every time I feel triggered, depressed, light-headed or aching, then to write down which techniques I tried to address the problem(s) with a corresponding 1-5 Likert scale rating of how much symptom reduction I obtained from them. I’m a data nerd by nature, but I also have ADHD. I need the tracking to be easy to do, work in multiple environments, and to provide handy visual data aggregations to make sense of the trends. I create those types of data visualizations every day for my job, but I do not have the time or spoons to take on a second job doing my day job again on my own time for my own health! If someone wants to pay me to create the world’s most perfect health tracking report, great. Until then, I just want technology to do it for me!

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Heavy Subject Matter (Pt. 2: Physically Heavy)

Warning: heavy material ahead. No, not a content warning. (If you want that, see Pt. 1). Though, I suppose the book has some of that in its characters’ backstory. I literally mean heavy subjects ahead.

For anyone who is super adept at remembering my life:

  1. Why? It’s not that interesting?
  2. Can you please teach me how?

I need a journal to remember what happens to me on a Tuesday. Seriously, there’s a little journal in my Health Storyline app entitled “Things that Happened Today.” I need it.

But, if you do remember my life, you may remember that I was recently diagnosed with EDS. I also wrote about how challenging it is to remember what I read in books. This is unfortunate because I’m having a particularly hard time getting through Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a good book. It’s a good enough book, in fact, that my Partner wanted to read it, too, and he rarely reads fiction books. The fact that he also wanted to read it means that we bought it in hardback. He is weirded out by Kindle books.

We bought it the day it came out. He finished it shortly after that. I’ve been struggling since then. For anyone keeping count, the book came out almost six months ago. Partly, I’ve been struggling because of my brain fog and a need to go back and refresh on sections whenever I set it down for a bit. But, there seems to be something more. It is more than just more than mentally taxing to read that book.

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War and Piecemeal Memory

Have you ever lied about reading War and Peace?

Me neither. At least, I don’t think I have ever lied about reading it. I mean, it’s not like I’d remember, or anyone could tell the difference between my lying about having read it or my actually reading it.

I have read it. I just unfortunately remember virtually nothing about it. I’ve read most of the classics (including 1984), and I remember just as little about the majority of them.

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Improv* #6: A Meetup Group with Social Anxiety Tries to Walk into a Bar…

How to Make Friends
Source: XKCD

…The bartender says, “We don’t serve folks with social anxiety here.”

The groups shrugs their shoulders and replies, ‘Well, if that diagnosis doesn’t work, how about depression, PTSD or ADHD? We’ve got a few options for what to call ourselves…’

The bartender shrugs, “One of those ought to count. Come on in.”

You probably thought I was going to go with the ending where they all shrugged their shoulders in relief and walked away because they didn’t really want to be in public anyway, didn’t you? Well, I was trying not to be cliché. After all, I tried to go to a meetup group for folks with social anxiety last night. At the time I thought of that joke, it seemed like the obvious ending was just a mental loophole giving me permission to chicken out. Chickening out at the last minute, even mentally, didn’t seem like the best option given I had three hours left to keep myself psyched up to actually go and “be friends at people.”

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