For Better or Worse

CW: Anonymity is so inconvenient sometimes. I can’t, for instance, tell you the actual state motto of the 9th Circle of Hell. “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here,” while appropriate, is actually not nearly as morbidly satisfying as the true state motto. If I ever write a memoir of my experiences in Hell – or, better yet, find a way to channel its traumas into some kind of a black-comedy stand-up – the title will simply be the unadulterated state motto. Some things are just too darkly ironic in and of themselves to be able to be embellished by even the most skilled satirist.

That said, the aforementioned “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” is appropriate enough as a placeholder that any post I write about the 9th Circle of Hell from now until eternity probably warrants a content warning. Keep that in mind. This post is a darkly ironic reminder that trauma really does affect everyone, whether they grew up in Hell or married into the family.

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Behind the Back Behavior

I feel betrayed. I’ve just learned for the first time about some truly “behind the back” behavior. I don’t mean anything from the 9th Circle of Hell, workplace bullying or even America’s President being a traitor – those are all sufficiently terrifying betrayals, but they are hardly newly discovered  – but rather something that has been quietly happening for years of which I’ve just become aware. Women, we’re all being badly betrayed…

By women’s clothing.

I’ve had to wear entirely too many dresses lately. Dresses are frustrating to begin with for spoonies, because they require things like making sure your legs are shaved every day, finding flat-toed shoes that look professional and cute (I do not have the ankle stability to wear heels), the ridiculousness and expense that is “dry cleaning,” inconsistent sizing between brands that make shopping take forever and fray the last ADHD nerve, having to buy special bras to wear with oddly shaped clothing styles, and sometimes wearing the modern-day torture device known as the “thong” under them.

They also all have zippers in the back. This has never phased me, but apparently only because I’m a mutant.

I finally pursued physical therapy for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome because it seems like, if I’m going to have to be on unpaid not-FMLA leave wearing traitorous dresses to traitorous meetings in the 9th Circle of Hell, I should also actually invest some energy into learning how not to dislocate my elbows or fall over because my ankle suddenly decides it needed to pop out orthogonally to my leg while I do so.

It took months to find a physical therapist who actually knows about EDS and who accepts my insurance. When I finally found one, the first thing he did was go through what “normal” range of motion is for most of my joints and to establish some limits beyond which I really shouldn’t be moving them to ensure my funny bone stays connected to the rest of my bones.  He will work with me throughout my not-FMLA, including designing a home program I can continue anywhere, including in the 9th Circle of Hell.

It took me until after the session to crystalize what was nagging at me about my “hyperextended” range of motion behind my back. If what I am capable of is “too much,” then how do non-mutant women ever zip up their dresses?!

I have never met a dress I couldn’t zip on my own, which is a good thing because my Partner is the first human I’ve been able to live with. I finagled my way into a single room in my sophomore year of college, and I never looked back. I am not good at having strangers in my personal living space. (Heck, it even took about four months to get used to living with my Partner.) In all that time, I have worn dresses to various functions. Now, suddenly, I’m told that the way I zip them is actually hyperextending most of my arm joints. What’s the alternative? For now, it’s asking my Partner to zip me up.

He is more than willing. (Though being a funny bonehead himself, he happily reminded me that he only has to own a handful of sports jackets, five pairs of similarly colored dress slacks, two colors of dress shoes and two suits to complete the male professional wardrobe as he agreed.) But, it made me wonder how single women without Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome handle zippers in the back of their dresses? If I’m understanding my physical therapist – and my Partner – correctly, most humans can’t zip up a zipper that extends the entire length of a dress from butt to neck on their own? I legitimately never knew this.

A brief internet search suggests this to be true. There are even devices made for single women to help them zip up their own dresses? Women, why do we stand for this? Women’s fashion is cruel and unusual punishment in so many ways, but it’s a special level of betrayal that a staple of women’s fashion for “coupley” events like weddings and first dates requires expensive contraptions for a single woman to put on. Or, that a woman could conceivably make the C-suite all by herself but still need to ask her significant other to help her get dressed for it in the morning?

There are other places that designers could put zippers. I’ve seen dresses with zippers up the side or no zippers at all. Yet, the vast majority of my dresses have had zippers straight up the back that require a range of motion that is “beyond normal” for humans. Why are women such masochists for “fashion”?  Can we all agree now that owning a twenty-piece professional wardrobe like my Partner makes much more financial and physical sense, especially for spoonie women? Can we agree to some women’s code wherein we all don’t purchase clothing that requires special equipment to put on?

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for some time, but “minimalism” for women still requires being creative so that the same small number of clothing items are worn in continuously inventive ways that look like they are many more items. That takes creative commitment for which I don’t have the mental energy. Owning fewer clothing items additionally means more of that most feared task for anyone with ADHD: laundry. Laundry is the bane of the ADHD existence. I can’t quite embrace minimalism simply because of its laundry commitment. However, I am now seriously considering boycotting dresses with zippers up the back. I trust my Partner to always be there to give me a “hand up,” but I resent that some designer I’ve never met could force me into a situation wherein I have to either spend additional money or rely on others. I’m not scratching their backs with any more of my money unless they scratch my back and make their clothes fit within my new “pretending not to be a mutant” human lifestyle.

My PTSD Awareness: Currently Subject to Mental Health Austerity Policies

PTSD_Awareness

Trauma_is

PTSD sucks. I have previously written 48 posts to this effect. (But who’s counting?)

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. I’m still generally too overwhelmed in my ability to cope from ongoing 9th Circle of Hell trauma and PTSD symptoms – oh the irony! – to muster up my usual witty commentary on my awareness of awareness months at the 11th hour.

Instead, have some humor (with a grain of real truth in it) courtesy of my Partner instead.  This conversation took place tonight in regards to whether I should still go to open mic night knowing I have to deal with the 9th Circle of Hell again on Friday. I felt guilty for not obsessively staying home and continuously preparing, even though that was liable to just end with me a dissociated puddle on the floor.

Partner: “Remember how austerity was a resounding success for the world’s economies during recent economic troubles?”

Lavender: *Crickets*

Partner: “No? Well, mental health is the same way.”

Take care of yourself. Austerity in economics and/or mental health care is rarely a sustainable solution for long-term shocks.

Improv #9: In-city-cure attachment

I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life. Enough that I’ve only ever stayed put long enough in my adult life to be called for jury duty once, during graduate school. I’ve lived on both coasts and in the middle. I’ve lived in cities I’d go back to in a heartbeat if a job presented itself, and I’ve lived in cities that I ran from as fast as humanly possible.

I’ve said repeatedly that any place I live in that isn’t the 9th Circle of Hell is home, but I’ve also said that home is nowhere. Each city has been a steppingstone. It has been something impermanent to be enjoyed for a few years and moved on from when career or family beckoned ever onward. I’ve never fully believed that I’d ever stay in one place long enough to truly settle down, even as I carefully chose my current city with the stated hope of finally finding a way out of the 9th Circle of Hell for my family situation for good. I look forward to the day in a few years when I can legitimately say I’ve lived away from the 9th Circle of Hell more years than I’ve lived in it, but it would take a very long time to be able to say I’ve lived in any one place longer than I walked the cursed ground of my childhood.

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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.

Continue reading “Heavy Subject Matter (Pt. 2: Physically Heavy)”

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 #5: Meta-Analysis

Image result for I rarely have a thought by itself ADHD
Source (as best I can tell): GAGfm

This post was supposed to be about physicality in Improv. It was also supposed to be titled The Body Keeps the Score. It is neither of those things because it turns out even a girl with ADHD can’t truly have an original thought. My brain can’t stay inside the box, but it certainly can stay within the bounds of the total accumulation of all of the centuries of human thought. Unless the author is writing in their native cuneiform, even the next Great American novel will most likely share overarching plot themes with thousands of other plot elements throughout history – and that’s okay!

As my new Improv teacher describes it: “You remember that movie about that guy and that girl? And they seemed like they were good together and you thought they’d get together? Then something happened, and they didn’t get together – but then they did and it was okay? What was that called?” There is nothing original under the sun, and we’re encouraged in Improv to tap into universality for comedic effect. Improv encourages us to mine tv tropes for concepts to explore in a pinch.

Realizing I’m not that original after all is why this post is no longer about physicality in Improv, which was the topic of the first session of the next series of classes that I finally started this week, but is instead about the use of call-backs, Chekhov’s gun and strategic use of Breaking of the Fourth Wall to meta-analyze my own motivations for talking about physicality in Improv (and/or life) instead of exploring physicality in Improv (and/or life.)

It’s also a good example of why you should never look a gift call-back in the mouth, of what stream of what unedited stream-of-consciousness ADHD thinking looks like, and, of course, of pressing the punchline in general.

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Data Minding

I first intended to post about the fact that statistical algorithms can pick out individuals with various mental health diagnoses from the type of language they use on social media last November, but I lost my hyperfocus on the topic almost immediately after I read the original media blurb about a new study. I also forgot to ever read the study itself, which was sad because it should have been right up my alley. (In my defense, I was probably exhausted at the time. I usually am.)

I suppose in hindsight there was nothing stopping me from writing the post after November – when I finally remembered it existed – but I’d have felt like a failure as a blogger. I mean, aren’t bloggers supposed to produce semi-current content for their readers? I’d also hate to disappoint any of my readers who might be statistical outliers, but apparently statistical algorithms can also pick that out.  At least online, I’m not the only one with the attention span of a gnat. Articles over a month old are ancient in the blogosphere. Got to play to my audience and pretend I’m aware of the passing of time.

I truly thought my chance had come and gone. I could have cried with relief when another article came out this month referencing similar research about the language used by individuals with mental health diagnoses on social media. Sometimes I do get a second chance to make a first impression. (I will confess my own self-regulation of my own science ideals vs. science practice hasn’t improved since November. I haven’t read the original research cited in this new article, either.)

I managed to get a timely post up, and I know that – this time- I won’t disappoint my readers. I posted extremely relevant content and I intentionally set myself up to succeed…

…by failing forward. I mean, after all, I did just manage to write the most statistically obnoxious – I mean “optimal” – example ever of a social media post by someone with ADHD above. It should trigger as many automated flags as possible during data mining that I truly have the diagnosis that I know I have. I was, however, only diagnosed in adulthood.

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Messages in a Bottle #4: Cold Lang Syne

Today’s winter storm event – Winter Storm Liam – is turning out to be a non-event for my area. There are two more potential snowmakers behind it, per my favorite bedtime story,  aka The Weather Channel. Maybe those will live up to the hype that Liam didn’t.

The blizzard we ran into in Iceland in the final installment from my holiday trip was decidedly not a non-event. I assume it was the same bomb cyclone, aka Winter Storm Grayson, that caused our complications as the one that caused problems for most of the U.S. Either way, this entry is dated 1/2/18. Its lessons include a) always scan your important documents into Evernote if you have ADHD, even if you are on vacation, and b) get the winter damage rider on your rental car if you visit Iceland in January. The pic of just sheets of white is a road. If you don’t believe me, look for the road signs as hints. We drove in that.

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CBT and the Statistician

Catastrophizing is an interesting phenomenon when you are a statistician. It’s ingrained in me to work out the odds, even for the things I fear the most. I am the girl who corrects her therapist that, “No, I don’t actually think X, Y or Z is going to happen. I objectively assign only about a 15% probability of X happening in the next three months; however, I fear X enough that even those odds trigger nightmares.” I am either terrible at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or amazing at it, depending on how you view it.

Sometimes the odds are somewhat reassuring, and sometimes times they aren’t. Either way, never tell me those odds unless you can back them up with peer-reviewed citations. I work in public health, and epidemiology is not often kind. I consider myself an advocate because I see in the odds how rough it is for anyone different from population expectations. I see the odds for those who aren’t neurotypical, for those who live in poverty, for those of color. I see the odds, and I both fear and advocate more because I see them. After the first few therapy sessions – wherein I bombard them with the worst of the depressing odds ratios I work with every day – most therapists pursue a different therapeutic direction. CBT is an evidence-based treatment, but I don’t know that anyone has ever evaluated whether it works as well on those who estimate the odds of catastrophe every day to earn their paycheck. I’ve had better luck with therapeutic methods that stress radical acceptance. I know the odds, but I am still learning how to sit with those fearful odds.

So, what does a statistician say to someone else experiencing the same physical symptoms when that person does catastrophize? What does she say when someone states without hesitation that she has cancer? What does she say when the odds are higher for that person, but more tests need to be run? What does she say when she’s been discussing the catastrophic scenario for her own symptoms for hours, and no one is catastrophizing over her?

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