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.

Where’s Whoopsie #18/Subway Sociology #5: Mixed Martial Arts

First, for those wondering. The bad news is that I don’t have a new job quite yet. The good news is that that is because the interview process keeps getting longer each time I go through it. I’m not finished with it yet, but I’m also not out of the running yet, either. There are more stages than I expected. I’ll be making that longer commute at least one more time before I can determine if I’ll be making it permanent.

I’ll use that “at least one more time” as a chance to gather more data for my current hypothesis that one particular section of the subway line that I would need to take as part of that new commute truly has a higher likelihood of entertainment value than the earlier sections of the same line that I used to take daily. I find that, including this post, I have now written about the actions of my fellow passengers – and/or other ads and experienced events – five(!) times. These points of data make a beautiful line (bonus points if you are now singing that song along with me), and, for a would-be daily rider who is also a data analyst, a beautiful new series for my blog. I’m retroactively subtitling the previous four posts about commuting “Subway Sociology” entries #1#2, #3 and #4.

One hypothesis is that this more-northerly-than-I-previously-commuted section of the line just has more interesting passengers in general. The null hypothesis, in turn, is instead that I have just needed more distraction from my own brain while riding this particular section of the subway – and thus have been more inclined to notice the fascinating actions of my fellow passengers while riding the rails – than while making other trips. I’ll need more data to truly determine, but, either way, my fifth unofficial/first official foray into subway sociology was a welcome distraction during what would otherwise have been a solid hour for the bully-in-my-brain to psych me out before my last interview.

It takes a lot of confidence to do anything other than stick headphones in your ear and avoid eye contact with fellow passengers on a subway. It takes a unique level of confidence to do double duty during your commute and incorporate your daily workout into it as well. Yet, one of my fellow passengers on the way to my last interview had the brass balls – er, brass bars – to do just that.

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #18/Subway Sociology #5: Mixed Martial Arts”

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.

 

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.

Continue reading “Candy Canes”

Improv #8: Dramatic Irony

*Knock Knock*

“Who’s there?”

“An indecisive person”

“An indecisive person who…?”

“I have no idea. Who would you like me to be?”

I just finished my first level of Improv training advanced enough that we actually get formal feedback from our instructor, who is a member of the main performing troupe for the theater, and a written evaluation which goes to the next class if we’ve successfully made it into it. (I did, for those wondering. I can legitimately say I didn’t influence that decision, as you will learn if you read this post all the way through, though that’s not necessarily as good a thing as you might initially expect!)

You know how they say art imitates life? My art is dramatic irony at its finest.

According to my instructor, I’m actually a great performer when I’m leading. I offer up creative narratives with a lot of humor potential, I willingly offer side support, I seem to have a good sense of how to create relatable characters with genuine emotion –  though I should play more with being the high-status character instead of always the low-status character – and my next instructor should encourage the class to engage with what I offer because I’m a strong leader who drives scenes forward when others do follow.

The problem comes when others don’t follow. Even though “Yes, And” is the foundation of Improv, failure to “Yes, And” – or just “Yes, Anding” in a thoroughly unexpected fashion – is a thing that happens often enough that I need to learn how to play off of it as strongly as when I do generate consensus. At the beginning levels, there can be a failure to accept an opening offer because the actor just isn’t experienced enough to recognize it. At the more advanced levels, since many actors that make it that far come from a theatrical background, many will just see my offer and raise it anyway because they think they have a better idea. If I ever do make the main troupe, I will be playing against audience members who will often offer complete non-sequiturs simply because they legitimately don’t know what “Yes, And” even means.

If my initial gambit is accepted, I’m decisive. If it isn’t, I’m too often indecisive and reorient the character or emotion I was exploring to be in consensus with whatever the other person(s) offered up.

Some performers get told they need to be more open to emotions or to improve their object work. Some just get told, “hey, be willing to share the stage a bit more.” Most performers get feedback that they need to remember to “Yes, And” more frequently. Me, however?

I get the feedback that I need to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. When an actor gets on stage and goes a totally different direction from what I initially was exploring, I need to remember that it is possible to “Yes, And” and still be decisive in who my character is and how they feel. “Yes, And” means that I have to accept whatever new facts are offered without disagreement. It doesn’t mean my character has to agree with them or come to a consensus on how they feel about those facts. If my character just lost an eye in a war (actual scenario from one of our sessions) and the entire rest of the characters react indifferently, I need to not be afraid to commit even more to how my character would react to that level of additional betrayal after such a life-altering event instead of instinctively deferring to the other characters’ opinions. The best humor comes from the audience recognizing authentic reactions to universal life experiences played out within fantastical and weird situations. It’s inherently funny to see my character decisively show his hurt and frustration because we all know that feeling, even if we can’t quite express it in such an over-the-top way…

So, I need to have the confidence to act high status and lead even when others don’t follow, I need to act decisively and I need to be true to who my character is even when others try to paint them as something else? Sure, why not?

It seems appropriate that I’d discover that I do have the potential to go all the way. The only thing standing in my way is just that pesky “resolving the central conflicts of my life born of experiences that shaped me long before I had any say in the matter” bit. Never ironically call Improv trauma therapy: you’re daring the universe to “Yes, And” you on it…

P.S. – as in real therapy, there is homework. Mine is to find situations that are fundamentally safe – not work, obviously – and practice coming to snap judgments, expressing them loudly and just sticking to them despite opposition. Bonus points if it’s a different decisive decision than what those who know me well would expect and if I don’t tell folks what I’m doing so they can’t inadvertently make it easier on me by giving in too easily.

My first decisive expression of this is that I’m going to my About page and removing that bit where I invite constructive criticism. My instructor also told me he had a feeling that – of all the class members – everyone but me would offer at least some justification of why they felt they deserved to go on to the next level regardless of his judgment about their readiness. I’d just say “whatever you think, you’re the expert.” Part of being decisive, however, is defending my right to my creative voice. Improv is subjective, and future instructors might not always rate me as highly as he did. That doesn’t mean I should automatically accept their judgments as gospel. So, given that advice, at this point, I’ve decided that my blog is what it is. If you don’t like it, go read something else. Art is subjective, after all. 🙂 )

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