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.

There was a guy on the subway who pulled out full-on boxing gloves and was using the handlebars that standing passengers hold onto like a punching bag. He must be at least somewhat trained because he did so with a rhythm that appeared – at least to my untrained eye – like something approaching “form” or “skill.” He even made a repetitive little “grunt grunt” like he was exerting effort in time with his punches. I can’t say I’ve ever actually watched a boxing match, but the action movies that I have watched that have included boxing have instilled in my brain the idea that those are the noises of proper breathing technique. A few people looked up briefly, but no one really batted an eye. As I said, it takes a lot of confidence to do anything other than stick headphones in your ear and avoid eye contact on my subway – or maybe my hypothesis is so valid that this kind of thing is sufficiently commonplace as to barely warrant notice.

Confidence is not something that is easy with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. There will never be anyone harder on me than me. One of the ways I express that – in addition to the ever-present threat of a panic attack on the way to an interview – is that I can only really ever be a student or a veteran at something. I rarely am able to give myself enough time for a true “learning curve” for something new. I either need to be trying something for virtually the first time – and thus be given the “pass” that even if I suck at it, it’s ok because I’m a “novice” – or I need independent confirmation within the first few trials that I don’t completely suck at it. I pretty much started this entire blog on the premise that I needed to learn to be okay with being mediocre at something and keep doing it anyway.

But, other than my Where’s Whoopsies, I haven’t done a lot of letting myself be mediocre at things in the past year, shared on this blog or otherwise, because there have been too many truly scary things and too many legitimate “if I fail at this, something really bad could happen” (like whatever the Hell the 9th Circle of Hell can dream up). I haven’t had the brain space left over to try to practice self-care through mediocrity. I think I’ve actually written more about my boss’s humorous failures than my own. And, while I’ve shared honest-to-goodness failures like jobs I definitely didn’t get, those weren’t quite humorous.

That would-be boxer was kind of inspiring in a “why am I so hard on myself for being neurodiverse when this is what neurotypical looks like?” way.  My Where’s Whoopsies – aka allowing myself to self-soothe through repetitive coloring – have been a source of self-care mentally during many of those “this failure isn’t something I can laugh at if it happens” moments. I am very glad I set up the expectation that I can suck at them and it’s ok. They have been a highly necessary distraction from my own mind.

Unfortunately, they are also a bit hard on the wrists with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Coloring in mandalas is a repetitive motion that can take it out of the hypermobile wrist even with ring splints. They aren’t truly a consequence-free distraction when the crisis gets bad enough. I still do them – and will still be posting them – but I couldn’t have safely done anywhere near as many mandalas as it would have taken to tangle with the 9th Circle of Hell last year and truly called it art therapy without my wrist having ended up permanently damaged.

My partner suggested a fairly obvious solution, at least from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have RSD. What if I just bought a three-dollar sketchbook and used my squishy gel pens to draw random doodles that didn’t involve repetition? All the benefits of coloring for mental health, with none of the risk of carpal tunnel? That probably would have been great last year except for the pesky fact that, included among the many things in my life that I tried once or twice and didn’t receive affirmation for in the past, is drawing. In fact, I received exactly the opposite feedback: I was told by my art teachers in elementary in no uncertain terms that I had no artistic talent whatsoever. I wasn’t about to do something I had concrete evidence that I sucked at during the Crisis of 2018.

But, as my Partner pointed out, I was also told I sucked at math in elementary school. Joke’s on those teachers since I’m now a professional data nerd? It’s 2019, no longer my childhood or the Crisis of 2018. Maybe it’s time I no longer allow the voice of long-ago art teachers to keep forcing me to choose between sore wrists limiting myself to mandalas or having no safe dissociative artistic outlet whatsoever when if things start to suck again? What’s the harm anymore if I suck at art? It’s not like I’m planning to quit my day job. I’m trying pretty hard to keep doing it, in fact. Can’t “Where’s Whoopsie” be expanded to include, “This entire drawing is a Where’s Whoopsie, but it was fun to make. Suck it, critics?”

My Partner was convincing enough to get me to order that three-dollar sketchbook during this current interim period between active crises. I almost gave up before I started when it arrived and I first saw the example sketch on its cover. If the cover picture below is truly the level of “art” the manufacturer expects to grace its pages, then I failed them the moment I ordered their product. My old art teacher was harsh, but she was probably right that I will never achieve anything near that level of artistic talent.

Strathmore_Art_Cover - Copy
<Image Text>: Cover of a Strathmore Sketchbook with a scarily good sketch of a young woman wearing a scarf.

But, I’m willing to try out having a hobby I’m only mediocre at again for a bit for the sake of my poor wrists. (Or at least as a back-up distraction for my next subway ride to an interview in case my fellow passengers fail to properly entertain me.) Thus, for this edition of Where’s Whoopsie, there’s no special trick to finding the Whoopsie. The entire sketch is the whoopsie.

It is also my attempt at capturing why “relaxing” is such a foreign concept for someone with ADHD and a bully-in-her-brain. Enjoy my first attempt at drawing something freehand since my last ever required elementary art class. And, since you’ll probably be wondering: 1) the little purple things are supposed to be lavender flowers. They are not grapes, as my Partner guessed; 2) The <image text> is as much for the visually unimpaired as for the visually impaired. I know you probably will have no idea what it is without explanatory text even if you can see it; 3) I wasn’t going to sign the sketch – because who would bother to plagiarize my terrible art or even call it art – but that same Partner who thought my lavender flowers were grapes also glared at me until I did. If the signature seems a bit pretentious, blame him not me; and finally 4) regular Where’s Whoopsies will resume shortly.

ADHD_WheresWhoopsieSketch - Copy
<Image>: Girl swinging from the moon in what should be the most relaxing fantasy landscape ever. But, her brain is full of chaos anyway. <Image Text>: “ADHD: when you can think of everything except nothing…”

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

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Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers

*Knock knock*

“Who’s There?”

“Wobbly”

“Wobbly who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subway Sociology #3: Of Cigarettes and Criminals Who Are Idiots…

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.”

Continue reading “Subway Sociology #3: Of Cigarettes and Criminals Who Are Idiots…”

Subway Sociology #2: Triggersplaining

TW: Talking potentially triggeringly about someone else talking definitively triggeringly about the Kavanaugh hearings.

I talk very loudly at times. It’s an occupational hazard of ADHD. In hindsight, I’m sure that I have said things about things that have happened in my life loudly enough into cell phones in various public places and on various forms of public transportation – possibly even this summer – such that my coastal co-commuters have formed firm impressions that the 9th Circle of Hell is not the sort of place they should put on their tourism bucket list. On a few occasions, they may even have had to awkwardly share a train home with their crying stranger.

I’m thoroughly oblivious to the volume of my voice, especially when I’m upset. To the best of my knowledge, though, those unwitting unease-droppers only learn that the 9th Circle of Hell is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. They don’t know the details of why it is so horrible, both for my safety and for theirs. I don’t share any specific details of lived traumatic events over cell phones. 1) Who would I be talking to on a cell phone that I trust that much? The only person I share those things with – besides the entire Internet, of course – is my Partner. If I’m on a train, he’s probably no more than an hour away from hearing more detail than he ever wished to have seared into his brain about the most recent horrible thing inflicted by that place for the next three hours, so a tearful warning to brace himself is probably sufficient for the phone call. 2) It’s hard to be anonymous when I yell a lot. ADHD. It’s not just for interrupting. It’s for interrupting obnoxiously enough that the whole room takes notice. 3) Most importantly, I may be fairly oblivious, but I have learned what triggers are and why overly detailed accounts of trauma shared in unexpected spaces might inflict on others the kinds of PTSD episodes my boss so charmingly calls the marker of a “difficult working style.” I’m still uncertain if PTSD or some other spoon-sucking diagnosis will eventually cost me my job, but taking someone else down at the same time seems like forfeiting to the 9th Circle of Hell without so much as a fight.

Given that I am generally as oblivious and audible as they come, I find it – surprising – that I still have more subconscious self-decorum then the presumably neurotypical know-it-all I shared an evening train ride home with tonight. The guy – dressed in what I presume still qualifies as generic early 20s hipster while proudly manspreading across three seats – was boasting loudly to his cell phone partner about how sensitive he was for recognizing that sexual assault survivors might be re-traumatized by what they had heard during the hearings today, how he had taken up the mantle of explaining to his less-enlightened male friends exactly how prevalent sexual assault was, how there are many reasons why women might not come forward, and how he considers himself an ally. Good on him and all –

–  except for that bit where he explained all of these things by shouting them into his cell in a train car populated enough to be carrying at least a couple of survivors, based on his own quoted statistics?! He then illustrated his point about how certain words and phrases that don’t register to men can trigger women by offering a play-by-play of the Kavanaugh hearings today in the same booming voice.

Continue reading “Subway Sociology #2: Triggersplaining”

Subway Sociology #1: Showing Ini-$h*!-ive: Business Meetings with IBS and ADHD

I just came back from a business meeting in another state. A small group of us went. We stayed at different hotels, and we agreed to meet up half an hour before the meeting to make sure no one was late. The meeting was in a city with good mass transit, so my boss encouraged us to take the subway to get to our meeting. It would be “less complicated” and cheaper.

I had a terrible, no good, very ADHD time getting there. First, I got lost on the way to the train. Big surprise!? Then, the train readers weren’t taking credit cards because of a malfunction, and I never carry cash. Using cash means I can’t track my spending on my statement, which is a recipe for frivolous ADHD spending. The only ATM around was one that needed a branded debit card to enter before business hours. Guess who isn’t a Bank of America customer, and thus couldn’t use her own debit card to unlock the doors of the 24-hour ATM? I was on the verge of panic when a passerby finally took pity on me and unlocked the door with her card.

Continue reading “Subway Sociology #1: Showing Ini-$h*!-ive: Business Meetings with IBS and ADHD”