Fight Despair Together: What Does Life on Your Terms Look Like?

You see the well-trodden paths in your life. You learn ways to stop getting stuck there. You go, killer! The next question is, “Where do we go from here?”

We have to forge new paths, create new ways of relating to people around us. If we are doing our inner work well, this should be obvious to us. We recognize familiar situations and remember how we would have reacted in the past.

Late Night

My coping mechanisms work fine…. Until they don’t!

Take Responsibility for Your Reactions

Personal example, a weird thing I have is I hate waking up alone. Like, if I went to bed alone, okay. But in that half-awake haze of the Night Owl at 8am, I seek out the comfort of my beloved.

And if he’s up early playing a game, it takes me to this weird, awful thing where each of my parents preferred a screen to my company.

Please keep in mind, I’m still barely half-awake.

There have been days when I was well into a spiral of lashing out and self-loathing by the time I really became conscious.

My new favorite YouTube shrink is Abdul Saad. In one video he says that stability is necessary before self-development can begin. This is so true! I’m so grateful to my husband for putting up with all my drama and being a consistent presence in my life.

Saying ‘No’

Sometimes I’m sad when I think of my old family and how none of my efforts made any difference. But without those people around, my dust is finally settling. I can begin to see myself as I truly am, without being drained by people who don’t know how to give.

So, when you see the old reaction – In my case, freaking the fuck out – but the instinct behind it is muted because you have been working through the blockage that triggers it – My fear of abandonment – you begin to see new ways to handle things.

Mostly these days I can stay calm long enough to remind myself who I’m talking to. Why I got up in the first place. Maybe I help deal with something bothering him. And, more often than not, I simply go back to bed.

Yawn

I love you guys, but I need my rest!

You might call this a ‘soft no.’

Another thing Dr. Sahd said is that suffering is a necessary prerequisite for personal growth. Not to throw a pity party but, dear readers, I have been suffering.

I have been tired before. I ran myself ragged in my 20s because I didn’t know any better.

And I thought pushing myself would make me harder. It just makes me numb.

Since I married my husband I have pushed myself harder than ever, in love instead of fear. I hoped this would carry me through. I hoped I would adjust to this complicated life.

I’m doing okay. But I have had to start saying no, as an act of desperation. It’s not easy! My impulse to prove myself and my enthusiasm for giving made me turn away from my own inconvenient needs a few too many times.

My family is a wonderful source of love, cuddles and companionship. But I need to be alone.

I have described it to my husband as a house – I am happy to have guests but I need time to clean up and take out the garbage. It’s starting to pile up.

Despite all my explanations, he is very extroverted and just doesn’t quite get it. He is getting better at anticipating my needs, but I can’t expect him to be my emotional babysitter.

I have to let go of needing to always please others and always feel included, because I have to find a way to include solitude in my life.

This is a must. I’m starting to lose my inner thread more and more. Even when rested I’m irritable and distracted.

Reading By The Window

I know I wrote it down somewhere!

Life on My Terms…. Who am I?

I bring it up because life on our terms isn’t just about deciding what we want and pursuing it. I reshaped my life a few years ago because I reached a crossroads. But Happily Ever After is always more complicated than we might wish.

We will always hit walls. Sometimes our goals don’t align with our abilities and we have to re-evaluate.

Most of all, remember you are a work in progress. Life on your terms requires a strong understanding of yourself.

My first dream was to be a musician. I pursued this dream for years and with various methods. At 20, life on my terms would have looked like playing out with my band every week. Travel, drugs and alcohol, all that stuff.

Now I understand that, if I had succeeded, that lifestyle would have fried me. And quite possibly killed me. The crippling anxiety that stopped me makes sense in retrospect. I still hope to communicate with the masses, but I don’t even like watching other people play stadiums!

A big part of actually accomplishing growth is letting go of how you thought things would be. The Buddha said the root of all suffering is wanting and, although asceticism mostly pisses me off, I think this is where that wisdom applies.

The Only Constant in Life is Change

It’s important to keep trying to be a little better, day after day. And while our goal vision is a great motivator, remember that it’s just a vision. It’s an idea. The only thing that’s real is what’s in front of you right now.

Life on our terms is not about bullheadedly pursuing an ideal. And you will find that your terms, your boundaries, your needs change as you change.

Unbalanced

I had it balanced there for a second!

My mother once cautioned me against using psychedelics because “it changes your brain chemistry. It changes who you are, forever!” Later I learned that, yeah, that’s kinda the point.

And anyone who wants to stay exactly the way they are is not someone I want to spend a lot of time with.

Once again I’m going to urge you to keep a journal. Just a notebook to write down your thoughts as they come up. It’s an invaluable tool for organization and reflection. Plus, you will be amazed how much you plain old forget.

What you want is only half the picture. Who you are will assert itself in sneaky ways.

Radical Acceptance is the Cure for What Ails Ya

I could easily have gotten some pills for the anxiety and blamed the world for whatever level of failure I attained in the sexist music business. And I can only imagine what a miserable fuck I would be at 35.

Don’t imagine for a second that this tomboy thought she would have four kids and just want to stay home to clean and write. Hell, no.

There is what you want, and there is who you are. You have to radically accept who you are, otherwise you will be running in brambly circles forever.

**We’re coming up on the last push in our Fight Despair Together series. I hope I have helped a few of you gain some insight and get a little grounded for the hard work in the coming year. Heal yourself, come together.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Fight Despair Together: Healing Through Self-Compassion

What is stopping you from working through your problems and becoming who you want to be?

Redhead With Pistol

I’m not defensive! Just stay away from me!

Depression and anxiety are both subsumed anger over how we have been treated. 

Over and over, researchers have shown that those who suffer from such things are overwhelmingly victims of abuse as children. 

Of course you would be angry if those who were supposed to care for you instead treated you like crap. Or otherwise made you feel lesser. And there’s a good chance you don’t even realize it. Or the depths to which it shapes your experiences to this day.

The most important thing is to have compassion for yourself. This sounds a little weird but we all know what compassion looks like. We just usually reserve it for other people. 

Our expectations of ourselves run unreasonably high and we chastise ourselves for small mistakes. Dammit, that was stupid.  If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, don’t say it to yourself. 

This is something I’m struggling with right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not presenting myself as some kind of self-healing guru. I’m just determined to figure this out and share my discoveries with you.

You are human, with flaws, like everyone. A lot of attention is given to forgiving others but forgiving yourself can be more difficult. Admitting someone else made a mistake is easy! But it’s absolutely vital, because turning compassion on yourself has been shown to soothe the Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism.

Often referred to as Fight or Flight, this is an ancient brain system that is triggered by stressful situations. But when you are a child, and you can’t fight or flee, this stress response can go unresolved. If this happens many times over a period of years, years when your brain is growing, the overload of stress gets baked in and becomes part of the system. This is why, sometimes, you feel like crap for no reason.

Sad On The Porch

I’m just not feeling these shoes!

Plenty of people are dipshits to their kids. I suspect some common parenting practices are worse for little ones than most of us know. Chances are, the things or situations that throw you off-balance are related to bad experiences in your formative years.

Maybe you rare painfully aware of this but aren’t sure what to do about it. Traditional therapy can feel like endlessly rehashing trauma. Happily, the best treatment for these things is something anyone can do at home for free.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by helping change the way you think about things. Unlike most forms of therapy, there’s quite a bit of evidence that CBT actually works.

According to the American Psychological Association“CBT is based on several core principles, including:

Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.

Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.”

CBT is all about learning to see things differently. 

First, you have to admit, really understand, that you are not infallible. What you experience is not reality. You see your mind’s representation of reality. It’s impossible to get away from because you can’t get out of your mind.

But you can change it. The brain is flexible and always thirsty for new knowledge, until the day we die. 

The APA continues, “CBT treatment usually involves efforts to change thinking patterns. These strategies might include:

Learning to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in the light of reality.”

Peak Behind The Lace

I see plenty! And those kids over there are up to something!

Experience can condition us to anticipate certain behavior from those around us. We may even misinterpret what they say and do, following our customary script.

That’s right, I’m suggesting you could be wrong.

Maybe you are just totally jangly, too jumpy to think straight. Admit that the issue lies with you, rather than the world being unfair or unwelcoming. The world at large isn’t watching you. The world at large doesn’t care.

This may sound harsh but, when you realize the pressure is off, you can start living your life however you want …. Whatever that means.

In the words of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists“If we are upset about our problems, we have two problems – The problem and our upset about it.”

The power lies in putting some breathing room between yourself and the issue.

feel angry

instead of

am angry

Then we can see more clearly, “Often, we upset ourselves about things when, in fact, the situation isn’t like we think it is. If we knew that, we would not waste time upsetting ourselves.”

CBT calls this the Inductive Method. It’s the simple act of checking yourself before you wreck yourself.

Indtruder

You’re not sneaking up on me!

“The Inductive Method encourages us to look at our thoughts as being hypotheses or guesses that can be questioned and tested. If we find that our hypotheses are incorrect (because we have new information) then we can change our thinking to be in line with how the situation really is.”

Mental flexibility is the key to what we’re doing – Facing our fears and putting them to rest.

Top of the APA’s list of unhealthy behaviors CBT addresses is denial. They stress, “Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them.”  This is the #1 most important thing!

You must be willing to do this or you are wasting your time.

By the time you get to be in your 30s, you will have noticed that certain scenarios – or situations that feel similar – keep cropping up. You don’t need to be a mystic to see that if you learn to handle these things better, you can stop going in circles. 

You can guarantee that your emotions are messing you up, keeping you from putting your best foot forward. This is why we often struggle with things related to our history. It’s not anything supernatural, and it’s within our power to make changes.

Take a moment, either during the situation or after, and ask yourself why it brings out the feelings in you that it does. How are you approaching or conceptualizing things in ways that come from thoughts that cause you pain? From ideas you know are probably unhealthy?

It’s not complicated stuff, but it does involve dealing directly and honestly with things that make you uncomfortable. With things you’ve taken for granted. It’s easy to get defensive.

Television

We all got way too much of this!

Watch out for anger directed at people or things who don’t really deserve it or are not worth your time. That’s your defense mechanism kicking in to deflect attention from a sore spot.

Time after time, take that pause to step back. Understand that your feelings are like a flowing river – You may be soaking wet, but you are not the water. 

By applying Self-Compassion and Check Before You Wreck, over time you will begin to see patterns in your thoughts and behavior. Understanding will enable you to act more with purpose, instead of just reacting to the world as it comes at you.

You can’t go back in time and undo trauma, but you can fix the damage it caused. It takes time. If you get frustrated trying to understand yourself, imagine the most sympathetic character you can think of – A small child, a puppy, an old lady – and imagine they are having your difficulty. Take how you would feel for them and apply it to yourself. 

Yes, it takes that much patience.

Coming soon: Part 2 – What Does Life on Your Terms Mean, Anyway?

Summer Series: Fight Despair Together

Summer Series 2019 is all about finally moving forward.

Tea By The Tub

I could use some self-care!

Last year I did my Tripping the Fright Craptastic series, where I told you all about my struggle dealing with my parents. I was attempting to show some of the crap that comes with being in the middle of life while supporting either end.

This year’s Summer Series is about all of us.

The Middle Class Never Existed

Reality is sinking in for the 90s kids. The reality that we may never own a house. That the endless ascension toward a blissful, shining future full of robots is not going according to plan.

We hear a lot about the Middle Class – That fabled land of mowed lawns and street lights. Most of us probably know someone we would consider Middle Class. But the Middle Class doesn’t exist.

It never did! In a strange twist, our parents and grandparents just happened to live in an historical vortex. A unique combination of events conspired to create a freakish period of prosperity.

Writing for Medium, Jonathan Peter Schwartz quotes economist Robert J Gordon on the different phases of the Industrial Revolution (IR):

“In particular, the period following IR#2 (1920 – 1970) saw incredible annual productivity growth (1.89%). Gordon argues that…. IR#2 impacted ‘virtually the entire span of human wants and needs. 

“‘Given how impoverished the human condition had been, and the vast array of technologies that intervened, it should come as no surprise that productivity skyrocketed and tremendous amounts of wealth, economic growth and improvements in living standards were observed during this period.'”

Haircut

So, I’m gonna be cutting my own hair for a while?

The Nothing is Spreading

Those of us who grew up listening to the stories about this great party are having to accept that we will never attend.

And on top of that, they trashed the place.

We are left with the same old story, a chosen few living high on the efforts of everyone else. The Middle Class was a technology-induced fever dream.

Fight Despair Together

As we slip into middle age it gets harder to talk about someday. That better job might not be coming. Prices just keep going up. All the rules have changed and many of us are floundering. Most of us know someone who OD’ed.

I covered the spreading despair in my last post. We are a big group and we are very diverse, but we can’t let stress cause us to focus on divisions.

We need one another. The antidote to despair is fellowship. Camaraderie. Talking about what’s going on is the first step to fixing it.

But First….

Each of us has to be in the right frame of mind to ensure our focus stays on unity. In order to listen, we have to calm the panicked voice telling us we’re drowning.

Before we can clean up the world, we have to clean house.

Originally, this was going to be a single post but I decided it needs more space than that.

This year’s Summer Series is about soothing the anger and beginning to heal from the journey so far. By Fall we will be centered and equipped with new tools to build a better future.

Part 1 coming soon: Self-Compassion Promotes Healing

The Nothing is Spreading: Millennials’ Company in Misery

 

By now, everyone has heard about the depressed blue-collar White Guy. His jobs have dried up, the mainstream is leaving him behind, and he’s paranoid about signs he’s becoming a minority.

Sad Cafe

I don’t even know if I’m depressed or just tired!

People have blamed this demographic for the Alt-Right, electing Trump, and for generally being a cesspool of simmering privilege. The consensus seems to be they are upset because they are entitled. The world doesn’t revolve around old white men anymore, and they need to adjust.

New data challenges this stereotype. The American Journal of Public Health released analysis of a longitudinal study they started in 1995. Visiting with the participants five times over 20 years, they interviewed them about things like drinking and drug use.

“We examined changes in measures of despair across the early adult life course from adolescence to adulthood from 1994 to 2017…. Whether increases in indicators of despair have been particularly acute among White, low-educated, rural members” like had been found 10 years earlier. “We documented racial/ethnic, educational, and geographic-specific trends in 4 indicators of despair among US adults.”

Their nationally-representative group didn’t show Poor Whites as being especially unhappy at all: ” By contrast to this narrative, our findings demonstrated a generalized increase in multiple indicators of despair among all White, Black, and Hispanic adults in their 30s.”

“[This group] is distinct from earlier cohorts reflected in the rising midlife mortality of low-educated Whites with more highly educated parents, different perceptions of racial and ethnic diversity, and labor market entry following globalization. Nonetheless, the generalized increases in despair indicators we documented are worrisome for forthcoming midlife mortality trends.”

So, these people aren’t entitled racists. They aren’t hicks afraid of modern life. They are everyone.

In The Jungle

It’s a jungle out there!

“Despite a lack of scientific consensus regarding the cause of elevated midlife mortality among Whites, There is some evidence that opioid disorders and declines in mental health are concentrated among low socioeconomic status Whites….”

This is a whole post unto itself!

“….This pattern of rising despair is not isolated to rural America but is heterogeneous across geographic locales…. [The] patterns of despair potentially underlying increased midlife mortality are not restricted to low-educated Whites and [we] caution against an overemphasis on this single demographic group.”

Recently I read a comment in my little corner of the internet written by a Black woman. She said she wants to be called a Black woman because she finds the term Person of Color insulting; As if a Latina, a Black woman and an Indian woman are all in one giant category: Non-White.

Maybe some of the focus on White people is backlash from the way Europeans treated the rest of the world for so long. I have made my personal feelings on old white men clear elsewhere, but the Poor Whites are being screwed over by the same wealthy few as everyone else.

Aside from being exactly my age, this group was interesting because “[it] is nearing the age range of elevated midlife mortality (45–54 years) and is beyond the age range of highest opioid mortality risk from opioids (25–34 years).” In this group born between 1974 and 1983 they found that “suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, marijuana use, and heavy drinking increased as the cohort aged into their late 30s.”

The older you get, the more you understand just how fucked you were from the beginning.Lbj Meme

“We found no evidence that increases in despair were limited to low-educated Whites. Furthermore, levels of despair increased across the 30s in all geographic locales.” Our generation grew up in the glow of the Boomers burning bright. We are left with smoke and ash. And thousands of great songs about how much fun it was.

“If rising despair was indeed responsible for the increases in mortality among earlier cohorts of low-educated Whites, then the generalized increases in despair we documented among a younger and more recent cohort could presage increases in midlife mortality in the coming decade for all population subgroups.”

There probably is something to the notion that working-class whites are mourning a cultural privilege. But, as Lyndon Johnson famously explained, that was an illusion anyway.

Sad Karen

I know the doctor betrayed you, Karen, but you’ve got to pull it together!

The whites may have been at the top of the working-class heap, and so felt the deprivation first. But as the middle class evaporates like a mirage, no amount of Affirmative Action or increasing numbers is going to make much difference.

The Boomers are just the latest hideous iteration of a story that’s been the same forever – A few live lives of comfort on the backs of many others who don’t. This is the story they told us was over. Modern technology was turning the world into a middle-class playscape. Fascist countries were called “backwards.” Castles that once housed despots became museums.

Today’s despots have a different style, they are more collegiate and behave like they are not members of the ruling class. But you will know them by how they are beholden to power, and follow it over principle.

It’s easy to shit on white people and make scapegoats of hillbillies, but the reality is sinking in everywhere that we’ve been duped. The twentieth century was one long con game. Now the wheels are coming off and we are left with the same old problems to solve. Piled on top is the mess made in maniacally skipping into the “Post-Modern” era as if Better Living Through Chemistry were Happily Ever After.

Millennials are more diverse and numerous than any group before us. It feels like an abdication of responsibility to blame the system for the struggle. Work hard, we are told. Get good grades, a good degree, and you will be rewarded. Personal responsibility is empowering except that it fails to support those who stumble. And everyone stumbles. The culture of every-man-for-himself is the ultimate divide and conquer strategy.Katie Porter

California Congresswoman Katie Porter handed it to Jamie Dimon the head of JP Morgan Bank, breaking down for him exactly how impossible his employees’ budgets are. 

After detailing his employee’s bottom rung budget and how it doesn’t add up, she asked him, “She’s short $567, what would you suggest she do?”

“I don’t know,” He replied. “I’d have to think about that.” 

Many of us find ourselves in positions that seem increasingly impossible. I don’t know how we’re going to fix it but we need to understand we are not alone.

 

 

Beware The Were-Bitch: PMS & You

I’m not sure how to write this post. I only just came to the idea that the sheer bald-faced panic I faced recently wasn’t cured by the extra sleep or the vitamins or my husband’s attention. It basically seemed to evaporate along with my menstrual period.

Indtruder

The call is coming from inside the house!

Fucking hell.

I have had this thought before, but my cramps are mild and I only bloat a little, I have always counted myself lucky that I don’t get a lot of the physical symptoms. So it never occurred to me that I might need to look out for extreme mental ones.

But last week, dear readers, things got dark for me. I kinda thought I was losing my mind or something. I seemed unable to communicate anything important to anyone and the whole world seemed to take on a dark pallor. (It didn’t help that it rained literally all week. Thanks, climate change!) But mostly I was just sickeningly tired. Head-pounding, stupidly tired.

That’s where I started looking for information. I was researching exhaustion and workplace mismatch. But I’m also finally desperate enough to acknowledge the timing of my little meltdown, and that it’s happened before. I was proud of myself for sailing through work pretty well despite wanting to hurt everything that moved.

I’m pretty practiced at it, actually.

I ended up looking at things for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – You become super-sad before your period. Because hormones, they think.

Needing five symptoms for a diagnosis, I easily checked off eleven.

Hmmm. I have not kept track of this because I have been on The Pill for most of the last 20 years, I don’t worry about when my period is coming. And my symptoms are so mild, right?

Crazy Eyes

No! I’m fine! Really!

In February 1963 Sylvia Plath carefully insulated her sleeping children before sticking her head far back in her oven. She had been notorious for intense mood swings and previous suicide attempts, while of course also composing some of the most evocative prose of her day. She was 30.

Years ago I read a convincing article that argued she suffered from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, in addition to Bipolar Disorder. But the picture was drawn of a young woman possessed by her monthly cycle.

I read this like watching a horror movie, then promptly filed it away. Such a frightening idea that someone so brilliant could be so ensnared by something so mundane.

And some people don’t believe PMDD exists at all. Dr. Joan Chrisler, who is a psychology professor and president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research insists it’s “culture-bound.” This implies women in other parts of the world don’t experience any of the familiar PMS symptoms.

According to Feminist Voices“Chrisler’s research on menstruation critically examines social understandings of menstruation, such as the cultural construction of ‘PMS’.  In speaking about the constructed history of PMS, she states, “it is amazing to think in the 1970s that nobody knew what it was and now everybody thinks she has it.””

Exasperated And Drunk

Feeling like shit – It’s the latest craze!

According to Medium, “these mood symptoms are culturally over-attributed to the menstrual cycle, and could be indicative of other issues — such as lack of social support, stress, declining health.” I think we’re onto something here.

“PMS, like the “wandering womb” and “uterine suffocation”, blames the female reproductive organs for negative conditions associated with those who have a uterus.” Hell yes. Maybe the common denominator is…. something else. But female=/=bad.

Medium wraps it up, “The underlying theme remains the same: that those born with a uterus are controlled by it.” Yeah, screw that! Just like men aren’t controlled by their…. Well they kind of are, tho’, right?

Every single one of these fun articles was inspired by the same book, The Geography of Madness by Frank Bures. In it he follows the concept around the world that some populations suffer from maladies that just don’t exist in other places.

He does report that symptoms such as pain, fatigue and bloating are pretty universal, but says Western psychosomatic mood issues stem from old ideas about “hysteria.”

I suspect the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. For one thing, women outside of the West are discouraged from reporting and probably from feeling certain things, just like we are. Why is their lack of reporting emotional issues any more reliable than our experience of them?

And the serious mental issues many women report may be the kernel of truth behind what Hippocrates and all the rest have been gabbing about.

Time confusingly muses, “So is the concept of PMS just a remnant of sexist ideas about women’s changing moods from a time when most physicians were male? The new study from a team led by Dr. Sarah Romans of the University of Otago in New Zealand, reviewed 47 studies that followed women’s moods across the menstrual cycle, but unfortunately isn’t designed to provide an answer.

White Woman

Everybody knows white women are too busy loving white men to accurately experience our own lives!

“For one thing, because they wanted to look at healthy women, the authors excluded data on women seeking help for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a syndrome they do not dispute, in which 1% to 9% of women experience extreme mood problems related to the menstrual cycle.”

So, they admit it exists while dismissing the idea as medicalized moods. Bizarrely, the studies they cite didn’t find any consistent evidence of premenstrual anything. Which is weird, and all very well but I’m not seeing fuckin ghosts here. 

Maybe it’s the Western diet. Maybe it’s hormones in the water. Maybe it’s the special kind of shit we deal with every day. But more research and talking need to happen.

The American Psychological Association (the official psychologist’s club in the US) also quotes Dr. Paula Caplan as saying, “It is really appalling that using PMDD for women who want recognition for discomfort is a very clear message that goes something like: ‘OK, OK, we’ll believe you are feeling bad if we get to call you mentally ill for feeling bad.’ Can you imagine if we did that to men?”

Okay, true enough. Men do get to go around acting crazy an awful lot.

But Dr. Caplan, who wrote They Say You’re Crazycontinues, “emotional displays that are considered normal in men are seen as a mental disorder in women.”

That may be, but what I experienced last week was far from what I would consider normal emotional displays for anyone.

Salon gathers many threads around Sylvia Plath, explaining, “Plath endlessly noted her agonizing symptoms, castigated herself for her inability to gain control over her life, even dreamed frequently about her periods, and yet could not make the connection between her cycles of fertility and cycles of torment.”

X Ray

Internal organs only make you look fat, anyway!

And it can get worse as you get older.

How long has this been going on?? It explains the maddening tendency for my rage and anxiety to reappear seemingly out of nowhere. It could have served to help obscure the annual gulag that is seasonal depression. Salon quotes PMS expert Dr. Glenn Bair, “Depression is the slowest symptom to clear, and in fact seems to build up over time,” as your lack of ability to control your emotions starts to affect your life.

The American Psychological Association carries on being dismissive. Dr. Chrisler says that officially dubbing severe premenstrual symptoms a Disorder “allows you to hold onto a view of yourself as a good mother who doesn’t lose her temper.”

What mother believes such nonsense? For a group who claim to speak for women, these people are very dismissive of women’s stories.

It sure looks like a real thing to me. There’s a subreddit, of course. There’s this heartbreakingly eloquent essay by a woman who took the only way out she could find. She found relief by having all of her reproductive organs removed.

Ironically, what we have here is a disorder that most people assume is all in your head being dismissed by the head shrinkers as not existing at all. 

It sure looks real. In 1993 Dr. Jean Endicott of the New York Psychiatric Institute published a paper where she reported, “there is evidence from autopsies that completed suicide is more likely to occur during the late luteal phase of the cycle.”

Were Bitch

I feel something sneaking up on me!

What a tangled web we weave! In its introduction to the Sylvia Plath article, Salon explains, “Aesthetic purists tend to attack all such biological-influence theories as reductive,” which is a great way of saying no one likes to believe just how much the state of our brains affects the state of our minds.

I haven’t been treating myself well for a while now. It’s been a hellish year, no joke, on many levels. Still waiting for that lull where I can catch my breath and it just hasn’t come. The past couple months have seen my thoughts turn especially dark and it’s starting to get scary.

Hubs and I occasionally play with the idea of moving back to Cleveland. It’s where we met, where family still lives. But I’m not sure if life without seasonal depression is something I’m willing to give up.

I think if I take better care of myself this other ugly manifestation will fade too. As embarrassing as it may be, I’m excited to have a new puzzle piece. I’m tracking things for a couple of months to make sure, but the difference between this week and last week plus the deja-vu of it all have me pretty convinced.

And in the back of my mind, I have known it was getting worse for a while. PMS is usually reserved for punchlines, and I have been living with the mistaken assumption that strength of physical symptoms was an indicator of overall effect. It never occurred to me that when I thought I was losing my mind my body was just roaring its primal female scream.

If women had built the world, there would be entire subcultures and religions dedicated to the reproductive cycle. Sects of women in various states and phases of life, great works of art and literature, whole schools of thought informed by the experience of living in a female body.

You know, like how we’re always hearing about their goddam dicks.

As much as we hate to be reduced to our bodies, the somatic experience is a vital element in how we understand the world. If your brain is not working right, neither are you.

I need more veggies, exercise and sleep. I need a schedule that doesn’t involve being up half the night all the time. Maybe then I will find the energy to get things done.

Mad Woman

For reasons lost to the meanderings of my mind, it recently dawned on me that my anxiety isn’t really anxiety at all.

I am filled with submerged rage. I didn’t ask to be born to a bunch of emotional idiots. I struggle daily with the effects of their bullshit. To some degree, I’m still angry for every pointlessly mean thing, for every clueless utterance.

Hammer

The difference between a tool and weapon is how you use it!

Because I never found a way to express my anger. I have been afraid of it, afraid of losing control of it. I don’t want to hurt myself or anyone else.

So I tamp it down. I keep it contained as best I can but it rattles its cage and howls at night. It vibrates my nerves and keeps me agitated.

When you can’t fight and you can’t flee, and the danger is also what you rely on, emotional static builds up and sparks fly.

My anger is so big I can’t even really see it, it’s impossible to consider it all at once. Most of my negative experiences have become lessons or just forgotten. But my family dysfunction is so stupid and pernicious, my thoughts unconsciously shaped by it, and all because a couple of jerks couldn’t hold a relationship together.

I’m angry over the wasted potential – to be told I was “gifted” at eight, then moved around every year for six years and allowed to totally fall through the cracks. I literally was never taught to multiply. I was expected to understand long division without ever seeing a times table.

So now I have a shitty education and a shitty job, I’m just trying not to pass the shitty behavior on to my own children.

I have been using the manifest anxiety as a sort of buffer for the world. It’s a goddam defense mechanism just like so many others in my gene pool. Fortunately, I seem to be pretty smart. It’s basically fake, and now I’m furious with myself for perpetrating such cowardly garbage.

For a moment. Then my vision comes into focus and I raise my head with a steady gaze. I mostly even had myself convinced and, as horrible as it is to see this, I know shining a light on it is the only way to eradicate it. It’s a habit of thought, and I have to remind myself over and over but it’s kind of amazing. If you can’t be honest with yourself, what do you have?

Bus Stop

Eventually, the pebble in your shoe becomes a boulder!

I am angry and I have reason to be. I’m done abdicating my feelings and driving myself half crazy. I’m ready to take ownership of my energy.

Not meaning that I want to, that I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. It’s something that I can’t unsee. And as I let myself feel my anger, accept that the anxiety is a dodge, the relief is intense.

I am a whole person, free from searching for validation. My mind buzzes with ideas but I feel less distracted.

Sometimes anger is exactly the right way to feel.

But I am afraid. What I’m afraid of is myself. 

When a feeling is so intense that it forces its way to the surface no matter what you do, there is a sense you don’t have control over yourself. If your emotions rule you, you lose your free will. But in avoiding dealing with it, that is exactly what has happened. It manifests as freak-outs and crying jags.

When I’m angry I don’t know how to express it so I just become upset. (Perversely, when I’m sad I will become angry as a defense mechanism. But that’s a different post. Emotional growth, yay!)

Lately I have started isolating myself and letting myself be angry. It works! I recover faster and figure out what is really going on and what to do about it. A lot of times, there’s nothing to do. But it feels amazing to step outside the loop I have been stuck in for 30 years. 

And I look forward to bringing it to bear on bigger things. Anger is a powerful motivator and there are many corners of the world that could benefit from the intervention of a mad woman.