Spot No Can Has (and Looking Forwards)

funny pictures of cats with captions

Last post before the New Year (at least, by Pacific Standard).

I have no good resolutions other than to keep on trucking.

And to make sure I have more time to admire the president’s abs ((Love him or hate him, I think we can all agree that Bush’s abs are probably not like his.)) review more SF&F and write more about Sherlock Holmes.

And, apparently, listen to more Beatles. For some reason, they anchor me to the present, even though they made it over 50 years ago.

And also finish trying to perfect a serial reboot. I’m not sure the original readers (the few of them) will like what I did, but you know, the writing did help ease the pain.

And, to my cherished beloved ((And you can buy a Kindle worldwide now! Awesome!))

© goXunuReviews, Creative Commons Attribution License

and to all of you, a happy New Year.

Session the 12th: Hard Candy Christmas

Me, I’ll be just
Fine and dandy.
Lord, it’s like a hard candy, Christmas.
I’m barely gettin’ through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
sorrow bring me way down

    – “Hard Candy Christmas”

What I brought before my bartender, paraphrased:

“Before the 24th I was still alright. I mean, I was mellow. The anti-depressants were working really quite well, and then sometime during the 24th, or maybe late on the 23rd, they completely stopped working, and I started wanting to scream and cry constantly. I didn’t, because it would do no good. It just kept building up and up and going on and on, and it was literally as bad as if my father were actually there, even though I knew he wasn’t, and it was like this for about 72 hours straight, after which I went offcall and could pop a sleeping pill. ((It is important in matters such as these that this is a singular noun.)) And now, sitting here talking to you on the 28th, I still feel like screaming constantly.”

No flashbacks, actually. But it was just about four tarp corners fully waving about in the gale, if one measures these things that way. Possibly a flashback would have been moderately less traumatic, mostly in that I wouldn’t remember it. Whereas right now I still recall that block of constant… well, not terror, or fear, exactly. “Mental anguish” is a term I always think of as melodramatic, but it fits here to a T. It was hell. On Saturday, maybe two hours before my oncall ended, I contemplated killing myself to get out of the situation faster.

Last week was the first time since I came to my new job that I had ever spent an entire Christmas Eve, Christmas, and half of Boxing Day oncall. When I’m oncall, with my pager, I take things pretty seriously. That means no drinking, no sleep medication, often no sleep (I have insomnia, maybe for not surprising reasons), and no engaging activities. Everything needs to be shallow, because I may be called upon to engage very deeply indeed at the drop of a hat, and I don’t context-switch well. As a result, if something happens when I’m oncall, I’m usually on the scene reliably and quickly enough to make sure good things don’t stop (and bad things stop happening), and willing to work hip-deep in tech and business issues for hours on end if need be.

But it was a quiet Christmas (as it usually is), so I had nothing distracting. Literally; couldn’t start anything up, either, because I have to be ready. And of course I was by myself, and all the shops and restaurants were closed on the little, quiet island.

I didn’t realize that I’d relied, before, on being able to get unconscious as quickly as possible during previous years. I’ve done 7×24 hours of oncall throughout my years, but never more than 24 hours at a go during any one Christmas week. Naturally having an oncall fall on those three days was just asking for trouble.

My bartender says that the lack of sleep is what probably made the mental anguish worse. I thought you just got sleepy and maybe hallucinated when you were sleep-deprived; he replied that’s only so if you went into sleep deprivation settled and calm. If you go into sleep deprivation at all unsettled, the tremors only get worse, until they’re earthquakes.

So! In the interest of not killing myself when the New Year arrives, we talked more seriously about figuring out new traditions to help displace the old ones that my father practically all tainted. Probably these traditions need to be “get out of the house and do something” traditions; like doing some shopping in a low-stress tiny traditional shopping area (which the island has got a lot of), or visiting museums and zoos and such. That’s the first take-away I have for this appointment.

We also talked about my close friend who was upset about me not right now being a good friend, which also didn’t help the emotional trainwreck of last week (wreckage still smoldering today). It would almost be funny, the idea of someone who knew that the holidays literally triggered you, being upset that you didn’t come to a holiday concert full of music that triggers you during this most triggery time of the year. Of course, I didn’t think it was funny, I just cried (and it made things much, much worse on the 25th).

The second take away is… I am… kind of scared of doing that. I’m scared of doing anything so crass as “taking care of myself,” partly because my parents taught me that I am not worthy of such measures. Doing anything for myself is sinful, the worst possible sin, and I was already a stupid, retarded, hateful, evil bitch-scum at the age of seven who was going to suffer in hell for eternity and deserved to die and didn’t deserve to be born and only makes other people’s lives bad and should be beaten, kicked, stabbed, cut, burned, strangled, worse… unless I did things for my father first and foremost. (That litany, by the way, is still how I think of myself if I’m not constantly recalling that it’s not true. It probably gets worse when I haven’t had sleep.)

The other part is that I am scared that I will “lose it,” Set Piece PTSD Style, in company.

For instance, I thought about doing some genuinely unselfish activity, like serving in a soup kitchen, but during the holidays I can react badly (hah) to things. I tried hanging out in a Safeway for a little while earlier in the week, to see if I could put up with any kind of busy-busy people-filled environment, and… no. Not during this time of the year. Really not. I could stand it for less than an hour; if I hadn’t left, I actually would have been on the ground screaming. And I hadn’t even been interacting with people.

A friend of mine a while back thought I was very susceptible to psychosomatic disorders—I can sense stress from other people very well. And you know, I’m probably sensitive to stress in other people for some reason, like having grown up trying to predict if my father was going to beat my mother or not….

However, museums and aquariums during low-traffic days are probably OK. People are hanging about, but there’s a loooot of space and people aren’t rushing around. And it’s different. And. It probably… won’t be bad.

Gods, this all makes me want to scream. Okay. I’m gonna finish off this post and go hide for a while.

There’s No Magpie Rhyme for Eleven

(But there is Five for Heaven / Six for Hell, and that makes eleven….)

"Coconut Reika", © King Chung Huang

'Coconut Reika', © King Chung Huang

Today’s session was worth the last eleven copays for me. And actually probably worth whatever chunk of health plan my company bought. It’s not a great week for me right now, so this post will also be a little short.

Anyways, I talked to my bartender about… well, basically, everything in this post, which is actually a nice summary of what’s going on with me right now.

My bartender asked me if I ever took a little time in the day to breathe deeply and relax. And I told him I’d tried and failed.

But more than that: sitting around and doing nothing is something I am horribly afraid of. I think it may be second only to fear of my parents returning to kill me. I have to be reading something, or writing something, or programming, or coding, or documenting, or messing with WordPress plugins, or even listening to really horrible old 70s music. It has to twiddle some thinking part of my brain. If I don’t have something, then the emptiness fills up with whatever the PTSD wants to fill it up with, and it’s generally not good.

For instance, there’s a 15-minute window in every day that I like to call hell, but other people call the shower. People can meditate in showers. My mind just works itself up into all kinds of horror instead. A bath is a bit better, because after I wash my hair I can listen to an audio book or something, and thus hell is reduced to a few minutes. Even outside of the holidays, that little window is still hell, all throughout the year.

And on the other end of the “everyday” spectrum is driving—which is a little bit funny, because Lord Peter Wimsey also uses driving as an outlet, subconscious or not, for whatever his PTSD likes to cook up when it has a chance. You still have to pay attention to the road, and especially with music, it’s a nice way to completely not think about things other than driving the car properly. ((I don’t drive at very high speeds, because it’s inconsiderate to kill other people with your car, but Lord Peter probably drives very fast in the stories because then you really can’t think about anything else.)) For me, for some reason, driving eliminates the window for PTSD to peek in, even if it’s really near. ((That’s why I go shopping when I start to feel really hemmed in; it’s not the shopping, it’s the driving to the places to shop, and sometimes I don’t even go in, but just drive about.)) ((I think, actually, I’m also able to drive well even if I’m in the middle of a flashback. The only two times I’ve had full flashbacks I was out by myself, but I definitely woke up in one piece in my own bed the next day, and the car was still clean and without a scratch, sitting quite neatly into the garage space. And parked rather more neatly than I usually do, even. It’s weird, y’all.))

My bartender at this point then pointed out what I haven’t been able to figure out for myself, gods know why: I’m scared of the emotions that come with the PTSD. Even after all these years. I suppose I take a tack similar to PTSD sufferers who try to stamp out all emotion: I just tried to distract myself constantly from it. I never wanted to accept even the fact that the feelings happened, much less the feelings themselves; and so, when the dam breaks, as it inevitably does every year, I’m not at all prepared for what happens.

So. We gonna work on the acceptance bit. I have to keep reminding myself that acceptance of the feelings does not mean that the feelings are right, or that I deserve them in penance for some hideous wrong in a previous life, or that they will always be there if I let them in….

Okay, it’s going to be a long haul. But there’s a direction! Thank all the gods, there’s a direction!

I was relatively happy after that. And my company and manager weren’t mad at me at all! (He hadn’t had coffee when I called him, is all.) And my team was awesome, as they usually are.

Of course, that was all too good to last.

Later in the afternoon, I happily chatted to a friend, and as various bysides in the conversation, he told me to not even consider coming over until some time after the New Year; and even then, you know, we’ll just go shopping or something, not actually visit. And though I hated it, I knew he was right. The only reason I started therapy is because I had a full flashback at his place during the holidays a few years ago, and it wasn’t one of the quiet ones.

Yeah.

And we could always say that it’s really because I have the pager through Christmas.

But you know, I already knew this. I didn’t even ask. He didn’t have to tell me. But I guess it’s best to get everything… clear.

Maybe next year. Or maybe never: I know that night broke an important part of our budding friendship that has never since healed. And the worst part is that this has happened multiple times to different friendships. ((Twice. And yes, the same number of times I’ve had full flashbacks.))

I try not to have close friends anymore. It’s not fair to them.

And all this of course goes double for love.

Anyways! We have a new direction, and now I totally have an excuse to entitle myself “Ice Queen” or something, except that if I am an Ice Queen, it’s more like an Ice Cream Queen. Actually… no… I am a Dessert Queen. Yes. All kinds of dessert, but especially the ones a la mode, and no sand.

Ten Times Shorter

I didn’t blog the last session with my bartender, and the next one comes up in less than 10 minutes.

To put it shortly:

- losing my mind
- distraction techniques not working
- father poisoned every single holiday tradition/sign/etc, whatever you think of, he poisoned it

Bartender suggested I try to figure out new holiday traditions for myself. Let’s just say, it’s not working real well right now.

And now work is possibly upset that, of all the times of the year, I’m seeing my bartender right now. But he’s booked—there’s no other time.

I’ve sacrificed my sanity for four years for the company. For once surely someone can cover a few hours of a shift. Surely.

I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I needed it.

Argh argh argh

Bento for 2009-12-18

Early post for a change. Breakfast is a smoothie because they still fascinate me.

Lunch: Indian curried potatoe cauliflour coconut milk stew (from The Vegetarian Slow Cooker), store-bought naaaaaaan, two gyoza and plum sauce, and orange slices in the current drought of applesauce. (Trust me, that’s getting fixed this weekend.)

Note about the little sauce container that comes with a laptop lunch kit: it can hold enough sauce for dipping somewhere over half-a-dozen gyozas. This is better than a lot of sauce containers that can be found for more traditional bento.

I’m starting to like my lunches (and even breakfasts) now that I have more of a clue as to what I like. At this point they’re nicer than a lot of the quickie lunch places.

Bento for 2009-12-17

It’s been a shake for breakfast these days, because I adore my new blender. (For the curious, the Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie recipe generates about 600+ ml of yummy morning goodness. This is the normal size for
smoothies in America, land of the quarter-pound cheeseburger.)

On the bright side of things lately, bento does get me into work on otherwise rather difficult days. (Yesterday was a little bit harder than most, so it had no bento in it. On the other hand, someone not incompetent now holds my mortgage, or nearly so, YIPPEE.)

Lunch: rice, mabo tofu (it does have meat in most versions too; this has vegetarian crumbles instead), mandarin orange slices (because there is no more applesauce), and adhock microwaved eggs, emphasis on the hock.

Note on the rice: I have a fuzzy logic rice cooker (two, actually) so I put rice and water in it the night before and set it to finish in the morning. And as per the usual with bento involving rice, let the rice cool down before closing the bento (or, as the case may be, laptop lunch) box.

Note on the mabo tofu: in this case it’s made from the Asian version of “Hamburger Helper”; you can buy pre-made sauce (variety of hotness and brands available; mine is the mild House Foods version) and then just add browned ground pork/chicken/etc and cubed firm tofu. Like many things, mabo tofu is probably best made from scratch, but this is a pretty good approximation.

The Everyday PTSD Experience: Not as Romantic or Exciting as You Might Think

Starting the 5th of December, this is how my days have run:

7:00am
Wake up from dreams wherein I still live with my parents, and I never had my current life away from them. As you may imagine, these are not good dreams.

7:00am — 8:00am
Try to get another hour of sleep due to exhaustion from the night before. Fail or repeat with similar never-escaped dreams.

8:00am
Feel the same dread and anxiety as I did from X years ago, like I never left my parents and their home of hilariously horrible abuse.

8:00am — 9:30am
Attempt to get ready for the day, but not even bento or shower meditation makes the constant background dread/anxiety go away.

9:30am — 9:30pm
Go through my day in much the same way. Dread never leaves but doesn’t get worse unless I run into another holiday reminder, of which for some reason there’s multiple around every corner. Dread never quite graduates to adrenaline-rush stage, just teeters me there for hours.

9:30pm
Dread pushes me over the adrenaline-rush stage, but I am actually too exhausted to do anything about it, and there is also nothing to act against, so what the hell? Good thing I’m at home now, where I can barricade myself in the bedroom and quietly break down.

9:30pm — 10:00pm
Try hard not to break down so that I know I am stronger than what’s trying to happen to me and/or stronger than my parents, depending on how much my subconscious is managing to stay in the present. Get ready for bed.

10:00pm — 2:30am
Either I have insomnia or nightmares from which I wake up constantly, still having never escaped my parents.

2:30am
Take knockout cocktail of Ambien + Xanax, which is really not a good thing to do, but it lets me have a dreamless sleep (?) for a while.

2:30am — 3:05am
Finally fall asleep.

3:05am — 7:00am
Have dreamless sleep for probably 80% of the time, then have dreams where I never escaped my parents.

7-fucking-o’clock ay em
Repeat. Ad mid-January.

These are not fun days. These are not exciting days. These are the days when you want to take the world in your hands and do SOMETHING, but you end up so exhausted from commute, work, and most of all the PTSD-related dread symptoms, such that you can’t think far enough to, like, follow lists of steps, much less be creative.

Although occasionally, early in the cycle, I have managed to reach escape velocity from this spiral; much of the time I don’t. The weariness just builds up day to day.

And that has been years of my life. Many years with the direct threat actually present, and a few years with the threat chasing me, and a very few years with the threat mostly (but who knows) gone. The bartender pointed out in the most recent session I need to blog about that I’ve really only had a few Christmases without my parents in the background, it happening only once a year, and thank fucking glad for that. So it’s not unexpected or bad/weak/disgusting/worthless of me to still have trouble during this most wonderful time of the year.

Boring fear: it is the fucking worst kind.

Bento for 2009-12-14

I finally found a replacement for bread with respect to vegan pate! (I still have the mouth problem that’s keeping bread and, I guess, tougher starches in general off the menu.)

Breakfast: omelette with green onions, the almost last of the McIntosh applesauce, mandarin slices, and toasted (well… burnt, on places) cashews. Toasted nuts are awesome, definitely cashews benefit.

Breakfast bentos are surprisingly fun to assemble for some reason. Next time is gonna be breakfast links for sure.

Lunch: simplest rice pancakes ever (I suspect they look a little like latkes), cubed very squishy ripe pear, vegan pate overlaid with sliced boiled egg, and the absolute last of the McIntosh applesauce (the Winesap having been devoured over the weekend).

Note to self: I bought the Bento Buddies add-on, and I should have used the extra covered container for the pears. The rice pancakes were still okay, but slightly fruity and not as sharp as they usually are.

I have little menus drawn up for the next bentos (which aren’t tomorrow, since tomorrow… well… will be busy with doctors). I knew there was a good use for the magnetic dry-erase board.

Added a PTSD Page to S∂ Top Bar

I’m not always very consistent with tagging my PTSD and related posts, so I wrote a page compiling them, finally. It took a while to make the decision (like, weeks) because it’s rather an ugly part of my life, and I keep wondering if having it up on the top bar will make me less likely to recover or something, but then again I forget to look at it a lot of the time.

And some of the articles so compiled are informative for others, particularly “Post-Traumatic Disorder in Fiction.”

So there it is.