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Unicorn Chasers

Because it's That Time Of The Year (the anniversary of The Day Everything Went Pear-Shaped Back In 2001) and a lot of people, whether they're aware of it or not, are probably feeling niggly, bad-tempered, and finding their brains are finding them a lot of things to get miserable about for some reason, I figure I'll do a short post of Unicorn Chasers - the sorts of things on the internet that can cheer you up.

My current one is the series Under The Wing of A Nibel Dragon by Gothams_Only_Wolf over on AO3. This is a gorgeous series which is set approximately 15 years before the start of standard Final Fantasy VII canon, where an 11 year old Sephiroth gets what is turning out to be the best fix-it in the history of the fandom. It contains a five-year-old Cloud Strife who is as cute as a button, a Vincent Valentine who wakes up fifteen years early, and a lot of other characters, some new, some recognisable.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward is another thing I've been using to deal with my current case of the crankies. Mostly for the line about "Dr Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell at the first hurdle" - this is a wonderful song about what it feels like to be down here at the sharp end of life, rather than up at the top where the decisions are made. Billy Bragg gets it, I think.

I will also recommend Scandinavia and the World which is a beautiful comic by Humon, full of mostly kind-hearted humour about the ways that various countries are perceived to behave, both internally and externally. Humon is a Dane, who has lived in England for a while, and a lot of the comics focus on the interplay between Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, but there's also visits by a lot of other nations as well.

So, what does everyone else use as a unicorn chaser? Share some links in the comments!

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/124765.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: getting better getting better
This Has Been A Week

Short summary: meltdown on Monday due to smoke alarms going off; panic attack on Tuesday due to social anxiety getting kicked good and hard; miseries, rampant brainweasels and depression on Wednesday and Thursday due to after-effects of Monday and Tuesday; further near-meltdown on Friday due to loud shouty encounter (not involving me, but clearly audible, and definitely something I Did Not Need at that point) in office of JobActive provider.

All of this after about three weeks of near-continuous rainy weather and cold temperatures in a house which as far as I can tell has NO insulation at all (built in approx 1920s, no serious upkeep or non-emergency maintenance since approx 1970s). Said house also has no under-cover drying facilities (in rainy weather, we dry our laundry on a rack in the main room of the house, and it takes about two to three days for things to dry out). Plus my depression has a seasonal component.

Plus of course the usual stresses of one class per day from Monday through Thursday (the tutorial on Thursdays is at 8am, which means I have to be out of the house by 7.30am in order to get there on time). Plus the additional fun this week of two appointments with various people at the JobActive provider's office on Friday, and dinner with the in-laws today. (This last would not be an imposition most weeks, but this week, it's definitely heading in that direction).

Thing is, none of these things on their own would be a problem. They became a series of problems because they were most definitely NOT on their own.

Basically, my brain has been throwing up "out of spoons" errors left, right and centre, and I am currently at the point where any kind of cooking more strenuous than making soup or putting something into the oven and letting it reheat is Entirely Too Much Work. Meanwhile the brainweasels all object to buying foodsicles from the shops (because " it's overpriced, you know how to cook that, you can't afford it, you should be able to do this" etc etc et bloody cetera) and throwing fits about me considering canned meals or packet mixes or whatever.

And for this weeks' fun anxiety-inducing thing, I also have two weeks worth of reading for university to do - the stuff I should have been doing over the past week, but haven't been able to due to brainweasels and out-of-spoons errors; and the stuff I have to do for next week, so I'm all caught up. Oh, and the weather turned cold (minimum yesterday was 2.7C) in the last couple of days.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/123077.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: cold cold
There's Supposed to be a Post Here

Here's what's happened. I've promised myself I'd post something to this journal at least once a week, and try and make it something interesting and worthwhile. Problem is, at the moment, I'm going through something of a depressive patch, which means whenever I pull out one of the not-quite-done pieces I have stored on my hard drive, and try to get it into a shape where I'd be satisfied with posting it, I wind up with the brain-weasels attacking from all sides.

I won't bore you with the details of what the brain-weasels are saying. Suffice it to say they're invasive, vicious, and nasty, and they're not helping me have any confidence in any of my writing at this point. Or indeed, in anything I can do. It happens, depression sucks, I'll live through it.

But it does mean I'm not able to come up with a post at this present.

So, in the interests of fulfilling my promise to myself, let's just say this is this week's post, and have done with it. As per Douglas Adams, normal service will resume just as soon as I've figured out what counts as "normal" in the first place.

PS: If there's anyone in the Perth, WA area who happens to know the name of a psychologist who bulk bills and who has a space for new patients, I'd be overjoyed to receive the information.

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Current Mood: crappy crappy
Why I Think Mind Uploading Is Not Likely To Happen Any Time Soon

Put simply? I don't think mind uploading, or the immanentizing of the eschaton or the storage of brains in computers or anything similar is likely to happen any time soon (or indeed within either my lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone alive at this period) because I'm mentally ill.

Stay with me, there is actually a connection between the two of these, and it isn't just "me being crazy not to believe in the chosen Rapture of the Nerds".

Essay below the fold )

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116816.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: tired tired
State of the Meg, 08 APR 2018

Warnings: frank discussion of depression, psychological land-mines, and coping strategy fail.

It's been an... interesting few months.

Essay behind cut )

So, that's where I am at present. How's everyone else?

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/116722.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: depressed depressed
Update 03 OCT 2017

So I've realised I'm in the middle of a rather nasty anhedonic episode, which means I'm not particularly feeling any motivation to do anything, which means I'm not doing things unless I absolutely have to at present, because they're things I've built so solidly into my daily routines that I feel worse if I don't do them than if I do.

Teal deer below the fold )

So yeah. Things aren't as good as they could be. But they're better than they would have been twenty years ago, so I suppose that's something...

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'll go back to neg-stimming on Tumblr, because apparently this is my brain's preferred form of self-immolation this week.


[1] I have a two hour exclusion period on my medication for my thyroid, which means for two hours after I've taken it (and for two hours before, technically) I'm not allowed to have dairy products, calcium supplements, iron supplements or anything else which might bind to the thyroxine receptors.
[2] The end of this period is the end of the medication exclusion period, when I can technically fit in breakfast if I'm able to contemplate the idea of food.

This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/109154.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: blah blah
So It's Been A Bad Week

This week has been a Bad Week. I have had my jerk!brain playing up, and this has not been helped by being kept relatively low on decent sleep as the result of the physical problems mentioned earlier this week (did you know if rolling over in bed causes enough pain, you can't actually sleep through it? No? Neither did I until about Sunday. Since when I have had plenty of opportunity to learn). Let's put it this way: a week where I wind up in tears because I'm thinking about committing suicide via self-immolation in front of a Centrelink office, and then I'm in tears because I know I won't do it (and the message my brain is giving me about this particular realisation is not "good survival thinking, congratulations!" but rather "well, aren't you pathetically useless, then? Can't even get dying right. *dismissive snort*"), is not going to be a good week even if there's a shock lottery win involved in the middle of things.

Topics I am therefore avoiding like the plague at present include: Australian welfare policy 1990 - present; Australian politics 1990 - present; Australian industrial relations; US politics (in all its glory and convulsive mess); sports of any kind; and anything else where I'm likely to be encountering the wonderful human tendency to take things from Bad to Worse, and then repeat the cycle indefinitely. Particularly when this is combined with the equally gorgeous tendency which appears to be spreading of late for people to have No Middle Gears - either full speed ahead, or full speed reverse, but nothing in between those two extremes. Subtlety, complexity, nuance? Wot dat?

Needless to say such things are Not Good For Me at present.

If anyone finds a black materia sitting around, could they please forward it on to me? I have a list of targets which is only growing.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/108261.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: cranky cranky
Update / State of the Meg 06 MAY 2017

Since I last wrote:

* I've spent about two weeks dealing with the flu and the after-effects of same.

* I've been going through a depressive patch (complete with mini-breakdown on Thursday).

* I haven't been eating well, due to said depressive patch (too tired to cook, which means a lot of meals for the past couple of weeks have been things like two minute noodles with chilli sauce, or tinned spaghetti with a bit of sriracha sauce, or similar.)

* I discovered going shopping while my depression!brain is in the middle of a "we don't deserve anything nice" kick is something of a vicious trip. It's surprisingly hard to buy convenience food (so I can have something vaguely nutritious I can just re-heat and eat when I'm feeling too damn tired and spoon-poor to cook) when my brain is basically looking at everything and going "you *know* how to make that, how dare you buy it ready-made? You should just buy the raw ingredients and cook it yourself!" (plus an additional metric half-ton of abuse, but I'll leave that out of things). Wound up getting four of whatever McCain's latest happy meal is and trying them.

* The new McCains steam meal Lean Cuisine things are okay, but the cooking instructions are a bit wonky for our microwave. The sauce container needs a minute less, the pasta/rice/vege container needs a minute more, and this seems to be pretty consistent across recipes.

* I have a heap of stuff for uni I'm supposed to have done already, and which I haven't done, and which I will be writing up pretty rapidly over the course of the next week or so (in order to have it done in time for the deadlines which are arriving in predictable fashion this month).

* The house looks like a hovel (okay, most of that is because it's a 1920s worker's cottage, and it hasn't had much serious maintenance since about the 1970s) mostly because I've been low on spoons and depressed.

* We've been dealing with a serious invasion of white cedar moth caterpillars (the side effects of having four Cape Lilac trees on the property), particularly in the room I'm using as my bedroom. One of the Cape Lilacs is about a metre away from the wall of my room, which means the underside of the house is the preferred daytime rest space for the caterpillars, and since this place is approximately as weather-tight as a sieve, they keep crawling into the house through gaps between the skirting board and the floorboards and similar. Plus there's the ones which crawl in from the front veranda under the front door (the door is poorly hung - it sticks at the top, while there's a gap below it the bugs can walk under on tiptoe), and the few which come in from the back garden and hit the rear hall and bathroom. So we've been spraying the house inside and out with surface spray (up under the weather-boards on the front of the house, down around the skirting boards in my room, across the threshold of the front door and so on) as well as doing a three-times daily "emu stalk" to collect up the caterpillars we find and dump them in a bucket, where I give 'em a dose of the poor man's pesticide (boiling water). One stalk in the morning, two at night (one just after dusk, one around 9.30pm, when I'm getting ready to go to bed). The numbers seem to be dropping - I didn't have any caterpillars in my room last night or this morning, so that's a good start. But it's another little aggravation in a series of them at a period where I could really do with a few less of same.

* I am learning some of the more irritating quirks of Windows 10 as an OS. Such as the apparent tendency for marketing to get in everywhere (why are there ads in the Windows Solitaire games, for gods sakes? Are they losing so much money on the OS that they can't afford to put them in there without ads any more?) and badger me about "whether I'd recommend this device to others?" and such.

* I've been binge-reading fanfic, to the point where I really need to start working on re-setting my sleep cycle so I'm not going to bed at ten and then reading until two in the morning.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/102056.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: tired tired
How To Get Through This: Tips From A Lifelong Depressive

A lot of people are probably feeling numb, flattened and despairing today in the aftermath of the US election. In other words, you're feeling much the same way I often feel for no reason whatsoever. So in the interest of being able to get through the whole mess, and pull yourselves out the other side, and deal with the rest of the world rather than hiding in a bunker panicking for the next few months, I offer the following tips.

1) Acknowledge what you're feeling is genuine. Don't tell yourself you're "over-reacting" or "being over-dramatic" or "being silly". Especially, don't try to tell yourself that you're "fine" (unless you actually mean, "freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional" when you say that). What you're feeling is what you're genuinely feeling, and it's something which deserves to be acknowledged. Don't try to make yourself feel happier or better. Just accept you're feeling bad, and you're allowed to feel bad.

2) Start treating your emotional self the way you'd treat a six-year-old who was feeling the same way. If you need cuddles or hugs, try and get those from friends and family members. If you need to huddle in a blanket with a stuffed animal, do that. If you want to eat chocolate, eat chocolate. Soothe your inner child, in tangible, physical ways. Physical comfort builds mental comfort. Our minds are linked to our bodies. If our minds are in turmoil, comforting the body can help ease this. So eat comfort food (the best comfort food is hot, milky and sweet, because that taps back into our first memories of being comforted and soothed as babies), wear comfortable clothes and favourite colours, and keep at a comfortable temperature for the environment (cool if it's warm out, warm if it's cold out).

3) Acknowledge that emotions require energy. If you're feeling a lot of things, you're going to be more tired, and you're going to need more sleep. So, see whether you can re-arrange your sleep schedule such that you're going to bed earlier, and sleeping a bit longer. Try to avoid pushing yourself intellectually in your time off - now would be a good time for things like colouring in, or playing solitaire or listening to music, or other recreations which don't require you to be doing much thinking. Re-read favourite books (the ones which are sort of like chewing gum for the mind - the ones where you can just sit back and let the story flow over you and not have to think for a bit).

4) If you're feeling constantly anxious, panicking over things, start asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I actually worried about? Write down a list, if you feel the need - often one of the underlying "anxiety" processes is a worry that you've forgotten something important that you were worrying about. Writing a list of worries helps defuse that one. Writing a list also helps pin down what you're worried about
  • Are these things I'm worried about things which are certain to happen (for example, "the sun is certain to rise tomorrow"), things which are probably going to happen ("the sun will rise in the east"), or is something which is technically possible, but not necessarily feasible ("the sun will rise in the north")? Put more energy into dealing with the things which are certain, or probable. Things which are only possible aren't worth worrying about until they ascend the ladder of probability.
  • What can I do about this problem right now, right this minute? It is likely the answer will be "nothing". If you are unable to do something about the problem, then worrying about it isn't going to help anyone. Least of all yourself. Start intervening actively in your worry loops, and diverting your thoughts elsewhere.

Intervening in worry loops is a skill - which means it can be learned, and it will improve over time. What it involves is three things: recognising you're stuck in a loop, stopping the loop, and changing the mental subject. Recognising you're stuck in a loop starts by recognising you're anxious in the first place - and again, the questions above can help there: start at "what am I worried about?". Does the same subject come up repeatedly? In that case, you're stuck in a loop. Stopping the loop involves catching yourself in the worry, and quite literally choosing not to pursue it - and the easiest way to do this is by changing the mental subject. I've found things like multiplication tables useful for me when I'm trying to do this - start at 1x1 and work up to 20x20, and if I make a mistake, I have to go back to 1x1 again and start over. Or play "FizzBuzz" with yourself (count from 1 to as high as you go, replacing every number divisible by 5 with "fizz" and every number divisible by 7 with "buzz" - again, make a mistake and you have to start over).

Oh, and while you're anxious, accept you're not going to be 100% on the intellectual side. You have the anxiety sitting there occupying mental cycles, and this is going to affect your mental processing speed in the same way having an anti-virus program performing a scan affects the performance of a computer. Things are going to be slowed down, and take a bit longer to run. Be kind to yourself while this is happening - brains are much harder to reboot than computers.

5) If you find you're really sunk into a negative frame of mind, unable to see any positives in life, I offer the following tip which has worked for me. Get a notebook. Into that notebook, each day, write three things which went right. Note the phrasing there: it's "things which went right" as opposed to "things which went wrong". At present, you're probably going to have problems with things like "positive" or "good" or "happy" - it's impossible to spot those things when the emotions are right off the radar. But when you're feeling like this, trust me, you can spot everything which is going wrong in your life - and that makes it easier, in turn, to spot the things which aren't. Doesn't have to be a big thing - a hot drink on a cold day, or even the thought of not having to be outside in rotten weather is enough. But you have to find three things each day which went right, and write them down in the notebook.

Please note: this isn't going to perform an instant transformation on your mood. It isn't supposed to perform an instant transformation on your mood. What it is intended to do is perform a gradual transformation and build the habit of not looking on the dark side all the time.

In conclusion, I will leave you with this truth: believe me, you CAN get through this bad spell of mental weather. What you're experiencing now, in the aftermath of a terrible shock in world events, is what a lot of mentally ill people live with on a constant basis. Yes, the real world events are terrible. But you cannot let these real world events rule you to the extent that you give up living, give up hoping, give up working toward change. What I've offered here is a collection of coping tips which worked for me to allow me to do this. I'm hoping they'll work for other people as well.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/68573.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: compassionate compassionate
About "Should" and Mental Health

In the interests of my continuing mental health, I've had to banish a few words and phrases from my vocabulary. One of them is "should".

"Should" is a word which has disappointment built-in from the start. It's a word used to talk about ideal situations, ideal results, ideal worlds. As such, to someone like me with an anxiety disorder, it's essentially poison for the psyche. Because, you see, one of the things at the core of any anxiety disorder is this: we want the world to be perfect. Perfection implies control.

So to someone with an anxiety disorder (and this also includes the vast majority of people with depression, since the two conditions tend to be co-morbid to an astounding degree) a "should" is not a vague ideal to be used as a general directional indicator. Instead, it is a definite goal, which needs to be achieved (in order that the world be perfect). So phrases like "you should know better" or "you should be able to do better than that" or "I shouldn't need to tell you" and so on aren't just expressions of regret for one single instance - they are clear indicators that we have failed on a comprehensive level to achieve the goals set for us[1]. The world is imperfect and it's All Our Fault.

As you can guess, that kind of feeling doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels.

Then there's the other kind of "should" - the ones we tell ourselves, the ones which come with the invisible tag of "but I won't". "I should stay on this diet... but I won't". "I should Clean All The Things... but I won't". "I should do this disagreeable task... but I'm not gonna!". Again, not only is the world imperfect, and not only is this All Our Fault, but we're also unable to even rely on ourselves to do things. How hopeless are we?

(Something else which doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels).

However, banishing "should" (and its close cousin, "ought to") from your mental vocabulary is a hard thing to do at times. For a start, there's all the externally imposed "shoulds" - the expectations of parents, partners, friends, children, teachers, employers, co-workers, advertisers, marketers, manufacturers and so on. ("You should buy $PRODUCTNAME!") Plus there's all the internal ones, yelled at us by our jerk!brains on constant loop - including the ones which come up as part of the memory tapes bringing up old humiliations to dance on the stage of the Grand Olde Embarrassing Recollection to remind us of what we "should" and "shouldn't" be doing, or have done.

What's the solution to all of this? Well, the one which worked for me was basically stepping back from what I "should" be doing, and asking myself "what, realistically, can I do?" This one works particularly well for the memory tapes. Asking myself "okay, what am I able to do about this problem/issue, right here, right now?" tends to make the tapes suddenly grind to a glitching halt - because usually the answer is "nothing". I can't fix past mistakes from the present. I can make an effort to alter future behaviour, but other than that? There is literally nothing I can do.

This works well for other people's expectations of you as well. I have a lovely little icon (created by Copperbadge a while ago) which reads "Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles". If other people want you to do something, if they think you "should" be able to do it, ask yourself: "can I do this?" Are you physically, socially, mentally capable of performing the task they're asking? (This includes such things as "do I have the skills needed?", "do I have the available spare capacity?", "do I have the available spare time?" and, of course, "do I actually want to do this?"). If the answer is "yes", then perform the task. If the answer is "no", then tell them so - give reasons if the person asking is a reasonable person (unreasonable people don't deserve reasons for your answers, because unreasonable people can't or won't be reasoned with).

By bringing things back from the ideal world of "should" to the actual world of "can I, am I, do I, is this" you wind up being a lot more realistic about your own capabilities, and a lot less prone to stressing yourself out over things which are outside your own control.


[1] You'll note one of the apparent "goals" being set there is fully functional human telepathy. Nobody said the goals of a "should" were ever either realistic or achievable.

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
Brief Personal Update

TW: unemployment, suicidal thoughts, mental illness

So, Himself got the sack on Monday for being off sick too often (about four weeks over the course of about ten months), but more realistically he got the sack because his boss didn't want to keep employing another technical person now the boss's honeymoon is over. We are now back to the Centrelink/Job Nyetwork "Dance of the Deserving Poor", which is a variation on the Masochism Tango where you scourge yourself for the entertainment of public servants who aren't interested in watching.

I am, quite predictably, not reacting to this well. As in, I'm melting down all over the place. Have an appointment with my doctor today to get a medical certificate for the depression (which is flaring up to the point where I've spent most of the past two days defaulting to thinking very positive thoughts about going out and playing in the traffic) and I'll be hoping to be able to head back to the last Employment Services Provider I was seeing, since I got accustomed to their particular brand of useless and I figure they'd be able to dig the file out of storage.

I'd be happier, I think, if they'd just acknowledge it is literally less likely for me to get a job than it is for me to win Lotto (1 in 85 chance of winning something in lotto, if you buy a ticket; by contrast, I applied for over 100 jobs during the course of 2014 without so much as a preliminary interview resulting) and that the only reason I'm sending out the applications in the first place is because Centrelink demands it. Your tax dollars at work, making work for HR types and recruiting agencies.

I'm going to try and keep these whiny posts to a minimum, because I know people aren't really all that interested.

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Current Mood: depressed depressed
Why Meg is Ms Grumpy-Pants Bitchyface Today

Some necessary background:
* I tend to leave the front door open (with the security door locked) overnight in summer, because it's a quieter and cheaper way of getting cool air to circulate through the place than running the air-conditioner all night.
* Our place backs onto a rather busy roadway, which has heavy trucks running up and down it starting at a very early hour of the morning and continuing until rather late at night.
* If we leave the back door of our place open, the traffic noise from the road out back is overwhelming.
* Noise is a significant stressor for me, because due to some peculiarities of my brain, I have trouble with "tuning out" background noise.
* In hot, humid weather, it takes me longer to get to sleep, and I find it harder to sleep soundly, than in hot, dry weather.
* The past week or so has been hot and humid here in Perth.
* I react poorly to sleep deprivation over the long term. The principal symptom is that my temper becomes a lot shorter, and my reaction to negative stressors becomes more pronounced.
* My mother smoked, and I grew to strongly dislike the smell of stale cigarette smoke, or indeed stale smoke of any kind.
* I'm still in the process of recovering from a nasty summer flu that came through a few weeks back, and one of the side effects of this is when I wake up in the morning, my throat is scratchy and sore.

Last night it rained. Also, at some stage last night, after it rained, something within smoke range of us caught fire. The house consequently smells of stale smoke, and I'm finding myself waiting optimistically for the washing machine to finish its cycle in the hopes that while I'm out hanging out the washing in the back yard, enough clean air will circulate through the house to push out the smoke smell.

Waking up this morning felt rather like climbing out of a coffin in terms of effort, and I did wind up zombie-ing through the first few stages of my morning routine. I have one of my standard symptoms of extreme tiredness, which is that my eyes are tending to cross if I'm not paying attention (as a kid I used to have a squint) and the visual problems I have are more acute (for example, the astigmatism was such this morning that I had trouble distinguishing between the '-' and '=' keys on my keyboard). On top of this, I'm about five times more sensitive to noise at the moment than I have been previously.

The traffic noise from the road out back seems about ten times worse than it was on Friday. The toilet has started dripping again (after about a month or two where it didn't) and I've had to start turning down the water pressure and closing the door on the lav so I don't get driven out of my mind by the dripping. Which means the lav is going to smell of smoke for longer.

So I'm taking steps to deal with things - I've accepted it's going to be a grumpy day, and I'm not expecting much of myself (I'm still going to try and meet all my daily expectations in Habit RPG, but I'm not going to attempt anything particularly social or challenging). I've set the oil burner (a little teapot-shaped one - it seems to be a bit more subtle than most) going with my favourite blend of lavender and rosemary oils, and I'm going to see whether I can air out the house while I'm hanging out the laundry. Fortunately, it being a Monday, I'm going to find it easier to complete my obligations than not, because Mondays typically have a couple of extra tasks involved in them just by the nature of the routine. I've also put on some music, because music seems to be able to distract me from noise overload if I apply it early enough.

Lunch today is going to be comfort food, methinks. Oh, and no reading political news or political articles.

Other than that, it's a case of brace and endure.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/51803.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: grumpy grumpy
An Overdue Update

Since the beginning of November (or thereabouts) I've been undergoing one of my periodic mood downswings. Which is why things have dropped off somewhat. Essentially, I've been spending just about every day for the past forty days waking up, realising I'm not dead (and cursing when I realise this, because it's been a massive disappointment at times) and working my way through life as though I'm walking through chest-high treacle in a cold climate. On top of this, I've had an impromptu rent inspection (sprung on us with about 7 days verbal notice - the real-estate agent decided to take advantage of an opportunity and get a look at the place to make sure we're not destroying the joint) which has necessitated cleaning the place to inspection-ready standards, and also a minor meltdown over my partner hiring someone to get the windows done. Currently I have a knee-rug to assemble before Saturday (7x9, I have 4 of the 7 strips already joined up; I'm finishing assembling the final one of the remaining 3 this morning. Then it's just tidying up ends, which is long and fiddly and takes forever; joining them to the main rug; and making a border for the whole thing) as a Christmas present for my father-in-law, as well as a batch or two of biscuits for my mother-in-law.

Fortunately, I managed to beg off going to my parents' place for the evening meal on Christmas day (I've been doing a lot of therapy lately, which has stirred up one heck of a lot of unresolved anger at the 'rents) and will instead be just knocking it down to a quick trip to drop off their presents and pick up ours. But that means at least another two or three batches of biscuits to bake next week (in time for Christmas) to cover my parents, my brother, and my two nieces; not to mention a quick plunge into the joys of the local shopping mall at Christmas time in order to purchase something fancy to pack them all into.

All of this while, as mentioned previously, feeling as though I'm doing everything through chest-high treacle in the middle of winter.

To add to all of this, the depression makes me as irritable as all get-out, so I currently have a temper shorter than a wet cowpat, and a fuse which is best measured in micrometres. I've been taking care of myself by avoiding the political news and the political blogs as much as possible, as well as walking away from a lot of stuff that I'd otherwise be wading into.

So, that's why I've been fairly quiet (for me) this past month or so.

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Current Mood: depressed depressed
Living with an "Episodic" Mental Health Condition

I have chronic endogenous unipolar depression. This is a technical medical term. Chronic means my depression is always there, as background noise in my life. Endogenous means there is no identifiable "reason" for my depression other than "my brain hates me and wants me to be miserable". Unipolar means I get major depressive downs, but I don't get manic highs.

Continued below the fold )

Employing me, or someone like me, requires a workplace which allows me to vary my workload in order to cope with the changing mental weather. It requires a workplace where my boss is going to accept me saying "I'm having a bad week at the moment; can I please not be put in customer-facing situations unless it's absolutely necessary" without either complaining, attempting to force me into situations I've said I'm ill-equipped to handle, or attempting to guilt me into performing according to their plans. It requires a workplace where I'm allowed to say "I'm feeling overloaded, can I go home?" (and where there's an acceptance this point may well occur twenty minutes into the working day). It requires a workplace where I don't feel required to meet the performance standards set by persons who don't have my rather interesting set of obstacles to performing at capacity. It requires, in short, a workplace which Western Capitalist society is profoundly ill-equipped to supply.

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Current Mood: depressed depressed
So, How Was Your Week?

How's my week been? Ooh, let's see.

1) Physically, I'm breaking in a new mattress (as in new-new, never been used before). We swapped out my previous queen bed for a single bed (so we can manage to fit more than just the beds into the bedrooms of whichever place we move into next) and as part of this I'd purchased myself a new mattress to go with it. New mattress is very firm (designed for kids to be jumping on it, I suspect) and thus I tend to be not getting quite the same quality of sleep I'm used to. Plus the single bed with my queen-bed continental quilt on it is a lot warmer than the queen bed used to be, so I spend a lot of the night overheating. Not helped by item 2) on the agenda, below.

2) This year, Perth looks to be having a lovely wet winter, which we desperately need in order to get even a little more water in the dams (this graph gives a picture of where our water storage levels are at present). However, while I love to see the rainfall, I'm not so keen on the small problem where we have absolutely zero undercover drying space for our laundry. It means I spend a lot of time frantically monitoring the weather radar (to tell whether the rain is likely to be falling/clearing up soon); the washing gets hung out in frantic bursts of hope, then hauled back in and spun dry again (well, drier than dripping wet, anyway); and smaller items get hung up on the clothes airer which is now occupying one of the few patches of clear space in our main room.

3) Just started with a new psychologist yesterday. She's based out at the old Fremantle Prison (built back in the convict days of the early 1800s - our colony was founded in 1829 - and still being used as a prison within my lifetime) which now has at least some of the cells being used as office space by a small business development group. Let's just say I can now understand why the prisoners used to riot. That office/cell was crowded with two women in it. I'd hate to think how cramped it would have been with three big boofy blokes in it. Standard first appointment - "tell me about yourself" - which has stirred up the mud at the bottom of the psyche. Consequently feeling a little flattened at present.

4) Second installment of a short course on MYOB happening tonight (six week course, 3.5 hours per week). I'm having my usual problem with all of these sorts of things, namely that I could probably have blitzed through about two weeks worth of content inside the allowed time for one week, and thus spend a lot of the time reading ahead in the book and getting everything done quick smart. Last week I spent a lot of the unused time writing up an explanation of the difference between closing down a program using its own exit routine (File -> Exit on most Windows programs) and letting the operating system take care of things (click on the X in the upper right corner, for Windows), and why it's wiser to let the program handle the closing routine if you're working on a slow system, or a system using networked file storage, or if you're using large data files. Formatted it a bit when I got home last week, and I'll print it out today and take it in for the fun of it. Wonder what I'll wind up with this week? Maybe I should take along a few bits of fanfic to work on.

5) Picked up some more acrylic yarn from the Red Dot store in Fremantle (they had 100g balls of 8-ply acrylic going for $2 a ball; I grabbed some in black, which I plan to use as joining/edging yarn for rugs, and some in dark purple and white, which I plan to use to create a "Fremantle Dockers" knee rug for my father-in-law). This has now brought my yarn stash to two 50L roller bins bulging at the seams. I am now no longer allowed to buy any more yarn until I've used up some of the stuff I already have. Which may well necessitate me making an effort to turn some of the half-bin (another 50L roller bin) of granny squares sitting in waiting into rugs.

6) Replaced the pair of jeans which blew out an inner thigh a couple of weeks ago. $30 at Best and Less, and unfortunately it appears it is no longer possible to find larger sizes jeans which don't have some form of "tummy trimming" panel in them. Which is annoying - if I wanted to wear a girdle, I'd fecking well buy one. I don't need the designers of my clothing making the decision for me. They're currently in the wash basket, waiting for Himself to get home tonight, so I can put his current hi-vis shirt through the wash with the rest of them (and any other blue or green articles of clothing which are waiting on washing).

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Current Mood: drained drained
So, How Badly Were You Shafted By The Budget?

I'm basically looking at trying to find an extra $70 per year from an income which had no discretionary spending available anyway (as per First Dog On The Moon, this is not a budget for people who fancy eating food and living in some sort of housing while wearing clothes). Basically, I can stop replacing clothes, shoes and underwear as they wear out, and thus put that money toward things like health maintenance for my two chronic health issues (under-active thyroid and chronic endogenous depression), or I can do things like actually replace the pair of jeans which gave up the ghost last week and keep the two replacement pairs of sneakers I bought about a month ago for $30, thus keeping myself shod for another six to eight months and wait for my health problems to get bad enough to put me in hospital. The latter will almost certainly cost the Australian taxpayer a damn sight more than $70.

So that particular program is almost certainly about the government cutting off its nose to spite its face for ideological reasons.

[Actually, given a new bra is likely to cost me about $80 a pop (and I need at least three of the wretched things), I'm starting to wonder how expensive a double mastectomy would be. It'd certainly make things cheaper for me overall - I could buy men's clothes, and save a fair old whack of money over the amount I'm charged as a woman who wears larger sizes. Heck, if they'd take the uterus as well, I'd be able to avoid spending money on "feminine hygiene" products too, which would be a nice little saving over the long term.]

It's only going to get harder as things go along, because I'm on Newstart, which is inadequate even now, and isn't likely to get any better (not with the payment rate frozen for three years). I'm old enough I'm not going to be forced to Work for the Dole, thanks be to the gods, but I'm not old enough for an employer to be able to get a subsidy for employing me (ah, the joys of being part of Generation X - neither fowl nor flesh nor good red herring!). Mr Nahan here in WA has already put up the cost of travelling anywhere by public transport, and Mr Hockey over in the federal house has decided to start slugging us more for fuel, so going out isn't going to be an option Any Time Soon.

So tonight I'm celebrating the budget with a cup of hot chocolate enhanced with a good solid slug of the cooking brandy.

*raises mug*

May Tony Abbott's path be paved with Lego. And may all his shoes have cheap soles.

*drinks deeply in the hopes of oblivion*

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location: Poverty
Current Mood: cranky cranky
Current Music: "All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose" - Billy Bragg & The Blokes
Inside My Brain Today.

Anxiety, depression, and how it feels from the inside )

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Current Mood: indescribable indescribable
Depression: Something That Helps Me

Okay, I've written a lot about my depression on my various blogs over the years, and mostly it's been the "screaming silently in text" type of post which is all about how horrible I'm feeling at the present moment and all the rest. Today, it's a bit different.

Today, I'm going to talk about something I've been doing for nearly two months now, which I'm finding is helping me with my depression.

It developed out of a bit of thinking that came to light in about mid-May, when I realised one of the things depression did for me was it made it very difficult for me to see the positives in what was going on around me (and thus made me very cross with people who said "look on the bright side", because as far as I was concerned, there wasn't one). Given my natural state of mind, I'll see the negatives, spot the rain cloud surrounding the silver linings, and always, always note not only is the glass half-empty (if that), it's also a dirty glass and there's a chip in the rim. I'm a natural for disaster planning, because I'm automatically looking on the bleak side of life, and preparing for the worst to happen. As a job skill, it's probably invaluable if I can just get into the correct field.

However, as a life-long habit, it sucks rocks through a straw. So I decided what I needed to do was start noticing when things went right, and writing those down, if need be. I tried it for a bit back in June, and it seemed to help - certainly it's harder to think everything in your life is going wrong if you have a list of things which went right. However, the notebook I was using in June for this was my general "stuff" notebook (the one I started up as an adjunct to my memory, which is starting to get a bit spotty as I get older), and I found I was forgetting to write things down each day.

So, in September, I bought another notebook, and designated this as my specific "What Went Right" notebook. At present, I only have one rule: I have to write down at least three things every day which went right, or were good about each day. No maximum number, but a minimum of three per day. I haven't missed a day yet (although I'll admit there are some days when I filled in the three things from the day before early in the morning of the next day), and looking back over the book, it makes for interesting reading. On days where I know I'm going to be stressed, I'll tend to keep the book with me, and fill in things as soon as I notice them.

I'm finding it does help with the depression, because I'm deliberately looking for the positive things, and for the things which went right, and writing them down when I spot them. It's harder to focus on the negatives when I'm looking for the positives - and it's harder to forget the positive things when I've written them down for future reference.

What this doesn't do: it doesn't change my underlying mood. If I'm miserable, I'm still going to be miserable, but I have to find at least three things during the course of even the most miserable day that went right - even if it's just something as simple as "I got out of bed"; "I ate something"; or "I didn't kill myself (or anyone else) today". (There're quite a few entries which basically consist of "the weather is horrible, but I'm not outside in it")

What this does do: it encourages me to recognise the things which went right, or the little things which were good about the day, even on days when things are absolutely catastrophically horrible. (There're at least a couple of entries which are me putting a good face on frustrating things which happened on a particular day; things like "my employment services provider did see me, eventually" or "found the limitations of the Centrelink appointments system").

Why I think this works for me: I'm fond of practical things I can do to deal with my condition (and I'm sorry, but referring to it in such a manner makes me think of the old codger in the Avengers speaking to Bruce Banner - "Son, you got a condition!" - which always makes me grin). The goal is easy to reach (a minimum of three things per day that went right, or that were good about the day). There's only the one rule (I have to put down at least three positive things or things which went right per day) and it's an easy one to stick with, even on the worst days. No rules about what counts as positive, or what counts as going right - it's a day by day decision.

I don't know whether anyone else will find this helpful. But I know it helps me, so I'm putting it out there as something which might help others. The notebook I'm using is a little A6 sized spiral-bound "Colour Hide" one (with a bright shrieking pink cover), and I'm keeping my place with an elastic band around the unused pages.

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Vaguely disjointed ramble.

So, I seriously need to do something about my anxiety problems.

I've spent the past five weeks of the election campaign getting steadily tighter and tighter wound, envisioning all the various ways the next three years can go catastrophically wrong. It's not that hard, given access to a number of news feeds - all it requires is a look at the US and Europe, and figuring out how the parties currently in charge of Australia are going to implement austerity this time around. Because, let's face it, they're going to implement austerity whether we need it or not. The Proprietors want it, so we're getting it. Less government "interference", less "handouts" (particularly if you're in the lower income brackets) and less government service. Goody goody gumdrops.

Anyway, I've spent the past five weeks dreading what's going to be happening. Yesterday, I did the best I could against the onslaught. Now I'm stuck with the results of the past five weeks, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I've spent most of today feeling exhausted - physically, mentally, and psychologically. I really just want to curl up and go to sleep, and hopefully not have to wake up again. All that wound up tension is unwinding, because there's really nothing I can do at this point. I have a feeling I'm going to be having another depressive crash as a result, lucky me.

But really, I need to figure out a way of avoiding getting into these anxious states in the first place. It seems to be all tied in with the amount of feeling I do - I seem to feel things too deeply for my own comfort a lot of the time. I can't be detached, or isolated. I care too much, and that caring leaves me vulnerable, because the caring makes me angry, and the anger makes me anxious, or depressed when it goes sour. It's like I was born without the top layer of skin - I'm all raw, all the time, and all exposed nerve endings. So yeah, I can see why the SSRIs help, even though what they do isn't to actually stop me feeling - at best what they do is put a delay between the contact and the reaction (meaning I stay in contact with the harmful stuff longer, and it hurts me more before I pull away). But it slows the impact of the hurt, makes it possible for me to react to it.

I dunno. I think what I need is some way of not caring about things as much, of not having as much passion about the world, of not having everything so close to the surface. But on the other hand, that's ME. I've always been like this; it's part of what makes me who I am. Would I still be me if I stopped reacting so readily to things?

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Current Mood: vaguely depressed vaguely depressed
An Open Letter to the People Defending the Steubenville Rapists

(Or indeed to anyone else saying any of a number of victim-blaming things about the young woman who was raped by the rapists in question).

I've been reading a bit about the Steubenville rape event in various blogs and articles. Not too much - I'm not really in a psychological space where I can take the stress at the moment - but enough to get an idea of what's being said. I'm hearing an awful lot about the victim of this rape - about things she should have done, things she shouldn't have done, attitudes she should have held, behaviours she should have avoided. Things she could have done to avoid being raped, and thus avoided this whole mess coming to light, and "ruining" the lives and careers of two young men who apparently thought rape was a permissible thing, and bringing to light an entire town subculture wherein being part of the high school football team gives a person social licence to act as though the normal rules of society are not applicable.

The young woman in question was going to a high school party where members of the local high school football team (who were local heroes, and from what I can discover, practically deified in the local area) were going to be present. I sincerely doubt she thought of herself in context as "a sheep among the wolves". These were people she went to school with. People she attended classes with. People she knew. She most likely thought of herself, if anything, as a human being among other human beings.

She thought she was safe. She didn't know she wasn't safe. She found out AFTER THE EVENT she hadn't been safe.

How the bloody hells was she supposed to have known she'd be targeted for this sort of thing? How was she to know nobody would be looking out for her? She thought these people were her friends. She thought, more importantly, she was their friend, that she mattered to them. She found out, sadly, she wasn't their friend, and they weren't her friends, in the worst possible way.

And victim-blaming strangers say "she should have known better than to get drunk in the presence of rapists". SHE DIDN'T FUCKING KNOW SHE WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF RAPISTS, YOU SELF-IMPORTANT FOOLS!. She thought she was in the presence of friends.

Now, I learned at a very young age I couldn't trust other people to be looking out for me. I learned at a very young age if someone said they wanted to be my friend, they were most likely either attempting to lull me into a false sense of security, or trying to trick me outright. I learned I can't trust other people to stand up for me, to stand by me, or to take my side.

I know I'm broken.

But I'm broken in possibly the only way that might have protected this young woman from what happened to her. If she'd been broken in the same way I'm broken, she probably would have been suspicious of an invitation to such a party. She would have either said no outright, or more likely she would never have been asked to the party in the first place (because the kinds of bullies who are adept at setting up victims get pretty good at recognising the ones who won't take the bait).

You know what? I wouldn't wish my brokenness on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But you seem to think this is a necessary and vital state for all young women who want to be able to avoid rape.

I'm broken. I'm unable to function as a social animal, because I can't trust people. I'm able to fake it for a bit, but I will never let people close to me. I'm broken, and I'm child free by choice, and I've made the deliberate decision that my line of brokenness stops with me, because I know I'm not capable of functioning as a parent or a caregiver. I'm constantly depressed, I'm constantly miserable. I wake up every morning and my first thought every morning is "oh damn, I'm still not dead".

And you seem to think my state is somehow a desirable and necessary one for other people to be in, so they can avoid being raped.

From the depths of my misery, I LOATHE you.

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Current Mood: furious furious
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