|This is my collection of plants that I own. They are very pretty and
happy. I have to have plants at home or else it just doesn’t feel
like home. They are chilling out here enjoying the south-facing
window that they get to live by.
I talk a little bit about disordered eating habits in this post, as a heads-up. And also about guilt.
I am living alone now, and have been for a few weeks. I realized what I needed out of roommates and living alone was a better option for me at this time. (And I could afford it, although I have money-spending-issues*.) And also I want a furry friend, so I had to move into a pet-allowable apartment. I’ve been living alone with just me and my plants the last few weeks and I’ve had time to go through the different activities and parts of life and figure out why this is working and why my last roommate living together didn’t work, even though I have lived with people successfully and happily before.
The roommates that I lived with successfully
(1) understood the need for quiet/alone time, although we also would have the opportunity for parallel activities in the main room, like reading a book or watching tv together. An ability to be in the same room quietly is important.
(2) helped manage the effort of living together
Regarding point 1, my more recent roommate never bothered me when I was in my room. She was very respectful of that. If my door was closed, she would only knock if it was something relatively important. Or she would g-chat me. (An excellent way of initiating contact with me.) But I was never able to sit in the living room without conversation. I stopped eating at regular hours when I was stressed because I was too afraid to go to the kitchen during normal hours in case she would talk to me while I was there. And that’s just not a good thing to have happen at home. She was a very sweet girl, and we still are friends, actually (we were friends before, also), but living together just didn’t work out best for us.
Regarding the roommates I successfully lived with: we shared chores, so someone was always able to handle the something that needed to be done. But mostly it was making dinner together regularly. We didn’t always cook together, but we almost always (unless it was just eating leftovers) made enough for two. Often we cooked together, sometimes I made food, sometimes she made food. It added enough so that on bad days you could always find something to eat because chances were the other person was up to making food that day.
My last roommate didn’t cook at all. She mostly ate soup from cans. So that didn’t work. If she had, it is far more likely that I would still be living with her. If I had been able to share meals with her, I think the conversation would have been less of a barrier. But as it was, I was getting all the bad things about living with another person (a.k.a. there is always someone at your house) without any of the benefits I needed.
***As you can tell, food is very important to me. Both on a “I need food to survive and also get grumpy really quickly if I haven’t eaten” level and on a “I really enjoy eating and making delicious food” level. But I still have food struggles, mainly that when I get stressed I forget how to make the food or decide the food or eat the food. Also, when stressed, my foods-that-I-will-eat decreases dramatically.***
So it is ok for me that I moved out. Because being safe is ok. I don’t need to feel guilty about moving somewhere I feel safe. (I do feel guilty about it, but I know I don’t need to.) Because I feel safe at home here.**
Because now I can sit in my living room and work on things at my desk/table. I can work on my couch if it is something low-key like reading papers (which I have been doing so much of in these last few weeks of prelim-ing). I can go out of my room at any time of the day and it is ok. If I am sad or frustrated or mad, I don’t have to hide myself away if I start crying. (Which also means I can get things I left in the other room if I am upset.) Because the whole place is safe.
I can make myself dinner when I am hungry or at mealtimes, even when I am stressed. I can eat, even when I am stressed and tired. I can try to make new things, which I never ever ever could do in my old place unless I was sure my roommate wasn’t coming home. I can make snacks and baked goods. I can eat at the table, instead of in my room. I can take my time looking through the cabinets (although there isn’t much in them yet). I can cook things that require time spent in the kitchen, or time spent watching the pot, because I can stay in the room where they are, and it is safe.
I should feel safe where I live and I will feel safe where I live and I do feel safe where I live. (Except on windy nights when the broken screen on my window taps all night long but a maintenance request will fix that. And also that’s a different kind of safe.)
And the next person I live with will be boyfriend (who is now fiancé, who I really should give a proper name to) who makes me feel safer than any other person, except maybe my California family (but they have the benefit of added years of safety and familiar places on their side, while boyfriend can make me feel safe living 8 stories about the ground in the Midwest–I’ve never lived so far from the ground before.) Because I should feel safe where I live. And I will.
*AKA I get stressed spending any quantity of money because of some reason that I still struggle to articulate. I have never not had enough to meet my needs, so I am not sure where exactly this fear comes from. I think partially there is just something in the idea of spending money that I don’t understand. Where even though I know it translates into numbers, any values over $20 are bigger than I can really comprehend fully. So every few months I panic and get my accountant fiancé to explain all the numbers to me and check my finances and reassure me that I am financially safe.
**Even with the bad parts like going in elevators with other people and going through rotating circle doors daily, and scary things like those, I STILL feel safer here.
|This is not relevant to this article, but it was one of the earliest images that popped up when I googled the title of this post looking for a good image. And I really do love xkcd, and I didn’t come up with a better image for this, and I prefer to have images in my posts, so I am sticking with it. Because it’s always good to have a bit of fun in there.|
I’ve been struggling a lot lately, with prelims and lab choosing and moving and a million pieces of life (which is why I haven’t written much in August). Errands and jobs and tasks that require communication and planning and new skill sets. There is the constant low level anxiety about being in a new place right now, which uses up spoons just existing until I get adjusted into life here.
And I’ve been trying to keep up with graduate school and doing my best and trying to make a good impression so that people like me and let me into programs. And maybe I have been trying my hardest and maybe what I have been is good enough.
Or maybe it isn’t. I sort of think that I should be trying harder. Trying to improve myself and be better. There are always things I need to work on.
Today I read this (emphasis mine):
“I feel as though many of our autistic kids can never escape from this idea that they must always be being corrected; must always be being taught; must always be building on skills; must always be attending therapies and classes; must always be being “consistently disciplined”; must always remember every second of every day that they are autistic and that they have so much to learn, so far to go, so much more that they need to be.”
~“Are We Trying To Hard To Teach Our Autistic Children”, Suburban Autistics (Also read the rest of the article, it’s great!)
There are so many things I need to work on. I identify a new area where I struggle when talking with boyfriend and he says “ok, we can work on that”. But if we add up all the things that “we can work on” then I don’t know how I have any time in the day to actual get my work done*. I can’t always be working on not panicking or working on not hiding my face or working on one of the million other things I struggle with that are things that need to be done to be professional and successful and effective at communicating and get things done.
And then I get overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do and it is a horrible positive feedback loop that just spirals out of control.** And that is no help at all and does not lead to more things getting done.
I have to remember I am the one who is creating the standards for my behavior. I can make them reasonable.
As long as I get by, I am doing ok.
I need to eat. I need to do reasonably well in grad school so that I don’t get kicked out. I need to pay bills and pay rent. I should try and avoid going into debt. As long as I stick to that, I am doing ok. It is fine if I watch a lot of tv. Or if I hide in my room and don’t talk to people. Or if I do talk to people. Or if I don’t exercise. It is all ok. I am surviving.
On days I remember that, I am fine. I am more productive. I am happy. Of course, determining what “reasonably well” means is a whole issue on itself…
*They are usually things that I do need to work on, like being able to make appointments or go to the doctor or go to a meeting or such things.
**I really want to say a negative feedback loop, but that is wrong. A negative feedback loop will turn itself off or regulate levels, because it negatively effects itself. A positive feedback loop builds on itself and increases and increases. One biological example of a positive feedback loop is peeing.
Right now, things are different. Partially because right now I have to deal with the politics part of science, which I am not a major fan of and which confuses me. But also, (and with what was probably not ending up as the best overall timing), we (doctor +me) discussed it and I got off my antidepressants. Oh, and also, as a heads up here, I am going to briefly mention various things that happened that lead to me being on antidepressants (mostly self-harm and suicidal thoughts).
***Oh, and also brains are weird and do strange things and I certainly don’t understnad them, and this is definitely just personal-me-rambling thoughts. Do whatever makes your brain happy and work. If antidepressants make your brain work, then by all means, keep taking them. I am not trying to say that you should stop taking them or try to stop taking them or that being on them is bad or only a phase or whatever. It is just that for me the side effects are starting to outweigh the benefits again.***
And it has been long enough that I have started to sort out the differences between the weird side effects that happen whenever I get on or off of medications and actually being off of medication. So I am sorting through my life and seeing what I have been up to now that I am *actually* off of meds. I want to stay off of them, if I can. I know they are good and useful and they helped me a lot. I know I needed them. I don’t think I still need them, but I am not positive. I’m sorting it out and working through it and discussing things with people and seeing the results and we are experimenting in how staying off of them is working, and then after a month, we will re-evaluate the decision.
Now that I am off them, everything seems realer. Things are less blunt and less dulled. Things were a lot flatter before. There’s more colors and layers to things. This is generally good. But it also means things can be sharper and things can hurt more. Because when I was on my meds, they were mostly sort of dulled off to the edge. My thoughts and senses and connections faded and separated out more. The world was more blurred, but that also made it softer and safer, and that was what I needed then.
But I like the world with the colors and the layers and the connections. I like how the world is now, how beautiful everything is. I had missed it, and I am glad it is back.
I haven’t noticed anything specifically or abnormally strange in things I am doing or thinking. I’m fine with the general things I know about related-to-depression things. I don’t want to hurt myself or kill myself. I don’t seem to be crying more than the normal amount or at unprompted things.
The only big thing I have noticed is that I think I was less stimmy before. And since I translate my emotions through what I am doing, it confuses me. I am not sure if I am happy or stressed or tired or frustrated. My movements are more and my movements are different. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. So I am a bit confused by this. I’m not sure why I am moving more or moving differently. So I can’t tell how this translates out. It isn’t always bad stimmy, but it certainly is more stimmy.
Stimmy stimmy stimmy stimmy stimmy.
I know I was more manageable on my meds.
But what does manageable mean? I’m not sure what I even mean by it, but I know the word I want is manageable. I don’t know if I meant more manageable for me or more manageable for other people. I just know that word belongs in this description. More manageable for me is good. More manageable for other people… not so good, necessarily.
I know I seemed more normal when I was on them, but I try not to have that be my goal. I try to have my goal to be to be happy and to make the world a slightly better place (or at least not a worse place) and to not hurt other people. And there are some career goals related to science thrown in there as well. But seeming normal is something I try not to have as a goal, because I don’t think it is something really attainable for a prolonged period of time, and I try not to have impossible or unattainable goals.
So that’s where I am at for now. We shall see how things go from here.
I want to drop out of grad school
I want to just go home and never have to do anything again
I don’t want to think about getting married
I don’t want to think about picking a lab
I don’t want to talk to professors
I can’t go home I have so much to do
I can’t miss a flight I already checked in for
I can’t stay here
I can’t function properly
I can’t eat or make food
I can’t talk to people correctly
I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop
Normally I do well in grad school. Now is not one of those times.
Grad school is self-directed which means I don’t have enough direction. I don’t know how to choose and how to convey my interest appropriately in joining a lab. And when I did, there were not-clear-things that resulted from the conversations (and from me crying in the middle of conversations) and it is all a no-good mess, still. And I talked to advisors and people I rotated with and they just kept asking more questions and not answering anything explicitly because it is up to me to decide so I have to make the decisions. And because it took so long for me to talk clearly enough that people understood what I was actually saying (on the order of weeks), now I am leaving for 2 weeks without knowing what I am doing when I come back. And without having joining a lab until who-knows-what or if people want me to join or WHAT because it is all an awful NO GOOD HORRIBLE BAD MESS.
Eventually I calmed down a bit and talked to people and wrote out the steps for the current life-grad school-rotations-communication dilemma. At least I’m not in the meltdown-crying-every-hour-awful-mess-state that I was earlier. I have a plan. Well, sort of a plan. A plan to figure out a plan. To fix all the big horrible mistakes that I have made and have gotten behind on. To make up to all the people I have disappointed. To stop disappointing people and stop making mistakes.
Normally I do well in grad school.
But I am going to go home (which was already planned) and my parents are going to take care of me for two weeks and I can e-mail professors about things and do everything except meet-in-person which is something that I need a lot of preparation for anyway. And I can focus only on the tasks I need to do and break them into steps and hopefully figure out how to do things.
Maybe going somewhere safe will fix it. Seeing if hiding from my problems will fix it. (Or “taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture” if I put it in more friendly terms).
Messy mind, messy writing, sorry about the blurry thoughts.
There’s been finals and papers. I’m going home Monday.
I have to figure out which lab I am joining at some point.
I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHICH LAB I AM JOINING.
AKA WHERE I AM GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT 5-7+ years of my life doing science.
Scientists are bad at communication
but so am I
(because I am a scientist)
so that has all been a stress-mess of no one knowing what is going on
Every time I have talked to someone it has become a bigger mess. So I will be leaving Monday for two weeks probably with no real idea of what I am going to do when I get back.
For the last week or so, I have had to step evenly on every crack on the sidewalk on my way to work or else my feet get uneven and that is bad. Even when I wear my big thick running shoes, even when I don’t look down, I can tell. (And the sidewalks are horribly sized sections so there is no good way to walk… it’s about one and a half strides per block no way to make it even ever). So it’s been a tough week.
So in the midst of procrastinating on this work, I have been posting some posts. But then I’ve also been reading other ones. And I got worried so incredibly worried about hurting other people. I would rather a million times be forced to the point of hiding and stress and bad things than hurt someone else. I contemplated deleting everything I have ever written. I contemplated just deleting some posts. I contemplated adding disclaimers to everything ever. So in this panic, I decided that the easiest temporary solution was to just hide it all. Not to delete anything or edit anything that I might regret later. But to just block it all from everyone but me.
So I changed my privacy settings, and tried to forget about it, because I had other things that I needed to worry about this week.
So I hid from the internet for a while.
Because hiding is one of my favorite defense mechanisms. It isn’t really the best one, in terms of effectiveness or long-term-effects or really defensibility, but it is easy when things are hard. And it is a way to postpone things until brains can work again.
This morning, I realized that maybe I should have said something about why I went away, but I didn’t know how to have just one page publicly available. I tried initially when I hid things, but it was too much and I just needed things to be hidden and safe. Because if no one can read what I write, no one can get hurt. So this morning I posted on facebook a rather delayed message about my hiding.
But, I think overall this blog is a good thing. It’s good for me. I’ve made friends through it. (As boyfriend said in his infinite wisdom and good words ability) I’ve ” learned a lot about yourself and gotten good affirmation and confirmation over the blog.”So I will change the privacy settings back so that anyone can read it again. I will keep up my posts. I will be ok with the fact that some posts are messy, that some things I have are rough ideas, that the writing is not always perfect. I will try to come back from hiding, because avoiding good things does not seem like a way I want to come back from life.
“And if people get upset they don’t have to read it”
One of the best classes I ever took in undergrad was an introductory sign language class. I’m not really sure why I decided to take it, except it seemed interesting and fit into my schedule well. I liked the idea of being able to talk to But it has been so incredibly, unpredictably useful for me, in ways I didn’t expect it to be.
Today was a busy day, where I met a lot of important people in boyfriend’s life. We went and talked to a lot of people and talked and hung out.* And then boyfriend drove me home (I should really pick a name for him).
The moment I got in the car, I was exhausted.
Talking started to be very hard, when I was talking just fine before.
I was quiet.
Very, very tired.
Interesting point: I can hold off my tiredness and my not-talkiness for a certain amount of time. I do have some control over it, but then once I no longer have to, and get to a safe place, I can switch it off. Or at least the waiting and the talking and the being-around-people switches off.
Then he came in with me to check that I was ok because I wasn’t really talking.
Helped me change into my safe comfy clothes and find my blankets.
Be safe and make sure I have all the steps I needed to calm down and go to sleep.
And through all of this, I was tired and stressed. I could talk, maybe not well, maybe not in full sentences, but I definitely was capable of talking. But it was so much easier to not. Sometimes I lose all my words, but not this time. And because there was another way to communicate, I did. Being able to communicate without having to use my mouth is wonderful. Even when I can talk, sometimes it is incredibly hard. It is so much easier to sign yes or no or food or sleep. (I know very little signs, and certainly don’t ever use enough for grammar to even come into question, but the little I know has been helpful.)**
I think it is ok to not talk sometimes even if you are still able to talk at that time. I think it is important if you know that you sometimes have trouble talking (verbally) to have alternative modes of communication. I think that it is ok to use other methods of communication whenever, not just as a last resort. It’s ok to put my energy towards different sources rather than speaking. I think that it can be ok to choose not to talk.
I think it is important that other people are also ok with using alternative modes of communication. I wouldn’t do this with anyone but boyfriend (partially also because he’s one of the few people I have this system worked out with), but I wish it was more ok to use alternative methods of communication. I know that being able to get across what I want without having to use my voice was part of why I didn’t meltdown today after a long, busy, people-filled day. I think it needs to be safe and needs to be acceptable to choose other ways of talking.
*[He is smart, though, and knows me, so one of them we met over food, so there was food as an excuse for quiet. The other one, we met at their (parent’s) house. However, they had a dog. An adorable, friendly mini Australian Shepherd who is my friend now. So boyfriend and his friend spent a lot of time catching up, and I spent a lot of time hanging with my new friends. We were there for almost 5 hours, which is a long time to spend in a living room talking with someone I had not met before. The only reason I was able to do it for so long was because of the dog. (One more reason why I should have a dog.)]
**Boyfriend knows a smattering of ASL that he taught himself while working at a summer camp in order to talk to a few of the kids there. Neither of us are particularly fluent, but it works enough for us to get our point across. And really, usually when I am that tired, I am on single words, anyway.
One of the things I am most afraid of is making other people upset or angry. This tends to be a problem. When other people are angry, even if I know it is not at me, I am afraid. Even if it is something completely unrelated to me. If my sister is mad at my parents for not letting her go out somewhere with her friends, I am afraid.
The more tired or stressed I become, the less capable I am of distinguishing between actual threats and perceived ones. So things that would just make me minorly uncomfortable, like someone complaining about how their boss made them work over the weekend, or even things that on a good day wouldn’t upset me at all, like complaining about failed experiments, will make me afraid. And then I want to run and hide.
But of course, I can’t hide under my desk at work.
For several reasons.
Partially, the floor is disgusting.
Also, I know that if people saw me hiding, then they would be concerned and ask if I was ok. And that would lead to more human interaction when I do not want it.
When I am especially afraid, all questions are a threat.
I used to tell my parents to “Stop yelling” when they were saying things, without even a raised voice, when I knew that there was something wrong, maybe I was in trouble or a sister was in trouble. There’s something I don’t quite have the word for still. It isn’t yelling, because it doesn’t require a raised voice. It’s a-something-is-wrong voice and it makes me afraid, even though I know I should be safe.
I don’t know why I have this fear. I am not afraid of my parents. They did not unfairly punish me. Usually, they were pretty explicit about what I had done wrong and why it was not ok and what was going to happen as a result. The reasons were pretty explicit reasons, usually safety related or you-aren’t-allowed-to-hit-your-sister related. And the results were usually pretty reasonable punishments like apologizing to my sisters or going to my room to calm down or extra chores to make up for creating an unreasonable mess. There is no clear reason why I should have this fear of conflict.
I think part of the reason I am afraid is because I am never sure WHAT is wrong. Is it anger or tiredness or frustration? Even with boyfriend, even with my family, I can’t pick up on tired versus angry. It makes behavior unpredictable.
And lack of predictability is frightening.
And if I can’t handle the possibility that someone I know and trust and love might be upset, then when it is someone I don’t know, it can be especially terrifying. This is one reason why I try to stay away from all the activism and issues and current events and internet things that are always going on. Because I can’t handle them and they make me want to hide.
And that is maybe ok, to only float around the edges and contribute my personal stories. To share bits of happiness and some struggles. I should be good at floating around the edges by now. I’ve done it my whole life.
Because it is maybe ok to prioritize being safe and feeling safe.
I need to be able to live somewhere that I am not afraid of leaving my room. I need to live somewhere that I feel safe in the whole living area. That I can go in the kitchen whenever I want to. I am paying rent for half an apartment, but I’m afraid to use most of it. It’s an irrational fear, and afraid might not be the absolute best word for it, but it is the best word I can find right now.
Often, I won’t leave my room if I know my roommate is in the kitchen/living/dining room. This has negative effects on my eating habits. I can’t schedule my meals because I never know if she will be outside her room that day and I will need to make something quick so that I don’t have to stay in the kitchen long if she is out there. Even though I know this is irrational and there is no reason why I can’t use the kitchen if she is in the living room, it is just something that cannot happen, except on the best of days. Even if it isn’t a physical barrier, it is still something that prevents me from eating. It is still a real barrier for me.
I want to state clearly that this is in no way my roommate’s fault. She is a good roommate. She respects my space and doesn’t come into my room ever unless she has something important to tell me (like the oven is still on, or the timer is going off, or I got mail here it is). She doesn’t eat the food that is specifically mine, and splits the bills on the food we share, like bread and milk. She pays the internet bill on time so that we have internet always, which is important. Admittedly, sometimes she doesn’t do the dishes, but that is something I also do. When I told her that I do better with initiating conversations written, she started asking me over g-chat or facebook chat about things like paying my half of the internet bill.
The things that bother me are things she can’t really help. For instance, she had a really bad cough for months. I recognized that was not something she was doing consciously to annoy me, and it probably was worse for her than it was for me. But that still didn’t stop it from hurting my head every time I heard a cough, from distracting me so that I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
But mainly, it is her presence.
And I feel absolutely, positively horrible for saying this, because she is a nice girl. She’s one of my friends from undergrad and she’s also doing a Ph.D here. And her program doesn’t seem to be full of nearly as many lovely, friendly people as my program and I know she is having a hard time with it. My time at school/work is full of friendly interactions with fun people and hers is not.
But I need to move out.
I need to live somewhere I feel safe.
Somewhere where I am in control of the whole living area.
Somewhere that allows pets so that I can have a cuddly, snuggly friend.
But I feel horrible about abandoning her. Even though I’m not leaving until the lease is up (or at least close to it. I can’t pay two leases on a grad student stipend.) Even though we lease through student housing so she can stay here and still pay the same rent and they will probably put someone new in this apartment so that will be good because she will not be alone and generally gets along well with people. And also just that we won’t live together doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.
And sometimes I talk to her and it is nice and fun and good. And happy even. And then I think that maybe I could handle this, that maybe I am being selfish and antisocial and lazy and if I just started spending more time not in my room I would feel safe in those parts. That it is just me being a horrible, lazy, selfish person.
But it isn’t selfish to want to be safe. It isn’t selfish to want to be able to make myself food on bad or tired days.