Friday, May 29, 2015

Stream of Consciousness, Mental Health Edition

Totally loving this summer weather. I have probably spent 80% of the past week outside (and I've got a couple pinkish shoulders to prove it). I found a new spot: a private little courtyard on campus with a couple tables and benches - perfect for reading in the sun. I swear, both reading (a.k.a. getting myself OFF the internet) and sunshine are just about the best natural mood enhancers around. I am currently chugging my way through this bad boy:

check it

Pretty dense but surprisingly readable. In essence it reframes how we make decisions—conceptualizing our minds as comprising two "systems." System 1 is automatic, impulsive, and emotional. System 2 is rational, conscientious, and analytical...but lazy, easily distracted, and reluctant to intervene without serious effort. Really makes you think about, you know, thinking.

Unrelated: my period is two weeks late. No I'm not pregnant, thank you very much. But I am so bloated it sure feels like there's a kid in there. Not sure what is up with this. Can't be stress; this is probably the least stressed I've been in two years. I'm not overexercising. I haven't lost weight (I don't think). Chalk it up to the never-ending Kaylee Has Fucked Up Bodily Systems series.

I've been going through one of those "I feel pretty okay so maybe therapy is pointless" periods. For the past couple weeks, I've kinda run out of things to talk about with Dr. P, and felt like we were just basically making chit-chat for an hour. I debated canceling this week because it didn't seem like there was a whole lot to talk about. I went anyway (TRUST THE PROCESS) and about 10 minutes in, we were both struggling to come up with stuff to say. Dr. P broached the topic of possibly meeting every other week as opposed to weekly, and see how that goes. And for some reason, although it made perfect sense, my first reaction was TOTAL PANIC. Not sure if it felt like the removal of a security blanket, or just a shift in my weekly structure, when my life is very open and flexible and needs all the structure I can get...anyway, I think I'm over it and will be fine, but it was a weirdly powerful feeling. Dr. P did remind me that, after all, the point of therapy is to not need therapy anymore.

Tangentially related: interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about depression during pregnancy. We had a psychiatrist speak in one of my classes last year about this very issue; maybe 5-10 years ago there was a big brouhaha about how SSRIs are UH UH NO WAY NOT ACCEPTABLE for pregnant women due to the potential harmful effects on the fetus. Turns out they are finding that the harmful effects of depression—like, concrete physiological effects—may actually be far worse for the baby (not to mention Mom...) in many cases. And the decision to discontinue meds is not so cut-and-dried as they once thought.


Also somewhat tangentially related, because apparently this post is taking a Mental Health theme: there's this girl I knew in college who likes to post all over every form of social media about her daily life, her friends, her hobbies, etc. and tag EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING with some combination of #mentalhealthawareness #depression #anxiety #coping #healing #survivor #innerstrength #recovery etc etc etc and I'm like, seriously!? It's so irritating to me, and I can't quite pinpoint why. It just feels disingenuous, ya know? You might think we should be kindred spirits or something, but instead she sparks such hostility in me. Like, ugh just STOP.

Well, um, this has been a random ride, no? Sunburnt shoulders, cognitive psychology, hormonal mysteries, therapeutic adjustments, unexplained hostility, and obstetric musings. Great work team. BREAK.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mom Visit, Chia, and Whit

YOU GUYS I MISS MY MAMA BEAR. She left yesterday after three glorious days of pure mom-daughter time. We ate lunch in lots of hipster cafes downtown (my mom is a hipster in disguise), went hiking, spent a morning in the botanical gardens, watched a documentary on the Civil War because we are nerdy history buffs, drank lots of coffee and wine (not at the same time..), and she cooked (I don't cook).

Now it back to semi-real life; I have lots of projects from my advisor piling up that I need to get to in the next couple days, and I'm working at my other job today and tomorrow. I have a walk/coffee date scheduled after work with a good friend from grad school, and one of my best friends from college is coming into town tomorrow night so I'm trying to coordinate plans with her.

It still seems a tad surreal that I graduated, and the masters program is actually OVER. I am both totally psyched and a little bummed. Just post-festivities blues, I think.

Random musings and updates:
- New Clif bar flavor = Berry Pomegranate Chia. I've eaten two and am still unsure how I feel about them. A tad too sweet, maybe? Or maybe I'm just skeeved out by chia.*

- On my walk to campus this morning, I found a $20 bill lying in the middle of the sidewalk. I stared at it for about ten minutes in disbelief (who loses $20 and doesn't notice???) then gave it to the homeless guy on the corner. He didn't believe that I found it on the street but I swear I did!

- I just introduced my bestie to Whitney Houston circa 1985 ("HOW WILL I KNOW IF HEEEE REALLY LOVES MEEEE?"). I considered it her birthday present. Whit was a class act.

- Is it lame that I don't want to do anything this weekend but hang out by myself, read my book in the sun, watch TV, and sleep?

- T minus ONE MONTH until my mom and I head out on our western adventure. 


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Post-Grad Thoughts

Things are winding down after a festive weekend. Two-and-a-half days, two ceremonies, one reception, two happy hours, two lunch celebrations, one big extended-family dinner, one night out at the bars, one night out at the ballpark, one museum, two shopping malls, lots of wine and cheese, lots of photos. I am now a MASTER. You guys really oughta start showing me a little more respect around here.

There was a little bit of deja vu happening, since I went to this same graduation at the same university just two years ago for my bachelor's, but it was just a lot more fun this time around. I was not in pain, for one, unlike summer of 2013 (the chili pepper miracle cream didn't come around until October of that year). Plus I was less obsessive about weight stuff this time around, which makes life generally easier. And I don't know, I just felt more confident and at ease and excited. I really enjoyed the whole pomp and circumstance atmosphere, I liked rocking my gown and tam, plus the Master's students got sweet hoods and sat in the front row (SUCK IT, UNDERGRADS). I had a lot of fun taking my parents around to meet everyone, drank champagne with my advisor, and took about a million pictures with my family and friends.

I was expecting the food situation to be stressful, but things have actually been totally manageable. Even, dare I say, enjoyable. I think I am really starting to appreciate how much the daily weighing and calorie-tallying was dragging me down. Technically I still count calories in my head, but have been much less rigid and meticulous about it since I quit actually writing down my intake every day. I'm much more willing to be fuzzy about actual numbers, and as a result am much more flexible about what I put in my mouth. Who knew? I had wine with dinner the other night which is one hundred percent normal for most 24-year-olds but still a HUGE struggle for me, considering alcohol=liquid calories on top of the already scary restaurant meal. But, I mean, it was my damn party.

Dad and Big Bro went home this morning, but Mama Bear is staying with me for a few more days. And she will grocery shop and cook for me and spoil me rotten. It's a rough life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Delayed Updates

Random updates after an unplanned hiatus:

- In an attempt to be domestic this week, I accidentally set off the fire alarm in my building while trying to grill turkey on my stovetop. Four firetrucks came. It was mortifying.

- A grilled, tattooed man at the gym gave me his phone number and assured me that he is "a pretty cool guy."

Lip sync battles are my new obsession.

- Mama Bear and I booked a trip out west next month. I am SO EXCITED.

- I have a crush on a guy from school. We chat once a week for about an hour on Tuesdays when we are both at work in the same building. I can't tell if he likes me too or is just friendly with everyone. We are both staying in College City so it could work, right? But I don't have his phone number, just e-mail. And I'm too shy to actually do anything about it.

- My advisor and another professor are taking me and a couple other students out to lunch at a barbecue restaurant today. WHY BARBECUE? This might be even harder than Mexican. Deep breaths.

- Mom, Dad, and Big Bro get here tomorrow afternoon for an insane, jam-packed graduation weekend.

- My back is giving me lots of trouble lately. I'm not sure if it's PMS-related or weight lifting-related. Either way, I'm popping lots of Advil and using lots of ice.


Monday, May 4, 2015

In Which I Realize the World Has Been Totally Fucking With Me This Whole Time

1) Why is it that we refer to grown men as "men" but women are still, regardless of age, always "girls"?

2) Why do women have to change their titles based on marital status, while men always get to be "Mr."?

3) How is it that having babies helps men get raises while women get demoted or booted out of the workforce entirely?

4) How are the stats on violence against women still this bad?

5) Why do women have to be skinny and perfect and made up while men get to look like whatever the fuck they want? And yeah duh, I know there is body pressure on men too. But let's be real honest for a hot sec and admit that the body pressure on men is not even in the same galaxy as the pressure we put on women. Like don't even pick a fight with me on this because I'm all fired up and you will lose.

Until a very short time ago, I would've denied being a "feminist." I would've rolled my eyes at this, and insisted the wage gap had nothing whatsoever to do with the thigh gap. (And I used to think the thigh gap was something I dreamed up all by myself. How adorable.) Or that tabloids had nothing to do with how often I cried in dressing rooms. I would've told you my eating disorder was purely a case of genetic chance. That the chemicals in my brain happened to collide in a certain way that gave me a disease just like any other; like cancer or ALS or diabetes.

And I used to think my eating disorder was all mysterious and tragic; that it transcended all that cultural-forces/body-image bullshit that NEDA likes to talk about in their awareness campaigns. I didn't think it had anything whatsoever to do with feminism or cultural values or society or anything. It was my own private little drama. It was Limited Edition Anorexia, not Mainstream Anorexia.

But you know what? My eating disorder was about as basic and boring as they come. Young girl feels fat. Young girl goes on diet. Young girl falls into the most stereotypical trap imaginable. Young girl is now a young woman who realizes modern society has been totally fucking with her this whole time, and she totally fell for it.

Yes, genes had something to do with it. Yes, anorexia is a biological disease and not a trend or a phase. No, it is not caused by Weight Watchers or Hollywood or fashion magazines. But there is also a reason that it hits mostly girls and not mostly boys. There is a reason my obsessions of choice are calories and exercise and not something else. I was born with anxiety; my brain was wired to be compulsive. Society taught me what to fill in.

I am smart. And independent. And I do not suffer fools. And I don't put up with bullshit. And I don't really "do" trends. But I believed the world when it told me I needed to be skinny to be worthy. My 10-year-old brain didn't make that up all by itself. There are consequences to teaching little girls that their appearances matter most. That they can't really grow up to be anything they want. Or that they can try, but they'll probably be underpaid and undervalued, and have to endure it all in high heels that give them bunions or plantar fasciitis. That they are pretty much supposed to be wives and moms and leave the real work to the menfolk. And that they are, above all else, supposed to be pretty.

My advisor's daughter is three. Her preschool had "career day" a few weeks ago where the kids were supposed to dress up like the career they wanted. Little D wanted to be a "boss." It didn't even occur to her to dress like Mommy, who has a PhD and works as a clinical director at a hospital. Instead she wanted to wear Daddy's belt and necktie. Not a dress; a tie.

It was adorable for about six seconds, and then it broke my heart.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Just Friends," Food, and Fatigue

T minus eleven days until my family gets here for all the graduation festivities. It is becoming a crazy busy weekend: my parents and brother arrive in College City on Thursday afternoon, then my advisor and another professor are hosting a happy hour for me and another student, followed by the ceremony for my degree program; Friday morning is the school-wide ceremony, followed by a reception, then we're going to a baseball game that night. Saturday is a big family dinner/celebration with aunts and uncles and cousins. Sunday, my popsicle and brother head home; Mama Bear is staying for a week to hang out with me. Anyone else exhausted already?

Had a mostly lovely weekend. Friday after a lunch with my advisor, I was suddenly craving more company—so I texted a friend of mine from undergrad who still lives in town. We got coffee and went for a loooong walk in this beautiful old seminary near campus. This is a good friend who I've known for years, though we got closer after graduating and realizing we'd both be sticking around College City. I think he has a crush on me (pretty sure I've written about him before, but I don't feel like searching through old posts to find a link, sorry) and there's always this slight icky sense of me holding him at arm's length. This sounds totally cliche I know, but it truly is a matter of "not wanting to jeopardize our friendship" because he is a great friend. I just don't have feelings for him beyond that, but I have to say.... as we were walking and talking, I did feel more comfortable and at home with him than I do with most people. It's just so darn easy to talk to him and have a good time, you know? Kinda wishing I "liked him" liked him.

Anyway, then yesterday morning I went to a farmer's market with a friend from my grad program. We didn't do any hardcore food shopping, just bought stuff for a picnic and hung out in the sun for a while. Last night I went to a Cinco de Mayo party. It was authentic. There was salsa.

This week should be another relatively low-key one. I've got work on a couple of days, a data training on Tuesday afternoon, a meeting with J, lunch with a friend, Dr. P., and other random pre-graduation errands and such. For some reason I'm just totally exhausted. Maybe my brain/body know that I finally have some time and space to relax, and are letting their guards down? It's that full-body, achy, drained-to-the-bone exhaustion where all you want to do is collapse on the couch and not move. I guess it's lucky I don't have too much going on... Here's hoping I can hold it together.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Facing Free Time and An Identity Crisis

Guess who's done with her masters? Oh, JUST ME. Gave my last presentation last night, all the paperwork's signed sealed and delivered (ahem I mean clicked and submitted, because it is not 1994), and I pick up my cap and gown next week.

And what now? My dreaded nemesis: free time. I crave free time until I have it, and then I freak out self-destruct and lose my mind. I am trying so hard not to let that happen this time around - making a real effort to keep myself occupied yet relaxed, and somehow trying to enjoy myself instead of feeling guilty.

I think I'm nervous because this time last year when faced with my schedule easing up, I let the running get out of control, which aggravated the nerve pain, which fucked up my fragile mental health and left me picking up the pieces for about six months. When I'm feeling short on productivity or accomplishments, I tend to ramp up the exercise and I cannot let that happen again.

But I've also been having an identity crisis of sorts lately. Like looking at myself as an outsider, who would ever think I don't actually have it all together? The type of person I seem to be—together, organized, competent, normal—is so totally detached from the person I feel like inside: terrified, irrational, lost, unsure of everything. Why can't I just revel in the fact that I get another set of letters after my name and am about to start a prestigious graduate program? Why am I not thrilled out of my socks with excitement? Why am I not swelling with pride?

After I gave my presentation yesterday, several people came up to me and told me I was a great public speaker and that I had seemed super confident and at ease and basically did an awesome job. It made my day....and caught me totally off-guard, because throughout my whole presentation I'd been worrying that my shoes (????) somehow made me look fat. Yes, that is a real thought that I had.  Like, why does my brain work like that? Why can't I  focus on the moment, and appreciate good things happening, and take pride in doing a good job?

Not sure where I'm going with this. I am proud of myself. But instead of patting myself on the back and looking forward to a couple weeks of downtime, I'm worrying about how to keep myself from falling apart.