Perspectives

Adulting is difficult. Especially when you get the feeling you’re half-in, half-out, of the whole adulting thing. Add in chronic illness that makes you want to curl up and sleep all day like you could when you were 10 and there’s a lot of mixed messages there.

It’s got me thinking about different perspectives – which can change depending on who you are, what you do, and your level of confidence.

This week has not been my week. Between issues with my health, studying for finals, difficult moments at both jobs, and some small problems with friends/family that add up, my perspective hasn’t been great. I’ve started doubting my ability to do things which, previously, I’ve felt extremely confident about. Mistakes are normal, but I’ve made enough this last week that it starts to add up to a lot of low-confidence moments.

I like thinking about human perspectives, and opinions. Everyone is different. Everyone has a different background. For example, if a person is told multiple times thay they’re doing a great job, they’re bound to be more confident and perhaps make more choices that continue to display their abilities. If a person is constantly given negative feedback, or none at all, they’re more likely to think they’re incapable and stop trying.

I wonder a lot about the differences between perspectives on self vs. perspectives on others. If you’re overly confident, do you believe everyone else is less capable than you? If you’re under confident, do you believe you couldn’t possibly do a better job than someone else?

I love my job, and I think I’m relatively good at it, especially for never having done something like it before. But, others might disagree, a little, or a lot. My bosses or coworkers might think I seem awkward, or full of myself, or completely inept. The same situation and facts looking different to different people.

A child who was raised to read, or play music, or do mathematics at a young age might believe they’re behind in their skills even when they’re ahead of their age group, while everyone else is sitting there wondering how they can’t see it. A child raised to focus on different things such as family care, and working, instead of topics often focused on in school, might think they’re awful at learning compared to the first child, when in reality they may learn just as, or even more, quickly.

Sometimes it’s hard to be sure whether we’re measuring up to expectations, simply because everyone may have a different opinion. When I think about it, especially when I’m feeling discouraged, I try to remind myself of that difference. Then I remember to focus on doing my best, because that’s all I can do. Asking questions, working hard, and learning from my mistakes is how I want to live my life. There will always be people who find flaws in me, just as much as there will be people who see how hard I’m trying, or maybe the potential they believe me to have.

In the end, if I stick to always trying my best, I’ll end up in a place where I’m appreciated and doing something I’m good at, or at the very least love enough to continue doing in spite of my mistakes. And that’s all I can really ask for.

Anxiety, Heat, and Choosing What Works

The heat is not my friend.

My illness causes my blood pressure and heart rate to be slow to respond to environmental changes. If I don’t drink enough water or it gets too hot my heart could race or I could pass out. The longer term consequence is exhaustion.

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s never enough time, never enough energy, never enough resources for me to pull from. Chronic illness is a constant fight with your own body.

My body has been sore, my heart acting up, and my fatigue through the roof. It’s been worse because my stress levels have been higher due to finances and I sacrifice meals some days in order to save money (I don’t recommend this incredibly unhealthy option). This has made me feel tired and stressed even if it’s summer and I have fewer urgent things to take care of.

The good news is, it pushes me to get stronger physically and mentally. The world is getting warmer and my body is going to need to have the endurance for extreme heat and extreme cold.

Some days, I have to remind myself that rest is important. That it’s okay to put off a new endeavor or give a friend a raincheck. I’ve said that before. But, how do I handle the constant feeling of running out of time to do those things? Of feeling a little bit frantic even when I’m relaxing?

For me, this is probably part of the generalized anxiety I’ve gotten after years of college, of semesters rushing to get everything done while also dealing with illness in some form, handling social situations and pressures, and lately two jobs which are relatively fast paced and time dependant.

I can use my resources to a point, but there comes a time when no amount of breathing, meditation, calming activities, and yoga will ease that anxiety. Sometimes my doctor is the person to head to because my brain chemistry is out of wack and if I get too much anxiety it affects my heart in ways that would just cause more anxiety. This option isn’t for everyone, especially if finances aren’t so dire that you’re having to sacrifice good nutrition for money (once I eat what’s been stockpiled in my kitchen I’ll be able to eat healthier).

However, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind taking a medication that works for you, it’s a great option for mental health management. Just because the culture is shifting away from pharmaceuticals doesn’t mean you can’t give them a try. I plan on asking my doctor about a specific medication which I can take as needed (which means I don’t HAVE to take it all the time) and isn’t addictive and doesn’t have an OD risk. It’s light and just a “supplement” to my usual resources when they don’t work the way I need.

That being said, I don’t plan on taking meds for the rest of my life. I’m a strong supporter of tackling the real problem, not the symptoms. This means keeping my stress lower, working on getting a healthier diet, getting enough sleep, and continuing to build my resource arsenal against my condition’s symptoms being disruptive to my life. This also might mean giving up things I want.

My future plans are uncertain, but that’s okay. I’ve given up on my grad school goals, and am focusing on just going to work and living my life. School has been unhealthy for me amd while I’m pushing through undergrad it would be detrimental to my health to move onto grad school. This actually lowers my anxiety a bit because I know I can relax a little when it comes to my grades. If I’m doing my best and passing, I’ll consider that a win.

How many people will look at my situation and think “You’re just giving up. How can you walk away from a good opportunity like that?” and it’s because I want my doors open for other opportunities that I’d prefer and that I can handle: an Etsy business I’d like to start, spending time with family and friends, possibly starting my own family, and just time to relax and enjoy life.

There are a lot of ways to live life, but if you’re living it in a way that’s making you sicker, or stressed, then in my opinion what’s the point of doing those things? Sometimes there’s no choice, which is a hard reality, but when there IS a choice, it’s never a bad thing, doing what works for you. When the world gets too hot, it’s nice to be able to sit back and breathe, and I’ll always work to make sure I get the time to do that, even if some days I feel like I’m always rushing.

Cats, Choices, and Futures

This past Tuesday my roommate and I adopted a cat. He was the first and only cat we looked at. He’s also the sweetest cat as far as cats go (if you’ve owned a cat you know what I mean). He’s playful and curious and snuggly and independent. He also gives me some much needed emotional support when I’m stressed, which couldn’t have come at a better time.

Recently I’ve been rethinking my future. I had dreams of going into research, of managing my own lab, of being the busy, perfectionist, workaholic I can be but not always am. But now, I’ve dropped my maths minor, and am considering going in a completely different direction with my life. I tend to flipflop between doing nothing and doing everything (there’s probably a psychological diagnosis there somewhere). Lately school has been stressful; I’ve been in it longer than I can personally handle. Going through the red tape of learning things I most likely would have to relearn in the way whatever my future workplace prefered, just for a piece of paper that says I can follow directions even if I think they’re pointless, or if I don’t enjoy doing whatever it is I’m told to do.

I’ve been tired and unable to work up the interest and passion required for grad school. I’m a work-9-to-5 and have-homework-only-sometimes kind of girl. I want a life with hobbies and family and pets. I don’t want my whole life to be locked into one thing. I’m a Jane of all trades and a little bit like Carly’s brother from iCarly: I’ve tried a bit of everything.

He ends up being an artist. I really miss the arts. Theater was magical, dance was moving and calming, writing is like building a river of words, and singing has the ability to make my shower the land of whatever emotion I damn well please at the time. Maybe this is because the arts let you be a Jack-of-all-trades. It doesn’t scold you for taking an interest in multiple areas.

My brain isn’t unique in this aspect, but I have a tendency to hobby/interest jump. I’ll try something, enjoy it, then jump to something else. I’ve done it since I was very little and figured out this is probably due to the fact that I don’t like feeling tied down to a specific way of life. My way of living is less important (as long as I’m healthy and happy) than the people I live that life with. If I’m stuck in a certain way of living, I might not be able to be there for the people I care about or do something fun or important when surprises pop up.

Chronic illness has also closed some doors for me simply because I don’t have the energy to deal with a lot of stress or extra work. It’s not that I’m not a hard worker, it’s that I’ll put in the work and burn myself out later. The more I think about it the more I realize I don’t really want to attend grad school. I want to try something I can change easily. I want to write. I want to sew/knit. I want to teach dance. I want to do a job that centers around organization. I want to have the freedom to be who I am with the interests I have at the time.

This is stressful because society, my illness, and my survival needs all dictate I choose something and stick with it so I can rise on the economic ladder and support myself. I’m not sure I’m going to do that.

As I snuggle with my cat, and try to study Russian for my class, I’m thinking about what type of future would be best for me. I know I’m keeping my grad school doors open, because maybe when I look at the places I could go I’ll be more passionate. However, I also could do a number of other less stressful things that I would be just as happy with.

For non-Spoonies, this kind of problem is just an issue of what interests you and maybe what the people in your life want and what will help you survive. For Spoonies, we have an added issue: will the job I want be too difficult or impossible with my particular health concerns?

My heart condition makes fast paced or physical work difficult. My gastro condition can compound that by robbing me of proper nutrition. Stress causes both to become exponentially worse. It’s a lot to consider.

Here’s the nice part: life can change. We can get new jobs, go back to school, try something new, move somewhere new. So, for other Spoonies or people without chronic illness, maybe this will help you as well: Do what makes you the most happy. If you find out it’s not for you, then take a different road. Our lives don’t ever have to be like anything done before. Each person is unique, so are our lives.

Humanity, Not Machinery.

As a college student, I’m faced, every day, with the pressure to be perfect. I’ve talked about this before. As a person with chronic illness, I am simultaneously told by society (particularly American society) that I need to be the same as someone without an illness to overcome, and by medical personnel and other Spoonies that I need to rest and realize that I am human.

Being human, however, isn’t desired. Our society wants machines: be perfect, feel only what we say to feel, push forward.

Maybe that’s what our country lacks. We’re expecting machine-like qualities from humans. Machines are cold, unfeeling, and can easily be used to harm. If you hit someone with a car, the car doesn’t feel bad, the human does. If you fail to follow safety regulations and someone is hurt by a machine, the machine feels nothing, the human feels regret and guilt. If you shoot someone with a gun, the gun doesn’t know the difference, but the human shooting it knows they’re hurting someone else.

We are not machines. We are humans. When you try to block out humanity for perfection you lose the entire beauty of humanity. It’s beautiful because it’s imperfect. It’s beautiful because in spite of its imperfections it creates art, helps others, solves mathematical theorems….. humanity is not perfect. Humanity is messy.

Humanity is feeling a million conflicting things at once. Humanity is feeling apathy towards one person and loving another. Humanity is working painstakingly on a project, only to destroy it later. Humanity is crying over rejection while simultaneously checking out someone attractive. Humanity is doing your best and still failing. Humanity is getting a degree and then getting a job in a different field. Humanity is both hating and loving someone at the same time. Humanity is wanting to be alone but also not wanting to be. Humanity is wanting to sleep but not being able to. Humanity is uncertain. Humanity is calmness. Humanity is anger. Humanity is sheer panic. Humanity is knowing everything will work out just fine. Humanity is the acceptance of imperfection and the acceptance of our individuality.

What happens if you tell a young man, that his humanity is flawed? If you tell him every day that his feelings (except anger, you know… for sports) make him weak. If you tell him that he’s not allowed to fail in any way, that he has to have friends, enjoy only certain things, get all the girls, dislike only certain things, be anything other than human. What happens when that same boy is so privileged in our society that he usually gets what he wants either through his own privilege or his parent’s? What happens when that same boy comes across a moment in his life where his imperfections show through and he starts to feel something other than anger, like hurt?

Well, he fixes it the way he’s been told to. He stops, and erases his humanity. He kills the thing that causes him to feel empathy, towards himself and towards others. He kills his heart. He kills himself internally. Then he steps forward, weapon in hand, to show the world how well he did at killing his own humanity…

… by killing every classmate and teacher he can. By killing every theater-goer. By killing every cheering concert fan. By killing someone’s baby, someone’s best friend, someone’s uncle, brother, sister, mother, surgeon, teacher, crossing guard… by killing someone’s everything.

We have completely failed young kids, if we enact gun laws but fail to fix the systemic problem as well. Humanity is knowing there’s a short term solution and a long term (this also goes for systemic racial oppression). We cannot change the systemic destruction of an individual’s humanity in one night. But, we can put protections in place to make it harder for a young man, who has everything to prove and nothing to lose, to get ahold of a gun. Then, we can focus on the aspect that includes mental illness.

As Spoonies, we know well what it’s like to face the realities of humanity. Many of us also know what it’s like to face those realities with mental illness. However, mental illness is never an excuse to kill. The men who have stood up and decided that their pride, their pain, their lives, were more important than the lives of others, deserve to be punished for it. But as a society we also need to stop this idiotic bickering over which problem is really to blame.

Humanity is full of multiple problems acting in tandem. It’s looking at a situation like this and realizing it’s a gun problem AND a mental health problem. It’s a problem at home AND a problem with society as a whole. It’s a problem with failure to report AND with failure to realize that reporting isn’t as simple as the president makes it sound.

Humanity works in shades of greys. It rarely looks clean cut. It’s messy and difficult and filled with regret and pain but also of beauty. It’s filled with bitter arguments with cruel words, and then tears of remorse and embraces of forgiveness. It’s filled with acceptance of other’s imperfections even if they don’t accept your own. It’s filled with groaning because you have to wake up for work/school, while also marveling at the beauty of your sleeping child, the sunrise, your cute pet, or significant other. It’s waking up realizing, and possibly feeling disgust at, the fact that your loved one has shit the bed because of their illness, but lovingly helping them anyway. It’s long nights in hospital rooms, with occasional small moments of joy at a new visitor or a small amount of precious time gained. It’s dying a little inside every day watching a patient suffer, while you step forward to make their lives a bit easier instead of running away from that pain. It’s seeing the anxiety in the eyes of your students, and postponing an exam, or letting class out early. It’s taking the bad with the good and doing your best.

Humanity is all we have. Humanity gives us compassion. It gives us love, which can both create the highest euphoria and the greatest pain. If we could stop, for one moment and embrace humanity instead of trying to shut it out….maybe our world wouldn’t be so cold. It would still have pain, there’s no erasing that. But, it would be less cold and grey metal, and more warmth and color. It would be beautiful and exciting instead of dismal and soul crushing. Accepting our humanity lets us accept our failures with the ability to stand up and try again instead of giving up with “I’m no good at this”.

I know that my efforts to embrace my humanity will never be perfect. That’s the point. I will do my best to face the pain in my world. I will do my best to look at other’s pain and show them I care instead of turning away because it makes me uncomfortable. I will do my best to always have empathy. I will do my best. That’s all we can do.

Embrace humanity and stop expecting perfection from imperfect humans. We are not machines.