Life, Positives

Life goes on, even in a pandemic… Recent accomplishments and updates

Though I’ve been cooped up at home since mid-March, life hasn’t stopped! I’ve made some “accomplishments” posts in the past (Dec 2019, Aug. 2019, Dec 2018, etc) but this one will include some negative things that have happened, too, because they are important life updates. I’ll do the negative ones first so that it’ll end on a happy note.

  • I’m doing school online from home this fall, and I’m pretty sad about that. I miss my friends, and I miss seeing them in person. I feel lonely. Zoom and FaceTime don’t always cut it.
  • I’ve had some bad experiences with my health that were kinda re-traumatizing. My mental health has gotten worse as a result, and I have new symptoms. (but things are getting better at the moment!) I’ve also discovered the term “medical trauma,” meaning trauma as a result of medical things like surgery or being in the hospital. This explains why I’m still struggling with the things that happened in the hospital after I was in a bad car accident 6 years ago, even though I’ve talked about the accident itself extensively in therapy (through Prolonged Exposure). Here are some resources I found on medical trauma: info, good article, story. If you know of any others, I’d love to see them.
  • I was supposed to kinda be doing an internship this summer, and I…kinda didn’t… 😦 I’m not totally sure how it happened. I guess I was busy dealing with my health. That took up a lot of time and energy. And I felt a lot of shame for not knowing things, so I didn’t ask for help, so I was stuck and procrastinating hard. I feel very ashamed of how I acted and the fact that I just didn’t do the work. I had an opportunity and I blew it. I also feel guilty, angry at myself, and sad.
  • I’m not going to try to list all the bad things because that doesn’t feel like a useful thing to do. These are the main ones, I think. Now, on to the positives! 🙂

I have gotten better at talking. For a while I was feeling insecure about how I talk, and I was having trouble communicating what I meant in a clear way. I felt like my main experience having real conversations (not small talk) was in therapy places. I think I’m fairly good at using “I” statements and validating people, but I don’t have as much experience talking in academic or professional settings, and I want to get better at this. The past few months, I’ve been part of a book club with my friends where we also talk about politics, the news, and controversial/sensitive topics. I feel like I can have a real conversation now, even about tricky topics. I can acknowledge when I don’t know enough about something. I can say why I think something and how I came to that conclusion. I can participate in a group discussion without needing to be called on, and without interrupting, or on the flip side, staying silent. I can disagree with people without it becoming an argument. My family did not teach me how to do this; if people disagree in my family, it’s always an argument. I am proud of the progress I have made with this, and I feel better about my abilities.

I’ve also gotten better at sending emails. I started sending the weekly email for my sustainability club when there was no one else to send it, and I’ve gotten so much better at it. It also doesn’t stress me out anymore at all. It’s just something that needs to be done. Sometimes I even look forward to it, and I write it ahead of time and use the schedule-send feature.

I’ve gotten better at singing. I was so insecure about my singing for so long. My brother is a “good singer” and has been in a cappella and chorus groups in school. He generally criticizes me when I sing for being off-key. But it turns out that, like many things, singing is a skill that I can improve at if I practice. So, I need to sing “badly” for a bit in order to get the experience I need to improve. Also, people don’t magically know how to sing songs just after listening to them (at least not most people, I’m guessing). People practice hitting the notes and transitioning between the notes for a long time before they’re able to sing it like it sounds in the song. I just needed some practice. My sister and I are putting on a musical we’ve created from a combination of two other musicals, and I’ve gotten a lot of practice singing for that. Singing is really fun, and I’m really glad I get to be in a musical. 🙂

I have also been in two Zoom musicals! One thing I wanted to do in college was be in a musical again, since I was in a musical my senior year of high school and loved it. With school online, I thought I wouldn’t get to fulfill that dream, but I’ve had the opportunity to be in these two musicals with a new club that formed when schools went online. It’s pretty cool!

My relationship with my brother is improving. We are closer now. We get along, joke around, and sometimes have meaningful conversations!

I took a summer class and gained a new perspective on animals and their behavior.

I’m reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, and it’s amazing, and has similarly changed my perspective on trees. Forests create clouds and are the main reason why rain can fall inland, far from bodies of water! Pine groves make the air around them germ-free! Trees can care for their young and help out sick trees by sending sugar through their roots! Trees can warn each other about attacks from pests! I highly recommend this book. It’s so cool.

As a result of the renewed Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve learned a lot more about racism today and in the past, anti-racism, police and criminal justice, housing inequalities, etc. I’ve also thought a lot about my own privileges and gotten better at accepting them. I read Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime (I read the version adapted for young readers), and it was really useful for understanding apartheid in South Africa and making comparisons to the US. It’s all told through stories, which made it easy for me to read. There are some descriptions of violence, injury, abuse, and of course lots of injustice, so be aware if you read it.

And yes, I am reading again! I haven’t read much in recent years because of eye problems, concentration problems, and because I’m often triggered by what I read. But I feel like I can read again! Wow! 🙂 Reading the short stories with my friends has been good and helpful, too.

I got accepted to grad school?!? My school has a program where current students can apply to the masters program at the school. It’s an easier method of applying and getting in (basically everyone who meets a certain GPA cut-off gets in), so I feel like I got in “through the back door,” which makes me feel invalid, but it’s still real and great that I’m accepted! Before, I wasn’t planning on going to grad school, but because they lowered the GPA cut-off (so that I made the new cut-off) because of the pandemic, and because it may be hard to get a job after graduation with the current economy/unemployment rate/job market, it’s looking like I probably will go to grad school. So this is a change in my life plans, but it’s not a bad change. I’m also more interested in using mechanical engineering (my major) for bio-medical things… the pandemic has shown me that there is a need for mechanical engineers to design medical devices. So now I’m imagining different careers for myself. These aren’t bad changes, but they are major changes to what I imagine the next few years of my life will look like.

I had a trauma anniversary that wasn’t awful for the first time! 🙂

I am developing a better understanding of my body. (note: this paragraph includes talk of bodily functions) I had severe abdominal pain earlier this summer (severe enough that I couldn’t stand for more than 10 seconds because it was so painful). After a stressful and frustrating process of getting seen by a doctor and getting things figured out, I had a CT scan, which showed a large ovarian cyst. It was surprising to me that there was actually something physically, visibly wrong inside of me. In the past, doctors have dismissed various pains as a result of my ~anxiety~. But this time, there was actually a clear explanation why I felt pain. It hurt when I peed because there was a physical mass pushing against my bladder. The idea that pain is caused by something being wrong in my body is new to me, and very validating. The CT scan also showed that I had several benign renal (kidney) cysts. Is that what’s hurting randomly in that part of my body?? Are there actual explanations for the things I’m feeling?? I’ve also looked at some diagrams of internal organs. In the past, I avoided looking at things like that because it upset and triggered me. But I’m okay with it now. I am learning where different organs are. My intestines are really long and snake all over! When I feel my intestine-area gurgling and moving around, it is actually moving things through my intestine! My pain happens for a reason. There are specific, physical things going on in my body that cause the pain.

I reconnected with a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in a year. It feels really good to have that relationship back. 🙂

I can still improve on things and make progress on things that are important to me, even though I’m at home almost all the time. My daily life looks different, but I’m still doing stuff and working towards my long-term goals. I can still have fulfilling experiences, new experiences, and happy times. 🙂

Life

Me and my body

Note: includes talk of pain, bodily functions like going to the bathroom, and eating/not eating

My body and I don’t always get along. I’d like to think that it is all my body’s fault, that my body is the one causing me pain, but the truth is that I am not very nice to my body either.

A while ago I wrote a poem in my head that went something like this:

If my body was a person

If I was married to my body, I’d divorce it

If I lived with my body, I’d move out

If I could talk to my body, I’d beg and plead

If my body could listen, I’d DEARMAN it

My body causes me pain and unpleasant sensations, and I want to escape it. But I can’t just talk to it and plead with it to please be nicer to me, to not make me hurt, to give me a break just this once because I really need to get something important done right now… I can’t even ask it why it’s hurting me, what caused this, what I did wrong.

I am helpless and lost.

If my body was a person, I could communicate with it. Communication is a two-way street. Right now, my communication with my body only goes one way: from my body to me. It tells me “that hurts,” “don’t eat that, it’ll make you sick,” “bladder is full, please pee,” “stomach is empty, please eat,” “time to go to sleep,” “itch here,” and “now this hurts.”

I can’t say, “why does that hurt? what can I do to make it not hurt? what is wrong with this food? can you please give me a break this once?”

I find it really frustrating because I don’t know what’s wrong with my body or why it acts the way it does. It’s just the way it is. My body is part of me, but I have no control over it. It feels like it is not me. It feels like it makes decisions without me and has a mind of its own. Why do things keep happening? What is wrong? What is going on?!

I’ve been to a fair number of doctors, and no one seems to be able to find anything actually wrong with me. My blood tests show a healthy person. It makes me feel like I’m making it up or overreacting…

I may be overreacting at least a little. It’s a possibility. Pain is very connected to trauma in my mind and body. And connections to trauma can blow things out of proportion. But it’s definitely real and there. As I complained to someone after a doctor suggested it was just due to anxiety, “My knees don’t hurt when I’m anxious; they hurt when I walk down stairs.” There is definitely something going on in my body. I just don’t know what or why.

Maybe I’m assuming that all of my problems are connected when maybe they’re just a bunch of separate problems happening at similar times.

I am hesitant to share online what’s actually going on in my body because:

1) I am worried that people will tell me it’s just anxiety again, which feels really invalidating and upsets me, even if there’s a grain of truth to it;

2) I am worried people will say it’s not a big deal or it’s just normal stuff that I should be able to deal with… –> I can fact-check this. My friends know what’s going on, and they do not experience the same things I do. If similar things were happening to them, it would be more normal. But it’s not.

3) I am worried someone will tell me that it actually sounds like xyz real illness, and I don’t want to face that right now. I know that’s confusing/conflicting because I also want answers for sure. But it’s scary to consider that there might be something actually wrong. I’m very scared of that.

4) I don’t want to even tentatively put a label on it because I feel anticipatory shame around intruding on another group’s struggle if it’s not really my own. In wise mind, I don’t think this is good (I think it’s okay to say stuff even if I’m not sure because my experiences are real and valid), but… emotions… I will write a different post about diagnoses and validity and stuff at some point later because I have more to say about that.

Anyway. There is something going on. My body is not happy with me, and sometimes I don’t know why. (sometimes I do know why! I am making progress!)

I can’t talk to my body and have it listen to my words, but I can take care of it and listen to what it needs. Sometimes I get really frustrated when my body seems to be asking so much of me. “But I just went to the bathroom. But I just ate. It was so much effort. Why do you need me to do it again? Why so soon?” Out of anger, I ignore my body’s needs. I don’t eat, and then my stomach hurts more. It cramps up and feels like it is collapsing in on itself. It hurts. The pain is my body’s way of telling me it needs food, more desperately than it did before. But if I am angry at my body, I don’t want to give it what it needs. I feel like it shouldn’t have those needs in the first place. This is not very nice. When I refuse to meet my body’s needs, I am not being kind to it.

Recently, I have tried more to have compassion for my body. My body is trying its best. It is trying to take care of me. If a baby was crying but didn’t have the language to tell me why it was upset, I wouldn’t get angry at the baby; I would try to take care of it. When I take care of my body, it is less upset at me. If I eat when I notice I’m hungry instead of waiting, I feel less pain later. If I stop to stretch in the middle of a walk when my hips start to hurt, my hips will stop hurting. It takes time and effort to take care of my body, but it makes me feel better later.

Life

Life/blog update — semester recap, school stress, recovery

Hello! I haven’t posted in a few months! The reason why is that I had a really busy semester at school. I was taking 5 academic classes, instead of the 4 I had taken the previous two semesters, and it was a lot. They were also all hard classes; there wasn’t really an easy one I could blow off. All of my classes were for my major, mechanical engineering.

To be honest, it was a really different semester from any I’ve had in college so far. It was a lot busier, but it was often a good busy. I wasn’t as dragged down by my mental health issues! (!!!) !!! My ptsd really has been better since I did the trauma work. I was still anxious, and I had some depressed periods, and my ptsd was still there every now and then, but overall I felt a lot better than I’ve been feeling the past few years.

I was actually able to do the work! I don’t think I would have been able to handle the workload if I’d taken these classes a year ago. In fact, I couldn’t — I dropped a class both semesters to take 4 instead of my original 5. I had more free time for homework this past semester because I was spending less time upset.

I was also less lonely. I spent a lot of my time with my fellow mech e’s (mechanical engineering people) because we had mostly all the same classes. I like seeing people often, not just once a week. I like having people be part of my life and texting me to ask if I’m okay when I don’t show up to class.

It was also stressful — school itself was stressful. I know that school is known for being stressful, and many of my friends have been complaining/venting about this for years, but school had never really been that stressful for me until now. I think it’s because there were always other things stressing me out more than school. My stress about family members dying and whatnot gave me some perspective, and I prioritized other things above school and knew that if I didn’t complete my homework or do well on a test, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

It was like I had peeled a thick blanket off to reveal a messy heap of broken parts underneath. I had thought that my ptsd (the blanket) was the main problem in my life (and it was a big chunk of my problems), but all my stress about trauma-related things were covering up my other stresses, insecurities, and ineffective ways of coping (the messy heap). With less of the ptsd, I could see the rest more clearly, and it wasn’t pretty.

IMG_2886
peeling back the blanket

It turns out I do get stressed about school. A lot. I care too much about disappointing my teachers and letting people down when they have high expectations for me. I feel pressure to do well. I’m really bad at working in a lab group.

My health isn’t great. Eating is hard and has been hard for a while, which makes my health worse. I don’t know my body very well, and pushing myself too hard in dance has led to some injuries. I missed a couple days of school because I was in too much pain to walk to class.

I’m uncomfortable with lots of things to do with dating and sex. I’ve never dated someone, and I’m not sure how I would. If that makes sense. Like, what the relationship would look like, what stuff I’m comfortable with, which stuff I’m scared of but could get over, who the relationship would be with, etc. It’s just stuff I’ve got to figure out for myself at some point.

I have a lot of social anxiety and often think that people hate me or are trying to kill me.

I’m still really sad about the losses of my grandmother and uncle last January. My family feels really small, like it has suddenly shrunken.

But…. I can do something about all of these things! I can work on these things in therapy! Little by little, it’s going to be okay! Lots of great things happened this semester, too!

I finally got to choreograph a dance in my dance group!!! 🙂 😀 I’ve been wanting to do this for so long. It was wonderful, though stressful at times, and it was really fun to play around with the formations! It looked great on stage, too, and I got a lot of compliments on it!

I have some good friends! I became closer with one friend this semester, and it was amazing. She’s really fun to be around, and we laugh a lot, but she can also be serious, and she’s helped me through some dark moments. She also replies almost right away when I text her! :O For whatever reasons, I’ve never had a friend before that both replied to my texts quickly and whom I wanted to text back quickly. Texting her doesn’t make me anxious.

I took on a leadership role in a sustainability club I’m part of, and it was fun to get more involved and have more responsibility! Plus I’m friends with almost everyone else who has a leadership role, so hanging out with them was fun, and I felt included.

And I do like my classes and my major. It took me a long time and lots of anxiety to decide what to major in, but I’m glad I chose what I did. It seems like a natural (not necessarily easy, but natural) thing for me to do. Mechanical engineering involves a lot of geometry, moving parts, forces on this and that, this goes here so that happens, this affects that, etc. and I think that’s just how my mind works. That’s how I like to think. I like making things. I like figuring out how things work. I like understanding the world around me.

So when it’s hard, at least I know that this really is what I want to do.

Overall, it was probably my best semester of college yet. 🙂 It was the hardest academically, but other aspects of my life were the best they’ve been in a while.

Anyway, I hope to have some more free time (which doesn’t always translate to me doing more with my time, lol…but maybe) over winter break, so I want to get back to writing more! I like writing. It helps me make sense of things. Sometimes when I’m thinking through things in my mind, I imagine what I would say if I was writing it as a blog post, and that seems to help me be more logical. So I already have lots of ideas in my head for what to write. 🙂

I’m also going to try to comment more on people’s blogs! I read some of them in my email, so I have been reading, but now I’ll (hopefully) actually comment, too! 🙂 

I hope you’ve all been well, and I wish everyone the best in the new year!

Life

Venting about everything bad at the moment

Hello, I need to vent. You know how your life seems to be all okay for a bit, maybe it’s not great, but nothing too bad, and then suddenly it all just collapses around you?

My physical health is deteriorating.

  • (note: talking about weight) I was supposed to be gaining weight because I am fairly underweight, but instead I lost more weight. Gah! (I am not restricting / other ED behaviors, I just have trouble getting enough food in my body and cooking and stuff. It’s more of an “it’s too much effort” thing.)
  • I’ve had my period for 13 days now.
  • I went to the eye doctor for my annual eye exam and said that I’d been getting headaches above my eyes when I read or look at things up close for too long. He took my concerns seriously, which I really appreciate, but he also seemed to think something was really wrong and said “this will really affect your career” if it gets worse over time and I can’t read and stuff. I have to go back for a 2-3 hour appointment to see what happens when my eyes get fatigued.
  • My hip has been hurting off and on this summer, and yesterday it was hard to walk comfortably at times.
  • My armpit was hurting two times earlier in the summer, and now it’s hurting again. My primary care doctor thought it was just a pulled muscle or something, but now I’m worrying it’s something else since it has happened repeatedly. On the other hand, if it is a pulled muscle, why isn’t it healing? What am I doing wrong? I know that I’m physically pretty weak and don’t have strong muscles, but I don’t know how to get stronger if I don’t use them??

Other stuff

  • I’ve been home alone all week and it’s been lonely and hard. It also makes me worried for after college if I get an apartment on my own or something and have to live alone for much longer periods of time. I don’t think I could do it. I guess I could have roommates. Well, that’s a problem for future me.
  • Since I’m home alone, I have to take care of our family’s chickens. I’m supposed to put them away at night and feed them and let them out in the morning. I didn’t put them away last night because I was in an awful mood, and it was really late and I was scared of predators (coyotes, etc.). Luckily none of the chickens were eaten or killed during the night, but now this morning I have to feed them while they’re running around, not locked up in the coop. I’m scared of doing this because the roosters are big and want to attack me! And I have to move the coop too. And it looked like they were out of water. And then after all that I have to clean the house and pack in the next two hours because I’m going on vacation.
  • I’ve started disliking my friends and this freaks me out. Does this mean I just don’t like anyone? What is wrong with me? My friends are people that I’ve really liked and enjoyed spending time with in the past. What’s going on? I’m confused.
  • (note: talking about sex) I was talking to a friend yesterday about dating and stuff, and it just really upset me. But I figured out why it upset me at least! I really don’t want to have sex and am disgusted by it and afraid of it. I don’t know if this means I’m asexual or if it’s just one of the many things I’m afraid of or ashamed of. I kind of always thought that what makes a relationship different from a friendship is sex, but I kinda want a relationship, without the sex? I feel like no one else would want that though. Now I’m thinking maybe I am ace. Hmm. Gah. I’ll think about that later.
  • I’ve been wanting to quit therapy for a while for lots of reasons that I don’t feel like explaining, but now I’m realizing that I’m still struggling a lot and could use some therapy. I guess I’m sad that I still need it. And ashamed. And confused about what to do.

So those are the things I’m struggling with at the moment. Oh and also I did not get enough sleep last night. Okay. I’m going to try again to feed the chickens and move the coop… any support or encouragement is appreciated.