Chronic Loneliness – Is it or isn’t it?

Ain’t No Pity Party!

Lemme preface real quick and say that this is no woe-is-me post, this is simply me indulging in my love of psychology and weird ability to observe then write about my own feelings.  Perhaps others have felt this way too and can relate, maybe even feel a little better about those feelings!

 

Single but NOT Alone!

So one time at a brunch with a bunch of people – some friends and some strangers (ok, friends of friends – for a birthday) the server was going around the long table asking who would be on the same ticket.  Apparently I was the lone single lady at the table of all couples so when the server looked at me expectantly I proudly said “Single! But NOT alone!” which added some levity to the situation (it wasn’t an awkward situation by any means, I was just being funny).  That was a couple years ago, or maybe one?  The friend’s birthday is coming up so I guess actually less than a year. . . Man.  My concept of time is awful.

Fast forward to today.  I’m single.  If you’ve read my other posts you know that I rather tumultuously exited a 2-ish year relationship with an awful fraud toward the beginning of the year then briefly dated (and “destroyed” a la Dresden Dolls Coin Operated Boy) a Very Nice Guy (who I actually tried to reach out to recently, have not heard a word, not surprised) and am now very definitively single.  I have friends trying to play matchmaker but. . . yeah, no.  Just. . . no.

a party of one is still a party!

 

Friends with Benefits

I’m not talking the sexy kind here.  My “friends with benefits” are my BFFs – the ones I can hang out with and talk for hours on end about nothing, leaving them feeling worlds better than when I got to them.  My BFFs are the people I love hugging.  I *want* to be a hugger, and I *try* being one of those people who hugs people they first meet (only if the other party comes at me first) but I just can’t.  I only like hugging people when I MEAN it.  So my BFFs get all my good hugs – and I love the hugs they give me in return.  My BFFs know all of my quirks already so anything that I do/say/think that’s weird to others, they’re already on the same page with me when I’m 10 minutes into whatever random story I’ve got going on in my life.  My BFFs know exactly what to say to make me have an A-HA moment, or realize I’m just being -insert whatever I’m usually being here-, and to make me feel completely ok with everything – the good and the bad.

My BFFs live far away.  My very best friend lives in another state – that requires a plane ticket to get to.  She has odd work hours and I actually have to call her LAND LINE!  Ok, she lives in the BEAUTIFUL mountains so it makes sense, and the view from her house it totally worth it, I just love saying land line in 2016.  My other BFF lives in Indiana.  I’ve only seen her when she comes to visit and she’s got tons of people to see when she’s here so our time together is rare.  She’s also about to pop out baybay number 2.  Another BFF only lives a two hour drive away.  She’s actually going to put me through “Baby Boot Camp” with her new 2-month-old baybay so I can learn how not to break a baby.  She’s hilarious and I really do need to hang out with her more.

Locally I have friends.  There are a few people I have Deep Conversations with.  There are people I hug and don’t mind it.  There are people I love hanging out with on a week or weekend night.  There are only a couple of people I could sit on a porch with for a few hours and just talk about life.  THAT is what I miss.  THAT is what I feel like causes Chronic Loneliness, at least in my life definition.

 

Chronic Loneliness

I had heard this term while watching a TED Talk on Mental Hygiene and it was new to me, but it immediately made sense.  In the American culture, we tend to run around making these superficial connections through business or our cellphones/social media and seldom delve deeper than that with others outside of our pre-existing friends.  CONNECTIONS seem to be lacking.  I work 9-6 and when I was living with my ex, I would go home most nights and connect with him – only a few nights out of the month would I venture outside of that bubble to connect with other friends.  Now, being single, I’ve been going out a lot more with different friends and we connect, but we don’t CONNECT.  It’s still superficial.  That’s not to say my FRIENDS are superficial, not by any means, in fact most of them are the opposite, but our connections typically are.

I suppose this is something that may come with time, developing a friendship to be deeper, but part of me wants to challenge people to have a face to face conversation about the deep stuff right up front.  Just for funsies.  Get to the real human grit.  Can you make a new BFF in less than a month with a new friend?  Would it take some sort of shared trauma?  Or is that something only a romantic partner can achieve in such a short amount of time?

This whole ponderance comes from my insane desire to cuddle with someone after a really rough day today.  Someone other than my adorable kitty because sometimes she gets sassy and bites.  I’m pretty sure there are things like cuddle booty calls (ok, I know there are) but that’s not REAL.  It’s not real human CONNECTION.  And then I remembered the term Chronic Loneliness and started googling it – yay internet always giving you complexes you didn’t know you had!  But when you’ve had a rough day, you just want someone to hold you and assure you that it’s ok, you’re ok, tomorrow will be better, and there are still rainbows in the world somewhere.  People who don’t have that for years on end, I don’t know what that’s like.  I’ve been single here and there, but not really for more than a year and a half (or so) at a time.  I don’t know how I would handle not cuddling with someone for more than a year.  I mean, according to this internet article (must be true!) loneliness can lead to all kinds of wicked bad stuff.  Why aren’t we connecting more?

 

Try New Things

As part of getting out of my apartment I’ve been trying new things.  I tried this crazy thing called acro yoga and it’s pretty much using all of your muscles to stack humans in pretty ways.  If you’re really fancy, you can do “transitions” where you go from one position to another.  It’s insane.  I did three poses as a “base” and then was peer-pressured into doing a transition between two super basic “flying” poses.  I was a hot mess and my muscles were sore the next day.  However!  The people were super cool.  I went because of a friend I met through roller derby who happens to also perform circus acts – she’s pretty bad ass.  I’ve definitely got to get some core strength, and like, arm and leg strength too, but man!  It’s pretty rad when you can sit on the bottom of some dude’s feet without holding onto anything (except your fear, on the inside).

I’ll also be learning music things starting next week!  The circus friend’s boo is musically-inclined and apparently likes teaching so we shall see how that goes!  I wanna be able to play the keyboard and sing in key – make up my own songs and such.  Just for myself – for funsies.

 

Super Awkward First Date Idea!

Ok, so I heard about this on a podcast, how to fall in love with anyone and I totes wanna try it one day.  Do I have faith in it?  Not likely.  Do I think it would be super uncomfortable and weird?  YES!  Do I find it exciting to make a potential date feel uncomfortable and weird?  DOUBLE YES!  So you have to ask a series of questions, and then you have to STARE INTO EACH OTHERS EYES.  FOR FOUR WHOLE MINUTES.  As part of some leadership exercise I had to stare into a partner’s eyes for one minute and that was TORTURE!  FOUR MINUTES???  WITH A DATE???  Oh man.  Totes gonna do this ish.

Oh, and that’s related to this post because I’m pretty sure it creates a connection.  Perhaps a temporarily superficial one, but come on, there’s no going back after staring into someone’s eyes for TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY SECONDS!

The Expiration Date of Humans – YOLO

Doctor’s Orders

I’ve been sick with allergies for the past week which for the most part has made me useless – thus no blog and very little social activity.  I had a long overdue follow up appointment with my rhuematologist on Tuesday in which I received multiple sass downs (like 6 shades less than a smack down).  One for the lateness in my follow up appointment (I was in TWO car accidents, lady!), the fact that I still like going to the beach (I will only compromise my quality of life so much for something), perhaps maybe I told her that I decided to only take one pill a day because I didn’t entirely believe that I had lupus and she wasn’t too thrilled with that. . ., and that I didn’t wear my sun hat from my car to the medical building (really?? we’re gonna be sassy about that???).  After the glares, she went over the bloodwork with me and. . . The test results came back to be “most likely” negative for systemic lupus (the whole body) so I mostly likely have cutaneous lupus (skin only) FOR NOW.  Lupus is difficult to pin down and apparently can progress so I’ll be getting bloodwork done every 3 months.  I agreed to take the actually prescribed dosage of medication from now on.  I asked and yes, the medication is ok with pregnancy.  I just hate adding more pills to my already lengthy list of the ones I take for bipolar.

So yay!  Let’s add lupus to the mix of diagnoses!  I’ve been super careful with the allergy sickness though because the last time it progressed into a full on cold/flu I was knocked out for several days – stuck in bed.  I’ve been downing Emergen-C daily and resting.  Except!!!!

 

YOLO

On Wednesday three friends and I trekked out to the Weeki Wachee Springs for a 5 mile kayaking trip in crystal clear waters where we saw 11 manatees!  Three of them were BAYABYS!  My friend got a GoPro video as one swam by her, I took a screen shot (because apparently you’ve got to pay to post videos).  So check out this lil’ cutie baby manatee who was all of 3 feet long.  *Side note, lest you think I’m some kayaking badass, it was my very first time in a kayak and I fell out of my kayak, capsized it (filling it with water which is a huge pain), and ended up ramming my kayak into no less than 10 innocent kayakers who had the misfortune of being in my path when I had no control over where that path was headed.  It was a mess.

manatee

 

You do You

I had taken the Wednesday off of work, knowing that it was going to be a busy week, because you know what?  This year has been a crazy year for death and tragedy.  I’m not yet doing what I love for a living, I’m still searching for my partner in crime, and although I do have friends and hobbies that I find fulfilling I’m not quite at the YOLO level to where I feel like I’m “carpe diem-ing” enough.  Instead I’ve decided to focus on the mantra “You do you” because I have to live within the world of paying rent and trying to change what I can “within the system” little by little.  I realize life is super short and I’ve been taking big steps in (hopefully) the right directions to make it the one I want, I’m just putting a whole lot less of the stress-inducing pressure that I used to on myself.

 

Your Expiration Date

So if you came with “Use by [this date]” on your arm like a tub of your favorite guac, what would you be doing differently?  Would it be radical changes?  Or gradual?  Would that depend on the expiration date?  Consider this “food” for thought!

 

The Self Help Savant

I consume media of the “self help” genre as if it’s an essential component of my existence.  I wish I could explain exactly why but I don’t have a 100% certain answer – it could be that one day I want to be a life coach, or that I’m still lost on the search to find my purpose, or I’m driven to know EVERYTHING, or just because I’m fixated on bettering myself (then sometimes trying to push it on others – oops).

 

Current Read:  Wishcraft

My livre du jour is Wishcraft by Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb from the late 70’s.  So far I’m only 80 pages in (out of about 250) which equates to having completed 6 “exercises”.  The book is split in two parts, the first being a focus on learning your strengths and skills, and the second is supposed to show you the strategies to put your dreams to work for you so that you can live them.

Exercise 2:  Your Original Self – This one was fun!  You were supposed to remember back when you were super young, up to 5 years old, and write out everything that you loved, daydreamed about, wanted to grow up to be, fantasized about, or were just absolutely fascinated with.  I could not for the life of me remember anything outside of two facts; 1. I broke my arm “couch dancing”, and 2. I remember getting in trouble for putting stickers on EVERYTHING.  So I enlisted the help of my ma and asked her what she remembers me doing all the time, getting in trouble for, having a penchant for, or saying I really wanted to be.  Below are the points she made:

 

When I Grow Up

According to my mom:  Young Jessie. . .  put stickers on EVERYTHING, made friends very easily, was VERY persistent (apparently convincing McDonald’s employees to go through Happy Meal toy bins to find the toy I didn’t have yet – and frequently imploring my parents to take me to the mall for My Littlest Pet Shops with some “tiny people logical” points), broke my arm couch dancing but then was found on the monkey bars hanging from my good arm the next day, had a fear of sleeping by myself, always adventurous, was “messy Jessie”, very artistic – finger painting-play doh-craft kits-cutting and pasting-and this weird worm mom and baby worm eggs sitting on a bench with a tree statue thing that my mom still gushes was super advanced for my age, had a good way of looking at things (told a story of how I said that trees were dancing on a windy day), had a way of taking what I saw in my head and making it real, and was very social/chatty.

At this point, I’m only 80 pages into Wishcraft, I’m assuming eventually the book is going to tell me to take all of the exercises and somehow come up with what I should be doing.  With that stream of consciousness list above I’ve thought of a few possible outcomes but I’m not jumping ahead yet.  I’ve still got more homework yet to do before the figuring out really starts.

But. . .

Recently I’ve had two A-HA moments completely unrelated to these exercises but could possibly provide some form of life purpose fulfillment because I actually got excited when I thought of them.

 

Remember When You Used To. . . ?

I can’t recall any solid memories of acting as a young child but during high school I started to try my hand at it. As a child the only thing I vaguely remember is my brother getting me to help him perform “magic tricks” (stop motion filming where we disappeared behind a shower curtain – ooooooo special effects of the early 90’s!) that we recorded on our hefty VHS tape recorder, I don’t think that counts.  In middle school I worked on the morning news which, when I just typed that out sounds pretty hilarious.  In high school I did speech and drama, the drama club, and started the Mojo Show (the first talent show at my high school) as I got my feet wet in the world of being someone other than myself.

In college I was part of a sorority and loved doing the Greek Week and Homecoming skits so I usually volunteered for those.  During my last year in college I met a super creative and fun dude who made comedic Youtube sketches and we ended up dating for a few years and moving to Denver together.  I got roped into acting small parts sometimes, then started helping to write skits, and then eventually wrote my own character.  It was really enjoyable and completely outside of my comfort zone.  I MISS that.

I recently watched the skit of the character I created and I remembered how fun it was to BE that character, to not be myself for those 30 minutes of filming.  It was ridiculously awful and I will never claim to be a good actor – the skit was terrible, I’m not saying it was a masterpiece or anything.  I just got that flood of feelings of nostalgia.  So.  In my Toastmasters groups one of the members teaches imrov classes so I’m thinking I’m gonna try one of them – just to stretch that creative muscle again.  See if maybe there’s a career calling there, or just a new hobby that makes my heart happy – both are equally important for the soul!

 

Biggest Regret

During Table Topics (impromptu speaking portion of Toastmasters meetings) sometime a couple of months ago I was asked “If I could go back in my life and change one thing, what would it be?”  I took that to mean “What’s your biggest regret?”  At the time I couldn’t think of any REAL Life Thing that I regretted so I spoke for 2 minutes about how I’d relive my run for national office of the business women’s group and go in with more confidence.  Just this last week I found old pictures from college that I shared on the Facebooks for the TBT jazz where I was wearing a Mates of State shirt.  Mates of State is the husband-wife band who’ve been making delightful indie-pop jams together for over a decade.  I saw them play live a bunch of times while I was in college and the way they both look at each other as they play (he was on drums and she was on keyboard-organ) is the most endearing interaction between two people that I have ever seen.  I would leave every show swooning from witnessing that kind of adorable, creative connection between two people, and then sweaty from dancing to their super fun tunes.

Ok, so take that little example of Mates of State floating around in my head and – remember the “super creative and fun dude” from above – and picture a time when said dude asks me to sing with him while he plays drums or guitar or bass.  Then picture him asking me again and again and again.  And me shying away from it EVERY TIME.  Now, I’m not a good singer, I’ve got no training in any form of music whatsoever, but that’s why I SHOULD HAVE tried my hand at it with someone I considered a “safe zone” in a practice space where skill level didn’t matter.  So this combination of remembering Mates of State and the small potential that I could have at least TRIED my hand at having something like that, gave me a moment of inspiration.  You know what?  It’s never too late to try.  This here Self Help Savant is going to take some music lessons and take a stab at this ish – because, WHY NOT???

 

Apparently I’ve got my schedule pretty well booked up for the next few months, helping myself explore potential areas of happiness in life.  And I haven’t even gotten half-way through that damn book!  It’s ok, I’m up for the challenge.

 

Cocktail Hour – Mental Health and Medications

Treating Neurodiversity

When your brain chemicals work differently than most peoples’ and it’s enough to become a hindrance to your life, you may choose to address the issue with medication.

Bipolar II was a diagnosis I received something like 11 years ago.  I didn’t take it seriously until something like 4 years ago.  I didn’t find the perfect “cocktail” of medications until a little over a year ago.  And now, I’ll be entering new territory all over again as I change my cocktail in an effort to make my body chemistry the least destructive to reproducing.

 

My Personal Current Bipolar Medication Cocktail

I’m currently on three medications in three varying doses taken in the AM and PM.  I have one of those weekly pill divider things that I have to be sure to remember any time I go somewhere overnight.  I have to “reload” the weekly divider/dispenser every Sunday because if I left it up to “in the moment Jessie” to remember opening each of the three bottles every morning and every evening to take them, the odds are very slim that there would be any regularity.  I’ve tried a lot of the medications out there, including Lithium, and this past year has been a wonderful reprieve from the daily uncertainty of how my neurodiversity would allow me to feel.

***It is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that anyone reading this realize that what works for one person (or even the majority of participants referenced in a study) may not work for you.  Your psychiatrist is your most knowledgeable ally.

Currently I’m prescribed the below medications:

Lamotrigine, 100mg, 1 in AM and 1 in PM (brand name Lamictal, anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer)

Bupropion HCL XL, 150mg, 3 in AM (brand name Wellbutrin, antidepressant and smoking cessation aid)

Trokendi XR, 100mg, 1 in PM (anticonvulsant, nerve pain medication (migraines), and a whole lot of things that haven’t been tested enough to prove (mood disorders, alcoholism, binge eating)

 

Excuse me, bartender

I had an appointment with my OBGYN last week and we talked about these medications and their effect on pregnancy.  I started out by saying “Ok, so I don’t actually have a partner right now and this is years out, but I want to ask now, what medications can I continue for my mental health that won’t harm a potential baby?  Is that weird?  Too soon?”  She responded with a no and thanked me because apparently most women that she sees on medications for mental health just kind of stop taking their meds when they find out they’re pregnant.  Sometimes it goes just fine, but sometimes it makes things way more difficult.  So ok, I didn’t feel like some super duper A-type personality planning my life out way before I needed to.  She looked at her super official database and explained that there are categories for drugs relating to safety during pregnancy now which you can learn about here, and check out this handy table below!

medcategories

She said that the lamotrigine was fine and could be continued.  She said that she’s actually prescribed the bupropion to pregnant women who smoke in order to help them quit while pregnant – neat bit of info!  But. . . the trokendi is a big fat D.   Back to the drawing boards we go!  I’ll be doing some research these next couple of weeks to see what potential meds might work for me in order to replace the trokendi (or change the dosage of my other two), then bring that to my psychiatrist and see what her suggestions are.  My last appointment with her I got what I consider to be the gold star of proving that you’re properly caring for your own mental health – she said she didn’t need to see me for SIX months!  Usually it’s every 3 months but I’ve been solid on the current cocktail so unless I had issues come up, she was fine seeing me in 6 months.  I actually felt a weird sense of pride.

 

What Might Work for You?

I won’t say that taking care of your mental health is easy.  Nothing is easy about this.  You have to be vigilant and do the hard work.  The thing is, YOU ARE WORTH EVERY BIT OF THAT HARD WORK.  Your stability, should you enjoy that kind of thing, is worth every annoying minute you spend on hold with the new receptionist at your psychiatrist’s office.  Your happiness is worth those $60 copays with your therapist (I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance, but I also know a lot of therapists who offer sliding scale rates for self-pay clients).  Your success in life is worth you taking your mental health just as seriously as you take your physical health.  Whatever is nagging at you, don’t let it build – something like a “mental” cavity which can be taken care of with a small fix like a filling, is way easier to work with than a rotted tooth that requires a root canal.

Aside from a psychiatrist or therapist, YOU can also be your most knowledgeable ally by keeping a short but sweet daily log of your happenings and feelings.  This simple practice has helped me immensely in figuring out triggers so that I can better avoid them.  Once you start trying new medications it’s also a huge help to go into your next psychiatrist’s appointment prepared to answer the questions of how the new med made you feel and when did it start making you feel that way.  I know I’m super forgetful with that stuff, then add on the fact that a few of the meds I’ve tried have “brain fog” as a side effect and you’re self-reporting from memory may just as well be told by your cat.  Even if you don’t go the route of seeing a professional for any mood disorder, keep this daily log/journal for your own personal emotional processing and potential pattern-finding.

Be kind to yourself.  I can write this post after several years of counseling and medication management under psychiatric supervision.  I promise you I was not, and am still not, the shining example of “Little Miss You Can Do It!” all the time.  Reality is a lot harder than words on a blog.  But try.  Just try.  Every day try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the room to figure this all out.  If I can realize, at 32, that I might just want to have “the thing” I’ve been saying I don’t want aallllll along, then all is fair game in the name of personal growth.

Super Sage Relationship Wisdom – Before the Beginning

So maybe I don’t know a WHOLE lot about SUCCESSFUL relationships/dating, but I’ve been doing it for a while now and I’ve learned some things so. . . here they are.

 

Before you even decide to BEGIN a new relationship there are a few key ingredients you should be looking for before you make the leap.

Start with the Self-Love

Before you even consider entering into a romantic partnership with another human being, you should be pretty well comfortable with who YOU are as a human being FIRST.  Ain’t nobody got time to be fixing you up, honey!  That’s your own job!  If you’ve got any lingering “issues”, please, for the sanity of yourself and your soon-to-be sweetie, DEAL with them!  Of course, I understand that we all have our issues and the mountain of minor ones will never ALL be resolved, but I’m talking about the big ones here.  Sort out those skeletons in the closet so that when those little minor issues come up in the relationship, they just seem like adorable little quirks for you and your partner to figure out together.

If you notice a trend of going from one relationship to the next, pause for a minute next time to give yourself time to reflect.  It’s very easy to fall into the ebb and flow of “serial monogamy” but if your last relationship dredged up anything that might need some processing, you should consider taking a step back and focus on yourself for a bit.  Work on who you are outside of the “relationship equation” so that you can be even more solid the next go around.

My point is, you’ve got to do this hard work to be able to begin a relationship as a whole person.  If you don’t absolutely LOVE who you are, how will anyone else?  This doesn’t have to be an unconditional 24-7 kind of love, I don’t even think Oprah’s capable of that, but if you can’t look at where you are in your life and be happy with the person you are and the path you’re on, perhaps YOU should be your top priority for now – not someone else.

 

Que sera, sera

“What will be, will be” I swear this is my mom’s favorite piece of relationship advice to me on any given day.  I will admit that this broken record approach of hers might be merited. . .  If you find yourself being impatient, always acting as “the first”, or perhaps your friends have told you to chill out over a person a few times – you may need this sound bit of advice.  Yes, there is a time to act, and no, I can’t say with certainty WHEN that is, but if the potential for a relationship is starting to break ground – give it room (and TIME) to grow.  According to my mom, if something is meant to come of a connection between two people, it will happen inevitably.  This is easy for her to say, having been married to my dad for 42 years at the time he died in 2011, because she’s had that ONE partner, nearly her entire life – but I’m trying to apply it to my own life as well (easier said than done!).  I don’t know about the concept of fate, but somehow I can reconcile the belief that things happen for a reason – and I apply that here.

So if you’ve got a potential partner, or maybe some missed connection, just wait it out.  Keep yourself busy with activities/people/places that make you happy.  Don’t just wait around.  Now, if you’ve given the relationship in question a good amount of time, space, whatever, and there’s still inaction – I don’t know what to tell you then.  You can try to “act first” but beware that you may get hurt (this has been my M.O. most of the time, and it does hurt when the answer is “no”, but then you’re not left wondering “what if” – I HATE being left in the “wondering” way more than I dislike dealing with the “no”).  Keep in mind that once you receive a “no” in any way, shape, or form, you had best respect that and move on.

 

Know Your Non-Negotiables

A friend of mine once pointed out that with each newly ended relationship, we come out with at least 1-2 more “non-negotiables” which we can use to more easily sort through potential partners.  A “non-negotiable” is something like “they’re voting for Trump and that’s not cool” or “they have to be ok with two babies, three cats, and 5 goldfish” – whatever those MUST HAVES (or absolutely cannot haves) are to you.  From the 2.5 year relationship I learned the non-negotiable of “trust without thinking” (see below) and “must be a feminist” – these things may change definitions over time and from person to person, but if there is something that REALLY matters to you, you should not give that up for someone.  If it’s something like “must have a nice car”, well now, perhaps you could look at their other attributes and see how much that single one really does matter to you.  If it still REALLY matters, then put it on your list!

I’ll admit here that there’s some grey area with this.  Ok, A LOT of grey area, read my post on Negotiating the Non-Negotiable here.  As I said, these can be flexible and they can change over time.  If you want someone who doesn’t smoke for instance, perhaps you’ll consider someone on the premise that “one day they’ll quit” – that’s all your call.  Maybe use some of the point above and give the new relationship a little “que sera, sera” treatment to see how things shake out those first few months.  You may just find out that your own non-negotiable is in fact, 100% opposite of what you thought!

 

Trust without Thinking

DO NOT ignore your gut!  So many times I have seen friends ignore their initial instincts “Yeah, they seem a little off, but they’re super cute so it’s cool, yeah?” only to have it bite them in the ass shortly after (and by friends I mean myself included).  Use your own initial reaction, as well as that of your friends (TRUST THEM! They’re thinking way more clearly than you are!), to gauge potential partners.  If you get the sense of “red flags” please for the love of your heart, pay attention.

The best relationships I’ve had are the ones that came from either friendships or the “refer a friend” method.  Either way, these partners were vetted – I knew they were legit GOOD people.  That’s part of the reason I dislike the idea of online dating so much, you have NO IDEA who this person really is, and even your gut can lie when it tells you to trust someone implicitly.  But when you’ve been referred by a friend, that potential partner usually comes with some recommendation and at least a little backstory.

With any new relationship it’s important that you are able to trust that person outright.  If there is any cause at all for you to doubt that person, what’s the point of letting yourself open up to them?  That’s why I call it the “trust without thinking”, it’s on some subconscious level that you instinctively know you can trust this person with your personal stories, and eventually your heart.

 

Obviously that list isn’t exhaustive, just a brief collection of my most recent lessons.  What have been your most valuable lessons in relationships recently?

-The Flutter-

BONUS to look for:  “The Flutter”

My mom’s pretty adorable sometimes and recently she outdid herself.  We were talking about relationships (in which she gave me the que sera, sera speech) when she asked me if I felt “the flutter” with someone.  I asked her to clarify, thinking I pretty well understood what she meant but I really wanted to hear the “mom” explanation.  She went on to describe how she felt every time she saw my dad (and then any time she sees someone who resembles him from afar now after he died – which is heart-breaking) when she would get this feeling like a breath caught in her chest from excitement.  Or when you smile just thinking about someone.  The heart skipping a beat feeling.  I think it’s a universal feeling, maybe all just a little different from person to person, but for my mom it’s that breath of excitement caught in her chest for just a moment.

Of course, it’s very easy to start a relationship this way – there’s almost always an initially exciting attraction that causes your heart to race when you think about that person.  But my mom’s point was that her feeling STAYED, through 42 years – 2 kids, countless arguments, deaths, moves, 9/11, and into the aging process when your metabolism slows and your wrinkles get deeper.  So if you’ve found someone, dated them for a bit, found out that maybe they snore or quote cartoons more than most people, and you still feel “the flutter”, then you might have someone worth keeping around for a while.

 

A Brief Word on Privilege, because #blacklivesmatter

The news across the globe sucks these days. There is too much hate for me to handle the news or looking at social media much any more so I’ve been trying to avoid both.

I wanted to take a minute and take inventory of the fact that I live in a bubble of privilege. I want it known that I understand that, to the extent that it is possible for me to (there are limitations).

I’m white. I grew up upper middle class in the United States in a family with married, working parents. I went to college and have been gainfully employed for the majority of my life. I’ve traveled. I’ve cried and gotten out of speeding tickets (I cried as a natural reaction to getting in trouble, not to get out of the ticket). Unless I’m holding hands with a woman or a person who expresses their gender/sexual orientation outside of their assigned sex, no one can tell my sexual orientation. I typically dress in a normal fashion. I was baptized as a child though identify as a casual agnostic now (I don’t care to debate the existence of god, let’s just all be cool with each other and I’m good).

Those things add up to levels of privilege. Though I’m not at the top of the “privilege food chain” (picture white, male rapist Brock and that’s the poster child of privilege), I understand that I am very high up there.

I hate seeing any person left behind due to any factor beyond what’s truly relevant. If a black man is genuinely a threat, treat him as such (with the appropriate starting point of escalation, perhaps a gun isn’t the first step). However, he needs just as much benefit of the doubt as any white man. The US is built on the burial grounds of Native Americans. We have a history of African slavery, Chinese railway workers, Japanese internment camps, anti-homosexuality laws, considering immigrants second class citizens (when 90% of us are descended from immigrants), and even an entire political party rallying against its own president – perhaps because they truly don’t like his policies or perhaps because he’s not the same skin tone as them (I honestly suspect it’s blind racism).  It’s absurd.

By reacting to a person based on the color of their skin we are just perpetuating behaviors, beliefs, stereotypes, and we are engendering hatred among all of us. Just stop. These are perceptions – mere responses to random sequences of DNA, think about that for a minute.  How much sense does that make?

If you’re in a place of privilege, use that higher station to help the under-privileged person. Stand up for them. Be a comrade (a term I learned from this article posted OVER A YEAR AGO). Stop with with the #alllivesmatter. Yes, obviously all lives matter – but until all of the privileged people can really truly understand WHY #blacklivesmatter is so important to the people with black lives, shut up and listen. Listen, understand, help, advocate, be a voice that echoes #blacklivesmatter to our other privileged people so that maybe, just maybe THEY will listen too. Do something about this, don’t just stand idly by because it’s not “your problem”, even in a place of privilege, it is.

Negotiating the Non-Negotiable

The Non-Negotiable

By internet definition this is something that is “not open to discussion or modification.”  In my current world this is something that hinders the development of a relationship, in other words, a deal-breaker.

 

Dating at 22

Ahh, to be young, most likely tipsy, broke, and relatively care-free again.  Recently out of college, blindly following a budding career path, living for the weekend, and barely a thought of what comes after paying rent next month.  At 22 I decided to move to Denver, I wanted to take my BFF with me but she wasn’t ready so instead I ended up taking my boyfriend at the time with me.  He was fun, creative, outgoing, kind, hilarious, weird, and. . . he DANCED.  Those were all super important things to me at the time.  The relationship ended while in Denver thanks to a combination of me being a young jerk with bipolar and warranted trust issues.  That was a good two years of drunken debauchery – which at 22, why the hell not?

The Non-Negotiables at 22

Ok, let’s be real here – I was 22 and honestly didn’t really care much about the future so why would I limit my partners based on anything other than the simple question “Do I like them?”  Also, he danced.  Not professionally or anything, but like ridiculous 80’s danced in the middle of the dance floor without any care in the world – SWOON.

 

Dating Marriage at 27

Ok, it’s been 5 years of learning from life.  Well, I should have been learning but instead I was just kind of stumbling through my existence in a bipolar mess of extended depression with spikes of mania – not the best way to experience it.  Very long story short, at age 26 I ran into a high school sweetheart who had joined the military, I moved to a depressingly remote area to be with him, it was not an actually happy or successful relationship by any means, thanks to my bipolar (random bad ideas and the lack of thought to stop them) and his willingness to go along with it we eloped and got married at a courthouse literally 5 minutes from where we lived.  He then got deployed as my dad had a stroke back home.  My dad ended up dying two weeks later due to horrendous complications from the stroke.  Meanwhile the “husband” (so weird to say still) was deployed and I had to maintain a happy facade whenever we could Skype because, you know, he was in a war zone and all that.  So, after 4 months of “Why am I doing this?” he returned and I already had the talk planned out, I wanted to divorce.   Yup.  That was my romantic life at 27.  On a scale of one to even, I just couldn’t.

The Non-Negotiables at 27

At this point, with this person, I had learned that I wanted someone passionate about something, ANYTHING.  I needed someone who needed more out of life than just coasting with the status quo.  I learned that physical attraction is an absolute must – I’m not talking the shallow “They’ve got to be SUPER HOT” but a chemistry of sorts, an electric pull.  I also realized with this person that I didn’t want someone who was addicted to nicotine.  The partner I was with at 22 was a smoker, which is how I started smoking in the first place, and the partner at 27 chewed nicotine gum ENDLESSLY.  I have one of those deep-seeded childhood issues with smoking and despite the fact that I’m an on-again off-again smoker, I decided that dating another smoker was not going to be good for me (I believe they call that an enabler).  I hate admitting that I was a COMPLETE BRAT with this partner and that I took advantage of the regard that I was held in, but I did.  However, I can say now that one of my non-negotiables is that my partner must be someone who can and will stand up to me when merited.  I have a strong personality and I can be pushy (yeah, yeah, I know) but with years of practice I have learned to tone that down (still working on it), but I need a partner who has thoughts and opinions of their own and stands up for themselves.

 

Dating at 32

Ahh, to be in the NOW.  I’m happy for the most part.  My life has been a choose your own adventure story that, even if I could go back to a previous page and pick a different path, I wouldn’t want to.  I have Life Things to figure out still and I’m a work in progress – isn’t everyone?  In the past 5 years I’ve spent most of the time being single, a few dates here and there from online dating sites, a few months with a very sweet but very conflicted individual, a couple years in a relationship with a complete fraud, and a few weeks recently that I’m still figuring out.  Most of my friends are married and settled into their coupled lives, some with kids, some not.  One commonality among all of those couples is that they have chosen quality partners, not a single one has a sub-par spouse.  My BFF and her unicorn of a husband (as in he’s rare and wonderful) were apparently recently discussing me and my singleness.  They contemplated what my “perfect partner” would look like and jointly came up with no clear picture.  I tried to figure this out as well during one of our long conversations when I came to visit her recently.  I came up with nada.  No clue.  This concerned me at first until I considered it further and realized that this is probably the best approach to finding a partner in crime.  I have no idea what they’ll be like, but I trust that I’ll figure it out when I do find them.  And then we shall go on the biggest non-crime crime spree ever, or maybe just hold hands on that ride from my dad’s favorite Jerry Seinfeld quote.

“Life is truly a ride. We’re all strapped in and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he’s ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you put your arms up and scream, sometimes you just hang on to that bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair’s messed, you’re out of breath, and you didn’t throw up.”

The Non-Negotiables at 32

Here’s the deal, I’m beginning to think that this concept of a non-negotiable is complete BS.  Nearly everything in life is situational, right?  I actually dated an ex-heroin addict (who ended up not being over that addiction, lesson learned) which to me SCREAMS of non-negotiable.  But I entered into that relationship knowing the truth and it was a lovely relationship for the time that it lasted – there are some solid good memories.  I wouldn’t have those memories if I didn’t allow myself the chance to explore (negotiate) that potential.  Have you ever heard of “self-limiting beliefs”?  They’re nasty little things, usually on the subconscious level, where your mind is convinced that there are these made up limitations so that you believe you cannot achieve XYZ because of these utterly made up limitations.  Perhaps that’s what a non-negotiable is, a relationship-limiting standard/expectation/belief that only serves to hinder the potential progress of what could be an amazing relationship.  It’s something to consider at the very least.

 

Where to go from here

Umm. . . I have no idea.  I’ll continue to follow my heart and see where it leads me.  I’ll do my best to suspend the non-negotiables because they’re just a construct after all.  I’ll be honest with myself and others.  And most importantly, I’m just gonna be over here, doing me.  You do you, you do you.

Sadness vs Depression

I know we live in a “politically correct” world and sometimes that can be debilitating when we’re looking for ways to say things but apparently no “PC” way of saying them exists. I get that. With that said, however, I have a personal pet peeve of people saying “depressed” when they really just mean “sad” or “super bummed” or “upset about some trivial thing” (think sports team losing).

Depression

Depression, to me, is a medical condition that I have struggled with for 20ish years now. Depression is an all-encompassing cloud over my world that I cannot escape for some undetermined amount of time, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. Depression has caused me to lose one job, fail at least one college course, gain weight, lose weight, miss important events, strain almost every relationship I’ve had, and overall decreased my quality of life up until a few years ago (thank you health insurance, good psychiatrist, and actually giving a damn about my mental health!). Depression is not caused by trivial things and often does not just come and go on a whim. Depression can be triggered by life events – death, big changes, trauma – or it can show up and stick around for absolutely no environmentally solicited reason. Depression is not something one simply “gets over.” Depression can show up at any time and have no visible expiration date in site. Depression affects each person differently, for me it’s wanting nothing to do with anyone or anything because I feel empty – then realizing that there’s no logical reason for this so I feel even worse because I’m just being “selfish.” Depression is me not wanting to leave my bed, ever, for the foreseeable future.

Once I became regularly medicated a few years ago I could see my depression from a sort of “outside of body” experience. My medications made me higher functioning but they didn’t erase the feeling entirely. I could see what was happening in how I was acting and I was able to pinpoint WHY I felt a cloud over me for no reason, but that didn’t mean I could just magically stop feeling that way. Once I was able to identify the depression I was able to acknowledge it and either allow myself to embrace it (I called this “being a blob”) or try to say “eff that jazz, I’m just going to force myself to do XYZ anyway.” Since I’ve settled into a successful “cocktail” of medications in the last year, this depression has been at bay – it’s been so, so lovely.

PSA on Drinking and Depression

Side note on drinking and depression because I feel a lot of people ignore this (myself included). . . When you’ve got less than stellar mental health it’s ill-advised to be drinking alcohol, when you’re on medications to stabilize your mental health it’s even more ill-advised. I experienced first-hand the effects of too much drinking on my mental health sometime over a year ago when it actually sent me into a depressive state, negating all the hard work I had done getting to a happy norm. I realize now that I had allowed a temporary sadness to actually cause a depression. I strongly advise against that!

Sadness

I actually love the Sadness character from Inside Out because it’s true, sadness is in fact an emotion we need to experience sometimes. Sadness is a reactionary emotion. Sadness can be gotten over with distractions, time, counseling, hugs, whatever works for you. Sadness is that pain you feel in your chest (heart) when you know something is just not right and it’s made even worse when there’s nothing you can do about it. Sadness is something that, even though it really truly sucks, you know there’s an end in sight – somewhere. Sadness is crying it out, cursing whatever upset you, taking a few days of solitude, calling up your friend, going into nature, meditating, writing, reflecting, or just escaping in whatever non-destructive way you prefer until you can come back, having processed it and are ready to start moving on.

I hope this helps clarify why I’m “PC” on the depressed vs sad statements. I do not want to be that person saying “Oh really, Your Sports Team losing made you “not want to leave your bed for three weeks because you felt completely worthless” depressed? Or did their losing just make you “sad”?” Though I did that when people thought it was ok to call things “gay” in a derogatory way “Oh really, that shirt likes other shirts of the same sex?” if someone made the mistake of calling a shirt “gay” around me.

Let’s just try to be more aware, shall we? And perhaps share our own stories so these concepts are more human than simple words.

Sad to informed to hopeful

It takes me time to process things.  Often, I will outwardly react before I’ve inwardly processed and thought through everything – this usually ends poorly but I’ve now realized that and am addressing it.  I don’t think I’m alone in this, I think it happens with a lot of people.

About a week ago I admitted to myself that I had been making up my aversion to making my own family.  That quarterback is long gone from the field and I have since gotten up, dusted myself off, and am working on my next game plan.

Rather than continuing to let that wall stand and take the road of self-denial, I have decided to figure this shit out.  I’ve started researching bipolar disorder & pregnancy, talking about it with a friend who has bipolar disorder and is actually pregnant, and will be asking my gyno and psychiatrist about future options during upcoming appointments.

According to my internet research (yes yes, grain of salt) most medications can be continued during pregnancy with little to no affect on the baby.  The research suggests that breast feeding afterward is not the best idea on the meds,but I think I’m fine with that.  But. . . Did you guys just read that??  OH MAN!  I can stay on meds and be pregnant!  And yes yes, I know, this all assumes that my body is capable of actually getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy, AND that my partner can cause a pregnancy (there’s a more normal way to say that, I’m sure) – but this is exciting.  I now have some starter knowledge to go to my gyno and psych with so that they can give further guidance. 

I still know nothing about babies and small children which is disconcerting.  I mean, I know you figure that stuff out as you go and I don’t actually have a partner I’m going to be making babies with yet so why rush, but I do like to be prepared as much as I can.  So I am now on a mission hang out with all the babies and small children – which is scary for me.  It should be fun though. (I hope?)  (right?)  (OH GOD WHAT AM I DOING???)

I know that this parallel is not nearly on the same level, but here goes: I have hated cats for a lot of my life.  This is because I’m deathly allergic to 98% of them, so if I can’t have them, my idiot brain/heart decided to put them in the “hate pile.”  Most of my friends have cats so when visiting them I end up hanging out on porches a lot when I visit which is fine, but not the most fun.  I recently discovered a breed of cat that I am NOT allergic to!  Like, seriously not allergic to!  No rash, no sneezing, no itchy eyes, no asthma, no death.  It took about two months of letting my guard down and reminding myself that this was a possible thing for me to finally stop with the whole “cats are dumb” thing and embrace the possibility of being a kitty parent.  I was that bad with the self-constructed wall – about CATS.  Yeah, I’m a piece of work, I know.  Anyway, I found a local breeder of said “hypoallergenic” cat (Siberians) and I was on a wait list for my very own kitten.  I was getting super excited to finally have my own kitty (because I successfully tore down that wall), allergy-free when out of the blue, my BFF forwarded me an email of a friend of a friend who was looking to re-home a 3-year-old female Siberian kitty.  For the wait list of the breeder, I was looking for a black tortie male, because I love the coats of the darker kitties and boy kitties are almost always the sweeter of the two genders.  But here was this perfect opportunity to find my new best friend – a rescue of sorts – who needed a good home.  I went to visit the kitty, a grey seal pointe female, and ended up taking her home with me that day. Fast forward to more than a month later and Ellie (Lady Elizabeth Fluffface VonButtonnose) and I are becoming great friends.  I’m turning into a cat lady.  I bought her a “cat tree”.  I’m convinced that she can actually tell when I’m sad because if I try to snuggle her just for cuddles she gets tired of it quickly, but the other night when I was genuinely sad and just wanted a hug, she laid all wrapped up in my arms until I calmed down. I enjoy trying to take selfies with her.  I also talk to her and am almost certain we’re having a conversation because she meows back.  It’s almost sickening.

My point with that whole thing is that my cold heart, surrounded by bricks, has already proven to be capable of shedding its tough exterior and warming.  I have already been down the path of tearing down a wall, letting something in, and growing from the whole thing.  So here I am now, doing the same on a much grander scale, armed with the confidence that I have my close friends behind me, my good heart, and my desire to grow for the better. Ah, self-discovery, the Pandora’s box that you will never ever close again – and will occasionally wonder if life wouldn’t just be easier if you accepted yourself as-is rather than challenging yourself to grow.