The Last 97 Days of Jessie Doing Life

Ohhhhh heeeyyyyy, guyyyyssss. . .

It’s been 97 days since my last post! That’s almost 1/4 of the entire year of 2017. A lot’s been going on and I definitely have tons to write about (and have been getting on myself for NOT posting about!) but ya know what? I’ve been living! And thanks to my weekly therapy with Ms. Therapist I learned and have been applying the super solid advice of not getting on myself about “should” or “need to” but instead emphasizing “want to” or “will”.

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Jessie buys a house

So. . . I bought a house (closed in March after 3 months of a soul-crushing back and forth with the seller – a seller who remained in the house until the morning of the close – cool, right??), obsessed over getting it as ready as possible for public viewing, then hosted a housewarming party where my different groups of friends came together, along with my mom and brother, AND new boyfriend. That was intense. My house is still unfinished and I’m trying not to let it make me twitchy (again, I WILL, not I should. . .).

 

Jessie does dating

I went on 3 first dates in the last week of April (I was supposed to have 4 but I bailed on one guy last minute). The first first date, on a Tuesday, ended with both of us ghosting each other afterward, oddly satisfying. The second first date was like meeting a friend at some chain restaurant and talking about weird things but feeling no chemistry. That ended in an exchange of texts where he asked how I thought it went (I put it gently that I had fun but didn’t feel a spark) and he proceeded to tell me “yeah, I didn’t feel a spark” – THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE??? Gah! But whatevs. Friday I had the traditional dinner and drink date with a guy who seemed super nervous but was funny and easy to talk to, I was pretty sure he was wearing bowling shoes though. He and I said we’d hang out again (no kiss on the first date). Then the following Sunday night I had a date with a guy I thought was the most promising out of the 4 eligible bachelors I had been texting (via Sideline, a single gal’s best friend for using fake digits while dating!). We got along fine, he was funny and nice and flattering, then as it turned out he was going to the same show I was the next night. I was going solo so we agreed to go together. He walked me to my car and we kissed, not too shabby! Anyway, this all was 3 months ago and fast forward to now, the nervous guy with bowling shoes from the Friday date and I are officially boyfriend/girlfriend and it’s super healthy and awesome. Legit, he’s fantastic. And legit, our relationship so far is my favorite. I may write more about it, or I might leave that entirely private, I’m not sure yet. But it’s a big component of my happiness for now so there’s that! Yay!

 

Jessie does her job. . . ish

I feel like my job/office is a disaster at this point in my career. It’s such a mess that I’ve permanently got this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ deal going on. I’ve adopted repeating the mantra “stress is the difference between expectation and reality” so I remind myself that by having no expectations, I don’t really get disappointed by reality! Woooooohooooo lowering expectations! I’m also doing more to work on my business plan for world domination. That’ll be a while and I’m not about to put that in my SHOULD pile, I WANT to and I WILL put that together and rock it.

 

Jessie does political stuffs

I’m super duper excited to be the Co-Curriculum Chair for my local chapter of the New Leaders Council for 2018. Training future progressive leaders and helping them make connections so that they can be the change in our community, that makes my heart so happy. I attended an intense bootcamp-type deal last weekend for campaign staff training, that was exhausting and neat. I learned that with my thin skin and desire to spread sparkles I could be best suited as a campaign candidate’s “Scheduler” – we’ll see if that career path is in my future. . .

 

Jessie does life. . . well. . .

I’ve battled with binge eating for 25 years. I use therapy to try to work on it currently but I haven’t found much help in talking about it. I considered going to a local overeaters anonymous group but that has yet to happen. However, I have been rather successfully sticking to tracking what I eat on an app called MyNetDiary and working on a 30 day exercise challenge (another app!) with my boyfriend and good friend as accountabilibuddies helping keep me on track. It’s been two weeks and I’m getting comments from friends, coworkers, and my family that I’m looking good (even Ms. Therapist commented before I told her what I was doing! – yaaassssssss!!). I only have one body and if I treat this one like crap I won’t be enjoying life very much except from a couch – and eff that jazz.

 

And there you have it! At least everything I can think of right now. . . Hopefully I’ll be posting more! I WANT to! But I won’t be telling myself I SHOULD!

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You Have Value

A friend from college posted on the Facebooks today asking for friends to share a memory they have with her – something positive, because she’s having a tough time. This woman was a bad ass in college; she was a sorority sister of mine who was a known local DJ and even though she was popular she never let it go to her head and she was always very genuine. Shortly after college her and her boyfriend were in an accident where they were hit by a drunk driver. Her boyfriend did not survive the accident and she was left with severe brain damage. She had to relearn how to speak while she grieved the loss of her boyfriend – while she was in her early 20’s. In her late 20’s she fought hard and ended up going to Purdue and getting a masters degree. So yeah, she’s still a complete bad ass. But, even bad assess forget who they are and need a boost from friends from time to time.

I commented on her wall that I thought then and still think now that she’s a bad ass, for being strong enough to get through that obstacle and strong enough to ask for help now – which is just as important if not more. She’s someone I’ve loosely kept up with through Facebook and have messaged her with my support – letting her know that I can understand mental health struggles.

Recently I’ve forgotten my own value. I don’t feel valued at work, a recent “rejection” of sorts with my ma has me feeling dejected, I’ve been eating like crap (valuing myself very little), and this house limbo bullshit has me on edge. I haven’t been in a relationship since March of last year – June if you count that super painfully awkward debacle with Nice Guy. I’ve been talking to my therapist about waiting to move into the house, get healthy habits established for a while, then signing up on some dating site and see what’s out there for me. I think I should really wait for the time to be right, for ME to be right, before I try to find a partner.

Well, with the news that the house closing was being pushed ANOTHER week, I said “Nope! Screw that, I ain’t waiting!” and reactivated my account on a dating app just for funsies – to see what’s out there.

Again, just like the previous foray into dating apps, I was overwhelmed pretty quickly with the amount of “no, thank you though” guys that were messaging me. I just don’t respond well to “Hey beautiful.” But there were a few that messaged me that I thought were cute, they were “my type”, and they didn’t say anything offensive (yay!). I was heading to the annual business women’s conference with my ma this week so I gave the few eligible bachelors my Sideline number (fantastic app where you can have another phone number that routes to your actual one) and disabled my dating app account for the weekend.

I know my self-value should come from within. Most of the time it does. But sometimes, my self-value crumbles from the weight of all the bullshit of the exterior world and usually, as a serial monogamist, I’ve got my partner in crime to help pick me up when I’m down. Being single though, I have my cat – who’s super cute and all, but she mostly likes me when I’m feeding her or giving her exactly 3 pets and 5 scratches behind the ears – NO MORE, NO LESS! Well, messaging these 3 strangers for the past 3 days has made me feel valuable again. No, they didn’t say anything about how amazing I am or try to flatter me to death – nothing over the top like that. But they’ve SEEN me. Texting with them I’ve been myself and they’ve responded enthusiastically. I feel attractive again. (no, no nudes were involved) I feel like I CAN attract my partner in crime.

It’s painful to admit that I haven’t felt that way in a long time. It’s also embarrassing to admit that I haven’t been able to find that from within myself – I’ve found it through three strangers on a dating app.

I’m trying not to analyze this too much or judge myself too harshly, just embrace it and help it grow. Ok, so I briefly forgot my bad ass-ness but I think this glimmer of it is enough to hold onto and build it up like an epic snowball that I can just keep rolling around until it’s big enough to knock down a skyscraper.

Yeah. . . I’m not really sure where I was going with that.

Anyway. I feel a little better today and I’m going to embrace that. Embrace it and NURTURE it.

 

Judgement-free zone!

It’s a Process – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 05

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Oh Geez, you guys, it’s been a doozy lately. Work has been a mess, packing up to move (maybe?) in two weeks has been a mess, closing on a house when my realtor is a mess and the seller is a mess has been. . . a MESS, working on a business plan for a dream I’ve been doubting for over a decade has been a mess, and my eating habits have been a mess. All of this leads to my life feeling like I’m constantly worrying about a tornado that could come at any time, then in the worrying I cause a tornado myself somehow.

I’ve been talking to Ms. Therapist about a combination of this MESS and my childhood a lot lately. It’s brought up a LOT of shit and while we’ve worked through some of it together, there’s a lot of it left that I’ll be working on for a good, long while.

Mental health isn’t something you can just slap a band-aid on and call yourself cured – despite how much I’m sure we all wish it was. Though I’m happy to have started on this journey I’m sometimes overwhelmed with the viewpoint I’ve got from here. It’s like being stuck on the top of a hill in a traffic jam and you can see below you that there’s at least another 20 miles of bumper to bumper traffic between you and your destination. If you’re doing well your gas gauge is reading at least half-full, your AC is in good working order, and you’ve got some good jams or podcasts to keep you company (or an actual person/furry friend in the copilot seat). If things are a mess, everyone’s horns are blaring, your windows are down for any relief from the heat, and the only thing that works on your stereo is the tape player which has had Hanson’s MMM Bop single stuck in there since the 90’s – it’s ALL you can listen to. I’m somewhere in between those two traffic jam rides right now. I’m hopeful that this house will go through and within 3 weeks I’ll be cruising at a moderate speed with some uplifting episode of “Modern Love” playing and I dunno, if I’m dreaming big, getting a text from a cute new boo.

Anyway, times are stressful right now and I’m incredibly thankful to have a therapist there to remind me that I’m ok. I’m working on myself and my life – this is a PROCESS and I need to give myself credit and patience to work through it all.

Sometimes I just gotta tell myself to hug it out. With my cat. Ellie. (for now!)

Your Mom – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 4

I didn’t really know how to title this post and I figured “your mom” jokes were still in from the 90’s, yeah? 

No? 

Oh, alright. 

This week’s therapy session inadvertently centered on my mom. She and I (her and I? I’m not sure) had a very strained relationship for a very long time – up until my early 20’s. In my freshman year of high school I attempted suicide and ended up in a psych facility because I had thoughts that I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about, especially my mom. She’s always been a “suck it up, buttercup” parental figure and I resented that. 

Today during therapy I said something aloud that I’ve never really allowed myself to before. I know my mom means well and I believe that she believes she’s doing the best she can so I’ve never told this to any exes because I didn’t want them to judge my mom based on a history that’s nearly two decades old. But today I was talking to Ms. Therapist who will never meet my mom and is paid to listen to this kind of thing and help me work through it so out it came. 

When I attempted suicide at the age of 14 I felt that ceasing to exist was the only way to get the painful/confusing/sad thoughts I was having to stop. Looking back I realize that really, I wanted to do something that made my mom listen, that would hopefully make her realize I was in so much pain that she couldn’t ignore me. I ended up being Baker Acted (a mandatory 72 hour hold on someone who presents a threat to themselves or others in the state of Florida) and stayed in an adolescent psych facility. 

I don’t remember a lot about my time at that place – random snippets here and there but one thing that’s seared into my memory is a visit from my parents. My mom brought me a nice bath robe (they removed the belt) and some books to read which was a very nice gesture. But (there’s always a “but”!) on her way out she said something about how my stay there was “costing her a fortune”. Ya know, paying for my own health insurance now, I understand that sentiment but I will NEVER understand how those words came out of her mouth at me in that situation. I wanted to SCREAM at her at that moment. I wanted to rage at her with a rant about how I felt like nothing but a burden to her, how she probably wanted to have babies and NOT actual children who would grow up, how I was so hurt that she never cared about how my day was at the dinner table every night, how hard it was to be a teenager, and how much I just wanted a parent to TALK to, how much it was killing me inside to have to quiet my feelings because our family didn’t do emotions.  

As I got older I started forgetting a lot of the bad bits of my childhood. As I dated and made friends with people who had abusive or entirely absent parents I began to replace my resentment with gratitude for my emotionally stunted but overall supportive parents. Sure my mom didn’t dote on me but she didn’t beat me either. 

Saying that story aloud in therapy today felt freeing. Ms. Therapist helped me work through it a bit but mostly I explained that I’ve moved on and accepted my mom for who she is. I can’t change her; she’s in her 60’s and I’ve only got a handful of family left so it’s much easier to move on than dig up the past and try to explain something I don’t think she’ll ever fully understand. In her mind she did an excellent job because in comparison to how her parents raised her, I had a cakewalk. 

So there ya have it. The classic “mother issues” therapy session. No, I don’t blame all of my woes on my mom. I do believe my unease with letting people past my defenses can be traced back to how I was raised. I’m sure you can see how being the “baby” of the stoic family that doesn’t talk about emotions or ever cry could potentially cause one to shut people out. . . But I’m working on that! For reals.

Mental Health and Uncertainty

Today is the Pride Parade in the city I’m moving to (the city I work in, across the bridge from the city I live in) and I’ve been all kinds of excited to go with my friends this year. 

I was supposed to close on a house I’m buying this upcoming Tuesday but for whatever reason the seller didn’t get a structural engineer out soon enough and now I’ve got to wait another month before the repairs can be done. Originally I was supposed to be closing on March 14th but that came and went because supposedly the first engineer he hired never gave him his report. 

Buying a house is stressful. Buying a house solo is even more stressful. Buying a house and relying on a bond program from the state when your current president is cutting assistance programs left and right and your seller is delaying the purchase is 10 times more stressful. Adding bipolar disorder to this mix is making it a fucking obstacle course like American Ninja Warrior or whatever that show is. My tiny apartment is full of half-packed boxes because I don’t even have a signed addendum from the seller saying he’s going to pay for the repairs yet (they’re up to 7K now just for the structural and we originally agreed to 5K total, he’s already spent about 3K) so why finish packing?

I’m in a weird state with my mental health. I’ve gone into protection mode, like a turtle withdrawing into my shell.  The uncertainty is not easy to handle. The thing with buying a house is that even if you get to the closing something can go wrong with your finances and as someone who has lived paycheck to paycheck up to this most recent job promotion 2 years ago that terrifies me. I’ve done the math and budget 20 times over and know the mortgage is manageable but all of this uncertainty in the closing has me questioning everything. 

I backed out of going to the Pride Parade today because I don’t think I can handle the crowd or put up a front that everything’s ok for an entire day. I’ve become a blob of negativity and I hate that. 

I just want to move into MY house and pay MY mortgage and have friends over to a place that I’ve made my own. 

I’m hopeful I’ll get a new contract on Monday so I can let my mortgage company know. 

I’m so incredibly grateful for a good therapist, psychiatrist, and my own commitment to my mental health because without those things I’d be more lost than just a mess. 

Until I’m in that house though, my social life may just have to suffer. 

 Someone to Listen – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 03

Who knew paying someone to listen to you for an hour every week could be so freeing??

I watch a lot of TED Talks and listen to a few podcasts so it was only natural that I find the TED Radio Hour podcast hosted by Guy Raz eventually. The episodes are about 45 minutes long and focus on a central theme then weave together interviews with several TED speakers on the topic and bits of their talks. Well this week I stumbled upon the “Act of Listening” episode – how fitting!

I can’t put in words how clarifying it feels to talk to a professional about my life – she can call me out on my BS, applaud me when I don’t give myself credit (or rather encourage me to see it for myself and give myself applause), and suggest actions or thought patterns I would never think of when I’m stuck in my own head. It’s like having a personal trainer – sure you can go to a gym and try to figure out the equipment for yourself, OR you could have someone who knows what they’re doing show you the ropes and cheer you on!

The mighty meh

the mighty

I truly am doing my best to keep my head above water and not to succumb to this depression. According to Ms. Therapist I’m doing well at it but to me it feels like I’m putting up with a “pile of shit”, to borrow from the creative genius of Drop Dead Fred.

 

Sure I’m going to work, seeing friends, doing laundry, did my taxes, painting, eating, breathing, talking to humans like a normal human, and I even went to the gym with a personal trainer. . . but it all feels like a stupid charade. I think it’s the distance that being medicated for the past few years has given me that’s allowing me to see just how ridiculous it is.

I talked to Ms. Therapist about this depression and although I know a portion of my current status is chemically caused, she pointed out that it’s also likely environmentally seeing as how there are a lot of things in the “pile of shit” category right now. I brought up how I usually fell into a depression then because it’s easier to process something when there’s a reason I would ASSIGN reasons to what was genuinely just a brain chemistry thing. Already in my week or so of depression I’ve gone through the handy list of: my job is unfulfilling, I’m single, my BFFs live far away, there are too many things to do, my dad’s death, the current political climate, my house that may never actually go through, being overweight with an eating disorder, the mortality of loved ones, and just a laundry list of reasons that combined – yes, do contribute.

In short, I’m tired emotionally and physically because of the mighty meh. I want it to be gone. I have living to do and happiness to feel. If it could just kindly show itself the door and get lost, that would be swell.

99 Coping Skills – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 02

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Happy Thursday! I’ve been swamped with life stuff while also feeling the drag of depression nagging at me (“the blob” as I call it) so this’ll be short and sweet. 

While explaining my depression to Ms. Therapist and telling her even painting wasn’t helping because it was “too much” she pulled out this handy dandy list of 99 coping skills from some group that I’m assuming is religious. While I’m not religious I thought I’d share it because there are some good ones on this list like building a pillow fort, drawing on yourself with markers, watching fish, and looking at pretty things. 

I hope some of them resonate and can help you too!

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Art Therapy

Here in the US we’re going through a bit of a crisis. Well, those of us who are more liberal minded and concern ourselves with causes like social justice seem to be in a state of crisis at least. I think as a country we became complacent with the status quo then for myself personally, I saw in Bernie Sanders a real opportunity to put social issues at the forefront of policy changes should he have been the Democratic candidate to go up against trump. But. . . due to a series of suspiciously unfortunate events he was elected to be our Democratic candidate or even an independent candidate and thus we have landed our country in a position to be mocked across the globe and with absolute reason.

My point in this introduction is that I want to explain how soul crushing this past month has been thanks to “45” (it’s what I’ll call the current president because his name is too triggery) being an uneducated and boisterous child with concern only for attention and money. The emboldened racists and misogynists who are gaining confidence in the acceptability of their beliefs now that they have a PRESIDENT who shares their views are becoming louder than those of us who believe in equality and justice for all. It’s terrifying. Almost paralyzing. Some days I want to shut down and the reason isn’t my chemical depression – it can be traced back to ONE MAN running for PRESIDENT OF A FREE COUNTRY. That sentence is so upsetting and frustrating and makes me feel powerless.

Thus, I have been painting a lot lately to supplement my weekly therapy. And by a lot I mean every other day. . . at LEAST. I have nowhere to put my paintings I’ve painted so many.

I cannot express in words how therapeutic I find smooshing a bunch of bright, pretty paint around a fresh white canvas. I suppose it’s a release similar to what people who are obsessed with running feel? I’m not sure, I loathe running. I sit in my little apartment’s living room with some movie on in the background (no cable or internet so it’s just the DVDs I own), in a crappy lawn chair (I never bought a couch or moved in my real chair – never wanted to haul it upstairs), surrounded by my rainbow explosion of paint tubes and paint 1-5 canvases in one night. All of my angst is gone for those 1-6 hours. All of it. No facebook news feed, no racism, no hate, none of my rights being taken away, just me and my creativity.

Now, I know this is not a long term solution and I by no means see it as such. This has been my escape for the month of February. I told myself I could have the month of February to ignore everything and focus on myself. I am no good to my community if I’m a mess. Now that it’s March, I’m already in full swing activist mode – more on that later. For now, here’s a sampling of my paintings! Just keep in mind, these are THERAPEUTIC – not artistic – so be gentle on the judging!

 

Random grouping that gives you an idea of my style
Rainbow birch bark series
Trying to not use the entire canvas
One of my favorites!
Another favorite – I like lots of bright colors
Rainbows!

Respond not React – Weekly Therapy Takeaways No. 01

Safe space honesty time. . . I’m a little defensive. Ok, super safe space real talk time. . . I’m super defensive. Like, all the time. I take things personally that have nothing to do with ME as a person. A recent example: I’m buying a house and it’s in a neighborhood that some people find uncomfortable – that’s a whole deal of its own – and I was explaining this to someone who was asking where I live. Rather than simply explaining where my house will be I started becoming defensive (this was via messenger) and my tone was combative as if where my house was WAS ME.

The person I was messaging didn’t respond for a bit and I had a chance to read back through what I had hastily written then wrote one more message: “not that I’m defensive or anything”

A lot of my recent efforts in my personal growth have been recognizing where I am being less than a stellar human being. My defensiveness is definitely off-putting which pushes people away and rightfully so. I believe it’s another one of my attempts at keeping myself behind a wall of self-preservation so that no one can hurt me. Not a good thing if I ever want to find my partner in crime.

I brought this up with Ms. Therapist yesterday and she had some wisdom to share that I’d like to pass on to you!

A few things. . .

 

Don’t Take it Personally

Seriously, if my group of friends decide to go to a restaurant other than the one I suggested, this has NOTHING TO DO WITH ME! That thought is paranoid and self-centered (my critique, not Ms. Therapist’s). If I’m talking to someone about my house, I am talking about my HOUSE and not me. These seem like super obvious statements but alas, not to my brain. I will be working on this. Within relationships I realize that I would take feedback from partners personally – when truly their feedback is on my BEHAVIOR and not on me. Really, that just feels like getting my head out my ass and being a grownup – which I believe I’ve been getting better at. (maybe?)

 

Respond NOT React

When I’m in a situation or a conversation that has the potential for me to take something personally I will try to respond to what comes up rather than react. A response is something that is thought out after a momentary pause. A reaction is an immediate kneejerk blurting out of whatever is coming out of my brain first. If I know that my brain is (for the time) wired to fire off a defensive reaction then I can put the effort in to retrain my brain to pause for a minute, ignore that defensive voice, and formulate an appropriate response.

 

Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

I’m pretty sure there are elementary school teachers with this saying on a motivational poster hanging up in their classroom somewhere. I can be REALLY mean. When I REACT (rather than responding) I can go low which is something I am not proud of and aim to improve in myself. In the heat of an argument (which is all reaction and seldom ever response) mean things are said that cannot be un-said. In the last long-term relationship I was in I did VERY well with biting my tongue during arguments because for once it was my partner who had the loudest issues and they were the one reacting so I had to be the one responding so that it didn’t turn into a shouting match. This sentence of sage advice is a skill for sure though – I know we’re taught the Golden Rule and all but I think a lot of kids forget that once they hit middle school and it’s “bully or be bullied” (I was the one being bullied).

 

So there you have it. This week’s takeaways from therapy. And look, it didn’t even cost you a copay!

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