Nov. 8th, 2015 10:41 pm
vintagewitch: (fuck it button)
 UGH. So many things imploded today.

This has not been a good weekend. My brain weasels are freaking out and really playing into the impostor syndrome. I was at a party with some of my more radical environmental activist friends, and was in the uncomfortable position of explaining - almost endlessly, there were people who kept asking me questions - energy policy stuff. And I just got in a mode. 

And all day Saturday I felt like utter shit because oh no, I didn't share the opinions of everyone around me.

I'm also trying really hard not to apologize constantly for my existence, for being intelligent, and for having opinions. And I steadfastly didn't apologize on Friday. And so ... I was a bit of a wreck yesterday.

Then today. I had several group projects implode. As I was heading out the door this morning for a group meeting, I started having an anxiety attack. I was still a bit of a wreck by the time I got to the train station, which was Bad News.

TW: Sexual Harassment + Anxiety )

So I got off at the next stop, walked home, and Matt drove me to school.

Thankfully the group member I met with for the video project is turning into a good friend of mine, and he's just delightful, so our group meeting wasn't hellish. He was also very sympathetic and disgusted when I told him about the sexual harassment I'd dealt with.

Then after that meeting, another group project I'm working on imploded. 

Then, surprise! Matt's mom wanted to have dinner with Matt and I.

And now ... I'm fucking exhausted. 

But I'm finally done with work for the day, and I'm going to go to bed now. Tomorrow's a super busy day - I'm filming a protest for my energy film project, and I've got many classes, and I've got a Statistics group report due on Tuesday. Here's hoping I at least feel more solid on my feet tomorrow.
vintagewitch: (Default)
TRIGGER WARNING: I'm not placing this entry under a cut, mainly because I want to be open about my depression, which also means allowing this content to be that much more visible. There is no suicidal ideation - just depression and anxiety. BUT if you are really suffering right now and don't have the spoons or the energy to devote to reading this post, PLEASE skip past it. 

This week has been rough. I wasn't expecting that when it started. Most of Monday went very well, but then I got the call from my mom that my grandma was in the hospital and I totally flipped. Transitions are always hard for me, and I thought I was sooooo prepared for this one but clearly I was not. What came up for me this week was intense regret - regret that I haven't been able to make a career as a community organizer work without a master's degree, and shame that I'm starting school. It's a signal of failure. I didn't miraculously do it on my own - I didn't land the job I wanted to, I didn't accomplish what I set out to accomplish when I graduated with my BA.

Which the logical part of my brain knows is a total fallacy. I have made the best decisions I could make, all along this road, based on the information that I had. There are very few jobs in my chosen field, and about a dozen (or multiple dozens of) qualified candidates for each position, and so much of it is about being the right person in the right place at the right time. And when I'm suffering from depression and anxiety, it's so much harder to prove that I am that right person, or to see opportunities in spite of anxiety. It's so much harder to put myself in that right place.

Earlier today I read this fantastic article at The Hairpin - it's basically a conversation between very articulate women who suffer from depression. This conversation right here nailed some serious nuances of what it means to have mental health issues, and it really resonated with me. And particularly this quote:

"Relying on external validation is easy, right? We have so many examples of what it means to gain a sense of self from what other people say about us, what positions or awards or bylines we get, who chooses to associate with us. And all those things can be incredibly gratifying! But at the end of the day, depression will find a way to make you think every last one of those things isn’t worth a damn. The act of cultivating a love for yourself that isn’t contingent on markers of validation feels not just cute but imperative."

I need to cultivate that self-love. I need to truly accept that success isn't always about being offered the job you want, or about getting the grant, or about being honored with some award. And what's more - I can do everything in my power to get a job, to be that successful woman in charge of campaigns or research, doing what she loves - but there will always be things that are outside of my control. I can't make anyone hire me - I can only make the most of the opportunities I'm given, that I've worked for.

So I need to claim success on my own terms. And the biggest part of that? Accepting me in all my glory, no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing. No matter what my job is, or how many creative projects I have going, or how "stable" I feel. I need to recognize that I have power, that I have creative energy, no matter what my employment situation. I need to find ways to make validation come from within.

And that is not easy. 

Writing this entry is one step of that process. Articulating this journey in words is a step in a right direction.

A friend of mine posted that she was declaring this Self-Care September for her, and I think I'm gonna jump on that bandwagon. She's got all sorts of ideas that will work for her, and I have only a couple, but it's a start.

Here's my list:

1. Gratitude/Pride Journal: Each day write down three things I am either grateful for or proud of having accomplished.

2. Feed Myself: Make and keep food that nourishes me, that doesn't make me feel sick, and don't forget to eat when I'm at school. This will probably look like planning out my week around food every Sunday.

3. Allow Time to Recharge: I'm taking the train to and from school every day. I'm going to set aside at least one way of my commute for reading something not connected to school, like readin knitting, or to journaling. 

4. Implement an Envelope Budget: Basically, all the income for my full semester is going to be given to me up front (from loans and scholarships), and I have Anxiety about that. So, to make sure that I'm toeing the line, I'm going to operate on a mainly-cash basis. Every month, I'll withdraw an amount of cash that I have budgeted for specific things. And when the cash is gone - it's gone. Matt also really likes this idea, so he'll be helping out with it.

Those aren't huge shifts - They're more like being mindful of certain triggers. I didn't want to pen myself in to something I can't maintain, especially because there's just a huge schedule shift that's going to happen with grad school. But it's a start.

I think I'm most excited about #1 (and might share with you all.)

What have you found that works for self care? What strategies do you use to manage mental illness? I'd love to hear from you if you're willing to share!
vintagewitch: (UP Coast Perhaps)
 I've been meaning to write a sort-of retrospective on the year since my birthday, and haven't gotten around to it because summer is Crazy. (I'm 27, y'all, when did that happen?!)

I spent all last weekend at or traveling to the Remember the Kalamazoo event. Five years ago in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, the largest inland oil spill in US History happened, and because it was tar sands oil it sank to the bottom of the river, where it still sits. In order to get it out of the river, they need to dredge it, and even that isn't working.

So it was a weekend of sitting with allies in Michigan as they remember what was once here, fight to stop the pipelines and to stop this from happening again, and looking forward to a future. We also took a toxic tour of the BP-Whiting refinery on our way home, led by the only activist in the small company town. It was horrific - to see what refinery communities have to deal with, have to live with. I stepped off the bus and could barely breathe because of the particulate matter in the air. There's an oil spill that's been sitting there for basically five years, with no real clean-up efforts because it's on industrial land. 

The whole experience was chilling. Some might even say Orwellian.

But that all deserves its own post!

There's an all-day climate change solutions visioning workshop today that I RSVPd for when I got back from Kalamazoo, but now that I've gone through a week of intense stress about grad school logistics, I'm feeling like I really just need to have a quiet morning with my coffee, my computer, my notebooks, and my plans. I feel more like reflecting, and then getting a ton of job applications done, some of my commissioned research, and maybe even writing.

Great Things About This Last Year:
  • Took a couple of great vacations with Matt - to the UP, and again to Lutsen Lodge
  • Applied to and got in to grad school
  • Deepened some friendships, let go of one particularly toxic friendship
  • Quit the horrible, soul-sucking job back in January
  • Was extremely productive with my writing - I am >thisclose< to finishing my first novel!
  • Got much more involved in environmental activism again - finding my place in the movement, after I was forced out by my previous job
  • Committed in a new way to my spiritual practice, with rituals almost every month. It feels like I'm really taking charge of life through spirituality.
  • Got commissioned to work on a huge march, which was really gratifying - yes, I have worth and am offering something to the movement.
  • Found out about Dreamwidth! This has been fantastic - and has also kicked my butt to journal a whole lot more.
  • I've seen some GREAT music live this year.
  • Women's weekend was fantastic - spending time with family was definitely a priority last year.
  • Figuring out that I need to cut dairy out of my life, and committing to being a healthier person physically, mentally, and emotionally. This has become more of a constant in my life, and I'm so thankful for that.
Challenges From This Last Year (OR: Why I'm a Much Stronger Person Now):
  • The parts of this year when I was working at Horrible Job were horrible. Dealing with constant ageist microaggressions, trying to change my boss' racist ways, feeling completely controlled and helpless, trying to work toward justice with people I was organizing with but being undermined by my boss and my organization's goals ... all bad news that meant almost daily anxiety attacks. That was hard, y'all.
  • It was really, really hard to break up with my old friend, but it had to be done. I'm still feeling really emotional about this in some ways, but it's getting easier.
  • This year, Matt and I went through a streak of being either apart or having tension in our relationship for 5 months. I think we've rounded the bend, have had some deep and open conversation, and things feel like they're finally coming back to a normal place.
  • MONEY. I had saved enough to cover a couple of months before I quit the job, but finding money and making ends meet has been a near-constant problem.
  • Depression has reared its ugly head, but I continue to work through it.
Looking FORWARD: The Year To Come
  • Trying to find a balance with grad school and my volunteer work - which, while stressful, really gives me a sense of purpose.
  • Unforeseen opportunities: internships, research assistantships, meeting new people, building my network, all those great things
  • Finishing my novel! And starting the editing process.
  • Continuing my spiritual practice. I'm particularly excited to start in on the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth Maiden.
  • Matt and I are going to try to fit in some awesome backpacking trips! We're probably going to do an overnight this coming week, and will be doing a section of the Superior Hiking Trail. More camping and nature in general!
  • More live music, travel, festivals, play with friends, good times yay!
  • More writing - I want to write more about things like climate change, spirituality, feminism, anti-oppression work, my experiences as a queer woman, etc. Not only that, but I want to write more short stories - I'm not ready to dive into another novel, but I want to keep my chops up
Whew! What a year it's been, what a year it will be! I'm so excited for the things that I don't know about, and I'm so grateful for all the experiences of the last year. I'm a much stronger person now than I was before, and I look forward to this next year.

Thank you, everyone who's had a part in this, and to the Dreamwidth community! You're wonderful, and supportive, and this site has been a truly fantastic discovery.

Peace and love and kindness to all of you!
vintagewitch: (UP Coast Perhaps)
I'm writing this from my lunch break at work. Things have been just nuts this week! Part of that might be that Matt and I went home for the weekend to see my folks, and things move at a much slower pace out there. (My parents live on this farm about 10 miles from the closest town of 400, so ... yeah. It's quiet.)

This is the last full week that Matt's in town. He's headed off to work on another movie for 7-8 weeks. With how disjointed the communication has been, he's not sure exactly when he needs to leave, which is stressful. He got an itinerary, but from word-of-mouth from other crewmembers it sounds like it's likely to change.

I've been trying to spend as much quality time with him as possible before he goes. He's been depressed lately, and so I'm trying to give him some extra love. I think it's been good for our relationship that we both struggle with mental health issues - we get it, you know? - but it is also difficult when we're both up and down.

Anyway, I want this weekend to be really fun and special and romantic but we're both broke as hell. We'll figure something out - definitely don't need money to have a good time. It's more important to both of us to be mindful/thoughtful than it is to be flashy.

Some things, in no particular order:

1. While I was home, my mom and I looked through some of her natural healing books to see what to do for my gut troubles. And we found a couple of remedies that are working (for now!). This is especially important because on Friday, the pain was so bad I had to have Matt come and walk me up to the apartment from the parking lot. So I have an appointment to see my doctor again on Wednesday, but thanks to some natural remedies it's at least been tolerable this week.

2. I got a TON of writing done on Sunday! I did some word sprints with folks on the @NaNoWordSprints twitter account, which really got words out in a short amount of time. The writing has been going well now that I have decided that the novel will be JUST in first person, and I feel like I have a better blueprint to finishing the draft.

3. I might be brought on for a short-term environmental organizing gig. It would be part time, but pay well, and I would be able to keep part time hours at the accounting firm. Had a hurried conversation this morning with one of the supervisors, and am waiting to hear from her again.

4. I started rereading "The Spiral Dance" b. Starhawk. I noticed that I have a lot of pagan/Wiccan reference books (grimoires, herbal encyclopedias, mythology compilations, etc), but not too much for theology (thealogy). It's been very comforting, and I definitely want to read more of this kind of writing. Not just instructions - but spiritual.

I really miss having a coven to practice with. It's been 8 years since I had a good group. Sometimes I feel selfish practicing solitary - I want to send my energy up to a group of people. I want to commune, to build others up, not just myself.

There are Reasons why I haven't sought out a coven where I live (a former abuser is in the community here and I would rather not cross paths), but I think I need to take baby steps into the finding a coven. There is a strong community of pagans here, I just need to find the right group to join up with.

A friend and I are going to visit a local pagan bookstore soon. I've been wanting to pick up a new tarot deck to practice with, and she's got other things to be looking for. Perhaps I can start asking questions or learn how to find people.

Anyway, lunch break is up. Back to work with me.


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