What’s worth doing even if I fail?

Look! Another post inspired by Brene Brown, this time from Daring Greatly. “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” She whispered this phrase to herself as she was walking out on stage at her 2012 TED talk. I think I have to step back further from where she’s at though and just start with “what’s worth doing?” What is something that needs to be done, what is something that I feel I need to do? I want to do some sort of deep introspection and thinking here but honestly I am too internally blocked to go that far. That will eventually be my answer to “what’s worth doing even if I fail?” but I’m not quite there yet.

That leads to the question of what is worth doing in a more general sense. Superficially I want to create whether it is to create a difference, create an object, or create a thought.

Creating a difference is important to me because I have always desperately wanted to be needed. So much of my self-worth and identity is tied into being a helper, being available for people when they have little else. It’s probably the primary reason why I’ve been entrenched in mental health nursing since I became a nurse nearly a decade ago. (Side note-holy shit that was 10 years ago!) If there’s one group of people that don’t have much it’s the people described as severe and persistently mentally ill. All of the agencies I have worked at served a population of people that were homeless or only one flat tire away from it. I could be something for them: a smile, a greeting, a “how are you?” with the actual desire to know, a quiet presence to cry with, or a guide when the voices, self-contempt, or anxiety got to be too much. (This is where my tendency towards over functioning comes in but that’s a blog for another day)

You see, in working at places where my need to be needed was satisfied with little effort on my part I was able to continue to do without having to stretch out and be uncomfortable. Sure there are always the discomforts of learning new systems, new people, and figuring out my place in the system but I could always figure out a way to create a difference because there was always at least one person around that needed something.

Creating things has become a large focus for me in my knitting and crochet projects. I can make things that are useful and have an art to them. They aren’t perfect but often I’m the only one that knows how imperfect they are. Other people see the things I’ve made and appreciate them and all is good in the world. I’ve even slowly been pushing past my fears of different techniques and projects because this is a challenge I can do. If it doesn’t work out I can just rip back the yarn and watch my work shrink away until the mistakes disappear. (Note that more often than not this is an accidental thing and results in cursing at the tiny loops until I get everything back to where it’s supposed to be.) I can take chances and risks with little waste except my time and patience. This is a safe place to challenge myself and do something daring.

Lastly, creating a thought is actually the other two forms of creating mixed into one. A thought is an unformed object budding from someone who has been bit by the inspiration bug. I’m still working on how to do that with any consistency. There’s an unhealthy level of criticism and fear around creating a thought… oh. Right. I think that is probably what I need to focus more on. A something that is so important and worth doing despite the risk of failure would be an act of creation so long standing as to inspire thought, discussion, debate. Writing is one of those things for me.

Perhaps that is enough honesty and being vulnerable for the night. I know that my something worth doing despite the risk of failure is doing something that can inspire thoughtful discussion, ideas, and perhaps action. It’s still a rather broad concept at this point in my journey but I now have a direction to wander while I let this percolate a bit more. Hopefully the process of finding out what’s worth doing even if you fail isn’t so vague or hidden from yourself as what I’ve found my something to be.

Rising Strong means writing

Earlier today, well yesterday by the time this is posted, I started a new audio book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I’ve had it on my phone for several months now but only just recently felt like I was maybe ready to hear her words. I’ve got several of her other books and have read some, but not all, of them. Honestly they have been too much for me to process all at once. They inspire deep introspection and assessment of yourself in a most painful way. The primary focus is on shame, guilt, blame, fear, vulnerability, trauma, self-doubt, and avoidance. Heavy, heavy topics, especially for those who have, ahem, avoided such intense personal awareness.

Despite the heavy topics I felt that this book was easier to listen to than to read as the slower pace enabled me to process the implications more. Also, hearing Brene speak directly about her own experiences and stories that others have trusted her with makes it feel more intimate. There’s power in a person speaking their own story, their own struggles and triumphs. It’s also relieving to hear that someone with such a strong background in social work has to battle through understanding these hard concepts and that it’s not an automatic thing for her. She has been able to learn and gain greater awareness and understanding so that she can recognize when she’s falling into the trap of blaming, getting even, or avoiding what she is experiencing.

There are people who figured out how to be vulnerable and aware of their self-worth but there is at least one other person who hasn’t figured that out for every one who has. The ones that have already do something that is both obvious and hard; they write out their story each day. It doesn’t have to be for a particular amount of time or have a true focus or method of narration. Some people write short stories, some draw it out, some use blogs or diaries, some write letters that will never be sent. All of these are things I’ve encouraged patients to do in the past. “Write out what you’re feeling, give yourself permission to be honest with yourself.” It’s so easy to give the advice, not so easy to follow it yourself.

I’m going to try this idea. Writing for just a little bit of time, sometimes just for me but other times it will be to share. It may not always be on this blog but one of the others I’ve got, depending upon what’s more appropriate. Some of my stories for the day would be what Brene called “shitty first drafts” SFD for short and they won’t be shared. Some may be fiction narratives for me to explore what’s going on in my head. Others may be rants or complaints or pleas for understanding. Regardless I feel that bringing this whole blogging idea back to life is probably healthy. Plus, I’m starting a new chapter in my work life and since I can’t do something funky with my hair I can at least make some other visible change in my life. Blogging is visible, if less so than my hair, and is probably far more likely to result in moments of revelation. Those are pretty cool when they happen even if they are infrequent.

Anywho, writing, it’s a thing and a thing I hope to do more often.

A Completely Unexpected Thing

I’ve been getting a lot of hits on my blog the last few months. It’s all completely related to the essay I had posted in the middle of spring semester 2013, . As of 2pm on 8 Oct 2013 it was 935, an average of 5 a day since it was posted in April. It’s been really weird, to the point that I decided to go through and edit it a bit to make sure that anyone who just c/p without reading the whole thing would get a few weird questions from their teachers and maybe realize that plagiarism isn’t cool.

Today it occurred to me that perhaps not all of the views were due to the fact that people were just looking for something to plagiarize with. Sometimes people really are just looking for ideas on what to do. I decided to do a wee bit (read 3 minutes worth) of research and discovered that for at least three search terms “video games essay”, “video games are good for you essay”, and “sample video games essay” my blog post is on the front page. It’s actually numbers six, three, and two respectively. Holy shit. What the hell, dudes?! That is one of the absolute last things I would have expected to find. I know that the google algorithms basically say that the more traffic you get the higher up on the list you go, but I never expected to find anything that I have written get so high up on the list.

It also makes me worry even more about whether or not people are being not so cool and copying my work. *sigh*. Oh well. I hope people at least enjoy reading. Some part of me hopes that my atheism essay starts to experience the same success because I feel like that one is just as worthy of thought. Anywho, I just had to share my what the hell sort of epiphany thing.

Checking Off All the Little Boxes

As with any job there are trends that I have observed in the psych field that seem to occur every year. The transition from spring to fall is when we start to see those who are depressed come out of the wood work. Winter is when we see the more at risk population, low income, frequently homeless and those with a history of incarceration. Spring is when we start to see higher incidence of mania and/or psychosis. Summer is a bit of a hodge-podge, but I think there tends to be more family related stress and strife that plays into that. Kids are at home, there are higher expectations for temp workers to find employment and it’s hot. People get grumpy and pissy and irritated when they’re hot.

Let’s focus on that bipolar population, sorry, I really should say it as the population who has a history of bipolar disorder/suffers from bipolar (let’s call it BPD I/II from now on). Like I said above, most tend to go into a more manic phase at this time of year. Not everyone though. Some get the pleasant experience of a mixed episode meaning that they experience some depression symptoms and some manic symptoms. This group tends to be at the absolute highest risk of suicide: feeling suicidal, coming up with a plan and they have the fucking energy to be able to actually carry through with those plans. The sad part is that they have the highest rate of success. I’ll go look up the research again should anyone want to see that. My knowledge is coming from stuff I had discovered in 2007 when I was desperately trying to figure out the world of psych for my first job and then from observations throughout the years. Incidentally it’s also one of the major reason why people who start on anti-depressants are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and carrying out plans; the antidepressants don’t affect their thinking and emotional state as quickly as they affect the physical symptoms of depression. They get the energy and even some motivation before they actually start to feel better. It sort of mimics what a mixed bipolar episode does for people.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I fall into the smaller group of people with BPD that are more likely to feel depression than mania at any change in seasons. That is partially because I have the type II version which nearly always tend toward depression rather than the hypo mania side. I think I’ve experienced hypo-mania only a handful of times in my life and those episodes are nearly always followed by a pretty strong crash into depression. I normally can observe the symptoms and act on them before they get to the absolute bottom. I start eating healthier, exercise more, attempt to read more, make a good go at trying to get better sleep, and all that good jazz. It’s actually the primary reason why I do any of these, not to lose weight, not to look better in my favorite jeans, though those are all really awesome bonuses.

This year hasn’t been so kind about it. Over the last 6 months I have continued to experience various symptoms of depression despite taking all the above actions and asking my doc for some med changes. What really has sucked is that the last three months I finally got hit hard by the complete lack of motivation to do what I need to in order to keep myself from tanking further. Exercise? Yeah, non-existent. Eating better? Forget it. Wanting to do much of anything? Ha! That’s funny. Feeling good about my job and what I’m doing there? Eh, still some of that, but it’s really damn hard to get myself to not be cynical and wanting to interact with patients much. By Saturdays I’m kind of useless. I try to get as much done in the morning since I developed that routine and if I don’t complete it, I’m fucked.

I wasn’t fully aware of just how bad things had gotten until my husband started to ask me about it. The fact that he was aware and able to ask about it is saying something because he really doesn’t have the awareness of such things that some/many people do. I had given him some reference material when we first started dating and even gave him a pretty clear (I thought) list of symptoms that I tend to experience, subjective and objective. A few months ago when I asked him about it again he told me point blank that he really couldn’t notice the subtle changes over time much at all. He’s never been very good at reading many of those things and whatnot so it’s honestly not much of a surprise. He’s a tech dude, he gets tech things really well and is great at problem solving but when it comes to things that he can’t do much about he is pretty apathetic about them. When it does get to the point that he is completely aware it really is hard for him to deal with. He wants to fix it. He wants to make it go away. But it’s not that easy, probably partially because I really am not good at listening to anything or anyone once I get to this point.

I think it’s probably a bad thing when all the things that I’m upset about in relation to myself are basically check boxes for the DSM-IV diagnosis for depression. Let’s look at this list from NIMH:
Major Depressive Disorder requires two or more major depressive episodes.

Diagnostic criteria:

Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day

1. Depressed mood most of the day. Worse the last three or so weeks, but been experiencing some since November.

2.Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities. Reading? Meh. Exercising? None. Wanting to go out? Eh. I’ve really only gotten excited by a few select things, many of which I’m really not as excited about as I would have been a year ago. Even then it’s a very short-term thing. *sigh*

3.Significant unintentional weight loss or gain. Actually this one I’m not experiencing as much. Some weight gain, but that’s what happens when you go from a 1350 calorie a day diet and exercise to around 2500 and not exercising.

4.Insomnia or sleeping too much. Ugh, yes. If I don’t take something to help me sleep I toss and turn the whole damn night. I don’t actually seem to fall asleep and stay asleep until sometime after 6 or 7 am. Given that I only got to sleep past 8-9am two days a week until this last week that was pretty significant. Now I get four days a week, but holy crap is it hard to get up. Work or school were pretty much the only things that could pull me from bed from 11am. Now that I am not in school, well let’s just say I haven’t gotten much of anything accomplished this last week.

5.Agitation or psychomotor retardation noticed by others. Anytime I am not at home. Especially if I am with or around people. It’s not as pronounced at work, but it’s been commented on several times the last few weeks. Yay for nearly autistic like repetitive movements to decrease anxiety…

6.Fatigue or loss of energy. Why don’t they have this as number 5 rather than 6? It goes so much better with the insomnia question. Anyway, yeah. This is probably my biggest complaint. I am freaking tired all the time. Doesn’t matter how much or how little sleep I’ve gotten, whether I have plans or things to do or absolutely nothing at all to do, I am exhausted. It sucks.

7.Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt. Not too bad, not yet. I’m starting to feel some of this, especially since I haven’t been much interested in doing things I need to like helping around the house. Blargh.

8.Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness. Worse so than usual, yes. Indecisiveness is something I always experience, but not to this extent. Lack of ability to think or concentrate? Oh yeah. I am slow to respond or pick up on what others are saying and am definitely more flighty than usual. The only thing I really seem to be able to concentrate on is a book when I’m reading, but even that is iffy.

9.Recurrent thoughts of death (APA, 2000, p. 356). I don’t think so, though it’s hard to tell since there is a lot of conversation at work about our suicidal patients. What I really want is just to be able to sleep until I actually have gotten enough *good* sleep to be functional again. I don’t know if that counts or not, but I’m leaning towards no. Maybe some of the therapists/counselors I know would disagree, but really I don’t care all that much whether they disagree with me or not. I don’t feel like I’m suicidal. I haven’t actually thought about what it would be like for me to die or even thought about plans. I have discussed what people do that just seem silly or don’t actually work, but that’s about it.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s take a look at the manic side of things too.
Bipolar 2 Disorder, in which the primary symptom presentation is recurrent depression accompanied by hypomanic episodes (a milder state of mania in which the symptoms are not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or need for hospitalization, but are sufficient to be observable by others).

Manic episodes are characterized by:

A.A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary) Ugh, irritated mood is one of the major things that my husband noticed. I’m irritable, easily agitated and more and more frequently difficult to get along with. I know that some people actually have irritable or angry depression so I don’t know if this is depression related or not.

B.During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (4 if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

(1)increased self-esteem or grandiosity Not so much, no.

(2)decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep) Definitely not.

(3)more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking Maybe pressure to keep talking, but I don’t believe so.

(4)flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing Is the inability to really control where my thoughts go or what they do part of flight of ideas or racing thoughts? I don’t know that they are racing except when I’m feeling massively anxious, but maybe? Probably not.

(5)distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli) Ugh, yes. Too much of anything overwhelms me and makes it difficult to focus or concentrate on anything, but again, this is also a symptom for depression or at least one of the things that tends to come up with depression.

(6)increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation Psychomotor agitation, yes, but that’s also a symptom for depression and anxiety as well.

(7)excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)” (APA, 2000, p. 362). Luckily for me, no. The closest would be buying sprees, but I usually force myself to think about things for a while before purchasing. It also helps that I don’t have that much in the way of expendable cash.

So there may be some hypo-mania mixed in there too, but if so it’s nothing compared to this fucking depression. It’s interesting how easy it is to check those things off right now. Well, it’ll probably be more interesting when I come back and look at this in a few months, but I can look forward to that.

This post has gotten waaaay too long so I’ll just leave it off here. If you got all the way down here, wow, kudos to you. You are now free to return to your regularly scheduled day and activities, whatever those are.

What is Wrong With This Way of Thinking?

I’ve been reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti off and on the last few weeks. It’s not something I can read for extended periods of time because I get pretty upset as I go from one point to the next. I despair for the generations of kids that have been taught so many lies-condoms don’t work, abstinence is the only answer, birth control is wrong, etc. I am angry, truly angry, at the legislatures and lawmakers who have decided they know more about human anatomy, physiology, conscious, and emotional well being than dozens of well respected organizations like the American Medical Society and other similar organizations of professionals. I want to shake the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who put their own “morals” above that of doing what is right by their patients. Medical professionals have no right, no right at all, to force a woman to a particular treatment and should not deny a treatment just because it is morally ambiguous rather than medically wrong. I’m sure some could argue that birth control or the morning after pill or abortions (mostly abortions) are medically wrong, but they would be arguing against their peers and would have less to stand upon than their damn morality argument.

However, the part that makes all of this worse is how destructive the entire culture we live in is when it comes to rape and any sexual violence. As I was reading a chapter that focused on this topic, I couldn’t help but remember an exercise I did in my high school home economics class. The chapter noted how as soon as drugs or alcohol are involved people are significantly less likely to sympathize with the victim and instead condemn them. The exercise from my class was a thought game where supposedly fictional situations were presented. In all but one scenario the possible victim of sexual assault was female. More often than not the majority of the class agreed on what scenarios were or were sexual assault/rape regardless of the presence of drugs or alcohol. The one that stands out the most in my memory though is when the teacher asked if a male teenager who was intoxicated and unable to walk straight was raped by a teenage girl who convinced him to have sex with her. I was one of three students out of 30 or so that said it was rape. Even the teacher said that if the guy agreed and was capable of maintaining an erection then he probably wasn’t intoxicated enough to have been raped. I was appalled at the double standard she presented as not two questions before everyone had agreed that if we switched the roles of the male and female it was rape. It doesn’t matter the gender of the individual who is being coerced into any actions that lead up to sex, including sex, it is and will always be rape.

Mind you in some ways I was happy that most of my class was able to recognize when a woman is a victim of sexual assault/rape. However, the fact that few recognized that men can be victims too, and that I argued with a teacher about this, just solidified my opinion that most people don’t actually know what rape or sexual assault is. Maybe I’m reaching, but it would not surprise me if the majority of the people in that class would not recognize a victim of sexual assault/rape when these things actually happen in real life where the information is not as clear and obvious as it was in those classroom scenarios. When we have everything presented to us by the media it requires more than just glancing at a story to understand what happened. We have to read through the perspective of the journalist and what is sensationalizing the story and actually try to understand what happened.

The most recent example of a rape case that received national attention (as of the writing of this post) was what has come to be known as the Steubenville rape case. The national coverage did not start until late into the case but that didn’t stop the media from reporting directly from what can only be called the victim-blaming pulpit. When the guilty verdict was finally read by a juvenile court judge the coverage from CNN epitomized the rape-culture of America. They sympathized with the rapists for the majority of the 6 minutes of their initial “breaking news” broadcast. The victim was mentioned twice, both times in passing. “Lives were destroyed” was stated multiple times by several different reporters but always in regards to the rapists. Never once was anything said about the victim and what she must have been experiencing, what she must have gone through or anything at all about how her life had been destroyed. Luckily, in my opinion at least, CNN received a huge backlash for how they reported on the verdict and their focus on the rapists. The reporters involved were extremely upset that they were accused of sympathizing with the rapists despite the fact that yes, that was what they did. (For more on the entire case go ahead and start here.)

How could two female reporters who do not consider themselves part of the misogynistic culture that is part of the American way of life end up in such a position? It’s really easy when you consider that most people don’t even realize that the way that they reported was possibly wrong. It was only after it was pointed out to them that this was wrong that they even stopped to think about it. Consider this – these two boys were charged and found guilty of accidental man slaughter or whatever the legal equivalent would be. It would be easy to say yes, what they did was wrong and they deserve jail time, even if it was an accident. There would be sympathizing with them, but the victim and the victim’s family would be mentioned and have just as much coverage as the two who were found guilty of that crime. However, the coverage of rape is always different. These two boys consciously chose to act as they did and used their victim as they saw fit. There was nothing about any of their actions that was an accident. They didn’t “accidentally” remove her clothes. They didn’t “accidentally” carry her from one party to the next. They didn’t “accidentally” take pictures or videos of her. They didn’t “accidentally” insert foreign objects into her body. None of their actions were accidents, but because the charges were for “rape” they were seen with much more sympathy than they otherwise should have been. We don’t want to admit that rape happens, that we all take part in this rape culture, or that how we view rape is skewed and wrong. We especially don’t want to admit that high school, star football players are capable of rape because it completely goes against our ideas of what “all-American” boy are and what they are capable of doing. That requires admitting that they can be wrong and that they are not perfect and that they are not the ones being led down the path of the dark side by the “wrong kind of girl”.

I must count myself as part of that culture too. I am aware and conscious of the fact that I was raised in a society that dehumanizes victims and disregards acts of violence against women (or men) if sex was involved. If I do not stop and think about what I am reading or hearing it is too easy to fall into that misogynistic and paternalistic way of thinking. My parents did a pretty good job of raising me in such a way that I question a lot of things I read, see or hear. While it makes me more aware, it doesn’t necessarily help when the society they are raising me in, as enlightened as Boulder County was, is still overwhelmingly full of negative messages for women, especially women who dare to step outside what has been designated for them, and elevating men, especially those who not only fulfill their role as men but “encourage” women to fulfill theirs as well. Awareness at least makes me wary and I can take my time to really think about what is going on and what I can do to help/stop/make others aware.

I hope the kids I grew up with in high school have had some of the same insights that I have as they’ve become adults. I hope that maybe they are able to recognize rape and sexual assault and who is the victim and who is the aggressor in real life. I hope that they don’t blame the victim getting raped after drinking or using drugs or wearing the wrong clothes or being out in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope they are working with their friends and families to help be part of the slow change in our culture. I hope… it sounds so small when working against something so large.

Trying to Understand.

There are things that happen in this world that really do not make any sense. There are acts of violence that occur that confuse me. Why do people do things that have no purpose beyond inciting chaos, death and injuries?

I don’t think we will truly ever have the answer to that question. Most people are not capable of so wanton disregard for the well being of others, whether they know their would-be victims personally or not. Vandalism, burglary, theft, street and bar fights are crimes, but more often than not, they are isolated incidents. They are not designed to injure or kill a dozen, two dozen or more people.

Looking exclusively at events that have occurred in the US like the tragedy in Boston yesterday (Monday, 4/15/13) or the 9/11 twin towers destruction or the Oklahoma City bombing on 4/19/95 were all planned by individuals to harm the greatest number of people. That’s without looking at the hundreds of terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world. They were carried out by people who had some sort of motive whether it is understood or not. Mass shootings are typically also planned but there is a different component involved. The individuals that fired those weapons were able to see who they were injuring. In most cases they could have spoken or yelled at their victims. They had to seek them out. The terrorist attacks that used bombs or other means to harm and kill were more impersonal. In a way, those are easier to understand.

Is there something wrong with the people in the world now that wasn’t here a few decades ago? I don’t think so. I think we are more aware, it’s easier to carry out those impersonal attacks, there’s more notoriety in the personal attacks. Things still happened decades ago, but they impacted individual, small communities more than nations or the world. There is the Troubles in Ireland. The nations in the middle-east have been involved in some sort of conflict for decades. There were two World Wars that started out with smaller acts against individuals or towns which then grew into much, much larger conflicts.

Conflict and terror and war have been a part of the collective human culture as far as we can look back. It’s no surprise that these things are still happening. Only now they have a greater impact on more people, the national and global community. What is important to remember is that these are not acts committed by a majority. These all are acts of a small minority of people. There are always going to be far more brave people committing small and large acts of compassion, mercy and extraordinary courage to help in times of need.

Mr. Rogers, a man with compassion and understanding on par with Mother Teresa, shared some of the best advice I have ever heard.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This is what needs to be remembered, what needs to be passed on, what needs to be spoken about. Yes, we need to be aware that tragedies, terrorism, acts of violence all happen. What needs to be spoken about more is what people have done to come together, to help, to reassure, to comfort and heal the physical and emotional wounds of all those who were involved. There is kindness in humanity, let’s share and celebrate it more than we share and despair of the hatred and violence of individuals or small groups.

Equality?

Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.

Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.

Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.

What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.

I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.

Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.

But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*

Reflections on some not so awesome memories

Video

I have had this song come up several times on Pandora lately. I initially really liked it because it’s got a lovely piano playing in a predominantly minor key and the singer’s voice matches the tone of the song so well. I like the bridge transitions, especially the way she transitions from the bridge to the chorus by using what I’ve always thought of as chunky, melancholy chords. It’s one of those songs that kind of makes me want to cry, but that’s because the song is intended to elicit such emotions. That was all I paid attention to the first half-dozen or so times I heard it.

Then I listened to the lyrics. I was in the shower, my thinking place, and just sort of stopped to actually hear the story Ms. Grey painted with her words. It was sort of like getting punched in the gut. Or maybe the throat.

I’m sure I’ve referenced it a few times here, though nothing overt or glaringly obvious. My ex was something of an ass to the Nth degree. If it weren’t for the fact that he was in the Army and it’s a big no-no to get an Axis II diagnosis a psychiatrist would have diagnosed him with Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial (personality disorder) Traits. In case you don’t actually want to read the wiki articles about those two disorders, just know that they both are pretty much what they sound like they are. He was charming, suave and subtly manipulative the first 6-12 months that I knew him. Then he not-so-slowly transformed into something of a clearly manipulative, emotionally and mentally abusive, controlling, delusional, lazy-ass, *insert your favorite descriptor for a waste of space here* moocher that I had the pleasure of having to deal with outside of work. Except he was really great at sleight of hand maneuvers so that I and anyone casually interacting with either of us wouldn’t realize something was going on or that it whatever they noticed was my fault, my failing. He even managed to convince me that all our problems, his problems really, were my fault. He couldn’t keep a job because we lived too far away from all the places he could work. He lied to me because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with or know the truth. It was my fault that he turned to one of his exes for support, talked shit about me and was making promises to leave me and go off with her as soon as I was “strong” enough to not kill myself over him. The list goes on and on and on.

How does it relate to the song? Well, note that he started out only subtly off. Then he turned into the sort of person that I never thought I would attach myself to. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t actually deserve to be happy. I really was the cause of so much misery and heartache. The fights were all my fault. The things that went wrong were my fault. I just wasn’t enough. I failed again and again when I tried to make anything better. I was never good enough. I never knew what I was talking about, even when I did. I deserved all the bad things that happened, all the lies, all the half-truths and misdirection. It was what I knew, what I expected and it was, as so often happens, normal, comfortable in that horrifying sort of way. I wasn’t happy, but I knew the routine, I knew how it would end, change was scary. I accepted everything because, well, what other choice did I have? (I know the answer now, but not then.)

Except that I (finally) got space and time away from him. I lived half-way around the world from him and discovered that I could actually be happy. It took over a year, but I gathered my courage and told him I was no longer going to be his thing to manipulate. I left him. And I suppose that is where my story differs from the one told in this song. She doesn’t leave at the end. At least not yet. I escaped. I found a life that I am happy with. I found people who love and support me and whom I love and support.

Sadly, that doesn’t keep me from going back to those memories. I still have times when I revert to behaviors I learned while in that relationship. I suppose I’m still a work in progress. Aren’t we all? We’ve each got our own demons, some are just more obvious than others. I just wish they couldn’t haunt us after we have exorcised them from our lives. Their shades can be just as painful and scary as the demons themselves were.

Right. Well, something more pleasant to come in the near future. Probably something about Anomalycon or the zombie apocalypse or something.

A random nighttime observation

Last night as I was attempting to fall asleep I had an epiphany of sorts. I figured out what it is that makes it difficult to fall asleep and why quiet rooms are really annoying to me. It’s really rather silly that it took me so long to have this epiphany. I guess it goes to show how much the mind can dismiss even the most annoying of things as normal.

You see, I have tinnitus, meaning a ringing in my ear(s). Most people have experienced this a few times in their lifetime, usually after exposure to really loud sounds or music. Some lucky few like myself experience it much more frequently or even continuously. I notice it when it’s quiet, but it’s pretty much always there. Noise that varies in pitch and tone, music or talking, gives me something else to focus on and it recedes to such a low volume that I don’t realize it’s there. More often than not something like reading, writing, or some other endeavor that requires my attention will also distract me from the sound though it isn’t guaranteed. It’s loudest at night when there’s little noise beyond the humming of the fan and maybe the heater or a/c if one is on. Even though I’m used to the sound, it’s still really annoying and does keep me from falling asleep easily. It also may be an explanation for why I have trouble focusing or hearing things in an environment where lots of people are talking. My brain is so used to disregarding noises that are constant, which the hum of talking easily turns into, and the ringing will get really loud in such an environment.

Have I mentioned that I feel really silly for not experiencing this “epiphany” earlier?

Most people who experience it will hear it in one ear or the other, though for people like me who hear it constantly it is more common to be stuck with it in stereo. The chronic version tends to be caused by a head injury, medication side effects or significant damage to the ear drums from frequent exposure to loud and pounding sounds for an extended time. I don’t recall when I started to hear it, so it’s possible to could have been caused either by medication, a frequent culprit being antibiotics, or in high-school from winter drumline, or my time in the army when we were firing weapons, frequently without hearing protection. I’ve had a concussion once or twice, but nothing truly serious (if you can consider a blow to the head “not serious”.)

I’m really not sure what I can do with any of this information. There aren’t many things that can be done for tinnitus. Ear plugs make it worse. White noise is almost as bad as ear plugs. If I fall asleep to music I have a more difficult time waking up to any typical alarm. That’s without considering the fact that it would drive my husband crazy. Ah well. At least I like music for its own sake rather than the added benefit of making this silly ringing a little less annoying.

A Bird in Hand is Worth Two in the Bush. Sometimes.

When I first read this prompt I couldn’t help but think, “man, I hate trying to remember this sort of stuff.” As it turns out, it took only a few extra moments of thought for me to realize that I was highly focused on those “two birds” more so than the “one bird” for months.

There was a time, not so long ago, a year ago actually, where I was desperately looking for something else. That something else was a job that could pay me enough that I wouldn’t feel that I needed to work two jobs in order to be more or less financial stable and not have to rely on my husband so much. I was stressed at my main job and really not all that interested or happy in my second job. I had little time to spend with family or friends and was pretty much just constantly tired. It got to the point that before I found that mystical different job I quit my second job. I still needed the change in employment. I really needed the higher pay.

So I continued to pretend that I was doing alright in my only job while daydreaming about something different, something inpatient or in a hospital or even in a completely different sort of outpatient clinic. I was thinking of all the things I could do with my magical new income. I was despairing that after 6 months of searching and turning in applications nothing was happening. No call-backs. No emails. No letters saying “sorry, too much inexperience, come back in a few years.” I was getting desperate. Work was harder to focus on, I was missing important things and my boss was unhappy with me.

The story actually has a happy ending. When I finally stopped constantly thinking about a change and jut tried to go with the flow, I got a call-back. I got an interview. A month later (a very long month later mind you) I got an offer. Huzzah! Sometimes, looking at those two in the bush can be very motivating and give you the extra drive needed to do change circumstances so you can let go of the one in your hand and “catch” the two in the bush. It’s not impossible. Yeah, it’s risky, but there are many things that are worth a risk and a leap of faith.