I’m finding myself more drawn to spoken word performances, and ran across this today. The cadence, the feelings, the brilliant Andrea Gibson on fears and anxiety.
[This is a repost from when I was co-blogging with Ashley. It seemed appropriate, as I’m feeling a wee numb myself, and with school starting and winter coming, this seems to be a shared feeling.]
This is where I come to spill my secrets, right?
Sometime between last week and this one, I went numb–ran out of feelings. I think it was somewhere after the third friend in forty-eight hours contacted me with questions about leaving abusive relationships, between finals and Steubenville and painful anniversaries and suddenly having a living situation that went from Absolutely Planned to Horrifyingly Tenuous. Oh, and it’s my last day of therapy this week.*
And that’s the simple stuff.
Add in friends who need a Social Kate who smiles and has opinions and wit and does not resemble a posed block of wood. Sprinkle in academics, and taking a quarter off to work at a small agency that expects a lot from me. Roll it all in the stress of attending a competitive university where everyone Accomplishes Things that can be itemized on a resume–things that don’t contain scary words like atheist…and feeling anything outside Ron Weasley’s teaspoon involved too much work.
So I just started feeling numb.
It’s awful. I hate it and I go round and round between being irritated at not feeling anything, and getting angry about it…and then giving up because even anger feels muted and exhausting. It’s not terribly unusual–when you run out of emotional energy, that’s how it goes. It sucks, and I know I’m not the only one who gets this. So here’s how I minimize suckage. (The technical term, ya know.)
An idea stolen from someone–either the indomitable Captain Awkward or Keely. Each day gets two lists. List One: everything I have to accomplish that day in order to prevent the week from crashing and burning, and nothing more. Anything else you accomplish goes on List Two.
List Two starts out empty, and you have no obligation to fill it. It can be empty at the end of the day, and you will still have survived and accomplished important things and can sleep easily. If there is anything on List Two, you get to feel proud of it. You have gone above and beyond. Congratulations! Well done, you.
Excuses ahead of time are your friend.
Because the socially appropriate answer to a concerned “How are you feeling?” is almost never “My brain is being awful and I can’t feel anything and also everything fell apart last week.”, stock phrases are your friend. Among my favorites:
I haven’t been sleeping quite right, thanks for asking!
Because this is true even if it means you’ve been sleeping constantly and your brain feels like fuzz.
Oh, you know, long week. [Tired smile.]
Where a “long week” is defined as any set of days where life was hard and not worth explaining.
I’m a little out of it right now. It’s probably [related thing that may or may not explain your actual problems.]
Poor finals. I’m constantly blaming them–this is my most used phrase. I actually rarely find exams overwhelming, but they’re a fabulous explanation for why I’ve developed the habits of your average hermit crab.
Sorry, I have a touch of a stomachache.
People with stomachaches tend to get all silent and huddle in the corner of any given gathering, trying to force their gastric juices to cooperate. I don’t particularly advocate lying, but if this gets you out of an nosy stranger’s headlights, I approve.
Numb is okay.
There are no Feelings Police. They will not come find you and lecture you into submission for not possessing the correct emotional range. Feeling numb is weird and uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it goes away and you can survive it. Give yourself permission to feel as bad as you do, to nap as long as you need to, and to feel a little hollow.
And along with that, be greedy. Will taking day off to paint your nails and consume only popcorn make you feel better? Do it. Will skipping that party to play videogames in your room feel better than pretending to feel social? You suddenly have new plans for the evening. Within the limits of your wallet and abilities, do whatever seems as though it could improve your day.
Hide in groups.
The thing about large groups of people is that you can get lost in them. Everyone else will jump about and make noise and try to figure out how to split the check when Susan ate half of the onion rings that Johnny ordered, David and Sarah split an entree, and Jacob only brought large bills. And you can just sit there. Let everyone else have wild, sweeping feelings. There’s less pressure to say interesting things when everyone else is being exciting. You can tune out, drop in for the occasional murmur of agreement, and still be holding up your little corner of being social.
So there it is. Ideally, these will work this time around, and I’ll kick the fuzzy-brain feels sometime before the end of my spring break. What do you do?
* NU requires that I take the coming quarter off from classes to work Monday-Thursday, from 9-5. Therapy is only available Monday-Thursday, from 9-5. I’m sure there’s a witty name for the choice between skipping my lunch hour to get therapy and not having therapy for an eating disorder, but right now I can’t manage to find it.
This is a link to play Set online. It is endlessly addictive, and if you can forgive the occasional typo, the instructions are simple and easy to understand.
I’m not sure I would go as far as this article does, to say that “the Milgram experiments—however suggestive they may appear at first blush—are absolutely useless.” But, this is new information about the famous conformity research. Well worth reading.
I had this plan to write a blog about failed social programs…but luckily I googled about first and found out that someone else had already written it.
s.e. smith on the ways we endorse problematic police behavior in the media.
Television is the land of nebulously legal police searches. We often see them used, in fact, as the crux of a case, and they’re generally presented in a positive light, as something that viewers should view as completely acceptable. After all, they allow our heroes to solve the crime and end up on top, bringing the bad guy in for punishment. They certainly aren’t something we should question or feel uneasy about, and the evidence uncovered during such searches should absolutely be valid in court because it was discovered in pursuit of justice.
Except that search and seizure isn’t about justice and who’s heroic.
Education needs more radioactive spiders. (Bear with me, this metaphor is excellent and involves very few actual arachnids.)
Now, Peter Parker was a good student. He had a real knack for chemistry, mathematics, mechanics, biology, physics, and photography. But he lacked confidence, drive, and self-belief. He was bullied constantly by the other students. He was lonely, shy, and socially isolated.
One day in high school, he attended a science exhibition about radiology. In a moment, something happened that forever transformed him.
He got bit by a radioactive spider.
This changed everything. He suddenly realized he had all these powers. He was much stronger and quicker than he ever realized.
I’m convinced that there is so much more possibility in all students than we realize. Imagine what would happen if educators helped all students see in themselves what is possible, and then helped them integrate that into the core of their identity?
I bet we’d have a lot more superheroes.
Speaking of bugs, this one has a gear in its leg!
The IgNobels happened! I’m quite proud of psychology for winning with “Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive.”
We talk a lot around here about how skepticism and atheism need feminism. But it’s not a one-way street. Feminism needs skepticism. And if it results in articles like this: Dissecting “Sweetening the Pill,” a Completely Frustrating New Book on Birth Control…then, yesplz.
I like the skeptic movement. But I think th best thing we can offer the world is more work like this–using research to improve how we approach persuasion–in this case, convincing parents to vaccinate their children by understanding their motivations.
At nearly every atheist conference I attend, someone brings up cats. Yes, cats. Most particularly, why do all the atheists we know love (and own several) cats? Oh, we have research on that?
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here, but I do contract work for the Secular Student Alliance. (yes, they’re amazing. yes, even more awesome than you think.) It’s been an especially great week because we’ve appeared in the Southern Poverty Leadership Center’s blog, and The Atlantic. Oh, and this happened.
How Chris McCandless Died. Decades after writing Into the Wild, Krakauer pursued the question, testing his own conclusions, and eventually finding them to be incorrect. This article is his update.
What have you been writing recently?
The ramblings part of the title is veeeery accurate here! This is about my experience with intake and therapy and (1) I most certainly do not want to discourage you from seeking therapy if you have access to it! Intake may suck, but it is (usually) worth it. (2) I wrote this last night and refused to let myself do anything fun until I’d sent in my therapist request. So these are Thoughts and Feelings, but they are also out of date.
It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. It feels a little like the insomnia is coming back. 2:30 am last night. Probably even later tonight. And awake at six, disoriented, but not exhausted.
There’s no AC, and a hot day turned into a warm and sticky night. So I’m on the couch, and I can’t sleep, with a mug of tea that won’t help.
I need to send in a request for assignment to a school therapist. I’ve been delaying. Again. I was late last year, too. My file will get a little bit longer, and a small and silly part of me thinks that’s worse than the feelings.
Eating disorder. Then, eating disorder again, with a new year and a new therapist, and a footnote–obsessive tendencies?
This year: anxiety. Maybe. Probably.
I’m going to have to do intake again and auuuuugh. I will sit in a room and cross my legs and quietly spell out the last few years. I will ramble a little, because you’re speaking into silence and getting nods in return and I want to sound functional, but I need them to help me, and that means finding the worst parts.
“I believed I had the tendencies under control when I left for college.”
“And by the end of that year I was unable to keep from swinging between bingeing and depriving.”
“Invasive thoughts…trouble leaving my house once or twice.”
There will be a series of questions when I stop talking. I’ve sat on the other side and asked them myself, ticking boxes and nodding. I know what they are, and I know why they’re asked and I will still feel weird and shift uncomfortably, even as I answer honestly.
Have you ever felt suicidal?
Have you ever been sexually assaulted? Raped?
And then they will nod and smile and thank me for sharing, as though I’d set pretty cupcakes on the table between us, instead of my insides.
They’ll let me know when they have a therapist for me, they say as we shake hands. I’ll go sit in the campus garden for a bit when I leave. It’s become a ritual, this. The story, the niceties, the third bench on the right, behind the tulips, letting the feelings crash down.
And then, in a week or so, I’ll get an email from my new therapist. She’ll have my file, but she’ll ask me to explain why I’m there, and I will retell the story again. And then, finally, the work will begin.
I think one of my favorite things about people is how they light up when you find exactly the right thing that they love to talk about.
Sometimes it’s people–the friends who accomplished something, the family that’s visiting in a few weeks. The new baby and the recently graduated cousin. Or the people who create–the car half-finished in the garage, the quilt that just needs a few more stitches. The garden that’s just coming up in the spring–if only those damn squirrels would leave it be.
There’s the people with topics, who leap in to tell you about the Perseid shower coming up when you mention how pretty the sky is, the ones who hear you ponder a question and offer book recommendations in response. Oh, and the people with ideas! The questions, the new rabbit holes of unconsidered variables, the research you haven’t heard of.
And people are these collections of things that have captured their passion. Astronomy and hypnosis and philosophy and smithing and treehouse architecture and all just waiting for you to ask the right questions. Their eyes will get a little bit wider, their gestures, more energetic. They give you their real smiles–the ones that aren’t just for agreeing and nodding along and making small talk.
And then some of you out there make fun of them for lighting up at the mention of dollhouses or sports or fashion or that one television show. And they back off. They curl their toes in their shoes and change the subject. And maybe the next time, they won’t say “yes! I love talking about the finer points of fencing!”
And you, out there, sneering at their love for beekeeping or birdwatching?
You are ruining it for the rest of us.
Inspired by this post, I’ve been thinking a lot about what helps me disconnect. There’s a surprisingly long list–which I’m then terrible at using when I need to decompress. (Those in italics are from the original post)
Tonematrix: click the boxes. Listen. Repeat as necessary.
Really calming gifs. I must have stared at the second one for at least five minutes.
Do Nothing For Two Minutes: Bad at relaxing? This one will get on your case if you don’t stop doing things.
Fly a Line: Move your mouse about–and then set a timer, because I got lost here for a while.
Cassini: made entirely of photos from Cassini, an epic journey around Saturn, accompanied by appropriately dramatic music. [Epilepsy warning-some flashing]
Pale Blue Dot. Press play, close eyes.
And more Sagan, converted to an unbelievable choral suite.
Calming Manatee would like you to know that you’re great.
The Thoughts Room: put your stress here.
Paint a Nebula–just what it sounds like.
Information is Beautiful–breathtaking infographics.
Add your own in the comments!