Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am trying not to get dumped on the equinox

My blog posting spikes in September, every year.  I also go into a mixed bipolar state.  It's like being a violent fairy.

I do not want to get dumped because I am bipolar.  Is Catfish going to dump me?  I'm scared.

I've got to figure out how to short circuit this mood -- or at least how to avoid it next year.  If I escape south in September, can this please not happen?

Or if I hoard nuts like the squirrels on my balcony, will I be able to relax?

Is this about scarcity and long nights?

I love fall.  But it's not fall yet.  Things are still green but there's less light to keep them alive.  When everything is dead on the ground, I'll go march in the woods along the river in worship.  Right now I am panicked that the sun is slipping away.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Self-esteem manifesto: real-life examples

Here are two real-life issues holding my self-esteem to a slither.  First, a look at my Pyramid of Esther's Esteem (PEE) from my first self-esteem post:
Self-Esteem Issue #1: Work.

Example A: I have a coworker who has a drool problem.  She violates level 3, "others not spitting on me," in response to which I flail my ego around and want to die.  I can't imagine a bathing technique that could clean me of her spit.  Then I remember my pyramid -- kudos to historical Esther for drawing it -- and realize I've been thrown back to level 2, "observing basic self-care."  So I "protect mental state" and "avoid evil people" by walking away.

Her spit fades with time, but the venom leaves a streak, and every time I have to work with her I wonder if it's Heart Healthy.

Solution: Metaphorical rain poncho with built-in (maybe metaphorical) defibrillator?

Example B: Complaining.  All of the servers complain about all of the other servers to me, so I don't need a flowchart to know that they're complaining about me to everyone else.

Try as I might, I regularly succumb to the complaining.  I don't want to be voted off the island, so I humor everyone's complaining and join in: "If I affirm what you're saying, will you not vote me off the island?"  My most basic fear at work is that I will suffer the equivalent of death -- which, in this case, is not getting fired, but being gossiped about incessantly without my knowing.  (As Drooler wasn't fired after arguing with a customer in front of the owner, job security is not my primary worry).

1. Say "I'm not gossiping anymore."  Drawback: I'm seen as arrogant and suffer (secret) verbal obliteration.
2. Keep gossiping.  Drawback: I want to incinerate myself when I do.
3. Nod, smile, and walk away.  There are no drawbacks here.  Everyone just wants to vent.  They don't care what your response is as long as it's vaguely affirming.
4. Make it a game.  I do this sometimes, feeding them and figuring out how fast the pipelines travel.  Drawback: it might make me evil.

Self-Esteem Issue #2: I no longer get a self-esteem boost from comparing myself to others.  At some point I realized I didn't want to be that way anymore.  But I haven't found anything to replace it yet.

Example A: We like to think that brains are an ACHIEVEMENT and beauty isn't.  No.  They are both accidents.  We are born with what we have.

Example B: My ecological footprint is small.  Who cares?  I've been exposed to cubic tons of green thinking, and many other people haven't.

Example C: I know lots of big words.  See Example B, subbing in cubic pages.

Example D: The music I listen to/TV shows I watch/stuff I read/things I do/place I live are REAL, man.  Everyone else is a joke.  This one is one notch above...

Example E: Anything anyone has ever said in middle school.

Solution: Replace "compare oneself to others" with another way to derive self-esteem.  I'm not sure what it is yet, but I think it might be pride.  Not deadly-sins pride.  This kind:

Pride in:
- Ignoring evil people
- Not being an asshole at work
- Using your design, talents, skills, and knowledge to do things that make you shine
- Not pretending that the niche you occupy that's given you everything you have, including your likes and dislikes, is the BEST NICHE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, MAN

More pride:
- Withdrawing from an argument when you know it's time
- Showing others you care about and support them
- Defining your personal ethos and following through on it
- Being brave

Pride is a new concept for me.  I always thought it was bad, but bad pride -- the seven-deadly-sins kind -- is actually vanity.  This kind of pride is standing-up-straight pride, and it won't float away when the apocalypse happens and everyone else on Earth has died and you have to find a way to preserve your self-esteem but there's no one around to compare yourself to.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vulva fantasies

In November or December 2009, I had some kind of virus and couldn't talk for a couple weeks.  And as a waitress, I couldn't work because work requires talking.

So I laid in bed for 10 days straight.  People say they get bed sores from less time spent sick in bed, but that didn't happen to me.  Instead, my vulvodynia almost went away.

Needless to say, it was the fulfillment of a long-held fantasy.  ALMOST.  As life returned to normal, the pain came back.

But I still think back on those 10 days and wonder what went right.  Here are some theories:

  • At least one vulvodoctor thinks guaifenesin is key to easing fibromyalgia and vulvodynia.  Guaifenesin is an expectorant, which I was taking the first few days of the cold.
  • The only thing I was eating was toast.  Literally only.  Specifically Kinnikinnick's gluten-free bread, both with raisins and without.  Buttered with soy-free dairy-free butter.
  • I spent ten minutes or so every day massaging my pelvic muscles and practicing relaxing them.  (Through the vaginal wall.)
  • I spent most of my time lying down.

Since that time, I have fantasized about recreating the experiment to see if I get the same results.  But what made my pain cool down so much?!

At the time, I thought it was the limited diet.  Or maybe, fantastically, the guaifenesin.  I knew the muscle massage would at least contribute something.

But I've tried limiting my diet.  I've done muscle massage regularly for at least one period of time since.  I haven't taken guaifenesin, but I think if it worked we would've heard more about it by now.

And now, having lived with vulvodynia for almost two more years, I think spending all that time lying down is what made me feel so much better.

So.  I want to spend another 10 days lying down to prove it.

In fact, I think we should have a vulvodynia lie-in.  Like a sit-in but lying in our beds to see if our pain levels subside.  Like a virtual sleepover for 10 days.

Oh, I would love to do this.  Sometimes my work schedule gives me 4 or 5 days off in a row.  Maybe next time I will try a mini lie-in!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My self-esteem manifesto

This is the course of my self-esteem over my lifetime:

(Discontinuous at 20 because that's the year I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I was very confused and unable to assign numbers to anything.  The final value, at 31, is 1.)

And even though I can make an Excel graph of my self-esteem in two minutes, and play the flute like Wonder Woman (who is a secret flutist) after a month away, and draw good, and write good, and topple myself over with my jokes, and drill holes that don't suck, and work at being a good person every day, and get feedback that I am at least not a horrible person, and even though -- and you would think this would be a big one -- I have a handsome boyfriend with big muscles who apparently doesn't find me odious, I still can't stand being me.

Here is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

Note Esteem at Level 4.  First, a few observations about Levels 1-3 (made with a grain of salt as I realize there are many theories of needs):

- Illness is on Level 2 as "security of health."  This is why pelvic pain can make your whole pyramid collapse even though it's not life-threatening.

- Sex can be unthinkable with pelvic pain, and it's on Level 1.  This is why not being able to have sex due to pain can make you feel like you're hardly alive.

- I am underemployed and managing moneywise, but I still feel like if I even glance at a coffee shop I might cease to exist.

- My workplace suffers from chronic bitchfest.  I'd love to write a whole blog post about it and how it is rotting my self-esteem, but that's for later.

According to Maslow, if Levels 1-3 are giving you trouble, Esteem, at Level 4, is going to be tough for you.  So, as I'm sure many of us have experienced, if you have constant coochie pain, you might hate yourself.  At least know that you're not alone in it.

I've designed my own hierarchy of Esteem needs:

When my face is getting smashed into the concrete by bipolar disorder (or anxiety), all other forms of esteem don't matter, even if they exist.  Like it really doesn't matter whether others are spitting on me if my face is sidewalk.  And when my face is sidewalk, it's hard to vacuum.

I have had to quit many things because of mental illness, and I'm afraid I'll never be able to do anything but waitress.  Lately I've been afraid it will dip even further and I will have to rely on someone else to maintain my existence.  This is one form of having your face smashed into concrete.

Another form is when anxiety has more of a say in your daily decisions than you do.

Pelvic pain and vulvodynia can also smash your face into the concrete.  I went through at least three years of that.

There is no way to experience this stuff and not feel weak.  Well, if you were enlightened, you could experience it without feeling weak, but as the pyramid demonstrates, if your face is sidewalk, you're much less likely to accomplish enlightenment.

The other day, lying in bed, I realized that my body knows how to handle bipolar disorder.  The problem is that what my body calls for and what the external world calls for are rarely congruent.

To make the body and the external world more congruent, we could reduce, reduce, reduce our lives until they hardly contain anything.  But when we do that, we also reduce opportunities to feel confident and to accomplish things, which are part of self-esteem.

I can provide no closure here.  All I can do right now is be patient with this self-esteem valley and make sure that any foothold I choose leads up.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eventually, evidence is proof

It's 3:30 a.m., which is fine because I am a night owl, and I'm also a little hypomanic right now.  I've started freelancing, and this project I'm working on is about bipolar disorder, and when you're hypomanic you don't care if it's 3:30 a.m. and you're writing advice about how not to be hypomanic because you're pretty sure you don't have bipolar disorder because how can an illness feel this good?

Anyway, I'm sitting at my desk using my desktop computer because the plug on my laptop is wiggly.  I've been here for a few hours.

Back up -- I haven't sat regularly at a desk since I quit my AmeriCorps position back in April or May.  Since then, I've been waitressing, which involves a lot of standing and walking.  At home, working or reading or making ringtones like I was NOT doing an hour ago, I've been slouching in bed.  In all other situations, I am usually tumbled around like Flaming June.

And since April or May, I've been thinking back on how bad my pain was last winter.  Sometimes just executing a single Flaming June tumble made me cry.  It was like when the T-1000 falls into molten steel and melts into a hundred terrible faces at the end of Terminator 2.

At the time, I thought my pain was because I was sitting so much.  Then, when my pain got better after I quit AmeriCorps, I thought the bad flares must've been due to stress.  But here I am, having sat maybe six hours total with breaks, and my cooch is a-flare and my butt feels like it's growing aliens.

I need to start keeping a list of CONFIRMED vulvodynia observations.  Yes, Esther, you've done that experiment THREE HUNDRED TIMES with the same result.

I understand that I'm a skeptic by nature, but I think at this point it's more like self-flagellation.  This pain MUST be some form of melodrama...

P.S. The new Blogger interface just told me that my blog has had 37,542 page views!  I think that's pretty good for a blog about something no one has heard of.