Depression, Obsession

I'm having a little bit of trouble sleeping again. I've wrestled with insomnia off and on since I was 14. About that time I started to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. As the years have passed, the insomnia is at it's worst when I'm struggling the most. I'm either all in with sleep and want to sleep 15 hours a day, or I can't sleep more than three or four hours a night. Never much in the middle.

But , I've noticed that when I'm dealing with insomnia and trying to sleep, I tend to obsess. It's a completely unhealthy habit and I know it's linked to my anxiety, but yeah, I obsess. Which is saying something since, on a good day, my brain obsesses about everything. This isn't that, not at all. This is so much worse. So much more powerful. My mind latches on to something and beats me over the head with it. I get an idea or a thought it becomes so potent, I'm unable to think about anything else. But the thoughts are so loud, I can barely close my eyes, let alone go to sleep. It's a never ending cycle of obsession and sleeplessness. It fucking sucks.

It's not always, or even usually, anything that matters or that I can control. Most of the time, it's some freak thing my mind latches on to and won't let go. Or, I worry about things that do matter, but that are so far outside of my control that I wouldn't even begin to be able to do anything about them. But, most of the time, it's the random thoughts about completely random crap.

Take last night, for example. I've been listening to a hell of a lot of audio books on Audible. I absolutely love them. I love being read to while I do other things. It's the best of both worlds, it's like reading a book and being able to play video games at the same time. Anyway, I listen almost exclusively to romance novels. Audible has a romance package now and I cannot deal with how many books I can listen to for a small fee every month. I'm taking full advantage. Most of the books are narrated by Sebastian York.

This is where the obsession plays in. For most narrators, you can just Google them and there are pictures. They have social media. You can put a name with the face, which is sometimes good and somethings not, depending on your personal ability to suspend disbelief. For this particular narrator, though, there's nothing. Lots of articles about him and interviews with him, but not a single picture to be found anywhere. It's a pseudonym, of course, which doesn't help.

But, I'm a little bit a lot obsessed with his voice. I literally listen to books because he's narrating them, it just so happens that I've also enjoyed them all. But, my brain could not let go of the fact that there isn't a single picture anywhere. I spent hours scouring the web looking for even one single picture. All I came up with were tidbits of information, like that he's also a pilot in New York City, and the fact that this mystery about him is intentional. Obviously, right, otherwise there would be a picture somewhere. He likes "the mystery."

In the dead of night, when I can't sleep and my mind cannot let go of the search, I pretty much hate the mystery. Hate. It. So, I lay in my bed and obsess, scouring my brain for details I may have missed and calling on my education, which has made me a top notch researcher. But, it's also kind of pointless, which my brain knows in an intellectual way, but can't seem to grasp in an emotional way. Ultimately, I'm aware that it's not even him that I'm obsessing about, it's just the need to latch onto something to obsess over and he's an easy target because I listen so many audio books.

Really though, he's beside the point and is just one example. Whether it's him or not, I'm going to obsess over something. Usually something just outside my reach, like finding a picture of man with an amazing voice, who has gone out of his way to stay obfuscated. I choose to latch onto something that was unreachable, just like always. I think, maybe, if I could find a pic of the man, this obsession might subside... but it would only be replaced with another pointless, baffling, and frankly, ridiculous obsession.

But hey, if he happened to want to send me a pic, I wouldn't say no. ♥

Gone too soon

The last post was supposed to be my last one of the year. Then tonight I learned that one of our best friends, Tommy, died yesterday. He had a stroke. He was only in his late-30s. And as of right now, it's impossible to wrap my head around. Two days ago we were talking about Christmas and the possibility of Matt and me moving back to Texas. Today, he's gone.

While I try to comprehend the loss, I'm struggling to put it in perspective. All of the shitty things this year, that yesterday shone like blinding light, today are barely a dull glow. This one single thing makes everything else feel petty and unimportant. As I look toward a new year, one that follows so closely on this loss, I can't help thinking about how short life is. How we never know, from one day to the next, when it'll be over or who will be taken from us.

And, I can't help wanting to try harder to make my dreams a reality. To finish writing my book, to lose the weight I've been struggling to shed, to try to be healthier. To try harder to live in a way that's meaningful. But I'm cautious too, because I think death can do this to the living, make us see for a while how fleeting it all is. I'm nearly 40 years old and I can't help feeling like it's now or never, even more so than ever before.

This is the first time I've lost a friend to death. I'm so torn up inside. He was a friend of Matt's from work, who became a dear friend of ours. More than anything, he was an amazing person, always trying to make everyone around him laugh and feel happy. He was a good friend, a very smart guy, and had a great sense of humor. Above all, he was a unique and generous individual who will be missed dearly.

This is a pic I took of Matt and Tommy a few days before we moved to Utah. We all went out for pedicures and then dinner. I can't believe he's gone.




Reflecting on 2017

The title is a little bit misleading. I just spent the last hour writing a blog post about how horrible 2017 was. Two minutes ago, I saved it as a draft and started over. It was a bad year, but I realized while producing a ten paragraph brain-spill about how fucking terrible everything is, that there's absolutely nothing productive in putting that out there. I've heard people say getting it all out there makes you feel better, it's one of the reasons people write journals and go to therapy. But, having a pity part didn't really make me feel better, it made me feel worse. Thinking about the miserable year I had, writing it down, seeing it in black and white made me feel like shit.

So, I'm not doing that. This will be the last post of 2017. I'm not going to make the last blog post of 2017 ten paragraphs about all the crap swirling around in my head right now. That's pointless. So instead, I'm going to talk about the few things I did to better myself this year and how I intend to make 2018 better than this year has been. That seems much more productive than wallowing in self-pity. So, here goes.

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Focus on Self 

The single best thing I did for myself this year was to try to turn my focus inward. What I mean is, I'm trying to start focusing on self-improvement and figuring out how I can help myself. I suffer with depression and anxiety, I have a pretty severe case of agoraphobia (which has been diagnosed as moderate, but feels pretty severe inside my head). Those issues have actually gotten worse this year. For whatever reason, my mental health is declining, which is confusing because every time I think it can't get worse, it does.

So, I started trying to focus on those things I could do, without going to therapy, to make myself feel better. To improve my mental health, even just a little bit. My husband suggested that mindfulness meditation might help with my anxiety and depression. He practices and swears by it. He's a pretty calm person, something many people actually comment on, and which he attributes largely to mindfulness. I figured I'd try it.

I downloaded the Calm app for my iPhone, upgraded to the premium service, and started trying this mindfulness meditation thing. The first thing, this shit is hard. It's not as easy as "breathe in, breath out, feel better." It may look that way on the outside, but it's tough and takes quite a lot of practice. Since I only started doing this late this year, I'm still trying to get the hang of it. What I like is that it focuses on trying to be mindful of yourself and your thoughts. No weird spirituality involved. It's like yoga for the mind.

The silver lining, it is actually helping me. I was skeptical that it would work at all and I tend toward pessimism, but am trying my hardest to take it seriously. I haven't had the energy to practice much this past month. I've been sick and can hardly breathe, so a practice that focuses largely on breathing is kind of out of the question. But, I have noticed an improvement in my ability to cope with my anxiety since I started doing this.

I plan to work harder to keep to a daily mindfulness meditation schedule in the coming year. Maybe that will make whatever's coming at us in 2018 easier to handle. If how I'm feeling so far is any indication, I'm hesitantly hopeful (ha... see what I did there?).

Weight loss

I lost 30 lbs this year. I may have gained some of that back during the holidays and with my depression, I tend to self-medicate with food, but I've manage to lose some weight. It's not a lot, especially for a whole year, but it's something. I'm counting it as a win for 2017 and something I hope continues into 2018, even though I have no plans to go on a "diet."

Writing

This is the hardest one. I've so neglected my writing, both this blog and my book projects. I've struggled with coming to terms with the fact that despite having written hundreds of thousands of words over the past ten or more years, I will likely never publish. The anxiety causes so much fear, I can't imagine putting myself out there that way. But, even still, I'm working on coming to terms with the fact that that's okay. That it's okay to write, just for me, without any artificial expectations about publishing. I can write the story in my head, the way I want, as an outlet for my creative energy. It's okay.

So, I've started to write again. A little at a time, I'm working on a novel that's been collecting virtual dust and I'm actually enjoying it. It's been nice. I'm hoping to finish that particular piece of work early this coming year. And, when I do, it will likely just sit in a folder on my hard drive. But again, that's okay.

I'm also going to try to blog more and work on starting another blog that I've been wanting to write for a long time. A book blog, of sorts, with a focus on romance--I read 3-4 romance novels a week, so I'd have more than enough material. At this point, the only thing holding me back on that project is that I can't seem to settle on a good title for said blog. Which actually kind of sucks since writing catchy titles for papers was sort of my jam in college. Professors would actually comment on how awesome my titles were. I think may be I'm losing my touch.

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Ultimately, though the year wasn't a particularly good one for me, it wasn't as terrible as it feels either. Somehow, wallowing in self-pity made it feel monumentally worse than it actually was. At best, it was a stagnant year where I accomplished absolutely nothing. It could have been much worse. But, I'm hoping as I approach my 40th year on this damn earth, that I can get something done. Even one accomplishment of any kind would really help me feel like I'm getting somewhere.

So, since it's the last post of the year, here's the last selfie I took in 2017. We went to Salt Lake to see the Christmas lights at Temple Square and I snapped this pic, all bundled up with my Star Wars scarf. It was damn cold and I look happier than I am. But at that moment, surrounded with Christmas lights and wearing brand new shoes that were absolutely killing me, I was content. In that moment, I was okay. That feels like something positive, however small.

Would I Marry Him All Over Again?

While browsing Facebook this afternoon, I came across a slide show where 15 women answered the question: Would you marry your husband all over again?

Most of the women said they would. Some said yes because their husbands are good daddies, others because they like them more now than they did before. One said she wouldn't marry the man she married years ago, but would marry the man he is now, which I think is completely relatable. Another said she might not because of her husband's severe depression--something, as a person who suffers with severe manic depression, I worry about. But it wasn't really the slideshow that was I found interesting, it was the comments on the Facebook link.

It's amazing what people will tell complete strangers. Stories about years of marriage, in many cases. But, it seemed like, overall, the answer was yes. Most of the commenters said that they would marry their husband's again. But, you know, I wonder how much of that is actually true? Maybe it's my pessimism, but marriage/divorce statistics don't tell a happy story about happy marriages.

But okay, that small sampling clearly doesn't represent us all. I wonder, though, if all of those women who said they would marry their man again really mean that, or if they're just saying it because, well, Facebook isn't anonymous. If there's a chance their husbands will see it, and it'll stir up drama, then of course you're going to say yes!

More than that, I wonder how much they really thought about it? Really, truly thought, before answering the question. Because, I think that most of us want to justify our life choices in a way that makes them seem like good choices. We want those years to mean something and if we go back and say no, that we wouldn't do this again with the same man, then how much of who we are has just been totally invalidated? I think it's tough to look the question in the face and really see the answer.

Having been married for 17 1/2 years, this is interesting to me. I've been thinking about it for hours now. Would I marry my husband all over again? Like the commenters, my knee-jerk reaction was yes. Of course, I would. But to be fair to my own questioning, I've been considering it. Really considering it.

Not all of the years have been good years. We've had times when we struggled, when we still struggle, and choices have been made that I had trouble adjusting to. I thought about what we've accomplished together and wondered how our lives would have been different if we had taken a different path. I thought about whether or not he gave up having kids he might have wanted in order to be with me, and I considered if that was a mistake for him or if he ever regrets it. I wondered if I'm worth it and came to the conclusion that I'm most likely not. I wondered how much time we've wasted doing nothing and how many years we've lost spinning our wheels. Then I remembered that we weren't spinning our wheels, we were getting somewhere. I wonder if we enable one another's bad choices and think that maybe, sometimes, we do.

But, you know, all that thinking and I never was able to see a different way. And, if I'm being honest, I don't really want to. I love my husband and even though we're both vastly different people than we were when we got married almost 18 years ago, we've grown together in a way that makes sense for us. We've grown together, not apart. We might enable one another, but we also support one another when it matters. We argue, but we also listen to one another's thoughts and fears. We're better together than we are apart, which is why we work. I hope he would say the same thing.

Still, love is only a part of the equation, which I think is the biggest thing a lot of the people--mostly women--commenting on Facebook were missing. Most of them had a love conquers all mentality, but love does not conquer all. Not by far. It doesn't overcome financial issues in a way that helps to resolve them, it doesn't feed you or put a roof over your head. Many of them were of the opinion that it's never acceptable to quit a marriage, which doesn't make sense to me. There are good reasons people choose to leave a marriage. It doesn't make a person a quitter.

That part of the process inevitably brought me around to my first marriage. I know, without a single shred of doubt, deep in my soul, that I would never, ever marry my first husband again. No thought necessary. It's something I just know, something I looked in the face years ago. I completely own my mistake in marrying him. We had an abusive, painful dynamic. He thought I was stupid. He told me more than once that I wasn't smart enough to go to college. He treated me not like a partner, but like a person who should be grateful he saw fit to give his attention. It was bad and would only have gotten worse. There were a hell of a lot of good reasons to leave that marriage.

It's a drastic difference when I compare that to my current marriage, to a husband who supports me and lifts me up. I know what a bad marriage with a bad husband feels like. No one should want to stay married under those sorts of circumstances just so they don't look like a quitter.

Ultimately, the slideshow and accompanying comments are a harmless little thing, but they got me thinking about how much time people really take to consider their choices. It's valuable, though, because it gave me time to really reflect on mine. It brought me to a place where I was able to really see my relationship and not take it for granted. Because, that's just as important as knowing, if you ask me. If people aren't thinking about their marriages, how can they truly appreciate them?


Becoming a Utah Driver...

I finally got my Utah driver's license squared away a couple of weeks ago. We've been living here for a little more than two years and I finally, just this last month, got my driver's license. Because I procrastinated, sure, but also because the ID laws here (and apparently everywhere, now) are a big old pain the ass. Even then I only did so because my Texas license was expiring and they wouldn't let me renew it. Turns out Texas wants you to live there if you're going to be licensed there. Go figure.

When I moved to Texas all I had to do was give them my California driver's license and they gave me a Texas license. That was in 1999, the good old days, when things were less complicated. Now, since 2010 apparently, ID laws require that you show them your birth certificate and every single change in name you've ever had. With certified documentation to prove it. They don't want you going home and whipping up some documents, which I guess makes sense. 

Here's the thing. My birth certificate, which my folks were kind enough to get and mail me, says my last name was Rhodes. My marriage license to Matt says my last name was Knight. So, when I went to get this taken care of, they took one look at my documents and reject them.

"How did you get from Rhodes to Knight?" the clerk asked. She looked a little confused. 

"In a nutshell, I was married to this dude for like a second, a zillion years ago..." I explained.

"Gonna need to show that," she told me. "Get the paperwork and come back."

So, that's what I worked on doing. That turned out to be easier said than done. In order to prove my identity, I needed a birth certificate, a certified marriage license to my first husband, certified divorce decree, a certified marriage license to my now husband, and my Texas driver's license. Oh, and two pieces of not-junk mail to establish my residency. 

When I contacted California about getting my marriage license, they said it would take up to six months to get one. Six months. It had been the same thing with my birth certificate, which is why my folks went and got it. But, only parties to a marriage can acquire certified marriage licenses, so they couldn't really get that. And, I didn't have six months. My license was going to expire in a third of that time. I might have had six months when we moved here two years ago, but I didn't want to give up my Texas license, so I wasn't doing it. Now, I had this tiny window in which to get all these papers. 

So, I did what any desperate person would do. I bit the bullet and asked my ex if he had copies. This was awkward. I knew it would be, but I didn't see any other choice. Considering that we've literally only spoken twice since I left him all those years ago, it was tough to summon up the nerve to ask him to lend me our marriage license and divorce decree. But, I figured we're all adults and we've all moved on.

He said he would look for them and get back to me. But, then he didn't get back to me at all and when I followed up with him... silence. Since I had put off ordering them in case he might have them, I was a little bit concerned. My window was closing... quickly. When I didn't hear anything for a month, I went ahead and ordered the paperwork from California.

The divorce decree was the easy part. All I had to do was send them a letter of request, a check, and a self addressed, stamped envelope. I used Vital Check to get the certified marriage license, but that involved me giving them notarized paperwork and a copy of my current driver's license. 

Once I had all of that on order, the strangest thing happened... my ex sent me a message, told me had found the papers, and that he would lend them to me if I promised to give them back. He also kindly told me that I could order them from California so I would have copies for myself, for the future. Which, of course, I already knew because I had literally just done that. I thanked him and asked that he send them because I figured I'd get his papers in the mail quicker than I got the paperwork from CA.

Turns out, California is quicker than they said they would be. I got his papers within a day or so of getting the ones I had ordered from California. I promptly used them and mailed his papers back to him. Crisis--my DL expiring on my birthday--averted and it only cost me a little sanity and a little humility.

So, I'll have my Utah driver's license in hand in a couple of weeks. Even though I resisted, it feels good getting it taken care of. You should have seen the fiasco trying to register to vote without a state license. A story for another time. 

My first TX DL after moving to Waco--man I looked young! They cut the top off when we moved to a new city and I got a new license. Here in Utah, they just hole punch to invalidate.