freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Last night I dreamed another alien apocalypse, one where undefined aliens had arrived and killed/destroyed/otherwise spirited away the vast majority of people, leaving the cities mostly deserted. Those few of us who were left were surviving by dint of keeping very quiet and pretending we didn't exist, which entailed never switching on any lights, and never going outside in the open - I was holed up in the Evil Landlord's house with a couple of other vague, undefined people, trying to plot a way to get a whole group of us out of the city and up into the mountains. I never saw an alien, they were floating around in the middle distance somewhere, being cryptic and other and possibly robotic, and occasionally making me dive under the bed to hide while they buzzed the courtyard or, for some reason, teleported a live Friesian cow into the bedroom.

On the upside, yay remembering dreams, even given my currently extremely weird sleep patterns. (Only woke up at 5.15 this morning instead of 4.30, bonus). On the probably downside, or maybe slightly side side, that's an odd and revealing constellation of images. Empty cities, vanished people - an introvert's wish fulfilment (and possibly also a pipe dream for anyone who has to navigate Cape Town's current rush hour traffic ungodliness), but also rife with the calm, inevitable isolation and disconnectedness I feel when depressed.

More than that, though, a dream about the absence of people coupled with a distant, unconquerable, arbitrary threat, is a nice distillation of current geo-political wossnames: scrabbling for kinship and support with a lone few while distant, inhuman forces exert terrible power in callous, random ways. That's late capitalism right there, that is. Undue consumption of political reality via the internet could definitely leave you feeling like there are only a handful of people like you out there, ducking away from the powers that be and powerless to stop them.

On the more personal level, it's also an image of keeping your head down, surviving rather than exerting actual agency in your life. The dream never quite allowed me to gather my band of like-minded survivors and leave, after all. I could just about prevent damage by hiding under the bed. Which also neatly encapsulates my work life. I have undertaken another round of orientation/registration out of a possibly misguided loyalty to colleagues whose life will otherwise be hideous if I left, and the work environment is a lot improved in the absence of the late unlamented Demon Boss, but it's still not a bundle of joy. But I'm quietly getting on with it, and so far have avoided further damage. As long as you don't attract the aliens' attention, apparently you're fine.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
A week into no anti-depressants at all, and it transpires that Evil Wellbutrin was inhibiting my ability to giggle at the Internet. Or at stupid stuff my Dragon Age companions say, or that ridiculously graphics glitch where it gives you two of a pack of wolves stuck into the same spot at right angles and spinning gently. Or to feel attachment or affection, actually - I'm currently romancing Cassandra, and kicking myself that I didn't do it earlier, she's a sweetie. All fluffy romance under the righteous grumpy kick-butt sexy contralto surface. At any rate, there is now giggling, the absence of which I hadn't noticed until it started coming back, and my expression of affection to my cats and Dragon Age romances is at approximately three times the level it was a month ago. Huh. I am apparently me again. I'd missed me.

The thing is, I am, when you get down to it, fundamentally a contented person. When functional I have a sort of innate connectedness to existence at large, the ability to get a gentle kick out of random examples of the universe doing its thing: cool clouds and spring foliage and happy dogs being walked and good food and catchy music and elegant turns of phrase and flower scents and beautiful coltish students and people letting each other into traffic in the morning. Living is its own succession of micro-rewards, the enjoyment of which consoles me enough for ongoing angsts or challenges that I can drift more or less contentedly through my days. Depression suppresses that ruthlessly, and apparently anti-depressants muffle the connection.

I don't think I'm naturally a depressed person. I think the last few years have been triggered by circumstances, some of them physical: my dad's illness and death, and the giant knock to my system represented by the DVT and embolisms and what have you. The anti-depressants made it possible to survive that by kicking up my energy levels to the point where I could function, but I suspect that somewhere over the last year my natural brain chemistry tried to reassert itself, and the anti-depressants started messing with that in a negative rather than a positive sense.

It also explains, I think, why I reached a sort of natural end to the therapy process, at least for this particular point in time. I have a great deal of respect for therapy, which on a good day finely balances insight and moral support with a crash-course in building an emotional toolset. My therapist was lovely (and amazingly open to acquiring ridiculous amounts of by-the-way knowledge in my bizarre interest areas. Apparently you can't understand my psyche without a passing acquaintance with vampire symbolism and videogame narrative patterns.) I learned a great deal, and made a start at acquiring some important skills, but then the relevance just ... ran out. Part of the problem was that I couldn't get beyond a certain point in the process owing to the emotional muffling - it's not really possible to excavate emotional responses if you're not, you know, actually feeling them. Part of it was practical, in that therapy is expensive and I actually can't afford it - my medical aid runs out approximately in April every year, and the couple of thousand rand weekly sessions represent every month just pushes me over the boundary from "makes ends meet" into "inexorable slide into credit card debt." (And the one sour note my therapist ever struck was in repeatedly recommending two sessions a week at a time when I wasn't quite surviving financially while covering one. To her, "I have no money for this" apparently meant "is prioritising disposable income differently", and it was really "has absolutely no disposable income, thank you very much" to me).

But part of the problem was also that I became frankly bored with myself. We were circling repeatedly back over a particular set of dysfunctions which I know about, dammit - I recognise them in myself, I have acquired some tools to start to try and recalibrate my own behaviours, and the rest is time and practice. I kept having to say "Yup, still doing that, working on it, might be improving a bit" week after week. Really I'd rather put the mental energy into enjoying something life-connected and happy than in revisiting, endlessly, the darker corners of myself. And it also rubbed my nose in the fundamental disagreement I eventually have with therapy, which is its validation of me-focus beyond the point where I'm actually comfortable with it. Me-focus is important. Boundaries and self-care and other buzzwords are essential. But there comes a point at which this feels too inward-turned, too close to narcissism, and I feel that it's at the expense of outward connections which are also important for my mental health. I like the world and want it to be happy, and there's a moment in therapy where the therapist is defining it as "self-care" and I'm defining it as "selfish". And, frankly, bugger that.

So now I can only see where this goes, and hope it lasts. I am let loose on the universe unmoored by aids either therapeutic or chemical, and am apparently drifting contentedly thereby. And I've remembered how to giggle at the Internet. I'm surprisingly OK with that.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am generally very happy with the results of halving my anti-depressant dose, I am feeling my Sensitive Frondy Antennae connecting more and more with the world, in a good way. (Higher levels of cuddling my cats, and, metaphorically at any rate, my students, in the sense that current curriculum angst levels are very high and I'm getting an unholy kick out of being sweet to the gazelles and materially improving their overall states of happy). Most of the reduced-dose side effects - headaches, insomnia - are very manageable, and are giving me hope for stopping completely in a couple of months. Less manageably, the other side effect seems to be the unleashing of some bastard into the Personal Settings menu to crank Dodgy Memory up to 11, presumably while cackling wildly and twirling the villainous moustache. (For no adequately defined reason I am ascribing the villainous moustache and bastardhood to a knob-twirler of indeterminate gender skewing more female than not, but whatever). As a result, over the last few weeks I have forgotten the following:

  1. Repeatedly, to finish annotating my Masters student's dissertation. Every time I happen upon the item in my to-do list I am shocked and horrified, and set off immediately to open the file and finish, which lasts approximately a nanosecond before I forget again and get sidetracked.
  2. Repeatedly, to reply to my mother's last email, and/or Skype her. This becomes lost somewhere between sitting down at my home computer with the thought of "Right, must email mother," and actually scrolling back to the email in question.
  3. Repeatedly, to do something - anything - with the post I picked up from Phleep's campus postbox. It's sitting on my desk at home. I should give it to Jo(ty), or open and scan and email it, but I keep catching sight of it, thinking, gosh, must do that now, and immediately forgetting about it.
  4. Despite being rather pleased and excited by the topic (Frankenstein as science fiction), to prepare my Monday lecture. I'm repeating last year's lectures, but like to re-read and tweak my notes and refurbish the Powerpoint with reference to any new movies which have come out since last year. (Age of Ultron, as it happens. Totally a Frankenstein narrative). I set aside Sunday afternoon to do this, completely blanked on it, woke up early on Monday with a sudden shocked recollection, and had to do a hack job in 20 minutes. Although I scored a round of applause at the end of it (it was the final lecture in the series), so it can't have been too bad.
  5. In a complete and total sense which is somewhat alarming, the actual context and topic of the fairy-tale paper I thought I was writing. It has a whole media studies dimension I had blanked entirely, and on which I am not authoritative in any real sense, not without considerable reading for which I do not have time. Digging out the original email to read the topic was a nasty shock. I have had to withdraw from the project, causing angst and guilt, and rendering the Vladimir Propp library expedition null and void.
  6. In a complete and total sense which caused me to unsuspectingly answer her reminder phone call with a happy sense of gosh how nice to randomly hear from you what's up?, Jo(ty)'s Mount Nelson tea party. I was looking forward to that, if only in the vaguest and most futuristic sort of way. The discovery that it was actually last Saturday and halfway over when she called, was something of a distressing blindside.

Looking back at this lot, in fact it's not entirely about memory or even procrastination, most of those are things I quite like doing - it's about fragmented attention span and tendency to sidetrack. I spent most of Saturday morning vaguely reminding myself that I hadn't seen Jo(ty) in a bit and should invite her over to dinner and a Pandora-inspection and visa-shenanigan support session, which was presumably the desperate and futile attempt of my subconscious to alert me to the tea-party thing. If I'd had the capacity to follow the thought to its logical conclusion I might have remembered. But apparently not so much. Presumably my brain chemistry is registering its disapproval at no longer having its norepinephrine and dopamine levels moderated. Given that Wellbutrin is sometimes used to treat ADHD, possibly an attention-span response to reduced levels is not unlikely.

I just hope it equalises soon. My brain is all too frequently a soft, cheesy thing, but it's mine and I need it. Also, as a Public Service Announcement: if I've undertaken to attend some sort of Social Shindig in your company in the near future, it may be wise for the nonce to send me a reminder email, as I cannot in any way guarantee that I'll remember to check my diary.

well, I'm back

Monday, 28 September 2015 01:05 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I've been on anti-depressants since just after the Great DVT Experience (so nearly four years, in fact, gawsh), and I got lucky: Welbutrin was a good match first off. It kicked my energy up out of its chronically fatigued depths quite handily, and also smoothed out the wild moodiness which was plunging me into fits of homicidal rage or utter despair more or less randomly. (Possibly life-threatening illness after-effects, possibly hormones, possibly my not-career, possibly the residual effects of the unrelieved horribleness of my father's death and associated miseries. Possibly just me and my brain chemistry.) Welbutrin was a tiny chemical god. It made it possible to live something not unlike an actual facsimile of life.

Unfortunately, it turns out that it has long-term side effects. The smoothing effect on jagged emotion spikes settles in for the long haul, and slowly, inexorably disconnects you from actual feeling. I ended up breaking up with my therapist a couple of months back, for various reasons which are a long introspective post in themselves, but partially because therapy was becoming this soul-rotting succession of interactions in which I groped unavailingly for actual feelings with which to connect. Sadness? Nope. Self-hatred? Nope. Anger? Definitely nope, I've never been good at anger at the best of times. I was trying to come to terms with things through a thick glass wall, and getting nowhere. I have a lot of respect for the therapy process, and got a lot of good out of it, but it does need some sort of grist to its analytic mill.

So I consulted my lovely GP, who confirmed that the emotional muffling is a known anti-depressant side-effect, and a month ago I madly downsized my dosage by half. Immediate effects have been to slightly up my shouting-at-the-cats quotient, and materially up my shouting-at-stupid-videogame-AIs quotient, but primarily it's revealed that the Welbutrin, sneaky bastard, has been suppressing my dreams. I'd vaguely attributed the gradual slide into a quotidian dullness of nightly landscape to, I dunno, increasing age, or the humdrum nature of academic admin, but apparently halving the anti-depressant dose unfettered my subconscious from an unsuspected level of hideous chemical thrall. Which is delightful, because I was missing my vivid dream-life something 'orrible.

The moment of realisation came when I woke up on Saturday morning having just dreamed a Baroque pillared mansion in which I was for some reason running a major corporation. The dream-mansion was further enlivened by the presence, sitting on the steps outside, of a judicious mix of several of my male friends with most of the more obscure male cast members of Sherlock, singing exquisite four-part a capella harmonies in serenade to Ashley Williams. Ashley is a Mass Effect squad member who's always annoyed me (she's religious and anti-alien) and who I only managed to retain in my latest game by dint of having played through the trilogy twice in quick succession, which means my residual annoyance at being dumped by Kaidan on the first playthrough was recent enough the second time round that I summoned up the resolution necessary to sacrifice him rather than Ashley on Virmire for the first time ever. (Non ME-players can ignore that bit, it'll make no sense). At any rate, I have no idea why they were serenading Ashley, I've never romanced her and never plan to. But it was a quality rendition; as I rocketed past in heels, bent on unspecified corporate shenanigans and trailed by a phalanx of secretaries, I recollect being highly impressed.

Last night I dreamed an arrival via horse-drawn carriage at a mansion in the woods; given the unspecified older male companion who was wafting around somewhere, it's remotely possible I was Jane Eyre. I spent most of the dream being alarmed and scurrying for cover as the mad woman with the shotgun crawled up the outside walls to get at the second-floor windows, and eventually woke myself up with my heart pounding, which I haven't done in years. As drawbacks go, I'll take it. Fear of dying horribly means at least you're alive.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The bitch about depression is that it detaches you. I'm coming out of it now, and slowly starting to actually feel the world again, but for a couple of years I've been gliding over the surface of things, never quite connecting. You've probably felt it if you're a friend in Cape Town - I've seen you less, made fewer attempts to socialise, have possibly seemed slightly out of it when I do. Everything's a bit muffled. Responses are deadened. It's difficult to feel anything strongly, or to imagine that people might care to see me because I don't particularly care about anything and caring seems unimaginable.

This is clearly undesirable in emotional and social terms, but it has horrible real-life implications as well. If nothing matters much, you tend to drift. You default to the path of least resistance. You, for example, buy a new car rather than going through all the hassle of digging up a reasonable used car, because car searches take energy. You shrug and take the dealership's finance offer rather than shopping around. I am quite sure the Beast, however fond I am of her, is costing me money she needn't be, but at the time it didn't seem to matter.

You also do really stupid things like glance over the service agreement without really investing in its detail. If the dealership agent is a little laissez faire about explaining things, you slide easily into an impression of its terms, rather than reading it carefully. You end up vaguely thinking that the service kicks in at 10 000 kms, and entirely fail to absorb the bit about "or annually, whichever comes first." You also completely miss the fact that this is an obligation, so it's a bit of a punch to the gut when you finally haul the Beast in to the service centre after two years and around 8000kms on the clock, only to be told that you've defaulted on your service agreement and they will no longer cover you.

(It's also the case, weirdly enough, that being single exacerbates the whole problem - not because a relationship might help to counteract the deadening effect, although it might, but in purely practical terms. If there's only me, there's only my life experience to bring to the situation. I don't get as a given that ability to pool two sets of eyes, knowledges, exposures to the realities of the world. It's just me, and I'm not really adulting at full capacity just at the moment. Oops.)

Fortunately for the particular case in point, the world is full of lovely people capable of both energy and kindness. The service centre agent who handled my case tried to argue with the service plan company, and when they remained obdurate, bumped it up to her manager. He managed to succeed in moral suasion or arm-twisting or possibly blackmail, and the service plan is being honoured. I am wibbly with gratitude. Also determination, because apparently depressive drifting is dangerous and leads to potentially expensive screw-ups. I'm lucky it wasn't something more serious.

My subject line references Dragon Age's Tranquil, i.e. mages who are punished by being cut off from the Fade, the realm of dreams and emotion and magic. Tranquil are automatons, incapable of feeling. There's a sub-plot in Inquisition about the possibility of curing Tranquility, although the first two games suggest it's incurable. I find this curiously hopeful.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
When I was in my last year of junior school, i.e. aged 11 or 12 or so, I had the lead role in a school play. Well, to be precise, in the small, serious mini-play which served as the opener to the school's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, in which I was a member of the chorus. Possibly the lead member of the chorus, come to think of it, the director used to give me the mike when the chorus was being more than usually unintelligent about their timing, pointing inexorably to the fact that I am somewhat musical but have little or no actual voice. That was a horribly over-regimented production of Joseph, rehearsed to the point where, to this day, I have a party trick where I can still recite all of the colours of the amazing technicolour dreamcoat, which I learned obsessively because I was terrified of the director and he used to yell if you weren't word-perfect. (Red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and orange and violet and fawn and lilac and... I'll stop now.) I can also, if challenged, sit down at the piano and play most of the gosh-darned songs. That director was a scary man.

But the point is, I'm really bad at acting, because of extreme self-consciousness and the tendency to freeze and go deer-in-headlights when undue attention is paid me by rooms full of strangers. The small, serious mini-play in which I played the aforementioned lead role was a horrible little effusion written by said scary director, and acted entirely and rather reluctantly by his Standard 5A class. It was medieval in setting, possibly engendering a hopeless imprinting which explains my helpless compulsion towards the SCA, and my lead role was that of a girl who's almost burned at the stake as a witch because her village thinks she's weird. (Clearly, given the dynamics of my Standard 5 class, he was casting to type). I can still recite some of her long, pretentious speeches. "I was Petronella Savrolet, and I was young. My father was an officer in the Black Watch. He died, and I was left alone in the house." I think they were burned into my skull by sheer terror. (I did like her long white lacy dress and cape, though. Further SCA implications).

Fortunately the nature of the character meant that stage fright was largely indistinguishable from actual acting, and my subsequent career suggests that the ability to give long, pretentious speeches with bell-like clarity to a large audience was inscribed somewhere on my DNA. Those weren't the problem. The problem was the part where actual acting was unavoidable. There was a bit towards the climax of the play, when the villagers are all crowding round and waving pitchforks and shouting "She is not like us! she must be burned! she is a WITCH!" where I was supposed to scream and faint. Weirdly enough, given that I've never had any dramatic training at all, the fainting was no problem, I crumpled very gracefully to the ground without even thinking about it very much, and retained the ability in later life - I probably still could if my knees wouldn't immediately detach with extreme prejudice. Somewhere in my DNA is also clearly one of those small, furry creatures who play dead when terrified.

What I couldn't do is scream. The degree of noise and social violation encompassed by simply throwing my head back and letting rip was absolutely unthinkable. Even with the completely terrifying director looming over me threateningly and mocking my inhibitions, I couldn't do it. (He was a bastard, that man). He eventually had to employ one of my classmates, the rather sweet guy who played the minstrel who rescued me at the last minute from fiery, inhibited death, to stand in the wings and scream on my behalf. It must have sounded rather odd.

I had a point in all this. One of them was to actually blog something, because I haven't for over a month, and because a random memory hit me and this flow-of-consciousness thing strikes me as being a reasonable strategy in trying to get back to blogging. The other is to realise how emblematic that little anecdote is, and how far I've utterly failed to overcome some of those issues as a (technically) grown-up. Still hopelessly self-conscious. Still unable to scream even when threatened. Still inclined to wait passively until rescued. Thus still prone to spend several weeks depressed and hermitting, and not blogging or socialising, and to have it be functionally impossible to ask for help or even allow the feeling to be seen, particularly. When in doubt, play dead. Can still collapse and huddle, apparently. Can't scream.

I'm sorry I haven't seen anyone much, lately. I shall try to Be Better, and to aim, at the very least, for quiet, plaintive meeping. Or, at the very least, blogging. There may be more flow of consciousness, this was cathartic. You Have Been Warned.

(My subject line is mostly because I've been playing Mass Effect again, and it does tend to colonise one's imagery.)

design for life

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 05:21 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Can't talk, orientating. Or, more specifically, completely exhausted and, for some reason, so utterly loathing the orientation experience this year that I can't even talk about it. Dragging myself from day to day. Bleah.

Instead, let me offer you an epiphany, courtesy of my Tumblr feed, which is really educational in all sorts of ways you possibly don't want to contemplate. Someone posted a series of Lifehacker gifs about Cunning Things To Do With Bras. I was scrolling down through it while simultaneously hoiking my bra straps up my shoulders in that way I have to do umpteen times a day because apparently I have substandard shoulders coated in teflon and built with mini ski slopes at the tops of my arms, and there it was. A series of images which suggests you stop slipping straps by connecting them together in the middle of your back with one of those giant metal paperclips, making a makeshift racerback bra. There was, coincidentally, a giant metal paperclip on my desk right in front of me. A couple of minutes of undignified groping later, and voila! No chance of slippage, and for some bizarre reason actually comfortable in a way I never find bras to be at all under any circumstances. (Invariable ritual arriving at home: open door, fall over cat, dump bag on chair, go into bedroom, kick off shoes, do the 14-year-old girl thing of unhooking bra and pulling straps out of shirt sleeveholes to get the fuck rid of the wretched thing because I loathe wearing them and only do so because attempted professional). Honestly, it quite made my month, which has otherwise been more or less uniformly horrible.

In other news, I have discovered Inquisition fanfic, which is surprisingly entertaining and rather overly endowed with BDSM and hot elf-sex. Fanfic, literature of spaces, etc. Also, subliminal Freudian metaphor, apparently.

My subject line because I have just played through the entirety of the Magnetic Fields in the car and have embarked, with inexorable alphabetical logic, into Manic Street Preachers.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Gosh, guess I should blow the traditional dust and cobwebs off the ol' LJ, then? There's a slight problem with coming off three weeks of leave in which I can say "I did absolutely nothing". I did, in fact, absolutely nothing. I went on an almost complete social strike, barely saw anyone, didn't do the sewing or gardening or house-furnishing I planned to, entirely failed to write the paper that's due at the end of this month, utterly neglected (as you may have noticed) to do any blogging, and mostly played inordinate quantities of Inquisition. (Which is, incidentally, not only pleasingly distracting but a very nicely written game, all things considered, and has my vote.)

The slight problem is that, while the above looks like a pleasant menu of relaxation and a necessary withdrawal given the people-heavy nature of my working life, actually I think I was simply depressed. Again. One of those merry trough things. Another slough of despond, if you like. Not as bad as the last, in that things weren't actually grey and miserable from moment to moment, but they certainly didn't seem to have much point. My holiday can be summed up as an extended session of "why bother?". Marking time. Meh. That's not a natural state for me, and causes me to look sideways at my brain chemistry.

It's been exacerbated by coming back to work, because I am not only tired and heat-stressed, I am cringing despairingly at the looming threat of orientation and registration, which are going to leave me wrung and quivering, and which will require energy which I quite simply don't have right now. It'll be weirdly better once the actual students arrive since I'll be too damned busy to even think about being depressed and traditionally appear to be able to mine the necessary energy from some alternate dimension, but right now I hate this job.

My subject line is Madness, because the Great Alphabetical Music Trek appears to have hit a fortuitous run of Brit alt-rockishness, giving me Franz Ferdinand, Fratellis, Kaiser Chiefs and Madness in quick succession, for a level of rockingness which is not at all consonant with my mood. Under the circumstances it's probably a good thing that it's not all Wistful Indie up in here.

Pantone 292

Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:34 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
This is a public service announcement: please not to take it personally if I haven't returned any of your emails or made any effort to see you in the last couple of weeks. The equation goes something like start of term = inevitable lurgi = inevitable post-lurgi fatigue = inevitable depression. I am a small, hedgehoggy ball of misery and self-loathing and am not summoning much energy to do anything, much, unless it's arranged for me and presented to me inescapably on a plate. Normal communications will be resumed when I have hauled myself out of it via my bootstraps and, possibly, gin. I have to say, having my Very Own House in which to hedgehog is definitely a plus.

The subject line is, of course, the Magnetic Fields, who are the official sound-track of depression. They've cycled round to being my driving music again. They're surprisingly consoling.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I've been on a bit of a quest over the last year or so to update the artwork in my living space, which has hitherto tended towards slightly amateur block-mounting of random posters, some of which date back to undergrad and damned well look their age. This is something of a solitary quest: the EL's indifference to home furnishings of a decorative nature verges on the sublime, and his input stops abruptly at the heraldic shield over the mantlepiece. My own taste is very much towards pop art, often with a fan twist, and I have made merry hay with various internet art sites and the local framer, with results which would probably cause exquisite pain in anyone with actual artistic chops such as I do not in any way possess. However, I am deeply happy with my Ursula Vernon and Martin Leman cats, giant greeny-blue stylised owl, Firefly silhouette collection and those dreamy, alienated superheroes in the atmosphere above Earth. This particular picture is in my bedroom, generously sized and properly framed (the slightly small image is all I could include, because of the artist's completely legitimate protection of her work on her website). Noelle Stevens also produces Nimona, which is possibly my currently favourite web comic; I adore the slightly spiky, faux-naive precision of her images.

I love her art, but I also loved the theme here: happy introversion, with that fascinating colour inversion which puts all the madly partying people in sombre blues and purples, and the girl/cat/tea/book ideal in warm orange and peach. It encapsulates everything that is currently true about my ability to interact with people, particularly at the moment with the merry gang of depression/fatigue/glandular fever/sinusitis having its wicked way with my hapless form. (Not nearly as savagely as a few weeks ago, but there are lingering traces).

See, the weird thing is that I am predisposed to quite like people. My job requires that I engage empathetically with a continual string of distressed students, and after six years of this I still like students and wish to improve their lives to the best of my ability. I'm good at empathy. My therapist, poor lady, spends half of her life hacking through the thickets of what I think other people are feeling in order to get at my own heavily-protected feelings, and we still have that argument about the extent to which it is ok to prioritise other people's needs over your own. (For the record: more often than she thinks it is). I love my friends, and stand firmly by my assertion that I have the loveliest friends in the known universe - and in that I include the bunch of you who hang out here and who I have never actually met in person, or who I see only every few years when we coincide continents. I love dinners with friends, mutual tea-drinking sessions, role-playing games, movie evenings. I have been known to cautiously enjoy parties. But, ye gods, it has to be at carefully spaced intervals, and on my own terms.

Part of the problem is, I think, crowds. Students are probably okay because they come through my door mostly singly or in pairs; they don't overwhelm me with input. I don't deal well with having to force my way through herds of gazelles in those mad fifteen minutes between lectures, and generally try to time any movements out of my office not to collide with them. But even if I have to navigate campus crowds, I know it's temporary - I can psych myself up for it, and pace my endurance knowing that it's finite. That's the other half of it - having, in the immortal idiom of the internet, sufficient spoons. Dealing With People is a finite allocation of energy. At the end of the day it tends to be gone, which is why I don't socialise much during the week. I can do parties, particularly if they're full of people I know, and alcohol helps, but I need to get a good run-up at mental preparation, and I've left a hell of a lot of parties very early over the last couple of years.

So, this giant chunk of introspection brought to you courtesy of the fact that I told my book club last night that I'd be taking a sabbatical from it for a while, because I can't do it any more. Part of the problem is that I'm not reading book club books, which sit in my bookshelf reproachfully and weigh on my conscience, but it's also about energy and groups. It's only six or seven people, but there tends to be lots of wine and chat, multiple streams of discussion and catch-up and laughter, and while I enjoy it in many ways, it also exhausts me. They're lovely ladies, but over the last few months I've missed several sessions, and have increasingly had to exert supreme mental discipline to persuade myself to attend the few I did make. I don't use socialising to recharge; it drains energy rather than bolstering it. It also, regardless of how much I like the people, makes me anxious, often only subliminally, but when I get home after any social evening I always require at least an hour of something solitary and soothing - computer games or reading fanfic the current favourites - before I can actually unwind enough to sleep. This does not work well with either insomnia or fatigue.

So, yes. I love that picture. It shows the happy introvert. Better still, it shows the happy introvert quietly recharging, so that when energy levels permit, I can leap out into the world and engage with all the people I really like. Because introversion is not misanthropy, and there's only so much you can get from cats.

Subject line from early Eurythmics, specifically "Savage", which is what was randomly playing off my MP3 player in the car this morning, but which is one of my favourites of theirs despite its possible slight dodginess. You can play with me there sometimes, if you catch me in the mood.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night I couldn't find the (seven hundred rand's worth) of excitingly contoured Apple doohickey which allow me to, gods willing and the moons in the right conjunction, connect my Ipad to the wayward vagaries of my Cherished Institution's lecture venue data projection facilities. It has become vital, as it does surprisingly frequently, to show my students PowerPoint slides of hot vampires, which they don't deserve because as a class they have the approximate responsiveness of a row of puddings, but still. Forty-five minutes of searching through various drawers and shelves revealed the following:
  1. The better part of a box of chocolate coated coffee beans which I'd completely forgotten about and which have gone all weird and pale.
  2. A collection of postcards from Carcasonne, which means I must have bought them on that trip in 2005 or so. I have no idea why. Possibly the SCA was implicated.
  3. Three pairs of 3-D glasses, which reminds me, I'm taking myself off to see Pacific Rim at Canal Walk on Tuesday night, let me know if you want to keep me company. 8pm show. Last chance, I've put this off until it's almost off circuit.
  4. A tight little coil of cellphone/computer connection thingy, still in its original wire ties, which on mature reflection I think belonged to that cellphone which got stolen, and which I always fondly imagined didn't actually have a computer connection cable. I must have stashed it in the drawer immediately upon opening the cellphone box, and promptly forgotten about it. Not being able to data transfer from that phone drove me crazy for years - it's a weird-shaped connection and I could never find one to fit. Finding it now is depressingly futile.
  5. My (small, cheap, nasty) MP3 player, which I haven't been able to find for months and could have sworn was stuck to the last TV they stole. At least this means I can play a broader selection of music in the car, I'm currently relying on my Boxing Day mix CDs and they're giving me whiplash, which is my own damned silly fault for randomly juxtaposing Franz Ferdinand with Joni Mitchell and Neil Diamond with the Pixies.
  6. A ridiculously large stash of tasteless wrapping paper, most of which I have no memory of ever buying or using.
  7. Finally, after becoming increasingly enraged, the excitingly contoured R700 Apple doohickey, which I knew was in there and which I eventually found in the exact place I'd checked first without actually seeing it.
This merry little exercise in disorganisation and failed pattern recognition brought to you courtesy of a weekend which was also rife with stupid culinary errors, like cutting the pastry too small for the quiche pan, and forgetting to grease the muffin tins before sloshing in the batter. There's this thing depression does to me where it all turns inward and I am filled with self-loathing and a sense of my own uselessness. Desk drawers are chaotic and detritusy at the best of times. They really don't help.

My vampire pudding fate awaits. Don't wait up. Oh, and subject line courtesy Belle & Sebastian. A random google for no adequately defined reason has made me realise how utterly dodgy "The Boy with the Arab Strap" is, anyway.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I have three separate posts half-written, all offering possibly pretentious analysis of things - fanfic, feminism, what have you. Your eagle reader's eyes will have noted that, of course, I have not posted any of them. I have not posted much. Can I, will I, post at all? Apparently I can if I access the perfect confluence of empty stomach, fanfic-reading trance and insufficiency of caffeine which permits the flow of consciousness necessary to talk about depression. Bugger it, let's talk about depression.

The problem is that I don't usually talk about depression. I've been medicated it for around two years now, and while I have down periods mostly I function fairly well, am even reasonably contented at times. The leaden, shuffling grey of those few months of fatigue immediately after coming out of hospital has mostly passed. I'd rather believe that it's passed; if I'm occasionally unhappy, I haven't wanted to make a thing of it. I'd thought it was getting better. I have no idea why the monster should suddenly have chosen a few days of leave from work as the moment to spring out and drag me into the dark alley for a quick kicking about the head, but there you have it. I have spent the last four days stumbling through a sort of lead-weighted black cloud in which I do nothing, eat very little, god, I don't even drink tea, you know it's bad, hover on the edge of tears, achieve nothing whatsoever. I have interesting things I need to do, but I can't make myself do them. If prodded to movement by an actual obligation, like a meeting or a role-playing game, I go forth and imitate the action of a human being. I'm quite good at that. I even temporarily convince myself. It terrifies me, because it says that maybe the grey has been there for a while, concealed by distracting imitation, and the clear space has simply revealed it.

It's difficult to describe this state, because it deadens - why make the effort to understand or quantify it, it won't make any difference. Why am I sad? Is this grief, loss, pain, loneliness? What do I need to do to make it better? Who the hell knows? I think it would probably help a great deal if I could even put a name to it, but no, it's the classic Lovecraftian nameless dread. It feeds on itself. Not savagely, but with a slow, relentless mumbling of blunted teeth. It's a black hole. Everything is swallowed up. You're left with nothing to work with.

It'll pass. It has before. Something will shift, there will be a tilt and trickle in the brain chemistry and I'll slowly emerge into something like colour and life. I'm lucky; a lot of people have it a lot worse. But this is the worst it's been for me for a while, and this post is, I think, about anger as much as anything else. Fuck this. If I can't pin down what it is or how to fix it, at least I'll bloody well assert that it exists; I nail this fog to the wall in this small way, at least. At least feels like I'm doing something. Hi, it's me, I'm depressed. Bear with me.

(This post, incidentally, was initially friends-locked in the interests of my mother's mental health. She worries. I unlocked it when I'd emerged from the depression and told her about it. Subject line comes from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Carrion Comfort. It's less comforting to atheists).


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