It's been a long time since I've written anything. It's been a long time since I've communicated much with anyone. For the last year or so I've just been empty. Not depressed, all's fine on that particular front (thankfully), but just... empty. Burnt. Tired. I've had a whole lotta nuthin' to offer anyone. This, then, is essentially an open letter of apology to all the wonderful people who have touched my life and who I have, frankly, neglected.
My anxiety issues kicked into high gear just about a year ago and have not gotten much better. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure what I'm dealing with is a bit of the ol' complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My vague Agoraphobia became a lot less vague and panic attacks have been pretty regular. The fact that my job requires me to be outside has been stressful, though thankfully if I'm out with the dogs it's slightly less rough than when I'm out on my own.
I haven't left my immediate neighborhood in about a year, except for a doctor's appointment, my heart starts to race just thinking about going too far from home. The embarrassment of having to say no, to find excuses, to invitations to go out or get together, is exhausting. Keeping it a secret has become even more exhausting as has attempting to communicate with friends who I am sure wonder why I've essentially disappeared. The phone rings and I jump out of my skin, a text notification is less stressful but I still get nervous, sometimes so much that I will not even look to see who the text is from. Checking voicemails fill me with dread, and with guilt. It's the stress, the anxiety of social interactions that has me in hiding. There are a couple of people who can call me and cause me an actual feeling of relief, but sadly I find it increasingly difficult to initiate a call to them. Oh irony.
I'm sure this would all come as quite a shock to anyone who knows me out and about with the dogs. My 'public' persona is not what someone would associate with an anxiety riddled Agoraphobic. I chat with people on the street while I'm walking, I'm funny, entertaining (and clearly a braggart). But the level of emotional energy it takes for me to do that, to interact with so many people, often total strangers, is utterly draining to me. This is a good chunk of why I feel empty and feel I cannot offer anything meaningful in regards to a social life. The thing I try to do most is escape, so I can feel safe.
Safe is something I do not come by easily. There was no 'safe' in my childhood so I suppose I simply never learned what it could feel like. For me safe is being home and being alone. I've always needed a lot of solitude and that has become more pronounced in the last year. I can not seem to be alone enough.
I'm trying to find a way to pull out of this, it's no easy feat. I do have a few things that are helping. I'm practicing a sort of visualization that takes me to my first visit to Mexico whenever the flashbacks of the violence of my childhood crash in on me and it's been helping to calm things down (if I catch it in time). And I play games, mostly World of Warcraft. It sounds odd that a game with War in the title would feel like a safe place for someone who is in panic-mode most of the time, but it does. Go figure, huh?
For the most part I like to play alone, the games I mean, it's how I roll (obviously). But I've been interacting more with other people in WoW and it's actually (shock!) feeling okay. Sometimes a little overwhelming for me, but also sort of safe. I mean I'm home (good), but also in a fantasy world (good), and sometimes interacting with real people at the same time (good).
I wonder if I'm making any headway towards getting better and then I realize for the first time in four years I'm actually finding the energy to write a post on this blog. And I think, maybe, just maybe, that's a good sign.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
In January I will turn 50. Some people hesitate to divulge that sort of information, 29, 39 or 49 and holding are fairly popular 'ages'. For me 50 is a miracle and I am insanely excited to see it happen. For someone who was preoccupied with thoughts of suicide for a very large portion of my life achieving 50 is an incredible accomplishment and I am incredibly grateful that I've gotten to 49 and 10 months (Woot!) so far.
I haven't posted much because I've just been busy living, going through 'normal' ups and downs but always happy to still be here. Last night something happened that may seem fun but not a huge deal to someone else, but to me was a very big reward for sticking around. Little background:
For my 18th birthday my high school boyfriend (a really wonderful guy) and I went to see Evita on Broadway. I had gone through my first major Depression (first of many to come) just a few months before, I was looking forward to beginning college, majoring in theatre and I was crushing hard on one of the few musicals that really appealed to me. I was also crushing on seeing Mandy Patinkin as Che. The show was great, really truly great. Patti Lupone kicked ass like nothing I'd ever seen and overall it was a wonderful experience, except for one thing. We had ordered the tickets well in advance and it never occurred to us, it was unthinkable, but Mandy Patinkin was not in the show! An announcement was made at the top that night was the first night of the new Che. Mandy had his final performance the night BEFORE we went! It was a bitter blow, but the show was pretty damned wonderful so... you know... it was okay... but still. It's something that has always stayed with me, that I missed seeing that magic of Patti & Mandy together in that show and that I missed it by a single day.
Well this is where sticking around pays off. These two wonderful performers are together on Broadway right now - and last night I got to see them with my very best friend, Gary. He actually got the tickets, bless him. They did a couple of songs from Evita, so in some way I finally DID get to see them together in Evita* - it just took a little over 30 years to happen. The thing that rocks my head is that I could have missed this too! If I'd taken my life as I'd planned (just around this time of year in 2004) I would have missed this. It's not something I ever thought about 'might happen', it certainly wasn't something I was wishing would happen. But what a wonderful surprise, reinforcing the truth that you just never know what is around the corner. Living is the only way to find out what wonders might come next, and I think turning 50 is going to be freakin' awesome!
|Gary and I try to grab some Patti & Mandy glory|
*Mandy sang "Oh What a Circus" and holy shit, it was fantastic. So I finally do forgive him for leaving Evita the night before I saw it, I'm sure he's relieved. ;)
Monday, July 25, 2011
Saturday, July 09, 2011
I have wanted a bike for years. I kept putting off getting one because, I suppose, I was just plain scared. Bicycles and I have had... let's say an interesting relationship.
Growing up in the 'burbs, you know where kids get to 'play outside' and 'ride their bikes' and so forth, you'd think I was riding a bike my entire childhood. Not so. So very not so. With bizarrely overprotective yet uninterested parents I finally taught myself to ride a 'two-wheeler' at the tender age of twelve; on the sly and with many mishaps. The whole sad story is here, should anyone want the details.
In spite of a fairly non-biking life in the land of 'safe for kids', I really WANTED to ride. I despise stationary bikes and rarely will deign to use them at the gym (unless I want to knit while I'm doing it). But a real bike? Oh yes, please!
Of course as with most everything I've done, and will likely continue to do in my life, I've been ass-backwards. When it was relatively safe to have and ride a bike I was not allowed to, now that I'm approaching 50.... O.M.G. FIFTY!!!! I finally bought a bike, to ride in the not-so-safe streets of New York City. Yup. Well played Joy, well played!
I got the bike about a month ago, a Schwinn cruiser, single speed, coaster brakes thank you (I can't rely on my hands for the brakes so it's the safest choice for me). Picked this little beauty up at Target (of all places!) for a steal. The lock cost as much as the bike did.
A lot of people asked how I got it home. Well... um... I rode it. Which seems obvious, but given that it had been at least 15 years since I last rode a bike it's really not that strange a question. Target is a good 40+ blocks from my apartment (translation about 2 miles) and riding a bike for the first time in more than a decade in city traffic does indeed sound daunting, if not foolhardy. But I plotted out my trip before I bought it and there is a very lovely, very safe little thing called the NYC Greenway which runs around the island of Manhattan and just happens to be a convenient route from Target to me! This is a shot from the 120th Street overpass leading to the Greenway.I did actually walk the bike on the sidewalks when I got off the Greenway, which felt wimpy but I think given my shaky bike skillz (hey, I nearly ran down a pigeon... poor thing looked as scared as I was) walking it part of the way seemed a wise decision.
The other thing, aside from abject terror, that kept me from getting a bike for so long was, and I know this is such a holdover from my childhood, the 'dorky' helmet. There is no way I would ride without one, I'm far too clumsy to risk that kind of insanity. I walk into walls on a regular basis... actually, wearing a helmet all the time might be a good ... no, I'm not going there. But seriously I did kind of worry about looking silly - total jr. high taunting memories. Finally I just said the hell with it, and got a helmet - so I could get the bike and ride it home without splitting my skull.
Typically I think I worried for nothing. A helmet is just a hat really, and I've always done well with hats. I got a blue one because the advert for the bike at Target showed a blue one. Ended up being red. Ah well, there's a symmetry there as the first bike I ever rode was also red. Everything old is new again, as they say.
The first few rides were extremely tentative and either on the Greenway or in Central Park with much sidewalk bike walking when I didn't feel confident. But as I get braver I'm hitting the streets more and more frequently and feeling more at ease about it. Buses however can frighten me right up onto the sidewalks again. They be BIG those buses!
Yesterday I decided I needed running socks. Yes, there are such things and they are a huge help when running more than a few miles. Cotton socks just invite blisters. I got the bike out and headed to The Running Company which meant I needed to use Streets and Avenues. Big scary avenues. And I did it! Yes, I still walked the sidewalks a bit but wouldn't you if you were on a bike going down Lexington Avenue when a car decided to barrel through - the wrong way? Not a half-hearted "whoopsie wrong way" - which does happen from time to time, the mistaken drivers sheepishly turning around - but a full on "YAHOO I'm crazy and driving the wrong way on a one-way 4 lane Avenue - and I'm heading straight for that clumsy chick on the red bike!!!" And he really was gunning for me. Nice.
Yeah, the sidewalk seemed safer... though given crazy-man's driving I don't know if safer was actual safe. But it was the best alternative.
Despite that little scare, I got to the store, got my Body Glide and fancy-pants new socks in under 4 minutes and when I went out to my bike (which was still there-hurray!) there were five people standing around it... whaaaa? Seems they were admiring it. Go figure. As I got it unlocked a man passed and looking at it longingly said, "really nice bike." Again, go figure. But of course I was pleased, it is kind of cute. (It was also crazy cheap, always a plus.)
Going home I had planned to take the Greenway from 63rd Street home, but since there is construction blocking the section I would need to go through, and exit, I ended up coming off the Greenway early and taking First Avenue home. There's a bike lane on First and it seriously takes the pressure off in terms of having to ride close to parked cars and risk being doored. A long-time bike riding friend advised me strongly to avoid riding near cabs for the same reason. Good advice - people fling their doors open without looking. I'm surprised there aren't more cabs with doors missing because of it.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I am not a fan of organized religion. I think I may have actually begun other posts with that very sentence. But today I was in a church. Go figure.
I honestly can't remember the last time I was in a church. I usually find being in a church a bizarre combination of nostalgia, creepiness and heartbreak. It's because of how firmly and devoutly I BELIEVED when I was a kid. It was all REAL and it all meant something to me. After my first communion it all started going down hill between me and the church (Catholic). The first hit came when I found out I would never be allowed to serve mass because I'm the 'wrong' gender. I pulled myself together from that blow and decided 'Okay, nun it is.' but I was still annoyed. Then the list of things that ruined the magic and pulled back the curtain on the whole thing (religion in specific, God in general) grew and I'm not going to enumerate them here. Too yawn inducing.
I've been to services of other faiths and was always surprised by how different they were from the old school Catholicism. In a good way mostly. But it was never enough to change my mind about the whole operation or re-instill my beliefs. Today I went to a Methodist church (first for me) because they were having a Blessing of the Animals this afternoon and I thought it might be interesting. I've also had some very pleasant dealings with people who work at this church because one of my walks is nearby and someone will always run inside the church and come back out with treats for the dogs. Right there they got me. Any church that keeps cookies for the passing pooches is okay in my book. So I figured I'd give it a shot today.
Well it was really sweet! First thing that threw my head into 'explode' mode was the fact that there were two pastors and they were BOTH WOMEN! Yes. That's right. And they were DOING the service. Because (surprise-surprise) there was an actual service. I don't know what I was thinking, I figured we'd walk in, someone would say "bless you" to Gemma and that would be that. Nope. Singing, praying, Gospel stuff and Christmas Carols! Hello? I was a little upset that I was in for a 'mass'... but the entire thing was "Animals! GO!" and I can get behind that sort of show.
I got choked up. I sniffled. I could have started weeping but I held the tears back, God I'm such a wuss. But it was really lovely and kind and pretty and there was music and the place was filled with dogs. (Plus, you know, signs with my name on them. Christmas time = Joy stuff every where you go.) It made me, as churches do, miss what I used to believe in so fervently. It made me miss my belief in magic. But it was also nice to be in that environment, even without the belief, to be there without the disdain I usually feel. And I give credit for that to the fact that there were dogs every where. Because we all know what GOD spelled backwards is, don't we? That's right. And that's my kind of church.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
A little late perhaps, but technically it's still Halloween, so.... okay it's late.
I've been battling a lingering cold, walking dogs, editing podcasts and walking more dogs. There's a lot of poop in my life. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
My newest addition, little Gemma, has been wearing her Halloween costume for 3 days - it suits her and she seems to like wearing it. Today alone no less than a dozen people took her photo on the street, yesterday a man stopped his car to hop out and shoot her paparazzi-style.
A total stranger saw me taking photos of her and insisted I let her take a shot of us together. I don't much like having my photo taken, especially first thing in the morning when I'm out walking the dog and haven't even washed my face yet, but I did it any way.
I'm shocked that I was smiling and Gemma was not.
Look at me, I've got bows AND a hat!
This is her glamour shot for sure.
When you only have three teeth, Witch is an easy costume.
A very busy Witch walks with a purpose!
This is sooo not me.
I tried it on Basil but it looked more Pilgrim than Witch on him. Basil, the Puritan. Hmmm.
Gary and I have been recording podcasts like crazy and have two special Halloween 'casts up. Part I and Part II - together they amount to 40 minutes of Halloween stories. A new podcast on Speakeasies will be up tomorrow, it runs a lighter 11 minutes. If you listen, we'd love to hear what you think about them!
I was so busy this past week that I didn't even take time to write about my Happy Day Anniversary. Six years now! SIX! When I look around my life and how happy I am every day (even when I feel sick, or blue, I'm still happy) I am so grateful that I was so lucky on October 27, 2004 and that I started taking my meds and that I am here, alive and no longer suicidal. It's always a shock to me that I can feel this good when six years ago I was ready to throw it all away. On the morning of my Happy Day I couldn't wipe the smile off my face, until I stopped and had a few minutes cry remembering how horrible everything felt back then. Then I mopped up and the smile was back - it's good to be alive. So good.