Archive for ‘Mental Health Monday’

March 23, 2015

Monday morning pep talk before heading back to the ol’ grind

by Janie Jones

Break is over.  It was so very wonderful to have a few days of total leisure, but like all good things it must come to an end.

vacation is over

I am sad.  The thought of going back to class this morning is so abhorrent, I actually feel ill.

endless sea of misery

But I can look at the bright side, right?

Only 7 more weeks left in this semester.

And, today I register for next fall’s classes.  It will be my last fall as an undergrad.  Yes, my friends.  I am truly getting close.  At this time a year from now I will be 7 weeks from graduation.

14 months until I am a bona fide college graduate.

14 months til graduation

I am going to just think of that and nothing else.


March 9, 2015

Mental Health Monday: The Devil is in the details

by Janie Jones

It’s the little things.

And, yes, in general they don’t really make that big a difference, it’s the big picture that matters most.

I’ve been telling myself this for the last 36 hours, over and over again.  Yet, there is something that keeps the feedback loop in my brain playing these little things over and over and over.  I debated mentioning these details, at first I tried convincing myself I was being too nice, and that I should let it go.

But then this morning, half asleep, I get that feeling again.  And, though sometimes we are told that we get hung up too much on details, some details are critical.

Have no clue where this is going?

Perhaps I’ve finally fried that last sanity circuit.  But I just can’t shake the feeling that something is very different in my environment.  Something very tiny that has been altered and even though I can’t quite put my finger on it, most of Saturday night, all day yesterday and already this morning I walk out of my room to the bathroom or the kitchenette and there’s this overwhelming sensation that something is different or missing.  And it’s jarring.  I get this feeling and I have to stop and my brain desperately tries to figure out what it is, but for the life of me I can’t tell.

Now, lest those of you who care really think I’ve gone over the edge, Saturday the landlords were here.  Let’s call them Joseph and Mary.  I mentioned to Joseph that I didn’t know how sump pumps were supposed to work, but I thought it had been running constantly for a few days.  So, Joseph went to look into it and ended up spending almost the whole time he was here in the closet where the sump pump is.  Mary would come in and out of the basement, and while I had homework to do and stayed mostly in my room, occasionally I’d see her carrying things out of the basement.  At one point I came out of my room for lunch and she was wandering around the basement moving a stack of padded stool covers.  Two more times I came out and they were in different places.

Perhaps this doesn’t strike you as odd, but I am a creature of habit.  I’ve been called “Just So.”  I get that change is what drives life, gives it richness, offers opportunity for growth, etc.  But I also need a certain amount of consistency or I lose my marbles.  And, as you all know, I have been riding the Big Kahuna of change these last couple of years.  Please believe me, I have tried to embrace the it-will-be-what-it-will-be-so-keep-breathing-let-it-go-and-keep-calm mentality.  However, I’m not perfect and it is really, really hard to change your genetic programming.  So, try as I might to rise above it, still every little unexpected hiccup in my carefully built reality sets me on edge.

So, Joseph ended up replacing the sump pump and it took longer than I guess they expected to be here and eventually I had to leave to meet Peggy.  Joseph and Mary were gone when I got back, but their legacy lived on.  When I returned my world had changed.

A lamp was on.  A lamp I never use.  It immediately sent my change-o-meter to high alert.  A large bag of used books was propped up in front of the door to the utility room.  The mobile pile of cushions was completely gone.  Some toss pillows were gone.  A rug was on the floor now in front of the sump pump closet.  The big fan I use in place of an exhaust fan when I cook to keep the steam from setting off the fire alarm was gone.  And, my bag of aluminum cans for reselling for scrap aluminum was gone.

It was like a nightmare.  Every time I turned around something else stood out as moved, changed or totally gone.  It was like constantly taking a step and missing and that brief rush of shock.  It’s like the magnetic poles have shifted.  It felt like my home had been invaded, and drove home the horrible feeling that my home, my second skin, was not really mine to control.  I had no say in what happened right under my nose or after I was gone.  It feels totally creepy.

Now, nothing really big happened.  But my detail oriented and highly territorial nature has been affronted.  And the onslaught of finding my orientation shifted makes me feel off balance and slightly violated.  With the exception of the recycling cans, nothing altered was really mine.  But it was part of my mental map, and my static background.  Something primal within me has been spooked by the altered terrain.  Sunday morning when the dawn came in I couldn’t resist the urge to walk through the whole basement (not terribly large) and scrutinize everything.  I found some of the missing stuff.  And, I think I spotted every difference, comparing it like a “hidden picture” game (but not as fun) to my mental map.  But the sense that there’s still something off lingers.  It’s like I’m being haunted by the memory of where things used to be.

For the last 6 months I’ve been trying to get my sea legs back, to feel like this place is home.  To feel safe and content.  Then, just when I think I’m coming to terms with the idiosyncrasies of my new situation, the situation changes.  I had just talked with Joseph about having more privacy, that I would be willing to pay a little extra to ensure the roommates would not have overnight guests down here.  And I was trying to make peace with living here another year or so.  It’s not bad, its price is more affordable than many worse places, and let’s be honest, I love having a garage to park in.  But, I am who I am.  I’m a creature of habit.  I get thrown off by the details.  And, a somewhat less than private arrangement of rooming in a house with 5 other people does not exactly breed the type of calm, consistency the Janie brain craves and thrives on.

And, then there is the recycling which really pisses me off.  It might seem irrational, but it is a carefully considered irritation.  This is the second time they took my cans, it happened once before right after I moved in.  But then it was only a very small amount of cans, I was new, and maybe they thought I was too lazy to take them up to the recycle bin.  I tried not to let it bother me.  But when it happened again, well, really I can’t help but see it as stealing.  I buy the soda, the empty cans are mine.  They represent cash when I save up enough.  This time I had almost a whole garbage bag full.

And it’s not just the cash they represent.  Leif started the routine of having the spud crush them and he’d take her to a place that buys scrap aluminum and let her have the cash.  So, I’ve been saving cans to add to the pot of cans to resell for scrap.  So, while it is a bit of a stretch for most people to understand, to me it was like stealing loose change out of my pocket.  It wasn’t theirs to take.  And, it steals away all my effort through out the last few months thinking about that tradition and the stupid little joy it gave me to continue that process when all my other routines had been lost to twists of fate.

It’s not just about the money for some scrap aluminum, or them taking the things that actually are theirs and rearranging the space.  It’s one more slap in the face to remind me of how much I’ve fallen and how lost I really am with very little to call my own.  A reminder of how much the details can really matter when they aren’t yours to control.  The Devil is in those details.  Having a home, privacy and consistency in one’s life.  Not so inconsequential as details go.

And, now I have to go to campus early to spend two hours counting millions of nearly invisible critters.

March 2, 2015

Before I caught the plague…

by Janie Jones

Hello all.

I am feeling much better, and even though I’m still clearing out the congestion, overall I consider myself over the cold.  Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, I was miserable, and it was nice to have some kind words.

But, before I became ill I had been meaning to share a book referral with you.  You see, the Friday before I became so dreadfully sick, I stumbled upon a book.  The campus often has these clearance book sales where you can find new books for next to nothing.  So, passing by one day I stopped for a quick browse to see what was on offer.  And this is what I found:

“A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life” by John Kralik

I don’t know why it caught my eye, except perhaps because I am a thank you letter writer.  I always write thank you letters when people send me gifts, and I make my daughter do so, too.  Despite my habit, I get very few thank you letters.  I remember being a kid and being made to write thank you letters, but the expectation was you only had to write if you weren’t actually handed the present face to face.  It was implied you didn’t need a thank you letter if you thanked the person when they handed you the gift.  However, as I got older, some times I felt compelled to send thank you notes for things given when it wasn’t my birthday or holiday, regardless of whether I was handed the gift in person.  Sometimes I do get angry when I send people things and I don’t get a thank you or any acknowledgement of the receipt of what I sent.

So, it seems in our society today there is a distinct lack of the need or even the duty to say thank you.  And, seeing that title perhaps I was curious to know what Mr. Kralik had to say on the subject.  I bought the book, which was on sale for less than I pay for a soda at the school store, and read straight through it that Friday night.  I found it touching and thoroughly engaging.

Apparently Mr. Kralik’s story has motivated lots of other people to enter a campaign to write a thank you note every day.  While I think it is a little extreme perhaps to write a thank you note to the Starbuck’s clerks, it does bring up the subject of just really recognizing how you affect the world around you.  If you notice people and their actions, just maybe they will start paying more attention to you.

Even though I am a very private person and don’t much enjoy living in a crush of other humans with constant companionship every hour of the day (I don’t have Facebook, or Twitter, and most days I don’t bother to turn off the sound on my phone because it’s pretty unusually I get an unexpected call or text) I do still think it is important to have a community of people who you belong to, and who you can count on.  As my life has changed over the years I have always felt frustrated that I didn’t feel I fit into the communities I found myself immersed in, and what I think I’m realizing is that there are a lot of phoney people out there.  They want you to dote on them but they have absolutely no interest in you or gratitude for your thoughtfulness, or even any knowledge of how much it might cost you emotionally, mentally or spiritually to be there for them.

Sure, I don’t always thank everyone every day.  But the communities of people who I do care about most I try to acknowledge their support and what they mean to me as often as I can.  Perhaps I should work harder at doing that.  But, I might be more inclined if they reciprocated.

Of all the communities I belong to, I have to say the blog community has been one of the most important in my life these last several years.  You come back to read my drivel, you leave uplifting comments, and you seem to care for no other reason than you care.  And for this I am so grateful and honored.

Perhaps though it is easier to be humbled and grateful to blog friends, people who only see the true self.  In my day to day life I end up wearing only certain faces.  I build walls to protect myself.  I portray qualities and beliefs that will smooth my interactions and limit confrontation and chaos.  So, people I see in school see the organized, intelligent, striving, scholarly self, most times masking the panicked, neurotic one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown self.  Closer friends see mostly the panicked, neurotic one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown self and the fun-loving, snarky, self-confident Janie has been withering away.  Or some times I just pull away so they see nothing and there is no pity or disgust over how I’ve changed, because even people you love sometimes get tired of your drama.  And, let’s face it, a lot of times that is what dominates the blog as well.  But, I can also share more intimate feelings and somehow know even if they aren’t fully understood, I won’t be abandoned or judged.

Well, in any event, there’s some serious food for thought.  Writing thank you notes should be a duty, but, what I think we can take away from Mr. Kralik is that if you put just a little effort into going beyond the duty and thinking about that person, thinking about what it means to have people in your life that do actually contribute to your happiness, your health and your well fare, then you should pause and acknowledge that.  And, when you do tell someone thank you, even for a little thing, it can mean a whole lot to everyone.  When people sense you value them, sometimes that makes people want to continue to feel valued and respected and so they value you back.  It can be a wonderful catch 22.

I think there are a lot of things to be grateful for.  Although, somewhat shamefully, I must admit, I lose track of them every day, because let’s face it, life is hard.  Life is not fair.  Life is full of those unexpected events you can’t always be prepared for.  But when you have a community around you that notices you and how hard you work, even on the simple things that everyone expects, well, it makes some of those trials just a little easier to face, and it can definitely make the ordinary a little more extraordinary.

So, if you have the opportunity to pick up this book, I would recommend it.  It’s a quick read, and a slog through Mr. Kralik’s personal dramas, but as I said above I found it riveting and felt that there was something refreshing in his honesty about his failings and his effort to better himself.

And now my friends, I have to go to school.  May you have a good Monday.

Thanks for reading.

February 23, 2015

Well, now I know why I had that screaming headache Saturday

by Janie Jones

Saturday I did finally make it out to the farm, only  to have the washing machine (which is maybe a year old) break on me.  It would not drain.  So, I did my best to fish out my clothes, hand wring them, threw them in a garbage bag, and bailed out the washing machine.  I then schlepped the very heavy bag of sodden half washed clothes to the truck and drove back to town.

I had some errands to run, so I stopped on my way back to my room.  First I went for a haircut, I go to one of those no-appointment discount places, but there is a particular hair dresser that works there that I always wait to see, as she does a pretty good job.  But she wasn’t in on Saturday.  It was a bit of a long shot, but the salon was in the same shopping center so I thought I’d try my luck.  Should have known better.

The I went to the crafts store.  I wanted a decorative shoe box.  I thought I had a coupon.  So I looked at the various options, some were marked $9.99, and some $3.99.  So I opted for a plain black one.  I waited in line for about 10 minutes (there was only one check out lane open), finally got to the register, discovered my coupon wasn’t good until March, then apparently the plain black boxes were also $9.99.  Well, I wasn’t about to pay ten plus dollars for what basically is a black cardboard shoe box, so I left.

Next I went to the computer store.  I need a micro USB to VGA adaptor for my new tablet/netbook.  I wandered about the store as they had rearranged everything and the computer accessories weren’t where they used to be, naturally.  Finally a clerk found me and led me to their new location.  No micro USB to VGA adaptors were to be had.

By this point, it was almost 3pm.  My headache was down to a dull roar, thanks to a liberal use of naproxen and muscle relaxers, but I was feeling quite worn out.  So I called off the rest of the excursion and drove back to my place in town, only to break the wheel on my laundry tote trying to haul the big bag of wet clothes inside.  It is rather impressive how much a load of wet clothes weigh, even after you’ve hand wrung them.

Once inside, of course the other renters were already using the laundry machines so I had to wait to finish my stuff until Sunday.  I decided the day was such a loss I’d just reheat some pizza and watch Jane Austen movies until I fell asleep.  So I went to set up my DVD player, which I haven’t used since I bought it on uber-sale after Christmas.


Oh, Janie Jones, don’t you ever learn?

Well, the diagram for plugging the damn thing into my ‘smart’ TV that came with the VCR didn’t match the configuration on the actual backside of the TV.  So I had to randomly try plugging the stuff in until I finally gave up and dug out the TV manual.  Then I realized I had tried the correct combination more than once, but it still wasn’t working.

Eventually, about a half hour later I finally figured out that there’s a special setting called COMP that I have to switch the TV to when I want to use the VCR, and that I need to go into the menu options then in the COMP setting I have to type in VCR so the damn ‘smart’ TV knows to search for a VCR through the COMP ports.

So, after this I decided it was Rum Punch time, muscle relaxers and naproxen be damned.

You know, Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility and a Rum Punch do tend to make up for a lot of things.

I would have posted this yesterday, having woken up feeling much better, but I got busy with various household chores like rewashing my laundry.  In general the day started out quite well, with the exception of being quite lonely.  Leif, who knew of Saturday’s travails, happened to call while I was feeling quite blue and that cheered me up enough to get a fair amount of things accomplished, until mid-dayish when I realized I had come down with a head cold.

Proving once again, if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

Now some people would say there are lots of things I should be grateful for.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t even wreck the truck or have a house fire, or break my right arm.  And even though he’s far away, I had that lovely phone call from Leif just at that precise moment when I needed a figurative shoulder to lean on.  But seriously, how cruel is fate that after such a miserable Saturday I should come down with a cold on Sunday?



January 26, 2015

Mental Health Monday meet Thursday Quote Du Jour

by Janie Jones

Happy Monday everybody.

I could almost be happy today, but I miss Leif.  I went out to the farm on Saturday to check in on things for him (he’s finished week 2 of his Snow Bird Sojourn and has another week or more to go before serious contemplation of return) and to do a little laundry.  I was contemplating staying the night, but after about two hours I began to feel so horribly sad, lonely and anxious that I suddenly had to just finish and leave.  Being out there totally alone, no dogs, no cat, no chickens, no man-  it was soul crushingly depressing.  I cannot explain why, undoubtedly there is some subconscious message struggling to bubble up to the surface, but amid all the other life drama I don’t have time to stop and fish for it.  As it was, I became so agitated I couldn’t apply myself to any task other than hurrying up and leaving.

Anyway, I got back in town and yesterday’s 3 hour physics marathon actually left me feeling somewhat relieved this morning; I can start my week caught up on homework and it feels good.  I am going to try very hard to manage my time this week, to stay focused on the positives and start working on my new research appointment.

Man, it feels good to say that.  I have a research appointment.  I do research.  I will have to write my own research paper.

But first I have to learn more about my subject.  I am hoping I can kill two birds with one stone and use my research on Lyme Disease as my presentation for the seminar I have to give later this semester.  I can think of nothing more pleasant than to be able to combine them and make my seminar project have a more useful purpose than just killing off another graduation requirement.

And this brings me to today’s Monday Mental Health topic.  I’m really trying to embrace this crazy schedule ahead of me and make the best of the things I don’t want to do, so that hopefully the parts I do want to do can shine instead of getting buried in the crap.

So, I stumbled on this quote which I feel sums up certain aspects of my life quite nicely:

80% of success is showing up.

-Woody Allen

Well, I can definitely do that!  And, if only showing up could guarantee me an 80% in physics, well, I’d be super groovy okay with that!

January 19, 2015

Having trouble getting motivated

by Janie Jones

Today I woke up and hit the snooze alarm.  Then I hit it again.  But instead of falling back to sleep I started to feel nauseated.  I wasn’t sick, though.  It’s psychological.  School resumes tomorrow, and I’m pretty much dreading going back.  If I don’t get out of bed today, maybe tomorrow won’t come.

But I knew I better roust my bones, gird my loins with my big girl panties and do this so called thing known as Life.  So I’m up and choking down some food before going to work.

It did occur to as I was trying to make my stomach resign itself to keeping my breakfast inside of it, that I can now put up a new motivation tool.  I’m definitely in the home stretch:  just 16 months til graduation.

November 10, 2014

Mental Health Monday: Janie Disconnected

by Janie Jones

Whether it’s a hallmark of the healing process, a psychological defense mechanism, or just another facet of the depression, I’ve noticed a real disconnect with the passage of time.  Sure, I know the date and I have a routine, so I’m never late or missing things, but still the greater sense of the passage of time has become very distorted.  Today is November 10.  I’ve watched the leaves change colors, I’ve felt the cold winds blowing in, I’ve woken up or left the building to snow.  The first big snow fall of the season is threatening to dump 5 to 10 inches of snow on us in the next 24 hours.  There are just 5 weeks left until semester finals.  But it still doesn’t feel real that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner.

My new situation feels so removed from the real world.  Normally I look forward to Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving dinner, and I am a big Christmas goon.  My birthday falls in there, too.  Its a time of year I love and look forward to all the rest of the year.

But here I am, starting at it while it rapidly approaches and zips past and I feel numb to it.  I am missing out on all the traditions that anchor me in a place in time.  There was no Halloween decorating, no passing out candy to trick or treaters to start the season.  There will probably be no real Thanksgiving.  Oh, I’ll go out to the farm and we’ll spend the holiday together, but it won’t be the same and it won’t feel like Thanksgiving.  Cooking out at the farm is way too frustrating for there to be pie and turkey with stuffing and all the accompaniments.  In recent years if my enthusiasm for the holidays was dampened by stress, school or poverty, I’d have Leif or the spud to pull me through and rekindle my holiday spirit.  Once the decorations were up, the magic would take hold and all the joy and wonder of the season would start to flow even if I hadn’t been feeling centered in it yet.  Usually by now I’d be all over Christmas gift shopping, but yesterday it occurred to me I hadn’t given it hardly a moment of thought, and when I figured I’d best start planning, I immediately followed up that thought with, eh, what’s the point.  There will be no spud visiting at Christmas, no lights on the roofline of the house, indoor decorations or tree.  No wrapping stocking stuffers.  No holiday fudge.

I don’t feel like I feel depressed about it, at least not now, but it does feel very weird, to feel like I don’t care, to feel as though it can’t possibly be the winter holiday season.  In fact, a tiny little bit of me feels relieved.  I don’t know if I could handle the holidays and all the traditions in my current state.  But, with out all those traditions that give a rhythm to life, it’s no wonder I feel disconnected.  Maybe this sensation is like a protective shell, separating me from the despair and grief that would flood in if I were to dwell on what I’m missing and all that’s changed.

In the last several years I started to think I could really do something with my life.  I began to think I wanted to go to graduate school and get a master’s degree or perhaps even a doctorate.  Now, as I am in the final stretch of my bachelor’s degree, I’m just sick of having my life on hold and being broke and having to always settle for whatever scraps I can scrape together into a semblance of life.  I’m starting to think that once I finish my bachelors maybe I ought to just give up on school and try to go back to work if I can get a decent job.

Some people may go to school because they dream of being a teacher, or a doctor or to go into business or a trade.  They want to be Something.  In the end, I don’t really want to be Anything.  I just want a home.  My home.  A place that no one can make me leave, a place no one can take away from me.  A place I can fill with things that I find beautiful and comforting, and where I can live each day of the rest of my life building happy memories.  That is all I have ever wanted, to have a real family home, for as long as I can remember, all the way back to being a little girl.  Everything I have ever done my whole life I did to try and have that home.  A job, a career, a degree is only meaningful to me in how it helps me achieve a Home.  Six or seven years ago I realized I couldn’t keep relying on others to help me achieve that dream and that I had to take matters into my own hands.  To have a home, I needed a reliable, adequate income.  To get the good jobs, I needed a degree.  I don’t want to do a job I hate, but in the end what I do is really all for getting my own home.  And, I thought the better degree I could get the more likely I’d be able to have the home of my dreams.  But, the longer I’m in school, the longer I’ll be homeless and disconnected from all the things that matter to me.  School is an insanely tough road to haul when you are less interested in what you are learning than getting done, getting a job and getting on with life.

Just like Susan Walker, I want a family and a house for Christmas.  I’ll pass on the baby brother though, I’ll take my dog back instead.  But it just won’t feel like Christmas ever again, I think, until I have my own house.