Tag Archives: mental health

Mid-week slump


There’s really nobody in the office this week. This lawn gnome is keeping me company.

It’s Wednesday, and 5 out of 6 of us are home. My stepsons got out of school early for finals week, FJ is sick, and Martin and I are home because FJ being sick meant we didn’t sleep enough last night.

I’m staring out the window at a tree like it’s going to tell me how to salvage the day.

Look, I do a lot- so I’m not positive why I’m berating myself- except that I should be putting in a solid 8 hours of work-work today and there just isn’t that much to do with most of the office already on Christmas break.

And I have this crawling feeling like something is escaping me, and I’m not actually on top of anything and I shouldn’t relax. Maybe that’s just a testament to how the year has gone.

Things went unhinged (again) with my stepkids’ mom back in April, and we’ve had full custody of them since April. Stepkidsmom is bipolar, but, like my sister, she also has schizophrenic episodes too. She was in a fully manic state throughout most of the early spring, but even after being arrested and placed in a mental health facility, she wouldn’t take medication. Fast forward to July and (after some other brushes with “the law”) she got herself arrested at 3 in the morning.

Her dad had frozen access to the retirement fund he has for her, because she’d blown through so much money in a week. She threatened him with a knife and got herself arrested for second degree aggravated assault (a felony, if you’re counting).

I can still see the faces of my stepkids when my husband broke the news to them. Resignation- a combination of “what now?” and “of course”. She was in Harris County jail from July on.

Mental illness runs in my family too. Manic depression (as Emily Martin prefers to call it) runs in my family. This could easily be any of the 4 kids I take care of- my biological kids, and my stepkids.

Stepkidsmom hasn’t gotten better, as she still is refusing medication (with the exception of melatonin to sleep). She thinks she’s fully rational. Her father finally bailed her out of jail a few days ago, for Christmas, but all that did was introduce chaos into all of our lives- she texts my stepsons, she texts my husband. We have to compartmentalize in order to deal with the situation (them much more than me).

Stepsons don’t want to see her, which is heartbreaking, but understandable.

Meanwhile, we’ve tried to preserve my stepsons’ relationship with their maternal grandfather. He comes over on Mondays to make dinner with them, and he picks them up from school every day (even though I could do so).

Imagine how awkward it would be to have your ex-father-in-law over for dinner weekly. It’s not much less awkward having your husband’s ex-father-in-law over. But he’s a really sweet person, and it is genuinely very important to me that his daughter’s state not rob him of his relationship with the grandsons he so clearly adores.


She has a competency hearing in January. In the meantime, who knows? My anxiety disorder doesn’t like when she’s “on the loose”. I don’t want one of us to be the next to have a knife pulled on us.

My aunt did that to my dad when he was little.

It’s almost Christmas, and I THINK we might be killing it on the “keeping things normal / keeping things merry / giving the kids a good Christmas” front. And I’m whisking everyone off to Pennsylvania for a week after Christmas, where we’ll be safe for a while.


I Can’t Avoid This Any Longer

I’m sorry blog, you’ve been so neglected. I have been rather quiet actually, and not wanting to share what’s in my little bubble as I mull it over. I went back and read everything I’ve written so far this year, and I seem to keep circling around the same themes.

The big thing I’m battling is how my entire world view changed after things with J ended. I spent nearly 35 years of my life obsessively working (on establishing an academic career, if you’re new to this blog), and not really feeling that happy about it, but driven to find happiness through it somehow eventually. I grew up feeling like people were unreliable, and happiness had to come solely from the things one did independently to make one’s own life better and even impressive (to others). I kept people at a distance, even J because I never did trust him after a really rocky start to our relationship. We never established a core foundation of trust. I trusted him more than anyone else in the world, and I still couldn’t tell him some of my fundamental truths.

When I was with J, I never thought about “family”, and now it’s all I can think about. It is the motif of 2014 for me. Is it wrong to devote myself to the pursuit and establishment of family with the same intensity as I do my academic work? The same determination and drive? Semi-relatedly, I’ve been asking a lot of questions of women I know about this whole “biological clock” notion- it’s really interesting to me. It seems to be contingent on being around a person that the body senses is right. Plenty of women I’ve spoken to have said that around one partner they never felt the desire to have kids, and then when they met someone new it went into overdrive. Someone told me just last night, that her body said to her: “I don’t care one bit about logic or planning. You need to make this happen with this guy [now her husband] however you can.”

I wonder if this is something women often feel, but don’t talk about because they’re afraid of being judged (mostly by other women!) and because we all want to be seen as rational actors.

I’ve been having so much trouble working because work makes me actively sad at the moment, and I haven’t gotten to the bottom of why yet. Is it that I’ve sacrificed so much to get here? Is it that for too long I repressed my feelings through work and I now need to deal with my feelings before I -can- work?

I’ve been quiet on here about my boyfriend, M, too, because it’s only been 6 weeks and I don’t really want to jinx it, or publicize it too soon. I mean, I was wrong in the past, and it’s a certain amount embarrassing. But this one feels 180 degrees different from those experiences. In the past, I experienced a lot of doubts, and needed to do a lot of mental juggling to make things feel like they fit. I thought that my incapacity to relax or really speak about my feelings and experiences to those guys honestly was due to something about my compromised mental health. As it turns out, meeting the right person is a game changer. This new relationship is different from my marriage, from any of the dating experiences I’ve had. In this case, all of instincts tell me without reservation that this is right. (I just stared out the window for about ten minutes after writing that.) Yeah. I don’t know why I don’t have any doubts about him. But I don’t. Not a one- apart from the complication that me applying for jobs around the world and him needing to stay here introduces. But that’s not about him, that’s about circumstances.

What Do You Say to Someone?

What do you say to someone who tells you the reason they want to break up with you is that your family has a history of mental illness, and they don’t want their children to be mentally ill?

Apart from how ridiculous to think that one can ensure that their children won’t have any mental health issues by mating with someone who has never themselves been to therapy? Apart from giving them the speech of your life about control, fear, and being an asshole in general?

And If you’re me, you also flee to your parents house across the country to think, to grieve, to remove yourself from the situation, etc.

I wrote him a long email on the plane that said everything I’d wanted to say but that it took me 48 hours to begin to articulate. I am so incredulous that someone would break it off with a person their friends all love, who is a great girlfriend (I am, no joke) because of something that may be a non-issue. What I do in situations like this is I keep talking. I want to write to him endlessly and keep articulating all of the things that pop into my head uninvited all day.

But I shouldn’t, right?

I shouldn’t write to his friends and tell them what’s going on, knowing that they’d intervene, right?

I feel like the world will never let me find peace, will never let me feel sane again.

At the same time, I wonder whether I forced the issue by chanting a kali mantra (om klim kalika-yei namah), which has the following intention:

“This mantra can be used to bring one very quickly into balance or alignment with regard to a specific situation. The results can be dramatic and even unpleasant, even if they are ultimately the most compassionate. For instance, if you are having problems with a relationship and you use this Kali mantra to invoke her help with the problem, the relationship may end abruptly, even though this is not the outcome you desired.”

Indeed, universe. I should have tread more lightly. When I started chanting this, thinking I was shoring up the relationship, we started having problems.

He hasn’t officially decided yet, but I am tired of being dicked around, particularly by someone who either thinks this way or uses this kind of thinking as a bandage for fear.

Yeah, I’ve Been Silent

IMG_3942I haven’t been posting on here because I’ve been too busy… having a breakdown. Yep. I mentioned that things kinda hit the fan in the winter with my mental health and then, then they just kept going downhill. On one hand, it feels to me like I’m pouring water into a soapy glass, and watching the soap rise to the top and flow out of the glass- where the soap is a metaphor for years of hidden pain coming lose and floating away. On the other hand, I feel like I’m losing my damn mind.

I am genuinely terrified- I mean terrified of my mind right now, and being alone. Tonight the plumber didn’t leave my house until after 6pm, and I haven’t gotten much done today and so I thought “it’s rainy and I was out all day, maybe I won’t go to yoga tonight”. Immediately, terror set in. Not because I don’t have plenty to do (my backlog is many virtual pages long- both of fun and work related tasks), but because I will be here. In this house. ALONE.

Is it the house? I want to move so badly it’s ridiculous. But how can I? Here I pay no utilities or mortgage (divorce agreement). I am already only surviving on handouts from my parents and not making ends meet as it is. I could move in with my parents, and that’s about it, financially speaking. So here I sit, surrounded by “our” stuff, in a place that J’s mail is still delivered to.

And last week he threatened to move in. Not threatened in a… threatening way, but he wanted to move back in as my roommate. I don’t want to narrate the whys of it, because this is a public blog and I’m trying not to say.. negative things about J. But it was incredibly emotionally insensitive of him. I think I can say that. I think I can say that it was for religious reasons; he is by no means broken up with his girlfriend, and is in fact intending to re-marry. Ok, that’s where I stop talking. He found my AirBNB listing somehow, after all…

The lowest point was the Saturday when I had a total and complete meltdown in an Ikea. I walked in and looked at the patio furniture and remembered when I felt like I had a family to shop for patio furniture with… even if it was just one person. One person without whom I had never shopped for furniture. Or done almost anything. I just wanted to be back in a family so much it hurt. To not be alone in Ikea. And all of a sudden I was desperate, and I didn’t know who to call or what to do. So I just sat on a stack of boxes, and cried in public. I kept hiding it when people walked by, but I was legitimately crying. In public. I have only ever cried in front of two people in my life- T, and J. I felt like I was choking trying not to make a scene, however, so I fled to my car in the parking lot. And I sobbed. It was pouring rain, and I sat there and just cried until I was so shaky I could hardly move. I thought I wouldn’t survive that day.

The night found me in one of the few places I feel safe on the planet… Black Hole Coffee House. Not sure why, but I do. Feel Safe. There.

Ok, I’m going to break the me-update into 2 posts. It’ll be too long and nobody will read it, otherwise.

9 Steps to Happy or… A Festival of Links

After a harrowing few days I decided I should really be taking my mental health as seriously as my work, and devoting the same energy, pigheaded stubbornness, and drive to improving it that I do to Getting Work Done (apart from lately). So I made a list, and starting yesterday I tried to act on it.

Step 1: Go get a bagel.
Specifically, I wanted a “volcano” bagel tomato-basil tofu burger sandwich. They had these in Bagel & Bagel’s lovely Ikebukuro location, but apparently not in the Shinjuku shop– I’d have known that if I’d read the site more carefully. Really, once I saw the afore-linked sandwich was still on the menu, and hadn’t been killed like all of the veggie burger options at that emporium of bastardry Freshness Burger, I was already out the door.

Step 2: American magazines. These have always been my “turn off my brain” fodder, but I cancelled my subscriptions before moving to Japan and declined to go digital because I thought magazines were making me lust after things I can’t afford, and generally keeping me from being a content grad student. All well and good, but when under this much stress their fluffiness also feels soothing to my nervous system. So I resubbed to BUST, discovered that Whole Living had gone under, and am thinking I’ll nab an issue or two of Natural Health, even if they’re not actually hippie enough for me… Yoga Journal is still blacklisted for serving more to inspire my discontentment (expensive yoga clothes! Expensive yoga retreats!) than to enhance my yoga practice.

Step 3: Go somewhere that makes me happy….. I had to think about this one, which I have plenty of time to do these days because I cannot sleep. Typically I am up until after the sun has lit up my room around 4:30 (never thought I’d miss daylight savings time), and generally I don’t conk out until 7– at which point I am so comatose that I sleep through any alarm I try to set. This is one of the outcomes of tinkering with my medication…

But I digress…

I hit on my first ever Tokyo neighborhood, Azabu Juban, and my favorite restaurant in the whole city: Eat More Greens. I hope every vegan and vegetarian who visits Tokyo ends up here. I found this place early on during my first summer in the city, and spent a lot of time working from its patio, eating vegetarian taco rice. I am writing this post from their shop right now, and I was dead right about coming back to this neighborhood. It having not changed in 2 years is one of the most reassuring things I have experienced recently. It’s also not as overwhelming as the major hubs of Tokyo, but has many, many cute little shops to poke around in.

Next up is going back to my second former neighborhood, Ikebukuro, because I have a list of great restaurants in that area at which I must eat before I leave Tokyo this time.

Step 4: Foods that cheer me up…. Visiting Kats the other day reminded me that I can get comfort foods here, and that I should. He made me Amy’s soup and crunchy bread. Off to National Azabu supermarket soon.

Step 5: Movies. I have a monthly subscription to Tsutaya, but their mail service alone is not going to get me through this tough period. I’m going there and renting some crap films. That’s right, it’s time to see Hunger Games.

Step 6: (I think I was supposed to make a joke about “profit” somewhere in here.)
Read things like this: 25 Quick and Easy Smoothie Recipies Right now copying down smoothie recipes means focusing on a future where I can go home and use my Blendtec. Also, I adore making smoothies. It’s a hobby.

Step 7: J, who is actually my principle support because I keep fearfully and depressively cutting people off, is treating me to a massage at the LUSH spa. Kind of a dream fulfilled for me.

Step 8: Yoga and meditation. These tools have gotten me through more crises than I can count, and I need them now. It annoys me that I could have easily taken classes in Ikebukuro, had I not moved. I was honestly temporarily insane when I moved in with T, and if I could afford it, and hadn’t paid him the rent for July and August already, would move into an extended stay hotel in a heartbeat. Due to my current state of mind, I need space..

Step 9: The only reason I could even write this entry…. Get back on the meds that work. Having my meds changed turned out to be not only dangerous at this high stress period in my life, but physically grueling. The daily brain zaps, heart palpitations, and dizziness… the insomnia, the lack of control over my emotions…. I haven’t talked to my American doctor yet, but simply made the executive decision to go back on my old medication. I know what I’m doing with this stuff, and I trust my instincts. I’ve had 18 years (gah!) of trial and error to quickly recognize when I’m in trouble, and need to immediately correct it.

Well, this got long and I’m sure the Eat More Greens staff are wondering what I’m doing here on my iPad, so I’ll stop one-finger typing and finish my damned iced coffee.

This one isn’t even interesting

You know what I hate the smell of? Tobacco. Good pipe tobacco in hand rolled cigarettes is one thing, but mainstream convenience store tobacco is another. It didn’t used to bother me quite as much, but now the faintest whiff of it is enough to hurt my head.

Then again, everything is annoying me lately. I am on an absolute hair trigger, and either respond with tears or rage to everything. I know I’ve got to get out of here (meaning Japan, though if I could get out of this apartment I would be much saner), but I’ve also got to finish my research. And I definitely need these last few pieces.

I was totally wrong to get into a new relationship while still deeply grieving my old one. I thought I was okay, but my doubts have simply grown and grown to the point where I know I need to break it off with T when I go back to the U.S., and get myself together. My realization of this has made it impossible for me to be emotionally intimate in the meantime, and really I’ve shut down completely. Actually, I’m turning to J quite a bit, actually, because he knows me the best, and he is the only one who I think really understands the trouble I’m in right now.

I have really, really tried to convey to T how bad my mental health is, and he -sees- it in action, but he truly doesn’t understand it. And I think that also created a rift between us. But the major problem is just me, the way I retreat and withdraw when this tense. I am about 50% more cheerful when not around him, to tell the truth.

His not letting me get any sleep isn’t helping… last night I rolled over (sleepless as usual), to see him sitting upright, staring at the wall. Maybe I’ve seen too many Japanese horror movies, because I -jumped-. He was fast asleep, as always. In general his antics in bed are so extreme that I want to film them.. but it’s not worth the trouble. He did the usual full 360 rotation last night and kicked me in the head a few times… I am so over this. In the rest of my life, this kind of sleeping behavior is going to be a deal-breaker. Either go see a sleep specialist, or get out of my bed.

I think wistfully of how when I lived in Chicago and was going through a spell of insomnia, J’s soft occasional snores were unbearable to me. In contrast, with earplugs in and a pillow over my head and a white noise machine going, T is still loud.

So yeah, gotta get out of here, and in less than 2 months I will. But 2 months is a long time to try to carry on in this state, so if I can bail sooner that would be best…

T has two days off this week and I had been planning to go to a coffee shop and work, but now I’ll feel pressure to hang out… and I don’t really want to be around him at the moment. I want to be hugged tightly and for a long, long time, by J… who is leaving me. And I want my dogs… the same old refrain.

It’s a good thing I’m writing these mostly for my own stress relief, because I’m incapable of being entertaining at the moment.

Thanks to a wonderful care package I was able to make good mac n’ cheese last night, and awesome bean tacos tonight. The tacos were bliss. I will never take for granted the sheer variety of international foods available to me in the U.S. And the bagels.

Where did my sense of humor go?

Still not genki. The train stopped abruptly today, and in my steel-toed Harley boots (not stylin’, but I thought it was going to pour all day today and my rain boots are too hot for the muggy rainy season) I fell and stepped on an older woman. She was really upset with me, and as I shrank into the train seat, I suddenly found myself crying in public again, closing my eyes to try to trap the tears. I thought about getting off at the next stop, but I was paralyzed. Finally, I fled from the train at Akasaka Mitsuke station, and into a bathroom where I sat adjacent a Japanese-style toilet (on the nimotsu shelf) and cried as quietly as I could for 5-10 minutes. Emerging, I had to don my giant sunglasses to hide the tears that still wouldn’t stop, and as it was night and indoors I’m sure I looked extra batty. I looked at my feet until I was safely in my apartment.

But i haven’t had much luck in public places lately in Japan… my body feels too big and awkward, I don’t physically seem to fit anywhere. I have been so broke that as my clothes wear out, I can’t get new ones, and so I look mismatched and ragged, a sharp contrast from the polished, controlled and petite Japanese women that surround me.

I’d love to afford a trip to the Lush spa, or an Ayurvedic salon for some sort of treatment that might help with the current estrangement from and loathing of my body that I have…. but again, no money.

The other day in Chiba, a man walked up to me in the train station and punched me hard in the arm before continuing on his way. It was so odd I stood in place for a good five minutes, looking after him. My tattoos were all concealed, so it was perhaps my foreignness? My lack of femininity? His face was just so… angry as he bore down on me. I’d had a terrible day of getting lost on the train/riding too far, and this incident just… well, I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than acknowledge it numbly. Random nut, I’m sure, but when you’re as fragile as I am right now random nuts are a real health risk.

I hope I can get to a place where I am happy about the accomplishments of others again. That capacity to cheer my friends on says to me that -I- am happy in my own life. I wish I could tell this blog everything that has happened to me in 2013, but some of it is too dark and too traumatic. Suffice it today, the divorce actually wasn’t (ongoing, so I guess.. isn’t?) the worst thing that has happened. I am still reeling from the effects of some other major life traumas.

Granted, I went a bit crazy after December, and a lot of what has happened to me is the result of self-destructive behavior in the guise of me trying to regain a sense of safety and support.

I feel like if I can’t write about it openly I shouldn’t be writing about it though…  so I’ve been rather quiet here.

As I was getting tattooed today I noticed I was bleeding an awful lot. Lately it’s been bleeding/bruising central as my tattoo artist works.

Anyway, we got to some parts that really really hurt, such as where she’s trying to cover over my old tattoo and basically has to ink very deeply over my chest bone. The pain is so intense that I have to breathe very carefully to even tolerate it. I was asking myself as I did this whether or not the pain in my body was worse than the mental pain I feel lately. I tried to approximate how it feels in my chest emotionally, with the buzzing needle working away there… and of course, I failed. The tattoo is also already over (this time), but my mental torture continues.

When did this become the least fun blog on the planet? Er, I tried Nigerian food for the first time last night, and that was awesome. Black-eyed-peas in a delicious sauce, plantains, etc. I do so love eating.

it’s not good when a shrink is seriously worried about you, is it? No, sir. I am apparently the one that keeps her up at night. I told her if it helps, I still can’t sleep either…


Ok, so I don’t end on a sad note- Takashi saw my socks poking out from the bed sheets last night. (I normally don’t like socks to sleep in, but I’d just put lovely Lush foot cream on.) He went to tug one off and I said:

“Don’t pull off my sock!” (in English)

He looked at me blankly and went to pull it again.

“I will cut you.” I told him

He cocked his head and asked “What? Pikachu?”

“No…. not Pikachu,” I shook my head. “Never Pikachu.”

He smiled. Then he leaned close “Pikapika” he whispered.

Oh my god.

As he was falling asleep I heard him mumble it a few more times too. I almost put a pillow over his head (lightly of course, I’m not -that- off my rocker yet).