Before I start today’s blog, which is about my love of the beach, a quick note about yesterday’s. The Guy I Am Currently Dating shared my link with Amanda Palmer’s Twitter account, and it was retweeted!! It was really awesome to see people come to visit this page because I talked about the book and how it aligned with my personal beliefs and experiences.

Today’s blog is a more personal one, one that is about past experiences, but is largely about daydreams…and how what you want most in the world isn’t always what you thought when you were 5 or 10 years younger.

We all have daydreams, and for me, a lot of them involve being somewhere other than where I am now. When I imagine where I might want to be at any given time, I usually think of the beach. Often, it’s a beach I’ve been to in the past, but sometimes, it’s an entirely new place my mind has invented. It’s strange that I like the beach, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble doing “nothing” and that is largely what people go to the beach to do. Ever since childhood, my family would be relaxing, and after 10 minutes of quiet, I’d ask “What are we going to do next?”

I have always been a city girl. I like bars, restaurants, things to do, people to meet, adventures to have. But there is also this feeling you get when you lie on the sand and look up at the sky, or take off your shoes and walk near the ocean at midnight, that the world is so big with possibility and you are so small that it would take you 100 lifetimes to do, to be, to see everything. It makes all your problems seem insignificant, or at least small enough to handle.

Even as adults, my family, and eventually just my brother and myself, would take a trip to the Jersey Shore. It’s not the Jersey Shore you see on MTV, although there are bars and restaurants and a club or two. But there’s also the fudge I loved half a lifetime ago, getting a henna tattoo on the boardwalk and playing games for stuffed animals like I’m still a teenager, riding the tram car up and down the boardwalk, stopping at a 1950’s Doo-Wop place for a milkshake and getting a slice of some of the best pizza on Earth. It is a place I love, and one of the saddest things about getting sick is that I’ve been unable to go back.

Of course, the last trip to the Jersey Shore is what made me sick. I was happy, healthy, energetic…and one day, I mixed an orange Izze with some vodka, sipped it on the beach while listening to music, and fell asleep. I woke up sunburnt, but had no idea how badly. I took a shower, walked around for a few hours, and by the end of the night, I could barely crawl home due to blisters on my legs. But I made it, and the next day, my luggage and I had to make it all the way to the bus. Later that night, it wasn’t a pretty picture. I had my first panic attack, which felt suspiciously like a heart attack, and afterwards, kept shaking uncontrollably. I thought I was going to die. Instead, I rested for a few days and traveled back to Atlanta, with 2nd degree burns over half of my body.

My parents said “Don’t go to the hospital”. “It’s sunburn”. “It’s no big thing”, so I believed in my tendency to make a bigger deal over things that need be. It took 2 weeks before I ended up in the ER, leaving an event early and crying because I was sure I was going to die and never see anyone again.

The ER rehydrated me, noticed my resting pulse of 120 was not good, put me on sedatives and beta-blockers, and sent me home. But it didn’t take long before the panic attacks started again, and the constant dizziness. 4 visits to the ER, a drug that tried to kill me, and weeks later, there was still no diagnosis. One doctor put me on a heart medication that still to this day causes weight gain. Another determined it was an inner ear disorder. Another said I had an anxiety disorder, another said I had late onset bi-polar disorder. At one point, I had to stop the doctor merry-go-round, because the motion of the car would trigger adrenaline rushes so bad I would rationally consider jumping out of a moving car on the highway to make it stop.

Nobody knows what is wrong with me, or what happened that day on the beach to trigger it. One doctor even said I had brain damage to my hypothalamus as a result of heat stroke. But that one day changed my life forever, and I can’t help but think, “If only I’d stayed in and worked”, and “If only I’d waited until dinner to have a drink”. I hope one day they do find out, and I hope I’m alive when they do. But I don’t count on it. Being sick has become a new normal, and being alone isn’t as lonely as it was when I was healthy.

So, you’d think I’d be terrified of that beach. You’d think I’d have a panic attack just remembering the place where this happened. Instead, I think “If there is every a way for them to identify and cure my mystery illness, and I can go back to being me, I’m going to the beach for a month”.

I don’t care if I’m 40. I’m still getting a henna tattoo and going to the fortune teller and eating too much fudge on the tram car. It turns out that even one of the worst experiences of your life can’t cancel out years of great ones.

It can teach you, though, the value of small things…and being healthy enough to walk on that beach at midnight again is priceless in my world. It is priceless enough for a small town of 10,000 people to seem more interesting than cities with ten of millions, because the things that remind you of when you were younger, happier, and healthier are what you remember when you journey throughout life….even if you’re drinking apple martinis and covered in glitter.

I have been feeling a little melancholy lately, and in this strange place of loneliness. Sometimes, I can’t help but take stock of my life and upon looking around, feel that I don’t have very many people in this world which I’ve created for myself. Once upon a time, I did, but it seems that time moves without me. Many of the people who once populated my life, my heart, my attention, and my concern have now moved on to have relationships, careers, children, more “grown-up” and “socially acceptable” types of friends. Many people who once populated my days here in Atlanta are no longer here, or live so far away they may as well live in a different state. Many people who were once a constant presence on my phone or my Facebook seem to have taken a step back to tend to their own lives in different places and place focus on different people. Some people, I’m just simply not friends with anymore, and it’s difficult meeting new people to replace those I used to hang out with.

In short, my life has become a version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and I’m not sure how that happened. I’ve always been popular, always had people to talk to, to go to parties with, to form meaningful connections with. Looking back through my old photos and e-mails, as I move them from my old computer to my new, I realised that even at my lowest and most hated point, it was only a matter of time before I’d rebuilt a thriving social circle again, and the whole matter of “I’d like to go but I don’t have a ride” wasn’t much of a problem. I’m actually far more likeable now than I was then, having outgrown some of the obnoxious and childish need for drama or tendency to get inappropriately drunk and end up strange places. I’m still fun. I’m just a little more mature about my fun, mostly. Yet, I haven’t found it easy to rebuild my social circle.

I tend to be the sort of person who bonds closely with a few people, and then has a larger circle of acquaintances. The fact that for the first time in many, many years, I don’t have a girl my age who is a BFF/partner-in-crime living near me is a huge issue for me. I don’t have that many female friends, so when I find one with whom I gel, that person and I historically become inseparable, whether for a few months or a few years. Not having a partner-in-crime means there are many invitations to parties and events I simply ignore, because I’d prefer not to make the trek on MARTA across town and back alone, or to be at a swanky party where I don’t know anyone alone. Not having a girl my age to hang with on a regular basis is actually a little like being single—you feel like you’re missing out on fun stuff that you just don’t do by yourself.

Strangely, I also don’t have an “overly idealised infatuation” occupying my time and my thoughts and my energy. I almost always have one of these, typically a relationship that’s either inconvenient, unattainable, or overly complicated, and being the kind of person I am, it’s a connection that energizes my life and makes me smile. Strangely, all those who may have once fallen into that category have found spaces in my life and become “awesome people I know and like”. These relationships become less complex, more real, and easier to understand and make space for—or not—in my world. This is good for building meaningful connections with others. It is bad for someone who is always a little charmed by infatuation with some aspect of another person or type of connection. (I’ve always been so charmed by this particular type of connection, I wrote a book of poetry about it!:P)

In the absence of an overly romanticised infatuation, I often become infatuated with a *thing*. I may become obsessed with watching a TV show, reading 1200 pages of a series of books, writing letters to people, learning a new craft that requires me to buy things on Etsy and at Michael’s that will be used less frequently as the months go by. For a while, it was “swapping”. Then it was writing way too much crap in my journal. Then it was traveling and finishing my book. A few weeks ago, it was marathons of HBO shows.

As it is, my world is relatively calm and infatuation-free, and many people seem to have taken a hiatus from socialising with me. And while I get to read books and spend time with my boyfriend and do the quiet, normal things that quiet, normal people do…there’s something, or someone, missing. In fact, there are multiple somethings and someones missing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be good at being a quiet, normal person. Adventure is elusive these days.

One unexpected…and not exactly welcome…adventure involved needing a new computer this week. Normally, I’d be thrilled and jumping up and down at something exciting like new technology. However, the sudden death of the old one (I had little warning and about 15 hours to back up or rescue everything I could) caused me so much stress, and the missing two days of work made me feel so guilty, that I didn’t feel as happy as I should have about the new arrival. Compounding my stress is that I didn’t necessarily take to or understand Windows 8 right away, all my passwords and info are on my old computer (which currently refuses to boot), so I can’t log on to ITunes and may have lost years of purchases (no clue what my user ID is or what e-mail I used to sign up, except it is likely long defunct, and I apparently don’t know what I put for the security questions.). Also, my way old iPod Nano isn’t recognised by Windows 8. Thanks, Apple, for making me want to buy new versions of shit I already have, only to do it again in 5 years.

I told The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not only a computer guy but the person who helped me find and get the new computer I wanted at a good price, that I feel mentally fatigued. The toll of spending 15-hour days at computers, writing, reading, and being unable to turn off the “thinking” function is tiring me out. I’m actually very familiar with bouts of emotional fatigue, ranging from insomnia to not wanting to get up, but to have a deep sleep each night because my brain is just tired is something new. I can’t even seem to watch a TV show without multi-tasking it.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m finding it hard to rest my mind. My old computer may refuse to boot up, but I refuse to enter sleep mode. I don’t feel anxious or worried about anything in particular, I am just very restless, unable to cope with even minor practical stressors, and ready for adventure, one that involves more feeling and less thinking. I don’t think it’s necessarily good for a Feeling Extravert to get stuck in her head for too long, or she may become melancholy. I also have an iNtuitive feeling that there is reason for the melancholy, but am frustratingly unable to Perceive what it is. (hehehehehe…yes, I had to work my Meyers-Briggs type into a journal entry. I’m just clever that way.;P)

Sometimes, the things that you miss most in your life aren’t the big, life-changing, extraordinary things that happen to you. They’re the small things, things you didn’t even pay much attention until they happened to be taken away from you. They’re being able to look great in a dress you love, to walk three miles like it’s no big deal, to have a martini at 5 PM on a rooftop just because, to meet someone new who makes you feel excited about life all over again.

The other day, I happened to get a notice that all my photos from the old Kodak Gallery site were being transferred to Shutterfly. Since I stopped using Kodak in 2006 when they deleted 7 years of memories because I didn’t click on a link in an e-mail I’d never even seen, I was surprised. I was also curious to look back at the old photos that somehow made it back to me.

Some of them were taken just two or three years ago, reminding me how much life can change, so very quickly. Others were taken when I was 24 or 25, reminding me of a person I used to be, a person I’m not even sure I recognise.

I’ve always been so hard on myself. I remember looking at those exact same photos when I was 7 years younger, 30 pounds lighter, and thinking I was the most unattractive person on Earth. I was convinced I was fat, ugly, and nobody would ever love me, or even like me, because of it. Now, I see a young, vibrant, thin, attractive girl in those photos, and I can’t remember why I felt so insecure in my own body, why I felt so constantly judged—and I was, but not for the reasons I imagined—, and why I let those insecurities hold me back from seizing opportunities.

Why didn’t I ever feel good enough? Why did I not take chances because in my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t special enough?

I would kill to have that 25 year-old body back now. When I look in the mirror, I’m filled with the same sense of self-loathing, the hatred of the toll that illness has taken on my body, my self-esteem, my sense of possibility. Only now, the reasons for what I feel are real. I’m not the person I used to be, the person I could and should be, and I don’t know how to get to the point where I’m a person who is happy being exactly who she is, where she is, doing what she loves in life.

I used to wake up in the morning, even in my darkest of days, believing anything was possible. “Today is the day I’m going to have an adventure”, “Today’s the day I’m going to travel”, “Today’s the day I’m going to take a chance”, “Today’s the day I’m going to fall in love.” I didn’t have a lot of the practical skills one needs to succeed in life, I didn’t have focus or ambition, I didn’t have much faith in myself or sense of self-worth, but I did somehow believe that my life was destined to be a great adventure. More importantly, I had the energy and the no-obligations, devil-may-care mindset to take the chances that would make my life a great adventure.

I was always hard on myself, because I wasn’t born looking like a supermodel, I didn’t have clear career goals and plans and aspirations, I was the kind of person that people talked about behind my back just for being myself, and it hurt. It amazes me, because I see a very young, very attractive person who had a lot of opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them.

I think the thing that hurts the most is seeing someone who was healthy, energetic, attractive, personable, and intelligent avoid following dreams and taking a conventional path because she was afraid of failure and rejection.

I would give absolutely anything to feel that free and vibrant again. Some days, I can’t leave the house without feeling inexplicably dizzy and wondering if I’m going to die. The person who used to fly around the world on a whim with nothing but a backpack is a mystery to me. I miss her, terribly.

I’m no longer young, or attractive, or thin, or healthy. I no longer wake up in the morning believing in possibilities, or that today is the day something awesome is going to happen to me. It’s sad in a way, because I’m far too young to have lost so much in the way of hope and enthusiasm and energy and self-love. The thing is, my life has been an adventure, but it’s been a hard road. Maybe some people are candles that burn brightly for a little while, and then simply hang on, unnoticed, hoping for the best.

Life can change in an instant. A year ago, I was wearing a bikini on the beach, walking 5 miles a day, appreciating the strangers that honked their horns at me when I walked by. A week later, I was having convulsions, feeling my heart stop in my chest, and starting a 6 month journey of seeing specialist after specialist, only to get no clear answers. “It’s all anxiety”, or “You have an inner ear disorder”, or “You have high blood pressure” were all common diagnoses, and I’ve been able to function on a handful of pills each day. Yet, all of the sudden, my body can’t control its temperature, I feel like I can’t breathe when too many people are around, and every time I have a dizzy spell, I can’t help but be reminded that my intuition knows there is something in my body that is ruining my life, and one day, it’s going to kill me.

I’m still vain enough that the extra 30 pounds I put on due to heart medication makes me cry when I see myself, and that my body is a literal road map of scars is enough to convince me to check myself into a nunnery. I’m still vibrant enough on the inside to want adventures my body can’t handle. Mostly, I’m not strong enough that I don’t feel sorry for myself from time to time, wondering what happened to me, and screaming inside that it isn’t fair. I was supposed to have a lot more time left to be the person I wanted to be.

Life isn’t fair. And one day, maybe soon, it will come to an end. I imagine that death, too, is this single moment that changes everything, that you didn’t see coming.

Pictures make me sad, because I remember being 25, and living independently and how awesome that felt. I remember being 21 and moving to a place I’d never even seen because I believed in the possibility that my soulmate was this person I barely knew. I remember being 17 and graduating from high school, and not feeling the slightest bit of sadness or regret at moving on, just being excited about the future. I remember being 13, and the biggest concern in life was what to wear to the Friday night dance or whether a cute boy who said he’d call me actually would. I remember being 8, and decorating the Christmas tree and baking cookies. I remember being 4, and sitting next to a quirky, introverted boy in pre-kindergarten, one with a far brighter future than mine, who passed away nearly a decade ago.

I sometimes feel like life is over, because it’s this adventure in which I’m no longer strong enough to participate. I’m just another struggling, middle-aged, anonymous person without any special talents or any remarkable qualities, and I would give anything to go back to a time where that wasn’t the case. I can’t imagine anyone seeing anything special or attractive or of value in me anymore; I’m more like the tattered Velveteen Rabbit waiting to become real.

People say they never say this when they get older, because they know better, but I’d give anything to do it all over again. Even if it were exactly the same, even if it were just as hard, just as painful. It would be better than the concept of living in a world where anything and everything isn’t possible, because your own body says so.

Sometimes, I spend time hoping I make it to 35, 40, 50. Other times, I wonder why, because I don’t know if I’ll ever have the quality of life that makes life the adventure I need it to be in order to feel fulfilled. I wonder if the best days of my life are behind me, and I wasn’t even aware they happened.

I don’t do well with change. But what terrifies me is how easily change is forced upon you, how it can all be taken from you in a second. And, in comparison to the lives many lead, I’m one of the lucky ones.

I would do it all over again, just to remember what it feels like to wake up with this restless energy in my heart, and think “Today’s the kind of day I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.” For the past year or so, I wake up thinking today is going to be like every other day, or simply utterly shocked that I woke up at all.

Whenever I see really young people, I want to remind them to take every opportunity that ever comes knocking at the door. It doesn’t always come back, and after awhile, you realise that you only have a short window of opportunity where you’re young, healthy, vibrant, attractive, energetic enough to make “anything is possible” a reality. One day, someone will press the pause button on your adventure, and nothing will ever be the same.

I spent so much time in my life being restless, I never knew how much I’d look back on and miss. I thought being bored was the worst thing in the world. It wasn’t. I thought being alone meant I was the only one in the world who was, at the core, totally unloveable, and independence was just a sad way of hiding the fact that you were alone in the world. It didn’t.

There’s a song I used to sing at auditions; for a year or so, my standard 16 or 32 bars came from a piece from the musical “Ragtime”. The final line of the song is “We can never go back to before”.

It turns out, the most painful lesson life has ever taught me is that the line is absolutely true. There are no do-overs.

As a pretty strongly expressed “P”(perceiver) in the Meyers-Briggs world, nothing stresses me out more than this concept of “running out of time”. Specifically, nothing stresses me out more than *other* people not being able to relax about deadlines, running late, something bad happening if I’m not there. I realise this is not a self-imposed feeling; when left to my own devices, I’m actually pretty-laid back. I enjoy life more when my schedule has room for a change of plans.

Life doesn’t feel the same way about time as I do. If I don’t meet deadlines repeatedly, my boss threatens to fire me. (“We’d rather have someone who does average work and consistently meets deadlines than someone who turns in superior work but is not dependable.”). If we’re running 15 minutes late because it took me longer to do my hair and makeup than expected, The Guy I Am Currently Dating will sit in silence in the car on the way to wherever we were supposed to be, angry and refusing to communicate, because running late stresses him out. If I’m late for an event I’m coordinating, my phone rings off the hook, as if a group of 20 people over the age of 25 can’t figure out how to sit down and have dinner without me.

I’m actually not a flaky person by nature. I’m never going to stand someone up, blow off work just because, decide to change plans on 10 minutes notice. I have too much respect for the people in my life to behave that way, and I’m aggravated to no end by people who *do* behave this way. A friend or prospective romantic partner is going to hear about how disrespected I feel if he or she does not show up for something without bothering to call, and I’m going to seriously re-evaluate whether or not I have room in my life for someone who clearly doesn’t make me a priority. I’m pretty flexible when it comes to “I’m at this other place, and such-and-such ran late” or “Can we do this an hour or two later than expected”, because that’s pretty much how I roll. I’m never going to flake on responsibilities or make the people in my life feel as if I don’t prioritise making time for them. I’m just probably going to be late, no matter how hard I try not to be. I operate on AlaynaTime.

The level of anxiety involved with “rushing”, missing a train, missing a deadline, knowing that if things don’t fit into a well-defined window and everything doesn’t work perfectly, it feels like someone is going to be really pissed and/or let down, and there will be consequences….well, I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m on anxiety medication. It doesn’t help. I *hate* feeling rushed and discombobulated and as if the world is going to come to an end if I don’t arrive at a certain place or do a certain thing according to the clock. And I really have a hard time with people who are the type who stress out immensely at running 15 minutes late. Sometimes, I think I’m clearly not the only one in the world who needs the anti-anxiety pills. Life is so much more enjoyable when you get to chill out.

This is why I enjoy traveling so much, and why others do not enjoy traveling with me (and vice versa), unless they happen to be of a similar mindset. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually *made* my scheduled flight without having to reschedule, and missing the bus, train, or cab I need is a pretty regular occurrence. I’m usually not terribly bothered by these things. What bothers me is the reaction of other people when I don’t get where I was planning to go at the time I originally planned.

When I travel to visit friends and family, I will typically plan one or two events I really want to attend, and do things like buy tickets or make a formal RSVP. That’s it. I’ll have a list of possibilities regarding what I want to do with my time, but I prefer to live in the moment and consider everything subject to change. Most of the coolest life experiences I’ve ever had come out of that openness and that mindset of “Let’s just see what life throws in my path.”

In fact, the more I plan, the more obstacles life throws in my path. I remember buying tickets for an ex-boyfriend and I to attend a fancy NYE gala in Atlanta, for which tickets were non-refundable. His car broke down on December 30th in Ohio, and we spent NYE running around Columbus looking for something interesting to do. Last year, I bought tickets for the closing weekend of a Broadway show, and missed it because the bus was late getting into NYC from Philly (there had been a blizzard that weekend.) Moving to Atlanta meant I spent 5 days in an airport, having my flight rescheduled 17 times, due to September 11th. I’ve had to learn that a willingness to be adaptable is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of my better traits, even if I’m disappointed when things don’t work out “my way”, or “like I planned them”. I tend to get over it a little faster than most. I think my fondness for martinis helps. :P

That being said, I’m definitely not a laid-back person. I’m that person who tends to micro-manage life, probably because of an inherent belief in “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”. I’m not an organized person, but my chaos makes sense to me. Ever since I was much younger, I’d get mad if someone tried to be nice and clean up my space for me. I don’t really like people in my personal space that much, or messing with my organized chaos. I’m adaptable; I’ve lived with roommates and significant others, and I’m pretty good with the art of compromise. I’m actually a pretty thoughtful living companion. I’m not the person who’d get thrown off of “Survivor” first, just for being annoying, complaining, and whining. I don’t, by nature, like change that throws me out of my comfort zone. But after a little while, I’m there, and I just adapt. I work with what I have.

Being interrupted stresses me out. I blame this on the possibility that I may have some form of ADD; my mind tends to run a thousand miles a minute, and I can’t multitask to save my life. The only way I get things done is to get into a specific space and focus on that one task. Since we live in a world full of phone calls, messages, Facebook, and other distractions, this is a tough one for me. Sometimes, I sound like I really don’t like my friends when they call me on the phone and they’ve interrupted something I was doing. It’s more just that I don’t like my concentration being broken. I’m the kind of person who may not get it back for the rest of the day.

Yet, nothing on the “stress-o-meter” compares to the feeling of needing to rush, and dealing with those who become angry and resentful if you do not successfully get places on time. Friends and significant others have employed all sorts of strategies over the years, from setting the clocks back to telling me that an 8 PM event starts at 7:30.

It turns out, goat farming and the like aside, there might be a perfect place for me in the world, one where rushing and deadlines and the concept of time doesn’t dictate the enjoyment of life. Honestly, it sounds really cool.

And, no, I don’t own a watch. My living space has one clock, and the time it reflects is wrong. If I want to know what time it is, I look at my cell phone or my computer. If I forgot my cell phone, I’m sort of screwed.

Yet, I inevitably get where I’m going, and the world doesn’t come to an end. It’s kind of important for me to keep that in perspective.

This weekend, I had a very busy weekend, which I was looking forward to enjoying. On Friday afternoon, I conquered one of my fears, going out alone to do errands, and took a trip to the waxing salon, did some shopping, and enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Friday evening, I planned a little dinner for friends at a place called Aqua Blue. Ironically, it’s a sushi and seafood restaurant, where I can eat virtually nothing on the menu, but they have some of the best martinis in town, as well as delicious desserts.

It was a fun night, despite a few mishaps. The staff put us at a large table in the loud, brightly lit “group dining area”, right next to the kitchen. The other spaces in the restaurant, decorated in a swanky urban blue atmosphere and featuring a live musician, were much more dimly lit and 15 degrees cooler. 15 minutes after our arrival, I started to feel dizzy and ready to pass out. 30 minutes later, I wasn’t the only one complaining. Fortunately, The Guy I Am Currently Dating managed to get our table moved to a more suitable location, and the evening was an enjoyable one. Unfortunately, the laid-back and enjoyable tenor of the night was marred with a misunderstanding between myself and a friend I regard very highly. He made a comment I took the wrong way, and when I pointed out that the comment was insulting, it was repeated with the insulting interpretation becoming even more obvious. Needless to say, this hurt my feelings a great deal, coming from someone I considered a friend…but to add insult to injury, was followed up by a snarky remark from someone I’ve known for years. It’s a good thing I don’t drive, or I likely would have left the event altogether rather than subject others to the evidence of my hurt feelings. Later, apologies and conversation about the misunderstanding ensued, but it cast a black mark upon what I’d hoped would be an enjoyable evening, and rather kept me from wanting to bond with my other friends. It was a special and considerate gesture, though, that one of my oldest friends in Atlanta, knowing about my recent struggles with my illness and dietary considerations and hating to cook, made me a batch of turkey chili to take home with me. It is those type of thoughtful gestures that remind me I am cared about.

Saturday was trivia day, and that required us waking up early to go play in the Team Trivia tournament, the first we’ve ever attended. A team we normally compete against at Outspoken Entertainment had an extra space they weren’t using, and so we competed on their behalf. Again, it was a fun experience, until my body decided to rebel. I didn’t sleep enough, took my pills at a different time than usual, did not have my typical morning organic cookie, started the day off with plenty of caffeine, and waited quite a while for lunch, which was salad. All of the sudden, I felt extremely dizzy, and then overwhelmed by anger and adrenaline, the feeling that makes me want to stab myself and other people with pencils, knives, toothpicks, and the like. My doctor has told me this behaviour is not crazy, but happens because I’m hypoglycemic, and the meds I take cause sudden spikes and crashes in blood sugar, but largely masque the effects. I ate an emergency candy bar, and tried to get back to normal, but again, I kind of felt the damage had been done. Also, we didn’t do well on the Team Trivia bonus, leading us to a less than stellar performance.

On the way home, we got some chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A, which seemed to make me feel better (they have become my go-to food when my body feels weird and like it’s freaking out, because they stop it from happening.), and I had time to take an hour nap before going to play trivia at Dagwood’s. I love trivia at Dagwood’s. It’s the closest thing I have to a neighbourhood bar, and I enjoy seeing people who have somehow become friends over the years, and talking about random stuff until the pizzeria closes and kicks us out. We also won second place, which is good for us at that location, but by the time the pizza sign was switched off and it was time to go home, I was exhausted. My head hit the pillow at about 2:30 AM, and the next thing I knew, it was 11 AM.

Unfortunately, I woke up in a very stressed out mood about all the outstanding work I have to do. I had two weeks to complete 30 articles for a client, and I didn’t. Not because I didn’t want to, but because often, the strain of completing 12 articles within a 4-5 hour window each day is exhausting. That is my normal workload, and it doesn’t really allow me breaks, unless I choose to work at night, or get up earlier in the morning, which my pills seem to leave me unable to handle. Today I expressed my feeling of being stuck in a hamster wheel, a machine of article creation, where any mistakes or missed deadlines can end up in me losing an important job. Yet, the stress of working more than most people (how many people spend much of their 8-hour work day ACTUALLY working the entire time?), while getting paid less, having a social life/obligations, and trying to lose weight, look healthy, and hide symptoms of my illness from the world as much as possible…well, it’s wearing me down. I used to have the energy for it, but in reality, maybe I never did.

Once upon a time, I was a very laid-back person. I didn’t make much money, or have a lot of responsibilities, and my chief worries were about my electricity getting turned off or paying the cable that week. Yet, somehow, I had a better quality of life. If stuff didn’t get done, it didn’t get done. If I was late for something social, it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t always have to feel in charge of *everything*, and that if I dropped the ball or took time out, everything would fall apart.

I don’t remember what it’s like to be like that. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. If my work is late, I *will* get fired. If I’m late for a social event or overlook a detail, my phone rings off the hook. Everyone constantly seems to want me to do things and take care of things, although I’m the one who’s chronically ill and could use some being taken care of. I don’t have time to slow down, to do many of the things I love, and I still feel like I don’t have as much money as I need to never be concerned about it.

A friend of mine recently related that he went through a similar experience at a point in life when he was around my age. A happy-go-lucky guy I adore, he admitted that as soon as work became his primary focus and there was no longer a daily struggle for food and electricity and cable, he began to suffer debilitating anxiety. Suddenly, he felt it was his responsibility to take care of others, since he’d learned to take care of himself, and felt the burden to be too much. Suddenly, there was time to think about how demanding it was to be an adult, instead of going out to the bar or a concert or to play poker after work every day.

That’s where I am in my life right now. I feel overwhelmed, stuck in a wheel I can’t afford to get off of. And when the wheel goes too fast, my health suffers. My relationships suffer. My perception of myself and of others suffer.

I want off the wheel. A world of constant deadlines and stress and expectations is something that drove me to be an overachiever throughout most of my life, until something happened, and I realised I just couldn’t keep trying to be perfect and make everyone happy all the freaking time. Then, I felt like I failed myself and the entire world, and engaged in behaviour that was ultimately self-destructive, and destructive to others. When that phase in my life passed, I realised I was happiest being a laid back, chilled out person who really enjoyed life…but I missed stability. I wasn’t achieving anything, I was stressed about paying my bills, I made bad decisions, took advantage of others…in short, I was the irresponsible teenager I never really allowed myself to be.

And now, here I am, back on the wheel, back in the world where any mistake or shortcoming is the end of everything. If I don’t finish work on time, I get fired. If I am too sick to do things, my roommate/boss/friends/boyfriend will yell at me for not trying hard enough, not being on top of things. If I don’t take care of stuff, it doesn’t get done. If I don’t look or behave my best in social situations, someone is there to write a nasty e-mail or end a friendship or make comments that destroy my self-esteem. The preoccupation with being *perfect* and my innate inability to focus on perfection long enough to attain it has returned, and causes all kinds of anxiety and fear and self-loathing.

Today, I turned on all the Christmas tree lights in the living room, lit the birthday cake and gingerbread candles, and made a cup of Alayna’s special detox tea. It felt like Christmas for a little while, and reminded me of how happy and peaceful I felt over the holidays. I think small comforts and a slower pace of life makes me the happiest right now. I don’t want to have to be perfect. I don’t want to live in fear of making a mistake or disappointing someone. I don’t want who I am to be measured in how much energy I have to accomplish everything, smile at everyone, and hide the fact that I’m sick from public view, lest it make people uncomfortable or not want to be my friend.

I have already learned my lesson. I can’t be this person, stuck on the wheel. I can’t be the one who always takes care of things, meets deadlines, makes everyone happy, is charming and entertaining, makes sure all the bills are paid and the dog is walked and nothing in life fell apart because I slept too long. I can’t handle being that person. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, he is that kind of person—he has more demands on his shoulders and works harder for less appreciation than anyone I know, and is still kind and generous and responsible and liked by all.

Trying to be that kind of person pushes me to a place I just can’t handle. It makes me anxious, emotionally imbalanced, physically exhausted, and unable to cope with life. I shut down.

I disappoint myself because I will never be as accomplished, as perfect, as responsible, as well-liked, as happy as I want to be. Especially since becoming ill, I lack the physical and mental stamina I need to write 12 articles a day, every day, and then do other projects on the side because that doesn’t pay enough…but I can’t quit, or slow down, or show weakness, or let people know I’m ill, or get behind, or I will be replaced by a faster, more efficient hamster. And I have too much debt to afford that.

Poor people literally do work themselves into the ground, because when there’s only you to depend on and you always need the money, the luxury of illness does not exist. If you want to keep your wheel, you have to keep on pushing, no matter what.

“I’d rather have 30 minutes of something wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.”-“Steel Magnolias”

I am, sadly, still struggling with my health. I tried my best to have a good weekend, celebrating at my favorite Italian restaurant with some of my favourite people, and playing trivia with some of those same favourite people, plus others I always look forward to seeing. But, dizziness, light-sensitivity, a feeling of pressure on the top of my head, and feeling spaced out and hating the world cast a pall over everything.

I have so many good things in my life, but my body won’t let me enjoy them. I have opportunities I’m not always physically up to handling. Whatever is wrong with me has destroyed both my mind and body, and I’m not sure I will come back from this. People either tell me to pray or keep a positive mindset—which makes me irrationally angry, because I cannot believe that hope and smiles and rainbows and blind faith will cure what science cannot— or, they tolerate my incessant struggles with anxiety and depression, and I have no idea why. I’ve become so self-consumed with this invisible illness that not only can nobody else see, many are convinced only exists in my head, that I bore myself. In social situations, I wouldn’t have any interest in getting to know me. It’s one thing to be unattractive and feel that makes you wish to keep away from social situations. It’s another to realise just how tedious your company is, to both yourself and others.

I sent this e-mail to The Guy I Am Currently Dating today. I wish my doctors could see it, too.

Every day is different. Most days are crappy.

Something is WRONG with me. Nobody will pay any attention except to tell me how anxious I am. But there’s pressure on top of my head that crushes my skull and makes my head numb—always at the same place— my heart races, I can’t stand loud noises or things that vibrate, I hate light, I feel dizzy at a drop of the hat, there’s often pressure in the arteries of my neck, my right arm sometimes goes numb, pressure bothers both of my ears, and I gain weight constantly.

Nobody is going to care or take my situation seriously until I’m not alive anymore. But there is something physically wrong with my body that isn’t being treated, and it keeps me from even enjoying the time I do have to be alive and young and vibrant.

I want my life back. I do not want or find value in the life I have now, because these physical issues take the joy out of everything. :( It is so hard to have a simple good day. Most days, trying to do so seems to take too much effort.

Yes, I am anxious and depressed and panicky. Because the way I feel isn’t normal. I am not anxious or depressed or panicky about other things. I am anxious and depressed and panicky because of these physical issues that are robbing me of my life. I’ve gained almost a fifth my body weight in 7 months, but I also aged 10 or 20 years.

If I could live like this for 40 more years, or just have one or two years where I was the way I used to be, I’d pick the latter. I used to see life as big adventure. Now it’s just another day of struggle after another, and knowing there’s no end to it, that “it’s all in my head”…I don’t know how to handle that.

I know they’re not right. I know my body and my mind. And I get really depressed and anxious BECAUSE anyone who can help me dismisses me. But people don’t go to the beach, get a horrible 2nd degree sunburn, develop an infection because their parents tell them it’s nothing, collapse from panic attacks for two weeks, and turn into an entirely different person. Mentally, emotionally, psychologically, I am the same person. But something happened to my body and it changed EVERYTHING.

It is my body that’s different, and perhaps it’s also the never-ending “let’s try this” approach with drugs and tests. And as a result of all the “let’s try this” and “nothing’s wrong with you”, I’m constantly anxious because something is wrong inside my body, and I just intuitively know that nobody knows it but me. I’m not being a hypochondriac; I don’t necessarily think I have a brain tumour or something wrong with one of my arteries or cancer somewhere in my body. It might be something as minor as hormones, or something that got damaged by my illness this summer and just needs the right treatment. But until someone tells me what it is, every day I have any weird symptoms at all, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that by the time a doctor finds out what it is, it will be too late to fix it. I’m afraid to be one of those people I read about posting on the internet message boards who have been sick for a decade and don’t know why, and don’t have the resources or know the right people to actually get a diagnosis.. I don’t want to give up my younger years to an illness nobody understands.

My mind and my feelings are perfectly fine. I am just sad and panicky because my body does weird stuff that interferes with my quality of life. When my body no longer does the weird stuff, I will go back to being the person I used to be…not necessarily happy or calm, but not wondering every day if today is the day I’m going to die because there’s something on the right side of my body interfering with my brain and heart and ear and internal organs. Even my right knee is the broken one.

I just want someone to understand and find me some answers so I can go back to living my life and planning for the future. And so I can *have* one.”

That is how I feel today. I have a list a mile long of things that I want to do; but it’s necessary for me to be healthy and energetic and young and attractive and friendly and vivacious in order to live my life on my terms. I am too stubborn to be willing to accept these limitations will define me, will define my life, for whatever amount of it remains.

People my age should be worried about their careers and love lives and making the most of the prime of their life, not thinking about death and putting their affairs in order and making sure nothing has to be too complicated or unpleasant for anyone else on that day I inevitably don’t wake up.

Everything has changed, and I just want my life back. Even if it’s something I only get to have for a little while, I want to look and feel normal, to have some of the adventures that are still waiting for me, to know that I may not be around forever, but I have the energy and joie de vivre to not waste a single second or ignore a single chance for something amazing to touch my life.

Oddly enough, I do pray sometimes. I do attempt to meditate and calm myself. I do attempt to read about my symptoms in hopes of stumbling on to something 13 doctors have ignored, and relate to the thousands of people who post their stories of “Nobody knows what’s wrong with me, I’m scared, it’s destroyed my life, and everyone just says I’m depressed/anxious.” I do try to have a positive attitude. But like everything else, there are simply no answers, just more days passing by, while I watch them from my window.

I just want my life back. It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst, but I was healthy, energetic, and always up for a fun adventure. I had my freedom. And, that, I value more than anything; more, perhaps, than life itself.

I’ve been feeling really lonely lately, isolated from the world. Even when people are around, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by this feeling of being alone and misunderstood.

I am not really the kind of person people should like lately, so it doesn’t surprise me when it seems like most people I know aren’t in a rush to return my phone calls or send an e-mail asking how I’m doing.

But it feels extraordinarily lonely, being the girl nobody sees. It’s as if the more physical space my body occupies, the more emotional space my feelings occupy, the less the world notices my existence.

It makes me really sad. Some days, I just want to disappear, and see how long it takes all my so-called friends and acquaintances to notice.

If I didn’t have a roommate, and someone I’m dating on a regular basis, I think it would take weeks before the world even noticed my absence if I died tonight. It makes me sad that I am that small, that inconsequential.

When you are not pretty or fun to be around or in a position to make people feel better about themselves, you don’t really matter much to people. You don’t have anything that interests them. Therefore, nobody gravitates towards you, or shows much interest in your company.

I notice that even with my closest “friends”, any communication that occurs usually does so because I think to send an e-mail or FB message or text or leave a voicemail asking how someone is doing, or reminding them that I miss them. Very rarely does anyone reach out to me, and I can’t remember the last time anyone called me up out of the blue to ask me if I wanted to go grab a drink, or coffee, or have dinner.

Even with all the energy I’ve put into my Meetup for the past 5 years, it seems I’m just the invisible force that makes things happen. People contact others on FB to friend them, exchange phone numbers, get together to do stuff with new friends they’ve met…but it’s literally been years since anyone new has reached out to me, or cared about my presence enough to want to be my friend.

So, what is it abut me that’s so inherently unappealing, unlikeable? I understand that a certain demographic will be indifferent toward my friendship because I am going through tough times, because I am not thin, attractive, single, energetic, sexually available, all those things that single people gravitate towards. But that isn’t everyone, or even a majority of the people I meet. There must be something about who I am, on a fundamental level…people are entertained by knowing me, but not enough to truly want to be my friend. If they do care to be my friend, it’s on a casual basis that too often seems one-sided. :(

The result is that I feel very isolated, not on par with the rest of the world. It’s like a big exclusive club I will never be a part of.

This knowledge makes me really hate people sometimes. Why I try to connect with anyone, I don’t know. It’s never really real.

I used to believe that I was special, that one day, I would be famous and wealthy and well-known and everyone would love me. The reality is that I’m in my early thirties, and it is irrelevant to the majority of the world if I exist or not….save a few people who truly care, and a few people who wish my death to be something that happens sooner rather than later, but not enough to do anything about it. And this makes me really sad.

I tried to talk to the Guy I Am (Was?) Currently Dating about this, and he became angry with me and blamed me for making bad choices, rather than trying in any way to make me feel better or convince me life was worth living.

Apparently, me being ill and unable to concentrate on work in order to do what I need to do to not get fired and not be able to walk more than 10 minutes or go to the store or not gain 5 pounds eating less than 1500 calories a day is a personal negative choice I’m making. If I was in the hospital with a disease that had a name, people would call and ask about me and bring me cookies. But because I’m just fucked up, it’s my own personal choice to be miserable. Kind of like when I was unemployed and my boyfriend yelled at me for missing out on a job because I was out of town with him and irresponsible enough to not spend the weekend checking my e-mail. It’s awesome when you tell someone how depressed you are about the state of your life and they blame and yell at you. That makes everything so much better.

Maybe if I just use the awesome power of positive thinking everything in the world will magically cure itself, and I’ll feel strong enough to work and find out most of my friendships aren’t me chasing after someone else getting them to talk to me and I won’t have $50,000 in unpaid medical bills the insurance company has denied and I won’t be making less than half of what I was making this time last year while pushing my body beyond its limits to work harder and I won’t have people blame me for my illness and I’ll be able to eat food like a normal human being without putting on 5 pounds a month and effectively ensuring nobody will ever be attracted to me again. Forgive me for not believing in the power of prayer, faery dust, and The Secret, but I’m a realist.

And realistically, it’s telling me none of that is going to happen. But you can’t really blame me for being depressed until you spend a month living in my world, and then you can tell me how much of my situation is due to my own negative personal choices.

So I’m going to disappear for awhile, and figure out who the fuck cares, and why. But, truly, I kind of doubt anyone will even notice, one way or the other.

We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary, and leads you to the mediocre.”—Uta Hagen

Life has been a fairly stressful endeavour for me lately, but I feel as if I’ve been pushing myself, and I think that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, largely due to the types of drugs I am on, I don’t really have much stamina and endurance anymore. I used to be able to sit and work all night long if I needed to, or stay out until the sun came up, partying with my friends. These days, at some point, I inevitably start to feel tired and shaky and as if the only place I want to spend time is my bed.

The main stressor in my life is the work situation; courtesy of some recent changes, I’m working twice as hard (or at least 1.5 times as hard), but the net result is a paycheck that’s 50% smaller. I know this has probably caused some people to either decide to leave the company, or to buckle down and try to become a veritable factory of quality work, but I need stable income in order to pay my bills, never mind get the medical care I need. The logical alternative is to work harder and try to complete more articles per day, or look for additional projects to supplement my income, but my lack of stamina doesn’t just affect me physically. After 4-5 hours of solid, undisturbed work, I feel both physically and emotionally exhausted. It is the time in my life I can least afford to be ill, and yet I have little to say about the whole deal. On top of it, the company has now instituted a 24-hour turnaround on all assignments, and have made it clear they don’t intend to be too forgiving towards those who don’t meet deadlines. I suppose they look at it as if everyone’s replaceable, and nobody indispensable, which is largely true.

Yet, I’ve been doing my best to restructure my life to make myself stronger and keep up. I don’t really have the extra time and energy to seek out new assignments, or try to find a new job, so it’s mostly taking it one day at a time. It’s just a sad realisation that I won’t be able to make it working on a freelance basis with this pay cut. For over a year, I’ve made a nice income for a single person…more than I’d make working in an office, waiting tables, or giving people coffee at Starbucks. It’s even more than I’d make becoming a teacher or whatever else people with degrees in liberal arts subjects end up doing. But, that’s the income I need to make in order to improve my life…and it would have, significantly, had I not gotten seriously ill in 2011…and not half that sum. :( I don’t feel like I have a lot of options, and I feel a bit depressed about everything sometimes, which is far from productive. I just wonder why someone with as many talents, varied life experience, and unusual personality as I possess can’t figure out how to use any of those assets to get a stable career that I enjoy off the ground. Sometimes, I wonder if work just isn’t my thing; other aspects of life have always come easily to me. I was always smart enough to do well in school, personable enough to succeed in the social aspects of life, interesting enough to not have trouble meeting people to date or starting relationships, clever enough to formulate a nice place to live even when I had very little. When it comes to money, though, I have always struggled.

Herein lies the problem. I like money. I like shopping and martinis and nice restaurants and jewelry. And I am not lazy; if I knew what I needed to do to make the sort of money I need to comfortably engage in the type of lifestyle I’d like to have, I’d do it. I don’t want to be a millionaire, or part of the 1%, or even well-to-do. I just want to never have to worry about the practicalities of life, and still engage in the little frivolities that make my world a better place.

All the things that interest and intrigue me aren’t skills that translate to making money; the blogging habit I’ve had for 10 years, the book I’m working on (that nobody will ever read), the poetry I write, the parties I throw, the events I plan, even if I were to take up acting again. Nobody pays you just to be unique and creative and different and fabulous in that weird way that makes you stand out. It wins you friends and admirers, it makes you enemies, it throws adventures in your path, it makes life interesting…but it does not pay your bills, or your medical expenses.

For those who don’t know, in addition to recently being diagnosed with a vestibular disorder called vestibular neuronitis, I’ve also been diagnosed with panic disorder. Panic disorder sucks, and I don’t know why I’ve suffered with it for the past six months, but after reading the Wikipedia entry on it, it’s clear that I have it. I believe I developed it when I developed the vestibular neuronitis, following a severe sunburn and subsequent infection and dehydration from not taking care of myself wisely on the beach. I had a number of panic attacks over a period of two or three weeks before visiting the ER for help, and the ER, as well as a number of doctors who misdiagnosed my symptoms, put me on drugs with some terrible side effects. The result is that any time anything feels wrong with my body, I have a type of panic attack. It can range from mild enough that it’s gone within 30 seconds of changing my surroundings to needing to take an extra 2 milligrams of Valium to simply needing to leave and go home. (the last kind, the most severe kind, typically triggers a migraine. Within an hour or two of rest, Coca-Cola, and someone comforting me, I am typically better, although left very drained.).

The doctors have recommended that I see both a specialist for vestibular rehab and a psychiatrist who specialises in panic and anxiety disorders. I’ve been a little hesitant about doing these things, although I know I need to, because I know they may make me feel worse for awhile before things improve…and I simply don’t have the time to feel worse. I can’t afford to get fired because I was too busy freaking out to work.

I also would like to get off my current medications, the ones that cause me to resemble the Goodyear blimp and gain weight if I eat more than 800 calories a day. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, just want to switch you to whatever drug of choice they believe is most helpful. I have at least four types of commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medicines in my cabinet. They all made me feel like I’d rather discontinue existing than take that pill, which seems kind of contrary to the point.

They also told me about something called “cognitive behavioural therapy”, where I teach my brain to react in more positive ways. (obviously, nobody gets that my mind and body falling apart are reasons for my brain to feel less than positive, and for me to every day remind myself “What the hell happened to the charming and attractive person I used to be?”.) It’s basically “face the fear and do it anyway, unless you have a panic attack”.

So, I’ve been trying. I went out to dinner with a number of friends on Friday, and when I got there, immediately felt lightheaded and dizzy because we were seated on the highest possible level (seriously, in another room, we could stand on a chair and touch the roof. If it were a house, it would be really cute and I’d love it. ) There were also flickering lights, both of which seem to trigger vertigo and feelings of panic. I managed to ignore it, and even stood up for about 15 minutes to converse with people at the other end of the table. (standing up for too long often makes me want to fall down.) In the end, it ended up being a very good night, but it took a lot of discussion with my brain to get me to that point.

Today, I decided I was tired of being fat, when the scale hit the highest number I’ve ever seen in my life. My metabolism is slowing down to the point where I could not eat for days and not lose a pound (yet, I can’t do that, because the drugs I’m on make me light-headed and mess with my blood sugar if I don’t eat enough.), and I know/have heard of people on the drugs I’m on gaining 50-75 pounds. There is no way I’m letting that happen to my body. So, I decided to fight back and go for a 10 minute walk. It was exhausting, since one of my anxiety triggers is wide, open, overwhelming spaces. (I can’t set foot into Target without hyperventilating, which is apparently not uncommon for people with this inner ear disorder.)

I felt panic setting in twice, but I focused on telling my brain “NO, I’m going to walk for 10 minutes, period.”. Every other day, I’m going to add a minute to my walk, and slowly try to increase my endurance. This will, of course, not burn any calories, but at least it will get me outside again.

My well-intentioned roommate cooked tonight, making a chicken pot pie recipe he found on the low-glycemic recipe site I sent him. Little did I know, he “adapted” it, adding a ton of fat and calories and carbs. He really is a very good cook, and I applaud him learning to cook…but since he has, not only has he gained a noticeable amount of weight, his best friend is also starting to sport a bit of a belly. It could be that we’re all going through middle age, but I think it’s more of a “Don’t cook like Paula Deen” issue.

I may have to learn to cook healthy recipes, although I hate cooking, so I know I have control over what’s in what I’m eating. The problem: I really hate cooking.

I never knew that feeling and being healthy could be so difficult. I always took health so much for granted. I’d give absolutely anything to be able to rewind my life a year, and feel the way I did then. I would never take the ability to feel and look good, to seem “normal”, for granted again.

The only blessing that I have in my life is the supportive network of friends who seem to care and stick beside me, no matter what. I know they miss the person I used to be, too, but I’ve gotten an immense amount of support through things. The prideful, egoistic part of me simply wants to hide away from everyone until I’m better, rather than have people ridicule me for being fat or talk about how difficult I was the last time they saw me. I don’t want the world to see me when I’m unattractive, fragile, or just a downright unpleasant person.

But, another part of me is reminded that’s what friends are for, and nobody judges me as harshly as I do myself…except,of course, the people who hate me. They don’t cut me one bit of slack.

I just get sad sometimes because I know, deep inside, there’s this person who is so much better—on so many levels–than who I am now. And it confounds me that the person I am now, who is damaged in so many ways, could be loved, or liked, or even tolerated, by anyone else.

This week, I’ve been struggling with depression, and a general feeling of apathy towards life. I’ve been overwhelmed by this feeling that most of what I spend my time doing isn’t something that makes me happy, isn’t something that makes me feel fulfilled, isn’t something that helps me grow as a human being. I’ve been feeling that nothing I do really matters, and if I were to disappear tomorrow, it wouldn’t really make much of an impact in the world, beyond causing sadness to my family and close friends.

It all started with the bad news about my job, and the realisation that if I want to turn this writing thing into a career, I’m not going to achieve that unless I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunities. Yet, simply the thought of having to search for new jobs exhausts me; I don’t have the optimism and energy level I had a year and a half ago, when I started with all of this. I realised from reading the boards that very few people made a decent living doing what I was learning to do, and that for 90% of the people out there, it was simply an alternative to every other crappy $8 an hour job and gave you the freedom to work at home, whenever you had the opportunity. Somehow, I determined I was going to be the exception. I was going to teach myself a brand-new skill set and excel. And for quite some time, I did. It was a career move that not only improved my life, but made me feel as if I were actually good at something.

Having that taken away from me, being put in the position to struggle and churn out as many articles as possible with a rather limited energy source to make up for the fact that not only was my pay being cut a good deal, but I wasn’t as good as I thought I was—well, it made me feel defeated. Ultimately, I’ve been depressed since getting this news.

The trip to the doctor had much the same effect. Weirdly, it cheered me up after my ENG when the person reading my test results said it appeared I had an issue in my left ear, because I do. It bothers me, often. It cheered me up even though I knew the results involved expensive and potentially painful surgery, because it was a diagnosis. It wasn’t in my head. It was a real problem with real solutions.

As I blogged about earlier this week, the audiologist was mistaken. Further testing revealed that I most likely do not have any sort of hole in my ear. I have TMJ, which can be fixed by extensive and painful dental work, and TMJ therapy. I also have another vestibular condition, one that supposedly improves over time and with rehabilitation exercises, but for which there is no cure.

Today, I felt extremely depressed because it was a bad ear day. Bad ear days seem to happen when there are abrupt changes in the weather, and in Atlanta, we have a new season every week. I woke up lethargic and tired, and all day, noticed my pulse rate and blood pressure were extremely low. (I may have to speak to my doctor about lowering my dose of medications, because they are working a little too well.) I had flashes of dizziness, pressure in my ear, and listening to music for about an hour made me feel crappy. Lo and behold, it became extremely windy later in the day, and even started to snow in some places….so of course it’s all related.

What depressed me, though, is that there was a problem for which there’s simply no solution. I have anxiety, which can be tough to deal with, and seems to center around scary physical symptoms, namely vertigo…which is the most common symptom of my disorder. I am on medication to help deal with the anxiety, and I’m supposed to go talk to a professional about learning new ways to cope with my anxiety, and the fact that, deep down, I’m really, really scared of dying. Not just when I’m 60 or 80 or 100, but now. It’s odd, for a person who went through life either never thinking about the future, or actively engaging in activities that I knew could go horribly wrong and kill me. As soon as I had my first panic attack—which, for those who have never had one, feels a lot like a heart attack and you wouldn’t know the difference—I started to become overly aware of everything my body was doing and feeling, and became afraid of what it would feel like when my body stopped working. I’m in my early 30′s, and I’m scared most nights when I go to sleep that I won’t wake up.

Much of this started, oddly enough, when actress Brittany Murphy died. It bothered me extremely that someone I kind of identified with, someone who was around my age and finally starting to get her life together, could just die from a combination of pneumonia and OTC drugs. However, it became a larger problem, and I started to have some fairly obsessive thoughts about not waking up every night I went to sleep after the night I dreamed about getting shot, and I woke up, and realised the SWAT team had shot my neighbour. That was followed by a co-worker of The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who was around my age, feeling sick, taking NyQuil, going to bed, and simply never waking up. A few weeks later, a guy I knew from Burning Man died from taking some tainted drugs. Then, a body was found in the dumpster of my apartment complex, barely wrapped in a blanket with a hole through his head. Later in the year, a good friend’s brother, also my age, passed away. It was right after that, when I developed some kind of illness after a visit to the beach and didn’t feel right—and at the same time, was visiting my parents, who are plagued by difficult health issues—that I started having these attacks. My pulse was over 120 for days, until they found some meds to help keep me calm.

Unfortunately, they also put me on a medication to treat anxiety in bi-polar patients, believing that anyone having acute anxiety and heart palpitations for days on end had to be manic. The medication sent me into a head space where I thought 18 hours a day about death, and what it would be like to die, and when the best time for me to leave the Earth would be. It’s silly to say, but I was really into watching “Big Brother”, a reality show for which I’d been a finalist years ago when I was young, attractive, and vibrant, and the thing that kept me going was remembering “If I die today, I don’t get to see what happens tomorrow.” Thinking about my own life in those terms didn’t affect me, but knowing that waking up another day so I could see the latest adventures of my favourite TV show did.

Needless to say, I spent more time in 2011 thinking about death, being confronted with death, and being made aware of the fact that my own death was imminent at any time than any person needs to. It probably isn’t any surprise that the result of all of this is a panic disorder that wreaks havoc on my life, and doesn’t always let me feel in control of things. It seems ironic, because the first three decades of my life were filled with the loss of loved ones; in fact, they comprise some of my earliest childhood memories. It is perhaps the mantra of my life: people die, things change, life goes on. The one thing that bothered me emotionally, for many years, was the fact that I had to say goodbye to so many people, but I was left behind to deal with life going on. I largely dealt with it by not thinking about it too much, other than in some of the morbidly depressing stories and poems I’ve created over the years, and in adopting a “live for the day” attitude that bordered on self-destructive. It’s as if I was routinely testing the limits of my invincibility, without ever thinking or caring about the results. I was an extraordinarily self-destructive, self-sabotaging, masochistic person.

Somewhere around the age of 27, my life changed a lot. I learned, little by little, there was more to me than that person. I learned I could not let that person take over my life, because I wasn’t strong enough to handle the consequences. It didn’t occur to me that my thoughts on my own invincibility would change, as well.

I understand I have anxiety whenever I have feelings reminiscent of the illness this summer that caused my panic attacks, because those panic attacks had me convinced, to a huge degree, I was going to die. I absolutely believed I was terminally ill, because I’d never had a physical illness that manifested itself as a mental problem, and I’d never had a mental illness that didn’t diminish with the help of a few pills.

I don’t ever talk about it, but I struggled with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) for years. It didn’t limit my life, but it affected my journey a great deal. It caused me to make choices I might not otherwise make, to behave impulsively, to suffer from nightmares and insomnia, to engage in self-destructive behaviour that many could simply look at as the sum total of being a “wild child”. But it wasn’t until I had dealt with those issues in a way that worked for me that I became a newer, better person. Perhaps because I did it on my own, without therapy (I had a fairly negative experience on that count) and without pills as much as possible, it was a long process for me.

This current situation with the anxiety, it makes me feel extremely depressed. It feels like starting all over again, with a new set of problems I can’t always handle. While I can rationalise it by saying that it developed as a result of a genuine physical illness, one that requires me to go to rehabilitation and do some work so that my symptoms improve over time, it doesn’t make it any easier.

It doesn’t make me want to celebrate to know that I don’t need surgery, or some medical cure for a real, understandable issue. I know it should, rationally, because those things are horrible. What I see, however, is that I have a physical issue that might improve over time, but which, in some way, will be with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t have to control or debilitate the quality of my life, but it’s an extra challenge, an unfortunate problem that just happens sometimes, and for which there is no cure. And since the symptoms of this incurable problem seem to provoke anxiety under certain conditions, I feel a bit of despair that perhaps I will never get better.

Perhaps I will never again be the person I was, and that’s hard to deal with. After so many losses in my life, so many times I’ve needed to start over, so many times I’ve ultimately found myself alone, with nothing to count on but myself, losing something as fundamental as my energy, my enthusiasm for life, my health, my resilience…I’m not sure I could exist without those things.

I’m not sure I could handle losing myself, abandoning a stronger and more determined,independent person, just when I was finally getting to know her.

Too many people I’ve loved throughout my life have been flames that have burned too fast, too furiously, and extinguished too soon. I used to believe that was somewhat inevitable for me, and didn’t care as much as I should have. Now, that’s the very last thing I want for me.

I want my life back, the ability to feel normal and energetic and healthy…and, yes, no surgery is good news. But it’s also something that fills me with sadness and makes me feel a little defeated, because I realise there are no quick fixes. I just have a long road to tread, and perhaps by the time I feel like myself again, I…and everyone around me…will have forgotten who that person is.

This year, celebrating Christmas Eve, and my birthday, and ringing in 2012 with the people in Atlanta I care about the most, it meant the world to me. It would mean the world to me under any circumstances, but because I genuinely wasn’t sure I’d make it to see those celebrations, it meant everything that I was.

I hope I’m not asking too much when I say I just want to know I’ll be able to do it all over again a year from now. I don’t know how much time would be enough on this earth to do everything I want to do, but I know I haven’t had enough, not by a long shot.

She often spoke about loving two men. If she was seeing two people, it was not out of fickleness, but because she loved them both, they answered two sides of her personality. She was open to life, and when encountering a new experience, could not stay away. It may sound strange, but she was really a very loyal person.”

____“Lover Of Unreason”,Yehuda Koren

This week, I’ve been back up to my regular schedule of writing between 2700-3000 words each day for work; this is wonderful, in that I’ve effectively tripled my income and proven I’m healthy enough to keep up, but it’s also left me feeling a bit drained. Although I did work on my poetry journal a bit last night, I haven’t really been inspired to put in any effort on my “novel”. (I put that in parenthesis because I doubt it will ever become more than fragments and short stories; still, at almost 20,000 words, it’s the closest I’ve come to developing the vision for a long piece of fiction and completing it.)

November is actually National Novel Writing Month, which challenges people to write 50,000 words, or 175 pages, in a month. Ironically, hearing about this has made me less motivated about my own project, either because it’s no longer something “special” I’m working on, or because there’s this thing about deadlines and pressure that I dislike, and often that causes me to abandon projects midway.

This late night, instead of writing, I’ve been reading about writing. I’ve finished the biography on Sylvia Plath, and am now reading about her counterpart, Assia Wevill, who lived with Ted Hughes after Sylvia’s death and committed suicide in precisely the same manner. Assia’s story is not nearly as likeable, as she’s portrayed as a rather cold and selfish woman with gifts she never had any idea how to make use of, so she simply married numerous times. I think it’s also a marked difference to note that when Plath killed herself, she took special pains to protect her children; Assia Wevill took her youngest daughter to her death with her.

Still, an interesting and tragic story of a not-altogether-sympathetic heroine. I enjoy reading biographies from time to time, interspersed with fiction, because it reminds me how in some way, most everyone’s life is fascinating. Perhaps that’s what keeps me liking and interested in people, even though I often don’t think the best of them on the whole. Everyone has a story, and usually, it’s more than worth hearing. Since people aren’t so willing to be vulnerable and open in life, biographies exhibit this inner world we all have and spend way too much time keeping hidden.

My story isn’t terribly interesting lately, but I did successfully get a date for the ENG I’ve needed for some time, to determine if I’m suffering from a vestibular problem that’s led to my anxiety: November 30th. It’s amazing that you often need to book tests a month in advance. I’m also to see a new GP on Tuesday, one that comes recommended through a friend as an excellent diagnostician, something that’s been sorely lacking in other doctors I’ve seen.

In the meantime, my medications are temporarily on track, and I’m more motivated than ever to start trying to get rid of the extra weight the meds have caused me to put on my body. It’s horrifying; I have little stretch marks, which make me feel like I don’t even want to take my clothes off alone, in the shower. All this has been so immensely hard on my self-esteem, always a fragile issue with me regardless. If I ever get better, I’m going to need to see the plastic surgeon next. :(

Tine to go to sleep now, I suppose. Need to start saving up for that plastic surgeon. ;P