Dear Intuition,

You and I have been great friends for some time now, and for the most part, I have absolutely no complaints. In fact, you’ve been a better friend to me than virtually anyone I’ve ever known, and clearly have better judgment than I myself do. You’ve kept me out of some sticky situations; told me when to cross the street because the shady-looking guy was a mugger, got me out of NYC a day before September 11th happened, knew I should leave my apartment building even though the firemen said it was safe to stay, knew when a multitude of boyfriends were cheating on me or secretly had feelings for someone else, and even knew where to find the evidence to prove it. Even at my most reckless, you’ve kept me from getting into cars with psychopaths or having unpleasant encounters while intoxicated with people who turned out to be cops. You warn me about natural disasters and impending emotional distress by sending me into a tailspin for no apparent reason, which always turns out to be bad news that someone else knew about, and was hiding from me. You even tell me when someone is mad at me just by the way they say “Hello”, although it would be more useful if you’d tell me why.

I have a great level of trust in you, and that’s not something I deliver freely. I appreciate that you send me dreams warning me about dangerous situations, visions that are brief glimpses into the future (even if they rarely make sense), and let me know when a place feels “weird”, I should go a different way. It is because of you that I am alive and relatively happy today.

That being said, I’ve had to begin to doubt some of the messages you’re sending me lately. You’ve spent most of 2012 sending me weird and contradictory signals about life. You’ve let significant things pop up in my life that genuinely surprised me and sent me on an emotional rollercoaster, because I was not adequately prepared for them. You’ve brought people into my life that have changed my world for the better, but at the same time, did not give me the heads-up on the complex situations that might come along with these new friendships. You’ve allowed me to behave in an extremely presumptuous way when it comes to how others really feel about me or view me. In some cases, it’s clear you’ve totally misread situations and people, causing great embarrassment on my part. You even caused me to have a future dream that turned out to be wrong…or at least, not specific enough in detail.

Sometimes, it seems you’re encouraging me to make choices that may affect people other than myself, and to take a different path in my life that involves changes. I don’t know if these choices are truly in my best interest, because, let’s face it, you haven’t exactly helped me see the world around me, other people, and my own emotions as clearly as you usually do.

I know that you’re a perfectionist, and you’re going to say you’re not wrong. You’re going to say it’s not your fault if you’re sending me messages that confuse me or I don’t want to hear. You’re going to remind me that trusting my instincts is how I’ve always lived my life, and everything happens for a reason, and I’ve spent too long in a comfort zone that hasn’t helped me to be happier or move forward in my life, so you’re going to be kind of harsh and aggressive with tossing stuff at me.

I get this. I know you’re very good at what you do. You score impressively well on standardized tests.

It’s just that, well, I’ve been wondering if you’ve been slacking a little. If I’m wrong, please let me know. I’ll try to listen more closely. Maybe things are getting lost in translation. Maybe it really isn’t you, it’s just me. I’ve been saying that to people rather often lately.

All things considered, though, it would have been incredibly awesome if you let me know I had 18 assignments due tomorrow instead of the 6 my e-mail told me I had. Instead, I spent the day working on my own unimportant creative projects, when I could have been hard at work. You know as well as I do that we definitely need the money these days.

I’d really like to work to fix the breakdown in our communication. We’ve been really close for a really long time, and I value your advice. You’re a major part of my life. However, if you could help me stay on top of work a little bit more efficiently, keep me from repeatedly ending up in situations where I develop personal feelings for unavailable or disinterested people, and make it clear *why* someone is acting differently before I assume I made some huge blunder and have to apologise, I’d be hugely grateful.

Also, if you could please stop sending me dreams about cake, bread, and bakeries, that would be helpful. I really want more carbs than we’re allowed to have, too. However, it is likely we’ll experience less personal rejection and critical comments in the future if we eat fewer carbs. I think you know this.

I’m starting to think you’re screwing around with me on purpose as punishment for making you watch “The Real Housewives Of Atlanta”.

Sincerely,
*~ Alayna

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”~ Abraham Lincoln

I have a confession to make…..

I am the kind of person who gets depressed, introspective, and melancholy whenever her birthday rolls around. Of course, I do my very best to hide this fact, by turning my birthday (and, since I was born right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, all the surrounding days of festivity) into a unique celebratory experience in which I am the princess and everyone is supposed to go out of their way to make me happy. Yes, when it comes to birthdays, I am a five-year-old child who wants cake and a pony and all her friends to come over and play.

Every year, I do my best to make my birthday an *event*. If I look back through the photographic memories of my life, I can remember what birthday I celebrated based on what city I was in, who was there, and what merriment transpired. One of my favourite birthdays involved a tour of various East Coast cities during the holidays, during which I celebrated my birthday 5 times in 4 different cities. I’ve celebrated by drinking martinis and closing down clubs in New York City, visiting strip clubs in Philly, and having over a thousand people sing to me on a Carnival cruise ship. I’ve celebrated with dinner on swanky rotating rooftop establishments, and by getting stuck in a small town in Ohio during a blizzard and ending up at a biker bar, which was the only thing open. I’ve celebrated by having a dear friend come visit me on more than one occasion, and was a bit disappointed that this was not in the cards for this year. I did my obligatory 21st birthday theatre-geek ritual of attempting to do 21 shots over the course of the evening. (I got a lot further than I ever expected.) I’ve even ended up at more than one celebration that involved grownups taking off clothes in the middle of classy bars and restaurants. On my 29th birthday, I fell down the parking garage stairs.

Yes, folks, birthdays are quite interesting in my world. If it’s not big and over-the-top, it’s not what I want to do to celebrate. If there are not a hundred people leaving me e-mails and Facebook messages, I’m a little disappointed. After all, it’s the one day of the year where I can proudly let my narcissism shine!

Behind it all, though, is the fact that I grow very melancholy and tend to feel more alone than usual on my birthday. I remember it starting the day after my 21st birthday, when my mother wanted to take me out and celebrate because I could legally go to the bar (She pretended to have no idea I’d been going to bars since the age of 15, and would often go sing karaoke as a teenager because strangers would buy me drinks.) I remember not wanting to go, because I’d been crying earlier in the evening. The fun of celebrating with friends the night before had worn off, and I’d just grown conscious of feeling old. I had this feeling that time was passing me by, that each time I celebrated, it was really the mourning of a loss of another year—a year I could have done something spectacular, but didn’t.

I still feel that way, particularly at a point in my life where I’m NOT doing anything spectacular. I have a nice and caring boyfriend, a stable and relatively decent place to live, a roommate I don’t want to kill every day, a job where I can do something I’m actually rather good at, a family I’m still on mostly civil terms with, an extended group of friends, a few random infatuations, a fun trivia hobby, a successful social group, a dog that loves me, enough money to get by, and the knowledge that my recent health crises, while painful, draining, and not fun, will not ultimately kill me. In short, I have all the things most people my age have…and the things some have that I do not, such as a cool car, a corporate job, marriage, kids, and a house…are things I truly do not really desire.

Yet, I feel unfulfilled. Perhaps I set the bar too high in my early years; there were things I wanted, and I made certain to find them. In my 20′s, I wanted to travel, so I did. I wanted to perform, so I did. I wanted romantic love affairs and crazy adventures….check, on both. I wanted to be artistic, scandalous, unconventional…and we all saw how that worked out. I wanted to explore different ways of thinking and living, broaden my horizons. I’ve done that. I wanted to meet rich,powerful, famous, influential people for the sake of saying “When I was young, I did that.”. I wanted to live on my own, and lounge by the poolside every afternoon. I wanted the picture of domestic bliss, playing house with someone who would maybe be the right person for me.

I did all those things. I have not led a boring life, and now that I do, by the standards of many people I know…I still don’t. Becoming “ordinary”, living a drama-free life, choosing relationships over impetuous flings and crazy parties, gaining 20 pounds instead of spending my days eating 500 calories a day and drinking vodka, working a relatively normal, deadline-oriented job, having responsibilities…well, in my way, I’ve grown up. But there are still adventures I miss, still things I want to do.

For some reason, I stopped doing them. I stopped pursuing life as avidly as I did when I was young. I took my self-esteem down a few notches…or perhaps others did for me…and started caring about things outside of my own little bubble. Perhaps I just became content and complacent. Perhaps I became co-dependent, and began to think, as I so often do in relationships, “If you don’t want to do this with me, I won’t do it at all.”. Perhaps I just became older, more mature, more isolated in the suburbs, more fragile. more stuck in a life I’m not particularly sure is mine to live. I can blame a lot of things, but mostly, I had some life experience, and it left me frightened and hurt and less able to believe in myself. Sadly, the city of Atlanta has had a lot to do with that; it’s a large city with a small town attitude, including the tendency to judge, to talk behind everyone else’s back, to condemn what you don’t understand. That has affected me a great deal, taught me to limit myself, to care too much what everyone else thinks.

This year, being sick, it taught me that maybe I don’t have as many years left as I’d like to think I do. In just a few years, I’ll be halfway through this adventure known as life, at best. It’s time to make things count, to take chances, to refuse to limit myself, to love myself, to admit I have gifts and talents and not be afraid to show them.

Part of me is afraid that if I do these things, I’m going to find myself alone…as if the real me is one that’s not terribly mature or considerate of others and should likely be single. But another part of me understands that I need a person in my life who understands all aspects of who I am and can handle some of my feelings of unfulfillment and yearning for a more adventurous, unconventional lifestyle.

I can’t stay put because I’m dating someone who likes to stay put. I can’t deny that side of myself for the sake of someone else, or because it makes me feel co-dependent that I sometimes would rather not go if I have to go alone. Alone is OK, and I used to know that…but have forgotten over the years.

This year is one for healing; body, mind, and spirit. It is also one for getting in touch with who I am, the pieces that got lost along the way, what I want from my life, and what keeps me feeling so “stuck” that I stopped taking chances, stopped putting myself out there.

This year is for adventure, for making connections, for expanding horizons. It seems natural I’ll approach these things in a different way than I did in my 20′s, but as people change, so does how they explore the world around them and what they appreciate in others.

This year is for the unexpected, and deciding that makes me feel decidedly less melancholy about adding another year to my age.

After all, I’m an actress. We don’t age. We’re 25 until we’re 40, 40 until we’re 60, and 60 until we’re being shown on that “In Memoriam” page. :)

This year, I’m being a little bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas. Normally, I’m the first one to be all about the shopping, the carols, the tree, the cards and reminders of love from friends, and of course, the cookies. I don’t like cold weather, but I love the holiday season…particularly since my birthday falls four days after Christmas, and two days before New Year’s Eve. It’s like a whole week of festivities for me.

This year, however, my health issues have put a damper on everything. I am unable to fly due to a potential hole in my ear, and not eating well and sleeping 9 hours a night invariably ends up with me feeling exhausted, and my pulse and BP running on the high side, so I may be spending the holidays here in Atlanta…all by my lonesome. :( Gaining 20 pounds means things I normally love…cookies, Starbucks, shopping for clothes, parties…just make me feel sad and self-conscious. The medicine that’s caused these issues also has significantly lowered my tolerance for alcohol. For some odd reason, I can’t tolerate anything except vodka-based beverages. The cost of the illness I’ve had for nearly half a year means not having money at Christmas, always a sad situation to be in.

Still, I’m trying to remain at least a little cheery and optimistic. I’ll put up the tree, send out Christmas cards and packages, turn on the lights, throw around some tinsel and some jingle bells, and attend a holiday party or two. The Guy I Am Currently Dating even got us a gingerbread house to decorate, and we’re planning to see A Christmas Carol. He’s also in charge of planning my b-day celebration, which I think is fun…usually I do all the event planning.

Some people have asked about holiday shopping for me…really, I’m not a hard person to shop for. I am a hard person to buy items like clothing for, because I’m petite and oddly-shaped, but if you’re adventurous, here are my sizes:

Height: 5’0 (more or less)
Weight: 20 pounds more than this time last year. :(
Shoe size: 6 (6 & 1/2 for boots)
Measurements: 38-27-39 (I’m a very hourglass-shaped person.)
Top size: Medium (I don’t wear fitted tops these days, so anything too clingy will go into the “after I lose 20 lbs. drawer).
Dress size: 8/10, depending on the designer.
Bottoms: Medium for sweatpants, yoga pants, etc. Do not ever buy me jeans. Shopping for jeans is a terrible adventure in my life.
T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, nightshirts, PJs: I like these things oversized. Large or extra-large

Things I don’t need/want for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions:
-Anything from Bath & Body Works. You have no idea how much stuff I have from that store.
-Shoes with heels. Unless the heels are chunky, I don’t wear them.
-Socks. Again. I hate socks.
-Bottles of wine. Wine makes me dizzy. No beer or spirits except vodka for the time being.
-Headphones or Ipod accessories. Until I get the ear thing situated, I can’t use my Ipod, listen to headphones, etc.
-Cookbooks or cooking utensils. I do not cook.
-Anything yellow or cutesy. (we’re talking hats that are in the shapes of animals, anything country-inspired, or something that has a 1950′s vibe.)
-Coffee

Things I do like:

If you know me, you know I like bizarre, eclectic stuff, from anything that glitters to handmade jewelry to vintage accessories. I like scarves, purses, and jewelry. I have a fashion sense that’s a mix between current day glam girl and 1970′s retro. I have a flair for the theatrical and a thing for costuming.

I also like books, journals, crafty items, gel pens, candles, and pretty much anything that comes from Michael’s. My favourite stores are Charlotte Russe, Amazon, Michael’s, and Modcloth. I eat at Chick-Fil-A and Subway often. I collect martini glasses, bar/cocktail accessories, and basically anything in the shape of a martini glass. I also love butterflies and chocolate truffles. :)

I have a Wishlist on The only big item I’m considering wishing for this year is the Kindle Fire. :)

I need a teapot. You know, the nice kind that goes on the stove.

Mostly, I like things that don’t cost a fortune, but will always remind me of the person who bought it for me. :)

That being said, it’s OK if you totally skip gift giving for this year. It won’t hurt my feelings. But I still might give YOU a gift…I haven’t reached total Grinchdom yet.

Happy holidays! There will be a Turkey Day weekend recap tomorrow. :)

Via a blogger friend of mine doing a study into such things, I received a free code to take a “scientific” personality quiz appearing in Psychology Today, called “How Assertive Are You?” (The overall assessment is free, but they charge you if you want to know more about your detailed report.)

The invite came via a bit of synchronicity, since last week, I blogged about my struggles with anxiety, and the fact that I wondered if much of it came from unexpressed anger and rage. Anger and rage aren’t “nice”, “ladylike” emotions, and too many women have a tendency to “let things go” that truly bother them, rather than engage in confrontation. In reality, those things are rarely “let go”, it’s just a mask created to please others. In reality, the feelings often come out in the form of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, passive-aggressive behaviour, and talking about people behind their backs rather than addressing problems directly. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I don’t think men don’t do this, as well. I know plenty who do. It just seems there’s a higher incidence of women doing it, in order to keep the peace, appear loveable/amiable/easy-going, or to keep everyone else happy. Proportionally, there’s a higher incidence of women suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders rather than anger management. (I once had a therapist encourage me to punch pillows during our sessions, because “self-destructive behaviour is just anger turned inward.”)

I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I’m very nice, if you ask most people who know me well. Sometimes, too nice. But if you ask people who don’t like me, you’ll hear that I’m too aggressive, too direct. I express my feelings in a way that’s off-putting to some, especially when I get tired of pretending. In situations where I feel the need to pretend—such as in relation to smiling and putting up with hurtful criticisms of who I am as a person from the Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating, or from my own mother—I can only stand it for so long before something in me explodes. The longer it takes to explode, the more anger and resentment build within me, and I often become moody and withdrawn, allowing the hurtful things that go unexpressed to become real feelings I harbour about myself, to tear me down.

So, I was very curious what the inventory on this subject would say about my level of assertiveness.

And, while my results generally identify me as a relatively average, well-adjusted human being in the department of assertiveness, it clearly identified this dichotomy. I am both more subservient than average and more outwardly aggressive than average. (Somehow, I’m S&M all rolled into one package.*laughs*) I also tend to sometimes fear confrontation with authority figures, but have no problem speaking up when it’s needed. (I suppose this explains my lifelong attraction to older and/or more powerful and accomplished men, rather than to those in my peer group.)

I often laugh when I hear that someone is afraid of me—afraid to confront me directly, afraid to talk to me about something, or only comfortable taking a passive-aggressive approach to dealing with me. I think, “Who’d be afraid of little old me?” I also could never understand why I’d work so hard to make sure everyone around me was having a good time, only to find out later that so-and-so didn’t care for me, my personality, or my attitude. If this test is to be believed, my desire to make others happy is constantly at war with a desire to defend myself from attack (or even perceived attack). Even though I’m just “little old me”, I do have certain attributes that others might find imposing or unapproachable. It’s probably because of, as the test mentions, my “being uncomfortable with vulnerability”. (that one, I freely admit to.)

All in all, it’s an interesting personality inventory. I’ve included my results below the dotted line for those who know me well enough to care, or for those with a keen interest in psychology. If you personally would like to take this test, it’s here

**********************************************************************************************************************

Overall results (score 64)

Ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement.

According to your results on the Assertiveness Test, you are doing quite well in this department. You have developed most of the necessary skills and the self-confidence to stand your ground, whether it’s with family, friends, or colleagues. You know that you deserve respect from others and the way you behave encourages others to treat you accordingly. You certainly demonstrate some leadership potential. Just be aware of your actions so that when you assert yourself, you are not overly aggressive – you don’t want to come across as hostile or bossy. As long as you show as much respect for others as you expect in return, you are on the right track.

Ability to speak for self (score 80)

Acting with confidence to voice a personal opinion.

You rarely hesitate to address the issues that concern you the most. Whether it’s noisy neighbors or a raise you feel you deserve, you’ll immediately bring it to attention. You express yourself freely, asserting your personal rights with the confidence that your request is reasonable. As a self-assured individual, you are comfortable with letting others know you disagree with them, especially when you feel you’re being treated poorly. This approach shows that you feel you deserve respect and expect others to treat you this way.

Handling assertive/strong people (score 59)

Ability to stand up to those who might be intimidating.

Your skills are average when it comes to assertively dealing with authority figures. You are sometimes able to stand up for yourself quite well, but in other situations you can be overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. Perhaps you feel inferior or don’t think that your opinion is as important as that of others. Unfortunately, these beliefs allow your self-doubt to get in the way. Keep in mind however, that you have something worthwhile to contribute too.

Comfort with vulnerability (score 53)

The ability to take action despite the risk of rejection or embarrassment.

While you are sometimes able to put yourself on the line, you tend to hesitate when it comes to showing your vulnerable side. If there is a lot of emotional risk involved in a situation – like the potential to be rejected or embarrassed – you might choose to avoid it altogether. Perhaps you are unsure about your ability to bounce back from humiliation or you just don’t think you have the confidence to pull it off. Occasionally, you might decide that the potential benefits are worth it but that doesn’t happen too frequently. This is something you may want to start doing more often. It is essential to take gambles if you want to achieve your goals.

Subservience (score 49)

Allowing the needs of others to take precedence over own desires.

When you feel that what you want may be in conflict with the desires of others around you, you are torn between giving in to their needs and expressing your own. While you dislike being treated like a doormat, you could end up feeling like you are the victim in a situation because you don’t deal with the perceived injustice effectively. You try not to take the blame for things you are not responsible for but if you keep telling yourself that your opinion is just as valuable as anyone else’s, you’ll soon find it easy to add in your two-cents when asked.

Aggression (score 77)

Using aggressive tactics, such as intimidation, physical force or manipulation.

According to the results of this test, you often use aggressive tactics, like intimidation or swearing, to get your point across. Some would say that there is a fine line between assertiveness and aggression, but there are definite differences. Assertiveness is the ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement. Aggression is unnecessarily forceful, hostile, demanding, or even manipulative. Aggression shows disrespect for other people, since it does not allow them to assert their own rights. It puts your own needs above anyone else’s and takes the focus away from the topic at hand. The use of aggressive tactics is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.

It’s been a bit of a challenging week here so far, so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little forgetful about keeping everyone in blog-world updated. I had the misfortune to, a few days ago, run out of my prescription Valium about a week before the next prescription was to be filled. This is completely my fault; rather than being on the suggested dose of 5mg per day, I’ve been steadily using 7.5 mg per day for the past few months, the “set point” at which the desired effect of the drug sets in.

For anyone who hasn’t experience with this type of drug, Valium, and all the drugs in the benzo family (Xanax, Klonopin, and Librium, to name a few) are frequently prescribed—and over-prescribed—for anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, and as one of many drugs in the cocktail used to successfully treat bi-polar depression. My experience with benzos started after my first admission to the ER in July, returning from a trip to the beach where I’d gotten heatstroke and 2nd degree burns, and started to experience lightheadedness, chronic vertigo, intolerance to light, and worst of all, these never-ending moments where I felt as if I were having a heart attack. Finally, three weeks after my symptoms began, I started hearing a “wooshing” sound in my ear that drowned out everything, and intense spasms under my ear. I thought I had an aneurysm, so I went to the ER.

After a lot of tests, they found nothing was wrong with me except “sinus tachycardia” (an exceptionally high pulse rate) and an elevated BP, probably due to the chronic panic attacks I’d been having. (I didn’t know they were panic attacks, as I’d never had one before. I legitimately thought I was dying.) They put me on Ativan (another benxo) and antibiotics for a supposed ear infection. Although the Ativan let me sleep, the vertigo and light intolerance never let up, and as soon as I was out of Ativan, the panic attacks returned. 3 trips to the ER later, they’ve put me on a beta-blocker to keep my pulse rate from elevating and a long-term anxiety drug called BuSpar.

From my perspective, BuSpar is evil. From the second day I was on it, I was sitting in the dark (because I couldn’t stand light) with vertigo too bad to ride in the car, and a serious fear of leaving my room. I cried for hours at a time. I wrote suicide notes and burned personal letters and diary entries I didn’t want anyone to find when I was gone. I seriously needed help. I didn’t get it. The doctor told my boyfriend that it took 10 days or so for the body to get used to the drug. By day 7, I was on the phone with 911. I couldn’t stand the movement of the ambulance, and I thought my head was going to explode. The right side of my face was paralyzed. In the ambulance, they told me I was exhibiting signs of “aura” (associated with migraines and seizures) and my pulse was 180, high enough to indicate a trans-ischemic-attack, rare in a previously healthy 30-year-old.

That’s when I met Valium. After a CAT scan, MRI, and tons of blood work, nobody could find a thing wrong with me. My scary symptoms were caused by a negative reaction to BuSpar, which works by blocking your dopamine levels. Oooops. If being on BuSpar was bad, the three days I spent detoxing from it were worse. They prescribed me Valium to help me through withdrawals, at 20 mg a day, a very high dosage for a petite woman with limited tolerance to prescription drugs. I still had horrible BuSpar withdrawals; “brain zap” that felt like electric shocks going through my brain, shaking, constant headaches, the inability to sleep or leave bed for days. I immediately made an appointment with a neurologist, given a history of epilepsy in my family, and arrived in a wheelchair, wearing sunglasses, unable to stand without assistance. Thanks, BuSpar.

Many doctors and many tests later, what they discovered is nobody knows what’s wrong with me. I’m off caffeine, limit chocolate and alcohol, and don’t put any drugs in my system that don’t come from the doctor. The result was always the same: I have a generalized anxiety disorder. I’m not coping with life. Take your benzos and see a psychiatrist. They tried me on Xanax and Klonopin, as well as Antivert for the vertigo. Nothing worked.

Nothing, that is, except Valium. Although I’ve inconveniently gained 20 pounds as the result of Valium + beta-blocker (my heart rate no longer rises high enough to burn calories, and beta-blockers are notorious culprits of a 7-10 pound weight gain due to water weight, while Valium makes you want to sleep instead of exercise.); I am actually functional. I self-adjusted my dose over time, finding out that at about 7.5 mg of Valium, I don’t have vertigo. I don’t have panic attacks (although, ironically, I do sometimes panic about having panic attacks, which manifests as a form of social anxiety. Two drinks with vodka, and it’s gone, which tells me it’s an anxiety issue.). I sleep more than I ever have in my entire life:;9-10 hours uninterrupted.

Since then, it’s been discovered by visits to specialists that I may be dealing with a vestibular (inner ear) issue that causes the vertigo, which in turn caused panic attacks, which in turn caused high blood pressure and pulse. So, possibly, I have a physical disorder that shouldn’t be treated with psychiatric drugs, or heart medication. Unfortunately, until a diagnosis and cure is established, the only thing that keeps my vertigo and panic attacks at bay seems to be Valium.

Valium is highly addictive. The Prozac of the 1960′s, it was called “Mother’s Little Helper”, because it was given as the cure-all for stressed out, disenchanted housewives who needed jobs and a nanny instead. Nowadays, doctors dislike prescribing it, because you can get addicted to it in as little as a week. If you abruptly stop using it, you can expect detox symptoms ranging from shaking, vomiting, and the inability to function as a human being to seizures, coma, and even death. (Amy Winehouse was on the benzo Librium when she died, though she obviously disregarded the “Do not mix with alcohol” warning.)

I’ve been using Valium for well over 4 months. I am on a very low dosage, but two separate times I’ve tried to discontinue use, I’ve had severe side effects. Quitting Valium is apparently a long-term plan; one that involves your doctors lowering your dose every 3-4 weeks until you’re basically done with it. My doctors aren’t aware of this, which is information out there at every rehab center and on every medical advice website. They simply want me to stop taking it, so they’re not going to prescribe it anymore.

Never mind that they haven’t fixed the primary reason I’m using it in the first place: my vertigo and panic attacks leave me alone and help me function. For a time, I was on the brink of losing my job and not able to leave my house. Now, life is often normal for weeks at a time, courtesy of the “not messing with my drugs program”.

I now basically have 3 weeks to see the ear doctor and hope for some sort of diagnosis that will help me get past all this, and a psychiatrist or GP that sees the value in either keeping me on Valium or doing a safe detox plan. On top of it all, I’m broke and my insurance doesn’t want to pay…they’re dubbing everything a “pre-existing condition”, although no one knows what condition I have.

So, I spent the past few days going through physical and emotional hell because I dropped my Valium dosage from 7.5 to 2-2.5 mg a day. I couldn’t cope. I finally got a refill, with the caveat that there would be no more Valium for me, so I need to find a qualified doctor to handle this problem.

As if I weren’t stressed and broke enough…now it’s back to hunting for doctors, solutions, and finding more guesses and experiments than actual answers. And I have a limited time frame to accomplish it, if I don’t want to spend the holiday season in my bed, detoxing from Valium.

Don’t mean to sound whiny, because I know plenty of people have it worse. But when life decides it hates you, it really throws some crappy shit your way, and says “Let’s see you get out of this one”, while laughing hysterically.

During this rather depressing period, I’ve been reading a biography of Sylvia Plath (there’s something for every mood, I guess). Interesting character; one it’s a little to easy for me to identify with, with her oversensitivity, attraction to older and accomplished men, perfectionistic and ultimately masochistic nature, and high level of intuition. I mentioned to a friend that, as far as the Jungian/Meyers-Briggs types go, Intuitive Feelers seem to have the most difficult road in life, either becoming so disenchanted with themselves and the world that they commit suicide or get involved in self-destructive situations, or try to save the world, only to become disillusioned and depressed when they cannot. Just as there’s been much written about the link between creative genius and insanity, or at least eccentricity, there also seems to be a link between NF personalities and the ability to live a long, quiet, understated life.

Plath’s story is sad, but the sadder one belongs to her husband, Ted Hughes. A poet who is also a narcissist, sadistic, and likely meets many of the markers for being labeled a psychopath, he not only pushed his manic-depressive wife to stick her head in the oven, denying us years of literary genius—but years later, the woman he had an affair with while married to Plath would also commit suicide, killing his child along with her.

Sylvia Plath is an understandable tragedy. She lived a lifetime suffering from inherited bi-polar depression, in a time when nobody knew what bi-polar depression was. The story of Ted Hughes makes far less sense. From a psychological standpoint, at least, it’s interesting how one person can have the power to destroy without ever lifting a finger.

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

Although today was not the best of days, mostly because health-related issues were the worst they’d been in some time, probably due to the weather changing rather dramatically (from 83 and sunny to 53 and rainy in 48 hours), I did try to make the best of it. In addition to work and reality TV night, I also caught up on some phone calls, did some reading, completed some SwapBot stuff, and in a burst of inspiration, decided to write in my poetry journal.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was about 8 years old, and my first published piece was in a literary journal at the age of 10, so it goes without saying that it’s been a crucial part of my life for much of my life…and like many pieces of myself, one that got lost along the way.

Almost as if by a message from fate, I lost my beloved poetry journals, which I’d meticulously written in for years. Shortly thereafter, while indisposed and without internet, I lost my domain, which stored the only remaining copies of many of my poems and all my short stories. For the past year or two, I’ve been trying to piece together fragments of lost creativity, always excited when I come across something not taken away from me.

At one time, I had a significant amount of material for an amateur writer: three volumes of poetry (one each from 1993-1999, from 2000-2005, and from 2006 until the present), plus a collection of 12 short stories. In addition, I was publishing a daily and verbose blog, until deciding to take my feelings offline entirely due to some negative experiences in 2006.

I had kind of had to come to the acceptance of the fact that, through some bad luck and negative situations, much of my creative work from most of my adolescent and adult life was gone. It was a hard separation to deal with, and as a result, I largely stopped expressing myself, writing few poems and not resurrecting my blog until last year.

Today, the best thing in the world happened. I was able to rescue a huge portion of material from an earlier, more online-oriented phase in my life. Not everything was there, of course, but I was able to retrieve a number of webpages, all my short stories, and close to 100 poems. It isn’t that everything…or even anything…I retrieved is good, worthy of reading or compiling, but it’s mine and it is immensely special to me.

I feel like a piece of me has been restored. This autumn and winter, which I anticipate will largely be a period of convalescence and solitude, since I’ve been suffering with illness, and feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, I intend to reconstruct my poetry journals, and also perhaps add some of my old pages to this site, just for nostalgia’s sake. At some point, I’d like to cross off one of my “bucket list” goals and actually publish my volume of poems, even just for those closest to me.

Some days, you feel like life has rewarded you with allowing you to unexpectedly unearth a jewel. This is one of those days, a day where I’ve regained a piece of myself that’s been gone for some time. I feel more complete, more inspired, and jubilant about this admittedly unimportant discovery.

Yesterday, I took some time to go through the over 800 unmoderated comments sitting on this website. It was a slow and arduous task, but finally, I’ve gotten myself caught up.

You see, I initially made the decision to keep comments moderated because I have my fair share of enemies, people who don’t share my life perspective, and people who, quite frankly, aren’t shedding any tears over my stories of days that go less than well. However, it turns out that’s less of a compelling argument for moderating comments than the fact that I am somehow constantly being attacked by spam-bots. They leave at least 5 spam-oriented messages per day, and it’s more than a little annoying.

In the midst of going through the tons of spam, I realised I’d had some actual comments on entries, most long outdated. Some were from friends I know and love and speak to fairly regularly, but others were from strangers asking for advice on things. Since it interests me that a stranger would care to visit my site (I mean, many of my closest friends don’t read my blogs.), it’s even more mysterious that someone would ask my advice on something. But, since I had a few questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

* Question: “How do you go about getting past writer’s block in order to write for a living and be productive every day?”I’m not going to lie, not every day is productive, particularly since I’ve developed this illness, which affects both my creativity and how fast I can work. Much of the work I do, it’s easy to become creatively challenged, because you see a lot of repeat requests for what’s essential repetitive advertising copy. I try to have more than one project going on at a time, so if one really bores me to the point of being uninspired, I can switch gears. Sometimes, I’ll ask my boyfriend for ideas, and he’ll say something that will spark a sentence and get me writing again.

One of the best cures for writer’s block, for me, is letting things flow organically. Writing on here, in my journal, or an e-mail to a friend doesn’t require too much thought or worry over being creative or interesting enough. It’s just second nature. Taking a break to blog or Facebook or e-mail helps, as long as I don’t get sucked into the vortex of spending hours on Not Work.

* Question: “Are you afraid people will judge you when you write so much personal stuff on your blog? Why don’t you just stick to less personal topics?” The answer is, of course, I’m afraid of that all the time. But every time you put yourself out there, you’re in a position to be judged. If you let that fear of being judged limit your expression of yourself, you can’t be an artist. I’ve been doing this blogging thing for over a decade now, and from the moment I started, I was always willing to be more personal and more real than others. I get notes from people on FB telling me I should limit what I share, or friends angry about being written about on this blog. On the other hand, I get people…some friends, some those I barely know, and some complete strangers…write to me about their personal struggles. One thing I’ve learned over the 10 years is that openness can engender resentment and fear, but it can also engender even more openness. The fact that an article I posted about my life would inspire a teenage girl I’ll never meet to write to me about her struggles with an eating disorder, recovering from sexual abuse, dealing with depression, or engaging in self-destructive behaviour absolutely stuns me. On a selfish level, it makes me feel significant. So, I’ll keep sharing.

*Question: “Why don’t you put pictures of yourself and your life on your website?” This is an easy one. First off, there have to be some levels of privacy in every online space, and mine has always been that I’m most comfortable letting my voice speak for me. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting photos of other people in my life on here, and I’m not really interesting, bizarre, or attractive enough to make daily pictures of me anything anyone would care much about. I do love art and photography, and you’ll see some interesting visuals on this site…just not of me; unless, of course, I happen to appear in someone’s art show or something. *laughs* If you friend me on Facebook, I’ve tons of photos on there, so you can verify I’m a real person. But, truly, I’m just an ordinary girl. You couldn’t live vicariously through me without being bored.

* Question: “Who is Christina Perri dating?”. You know, I’ve absolutely no idea. While I love Christina Perri and we share a lot in common, I don’t actually know her in person. Maybe if I’d spent more time in Philly our paths would have crossed. I do know much of her material on her album comes from her experiences dating someone with BPD (borderline personality disorder.) It seems that’s complicated enough without press getting involved.

* Question: “Are you really polyamourous and can people actually be happy living like that?” An odd question, but the answer is yes to both. I’m currently in a monogamous relationship, but I suspect that a certain amount of “wiring” goes into determining whether or not one is suited to a polyamourous lifestyle. I was non-monogamous for about 7 years, and then I met the right someone, and things changed…but I sometimes suspect that, at heart, my beliefs and outlook on the world might allow for less traditional relationship arrangements. Acting on those beliefs is a different story. Many people are happy in all types of relationships, and the poly lifestyle can be a rewarding one, but it’s not for every person nor for every couple. I refer anyone who’s interested in learning more to “The Myth Of Monogamy” by David Barash. Also, watch the film “Kinsey”. :)

* Question: “Do you meet a lot of creepy people at Meetup?On occasion, I’ll run into the bizarre, rude, or just plain disturbing person. It’s the exception, though, and not the rule.

* Question: Did you meet your boyfriend through Meetup.Com?” Yes, I did. I also met some of my closest friends, including my current and former roommate. It’s a great resource I can’t say enough about.

* Question: “I like the pictures you post of costumes and arty stuff. Can you do a Halloween costume blog with suggestions and stuff?” I wish I’d seen this a month ago when it was posted, but yes, that’s a good idea. I love talking about costumes.

* Question: “Are you willing to have guest posts on your blog by writers that want to get their name out there?” I’ve never done that before, but I’d be open to it, if your posts fit the theme of my blog, which is largely about relationships, pop culture, entertainment, and surviving life as a young person in an increasingly impersonal digital age.

If you guys have questions for me in the future, I strongly suggest sending them to me via e-mail: ladyguenevere@gmail.com. It won’t take 5 months for me to see your comment, and you won’t think me rude for ignoring you.

Mailbag empty! Spam bots, disappear!

This morning I woke up to discover that my cable and internet were down; the icing on the cake for what I like to call the 2011 Summer Of Doom. After verifying that, yes, everything was plugged in properly, and, no, the dog didn’t unplug one of the multitude of cords and splitters that ensure delivery of TV and internet happens throughout the apartment on a daily basis, I was told they’d send someone out. After explaining that I worked from home and internet connectivity was essential to my job, they said they’d upgrade my case to “urgent” status. This means, at the very latest, someone will be by between 11-2 PM tomorrow, which in cable guy time, probably means 5 PM.

Annoying as this is, I kind of have the same feeling you’d get when you were a kid and there was an unexpected snow day. It’s that “YAY, I totally don’t have to do anything at all today!” feeling, which everyone appreciates. There’s a difference between choosing to do nothing…which everyone does from time to time, but it’s easy to feel guilty about being lazy….and actually having a valid impediment that makes it impossible for you to be productive.

For some reason, it gave me flashbacks to the summers I spent at CTY (also known as Center For Talented Youth; also self-mockingly called “genius camp”. ) For those who have never heard of it, it’s a 3-week program for kids 11-16 that score exceptionally well on the SAT’s at a very early age. The program is sort of a mini-introduction to college life, and allows kids to stay on a college campus while taking a freshman or sophomore-level college course. It was actually an incredibly structured program, but for thousands of overachieving youngsters, often with extremely pushy and demanding home lives, it allowed for a specific type of freedom. It allowed for “finding yourself” long before the age when most people actively started looking for themselves.

In any case, I adored my summers at “genius camp”, where I took all manner of writing classes…not because I had any specific desire to be a writer, but because my math scores weren’t in any way, shape, or form “genius”, and I was restricted to humanities-based classes. One of the built-in facets of ‘genius camp’ was that from 7-9 PM each night, you were required to stay in your dorm room, preferably to study, read, or work on homework. As one of the more extraverted spirits on a campus full of introverts, I always thought the two hours of “lockdown” would be tough for me…no TV, no radio, no distractions, just you, your thoughts, some books, and some paper. As it turned out, this “lockdown” time is what put me in touch with my introspective side, something that was previously neglected, with a highly busy schedule, demanding family life, and need to be popular and well-liked and all of that.

Years later, after learning about the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, I read that my personality type (ENFP) is the only extraverted type that needs regular opportunity for introspection. Apparently, it is my nature to learn, observe, experience, and take things in from being around other people…and later process them internally. In some ways, that’s the very essence of what blogging is, and perhaps why it’s a creative outlet that suits me much better than, say, trying to write a book or getting sucked into the world of academic research.
The result of those years at “genius camp” is that I learned just how distracted I truly am by any possible distraction in my vicinity. Even when I think I’m concentrating on one thing, there’s another part of my mind that’s thinking of three other things I might be doing. I learned to appreciate those few hours of forced, distraction-free “alone” time, because it helped me feel a little more centred and fond of my own life, even on those days when I wasn’t the most productive. Of course, I was also the first person to be excited about the two hours of social time that followed those study hours, because the chance to have fun and meet other people typically trumps introspection any day…at least it did until I hit about 27.

Days where everything decides to slow down and shut off, days like today, remind me of those locked-down study hours at “genius camp”, and although my first response to the inconvenience is general annoyance, I then feel a little happy about having the time to myself. I can write in my blog, I can read, I can work on some of the crafty projects I’ve been doing for Swap-Bot, I can write long e-mails to friends I won’t have opportunity to send until later…and I don’t have to feel guilty because I could be using that time more productively, making money, or doing things that other people would rather have me do. It’s anxiety-free, distraction-free time, and I wonder if maybe having a bit more of that in my life would help me cope with the anxiety-related aspects of my recent illness a little better. Perhaps I should start taking more regular retreats at Starbucks (if I still lived in a city, or a walkable area, I definitely would.), and stop feeling that even when I’m at home, suffering through the equivalent of “bed rest”, I need to be constantly entertained by outside forces, or working, or stressing over my situation.

As an adult, two hours of uninterrupted quiet doesn’t sound so much like a punishment anymore. And, I was reminded of another entertaining “genius camp” story to relate in the future…but that will have to wait for a future day of blogging.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! (and if you’re wondering, this post made it up courtesy of someone’s very slow unsecured wireless network.)

I had a number of different topics to write about recently, but I think the theme for the week is this: crazy people.

This particular post got moved to the front of the writing ideas queue because once again, my roommate had an out-of-town friend imposing on our hospitality, and staying with us. In the past, my roommate has had a friend whom I call The Most Obnoxious Man In The World stay with us. He eats our food, stays out at the clubs until 5 AM, wakes up the entire house by slamming doors and turning lights on, makes rude and demeaning comments to and in front of women, talks loudly on his cell phone while everyone else is sleeping, and is generally the most inconsiderate person I’ve ever met.

That is, until I met Ted. Of course, the visitor’s name is not really Ted, but he kind of looks like a Ted, so it’ll do for descriptive purposes.

On first glance, Ted seemed nice and hospitable. Despite the fact that I’ve been seriously ill for 6 weeks, behind on work, and need peace, quiet, and non-stressful situations in my life as much as possible, my roommate thought it was a good idea to let Ted stay here, AND have two of his guy friends over to cook dinner. Said guy friends are very nice and polite…one actually did cook dinner for all of us, and cleaned up, despite my objections…..but we live in a 1300 square foot apartment with a tiny kitchen, and AC that doesn’t work properly. There’s very little room, and when people are over, talking and watching TV, it is not restful. It is not a low-stress environment. It is not conducive to work, and this is why I rarely have anyone over, outside of The Guy I Am Currently Dating.

We also have 2 bedrooms, and four couches, and none of them are well-suited for visitors, in that they don’t pull out into sofa beds, or provide any level of comfort. In short, we’re well-equipped for having people over to watch a movie or hang out, but when all is said and done, they need to go home.

That being said, it’s a little annoying that my roommate keeps having out-of-town visitors we don’t have space for, but it would be the tolerable inconvenience if said visitors were polite and respectful. Last night, after dinner was eaten and cleaned up and my roommate’s two guy friends went home for the evening (it was 11 PM on a Sunday, so that seemed an appropriate time to call it an evening.), my roommate took Ted out to his favourite local bar for some drinks.

All seemed well and good until my roommate returns at 2 AM, extremely anxious, without Ted. Ted apparently wanted to drink more and more at the bar, and the next thing you know, Ted is attempting to score cocaine from guys who appear to be dealers at the bar. On a side note: Seriously, how do you know who is a coke dealer at a bar you’ve never been to, in a city that’s brand new to you? I’d like to point out that, probably because I’m not into drugs,I’ve only met drug dealers at bars/restaurants a handful of times, and in all those experiences, the offending individuals were owners/management of the venue. (and offers were declined. Don’t do drugs.:P )I would have no idea how to go to a bar and find a drug dealer. But, apparently, Ted does.

My roommate, sensing trouble on the way, told the bouncer that Ted was being a little unruly, and it was time for him to get cut off. The bouncer told Ted to close out his tab and leave, and that should have been the end of it. Instead, Ted gives his wallet, keys, cash, cell phone, and other items to my roommate, and proceeds to leave the bar in a car with the aforementioned strangers/potential-drug-dealers.

At this point, the only thing my roommate knows Ted has is my roommate’s cell number, since it seemed ill-advised to give our address to a guy riding around the area with sketchy strangers, drunk, possibly high, and very likely to attract police attention. However, the problem turned into “Where did Ted go?” and “How is he going to find his way home?”.

Finally at 5 AM, there’s a loud knock on the door, and voices. Lights go on and off, doors slam open and shut, and I have no idea who is in the house…whether it’s Ted, police, or angry drug dealers. All I know is I’m scared shitless, despite taking my evening Valium (prescription drugs are OK. :P ), and pretending not to be in the house. Finally after 6, it seemed that everyone was back in the house, and we all went to sleep…which would be great if I didn’t have to work, being Monday morning and all.

I wake up, and my roommate is on the couch, and Ted is passed out in my roommate’s bed. 2 PM, and he’s still here, sleeping it off. I find that Ted had been doing shots from my bar, and left the sticky shot glass sitting on the counter, so it was covered with ants, and the cheese I had bought to make grilled cheese this week was opened and used by not me.

I don’t understand. I’ve been a Couchsurfer for years, and have met many interesting people, and felt welcome at many different places. But I’d never dream of any of this behaviour that seems to characterise my roommate’s friends. I’d never abuse hospitality of a stranger, but especially not a friend.

I do like my roommate, especially since he’s been working on getting his life together, and has become a more considerate individual with whom to live—and because he adores my dog. But experiences like today’s make me believe I really need my own space, my own calm, and my own anxiety-free living situation. Perhaps some people are just “alone” types, while others are less bothered and feel less infringed-upon by rude visitors. I think I’m the first.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been around much lately, and the “Life Less Ordinary” project has found itself on hiatus. Initially, this was a good thing—I spent two and a half weeks traveling to see family and friends in the Northeast, hanging out in NYC, Philly, and spending a week in the sun at the Jersey Shore.

Not unexpectedly, the latter is where things began to go terribly, terribly wrong.

If you know me, you know I love the beach. In fact, most of my “what I want to do one day when I’ve made enough money and am ready to disappear into anonymity” scenarios involve living on a beach somewhere. And, since I’ve been under a rather large amount of stress lately in my everyday life, I figured there was nothing better than spending hours each day on the sand, soaking up the rays.

This provided a fun and relaxing holiday, until the very last day, when I decided to rent a beach chair and sit near/in the ocean, while reading my book and drinking my contraband vodka and clementine Izze soda. It was a great day, and when I got back to the hotel and took a shower, I noticed I’d acquired a killer tan.

Two hours later, I noticed that the tan was actually sunburn, and it was kind of painful. By the end of the evening, I could barely walk without crying, and of course, the next day was the day we were set to travel to Philly.

I made it—barely—but spent the next week largely in bed, with blisters and painful 2nd degree burns over my legs and belly. In addition, I started to have dizzy spells for no reason, often accompanied by a feeling that fainting would soon occur, heart palpitations, and a feeling that my body was out of control. The first time, I thought I was having a heart attack, and was going to die. :(

I can’t tell if these experiences are provoked by heat exhaustion, anxiety, or a totally unrelated medical issue—but let me tell you, nothing is more frightening than the feeling your body is working against you. For nearly two weeks, I’ve been unable to tolerate bright lights, heat, and staring at the computer screen. Even small things have tired me out immensely, which is unlike me, and my typically energetic, vivacious approach to life.

Slowly, things are improving, and over the past few days, I’ve had the physical and mental stamina to return to work, largely through the help of sunglasses. (wearing sunglasses indoors so you can work on your computer looks silly, but if you are intolerant to light, it actually works quite well.) Yesterday, the sun and the 100 degree temperatures decided to disappear, and it was the first day I actually felt like my old self…so I have some level of confidence that I am recovering, although perhaps not as fast as I’d like.

As always, I enjoyed my time in NYC, although I’m always there far too briefly for my tastes. I had the opportunity to catch up with three old friends I’ve known for years, and always miss dearly. It seems like years ago, distance wasn’t such an impediment to friendships, since there was always time for phone calls, IM chats, e-mails, and the like. Nowadays, there’s rarely the time, and when there is, there’s not always the energy. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it’s something that kind of sucks about getting older.

Philly, on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster—with the exception of July 4th. If you’re going to be anywhere on the 4th of July, you want to be in Boston, Philly, or D.C., which is one of the reasons I always plan my trip up there over that timeframe. Unfortunately, being ill really limited my ability to see anyone or do anything, and also reminded me of how difficult it’s always been for me to get along with my family. They’re largely like strangers to me, strangers I find negative and less than supportive, and who don’t really relate to me or anything I have going on in my life. It’s always been that way, of course, but the older I get and the more well-defined my own life becomes, the less they seem like people I know or understand. There are always arguments, always difficulties co-existing, and within two or three days, I begin to miss living in my world instead of theirs.

I think that, all these years, I’ve tried to create a relationship and an understanding with my family that just doesn’t exist. I’ve tried to create a feeling of “home” in this place that should be home to me, and I’m always devastated to remind me that it’s not. I’ve created an ideal in my head that I’ve always wanted, a place that feels like I belong and am loved and understood, and it’s natural to assume that safe place should be with one’s family. For me, it isn’t, and I’ve come to realise that the stability and support and comfort I want from “home” is going to have to be one of my own creation. It’s reminded me why I’d like to focus on finding a place I’d like to live on a permanent basis, and being able to buy property there, so that “home” doesn’t have to be someone else’s, and it doesn’t have to be a transient idea.

I’m glad to be back in Atlanta, though, and to spend time with the people I care about here. Even if I have to spend a chunk of my summer in bed, watching TV and working with sunglasses on, there are still some good times to be had before the summer is over.

And, of course, Big Brother is back, one of my favourite summertime guilty pleasures!:)