Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homesickness, Anxiety, and Other Ailments

A thousand years ago, I promised you wonderful peoples a post about my anxiety and stress and how I've been struggling to keep hold of my wits lately. And then I never wrote it because when I'm battling my stress levels, I tend to neglect the things I love to do most. I let the necessary obligations rule (because, what choice do you have?) and any free time is spent trying to recuperate and rest. The last thing I want to do after being anxious and stressed all day or all week is use up any more brain space I might possibly have left. 

The sad part of that is if I'd make myself write or take photos, I'd probably be happier. Thus is the constant dilemma of the creative person who needs to pay the bills. I never even posted the gazillion photos I took of the snow. They're just sitting on my hard drive, forgotten and lonely and cold (they're cold because they're of snow. duh). 

And it's not even my job per se. It's me. I can't seem to handle the smallest amount of lately, though this isn't the first time I've been through this. The last time I had major issues with stress and anxiety, it was due to other things that I hadn't dealt with. I'm fairly certain that's the case this time as well and one can only overanalyze herself so long before cracking up. 

I really do need professional help sorting through it all and I've been looking for a therapist, but, so far, nobody is taking new patients. Do we just not have enough therapists in Portland? There's certainly a surplus in LA, so what's the deal? I did get a couple of recommendations from friends and I'm waiting to hear back if they take my insurance. Cross all your appendages, people!

It often feels silly that I'm struggling when all seems to be going well in my world. I'm with the best man I've ever known and he's been impossibly supportive and patient through all this, something I don't always know what to do with because I've never been treated so well. I have a decent job with many duties that I truly enjoy doing. And, of course, no work is without stress and I've been wondering what's wrong with me that I can't handle any sort of stress. Maybe, even though I'm capable of a lot, even though I'm creative and intelligent, maybe I can't handle putting so much of myself into my work. Does that make sense? I'm the type of person who does her work 100%, but what room does that leave for any personal happiness? I really struggle (and have always struggled) with how to maintain that balance. 

At any rate, it's easy to fantasize that a mystery relative with bequeath me a fortune and I can be self employed and just write and take photos and travel. Wouldn't that be the life? Le sigh. 

I'm sure a lot of this stress and anxiety is due to issues popping back up again, my childhood abuse, my adoption. Certainly a major part is that I spent most of my youth trying to earn a love that my mother would never give and I've found myself in a loving relationship and I think, deep down, I'm scared as hell of fucking it up (you know, because it was always "my fault" that my mom beat the shit out of me). I'm running ragged trying to keep it all in place. When it's most probably not that fragile at all. But I can't help but revert back to past fears because that's what one does. 

Hello, therapists! Hello? 

And, I have to say, I'm really homesick. When I moved from California to Oregon, I never anticipated that I would get homesick or that it would be such a production to go back to visit. It's a long way! California is a long-ass state, yo! So not only does it take a pretty chunk of change, I have to make the most of it and see every person in every city in the LA and San Bernardino area. It's a production. 

We are planning a trip down there this summer. We've been talking about it forever and, dammit, we have to make it happen. Boyfriend hasn't met anyone really and I need to see them too and, of course, we must go to Disneyland. Obvi.

I don't miss most of it. I still maintain my reasons for leaving, namely the heat and smog, but also a faster, more shallow way of life. 

Would YOU miss that? COUGH COUGH
I love Portland in so many ways. But it's truly difficult being so far from most of my friends and family. At least one of my best friends is here! I don't know that I could deal without her, because I don't actually have all that many good friends here. Sure, I have friends and I have my boyfriend's friends and we hang out and have a good time, but that doesn't compare to the lifelong friendships and connections I left behind, people who just know me so well. I miss them like mad.  

It doesn't help that Portland traffic is making me crack up. Honestly, I never thought that, after battling the Los Angeles freeways, I'd complain about traffic in sleepy little Portland, but I am. It's not the gridlock of major cities - it's the people. 

It's the drivers, the bicyclists, the pedestrians. Either people don't know the rules of the road here or they just don't give a fuck. There's no zoning out on the drive because you never know what someone will do. I have near misses every single day, no exaggeration. I'll almost hit a pedestrian who runs in front of my car. I'll almost hit a cyclist who runs a red light. I'll almost hit many many many cars who cut me off and drift into my lane and run stop signs and do crazy illegal things you would never think someone would do. EVERY DAY. Just this morning, I was cut off three times by cars and had to stop for two pedestrians sauntering across a 4 lane highway. Sauntering. Like they owned the goddamn world. 

And that's not even counting how many times I've nearly been roadkill by cars or bikes while I'm walking. I understand why people jaywalk here because crosswalks offer no protection. It's no wonder Portland is known for its great mass transit. They have to have reliable buses and trains because nobody here knows how to FUCKING DRIVE. Don't get me started on merging. 

Deep breaths. I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it. 

Clearly the answer to all my problems is money. I need to be rich so I can afford a helicopter to take me places (or, better yet, teleportation). And if I'm that rich, I won't need to work so I'll have less stress and I can afford any therapist I want to deal with my issues. AND I can afford to travel anywhere I want and bring anyone I want along. 

See? Money really can buy happiness. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Anxiety and Driving in the Snowpocalypse

I have been planning on writing a post in which I tell you how I've been struggling a bit lately with anxiety and life changes and am looking for a therapist.

But then the snow happened and so clearly I need to tell you about that first.

BUT! First, a little about the anxiety. Years ago, before I moved to Portland and before I went through therapy the first time, before I cut off contact with my mother, and before I really started finding my own happiness, I used to suffer from what I lovingly call Random Anxiety.

Basically, it was anxiety that would come on with seemingly no trigger or with an illogical trigger, meaning something small that wouldn't make a regular person bat an eyelash would give raise my heart rate, get me all flushed and itchy, and short of breath and often in tears. I've never had a full on panic attack, thank goodness, because those are actually fairly scary and physically debilitating.

I've never had social anxiety, though being around lots of people for extended periods can exhaust me; my issue was more like high stress but I'd feel it even when I wasn't under that much stress.

I never really told anyone about this, except for my therapist (and my doctor before that), because I was so embarrassed to need medication when my mother was (and is) a prescription drug addict. Not that anyone should be embarrassed of needing medication! You do what you need to to survive this life, I say. But I was scared of taking meds, because of that, and so didn't want anyone to know.

The other reason I kept mum was because I worked very hard to display an air of confidence and control and I just didn't want anyone knowing just what a mess I actually felt I was.

Anyway, glossing over the next few years, I went to therapy, figured out my anxiety was triggered by all sorts of emotions I had buried as an abused child, and once I let myself feel, I was able to wean off my medication and learn how to handle stressors and have felt pretty great for years now.

Then the last few months, with some major changes (hello, moving in with my boyfriend!) and stress, and I've found myself having Random Anxiety once again (along with some other issues, which I'll tell you about another day). But, this time around, I knew the signs and what was happening and I've been good at doing the things I learned in therapy to calm myself down. And I've been looking for a new therapist here in Portland to help me work through these issues and get to a healthy place again.

As of yet, I haven't found a therapist.

And then two days ago, Thursday, the Snow with a capital S hit Portland. Snow hardly ever comes to Portland and certainly never this thick. Between the city never being prepared for snow and nobody (including me, the California girl), knowing how to drive in the snow, the whole city shuts down.

At 1pm, the powers that be decided to close the office, but I had an errand to run with a coworker that we couldn't get out of, so we headed to do that first. Everyone was trying to get out of the city (where I was) and the streets were packed.

Took this about 1:30 as I'd sat through 7 or so cycles at this stop light

We spent 2 hours driving 2 miles or so and then I could finally try to make my way home, which was 6 miles away. I was already fairly cabin fevery in my car, hadn't eaten lunch, though I did have some veggies and a nut bar in my purse and a bottle of water (which I was scared to drink because I didn't want to have to pee).

I finally made my way down to what I thought would be the best and easiest route home and came across a little fender bender blocking the only way. We were rerouted the opposite way and then U turned around back going south (the right way), but this placed me several blocks back AND behind some train tracks and of course there was a train and of course the train was going slow because of the snow traffic. I sat in that spot, not moving at all for about a half an hour.

Just sitting
Then I crept, block by block, for several hours, not making much progress, and trying not to lose my mind. I nibbled on my veggies, charged my phone, kept checking facebook, and called my boyfriend a lot to try to stay calm. He also kept offering to come get me and I was like, "Um, unless you have a helicopter, no. Your car would then just get stuck here and then we'd both be stuck in snow traffic."

There was just nowhere else to go. I was stuck there. Occasionally I'd get out and scrape the ice off my windshield wipers and run back in my car soaking wet, so at least there was that.

My anxiety was obviously rising and I'd waver between feeling okay or sardonic about the whole situation and feeling like it was the end of the world and I was going to have to spend the night in my car and freeze to death and goodbye cruel world.

Creeping along

At some point, I had the wherewithal to call my dad, who is a retired firefighter, and he pretty calmly told me I'd be fine and to keep checking in, and gave me a few practical tips. Thanks, dad.

Though, as dramatic as I am and as anxious and trapped as I was feeling, really the worst hadn't hit yet.

At about 5:30pm, I was able to get off the main road and get onto a side road I knew that I could cut over to my original route much further down. And, it was pretty wide open. Harder to drive on, to be sure, because the snow was getting pretty thick (and believe you me, I don't have chains), but at least I was moving!

I made my way out of the city and followed the backroad I knew, driving slowly, and sliding around here and there. When I turned to make my way up the small yet steeper than you'd think hill to get to one of the two main roads to my house (not including the freeway), I promptly got stuck in the snow. Every time I tried to go up, I'd slide back. So I braked and put my hazards on and started crying because I didn't know how to drive in the snow really and my car is so not 4 wheel drive.

Then a cop car pulled up behind me and helped me back up up and go another way. Thanks, random Portland cop who showed up at the right time! Seriously great timing on his part.

I headed toward the other route I knew, which I wasn't super hopeful about because it's a smaller road, but what choice did I have? I called my boyfriend and put him on speaker to keep me calm, because I was pretty much freaking out by this point. It was dark and icy and the snow kept coming and I was definitely scared of not getting home and, since I saw no Tauntauns around, I'd probably freeze to death.

So then, of course, there's quite the windy hill on this other road and I got stuck in the snow yet again. And, this time, every time I try to back up, I slide more and more around so that I'm getting perpendicular to the road. And I'm crying and freaking out. I try to pull over to the side, thinking maybe I can abandon my car on the side and walk to Starbucks or something where my boyfriend, with his  4WD Subaru (the official state car of Oregon), can come rescue me. But it's not working. I can't get to the side because there's too much snow.

Finally, I was able to back up into a side road and turn around and head back where I came. Boyfriend told me to go to a grocery store on that road, where he'd come get me and I could leave my car until the Snowpocalypse had passed.

I get to the grocery store about 6:15pm, sooooo excited to walk around and thought to by some gluten free bread (we were out) and wandered around, stretching my legs, and Boyfriend called, saying he can't get his car up our steep driveway.

And then I really did flip out. He offered to walk to me (what good would that do now?) and I just kept yelling and crying that I'd FIGURE IT OUT! Sigh.

I can't remember how I decided to try to find a route to the freeway, but that's what I would try. I stopped to get gas just in case and backtracked toward downtown, looking for the freeway entrance (I didn't know that route at all) and, again, keeping my boyfriend on speakerphone.

It took a long time, but I slowly found the freeway and crept along with the surprisingly few other cars all the way to my exit and then home, where I found Boyfriend standing in the snow, waiting for me. I wandered inside, cold, tense, and completely exhausted at 7pm. I'd been driving in the snow for 6 hours and it took me 4 to go 6 miles.

Then I spent a half and hour telling everyone who was worried about me that I'd made it home safely. Finally.

It's been snowing steadily since and, except for going out to take tons of photos and play around, I am not going out in that. No way, no how. You couldn't pay me anything to get in a car in the snow again.

Here are some crappy iPhone shots of what it looks like today. Better shots coming soon once I actually finish taking them and then editing.

Pretty sure my plants have died. And our front step is completely gone.

Anyone have a shovel?


This is our driveway. Yup. Promise.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Photo of the Day: Little Miss Buttercup


This is my cousin's adorable rescue dog Buttercup. She'll love you within an inch of your life and I'm pretty sure this is the most still I've ever seen her. And isn't she just gorgeous in that light?

See more here

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Photo of the Day: Around Downtown Portland

Around Portland

I don’t always take photos of flowers and cats. Sometimes I love me some architecture and a clear winter day in downtown Portland is especially lovely. The light gradient absolutely slays me. That sliver of light is just delicious. 

See more here. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I've converted to Doctor Who and I still don't understand why

It finally happened. I have converted to the cult of Doctor Who and I'm still not sure why. I'm eons behind the rest of the world, but since it's a show about time travel, I think I'm off the hook.

I really have my cousin to thank. Granted, most of my friends call themselves proud Whovians, but she's always seemed more into Doctor Who than most. And I've given episode one (the 2005 version) a shot a few times and just couldn't get into it. I tried, really I did, but episode one was just so hokey that I couldn't stick it out. I resigned myself to never being into this pop culture phenom and assumed I just didn't understand its purported brilliance and that was that.

Fast forward to the last few weeks and the Black Death. After almost a full week of hacking and dying, I drug my sorry ass to urgent care where I found I had viral bronchitis and was told not to work for a few more days lest I infect the whole of my coworkers with the Plague. I complied, seeing as I felt like proverbial, not literal, shit.

But, seeing as I'd already been sick for a week, I was already getting a small case of cabin fever on top of my physical fever and so I was quite feverish and no amount of reading or SVU on Netflix could fix it (even though I do love Olivia Benson so, I can only watch so many rape stories. you understand.).

So naturally, I turned to my old friend the Facebook and asked for some suggestions of Netflix or Hulu shows that a sick, couch-bound girl could binge on and which I hadn't seen before. Of course, I received lots of recs for shows I already love or already hate and two recs for Doctor Who. Again, I thought, I want to like it, but I just don't think it's for me.

But my brilliant cousin, knowing me as well as she does (we're a lot like sisters, you know), suggested I not start with the first episode. She recommended one I'd like, which I did and which happened to be a two parter so of course I had to watch the next one, and then I decided to go back and watch from episode 2 forward and the next thing I knew? I was hooked.

It's been almost 2 weeks and I'm almost finished with season 2 and I can't stop. But I still don't entirely get why!

I did really like Christopher Eccleston and I really like David Tennant (even though it was hard at first not to picture him as Barty Crouch Jr.) and they're funny funny as all hell, which is really refreshing when you're watching a show about murderous aliens and the like. And don't anyone dare tell me what future Doctors are like. I'll find out on my own thankyouverymuch.

And it's certainly entertaining. It's funny and sad and sweet and sometimes a little scary. But it's also not that great. It's not particularly well done. Outside of the Doctors and a few characters here and there, the acting is really meh. And it's hokey. It's cheesy and the effects are rarely very good.

Also, Rose drives me bonkers. There are times I like her, but mostly I just find her annoying. Like, how many tubes of mascara did she take on the Tardis?

Oh and I did wonder, for most of the first season, why everywhere they went in time was either in the future or past UK or the people/aliens had a British accent, but then Rose explained that the Tardis translates any language, so it would make sense that they'd hear in an English accent. And then I saw the episode that was sort of in 18th century France, so that fixed that.

I also find it funny that many episodes are about mind control or world domination through television or technology - this from a television show. Ah well. Irony.

So why do I like it so much? It's 2014. I shouldn't like a cheesy, hokey show about time travel and rubbery aliens. But I do! I can't stop watching.

The only conclusion? Subliminal messaging. They're brainwashing me to like this show! It's the only explanation as to why it's so damned addictive. No wonder there's been so many episodes about mind control. They're practicing!

I kid. I kid. I love Doctor Who. Sure, I figured it out after everyone else did, but I'm making up for lost time. I should be all caught up in the next few weeks.

No spoilers please.

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