I have had a hard month. I got back from a vacation to California in early April and promptly got sick from adrenal issues, then caught a virus, then got sick with bronchitis. I am currently trying to quit smoking. For one reason or another I have had tearful conversations with my boyfriend, my sister, my mom, my therapist. My birth control isn’t working to moderate my period, so I am constantly bleeding and cramping. There’s been lots of crying this month. To rephrase that: I have been crying a lot this month.
This last month I’ve also gained ten pounds because when I am sick I have to take extra steroids to keep from going into shock. These steroids make you gain weight. Studying for my real estate exam amidst all of this emotional and physical pain has been exhausting and unproductive. I haven’t been able to record a new episode of my podcast because I have been too sick.
Amidst of all of this, as my therapist has pointed out, I have made the decision to keep functioning, somehow. Also, as is evidenced by some friends of mine who are going through much harder times, it could be worse. Also, I started reading a book called the Happiness Trap about how seeking a life of pleasure (instead of seeking a life of meaning) leads to anxiety and depression. This makes sense to me; lately, since feeling so poorly physically, I have tried to comfort myself with pleasure vs. making meaningful experiences; instead of calling a friend or reaching out, I would often curl up in bed with a glass of wine, some ramen noodles and documentaries. Sounds great once in a while, but do this for four weeks straight and you’re bound to get at least a little depressed. And that’s where I am at: attempting to pull myself out of this funk.
What is meaningful to me? I keep coming back to community. Community is important to me. It’s why I host Tad’s Talks, its why I started my podcast, it’s why I like zines so much. And that's also why I get depressed when I am sick. This month I missed two birthday parties, the Earth Day benefit my friend had been working on all year, a friend’s band performing etc. etc. I feel worse about myself when I am disconnected. Consuming substances, food and entertainment merely brings pleasure but no real meaning. However, cooking dinner for a friend, or hosting a storytelling event, or writing an essay and actually contributing something to the world….well, that is what makes me truly happy. Not booze, not rich foods, not sitting around watching episodes of Shark Tank.
I also had the chance to meet someone via Facebook who had read my book and has been recently diagnosed with Cushing's disease. I wasn't sure how our conversation was received, at least by her. It's difficult to gauge the emotional state of a stranger. But later that evening after we had gone our separate ways, she posted this on Facebook:
"I just had the most moving and remarkable dinner out with someone I connected with via FB. ….. we met tonight and talked for hours.
This evening changed the way I feel about myself, disease, self hate, pre judgement, and so much more. I feel validated and optimistic. The path that I am going on is the right one for me and my story.
LIFE IS GOOD AND EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. Thank you everyone who listens and is connected to me in the smallest ways. You change my world."
So, that felt good. Especially after feeling so crummy and generally useless all month.
But enough about me, this is supposed to be a Portland Update, right? I am at a loss of what to say. I haven’t left my bedroom in weeks. In a way, my experience lately has reminded me of TJ’s experience in China. Being mildly depressed is like traveling in a foreign country; the world outside my bedroom door often feels strange and exhausting. I had to force myself out of the house last night to attend a friend’s birthday party.
Most of what I have observed this month has been from the comfort of my bed, via my lap top computer.
It would be careless not to mention the killing of Freddy Gray in Baltimore this month. I have no real words of wisdom. It makes me very sad and angry. Gray’s death, and the protests that followed, further drove home the point (to me at least) that the experiences of black people in our country, living in low-income neighborhoods that have been abandoned by the government, are so different from mine that they might as well be living in another country.
On Friday I watched a film called “Tales of the Grim Sleeper”. It’s about a serial murderer who for twenty years, got away with killing possibly hundreds of women in South Central LA, mostly because his victims were poor black women, some of them prostitutes. The police didn't seem to care, referring to the murders as "NIH" - no humans involved. Watching the film was like watching a documentary about another world. A world I know nothing about. I hesitate to even write these thoughts down because they seem so obvious and useless.
And another great video - about PTSD caused by growing up in violent neighborhoods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7ovFvA1Wgk&spfreload=10
And that concludes my Portland, not-so-much-about-Portland, update.