I Just Wanna Sit At Home And Bake

Yesterday I made cheese. Twice. No, I didn’t buy cheese, I made cheese. Delicious ricotta from scratch. I went out and bought a cheesecloth and everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t hard, but it definitely wasn’t something I ever pictured myself doing.

That’s how much time I have on my hands. Reduced to making grocery staples to keep myself entertained.

When I started drafting this post, I was still gainfully employed (albeit at an hourly job that had nothing to do with my field of study, but still, I had an income). Three days ago, I quit. I’d originally said I would be staying until the end of next week, but after a particularly rude email from my owner, I edited myself off the schedule and turned in my key. Frankly, I’d planned on quitting this job over two months ago, before Mother’s Day (which is a big holiday for this business), because following Valentine’s Day (the biggest of the holidays), I never wanted to be involved in a holiday in a managerial position ever again. But I stayed, because I was too afraid to lose the money. A few weeks after Mother’s Day, things went from bad to worse. I was given the responsibilities of a store manager, without the pay. Yet those responsibilities were constantly in flux, and unclear (for example, I was shown how to run payroll, fully under the impression I’d be running payroll from now on, opened the program to do payroll for the first time and was locked out because the password had been changed. So apparently, I wasn’t going to be doing payroll..? Was I not trusted enough to run payroll? Would I still be making the schedule, or would that be taken away from me too? Did I have authority to give refunds? Was I still even a manager at all? It was a mess of misunderstanding).

Essentially, I felt disrespected at my job, which I know happens. That’s just life. But I’d been working there for over two years, and had moved up through the (very few) ranks without much drama. Suddenly I’m being personally attacked for bringing up flaws in scheduling, and trying to express the needs of my fellow employees (FYI, business people, don’t hire someone to do one job, then expect them to do that job PLUS another one without some sort of compensation, or at least understanding of her misgivings).

So. I quit. And more than one employee has followed already. I’m afraid it’s just going to be a slippery slope from there.

I have research opportunities in the wings, which will be paid (and academically relevant!), and I don’t have very many expenses right now, aside from gas and groceries. I’m actually not in too bad of a place financially, for now. But emotionally? Mentally? I’m restless, bored, and borderline depressed (which I talked about last time because I want SO BADLY to be back in school). And thus, the cheese-making.

Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I just want to sit at home and bake and play Borderlands until the Significant Other comes home (and then probably play more Borderlands). I think me cooking every night that he’s off is doing not-so-great things for our waistlines. But hey, eating (cooking?) my feelings is ok. Right?

My Little (sorority little sister to whom I am a…”mentor,” for those unfamiliar with the parlance. Those of you reading who are in sororities will note that “mentor” is the simplest – and yet sometimes furthest away from the truth – term for the uninitiated to understand. HAHA PUN!) was able to put my feelings the most eloquently by saying I’m suffering from perceived humiliation. I think all of my friends are judging me and I don’t want to talk to them about quitting my job, because some of them don’t even have crappy hourly jobs right now. I feel selfish for giving up something that was making me money, just because I became dissatisfied with the experience. Did I quit for a good enough reason? Sometimes I think so, but other times I’m not so sure. The Significant Other says he’ll support me no matter what, and I don’t think he’s judging me, but I know he also wants me to get another job. Which, realistically, will only be another crappy hourly job, if I can find one at all. I was actually surprised at how supportive my father was of my decision to quit, since he’s the one always pushing for me to be “comfortable” financially, and this just throws me into a state of instability.

All I know for sure, 100% without a doubt (which is really saying something for me), is that my Little doesn’t judge me (thanks Little). I’m infinitely grateful for having at least one person in my life that my screwy brain doesn’t warp my perception of.

Yesterday I made cheese and mini quiches. Today I’m thinking cookies.

 

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Every Single Night

Every single night,
I endure the flight
Of little wings of white flamed
Butterflies in my brain.
These ideas of mine
Percolate the mind,
Trickle down the spine,
Swarm the belly swelling to a blaze;
That’s where the pain comes in,
Like a second skeleton,
Trying to fit beneath the skin.
I can’t fit the feelings in
Oh every single night’s alight
With my brain… – Fiona Apple

I effing love Fiona Apple. LOVE. I don’t care how crazy she gets or the ridiculous things she says or if she smokes too much and gets scary thin or wears an octopus on her head, I just love her. I was introduced to her last summer with Extraordinary Machine. Now the only two Pandora stations I listen to are her and Peter Gabriel. Nope, I’m not a hipster, just have a thing for art-pop, promise.

This is the first verse to the first song on her newest album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Quite a mouthful isn’t it? Though it has nothing on When The Pawn‘s full title, but we won’t go there. These lines, among others, have drifted around in my head incessantly the last few days. Frankly, they’re what are keeping me level.

There’s a lot going on right now, and sometimes I feel like each thought flits through my head like a bird (I’ve been watching the hummingbirds at my parents’ house the last few days). But sometimes the thoughts are more like bullets. They plow through defenses of realism and optimism and all the walls that keep my hope and positivity intact. But hey, I’ve got to keep my neurons busy, right? I have to clean up the messes I’ve made in my brain (I’d make a joke about glia here, but not everyone would get it, and those who would probably can come up with their own).

Thoughts destroy and thoughts create. Thoughts keep you down and out – until they don’t. We each live in a world inside our heads that doesn’t exist in any universe but our own singular one. Don’t get philosophical on me, I’m just trying to blog. 😉

Thoughts can be fleeting, but as we all know, ideas can change the world. My head is all wrapped up in dichotomous thoughts and I feel like I could be moving in all directions at once.

But I’m not. My feet are firmly on the ground. I know where I’m going and how to get there, I just don’t know exactly how I feel about it. I think that happens to a lot of us when we’re going through a transitional period. Some people are the exact opposite, they know their emotions without having a clue where they need to go. I’m glad I’m in the place I’m in, because it allows me to pursue my goals while figuring out things going on in my head along the way.

So as I’m walking down this solid path, I will try to predict the future, with each prediction in direct opposition with the one before it. I will continue to question myself, even as I strengthen my convictions. I’m going to be confused, and my heart will go through hell, which sucks, but at least when I’m feeling dizzy from all the thoughts, I know I can always go back to Fiona and know that I’m not alone.

UPDATE: You should watch this – http://www.upworthy.com/this-kid-thinks-we-could-save-so-many-lives-if-only-it-was-okay-to-say-4-words?c=ufb1

Critical System Failure

 

I knew about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado before I posted my review of The Dark Knight Rises, but I wanted to make it clear that the two were utterly and completely separate. The Dark Night Rises did not directly cause a man to take up violence against innocents. Christopher Nolan did not goad him into his actions through his portrayal of a comic character that has been around since 1937.

Not many details about the shooter, James Holmes were initially released. We now know that he was a graduate neuroscience student at the University of Colorado, Denver and was going through the process to withdraw. He was a Phi Beta Kappa, implying he was near the top of his class during his undergraduate career. He identified himself as the Joker when arrested. He obtained his guns legally.

Don’t be alarmed, this is not post about gun rights.

He killed 12 innocent people, a number that still has the potential to rise as the days progress. (Edit: My initial post said 23, which is a number I got from an online article I may have misread. As of right now, the death count is still 12)

Columbine, Virginia Tech, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, now this. Massacres that could have been prevented, with more attention to detail. My sister was a freshman at VA Tech, when Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people, wounding 17 others. She was working only blocks away from where Cho’s rampage began. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband, was an engineering major in his senior year and knew some of the victims. I remember the terror I felt when I turned on the television and saw that my sister was in potential danger.

Of these tragedies that have occurred in the last 20 years, they seem to have a common thread: A complete failure on the part of the local and state mental health systems to recognize, intervene, and treat when there was clear evidence of illness and instability.

Why do tragedies such as these occur? Psychologists and criminologists spend valuable time, effort, and money trying to answer that exact question, without putting enough into the prevention of the issues in the first place. As a psychologist, I’m acutely aware of how prevention is an extremely important, yet often unattainable concept in the field.

Some of these men who committed atrocious acts of sudden violence displayed clear signs of instability their entire lives. And yet they never got the help that they needed. I’m not saying that psychological treatment is infallible, in fact the treatment of many disorders is NOT effective without constant and closely-monitored upkeep. However, that constant upkeep is precisely what these men needed. Early intervention, as well as more strict policies against bullying, might have prevented Columbine. Seung-Hui Cho was identified by members of his family and professors as unstable, potentially dangerous. Similar is true of Loughtner, the Gabrielle Giffords shooter.

And yet, our system continues to fail these men, and in turn, fail the victims of their outward violence. I don’t know what to say on this matter, except that I hope one day we’ll learn the error of our ways and stop treating mental health as an optional part of the medical field, and instead treat it as an integral part of the health of the body and society as a whole.

The concept of prevention science is well embodied in the poem “The Ambulance Down In The Valley.” It has different versions and names, but the sentiment remains the same.

The Fence or The Ambulance
Joseph Malines

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done.
But their projects did not at all tally:
Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day.
For it spread to the neighboring city:
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is alright if your careful,” they said,
“and if folks even slip or are dropping,
it isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below-when they’re stopping,”
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old man remarked, “it’s a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, cried he.
“Come neighbors and freinds, let us rally :
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh, he’s a fanatic.” the others rejoined:
“dispense with the ambulance Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could:
no, no! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why would people of sense stop to put up a fence?
While their ambulance works in the valley?”

But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

One day. Maybe one day we’ll figure it all out. Until then, we mourn.

 

Headshots

I’m not talking about fancy portrait photos or a sweet kill in CoD.

I’m talking about the feeling of complete lack of control over your emotions that makes your head pound and feel like it’s going to burst. You want to smash your skull against a thick brick wall just to ease the pressure. Every word out of your mouth tastes sour, not what you meant to say. You can’t see anymore because either you’re crying too hard, or you just can’t focus.

I’ll be frank (as I generally am) and try to avoid melodrama. I’m depressed. Legitimately, full-blown, diagnosed-with, major depressive disorder. I’m currently taking medication to treat the suicidal ideation, anxiety, mood swings (no, I’m not bipolar), and overall lack of interest in life. One day I hope to no longer need that medication, because I strongly believe that there are other ways to treat psychological disorders that do not benefit corrupt pharmaceutical companies.

I’m writing about this because I need to put the thoughts down into permanent words that will remain, even if years from now I forget how I’m feeling in this moment.

In the worst moments of my depressive episodes (that’s what it’s called when you have extreme bouts of depression, which could be spaced over months or years, as opposed to dysthymia, which is characterized by feelings of depression over a long period of time, but with less severe symptoms. Sorry, I’ll stop teaching and just talk) I have to remind myself that I’m not alone. I mean, the map says something, right?

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates from Unipolar depressive disorders by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do I deal with it? Reading mostly. I let myself drift into a different world and see through another’s eyes. I’ve started exercising more (believe me, kickboxing does wonders for releasing tension). I’ve found ways to talk about my issues with others instead of just holding them in until my head wants to burst. Like I said, I take medication – two different pills as a matter of fact – but that’s not always reliable. I utilize the counseling center at my university for free counseling (both group and individual). Sometimes nothing works, and those are the days that I really need support from others.

What’s so unfortunate about our society is that much like our understanding of cultures different from our own, America is sorely lacking in understanding mental disorders. When you get a degree in psychology, this is one of the first things they teach you. What America needs is an education. But you already knew that…

If you suffer from depression, I know what you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis. I know that feeling of guilt you get when you consider injuring yourself, or worse. Just thinking about it can be crippling to the point that you don’t think that there’s any way you could possibly climb out of the hole you’ve fallen into. Not jumped, fallen. It’s NOT YOUR FAULT. Maybe I risk sounding like a broken record, but I don’t care. It’s important that you drill that into your head. Your neurons are firing incorrectly, period. Got that?

But the next thing I’m going to say might be hard to swallow. You need to get help. For your safety, the safety of your friends, family, the safety of the future that you CAN achieve. Period. If you don’t think that there’s anyone out there that can help, the first thing you can do is email me. I’m not licensed as I psychiatrist, so I can’t help you in that way, but what I can do is commiserate AND point you in the right direction.

I got through this, and even though it’s an uphill battle, so can you.

If you’re a friend of someone who you know, or even suspect, is suffering in any of the ways I’ve described, get them help. Do it, it’s important. Even contact me at the bottom of this post if you’d like.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

The Starbucks Woman and Extremes of Beauty

I work in a strip mall right next to a fairly successful Starbucks. Naturally there is a wide variety of customers that stop in there, as it’s the only real Starbucks within reasonable distance of our tourist-town. Ever since I’ve been working next door there has been one woman who is at Starbucks at least once a week and stays for several hours at one of the outside tables.

I can tell that she’s drinking a diet Tazo green tea because of the watery, almost sickly color it has. My manager has seen her put just two Splenda no-calorie sweeteners in it, and has also heard from her hairdresser that this woman only eats three Peach Rings a day. The Starbucks Woman is always smoking, or at least has a pack of Marlboro Reds ready to go beside her, and she’s often writing in a lined notebook. None of this is particularly remarkable, but the thing that draws the eye is the woman herself.

She’s an anorexic.

I’m not saying that she’s skinny, and I’m not saying that she just looks sick. No, this woman is no more than skin and bones, and she is clearly on a down-hill road to death. I’m not exaggerating when I say she looks like this:

Isabelle Caro

Isabelle Caro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above is a well-known picture of French model, Isabelle Caro, who died in 2010 from complications as a result of her anorexia nervosa. Frankly it terrifies me.

It scares me that this woman has become so pathologically obsessed with her weight that it’s killing her.

It scares me that there are countless other men and women in this world who reach this point and are unable to return.

It scares me that I could one day have a daughter that I won’t be able to save because society tells her that she is only beautiful if she is thin.

For Christmas I received Portia de Rossi‘s memoir, Unbearable Lightness, and I found it both poignant and frank. I’m a big fan of her anyway as a result of Arrested Development, and it was truly inspiring to see how she had been able to reshape her life as she stopped reshaping her body. Unfortunately, it also reminded me of how women can take pride in not eating. I’ve been guilty of it, just as millions of women across the world have been guilty of it.

I hope beyond hope that the Starbucks Woman doesn’t die, but I’m scared that one day she’ll just cease to appear outside with her tea and cigarettes. What is she writing? A memoir? A letter to friends and family? Or is she calculating her caloric intake for the day?

Eating disorders (especially anorexia) are often considered among the most difficult psychological disorders to treat, as success requires the motivation of the patient to gain weight, something they have spent a great deal of time and effort getting rid of. The mind of an anorexic patient has been twisted by the disorder so that they truly see losing weight as a necessary part of living. There have been patients committed to hospitals that must be restrained to their beds so that they don’t do sit-ups in the middle of the night.

Society doesn’t help, as it uses women’s bodies as a canvas on which to mold the ideals of beauty. With idealization comes extremes, and those extremes are what scare me the most. But society can’t be completely to blame. Eating disorders are just that: disorders. Disorders that need more research, more dedicated scientists trying to cure them, and more understanding of those suffering from them.

If you’re interested in learning more about eating disorders and anorexia nervosa, watch this documentary, Thin by Lauren Greenfield. Though the treatment practice may be somewhat controversial (in my opinion) the perspectives of the patients are invaluable in understanding some of the mechanisms underlying the condition.

If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, look here for help: National Eating Disorders Association

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