I’m Back

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve stopped taking my medication.

My anxiety may have been shelfed, but my depression and lack of motivation were at an all-time high. If I could win an award for quickly approaching total train wreck, I would have won two.

I weaned off my anxiety medicine with the intention of starting a different one. The one I have been on since January has slowly given me bowel complications and suicidal thoughts. Getting up in the morning was difficult, even though I hadn’t realized it until this past week. I wanted to crawl into bed the moment I got home, too. It was in the middle of a bustling, beautiful summer when I reached the apex of my inability to “human”.

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve stopped taking my medication, and I’m thinking that I may not start the new one. Not just yet, anyhow.

The first thing I noticed come back to me were tears. Not depressed, sad tears. Emotional tears. If a movie is poignant, I can cry again. If someone sings with an ethereal voice or I hear a cheesy proposal story, the waterworks start.

My libido is back.  My “vagisis” is over. (I coined the term several months ago when I realized the medication affected my nethers, and I was in crisis mode over it.)

The past two days I’ve been cooking. I love to cook but have had very few days in the last 365 where I’ve felt inclined or motivated. My home-made pesto pasta and pizzas may not have come out as I had desired (I’m a bit rusty), but I still felt excited to come home and get things done.

I thought I’d be a mess without my medication, but maybe (and I don’t know yet… it is an elusive maybe) I just needed the boost for a bit, and I’m back on track. I don’t think medicine is evil, but I also know it’s not a panacea. I wouldn’t be able to wean at this point without the behavior therapy that is helping me be more in control of my life.

All that said, nothing has been making me happier than crying endlessly lately over every sappy moment on television or in my earbuds, as I listen to podcasts.

It might sound absurd, but all this crying has got me in a great mood.

Here’s to more tears (and smiles) in future months to come.

When Dreams Shift into Nightmares

I remember thinking, “There’s no way out of this one.” And then I woke up.

My dreams never make a lot of sense.

When I go to explain them to someone, I often can’t describe them linearly, and the details become muddled. However, when I am in my dream, they seem clear to me, and last night was a series of nightmares that left me feeling very emotionally uncomfortable.

Both were apocalyptic in nature, but at the end of the first one, a single, white horse was stampeding towards me. I stood at the end of a very high cliff with a breath-taking view, knowing I needed to get out of the way, so I hung over the side of the cliff.

It went successfully, but then for some reason, after pulling myself up, I had that urge to just jump. I knew I would be killing myself if I did (and I was not aware it was a dream at the time; it felt very real), but I chose to jump.

I remember closing my eyes and soaring downward very fast, my back facing the ground. I felt scared, but I came to complete peace with what I had chosen and knew what might come at the end would not necessarily be painless, because how can you know unless you’ve done it? I talked to God, I remembered people I loved, and I pressed my eyes shut very tightly, so I wouldn’t know when I would hit the bottom.

I never hit the bottom.

That dream scared the shit out of me. Covered in sweat, I lay in bed for a few minutes completely freaked out that I made that decision, dream or not, and then had to coax myself back to sleep with meditation.

A little later, seemingly half-awake, I felt Bryan next to me and said, “hey.” He woke up and acknowledged me, and I asked him, “How did you get here? I was hoping you would be here,” because he was not at my place last night. I think I needed the comfort from the previous dream.

I remember being completely amazed at this magic trick he performed (appearing in my apartment at 4am), and I made him come with me to the mirror, so I could turn on the light and prove he was there. He was.

Of course, I was dreaming, but it was one of those dreams where the lines between reality and fantasy are extremely blurred. I was looking at my own hands. I was sitting up in my own bed. I remember thinking about how this time it wasn’t a dream.

I walked out into the living room and other people started to enter my apartment. Friends needing refuge. There was some catastrophe that took place in London, and it was beginning to take effect globally. I scrambled to get cots and blankets for people, and Bryan was helping me.

At one point, I tried to use the telephone to contact work (because of the emergency) but the lines were dead…

And yet again, I awoke, and realized no apocalypse was taking place outside my window. No immediate need for fight or flight. No boyfriend there comforting me after my bad dream.

A night of dreams such as those feels less like rest and more like a long trek, and I am worse for wear this morning. The lingering emotions will wind down as daylight continues, and I will forget the nightmarish ghouls that snuck into my bedroom and made me think the unimaginable.

Chemical Cocktail, Please

His hand is outstretched with an ornament in his palm; he says, “Do you want to hang this one?”

A week ago, Bryan and I put up the Christmas tree in my living room.

With the new Gilmore Girls Series playing in the background, we spread all of the ornaments across the floor and began to hang.

It was a home-made ornament from my co-worker Heather with one of my favorite photos of Zen and me on it: I’m in my thread-bare bathrobe, snuggling him in a deep embrace while smiling.

me-and-zen

I immediately broke out into tears. Big alligator tears.

I don’t know if it was that I was completely taken by surprise or that it was the beginning of the week where my hormones get all wacky thanks to my silent passenger, PMDD. It probably was a combination of the two, but I was a tiny ball on my living room rug, crying hard while apologizing through snotty wails.

Losing Zen a month before Christmas last year was such a whirlwind that I had erased from my memory that I ever received that ornament. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one. After I recovered myself, we continued to hang ornaments, and minutes later, Bryan finds another customized Zen ornament that my sister had made. Another one I had forgotten about. He hands it to me, and once again, I am on the floor, tears streaming down my face.

I have always been “highly sensitive” and “overly emotional” since I was a child. In the past few years, it has intensified. Recently, I’ve discovered I have what is labeled as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, where my hormones go hay-wire for approximately a week to a week and a half each month, usually during ovulation.

So, it makes me wonder, was I really that distraught over my deceased cat or was it just my crazy hormones acting up?

Knowing that I have a hormone imbalance and being able to regulate it with birth control and natural remedies, such as exercise, dietary changes, and herbal supplements, has basically saved me from losing my mind and firing off at people with no self-control. Yet, it has also enabled me to use it as a crutch or an excuse when I do act ‘roided up on emotions.

That bothers me, sometimes.

Some of the magic of life’s moments are blanched when I have the knowledge that a specific combination of neurochemicals and hormones are having a rager in my body and that’s the reason why something makes me wistful, depressed, nostalgic, deeply affected, or impassioned. Things like my libido and emotional acuity can be altered with the application of a pill each day.

However, I cannot deny that PMDD is a real thing and I can actually see the signs of it now that I know what it is. It’s not just a made-up crutch with which I scapegoat my behaviors. I’ll come home from work and have that “I just want to go to bed now” feeling that I used to attribute to laziness and always gave myself a hard time about, but I know now that it is the onset of PMDD. Knowing that helps me get through it and actually motivates me to go to yoga, start cleaning the apartment, or make dinner. These subtle signs always happen during a specific time of the month, providing some proof that the chemical cocktail is coursing through my body.

Crying over Zen was unexpected and real. It may have been heightened by my levels of hormones in that moment, but I love and miss him fiercely.

I refuse to let the knowledge that we’re all varying mixtures of chemicals ruin the incredible luster that is cherishing a lost one, smiling because a memory with an old partner feels painfully beautiful, or hurting because my heart is breaking. It might not always be a fun feeling, but it’s me.

It’s always been me.

Chicken Little

I finally told him.

I told him and the sky didn’t come crashing down as a feared Chicken Little might have suspected. I wasn’t engulfed by volcanic ash. No earthquakes shook and rattled tall buildings to the earth.

I don’t know why I told him. The only purpose it served was so that I no longer had to hold it in, pressed against my gums all the time, wanting to be released.

I have come to the realization that saying it isn’t the scariest or hardest thing in the world. I’ve said it in the past and not had it returned. I’ve been laughed at and rocked back and forth in an embrace of confusion and patronization.

I survived.

The most arduous undertaking is knowing that it needs to be said and not expressing it out of fear or self-preservation.

I didn’t say it because I wanted him to say it back. I didn’t tell him because I wanted a hollywood romance moment, where all the messy pieces of my life are placed exactly where they always needed it be. I wasn’t attempting to bargain him back into my arms. There was no ulterior motive.

I declared it because he deserved to be told.

Name Ten People

Overly emotional doesn’t even begin to describe me.

No, I am the Casablanca of feelings.

I am the girl who says prayers for roadkill, puts insects in plastic cups and releases them outside, rather than squish them, and can’t watch the news because it will ruin her day.

Most days are fairly rote: I wake up, go to work, see friends, exercise, eat, sleep. But not all days transition like an endless loop of the movie Groundhog Day.

Some days, you wake up and see your newsfeed on facebook and find that a friend from your childhood has passed away in a car crash. Or, you learn one of your best friend’s family members was just diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve lost a lot of friends in the past few years. Some of them were people I hadn’t seen in years and some were closer friends. Since, I have felt like this seemingly solid and functioning world around me is more like a spider web, succumbing to a heavy gust of wind and splintering apart. Or the floorboards beneath my feet are breaking away and disappearing with each footstep like some glitch in the Matrix.

I have an unnerving restlessness and fear dwelling inside me.

I have been told by others that my unnecessary falderal is unproductive. It’s irrational to worry and think that everyone you care about could suddenly disappear at any given moment.

But couldn’t they?

The same person who told me that almost died a year or two before I met him. He had to have brain surgery. Just recently, he gave me another scare by telling me he had some tests done. I had no idea that was even going on, and while I sat there completely distraught on the other end of the phone, his calm, emotionless words popped up on the screen, reassuring me there was nothing to worry about.

I don’t think he has any true concept of a) how much I worry about things and b) how much he means to me.

Later that afternoon, I had told one of my good friends that I was “idiotically” upset over the fact that something horrible could have happened to this person I care so much about and I wouldn’t have even known. My friend then told me to name ten people I knew and something that had happened in their life recently. Um, okay…

After successfully listing ten people and events, my friend says, “See? Look how many lives you are connected to in a meaningful way. You might feel disconnected at the moment from that one person, but you are connected to so many.”

I got his point, but the fear part of my brain goes, “Oh, great. Just ten more people who would greatly affect me if they suddenly meet their fate.”

Deep down I know my friend is right. Feeling connected and creating intimacy with others in meaningful ways is kind of the bread and butter of existing. Without it, our days are rote and, indeed, void of tragedy, but the enjoyment that comes from reaching far into another’s heart and learning about what they yearn for and care about is more rewarding than never stepping a foot outside our emotional barriers.

The only solution I can come up with to assuage some of the fear of losing those I love is to ensure I tell them all the time what they mean to me. It won’t keep them out of harm’s way, but it will fill their hearts with love, which is the whole reason why we’re even here at all.

 

Fifty Shades of No Way?

[Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this if you don’t want some idea of what happens in the book/movie, Fifty Shades of Grey]

Okay, okay. I will admit it. I finally jumped on the bandwagon of Fifty Shades viewers and watched the movie. I had acquired the book on my kindle, because when someone says not to read something, it almost makes you want to read it.

I had heard mixed reviews from some of my friends that the movie does an injustice to the “kink scene”–as in, people who are actually into dom-sub relationships and specific fetishes.

I’ve read some of the book, and the writing isn’t very good–I’ll admit that–but the part that I thought was done with consideration, at the very least, was the subtleties of the art of seduction.

See, I’ve read The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. I’ve discussed the book with others. I’ve literally employed tactical devices within the book. Seducing men was never a problem I had; I’m what you’d call a natural at it, but I was lured in by the psychology behind the art.

In the book (as much as I’ve read) and the movie, Christian and Ana are in a constant “game” with one another to assert their dominance and have the upper hand–yes, even though she was characterized as the “submissive”. This might seem like something only relatable to the world of kinky sex fetishes and fantasies, but I assure you, it’s not.

Power plays occur every single minute of every day between all types of relationships, whether it be parent and child, boss and employee, friends, strangers, and of course, romantic entanglements. Humans are just naturally hard-wired to react and respond in ways which will allow our “status” to remain on stable ground.

Let’s say we go out on a first date with someone we really enjoyed. Obviously, we want to talk to them right away afterwards or perhaps even try to see them the very next day. Most people, out of a perceived level-grounded, almost nonchalant collectedness will back off for a few days. Or we get the text we’ve been waiting for all day from the person we care about and we don’t want them to know we had the phone right next to us. Seems too eager, right? So, we don’t answer for two hours.

These are all defense mechanisms, clearly, as are most embodiments of power plays. It’s important to have the winning cards, not only so we don’t get hurt, but also so that we sustain interest. That’s the part I’m most concerned with. I’ll attend to the former later on.

Interest.

How to entrap and intrigue the other party. How to keep them on their toes. How to, in the case of Ana and Christian, magnify the intensity to such a point that both parties are intoxicated and enamored beyond what they can any longer control. It starts to roll like a rock down a hill, and as it careens, it gains momentum. It does, unlike a boulder tumbling down a cliff, require maintenance and attention. But if the mystery and intrigue, the carefulness and affection, the let down and subsequent gentle caress are all there between both parties, then it piles and amasses until something like mind-blowing sexual chemistry erupts. Or complete infatuation. Or beautiful, romantic love.

It may seem like power plays are bad things, but they are not necessarily. If used with sensitivity and good intention, then they enhance and add flavor to our relationships.

In Fifty Shades, I see this occurring. There are the not so great parts–Ana continually wanting something she can never fully have; Christian being cold and emotionally distant due to an awful upbringing and abandonment from his biological mother. This is the part of the movie that I think (think?) critics take issue.

In having knowledge about the “kink scene” or dominant-submissive play, I know that respect, limits, pleasure, debriefing, and ultimately, a more bonded, intimate relationship are key elements. Does this seem to be missing from Fifty Shades? I actually don’t think so.

I think it’s a movie. In the book, there’s more elaborate description of what the relationship entails, but in the movie, like movies do, you have to gloss over a lot of that to make it engrossing.

Sure, there’s a business meeting to discuss the matters of the contract, but it’d be boring if it were just this mutual discussion with hugs at the end, or this ongoing play-by-play of every line in the agreement, complete with coffee and bathroom breaks, and phone call interruptions. This isn’t real life; it’s a movie.

The business meeting is, in fact, one of my favorite scenes in the movie, due to the tantalizing, empowering nature Ana suddenly displays when she teases the crap out of Christian and then leaves him high and dry. She didn’t do this to be cruel; she did this to pull him further in.

Well, it worked. There’s science in it. It’s like the dangling carrot in front of the chariot horse. What’s going to keep him running? What’s the prize? The ever elusive idea that he is *this close* to what he wants. Getting what we want is good too, we just have to know when and when not to give in completely.

This is the game.

In this way, I do not think the movie did anything wrong. There’s a constant give and take between the two of them for this attainment of “love”. Christian is also protecting himself–that’s part of why the idea of controlled, submissive sex and romance is so appealing. You cannot get hurt if you don’t allow anyone to penetrate your armor. He may have exemplified his guardedness and inner turmoil in a way that was not okay for a dom-sub agreement at one point, but we are all messy humans who continually blur the lines between what we should and shouldn’t do and with what intentions.

Having a degree in Psychology, I actually found this to be a natural (and cliché) path for the movie to take. A plot merely about fetishes with no depth: How are you going to make a box office hit? People like romance. We like protagonists and antagonists. We like movies that will our souls to seek change. We like anything we can relate to on a personal level.

I’ll come forward and say it: I related to this movie on a profoundly deep level. The movie itself wasn’t profound, but its effect on me was. No, I have never been whisked away by a stunningly beautiful billionaire, and I haven’t been chained to a wall in a “play room” (although it sounds fun). However, I know what it feels like to be entranced by an insanely gorgeous and charming man. I know what it is to have him forever far away, and often times, emotionally distant and protected. I know what it is to watch everyone around me go on dates with their significant others, and I know what it’s like to have plans broken at the drop of a hat because something career-wise has popped up and taken precedence.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of Ana, where it very much appears to be romance and love, and have the other person contradict it. I know what it’s like to be abused by the person I love, too. This isn’t all one person, of course, it’s a collective.

But I know.

In this way, I could so truthfully relate to the emotions felt, and as an “incurable romantic”, my heart spasmed when Christian confesses his fears and childhood trauma to a sleeping Ana, because he wishes he could tell her consciously.

I gasped at the scene in the elevator when their lust was first manifested, and I delighted in each passionate kiss Christian launched at Ana the second she walked in the door, because I know exactly how those things feel.

Christian is driven to say to Ana that she is everything he wants, and Ana tells Christian, choking through sobs, that she’s in love with Christian, which makes him recoil. I know what it is to feel as though I am everything that someone wants but never secure enough to say those three words.

When Christian smiles at the text Ana sends, expressing how she misses him and wishes he were there, was probably one of the most tender and painful moments for me, because every time I press send on the end of my phone saying the same thing to someone I care about, I am hoping, no matter how emotionally protected he may seem at times, that he is secretly smiling because he cares, too.

Fifty Shades, although not prophetic or enlightening, substantiated the art of seduction, the deeper, darker colors of humanity, which mold and shape our behaviors, and still kept present a hint of hope for change, which to every incurable romantic, is our raison d’être.

Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.