the body and standing up

I’m trying a new thing at work these days. At the advice of my physical therapist, I’m trying to practice standing for longer times. Sustained standing still causes a lot of aggravation and swelling in my knee, and like most of my recovery, the best way to improve this is to practice it incrementally.

Ideally, I’ll work my way up to one hour standing, one hour sitting throughout my day. Right now I’m at 50 minutes sitting/10 minutes standing for every hour. Once my knee begins to tolerate that–hopefully in about 1-2 weeks–I’ll move to 45 minutes sitting/15 minutes standing for a week or two, and so on until I can do an even split in an hour. It’ll probably take up to two months to get there, but slow and steady is just fine with me.

It’s hard to realize how important just being able to stand in one place is until you can’t do it anymore. Lines are impossible, the grocery store just sucks, waiting for the bus is a huge challenge, etc. etc. etc. I’m really grateful that I’m able to stand relatively comfortably at this point, but I still have a lot more work to do to get back to my previous ability.

I’ll check in again about how my standing up is going in a month or so.

the body and the parking lot confrontation

[CW: anti-queer slurs, harassment]

I feel I have to write about an┬áincident that recently happened to me and my wife. I’m writing about this in part because it was a very upsetting moment that I need to process and in part because it cements for me the fact that no matter where you are, even in incredibly welcoming and accepting Seattle, there’s bigotry and assholery.

My wife and I were in the grocery store. There was a guy behind us who was pissed because he only had a few things and we had a full cart of groceries. Instead of asking if he could go in front of us, he just got huffy and increasingly annoyed. Then, out of nowhere, he called me a stupid bitch. I was not going to just let that slide, so I asked him why he said that, and told him if he was going to be an asshole he could get into a different line.

Fortunately, the cashier intervened and told the guy to chill out or get out. We finished checking out without incident and left the grocery store, but this guy was right behind us. Once my wife and I got to the parking lot he just started shouting slurs at me in particular.┬áI said nothing, because this interaction was clearly not worth my time nor was it worth escalating, so he shouted “Listen to me, you dyke witch!” We chose to leave him there without engaging. We got in the car and drove away.

This experience was incredibly scary. I was afraid this person was going to physically attack me and my wife. I was shaken and upset. I felt self-conscious and kept running over and over again in my mind how I could have avoided the situation.

But I’m glad I said something to him when he first called me a name. I’m glad I had my wife with me to support me and to hold my hand. I’m glad I didn’t engage him more than once because clearly there was no reasoning with this person. In the end, it was a totally absurd situation.

Really what is the most frustrating about this is that misogyny and homophobia are still the low-hanging fruit of insults. People pluck them with ease and toss them at you like they are obvious and horribly wounding. The most wounding thing is not the words (honestly, in a different context “dyke witch” sounds pretty awesome), but the fact that they were hurled with such painful intent. Even in welcoming and accepting Seattle, people know that they can hurt you by pointing out that you’re not straight and that you’re not a cis man. It’s painful to recognize.

Here’s to standing up for ourselves, being public about who we are when we are safe to do so, and recognizing when a fight is not worth the time.

the body and reinforcing the brain

Recently I took a day off of work because depression had been kicking my ass all week and I just could not make it out of bed again. It’s a frustrating part of being this low–I have no energy to do basic things and fulfill my responsibilities, but enough energy to feel horrible about not doing those things. Still, a day off is sometimes inevitable during these periods, and I do my best to accept where I am.

Often when I have to take a “sick brain” day, I end up doing nothing. I sit on the couch and watch TV literally all day. The only thing I’ll do is walk to the convenience store or order delivery food so that I can binge while watching TV. It’s really not healthy or productive to making myself feel better. It’s just a pattern of behavior that I’ve settled into and somehow convince myself will make my mood improve. When it doesn’t, which it never does, I feel like shit for wasting a day, but I often don’t have the skills to interrupt the pattern.

This day, though, I did it. I walked out of the house this morning with the plan to go immediately to the convenience store to buy things to binge on and then rush home to eat them. For some reason, this time I decided to take a bit of a walk first. The weather was nice and cool and moving slowly but consistently seemed to be helping my mood. So I walked.

I walked right past the convenience store, looking at it, but thinking I could stop there on my way back. Then I decided to try to find another store to go to, maybe further away. I kept plodding along.

Eventually, I was about a mile from home and I thought of a coffee shop that I really like. I thought it might be nice to get breakfast and coffee there and sit in the sunny window and read. So instead of worrying and being embarrassed, I walked in and I ordered the things I wanted. I got a savory scone and a cup of coffee without thinking about who would be watching me while I ate or if it was a healthy enough choice. It was what I wanted in the moment and I got it. I sat down at a table and read, pausing to take slow bites of my scone and savor my coffee. I stayed for about an hour and half, indulging myself mindfully. After a while, the shop filled up more, so I decided to leave.

I walked out, not feeling good, my mood still down and a bit judgmental, but feeling more human and much less impulsive. I thought, “Maybe I don’t want to binge.” But I also was afraid to give up the opportunity, so I walked in the direction of the convenience store. By the time I got there, I realized something amazing: 1) I didn’t really want to binge and 2) I wasn’t required to follow through on that behavior even though it’s my habit. Whoa, that thought was revolutionary. So I walked home, still slowly, still feeling down, but proud of myself for treating my desires with respect and treating my urges with careful skepticism.

As my therapist always says, every time you act on an urge, it reinforces the routes in your brain that make that behavior easier. So when you make a choice to pursue a positive behavior, you are literally helping your brain to make this choice easier in the future. It’s hard, but it works.

I’m going to work on reinforcing this pattern. My depressed brain is slower and less able to learn new things, but it doesn’t mean it can’t do anything. I think maybe next time making a choice like this will be slightly easier.

the body and my brain right now

I’m not going to lie, I’m going through a tough time right now. Depression has snuck back into my life and has settled right in my home–my body.

I feel exhausted all the time. I feel unmotivated. I’m falling behind at work. I avoid tasks because they just seem too hard. I don’t help around the house. I feel flat and unfunny when I see my friends.

This isn’t new for me. Unfortunately, I’m used to this feeling. I’ve dealt with periods of depression since I was 14, and periods of hypomania from 16. I have a mood cycle that is an inherent part of who I am. My body and my brain ebb and flow with energy and optimism. I’m fortunate enough to have medications and support that really help me out and keep my head above water pretty much all of the time, even when I’m having a super rough time. The rough times are never as bad as they used to be and I am incredibly grateful for that.

Still, I have a moderate depressive episode pretty much once a year at this point. I guess now is my time. Sometimes it’s triggered by extra stress or by the winter (hello, seasonal depression), but this time I’m just not sure. It sucks to have to accept this about myself, but fighting that this is happening only makes taking care of myself harder.

I know part of the problem is that with my injury I just haven’t been able to exercise. Exercise is a huge help in boosting my mood and reminding my brain that it can make happy chemicals. It’s also a good reminder that some things do still feel good, even if not everything does. But right now I’m pretty limited in what I can do. That doesn’t mean I can do nothing.

I am strong, and I have survived this so many times before. Every time I get through a depressive episode I realize how wrong my depressed brain is in perceiving the world and myself. I just have to keep reminding myself that my judgments are coming from an impaired brain and that it will not always be like this.

Here’s to taking deep breaths, trying to stay in the moment, and doing the best I can with what I have.