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This is a PSA for anyone who has met me since the end of December:…

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This is a PSA for anyone who has met me since the end of December: when you met me, I was not at my best. You have never seen me at my best, nor anywhere near it. If you think I am pretty awesome in spite of this, well, you are totally right, I possess great depths of rockitude and you get to find out all about it, you lucky duck! If you're unsure about me, though, you can check out the laying-down-of-cards behind the cut, which is long and about non-awesome things and is a definite downer - I recommend reading some Diana Wynne Jones instead.

I have been pretty off lately. I've been sensing it in myself for a long time, and I've gotten outside verification in the last couple of days that I am hard to talk to lately (bouncing from subject to subject, unable to focus, speaking at a can't-get-a-word-in-edgewise rate and seeming at times to be listening only on a surface level). It could be worse: it's definitely recent; and not everyone I asked agreed, which means it's not 100% and makes me feel somewhat better; and there are a lot worse ways to be a jerk or otherwise unpleasant - this was infinitely preferable to a BO intervention. Still, it wasn't fun to hear, but it's not like it's rooted in mystery - it is due to the massive massive MASSIVE amounts of stress in which I am swimming. This spaz state has happened to me before, and though it's never been this bad - or at least not since high school, when I was probably like this most of the time - past experience tells me that when things get easier for me again (and they WILL) this is going to pass, and though it's not pretty and it's not fun, I will survive to return to my own personal version of normal. In the interim, I have good friends, and I know I can trust them to forgive me my trespasses, and maintain their own safe distances as needed, and I'll still have them in my life when I finish this slog.

The place where that falls down, though, is with newer friends. One of the things I've been doing to keep in balance has been going out and socializing. It is a double-edged sword - I have met some awesome folks and had some good times, and going out has helped me maintain my inner balance better than I would have otherwise, but these new people have only ever seen me twisted, and it surely blunts the experience of meeting me (whatever that is). Evidence suggests that I am not instantly alienating everyone I meet, but I kinda think that "doesn't incur universal loathing" is setting the bar a little low.

Now, I mostly avoid talking about my problems these days. It is not that they are secrets - I am quite open about them when they come up, especially in situations where the listener might be able to help me, such as with networking for jobs - but rehashing my troubles makes me bored with myself, and surely dull to others, and I see no reason to do that to any of us when I can almost always think of something more entertaining than talking about the downsides of my life. These things may impede me, even momentarily immobilize me, but I refuse to allow them to define me. However, I think it would be good to just lay everything out for a moment, to lend perspective on myself to anyone who wants it. To that end, I took a look at a stress index chart. Now, I think these things are pretty limited tools, as the assigned numbering system strikes me as almost arbitrary (though that may just be ignorance on my part), but they ARE extremely useful for lending a snapshot of objective perspective to your status, and I have a use for that right now. You're supposed to look at the last year, and this list is in rough chronological order:

45 SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR ILLNESS - I was diagnosed with type II diabetes a year ago.

20 CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS - I have had to completely change my diet due to my diagnosis.

20 CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS - I have a daily regimen of blood sugar testing and meds, when before I preferred to avoid even aspirin if possible, and also have the constant push to exercise more often, which I am just now maybe finally getting a handle on doing consistently.

30 CHANGE IN NUMBER OF ARGUMENTS WITH FRIENDS - A romantic relationship had transitioned to a platonic one, poorly and with vast amounts of miscommunication on both sides about what was happening and what each of us wanted. The strain became too much for me in June, and after a two week round of emails I referred to as "chopping oatmeal" the ultimate result was a complete severing of ties. She was one of the main reasons I'd moved to Lincoln in the first place; this was a worse outcome than any of the ones I'd considered likely, or I wouldn't have made the move in the first place.

30 CHANGE IN NUMBER OF ARGUMENTS WITH FAMILY - Over the summer, my dad and I started having disagreements about my handling of my new diagnosis (he is also diabetic) and over aspects of my working part-time for his small entrepreneurial enterprise. It spilled over into a litany of my horribleness in various other ways, and ended with him telling me, "I'm the Dad," and that I'm a disappointment to him as a person, and sending me some tremendously long YouTube link about tough love or some crap like that (I did not watch it). We have had a very good connection for a long time, and if he's been unhappy about the way things worked between us in the he's kept it to himself until now. Some of his complaints about me strike me as being retconned indignation, as if someone told him that I was treating him badly... and he didn't bother to tell that someone that he treats me the same way and it has always worked just fine for us. Overall, I found his stance to be incredibly hurtful as well as outrageously out of line. He even called my mother, from whom he has been divorced for ten years (he told me once that if I ever married, he'd give me $10,000 to elope so he wouldn't have to spend a day with her). She told him he was being ridiculous but it did not move him. I have no idea how to fix this and I have only contacted him once since, on his birthday last month. I miss having a good adult relationship with him. Right at the end I suggested we try counseling, but he rejected the idea, and the only reconciliation in which he has expressed any interest is a blanket apology from me, which is neither healthy nor happening in this lifetime.

45 FIRED AT WORK - I didn't get fired fired, but my contract with the state ended on December 2. They do not allow temps to stay in one place for more than a year. This prevents liability for keeping benefits from a person who is there long enough for it to be a permanent position (or something). I did get an extension, because they did not want me to go, but it was only for one month. I liked my work, I liked my coworkers, I was valued and needed, but they couldn't keep me and getting a new contract meant I would have had to start all over - and it would still have had all the sucky parts of working for government. Inefficiency on that scale makes my brain itch.

15 CHANGE IN RESIDENCE - in December I moved back to Illinois from living in Nebraska for one year.

20 CHANGE IN LIVING CONDITIONS - went from the autonomy of a single one bedroom apartment into the second bedroom of my brother's apartment. Most of my possessions, which I had at my place, are now in a storage locker down the road, in bins and boxes with a now-inaccurate labelling system. I can't reliably lay hands on any one thing I might want without putting in some hours of work searching.

35 CHANGE IN FINANCIAL STATE - I have now been unemployed for five months. This is three times as long as at any time in the last decade. I have NEVER had to work this hard to find employment (and oh how I hate that), and there is still nothing in sight. The money I had saved for this move is long gone, and was not enough for this length of joblessness even if I'd been made of thrift, which I wasn't. My defunct part time job with Dad was the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and getting ahead, and would still be doing me quite well if it hadn't vanished due to us fighting, though demand for his product has gone away anyway as the economy tanked. I cashed out a couple of bonds I had from babyhood, and I'm squeaking by with working for my mom around the house. My search for other revenue streams is probably laughable and is certainly not bearing fruit yet. This week I try to file for unemployment in Nebraska.

10 GOING IN DEBT - I have old bills which I haven't been paying and can't start, because they are less important than the current household bills that we have barely been able to pay. My credit score was already crap before any of this started and I am pretty sure it's now dying an ugly death. I could probably have smoothed some of this out by working with my creditors, but I didn't do that, and that's all she wrote (there's a problem with this index right there - how is THIS only worth 10?!).

25 SLEEP LESS THAN 8 HOURS PER NIGHT - Being without a firm daily schedule has made maintaining a sleep schedule more difficult. I am making a conscious effort not to stay up too late (unless I fail), but I have had a hard time getting to sleep many nights. Even on a good night, like last night, that's about 1 am. Nona, my cat who thinks it is immoral for me to sleep past sunrise, has recovered from her (blissful, blissful) laryngitis and can wake me up again. This morning she woke me at 7. I can get by on this but I don't feel good; I am often too tense to nap during the day to make up for it, though.

35 SEX DIFFICULTIES - Comin' up on a year of nothin'. The general trend seems to be "the more they like me, the farther away they live." My perfect mate is obviously in Antarctica, assuming the limit is the confines of this planet, which at this point doesn't actually feel like a safe assumption. There are several things that have been ruled out because they come with complications and more complications. There is mutual interest with several of the newer people in my life, but the getting-to-know-you process is hampered when it's an arduous task just to get both of you in the same county, let alone the same room. I am not opposed to something more casual, but I don't have any interest in the "one night stand" variety and can't quite figure out the mechanics of arranging a relaxed relationship, even though I have had them before - I am fairly forthright, but that particular brand of directness is one I clearly need to practice. In summary, I can't seem to give it away. You would not think it was so hard for a girl to get herself ruint, but apparently the paperwork is just beyond me. It does not help that the whole biological clock thing appears to be very very real. "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" could have been a short story about my ovaries.

Things I can't figure out how to plug into the chart:

-- my best friend was diagnosed with cancer late last spring. He's been successfully treated, and it all went the best it possibly could at every step of the way, for which I am grateful, but I worried about him very much while it was happening.

-- In late summer, I started talking to a man online. We were very compatible and enjoyed each other a lot, and spent hours and hours chatting or sometimes skyping. We wanted to meet, but he did not have the means. As life was being difficult for me, I decided to pay for his travel myself. I knew he wasn't perfect, but I was pretty confident that we would click in person, as I had had a fairly good track record of that with people I liked. The meeting was meant to be a treat for me, but it did not work out that way at all. When I first saw him, I realized that he had what appeared to me to be very serious health issues that a crappy webcam just did not convey - to give the general idea, one of my friends who met him opined meth or heroine abuse. That is possible, but I don't believe it to be the case - I think it was the accumulated result of a number of gaps in his self-care over the course of years - sedentary living on cigarettes, coffee and frozen hamburger patties, no doctor visits, poor dental hygiene. The cause is moot anyway - I told him that I could not get involved with him unless I could actively see that he was taking care of himself, and he stopped talking to me completely. In my ideal world, I could have supported him as a friend while he worked toward some of these changes - getting his health insurance set up and going to a doctor for a checkup, improving his diet, things like that - and then we could have given a relationship a shot. I normally don't subscribe to the "find a man and change him" philosophy but these are basics that every human needs to have a handle on. It has to have been incredibly painful for him, and though I don't blame him for bailing on me, it really stung me. I believe he got involved with someone else, and I hope I served as a wakeup call and he got himself together, but that's cold cold comfort when you're alone yourself (where does THIS go on the chart?).

-- I don't have health insurance. I've never paid for COBRA between jobs before and it was totally beyond my means now, but I've also never had a pre-existing condition before. I don't know what this means for the next time I am employed - it shouldn't affect group rates, right? I hope not. For right now, even if I bought independent insurance now, it would have riders to keep from paying for my diabetic needs for up to two years, which is my immediate need, and it's moot anyway as I can't afford it.

-- I am about to run out of my very very expensive meds, and I don't know how I am going to get more, now that I am uninsured. I will try to buy the next month's supply as cheaply as I can find it, and then try all the possibilities I can think of to get help going forward from that, but I am starting from scratch at trying to learn to use the system, and I will probably not qualify for anything that's income-based - I haven't been poor enough long enough. Yes, I will still try; I am a realist, not a pessimist.

-- A side effect of my meds is a reduced appetite. Food often feels like a chore when it used to be a pleasure. I can't stand to eat leftovers more than once now, either, when my MO used to be make a huge pot of something and eat it all week. I didn't know how much my outlook on food was a part of my identity until it changed.

-- Between the more regulated diet and the loss of appetite (and periodic nausea, another side effect) I've lost weight. I no longer recall exactly what I weighed a year ago, I've been citing a difference of 50 lbs because that's about right, I think. Most women would jump for joy at this, but I have extremely mixed emotions. I've already shrunk out of most of my clothes, though I still wear a lot that don't fit me right. Even if I could afford a new wardrobe, I loathe clothes shopping and would do a lot to get out of it. I also LIKED myself as I was. I still like myself fine, but it's been screwing with my identity some. I don't know how much I can change and still be me. I know who found me attractive 50 pounds ago, and I like those people. I don't know if they will still be attracted to me if I lose another 50 pounds, or who will replace them, or how I will feel about those other people. I'm trying to adapt to all this (it's not a problem that's going to garner much sympathy, I realize *chuckle*) and I will, because it is a thing that IS. It's really fucking hard, though.

-- Whether because of weight loss or changed blood chemistry, my body's reacting differently to temperatures. I have felt colder all this winter than at any time in my adult life, looking for blankets at temperatures where I used to still have my fan blowing on my face. As I write this sentence, I am wearing a robe, long underwear and socks, and my feet are still freezing - I had a second pair of socks but they were so uncomfortable I had to take them off for a while, and they weren't doing it anyway. All this clothing is contrary to the school of philosophy to which I subscribe. This is the exception to the not talking about my problems, as I cannot shut the hell up about my stupid cold feet.

According to the ancillary text of the chart, "...if you have experienced total stress within the last twelve months of 250 or greater, even with normal stress tolerance, you may be OVERSTRESSED. Persons with Low Stress Tolerance may be OVERSTRESSED at levels as low as 150." If I assign each of those last ones a value of ten (which is severe lowballing on a couple of those), my score here is 400.

So, all that is something of a load. I'm a generally happy person under a great deal of strain. Looking at that all of this laid out, I'm kind of surprised at how much of the time I AM still happy, and it's not a shock that I am getting somewhat flighty.

Much of this is passing or will pass. A LOT of it will ease if not outright vanish once I find a job. Still, that is soon, I hope, but I live in now, and I would hate to think that these temporary oddities are obscuring my actual ones. A sensible person would probably back away from all this. For those who do not see "sensible" as a worthwhile goal, though, I would appreciate your help:

  • If you are happy, tell me about it! I like it when my friends are happy.

  • If you see something funny or cool, pass it along! Everybody needs more link madness.

  • If you want to see me, let me know - I probably want to see you, too.

  • If you want to do something that is inexpensive or free, that is even better. I will not be ungrateful for kindnesses, but it stings me that I am not able to both do the fun costly things everyone likes to do AND go Dutch as I prefer. I am mostly the "hang out and talk" type, anyway, though, and talk, as ever, is cheap.

  • When you see me, please try to be tolerant. I am fairly tense.

  • If I strain your tolerance, please tell me the truth about it. I would ask for a smile and a gentle comment. If you were hoping to save up some issues and confront me later, that ship has sailed, and I think I took it pretty well once but do not promise to again.

  • If you know anything about a job, even just an odd job, please please please let me know.

  • If you know anything about casual relationships... shoot me an IM. *chuckle*
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