Trying a New Flavor (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I”m a pretty adventurous eater, so it’s rare for me to find a food I haven’t already sampled. The current crisis, however, has led me to purchase dried unsweetened fruits that are allowing me to experience new flavors. My favorites so far are jackfruit and pineapple.

The only dried tropical fruits I had as a child were coated in a thick layer of sugary syrup. I’ve never liked fruit-based desserts so they did not appeal to me. Fruit dried with nothing added is a completely different experience. The jackfruit reminded me of Fruit Stripe gum, and held its flavor for more than the three seconds the gums used to. The pineapple had an almost jerky-style savoriness to it. I love that I can get nutrients I need while learning to appreciate new textures and scent journeys. What’s the most recent new food you tried? What did you think of it?

Mindfully Attending to Eating Patterns (Today’s Daily Presence)

I ordered fresh fruit for delivery this week, as well as a box of “healthy” pre-packaged foods. It has been a while since I ate anything that wasn’t made from scratch and I found my body’s response to be quite surprising. Everything tasted either over-salted or excessively sweet. All of the chips and such seemed overly artificially-flavored, even though it was from natural ingredients.

I wish I could give all the credit for the shift I’ve undergone in my tastes to adhering to my “home-made foods” diet so thoroughly, but the other factor that’s made a decided difference is being on low-dose T. Since starting T, I rarely crave carbs, salt or sugar. I cannot believe how boring a bag of pretzels tastes now; in the past, I could consume a large portion easily in one sitting. I’m primarily interested in eating meat and fruit now, but I would say overall my food drive has lessened.

I am only today starting to settle down from my efforts to get my job transitioned to online work (there might unfortunately be additional developments on this front), so I haven’t been cooking more than the bare minimum to keep myself fed. I am anticipating some exciting meal prep once my homegrown mushrooms and micro-greens and so forth are finished growing. What’s the last homemade meal you created? Have you ever experienced a significant shift in the types of foods you enjoy?

Skill-Building for Self-Sufficiency (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

To what extent do you rely on global supply chains to provide for your daily needs? A question most of us would have probably viewed as superfluous a few months ago, and which now feels like one to which I actually need answers. I’ve started having visions of myself sneaking into corn fields to borrow an ear if all the grocery stores run out of food (did I mentioned I have some problems with “what if” questions?). To attempt to balance between digging a bunker and assuming everything will be business as normal, I’ve decided to try some indoor gardening.

I do not like bugs or weeds, so tending a backyard garden is 100% in the category of “chore” for me. I have had coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and deer in my backyard, so chances of an easy path to success, were I to try gardening outside, feel rather slim. I am instead going to be growing indoor microgreens and herbs. I have also considered mushrooms!

I sometimes start new habits, such as writing this blog, and am highly consistent in tending to them. Other times, I begin a project and give up almost immediately. I feel in this case that there is a non-zero chance I will actually need the food I grow for sustenance, so I’m hoping that will motivate me to follow through and put in the effort needed to produce a result. Hopefully there are some gratitude posts forthcoming where I get to harvest what I grow. Do you have any skills you are building right now? Do you value self-sufficiency? If so, in what ways are you able to be self-sufficient?

Answering the “What Ifs” (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

After several days of non-stop work, today has been a bit slower. And, predictably, my mind now has a few seconds to spare to race towards “what if” scenarios. The area where I live is already in a state where bars, restaurants and schools are closed, and I’m afraid that even more stringent requirements may be enacted. My primary concern is about whether I’ll be able to keep my job and keep my house in functioning order. I’m mentally (not in reality) racing to the place on the path where I’m at the end of myself and have no idea how to proceed.

About a decade ago, when I began my current job, I moved across several states and had barely settled in when my then supervisor (thankfully not working at my job anymore) threatened to try to get me fired. I honestly believe her motivation was jealousy more than anything else; it is a long story. That experience was the closest I’ve come to “I’m lost without direction.” I dissociated to the point where I kept thinking I was dreaming and would snap in and out of glimpses of reality. I worked the way I’ve worked the past few days for months on end, doing everything I could to prove myself worthy (I also kindled a flame of burning hatred I carry to this day towards her). The experience scarred and traumatized me; the feeling of having put in decades of work and finally “arriving” and then being told it could all be taken from me without cause hasn’t left me. I didn’t learn anything from it because I did truly lose myself when the crisis hit; I became suicidal and a workaholic rather than comforting or being with myself through it.

I want to say to the terrified small parts of self who chorus their “what ifs” to me: I’ll be here with you in it if it comes again. I may lose my job, my house, my pup and my health (my four biggest worries), but I do not have to discard who I am if any of those losses occur. I have resources and I have coping skills that I did not have in the past. What do the little or young parts of self need to hear from you today? To which events in your life does your mind unconsciously cycle if you are feeling anxious, helpless or hopeless? What’s different about your life now than it was then?

Listening to Jazz (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I am working so much more than I normally would right now and needed background noise that wasn’t distracting or too relaxing. I found a jazz station that fit the bill perfectly. Listening to it helped keep my focus and energy at a level where I was calm as well as engaged. I was very productive! It also made me think of happier times at coffee shops and jazz festivals. What’s help you stay motivated today?

All Together Now (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

Things are shutting down left and right where I live as daily cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 are doubling within a few days. As my coworkers, friends and neighbors and I deal with the situation, a singular experience is rising to the surface for me. This crisis isn’t personal, it’s global.

I cannot tell you how many times in my life I’ve dealt with a personal crisis and felt completely alienated from the happy, calm people around me whose lives seemed to be humming along perfectly while mine fell apart. There is such a lie at the heart of trauma–that. because our experience was unique, we alone have been ruined and bring ruin into our lives. I feel more energized and empowered than I have in months. It is because I can move away from a place of “I suffer alone” to “we’ve got this, how can I help.” I was made for this type of situation, and, because it has not yet involved an overwhelming amount of interpersonal conflict, I am not triggered by it.

The realness of the fact that I have a mental disorder, PTSD, rather than a personality flaw is becoming crystallized in my mind. Sure, I’m not coping perfectly and have had mood swings and trouble sleeping. But, I am not feeling helpless or hopeless. I am attacking the challenges that face me instead of crumbling underneath of them, and it is happening in large part because almost everyone around me is validating that this is a crisis and that we are here to support each other in it. How different would my everyday life be if people responded to my PTSD with support and care and took my triggers as legitimate?

Underneath of all of this is a feeling of being a real human for once, rather than a cobbled-together set of traumatized parts trying to masquerade as a real person. I feel more adult, more helpful, more reassuring and more kind than…I don’t know when. Apparently all it takes is absolute chaos, danger and a global pandemic to realign my interior into an optimally-functioning collaborative. If you are a trauma survivor, especially one who deals with dissociation, how are your parts holding up right now? What reorganization is occurring? What inner truths are rising to the surface?

Following Habits (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

When I got my dog as a puppy, I purchased him a stuffed animal dog into which I could place a plastic “heartbeat” and a warmer. I intended for it to be soothing to him, but he developed another kind of relationship with his dog friend. Let’s just say people tend to feel a bit awkward when he has his special time with it when they visit. It is the only thing he treats that way and it cracks me up.

I wash his puppy every Sunday and he eagerly scampers to the dryer to attack and get frisky with his friend next to the pile of fresh laundry (his bedding, etc.). Today, I forgot to wash it, and the search was on for where it went. He eventually found it and brought it down an entire flight of stairs just so that he could share the love of being next to the laundry as he snarled and bit the stuffed animal. It made me laugh so hard that he apparently has an entire ritual built into the puppy being washed. What’s made you laugh today?

Finding Calm in the Whirlwind (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

Well, my life turned upside down in the last 24 hours. My job is moving online for two months, a situation which requires a tremendous amount of planning and action all at once. I have over a hundred students depending on me to get it right, so no pressure!

I feel empowered rather than defeated, as I can finally channel my excessive energy into something productive. At the same time, the human element is what scares me in terms of having to navigate competing interests and balance my time. The potential implications for a total lockdown of my area is creeping into my consciousness as well.

As I was thinking of all of this, I ran into a neighbor (from a safe distance!) that I haven’t seen in a while. She offered to help me if I get sick. Having someone who lives so close offer this meant the world to me; I really needed to know that I’m not alone. Again and again, I keep coming to the truth that, as long as I feel connected to a community, my personality and inner world is created for a time like this. I feel galvanized to a degree I thought I’d lost. What’s been your moment of peace today?

Tips for Coping with Social Distancing Measures

There is evidence of community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 near where I live, and daily life is rapidly changing. Events have been cancelled, my job may be moving to e-learning and social distancing is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. I wanted to share a few ideas I have about how to cope.

Action and acceptance

I wrote about this topic yesterday. In terms of steps to take, what I want to share is to encourage you to take steps to deal with the situation at hand that are measured, within your means and accessible to you. I’ve been stocking up on basics since January, so I’m now in the stage where my anxiety is fueling me to want to purchase, for example, a 3K generator. It can be really difficult to discern between what is rational and what is panic-based; if at all possible, for larger purchases, I try to wait 24 hours before making a final decision.

In terms of acceptance, there may come a point for each of us where we reach the end of our capacity to prepare or to respond to the crisis. I won’t provoke your anxiety by laying out examples as, if you are as skilled at freaking out as I am, your mind has no trouble delivering these to you. This is the place where I think practices of spirituality and faith in humanity have to come to bear. My hope is that something greater than myself will guide me and someone kind will meet me if I arrive at the end of my means. The groundwork for this response, for me, has been years of inner work and (much less successfully) attempts to build a social support network. Each of us might have more at our disposal than our scared inner children let on.

Self-Compassion

Give yourself permission to be only as active as you need to be to maintain your health and responsibilities. I’m seeing a lot of posts about learning a new hobby, finishing the book you were writing or completing a home repair project if you are asked to stay home. Although these suggestions are well-meaning and perfect for people who need to stay busy, they can be overwhelming to those of us with workaholic tendencies who may feel that we are not being as productive as we should be.

I do encourage you to develop a daily schedule with as much time as you are able to devote to self-care and reflection. It is healthy, in my opinion, to pause from time to time to check in with yourself and your loved ones and to see how you are coping. Mindfulness and other practices can help get us out of the past or the future into the present moment.

To the extent that you are able to do so, be present with your emotions. It is okay to feel angry, scared or sadness. I’m struggling with an angry “I told you so” after my concerns as to what was coming were dismissed and mocked by several people IRL. Rather than stuff down what feels like smugness, I’m sitting with it and asking myself how I might respond differently in the future when someone ignores my advice. Our feelings are excellent, in most situations, at helping us identify our underlying needs.

Community Connections

As I shared above, social support is key to making it to the other side of the pandemic in a way that tends to our mental health needs. This is the time to get creative and to find ways to connect with loved ones, even if it has to be through virtual settings. A monthly meeting I enjoy attending has been cancelled, so we are considering hosting it virtually if the quarantine continues next month.

Take a mental headcount of the people in your neighborhood or local community with whom you might partner to meet basic needs. I’m learning about so many agencies that exist on a city and county level that I did not know were there to support the community. If it suits you, determine whether there are ways to support healthcare workers who might be highly affected by this crisis.

What are you doing to cope with social distancing if it has been implemented in your area? If it hasn’t been yet, what can you do to prepare?

Action and Acceptance

In my graduate school education in psychology, I was taught to treat questions of “but what if” with a healthy dose of skepticism, to then ask, “what is the likelihood of that happening in real life?” I would then typically challenge my client to see how improbable it was that the fear would be realized. Sometimes, though, the unlikely occurs and we have to move through our disbelief into action and acceptance.

Psychologists frame action as a coping mechanism that stands in opposition to acceptance–namely, that we try to problem-solve. When our problem-solving fails at finding a solution, we move to a place of tending our emotions. We are also different culturally and constitutionally as to which strategy we tend to employ.

I wonder, though, if there is ample room for both. We can take steps to control what can be controlled as well as to make our peace with our fate. I cannot with people who try to placate me with telling me horrible outcomes could never happen, who discount the need for any type of coping. They already have for me as a small child, so I experience “don’t worry” as “I can’t hear or see your fear as legitimate.”

To me, acceptance is the antidote to denial; it is a coming to rest at a crossroads, knowing that I do not know which paths will remain open to me and that I do not control the maintenance of the roads. None of us can predict the future and none of us can preemptively problem-solve for all eventualities. All I ask of my future self is that, if tragedy awaits, I do my best to keep my dignity and self-respect intact.

My worst fear, the “but what if” that keeps me up at night, is losing my autonomy–my ability to choose for myself where I tread through my own solution-generation. I know there are monsters who prey on the vulnerable. But there are kind souls as well and, whether it is rational or not, I attempt to believe they are in the majority. I think that is what I will focus on finding in this trying time–examples of human compassion that existed even when it seemed like all the roads were blocked with boulders. In my own timeline, I do not know who I will meet if all my ways forward collapse into one, but what if they were trustworthy and brave? What if you or I are that person for someone else?