This week hasn’t been one of my greatest. Wednesday and Thursday in particular.
To start with, I haven’t been sleeping very well and I’m pretty sure it’s caught up with me. I’m clumsy, walk into things or knock stuff over, and I’ve been fishing for words a lot lately. Even when I have the word, I often don’t trust myself enough to use it without consulting a dictionary. You know when you stare at a word long enough and it doesn’t right anymore? Like the spelling is wrong, or even that the letters aren’t letters, but a bunch of weird symbols? That’s been happening a lot, and it’s very frustrating when I’m trying to write something. It’s frustrating AND embarrassing when I’m standing in front of J, trying to tell her something and I’m waving my arms, trying to will the word I want to say into my head. It’s the same thing that happens when I’m on the phone with someone like my parents or my sister. I feel dumb, I feel unsure, and it really bothers me.
If I’m having a thought and want to mention it later, I need to write it down or it gets lost. J and I were having a conversation the other day and I couldn’t keep two thoughts in my head at the same time. That’s not an exaggeration, either – I couldn’t keep track of two thoughts without writing it down, and in the time it took me to write one down, I’d forgotten the other. That is also very frustrating and embarrassing.
Just in case you’re wondering – no, I haven’t had a stroke. Nor have I been drinking or making “adjustments” to my medication. I’m pretty sure I’m just overtired.
My weight is also really bothering me. I used to think I was fat before I put on 60lbs after I got sick. Now, I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror when I’m brushing my teeth. None of my old clothes fit. J had to buy me a new winter parka because I couldn’t do up the zipper on my old one. Frankly, I don’t really care about the health aspect of me being fat; what bothers me the most is how I look and how inconvenient being fat is. I’m embarrassed around my family and friends, who all try not to say anything but are worried I’ll drop dead from a heart attack or diabetes or any of the three billion different diseases and syndromes related to being overweight.
For the last while, I’ve been working on ACT with Dr P. More specifically, the personal values aspect of it. One of the hardest exercises I’ve had to do was work with him to come up with a list of what I value, give them a value out of ten that says how important I think those values are, and then think about each of them and come up with another value out of ten that reflects how those values are ranked in my real life – in what I say and do.
There are a couple of them that really bother me. Selflessness and loyalty, for example. Believe it or not (and if you are someone who knows me, you may not), I want to help people out and make them safe and happy. I was always the designated driver. I despise moving my own stuff, but don’t mind helping others move. If someone’s upset, I don’t mind lending an ear or a shoulder and trying to help them out with whatever’s going on. I don’t like the heat and I don’t like bugs, but I’ll happily stand in the middle of a patch of poison ivy, getting swarmed by ants and ticks, to help somebody set something up at their cabin. If I see someone stuck in the snow, I’ll stop and help get them moving, even if I have no idea who they are.
Selflessness is very important to me. I want to be able to help J out with anything she’s having difficulty with. I want to make her life easier, to give her more time to enjoy her day. Same thing with my family. I was speaking with my dad the other day and he said that he’d really like to get together for a BBQ or take a road trip. I would really like to be able to do that. I don’t have many friends, but the ones I do have I treasure. I want to be the person that they can call on if they need anything. I want to be available and helpful, to make their lives easier. Even with strangers, I want to be helpful. I’d really like to volunteer at the hospital, reading to or talking with people, playing cards… something to get their minds off of their predicament, if only for a moment. I’d like to be able to give back to the mental health resources and programs around here, too.
But here’s the thing about me nowadays: I do nothing. I accomplish nothing. I produce nothing.
The other day, J asked me to pre-order the groceries so she could stop in at the store and it would all be ready, taking her five minutes instead of an hour to do the shopping. I happily spent half an hour browsing 800 different kinds of pasta and beans, and then, once I’d clicked “submit”, I sat back, happy that I’d done something to make J’s life easier.
But then I thought about it, then thought about it some more. And then it hit me – that was kind of pathetic. J does all the shopping, all the driving, all the running-around-town-to-get-stuff-done, and I spend a half hour every couple of weeks clicking on a website to order groceries. She does everything.
This problem of me doing nothing affects my friends and family, too. If anybody wants to see me, they have to come over. If I want to see someone, they have to come over. I only see my sister and nephews if they get on a plane and come here. I like being an uncle, and I would really like to know the kids better before they’re grown up and out on their own.
I want to be selfless, but if I want to do anything with anybody, that person is the one who has to expend the time, effort, and resources to meet up. That’s not selfless – that’s… pretty much the opposite of selfless.
I talked with Dr P about this kind of stuff and he turned my questions around and asked me what I could do to help people from home. I thought I could write some more articles about my experiences with mental health. I also thought it would be a good idea to donate to some charities or projects that I feel are worthwhile.
But doing that feels utterly insignificant. In the grand scheme of things, will me donating $50 to the local food bank make any kind of difference? Does anybody other than Russian web bots and a couple of my friends and family even know that my website exists? In both cases, probably not.
Thinking about this stuff has got me grinding my teeth and getting headaches like I used to get every day when I was at my job.
I texted with one of J’s aunts and she said something that has stuck with me. We were talking about her volunteering work and she said this:
“I can’t do huge things so I decided I’m going to be the rock that causes ripples.”
I think that’s a really good way of looking at things. I do.
But again, I do nothing. I accomplish nothing. I produce nothing. No ripples.
I haven’t even been able to hammer out that little blurb about cells that I want to send to my nephews. I keep looking at it and there’s always something wrong. There’s a wrong word, or a sentence that doesn’t have to be as long as it is, or something reads awkwardly. I’m not trying to write a thesis here, I’m pretty much just trying to take some microscope pictures and write a description. JUST FINISH IT, I tell myself. But I can’t.
I’m not looking to have my birthday named as a civic holiday. I just want to be useful. Cause some ripples. Make someone’s life a little better. Because right now, I feel that as far as the Universe goes, I’m a net negative.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be over here, alarmed at the creaking noises the chair makes when I sit down, grinding my teeth and trying to remember the word for that thing that I should’ve written down when I thought about that other thing I also can’t remember when I was grabbing a Tylenol.