It was Only a Dress

I buy dresses. I wear dresses. Why? Because they make me feel good. The look on Sean’s face when I wear a dress. I also don’t have to put on pants when I wear a dress, which is always a plus.

Today I bought another dress. I don’t have a job, so no money is coming in, but I still bought a dress. Was it worth it? Hell YES! Why? Because it is a matter of self-care. A $16 clearance dress from Target covered in lightening bolts. I really like this dress.

The fact I left the house and actually went to Target means I earned the dress. Why? Because it is getting myself out of my own head. I haven’t kept to my to-do list, but I’m getting better. I’m doing most things when I planned to get them done. I may still be in my own head, but I’m getting out of there more than I had been.

I’m still not sleeping as well as I could be. I’m sleeping nine hours or more a night/day. My normal is seven to eight when I have things going on. My hair is the indicator that I’m not sleeping well. I’m moving a lot in my sleep when I don’t normally move a lot. Both of my cats have started sleeping in the bed with me all night. This isn’t new for Ray, but Bebe needed to be held as I fell asleep and then was on my head when I woke up.

I’m not home alone right now. My sister and nephew are doing amazing at home, so my mom is back. She brought cold weather back with her.

I find myself at a point of crying a lot. I cried today because Ray actually went to protect Bebe when I told him to. I cry if I’m watching a movie. Its not like bawling my eyes out crying, just the teary-eyed, sniffly crying.

I’m making it. Just barely, but I’m still making it.

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Trapped

I’m stuck in my own head. Its not safe in there. I’m working on ways of getting out, but that may take resources I don’t have.

So I am now in south Texas. I’m literally 30 minutes from Mexico. Its still hot here. The high today was in the low 90s…in October. I’m not built for this.

My mom’s dog ended up passing on Labor Day, due to liver failure. He was with her when he did, which is what he wanted. Its still weird, especially since Myles was a year younger than Vaughn. Roxy came down with mom then.

I drove over 12 hours with both dogs, both cats and the guinea pigs (yes, I have a thing for twos). All on two hours of sleep. It sucked.

I was here for a week and a half before going to Orlando to see Sean. I was there for a week before coming back. I didn’t want to come back.

I’m here by myself. My sister had a baby, who I will get to meet in December. Mom is back in Arkansas helping her out for the first week. Alex is excited about being a big brother. Kipper is being the best dog ever.

Its not healthy for me to be alone. I have nothing I can do and have been struggling to have any kind of routine or schedule. Being alone makes me feel very autistic. Sean tries to help, but there is only so much he can do being 20 hours away. Yeah, I’m 20 hours away from where I want to be.

I’m still an Arkansas resident, so I can’t get a job while I’m here. I am also going back to Orlando in five weeks and then will be going to Arkansas and Orlando about four weeks after that. No one is going to hire someone who isn’t going to be around to work. I have some money set aside, so I just have to stay in budget and I’ll be OK, at least from a bills paid point.

I’m trying to get myself out of the maze in my head. I got two marker boards today,one is a calendar and the other just a rectangle. The calendar just gets dates, things that have to be done on certain days and counting down after a certain time when I get to leave. I keep fixating on leaving. The rectangle got has a to-do list. Four things that have to get done and how often they have to get done. These are the things that always have to get done or things get gross.

Since I have been in Texas, I have been dealing with bad headaches. Not migraines, which is definitely a good thing. No, tension headaches. Part of why I kept getting headaches was the A/C in my room kept going out. I’m on the third unit in a month, including being gone for a week. At least I’ve cooled off.

The other reason is stress. I’m fighting myself. My depression is a big shadow creeping and growing right now. Its the never ceasing monster.

Health and Behavior

Honestly, I can say the shit has hit the fan in my life. I’m not kidding. In four weeks, I won’t have a job. On top of that, I’m dealing with the imminent death of my paternal grandfather and the fact I’ve just started to allow him and my grandmother back in my life. Oh, and my mom’s diabetic alert dog (for reactive hypoglycemia) tried to die, and my cat has reflux.

The dog, Myles, got a very bad respiratory bug that we found out has only hit hounds (he’s ¾ hound between two different breeds) and has killed over half the dogs that get it. The remaining quarter of him is Jack Russell, which no doubt is why he is still alive, that stubborn little shit. He lost about ten pounds (his highest weight is 45lbs, so that is a lot of weight) and refused to eat for two weeks. Mom resorted to feeding him whatever fried seafood options she could find (fried crawfish tails from an Asian restaurant since he is originally from Louisiana and thus a Cajun hound, as well as as much popcorn shrimp as he wanted). He stopped losing, but wasn’t seeming to get better.

He got sick while I was in Florida visiting Sean. Right after I got back, mom went down to Texas to finalize details on her move and new job, and that is when the worst of it hit. He couldn’t really get up and move around. Mom and I each had our methods of getting him to eat (mine was oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because fuck it, he’s sick, he gets what he’ll eat). She is now down in Texas, leaving me to handle his two month recovery. He’s getting better. Mom’s paranoid brain said his swollen lymph nodes were because of cancer. They are getting smaller with vitamin C supplementation, so its just due to a secondary infection. He’s gaining weight and wanting to eat. He’s a tough little shit, so he’s going to be fine.

What got me is Ramone, my sweet baby Ray Ray, having reflux. I don’t have fingers and toes to count the number of dogs and cats my family has had in my life. I mean, dogs 7, 8, 9, and 11 are currently in the same room as me (Myles is the crazy 8, even has an 8 on his back). Most of my animals have been special needs, but none have had reflux. Its weird because if I polled my friends on Facebook, I would probably one in ten to one in fifteen who dealt with reflux at some point. However, it is uncommon in pets. It points to something bigger. The human problem is behavior.

Behavior is something that drives all humans. What is considered typical and atypical defines disorders, such as autism. Yet we rarely look at how our behaviors impact us, especially at the level of our health. Like many with autism, I have GI issues. Severe reflux, chronic gastritis and IBS-C are things I know more about that most general practitioners. These things have been my life for the past 33 years. But the truth is, for most people with these conditions, they honestly do it to themselves. Reflux is often caused by overeating (especially chronic daily overeating), as well as alcohol and tobacco consumption. Gastritis can be caused by those things, too. Constipation (the C of IBS-C) is often the result of poor nutritional choices (aka, not eating things with fiber, like fruits, veggies and whole grains, which do amazing things aside from making you poop).

I was six months old when I was first diagnosed with reflux. The doctor said I would outgrow it. Instead, I lived with a condition called silent reflux for years (reflux without the pain because it only goes high enough to enter the airway but not high enough to irritate the throat itself). I remember of having chest pains that were sharp and would almost knock me over. I actually still have them. I’ve even had surgery to help with the reflux (also had a hiatal hernia, which made the reflux worse, so that was fixed, too). I’m not the normal reflux patient.

Right now I feel like a crazy person. My reflux is going crazy because of stress. The same stress is making Ray get sick because of his (poor baby lost five pounds!). Myles could easily go downhill if I’m not careful. Three daily fights trying to get pills in critters (Myles is once daily, while Ray is twice), on top of my twice a day handfuls. My life is revolving around how these two are doing and how not to lose my mind. At least Rose (mom’s extra special cat who is 11, wasn’t supposed to live past 5 and has some kind of unconfirmed congenital anemia, along with at least two strokes and multiple seizures) is doing great! She has even gained weight.

With the Hourglass Nearing Empty

I went to see my dad’s parents. I didn’t go because I wanted to be there. I went to get my dad and heavily pregnant sister to stop bringing it up (nephew due in October!!!). The day before, I kept telling myself that I didn’t have to, and that I could claim sick or something. But I went.

The Saturday before, I drove the same road to Mountain View, Arkansas. Its a lovely drive. A winding road I learned to drive on, which is still such a fun road to drive (seriously, 55mph speed limit with hairpin turns). I completely skipped Fox, the tiny sneeze and you miss it town where they live, and turned down a highway I may have only been on once or twice. I drove straight through Mountain View, past the White River, through Calico Rock (you only know of it if you are from that part of Arkansas, which I am), all the way to Jordan to watch my uncle get married on that day. I saw guys who still thought of me as a toddler running around a diesel shop in her underwear, engine grease in her hair and being profound. It was awesome.

That Saturday, however, I stayed in Mountain View. Mountain View is quaint. Its small. The Walmart isn’t a super center, and it has maybe five stop lights. Its also the home of the Ozark Folk Center, which is pretty neat, as well as being the closest town to the Blanchard Springs Caverns, which are totally awesome (take your jacket if you go, its cold underground). I drove right past that turn. All the way to Stone County Medical Center. I was nervous. I hadn’t seen him in over nine years. I cried before getting out of the car. Emotional processing with autism sucks because they get so extreme and the only thing can happen is to let them flow out or deal with the uncomfortable doom of a meltdown.

After a minute of pulling my shit together, I went in. My sister had texted me on Monday to tell me he had gone to the hospital via ambulance because he couldn’t stand up. We already knew he had cancer, which he had been in denial about. A lump in his throat he complained about being annoying for over 20 years had finally decided to become more than annoying. He’s the kind who always said doctors would do anything to take your money, so it was a waste of time to go. This was a big deal.

When I opened the door, for the first time I can remember, he was beyond happy to see me. “When you opened the door, your hair, it was justa’ glowin’!” They had no idea I had purple hair. The last time he had seen it, it was still blonde and normal, probably a lot shorter. Shirley teared up and gave me a hug. Its amazing what being scared of dying can do. He kept saying he was ready to fight it (the doctors said it wasn’t an option because of his age, 86, and how far advanced it was). He couldn’t walk because a metastasized tumor in his hip is putting pressure on the nerves for his leg. We talked for a little bit before some family, cousins who I’m not 100% sure where the relation is but still related, came. Mom was waiting down the hall in a sitting area. It seemed like a great time to get lunch. We went down the road a bit to get some really good catfish and enjoy the view of the river.

We went back and talked, cousins/aunts/whatevers included. It was well after 4pm when we finally left. It was weird. For the first time I can remember, they wanted me around and to hear what I had to say.

Jim is now home, with home health hospice care coming daily. He doesn’t have time left. I don’t have much time left in Arkansas, either. Four weeks from today, I will be in Texas. I plan to spend my next three saturdays up in Fox with them, even if Jean, my dad’s sister, will be there. They finally want me, only because there isn’t time left.

Big A, Little a, What Begins with A?

There are three big As that make a my life: Autism, Allergies, and Asthma. I don’t know if it is where I am currently (Orlando, taking my first ever summer vacation) or if shit is just getting worse, but my allergies and asthma have been horrible. In the past week, I have had to use my inhaler at least once a day, usually twice, just because my chest is tight. It seriously sucks because albuterol is not a friendly thing for me. It makes me feel all jittery and anxious. I hate that. I’m just glad I was a good kid and finally went to the doctor and got asthma meds. Seriously, I went too long without them due to financial reasons.

So, right now, I am literally sick on my vacation. Yeah, my vacation is being a bum at my husband’s apartment while he is in class, but it could definitely be more stressful (like actually going out and doing things is).

With all of this, I have felt super autistic lately. I spent a week at my in-laws while Sean had his summer vacation, which is guaranteed to leave me unable to make eye contact. Add to that this entire asthma/allergy drama (currently taking singulair, allegra, zyrtec, flonase and albuterol), sprinkle in the fact I’m moving to Texas in a month, and add a dash of death and dying from someone who should be in my life but isn’t even though I get to hear about him any time I see my sister or dad (really appreciate that!). Sean has definitely picked up on it, as have my mom and the critters (sadly, I am currently critter free as they are at home).

Perhaps I am more sensitive to minor flares because I’m autistic. Maybe, I don’t know. I do know that when my allergies and asthma flare up, so do both my reflux (which could easily be the fourth A controlling my life) and fibromyalgia, and then it all becomes a cycle that one feeds into the other, especially with the reflux and asthma. I won’t go into details, but it sucks.

And on top of all that, today is my birthday. I’m now 33. It’s weird to think how much has happened since I first posted. I still suck at consistency in posting, so somethings never change.

On Death and Dying

My cat is making me do this. I’m 100% serious. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I turned on the computer. She’s good at taking care of her momma like that, so I guess I just have to get it out.

My sister called me today to let me know she had been up to see our dad’s parents. On a Tuesday. She took the day of work because Jim had a stroke and I guess she felt like she needed to see him today. She called me to let me know he has cancer. He’s dying.

I will just let his be known that Jim and Shirley may technically be my paternal grandparents. Technically because they aren’t my grandparents. While my siblings got to grow up with two sets of grandparents who loved them, I got three total grandparents. I have my mom’s parents, Norene and Jerry (who passed away in 2001), as well as Jerry’s wife, Janis (no, my dog Janyce isn’t named after her). I really don’t know when or why or how it all started, but Jim and Shirley are a big part of my PTSD diagnosis. From as early as I can remember, they didn’t want me.

OK, so I know its not as simple as “not wanting” me. They never liked my mom, so that is part of it. Why they never liked my mom is something I will never know, nor do I think they can answer. As soon as they saw me, the comments were all about how I look nothing like my dad. Yeah, because kids look exactly like only one parent, they can’t be the child of the other parent (OK, so I do look exactly like my mom with some minor features from my dad’s side, but I can point out what comes from where, and its overwhelmingly mom). My dad’s family even went as far as to accuse my mom of having an affair. In this time, my dad never defended either of us, because while he may have been their golden boy of a son, he was a shitty father and husband a lot of the time.

I have memories from an early age of hearing Shirley and my dad’s youngest sister telling my siblings that I wasn’t their real sister, that I had a different daddy. This, of course, was a lie. I am the only one of eight grandchildren to get Jim’s eyes, which a lovely little friend of mine (she just turned 6) told me are teal and beautiful. I also remember Shirley finding any excuse she could to punish me, both physically and mentally. Being diagnosed with autism made it worse. Jim and Shirley both blamed my mom for it. They said it should be beaten out of me. And damn if they didn’t try.

They would have their time with each of us alone at their house, and I was the only one who came home afraid to eat or sleep. I have asthma and food allergies, but I’m far from a picky eater. Anaphylaxis to chocolate was probably the worst, and they would always give me chocolate. Chocolate milk at every meal. They would do it when we would visit, too, with my mom holding me in the back seat while we went home; my dad just saying I was overreacting. I wasn’t overreacting, I was two. My dad is an entire story on abuse without his parents.

So, apparently the idea of having a hyper-verbal, hyperlexic, autistic grandchild was too much for them. My blonde hair was the wrong color. My obsession with dinosaurs was wrong for a girl. Everything about me was wrong.

Over the course of the first 20 years of my life, along with my father and his youngest sister, they made sure that I felt I was unloved and unlovable, that I would never belong to their family, that I was a waste of space. I remember being beaten with brooms for doing exactly what my siblings were doing while they watched and didn’t understand. I remember them trying to stand up for me early on but being punished for it and then being praised for being abusive, my mom being punished for standing up for me.

It all came to a head in 2006, Easter Sunday. I was 20, home from school for the holiday. We went to visit and go to church like every other Easter (except those they had not allowed me at their house, which wasn’t uncommon. I apparently couldn’t behave, because being almost puking sick with a migraine and beating the shit out of your brother who is being encouraged to taunt you is misbehaving). Except this time was different. Shirley “lost” a bracelet. Gold with diamonds, something simple Jim had given her at some time. I was accused of stealing it.

I don’t like jewelry. I have never gotten excited by going into a jewelry store, even when I could buy something. I’m also allergic to gold. There are a few different stories I have heard about this particular

“lost” bracelet. The one I was told first was that the safety clasp broke and it fell off in the parking lot, was found by another church member, and returned the next weekend. That one is probably a lie. Another one is that it fell behind the dresser and she found it vacuuming a week later. I don’t think I believe that one either.

Honestly, the last one seems to be the most true. It was never lost. They were just mad that I was tired and slept and wanted a reason to pick a fight. This comes from things said to my parents and my siblings, separate from each other. The story was never the same. I did, however, get a phone call each from my mom and my sister asking if I knew anything about it, warning me my dad was going to be calling. He did call, and he was mad, though he was trying to fake not being so. He said all I had to do was return it and it wouldn’t be a problem. But if I didn’t, they were planning to press charges.

Yeah, they went there. They were going to press charges with no evidence. My mom lost it. She told my dad that either he could believe me or she would leave. She was ready to go, too. She said I had no reason to lie. I am a shitty liar to begin with, so why try. He said he had no reason not to believe them, that I had lied to them before (according to them, Shirley would regularly call me a liar when I would report anything she did to me that wasn’t right). My sister didn’t know what to do or say (she was just about to graduate with an education they paid for, so she didn’t want to make a fuss). My brother pretended it wasn’t happening and didn’t talk to anyone if he didn’t have to.

Eventually, it came out that the bracelet was “found.” My dad’s sister was still trying to convince them to press charges even though I had never had the bracelet to begin with (this woman, according to the Catholic Church that I am proudly not a member of is my godmother. She’s hated me since day one, so great job there). My mom didn’t want anything to do with my dad, she was having trouble forgiving him for picking his parents over his child and not caring how I would respond.

That was the last time I was at their house. The last time I saw Jim was in 2009, Memorial Day weekend. My dad was in the hospital, critical care, due to being found unresponsive. All they could figure is that he had developed encephalitis as a response to a sulfa antibiotic, which he knew he was allergic to. Yeah, my dad didn’t look at what the doctor gave him or have allergies on file with the doctor he had been seeing for about 15 years. Anyway, I tried my best to be pleasant and helpful. I don’t remember much from what they did during that time.

The last time I saw Shirley was in 2011 at my sister’s wedding. Honestly, if I had known that my day was going to be as bad as it was, I would have turned down being a bridesmaid, might have skipped it all together. Highlights including my dad dancing inappropriately with his youngest sister, someone thinking his mother was his grandmother and his sister was his mother, his sister saying she was my brother’s mother (to Janis, of all people. She got defensive because she doesn’t want anyone claiming her grandbaby if she doesn’t know them), and my dad not even making eye contact with me once or talking to me until they all were gone. He didn’t dance with my mom when it was his turn to dance with the mother of the bride, but his sister instead.

After the ceremony, during the picture taking before the reception, Shirley decided she needed to talk to me. She didn’t have anything to say, absolutely nothing. I just remember being panic stricken, which must of have been apparent because my grandma was quick to come to my aid, just beating out my sister’s mother-in-law, who knew some of the details. The last place anyone wanted me to shut down was my sister’s wedding. I’m glad they were there to save my ass. I was already uncomfortable. My shoe pick had been vetoed for being “too tall,” replaced by ones that weren’t as comfortable. My dress had no margin for error when purchased and I had gained 15lbs in the 4 weeks since it had been purchased. I honestly didn’t want to be there. I refused to drink, even though I was definitely old enough, because I didn’t know if I would be able to hold my tongue against those two women. It wasn’t the place or time for it. There never was and never will be.

I have had to fight myself, tooth and nail, my entire life, to convince myself that I am not what they said I am. I am loved by my true family and friends, by my kids at school, and the most important of all, by my husband. Hell, Bebe told me to write, so I did. All because she was worried. She’s still a cat. This entire time, Janyce has been laying on the floor and Ray has been guarding the door. They don’t like sad momma. PTSD means that I can’t get the bad memories out of my head when it comes to those who are at the root, especially when they are brought up in a way that is supposed to illicit emotion if the relationship were normal. All the emotions run the gauntlet. At least now, its out for someone else to see.

The Pain Is Real

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in pain. Recently, my pain increased and I’ve been working on how to manage it. Chronic pain. The only way to understand what it feels like is to have it. A crazy mix of emotions and sensations can wash over you without a moments notice. Faking it is sometimes the only way to survive.

My pain probably started before I could remember. My mom told me of how before I was even 18 months old, I would strip naked, stand in the middle of the living room screaming then throw up, crumple onto the floor, crying and holding my head. I couldn’t be touched. Migraines. Yup, that was what it was. I have had these types of migraines and they suck. You get hot, like you are being boiled alive, right as they start. I didn’t what any baby would do and screamed. I still have migraines to this day, though they have become a rarity. My own husband has only seen one and that has been in almost two years. I got hot, then cold. My stomach began churning, and I was thirsty. It hurt to hold my head up, to move my eyes. My muscles tense. Sean said I looked like I was having a stroke. My mom reassured him later on that no, it wasn’t a stroke and yes, that is how they look. My migraines look like a stroke to the outside observer. That’s wonderful.

I don’t know the number of high functioning autistics who live with chronic pain. I think it would be an interesting survey, but the problem is finding people who want to participate. Chronic pain is hard to talk about with neuro-typical people, so why would those of us who are neuro-divergant want anyone to know about. We stop blending in, at least in our heads.

I wish I could say migraines were the end of my chronic pain, but the sad truth is that its just the tip of the iceberg. I have fibriomyalgia and its never ending course of neuropathy and neuralgia (nerve pain and numbness, respectively), with the addition of Reynaud’s Phenomenon (reduction of blood flow to extremities) that leaves my fingers and toes blue and icy. I have GI issues that basically mean my guts are inflamed from beginning to end. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). I also have high muscle tone, which means my muscles really don’t relax like they should, which has been the biggest problem as of late.

The doctor said it was probably migraines when I was a toddler, though he said I was too young to confirm that diagnosis at the time. The fibro diagnosis came when I was 12. I wouldn’t stop complaining of shocking pain in my left shoulder. The doctor even tested me for Lupus because it was almost unheard of for a kid that age to have fibro, though Lupus was just as far out there. At the same time, he diagnosed me with early onset osteoarthritis.Yeah, I can’t win for losing with this stuff. My mom was diagnosed with fibro shortly before I was, so that helped confirm it.

Migraines and fibro fall into the realm of the neurological. The GI stuff, that started at birth. I’ve always had reflux, even after surgery. The muscle tone issue is just random genetic flaw (most likely). The problem with all of it is how I feel pain, because for the most part, I really don’t. I have a reduced sensitivity to pain. You would think this would be a great thing having all of these issues, but it can be more of a curse. If I am feeling like I am hurting, I have likely done serious damage. My mom has the same issue. “I don’t hurt, so I’m fine.” Yup, invisible pain can be a real thing.

Pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong. Feeling my thigh muscles shred says something is wrong, but the pain sensation isn’t really felt, more like something coming apart, unraveling and tearing. I have never had pain I would rate as a 10 out of 10. Even after reflux surgery, when I felt like I couldn’t breathe, the highest I rated my pain was an 8. My altered perception of pain effects how I rate it. To me, a 10 is not functioning at all. I can’t even cry or move. I haven’t had that happen yet. If I ever have pain I rate as a 10, I’m going to die because my body will have started to quit on me.

I actually did the math the other day and found out I take over 30 pills a day to deal with my issues. Allergy, reflux and PCOS related medications. Mineral and vitamin supplements to combat the deficiency caused by almost a decade on prescription strength reflux meds. Stuff that helps me sleep, and stuff to help me stay awake. Niacin to thaw my hands and feet. And then there are the myriad of different supplements to help handle the pain. Some supplements have multiple purposed (5-HTP helps with sleep, as well as GI issues, because it has an effect on serotonin). Some supplements seem to be for issues I don’t have (like fenugreek, which is often taken by breastfeeding mothers to increase flow. It works to reduce inflammation, the whole point of taking it). I can tell you what each supplement is for as I take them. I can swallow like 20 pills at a time (yet I still gag on tooth paste). I would save so much money if I didn’t have to do all this.

I used to think that everyone lived at a baseline level of pain, that is just how it felt to be alive. I slowly came to realize that no, most people don’t hurt all the time. I remember being 18 and in college and mentioned I needed to pick up glucosamine and chondroitin. One of the band directors (because I was at band practice when this happened) told me I was too young to need that. I had already been taking it for two years.

I have friends who have chronic pain issues. They are all usually surprised by how long mine has been present. I’m turning 33 in July. My first issue, migraines, was documented by 1987, prior to the age of two. I have lived with chronic pain for over 30 years. I struggle knowing that if I didn’t have an altered perception of pain, I would probably be dead because my depression would have won that fight. Pain is a very powerful motivator. Relief is fleeting at times. This all can drive you to madness if you let it. Faking it is real, and sometimes, the only tool available. Continue reading

A Moving Mind

I have been thinking lately a lot about moving. Like, I know I will be moving soon-ish, but it could be in about six months (end of May), in a year, maybe 18 months (next May), or even as late as two years from now. A lot of different factors go into which of these times will be “the time,” but I’m not going to get into that right now.

I realized my brain is already in that moving mode. My house is a disaster area, it has been since I moved in, and honestly, it has been since my mom bought it. I keep stopping myself from cleaning because I don’t know where to start. I also found I have stopped myself from packing things away to free up space a lot. Today I got more storage totes. I’m obsessive about my storage totes. I buy them when I get stressed. Majority are one size (a few are just slightly a different one) with a total of four colors between all the totes. Not going to say how many of these totes there are, but there are a lot of them.

These totes represent a lot more than the previous ones. One is the pack up to take to Florida at spring break box. Some mixing bowls, a vintage stock pot that makes me thinking of cooking when I was really little, tea cups that match the mixing bowls previously mentioned because I had to have them. The representation of moving myself to Florida, neatly packed into a Sterilite storage tote. The bits and pieces of myself that were bought to go to my place, not for my mom’s house. Most of these things pre-date Sean.

Totes full of yarn are a depiction of my anxiety. Numerous and disorganized, a small amount of the contents hopefully becoming something that makes sense. Totes full of laundry because I didn’t have a laundry basket, never put away in the disarray of madness. Empty totes that end up piled with random things, needing to be organized and cleared out so they can be packed in order for them to make sense. Totes upon totes upon totes. They clutter my bedroom, taking over the entire floor space at the foot of my bed. They are in the kitchen, catching the randomness that everything brings. They are in the living room, the unused lost space of the house.

All of my totes represent me, whether I want them to or not. I need to get a handle on me to get these all filled so when the time comes, I will be ready to move. Totes are my life, compartmentalized, with each piece needing to be carefully wrapped in paper, packed away for when it is actually going to be truly usable.

Traveling

I’m sitting here a week away from an epic solo road trip. Its weird to think I will spend over 14 hours alone in the car. I’m driving from Little Rock to Orlando. All to spend Thanksgiving with my husband.

I have the menu all planned out. I have the trip planned out, including a stop to see my aunt in Georgia. I am going to be making dinner for people I haven’t met because I told Sean to invite his friends over. This is my first Thanksgiving married. My first Thanksgiving traveling to spend time with someone.

Sean and I have done two road trips since we have been together. I’m defining road trip as being long enough where you spend at least a full day in the car without really having time to do anything when you get there except sleep. The first was when we drove out to the West Coast and got married on the way. We were in the car for 24 hours before we even made it to Las Vegas. The second was driving Sean to school in September. Those trips were a month and a day apart.

This is going to be my first solo road trip. I have driven to Shreveport and Ruston, Louisiana by myself. Its scary. Its taking me out of my comfort zone. But I guess that is the whole point.

Take Care of Yourself

I was talking to a co-worker, and I said something about coloring my hair. She asked why bother since I always wear my hair up. Since pretty much no one knows this, I have purple hair. Everyone who sees me notices I have purple hair, so it doesn’t matter how I wear it. It got me thinking about how many people don’t think about self-care.

Self-care is defined as any activity that you do for yourself to make you feel better. It can be as simple as making a sandwich, going for a walk or putting on make-up. Self-care is important because it means you are talking care of yourself. Kind of the whole point.

That being said, when she asked why do I bother coloring my hair, it got me thinking. The whole reason I color my hair is because I like how it makes me feel. I first dyed my hair when I was 13. It was a normal color, a shade my mom had in the cabinet because she wanted to see if I really was having a major insomnia episode or if I was faking. No faking was involved because insomnia was the only reason I would sit through her turning my hair pink with light auburn hair color. That was 19 years ago. I have maybe gone a total of two years without dying my hair since then.

So why do I dye my hair? What does it do for me? Well, first, my natural hair color is basically that of river silt: muddy, murky and blah. My grandma used to wash my hair, even if I just washed it, because she said it looked dirty. Dying my hair meant I didn’t have to endure her shoving my head in the kitchen sink and forcibly washing my hair for me with shampoos that dried my scalp out and didn’t do anything to make my hair not look muddy.

The honest truth is, I feel good when I dye my hair, which is kind of what it is all about. Prior to deciding to test the crayola palate when it comes to colors, I stuck to darker shades of blonde and would occasionally venture into the lighter ones during the summer. Right before I got married, I decided to be drastic with my hair. It was a big change so I wanted it to be visible. It definitely is.

My hair is currently purple. I am trying to decide if I want to stay purple, but am more so leaning towards changing the color because why not. I regularly have people compliment me on my hair, from my parents at school to complete strangers at the grocery store. I stand out. My mom and husband have both said I seem more like myself with my purple hair than when I was blonde. Mom even admitted she wishes she could have let me do this as a kid because it would have been a great way to give me confidence.

Its interesting what dying my hair has given me. The biggest thing is confidence. I feel like a more genuine version of myself when I dye my hair. Whether its blonde or blue, pink or purple (all have been on my head before), its the easiest way to feel more like myself. It is something that takes me out of my own head, the place that is the most dangerous for me to spend too much time alone. That is the whole point of self-care: it takes you out of your own head.

When it comes to self-care, you do you. Make a nice meal for yourself if you like to cook, buy yourself a big slice of cake, new lipstick or socks or whatever, you do what makes you feel the most like a more genuine version of yourself and gets you out of your own head. Sean plays with sound equipment and R/C cars as his self-care, though he has started to use cooking to help (as much as a guy who can’t cook can use a microwave). Just remember, if your self-care is eating a whole pint of ice cream, try one of those new low calorie ones so you don’t have to figure out another self-care routine to keep the weight off.