Now Enters the Kitten!

Updates on my personal life, kitten photos, and some thoughts on managing PTSD and big dreams.

Well Hello There!

I have good news! I have a new kitten, who is currently trying to distract me from writing. Pretty successfully too.

baby jasper
Jasper likes to curl up in my arms for a nap.

He’s from a local rescue that was holding adoption events to help find homes for the many kittens they get in spades this time of year.

But he wasn’t really a spur of the moment decision. Sure, we decided pretty quickly to go to the adoption event, and decided pretty quickly at the event on which kitten wanted to come home with us, but I’ve wanted a cat for years now, basically ever since having to leave my previous cat with my parents and her tight-bonded sibling when I left for college. I’m hoping Jasper will grow up to be on the cuddly side, certainly he has been so far, but it’s okay if he doesn’t.

More than just because I really believe that our pets are going to be themselves, and not necessarily what we want them to be, I’m okay with whatever his personality turns into because I got him as another connection.

Let me explain.

Having PTSD, at least for me, means managing a lot of complicated interactions between stress and pretty much everything else. What I want and what I need are often very different things.

For instance, I have to actively manage my stress and how much I work. It’s not a matter of just having a bad day or a bad week, or even month, if I get too stressed it interferes with my ability to think, to work, and to make good decisions for myself and the people around me.

Worst case scenarios are total shut-downs that can take hours or days to resolve, during which time I might need reminders to eat, to bathe, to do something to distract myself. Work, even work I enjoy, isn’t possible during those times.

Except. Taking care of a cat is always possible for me. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, or how upset I am, if there is a cat that needs food, water, or petting, I can do that. I can make that happen for that animal.

Jasper on the couch
Yes, I’m photo dumping my cat. Guest starring The White Dragon by Laura Resnick in the background. (I was cleaning)

Maybe this key to doing something even when I’m under extreme stress comes from having been raised with cats. I don’t remember a time I didn’t have cats. Usually I had a cat that was mine, and a cat that was my mom’s.

Jasper is more even than that to me. Yes, having a cat is important to managing my worst symptoms. Having a cat in the room helps immensely. But we have other cats, other animals in the house I can go to for that unique comfort than comes from our furry companions.

Jasper is a connection, a link, another string in the dream catcher of my social support network. Jasper needs me. He needs me as much or more than I need him. Already we are showing signs of the tight-bonding that occurs between some people and their closest pets.

You may be wondering if pets can be included in your network of social supports like that. I argue that yes, yes they can. The relationship between animal and human may not be the same as the relationship between two people, but it is still a strong bond.

More, animal companions can be there when people cannot. When my partner is at work, Jasper is still home. When I need to vent or reach out and can’t, whatever the reason, I can cuddle or play with Jasper. I can talk to him to order my thoughts, I can watch him to lift my mood, I can trust that he will be here at home when I need emotional support.

In exchange I can’t offer him the things I would offer a friend. But I can give him all the love in my heart. I can make sure he has healthy food and plenty of clean fresh water. I can get him toys and play with him. I can hold him and make sure he is warm and safe, and take him to the vet to make sure he’s healthy.

I can make sure he’s as happy as any house pet can be.

Jaspers ears
The Magnificent Marvelous Ears

We rely on each other. It’s a deep and meaningful two-way connection that brings value to us both.

That’s a huge part of managing PTSD. At least I think so. I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t need them. I cultivate the few, deep, meaningful connections I need. I set the expectation for myself to be of benefit to the people who benefit me. To offer them the support and care they give me.

I manage it carefully. I can’t always do it, and neither can they. These sorts of bonds take lots of work, knowing when to take a step back, and when your friend needs you there even if they aren’t able to deal with the things bothering them.

It’s knowing when you need a break.

Jasper is quickly becoming my break space. He’s also a major motivation. Because he needs me he needs me to make good choices. He needs me to work toward being my best self.

His presence relaxes me. I can give myself permission to take a minute, to take a breath. Plus, he sometimes demands my total attention, trying to steal taco meat from my salad, curling up on my lap, licking my face, and purring like a motorcycle with all his tiny self.

And yes, being my best self means following my dreams too. My best self is someone with big goals. I don’t always have the confidence to get there, but I can give myself the additional motivation to make that happen.

Jasper, right now, lives for cuddles and toys. We’ll introduce him to catnip and treats and new toys soon, but for now, in our room, he lives for the fun of the space and the love from me.

He needs me. I need him. He keeps me going, and I’ll show him all the joys of cat life.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great friendship to me. A pretty great support. A pretty great tool in my mental health toolbox.

 

Pride Month: An Update

For me, being my best self means being and owning that I am queer. With or without place. You don’t have to like it.

Hey there! Happy Pride!

I knew I would come back to this. I knew it. Last year I wrote a post about pride month expressing my discomfort in queer spaces and identities, despite identifying as a pansexual genderfluid human. If you haven’t read that post yet it’s worth taking a look before diving into this one. Continue reading “Pride Month: An Update”

Leaning Into The Future (and Failure)

Moments of fear and uncertainty, yes, even panic, can be moments of positive momentum and transformation. The trick is taking the reins and not letting the fear stop you.

Hey There!

I mentioned yesterday that the future, post college-graduation, is both exciting and frightening. In a lot of ways I suspect that that feeling is not unique to graduation, any graduation, but to any moment where who and what you are is in flux, like it is when you leave a job, work toward a major goal, or even stick to a New Year’s Resolution. So let’s talk about it. Continue reading “Leaning Into The Future (and Failure)”

Graduation

I still ask whether the debt and the time and the stress and the crisis was worth it. But I can say, with confidence, that I am a better person than the version of myself that graduated high school and thought that college would be easy.

Hey There!

It actually happened. I don’t know how it happened but… it did. I have officially earned a piece of paper more expensive than anything else I own. It might be a more expensive piece of paper than all the other things I own put together… I don’t know if that’s impressive or depressing. Continue reading “Graduation”

Checking In: It’s been a while

Oh hey there! Happy Friday!

So… you may not know this, but I disappeared for a while. I went from February 5th to March 15th without posting a single thing on this website. I know, I know, “big deal”, right? I’ve only had this site since 2016 and am I’m only starting to use it regularly now. Plus, I’ve posted two new things since that gap. I get it. But, this was part of a major commitment to myself to start having a real, tangible, presence as a writer. Blogging is probably the easiest and most beginner-friendly means of getting your voice as a human out there. And yet, as I have discovered, it is not in fact easy… Why? Well, mostly because life happens. When life happens, if your blog, like mine, is not a part of your income, it’s really easy to let it fall to the wayside.

Part of that, I think, is because we tend to treat blogs as journals. That’s pretty much what this post is about. Here in a moment I’m going to talk about what’s been going on in my life that stopped me from posting for that month. But I want to talk about what I’ve been thinking about in that time first. This blog is pretty much intended to be my personal social commentary platform. I’d like to monetize, and I’d like to start vlogging or podcasting, but all those things come with start-up costs and I don’t want to waste my own time and money (or your time and attention) with the monetization process until I can prove to myself that I can and will stick to this. Part of this is a continuation of my personal distrust of myself and my own motivation, but a lot of it is that I’m a pretty cautious person by nature. Social commentary is both socially risky and exists in a glutted market right now. In my social circle I can open up Facebook pretty much any time and get a LOT of social commentary from my friends. It’s valuable stuff, but that makes it harder to carve out a digital niche for the kind of content I want to produce. I still think that speaking up and out is valuable, I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, but that also slows down the process of transitioning from creating content to making money from that content.

Why bring this up in a catch-up post? Well, it’s important to me to be transparent not only about what I think and what I’m doing as a content creator, but also to be transparent about the thought process behind it.  I want to monetize. I want to write consistently and to have this blog be a regular part of my personal internet conversation with the world. And, for a month this year (which we aren’t even half way into) I didn’t do that.

So what happened? Well… a lot. Early in February I got hit with a double whammy of a resurgence in the depression that comes with my PTSD. Late winter / early spring has been my least favorite season since I was a kid. Everything outside turns brown and gray and I live somewhere that usually stays muddy for months on end. We get just enough snow to stay in a pretty constant state of melt without getting to enjoy the soft white stuff blanketing the landscape. I also have a vitamin D deficiency significant enough that my doctor thinks I may be mildly stunted, which makes some sense since my brother is a giant. He’s also a redhead, and the recessive gene that causes redheadedness also comes with a change in the way our skin produces vitamin D, basically making it so that you get more vitamin D compared to the quality of sun you’re exposed to. It’s cool stuff. But he got the magical hair and the greater than 6 foot height and I got dishwater blonde hair and strictly American average height. Between the weather just being generally unpleasant, my PTSD, the vitamin D deficiency, and the fact that I live in the northern hemisphere, I am more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically I get the winter sad, and it usually hits in February.

I’m also long-winded. I’ve been told. Please don’t stage an intervention.

This February I found myself questioning whether writing was a viable or reasonable path for me. I have a lot of people supporting me who think that going for my dream is a good idea, but I am plagued by the Gifted and Talented trap of constant imposter syndrome. People have always expected me to do well, and the fact that I have always done pretty well academically and creatively feels like a lie. Like most people, I look at the things I produce and can easily compare the actual product with my internal conception of what it could have been. That imaginary picture is always a better version than the final product. Because I can see those flaws there is also a part of my brain, lets call it the creativity-killing Gremlin, that thinks that the positive reactions of others are pitying lies. I was questioning whether I could justify trying to make money off a less than perfect end-result. I know how silly that is, I used to work for Comcast for goodness sake, and ain’t nothing there is perfect. I know. You know how I know? I spent eight hours a day hearing about how not perfect everything about Comcast is. But they are still a HUGE highly successful multi-media corporation that not only provides valuable services but also influences our interaction with fundamental parts of our lives, like the internet. Unfortunately the Gremlin isn’t great at logic, so reminding it of little things like ‘nothing is ever perfect’ doesn’t actually put it back in it’s crate.

Just as I was starting to come out of that funk, largely thanks to my wonderful partner and supportive friends and family, I was in a car crash. I was hit by another vehicle in a parking lot, my little Volvo hatchback was totaled, and I got a concussion. My partner was also in the car. Thankfully they are okay. So is the other driver. But, between the concussion and the suddenly precarious position I found myself in thanks to the totaled car, my depression came surging back. It’s been a few weeks now, and I still don’t have a car. We’ve looked at a lot of vehicles in our price range, but all of them have had some pretty major issues that would require urgent repair. I’m less in control of my own negative mental processes than I have been in a long time, in part because my brain’s ability to regulate it’s own chemical process is even more challenged than normal.

In the meantime I also have college. This semester has been better for me that school has been in a long time. I enjoy my classes, the material is interesting and the professors have new insight and analysis that fascinates me. My grades are also higher than they’ve been for a long time because I’ve been able to stay on top of my work and produce higher quality work than previous semesters. The concussion put all of that at risk for a while (although I’m mostly out of the woods now).

So, between my natural depression, college, a concussion, and the general stress and shakeup that comes with a crash like this, things have felt really out of control and impermanent recently. I had just recently put a lot of money into the maintenance on that car, my partner’s truck is older than either of us and needs some work before it’s drive-able. We also live about 40 minutes outside the nearest city, and there aren’t really any closer small towns. So we’re currently reliant on the transportation of our roommates. We’d carpooled for a long time, so it’s not really an issue, but our freedom to run errands, make appointments, or even just to do general chores is severely limited.

I talked earlier about how I think we tend to treat blogs like journals. I treated this blog like a journal because all of these other things became more important to me than posting here. I didn’t stop thinking about things I’d like to write and post, particularly in the political realm as the Democratic race for 2020 has started to heat up, but I didn’t write up those posts. Or, when I did start writing, I didn’t finish the piece, or decided that it had taken long enough to write that it was no longer relevant to the political conversation. I’m trying to second-guess myself less on those kinds of things. It’s literally impossible for one person without a research team to keep up with the 24-7 news cycle, so I’m trying not to hold myself to the impossible standard of by the minute relevance. I’m also trying to tell myself that the goal is to produce quality content, even if that content isn’t coming out immediately after something happens in our world. I also know that sometimes life has to come first. I’m not mad at myself for not posting, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge it. This blog isn’t a journal, and it needs a higher priority in future.

Wow this post got long. Thank you for sticking with it, and sticking with me, while I forage my own path toward this lifelong goal. I can’t promise there won’t be more bumps in the road. In fact, I can pretty much promise that there will be bumps aplenty. But I will do everything I can to be transparent and honest and real.

Whelp. That’s it for today folks. I’ve got ideas for some new content, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more soon. Let me know if you want me to talk about anything in particular in the comments, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

-R.

Pride Month — Pan and Not Proud

 Hey Everyone!

So, I’m Pan!

Uh, no. Not the god. No, not like Peter Pan. Pansexual. No! That does not mean I like to have sex with pans!

Okay, good. Now that that’s over with.

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but I’ve struggled with starting it. Especially given the current political climate and the anxiety in large parts of the LGBTQ+ community concerning Trump and Pence in general I worried about coming from within the community and saying anything that wasn’t a message of love and self-acceptance. I’ll be writing those pieces too, and soon. But, for a long time, I have felt awkwardly out of place in LGBTQ+ spaces, or even identifying myself as Queer, and I want to talk about why that is. Even in a touchy political climate it is important to me to identify that we still have major things to overcome in these spaces, and why those challenges still matter even when bigger issues are on the horizon. Continue reading “Pride Month — Pan and Not Proud”

Introduction

Hello again!

I suppose it’s about time I introduced myself. I’m R, a young Coloradoan with a habit of thinking about things a little more than one really ought. It can be uncomfortable at times, although I’m told it makes me an interesting conversationalist.

I’ve also thought of myself primarily as a writer for years now. In fact it has been my ambition roughly since the time most of the other children were still debating the merits of acting, law enforcement, and becoming an astronaut. Although I also consider myself a hobbyist artist, and I have a wide range of skills that may have been useful two hundred years ago but mostly, today, take up far too much supply space. I’m chronically unorganized, don’t like making decisions, and both pansexual and genderqueer. Huh, I guess those things might be related.

One last thing. I also have PTSD, which in me looks an awful lot like depression and anxiety (which coincidentally were my original diagnoses). It’s an interesting lens through which to look at the world. But I won’t for a minute pretend that it won’t interfere with this blog as it interferes with pretty much everything else I do. It will. There will be times I wont post, or that a post will be heavier or darker than your typical internet fare. I don’t do it to be morbid or emo or edgy, but rather because those things are a real reflection of the world as I see it through my warped little brain. I also do it because there is a lot of pressure to hide mental illness, which also means that we as a culture don’t know how to reckon with and talk about mental illness in real and practical ways. I want that to change. Which, I suppose, means I better buckle up and put in the work, right?

If you’re still interested in walking with me while I try to find the light in the chaos, welcome. I can’t promise I’ll post regularly, but I’ll try to keep you updated. Welcome to Illuminated Chaos. Hopefully we’ll learn something together.

-R