Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning Processes

Mental illness is a very difficult illness to deal with. Since you're not physically broken, there are no casts or scars to show. You don't have a physical form of cancer, so there's no chemo, no look of "sickness" about you. Most mentally ill people lead normal lives and stay very quiet about the pills they have to take, and the doctors they have to talk to.

I talk about my mental illness. I'm not sure why, but I also don't go up to total strangers (well, except strangers on the internet) and tell them that I suffer from clinical depression. But I talk to my friends and family about it. The family is the easy part. My family is completely messed up, so the fact that I only have depression almost kind of sets me apart. Talking to friends, though, is the hard part. Not all friends, but some friends. There's this idea in non-mentally ill people that some of us just need a good kick in the pants to get our lives back on track. You hear it when they're talking about the homeless guy who talks to himself on the benches outside our buildings, or when people discuss the Hoarding shows. "I just laugh when they get mad about throwing moldy food away!"

I think as a society, Americans have started recognizing that addiction is involuntary, that one person can do marijuana once and walk away while another person tries it once and can't ever put it down again. It's compulsory, it's something your body craves. Something, if you will, is broken and needs to be fixed, but no one can see the break or the tear. All they can see is addiction. The same thing goes with mental illness. Most of the time, I'm a normal, happy, functional person. In public. But sometimes, and in private, I'm just a big ole mess. And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not sad because something happened. I'm sad because I can't help myself. You can't cheer me up. I have to just wait out the storm.

I had to explain this to someone I know because she was talking about a lady on a hoarding show, and she just didn't get it. I had to explain that she wasn't attached to a useless bolt of fabric because she was callously disregarding the many charities it could go to, but because she had an irrational emotional attachment to it. I likened it to the guy on the bench, talking to himself. Not because he wanted to, but because he didn't have any other choice. It took us fifteen minutes of going back and forth until she finally listened to me.

I really hate reality shows, especially when they exploit people who are drug addicted, or families that are waiting for their soldiers to come home, or forty-year-old women who haven't figured out how to use birth control yet, but I can't deny how Hoarders and Intervention have helped raise awareness to the mental illness that causes the symptoms of hoarding and drug use, and it makes me wish someone would make a show about depression, schizophrenia and self-mutilation in order to raise awareness about how it affects us. About how it's a symptom of a problem that you can't see. How we can't just take a walk and cheer up...how it kills your soul and makes you wish you were dead because anything is better than living like this.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Dramazzz

I ordered my algebra book from Amazon.com because I could get a new book for the same price as a used book would be at the college bookstore, and I wouldn't have to pay for shipping. So I ordered it. And I waited.

I also ordered some birthday gifts for my niece, and they arrived at her house. My book still said it was in transit. I was waiting.

My class started on Tuesday. No book. Wednesday. No book. I told Amazon to send tracking status to my phone, which never happened. Probably because I did something wrong, rather tham because they did something wrong.



Saturday morning, I saw that the book had arrived at the post office in my town, but it didn't say "departure scan" at any point in the day.

I checked the college library to make sure they had the book because I have homework due on Tuesday, and I really needed the book.

I freaked out, and finally just went down to the library, got the book, and did my homework.

And I got home, and my book was on the porch.

Better safe than sorry?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The story so far...

I'm doing really well in Algebra so far. I don't know if the issues I had with Linear equations last year sorted themselves out in my head over the Spring Semester or what, but I'm really doing okay so far. I'm even graphing correctly, and let me tell you: that almost never happens.

My teacher is okay. I thought I was getting this one man who is supposed to be a really good teacher, but I ended up with a woman who is also a good teacher, but I hadn't heard anything about her. I really wish my college would post full names, but instead I got C. Gonzales, who could also be C. A. Gonzales, only I didn't know.

Anyway, she's okay, and I'm definitely going to do well at least on the first test. But she's one of those that thinks everyone in the class wants to be friends, and we don't. I mean, not that they're not nice people. I already have friends, I don't need new ones. (Wait...maybe I do...) It's just sort of annoying to have to 'turn to the person next to you and hand them your page! See if you both got the same answer!'

My book hasn't arrived yet, and I have homework due on Tuesday. If the book doesn't arrive today (fingers crossed), I'm going to have to do my homework at the library this weekend, so if you see someone walking around south Orange County with a silver and maroon argyle sweater on, it's probably me, being preppy.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I live in Southern California, a couple of cities away from Anaheim where Disneyland is.

No, it's actually not in LA! But then, neither are the Angels or the Ducks, and yet somehow LA gets slapped onto their names, so I guess everyone outside of California thinks Disney is in LA.

But I digress. I was talking about me, not you.

So, like most So Cals, I have a Disney pass, which is great because if you have a pass, you don't have to worry about cramming eight days worth of fun into sixteen hours. Some people, though, take their kids to Disneyland for that sixteen hours, and just can't understand why their children are bratty, unhappy, whiney, undisciplined, complaining, and begging for anything they can get their grubby hands on.

I don't understand parents. What makes them think that little Suzy and Benny are going to enjoy standing in hour-long lines, just to be able to look at Snow White or Mr. Toad for five minutes? Disneyland doesn't make sense to children. There's all kinds of fun stuff over here! There's a park green, and old buildings, and Mickey and Goofy and shops with stuff! Why are we standing in line?

This weekend, one of my friends who works at Disney (I have more than one, I'm telling you, I live RIGHT THERE) got us tickets to go to the D23 convention, and I saw the same scenario playing out. There were lines to go and see specific attractions, and while most lines were moving along, one was not. It was a line for the archives.

Let me just break this down for you: Archives are not interesting to children. They have no comprehension of history. Looking at old relics of Steamboat Willie and original stills from Cinderella are not going to excite much more than a cursory glance, and maybe a "that's cool" before moving on. Downstairs, in the main room of the Anaheim Convention Center (of LA), it was open and fun and full of toys and dolls and play areas, and make-your-own-crown, and crazy people dressed up as Disney characters just because they want to. There was a platybus and a gaming center and a store and chairs shaped like mouse ears and all kinds of really cool stuff.

But one family, of course, felt that they needed to drag their six-year-old through the two-hour line to see the archives. The moms were dressed like the evil stepsisters (Drucilla and Anastasia), and the little girl was dressed as Cinderella. Cinderella was very unhappy. We decided to stay away from the line and go see a making of Star Tours exhibit, and when we got back down to the second level, Drucilla, Anastasia and Cinderella were still about an hour from the entrance. Cinderella was unhappy, and voicing her opinion.

Now, here's the thing: I don't think that parents should entertain their children at every turn, and that children DO need to learn patience. However, I would never expect a child to be patient for a two-hour line to see (excuse my French) fucking archive material (or for any reason at all, really). Especially since there were two parents there. Two parents means that one can take the kid down the hall, down to the fun center to maybe make a crown. It's not like we live in a day and age where two people can't communicate by electronic means. "Hey, I'm about five people away from the entrance. Maybe you guys should get back up here."

Drucilla grabbed poor Cinderella by her arm, and dragged her across the hallway to right where I was ascending, and threw her on the ground while yelling, "You're in time out!"

I said, "Wow, I guess you're not just dressed up like an ugly stepsister. You really are one."

She was conscious enough to act embarrassed, and my friends and I shot them dirty looks because, really? You're obviously not here for the kid. You're obviously not here to have fun. You're here for yourselves. You're here to show off your costumes and see the stuff from your childhood, and instead of getting a babysitter at your house where your kid could actually have fun and play and maybe, I don't know, take a nap, you dragged her here promising a fun time, and then promptly pushed her into a line where she had to stand for two hours, waiting to see "the fun stuff."

People can say that kids are selfish and manipulative, but at least they're honest about it. Adults just learn how to hide their selfishness behind a cloak of, "I enjoyed this when I was your age. You will too!"

All of that to say, I walked around for seven hours yesterday, and I'm freaking tired and my feet hurt and I want to go back to bed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Losing Translations

I've been going with my friends to movies in the park this summer. It's been cool, and I get to see my friends. Last night, I went straight from work to my best friend A's house. Her step-daughter was there, watching TV like most tweeners. The show was obviously aimed at the lowest common denominator of tweens, capitalizing on buffoonery and men in drag more than actual commedy, but I used to watch Saved by the Bell, so what do I know?

Anyway, on this show, one of the girls was "accidentally" put in a mental hospital. I have to give the show props for actually making the hospital look bleak and depressing, but I really hated the stereotypes of people who were there. One guy kept trying to make it seem like he was from outer space or something, and he thought he was invincible, so he kept asking people to punch him, and there were other people there with losing grips on reality. But it was still a nice, quiet place to be.

In the hospital where I was, the beds were hard and the mattresses were covered in plastic. The sheets were so thin that you stuck to the plastic at night while you slept, and even though you were freezing for lack of warm bed coverings, you would sweat because your skin was against that plastic. I had to choose between spending the night cold and sleeping on an extra blanket, or putting both blankets on me in an attempt at warmth. I chose to sleep on the blanket.

You have no personal space in a mental institution. Doors don't close, except at night, but there's a window on the door. The bathrooms have no locks. the only privacy you're really allowed is when you get a phone call, and then you get to sit in a little booth with windows on all sides.

My roommate asked me to pee into a cup for her. She snuck drugs and snacks every day. I didn't care about the drugs, but I really wanted the snacks.

I gained three pounds while there because all of their food consists of bread, bread, and more bread with a few slices of meat and maybe a vegetable or two. And you have to eat it because if you don't they won't let you out. There was nothing zany or funny about the hospital. The guys with emerging schizophrenia were not funny or zany. They were scared to death. They wanted to know why they were seeing and hearing what they saw and heard. They wanted to know why they couldn't care about being accepted to an ivy-league college or being able to beat everyone at Scrabble. Why couldn't they care? Why couldn't they recognize any of their "friends" after those friends left the room?

Some of the girls had tried to starve themselves to death, and when that didn't take, they tried slitting their wrists. One guy stabbed himself in the neck because his friends were pissing him off, and dared him to do it.

One lady was pregnant. One lady had a husband and put on makeup and did her hair every day so that she would look pretty for him. We all wore long-sleeved shirts and tugged at the wrists to hide our gashes, slashes, cuts, bruises, spots.

Yes, even me.

I'm one of those people. I tell you right now, that is the only place I have ever felt that I belong to, and that is what depresses me the most.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ya! Ya!

The fall semester is about to start for me and ten thousand other people at my junior college. This means that in two weeks, there will be no parking, standing room only classrooms, and a bunch of kids walking around with bewildered looks on their faces.

In four weeks, there will be plenty of parking, and most of those teenagers will have dropped out.

I never get this. I dropped out of only one class, and I did it after the first class, and it was Karate, not something I needed for life.

I've heard that some students sign up for classes just to get in the school, and then petition for the classes they really want. But I'm taking really specific science classes that are needed for those wanting a career in actual freaking SCIENCE, not for someone wanting a business degree. Yes, I know it's still a Bachelor of Science degree, but it's not REAL science.

Anyway, I hate those first few weeks. I hate it when I get a teacher who wants me to meet my fellow students, even though half of them won't last the first month. I do love school, though. I love the challenge, even in easy classes like languages (English, Spanish, German). There's always a project, homework, something to complain about, something to laugh about. New people to get to know from all different walks of life. I love it. I don't want it to end.

You know...until that first case of the flu I get because of all those germy teenagers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Birthdays and sad days

Last year, I stayed at The Hospital during the month of August. The entire situation was hard on me. I had failed at committing suicide, failed at being a human being, failed at everything...at least from my perspective at the time. I still feel that way every now and then.

One of the hardest parts was that I would be celebrating my birthday a month from my release, and it was a birthday that I really didn't want to happen. It wasn't a milestone or anything, I just didn't want it to happen. I wasn't expecting it to happen. I was expecting to no longer be [dramaz]shackled to this mortal coil[/dramaz].

My friends were really cool about the entire thing. They ended up taking me "down the pub" for some good home-cooked Irish food and Irish band music.

Now I'm coming across the same feelings. School is starting in a week, and my birthday is right around the corner. How do you celebrate your own life when you wanted to end it? And really, you feel that if a tragic accident were to take place and remove you from life, you'd be all right with it.

I have maybe five more college courses under my belt than I had last year at this time, and I keep plugging along, so it's obviously fulfilling me in some way, and I'm still working towards my goal...I just don't know how to reconcile my feelings of despair with my ambition to be more. The two seem so contradictory. I guess I think that if I have to live, this is what I want, but if I die in the process, well, that's all right too.

And I swear, I just talked to a psychiatrist last week. I'm not keeping this to myself. I'm just trying to digest it all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday, Monday...

It must be difficult to be married. My best friend, A, got married in May, and I was her bridesmaid. We've known each other for years and years, and we've been through a lot together. It was an honor to stand up with her, and I can't imagine a better person to have so much happiness. But I still feel like I got shuffled off to the side after she said "I Do." And I know I'm totally selfish for even feeling left out, but I feel left out, and there's nothing I can do about it because that's what I feel, and feelings aren't wrong!

Anyway, I know that she is suddenly a step-mother, a wife, and she has a huge family already, so it's only natural that I'm shuffled off to the side. I see her every Sunday at church. With her husband. And her step-daughter. And it's great, really. I love her, and I love them. But I've lost my best friend. She found a new best friend, and she married him. That's the evolution of life.

My other best friend, C, has been in my life since I was a teenager. We've known each other for fifteen years now, and she's great, but she's not a soul-friend like A is. A and I are sisters from another mister, as the saying goes. We look alike, we think alike. Heck, at her rehearsal dinner, her father-in-law came and gave me a huge hug, and I was all awkward because clearly I should have met this man at some point, and while I'm horrible with names, I'm usually really good with faces, but I couldn't place his, and then he called me A, and I was like, "Yeah...I'm the College Girl. Sorry! But thanks for the hug!" and we laughed.

Anyway, school will be starting up soon and I won't have time to wallow in self-pity. Plus, A said something on Sunday that made me think she's realizing we never freaking see each other any more.

So, the new school year is about to start. I have my backpack, my new notebook, both purple, and a set of owl pencils that my mom got for me. I need to buy my book for College Algebra, 10th edition. It's on Amazon for pretty cheap, or at least cheap compare to all the other books, and I'll probably need some test answer sheets and stuff, but my professor will let me know.

I can feel the school year in the air. It's exciting.