The “No Post November” that bled into more than half of December was totally unintentional. I’ve been overwhelmed, but more on that later.
I had a dream last night wherein I was at a summer Sunday school program… It was like a regular school class, but there were some people from church there and it was taking place in the church building. We weren’t studying anything God related though. Small groups were assigned different readings, and lucky me got an excerpt from some dense Russian novel about philosophy. I understood it just fine, but the names were a lot to deal with, and I was reading slower than I usually do. We came together as a group to complete some type of activity, beginning with several pages of short answer and fill-in-the-blank questions. Most of my group mates were flying through it, like they had seen the questions before. I had not seen them, and wasn’t expecting the format, so I was taking a long time on each item, especially because the names were so long.
Sidebar: I give shortened names to all the characters in Russian novels so I can remember them better. I had employed this strategy in the dream reading, but the follow-up questions used the characters’ full names, and this also slowed my progress.
I could see that two other group members were struggling as I did and that everyone else was fucking Speedy Gonzalez. I was beyond frustrated already when a group mate called us to order, like everyone had already finished several pages worth of questions and we could move on to whatever performance activity was attached to the work. I said I wasn’t ready, indicating that there were a few other group members who were in the same boat. A girl across the table took out a kitchen timer, set it for 17 segments (yeah, not seconds, not minutes, but some arbitrary “segment” of time) and pressed start on the timer that audibly ticked every second. I calmly but authoritatively took the kitchen timer out of her hand and threw it across the room. It went over the heads of another group, smashed into a corner, and fell to the floor. It stopped counting time without buzzing, and I, equally calmly, went back to work on the questions.
While this seemed reasonable both in the dream and in my waking memory of the dream, the response from the room was “gather your pitchforks and burn this crazy woman” level. They acted like they were in danger, like I was completely unhinged, like no one else in the group was as slow as I was, like no one else would have been annoyed to have a 17 segment timer set that TICKED IN THEIR FACE as they tried to work, like I hadn’t been putting in my full effort to finish as quickly as they did. They searched my bag to determine if I had any drugs or weapons on me. To add insult to injury, they took all my snacking chocolate – which I had offered to share! I was not sorry for throwing the timer, but I was feeling ashamed based on their response. I looked around for friendly faces (or even laughing faces because it is kind of funny – no one was physically harmed by the projectile timer!), but no one was offering any support, so I gathered my thing and left.
It should have been over then, but it wasn’t. Because it was a summer Sunday school situation, the pastors had to get involved… and called my mom. My mom, of course, was “on my side” because she understood how frustrated I was, that I didn’t hurt anyone, and that the girl who set the timer was obnoxious to do so. The pastors didn’t know me at all (and were more like school principals than pastors), so they weren’t interested in understanding why I had thrown the timer – or that I had no intention of hurting anyone by throwing it – and they were totally okay with my fellow students searching my stuff and calling me psycho etc.
My alarm went off at that point, so I don’t know what the consequences were. Like I said, even in the waking, I stand by throwing the timer. Who sets a timer on a group mate who has put in an honest effort and needs a little more time to finish? Yeah, you go on with your work and don’t let the slow person drag you down, but you don’t set a ticking timer in their face! In my past, I would have done much more than throw the timer to break it. Of course in reality I wouldn’t throw the timer if the situation occurred now – not to mention that I probably wouldn’t be the group member who was lagging behind – but I would be shooting daggers from my eyes at anyone who set one.
Anyway, the dream stirred up a lot of stuff from when I was little. I absolutely would have done something like that without hesitation. I probably would have followed throwing the timer with punching the girl who set it. (But again, I probably wouldn’t have been lagging behind ever…) So, yeah. I wasn’t surprised by my actions in the dream. It was familiar to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel tremendous guilt – not for what happened in the dream – that I was like that once upon a time. Being that way when I was young is one of the reasons I identified so strongly with Cathy in Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Even before Heathcliff comes into her life, she’s described as being spirited, her emotions always at the high water mark, a terror to her family but also sweet in seeking forgiveness. She is suited to Heathcliff’s fire. Linton’s milk-toast personality would never do. Sure, there are tons of other reasons I love the novel, but Cathy’s temper is one reason it resonates so deeply.
Anyway… I’m in a bit of a state this morning. Thankfully this particular state feels more productive than the states I’ve been in for the last :::mumble mumble::: weeks.
Overwhelmed, I said. I keep thinking of swimming/water/drowning comparisons, but every time I do, my heart physically aches for my former teacher and mentor who lost her first born in a flooded creek. While it might be an apt analogy when things in life pile up, it is painful for very real reasons that are not my own. So, I’m not sinking or treading water, but someone else who doesn’t have the same associations would say so.
My first term of graduate classes has knocked me around a lot, but that alone couldn’t keep me down. It’s the addition of settling into a new country. Granted, I worked hard to make this a reality, so I can’t say I don’t know how I got here or “whose idea was this?”. But there are so many hoops to jump through that I didn’t think would take so long – like the bank account, the National Insurance number so I can work, the background check so I can go into schools. It’s the unexpected lack of any kind of socializing because I don’t have work mates yet and most of my classmates are working full time and studying part time, so the last thing they want to do after a 3-hour dinner time class is shoot the shit with someone who doesn’t have much of a schedule. (Not that I’m a very social person, but you’d think a happy hour with work/classmates every now and again might be in order!) It’s that the program is really designed to be part time and shoving it into a year full time is scary – how can I propose a dissertation when I haven’t even had a core class? When I’m not even done with the Research Methods class? When I don’t have a school in which to conduct research?
All of that mixed with my usual anxiety and depression would explain my silent slug behavior, but that isn’t all. In late October, my NHS doctor asked me to try to wean myself off of the anxiety medication I’ve been taking for six years. I only take it at night, and I don’t take it every single night because I never mix it with alcohol. It is the only thing that has been an effective help to my life-long insomnia. Without it, I take upwards for three hours to fall asleep because I cannot turn my brain off no matter what. (Yeah, I’ve tried aroma therapy, warm milk, meditation, guided meditation, melatonin, over-the-counter sleep meds, prescription sleep meds blah blah blah. It either doesn’t work at all, leaves me feeling sleepy in the morning, or stops working after only a few uses). The anxiety medication helps with the root of the problem: my brain is too fast and restless. Half a milligram helps to slow me down. A full milligram helps more. In the midst of my mom’s worst cancer days, my psychiatrist at home trusted me to take more to keep panic attacks at bay. But the UK is different. They’re strict with these types of prescription medications, only using them for short periods in the most dire cases. I appreciate that caution, I do. So I tried throughout November to reduce the number of nights I took a pill in the late evening. You would be astounded at how fast my brain took advantage of situation and kept me awake for hours on end. Because I didn’t have any pressing need to hop out of bed early, I went back to a summer teenage schedule – stay up until ungodly times in the wee hours and sleep until 11. It wasn’t good. On top of sleep disruption and deprivation, the dark corridors my brain wanders down when I’m trying to sleep are not good for me. At all.
So when I went back to my NHS doctor – for free, which is awesome and cannot be overshadowed by the different attitudes toward certain types of drugs – I told her that the experiment was over. Luckily the information I had provided from my psychiatrist and psychologist in NYC was cleared by an NHS psychiatrist and my physician was happy to accept all three professional opinions in conjunction with my report of the failed experiment. She told me that the NHS psychiatrist was fine with keeping me on the medication given my long history of depression, insomnia, and anxiety, given the reports from doctors who have treated me for the last 12 years, and given that I have relatively successfully moved myself to a new country and am functioning (not optimally… maybe not even normally, but functioning nonetheless). Thank God! The adjustment back to medicinally induced sleep has been spotty – mostly because this time of year is a lake of bad memory quicksand and I’ve been fighting a cold for five weeks – but it’s happening. Maybe I’ll be less of a silent slug.
Offline I’ve written a little… enough to finish the hefty journal I started on the Fourth of July, not to mention my first assignment for formative feedback in my Research Methods course. The next mind bender to tackle is the only assessed part of the course – a 4000 word critique of two articles about emergent literacy. It’s not an essay in the typical sense. It’s not a test either. It is, however, very formulaic and the ONLY thing that my grade for the class will include. The evaluation system is another huge adjustment.
… and a recent development in things that are making me less than happy: the construction downstairs that begins to shake the whole flat at any time of the morning from 7:45 to 11:15 without warning or pattern.