Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reaching out

This is a difficult post for me to write, because I know so many people have worse problems going on than I do. But I'm writing it because I don't know what else to do.

I'm depressed, no matter what I do. I've been hospitalized twice and spent three months in a therapeutic day program. I go to weekly therapy, read good self-help books and take my medication faithfully. I won't hurt myself - I can't do that to the people I love - but I don't wake up with any sense that there's anything good to get out of bed for. I'm fine at work but I come home and I want to cry. I can see that people don't like or respect me and I know that it's because I don't like or respect myself. But I have no idea how to do that. I've been trying so hard.

I'm not writing this just to whine, but I'm a little bit desperate for some kind of help. Maybe someone out there will have the right words or know the right book or the right resource to help me. Maybe nothing can help me, I don't know. But I can't give up until I've tried everything and this is the last thing I know to try. Someone help me if you can. Please.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Un-College Un-Curriculum

I seem to be coming out of a prolonged, but necessary, sort of emotional and spiritual hibernation period. Now that I have energy again, life is starting to happen. And in some ways that life looks oddly like school... but in other ways it is very definitely not like school.

For much of my life I've struggled to pin down what kind of structure I need. I've always known that rigid, school-like structure makes me feel way too constrained and unhappy. I'm a floaty, flighty, right-brained sort of person who jumps quickly from one idea or topic to the next. (School-type people tend to call this ADD, although I'm sure it's the same quality that got me put in "gifted" class as a kid. Go figure.) So it doesn't work well to say, for example, that I'll work on studying physics from 9:00-10:30, because odds are I'm going to work on physics for 5 minutes and then be reminded of something from the I Ching or the French Revolution or Star Trek, and before I know it I have open two books and six tabs of Wikipedia, none of which are about physics.

And that's how it should be! If I'm studying a topic, and it's not engaging my imagination and sparking connections to everything else in the universe, what's the point of studying it?

So strict schedules, while appealing in their predictability, really don't work for me. On the other hand, being totally open-ended doesn't work so well for me either. What ends up happening when I have no plan at all is that I sort of spin in place, having a vague sense that there's stuff I want to do but having no idea where to start. Then I just end up refreshing Facebook a bunch of times, feeling bored and frustrated that I'm not doing what I want to do.

In the past, I've gone through a vicious cycle of doing nothing, getting restless, designing an elaborate schedule, doing it for two days, rebelling and being all "internet FOREVER", then starting the whole cycle over again. (I blame my years in school for teaching me that this is the only way to have structure.)

I think I've finally discovered a happy medium, though. See, what I really need isn't exactly "structure" in the school sense - someone to tell me what to do and when to do it - but focus. I don't need a route already planned for me, but I do need a map so I can decide if I want to go this way or that instead of drifting aimlessly from place to place.

So the way I'm approaching things this "semester" (because I do tend to think in semesters, and in the U.S. they break at somewhat natural parts of the year) is to establish some goals and gather some resources to help me focus my energy. There's no way to neatly break my focus down into "subjects". I guess in a broad sense you could say all my choices go back to self-care. For example, I want to figure out what I believe spiritually, so I'm studying art and astrophysics since I find both of those very spiritually enlightening.

But before I get too ahead of myself, let me list the resources I'm using:


Fencing (through a local adult ed program)
An art class called "Discovering Your Creativity" (same program)
Yoga (at a local studio, when I can afford it)

-Websites & Online Resources-

School of the Seasons - I find focusing on the changing seasons is a great way to add comforting rituals to my life, and I want to learn all I can about how to celebrate them.

Khan Academy
- For the "hard" side of physics and the math I'll need to understand it.

Science, Magic & Religion - Humanities lectures from UCLA's open courseware.

By Sun and Candlelight - A school-at-home mom's blog full of ideas for organization and honoring the seasons.

I have all these books on a special shelf, where I also keep my yoga stuff and some of the other resources I'll mention later on. Most of the books have activities or assignments, so they're a bit like "living workbooks". Most are also by "glorious generalists", for those familiar with Grace Llewellyn's use of the term:

Wishcraft, Barbara Sher
The Teenage Liberation Handbook, Grace Llewellyn
Life is a Verb, Patti Digh
Hello Cruel World, Kate Bornstein
The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron
Wreck This Journal, Keri Smith
The Gay and Lesbian Self-Esteem Book, Kimeron Hardin
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Rise Up Singing (not yet purchased)
A coloring book of designs from cultures around the world

-Misc./Life Resources-

My job, working with kids
A ukulele (not yet purchased) and a clarinet (needs reeds)
My UU church and a local UU-based co-op
Various notebooks, binders, office & art supplies
A file crate to hold my most important notebooks
Daily and weekly self-care worksheets
Herbal tea, incense, hot baths, cats
Guided meditation podcasts
A huge map of the world and a big, colorful, inspiring "Coexist" poster

That sounds like an awful long list of resources for someone who's trying to focus! But there's really a few areas of focus (art, music, physics, spirituality, and the places where they intersect) that tie everything together.