cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
I'm only working 25 hours a week, 5 per day, and I have adjusted to the extent of making dinner and not falling asleep right away when I get back, but I'm still not over being mentally and emotionally exhausted by having to be out of the house and "on" and interacting with people so much of the time.

I have the time for my hobbies, physically. There's a good 4-5 hours per day that isn't taken up with daily necessities like taking care of the pets. But my brain is still all jittery, and I never feel like I can prepare myself to focus on watching anything on TV (which is how I knit, while watching TV, so I haven't gotten any knitting done in a month!); or starting an art or craft project; or writing even though as usual being up and about has increased my creative energy and I have more of a feeling that I could write something. I never feel like I'm ready to do any of those things without bleeding the excess anxiety away first by reading (or surfing around the net if I don't have a particular thing to read already picked out).

By the time my brain has drunk its fill of reading material and I start to feel like "Okay, now I'm ready to start doing something new..." it's time to go to bed again.

If I plan in advance, like from the day before, that I'm going to start watching a hockey game right away when I get home, I can do it. Starting to watch a new show when I know there's a whole season to catch up with seems like a higher bar, though. I've only watched a few bits of fiction over [personal profile] waxjism's shoulder for the last few weeks.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (wtf?)
I think the ideal regular social event would be a combination knitting circle and Dungeons and Dragons (actually I've read some random stuff on the topic and think it should actually be Pathfinder, but I have no direct experience of either).

My sister agrees, but Dallas to southwest Finland is just too much distance to manage that. I mean, there's videochat tabletop gaming, but the 8-hour time difference would be murder.

We both don't actually know how to play D&D and have never played even though our dad was a DM when he was in high school and college. Honestly, I feel betrayed that he never taught us in person.

My sister and I agreed that the best way to set up something like this would be to find a local knitting group and then canvas it for people who could be converted to the idea, but that depends on someone else in the group knowing how to play and being happy to teach you. If the person who wanted to organize it knows how to play, it would kind of remove the difficulty.

My sister is way ahead of me here because she has actually attended local knitting circles multiple times in her life - I don't think she has one now, but she used to go to one in Louisiana. I've been talking about wanting to go to one, but been too socially anxious, since before she was inspired by my example to teach herself to knit. 😕 Of course, language and culture issues add to my social anxiety and even if they didn't raise the initial bar to Just Doing It to insurmountability, socializing in Finnish as I would then have to do would be both mentally and emotionally tiring, much more so than just doing social things that make me anxious in general. Of course, conversing regularly in Finnish would be mentally tiring because my Finnish isn't fluent, so logically the practice would be good for me, but that doesn't make it less daunting.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (face!pie)
I went to a new doctor today and she was really helpful and I liked her a lot but as soon as I got home (four hours later, after errands) the anxiety from that 15 min appointment slammed over me like a wave at the beach, the ones that unexpectedly flatten you and drag you into the water so you end up coughing, under water, with your swimsuit full of sand.

I've often been so emotionally drained by anxiety that I slept for a long time afterwards, but this time I collapsed onto the bed and sort of lay there, too drained to crawl under the blankets, for hours, too keyed-up to actually fall asleep. And when I stood up again a couple of hours later I still felt physically and emotionally drained, with those weird little post-adrenaline trembles in your arms and legs where they really want you to let go and collapse on the ground wherever you are and it feels like you're not 100% certain of your coordination (not a great frame of mind for cooking dinner).

Last Friday I met a new psychiatrist, but it wasn't quite as exhausting. I've been trying to get in to see a new psychiatrist for literally over a year now - thanks bureaucracy~! - and also, the psychiatrist was a Finnish hipster guy with a big blond bun, maybe younger than me (looked younger than me: mid-late twenties?)... so maybe he was just less intimidating, or maybe the anxiety in advance of the appointment was less because I'm more accustomed to and less wary of psychiatrists than GPs.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (arrrgh brains)
Friday, 2 pm, I talk to a lady with the employment bureau who tells me to wait for a callback because she's sending a note to my assigned caseworker asking them to call me.

So I look at their website and what it says about phone calls is that they come between one and four and that the bureau may not have the resources to try again, so it's your responsibility to pick up.

So I've kept my phone on me every moment of the call window Friday, Monday, and today, and still nothing. Now I'm wondering if I underestimated the time involved. The person in question might be on vacation the whole month of July... or they might have three weeks' worth of other things they have to do first in their inbox, which seems plausible when we hear of caseworkers having hundreds of clients apiece... .

The problem is that my brain gets attached to a to-do list that it has ordered by priority and if I get blocked on something that my brain thinks I need to finish first I can have real trouble making myself do any of the other things, even if it's literally impossible to do the first thing, so I'll spend weeks or even months floating around dispiritedly, marinating in increasing levels of frustration and self-flagellation (and as of recently, also shame because the self-flagellation is self-defeating and I'm supposed to be trying to have self-compassion instead).

I've done two days of sitting on tenter-hooks and not even doing dishes and laundry, which I'm confident won't last, but there's a real possibility I won't manage to make a single important outgoing phonecall until this one arrives.
cimorene: (gr arg)
I was intrigued by a few recs for this book, which says upfront that the salient feature of these methods is prioritizing efficiency, simplicity and speed (the author says your goal should be for each 'zone' to be pick-uppable in 2 minutes, before a short attention span can run out), so they don't need to be adhd-specific.

Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized

It's mostly actually about spatial organization of things, and unlikely to directly prevent me from losing things (which was my original aim when I started googling), but I got into it anyway.

Some of the stuff is laughable (throw out your DVDs in favor of streaming service only if you literally don't care WHAT you watch as long as you watch anything, FFS) or extreme (I'm happy to allow myself more than 5 tupperwares), but there's enough left over that was useful to have rendered the book totally worthwhile.

At one point I was so galvanized I leapt up in mid-sentence and cleaned the desk space around my computer monitor.

And later, in a less impulsive manner, I was inspired to reorganize the entryway shoe storage, the dish cupboards, the pots and pans, the tupperwares, and the pantry, all just in the last 2 days.


My mom is a hoarder of objects - I don't mean a clinical hoarder, in the rats and garbage sense, just a creator of hoards of things like art, salt and pepper shakers, dragon and chicken tchotchkes, antique teacups, teapots, excess tables and chairs, kitchen gadgets, tools, art supplies, broken things that might be reusable later in an art project, fabric scraps, books, magazines, spices, containers, linens... etc. My parents've been in the same house for 26 years. They have an organizational problem too, but a book whose basic philosophy is to make things easy to find by not having your storage be too crowded to see and access the things in it is not going to work for them without a few months' worth of sorting, slimming, and tossing first.

I think the advice could still be helpful to her and people like her (provided the extremity of the suggestions didn't panic them first!), although more so if she had a coach standing by to help her throw things away, because even if an exhortation to throw away 90% of your tupperware only gets you to throw away 20% of it, that's still an improvement.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (HALP)
Last Monday I thought that I had lost my wallet AGAIN, which would've made the 2nd time in 6 months. I had a meltdown of (a) guilt for failing to keep track of my important stuff and (b) agony over how much of a pain it is to replace all the things in your wallet, and then I did a whole bunch of reading about adult inattentive adhd. I've seen articles here and there about it before, and although my mother has long said that she probably had it, and even though I do share many absent-minded traits with her, I never thought it very likely that I had it until then.

Well, actually it turned out that I didn't lose it on the bus at all! I dropped it on the floor of [personal profile] pierydys's car when we went for a drive with the bunnies last weekend, which isn't nearly as bad. To lose it on the bus I'd have to have dropped or set it down on the seat/floor, but my bag was on the floor of the car and it probably just fell out of the exterior pocket (where it shouldn't have been and never should be in the future, but still, it's not as bad). I'm really relieved, but the scare has made an impression. I'm still thinking I'm going to adopt something like a wallet chain (only not an actual chain: maybe a lanyard, ribbon, or knitted cord...).

In the meantime, I did a bunch of reading about adhd, because I have felt increasingly overwhelmed by trying to organize/prioritize/manage tasks with a bunch of bits that have to be kept together/not lose things/etc (although I don't remember having any problem whatsoever with that as a child... aside from having a horribly messy room, but again, that's a common problem). I'm pretty much convinced that my mother has adhd now, but I didn't really find convincing indications that I might. There are a few things that ring true for me too - most strikingly, the lifestyle of accumulating clutter/things specifically in piles -, but I didn't find any reason to identify with it over simply being absent-minded (and battling depression off and on). The reading was interesting enough, so I didn't waste my time.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Hating to make phonecalls makes it extra awkward, of course, but eventually I called the card cancelling service, the regional lost and found (they didn't have it), and the social security agency for a replacement card. Then I registered my ID and SS card lost with the police's online form in case of identity theft.

That left:

  • Grocery store membership card. This took me and [personal profile] waxjism BOTH over an hour last week attempting to figure out how to request a new one.

  • Other bonus cards, infrequently used: you don't actually need them; you can just give your name at the register. Less plastic to carry around and hunt for in the wallet: sounds good to me.

  • Replacement ID card: Unlike in the past, when you had to print or pick up the paper forms, fill them out, and bring them with exact change in cash and physical copies of approved ID photos to the police in person, you can do most of this online now. You fill out the forms electronically and pay with a direct bank transfer, and the photographer emails the photos directly to the police, but you still have to go to the photographer in person (to take the pictures) and the police in person (to give your signature), so I haven't actually got around to this yet. (I also am trying to get [personal profile] waxjism to replace her 20-year-old oversized driver's licence which doesn't fit in her wallet without stretching the zipper out of shape in the same trip but this requires dragging her around on her day off). On the plus side though, you can also make an electronic reservation for a timeslot at the police station to do your paperwork, so you don't have to go there and sit in the waiting room for several hours (it's happened before).

  • (Because of this dawdling, though, I had to take my passport to the post office to sign for a registered package the other day, haha.)

  • The raw food handling certification: I don't have an immediate plan to apply for work in a kitchen so this isn't exactly URGENT, which is good because it requires me to cold-text a total stranger. I'm working up to it by putting it in my calendar with an alarm repeatedly, so that when the alarm sounds and I cancel it and re-set it for a later date ("I don't have the mental integrity for this today") I feel a little prick of guilt.

I also finally have permanent residency status in Finland!

The physical permit expires in 5 years, but the right to reside does not require new applications any longer.

I should have received this after four uninterrupted years' residence as a family member (I only acquired family member status after living here on a student visa 3 years, because that's what same-sex couples had to do - cohabit 3 years - in order to acquire the right to Finnish registered partnership and the common law partnership status. Gender-neutral marriage passed here recently, but to my knowledge the laws haven't been implemented, so this may still be the case.) So that meant 4(spouse)+3(student)=7 years after I moved here, but I hadn't adopted electronic calendars yet at the previous permit renewal, which was THREE YEARS before the final Permanent Resident Status would have kicked in... and my application was a month late, which meant I was no longer eligible, and got sent back for four more years of waiting (and another hefty processing fee). That penalty period ended last November, and I got a fancy new Resident Card yesterday!

The police have been downsized, though, and effective at the new year, foreign national permits are no longer processed in Turku. All of them for the southwest region of Finland have been concentrated in our suburb, Raisio, the one that's 20 minutes by car and where our Ikea is located (that means that a bunch of offices were closed besides the Turku one). Meanwhile, Raisio's permit-processing offices (they used to do IDs and many types of licences) have also been closed, and Raisio residents who are natural Finns have to come to Turku for their permit needs. That all happened over the new year, and I'd never been to downtown Raisio before. It took two bus rides and then wading through four parking lots in calf-high snow. I discovered they only have one service window open there, next to about six shuttered ones in their lobby (Alien Affairs in Turku usually had 2 or 3). Luckily the lines were not long yet, so I didn't have to wait long before making another two bus trips and a lot of frantic snow-wading to get back home with my toes numb (it was -15°).

In relation to the downsizing, I asked the desk worker, "So before the 5 years are up I have to come back?" and she laughed,

"Well, who knows what the permit will look like or who will be processing it in five years! We might not even have a police office!" Touché, desk worker, touché.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (srs bzns)
My last update on the subject of unemployment support and my future career was from the career-planning course and mentioned my indecision about continuing to pursue classroom assistantship because the job market is particularly bleak for it. But the career advisor later advised me to pursue finishing the cert. (i.e. finding a new program) nonetheless, because, in short, nothing to lose really. Read more... )

The job-hunting watchword right now is apparently what is different about you from all the other applicants, and so we decided my main one is the fact that my native language is English, so she recommended a daycare with English as easier to talk into work practice (because there are private daycares which are not affected by the municipal hiring freezes) on the basis of my native language, and gave a starred review to one she had past experience of. So accordingly I polished my CV and requested a work practice placement at this daycare, and that was right before Christmas. After Christmas the boss there emailed me back and scheduled an interview which I went to last week, and she liked me and all.

So, said Boss, we've got two groups we could potentially put you in... but make sure you are pre-approved from the employment bureau to do a work practice and then we'll do the paperwork and discuss which one to put you in! We both agreed that the bureau would PROBABLY approve the placement, but both Boss and I have previously thought we were going to be approved for a work practice only to have the employment bureau reject it for utterly confusing reasons. I agreed that she was right.

And so began the Quest to Find Out from the Employment Bureau if I Can Haz This Work Practice. Wednesday I mostly spent on the edge of an attack of acute anxiety because social anxiety, calling people on the phone, etc. But Thursday I carefully wrote out all the points I thought I needed and called the number given to me by my caseworker when we spoke in October.

It rang about 500 times. She didn't pick up.

Since this was office hours, and there was no message, I decided to try other employees of the job bureau, and I spent basically the rest of the day combing their FAQs and called two more numbers, and waited on hold twice, to go through ALMOST the same conversation with the national and local job office phone question answerers. Both of the phone question answerers told me Probably, which was exactly what I already thought.

I submitted a request for my caseworker to call me and Friday I got a receipt that the message had been received by the message-handler, but still nothing from my caseworker. I know that as [personal profile] waxjism points out what I SHOULD do is call and just keep calling, like every thirty minutes or something, and that's what I should have done on Friday as well, but I haven't worked up to it yet, and at least my request is in the pipeline, so if she is available to answer the phone she will surely also be handling her emails? Right? Eventually?
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (face!pie)
This unemployed-job-seeking support class is turning out a bit rough, with its emotionally gruelling combo of time-wasting and inadequate guidance.

The problem isn't the teachers - they seem good at what they do - but bureaucracy: 2 teacher/advisors with 30 advisees between them and a 6 week time limit. They have to keep EVERYONE occupied for 6 hrs/day that entire time, and they just don't have time to squeeze in more than 2 one-on-one sit-down meetings per advisee. The rest of the time is filled with general information about ceasing to be unemployed. Almost all the information is inapplicable to a chunk of people (people applying to schools and people actively seeking jobs are two largely non-overlapping groups), who are nonetheless not allowed to miss days. In addition to tons of info of no personal use, we've suffered a couple days' worth of repetition and an unbelievable number of times where the teacher is just reading aloud from a website ("There are a lot of pizza franchises in town, so much so that you probably can't get a loan to open one for love or money... let's see, what does PizzaLine want in a franchise owner?").

I HAVE actually gotten useful information - the information I wanted out of this course in the first place and some more as well. I'm just as uncertain about what I want to do as before, but for a completely different reason. ) So, like, I can't say that I didn't get what I came for or what I expected out of this class - on the contrary. It's just that all of the above is frustrating and exhausting. I've been like a sad sleepwalking zombie with the refrain "This week has been 2½ weeks long" for... I can't remember... maybe two and a half weeks. And THEN.

Then last Friday there was this non-communication INCIDENT between me & my Russian classmate on the one hand, and on the other our teacher who seemed incapable of hearing what we were saying or answering our questions and sort of delivered a condescending-feeling lecture in a slightly raised voice instead. Intellectually I know she wasn't angry and didn't intend to yell, but it SOUNDED like yelling and her delivery FELT impatient and like she just couldn't believe we were asking such dumb questions.

The thing is, I don't handle being yelled at... I was going to say 'well', but it would be more accurate to say I don't handle it at all, because I don't even know how to start to handle it. I REACT to it, yes, but can 'crying and obsessing over' be considered 'handling' a thing? I don't think so. (Or maybe the fact that I act calm in the moment and only cry & obsess later, at home, qualifies me for a You Tried.) I'm still not handling it. Awkward social situations WITHOUT yelling can freak me out for months, so obviously, three days is not enough for something like this that plays right into my key insecurities.

Trying to tell my therapist about it today: I was a mess. I was trying to talk, not just cry, because TIME LIMIT, but it turns out trying to force talking while crying kind of shreds my throat and makes my voice sound quite interesting. I must have been REALLY pathetic, because my therapist apologized to me three times for ending our appointment at the normal, scheduled time.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
I'm 31 and have never had what I consider a real job. In my entire life, starting over 15 years ago, I have earned salary for: (1) weekend childcare at my church in high school, (2) a summer + (3) ~5 months while planning/waiting to move to Finland in retail, (4) 3 weeks as a substitute cleaner in a daycare 5 years ago, and (5) freelance translating (but the total money involved was very little).

The rest of my life in between those events can be filled in with a combination of school enrolment and depressed/anxious breakdowns.

This summer it came to pass that [personal profile] waxjism and I were both simultaneously ~1 semester from finishing the certifications we were pursuing but could no longer pay the bills on two student stipends, so we decided to both put them off for a year or two to work. She found some quickly thanks to her superior language skills (making car checkup bookings in a call center serving Sweden). I was an anxious mess and my psychologist suggested that I contact the friendly social worker I met once before who is tasked with helping people with mental health reasons to have difficulty with jobseeking, so I did.

The very nice social worker went over the whole situation with me, asked a few questions, called social security to check the details of my account and told me several pertinent facts:

  1. To stop angsting that my Finnish skills are inadequate for retail, because my communication is fine for not only ordinary conversation, but even communicating complex ideas verbally. My fears about not understanding a word uttered by someone who speaks a weird dialect are legit, but some dialects are incomprehensible to anyone but a native speaker anyway, and everyone knows this.

  2. My ambition to work (after I finish my certification that I can't complete until after getting some gainful employment and saving some money) in so-called morning and daytime childcare (after-school programs) is good in the sense that they've just recently been made public, obligating the city to provide them, and there's a desperate lack of staff for them. But it's bad in the sense that thanks to simultaneous budget cutbacks all the providers who are desperately asking the city for more staff are denied, so they aren't allowed to actually hire any staff. HAH HAH. Her office, which works with employers as well as jobseekers who have problems, has been fielding a lot of calls from them recently.

  3. She's technically not supposed to help me because TECHNICALLY I'm not long-term unemployed, and their center is supposed to serve people who are long-term unemployed - not that she will let that stop her from advising me if I need it. ("You're not long-term unemployed, you've just been without employment for a long time" = "They're not anxiety attacks, they're just attacks of acute anxiety"???)

    Being a student doesn't count as being unemployed, so all the times when I've been studying anything are off the table - I've only been unemployed... I forget what she said, but a really tiny number of days compared to the official cutoff (which is a thousand plus I think), according to social security's records.

  4. But pursuant to #3, the help that I actually need is meant to be provided by the employment bureau itself. They don't offer it to you, though, you have to know that you have to request it. So with my agreement, she wrote down on a sticky note exactly what I needed to request... in order to do this, she went to the employment bureau's official site to get the correct name.

    And she couldn't find it. She spent like 5 minutes clicking around making increasingly annoyed murmurs and finally found the name, not anywhere on the employment bureau's site... but with Google.

So, armed with my sticky note and tasked to update her with an email when I knew whether they would be able to help me, I walked down the block to the employment bureau.

So when you get to the employment bureau you wait in line at the Info desk, who then directs you.

ME: Hi, I need Job-Seeking Support Program so how do I -
INFO LADY: Haha, slow down there! SSN?
ME: (hands over social security card)
INFO LADY: Here's your queue number. Second floor!
ME: Uh, thanks.

I go to the second floor and the little queue machine lights up with my number within a minute (fastest service I've ever seen there, I admit). I hand over my ss card as per usual and the funny little dude brings up my file.

ME: Hi, I need the Job-Seeking Support Program or the Other Job-Seeking Support Program. I saw a social worker today and she gave me these names to request.
DUDE: Uh-huh. Well, I'll put a note in your file and send it to your case-worker.
ME: Uh... I have a case-worker?
DUDE: Haha, of course you do! Everyone has a case-worker!
ME: But when did I get a case-worker? My last visit I was sent back to Introductory Services because I hadn't been here in such a long time.
DUDE: Yep, I see. You saw (name) on (date), but he's not your case-worker. See? [SPINS MONITOR TO SHOW ME MY FILE] That's their name!
ME: Oh... I... don't think I remember that name... I... don't think I've ever met them...?
DUDE: Haha, of course you haven't met them!
ME: o_O???
DUDE: So, I'll just write a note here in your file that you request these services and send it to them. Then it will be their responsibility to talk to you about it and handle the request. There probably won't be a problem, but they'll contact you.
ME: Do I need some contact information, or a time period to call back - like, say, if I haven't heard from them within a week?
DUDE: No, no, see, I'll check and make sure for you that they're not on vacation - [HE PULLS A BIG CHART OF NAMES MADE OUT OF COLORED PAPER FROM BESIDE HIS ELBOW AND SKIMS DOWN IT] - no, they're not on vacation or anything, they're at work this week, so there will be no problem about them contacting you.
ME: They'll definitely contact me?
DUDE: They'll definitely contact you! Don't worry about it!
ME: ...Okay.

So as a result of this I've been answering my phone in Finnish since yesterday, as if my mysterious case-worker calls I want the conversation to start in Finnish with no awkwardness.

Normally I answer the phone in English because 90% of the phonecalls I get that aren't [personal profile] waxjism's family are telemarketers, and answering in English basically guarantees that they don't even want to try with me. They typically stutter audibly and ask if I'm me then hang up, or a little less than half the time, ask cautiously if my Finnish isn't that great and I pretend it's quite bad and then they apologize in a confused rush and hang up.

So yesterday I talked to two telemarketers (although it only took a couple more sentences to put them off, because I couldn't understand one guy's accent and the other one was looking to sell things for dudes only).

Hoping to hear from the case-worker before I get trapped in a longer conversation with one.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (strike a pose!)
We filled in as emergency babysitting for a bare handful of hours today for Wax's brother. The triplets are now 6 and their sister 9, and they not only entertained themselves the whole time, they were almost completely invisible to us, except when rushing by with a very important air on some urgent mission to, for example, get the scissors or a plastic bag for an urgent art project. We barely heard a peep from them except for the horrible music they were playing over the sound system linked to the computer.

I had to get ready to leave the house well before 11 am and we didn't get home until 7 in the evening (we spent the rest of the day there and had dinner and dessert, even after they came back), but in spite of spending all day away, there was no stress or anxiety associated with being away from home. Of course, it's easier in familiar places, I've never forgotten that, but most familiar places aren't actually familiar enough to have no anxiety.

I feel at home in my aunts' and uncles' houses and my parents', but they're on the other side of the Atlantic. Wax's mom's and local brother's place are the only locations in Finland that that's true of - and if her mom is there too, a day at hers isn't stress-free because she expects us to work whenever we come. Wax's brother's place is different. They have an enormous, two-storey living room and its wall of windows filled it with sunlight today (ours fills up with light in the summer, but winter's when you really need it). Their sofa is large and comfortable. Until the parents came back, the kids were quiet. I spent the day drowsing and reading hobbit fic on my my phone in the sunlight and sleepily sipping tea - probably more relaxing than had I been at home, simply because I always want to sit in the sun if possible, and at home, it isn't.

It was nice to be reminded. Usually any time I have to leave the house on the weekend, I end up feeling like I've been cheated of some of my relaxation time, but now it's quite the opposite. Since I wasn't at home, I didn't even feel guilty about the backlog of laundry and dishes.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (drama)
Limited symptom panic attack* while preparing breakfast this morning.

Of course by panic attack I mean "attack of acute anxiety", as a psychologist once put it because apparently they didn't match the textbook definition? Although my current one has given my permission to refer to them as anxiety attacks after all, I think.

So, I took a Xanax and am attempting to gain the courage to eat oatmeal, but it might be a bad sign for the next few days. We'll see.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (cold)
I've had a slightly stressful time the last few weeks and in general, my brain needs additional time off - ie time to hide from all interaction with people in meatspace - after that.

  • Two weeks ago I had a unit test, and I had to spend most of the weekend writing a couple of essays and doing assignments that had piled up

  • The following week I had go out of town from Wednesday through Friday evenings, on a class trip, so I was never alone, and my listening comprehension and speaking skills were called on a lot, plus I got zero alone time while there

  • Last weekend was tragically only 2 days long and in my recent stress I've gotten behind on dishes. I spent the weekend feeling guilty about that, but did not do them, mainly because my feet hurt and I didn't want to stand beside the sink. Lame, I know, but in a low-spoon situation 'standing on sore feet' is just like AIEEE

As always happens when I'm socially overstimulated, my ability to Can Do Other People has vanished, and I now turn on a dime from normal me to being so irritated and/or angry about other people (real examples from today: pondering the existence of capitalism from a class discussion on the EU; two classmates whispering & giggling nearby when I was trying to do verb agreement worksheets; thinking about how two old people on the bus were probably political conservatives; reading an article about Rwandan feminist politicians) that I enter the Thinking About How Inconceivably Crappy Humanity Is spiral. This afternoon I laid down on the sofa and cried because I want to not have to see any other people face-to-face... well, right now, I want to see them approximately never, maybe after two weeks or so, but I know that in practice this feeling usually wears off if I'm allowed to hibernate for four or five days.

Anyway... COPING STRATEGIES: does anyone have any? I mean, when you ARE in public. Obviously, I can take mental health days and I will do that if I actually get to the point of nervous breakdown, but I'd rather not because this course moves fast and it would be possible to get significantly behind.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (arrrgh brains)
I hate being in social situations and they make me anxious for various reasons which are not the same as the reasons of people with Social Anxiety type disorders. I've kind of always hated social situations. For the last couple of years I've been trying to force myself to practice them.

And the thing is, I have definitely gotten better. I've gotten more able to cope with them, with less anxiety before and during, and less exhaustion after, and I've also gotten more practiced at it, which makes the social interactions themselves more easy, although not more desired.

So like... I think my social skills have improved?

The thing is, it doesn't feel like my social skills have improved; it just feels like I'm getting better at faking it. What I'm faking is not actually skill, though: I'm faking being social, e.g. interest in other people, feelings other than extreme dislike for group activities and parties, etc.

So even though I've been completely aware of that struggle and the above increasing easiness the whole time, it literally never occurred to me until therapy today that what's improving are my actual social skills. I'm so completely accustomed to thinking of myself as a person without social skills (and being obnoxiously and contrarianly proud of same perhaps?) that I just thought of myself as getting better at pretending to be a person with social skills.

(Usually I do this by asking myself things like "What would [ profile] bexless do?", "What would Sara Munro do?", "What would Miss Manners recommend?", and "What would the charismatic pagan minister of my Unitarian Universalist congregation from when I was a kid say?") (I also ridiculously often ask myself "What pose/facial expression would Natasha Romanoff adopt?")

Mind: blown.

I'm going to continue to refer to myself as a person without social skills, however. It's not like they're actually GOOD ones.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (fuck your fascist beauty standards)
We took out so much recycling that it barely fit in the elevator with us, as well as a completely normal (actually smaller than usual) amount of trash, and the mystery smell is gone.

So the flat is now no longer making me COMPLETELY UNABLE TO DEAL WITH ANYTHING. Back to normal elevated levels of stress from disliking this class and having an interview Wednesday for the class next fall that I might not be advanced enough for and also a test on Thursday for the backup class that I'll feel like a failure if I have to fall back on, so that's all wonderful. And I can't even sleep all day Friday because I'm seeing Dr Petit Chou the therapist, but at this point I really need to see my therapist. So.

I ate today, but I didn't cook. Maybe next week (the last week of the course, haha) I'll be coping well enough to cook dinner.

It's supposed to get to 29° C on Wednesday according to current predictions. If so, it might try my resolution about not shaving my legs again. (Yes, I have made that one a zillion times before and always failed to follow through, but maybe it will work some day.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (this is awkward)
I spent most of the last year, from May 2012 to March 2013, in the same Finnish class, with the same group of people. It had its up and down sides, and by the end I was more than done with it, but one of the benefits was that by the end the school and the routine associated with it had become familiar places, and all my classmates however irritating had become familiar people, which made my anxiety a lot lower. I'm an anxious person and new situations and people are my least favorite things.

February I spent in a work practice at a daycare, which was not enough time to get over the new place anxiety, even though the people there were nice enough. April and May I spent at the more recent work practice at the after school program, and I had acclimatized enough to be happy and excited about going there in well under a month. It didn't get as familiar as the school, of course, but it was also a more fun, entertaining, and engaging environment. I suppose actively liking the place helped reduce the anxiety, even if I still had to be more 'on' and alert there.

So now I'm doing Summer Finnish. I've only been there for five days so far, though, because of my trip to London last week - it made me miss a week where the subject theme was sports, for which I am grateful because I hate sports. I like the teacher, and I like the size and makeup of the class group better here. They assured us that they didn't divide the summer course into groups by ability level and we're all using the same materials at the same speeds, just with slightly different emphasis, some groups doing more exercises than others. Although this is only conjecture, I suspect that I'm in the "hardest" group in the sense that it is made up of the students with the best mastery of and the quickest speed at Finnish grammar, but with a comparatively weak vocabulary. Most of the students in my group have been studying Finnish a pretty short while, but all of them are determined, motivated, quick, and diligent. It's deeply soothing to have everybody doing their work and taking it seriously, with none of those assholes who were always sitting around whispering or yelling in their native languages, goofing off, skipping half of the class, etc. This class is also not moving too slow for me, which, with foreign languages, is a huge thing. Actually, it's literally a first for me. The amount of explanation that the teacher provides is always really close to the amount that I needed to grasp the concept, as opposed to the 2 to 4 times as much I'm used to.

BUT. I don't like this class. All weekend, starting Friday, I've been close to tears every time I thought about going back on Monday. And I'm not sure why. I've got my friend, Nariko, and I like the teacher, which is good, but...

  • The bus trip. It's over half an hour. I sit with Nariko and our lunch buddy Anna, but Nariko gets carsick and it's crowded and noisy, which mostly precludes soothing and pleasant conversation. I don't like crowded and noisy situations.

  • One morning on our first week I overheard at least 20 minutes of racist ranting from a guy who's in one of the other groups and I still get nauseated every day when I catch sight of him.

  • One of the older ladies in our class interrupted me with an impatient, exaggerated fake-sigh of exasperation when I was speaking in a class discussion 2 weeks ago. Before that I liked this lady and she probably doesn't remember it anymore, but rudeness is bad enough without being personal and I always take things personally. I'm now afraid and mistrustful of this lady and don't want to talk in front of her at all, which is difficult to accomplish.

  • A different lady disparaged the Finnish attitude to child-rearing (which I agree with) by saying that in Finland she's "always afraid" that she won't be able to raise her son effectively because in Finland you aren't allowed to hit children. The aforementioned lady that I'm now afraid of did a champion job of arguing her into submission, but not before she provided a spurious anecdote about how someone she knew saw a kid misbehave on a bus and his mom claim that she "doesn't believe in forbidding things" as supposed proof that Finnish child-rearing is bogus, even though that sounds like bullshit and obviously Finns do, in general, believe in forbidding things. I pointed out that that wouldn't even be possible, because even the most permissive parent will have to forbid their child from playing with kitchen knives or running into the street without looking, because things can be dangerous. This lady eyerolled in response and huffed "Uh-huh, 'dangerous'." I don't fear her as a result, I just dislike her intensely.

  • Since the first day of class I have come out a bunch of times, as is my habit now, by simply allowing Wax to come up in conversation whenever is natural and referring to her as my wife, and answering any direct questions about her. When I was first studying Finnish, it was Finns who would stop and question me, thinking that I meant 'husband', because my grasp of Finnish led them to suppose it was more likely that I had got the wrong word than that I was gay. Now that my Finnish is better I've never come upon the slightest hesitation or surprise from a Finn, not since, oh, Christmas or so. I guess that's when my Finnish got that good. But since I got to this school, I've gotten double-takes, eyebrows, and what I take for cold stares three times, from three different older ladies, two of whom were Russian and one Ukrainian. One of them stopped me and said "Wait, did you say your parents?"

    "No, I said wife."

    "Your - spouse?"

    "Yes, and she's a woman," I said.

    Then there was an awkward silence. And the stare. Am I just projecting because of what I know about Russia? Maybe. Still. Uncomfortable.

So am I just dealing with an elevated baseline anxiety temperature to everything for social reasons, because of the people in the room I am wary of? Or maybe due to some completely unrelated cause, like hormones? Or was I still this nervous on my third week at AKK too, and I just don't remember it anymore because I got over it after?

I'm no longer too tired to make dinner, but on the other hand we've been living with the flat so messy for a while that I'm starting to want to throw away like, everything except the furniture, but I don't really have the energy for it. Which is probably a good thing because I would miss many of my possessions later. And I don't really know what to do about the kitchen. I'd kind of like to seal it from the rest of the flat and open it to the vacuum of space, which would take care of the dishes, food in the fridge that I keep forgetting to remove when I take out the trash, and mysterious, suspect smells all at once. On the other hand, it would also take the tea set that [personal profile] pierydys brought us from Taiwan before I even got a shelf adequate to display it on. So I guess it's also a good thing that I don't have access to the vacuum of space. Bummer.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (HALP)
It's only taken me to age 30 to realize that the first week (or week and a half, or two) of any new daily occupation - class, job, work practice, as long as it's the main deal for the day; it doesn't have to actually last eight hours - I will be completely exhausted.

Even though I'll be hungry, I'll be too tired to prepare any food at all in the afternoon and evening, sometimes too tired even to like, put bread on butter. Milk and cereal and like, frozen pizza is about as far as it goes. (More realistically, milk and cereal and packets of cookies.) Sometimes I will also be too tired to stay awake until 8 pm and will nap or like, go to bed at six.

So the first couple of times I sort of noticed this - and probably the only reason I did was because I was seeing my therapist weekly at the time - I just thought 'oh, anxiety must be making me tired, and I happen to be this anxious right now, it must be because it's a new place', but with no awareness that it was an absolute that that type of new daily schedule would inevitably make that happen. But it's happened regularly enough now that I'm pretty confident. It probably is an old thing, but I just didn't notice the pattern before.

I even have had a vague awareness that I should buy enough prepackaged food to feed myself for the week with zero food preparation, but this awareness always arrived either a) at dinnertime, when I was hungry and not eating properly, or b) at the store, when I was then too tired to follow through by figuring how much prepackaged food I would need and deciding to buy it and buying it. Both times that this has happened, I have thought 'Oh, I should buy like 5 frozen pizzas', then 'Except not five of the same thing, I don't want to do that, so different things', then 'I'm too tired to think of different things', then 'I'm too tired to fry eggs or assemble sandwiches microwave spaghetti sauce', then 'I guess I'll buy milk and cookies and like, cereal. And maybe bread.'

Wax does not factor into this because she has been too depressed to be relied on for unsupervised food purchase or preparation for more than a year now, which is longer than I've been aware of the pattern. I buy yogurt and bread and stuff that she asks for, she eats food when I have the energy to make it.

This is why I hate being an adult. Or living far away from my parents at least. Parents always help get food for you if you whine, no matter how large you are and how tired they are. At least, in my experience. Maybe my parents are really soft touches.

So like: does this happen to other people? Or something like this? What do you DO? Even sort of lying here on the sofa, after resting for 4 hours, I am intimidatingly exhausted by the thought of the amount of brainpower that would be required to assemble a shopping list, but 'pre-planned shopping list' is the only potential solution I've thought of besides 'continue buying milk and bread and cereal and cookies and bananas on the way home'.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (jeeves/wooster)
I made friends recently, with a kid in the after school program where I was doing my work practice. That isn't something I do very often. The end of the school year made me realize I would miss my new friend, and I had to think about the fact that this is an almost completely unfamiliar feeling to me.

And like... isn't that weird? Have I been misunderstanding how friendship works for other people all this time?

Usually, when I like people, it's positive but not especially dramatic. I feel better than neutral towards them; if I'm going somewhere and they're there, I'm like "Oh look, it's Eric, I'll go talk to him!" I associate time spent with them with enjoying myself. We've probably had some bonding moments where we connected about this or that and I approved of something about their personality.

If I'm sitting in a room with someone I know but feel totally neutral towards - a friendly acquaintance whom I have no cause to dislike - my feeling is just the same as if they were a complete stranger: I'd rather entertain myself than try to interact with them; my knitting, or Twitter on my phone, or doodling a picture are all more interesting to me (unless they suddenly do something to catch my attention like ask a question I can answer, or say something wrong that I can correct, or express an opinion about a tv show that I'm a fan of).

People that I like are more interesting to me than the very slim possibility that a new fic in my fandom has been posted to AO3 in the 2 hours since I last checked, or than checking Twitter just in case something happened, or than knitting and staring into space. (Not more interesting than, like, a fic that I already started if it is good enough to finish.) Basically, a person that I like, similar to a food that I like, is something that I definitely prefer to the average options. I would always rather talk to a classmate that I like than to a classmate whom I'm neutral towards, even if the classmate that I like seems a bit introverted right now and the neutral ones are having a conversation and laughing softly and if the person I like wasn't there, curiosity would be sufficient to motivate me to go see what they're talking about.

There were several people that I liked in my Finnish class that ended in March, and at the end of class I was a bit sad about the end of our association, even sad enough to idly toy with the idea of whether we should meet in a coffee shop some time, before concluding that we probably didn't have enough common interests to sustain a friendship outside the context of forced proximity. In the context of the class I'd call those people "friends", but in life at large I'd probably downgrade them to friendly acquaintances (or buddies, mates, pals - kaverit[fi] or kompisar[sv]) to differentiate them from the more permanent kind of friends who come to your house and stuff.

In my entire childhood up to age 18, the number of friends I'd liked enough to really and truly miss, to be actively sad in my day-to-day life about their absence now and then, was five: three adults, including my "spiritual big sister"; two age mates, both important enough to me to fly halfway around the world for their weddings. That's it. That doesn't even cover all the people who at one time fulfilled the role of best friend (although after age 13 that was just [ profile] guinevere33). And I don't mean these are the four people I miss now. I mean that aside from them, in my entire life, when a friend left it, I never really felt the lack beyond a kind of 'Eh, too bad about that' sort of thing. It never touched me emotionally. Of course, I also have had actual friends who came to my house and who shared common interests with me and stuff in that time; it's not like everybody except my very best friends has been a mere friendly acquaintance, just that when those friendships ended, the disappointment was mild and fleeting, not a significant event. The meaning of the word 'like' is probably the same for buddies and friends, just that in the case of friendship it's built into a relationship with shared history and interests and exchange of expectations and that sort of thing. Ultimately, I like friends more than I like acquaintances, but there doesn't seem to be a qualitative difference to me.

It strikes me that this seems unusual. I get the impression, from literature and movies and the way people talk and fanfiction, that other people mean something more emotional than I do, something more like the latter, when they talk about friendship. It seems like a higher level of emotional involvement is implied, or just that a higher percentage of most people's interpersonal connections include that qualitatively different emotional connection that made me cry when I met my ex-piano teacher for a brief lunch after six years without any contact, and she described struggling with her divorce. The bond of caring and empathy was still there; her feelings mattered to me deeply, and I felt horribly helpless, enough that a happy mood was dimmed for several days of serious concern. (She's fine now, that was years ago.)

I've calculated that, removing family from the calculations, I've gotten emotionally attached to people an average of once per 3.4 years of life.

So several possibilities occur to me.

  • Other people feel this emotionally attached to lots more people, as a matter of course. Because they're used to having feelings about other people, they're able to avoid reacting like Spock in "The Naked Time" when they have to feel sad because of their attachment to other people.

  • OR
  • Other people don't feel emotionally attached that much more often, but sometimes it seems like they do because they experience smaller, more transitory daily variations in mood more than I do, or they just use more emotional language to talk about it.

  • -

  • I have formed fewer such emotional attachments than I would have were I involved in more social interactions, because I make few social connections. Without the social interactions the emotional connections have simply not had a chance to form. Their occurrence is some percentage of social connections, which is not that unusual for me as compared to other people.

  • AND/OR
  • I have formed fewer emotional attachments than I would have were I simply less guarded/reserved in my social interactions, because I am wary of situations that might cause emotions to arise.

Actually, I'm not completely sure if I've wandered from the point or not, so I'll stop now. I will probably need a day at least to get unlost at this point.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (dragon)
I like my work practice placement. I would rather send my supremely hypothetical offspring there than the other daycare I substituted at once here Turku.

All the employees I've met seem pleasant enough, the boss is very welcoming and helpful, and I get free food and Twinings Earl Grey and the free expensive chocolate and cookies at the coffee break are plentiful.

The breaks are also generous. The atmosphere is nice. It's sort of luxurious, as daycares go.

I also feel more confident in social situations now. Like, where in the past my brain might have been a yawning, panicky chasm of "HOW DOES SMALLTALK???" and "AM I EVEN SUPPOSED TO TALK????", now it's just "THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE I SHOULD BE MAKING SMALLTALK BUT WHAT IF I CAN'T SUMMON THE SPOONS TO DO IT" (I failed a couple times today, but only at making conversational first moves, not at responding appropriately to smalltalk from other people - which I judge to be acceptable, as the former is much harder).

But I'm an introvert and I just REALLY HATE NEW PLACES AND SITUATIONS, okay.

It doesn't matter that the place is friendly and the job is undemanding because I already know that just by going there I am signing up for my brain having to be ON, in like, EXTRA-ALERT MODE, all the time that I am there until it decides that it is a Familiar Place and I can relax there. And until then not only can I not feel comfortable there, but every day is like an EXHAUSTING PARTLY SUBCONSCIOUS MENTAL WORKOUT and I am full to bursting with experiences to process that are mostly the introvert-brain equivalent of security tape of an empty hallway.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (don't defend the shoe to me)
I look forward to and dread Finnish class every day because Finnish class is both fascinating and boring. (Boring is true but inadequate; it's usually actively frustrating.)

It's fascinating because I haven't mastered Finnish, so even just listening to the teacher speak is at a level somewhat above what I already know. Close enough that I can understand most of it, new enough that I have to try. I'm also learning things regularly, and practicing old things when not picking up new ones, so my brain is feeding and stretching constantly.

It's boring (and frustrating) because the class moves about 40% slower than the optimal speed would be for my brain, with about half as much material as I'd really like (I wish the texts we read were about twice as long, that we read many more of them, and that we practiced formulating our own thoughts about things and expressing our opinions in new ways, instead of spending the vast majority of our time mastering simple expressions which is basically just imitation).

It's also frustrating because there are a couple of REALLY dumb people in the class who are also sweet and well-meaning, but they're DUMB, like, one of them has redefined 'stupid question' for me, and even though I like them, the idiocy of their questions tends to inspire me to headdesking (literally), crying (not literally, just in my head), extended ranting (once I get home), and repeated flashbacks that always come with a little full-body flash of sharp dismay or anger.

Last week when I was describing how I feel constantly simultaneously angry and guilty, like I have a devil ("She's stupid and she should feel BAD for wasting your time!") and an angel ("But she can't help it!") on my shoulders to my therapist, he mostly laughed. I mean he also tried to help me explore how I could try to calm myself and if I could improve the way I look at these things, but first he couldn't stop laughing for a while, and I laughed too so much I had a hard time stopping to finish telling him... except when I had another flashback to the Stupid Question of the Day and got so actively angry I practically leapt out of the chair yelling about it. Then we went back to laughing.

This week I've been knitting in class. (I've almost used up two skeins - getting ready to divide for the shoulders in a top-down wrap cardigan for my SIL.) And knitting has been an amazing anger management tool! Neither one of my teachers minds it, which is very lucky, and it seems to take up the right amount of my attention - I have no trouble following along (in fact, I admit it's still a little slow for my comprehension), but the knitting at least slows me down and also it makes me mind less because it's sort of soothing and meditative, and conveys a sense of accomplishment ("Four rows today already!")

Sadly this won't work for my wife because her teacher is kind of paranoid.


cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)


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