Updates! Life continues its gradual but consistent improvement. For the first time I feel, I think, what one would consider “normal” in a mental sense. And I know that “normal” is mostly illusory. Recently I discovered the relationship between my long-standing anxiety issues and creative thinking. My pea brain is almost constantly leaping from idea to idea, conclusion to conclusion, and making — to outside observers — sometimes random connections. While that makes for interesting, multi-layered symbolism in my creative output, it is not so helpful when dealing with other humans. While my brain has not stopped running constant models of everything like a computer plotting out moves on a chess board, I have developed the ability to tune it out and react only to real-life stimuli. The practical result of this has been much more stable mood and healthier boundaries. Other people’s moods do not affect my own nearly so much, and I am better able to focus. I am also much better at recognizing when another person is trying to manipulate me, emotionally or otherwise, and then refuse to take the bait or be lead into confrontations. Though I am tired from pushing myself on so many fronts, my anxiety and stress levels are almost non-existent. I would be hesitant indeed to describe myself as having an anxiety disorder any more. I feel, realistically, pretty good about myself.

This has also helped me be more objective about both my own mistakes, and things that have been done to me. I am coming to terms with how my child-hood and teenage years shaped my early relationships, and what changes need(ed) to be made to finally make meaningful and lasting connections. This is to be explored in my unofficially-launched new project, Queen of Assholes, a biography about how everyone is basically terrible, and my personal journey to healing and redemption. That will include depictions of both emotional and physical abuse, though nothing overly graphic. I want to illustrate both how the abuse is viewed through the eyes of the person being abused, and the subsequent ways in which it affected my life. If this causes even one person to reconsider before striking or screaming at their children, it will be a net win for me. Eventually, as my career progresses, I would like to tie this into more general advocacy for adoption/fostering children, and against child abuse.

An old friend and colleague of mine recently attempted to kill himself. Though his reasons had nothing to do with me, it did force me to acknowledge that I have neglected our friendship, and that I have not been available for him like I should have. We are hanging out on a regular basis now, and he is keeping me updated about the details of his recovery. This combined with my father’s suicide last year have that issue also prominently on my radar — in particular men’s mental health, because of the ways that society still stigmatizes men who embrace their emotions or show too much vulnerability as weak.

It requires courage and strength to engage in a sincere self-examination and self-criticism — not self-flagellation and self-loathing, mind — and admit that something needs to change, and that you may need help. There is absolutely no shame in doing what is needed for you to live a healthy, fulfilling life. That may come in the form of counseling, therapy, medication, spirituality, writing, or something else entirely. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Recognize your self-destructive and self-defeating habits. Feed your mind affirming thoughts the same way that you feed your body the right nutrition. It is possible to get better, if you are willing to do the work. There are truly circumstances beyond our control in life, of course, but so much of our suffering is self-inflicted and self-perpetuated. Why make a hard life even harder by hurting yourself?

Once in a while, I glance over at my ex-husband’s Facebook page. Watching the person he has become in my absence has only driven home how different we are, and how little we had in common. That is only an indictment of myself for pursuing someone who was not a well-fitted match for me, to avoid being alone and confronting my damage to grow up. Though to be honest, I am not certain that I am a well-fitted match for anyone. A workaholic who is happiest in near-silence or with the low crackle of an AM radio, I have minimal interest in the television and movies that everyone else seems to live for. Not a value judgement — I would rather be creating or reading, myself. I prefer a simple life and have been shedding most of my inessential belongings and objects I have no sentimental attachment to. I missed making music and I am picking it up again — mandolin and violin — along with the French I took in high school. I would like to get back to the gym regularly once the holidays are over. Most of the time I would like to do my work in solitude. My ex-husband complained about the long hours I spent sequestered in my office. Thus far Stephen has been accepting of my unusual needs, but I worry about potential feelings of abandonment or resentment over time. We do have a strong emotional bond and are a fine example of two people growing together instead of apart.

I have created an audio version of this — my blog, where I publicly dissect my most intimate thoughts and inner-mechanics of my head — and where, over the last three years, I have DIY-therapy’ed myself into a functional, relatively healthy human being. I guess the definition of “normal” can only be stretched so far. Time to return to the pages of my comic books.

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