my body doesn’t feel right

There once was a time when I was very concerned about the numbers on the scale. If I weighed what I considered my ideal weight, I’d be happy that day; if I weighed ideal weight +1, I’d be disappointed and down. I stopped weighing myself regularly a long time ago. These days, the numbers don’t mean much to me.

There once was a time, much more recently, when I didn’t much like how I looked. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a general uninformed dissatisfaction. A culturally determined not-good-enoughness. A little over three years ago, I started taking nude photos of myself, and really listening to Wolf’s compliments. These days, I’m pretty happy with how I look.

I’ve always been slim so it feels taboo to talk about issues around weight: I’m privileged and have never had to endure criticism the way many people do, but this is something that’s bothering me so I’ve decided to talk about it. Just know that none of this is intended as criticism of anyone else.

My weight has always been pretty stable, and the one time I gained a bit of weight was when I went to Japan to teach English. I was there on my own, had virtually no emotional support, was surrounded by a language I didn’t know (which is surprisingly tiring), and just found the whole thing exhausting.

What I probably needed was to work less, sleep more, and eat less carbs (I had a hell of a time with my blood sugar). What I did when I was tired was to eat the very excellent chocolate almonds I’d discovered. My clothes, which didn’t fit fantastically well to begin with (waistbands at the natural waist are anathema to short-waisted me), became a constant, uncomfortable reminder of an aspect of my physicality that I was not happy with. Buying new clothes wasn’t much of an option because they were designed for slim, boyish hips that I didn’t have. When I returned home, the weight came off without much effort on my part. I was in my 20s.

About two years ago, I was prescribed some medication that caused me to lose some weight. Effort free weight loss? OK! Eventually my metabolism got used to the meds and I gained most if not all of the weight back, but it wasn’t much to begin with and that was fine. I’ve since gone off this prescription.

Then, starting about the beginning of January 2017, I went on anti-depressants. I didn’t notice the weight gain at first because I rarely weighed myself. It’s a known side effect so I wasn’t too surprised or upset, but it kept going up. My weight after Japan was an upper limit that I got to a few times over the  years but never exceeded. Until now.

I’m pleased to report that the number on the scale doesn’t make me cry or otherwise ruin my day the way it once would have; in high school I could barely imagine being this weight and I viewed it as a curse of aging. I don’t see a difference in my face, and on the whole I’m still happy enough with how I look overall. So what’s the problem?

I don’t like how I feel. My thighs rub together in a way that they didn’t before.

My breasts feel heavy and have gotten a cup size bigger. Cry me a river, you might say. No, it’s not the end of the world, but I just don’t like it. I prefer having smaller breasts (I’d go so far as to say that’s part of my identity) and generally wear bras that downplay rather than enhance them. My dressy push-up bras are now overflowing, and one soft bra is completely unwearable. I bought a couple of linen shirts in November and they’re now almost indecent; popping shirt buttons is not a problem I’ve ever had before.

My belly has also gotten bigger for a few reasons: the weight gain, bloating caused by the medication on top of that caused by the IBS I appear to have developed about two and a half years ago, and possibly some loss of muscle tone.

I had a routine of exercises, some of which were assigned by a physiotherapist for problems directly or indirectly related to my back, and some “electives” including sit-ups. I quit doing these exercises about three months ago, first because it was very hard to keep them up while I was travelling, and then because my physio wanted to streamline my routine to be more effective and less time-consuming.

So my belly is noticeably softer than it was, which doesn’t exactly delight me, but what bugs me is that my clothes don’t fit. I now have only two pairs of pants that I can stand to wear, and they’re not great and showing signs of wear. I’m also aware of the sensation of extra flesh there; when I bend forward it feels like I’ve got a little cushion strapped to my front and it affects how I move.

This isn’t about whether I conform to Wolf’s preferences, or Jaime’s, or society’s. (In fact, Wolf prefers the way I look now and I’m very glad because that makes it easier for me not to stress too much about it.) But taking into account and accepting the reality of my build, this is about whether I’m satisfied with those aspects of my body that I have some kind of control over. And right now, I’m not satisfied because my body doesn’t feel right.

Prior to my trip three months ago, Jaime would send me instructions for what to wear everyday, but now this feels too difficult emotionally because it makes me even more aware of the clothes that don’t fit.

I am aware that a significant amount of my dissatisfaction stems from poorly fitting clothes and one obvious solution would be to buy new clothes, but I’m going to hold off on that for now. I’ve been off the meds for two months now and I’m hoping that eventually my metabolism will reset on its own. For one thing, it’s summer and easier to be active. I’ve also started doing some of my exercises again, I bought a bike, and I’m eating really well.

But that’s about as much as I’m prepared to do. I’m not going to punish myself by exercising like it’s a job, or counting calories and eating styrofoam and kale. If it turns out that this is my shape now, I guess I’ll deal with it and buy some new clothes. But it is possible to be dissatisfied with one’s body without it being an issue of self-esteem or unreasonable standards.

writing about not writing

Why haven’t I been writing much? That’s a question that I’ll likely keep revisiting until I figure it out and/or successfully move past the issue.

The proximate cause is that I just… didn’t feel like it. Yeah, but what’s causing that ennui? I have a few ideas:

  1. I suspect that the anti-depressant I was on was negatively affecting my motivation. I’ve taken lots of photos that I didn’t share, and written up lots of ideas that languish in draft form. The rough draft material was there but polishing it up into something publishable seemed like too much bother.
  2. Related to #1, some of the topics I was thinking about were bigger issues that I just haven’t had the brainpower to complete.
  3. I have back and neck problems so sitting at a desk in front of a computer is often uncomfortable or worse, and all my work is done at a computer. By the time I’m done work the last thing I want to do is continue to sit. Add to this the fact that I work from home, so work computing and fun computing are both done at the same desk, and blogging starts to resemble work a little too closely.
  4. I got into the habit of not turning on my computer and just reading sexy content on my phone. I find the phone great for consuming content but just awful for creating, so if all I’m using is my phone, I’m not posting.
  5. I’ve had no libido to speak of for months, and possibly over a year. I think (hope) that this is another side effect of the anti-depressants, but it feels disturbingly like my pre-epiphany lack of libido and I wonder whether I’ll ever want sex again. (The “just do it anyway, you may enjoy it once you get going” approach categorically does not work for me. That was my entire sex life (such as it was) pre-epiphany, and I caused myself harm by ignoring my needs and wants.)
  6. Occasionally I have relationship thoughts, but those come up when I’m (we are) having problems. Both of my partners read the blog so I don’t want to share a problem until I have a solution, and sometimes not even then.

But I also have some reasons to believe that I may be recovering from that ennui. Having tapered off very slowly, I’ve now been completely off the anti-depressants for over 7 weeks, so the side effects should continue to abate. Also, I was more productive at work in May than I had been any time over the last year and a half and probably longer, which bodes well for energy and motivation in all areas. (I’m now wondering how much the anti-depressants affected my ability to work. Hmm.)

I think writing Every Damn Day in June will help me not to get bogged down in projects that are too big for me to manage just now. I’m making a commitment to turn on the computer and write for just 10 or 15 minutes a day; I’ll continue to write until I’m finished or until I stop, whichever comes first. I’m also drafting my posts right in WP rather than in a Word doc on my computer as is my wont, which I think will help me get past drafting to actually posting. Wish me luck!

Also, if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments.

a year on anti-depressants

I was diagnosed with depression just before 2017 began, at which point it had been brewing for about three months but I’d found it difficult to identify.

Aside from a consistently down mood (which felt “normal”), the biggest problems I had were poor cognition, indecisiveness, complete lack of confidence, and a feeling that everything was too difficult to manage. Indecisiveness and lack of confidence were difficult to spot because I always have them to a degree and I didn’t notice how much worse they had gotten. In addition to the depression itself eroding confidence, my awareness of my difficulties with cognition and concentration also damaged my confidence.

I’ve heard it said that depression lies. That’s very true. It affected my ability to think, which in effect made me partly blind to the very symptoms it created — like walking into a fog that makes you hallucinate the absence of fog.

(Having been through a depressive episode a couple of years earlier, I found it disconcerting that this could happen again without me really seeing it. As I started to come out of the fog, I noticed I was finding laundry easier to do again, and I then realised that I’d found it almost impossible for a while but remembered that before that it had been easy and kind of enjoyable. My new rule of thumb is that if laundry ever feels like total drudgery to me again, I’ll take it as a red flag and consider whether I need some help.)

When everything feels insurmountably difficult, seeking treatment can be incredibly challenging too. I found it difficult to ask for help, but I’d already accepted that (1) I’d probably been depressed before and (2) therapy wasn’t useful this time, so when I made the doctor’s appointment I’d also already accepted the idea of being diagnosed. Even so, in that moment when he proclaimed the diagnosis I felt vulnerable and damaged. But in the next moment I knew there was the possibility of some treatment that would help, and that felt like a little ray of light.

After a year on citalopram, my mood is very stable. About two or three times per month I’ll have an inexplicable down mood, which I find fairly easy to identify because they contrast with my regular mood and aren’t situational (i.e. they aren’t caused by negative thoughts or bad news). I find these fairly easy to accept and roll with, especially because they’re always gone by the next day.

Work continued to be a struggle this past year: it’s hard to find work satisfying or even know whether I’m in a suitable career when I’m not experiencing any enjoyment from any projects. Things have recently improved to the point where I sometimes feel a mild to moderate sense of competence and satisfaction, but it hasn’t been consistent enough to know whether it will continue. I hope it does.

And then there’s the fatigue thing. I’ve never been much of a planner and it’s been especially frustrating when I don’t know whether I’ll have the energy to do anything tomorrow, let alone next week or next month. As a result I’ve become miserly with my time. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of not deciding what I’m going to do until I assess my capabilities and limits on the day in question; after innumerable abandoned plans, the disappointment had gotten to be too much.

Lately, however, I’ve been making plans a little further out. My cognition has improved somewhat and I’ve been chipping away at a couple of projects and getting some positive reinforcement from that. Like the work situation, it hasn’t been going on long enough that I can confidently predict how I’ll be doing in a month or two, but it has been enough of a contrast with before that I’m cautiously optimistic.

Sex is not happening. I have no libido to speak of and this is causing me some distress, in part because I don’t know what the cause is. There’s a good chance that I’ll come off the medication this spring or summer, at which point I’ll discover whether it’s a side-effect or something else. I’m hoping for the former: it’s disappointing to miss out on arousal and sex, but if it’s a side-effect it should be easily reversible.

Another possibility is that, even post-epiphany, I haven’t made much progress on rewriting my maladaptive sexuality script, and this echoing absence is the sound of the other shoe dropping. It’s hard to remind myself that there may be a simple chemical explanation because this utter lack of sexual interest feels gut-wrenchingly familiar, and the part of me that still feels sexually broken is saying, “See? Told you so.”

If that’s the devil on my shoulder, the angel is my tolerance for ambiguity. I don’t know when I’ll be off the meds but it won’t be too long now. (My doctor’s policy is not to take a person off anti-depressants during the winter in case seasonal affective disorder is playing a role.) I don’t know whether the meds are responsible for this but I’ll find out in the not-too-distant future.

a new approach to blogging

I haven’t been posting much lately. I had various things interfere, like fatigue, depression, and some of my old hobbies, including dance.

I’ve lost my momentum. I’ve started lots of pieces and my drafts document is overflowing, but I haven’t been able to sit down and work things up into actual posts.

Maybe my approach needs to change. Maybe I’m trying to write about things that I don’t yet know the answers to. I don’t like to post until I’ve reached a conclusion and maybe I don’t have any conclusions right now.

So I’m going to try something different and allow myself to be a little less polished, a little more stream of consciousness.

Another thing that’s been interfering with my writing is that this is a sex blog and my sex life is very quiet. My desire is low. I don’t imagine my depression was very helpful in this regard, and the medication I’m now on (citalopram) seems to have snuffed out what embers there were.

My depression seems to be under control: the seriously down moods are few and far between and I sometimes even get spontaneous good moods. I had been started at one dosage and then had it increased twice. Since the meds seemed to be increasing my fatigue and my mood was stable, my dosage has been reduced twice so I’m back at the low dose where I started. I’m happy to take the medication as long as I need it, but hopefully when I get off it, I’ll see some positive effects on my libido.

Another part of the problem is that I don’t really know what turns me on. I’ve always had a difficult time figuring out what I like and what I want, and only in the last few years did I even figure out that I should be asking myself those questions. I have questions but no good answers. Physically I can get turned on, but I don’t know what input I need to get there. So I don’t blame the medication for the whole problem, and I think it’s much more complicated and difficult to solve than just not taking that pill.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next trip to see Gawan, which is less than four weeks away. I’ll be staying at his house again, no real travelling, and probably a lot of time in bed and/or in a state of undress.

depression and anti-depressants

The depression that I’m currently dealing with seems to have gotten its start almost a year ago.

When I returned from my visit with Gawan last August, I was (as expected) physically fatigued from the travels and adventures and flights, and given my ongoing difficulties with fatigue, it took a couple of weeks to recover. Wolf recalls that for the first while my mood was better than it had been, but then it slowly and steadily started to tank. Depression didn’t so much “strike” as it sidled up, slipped up onto my shoulders, and then gained mass with aching slowness.

I had been seeing a counsellor regularly a couple of years earlier during a previous depressive episode but as I found my even keel, the sessions were no longer useful.

By December last year I was struggling again, and one day was especially draining. First there was an appointment to get two fillings replaced. The dentist is very good but I have needle phobia, and had a dental dam making me a little claustrophobic and causing my jaw to ache. I was tired. Then later that day I got a call about a health test and the results were not great. Now I was brittle.

I don’t know what set me off the next day, but I had a meltdown and was simply unable to cope. I realised that I needed some help again and called to make an appointment to see my counsellor, but to my dismay she no longer worked for the service that provided my benefits. Dammit. I was going to have to decide who to talk to. It was challenging enough to make a phone call, but making a decision too? Ugh.

So I made a decision, hung up, almost immediately changed my mind, eventually worked up the nerve to call back, and agreed to talk to the first counsellor who was available, that evening.

I wasn’t looking forward to having to start at the beginning again with someone new, and a one-hour appointment hardly seemed long enough for me to tell the story, never mind having a discussion and getting productive feedback. But I tried.

It played out as I’d feared. I was irritated to have to explain that I’d tried all of these suggestions already and I needed some new input. As I talked, he would from time to time flip through a file looking for a sheet that he thought might help. By the end of the session, I was holding four or five pages; I’d been polite and accepted them, mostly out of a desire to get on with it.

At the end of the session, he asked me if I wanted copies of any of the sheets he’d handed me (they were his originals). I declined. By way of conclusion, he asked me whether the session had been helpful, in a sort of “I have a customer satisfaction questionnaire to complete” way. I had gone into the session feeling depressed, anxious, and in need of help and now, on top of that, I was emotionally drained and out of fucks to give. I knew he’d wanted to be a help. But his approach was too simplistic, too conventional, too amateur. I’d read more insightful blog posts than the material he presented to me. I didn’t have the mental energy to be anything other than blunt. Helpful? “No, not really.” He wished me well (sincerely), and I made my escape.

I was disappointed, frustrated, and a bit angry about how little the counsellor seemed to know. My subconscious kept chewing over the session and I’d intermittently fume to Wolf, “And another thing about the session…”

But the utter uselessness of the session had, improbably, brought me clarity. All of the counsellor’s suggestions were based on an assumption that I was thinking incorrectly: that I was dwelling on negative things (gratitude journal!), that work stress was taking its toll (do activities you enjoy!), that I was unintentionally ignoring certain needs (work-life balance!), that I was bottling things up (find a creative outlet!). I know all this. I’m doing all this. It’s not working. Or it’s not working enough.

Maybe I had finally reached the point of needing medication.

The next day I made an appointment with my doctor. In the week that I had to wait (this was over Christmas, of course), I compiled the following list of symptoms (omitting the perennial fatigue issue that he already knew about):

  • having trouble coping
  • decision-making
  • motivation
  • self-doubt
  • feeling of moving backwards
  • difficulty retaining new info, memory
  • feeling like abilities are shrinking
  • every task feels difficult
  • indecisive, then second-guessing
  • anxiety? depression?
  • brain not working well
  • sleeping 9+ hours a night
  • frustration that it’s so hard
  • lack of resilience, brittle

When I met with him, I rattled off the items.

“Yep, you’re depressed,” he said with a compassionate smile.

It was interfering with work, my ability to enjoy life, and even do the simplest things around the house. Unlike the previous depression, Wolf was with me, and my work situation was pretty decent, all things considered. In other words, it wasn’t situational.

So just before New Year’s, I got a prescription for citalopram (aka Celexa), starting out at 10 mg for 10 days, and then increasing to 20 mg indefinitely. I noticed an improvement in mood quite quickly, but it plateaued well before “good”. The day after I got home from my Europe trip with Gawan in March, my dosage was increased to 30 mg. In the middle of May it was upped to 40 mg.

For me, the most frequent symptoms of depression are lack of motivation and indecision, although there are other reasons why I might feel unmotivated or indecisive, such as fatigue, so as symptoms go they’re more subtle than I’d like. Also, things that are at best a bit challenging for me, like calling someone on the phone or starting on a new work project, become excruciatingly difficult. I could focus for 20 minutes, willing myself to start, and still not be able to. I might as well be practicing my telekinesis.

After the Europe trip I had a week of downtime before a work trip, during which time I’d expected to be tired and planned to be taking it easy, but in my travels I’d picked up a seriously nasty cold and a week was nowhere near enough time to recover. (I ended up being sick for another almost two months.) After the work trip I was utterly wrecked. It was only when I looked back at the pattern of fatigue and changes to the dosage of anti-depressants that I put two and two together and concluded that at least some of the fatigue was likely attributable to the increase in dosage of the anti-depressants.

But how would they affect my sex life?

things I’ve learned about and from depression

I was diagnosed with depression some months ago, but this wasn’t the first time I had been depressed, nor was it the worst episode.

Wolf and I had been inseparable for ages until he started his doctorate at a university overseas almost five years ago. The first year was bad. The second year was worse. He hated being away from me, hated his dorm where there was never enough privacy or quiet to satisfy his hermit soul.

Meanwhile, I was having difficulties with someone at work in our family business. I walked on eggshells around her and on a few occasions when I tried to discuss things with her, it ended in explosive arguments. Wolf and I were in touch daily, but the most obvious consequence of his physical absence was that the psychological buffer he created between me and the ordinary hardships of life began to dissolve. It didn’t take long before my heat shield was completely stripped away and my soul was bare to the elements.

Tensions at work were escalating. I just couldn’t do Christmas and I mostly skipped the whole thing. After being home for a month, Wolf went back overseas, and within three weeks I. Just. Couldn’t. Handle it anymore. I had a breakdown.

I couldn’t face going to work, and the counsellor I’d been seeing told me to take a month of stress leave. (It didn’t quite play out that way. I dropped the work that I found soul-sucking but still had assignments — just the really important stuff </sarcasm>.) The month passed and I finally managed to extricate myself from all work for about a month.

I had lost myself. I was crying a lot and could barely do anything for myself. The immediate problem was my work situation, and I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, without coming up with any answers. And how could I when I didn’t want to do anything at all? I wasn’t interested in anything, which was weird and distressing because I had always been interested in all kinds of things. I peered into myself looking for interests and found… nothing. An echoing void.

I had started doing some reading about psychology to try to gain some insight into what had gone so wrong with this family member. My counsellor suggested a couple of books and ideas as a starting point, and as I read, I developed new leads and followed where they took me.

I had been thinking about sex a bit as well. I had always been uncomfortable about sex and had predicted that while Wolf was away, my very effectively suppressed libido would come out of hiding, and so it did, though it took longer than I’d expected. I hadn’t yet found the sex blogging community, but did find a reference somewhere to Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a book of women’s fantasies so I got it from the library.

In the middle of all this not giving a shit about anything, I was actually interested in sex, and specifically in learning and reading about it. It was unfamiliar and I wasn’t entirely at ease with it, but it was the only thing I was interested in and that was valuable. It helped lead me out of the woods like a trail of breadcrumbs.

(The reading on psychology and personal growth work I’d been doing came together with the research about sex and resulted in my epiphany that June.)

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I have experienced a serious depressive episode. But I knew it was situational. I knew that I couldn’t allow the work situation to stay the same so when I started working again, I worked from home to avoid the conflict. I knew I’d feel better when Wolf was home, and I did.

I spoke to my doctor at some point in the middle of all of this and told him that I thought I was depressed and he agreed but no diagnosis was made because in the same breath I said I didn’t want medication. I hate taking pills: the body is a delicate ecosystem, and throwing things into the mix can have unintended results. I prefer to err on the side of caution by keeping the chemistry simple.

(I learned this lesson when I was about 20, on birth control pills, and getting recurrent yeast infections. When I confronted my then-doctor about it, he acted as though it was common knowledge that the pill can cause yeast infections. But neither of my (male) doctors had ever told me that when writing me a prescription. I’m still irritated about this.)

In retrospect, I’m not sure that avoiding taking anti-depressants was the best decision. It was situational, I toughed it out, and yes, eventually I got better. I remember having the sudden realisation at some point that I felt like myself again. Which  meant that I hadn’t felt like myself for quite a long time, actually.

I suffered for months, and to what end? Aside from the obvious drop in quality of life while I was stuck in the middle of it, I may have become more prone to depression in the future. I’m usually very rational and I take good care of myself, but guess what? Depression fucks with the way you think.

Since then I’ve been trying to have more of what I like and less of what I dislike in all areas of my life, which doesn’t come naturally for me. When it comes to people, what I look for now is feeling of real connection, and when the other person expresses clearly and warmly that they enjoy my company. I’m learning to trust my gut more and follow up on those connections.

When depression hit, I had no support and no one to talk to. Well, there was Wolf of course, but he was going through his own shit. Up until then, we had each been the other’s only real support.

The single most important new person is Gawan, of course; he’s simply wonderful. And there’s also my friend Pippa, who has since become a close friend. Building up relationships with people who I genuinely like and who genuinely like me is a reward in itself, but I’m also creating a little support network too. Emotional support is essential, and only more so when depression strikes.

thoughts on fatigue

There’s another post that I’ve been trying to write for, oh, a couple of months now, and it’s not an emotionally difficult topic or anything, so I was struggling to write, struggling to understand why I couldn’t, and frustrated with the (total lack of) result. Blogging was starting to feel like work, and I wondered what the hell my problem was. I think I might have figured it out…

I organize my life around the fatigue that has dogged me for over five years now. I’ve always had fairly low energy, but it now interferes with all aspects of my life. It feels, I think, like how you might feel if you had a had a shit sleep or had to get up hours before your usual wake time, except that I feel like this every day.

I usually sleep for about 9 to 10 hours a night, sometimes even more. If I’m feeling (relatively) alert when I wake up, I can get out of bed within 20 minutes. (I say “relatively” to mean alert according to my personal scale.) If not, I might feel groggy for up to an hour (this is “sleep inertia”) or very occasionally for the rest of the day. I like to catch up on social media for a while because it engages my brain and helps me to wake up.

I eat shortly after I get up: breakfast before 11:00 feels almost “early”. I start my day doing things that I like (reading, looking at coffee table books, drinking a mocha while looking out the window, etc.) and/or things I don’t mind (laundry, folding and putting away clothes). My energy level at this time of day tends to be (relatively) good.

Right around the time I feel like I can face doing some work, my energy and motivation drops. In order to do any work, I need my brain to be functioning well and if it isn’t, there’s not much point in pushing myself because I can’t accomplish much, and I lack the motivation to force myself to do it anyway.

The fact that I work with family members and that I can work from home gives me a tremendous amount of flexibility (including the ability to take a nap if needed), which is great. (If I had a regular job, I’d struggle miserably.) On the other hand, these same family members are also workaholics, and it’s really difficult for me not to compare myself to them and get frustrated with myself and my low output. Also, since my family tends not to talk about difficult things at all, just because I haven’t heard any complaints about my low productivity doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is fine.

Months ago, I used to have one- to two-hour naps almost daily. I always benefit from a nap: I wake up feeling better, and it doesn’t seem to keep me up at night. If I can’t shake the morning groggy feeling, I usually end up having a nap. I’ve been napping less lately though, maybe once or twice a month.

Most days I feel guilty because I didn’t work more. Getting started on work feels difficult at best and excruciating at worst, depending on the day. With the right work and highest energy, checking my email or writing a list can be all I need to get rolling. An average day (if there is such a thing for me) might involve me sitting at the computer doing nothing and allowing myself to get bored enough to start. If my motivation and energy are low and the work to be done requires problem solving, I might not be able to force myself to do anything. Sometimes the amount of work I get done in a day is embarrassingly little. Or none at all. I hate that.

In this culture, busyness is a virtue. If I run into an acquaintance, they almost always say something like, “Keeping busy?” and everyone knows that the correct answer is “yes”. Not being busy is an anomaly, and choosing to relax is a radical act. I used to grit my teeth to give the correct and yet wrong answer, but now I say I make an effort not to fill my schedule. Though I suppose I could in all honesty say that I’m busy, as long as I know that this means I’m doing as much as I can, and not that I’m doing as much as the next person, measured in hours and sweat.

I rarely feel really alert. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to distinguish between “My energy is too low for my willpower to function” and “I don’t really like this job and I suck at making myself do it”. It frequently feels like laziness.

After supper I usually feel pretty good, though I can’t face working in the evening, and besides, that’s when I do my important fun stuff, like my bi-weekly two-hour Skype appointment with Gawan.

Then there’s the exercise issue. During the school year I’ve been teaching two dance classes a week, and over the summer I’ve taught one and been a student in another. It’s important to me to stay active, but I don’t recover quickly and I may still feel wrecked the day after a particularly vigorous class. I also have a daily exercise routine of an hour or so (maybe 1h20 if I do every single exercise) to manage my various aches and pains. My health is top priority.

Although I aim to go to bed around 11:30, I sometimes don’t turn out the light until 12:20. I don’t tend to feel sleepy until fairly late unless it’s a dance class night, in which case blood flow, reflexive analysis of the class, and earworms conspire against me. I take a sleep aid to help me with falling and staying asleep, so those issues don’t currently vex me.

Up until my trip to Europe this past spring, my leisure time was spent mostly on the blog. After I got home (and recovered), my writing and photography slowed down, and then pretty much stopped. I thought the issue was that I just didn’t feel like blogging for a while — I had picked up a couple of old hobbies that I’d dropped some time ago, and it seemed that I was just choosing to spend my time differently — but now I’m not so sure.

Over the last couple of months, I had gotten seriously bummed about the fatigue; it’s deeply frustrating when my body can’t keep up with my mind, but my mind has slowed down too, and I mostly don’t feel like doing anything. Also, because I can’t predict when I’ll have a good day versus a bad day, I avoid making plans in order to avoid the sense of failure and frustration when I don’t have the energy or motivation to do what I intended to do. If I have a good day — that is, a day during which I feel almost normal and I do an ordinary number of ordinary things — there’s a fair chance that I’ll be exhausted the next day. I had started to resign myself to the fact that I may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a diagnosis that my doctor has been hesitant to make since there’s no test and no treatment and thus potentially no benefit to me to be labelled in this way.

However, since I started looking at the details more analytically in the process of working on this post (which has, unsurprisingly, taken much too long to write), I realised that the nature of the fatigue has changed. It was bad last year but then I did actually see some improvement. I discovered that the timing of when the fatigue started being especially problematic again roughly corresponds to adjustments to the dosage of my anti-depressants.

Part of the difficulty I had in pinpointing the problem up to now is that I experience a lack of motivation as one of my more significant symptoms of depression. Now I suspect the lack of motivation is being caused (at least in part) by the lack of energy. In other words, lack of motivation may be cause by the anti-depressant dosage being too low or too high. This is… not helpful.

So now I’m cautiously optimistic that my recent lack of interest in blogging is due, not to an authentic desire to stop, but rather to a sense that I just didn’t have the energy or brainpower to put into it. And if lack of energy and brainpower can undermine my interest in a hobby that I know I have enjoyed, then it’s possible that my disinterest in work is also primarily an issue of energy and not that I hate my job. I have a doctor’s appointment this coming week and will see about adjusting my meds.

With any luck, I’ll be blogging more regularly again in the not too distant future.