16 December 2015

Coping with change

Yeah, so the past month went by really, really fast. I've wanted to sit down and write but haven't felt much like doing so, which doesn't make much sense to say; it's true if you can get past my mangling of English.

I ended up dropping my statistics class the day of the midterm. Even with an extension of a week, I wasn't going to be able to catch up. PTSD has been kicking my ass the past few days weeks months, and maybe I should have known better, but the class required hours and hours of work every day. The problem is that some days are better than others, and in general if I have one or two bad days I feel decent enough the other five days in a week that the work on the good days more than makes up for what I don't get done on the bad days. In a time accelerated half-semester, one bad day and you've fallen off the train. Two bad days and you're running to catch it. Three-- well, three you can't see the train anymore. I need to talk to the veterans services people at school and see if I can retroactively drop the course, or if I'll take a W, or what.

The (frustrating) thing is that I was doing fine with the material. I was able to understand it. I enjoyed it. It's math, and I got to use a computer to do the repetitive drudgery part of it so I was able to really dig into the meaning of what I was doing. Over the past year or so I've been learning that yes I can figure things out, but I need to bang on them with a hammer (usually more than once) to burn the concepts in. I was reading the book material and taking notes on that, then making flash cards and working with those for a while, then doing the online homework. Given enough time, I'd have been all right. If I can work out the details I'm going to take the class again in spring in a normal 16-week session, which does allow for bad days and does allow for accommodations like extra time on assignments.

Other than that, my semester is just about over and things academic are basically all right. Then again, I'm not taking 400 level courses either, so *shrug*. Once the semester is over I'm in limbo again because I can't enroll in UW courses until they start (meaning I'm probably not going to get into any because the wait lists are so damn long), and I can't enroll in any community college classes yet until I talk to someone about my dropped class. As soon as the semester is over I'll have free time to fix that at least.

This has repercussions, one of which being that since I'm not enrolled in anything I can't be a coordinator in the lab I've been hanging out in the past couple of (few?) years. I didn't expect it to pop up and be an issue a couple of days ago, but it did-- and so now I'm not associated with that lab. Again, *shrug*. It's generally a good place to hang out and work on projects, although it gets noisy and crowded enough at times that I can't concentrate. My tolerance for noise and movement is probably about as low as it's ever been, so I've been there a lot late at night when it's quiet-- which is a response to the PTSD, classic avoidance. Having a key to the lab and being able to be there late at night (sometimes until daylight) was nice, but it also gave me an excuse and a method to really isolate myself from the world. This week I left the lab entirely; dropped out of the Facebook groups, the GitHub teams, etc.

It's actually kind of nice to not have that requirement to be in the lab, the pressure to be doing something there. That's the thing about things you do to cope with PTSD, they become internally necessary even when they're not necessarily helping. I still have projects I'm working on, and a bunch of stuff that I want to look at over winter break that I haven't had time to try during the semester. That I was only there working on these things in the middle of the night suggests something might be wrong, and I've been more or less aware of it for some time now. I'd been considering dropping out of the lab scene anyway, and this week the choice was made for me, ready or not. I'm surprisingly okay with the change in situation. I feel like my stress level has dropped a tiny bit, so I'm going with it, burned bridges and all. That no one from the lab has contacted me since all of this went down says a lot. I don't expect that anyone will (and I'm really fine with that, tyvm).

I have, to varying degrees, also been considering to the VA again. The PTSD has really been pretty gnarly lately. It was foggy here a couple of days recently, and I kept looking at the sky thinking it would be a perfect day for enemy aircraft to show up. The dreams nightmares have been all kinds of fun; my brain, it turns out, is extremely creative in finding ways to create movies to play for me that aren't the Desert, but are. (There goes my sentence structure again.) I wake up and don't know where I am, except that the world seems to be spinning one way and I seem to be spinning another. I'm generally all right once I get started, once I get up and showered and dressed and eat and get to the lab (scratch the last part). I probably need a medication adjustment (upward) or change (to who knows what this time). I tend to look at it this way lately: I was taking literally a handful of psych meds twice a day a couple of years ago, and I ended up homeless with my life a train wreck. Let's just say I don't see throwing a handful of pills down my throat to be as much of a solution as I once did.  There's therapy, but I've been through almost everything the VA offers-- mindfulness helps, I suppose, but mindfulness didn't prevent me from becoming homeless or my life becoming a train wreck either. Same with everything else.

I'm not being a complete defeatist. Much has to do with here-- specifically Madison and specifically Wisconsin. There are a lot of very good things about being here, but if I'm not here to be at Wisconsin (and at this point, there's no reason for me to be) there's not much holding me here. I know that wherever I end up the PTSD is going to tag along. "You can't run from yourself," the voices in my head say, and they're pretty much right about that. Even so, a change of scenery will do me some good. I look in the mirror and I often see the homeless veteran with PTSD and a ton of problems, and the hacker who has a lot of useful (and marketable) skills and experience has a hard time shining through. There are too many places that I walk past every day that are reminders of being about to become homeless or being homeless. Madison will forever be the city whose streets I lived on and was thrown out onto.

And yes, I still feel angry about it, sometimes.

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