Wednesday, July 10, 2024

My Many Exhausting Masks

Have you guys ever seen that antidepressant commercial where the woman holds up a happy face mask on a stick despite her not feeling that way?  I think we can all relate to some degree.  Whether it's trying not to throat punch that coworker (you know the one) through gritted teeth, trying not to lose it when you feel like you're not being heard or a myriad of other situations where your face conveys something other than how you feel inside.  Lately, I find myself labored by the weight of the many masks I feel I carry.  I literally envy that chick only having one mask to pull out of her purse.  I feel like I'm wheeling a steampunk trunk that has more masks than I can carry comfortably as well as masks I never asked to get rid of.  Maybe masks isn't even the right term more so than versions of myself or they refer to it as "hats" but a hat means you can still see the person.  Mask seems to fit better for what I'm talking about because it almost feels like I have to slip into a different version of myself with every one.

The one my long time peeps know best is the "still struggling to lose weight" mask.  I'm growing quite frustrated with this one but not to the point I'm ready for whatever medical intervention some would say to "just" do.  I guess I'm stubborn but I'm also pissed.  It gets very tiring having to explain to whatever doctor you see that you exercise 5-6 days a week and only eat out once a week.  If they've seen you for any amount of time, the more side eye you get because you're not thinner.  I know people who eat out several times a week and seem to be just fine and yeah, I'm effing bitter I'm not one of them.  It's especially difficult this year as my vein surgery schedule basically has me restricted to some degree until the end of the year.

Which transitions me into procedure patient mask which I've been since April.  I was going into this based on the Mr's schedule which seemed to have him breezing through his treatments but for some reason once we hit our deductible everything slowed to a halt.  Doctor blames insurance and vice versa and me?  I'm getting stuck having crap done at a snail's pace and just when I recover enough to be able to throw in more than just walking (strength training) the next restricting procedure is scheduled.  It is beyond frustrating and while she is nice, she's also a gaslighter and overworked.  Dealing with her and the crap generated from her scatter brain can be overwhelming and I find myself having to do a lot of research just to make sure that we adhere to actual guidelines and not ones that her office made up which always seem to be off by a week recovery wise.  I just want it all done because as much as I know it will be beneficial in the future, it is wrecking my ability to rehab myself in the 50,000 ways I seem to need it.

The grieving mask.  This is the one as the year mark looms that I'm supposed to have ditched or be ready to ditch.  That was complicated by the potential legal issues I may have had to face on her behalf but not having to brings it's own set of issues.  Yes my grief has changed but much of it has been busy work lately as I can tell you every horror she was enduring a year ago today.  (Her doctor was ignoring her request for oxygen because he knew he was at fault for her terminal situation and her abdomen was filling up with blood from an unknown lung biopsy nick.  It will be this way for me every July.  Just another reason to hate summer.)

The friend mask.  I don't have many of them.  I've always been a quality over quantity person anyway but I try to be the best friend I can be because honestly, they've been there for me more than a lot of my family.  I'm not trying to throw family under the bus but you all know how family has this preconceived notion of who you are based on an old version of yourself.  They rarely see you for who you evolve into or are quick to remind you of who you used to be.  I've got one good friend who has been the best for as long as I've known her and I feel helpless to properly be there for her during her hard times or to know if what I say or do helps.  I try to give space because she has a lot on her plate and I don't want to add to it but I always struggle to know if what I do is enough.  My other friend I've known for decades was almost bounced to acquaintance status.  I felt like I was doing all of the contacting and not getting responses sometimes for over a month.  (Not like I asked anything Earth shattering so it felt very personal never hearing back from her especially when her social media showed she was out there having a good ol time)  For some awful reason, Mom's death brought us back together.  It's literally the only silver lining but not one I'd ever want.  I'm glad to feel close with her again and my therapy journey has nudged her into her own, which I'm thankful for.  The one I've known the longest is one of those ones that you want to be closer to but she also went through a lot and you just can't really gauge where you stand.  I miss her but I also don't quite know how or if I fit into her life anymore.  As a 'fixer', I'm always feeling like I want to do more, the right thing, anticipate needs, etc.  I know that's all going to be explored but it's hard to know how to navigate friendships sometime as an adult and as life just seems to throw more and more at you the older you get.  

The new business entrepreneur mask.  I've worn this mask before and forgot how exhausting it is.  I've needed to change platforms for some old stores that have tumbleweed blowing around on them.  I finally got a kick in the butt when I saw some shady dealings going on when going through 'profits' while rounding up my tax stuff in January.  I got the itch in April and it has been a whirlwind since of learning, researching, designing, and investing hoping it's not all in vain.  Everyone says it's an oversaturated market and I know it is but I hope continuing to design not just things that inspire me that I'd want to buy but also the things I need to design to keep things afloat.  I do miss the days I used to sell antiques by going to estate/tag sales or other antique stores that didn't know what they had.  Oddly, the availability of antiques seemed to turn to utter crap and it didn't feel worth it.  I hope this does and that my self doubt and fear of failure doesn't get the better of me.

The rehab patient mask.  Does the amount of daily pain ever end?  Like this whole thing started at Thanksgiving with my feet and got progressively worse.  I tried shockwave therapy, I get good at doing what I'm supposed to do for like two days but I have 13 DAILY reminders that pop up for me and half of them get snoozed because they are overwhelming.  I'm supposed to be stretching my calves out multiple times a day to get those bastards to finally stay lengthened but do I?  No.  Maybe once a day if I think about it and then when I try to put on the weight loss mask and my feet hurt again from adding activity, I get ticked I'm still having these issues.  It's not just the feet.  I have shoulder impingement in both shoulders and I will say I've been much more diligent working on that with some progress but I got a huge wake up call the other night during a workout of how far I still have to go.  When I mentioned not being able to hook my bra for 6 months to my therapist, she raved about this front zip bra she wears.  Um, I actually want to fix my shoulders not give them crutches to cheat.  I can put it on over my head, I wasn't asking for a solution but was a little surprised at the message when I told her I was doing PT for that.

Which brings me to my newest mask, therapy patient.  It's been a long time coming and we're essentially still in the going over an ungodly list of questions phase.  So nothing to report there but I can't be the only one who thinks I deserve a refund when they start babbling about how it relates to their life or a long winded opinion to a question you regret asking.  I feel like out of my $15 copay last week, I'm owed $1.67 back.  I have to wonder how someone like me who doesn't like to be told what to do (thanks Dad) will react to having someone tell me what to do when what they're proposing sounds foreign and/or preposterous.  I know I'm searching for answers that no therapist can give me, just techniques on how to deal with that opportunity being gone or her opinion based off of only my side of events.  There are times when I question if it'll really do any good but I guess time will tell.

High risk masker.  Both figuratively and literally.  The Mr and I both have comorbidities outside of just weight and given that we still actually read, we know what's still floating around out there long after everyone else has put Covid in their rear view mirrors.  His doctor agrees that he can't catch it so we're working on getting him full time remote because people at his work are always sick with something and no one tests anymore.  It's a reality for some of us that others just write us off as being hypochondriacs, weird extreme libs (whatever) and it really sucks to still be so restricted.  We mask up at doctors offices because there hasn't been a time we've gone in where someone wasn't hacking.  We have zero social life, not that it was jumping before but now?  Even less and it sucks that all of my best friends live out of state.   

Let's not forget the failing wife mask.  Marriage has basically been in survival mode for a year due to us both grieving, questioning what the hell we do with our lives now, bogged down with more friggin' appointments than either of us can fathom or manage most days and we fall into a Groundhog Day routine of watching the tube after workouts until it's time for bed.  We've got retreat coming up next month, which will be a welcome respite, but we both acknowledge neither of us are happy and it's hard to know what to do about that.  We both want to move but our mortgage for an average house would be 3x the amount we were paying.  That is effing depressing.  We both just don't make the effort for each other.  Don't get me wrong, we talk about anything and everything and support each other unconditionally but we also know we have got to get out of this rut but don't know how.  Given what I mentioned above, our options are also limited so that plays a role in it too.

The mask I didn't ask to get rid of is the daughter mask.  I'm no one's daughter anymore, or I should say no one who cares daughter.  Ever since grandma's diagnosis, I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for having to be a caregiver to her and how we were going to manage that given our own limitations and I had to cram years into one month.  There is a sense of survivors guilt that comes with that.  I have had a year to reflect on what a shitty daughter I was to her and how much hurts and perceived slights put up a wall between her and I.  It wasn't just on my end, it was her end too and neither of us wanted to have the hard talk because of a few moments of discomfort.  How stupid and wasteful.  It was something I always wanted to address with her but given the Covid situation, we didn't see her much and I thought 'when it's over' I'd do it.  Just another thing that effing disease took from us.  In 2020, I had even bought a notebook to gather my thoughts to put down what things affected me how, how I was going to attempt to approach her without it being a defensive situation and what steps we could take to get closer again.  It's not like we were estranged or anything like that but there was tension sometimes and I have a tendency that if one bad thing happens, I see it as a whole day/visit ruined.  It's hard for me to not hamster wheel over and over until whatever is said becomes the focal point.  Now all I have is a relationship that never has the chance to be improved where she's concerned and it hurts.  It hurts to know how something that happened 40 years ago still affects me to this day, hence therapy, but a step forward too late.  

So you can see that each of these things on their own carry a heavy weight but together, they feel impossible to drag along.  The endless reminders that populate my inbox daily can get overwhelming as I try to remind myself to do PT, drink water, make green tea so I can try to avoid meds, bike while I'm eating to knock out two tasks at once, do a scalp massage at night, rock myself to sleep to regulate my nervous system, and a bazillion others.  I mean, no wonder I can't frickin' relax when we're on vacation or any other time.  I don't know why this all has been kicked up lately other than the fact that I just feel done and no idea how to manage it all.  No real point to it just to maybe let someone else who is feeling the same know they aren't alone.

What masks feel heavy for you right now?

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  1. It's a really trying time for a lot of people and the masks are numerous. I definitely relate to the weight struggle mask and the work mask as those are the ones I spend most of my energy on lately and that energy is mostly wasted spinning wheels in proverbial sand.

    1. I think we need to work on the unmentioned mask of unfinished house projects. It's bringing us down living in this depressing heap with it hanging over our heads.

  2. It's a tough season for you, I get you. Alot of insight you shared that you have on yourself for sure. Sometimes
    my all or nothing view kills it for me. As I ungracefully age I find myself mostly in shades of gray instead of my usual black or white. My biggest issue for me was getting out of my own way. I had a defensive way of thinking that the bad or difficult or annoying things that happened in my life were all done intentionally to me. I took things deeply personally even when the person(offending human) didn't even know me lol. I literally thought people sped up when I was waiting to turn left just to f*ck up my day! The 4 Agreements book has helped me along with a therapist. Helped me with my cognitive distortions. Thank you for being the unmasked real you.

    1. I so hear you about the all or nothing. Oh the Mr can empathize on the driving thing for sure! That defensive thinking is almost always because somewhere early on we had to in order to cope. It's hard to break out of too. I'm hoping I can talk to my therapist about an ACT approach where you kind of make room for the issue and how to sit with it over a distraction technique like CBT. This is going to be an interesting ride! You know I'm here for you if you need me!

  3. PS have Hubs research reasonable accommodation for work. My son got full remote on that

    1. Yep, that's exactly what he's pursuing. Unfortunately so is half of the workforce so there's a backlog but if someone can get one for "I get nervous when I drive" then he'd better be able to get one for an actual potentially life threatening medical issue!

  4. There are so many things I can relate to with this post. The dealings in my dysfunctional family led me to believe that's how the rest of the world viewed me, and that ended up bleeding into my friendships and how I viewed myself and them. It was terribly skewed and I've spent a lot of time (and therapy) looking at my role and my perceptions, and frankly, how unfair I was more often than not. Without ever believing that I was a controlling person, I realized how I treated my friends was very much that...telling them what to do, and using that very cruel line of "Well, if *I* was in your shoes, I would be doing this." Well now, isn't that a load of crap because I have no earthly idea what I would do because I wasn't "in" those circumstances, so therefore I just told my friend that how he or she was handling their life is subpar and that I could surely correct that for them. Again, I had no conscious thought of any of this, but over the past couple of decades I've had to do a lot of soul searching and finally was able to admit that I didn't trust my friends or my friendships because I learned it wasn't safe to do so in my own family, so how could I possibly trust anyone else. And I lost friendships because of it, and rightly so. I had a savior complex for a long time, and then I'd get mad if someone didn't take my advice and thank me for it! Good grief! I realized through much therapy and digging real deep in those parts of me that I loathed that what any friend wants is for me to just listen. I can't fix, nor is it my place to fix, whatever they are going through. But I can tell them that I'm sorry they are going through it, I can grieve with them, fear with them, worry with them, and ultimately rest in the truth that that is enough. I can so relate to what you talked about with feeling like you never know if you do enough. I felt that way all the time...ALL the time. And it was a reminder that that was coming from my family circumstances, not my friendships, because not one friend ever had the expectation that I was supposed to be the "be all, end all" for them. That was in my head, not theirs.

  5. Hit publish by mistake... I'll finish this loooong response. LOL
    When I've wanted to send a card or little gift to just let someone know I was thinking about them, I could tell when the gesture fell flat, but that's okay because I know they appreciated it nonetheless, even though it didn't do anything more than give a little lift for a few minutes in their day. Years ago I would have beaten myself up and also would have been hurt that I wasn't praised to the hilt.'s cringe-worthy to even admit, but it's the truth. I'm learning to sit in the uncomfortable. To know I don't have the power to fix or change anyone's circumstances, or even my own to some degree because not everything is fixable or curable. But I can love them, and listen to them, and share some offbeat humor with them, even if that falls flat too.
    I've also had to get real about my family and my lack of relationships with them. I found out recently that a relative of mine had died two months ago, and also found out through looking up another relative that that person died two years ago when I saw their obituary! No one reached out to tell me because we just don't have the relationships, and at first I was very hurt and angry, and then I thought why??? It was disingenuous because in truth I don't want the relationships, and neither do they, so I can't have it both ways. In an odd way, it's freed me to lay aside that mask (such a great word you used for the post!) and realize that mask doesn't fit anymore so it's time to drop it. I have always had huge expectations of myself that were not normal or realistic or healthy, and until I got real about the fact that I was putting those same expectations on everyone around me, I was miserable and pushing people away by my need of perfection -- that others needed to meet every one of my needs (not fair), or that I had to be #1 in everyone else's lives (also not fair). Again, for a long time none of this was on a conscious level because it was just my standard of functioning since I was a very little girl. It seemed "normal" to me. I've been in therapy for many years now, and occasionally I'll get a comment about that, like "why is it taking so long?" Well, because I'm messed up and have a whole lot of crap to sort through. One of the biggest blessings in working through the trauma is that I've learned to see my friendships for what they are...trusted precious gems to me. I can trust that if I'm in an ugly place, I'm allowed to be in that ugly place and am not going to be criticized or rejected for that. In my family, that wasn't the case. I fail at things on a daily basis...forgot a special date for someone, haven't reached out to someone for a while, or haven't answered a text, been short with my husband, put something off at work, etc. But I'm getting better at living in moments and being uncomfortable with the screw up, neglect, whatever I label it at the time. I used to not show anyone, including myself, much grace at all. Now I make that my goal so I don't internalize something that isn't there and pass judgment on someone who doesn't deserve it.
    There are two things that really popped out to me when reading your post that I so appreciate. One was actually from another recent post of yours that came to mind with this one about how you weren't looking for, and didn't want, a pep-talk. And the other was with your therapist when you weren't looking for a solution. Wow, you nailed it sister! I'm guilty of doing the pep-talk thing and offering solutions when they weren't asked for, and not stopping to *really* listen to what someone is saying, and giving them what they need instead of what I think they need. So thank you for this brave post, as it's a reminder to "just be" and to be okay with whatever that looks like.

    1. You know I so appreciate you and we've taken this convo to the email universe! 😂


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