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I am so tired. My Minneapolis clock is winding down. A day and a half left or so.

Zzzzz.
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Margo's presence is so comforting. I was feeling depressed and desperate and then we cuddled for like 5 minutes and I was full of energy and hope again.

I know I have to take responsibility for my own happiness. But...still. She - no, they, pronouns - they are like a bowl of hot chicken soup on a winter day. Like drawing up a warm bath and letting the warmth sink into sore muscles.

I feel steady, solid. Not that dark cave of howling that I was for so long, that I still am, sometimes.

I know learning how to comfort myself in other ways will be beneficial to me in the months we're apart. I'll grow as a person. Which is what I want in the long run, but I can't quite say I'm looking forward to it.
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Ah, anxiety and depression. My old friends.

I feel unlovable. This time at the cabin is for relaxing but mostly I feel unmoored. Don't know what to do. Can't eat well. Can't exercise fully. Women's bodies are still policed. No trans people in the military. Margo asking us tersely to change the radio station because it's too upsetting. People still getting shot all over the place.

Grad school starts a month from tomorrow. I'm not ready. And yet starting might well be a relief. Bury myself in work so I can't think so much.

People tell me I'm obviously intelligent. I don't feel obviously intelligent. My brain freezes up in bluffing games like Coup. I suck at laser tag. I can't get friends together to celebrate a birthday. I can barely look people in the eye.

Margo's reading a book on Victorian women. Thank God I wasn't born back then. Margo might have been a spinster and a rebel, but I would have been a trembling nitwit. I feel like a trembling nitwit. I'm not the leader of anything. I feel invisible. The only way I can think to stand out is to dye my hair turquoise, but that seems stupid.

I think all this, and yet my greatest sadness for my younger self was that I thought such mean things. That I wasn't capable or likable or pretty. I wish I had trusted my brilliance. For my own sake, I have to try to trust in my own brilliance, my own bravery. That's the only way out of this cognitive madness.
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I feel so isolated when I see snaps from the lab group. The fact that nobody from the lab, aside from Jack, has responded at all to my birthday invitation brings the fact that none of them really care about me into sharp focus. Well. Aside from Melissa, who was kind enough to bake me a cake on my last day, even though we barely know each other.

I know intellectually that if I find just one real friend in a sea of people, that I have something to be grateful for. Diana was that friend at Xcel. Jack is that friend at the lab.

But I loved the lab so much because I felt so included. So loved. But that was when Adrienne and Brian were there. The lab has changed. Which is inevitable, but it hurts. It hurts more than I realized it would.

Leaving everyone behind - Margo, Jack, and the cats especially - is going to hurt. A lot. Loneliness will gnaw at me all year, I expect. I had better get used to it, find a way to work with it.

Seriously, though, it'll be my 30th birthday, and I'm moving out of state. Would it kill more people to respond?

I know I've always been a little weird. Never popular. I am an introvert, and I cherish my nearest and dearest. That is who I am. I know. But I always wanted to be the kind of person people rally around. I know I am dear to those who know me best. But sometimes I wish I inspired more people to show up, to support me. I know I excel at nuturing relationships one-on-one, and that's why I will eventually be an excellent therapist. But still. That longing for acknowledgment. That longing for a tribe. It hurts so much, still being the awkward kid who just wants friends. I hate still being there at the age of almost-30.
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Made a Facebook event for my birthday and hardly anyone has responded. I'm dying slowly inside. The last time I had a birthday party (several years ago) I got so anxious that I drank myself into a stupor and cried in my closet for three hours.

Just another reason not to drink.

Anyway, I know that social events (and social rejection) spike my anxiety through the roof, so good for me for even taking the initiative to try to put something together. Even though it makes me question whether anyone likes me. ESPECIALLY because it makes me question whether anyone likes me.

Also, you know, not drinking. That's also progress.

Sigh.

If I had a CBT therapist, they'd tell me that people not coming to my birthday doesn't mean they don't care about me, and to challenge that belief. To acknowledge that many of my friends are introverts, or that they don't have the money, or that they already have other plans or obligations for that day. And I kind of have to be my own therapist now. So. I'm trying.

My biggest fear: being unlovable. No doubt in my mind. Might as well face that demon.
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I got into Dr. Hilsenroth's lab! I'm so excited! I'M GONNA BE DOING PSYCHOTHERAPY RESEARCH WHICH IS WHAT I'VE WANTED ALL ALONG :D :D

I got such a rush of joy upon discovering the news that I disrupted the data training happening at the computer behind me. Whoops. So it goes.

And I have an apartment showing on Wed July 5. Which is awesome. If everything looks good, then I'll have a place to live... it's all starting to come together, and I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for that.

And tonight I'm going to Sociable Ciderwerks. Which is cool. I've only been there once before, but I'm excited for some beer and/or cider. So much. I could really use some unwinding + social time.

Ugh, it's so hot, I feel like I'm melting. At least there's occasional air drifting in the window. I could really use some AC, though. Glad my place is still an option, for another month anyway.
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when i was a kid

and things got too loud
and people got too close

my heart overwhelmed the rest of me
ached and swelled like a cathedral
at the close of church service.

i'd sit behind the willow tree
and wait to be searched for.
how many years did i choke on my heartbeat
waiting for the words where were you,
i missed you, why don't you
come play.

on my bad days, i am still like that.
my vocal cords harden to willow.
the sharp syllable of your mouth
like the whip of branch against bare legs.

on my bad nights, i press ice to my sternum
to cool the swelling underneath.
my heart speaks in lines of longing,
muscle-damp and pulsing-thick.

i never wanted to stuff so many secrets
into my ribcage. i'd crack it open if i could

and the thing about willows of course
is that they never stop weeping.

better to burn the whole thing down
and stand illuminated in the blaze,

the shape of you imprinted
in the places i stare at the flames too long.
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Really, I need to remember that this is more for me than it is for him. He's gonna be my mentor potentially for 5 years, I wanna check him out. So far, all the signs are good - he's replied to my emails, all his grad students replied to his email (!!!), and one of them is even Nili, who was present during my group interview. "This program changed my life," she said. Because of her work with Dr. Barber? I wonder.
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OK, so, I guess I'm having a Skype meeting with Dr. Barber tomorrow.

*high-pitched internal screeching*

That's really short notice. Thankfully, I was able to rearrange lab time and Jack can cover for me, so I'm able to do it. And then... what? Is this an interview? I mean, I guess it's probably a chance for me to ask what his lab is like, what projects he's working on, and to ask his grad students what working with him is like.

Questions:
1. What projects are you currently running in your research lab?
2. What projects do you anticipate in the future? Are there any research directions you're looking for new grad students to go in?
3. What is your mentorship style? Hands-off or more directional?
4. Is the panic disorder study still running? What involvement could I have in that?
5. What can I expect to work on in my first year?
6. Do you help students develop their second-year project?
7. Do you have regular lab meetings or one-on-one meetings with your graduate students?
8. Are there specific activities you want your grad students to take part in (conferences, for example)
9. How do you like your students to propose new research ideas? Is there a set process?
10. What lab spaces do you have? Where do you conduct your research? Is it on the Garden City campus or elsewhere?

Questions for grad students...
1. Seriously, is he absent or micromanagey or anything like that?
2. What projects have you worked on?
3. What is the atmosphere like in the lab? How many of you are there? Is it a collaborative environment?
4. Any tips for new students?

Remember, you ALREADY GOT IN TO GRAD SCHOOL. You're going to get a research mentor. Hopefully it'll be a good fit. But even if you don't get exactly what you want the first time around, you can go to other labs' meetings and you can get to know him in person and it'll be fine. It'll be fine. It'll be fine.

I already feel at a disadvantage because I haven't talked to him in person. I should have on Interview Day. But you know what? I felt overwhelmed and kind of shitty and maybe I would have made a bad impression. So. Here we go. All I can do is move forward.

I just... research on panic disorder? Heck yes. I want it. So bad. Wanting it bad scares me, like somehow that dooms me to fail. But I'd rather be excited and then disappointed than not be excited at all.

Projects:
- Looking at therapy methods for social anxiety disorder or panic disorder is what I'm most interested in
- Uh..... I really don't know any more than that??????
- Whatever
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Next goal: try to remember that you have sensory processing sensitivity and limit what you're exposed to (that includes the riot of Facebook posts and comment threads!) so that you don't feel overwhelmed so often. The key to happiness is flow and they key to that is not feeling overstimulated. And apparently it's easy for me to become overstimulated. Blame my thalamus or something. Frigging thalamus.
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ALSO SSRIs ARE PRONEUROGENIC THAT'S SO COOL
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recalling memories puts them in a labile state - so you activate painful memories in a calm state - so you associate that memory with more calm as it is re-encoded - also enhances details of the trauma so you don't generalize as much to similar stimuli.

exposure therapy - you can't intellectualize, you need to actually feel the emotion in order to be able to make therapeutic changes - they HAVE to sit with the discomfort for it to be efficacious. safety behaviors diminish the effect.

distancing is a safety behavior.

more powerful to put it in the present tense when they retell, so there isn't a distancing effect.

this makes me think about how my best sessions with Alex felt like being dragged over hot coals. not where I would talk nonstop. you have to sit and feel. sit and feel. silence is OK.


OK so wait - if exercises boosts neurogenesis, and neurogenesis in the hippocampus helps you create new memories - does that aid with forming new memories in exposure therapy, which help you get through the anxiety? this might be something to look at in grad school.
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I'm in! I start at the walk-in Counseling Center tomorrow!

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Aaaaahhhhhh. Last day at Xcel: May 6th. What a feeling of sweet relief. I noticed the sun gleaming off buildings on the way home today - something I've been too stressed to notice for a while. I feel a heady sense of freedom. I even braved the phone and ordered Chinese food to celebrate... can't wait till it gets here! I'm starving...
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Got cleared to be lead experimenter this week, got 48/50 on my exam (plus a possible 3 pts extra credit, which I'm still waiting on), and got below 155 pounds. Hell yeah. Great week. And the weather is gorgeous to boot - all puddles and sunshine. Now to go home and enjoy some hot coffee, Dragon Age, and a run.

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I feel proud of myself. Proud! It's a little glow in my chest. Is it perfect? No, but it's good. Jeff said I was definitely ready to run participants myself. DEFINITELY! And he's real cute when he smiles. I don't think I've ever seen him smile like that, all teeth and flashing. It's good. Gives me a boost. I feel tired but also energized and appreciative and grateful. This is good work that I'm doing. Good good good. It MEANS something. And that really means something to me.

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Phew, OK. I crashed last night at 7 PM and got 9 hours of sleep. I still feel cold and shivery, but more like I'm ready to kick ass again. I have some energy. That's good.

Today is my first day leading an experiment at the lab. I'm a little terrified. I mean, it's GOOD terrified, if that makes any kind of sense. It's a thing that I want to learn how to do. But the way the training works means that I haven't practiced this for, like, two months, and I'm really afraid I'm going to forget the next step or accidentally shock the poor girl. Or jab her in the eyeball with the q-tip. I know that I've spent a lot of time rehearsing mentally, so there's much no goddamn way I'm going to poke her in the damn eye with the q-tip.

But still. It's weird to think that I'll be administering intelligence tests. It's weird that I'll be attaching electrodes to a stranger's face. I'm used to being the second-in-command, the little sister, the sidekick. The quiet one who takes it all in and is forgotten. I guess that isn't really me, anymore. And I figure Ashley must have known what she was doing when she promoted me to a lead research assistant. I am thoughtful and care a lot and have a calm, assured kind of demeanor, and I will practice over and over until I get it right. I know I'm well-suited for this. I know I can do it.

But it's still a little weird to be in that lead role, the experimenter. The face of science.

Worth it though. This is exactly the kind of experience that grad schools lap up. This is what I want to be doing with my professional future. Something with meaning. Something that involves human beings instead of a bunch of furnace model numbers.

I just have to remember it's not going to go perfectly and that's okay.
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I'm tired. What else is new? Jesus.

Margo started on ADD medication this past week. She has more norepinephrine floating around her brain now, which is helping her focus, but it's also giving her really bad anxiety when things get stressful. Panic attacks, that kind of thing. She came over and woke me up and talked to me, and that sort of thing used to fill me with unreasonable rage. But I looked over at her and she was in tears on the couch and all I felt was this kind of calm, sad empathy. Really tender. Really warm. I thought to myself, maybe I really COULD be a therapist someday.

Talking to me helped her, I think. I hope. My eyes kind of feel like peeled grapes right now, from lack of sleep, but it's worth it.

I know I spend a lot of time freaking out and complaining on here, because it's my one really consistent pressure release valve. But the truth is that all the work I'm doing feels good, in a way. I'm needed and wanted. I'm interested in what I'm studying. I'm paying my own way through school and quite honestly, I'm really impressed with how far I've come. How much work I can knock out in a day. How much better I've gotten with self-care. How calm and stable I feel 90% of the time.

Alex and Sherrie would be proud. But they're not here anymore to be proud of me. So I'll have to be proud of myself instead.
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I know I'm late on this. Only not. Resolutions don't have to be made on January 1st.

Here are my goals for the next year.

1. Run a mile in less than 10 minutes by March 31, 2016.
- Run 3x a week for 30 minutes.
- Sign up with Pact app.
- Ice foot as necessary to relieve soreness.
- Realize it is OK to cry or get frustrated or take ibuprofen to deal with the pain of going.

2. Get to a healthy weight, 140 pounds.
- Eat 1500 calories a day.
- Log everything in Fitbit.
- It is going to be hard. It is going to be really, really hard. You will have to deal with that. You will have to deal with being tired and having cravings and feeling low-energy and vulnerable. You know this. You know that there will be a very real pain associated with this. So how are you going to deal with the pain? Sleep to recuperate. Cry. Punch something. Pull your hair. Take a walk around the block. Do jumping jacks. Go for a run. Write about how much it sucks. Remember that Soylent has taken care of your nutritional needs, so you can feel secure. Most of all, find comfort where you can. Find warmth.

3. Finish Psych BA.
- Research Methods, spring.
- Lab credit, spring.
- Clinical or Health Psych, summer.
- Final project, fall.

4. Take the GRE.

5. Apply to grad school by December 31.


Things that I've done that I'm really proud of.
- Went to therapy and threw off most of my anxiety and depression.
- Opening up - in person, over Facebook, telling secrets I've held for years.
- Told people I loved them even though they didn't reciprocate.
- Run until my lungs felt like they would burst.
- Written novels.
- Traveled around the world.

Human potential. I have so much. I can do so much. I can work in a lab. I can be gorgeous. I can run the Warrior Dash. I can charm and attract other people. I can get As in school. I can lose 20 pounds. I can write a novel. I can travel around the world. I can cry until I feel like I'm cracking open, but never fall to pieces.

I bet I can write a bestselling book. I bet I could make a great therapist. I bet I could enjoy sex and not be afraid of it.

I am slowly, year by year, becoming the person that I want to be.

What is my ultimate purpose on the earth?

Is it to enjoy? To share joy? To lessen the pain of people around me? Is it to learn how to make a connection from a childhood that was so isolated? I think something along those lines.

I believe I am powerful. Even when I am tired. Even when I feel shattered. Other people are starting to see that I'm strong. I'm starting to lead by example. I can't possibly explain how good that feels.
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I'm looking for serenity. I'm looking for that ineffable quality of gliding through the day, my muscles relaxed, not worried about time or performance. I would love to just feel the sun, savor lime water on my tongue,

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK IT DELETED THIS ENTIRE ENTRY I FUCKING HATE YOU INTERNET.

I don't have time to retype it, but basically I am happy and grateful for alone time, meditation, introverting, and I am excited that Margo will have a more flexible schedule with school. I like having time to putter and get space and do solo projects. Also don't let work get me down. Also Extroverted Sensing is the fourth function which is the one that holds the greatest possibility for transformation, which is great because that means whenever I savor something I am rewiring brain circuits to see the world as a juicy inviting place instead of a scary tiring one. I want to do so many things! I want energy for everything!

also Jesus Christ I gotta remember to copy-paste everything before I post, internet has eaten my entries twice now in 12 hours
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