Monday, October 17, 2011

A demonstration of great mental effort

It was a simple phone call and a reasonable request. I had a meeting scheduled for 11am this morning at a local coffee shop. The person I was supposed to meet called to say that she needed to reschedule, that the transmission on her car had gone out and tomorrow would be better. Public transportation isn't an option here. Not a problem...totally reasonable. We rescheduled for 1pm tomorrow.

I immediately pulled my calendar out of my bag, crossed off today's appointment, and wrote it in again for tomorrow at the correct time. That's only the first layer, however. Because for me, just remembering to open my calendar takes a certain amount of mental effort. Schedule changes can be extremely anxiety provoking. Anything out of the norm on my calendar carries a high risk of being forgotten. I know this well, and as such, I rely on vigilance. Medication can keep me more even and energized, less anxious and overwhelmed so that I'm more likely to open that calendar, but it doesn't make me lift the cover and look inside.

I set this original appointment on Thursday of last week and I spent the entire weekend working to remind myself to make sure I both checked my calendar and didn't miss my 11am meeting. I'm grateful for the ability to remind myself to remind myself but it sure is a lot of work. And it's pressing a little red internal panic button over and over until the obligation is completed because that's the only way to remember.

Even if I was using an electronic calendar I worry that I would shut out or miss the sound of an alarm or reminder.

This is not ungrounded worry, it's a habit of worry acquired over years of forgetting, of having simple meetings feel like they are swirling around my body on bits of paper that swirl like feathers in a wind. It's the kind of worry that can make you narrow your world...generally my enthusiasm for novelty outweighs my fear of forgetting. And when I'm depressed I have sheer will to force myself over the next hedge. If living means showing up for things and meeting your obligations to others, then I clearly have an unsuppressable will to live, such that I will wade through with worry up to my ankles or knees or waist and just keep moving forward. I don't always enjoy it. But solitary confinement seems less appealing.

This time, the worry is extended into tomorrow. I don't enjoy that feeling, but it's an important meeting. Important to me anyway. I'll reach into the air over and over to grab that particular bit of paper and read it to myself, then release my grip on it and let it fly away as I need my hand to grab another bit and read the reminder etched upon it.

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