Something really weird happened to me today.

I had a minor but significant medical procedure involving several of my triggers (all of which are medical, all of which date to cancer treatment/surgery in my teens).

And I'm not triggered.

This is freaking me out in the best kind of way.

I tried to write a full accounting of what happened, to record it, but it turned out that describing it, making conscious the associations between what happened today and my prior experiences, was actually really upsetting. So I'm going to skip it. But the bullet points are:

  • Leigh is really amazing at being grounding for me during this shit.
  • I do not know how to categorize what happened while I was starting to feel sedated other than by saying that a nurse held me. Maybe she was holding me in position for something? I don't know, the point is, human contact.
  • I said I was nervous. I explained why. I don't know if these particular nurses were particularly good at being calming, or if I'm the difference here, but, um. This was good.

I think these are tears of gratitude, and maybe overwhelmedness? I don't know. But, despite yesterday having been awful because of prep for the procedure, and feeling not entirely well again after it, today is a really good day.

Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine

I actually feel kind of amazing.
amalnahurriyeh: XF: Plastic Flamingo from Acadia, with text "bring it on." (Default)
( Oct. 22nd, 2012 10:46 am)
Is anybody else reading Malta Bright by pennypaperbrain? It's a wip, and I'm writing this before I read today's chapter, because I want a spot-check on how obvious something I'm seeing is.

spoilers, talk of mental illness issues )

Anyway, if extremely hot kinky porn is your thing, it's worth reading, as is everything else by pennypaperbrain. WIP, though.
amalnahurriyeh: XF: Plastic Flamingo from Acadia, with text "bring it on." (Default)
( Jul. 3rd, 2012 03:28 pm)
One of my tasks for the summer is to learn a new dialect of Arabic. It's necessary, and fascinating, and frustrating, as all language study is.

My name, the one I use here, rests on a pun of Arabic-to-English transliteration. عملنا حرية means "our work is freedom," and املنا حرية means "our hope is freedom," but you'd write the first 3amalna hurriyeh and the second amalna hurriyeh so it's a simple thing to make them the same thing, to create a person, Amal Nahurriyeh, from the linguistic mess. (It helps that Amal is, actually, a name.)

One of the things about the dialect I'm learning is that it does away with the [q]. Formal and classical Arabic has a sound, like a [k] but made in the back of the throat (here it is), but most dialects do away with it, turning it into a [k] or a [g] or an [ʔ] (that's the glottal stop, often rendered as ' when people aren't using IPA for fun and little-to-no-profit). In the dialect I'm learning, it turns into a [ʔ]. Simple enough to remember: qawha is ahwa (coffee). waraq is wara' (paper).

But qalam is 'alam (pen). But that's a problem, because then there's 3alam, world and if you start telling me that the world is a pen I'm not going to know what to do with myself.


If I sound like I'm a little crazy, that's pretty accurate. Suffice to say that you're very lucky you're getting medidations on Arabic phonology and not a ten thousand word essay on why Regina Spektor's Eet is the perfect embodiment of my mental state right now.

it's like forgetting the words to your favorite song
you can't believe it, you were always singing along
it was so easy, and the words so sweet
you can't remember, you try to feel the beat

spend half of your life trying to fall behind
keep using your headphones to drown out your mind
it was so easy and the words so sweet
you can't remember, you try to move your feet
amalnahurriyeh: XF: Mulder, looking down and laughing (mulder laugh)
( May. 21st, 2012 05:55 pm)
St. Elsewhere is the least depressing album ever made about depression.


(Examples: A transcendently remixed live version of Transformer; Crazy, obviously; Just a Thought, warning for discussion of suicide/suicidal ideation; St. Elsewhere, the title track.)

(Also let's talk about Cee-Lo's voice. That live version of Transformer, holy shit.)

ETA: How could I forget Boogie Monster? URGH, THIS SOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG.

(Alternative title: Marvin the Paranoid Android is Now My Spirit Animal.)

Most folks who know me on the internet know that I wrestle with depression. (I think wrestle is a better word for my experience of it than 'suffer'; I could go on about this, but I'll leave it for comments.) In particular, I'm dysthymic, which I often gloss as "I mean, you're depressed, but, like, it's not so bad, you could be more depressed." That is to say, dysthymia is depression where you can get out of bed in the morning, you just don't particularly see the point of it; where you aren't actually suicidal, you're just logically convinced the world would be a better place without you in it; where nobody knows you're depressed, because you do a reasonably good job of going about your regular activities, but you end each day in a little heap of not-caring anymore. It's not a particularly cheerful way to go on about your life, but it is a way. Dysthymia tends to manifest as a personality outlook more than anything else: that you just kind of are like this. Some people are cheerful. Some people are me.

Which is precisely why I love Marvin the Paranoid Android quite so much.

From banners and graphics

Marvin is a regular character in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, though, if I'm remembering right, he dies at the end of book four. (If that sentence doesn't make sense, just go with it.) He's appeared in each incarnation of the series, and was even voiced by Alan Rickman in the movie. Marvin is a prototype emotion android by the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation (they also make doors that are enthusiastic about opening for you, and elevators with a weak psychic field enabiling them to be on the floor you need before you realize you need it). However, his emotional range is remarkably stunted. He's depressed. He thinks the worst of everything. He trudges along, depressed, through his days.

Marvin's also smart. Very smart. He's thirty thousand times smarter than a human. He can think through anything, come up with whatever solution. Anything you ask him to do? It's beneath him. Tremendously, enormously beneath him. Martin is better than you. It's just a fact.

And this is what makes Marvin amazing. His depression isn't a hinderance. It's not a disability, a poison that ruins his days. His depression is his superpower. In the course of the first three books of the trilogy, Marvin manages to use his "hell of an outlook on life" (pace Zaphod) to do the following:

Marvin suffers no small number of abuses over the course of the first three books. (I'm sticking to those, since I haven't re-read the last two recently). He's left on Magrathea for five hundred billion years, and ends up parking cars at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. He crashes into the heart of a sun as part of a stunt for a rock concert. He is stuck in a swamp on Squamshelous Beta for millions of years with a poorly made false leg and only mattresses to talk to. (Oh, and the occasional bridge to cause to commit suicide.) Through all of these, he just keeps going. He doesn't get cheerful. He doesn't get saved. He never feels better.

He doesn't need to feel better. He's just what he is, absurdly pessimistic worldview and all. And being himself isn't a fault, or a problem. It's a gift, as fucked up as that is. His humanoids never would have gotten anywhere without him.

This all sounds terribly mopey. But on a day like today, when it's raining and dark out, when I've got a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side in my eyesocket, when I'm sitting here staring at a piece of time-sensitive work that I really have to get done, and feeling incapable of doing it, I remember Marvin. And I think, maybe, I can get through it.
amalnahurriyeh: XF: Mulder, looking down and laughing (mulder laugh)
( Oct. 1st, 2010 11:55 am)
I ask my mother if she can watch Isk so Leigh and I can run to the store to grab a new bottle of baby vitamins. (Drug stores without the New York City markup are a great pleasure for us; we save minor purchases like this for trips to the motherland where possible.) Sure, she says. My father, cooking dinner in the kitchen, asks if we need money. Don't worry, I say, as my mother hands me her debit card.

Well, I want you to have money, my father says. He comes to the living room, presses a wad of cash from his pocket into my hand.

Thanks, Dad, I say. And like always, I wonder if I should keep it or not.


My dad wasn't diagnosed as bipolar until I was seventeen. It was bad, when shit went down; it was bad, and it was shocking, and it was totally unsurprising given that one of his sisters is schizophrenic and another had better be a diagnosable sociopath, because 'evil' is an inadequate diagnostic conclusion. Anyway, my family lost it for a while. My mother was reliving her sexual assaults in therapy once a week; I was silently deferring all of my emotions for a time when cancer and Ivy League applications wouldn't be better distractions; my brother was deciding that disappearing was his best bet to get noticed; and my father had a psychotic episode at work and was getting medicated to within an inch of his life.

I don't know if we're better now, but it's at least less unpleasant.

No, that's not true. We're better now. My mom's stepping off her Prozac; my brother's business is taking off; I am capable of letting my mother's judgement roll off my back without feeling crushed by it; and my father, now retired on disability, is okay. He has his swings, but he's generally staying in the vicinity of somewhere that can communicate with others. He's not normal, but he's fine, and that's what matters.


My therapist asked me how my father was after a recent trip to the motherland. "He's fine," I said. "I mean, sometimes he does things, and you can tell it's something his brain is making him do. That sounds stupid, but you know what I mean."

My father's brain made him ask me, every weekly phone call home from college, if I was warm enough--so much so that it became a running joke within the family. My father's brain makes him press twenties into my palm every time I leave the house these days. My father's brain makes him spend half a day obsessing over how I'm going to print the thing I need to mail out while I'm visiting--how will I connect to the printer? Will there be enough ink? Will there be enough paper? Should I print on best quality or draft quality? Will I see the necessary dialogue boxes? Is the printer USB or not? My father's brain makes him shop impulsively, so much so that, in his real manic phases, my mother has taken away his credit cards, that her will states that, in the event of her death, their money will go into a trust, rather than directly to him. In his normal phases, he just buys new televisions.

Okay, once a car, but only once. And my brother did need a car.


My brain makes me do things.

It makes me stay up late, later, latest, because if I lay down then the thoughts will come: that I'll never get these jobs I'm applying for. That I'm a terrible teacher. That my son will run into the road and die because I don't deserve him. That the world would be better if I--left.

It makes me burst into tears in the kitchen because the ants ate the donuts, which is CLEARLY a SIGN from GOD that I am A FAT LAZY BITCH WHO DOESN'T DESERVE THINGS.

It makes me read the words of my friends recovering from eating disorders and struggling with self harming, and wishing I could do those things, because it sounds like it would help.

I hear words leave my mouth, and some part of me goes: Oh, I'm here again. Dammit. And the worst part is that knowing where here is represents a victory, hard-one through thousands of dollars of therapy. Just being here--wherever the fuck here is--is an accomplishment.

There's no winning when you fight your brain. There are only truces.

I never learned that when I was fighting my body, either, for what it's worth.


The problem with being at the place my father's in, or the place I'm in, is that you don't know, sometimes, whether you're doing something, or your brain is.

Does this research proposal suck, or do I just think it does? And what is wrong with me that I can't--no, wait, stop, that's just going to make it worse.

Did I do an okay job teaching today, or am I deluded? And if it went well, was it me, or did my students manage to pull out a win without any help from me?

Did my father hand me the money, or did his brain?


My father is generous. My father is kind. My father is the silent type. My father is artistic. My father can't talk on the phone for more than five minutes these days.

Can I pry my father's symptoms away from his personality? Can I figure out what is legitimately his, and what is his brain tick-tick-ticking away in the corner?

What would I be like without depression as my companion? Quick, Amal: picture yourself with no crises of confidence, no days where you lay on the couch and think how much happier everyone you know would be without you, no days when you stare at the computer screen and think that everything you've ever produced is pointless, no nights writing letters to people you are convinced hate you until you wake up. Pry it out. Who are you without your ghost?

I am my own best critic. I am intensely focused. I am capable of working like a machine under terrible conditions. I am the fastest graduate student my department had ever seen. I am generous. I am artistic. I am self-sacrificing.

I am my father's daughter.

Tick-tick-tick, says my brain. Tick-tick.


amalnahurriyeh: XF: Plastic Flamingo from Acadia, with text "bring it on." (Default)
Amal Nahurriyeh


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