Human’ing – (verb) – being a functioning adult member of society [you know, or what the fuck ever]
I think I do an OK job human’ing most of the time (feel free to disagree 😉). I can chameleon my way through my business casual work day, suburban BBQ’s, neurotypical friend groups, and I do that whole taxes thing every year. It’s not that I’m being fake to fit in, per se. I tone it down at work, though, because professionalism. I might avoid wearing anything controversial at the suburban BBQ because I don’t have the spoons to start ‘Murica fights on The Fourth. I don’t break down in anxiety attacks in front of neurotypical friends that I’m not close to – I just stay home if I’m not doing well that day.
Part of human’ing, for me, is symptom management for depression and anxiety and OCD. My bouts with depression are mild unless situationally increased, such as when I moved to WI in 2014 and then experienced a series of some horrific circumstances in the first 3 months that nearly broke me. My anxiety is generalized with acute episodes and can manifest as social anxiety in a large group, panic attacks over “we need to talk” phrasing, or constant worry about the future at work, in a relationship, do people like me, etc. My OCD is mild, but does mean that most things have to be just so, and that I do many things in a pattern or on a schedule that throws me off tremendously if interrupted. For example, I cut strawberries with a specific knife, I make my chai latte with a specific measuring cup, and I always put my bag/briefcase/backpack on the chair by the door when I get home. If that knife or measuring cup is dirty, I can’t do the activity. If Mona is on that chair, it freaks me out a little that I have to put my bag on the floor or elsewhere.
I have medication for the acute anxiety attacks, but mostly my symptom management is physical. Sleep is most important to me. I can function on slightly less than 8 hours, but anything less than 7 and I’m an ultra sensitive mess all day. Repeated exposure to lack of sleep starts breaking down everything I use to stay sane. Yoga and exercise help to keep me on a more even keel, but I only notice the positive results if I workout 4-6 days a week and go to 3-4 yoga classes. Each circuit training class is an hour and each yoga class is 90min. If there are 168 hours in a week and I need to sleep for at least 56 of them, plus 40 hours for work, I would be using 17% of the remaining time just for physical activity designed to keep my anxiety and depression at bay. I felt like I didn’t have time to live life! I sometimes had to choose whether to grocery shop or go to the gym, which is a whole other set of issues around self-care.
Eating well also helps, but that is something I’m still working on ironing out. On the one hand, I feel so much more physical energy if I avoid carbs and sweets – they make me bloat and they make my joints ache – but mentally and emotionally those are comfort foods and sometimes I just need to cry into my mac & cheese. I felt really great drinking a Shakeology every morning with a handful of greens and some berries. But that was a damn expensive habit to maintain, and even though I’ve tried cheaper meal replacement/nutrition shakes, the physical wellness wasn’t the same. How about the days when you just don’t have time or spoons? Is it self-care to eat the fast food when the other option was to not eat anything? I would say yes, but you would be surprised at how judgmental people get.
I really do struggle with the concept of self-care. What does this mean? Is self-care forcing yourself to eat your veggies because you know you need the nutrition? Or is it letting yourself have the mac & cheese because you had a hard day? Is it going to the gym 5 days a week? Or is it cutting some of those days and building relationships with loved ones and friends? Some days, when the depression is the worst, self-care is making it through the day with no negative self-talk. Showering is considered a ‘basic’ thing to do every day, but sometimes that’s self-care – because that candle-lit bubble-bath is too much for me to set-up right now. Is self-care crawling into #blanketnest at the end of the day? Skipping my workout and skipping dinner because I’m so mentally done? I think it goes without saying that self-care is a sliding scale depending on the person, circumstances, and all sorts of other things. The World Health Organization defined it as “Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication” (1998).
Notice how spiritual life isn’t included, though? Meditation, devotional practice, Journey-work, etc. are also all contributing to my ability to human. Communing with Tribe is abso-fucking-lutely imperative. Yoga helps with some of that, at least for the mindfulness practice, so I’ll include it in both buckets. Going back to the 17% of the rest of my waking hours per week, though, if that’s just the physical aspects then when do I have time to sit down and meditate between commuting, food prep and cooking, eating, and having any sort of relationship with other people? And, of course, some of the spiritual stuff has to be toned down or set aside when you’re human’ing in the muggle world. If I don’t want them to end meetings with “Amen” then it wouldn’t be appropriate to end with “So Mote It Be” either.
I wonder what it’s like to be neurotypical. Yea, sometimes you get sad or have worries, but your life doesn’t revolve around symptom management for ongoing mental illness. You don’t have to feel like you’re “human’ing well today”, because that’s your default setting. I wonder if they even realize how incredibly hard it is to balance this stuff against all the other things that go in to life like personal development to move forward in your career or saving for your dream house or even just joining a rec league sport.