Brief Moments of Capability

A few thoughts on living with chronic mental illness and other disorders.

Unperson Pending
Counter Arts
9 min readFeb 6, 2023

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Image Credits:Pixabay.com/user:agamaszota

It’s pretty rare that I have the energy/willpower to do anything substantial. Given my bad sleep situation and my persistently low mental state, I find it very hard to muster the strength to do anything in a measure most would take for granted, which hinders significantly any real possibility of living a normal life. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ll briefly talk about my sleep situation.

I have a free-running sleep disorder that I’m currently trying to manage with a very expensive medication (thank you Medicaid) coupled with a moderate case of sleep apnea which I am not trying to treat for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that prior use of a CPAP device left me numb to the efficacy of that mode of treatment.

What’s more, I seem to move a lot in my sleep. I’ve always been a side-sleeper, never been able to sleep on my back, and as such I find it hard to stay comfortable given my 300lb+ frame and the bad mattress I’m constantly having to add padding to in order to get some rest (my ‘kingdom’ for the cash to afford a new one). I have to sleep with more than one pillow under my head owing to my frame size but that in itself presents challenges.

You see, if I lay flat on my side, I move and the pillows move with me. If the pillows are too high, I wake up with an aching neck that cracks when I move. One solution I’ve tried is to use a modular wedge pillow I bought at my local BB&B before it went belly-up. However, that option, though useful in limiting how much I move in my sleep, leaves my spine resting at a slightly odd angle.

So either way I go about it, I wake up in some kind of pain, which affects how I go about my daily life. If I lay flat on my side, my body feels ok but my mind lags from the stress on my neck. And if I lie with one pillow and the wedge, my head feels ok but my body drags, and other physical activity suffers owing to the stress on my spine. For instance, walking the half mile up the road to the pharmacy and/or grocer wears me out to an unnatural degree. Sometimes I have to stop repeatedly on the way back if I have too many groceries, simply because the stress of the exertion is too great.

So, again, it’s rare that I have the strength to do anything substantial, even if that something is as simple as washing the dishes or cooking at the stove. Standing for significant lengths of time is the same as walking anywhere, in that I have to stop and take a rest from whatever I’m doing in order to cope with the situation. Mind you, this is standing at the sink washing dishes…definitely not the same as a half mile trek up a hill to run errands. The result is the same however.

This past weekend, I somehow had the energy to cook and do dishes in the same go so I took a cue from

and spent five hours in the galley giving the old ‘pantry’ challenge a try. It was kind of necessary, given that I had a fridge drawer full of sweet potatoes and parsnips that had to be used up before the lot went completely bad.

It wasn’t a perfect pantry challenge though. I wanted to try sweet potatoes with eggplant to see how well they mixed, so I went to my local Fareway and bought the eggplant, as well as a decent pork roast, as I like my soup meat somewhat tender. Plus, they have the best meat counter of any grocer I know by a mile.

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As you can see from the chart I made, I tried to go a bit scientific with the process, trying to sort out a potential flavor combination suitable to all four of my main ingredients. In the end, I think I used a half teaspoon each of rubbed sage and thyme, and a quarter teaspoon each of rosemary and basil. Ultimately, it didn’t do much because, I think, the volume of herbs and spices was too small compared to the volume of other ingredients.

I started with the usual mirepoix, but added some chopped capsicum which needed to be used up. As that was frying in the stock pot, I browned the cubed pork roast with a bit of my favorite no-salt Sonoma pepper blend. I could have just tossed it in the pot but meat doesn’t tenderize as quickly that way, I’ve observed. Anyway, in went three cloves of chopped garlic and the spice mix, as you tend to do in these soup situations.

Once that was fried up I added the sweet potatoes, the parsnips and then the meat before covering it all with a diluted lite coconut milk solution. And that was that, really. I waited to add the eggplant, owing to the differing texture, and included a larger can of corn as well, just to use it up, as the challenge dictates.

In the end, it was a hearty and savory soup experience, but not overly flavorful, as I had been hoping. I’m not complaining though. It’s worth it to endure being on my feet for five hours in order to not let food go to waste, and what’s more, have a source of nutrition which ensures I’ll get more fluid in my diet, as my daily intake of water can vary from adequate to piss-poor depending on my mental state.

One interesting experiment I tried was to add chopped orange rind in the early stage, just to see how it would mix with the rest of the ingredients. Ultimately, it came down to the flavor of the rind coming out only when I bit into it, and not really affecting the flavor of anything else. I also noted that the eggplant didn’t really do anything in the way of adding flavor, and could have easily been left out given the limited texture after cooking.

There’s still plenty left in the fridge, sitting in two large mason jars, so I imagine it will get a re-evaluation upon reheating once I get around to it. Mason jars really work wonders in my experience, because they allow you the option to make a lot of soup in one go and then not have to worry about a complex cooking process later on. And, like I said, eating soup on a regular basis helps with the water in-take.

Being chronically depressed has it’s upside, I wont deny that. For one, if you don’t have the energy to get dressed and walk anywhere, you’re less likely to indulge in junk food with a high sodium content when a craving strikes, which works in my favor given my kidney issues. And, as happened last night, I decided to con my brain out of its ice cream cravings by blending frozen bananas with whole milk, a touch of demerara sugar, and what was left of a bottle of vanilla flavoring. It wasn’t a perfect proxy for ice cream, but it was close enough to do the trick, proving again that the pantry challenge has it’s benefits.

As far as self-care goes, that does suffer a bit if you lack the will to venture out. However, the upside to that is that you’re not using up water on a daily basis for showering. Some may turn up their noses at the prospect of body odor in that respect, but if you aren’t sweating a great deal, you only need to follow the Carlin method for bodily hygiene — Armpits, Asshole, Crotch, and Teeth — the cleaning of which which combined doesn’t take up nearly as much water as a full shower, all things considered.

Of course, when I am out and about and do feel good enough to exert myself to a greater degree, I do try and take advantage of the situation. Some weeks back, after my weekly appointment at the ketamine clinic, I decided the day was nice enough and my body felt good enough to risk the two mile walk back to the mall, which is the hub of the bus traffic in that particular suburb.

Usually, I just walk the fifteen minutes back up the road to the bus stop from which I arrived but it was worth it to get the added exercise that comes with the extended walk. What’s more, on a walk of that scale, I’m usually tempted to stop and rest repeatedly but the desire to stop on this occasion was not greater than the desire to keep walking, and I made it the two miles back to the mall in one go.

Unfortunately, that state of physical and mental well-being didn’t last because I was out to the main post office the next day, and felt fatigue trying to walk a mere four blocks up past the hospital to catch another bus I needed after depositing a letter for delivery. So clearly, there is something to be analyzed in the way the ketamine treatments affect my by body such that the immediate effect is increased ability to endure physical activity, but the the long term effect is nowhere as near pronounced. I fathom it’s the way I slept that night which affected the difference between the two sojourns, but there’s no certainty in that assumption.

I’ve been dealing with mental health issues for longer than I lived not dealing with them, and I’ve witnessed first hand the kinds of marginalizing discrimination which can come from the outside world when people are confronted with a seemingly ‘normal’ individual who just can’t seem to get his shit together, who struggles with life despite the expectation that struggle can be easily overcome with juuuuussssstttt a bit more effort.

It really sucks having lived with a family so devoid of intellect that ‘trying a little harder’ is the only solution which comes to mind when it concerns chronic depression. If you could you would, as I’ve heard it said, because no one wants to live like this. My relatives urging me to try harder is as absurd as my saying to a frumpy middle-aged cat lady ‘Denise Austin looks great in her 60s and Turkish superstar Ajda Pekkan still looks great in her 70s, so why don’t you try harder to be more attractive?’

Obviously, it’s possible for women to still look great into retirement age, but most women don’t have the genetic capability (or the plastic surgery money) to stay that fit that late in life. Some people get the better scratcher when it comes to the genetic lottery, like Jack LaLanne, and some people get the losing horse in the aging race. So no matter how hard most women try to eat right and exercise, their bodies just aren’t going to hold up well enough to be able to perpetually rock a bikini on the beach, and it’s unfair to expect them to try when the odds are working against them.

As I happen to be in the unlucky third who statistically don’t respond well to any form of treatment for depression, my only saving grace is that I do seem have the ability to rise to the occasion in the rare instance when my body and mind decide to align well enough to endure adversity. So regardless of whatever expectations the world thinks I should be living up to, my reality is that I must take my victories, as small as they are, when they are achieved and be content that I’ve tried my best to endure despite my limitations and the ever-increasing desire to find a way out of this quagmire of a life.

So until a more viable and tangible solution to my medical issues arises, I’m going to paint and write as my creative urges allow and then sit in corner with a good bowl of soup, savoring what little I can given what I’ve been handed, all the while telling the ignorant bastards of this world to shove their unreasonable expectations where the sun doesn’t shine. I’m through enduring social shame for things that are out of my control. I welcome you to join me in that mindset, of your imaginations allow it. If not, I’ve no use for you.

Adieu.

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