FAQ’s

Where do you shower?

For some reason this is the #1 ranked question I get. The answer is, I shower in lot’s of different places. I usually end up at my 24 hour gym, but also shower at work and or friends house. Occasionally when I am out camping I will freshen up with a wash cloth.

What do you eat?

Right around the corner from work is a Harris Teeter’s so I often get away with a piece of fruit or oatmeal for breakfast and a cup of soup with an avocado or a sandwich for lunch. For dinner I usually eat out, and have established a list of go to, healthy places.

On average, I spend around $15-$20 on food, which sounds like a lot but is relatively nothing compared to what I would pay for an apartment, utility bills, etc. Plus it gives me the opportunity to try a boat load of eateries, farm to table restaurants and catch up with friends every now and again over happy hour.

Where do you sleep?

Typically I sleep in my car because it’s exhausting and cost prohibitive to camp in the nearby parks. I sleep in the passenger side and prop my feet up on a bog of clothes- it’s actually pretty conformable. Very similar to when you are at the dentist getting your teeth cleaned. I would say it’s about 87% comfortable.

What kind of car do you have?

A lot of people assume I have  huge sports vehicle or a truck, but I have a small, 2006 4 door Hyundai Elantra sedan. Nothing fancy, but I own it outright and we have been on many adventures.

How long do you plan on doing this?

My journey is tied closely to how long it will take me to pay off my private student loan debt. I estimate it will take me 12 months, which means I should be finished before January of 2017. In reality though, I may just winter for a while and car camp again when Spring comes around to save money for traveling. I have also thought about buying a Winnebago or trying to find someone who will let me put a tiny home on their property.

How do you get mail?

I originally rented a mail box (not a P.O. Box) from UPS for 3 months, but opted to continue having my mail sent to my sisters, which is cheaper and easier than switching all my billing info to another address.

How do you do laundry?

I go to a laundry mat usually. Sometimes I do laundry at a friend’s house over beer or at a hotel when traveling.

What do you do when it gets cold?

I layer up and I also have plenty of sub zero camping gear. Generally I can stay pretty comfortable around 11 degrees if I bundle up in my sub-zero mummy sleeping bag. Eating before bed also helps.FullSizeRender (2)

This is Your Brain on Drugs

The sun is shining big and bright, but I can’t shake the feeling of doom. It’s the week before my period, and per usual I can’t stop crying. A mix of exhaustion, tension and depression has clouded my judgement and sense of self. The sun is shining, but I don’t feel it’s warmth or sense it’s brightness. The air is crisp and cool, but I feel hot and bothered. At any moment, I feel like the very sky will collapse on me. It’s been almost 2 months that this doom feeling has lingered over me, and once again Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is holding me hostage. At this point I am no longer subclinical, meaning I am spending more than an hour a day obsessing and ritualizing.

I have to go back on medicine.

I make an appointment to see my Doctor. It’s a fancy, clean office with fixtures out of Crate and Barrel. I hate coming to the Doctors. I feel like sick people come to the Doctors and leaves their germs and body fluids everywhere. Pretty much everything is contaminated to my brain – the buttons in the elevator, the door handles, the cups and water in the lobby area, along with the magazines and arm rests on the chairs. Pretty standard stuff. I get a cup of water, ignoring the fact that it feels dirty to me and somehow my brain equates hydration with bathroom breaks, with stress. I take a sip, remembering not to gulp. “Come on brain”, I think to myself, “same team”.

I handled the rest of my visit pretty well. Despite a red spot near her keyboard being confirmed as salad dressing and her insistence on hugging me after three rounds of travel vaccinations, none of the obsessions lingered much later. Of course I did shower that evening as planned so I am sure that helped. Still it was hard to convey to my doctor what I have been experiencing. I totally forgot the last time I was there we didn’t talk about my carliving situation so she had no idea what I had been up to. We talked more about the PMDD and how terrible the symptoms of irritability, sadness and anger had become. We decide a low dose of Zoloft before menses is the way to go. I’m hesitant- I don’t like the idea of altering my body with chemicals that retard my brains natural ability to absorb serotonin by blocking receptors (Select Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s for short). On the other hand, no amount of positive thinking or perseverance can rouse me from reality. I’m ritualizing way too much and little tasks feel like monumental efforts. The combination of OCD and depression is unbearable and I’ve been down this road before. It doesn’t end at a good place.

For a full day I obsess about whether or not I can keep my drugs in my car or if the cold will do something weird to them or if it’s safe to leave them at work or if someone will take them or taint them. I know what you are thinking, ridiculous right. I spend another 1/2 day pretending I I don’t need the medicine and will stop ritualizing with shear will power. After getting up to use the restroom at work and realizing how anxious and angry and exhausted and trapped I felt with this simple task (I hate the bathroom at work because the trash is located beneath the paper towels. My job is also kind of life sucking at the moment, so the irony of it being the only place I can get a reliable bathroom and check adds to the  drama). So after a moment of brief defeat, I popped the 25 mg of Zoloft in my mouth and drank a glass of water.

Taking medicine is the ultimate mind fuck. I can feel the zoloft ooze over me- a hot swoon of sweaty, focused energy. Everything feels different, almost like someone dipped reality in cocaine cotton balls and stuffed them around my senses.  It feels like I exist in an alternate reality. Maybe that’s why I feel nauseous and sweaty-clearly this is jetlag from traversing the space-time- continuum.

The first few days are the worst. I feel stuffed and tense. I forget to eat and drink. My lower back and legs prickle and tingle. It’s hard for me to fall asleep then it’s hard for me to stay awake. I get the shits and I feel even more anxious than I did before. My body feels twitchy and I want to pace and tick and tap things. I sweat through the nights and my face starts to get oily. I try to write but no words come. Everything is muddled and messy and confusing and my skin is crawling on top of me. Finally, my mind starts to quiet and the energy comes back. I’m focused and alert. For a moment, the clouds part and I can feel the sun again.

I needed this.

4 Weeks to the Finish Line

There’s only 4 weeks left to go and I am fighting OCD, unrest  and an awful sort of exhaustion that words cannot express. I don’t even know where to begin. Should I explain the never ending exhaustion that comes with mustering up the strength to coordinate bathroom breaks? How badly I wish I could just end this car living experiment? I mean, what’s the difference between 337 days  and 365 days? I guess 365 days has a nice ring to it. On the other hand, I’m the only one who’s counting anyways.

Or maybe I should talk about the perils of OCD- the never ending self-doubt , the shame of rituals, the quiet fear and mistrust I have for my own brain? The gnawing feeling I get when I think about my upcoming trip to Belize and Guatemala and the probability of someone bleeding on me?

Folks, if you are just tuning in (insert news anchor voice), I’m having a real mind blowing experience over here and I just wish you all could see the look on my face because it says it all. This is core work- when you start to make sense of the mess of your very identity- the things that make you, you. Core work is about re-writing the narrative you have written, fed and shared with the world. I think that’s what this whole journey was about- finding the strength to craft my own narrative by doing something worth writing about.

​So let me get some updates out of the way, and then we can get to the juicy existential stuff…

The weather is perfect and holding strong.  Night temperatures have yet to hit freezing. Most days still reach around 60 and the lows are around 35. October is officially my favorite month and Fall has displaced Summer as my favorite season.

My body continues to thrive off the fasting and I have lost a good 15 pounds since I left McLean. I have been eating super clean since last month (few carbs, no refined sugar and no dairy) and happy to report the anxiety I sometimes get after eating and the incontinence that came back last month, has since subsided.  I just hope that sleeping in my car and breathing stale air won’t have any long term effects on my body. Fingers crossed, I haven’t turned 30 just yet, so I will be milking the last of this youthful glow until the last drop.

I am still working 23 hours a week at my second job, which has put a big strain on my energy level but added tremendously to the bank account. I enjoy the mindless work of selling footwear. I feel so in the moment and so present when I am helping customers. And as long as they aren’t bleeding, constantly touching the bottom of their shoes or digging in their mouth, things aren’t too bad. In fact, I think this could very well be the perfect part time job to transition me from DC to somewhere else.

The OCD continues to challenge me at work- I cringe when people’s fingers touch mine, or when co-workers want to share beers and of course the never ending high fives with band aid covered fingers, freshly cut from unpacking boxes.  On the other hand, I’ve learned to remember people’s names and not get to annoyed by small talk, which I hate just as much as bandaid fingers. I think I am making friends, and I think my co –workers like me well enough. Still, it’s terrible trying to fit in and make friends. Apparently I haven’t kicked that I want to be wanted and need to be needed feeling I associate with middle school and high school. Mirroring is still my predominant form of getting to know people, which is helpful in normalizing social interactions but terrible because at any moment I may ask for your permission to create a safe space for some 100% authentic expression (my optimal state). So I try to dampen it down,  in hopes that people can digest my intensity in small bites.

My car still makes the occasional random noises and I continue breaking little things that have also reduced my quality of life-the pulley for the back seat, the pulley for the trunk, the glove compartment snaps, etc. Plus, I will have one hell of a clean up after this is all said and done. No amount of vacuuming can rid my car of the food bits, hair and slight sweat smell-especially with all the cracks and crevices. I will also have another $700 of repairs when my exhaust pipe gets repaired, but I won’t get to that until January` or February and atleast I will have a place to stay.

I bought my tickets for Belize and Guatemala- a gift to myself for enduring 12 months of car living. I even plan on splurging $500 bucks to take a  2 ½ hour helicopter ride to meet with an archaeologist excavating El Mirador. Once fully excavated, it will be the largest of all the Mayan ruins. The best part is that it will be exactly 1 year to the date that I decided to live in my car. I will also be vising Tikal, presently the largest of the excavated Mayan ruins, before catching a small flight to Belize City and then another to San Pedro. The last part of my trip will be sea kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing and eating at top notch restaurants on Caye Caulker. I might even snorkel with sea turtles,  sting rays and sharks at Shark/Ray Alley.

I want to be honest with you all, because I know that I should be super stoked about this upcoming trip, but I am honestly scared shitless and I wish I could cancel it. I am stressed because it means two full days of traveling and six different flights spanning two countries and an island. I will be switching hotels, traveling first thing in the morning and have to ride on small planes, all things I generally try to avoid. The real issue here is anticipatory anxiety. The OCD is still pretty bad from last month- the worst it’s been in the last 6 months so I find my general anxiety MUCH higher than usual as my mind begins anticipating triggers before they happen. As a result, things that were already difficult, like using the restroom without washing my hands twice or leaving my car without checking the windows, lights and doors for ten minutes is even harder.

Adding the REI job and working with feet has added tremendously to my overall stress level. Plus I recently had to move the last few of my things from my sibling’s house and find lodging for after I return from Belize. I think this is why I am freaking out…I am ABSOLUTELY terrified about moving into a home. I have not cleaned a toilet or a shower or washed dishes or locked my own front door in over a year and a half.  I know these things are mildly annoying for most people, but at the worst of my OCD, it could take me 7 hours to clean a bathroom and 30 minutes to leave the house if I didn’t have help. I can barely leave my car without starting at the windows to make sure they are up (OCD tells me they aren’t up, even when I am staring at them. I essentially don’t get the feeling that the windows are up, which is why I sometimes say things don’t “feel right”, because something feels wrong or off and I have trouble making and believing the memory).

I have been doing better than before Mc Lean, when I could barely leave my bedroom and worried that my dog wasn’t really inside or that some birds would come in through an open door and poop on everything- leaving me no choice but to engage in a 6  hour ritual disinfecting everything and taking a shower that involved washing everything multiple times because I couldn’t remember if I already cleaned that area (we call this false memories) or simply because it didn’t feel right. I haven’t even mentioned taking out the trash, making sure I don’t leave the stove on after cooking and the prospects of sharing a home with Air BnB guests. Really hoping I can work through fears of being raped at night and not remembering the next day, which I have struggled with in the past.

Sorry if I have overwhelmed you. I know many of you reading this have a hard time putting all of this into perspective. I do too. I’m torn because talking about how I feel is one of the only ways I know how to handle my own mind. But I also don’t want OCD to be the focus of my life either. I hate it, and it’s scary because I have a tough time knowing what parts of my experience are real AND relevant. For example, sometimes when I pass someone on the street, I get a bad feeling or even the thought and physical sensation that we touched, when in reality we didn’t. When I avoid changing clothes or sanitizing or checking the person for open wounds, I can feel muscles tighten in my back and arms. Sometimes it feel like daggers are hitting me in my back and arms, other times like a boa constrictor has cut off circulation around my throat.  I guess that’s what I am trying to articulate- that I experience physical pain when I resist rituals. At one point I developed a tick and used to flail my arms and tap things hard to reduce the pain. This release is also a ritual and so I have forced myself to stop. And it sucks because I am usually doing things that require my attention and focus when this happens- helping a customer try on shoes, giving a presentation or spending time with a loved one. Eventually the pain goes away, but it still hurts.

So now the existential stuff….

With all of this going on, I feel exposed and vulnerable-almost like a child. There are so many times I want to curl up in a ball and lay in the fetal position under dark covers until the OCD monsters go away.  Sometimes I call my mom crying and speaking in a baby voice and try to model behavior by asking how she might react. I usually get what I need to move forward, but I also curse myself after I call her because I should be stronger and able to do this by myself. And because I hate struggling and second guessing myself, I have added a layer of self- loathing and shame on top of the monumental task of trying to fight the OCD and come to terms with my own experience.

I also feel incredibly disconnected from most people I interact with.  Because my support network is in Colorado, it’s been challenging to find spaces where I can let my guard down and just be me. Instead, I feel lonely when I am around other people (and almost never when I’m alone, I might add). I cycle between being emotionally transparent, full of witty jokes and stories, analytical to a fault and over communicative (my natural and optimal state), to my public persona-complete with the resting bitch face that says don’t talk to me, don’t touch me, I’m not really here, I’m just a figment of your mainstream imagination.

I’m working on that though. The last thing the world needs now, is another negative person. Recently, I’ve come in contact with some positive, focused and seemingly dependable individuals. While they renew my hope in humanity, it still takes time to get to know people. And even then, many are not who you make them out to be. Science tells us that having friends, family and touch is one of the most important predictors for happiness. Because I go back and forth between being an open and  closed person, I’m sure many people have written me off as rude or find me too intense to hang out with. Maybe that’s why I am chronically dissatisfied with life?

But I get it- why I am off putting to many people. I’m the animated, anal retentive type, prone to emotional outbursts and brilliant ideas mixed with space cadet moments. Still, I ABSOLUTELY love myself- I think I am one of the coolest people I have ever met and I am fascinated with my own experience and the inner workings of my beautiful mind. 
I know this might come off as egotistical, but I promise this self love fills me up with a childlike giddiness that I don’t want to lose. I hope you love yourself this way too and feel empowered to talk openly and freely about your experience. Wouldn’t it make it easier for us to get to know each other?

And perhaps most importantly, this  FUCKING REDICULOUS election. It is even harder now to not quit my job and just walk out on everyone. Donald Trump represents just about everything in my life I have been trying to escape, and now he is moving two miles down the street from where I work.  I have never liked DC and now I have another reason to dislike this God forsaken city even more. Ugh, I’m starting to get negative again and I was really trying to end this post on a positive note.

So where does this leave me with four weeks left to go? Well, I figure I have a few choices. I can A) bitch and moan and struggle and suffer through this, B) quit my job and decide to not invest anymore energy in this place, or C) lean into the pain and push myself in hopes of becoming stronger, flexible and more resilient. Even though I dabble between options A) and B) on the regular, I committed to leaning into the anxiety by upping my Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) game after a 20 minute ritual at work, to prove to myself that I can endure and even thrive in the most stressful and uncomfortable of situations. 

It’s kinda like when you run the 400 meter dash and you hit the home stretch and your legs are burning and the negative self-talk comes in and you want to give yourself permission to coast. “I should keep my ass in the house”, you might say. “This isn’t worth it, why do I put myself through this”, you might add. But you don’t quit because you’ve heard that tired story before and lived it and because you signed yourself up for the race and put in countless hours of training to get here. And because you know that the pain is temporary and that it too will pass and that you won’t die from pushing yourself but could whither away in self defeat if you didn’t race, never pushed yourself, never knew what you are made of.  So no, you never quit, even when other people tell you it’s okay to give up, even when your coaches tell you getting back in the game is a lost cause, because the discomfort, doubt and exhaustion you feel compares nothing to the feeling you’ll get when you cross the finish line with your personal best.

This is the hardest race I have ever trained for in my entire life. And with 4 weeks left to go, that finish line couldn’t come any sooner.

#GetYourselfFree

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Between working an extra 24 hours a week at my second job, fighting off obsessions and trying to keep myself motivated and focused at work, I haven’t found the time or mental space to write. Today I decided to take the ½ day off so I could get my emissions testing done and assemble some sort of blog post. Honestly though, my mind is mush and my heart is on fire. Not sure how this post will turn out, but here it goes.

I only have 7 more weeks left of carliving. And while the cooler weather has made life much more comfortable, most days still leave my blood either boiling with frustration or heavy and cold with apathy.  I often find myself googling the price of land when I should be working. Sometimes I steal away in the stairwell at work to cry tears of frustrations and surrender. I utter affirmations under my breathe when I feel I am about to lose my temper- “I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am wise. I have more than enough for everything I need”. “This is temporary”, I tell myself. I give myself pep talks aloud and exercise at the gym. And when that doesn’t work, I eat Dunkin Donuts in the dark and think to myself, “it doesn’t matter”.

On top of all that, I’m constantly navigating my off the grid lifestyle, my new job and the relentless OCD. I’m growing tired of disgusting bathroom run ins- having experienced poop and tampons all over the floor in several bathrooms this week. I opted for public peeing in woody areas, only to find lots of condoms and triggering objects like tissue with blood on it. Who knows what I am even peeing on in the dark and what type of splash back contaminants I have been exposed to.  And to be completely honest, I have a 10 minute ritual planned for leaving this library on account of some questionable red smudges on the door handle and I am not happy about it. Don’t even get me started about how bad I feel, not alerting the group ahead of me about the spots.

You see, OCD is tricky business and I am constantly balancing the desire for comfort, with the need to learn to live with uncertainty. The worst part about all of this, is that it’s the same 2 or 3 obsessions I struggle with over and over and over again- including that damn “off” feeling that leaves me staring at doors and windows. Plus, everything is amplified 4 x’s during the week before my period when my PMDD and depression are the worst. I honestly feel like OCD and money are the two biggest things holding me back in life.  From fears I will let someone bleed out in front of me to new anxieties about getting triggered while traveling, I honestly feel suffocated by OCD and debt. They taunt me and torture me when my spirit is weak, and my spirit is week these days. I hope you all can sit with that, and not just council me to get back on medicine. It hasn’t come to that.

Sorry, I digressed. Today was an awful day and I am delaying a ritual as I write this. Back to the list of other things that suck right now. My eating schedule is also thrown off. I am back to fasting just 16 hours a day and eating the other 8 to make sure I don’t pass out during a double shift. However, these meals are anything but relaxing or restorative. I am constantly stuffing myself during the 30 minute excuse of a break I am assigned at work. On top of that, I have been eating all the free food they provide during busy days, including things like pizza and muffins which lead to urinary incontinence and anxiety.

Most significantly, I spend much more of my time triggered and mildly irritated at work. Yesterday I was fitting a little kid for shoes (more later on how children are still incredibly dirty to me) and her nose just started bleeding. Would you believe that? Out of freaking nowhere- just started bleeding. Her dad looked at me super cool and said, “don’t worry” she gets these all the time”. And here I am, seriously starting to cry, thinking “Oh my god, worse nightmare. And a chronic nose bleeder to boot.” Immediately now, the downstairs public bathroom is dirty and all the shoes she tried on are contaminated to me. Unbelievable really. Then there was blood on the first aid kit at work and on the printer-and not the fake kind of OCD blood- for real blood. Ugh,so triggering. Lastly, I totally forgot you have to learn your co –workers names and smile when people talk to you and play nice in the sand box and what not when you start a new job. Only I don’t like sand and I don’t like square sand boxes or people and…. well, you get the point.

I’m ready for a break. I need a pause before I snap. I thought this journey was about hitting the reset button, pushing past my boundaries and seeking adventure. I thought that after it was all said and done, I would feel some huge sense of accomplishment or some warm, fuzzy sense of self- like that feeling you get after watching a coming of age Indie film. But I was wrong. Apart from exposing some of the rawest, purest, most intense parts of my personality, this journey has opened up a scary new world. One where I can never go back to my old life simply because I can’t unsee my true calling or fall out of love with my desire to live a life free from the anxieties of debt culture and the  burden of conformity. And also because doing so would actually be damaging to my emotional and mental health. I finally realize that I can’t keep doing this- trying to find the perfect job in the perfect state only to find that I feel suffocated by bureaucracy, self-interest and the complexities of office politics and interpersonal dynamics.

It’s time to create a permanent, alternative, debt free, off the grid lifestyle where I  am my own boss, landlord and confidante. I’m ready to let go of birthdays and celebrations, holidays and happy hours, bills and bureaucracy and most importantly, the traditional 9-5 once and for all. I’m ready for quiet spaces where my intellect and curiosity can run a muck like spring melt after the first thaw-where my emotions aren’t suffocated by concrete buildings and white faces in black slacks on overcrowded metro stations. Where my longing to be understood by others is replaced with a longing to understand and experience my purpose on this planet. Where I have space to spread my wings and simply, be me.

As freeing as this may seem, it also makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I have no idea what my life will look like in 2 years, let alone if I will be happier and less stressed living completely off the grid and working for myself.  What if I fail?  What happens if I don’t try?

The other day at work, I wrote down the following on a sticky note in a moment of teary, desperation- “#GetYourselfFree, April 2019.” This is the day it all goes down. The day I give myself permission to quit my job, buy some land and get the heck out of Washington, D.C. And who knows? Maybe I will only make it another year before I decide to quit and work some meaningless part time job or telework position while building my shipping container house. Maybe someone will tap me on the shoulder with the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe I will get my TOEFL certification and travel the world. Maybe I will win the lottery or come up with a million dollar idea. Maybe I will catch Hepatitis C and die before I pay off my student loans. Maybe I will fail miserably and end up back at McLean. Who even knows?

For now, you can find me lounging under the cover of some trees in my sweatpants- sleeping bag tucked tight up to my chest with NPR blasting in the background and hand sanitizer at my side.

Only 7 weeks to go.

Anywhere But Here

The weather has cooled to the perfect temperature and I can finally relax. My mind has quieted. So much, that I’ve already begun to plan my year long hiatus from society and the traditional nine to five. I’ve come to realize that public service and working for others is a lot like running full speed into a brick wall with a padded suit and helmet. I constantly ask myself (while running into this metaphorical brick wall)- am I prepared to work this job and live in DC for another 3 years? Can I handle the inefficient system, the bureaucracy, the office personalities and the rising cost of housing- not to mention the difficulties of searching for my life’s purpose in a soulless city?

Okay I know that’s harsh and that I probably sound like a stubborn, impatient millennial that just needs to deal with it. But for reals, I don’t know how you all do it every day and keep a straight face! Some of you all even seem to be enjoying yourselves-totally oblivious to the heavy suit of armor that now adorns your heart. Do you feel safe in that shiny suit of metal armor? I feel like taking a risk-getting out there to do something amazing with my life, is way better than living life in shackles disguised as a shiny suit- one that you have to pay off with interest, might I add.

One thing’s for sure-I’m starting to check out. The honey moon period with my job is over and I feel unfocused, unprepared and  unmotivated. My patience with people is growing thin and I’m withdrawing. On the other hand, Fall is finally here and every thought feels crisp and clear. Living in my car has become a breeze, having mastered the bathroom routine and landed a second job. Yet still, I can’t help but think about what it would be like to work for myself or have some low key telework position that allowed me to get away from it all. If only I didn’t have this job tying me down, I would be any where but here. Exploring the deliciousness of life, traveling or homesteading and spending a lot of time doing nothing in particular at all.

Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you discover that what you’ve really hit is a treasure chest. And with a little muscle, sweat equity and a plan, it’s more than possible to unlock it’s mysteries. This is what I keep telling myself, that this is part of what I’m doing with my life-typing in the dark lot of a library, trying to figure out how I can stop fighting the things I like least about society and discover for myself what life is like on the other side.

 

 

Born This Way

I feel frustrated, unfocused and slightly anxious. My back and neck feel tight- my throat feels scratchy and tense.  I can’t concentrate, much less write. The words that once flowed smoothly from my lips hang like crooked paintings in my mind. Once again, my feeling of inadequacy at work, frustration with interpersonal dynamics and disdain for society has me cursing under my breathe and wanting to fast forward to the part where I up and leave society.

For those of you who don’t know, I have recently begun thinking seriously about taking 1 year away from society to wander aimlessly in search of inspiration and purpose. That means no job, no plans or itinerary. A chance to experience life without a schedule, agenda or to do list- the ultimate experiment in being.  But I can’t leave. Well I suppose I could, and will, but not just yet.There is so much to do. I need to put in at least 2 years with my current job, finish stamping out the last of the OCD rituals and of course, complete my tumble weed journey and pay off my private student loan debt.

In the meantime, I struggle with all the same issues that led me to live in my car. I don’t understand our society with our awkward rules and customs and I could care less about the superficial social interactions that encompass around 98% of all human interaction. Why is it that most people appear content with the status quo and seem to have little interest in finding another way? Why is it that I feel so different from everyone I meet and find it difficult to connect beyond small talk?

I don’t have all the answers but I do know that there is a lot more behind my anger and apathy than just an itch to leave society. I wonder if I was just born hypersensitive, with a nervous system wired to process emotions and information with greater intensity than the average person.  I wonder if I have some underlying hormonal or chemical balance that was triggered by some trauma or maybe I just never learned to process emotions in healthy way as a child.  Is this hyper awareness and hyper sensitivity a fatal personality flaw or one of the most important aspects of my true self I should embrace? Is this want to leave society a defense mechanism I have developed to cope with stress, anxiety and anger or is consciousness guiding me towards my path? Am I a change agent, system buster and counter-culturalist on the path to saving the world, or am I a hyper emotional, attachment-avoidant type on a path to isolation and intolerance?

I think there are two parts of me fighting for a voice. One part of me is extroverted, passionate, open, easily roused, adventurous and sensitive and another is introverted, rigid, focused, pragmatic, and logical. Straddling those parts of me- like living in mainstream society while also trying to leave it, is physically and emotionally taxing. But it wasn’t always so bad. I remember times when I was a child, maybe 5 or 6 running wild and free through the hospital and malls, hiding in places and exploring the world with a joyful curiosity I compare to the feelings I get while traveling. When I ask my mom what I was like as a child, she describes me as rebellious, adventurous, easy, happy and talkative. She said she used to tell me no or stop but I would just keep on going. She thought I had a hearing problem. I heard just fine.

So where did it go wrong? How did I become this analytical, obsessive, counter culturist with minimalist tendencies? I’d like to think a lot of it has to do with growing up in 21st century America and all the technology, societal pressures and limiting beliefs we are battered with on a daily basis. The stress of paying bills, finding a job, finding purpose and connecting with community has flooded our minds with thoughts like, “I don’t have enough money, I’m not good enough, I can’t say no, it’s not fair, I’ll never get ahead, there’s no point, I don’t have enough Facebook friends”, etc, etc. You get the picture. I think these forms of self-oppression, often perpetuated by systems and reinforced by cultural norms (the media, consumption, education, etc) are the reason most people appear to be tech savvy zombies following their peers like lost lambs.  So while a large part of me values paying off my debt and being a responsible and contributing member of society, I’m pretty sure the reason I haven’t left DC was because somebody told me if I worked hard and played by the rules, I would be happy. Unfortunately, I believed them.

Phew. I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest. It’s amazing how healing blogging is and how fundamental writing is to my journey of self-discovery. So yeah, I will probably continue rejecting societal norms, go on random adventures and pursue an unconventional lifestyle until my thirst for freedom has been quenched. And it’s highly likely I’ll continue to express disdain for the status quo and no doubt slip into a rut when I question my tumbling weed journey and allow myself to stew in doubt, anger and apathy.  And not necessarily because I am hypersensitive, passionate and idealistic, but more so because I want to live a life full of child-like wonder and because, I was born this way.

Twice I Cried Today

I’ve felt off for the last 48 hours. It all began on Thursday when I broke fast with a delicious meal that included beans- thinking a little bit of this no-no food would be tolerable. I was wrong. Within 15 minutes of eating two tablespoons of lentil soup, a feeling of heaviness and general malaise flooded my body. I rarely ever eat legumes anymore, and when I do I’m sure to pair them with rice so that I am getting a complete protein (more on the power of food combination later). Instead, my momentary lapse of judgement had me feeling sick for the next 3 hours while my digestive tract attempted to break it down.

The following day I wasn’t hungry at all. Despite eating at 12 pm the day before, I had to force myself to eat something around 4 pm, realizing that a 26 hour fast was not part of the plan and that I’d rather force feed myself than go into starvation mode and start burning muscle. I had some delicious Korean food that I usually love (no carbs, no sugars, no processed ingredients), but after eating half of my bowl my body refused to take in any more. I continued to try and eat, adding a few sips of water knowing I hadn’t eaten enough to meet my macro nutrient goal. Several moments later, I could feel my cortisol levels raise as a wave of panic and anxiety rushed through my body. Every single bite brought more and more anxiety until I decided enough was enough. I spent the next 3 hours at work practicing deep breathing and deep muscle relaxation exercises. After a while the numb, tingly sensation in my fingers I associate with panic attacks went away and the free floating anxiety was manageable.

Then I left work and headed home, or to my car rather. In all of my hustle and bustle, I hadn’t realized the heat advisory was in effect, meaning tonight would feel above 95 degrees with the heat index- too hot to stay in my car. This was especially important considering my A/C hasn’t been working very well over the last few days and I my car was starting to overheat. So after an intense inner debate, I decided to stay at an Air BnB to beat the heat and planned to take my car to the shop, yet again to be fixed.

Long story short, the Air BnB didn’t have A/C- which meant I was cornered in a stranger’s house with a fan that blew hot air on me. On top of that, the general malaise from food, combined when the heat fueled the OCD. As soon as I got in the room I started having intrusive thoughts that the gentlemen whose house I was staying at would rape me in the night while I slept and give me HIV and Hepatitis C. I have had this thought before when I lived in Arkansas, but this time it was more angry than anxiety producing, as I immediately recognized it as an obsessive thought . Still I was emotionally exhausted thinking about car repairs and trying to figure out why my body felt so off, that I wasn’t in the mood for OCD and had little energy to resist compulsions. So I totally gave in and despite the door having a lock on it and the host having raving reviews from many female travelers, I locked the door and pushed the chair in front of it.  I compulsively squirted some hand sanitizer between my palms after filling my bottle up with water and drifted angrily off to sleep.

I awoke to the usual OCD avoidance behavior. I didn’t want to use the bathroom, feared I would go number two and find blood or semen or something gross on the toilette seat. But I pushed myself anyways and somehow managed. Still it was hot and I could hear my brain whispering quietly in the background, “go use the sanitizer. This isn’t your house and everything is covered in semen.” Meanwhile it was still ridiculously hot and I wreaked of nervous OCD sweat. I rubbed a tiny splosh of sanitizer between my fingers- hardly enough to do anything but quiet the obsessions until I could get back to the safety of my car.

Upon leaving, I realized the host had blocked me in with his car. I debated just driving on the grass but didn’t want to risk the chance of a bad review. So I messaged him instead, making up some lie about how I was going for a hike earlier than planned. He came out rather groggily and barely acknowledged me, I tried to smile through my discomfort and thanked him for opening up his home. I sped away to my nearby gym- thankful to be back in my car but overwhelmed with the frustration of having paid for a room that had no A/C, only to leave in an anxious haste and land right back in my car which also had no A/C and was overheating. He texted me afterwards apologizing if he seemed rude and we went back and forth through some awkward texts. At one point he chastised me for not wanting to give him 5 stars, and then decided to share that fact that he works in an ambulance and had seen so much death in Afghanistan with me. All I could think of was eww yuck, hospitals carry infectious diseases and all my bags could be contaminated.

It was only 9 am when I arrived at my gym, but already nearing 82 degrees with a heat index of 88.  Sweat was pouring down my head, back and neck, stinging my eyes. I arranged my (contaminated) bags for a minute and tried to find a shady spot where I could find a car dealer that could look at my car ASAP, refusing to hand sanitize, which seemed a small victory. After searching yelp and google for twenty minutes, I found a dealer with decent reviews that wasn’t too far away. After I got off the phone with the mechanic, something strange happened. I curled up in a tiny ball in the driver seat and I wailed like a crying child for a solid 2 minutes.

It was a strange cry- I howled and squeezed my face and tucked my head in my hands and lap. All the while tears, sweat and then boogers ran down my face. And then almost like cutting off a fire hose, it just stopped and I wiped my tears, blew my nose and drove to the dealer like nothing happened.

I’m going to (attempt) gloss over this next part because I have no desire to give you a minute by minute account of the next 7 hours- mostly because I want to get to something I am struggling with this morning and also because I am trying to shorten these posts. I arrived at the dealership, explained the previous repair nightmare and asked them to look at the A/C along with my breaks. I sat in the waiting room (which also had no A/C) for another 2 hours, surrounded by men speaking various languages and a TV blasting soccer. My only choice of seating where these disgusting metal chairs with gum on the bottom- visibly poking through the mesh seating. I swallowed the urge to cry and sat on the chairs in my shorts, all the while allowing thoughts of the gum gushing down my legs and into my private parts. I still hate wearing shorts and sitting in public chairs and so this was really the icing on the cake. I didn’t ritualize after either.

They diagnosed the problem shortly thereafter- I would need new brake pads and rotors and a new radiator for a whopping $740 dollars. Sticker shock overcame me and I just handed him my credit card, asking when I could pick my car up. He swiped it effortlessly and told me to return around 3:30 or 4:00. So I left, with my laptop and day pack to find a library with A/C and water to cool off.  After walking 3/4 of a mile in the almost 95 degree heat, I arrived at the library only to find it was closed. I tried to walk to the nearest bus stop but I couldn’t wait another 14 minutes for the bus, I was pouring sweat and feeling shaky and nauseated. I badly needed water, food and to get out of the Sun.

So I called an uber and settled for nearby Union Station to use the bathrooms and grab some food. I don’t know why but I was feeling so claustrophobic at Union Station from all the crowds that I immediately left after using the bathroom and decided to walk another 1/2 mile to Pret a Manager to eat and blog. So with bags in tow, I walked another 1/2 mile in the now almost 100 degree weather in search of a comfortable, familiar place. The entire time I fought back tears as I came across three groups of people struggling in the heat:

  1. Tourists with fans, umbrellas, aviator glasses and thoughtful outfits, gawking at the heat with small hints of that vacation glow peering beneath their sweaty brows.
  2. Residents who walked their dogs casually or rode their bikes through the streets, appearing to not thinking twice about the heat.
  3. Poor people of color and the homeless carrying bags, groceries and performing manual labor in the hot sun or laying under a cool tree with all their belongings- all the while a look of quiet defeat and desperation piercing through their eyes.

I empathized with the latter group, cursing the system that hasn’t served us, but I was also disgusted at myself because many of those groups where “dirty” to me on account of the OCD.  My eyes teared up as I left Union Station and I hurried quickly to my destination, all the while sneering at the figurative and literal stench of my own humanity.

Pret a Manager was too cold and I felt sick from switching temperature extremes so quickly that I could’t even blog and could barely finish my sandwich and chips. Nonetheless, I stayed there for a bit until heading towards Eastern Market to  catch an uber back to pick up my car, only to find that despite their repairs it was still leaking and would require staying until Monday until they could order a small $20 part.

At this point my heart sank and I lost all hope. Not only had I been without A/C and exposed to almost 85-100 degree temperatures for nearly 24 hours, but now I would need to find lodging for 2 days while they fixed my car. I spent the next 20 minutes dodging questions about where I lived and where I was going and why I couldn’t just get dropped off somewhere before whispering to the mechanic “I live in my car and I need to get some things out of it.” He gave me a blanketed look and said no problem. I then scurried to my car and grabbed the essentials- hair products, clothes for work and sleeping, toiletries. Did I mention this was all in front of a bunch of grown men who were all covered in sweat and oil and insisted on helping me with my bags?

I was eager to leave in fear I would start bawling and not be able to stop, but the owner asked to speak with me. He said cooly, I understand you are between places- I nodded my head and blustered out “something like that” before he offered to drop me off any where and reimburse me for a car rental. I was so overwhelmed, partly because I hadn’t finished paying myself back from the previous car repairs and hotel stays and knew this would put me close to maxing out my credit card (which was at a 0 balance when I began this journey) and because it was also so hot in the waiting room that I felt delirious. My phone had died and rather than call around to find another potentially triggering Air BnB to be dropped off at, I asked to get a ride to the nearby Holiday Inn where I prayed I could get a room for under $150 dollars.

I was so overwhelmed I didn’t have time to grab just the essentials- instead grabbing my overnight bag I used on a recent trip to NYC. I looked awkward and I was clearly struggling with all my bags and shoes and sweatiness, but I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I threw my bags in the car, trying to avoid bright red spots that looked like blood and fought back tears.

When the driver dropped me off, he asked if I was staying at a hotel because my car was in the shop and I looked at him blankly and said “yes”, before pausing and adding “I’m homeless”. I thanked him politely and headed into the nearby hotel. I proceeded to give my credit card to the front desk receptionist and went up to my room so I could cry.

And so for the second time that day, I cried like a little child. And just because that wasn’t enough I called my mom and spent the next 20 minutes balling and explaining all my frustrations- how hot it is, how hard this journey is, how I am sick of debt, sick of fixing my car, sick of DC, sick of not feeling like I have anyone in DC that’s truly there for me. I shouldn’t have called her- I should have sat with it, but instead I gave into the sensitive, emotional teenager that longs to be heard and witnessed. I said things to feel better, half truths wrapped in ego and shrouded by my intense desire for the frustration of the day to go away. It wasn’t until I had calmed down about two hours later that I realized what I had said to the gentlemen who dropped me off. My heart sank, and I wanted to cry, but this time no tears came, just shame.

I’ve been wanting to write about this shift I’ve had with emotional regulation, but wasn’t sure how to. I struggle with telling the basics of my story, wanting to give people context but really hoping to give people an insight into my inner world. When I was younger, I was hyper sensitive, passionate and quick to anger. I didn’t know how to handle heavy emotions like disappointment, disapproval and loneliness. I felt very different from most of my peers and had trouble feeling connected with friends. I have many memories of riding the bus home after basketball games and walking through hallways crying and wishing I could talk to someone about all these deep heavy emotions that held me at gunpoint. Instead, I put on a face and managed my emotions by working hard, asserting control in life wherever I could- good grades and plenty of leadership activities which earned me the approval of my peers, parents and some notion of self confidence. It was during this time that my first obsessions related to scrupulosity were born. I was terrified of getting B’s in school and obsessed with completing every assignment and winning every event.

Somehow I told myself If I didn’t do these things I would lose the support and love of my friends and family and be lonely and anxious forever. This was probably my first low grade obsession- a twist on the classic case of obsessive compulsive disorder related to morality known as scrupulosity. Most people who suffer from scrupulosity have obsessions related to letting God down or committing a sin, my scrupulosity is different as it relates to morality and social laws. The impact is still the same- intense feelings of guilt and fear that our actions have made us a bad person and that we can only redeem ourselves by either praying, confessing or striving for perfection and disciplining ourselves when we aren’t.

After everything that happened with getting off medicine and realizing I was never given ANY tools for managing depression, anxiety and loneliness by my therapists, I realized that I was a slave to my emotions. I let them dictate my actions and became so far away from my values that I spent most of High School and college with feelings of rage and intense loneliness that I drowned with alcohol and the cocktail of medicines my doctors gave me. By the time I left college, I was a master planner obsessed with grades and later with money and paying off debt. More on that later- I’ve digressed.

The last 8 months, after time spent at Boston where I learned all the emotion regulation tools I needed to process emotions in a healthy way, I’ve decided that the emotional person I was doesn’t serve me. In fact I wanted to minimize all attachment to emotions and instead live my life according to values- this is the foundation of ACT therapy which changed me entire life. I highly recommend folks read the book “The Happiness Trap” for more information on this. Either way, transitioning from a life dominated by emotions, a pharmaceutical cocktail of antidepressants like lexapro and citalopram, anti-psychotics like geodon and depakote and mood stabilizers like lithium has been challenging. My body and brain are still hard wired to use emotions as rational decision making tools, even though I realize there is another, better way.

As a result, all my talk of emotional independence and self actualization still easily goes down the drain when I am stressed, taxed and not feeling well. This weekend was a classic example of how I’ve let emotions get the best of me. I believe self pity is a deplorable tool of manipulation. And yet as much as I detest it, I still revert to it when I have over exerted myself. Still, there is absolutely no excuse for temporary laps in judgement that lead others to believe something that is only half true- especially when it involves things like privilege and power. I am voluntarily homeless and even though I feel like there isn’t a difference sometimes when I am navigating the system, I am privileged because I am doing this BY CHOICE. And that dear readers, makes ALL the difference.

Which gets me to my next and final point. I have high standards for myself and alot of shame and guilt I need to process. The first step in removing guilt, as I learned in Boston while at an intensive inpatient program, is to remove unhealthy responses to guilt- that is wallowing in past actions of which you have no control over. The second piece, which I picked up along the way, is in forgiving yourself for past actions. Not only does this free you from the despair of self loathing, it also allows you to forgive others who you have passed judgement on. This is the basis of ending self oppression. This is exactly where I am in my tumbling weed journey, trying to shift from decision-making fueled by anger, anxiety and depression, to making decisions that align with my values.

So that’s what I am left with- feelings of guilt over my interaction at the dealership, lots of shame over the use of my credit card to find lodging and even more confusion as to whether or not I should sleep in a rental car tonight, splurge on a hotel or find another Air BnB. I would be lying if I told you I have made peace with all of this, because I haven’t. I still feel pretty down emotionally and upset that I’m this exhausted and angry over something as trivial as using my credit card for lodging. It’s all rooted in long standing obsessions with morality and perfectionism and I suppose that’s okay because I’ve learned that I can still feel shitty and move confidently in the direction of my dreams- or in this case figure out where I’m going to stay for the next two nights until I can resume my tumbling weed journey.

Thank you for reading this. I encourage you to forgive yourself for anything out of character you have done this week. Feel free to share any insights or break throughs in the comments section- it’s good to remember we aren’t alone and that we all get stuck every now and again.