Browsing Category

Mental Health

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Catch-Up Post: Burnout

Burnout, What Is It?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. – HelpGuide

I knew it was coming. You could even say I saw it coming. I just wasn’t sure when it would get here. After the last few weeks’ events and trying to manage both my own anxiety and that of friends, I crashed and burned.

Completely.

Utterly.

And so very hard.

It took me a few days to realize what exactly happened. Burnout.

Which is something I’m pretty familiar with because due partially to burnout being the reason I shuttered Full Moon Beauty. That and COVID-19 being so much bigger than I initially thought.

Or maybe it was seeing all of my friends get furloughed or lose their jobs entirely. Regardless, I found myself forced to pivot in a way that would be so much more helpful to the collective. But I forgot one important thing in this entire mess.

I Forgot Myself

I forgot to take care of myself. In my efforts to care for everyone else, I stumbled over my own rapidly-emptying bucket of feels and found myself pouring from empty. Fortunately, I’ve been through burnout enough that I know how to at least get myself stable. It’s not easy, it takes time and as of penning this entry, I’m still battling waves of random emotional instability.

Physical affection is a huge help. It’s also scarce when you’re supposed to be social distancing and staying at least six feet apart with a mask and gloves if you’re immunocompromised. I reached out to a friend who was within walking distance and we grilled each other on a level that honestly felt like I was asking a prospective sex partner about STDs and their sexual history to determine whether or not they were safe. The same feeling and it’s still weird.

But it was necessary because I was cracking and breaking fast.

Now I’m getting the hugs I craved. We both are, which makes us both feel somewhat more human than we were a few weeks ago. There was even a chance to drown my sorrows in petting two cats and a dog. All crafting stopped around week 4, which you may not have noticed, but I didn’t post that entry. Because that entire week was simply my survival. The next week though, I took my time in picking myself back up.

Picking Myself Back Up

It wasn’t easy on my side. The first part was admitting that I needed support. Friends around me enjoy pointing out just how often I hate asking for the help that they know I need, and while I’m glad they’re supportive, it felt like that the first part of my month was dominated by my father’s issues, not exactly my own and I didn’t want to wear them out.

Look, I never said it was a rational feeling, but that’s how I was feeling throughout week 3 and week 4. Week 5 was punctuated with a damn hug and a night spent at a friend’s where we could just exist in the same space and get the affection we craved. It wasn’t the smartest idea, it wasn’t the best idea, but it’s working.

I broke Quarantine. It was better than my own mind breaking to try to do my part with social distancing. Week 5 and 6 also heralded a couple of new additions to the apartment.

Addition 1: Bamboo Shelves

bamboo shelves on a wallThese 16” shelves were an Amazon find when IKEA failed me. This wall called for a couple of shelves in order to balance out a future medium-scaled commissioned art piece. Having two of the shelves also lets me get a few fragile items up off of my dresser and altar shelf. Thankfully, these also arrived in a 2-pack!

One day, I’ll create a tutorial about how I am hanging everything on my own, but these make it pretty simple to do if you have a bubble or laser level. The built-in mounting hardware is the part that you’ll need to ensure is level, and it helps if you screw at least one side into the wall and figure it out from there. The shelves look amazing and were just one material step in helping me recover from burnout.

Addition 2: Boom Microphone

boom-microphoneYou can probably guess that I’m working on an overreaching project here. It’s bonus time at the Day Job and the Blue Yeticaster Microphone sat on my wishlist for three months before I just bought it. I’m still working out some kinks in sound quality, but once I do, I’ll let you all know where that project is heading. I can’t wait to share it with you! Mental health note: a surefire way to help conquer burn out is to introduce a task that lights your fire, so to speak. Podcasting always intrigued me, but not enough to actively pursue it. Well, now I’m not going anywhere, so here we are!

Addition 3: Ring Light

I know there are smaller ring lights out there.  This one sat on my wish list since last summer when I mulled over the idea of starting a Youtube Channel. For selfish reasons, this one makes my skin look flawless.

Oh, yeah, some of the topics I want to cover with this blog are better suited for video. So this blog is going to be on Youtube. Granted, this move might be ill-timed since I know the Landlord is considering a rent raise. If he does, I’m going to see if I can swap units with another resident.

Which means a bigger space!

Addition 4: Circle Skirt

If you’ve been reading through these entries, I adopted sewing as a way to stay steady throughout this COVID-19 affair. When I identified the burnout back in Week 4, I knew a sewing project would be helpful. But I didn’t want to work on pillows. Rather, I opted for clothing and started planning a massive circle skirt.

Honestly, it started with a set of sheets I had for at least a decade. I wouldn’t say that they hold value to me, but they are soft, and they are pretty, and they were just enough fabric for a 4-paneled circle skirt. I’ll share the finished results in Week 7’s entry as part of the process is to hang your skirt so it can stretch and then you trim. I still haven’t trimmed it. Life got away with me. But I am excited about it. You can see other pictures and the finished result will also be posted to Instagram!

There are not enough words to describe how liberating I am finding creation though. It’s been enough of an energy boost that I’ve made four rosette pillows to date and have plans for eight more. I haven’t been feeling creative writing-wise and I would usually read, but my hands (and to that extent my brain) aren’t doing anything.

Or they could be repeatedly stabbing a piece of fabric that after a few hours of effort turns into something beautiful and usable other than a piece of fabric. I can transform an IKEA curtain into a gorgeous pillow or quilt that can be used for more than just light and sound blocking. When my anxiety ramps up to 10,000, the repetition is very grounding and right now, grounding is required.

Recovering From Burnout

You don’t.

At least not immediately. Sitting with that feeling for weeks or months, in some cases, years and you find something else to be passionate about. This helps you mentally reroute and find happiness there. The hardest part is learning what caused the burnout and then trying not to do that again. Learning how to avoid the same patterns and eventually, you learn how to avoid starting that pattern altogether. Then and only then will you recover.

We’ve all been there. Some of us more than once, which is probably a flag in of itself, but it’s been a journey for me and part of the reason I feel confident saying the above. But let’s be real here, the last few weeks have not been easy, for anyone. I know you’re all feeling it because I am feeling it too.

Stay Home, Stay Healthy

I’m writing the initial draft of this entry on May 6, 2020. Our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy Order has been extended through May 31st, so we’re in lock-down at least through that point. I have no idea what the future holds, but whatever it does, I hope you’re staying home yourself and keeping yourself healthy. 

Be safe and know that my comments and email are always open to you should you need a safe ear to help you get through this mess.

0 In Life Lessons/ Mental Health

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 3: Survive

]What should have been a fun Zoom call turned tragic this Sunday. If my father had been alone, he would have died of a massive heart attack in Ohio. Fortunately, he was trying to help out a friend with fixing her car. She administered chest compressions. I couldn’t do anything except survive the week.

This week’s entry comes with content warnings due to the topics mentioned.

Content Warning: Cardiac discussion | Toxic Behavior

My first Zoom call ever was that Sunday morning. A friend hosted along with some of her circle (a few folks I was acquainted with). We jived pretty well, the conversations were hopping, but then my father called. 

Background

Estranged is being used because this is a man whom I acknowledge as my father, I do love him. But having a relationship with the man in our adult years grew increasingly toxic, so I had to step away, a few thousand miles away.

  1. He doesn’t pay for his own cell phone. I have since 2006. My brother and I decided back then that if it hadn’t been for our intervention, we’d never hear from the man.
  2. In finding an apartment for him (which he was evicted from a year later), I ensured his cashflow was enough for him to live. Somehow, that cash went to everything but his living expenses.
  3. Each conversation I have with the man usually includes a request for money because he didn’t budget properly. Once or twice, sure, I can swing that. Every conversation since I left Ohio? Your children are not a bank account you as a parent can withdraw from whenever you desire.

The voice on the other end was not my father.

It was the woman who’s car he was in the middle of fixing. He collapsed, seized, and lost control of his bodily functions. She administered chest compressions until the EMTs arrived. The EMTs suspected COVID-19 complications. After thanking her for being there, the first thing I did was make sure she was okay, because I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been for her. She adores my father, which is good, but she also had had no clue what his family history was like.

After the ambulance was en route to the hospital, she called his Emergency Contacts.

My number is second in his In Case of an Emergency log.

There isn’t a lot one can do when your city has a Stay-At-Home order in place and there’s a pandemic ravaging through said city. Having me listed as an ICE contact doesn’t exactly work because I’m not local.

So I stayed home.

Survive

Some weeks aren’t positive. You exist, you take care of yourself, you do what you need to do to get through the day, and you rinse and repeat to survive the next day. This week found me in that odd state of feeling numb, removed from everything, and I feel like all I did was exist and cry over the phone. My other job turned into fielding phone calls and making Facebook updated. The rest of the week was parroting updates I received. Then I realized since I was three time-zones over, they updated me last. I stopped sharing updates.

That was when my goal for the week was singular: survive. After reeling, grieving, and monitoring the situation back in Ohio, my life didn’t stop because I had an estranged parent in a hospital handling active COVID-19 cases. When the Head ER Nurse asked if I would be flying in and from where the fastest shutdown I ever received outside of a sale would be when she heard “Seattle” leave my mouth.

“Sweetheart, stay home. Stay there. It would be criminally irresponsible for you to jump on a plane, pick up another vicious strain of COVID-19 and then introduce it here in Cincinnati. You will stay at home. We’ll take care of him here.”

Rational Natasha knew this. But Rational Natasha not present during my subsequent meltdown. 

The Reason

We can thank societal conditioning for my reaction to the news. Nothing quite said “bad child who couldn’t take care of a parent like she was supposed to” then not being able to fly back to Ohio at the drop of a hat. Don’t bother unpacking that right now, I will take the time to unpack those issues in Week 5. But I’d be a terrible human if I flew out to Cincinnati, so I stayed home and sat enthralled at how fast my support network (that I had no idea would actually do anything) moved.

When Your Support Network Moves Fast

In a panic move, I tweeted that I needed help. I posted a similar message to alert my father’s family on Facebook.

Magic happened.

A friend reached out immediately and I spent a good half hour sobbing on the phone with her. Another few messaged me, one being the Zoom call hostess because I forgot to turn my camera off. The general gist that they’d be here if they could be, but thanks to the pandemic, we had to keep our buns home.

My next phone call was to my mom. She divorced my father about seven or eight years ago. The main question on my brain was naturally about finances because I know those two filed for bankruptcy at one point and it devastated them.

“What happens if he dies? I can’t pay his bills.”

Terry, her husband, took over that call. The man is a master with legal issues. Hearing “if that happens, I’ll pay for your lawyer so you won’t have to,”  was the most comforting words I ever heard. Well, also hearing my mom acknowledge that yes, I am an adult, but I’m allowed to not have everything together right now. He would let me have my well-deserved meltdown.

She took over finding out the updates for me at that point. Which would be funny to those who know me, because I’m great in a crisis. But not when it’s one crisis nested in the middle of another global crisis.

In an effort to regain stability, I shifted my attention to the weather because, during the said meltdown,  I did notice that my neighborhood got some pretty good hail and rain.

The Weather

One of the biggest things I miss from living in the Midwest is thunderstorms. Due to the microclimates and topography of the city, Seattle doesn’t achieve quite the right conditions for the cacophonous thunderstorms I’m used to. But we do occasionally get them. I can count on one hand the number I’ve heard. It would stay gloomy that entire week. Which, relatable, because I spent the rest of that week an emotional wreck.

Whenever I feel unsteady, I cope by reaching for things I feel are steady. In this case, since we all are supposed to stay inside, I focused on my day job and improving my personal living aesthetic, which I’m referring to as “bohemian glam”.

What is Bohemian Glam?

Bohemian glam is relatively new to the decor scene, but a quick Pinterest Seach will bombard you with a mashup of bohemian decor. The style incorporates a lot of warmth, woods and rattans, plants, soft textures, in combination with the glitz and glitter that comes with glamourous decor.

Basically, it’s the style I want for my studio space, and I’m getting there. The soft pinks and magentas are being swapped out for gem tones and deep grays, white for warmer bamboo, and textures that are not just velvet but are still soft with cotton rope and wool roving. Essentially, I want a jungalow. I’m blaming my four very happy succulents here. To be fair, I was going to be stuck in my flat through May 4th, so I might as well lean into it.

a glass house containing tables and sofas with chandeliers

Stay-At-Home Orders & Mental Health

Governor Inslee extended our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy Order on April 2, 2020. The order now ends on May 4, 2020, which wasn’t a surprise since other states were also extended their orders, but it sucked. My heart breaks for the small businesses I love and support because I have no idea how they’ll recover from this. Especially since actual small businesses are not receiving the SBA loans that are going to corporate franchises instead. But that’s also out of my control. 

Another three weeks of no physical contact, that I can control and I hate it. Being physically affectionate with friends and not being able to hug them is beginning to wear. I know how squirrelly I get after four weeks of no contact and after the events of this week, all I want are hugs. Even when my anxiety makes my skin so sensitive and itchy that wearing clothes actually hurts.

It would be an interesting few more weeks. By interesting, I mean trying. It would be a trying few more weeks, but I’ll survive those by focusing on something I can create. 

In other words, I started another Canadian Smocked Pillow.

Projects: Canadian Smocked Pillow

I delight in creating beautiful things. Words, occasional pictures (I am not an artist), websites, home decor, if I have a plan, I can take off from there! Sewing has been my go-to over the last few weeks. There’s something amazing with watching the project form as I move from planning to finishing that final knot!

the underside of green velvet covered in a chalk grid

I started a second Canadian-smocked pillow in the same hunter green velvet as the first one. Because I have so many of the IKEA Sanela panels left. Sewing through each line of the grid keeps my hands busy. I can focus on just going through the motions of attaching each corner together, sewing it, knot, clip it and move on to the next square. Seeing how the smocking develops after a foot or two is enough to get me going, and then it’s just a race to the finish. If you want to try to make one of your own, you can check out Christine McConnell’s tutorial over on Youtube

Survive. That’s all.

Let’s be real here, I wish I had more to offer with this post. In order to avoid emotional black holes that are grief and family history that nobody needs to hear about, I’m going to keep it high-level. We made it through this week. If all you did was survive, I need you to know that you’re doing great.

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 2: Stay-At-Home Order

Week 2 was when things took a turn for the well, I can’t say unexpected, because California issued the Stay-At-Home Order before Washington did, so it was expected, but nobody expected it to hit quite as hard as it did. I launched a couple of projects this week in order to keep my own spirits up and realized that I could actively help others who felt like their wings had been “clipped” by the Stay-At-Home Order.

The Stay-At-Home Order

Governor Inslee announced the Stay-At-Home Order on March 23,2020. It was rumored for the previous week, but after the rising number of COVID-19 cases here in Washington State, the move was beyond required. The only reasons we’re allowed to leave our homes are:

  • Grocery & Pharmacy Trips
  • Taking medical care of someone else
  • Exercise

Doesn’t sound like fun, huh?

The Quaran-Tea-In

Because it’s not. But that’s okay, I am a creative creature and since I am a remote employee, I know many ways to stay social while keeping my backside at home. I joked on my side Twitter account that I would start a weekly chat that I jokingly called the Quaran-tea-in. It went live on Wednesday that week and is a weekly chat where a lot of the Friday Afternoon Tea regulars can pop in, fill their social spoons, and then leave at their leisure. My parent company may view it as a slight against their resources, but I’m slotting my use of the Professional Google Meet network as a way of helping out my community. Some days, the Quaran-tea-in is the only thing I look forward all day or week.

craft-n-chat-weekly-google-meet-invite

Which is another way I realized I could help others. Several friends reached out to ask me how to stay sane and level during the Stay-At-Home order and I hope this can help you also.

One Thing To Look Forward To

Find One Thing to Look Forward to, Every Day. Just one thing. You can have several things you want to do that day, but just have one to look forward to. Then go do that one thing and relish the feeling when you do the thing. Why?

Because some days, being at home, seeing the same walls every day will mess with your head and even I’ve fallen into the trap of “I’m going to be alone forever” and other very dark thoughts. Or I can pivot and find one thing to look forward to each day. It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, or basking in a sunbeam, or the dance party I’ll have by myself at 2pm to an invisible audience of 30 thousand viewers. I didn’t say that it had to make sense. Just that it’s something you look forward to doing. That week, my one thing became planting trees. That week, Brandi J, over at Hey Brandi, introduced me to the Forest App.

Forest Focus App

I’ll admit I have a phone addiction. Born from Anxiety, my phone provides a distraction when I’m uncomfortable, bored, scared, or lonely. It’s an outlet to the outside world around me and a guard for when I need it. But I’m also reaching for the said phone when I shouldn’t be. Brandi kept mentioning she was growing trees in our shared Slack channel and introduced me to Forest, a focus app that lets you “plant trees” and grow the trees for as long as you put your phone down. Pick it up, the app will tell you to put it back down so the tree can grow. 

Quartz Forest App Screencap

Your goal is to plant 25 trees a day to fill up your forest. You pick your tree, set your timer for however long you need to focus, and then go do something else. Once your tree has grown, you can collect coins to put toward:

  • New trees
  • Ambient noise

Planting Real Trees

Or upgrade to the Pro edition where you can actually contribute to real trees being planted in exchange for you focusing for up to two hours at a time. Bonuses are baked into the app like:

  • Double coins if you watch ads (the longer the focus – the shorter the ad)
  • Double trees once you go above 60 minutes
  • 4x the trees at 120 minutes of focus

The game has been a delight and helps me audit my phone time. Which is great on days where Executive Dysfunction is running rampant, but also is a fun conversation starter for those who are bored at home. A trap I also fall into when I’m not crafting.

Crafting

I finished my massive wall art this week. The final product included cotton rope and two colors of wool roving,  two moon phase wall hangings that I purchased (retail therapy is a coping method), and then had nowhere to actually hang them. The final product measures six feet wide by 4 ft tall and I pet it every day to marvel over how well it came together. But mainly because it kept me busy and focused. I’ll walk through the project in a separate post at a later time, but it finished my kitchen in a way I did not expect.

black and cream macrame wall hanging surrounding wall sconce with moon phase metal attachments

Wall Ledges

Up next on my “slow apartment makeover during Social-Distancing” were these bamboo picture ledges I acquired from IKEA. I had the White Mosslanda ones for about two years, but the bamboo sang its seductive song and I found my original color scheme for the past (entry here) wasn’t quite “me” anymore.

white ikea mosslanda picture ledges on a wall with colorful art

Change is a constant, so I put up the first two to see if they’d even work for the space. If they didn’t, I’d have taken advantage of IKEA’s super generous return policy. Or I would have if the retail stores weren’t shut down with the Stay-At-Home Order. I’d finish putting the shelves up the following week, but so far so good. I’m in love with how much warmth these ledges infuse into my flat.

bamboo picture ledges provide an altar

Euro Shams

A few weeks prior, Friday and I finally finished reupholstering her sofa (images will be posted on Instagram within the week). But then I realized I had 12 yards of hunter green velvet left, (2 sets of curtains), so I decided to make her a set of Euro Shams and a Canadian Smocked Pillow. Those will also be written up in a different entry (I’ll revisit) since they turned out pretty well. I’ve decided to make a few of my own while in lockdown. Except mine will have button closures. I do not have the patience to deal with three more sets of zipper closures. It doesn’t leave me with enough spoons to help others.

hunter-green velvet euro sham and canadian smocked pillow

How I Coped This Week

Your mileage may vary. Some days, I’d be honest with whoever asks and admit that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even my own patience with myself is tested. But I am the queen of distraction, so I like to host the occasional game on Twitter I call “WhatChaDrinkin?”

Maybe it’s because my best friend owns a teashop with a fairly rabid social network, but the game gains traction after a few retweets. Tea makes this lockdown business that much easier to deal with. Another method I’ve been employing is a tried and true coping method.

I own an inflatable T-Rex Costume. Yes, one of those. They’re hilarious to watch on Youtube and in-person and while they are a pain in the ass to wear if you’re 5’4” and the facing seam is hitting you in the eyes and forehead, the sheer delight I see on others’ faces when I wear the damned costume makes the effort worth it.

They’re even funnier when a friend owns their own costume. Sarah and I decided to meet up at a socially-accepted distance of six feet at her townhouse where we’d suit up and take advantage of dead streets to well, do a safety walk in the T-Rex Costumes.

We took our spectacle onto 45th Street and watched the cars go by, half of the drivers would drive super slow to get photos (of course they did) and the rest would honk their horns because there are two dinosaurs sitting on a bench and watching cars go by. It’s unexpected. It’s hilarious. Our neighborhood needed a laugh. I know I needed it, especially after how many times I uttered: “what the hell” as the news of the week came in daily or in one case, hourly.

What the Hell?

Did you know FEMA uses Waffle House status’ to determine how badly a disaster-affected an area? The 24/7 breakfast chain doesn’t close unless the store has been damn near demolished. If the Waffle House is closed, you keep driving because something awful has happened.

Waffle House closed 365 stores due to COVID-19. Just in case you didn’t take COVID-19 seriously, the corporation behind Waffle House certainly is. 

I know staying home is hard, especially when it’s mandated, but come Week Four, our staying home will help flatten the curve. In the meantime, if you need to vent, talk, share what’s working for you to help you cope with Stay-At-Home Orders, my comments are open to you! 

See you in Week Three!

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 1: Social Distancing Lessons

Disclaimer

I, Natasha, am not a licensed medical professional. But I can do research just like anyone else and I have a super unhealthy fascination with Epidemiology. Resource links for those who are licensed medical professionals will be scattered through this post because that’s where I pulled my information from. As of April 5, 2020, if you’re not practicing social distancing, please do so.

So What the Heck Is Going On?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), or as it’s currently referred to as “the Coronavirus”. Which sends me into fits of “well, actually” and yes, I did subject a dear friend to a “well, actually.” It wasn’t a good look, but I was so tired of hearing “the coronavirus” when that reference just isn’t accurate. Give me 10 seconds, I have my reasons.

Coronaviruses are the family of viruses whose protein structure looks like it’s wearing a “Corona” or a crown. Which will be hilarious if Cells At Work decides to tackle the virus once this mess has peaked and it no longer qualifies as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are responsible for 20 to 30% of your average Winter/Spring colds and tend to go dormant in the summer. Turns out, the viruses do not do well with heat. Which is relatable, because I don’t either.

Novel Coronavirus is a new strain (hence the “novel”) that the collective doesn’t have immunity (herd or otherwise) to, unless you suffer through it. I will refer to the virus through this entry as COVID-19, as it was discovered in December 2019. The United States (at least the general public) started hearing about it right around the beginning of January, when it was ravaging through the Wuhan province.

Seattle is a port city, so it’s usually the first stop planes departing from Asia make once they’re over the Pacific Ocean. We, the general public of Seattle thought we were okay, until folks started getting seriously sick after PAX Unplugged 2020. But it wasn’t RSV or the flu. And those folks did get better, but it took about a month until they were baseline again.

Things got worse in February.

The Timeline + Some Salt

I filed for two weeks off back in December 2019. Day Job makes taking said time off damn near impossible and I had 45 days to burn, so I did the same thing that I did last year. I applied for the 10 days surrounding and including Emerald City Comic Con, where I’d sling tea for one of Friday’s best revenue-driving weekends for the year. Two weeks prior to that, things got weird.

Real weird.

COVID-19 hit Washington State in January and made headlines with it’s rapid spread, enough that Reed Pop decided to postpone ECCC due to attendee, exhibitor, and vendor concerns. The con tends to see around 40,000 people and last year’s Con Crud was this fun mix of Bronchitis and Pneumonia. I say this, because I fell ill and was miserable for three weeks following Con. This year, I prepared for it, hence the 10 days PTO.

But after some pressure from said day job, which had told everyone to just work from home anyway and to avoid crowds of over 500 people, I shaved my PTO down to 4 days. And then shaved it again down to two days when ECCC was postponed until August. The environment was starting to get tense and weird. Like overly weird to the point of concerning and I needed a break from work because my brain was fried.

We (coworkers and myself) were asked to socially distance ourselves and if all else failed – stay home around the beginning of March 2020.

Thus Begins The Emerald City Quarantine Diaries

This series is where I make attempts to stay healthy even though I am a sucker for physical affection and love my people. Even if I haven’t seen 75% of them in weeks now.

This series will cover projects I’m doing to help stay sane in my solitude, why I’m all but staying home, the dangers of COVID-19, why it’s so contagious, and how I leverage my studio space and the dance pole in the middle of my kitchen.

Week One started off odd because Monday and Tuesdays were my two days off. I began working on my latest project, a large-scale piece of Macrame Wall Art. Otherwise, it was very much an ebb-and-flow, especially when I learned that a majority of my daily routine didn’t change. 

I am an introvert after all.

Introvert Life

I’m a homebody. There, I said it. One of my Seattle Bucket List items was to see my apartment featured on Apartment Therapy, so I pour a LOT of time into my 400 sq. feet. I go to the grocery store twice a week, usually on foot, take walks around the neighborhood, but since a lot of my fitness classes are already streamed, I don’t really step foot in gyms. I usually spend one or two days a week at the Tea Shop nearby to see other humans, but for the most part, I tend to keep to myself unless there’s a social activity to which I’ve been invited.

Those ground to a halt. I miss them. But Social Distancing needed to happen.

Why Social Distancing Works

I’ll link the image I found that explained it pretty well for me, but generally speaking, imagine a line of matches. Light one and next thing you know, the rest of the matches are going up one after the other. 

line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

A line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

Now remove a match from the line and the flame now has nowhere to go. That’s how Social Distancing works, but it is so hard when humans are social creatures and you live by yourself. Seattle isn’t exactly the greatest at it (looking at you, Greenlake), not because we don’t like staying home, we love to do that. But Seattle is not built for social distancing, especially our sidewalks, our roads, hell, even our grocery stores. So you are urged to stay home. Some are struggling with how to stay sane.

I am one of them. Sort of?

How I’m staying sane

I am a creature used to solitude. Since I live alone, I make it a point to lightly obsess over various projects and up to this point, I was nursing a pretty hefty interest in some sort of a wall art project for my kitchen.

I rediscovered Macrame. Week 1 at home was a mix of Day Job and working on my new wall art. Using this tutorial, I did half of it before I winged the rest. I also learned a valuable lesson when it comes to rope projects. You’ll want to order about twice as much rope as you expected to need. I knew if I kept busy, I wouldn’t feel quite so miserable about staying at home for longer than expected. Below is my tentative plan to keep myself steady. 

Note how I didn’t say positive, I know better.

Crafting:

If I keep my hands busy, I can flow along with the crafts and physical labor. My project list is tentative per the ability to get supplies.

  • Large-Scale Macrame Wall Art
  • Replacing Flat Picture Ledges
  • Sewing a slipcover for the sofa.
  • Figuring out how to wash cotton velvet without dry-cleaning.
  • Create a website.
  • Canadian Smocked Pillows

Social Media hangouts:

Slack, Google Hangouts, Google Meets, Zoom, and my favorite, text messaging all come into play here. I work from home, therefore video calls are not a new thing in my world. But dammit, I wanted a new background for said calls. Because that spot in my kitchen gets amazing natural light throughout the day.

Exercise:

Sure, going for a walk is always a good thing, but when you need to stay six feet away from everyone else, it tends to fall to the wayside. Which is why I own booty bands, resistance bands, a yoga mat, a dance pole, and a coin scarf. By reembracing dance in the forms of Pole and Belly Dance, I can avoid the weight gain that tends to come with a traumatic experience like a global pandemic. It’s going about as well as expected. As of this entry – it wasn’t going at all.

Pretending:

Yep, you read that correctly. When you have mental health issues, a global pandemic isn’t just a crisis – you are retraumatized every damn day. So some days, I pretend that the world hasn’t changed and that for me, it’s business as usual. Look, I didn’t say it was a good coping method, it’s just a method that’s working for me.

Routine:

I created a very loose one and I’m trying to stick to it. Once I can establish that I am actually sticking to that routine, I’ll add something new and hopefully adapt into a routine that benefits both my physical and mental health. We’ll see how this goes!

What’s the point, Nat?

This series is an experiment and honestly my way of documenting a global crisis while trying to handle social distancing. If anything I do in here is something you can adopt to help yourself cope, then great!  Because humans are indeed social creatures and social distancing is effective, but it is so hard.

I’m here if you need someone to vent to, talk to, and since we’re all online now, let’s be internet besties! My comments are moderated but are indeed open to you. Because the only way we’ll get through this is together.

See you on the other side of the Stay-At-Home orders!

0 In Finances/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Housekeeping: Outsourced Edition

About three months after I moved to Seattle, I um, outsourced my housekeeping. Oh, I heard all of the retorts, not one of them applicable to what I was going through at the time, and what I still fight with. cleaning-supplies in a bucket

“Oh, you’re just showing off.”

“You’re lazy.”

“Your place is tiny, you can clean it within hours.”

“You work from home, you can clean through the day.”

“You’re a perfectly healthy adult, now go be one and clean your flat.”

“What a waste of money.”

“You must be rich.”

And one helpful, “that must be nice.”

You’re probably reading this post thinking along those same lines. I mean, those were the general reactions I heard when folks asked how I kept my space relatively clean. But save for four people in my life, not including my landlord, many do not understand why I hired cleaning help.

“Oh, you’re just showing off.”

Except I’m not. I hired help back in Ohio too. To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed between the cross-country move, my shifting day job to accommodate said move, my own brain not quite figuring out why I wasn’t going out every night as I had in Cincinnati, and my own chemistry deciding to throw a wrecking ball into the feelings mix.

I found myself incredibly lonely, sitting in a trash bag flat and feeling like a wreck in both myself and my apartment. What else can life throw at you?

In my case, it threw a helping hand.

“You’re lazy.” 

Working from 6am PST to 6pm PST in order to shift my day job, running a blog, maintaining 4 websites, writing a novel, writing a screenplay, trying to have a social life, keeping my apartment clean, cooking not one, not two, but three meals for myself each day, washing up afterward, and trying to have the spoons to do all of those things within 24 hrs a day? I barely had enough gumption to clean my own flat, much else do anything else that required not sitting in a chair for 12 hours a day.

In order to gain some semblance of control in my life, I gave up some of it to someone else.

“Your place is tiny, you can clean it within hours.”

Sure, 400 sq. ft. is not a lot of space. But when you’ve all but sat in one spot for 12+ hours a day, the idea of cleaning 20 ft. worth of counter space, doing dishes, cooking food, and making sure your bed is made when you feel like garbage is the last thing you want to do with your time. Or you can at least keep things tidy until you can get help with the deep clean.

“You work from home, you can clean through the day.”

For those who have day jobs, do you clean your house while you work? At the office? Impressive.

But I actually can not clean through the day while at work. Primarily because I’m working. The way I bill at my day job is by 15-minute increments. I can’t just sneak away to go wash dishes when a client needs a task completed. Management tends to frown on sandbaggers and since I do work remotely, I have to prove myself as a competent employee twice over compared to somebody working from one of the office hubs.

Unless it’s a slow day. When those arrive, you study.

“You’re a perfectly healthy adult, now go be one and clean your flat.”

Also not true. I have a multitude of mental and physical issues that rob me of energy daily. Add in Executive Dysfunction and things get weird and just don’t get done. Once the Anxiety kicks in, because adults should be able to clean their own flats, it’s a downward spiral that ends up with a lot of frustrated dishes being done. 

Fortunately, I can ask for help. I did ask for help.

“What a waste of money.”

Hardly! I researched Seattle cleaning companies when I moved. They were asking for $140 for two hours’ worth of work. Or I could just hire the person my landlord uses and her rates were significantly more accessible. We’ve both discussed just what a deal I’m getting there, so I tip her the difference of what she’d usually charge other homes. If that means skipping a dinner out twice a month, it’s worth it for the peace of mind her cleaning brings.

“You must be rich.”

Nope! I am learning how to budget for things I need and things I want. Hiring Hjordis made more sense than getting SNS manicures twice a month.

“That must be nice.”

You’re right. It is nice. Knowing that Hjordis will sweep in, put things to rights, and grant me the opportunity to walk into a pristine space when she’s finished or keep me company as she works, is such a relief. It’s a visible relief because I’m not sitting trying to come up with a cleaning plan, failing at it, and then things spiral out of my control. These days, I just make an effort to keep things to a mild mess, and then Hjordis does the deep cleaning I do not have the energy for.

“So how much is this woman?”

Sixty dollars. Yeah, a steal. I only pay $60 to clean my studio. I tip her excessively, because it is a deal, and I know I’m getting off easy. The trade-off being the help with keeping my head above water some weeks and she’s a joy to chat with when we are both feeling social. Figuring out what to snip from the budget is a tiny obstacle that I conquer monthly.

If you also work from home, or just completely overwhelmed with being domestic on top of your own work, outsource it! It sounds extravagant, but if it’s just you managing your entire life on top of your family, cleaning can often fall to the wayside and it’s not worth the emotional labor. At that point, it’s a lifesaver.

“How do I find one?”

Google is a big help here, but also word of mouth. Ask your friends who hire help for their suggestions, or your neighborhood facebook or Next Door group. You’d be surprised just who outsources their own housework because it does feel like a luxury, but if your budget can support it, you also get those hours back that you’d otherwise spend cleaning.

Sound off in the comments if you also outsource your own domestic work and the area you live in. Your own suggestions may help someone else in a similar situation.

0 In DIY/ Mental Health

Why Did You Pick Your Colors?

The first words I hear out of people who are visiting my space for the very first time is one of two phrases:

  1. Wow, you have a lot of velvet (more on this later).
  2. Wow, you must really like teal.

Well, the first is because when I get really anxious, I tend to pet whatever soft surface I can get my hands on and velvet for the first couple of decades of my life felt incredibly decadent. So velvet to Natasha in her 30s is her way of indulging in something she never could afford back 10-15 years ago. Give me all of the velvet!

You Must Like Teal

The teal was for two reasons. The first is because I adore gem tones and teal is right up there with emerald greens, merlots, aubergines, and navy blues in my books. I find these tones to slide into that hole I never knew I had growing up, which was infused with a lot of ribbon yellows, bright/light blues, and a lot of white. But none of these choices were ever mine to make.

Now they are. But there’s also a pretty rational and hilarious reason for the teal.

I have teal hair, well, as of this entry, teal, AND purple, but I’ve had a fun hair color for the last year now.

What nobody tells you about the “fun fashion” colors is that they bleed. They bleed a lot for a few weeks after you get them done. So my sheets, my main pillows, my chairs (and soon to be sofa), blankets, you name it, they are teal.

Nobody to See Your Hair Bleed

Nobody can see when my hair bleeds on the furniture/linens. A few teal streaks on a teal-colored shower curtain mean nothing in the long run. When your shower curtain already has teal decor – you just added to the art! But when your friend with red velvet cake hair comes over and crashes at your place, you can tell where they’ve been.

The red stains on a pink pillow, which was subsequently declared “Al’s pillow” that I may or may not throw at them each time they’re over.

Red on the shower curtain and shower walls, to be erased by Hjordis and her amazing chemical science that I simply call magic.

Occasional red stains on the sink from their hair falling and my being lazy about cleaning it up. You know when they’ve visited or at least I do until I sweep the floor of the hair. Or pick it from the mattress slip and pillows.

But their linens at their own place are red. The towels are red, can you see where we’re going with this?

Keep it Cohesive

I added the dusty rose and magenta accents because I didn’t want my space to be a sea of teal. White was to play off the already-painted walls that I had no control over, but would still look good when and if I move to a new apartment. By keeping my color scheme cohesive now, I have a better idea of what my next space will also need.

And what it already looks good with.

0 In Mental Health

Small Space Self-Care

Self-Care in a Small Space (No Dry Shampoo Required)

What is Self-Care?

The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

What it is is not is going out, buying a whole bunch of candles and other expensive things touting themselves as “Self-Care”.

Why is Self-Care Important?

Because Stress can kill you.

Stress will kill you if you let it.

Go on, do that Google Search. I’ll wait. While you’re inundated with studies and other blogs and clickbait about Stress is the ultimate killer, I’ll quietly disagree, but agree that Stress if you let it run rampant, it will absolutely kill you.

How the Blazes do I pull it off in a Studio?

Carefully! First, let’s talk about how I approach my own version of Self-Care, which primarily isolation. I’m an introverted person who has some mental rewirings so people can be my biggest drain. Therefore I remove myself from the chaos that is other people and the battery that helps me deal with people already begins to refill by just being alone.

If I’m irritated or angry for whatever reason, I force myself to stop and figure out why I’m angry. Have I eaten? Am I hydrated? Am I cramping and going through a cocktail of hormones that will make me want to strangle the next person who tells me I’m wrong?

My studio was my opportunity to surround myself with beautiful things, which provide me pleasure whenever I see something glittery. I use light to help my mood:

  • Flicking LED candles to provide ambiance if I’m taking a bath.
  • A silly unicorn light to help provide a bit more light in the bathroom so I can turn the main lights off.

I’m a fan of baths to help me put myself back together. Epsom salts in the water to soothe upset muscles from walking everywhere, temperature not too hot so my angry feet don’t take it out on me, and a good dry oil to slather on once I’m out of the bath that appeases both my skin and my nose.

And then my bed has hugs. Sheets that feel nice against my skin, blankets that are just warm enough without helping me overheat, and so many pillows to snuggle against.

I might light a candle. The studio is small, so one good scented candle is enough to spread through the entire apartment (consequently cooking smells spread too). More LED candles line the wall near the bed to keep the lights low.

But mainly I created my space in a way to help me put myself back together from those days where things just did NOT go right. So when I do get angry, I can look around my space, breathe, and recenter.

And if all else fails, I’ll walk into my kitchen and take a spin around the pole. Sore quads can be surprisingly centering.

0 In Befores & Afters/ Mental Health

Mental Illnesses and Small Spaces

Safe Harbor:

I am not a medical professional. I cannot nor will I diagnose you with anything other than what can be cured with affectionate snuggling, kind words, and hugs.

What I do have is a lot of things I know that work for me.

Our situations will be not the same, so what works for me may not work for you.

The trick to all of this is accepting that you’re human, you’re allowed to exist, and to please be patient with yourself.

Welcome to Seattle

Land of the small apartment. These fall into roughly three categories:

  • Micro Suites: A studio(ish) under 250 sq. ft. These can get super tiny but are typically furnished for you, utilities are included, and I hope you don’t mind sharing a common kitchen or washing your hands in your kitchenette. Think of them as hotel suites without the housekeeping or towel refresh. Or dorm rooms depending on how tiny you go.
  • Studios: 250 sq ft and I’ve seen them go up to 700 sq ft if they’re using an open floorplan. You can do a lot with a studio as they usually have their own kitchen and bathroom. Some have high ceilings allowing the use of loft beds, others are like mine where 400 sq. ft of space is plenty of room for one person if they’re smart about it.
  • Junior One Bedrooms: These may have the bedroom area marked off by a half-wall, so listers and property managers can say it’s a one-bedroom, but let’s be honest here. It’s not. It’s a studio with a half-wall.

So what do all three of these categories have in common here in Seattle?

They’re all really bloody expensive and prices can soar the closer to downtown Seattle proper you go. I mean, I pay $1350 (utilities included) for my 400 sq ft here in Wallingford and that’s more than I paid back in Cincinnati for a 3 bed, 2 bath apartment.

Now out-going people who aren’t homebodies (aka: not me) can survive in Micro Suites. They’re a popular option and they go pretty quickly.

I like to cook in my own kitchen. Sometimes naked if I’m feeling frisky. Which is usually frowned upon in shared spaces.

I like to stay home to save money otherwise spent going out.

I also work from home, so Micro Suites were right out for me. A coworking space here in Seattle can get costly over the year, so I opted for a studio.

Since I couldn’t afford the Jr. one-bedrooms with my credit card bills, loan payments, and car payment.

That and a small space can get really claustrophobic for me, especially when I have a bad day.

The Bad Days and the Bad in General

Pictured is a bad day. It wasn’t one of the days where it takes everything in my power to not go to bed during the middle of a work shift.

I keep the lights off because of my raging headaches. It’s messy, it smells funky, and something has probably gone off because the mere idea of cleaning up after myself sends me into panic attacks that require medication or threatening myself to go to the nearest dispensary to pick up edibles.

Which are cheaper than meds if we’re honest here.

Depression in a small space is a constant fight. Some days are okay, some days are terrible, and some days, I call in the heavy artillery in the form of hired help that doesn’t judge the state of my place. They just help me deal with the mess in a manner that does not require my input. I can hide at a teashop nearby or in the comfortable cocoon of my headphones and music and just point to places things need to go.

And then they go away.

Anxiety coupled with ADD, on the other hand, makes small space life interesting. It’s calming to be able to almost see every corner of my apartment from one spot. I fill my space with textures that delight me and calm me down so when my hands want to take on yet another project that I’m never going to finish, I can pet them until I ground myself and remind myself that I’m allowed to feel.

I’m allowed to feel strongly.

But I also have to acknowledge that the feelings are temporary. They are not facts. They will indeed pass, even if it feels like a damn kidney stone.

The Good Days and the Good in General

Below is a good day. My apartment is usually spotless and outside of the monthly cleaning visit, I can usually keep it that way. Domestic activities are soothing activities for the most part and my space brings me a lot of joy.

It beats the Depression back a few feet. The fog will always be there, but for the most part, my space stands pretty firm.

I take advantage of those good days by reminding myself that I’m giving myself the needed space myself to recover from Ohio. That I need to be patient with myself and if all else fails, I will pet one of my chairs until I feel not so “mannequin covered in feathers in the wind”.

Lessons I’ve learned

  1. Embrace my space as mine. I’m here for as long as I need to be and since I’m allowed to put holes in my walls, I can add my own personality here.
  2. Be patient. Some days are good, some great, others awful. I just have to be patient on those days until they’re over.
  3. Feelings are temporary. They will pass even if it feels like one of my terrible period cramps.
  4. Feelings are not facts. I’m allowed to feel, but I need to also let it go because it will not serve me to stew on it.
  5. Being grateful. Not everyone can just pick up and leave their home state on what equates to a whim. I need to remind myself that I had that opportunity and I need to remain thankful for it.
  6. Reminding myself that help exists. I just have to ask for it. Which is the hardest part most of the time.
  7. I’m not alone. I have amazing neighbors, a fantastic landlord who is savvy to my mental issues, and friends who sit on my wavelength and somehow always know when I need them to text me as a pick-me-up.

This is how I survive in 400 sq ft here in Seattle.

I hope this can help you survive wherever you are.

0 In DIY/ Mental Health/ Resources

The Importance of Natural Light (and when to Fake It)

Full Disclosure: My studio has a Southwestern exposure. It gets natural light all day. Sometimes enough to facilitate the need for blackout curtains in the summer. My first summer in Wallingford came with a very warm surprise – once the mercury rises above 80 degrees (26 degrees for my Metric folks) – my flat bakes.

But I’m lucky.

For those who didn’t luck out like me, you have to tease the natural light into your apartment or fake it until it looks like you do.

Below is a picture of my studio with full sun. I use sheer curtains these days mainly for privacy. Sheers also filter the daylight (pictured below) to a more manageable level during the evenings.

Now, hold on, you’re probably thinking. Why would you show us pictures like that last one? Everything else had been so pretty up to now!

I’m not apologizing for it. Images like this are what happens when Depression hits hard. That was when the thought of cleaning overwhelmed me enough to cry over it.

But was I kidding about the light?

Nope.

When the sun goes down in the evenings, the apartment is dark.

Fake It Until You Fool Everyone (including yourself)

Lighting a little slim in your space?

Bring in more of the powered variety.

When evening falls, I turn on the lights, mainly because I hate walking through dark spaces, but it came in handy for the gloomy Seattle winter I wasn’t prepared for, at all.

I thought I was.

Oh, I was so wrong.

If you were to stand in my living space right now, there are 11 sources of light in my apartment:

  1. LED Spotlights by my closet doors to reflect light into the room (seldom used)
  2. Two mosaic table lamps surrounding my new sofa.
  3. Small frosted IKEA GRONO lamps on my dresser.
  4. A selenite lamp picked up at a Gem show a few years ago, which is a cool, soothing light that I leave on when I leave the apartment so I’m not completely blind.
  5. The ceiling fan light (I hate this light so I leave it off)
  6. An amethyst lamp that I leave on for the same reasons as the selenite tower. It sits on a drawer unit with one of the mosaic lamps.
  7. My corner pendant lights (pictured), which would be great once I can figure out the wireless outlets (so I’m not bending over my bed to plug them in) and turn them on with my phone.
  8. Battery-operated LED candles on a picture ledge near my bed. They’re super handy during power outages.
  9. Candles – because watching one or four helps me focus during working hours.
  10. Fairy lights (pictured below) a more recent addition that was the product of a pure whim. I love the light they provide and since I already had them prior to the move (they lived on the patio at the previous apartment), they were also free!

Why is light so important?

  1. For folks with working retinas – being able to see where you are going is a good factor.
  2. For my health: Lights that are too bright hurt our eyes, but lights that are too low also hurt our eyes. Too much blue light before bed screws up sleep cycles (guilty) and zaps melatonin levels. But primarily…
  3. It lifts my mood. I love the way the spotlights reflecting off of my closet make my skin look when I’m attempting to take a selfie. I adore how bright the fairy lights make my entire wall when they’re on. I marvel at how sleepy I get when I’m watching the glow of the LED candles before I go to bed. If I need an instant pick-me-up that may not clear a depressive fog but will help knock it back a few feet, I turn on my pendant lamps.

So do me a favor?

Look around your space right now and see how your light is looking. Is it flattering? Does it make you feel good? Is it soothing or cozy? Tell me about your space in the comments and if you haven’t figured out how to coax in your own space’s light, let’s help make it work for you!