BAD (Battling Anxiety & Depression)

I’m always in a battle with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is what wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Depression is what makes me feel tired all day.

Anxiety is my all.

Depression is my nothing.

Anxiety is gales of nervous laughter.

Depression is a hurricane of endless teardrops.

Anxiety makes me care too much.

Depression makes me not care at all.

Anxiety fears death.

Depression cheers on self-destruction.

Anxiety worries about the future.

Depression agonizes over the past.

Anxiety overthinks.

Depression can’t concentrate at all.

Anxiety overachieves.

Depression labels me worthless.

The battle rages within.

Hopefully someday I will win.

Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Cycles of life

I’m at the period in my life when I’m feeling the most hormonal.

It’s crazy like the very beginning, without the excitement of what is yet to come.

I’m getting older, midlife.

Hot flashes.

My body aches.

My skin itches.

My stomach bloats.

I feel ugly and fat.

My clothes don’t fit right.

Lights seem glaringly brighter.

Sounds normally tolerated scratch like nails on a chalkboard.

I feel irritated and angry.

Like PMS on steroids.

What sounds like my normal voice to me comes across as an attack to them.

They ask why I’m being so rude.

But I respond in my regular tone.

What do you mean?

I cry at the slightest provocation.

My eyes are red and puffy wrapped in dark circles.

I want to be left alone, yet I don’t.

Mood swings.

Laughter mixed with tears of sorrow.

Anxiety kicks in, marching in double time.

I am exhausted.

I can’t sleep.

I stare at the clock.

Is it too early to get up?

When sleep finally comes, I wake up soaking wet.

He is cold, but the room is on fire.

I feel hot, not in a good way.

I feel stinky, gritty, grimy, and gross.

My body seems to have forgotten how to regulate itself right.

I want to wish time away so this will be over.

But I don’t have extra time to spare.

I know in a few days I’ll feel better.

Then the whole cycle starts again.

 

 

 

 

Some April Fool’s Day joke

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Yes, it’s snowing again! I told my husband this morning that it was supposed to snow today. He said nice try, I do realize it is April Fool’s Day. But I wasn’t joking.

I decided not to play any pranks this year. Maybe I am getting old. I was just not feeling it. Plus I couldn’t think of anything great that I didn’t already previously do.

Sometimes life can be a big enough joke and today was one of those days.

In February, I had a meeting scheduled with the dean of students to talk about Alex’s graduation. I was feeling very positive after the meeting although I was feeling very negative going into it. We came up with a plan that involved a lot of choices on Alex’s part. I thought it was a great plan and I was feeling more positive than I was in a very long time.

Alex applied at the local tech college for this fall. He got a job working in retail. Some days he has to be at work on the weekends at the crack of dawn or work late on a Saturday night. Things have been going great. I’ve even noticed a greater effort on his part to get up earlier and be to school on time. Until this morning, that is.

I was worried that I would be getting a call from the school and I did. But it wasn’t the type of call I was expecting. I received a call from the school saying Alex didn’t even show up today. I was really confused since things seemed to have turned around so wonderfully. I even asked the secretary if it was some kind of April Fool’s Day joke. I also received an email from the school counselor saying that my son would also be dropped from a class if his absence was unexcused.

I was stressing. Now I am not so sure my son will be graduating next month.

I tried to get a hold of my son to no avail. I was feeling very worried and upset. I told my husband what was going on and he could tell from my expression that it wasn’t a joke. We blamed each other, argued a bit, and then came up with a fairly solid game plan.

My son texted me back a while later. He was in a dead zone when I called. He said that he got an excuse from a teacher to work on a group project. He would straighten everything out with the school later. Why didn’t he just tell us that ahead of time??

The April Fool’s Day joke was on me. The strange thing is that nobody really was playing the joke.

Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, I told Paul that once the kids leave home I will worry less. With less stress and anxiety, I would stop taking my medication for acid re-flux.

As a child, I lived with a constant stomachache. Sometimes it was a dull ache and sometimes it was a sharp fiery burn. I had a lot of nausea. I had it down to a science how much food I could eat to just feel okay. My parents never took me in and after awhile it became normal to me.

My autistic brother Matt also had stomach issues. He did a lot of gagging with his tourette’s. There were times that he even threw up at the table between the acid re-flux and tourette’s. It was not unusual for him not be able to keep his breakfast down and barely make it to the bathroom in time. There was a period of time that his valve between his stomach and intestines closed and he wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. He was very sick and almost died before the doctors figured out what the problem was and surgically corrected it.

As you can imagine, my stomachaches were ignored. It wasn’t until I was over 40 that I went to the doctor because of it because I was in a lot of pain. I probably had an ulcer. The doctor put me on 1 Prilosec a day and when that didn’t take care of my stomachache, I was put on 2 a day. It’s been a couple of years now.

I’ve always attributed my stomachaches to stress which I believe greatly aggravates it. Although there may be a genetic component to it since multiple family members have similar issues.

Childhood was the most stressful period of my life to date. Not only was my autistic brother violent towards me on a regular basis, he also had some very serious medical concerns as well. My dad was abusive. It was no wonder I had stomachaches.

It wasn’t all that long after I left my childhood home that I had a family of my own. Having 3 little children was stressful. I didn’t get a lot of help from either Paul’s or my family. I had a lot of stomachaches.

Then I helped my husband run a business while having three teenagers. I had a lot of stomachaches.

I am no longer running a business. One of my children has moved out and soon will another. Maybe I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t always stressed out.

Then Paul said something interesting. Alissa, you will always have anxiety. You will just find something else to worry about. I thought of this as I reread my old journals. They were filled with anxieties and worries.

Sometimes I feel so full of anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I feel like something bad is going to happen and for some reason it is my fault. I felt that way a lot as a kid. If I wasn’t hyper-vigilant enough and missed the signs that my brother was going to attack someone, then it was my fault because I didn’t stop it. But the truth is that sometimes no matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t have stopped it. The truth also is that I have lived my whole life with an anxiety disorder.

What makes me think that someday it is just going to go away when it was always there? The smartest thing that I can do is accept the cards I have been given and play them as best as I can.

I can’t relax. I get a lot done.

I worry. I care too much.

I have useless nervous energy. Running burns it off and makes me feel human.

I feel anxiety. I can help others by understanding their struggle.

I try to control things I can’t. I’m not to blame for things outside of my control. I realize that now.

Doing rituals made me feel safe when I wasn’t.

Isn’t overthinking better than not thinking at all?

I have the solution for every what if scenario whirling around my head.

I have to run back home to make sure I turned off the coffee pot. Got a keurig.

I’m not saying that I am no longer anxious. I just learned to live with it.

I have many fears. But I won’t let that stop me because I learned over time how to manage it to my advantage.

I learned to cope. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to function without it. Strange because most people would think that I couldn’t function with it.

 

The bittersweet end

Today is the bittersweet day after the show is over. I am relieved to have more time on my hands. I even started working on my book again. But I will miss playing the part. This role was one of my all time favorites. I enjoyed working with the cast and made some new friends.

Things did end up getting a little out of hand with the special needs child backstage this past weekend. I am glad that I mentioned something though. The special needs girl latched on to another teen girl that was totally inappropriate. She said that she would die without the other girl’s attention and demanded to know what she talked about with other people. She even followed the girl out into the wings and hung on her right before going on stage. This behavior was upsetting to everyone and I’m glad I spoke up even though I took some criticism for it.

I did make a new friend, another runner. We are planning on going running together this week. I’m not sure if it will work out. This other woman is younger than me and qualified twice for the Boston Marathon. She is younger and faster. I told her if it doesn’t work out that I wouldn’t have any hard feelings. We have a lot in common, so even if it doesn’t work out maybe we could still be friends.

Friday night, after the first show, the cast that likes to hang around and celebrate got kicked out of the theater after the last patron left. So it was suggested that the next night I would have a pool party at my house. I was already planning that for the second weekend, but last minute threw it together for the first weekend as well. Both nights I ended up going to bed at 3 AM. THREE IN THE MORNING!! I don’t remember ever staying up that late which made the Sunday performance a little hard.

I have a lot of new friends (and enemies) now that I have a house with an indoor pool. For the first time in my life, I am really popular. I want to think people like me for me, but I really don’t care anymore. It makes me feel special, liked. In a strange way it makes me feel like I can make up now for the childhood I never had.

I had some friends and family come out to the show. Some lady even asked me for my autograph. Yeah, like I am ever going to be famous for my acting. But it felt good.

Something strange happened. My mom came to the show and my stage husband raved on and on to her about how wonderful I was on stage and off. My mother replied, “Is that so?” and then spoke to me about a problem she was having. She wanted my help in solving the problem. Why would she talk to me about something like that right after a show? Why didn’t she rave about the show? Or me? Or my daughter who had her first solo in a performance? I really felt hurt and wondered if she was always like that or if it was the first time I noticed it?

Someone asked me why I liked performing. I really had to think about it. I like to be somebody else. I love the costumes and the makeup. I love to sing. I love to be challenged. The strange thing about being an anxious person is that I don’t feel a lot more anxious being on stage than I already feel. Which in a weird way frees me to try things that most people would be anxious about. Plus I already know how to deal with anxiety. Does that make sense?

It was great to be in the show, but I am ready to get back to my regular programming with a couple of new friends in tow.

 

Backstage fright

I’m sorry that I’ve been a bit of a stranger as of late.

This past weekend I was in a theatrical production. Last week we entered into hell week starting with an 8 hour practice the previous Sunday to kick things off. To make life busier, my daughter was home from college last week for spring break. I tried to spend every minute with her that I could. I felt very nostalgic since this will be the last time she will be home for an extended period of time. She decided to get her own place after this semester in her college town several hours away.

The show itself has been going really well. Most of the time it seems like there is more drama backstage than onstage. This time has been no exception. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I did.

Yesterday I got a message from one of the other actresses in the show wanting to iron out a problem with a scene. This message was sent to the leadership of the show. The stage manager was happy that she came forward with the problem and told us to let her know if we had any other problems with the show. Any problems??

So I opened my mouth and I’m not sure if I should have.

There is a girl helping out backstage who I would guess is around 11. She is a very nice girl, but has special needs and functions like someone half her age. Once in awhile she grabs a chair to clear the set, but that is about it. She does not help with costume changes. If anything, she gets in the way. She can be loud and distracting. She wants to play and riles up the young actors who we constantly have to tell to be quiet.

What really is bothersome though is that she is constantly touching people in inappropriate ways. She jumped up onto the chest of a man piggy back style. She hangs on a teen girl and won’t get off when the girl tells her to stop. She is constantly invading the personal space of people she doesn’t know. This has made everyone uncomfortable but no one wants to say anything.

I feel like her parents dumped her off backstage for us to babysit. She needs help more than she is helping. I can tell that her behavior frustrates others. So I said something within a very small group message towards the leadership. Someone said in response to my concerns that I needed to be more compassionate. When she acts inappropriately, we should respond by redirecting her. I said that was not my responsibility. That was the responsibility of a caregiver or parent, not mine. I needed to focus on what I needed to do for the show.

Am I overreacting?

Last week was not the easiest. My mom came over and my daughter Arabella confronted her. My mom will travel hours with us to see Angel’s shows when she is not feeling well, but did not drive 20 minutes to see Arabella’s performances. There was crying and hard feelings. Then my mom told me to have a good performance after she told me that she had a biopsy done and might have cancer. She also said that the caregivers were not taking care of Matt properly in the group home. All of this stressed me out before a big performance.

Then the afternoon of opening night, I got a call from my brother Luke. He stayed at my parents house for a couple of days to attend a conference for work. He had a hard time staying at my parents house. It brought up a lot of painful memories. We talked for over 2 hours. Luke and I struggle with a lot of anxiety and even PSTD symptoms from our childhood. Within the last couple of months, we found solace in talking to each other about things that no one else understands.

I think I am upset about two things with the girl backstage. First, whenever I got a hobby or found something special that I liked my mom always tried to include Matt in on it. I liked roller skating. My mom made sure that I included Matt in on my hobby. One time when we were roller skating, Matt attacked a little girl. He grabbed her by the hair and started kicking her. It was very traumatic for me. I never felt like I could enjoy anything by myself.

The girl at the theater has a sister in the show. I feel angry that the parents want both of their kids involved in the same thing. Is this unreasonable on my part? Probably.

The second thing that bothers me is that the girl is autistic like at times. She does a lot of self-stim behavior and does a lot of inappropriate touching. I feel like I have to keep a close eye on her like I had to with my brother. It is bringing back a lot of dormant feelings.

My brother Matt’s birthday is this week. I will be spending a lot of time with family. Then I will have another weekend of shows. This is stressing me out. A lot of contact with my brother or family, even thinking about it while writing my book, during a stressful time causes a tremendous amount of anxiety in me.

The second thing that I am truly afraid of is that I will have flashbacks of painful memories during the show. I think it might help if I find a quiet area that I can hide out  during the show if possible for my own mental health.

This morning the woman that said I needed to be more compassionate posted a video on Facebook of a kid helping a special needs team mate stating that there needs to be more people like that in the world. I felt like it was a personal attack on me.

I don’t have a problem if a special needs kid wants to help out with the show. But in this case she is not mature enough to handle the responsibility. I simply suggested that a parent or caregiver should be with her to help her respond appropriately. I think that it is cruel to leave a kid floundering in an environment that sets them up for failure, not just for her but also for her sibling. Again, maybe I am overreacting based on my own experiences.

Oh, I hope I break a leg and not lose my mind!

 

On writing

I took a step back from writing my book.

I was doing it all wrong. In January, I just jumped in and started writing. I took a break when we went on vacation in the beginning of February and haven’t wrote a word since.

It has become common knowledge now that I am writing a book. When my mom found out, she brought over 2 boxes of journals. I sat down and read through them all over a weekend. Most of them were notes between my mom and special ed teachers. It really gave me a glimpse into some of the school day that I didn’t see.

It was a reminder to me how incredibly violent my brother Matt was. There were times that he threatened school children with scissors and was into poking eyes. That is just a small glimpse.

Then I went and reread all of my personal journals. I flagged all pertinent parts of at least 15 journals and created a general outline of what I wanted to share in the book. Then I am going to go back and rewrite what I already started. I am even thinking about asking my other siblings if there was something that they wanted me to share. But I am afraid that they will be more open to what they don’t want me to share.

I decided that I will not write when I am really stressed out or feeling depressed. The next couple of weeks I will be performing a major part in the community theater production. That would not be a good time to stir my demons.

I have to be careful. I have to know when to run forward and stay back. I could get lost in it or worse dragged back into it. There have been times that I experienced PSTD symptoms. It is horrifying, but I am not afraid of it. I have people around me that will make sure I am safe. This is what I was meant to do.

I see writing this book as a challenge similar to my desire to conquer a 50k. It is a test of strength, determination, and will.

The people who know what I have experienced are saying that I am brave and strong to tackle this. I have a unique story that unfortunately is not unique anymore. When my brother was diagnosed with autism, as the first generation of de-institutionalized mentally ill, it was rather rare.

This is going to be a story of survival and abuse, many people do not realize that when I talk to them about it…the people that didn’t know me then. I seem so normal, healthy, and strong. But remember how I said I am in community theater. I can be a good actress. They don’t know how difficult this is going to be emotionally. I have to be very strong. I have to be smart to notice if I am slipping.

I am doing some public speaking in September for the local autism chapter. When I told the woman that I was going to write a book about my experience, she said that she knew of a publisher who would be interested. Maybe that should be my last resort. Maybe I can do this. Maybe this will be really big. If not, I am okay with it. I want to tell my story for me. I want to heal. I want to help others feel like they are not alone even if it makes me look bad.

I have decided to also keep my blog personal. I am at times tempted to share this blog with family and friends. I can’t waver. If I tell you I am tempted, please remind me of my words. It is a struggle to be fully honest with myself and others. I need to be completely genuine.

I can’t let anything stop me from telling my story.

 

BVI, day 8

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**This is a picture of the sailboat we stayed on.**

I was very happy that we awoke this morning without fish poisoning!

As the week progressed, my mood improved. We only had a few more days left. Any problem that might have occurred while we were gone was only a few days from a possible solution. My anxiety abated kind of like a reverse homesickness.

Our plan for the day was to sail to Little Harbor 2 1/2 hours away. It is Valentine’s Day. Stan surprised Angela with a big heart shaped box of chocolates. Kind of made the other gift less guys feel bad.

The wind was still very strong. When we got to Little Harbor, there wasn’t much to see and it was getting hit directly by the wind. No other boats were moored there. We decided to go to the next harbor. The next harbor was very picturesque, however there wasn’t an empty mooring ball to be found there. We decided to go to Tortola instead.

The harbor in Tortola was the busiest place we stayed at. We could see signs of hurricane damage there. A powerboat was laying on its side on shore. There was a crane working on the shoreline. There were houses without roofs with boarded up windows.

We went to shore to explore and asked where we could find a nice place to eat for Valentine’s Day. Someone said what sounded to me like My Ex which was rather troublesome considering the day. I apparently misheard the man because when we got there, it was called Myetts.

We checked out the restaurant by getting a drink at the bar. Then each couple reserved their own table for the evening meal that night. The girls left the guys at the bar and went shopping. The store within the restaurant area was very fancy and overpriced. We didn’t buy anything and wandered out the back door.

There were a couple local vendors set up outside. I found a cool red sailing shirt for Paul and decided to get it for him for V-day. I also bought a little gift for my mom for helping out at home. The vendors were very nice and told us about life after the hurricane. They said that some people still did not have roofs. There were many houses we saw with tarps for a roof. They said not only did the hurricane destroy their property, it kept tourists away for the season that they rely on to make a living. They were very thankful for the small purchases we made.

On the way back to the sailboat, we saw many chickens and kittens wandering the streets. The animals congregated at a dumpster that was overflowing with both garbage and recyclables together. A man walked by and pitched an aluminum can at the dumpster that scared a rooster from his task of finding food. There were two watch dogs that were tied up guarding a beautiful house that was damaged and had building supplies outside. They looked bored and didn’t bother to bark when we walked by.

I gave Paul his gift when we got back to the sailboat. He felt bad that he didn’t get me anything. Paul asked Tim if he wanted to take a quick trip back to shore with him. That evening as we got ready to go out we could hear the music of the steel drums on shore. Paul and Tim came back from their little trip bearing gifts. We got all dressed up and took nice couple pictures as the sun was setting.

Paul and I had the best dinner yet. He had lobster and I had the lobster mac. The restaurant had a DJ that played the sappiest love songs of the 70’s and 80’s. It was a little much and we were looking forward to getting together with our group to listen to the steel drums afterwards.

On the way back, we passed the nice house with the watch dogs. One dog was sleeping on a pile of lumber. I (of course!) worried if the dogs had food or any water on the hot day. I wasn’t going to go any closer to find out. There were times I had to remind myself that I was in a foreign country. I couldn’t save the people from their poverty. I couldn’t take the dirty dumpster kittens home. But I wanted to.

We made a quick stop at the small store for provisions. I scooped up whatever craft beer I could find which amounted to 4 bottles of British Island’s Summer Ale. We talked to the local people. Then we headed to the steel drum bar for a drink just as they were packing up the steel drums. Bummer!

After today we will only have one full day left on the sailboat.

 

BVI, day 4

Cara got sick during the night and we ate the same thing. I feel fine. Cara was also feeling seasick. She slept a lot while we were sailing.

We left this morning heading to Cooper Island. We stopped at the Indians for a short snorkeling trip on the way. We still didn’t see any sharks. We were told if we did see a shark to make eye contact and stand our ground, not swim away frantically like I would instinctively want to do.

I decided not to snorkel with everyone else and opted instead to take photos of the incredibly scenic area.

We are heading into the wind today so we motored instead of sailing. It is very windy and wavy. The journal I am writing this in got wet on the bow. Paul was worried about my safety. We were very careful to make sure that everyone was accounted for at all times.

I feel so very far away from home. It is really difficult not having a way to communicate with those at home. Cara was able to access data on her cell phone and spoke of another snow storm that was supposed to hit home. I was worried about my son driving on the roads. But I reasoned to myself that he was in his element while we were out of ours. Maybe they should worry about us with the rough seas and sharks.

We got to Cooper Island at lunch time and decided to go to shore to eat. It was a lovely place. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and fries. They also brought Cara the same meal although she just wanted a hamburger. She sent her meal back, they scraped off the cheese and brought it back. With Cara’s sickness and trouble with her meals, I jokingly said if we have any problems we might have to throw her overboard. It would be a shame because she did all the work to plan the trip.

After the meal, we went to the gift shop. Paul bought a swimsuit and I bought a Cooper Island Brewery shirt. The problem was I didn’t try any of their beer. I solved the problem by buying a keepsake mug of beer at the bar next door. It was the best craft beer I had on the trip. However, the local craft beer options were very limited.

After lunch we went snorkeling and saw a manta ray. Stan saw a shark while snorkeling. We hit a patch of rain in the dinghy on the way back to the boat which was chilly. It seems to rain several times everyday for about 10 minutes keeping everything damp. We saw beautiful rainbows for 4 days in a row starting today.

We saw another turtle with fish sucking on it. Paul caught one of the turtle sucking fish with his fishing pole. It looked like a cross between a worm and an eel. The guys spent the evening fishing.

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping. It is hot and humid at night. Most evenings it rains and I get wet through the hatch over the area where we sleep. I’ve been waking up stiff with a backache. I’ve been having a hard time relaxing. I feel sad and disconnected from the group because I am worried about those at home and have been having a hard time just letting it go. Sometimes it takes a few days and I wish it didn’t because it is frustrating. As if being close to home will prevent accidents from happening. Anxiety apparently cannot be reasoned with.

I had to escape my fear to truly enjoy the time away. It did happen eventually.