Monday, December 21, 2015

Sabrina Benaim - "Explaining My Depression to My Mother."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"There's something wrong with your mother."

On Thursday of this week I received an Amazon notification about the delivery of one of my christmas gifts. The notice mentioned it was delivered Wednesday. I called my mother to ask if it had arrived, and she said yes, and that she wrapped it and I can't have it until Christmas. I reminded her that people often steal Amazon boxes so that in the future she should confirm with me that we got what we ordered.

Around 2:30 pm I see that I missed a call on my cell phone, from the house (our house) and that my mother had left a message. I took the message and it was my mother's friend Linda. She said to call her at the house, and she was with my mother and something was wrong. I immediately called her, my mother answered and sounded fine, and I asked what was going on, and she said she didn't know. Linda took the phone and she said my mother was repeating herself, confused, and that she thought something was wrong. I left work immediately.

I got home about 45 minutes later. Taking public transport while crying is always a joy. But when you're crying in public the reality that you're crying in public is usually the least of your worries.

My initial reaction was devastation, and the immediate assumption was that she had had a stroke. So, my initial conclusion was that my mother, as I knew her, was gone. I tried to stay calm, to avoid having a panic attack, but it was work. My mind would race to worst-case-scenarios and possible ways things would change. Will she recognize me? Will she be frightened? Is my mother gone? Will I have to sell her house? I don't want this responsibility... All of this while staring out the window of a city bus.

I would be omitting the most primal reaction I had if I didn't mention the initial gasp and sob, while thinking "I don't want to be alone." It's difficult to touch back on now - since it's passed - but I felt like a child. I felt helpless and afraid and could barely think.

I got home and Linda explained to me that my mother didn't remember plans they had made for lunch, and then when Linda called her to make new plans, she forgot those as well. When they spoke on the phone, Linda said something was wrong and came over. That's when she called me. When I walked in, I was distraught and trying my best not to cry.

I told her I was going to take her to the hospital, she seemed slightly worried, and almost childlike, but she recognized me and trusted me. She went upstairs to get a sweater, I got her purse, and as we left the house she noticed a sold sign and asked which of our neighbours had sold their house, and where he was moving. It was my first experience with seeing her amnesia / memory loss. Our neighbour had sold months ago and was moving in with his girlfriend. She knew this, and it has been months in the making, so this pointed me to thinking she had lost months of short-term memory.

The drive was traumatizing. It was around 4 pm, traffic hour and I just wanted to get to a hospital as fast as I could.  The nearly 30-minute drive was spend answering my mother's questions on loop:

"Where are we going?"
"The hospital."
"Who called you?"
"Linda called you? How did she get your number?"
"You gave have it to her, she called from the house."
"Linda was at the house?"
"How did she know to call you?"
"You guys had lunch plans you didn't go to."
"We did?"
"And I didn't show up?" "No, and she called you, and you forgot a second time."
"I did?" "Yes, so she came over."
"I don't remember any of that." "I know, that's why we're going to the hospital."
"I must have scared the shit out of Linda."
"Well, she was worried."
"Oh okay, good for her then."
"We just want to make sure everything is okay."
"The last thing you need is a loopy mother."
"You're not loopy - you're fine, you just don't remember."

I was just focused on answering her questions, that seemed to be on a minute-or-so loop. I was trying not to sob, and trying to be as present as possible since I was also driving.We got into a patterned dialogue, where my answers soothed her and being able to comfort my mother helped me calm down.

Once we got to the hospital, I parked, and we waked into the emergency room. Triage asked a list of questions directly to my mother, she was unable to name the month or year, she said November, and "the 1990's." She wasn't able to tell us what she had done that day, or the night before (dinner with friends) or earlier in that week (she was at my brother's house, babysitting). Triage gave us a priority 3, on 5. Once passed through triage, I texted my brother.

He showed up about an hour later. Things changed a little when he got there. He doesn't like hospitals. He spent the first month of my nephew Nathan's life in the hospital due to some type of intestinal necrosis. And he was with my mother in the hospital when my father died - so he had trouble being in the E.R and would often go outside or go take a walk. 

My mom was often distracted by her worry for him. She often said, "poor Nick" and would fidget around. 

I also felt a weird type of comfort by just answering her questions. She was nervous and when I answered her questions, it reassured her. We got into an almost song-like loop. Repetition. She'd loop around every minute or so, and start asking the same questions. Concerned E.R. neighbours would give me knowing looks, and my brother would often get irritated and leave. I think he found it difficult.

After answering the same questions a few times, I came to know which answers reassured her the most, and so I stuck to those ones. 

We eventually made it to a doctor, who was surprisingly an anglophone, and who ordered a scan and an x-ray, and who did some blood and urine tests. 

We got to the E.R around 4 or 4:30, and my brother showed up around 6. Progressively, around 8 or 9 she started remembering bits and pieces she didn't remember earlier in the night. It was encouraging, and it dulled some of the panic my brother and I were feeling.

We saw the attending doctor around 11:30 pm, and he said all of her tests looked good, and that it seemed, to him, like Transient Global Amnesia, and that we'd need to confirm with the neurologist the following morning. He said to go home, and get some sleep, and that, in all likelihood my mother would wake up with additional memories the next morning. 

We got home around 12:30 am and my brother and I were totally bushed. My brother looked like a zombie and I had lost my voice from talking on loop / repeating all the answers to the questions my mother had been asking. 

We kept asking her to go to bed, and she kept saying, "I want to watch TV!" and then "Holy shit it's 12:30!" so after a few rounds of that she made her way to bed. My brother said his head hit the pillow and he passed out. I did the same. 

The following morning I could hear pitter-patter feet and came upstairs (I'm a basement dweller) to my brother sitting in the living room. He said he woke up my mom and she remembered his being here. She made her way downstairs and we all sat around and asked her questions to see what she remembered. She remembered being in the hospital, and had fuzzy bits, with a large whole of about 6 to 8 hours. BUT, she did remember the hospital, and driving home, and did have bits of memory she did not have the previous day. It was an encouraging start to the day. She said she only fell asleep around 4 am, and was significantly more nervous, now that she was fully aware of her memory loss and of her need for medical care. 

We made our way to the hospital for a 9 am appointment with the neurologist. We were called in around 11 and met with a junior resident (maybe?), I'm not sure what his medical standing was, but he wasn't the guy. He was the student guy. He did a slew of visual tests, muscle tests, tested her reflexes and her ability to snap her fingers and stuff like that. He told us he'd call us in 30 minutes with the other doctor to go over their assessment, so we made our way to the cafeteria to eat a grilled cheese (my mother couldn't tell us what she'd eaten or drank for the last 24 hours so we wanted to make sure she ate something) and my brother and I weren't eating due to nerves. 

We went back up to the E.R and waited for 2 hours. So I made my way to the nurse's station and said the doctor said it would be 30 minutes. The nurses thought this was funny/infuriating and asked what ass of a doctor said that (I added the ass part, but it was implied). Turns out the doctor called us in the 20 minutes we were in the cafeteria. 

My brother, mother and I met with the junior doctor and the head of neurology and the doctor did his own little testing and poking and then asked us our accounts of the last 24 hours. We then talked about Transient Global Amnesia as a group - and my brother said that nearly everything mentioned in the Wikipedia article is spot-on to my mother's experience.
Transient global amnesia (TGA) is a neurological disorder whose key defining characteristic is a temporary but almost total disruption of short-term memory with a range of problems accessing older memories. A person in a state of TGA exhibits no other signs of impaired cognitive functioning but recalls only the last few moments of consciousness, as well as deeply encoded facts of the individual’s past, such as his or her own name. 
A person having an attack of TGA has almost no capacity to establish new memories, but generally appears otherwise mentally alert and lucid, possessing full knowledge of self-identity and identity of close family, and maintaining intact perceptual skills and a wide repertoire of complex learned behaviour. The individual simply cannot recall anything that happened outside the last few minutes, while memory for more temporally distant events may or may not be largely intact. The degree of amnesia is profound, and, in the interval during which the individual is aware of his or her condition, is often accompanied by anxiety. 
This onset of TGA is generally fairly rapid, and its duration varies but generally lasts between 2 to 8 hours. A person experiencing TGA typically has memory only of the past few minutes or less, and cannot retain new information beyond that period of time. One of its bizarre features is perseveration, in which the victim of an attack faithfully and methodically repeats statements or questions, complete with profoundly identical intonation and gestures "as if a fragment of a sound track is being repeatedly rerun."
The prognosis of "pure" TGA is very good. It does not affect mortality or morbidity and unlike earlier understanding of the condition, TGA is not a risk factor for stroke or ischemic disease. Rates of recurrence are variously reported, with one systematic calculation suggesting the rate is under 6% per year. TGA “is universally felt to be a benign condition which requires no further treatment other than reassurance to the patient and his or her family.” 
The doctor said that in most cases, the biggest "issue" is accepting that it's a freak, temporary condition, and that we can just go on "living our lives." We headed home, around 2:30 pm on Friday. It has been roughly 24 hours of total upset. 

My brother stayed with my mom while I did some groceries, and then he had to go back to his family since my nephews and sister-in-law were freaking out themselves. I stayed with my mom, and we were both exhausted and in shock. I made my mother a big dinner, and we ate and showered and went to bed. We both slept for 10-11 hours.

Saturday when I woke up I made my way to her room and crawled into her bed. I hugged her and took a selfie of us, with her hiding her face under her sheet, and me looking like a toddler who'd aged a million years. I sent the photo to my brother, who facetimed us with the grand-kids. We stayed in bed for a while. 

Once we got up, we went for breakfast and ran some errands, she asked me a few questions here and there, trying to fill in certain blanks, bit she was 90% normal. I had a dinner party with some of my best friends that night, so the plan was I'd go and update everyone, all at once. My mom and I were both still exhausted, so we took it easy and watched a movie. My dinner was only at 5pm, so we were able to rest most of the day. 

At one point when we were in her room, laying in her bed, I just kept saying how exhausted I was, but how weird I felt. I felt traumatized and unsure. It just doesn't make any sense to me, that she's back to normal. It was a 6-8 hour period where she didn't know the year, or what was going on, and it just scared the shit out of us, and now everything is fine. It just doesn't compute.

As mentioned in the Wikipedia article:
"The most important part of management after diagnosis is looking after the psychological needs of the patient and his or her relatives. Seeing a once competent and healthy partner, sibling or parent become incapable of remembering what was said only a minute ago is very distressing, and hence it is often the relatives who will require reassurance."

It's an absurd, fake-sounding happening. In the long trek back home (via public transit) I just felt like my life, as I knew it, was over, and that everything was about to get awful. 

The car ride was me internally catatonic, outwardly sobbing and answering questions, and just void of myself. I was doing the best to reassure my mother, and I was just doing my best to keep breathing. To keep my head straight. To try and make the right decisions in something that would no doubt come to define me life, and the life of mother and family. 

It's now Sunday. I'm exhausted. I spent most of the day sleeping and lazing around. At one point my
mother and I watched YouTube videos of baby orangutans for about 45 minutes. I fell sleep in her bed, and she came downstairs to watch television and eat the leftovers I brought her from the dinner party.

There were many moments of absurd levity throughout the 24 hour period. But those came when we were out of the woods. My mother often said "The last thing you need is a loopy Nan," and "If I'm a loopy Nan, I hope I'm a nice one and not a mean one." 

My father's mother has Alzheimer's, and lived with us when I was a child. My memories of her are sweet. I would go down into her room in my nightgown and sit on her in the rocking chair and she'd rock me. My mom tells me she'd steal my halloween candy and I'd get pissed. My brother remembers the darker, more traumatic side of Alzheimer's, as does my mother, so both of them had strong fears in that regard. My brother at one point said if it was Alzheimer's, to "shoot him in the head." 

At one point I jabbed that she was doing this "so I wouldn't move out," and she laughed. And a little bit later she made that joke back to me. Her recycling of my joke was one of the first examples of her remembering little bits and pieces. 

When we went for breakfast yesterday I said I still had Christmas gifts to get, and she asked for whom. 
"For you, mainly. And little things for my friends."
"Oh, you don't have to get me anything."
"For crying-out-loud Karen, you were just hospitalized. You think this is a good time to be cheap?"
"Well you don't have to."
"Well you like when I take you out on day-trips. So the E.R. counts then."
We laughed at that. She and I were able to laugh more so than my brother was. He'd get upset. 

Now it's 9:13 pm Sunday. It took two days to write this since I'm just so tired. I need to shower and get to bed so I can get through this week at work. 

I feel uneasy. I feel unsettled. I feel hazy. It feels too fucking lucky that my mom is fine. It feels like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop - a weird fucking expression to use to describe how I feel this is too good a resolution for something I thought would leave me alone and devastated. 

I am grateful for the luck of it. I'm still in shock. I'm just confused by it. I feel like an orangutan 
who just watched a magic trick. I keep trying to make sense of it, but there is no sense to be made. No matter the illusion I'm still just a fucking ape trying to get the basics. 

This whole experience has thrown me. 

I've been thinking about my own health. Nothing stokes that more than visiting an Emergency Room. 

I've been thinking about the power of kindness. I was in such an empathetic space with my mother I was as kind and as helpful as I could be with the people in the hospital, and I felt it just changed the entire experience for my family and I. The energy changed. The people changed. 

I will try and be as healthy as I can, and as kind as I can, and then, it's fucking luck. 

Yes, it's fucking luck. But kindness matters. It matters in the in between. 

I'm totally disoriented, but I know kindness helps. 

And I know I'm very, very lucky.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why Mental Health Disorders Emerge in Your Early 20s.

Vice has an article up on Why Mental Health Disorders Emerge in Your Early 20s. This is something that's come up in a few of the articles and books I've read, but I wanted to highlight some of the points made in the article for my own clarification.

The interview quotes below are from Johanna Jarcho, Ph.D. a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health:
... The vast majority of mental health disorders do emerge during one's adolescence or early 20s. If you're going to have an anxiety disorder as an adult, there's a 90% chance that you'll have had it as an adolescent. Basically, you're not going to develop an anxiety disorder as an adult. You're going to develop it as a kid and then it'll carry through to adulthood. Emerging research suggests that this is because adolescence is a time when the brain is changing to a great degree. We once thought that the brain didn't change that much after earlier childhood, but what we've seen is that the brain continues to undergo really profound changes up until your early 20s. It's still quite malleable, so being exposed to different influences in your social environment can really have a profound impact on the way that your brain continues to develop.
 Is there anything else you think that the average young adult should know?
They should know that most of the mental health disorders that people have in their 20s do dissipate. That can give you hope. But they should also know that if you're one of the people for whom it's not going to dissipate, it's much better to get help sooner rather than later. Don't think of seeing a mental health professional as something stigmatizing that you only do in a moment of acute crisis. Think of it as a general wellness thing, like going for an annual checkup. Talk about problems early instead of letting things build up.
It seems, to me, that a lot of this has to do with self-awareness of ourselves within an outside world. My introduction to my anxiety and depression was through an eating disorder. I was 16, all of a sudden I was worried about my being sexualized, my being wanted and accepted, my place in the world (literally). Anxiety is another branch to that same fear, our role, our responsibilities, our natural state versus what we feel we should or should not be. Depressive thinking - acknowledging the struggle, the pain, seeing things an insurmountable - all comes in when you start really identifying with your ego, especially an unstable ego that is panicked and threatened, as well as sensitive, self-conscious and hormonal.

You know teenager's are ridiculous, and often feel immortal? They go through their Jackass phase where they do dumb things because they can, to make their friends laugh and because they're going to live forever, just astronomically high on being oblivious and self-centred. Well maybe that eventually dulls and mutates into something else. Maybe it worms it's way back inside of you, and rots. It becomes its own antithesis. You're suddenly faced with the reality of all of your choices. The difficulty of moving forward and choosing your life. Suddenly there's college. There's a major. There's a gap-year or time-off that could ultimately lead to you being homeless, because there is no time for time off. What about working while in school? What about taking out a student loan? Loans? What about your sexuality? What about it is abnormal? Wow, that person is really good looking. You are not that good looking. Independence would be nice. But you can't afford to live on your own. Stay with your parents, like a loser. Your ex is now with someone put-together. You're a mess. You don't come from money. Work two jobs. Is everything meant to be this difficult already?

What if all of that ignorance gets blown open into something like a hyper-awareness?

Maybe that's what it looked like for me, since I'm hyper-sensitive, an introvert, and a thinker.

But not everybody is made like me. Maybe it's different - the process. But, it could also be rooted in that same rot. That existential ignorance that becomes existential knowledge, coupled with the trauma of navigating that realization and moving towards (or avoiding) that eventual acceptance. 


This was featured as a short film on Super Soul Sunday yesterday, and it just really moved me. It's beautifully filmed, and the love between these two friends is palpable.

There's no love like dog love.

Just gorgeous.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I'm a wittle sick baby.

I went to bed with wet hair (not unusual) and woke up with a sore throat. I think I have a cold. I'm not too bad, per se, I'm just slightly sick. So far.

My barometer is pretty high, since throughout university and then art school every winter break I would get strep throat, with the exception of the year I got pneumonia. It's always my throat (blame it on bulimia) and it's usually when vacation time comes around and I try to relax.

I went to bed early last night and watched a few episodes of Jessica Jones and then passed out. I've been taking echinacea, so hopefully I can avoid a full-out sickness thing. I also got the flu shot this year, so ideally I'll avoid that shit show. I can't afford to miss that much work. Nothing is actually happening at work, I just can't afford it.

It just takes so much energy to stay "on top of" trying to take care of myself that whenever I hit a snag, I feel like a useless baby. You know when you see a baby get so frustrated over something seemingly tiny? I feel like that. I drop a paper clip, and it's like, WHY DOES LIFE HATE ME SO MUCH.

funny cute girl bowl mixed

Especially lately, with Christmas less than a month away, I have a lot more outgoing money and I am poor to the max. My credit card is maxed out. Living pay-check to pay-check right now is not pretty. There's a lot more of that transferring-over-4$-to-my-credit-card-because-it's-better-than-nothing kind of thing going on.

I just feel useless.

When I interact with other humans I know, I just wanna lay around and have people talk to me like a baby. I have no energy. Once home I just want to go to bed. If I were on my own right now I'd just be eating toast three times a day.

In 3 weeks, I'll have paid off my loan. In January I'll begin putting money aside in liquid/accessible form, so I can save up for a couch and major appliances. I should need at least 5,000$. So I'll have a small down-payment, and money for costs. Ideally I'll be able to line everything up for this spring/summer. If I put away 200$ a pay-check, I'd have 2,200$ for May 2016. 

Ideally I'd be able to add whatever tax return I get to that. What does that give me? 3 grand? Still not enough. I guess I can get a place and wait to get a couch. Christ.

sad baby upset disappointed frown

So, that's "the plan" for now. It's a plan. I just wish I had been better with money sooner, instead of pissing my 20's away wishing I was dead. Didn't really set myself up for an established 30-something-life.

I'm trying to walk up a hill, and seeing people whiz by me, and I'm pissed about it right now. Maybe not so much pissed, but exhausted. I'm exhausted by my consistently up-hill struggle.

girl beach kid tired sleepy

Good days and bad days. Tired days. Lots of tired these days.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rockhaven sanitarium.

The Atlantic has an interesting look at the Rockhaven sanitarium, a mental health institution run by a woman, for women. Opened in 1923 by Agnes Richards, a nurse who worked in the mental health field, who wanted a kinder, more humane practice, Rockhaven seems to have been an idyllic space for women.

The word used throughout the piece is "asylum" which gives the heebie-jeebies. Nothing ever good happens around that word. 

Most films or stories that represent the turn of the 20th century clearly depict the ways in which the mentally ill were abused and isolated. Add the added confines of sex, race, gender and class, and you have a tool with which medical jargon can be used to divorce or arrest a woman, or to completely discredit the subversive. 

Huffington Post also has an article on Rockhaven. They mention subversion as a risk for institutionalization:
Appalled not just by the inhumane living conditions, innate structural violence and abusive treatment of mostly female patients -- those were the days in which lesbianism, menopause, hysteria and even deviating from societal norms of femininity, could get you a lifetime's stay in an institution -- she began to see that once a patient was admitted to a facility, there was no expectation that even treatable mental illnesses could or would be cured, and so hardly anyone ever was. All the while, these vulnerable patients were treated deplorably, often abused and eventually abandoned by the families, and mostly male family members, who institutionalized them.
It isn't hard to imagine all the ways in which women could be dismissed from their lives through inane concoctions as tools of direct oppression. In the Huffington Post piece, Emily Lanigan, a writer who is a member of the Friends of Rockhaven historical society, talks about the role of Rockhaven, as part of a narrative:
"Rockhaven is a really important part of women's history, feminist history and mental health history... Even in our current landscape of women with mental health issues still being marginalized and dismissed as 'hysterical,' the value of Rockhaven's story can't be quantified."
This isn't unlike what we're living in now, this two-tiered system where private health care is a cut above public health care. The women at Rockhaven were moneyed and white. But what of anyone else? What about the rest of us? Forget 1923. It's 2015 and the system is shit.

On "brain zaps."

Man oh man.

baby confused upset funny face pooping

So, turns out I'm not the only one.

When the Antidepressants Are Worse Than the Depression over on Motherboard, written by Martha Stortz just spoke directly to me.

Last year I went away for a few days with family, and I forgot my SSRI (Effexor). Well, by the 2nd day I wasn't feeling great, and by the 4th I was hearing "zapping noises" in my ear canal/brain, and felt totally dissociated from the physical world. I ended up having to have my mother drive home because I didn't feel able to drive. I got home and took a pill and went to bed, to try and shut down my brain while the drugs made their way back into me.

Stortz discusses her experiencing weaning off of her SSRI similarly (though I did it 
Every day after the first step down was a struggle to get out of bed. I was often nauseated and I suffered from constant “brain zaps” whenever I moved my head, a phenomenon described by people withdrawing from SSRIs as an electric buzz or a shock. I couldn’t pay attention at work and cancelled any social interaction in favour of sleeping. It was almost like being depressed again but worse, because short of going back on the antidepressants and delaying the inevitable, there was nothing I could do to control the withdrawal symptoms.
Referred to as SDS (SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome) Stortz refers to an Italian/American study that shows SSRI withdrawal is worse that initially assumed.
The review showed that SDS can happen regardless of the type of SSRI. Furthermore,
gradually weaning off the drug doesn’t diminish the chances of discontinuation syndrome. Symptoms, which include nausea, rapid heart rate, and hallucinations, usually last a few weeks but can persist up to a year.
I wish there had been more dialogue surrounding SSRI withdrawal so I had known what to expect, however. At no time did the doctor who put me on the SSRI discuss possible withdrawal symptoms, nor did the doctor who took me off the SSRI. Without that full disclosure, I was totally blindsided by the withdrawal symptoms, the severity of which is potentially dangerous for a person with previous mental health issues. If I didn’t have such a strong support system and even stronger Google skills to figure out what was going on, I would have likely assumed SDS was just what real life was like after SSRIs and either resumed SSRIs indefinitely or fallen back into my old withdrawn, anhedonic habits.
Seriously though. You hear "zapping." That isn't a reassuring experience for someone dealing with their mental health.

"Oh, so I legit hear things now."

What a fun step forward!

The "zapping" ended when I started taking my meds again. Since then my dosage has actually gone up, and I'm feeling better depression wise, I'm more functional. But, if I forget a dossage, I do feel SDS pretty quickly. And there's so little known about the withdrawal of SSRIs, and the long-term effects, it isn't very comforting. It's a risk. The alternative is, non-functional.

It's assumed dealing with depression is more important than the possible outcome of long-terms SSRI use. I hope to shit they're right in that assumption.

The value of "mental health days."

sick flu cartoon adventure time cartoon network

Check out A Call For Sick Days To End Mental Health Stigma over at The Establishment.

Author Katie Klabusich lives with Dysthymia, anxiety and ADHD. She and I seem to have a similar experience, in that we've only recently been able to seek proper medical treatment in our 30's: 
So that’s what I have: a low-grade, persistent depression that rears its head now and again. I don’t really think about it much. I maybe have five to 10 total days a year where I’m affected by this particular issue—it’s hard for me to be precise because I’ve only had treatment for any of this north-of-the-neck stuff for about a year (#ThanksObama) and it’s all affected by life circumstances as well as brain chemistry. That’s part of the fun—mental illness is mostly unpredictable, even if it’s the sort that can be mitigated.
Mental illness often lives in an unpredictable space yes, but the way it continues to inform your decisions in a "what if?" "better be safe than sorry" takes shape in the form of self-diagnosed limitations and worst case scenario planning.

In Klabusich's case, she talks about the struggle of taking a sick day when overwhelmingly exhausted. Like many in the creative field, she finds it very difficult to feel validated in taking time off, and her working freelance makes that even more difficult, since there is no real structure to support that right.

Often with mental illness, it's difficult to describe the physical toll - often akin to a flu or exhaustion - that we deal with.

After I posted about my sick day, supportive comments rolled in across social media. Some from family and friends who deal with illnesses of their own and appreciated my making a point of not just taking a sick day, but describing it as such. It felt warm and validating, like a fuzzy blanket, as I rightfully gave my body a break. 
Then I caught a comment congratulating me for exercising “self care” and was jarred awake. 
Self care—while an extremely important part of activism, working for yourself, and any profession that requires you do emotional work—had nothing to do with my sick day. It felt condescending and incorrect. I had an actual physical response to seeing the words.
Wine is self care. Reading a book is self care. Hiking in nature is self care. A massage is definitely self care.
Me spending the majority of a 48-hour stretch in bed unable to function? That’s not self care. That’s called being sick.
And when you call it self care, you’re downgrading what I’m going through to a level you are comfortable with. Because you aren’t comfortable picturing me with a mental illness. That’s your issue and I don’t appreciate having it projected onto me. I am not here to make you feel comfortable with my illness.

When you mischaracterize what I’m going through for your comfort, you are absolutely invalidating the work I do every day to get well AND asking me to do the additional emotional labor of hiding my illness so you don’t get any of it on you. People who deal with chronic illness, long-term poverty, or both already do a massive amount of that labor to keep things hidden—not necessarily for their own comfort, but for yours. Asking more of them is greedy. So stop it.
Now, lest I be misunderstood . . . yes, OF COURSE, people with chronic conditions need to exercise self care. We should do SO MUCH of it. Like every day. It should be on our calendars like required tasks. 
Here’s the difference: it’s something we should be doing to prevent sick days.
I seem to basically be quoting the entire article. Please see the original.

I struggle with sick days. I have no problem taking them when I'm physically ill. If I have a stomach flue or a throat infection, I feel I'm justified and that I can easily prove my illness.


With mental illness I often feel I need to lie. I say it's a stomach flu or food poisoning. First, my office doesn't have sound HR policies, or anyone at work I feel safe speaking honestly to. There are also very vague sick-day policies. There isn't more generalized language, like "personal day" - which is used in some professions. Second, I'm afraid these things could be used against me. If I take a "mental health" day 6 times a year, well that's 6 times more than someone who isn't mentally ill.

It's difficult. My sensitivity/self-esteem around my mental illness coupled with my shitty work experiences still leave me worried about being fired. Which then plays into my fears regarding my ability to take care of myself.

Klabusich's article proudly says how hard it is, but that she's taking care of herself, and that's to be commended. I agree. I just don't feel the HR policies are in place to assist that, and that work-culture still has a long way to go.

It's added work. It's taking care of yourself, plus navigating a system that doesn't take you and what you need into consideration.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The piercing eyes of children.

My nephew is staying with us for a couple of days. Teacher’s are on strike, part of a unified front on the part of social service workers. My nephew is the oldest of two nephews, my brother's kids. He’s in the second grade now. His little brother is in kindergarten, and he's with the other grandparents. My brother often separates them for long-stay babysitting since together they're a cloud of kicks and farts. 

Last night my nephew read to me a little, which was really sweet. He also asked me 101 questions at one point while I was watching a video. The film, Instababy, is about two young women who want to have a baby, and are able to negotiate adoption through Instagram. While watching it, my nephew asked if the video I was watching was "making me sad," I said it wasn't, but that the people in the video were trying to have a baby and sometimes when people can't have a baby, it can be really sad. He asked why they couldn't, and I explained that they weren't able to make one together since they were two girls. He asked why two girls couldn't make a baby, and I tried to explain but I told him it’s a little complicated and gave up. He got distracted and moved on for a minute or two, and then asked me if I was sad that I didn't have a baby, and that I wasn't married, and that I lived with my mother.

He asked it pretty nonchalantly, and I was a little floored by how quickly and easily he asked such loaded questions. I told him I didn't want to get married, and that I was living “at home” so I could save up some money to buy my own place. I told him I didn't want a baby, but I wanted a dog. He said his dog Jack is as good as mine, and I said it wasn't since I don’t see him often. This answer annoyed him.

He then quickly asked why anybody would want a baby, “they’re messy and cry and smell.” I told him he was a baby once, and that he should ask his parents what made them want babies, and that maybe that would help him understand. He then went on to tell me about a boy in his class who has no siblings, and how boring that sounded. I told him to be grateful for his little brother, and he told me to be grateful for mine.

"You're lucky, your brother is only two years younger than you. My brother is eight years older than me. When I was your age he was already in high school, so he was too old to play with me."

"What? Why didn't he play with you?"

"Because he was so much older than me."

"But why wouldn't he play with you?"

"Because I was a kid, and he was a teenager."

"But why?"

"Well we never went to the same schools. He was in high school."

"Am I in high school?"

"No, you're in grade school. There's grade school, until grade 6, then high school, then other types of school depending on what you'd like to learn."

"I like art and gym."

"Well, when you're older you can choose to learn all about art. I did a lot of school. I went for a very long time. I went to a school where you do art on computers."

"WHAT!? That's crazy."

"Yah, it's fun but I don't make any money."


Our conversation went on like that for a little while. Getting him to bed was a real hoot. We read through some of my National Geographic books and then he insisted he take a shower, and when I laughed at his entrenched need to delay going to bed, he got annoyed and yelled: "I played outside today! I'm very dirty!"

I'm on my way back home now, he's with us until Saturday. 

Dog philosophy.

Great comic by Three Panel Soul - really nailed "happy dog face."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dogs as an antidepressant.

Julie Barton has a new book out on her relationship with her dog, called Dog Medicine. It's a memoir about her golden retriever Bunker, and how he acted like a a therapy/aid dog and helped her survive her depression.

She also did a short Q&A about the book over on The Daily Dose.

This is a bitter-sweet read for me, I love hearing about the non-medicalized ways we can seek soothing and comfort, but I want a dog so badly, and I miss having one in my life so much, that reading about having one bums me out.

I can't get a dog unless I work closer to home and can go home for lunch, or, I eventually have a partner I co-habitate with, who shares the responsibility with me. And, I don't know if that's ever going to happen - it could never happen. And that bums me out out out.

I think having a pet-friend is a big responsibility, and stories of them being locked-up all day, or returned/abandoned make me furious. So, I take everything into consideration when thinking of adoption, and that's why I don't have a dog. I don't want it to be alone over 8 hours a day.  

dog dogs panda dog s cute animals

Maybe if I end up in a condo building the allows animals, I can walk and dog-sit for neighbours. That would be a happy alternative, that would at least quench my dog urges.

I mean, I notice dogs the way creeps notice a pretty woman. I make eye contact them immediately, more so than I ever have with any other living thing. I talk to them. I want them to walk by me. I like asking them questions I know they can't answer. I want to know their names. If they ignore me it's devastating.

I sometimes babysit my brother's dog and when he leaves, I definitely feel the difference. I don't take him to the dog park. I can't cuddle him at night. I can't pet him while watching a program on TV. If I drop food on the floor, I have to pick it up (the worst).

It wouldn't be so bad if I had dogs around I could help out with, but my friend C moved to Victoria with her dog, and my one friend left with a dog lost it in a recent divorce, and I sometimes feel like I'm the one who is the most upset about the loss. So here I am, I don't even have a proximity dog.

The BarkPost  love animated cute dog

I pulled a few Barton quotes that sum it up well for me:
For me, the fact that I didn’t have to pretend or explain myself around my dog was the most incredible gift. A dog never asks “Why?” I could be as sad as I wanted to be around Bunker and he didn’t care. He just accepted me. 
That's true. Though when I was very depressed and a dog owner, I often felt guilty about not taking the dog out. She'd sometimes look at me and sigh, which was, well, brutal.
I could be a complete sobbing mess and my dog would calmly sit with me, maybe roll over and ask for a belly rub, maybe bump his big butt on mine. All of those actions always felt like a, “Hey, I’m here. Just so you know."
 From what I understand, golden retrievers are magical dogs made of pure light.
And then there are the things we can’t explain, like when we’re in a room alone, feeling bad, and the dog is all the way across the house, but he still comes trotting down the hallway and peeks his head around the door, his eyebrows, so concerned, say, “Person? You ok? Did you forget that I love you?”
That's the good stuff. That a dogs' needs are simple enough, and that they align with a basic schedule of taking care of yourself. Food. Walk. Fresh Air. Maybe some play. Some cuddles. A friend.

The BarkPost  cute dog food adorable

I miss having a little furry friend.

I contacted a local animal shelter about walking their dogs, but they seem to be over-run by volunteers of that kind.

For now I'm just going to be a dog-creep I guess.

funny dog funny puppy funny animals cute

Charged by the pound.

Last weekend I took some time and went through my closet. I got a large Tupperware bin, with the goal of putting away all my clothes that are a size to two sizes too small. I slowly made my way through my stock piles of clothes, and found tops I love, but don't fit me. I stared longingly at the jeans I fit into when I did a protein-juice-fast-diet, and the jeans I wore before I gained so much weight, and put them all away.

I'm keeping them, because my weight fluctuates. I'm also getting progressively "better." I'm in recovery, I'm feeling better than I have in years, so my physical health might improve too.

It can be difficult, clothes can be so loaded. Sometimes they're a shame-lined tool for guilt, a dress you long to fit into, a sale-item you'll get to hopefully fit into one day. Tools of flagellation. I don't want that around me.

But, clothes are also expensive. Especially plus-sized clothes. This means I should (and am) keeping the clothes that are a size or two too small. The alternative is to "go with the flow" of my weight fluctuations - but that entails purchasing new clothes as I go - which I can't do.

Plus-size stores are becoming easier to access, but prices are significantly higher than regular stores. Also, because there are less stores, there are less sales. I can't buy a pair of pants for 20$ at Forever 21 like a co-worker can. If I want something that fits and that I can move in, I'm spending at least 50$ on a pair of pants, and that's conservative. When it comes to office-appropriate clothing, my clothing budget leaves me in the red.

This pulled out the memory of reading an article on how just being mildly rounder means making significantly less a year. The article's example is of both minor weight disparity and a more significant one, which means I'm likely making significantly less than I should be:
If you are deemed to be heavy, on the other hand, you suffer, as a 2011 study made clear. Heavy women earned $9,000 less than their average-weight counterparts; very heavy women earned $19,000 less. Very thin women, on the other hand, earned $22,000 more than those who were merely average. And yes, those results are far more visible on women’s earnings than on those of men.
This is of course, on top of the regular old-hat criticism and fat-phobia you receive on a daily basis. So I'm likely making 22,000$ less a year than my thin friends. I'm assuming there's the correlation that my body size also means I'm lazy. It definitely means less people want to fuck me so I guess that makes me less quantifiable; less interesting.

So to reiterate, my clothes are way more expensive, and I make significantly less.

Since my finances are very much on my mind these days, feeling the financial prejudice (on top of the fat-phobic prejudice I see and feel often) is just kicking me right in the innards.

Right in the innards.

There's also a short piece on Jezebel about how having living with disordered eating is also correlated to lower income. Though, the assumption here is that the wage disparity isn't based on external judgement/bias but on an internalized low self-esteem and decreased opportunity due to the struggle.

So, for someone like me, who lived for years with an eating disorder in my late-teens and early twenties, it's assumed I "lost" a lot of time to that struggle. And in my case, I did. That ED was coupled with a severe depressive episode though. The ED lead to severe weight gain through eating-recovery and prolonged depression. So now, I'm like, double-fucked double-poor.

What a time to be alive.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Calming cat.

Here’s a calming cat specially for you


Lady GaGa and the Emotion Revolution.

A little after the 8-minute mark Gaga talks about her struggles with anxiety and depression, and her being medicated. She has been unable to wean off of her meds (sounds familiar to me, and is an issue for many of us).

She also lists all the things she's tried (acupuncture, cupping, meditation).

It's an interesting conversation overall as well, the new research and conversations revolving around emotional and emotional intelligence is not inly interesting but encouraging.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Uncharacteristically warm days.

It's been beautiful out lately. It's warm, and the sun is out. It's warmer than it would usually be this time of year, people seem in great spirits because of it. In denial maybe, of the upcoming winter. Last winter was so brutal here, it's as if we've all agreed to collective denial.

This past weekend we moved the clocks back an hour, doing our best to save some daylight. Usually I don't really have much to say on the matter, but this year it's made a difference for me. Maybe it's because I'm more aware of how much daylight affects my mood and my sleeping so I take greater care to get sunlight and to sleep at-least 8 hours (I need 9-10) or maybe it's because my higher dosage and vitamin regimen are taking effect, whichever the affecting party, it's been helping my mood.

I ended up waking up on Sunday and just getting a load of stuff done. I felt productive, and was happy with myself. I cleaned. I put tons of clothes away. I folded up clothes that are one and two sizes smaller than what I wear now, and stored them in a large moving bin. It's the plight of a woman with weight struggles, having a closet filled with a variety of sizes in it. There's always that pair of pants that's just too small. So, I put it all away. If I lose weight again, I'll have clothes to start me off. If not, at least those clothes won't be a lie I tell myself. This unhealthy inspiration, that's really just flagellation through fashion.

It's as if, after over a decade of living as someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, and disordered thinking, I can't think about the word diet, or certain marketing "health" terms anymore. They just make my angry. But beyond that, really, they don't register with me anymore. I just hear sick bullshit. Total garbage.

I still have a lot of stuff to work through in regards to my physical health, but I'm getting there, slowly.

I cooked a lot. I made (and ate) the best lasagna I've ever had in my life. Being able to cook on Sundays usually means having access to healthier lunches and meals during the week. This week I made a Gruyere, spinach and turkey meat sauce lasagna, with a vegetable potage of leaks, sweet potatoes and peppers, and some chicken salad.

I guess this helps get me off on the right foot for the week. I don't feel like a useless bum. I also spend less money going out, and eat more balanced meals.

I just finished reading M Train by Patti Smith. I'd read Just Kids, and loved it. It's an interesting read. She's a phenomenal writer, and is really gifted with language and in describing her own creative process. That's what I liked so much about Just Kids, the talking about the daily life of a creative person, in a way that's almost mundane. The ritual of it. It's just the way she is, it's a priority in her life, she still lives that mythic beat of being an artist in the romantic sense. The way it's represented in a film taking place in the 60's, with a hero that is barely unkempt, slender and androgynous, who moves slowly from place to place, with no wrist-watch and no seeming embodiment of pressure.

I read Smith's stories. Her traveling. Her reading. Her writing. Her adventures. She's seemingly unimpressed by herself, but there is no mention of money ever, no worry about money. This is where she loses me.

I would have, years ago, dismissed my own criticism by citing my age. When I'm older, I'll be making money (because we get older, and we support ourselves, naturally), things just seem difficult now because I'm a student. Or because I just started working. Or because I'm still paying off my debts. 

There seems to be so much privilege in writing. In taking the time to really imbibe someone else's art. In being able to travel in a way that isn't offensive, that isn't privileged horse-shit. In a way that's honest.

As I'm looking toward 2016, I can't help but think of this series of warm days, and my own lived experience of creativity. I am not Patti Smith. I do not have decades of work behind me. I am not a recognized artist. I struggle, often, to even identify as a creative. And on these warm days, more seems possible. Opportunity doesn't seem as exterior to myself.

If I want to dedicate time and energy to creative pursuits, what does that mean for me? Working less to have more free time? Seeing a 9 to 5 as a means to an end? Will I be "working-poor" for the rest of my life? Can I accept that as a reality? Is choosing a creative life, choosing poverty?

What does living on less look like? Smith survives on coffee and brown toast. I already live paycheck to paycheck. No financial safety net. Is a financial safety net a luxury of the 1%?

Am I unable to be original at times, because what plagues me is wholly unoriginal? Are the ghosts around me, ghosts of habit? Not only my habits, but the habits of this place, and my generation, and of my gender? Are these ghosts in my blood? Am I haunted by not only my regrets, but the regrets of my ancestors? If that my depression? Are these my anxieties?

There's something about being so near a large decision. This purchase of a home. A place to live. Something that would be mine and mine alone. This responsibility. This financial burden. All of a sudden money means something concrete. It's now a limit. It represents what I can and cannot afford. Where I can and cannot go. These numbers represent the way in which I will live my life. Spend too much and I will be shamed, I will be chained to payments that will suffocate me. Do too little, and then there's the voice of the "positive friend" saying you'll regret your choice, you'll eventually meet someone, you'll want more room, you'll eventually get a raise, you will make more money.

But I am the working-poor. If my little amount of savings can grant me land ownership, is that not an achievement? It is to me. To be near-dead for so long, and to then own something for myself and of myself,                        that                           is                    something.

All of it is noise. To a certain extent, so is Smith's representation of creativity. Just another barometer against which to measure myself.

There is something around all of this that circles around the notion of being established.

An established creative. Someone whose creativity matters. Is recognized. Is quantified.

An established person. Someone with a home. A space. Roots.

I would have something. Something in my name.

And though in the past I often felt this would tie me down, now I see it as a refuge. A safe space. My money leaves me regardless, at least this way I pay into something being mine. Even if it's just for a short while.

Sometimes all of this just seems like a question of luck and talent. Smith has talent. Some people have luck. Being born gorgeous. Being born rich. Being born convinced of your worth, and of the value of your production. These are things I was not born with. I get bursts of hard-work, book-ended by just doing my best.

Something Smith's book did bring home for me though, it how much longer I might have to figure all of this out. Smith is 68. I am 31. I could write, and try, for a very long time.

That is exciting but it also makes me tired.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Are you Kevin?

Occasionally the secretary will step out and ask me to keep an eye on the reception. I'll usually sit at the front, answering the phone and buzzing people in. It's a nice break, and it's akin to "playing office" like when I was a kid.

"These papers are important! Call the President of Canada!" *stamping things loudly*

Today she had to step out to the post office. Our stamp machine is on the fritz, so she has to buy proper stamps. Our nearest post office is in La Maison Ogilvy. Going there is so odd. You walk into a luxury department store and head to the elevator, walking past shiny displays and beautiful young women who seem to know how to apply make-up correctly. It's impressive. You pass cosmetics that cost entirely too much and blue-haired old ladies that raise their game up a notch by also having small dogs that are blue. It's magical in a financially-offensive way.

Once on the fourth floor you walk through a sparse menswear display. Off to your right if a small nook that houses the Canada Post desk. It's just so odd to mail your two-dollar letter next to 700$ jeans. Every-time I go I can't help look around and just feel out of place. I expect to be asked to leave. It's like walking into a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street meets The Devil Wears Prada. Seeing people that look like the Rich Dicks from Kroll Show up close is really upsetting. The 1% is real and it just does not make any sense to me.

television animated GIF

Moving on.

Our landlord is presently renovating seemingly-everything. Our lease is up, and the usual-slum-lord is now deciding to give half-a-shit. This means our main entrance is closed for renovation, and that technicians and labourers of all kinds come into the office often.

Just now a utility belt-wearing-guy came up and asked if I "saw Kevin." This is how that interaction went:

Guy: Have you seen Kevin?
Me: No, I don't know who Kevin is.
Guy: Well he is suppose to meet me here. He forgot his cell phone in the car.
Me: Well I don't know him, he doesn't work here - and he's not here. Feel free to look around for him.
Guy: Oh no, what do I do?
Me: Well I don't know who he is, I'm sorry, I can't really help you.
Guy: *stands there*
Me: Do you want to leave a message of your name and number, and if a lost-looking Kevin shows up, I'll give it to him?
Guy: Okay! I'm Sebastian! Here's my number!
Me: Okay, no problem.
Sebastian: Thanks! *skips away merrily*

I now have an orange post-it note scribbled with Sebastian's number on it. And every-time a labourer walks in I ask, from across the loft-style studio: "Are you Kevin?"

And nobody is Kevin.

I also find it especially odd to take a message for someone who doesn't work here from someone who doesn't work here. 

Are you Kevin?

How stress affects your body.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dog encouragement.

I love dogs. So much. More than any other thing. They make me happy, just by my looking at them! Sometimes I spot them while driving. One of my favourite things is when I'm in traffic and a car rolls up beside me and I'm face to face with a back-seat dog. It's even better when it's summer and our windows are down. Sometimes while out walking, I'll make a detour, just to walk by a nice-looking dog.

When I walk around down-town, I'll often see city dogs in little jackets or in bags. They always make me smile. City dogs are harder to impress, they're desensitized to new folks, since they see people all day long. It takes more work to engage them.

Last week I pretended to be interested in fancy headphones in order to walk into an urban wear store and pet a baby pit bull / american bull dog puppy. She was so cute. She was like a tiny barrel of muscles and puppy teeth.

I miss having a dog in my life. Sometimes I'll babysit my brother's dog, but it's not the same. I care about him a lot, and I take good care of him, but he's not mine. He's not my dog-buddy. He's like a third nephew. He's like the quietest, cleanest of them. He listens the best. Really.

What have I done?

On days that are a little bit harder on me, I'm then exponentially harder on myself. Today I feel I have very little professional/working value. I feel under-qualified. I feel unskilled. I feel like it's so much work, so much struggle just for the little calm I get out of my life. I will always live pay-check to pay-check. I will never be professionally successful.

So, on a day like today, this image poked me. For a long time, my life-language has been one of survival. And on bad days, that's enough. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Some Monday niceness.

Just a little bit of encouragement.

Things this cute exist in our world!


Friday, October 23, 2015

Furiously Happy.

I just finished reading Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson. You may know Lawson by the moniker The Bloggess, under which she also tweets.

Here she is on Canada AM, promoting the book recently.

Reading Furiously Happy has been my introduction to Lawson. I laughed so hard on the bus once I had to hide my face in my scarf because I couldn't control the noises I was making, or the contorting of my face.

Stories involving shit do that to me. 

Lawson writes about her struggles with mental illness, namely anxiety and depression, but also trichotillomania and a few other disorders. So this book had a lot going for it. First, the cover "had me at hello," second, the book was by a woman living with mental illness, and third, she's funny. It's like the Three Musketeers of being right for me. 

First thing's first. The fucking cover.

Lawson's dad is a taxidermist, so taxidermy is an art form / skill she appreciates. The expression on this poor little guys face though, is just so extremely fantastic. I can't look away from it. Whoever made her this (she mentions it in the book) is just so successful.

Overall the book is funny, it's collection of stories and essays from her point of view. For me, I especially appreciate it because it's a woman, who is funny and who is writing, and is also ill. She's more than just one thing. She has many identifiers. She, like me, is funny. But being funny doesn't save you from feeling like shit, and being in pain.

She's pretty honest about her struggles, and every story that makes the best seller lists and features mental illness, comedy, and a woman's voice (three things that are rare as is) is a win for me and my team.

I read the book in 2-3 days. It was a real breath of fresh air, having just read a bunch of mental-illness-themed memoires that were dark as hell. That's fine. The dark stuff speaks to me too. That's part of my educating myself on my people and my place within a narrative. But this also speaks to me, because I am funny, and I am clever, and I do seek out humour in popular culture and art. These things are important to remember - the seeming duality of it. Because it isn't a duality. 

I think voicing someone's ability to be funny, bright, creative and part of the fucking world, while depressed, or sick is important. Policy is made, decisions are taken that directly affect us and we have to be visible. And right now, I'm on an up-swing. I'm feeling better. I am able to talk. To represent. 

Because how do you stand-up and scream for your rights when all you want to do is lay down and die? You don't. So with folks like Lawson, writing and representing us, it helps. 

There's never enough representation. We all have a story. 

A case of the Fridays.

funny animated GIF

Fridays make me crazy maybe. I'm sitting at work, in this open industrial-loft type space, and all I wanna do is randomly exclaim “it’s fucking Friday!” every once in a while. A colleague had a cup of tea on a side of a desk and I just wanted to swat at it enthusiastically, sending hot liquid flying and watching the cup crash into the concrete floors. Understand, this wouldn't be out of malice, but out of excitement!

tgif animated GIF

Like when a child is “full of beans” and can’t sit still. My grandmother use to say my brother was full of “piss and vinegar” which remains to this day one of my favourite expressions. It definitely applied to my brother, and two-decades later it applies to his 7-year-old son.

So today, I feel like I'm filled with piss and vinegar. I especially want to talk abrasively and laugh aloud. I want to make jokes with construction workers and high-five a small child. 

I wonder if this is what being manic is like. These days I've felt pretty good, but today I'm just excited that it’s Friday and can’t wait for the weekend – so I feel doubly better than I usually do. 

Channel Frederator animated GIF

I feel so unlike myself, this piss and vinegar make me want to pull pranks! How shitty is that? I want to poke people and rough-house and run through a field. When, have I, a fat, lazy, over-grown toddler ever wanted to do anything close to that. Nap in a field maybe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Movement over time.

Image by cwote.

So yesterday I had a session with Ranjana. It had been a few weeks since we'd seen one another, and the conversation flowed well, I've been in a good space lately, and she said it showed. We talked about what may have contributed to that better space.

Things are better. They're better then they were last year. And they're worlds better than in my early 20's. That's not nothing.

I know I have a lot of work to do on certain sore points for me, mainly my body and my nomantic/social life, but I feel better about my ability to address those things. That's new for me.

*one hour later*

Unexpected break-time! My friend V showed up down-town and we went for a coffee and a cigarette! Fun times!

I'm all cigarette-and-coffee-high! Yahoooooooooooooooooooooo!

It's a nice day today, so it was nice to get some sun and some not-fresh air.

He and I have been talking a lot about salary these days. Basically, with the election of the new Liberal government here in Canada, there will be tax breaks for the middle class, but the middle class starts at the $44,000 salary point. I'd say the majority of my friends make under that. We're all struggling to make ends meet. It's not great. He's in a position to re-negotiate his salary, and he's not looking forward to it. Instead, he might leave for Toronto, where salaries are better, and where his girlfriend already has a high-paying job.

This is the second friend this week who is considering leaving the province, E is thinking of going to Halifax to live by the coast, and get away from the city. And that's on top of J who is thinking of Toronto because she and her partner have better job opportunities there (as two anglophones in the music industry).  And of course, my buddy C already left for Victoria, and she's bought a house there, so she's rooting.

I'm not excited about my job prospects, or my finances. I'm not looking to have a ridiculous salary. I understand I chose something related to the arts and that certain types of creativity are not valued. I'm also not that kind of talented that blows peoples minds. I'm also not "good at business,"or monetizing myself or my work.

I would, however, like to live above the poverty line. I don't think that's a ridiculous desire for someone who is hard-working and competent. I would like to be able to live off of a full-time job. At this point in time I'm living paycheck to paycheck, and saving is excruciating. I could absolutely live on an extremely tight budget and save more, but I want to be able to live my life.

Now that I'm trying to take better care of myself, that incurs additional costs. Therapy, even if it's sliding-scale, costs money. A vitamin regimen costs money. Healthier food costs both time and money in meal-prep and ingredients. Skincare. Aesthetics. Clothing for work. Books (much to do with mental health and self-care). Money.

If socializing is a large part of combating depressive tendencies - generally that also incurs costs. Granted, most of my friends are as broke-ass as me, so we're pretty frigan good, but going out and engaging the world often costs money.

Maybe seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens will help my mood. And getting advanced tickets in VIP seating at the 18+ theater costs many peanuts. LET ME LIVE.

This has been a bit of a weird post. All of this beginning with my writing about Ranjana's remarking a difference in my body language and attitude.

I hope it all isn't temporary. A weird hole in the clouds. I hope to continue moving forward with my recovery and self-care.

It's just weird how "dealing with" my mental health situation also goes along with "dealing with" other aspects of my life. Nothing goes on hold. I still worry about finances and job security when I'm depressed, it's just diluted. I'm feeling better these days, so I'm thinking of it more actively, this financial situation I'm in. I just see things differently when my brain is unclogged and my vision isn't blurry. It's like removing a pair of dark shades.

So yah, these problems were there before, these money problems, they were just further down my list of priorities, under not killing myself and getting through the day.

I see everything with a greater sense of clarity, yes, but I'm also less irritated. I have more energy. Not in a let's skip to the bakery kind of way. More in a, wow, I can listen to you talk and not want to kill myself, kind of way. That's major. Since I have to interact with humans to live my life.

So yes, maybe I am doing better. I hope, deeply, and with a morose gripping in my chest, that that continues to be the case. I could stand to have good days like this. It's so very nice. And yes, maybe part of me is mournful that these days have been so rare, and I'm envious, and in awe, that there are those who lives lifetimes of good days, but that part of me is microscopic. Overall, what I feel is gratitude for the lighter feeling, and elation that the darker parts of my life are not as permanent as they often feel.

To good days. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

How Doctors Take Women's Pain Less Seriously.

Interesting article over at The Atlantic on the sexism of hospitals and the medical system. Basically how women's pain is often under-estimated, belittled, or goes ignored altogether. It's what's referred to by Rachel, the author's wife as  “the trauma of not being seen.”

Check out How Doctors Take Women's Pain Less Seriously.

I've had little to no personal experience in being hospitalized. My best friend however, had a scare two summers ago and tried her best to describe how demoralizing and patronizing her experience was. She still has so much trouble talking about it, and her experiences in general (she is chronically ill).

My experiences are housed in the mental illness / family doctor wing of the medicalization complex.

Regardless - the medical industrial complex is a patriarchal, capitalist system (even in Canada) and thus only really serves men, whiteness and money. There are exceptions to the medical system, but there is also the rule.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Descending the mountain.

Last weekend I visited my brother and his family for Thanksgiving. Before dinner, my brother mentioned going to a local provincial park and getting some air. They run their ski-lifts during the fall, carting tourists up the mountain to enjoy the view and the fall colours.

We headed there a little after noon, my mother, my brother, sister-in-law, and the two kids. It was a slow, awkward ride up, the sun glaring directly into the faces of those being pulled up the mountain. Every once in a while someone would drop a backpack and the ride would slow down, hold a few minutes and then sputter back to life.

After twenty minutes or so we were at the top of the mountain. The views were indeed beautiful. There was a light fog in the distance, so we couldn't see the city. We could make out nearby towns. We could see the red and orange of the fall colours, and neighbouring farmlands stretched between smaller hills. Different fields patterned different, creating a patchwork of crops in varying shades of rust.

I find it difficult to enjoy natural spaces when they're crowded. The top of the mountain seemed too small, and poorly planned. No doubt skiing was the main attraction, the walking trails and pedestrian facilities were lacking.  Folks mashed together near the edges of the mountaintop, looking outward. I tried finding a quiet spot, but every space has huddles groups and bickering families.

"Why are there so many Chinese people?" asked my 5-year-old nephew.
"Maybe there isn't as much of a season change wherever they're from so they're here to look at the colours," I tried to answer.
"Where are they from?" he asked.

I stopped myself from instinctively replying "China" since folks with Chinese ancestry could be born anywhere.

"Well, they could be from China, or from here. People can be born anywhere. I don't know." My answer didn't satisfy him, really. He ran off after his brother, no doubt not really caring about the complexities of his question. It bothered me. I wanted to express to him that nationality is a construct and that we should try and avoid assuming anything about anyone. He's five though, and I didn't have the energy.

The kids soon became a bit much for me, so I tried to step away and get some quiet, and maybe some literal perspective as well. I made my way to a wooden bench and sat facing an over-tall safety railing. It looked like a high wooden fence, similar to what you'd see around a backyard, only the horizontal planks were over a foot apart. It seemed to have been intended as a safety gate, when really all it was to me was an obstruction to a view.

I thought about scope. How untethered any of us could be, if so inclined. Here are these tourists. Chinese. Italian. Japanese. All from such different places, so far away from this hilltop. What if I got on a plane, and left? What if I went to their local hilltops?

It just seemed like for a moment I understood opportunity in a broad sense. That things could be left. Other things could be picked up. Choices could be made, in ways I maybe couldn't even really comprehend. My frame of reference is small. My understanding of what is possible is smaller.

Lives can be lived in between choices. Lives are lived in wholly intentional, present ways. This is a think people do. Other people. Not me.

I could leave. I could pay off the little debt I have and then just save up. Sure, right now I think those savings are meant for a downpayment and owning my own little place. But it doesn't have to be that way. I could move. I could live a different life. I could attempt an adventure. I could retreat from this modern life and commit to a hermitage. I could do something. 

So much of projecting into the future involves things we know about ourselves. I am this way. I like these things. I don't like him. I appreciate her. I need certain things. I have limitations. How much of that patterned thinking becomes a habit of limits?

I could stand to be looser. There is no doubt an easiness to being able to feel something, and think something, and not overly identify with it. To visit it, think on it, and then let it go.

So much of my human experience has been spent worrying. Anxious. Depressed. Feeling unfit. Feeling stunted. Feeling like I need to accomplish a certain attainment, or get to a place where I feel fully formed before I can really be of value to another.

I feel this way socially, romantically and also creatively. Notions of success.

All of these hard-defined levels. These goal posts. These mile markers.

So little of it has real value. Weighing value itself is a god-damn riddle.

Perspective is easier on a mountain top.