Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Found: A Mental History.

I found this while going though old documents. Original date for this is around this time of year in 2011, so 4 years ago. I believe the intention was to send this to someone taking me on as a psychiatry patient. 

The more I think about it, the more I realize I have a crazy history, and it's kind of dawned on me that as of being a teenager I have instances of being "weird" or of playing things off as "oh that's just me, and the way I am," that are probably all linked to anxiety and possibly bigger issues. This document is for me to explain things to the best of my ability, and to document my memories of certain examples and events.

From an early age (roughly around 16-17) I started having issues with crowds. I didn’t like parties or being in places with a lot of people. Including new people. I always thought this was me being anti-social, and later on (recently) I’ve been more likely to call it “social anxiety” although for the longest time I just pinned it on my character / not being good with people.

I have issues with foods and alcohol. I have to be careful when I eat out because I have a sensitive stomach, but the biggest issue for me is alcohol consumption. Ingesting even the smallest amount of alcohol generally makes me paranoid about being physically ill, and I’ll often start having severe anxiety and make myself sick. I’ve never been a drinker. Not since I was a teenager. I was always the designated driver. But, as an adult, I still can’t have a glass of wine unless I’m in the safety of my own home, because alcohol in public places / away from home usually leads to anxiety that then leads to my being sick.

Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly drawn to daily rituals. When I’m stressed, I often use little things to placate my desire to be effective. Sometimes these are simple things. But often when I get something in my head, like “I have to take a shower before going to bed.” I know I have to take a shower, or else it’ll bug me to an increasing amount until I do it. But, sometimes this can be the case with organization, or with occupying physical spaces as well. Like where to sit on a bus. I often feel like certain things make me more able to be “out in the world” without being overwhelmed.

Overall, for the last few years, I’ve identified my anxiety as a type of fuel cell. So, if I’m tired, or exhausted, and I’m at about 20%, I know I can’t go into the city. The driving in, the parking, the people, being so far from home, all of it is too much. If I’ve had a few days off, and I’m relaxed and well rested, going into the city isn’t a big deal. This is recent. While I was in University this was never an issue.

When I was around 16-18 I was bulimic. This started when I became sexually active, and ended around the time my first relationship ended. After which I became very depressed. This depression lasted years. In the last two years (2009-2010) things have been getting much better. But, depression has been replaced with anxiety. Anxiety that seems to be getting progressively worse.

My first clear memory of a panic attack was during my last year of university, while I was working on my thesis, when I was supposed to do an interview for CBC radio. I was unable to get to the radio station and had a massive panic attack at home.

I then had a panic attack in November of 2010, while attending an event where industry professionals look at our portfolios. I left and did not attend the majority of the event.

I had purchased tickets to see a show with a friend last fall, and had increasingly severe anxiety until I got to the venue, at which I begged that she drive me home because I couldn’t take being there.

Recently, they’ve become more frequent, and intense. Over the Christmas break I was extremely anxious throughout an entire screening of Harry Potter because of the amount of people in the theater.

Two weeks ago, my brother offered to drive me into the city, and I had severe anxiety in his car while stuck in traffic. I had to ask him to let me out of the car so I could walk to a nearby metro station. That day I made an appointment with a local doctor, a few days later I saw her and she gave me a referral to a psychiatrist, and a prescription of Celexa and Ativan.

This part Saturday, I was suppose to help one of my best friends move. This was a big deal to both her and me. This was to celebrate her new condo, one she purchased herself and which is a huge accomplishment. I had a major panic attack on the 40, and had to take a random exit, take some time, and then get myself home. I then took an Ativan, and was useless for the rest of the day. I slept and was just physically spent, my chest was tight and I was anxious for the rest of the weekend.

I know that I am in a period of a lot of stress when it comes to school, this is my final semester and there is a lot riding on it. And, I’ll have to be making a lot of decisions and commitments in the next little while where my career is concerned. But it seems to me that over the last year my anxiety has been getting worse. Exponentially so in the last two months.

For the last year I’ve known not to plan two things on one day. Meaning if I have school, I can’t drive somewhere / make plans that evening. I know not to work more than an 8 hour day, because it’s too much (my part-time job is with customer service so I get yelled at all day). I don’t go out after-dark with friends in the city. I don’t drive, or often cancel plans when I feel I’m anxious to begin with. Or else, I make plans, start going and then have to turn around because on my way my anxiety gets progressively worse.

With bulimia my focus was to stop throwing up. With depression it was just getting through one day at a time, and I was still functional, I was just sad as hell and thought life sucked and I’d just ride it out until I died. But this anxiety is overwhelming. And it’s taking over my life. It limits me daily. Some days I wake up with it, and it’s heavy. This past Tuesday (the 8th of February) I almost didn’t even get on the bus to head to school, all I wanted to do was stay home.

The truth is there are probably tons of rules, and superstitions that I have that have become so ingrained in the way that I function that I’m probably not even aware of them.

Things have been coming to a head now, but they’re clearly part of something that’s been present since my teens.

I see a therapist, and she helps me with my emotional issues, but I just feel this is beyond it. This is the first time in a long time, that I feel insane. Before I felt emotionally broken. Now, I feel paranoid and dysfunctional. And usually I have a “wait it out” mentality. But the physical pain of it, the increased heart rate and the tight chest and feeling of “panic” throughout a day, I can’t bear it. It’s no way to live.

The plateau.

On days like today it’s difficult to think of a topic to write about. I’m plainly numb and detached. I’m standing quietly on a plateau between up and down.

If left on my own, I’d curl up and sleep. I’d drift away and be out of this world for a while. Instead I’m at work, trying my best to live a day. Trying my best to listen, to hear people when they speak to me. I'm trying my best to look human, to smile, to nod, to laugh at their stories and feign interest about their children.

I hate this disembodied feeling.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ugh. Effort.

I haven't written much this week, it's been busy at work and I'm just exhausted. I've been getting home, having dinner, taking a shower and going to bed at 8:30.

I just have this constant exhaustion. I'm not in a good place physically. I feel old and busted... And round.

This is me, basically...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Quote: James Baldwin

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
- James Baldwin

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I just solved all of my problems.

Originally posted on Craigslist:


Are you one of those super rich people that apparently exist in real life?

I'm a working-class person looking for someone rich who'd like to give me some money so I can take a sabbatical and work on my art and writing (as well as mental and physical health, I'm mega-depressed).

What do you get out of it?

Well, in theory you're rich as shit - so what's money to you?

To me, a poor asshole, it's all I worry about.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Now you Doctor, now you don't.


Finally got a family doctor after 15 years without one. I was waiting to hear back from him about a psychiatric evaluation I did so I sent him an e-mail.

I got one from the secretary back, and was just told he no longer works at that clinic.

I had a family doctor who was engaged, caring, open, interested and had excellent bed-side manner for all of a month.


CLSC: "Nope."

I just got off the phone with the CLSC - another discouraging interaction with the mental health system.

Turns out they can’t really help me since they only offer short-term help and not long-term follow-up. So, they referred me to four places, UQAM’s mental health clinic (run by students. I called, they’re waiting list is full), a clinic that offers sliding-scale services (I called and left a message) and two women’s shelters.

Being referred to a women’s shelter makes me angry. I feel as though those are clearly emergency services that I’d rather not impede. Those services aren't for me. I have a roof over my head and a job, and I'm not in a dangerous relationship.

Of course, the CLSC representative ended the call as all other mental health services seem to, “I'm sorry I couldn't help you more, good luck, and if your situation changes please call us back.” What this means of course is if I'm actively suicidal I can call back and then they’ll (potentially) sort me out.

So unless I want to kill myself live, on the phone - they don’t have shit for me.

Jason Bourne / frantic running.

Why do I get visions of Jason Bourne running frantically past me, away from my life?

These last few days, I've felt a base-line of anxiety in my chest. It’s bearable, but it’s omnipresent. It’s a new type of being on edge. Something I'm not familiar with.

Yesterday was worse. I was perpetually fighting the desire to abandon my life. I had trouble concentrating, trouble really hearing people. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted no human contact. And what I could sense, was fear because I was acutely aware of how “not normal” I was feeling.

I could be fired for this anti-social behaviour.

If I were required to do something, would I be able to?

How can I nod my head and engage when I'm vacant and incapacitated?

Do I look as detached as I feel?

Fuck, I don’t give a shit Linda.

In the past I’ve described my panic attacks as being rooted in the fight or flight part of survival. This panicked, urgent burst of adrenaline that propels you forward zigging and zagging your way to a safer space. But instead of facing something life threatening, you’re at a social event or thinking about things you need to do. A panic attack is like nothing I’d ever experienced before. But that’s not what this is.

Well, this is rooted in the same survival instinct. I get this palpitation in the front of my chest that’s followed by visions of just running. Just getting the fuck out of here and finding safety in the distance between me and my life.

Obviously this isn't a truth. It’s not about physically leaving the people and places I know, especially since I’d have no way to support myself. What it does seem to be about is that initial feeling.

It’s this desire to escape. My visions are of running, of a Jason Bourne-like energy. Killing a guy with a bic pen. Parkouring my way away from a life that holds so little of me. It’s the moment you cut yourself free and can sprint for the tree line. It’s running towards safety. Maybe that’s what the craving is for, the sensation of an initial wave of freedom, followed by a impassioned, frantic race to safety. It’s knowing safety exists, and that you can get there.

That’s all I want these days. Safety. A quiet comfort. Everything I can use to comfort myself is bad for me. Food. Alcohol. Drugs. What else is there? Sex only works if you don’t hate your fucking body. Spirituality and religion only works if you’re a believer. Exercise only works when you’re at the plateau point and not hating every moment of the initial uphill battle. My comforts are small and sometimes my only solace is unconsciousness. So yes, a promise of safety sounds god-damn delightful. So does another Jason Bourne film.

Art Print: Anna Bond

An original print by Anna Bond, sold over at Rifle Paper Co. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When the brain is tired.

Just finished Alan Watt’s The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety. Though the book veers towards the religious in it’s last third, the first two-thirds have some excellent insight into psychological security and how our need for it exacerbates our anxiety and depression.

I found this passage beautiful and helpful in describing the way some court suicide. For someone who is healthy and strong, it might not make much sense, this can help in trying to understand:

For when the body is worn out and the brain is tired, the whole organism welcomes death. But it is difficult to understands how death can be welcome when you are young and strong, so that you come to regard it as a dreaded and terrible event. For the brain, in its immaterial way, looks into the future and conceives it a good to go on and on and on forever - not realizing that its own material would at last find the process intolerably tiresome. Not taking this into account, the brain fails to see that, being itself material and subject to change, its desires will change, and a time will come when death will be good. On a bright morning after a good night’s rest, you do not want to go to sleep. But after a hard day’s work the sensation of dropping into unconsciousness is extraordinarily pleasant. (67)

That last two sentences really hit the nail on the head for me. There are some days that feel like I’m pulling myself through such drudgery. Breathing hurts. My cells are itching with something unbearable and microcosmic. On days like this I am so sensitive from exhaustion that dropping into the unconscious sounds like heaven. The unconscious here sounds like escaping your life. It rings of release and quiet. It's a siren call promising serenity and nothingness. 

Nothingness might sounds terrible to you. But when the alternative to nothingness is the unbearable weight of depression and/or the torment of the constant agitation of anxiety believe me when I say it sounds divine. It sounds like a beautiful spring day after a long, hard winter. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So very irritated.

I am irritated. I am irrationally irritated.

I feel as if there’s always someone standing over my shoulder and I want to swat them away. I feel like a creep is trying to whisper in my ear, my shoulders are tense and I want to aggressively shove myself to safety.

My desk-mate, a perfectly sweet and harmless girl is chewing food in a way that can only be described as deliberately thorough. It’s with such enthusiasm that it’s soliciting in me a severe dislike for her. This is someone I usually enjoy. Not today.

Windows seems to like telling me it can’t rename a file I just created. It tells me I have no right. I have every right as I created the file. It’s only renaming a file Windows, why are you such a dick?

This afternoon will no doubt be all about inhaling deeply and swallowing every reaction that comes naturally to me. People don’t like it when you tell them their jokes are dumb and their story about their really nice dentist is a god-damn shit-show. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT LINDA!

I forgot my lunch at home today. A kale salad, honeydew melon and a yogurt. It was a god-damn thing of beauty and I forgot it at home. It was responsible and nutritious and I forgot it at home.

I feel like a cat today. I want to push stuff off desks to watch them fall to the floor. I want to tap your coffee mug until it crashes to the ground, holding eye contact with you as you absorb that it was on purpose. I want to walk away quietly and leave you with the realization that today, I don’t give a shit.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Deepak Chopra on The Wisdom of Insecurity.

Deepak Chopra writes the introduction to Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. In it, he speaks highly of the book, and has a few descriptions I've found helpful and would like to reference here.

"The ego-self constantly pushes reality away. It constructs a future out of empty expectations and a past out of regretful memories." (2)

This has been a major issue for me. Specifically regretful memories. I have such a way of getting stuck on moments I'm ashamed or embarrassed about. As if these times cannot be excused or explained - but instead hold me to be permanently shameful.

I have dreams about these past people, these past experiences, and I wake up feeling like shit about it. Why do I still dream about these people? Why do I still dream about the way they gave me pleasure or caused me pain? Logically I could explain to myself that they are points of reference for my ego - but this does not wash away the same that I continue to feel, amplified by the time it’s been since these original sins.

I can go further, and extrapolate that because these are the original sins, and because I've had little to no sin since then, that these devils remain my only points of reference. They are my only memories.

I’ll gladly call myself out on using the term “sin.” I don’t mean it in a religious sense - nor do I affix judgement to these experiences logically. I just feel haunted by them, and feel that my shame creates a mythic ghost of these people and situations.

I use this language poetically. I also use it instead of specifically addressing the details of it all.

It’s now what I did that bothers me so much. It’s that it bothers me. It’s these regretful memories, and the ghosts that quite literally haunt my dreams.

"... words can point in the right direction; they can highlight overlooked flashes of insight; they can ignite the flame of discontent." (6)

I still don’t know what role this blog is taking in my life. I try to write when I can, especially when there’s something on my mind - but it’s difficult to get in front of a computer when I'm in the middle of a moment. I try and give myself notes or sources I can refer to later - expand on when the time and clarity of mind is there.

I absolutely do appreciate the power of language and the written word. I always have. But lately as I've been reading several books a month, and leaning towards memoirs and essays, I see the way in which personal experience and narrative can touch someone. I've felt this. Initially while reading The Chronology of Water and recently reading Nobody Is Ever Missing, Not That Kind of Girl and Men Explain Things to Me.

I hope I can keep exploring writing as a new creative tool, and maybe more so as a tool in working through my issues and expressing myself. Putting things down on paper, getting things out and away from me. This could be a way to externalize what’s so tightly wound around my insides.

What I love about this Deepak quote is his pin-pointing “overlooked flashes of insight” which happens daily. These moments of brilliance we’re too late to grab hold of or dismiss prematurely. I’d like to try and stay in these moments and expand on them here.


On Batman and psychological security.

I watched the last two Batman films last night. The Christopher Nolan trilogy is beyond compare to everything that came before them so they're the only Batman films I’ll ever reference. Unless of course I ever need to talk about how much Danny DeVito’s penguin scared the shit out of me as a child.

The movies brought up a ton. I started thinking about self-sacrifice and determination, the ways in which Christian Bale and Tom Hardy gained like 75 pounds of muscle for their roles. Sure, it’s most likely steroids or human growth hormone, but it still happened. Anne Hathaway said she mainly ate kale for months getting in shape and losing weight for her role.

How is it discipline is so easy for some and is so disastrous for others?

Watching Heath Ledger was a fucking bummer. What was his relationship with discipline like? He must have had his weak spots. Don't we all? He lost his life to his struggle. I wonder if he lived with depression. It isn't hard to imaging turning to drugs. I've thought about it many times.

I get these moments where I'm able to float outside of myself. Out there I think objectively about how on any given day things can change. Not in a magical way. I could wake up tomorrow and be a hard-line vegan and lose weight and improve my health. I could get hit by a car and lose my legs and spend the rest of my life in a completely different struggle. A completely different story with which to feel sorry for myself.

I'm currently reading The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. Though I'm only about a third of the way through the book, I've already found a lot of value in Watts’ writing:
This book is an exploration of this law in relation to man’s quest for psychological security, and to his efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in religion and philosophy. It is written in the conviction that no theme could be more appropriate in a time when human life seems to be so peculiarly insecure and uncertain. It maintains that this insecurity is the result of trying to be secure, and that, contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist of the most radical recognition that we have no way of savings ourselves.
I am sure to some that would sound dark. To me it's a deep exhalation. Disney's made a gazillion dollars preaching “let it go,” because we all need to let go of something. Watts description of our desire for certainty speaks to both religion and the everyday ways in which I seek order and amenity.

So much of my stress comes from worrying about money, and my future. My ability to take care of myself. The abuse and hatred of my body is both fed by my existential dread and soothes the mind that points to it.

No doubt over the next few days I will be pulling quotes from Watts’ book and speaking to them. My brain is such a jumble it can be difficult to pin-point one topic or pull one thread from all the others it touches.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A good day, and base-line happiness.

I'm in good standing today. A good day is rare, and when I sense them inside me I'm always a little giddy. I'm filled with this energy that I don’t usually have. I feel oddly rambunctious and want to grab people by the shoulders and shake them joyously. Is that a thing?

I also smile more, and giggle at random happenings on the street. A dog in booties? Giggle giggle. A woman scolding her boyfriend over his ugly shirt? Giggle giggle. A girl giving sass over the phone? Giggle, then slow your walking pace so you can eavesdrop. Then giggle again.

My nephew will be staying with me for a few days so I'll be distracted over the next while. It'll get me out of my routine. Nothing like a child around to just destabilize me completely.

I wonder if “regular” people - those without depression or anxiety or any type of disordered brain feel like this everyday. Is that possible? Sure, folks have bad days, but the base-line of happiness and contentment must be significantly higher than mine. This is almost incomprehensible when it comes to actually imagining what that must be like.

If depression is an impairment, removing that for a day feels like an enhancement - but really it's just returning to a level of being able to live my life.

Whatever it is, I'll take it.

Like it says on the top of this blog page, survive the bad days, capitalize on the good.

Appreciate your base-line of happiness, people who aren't me.

So much energy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Leech: to drain the substance of : to exhaust.

Try and understand.

In my heart, there is a black hole.

On being 78.

I watched an interview today with a woman who was (and still is presumably) 78 years old. She was a spitfire and brilliant.

I'm thinking to myself how odd it is to reach that age. How far it is from my age. I can't imagine living another 40 years. It sounds so exhausting. 40 years. Even if I die at 60, that's another 30 years to my life. How daunting.

I can't picture it. I can't imagine myself, or what my life could be like, it all is too much. It's a mix of incomprehension and a stunted sense of moving forward.

If I don't feel here, how can I imagine myself anywhere else?

I think it’s because thinking of the future entails an investment in it. And I little to no investment, with little expectation of return.