Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beautiful tattooed bodies, by Moose Kleenex.

This was a nice surprise. By Moose Kleenex, who also has a shop on Etsy.

Medication, by Sarah Lee.

Check out Sarah Lee's work over on her website.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The “logical despair” of womanhood.

There's a piece over on Salon by Joanna Rothkopf that highlights recent studies that find that women in every age group are more likely than men to suffer from "serious psychological distress." Vikram Patel, from the Centre for Global Mental Health provides the most brutal quote:

They suffer logical despair.

Check it out.

Suicide prevention fruit stand.

You read that title correctly!

Check out this fruit stand / mobile station that offers a suicide prevention organization a way to offer services and support in public spaces.

Read more about it here.

I like the idea of mental health conversations taking place in all sorts of spaces, but I'm thinking this would mainly work as a form of sensitization, an not necessarily as a crisis support space.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Convenient web-sharing thingees.

A graphic design website linked me to Pablo by Buffer, that helps you "design engaging images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds."

Thus these:

Matched the quote with some imagery from New Old Stock which is a great site for free-use old photographs. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Dr. Scavenger Hunt.

Yesterday was an interesting day. After the Doctor-debacle of 2015, I finally went out to Montreal-West to see Dr. Rishi. First, I don’t go West, so bus'n along Monkland was nice, it’s a really nice area. It’s all brownstones and anglos, it’s like being in another world.

I took the afternoon off of work, since my appointment was at 1:45 and google estimated about an hour for me to get there. I waited nearly an hour past my appointment time, but any annoyance washed away when Dr. Rishi saw me and said hello. He’s so jovial.

Any-who. . . The appointment went well. He informed me of his plans, he’ll be starting his own family practice with 4 other doctors, and it’ll be located in Westmount. This’ll be convenient for me since I can walk over when it’s nice (still about a 30 minute walk) and I can take the subway if I’m pressed for time. Either way it’s accessible from work.

I ended up talking with Dr. Rishi for over an hour. We talked about my depression, and we made a plan. We’re trying stronger meds, and he’s booked a phone consult for me and a nurse who might be able to get me some free therapy. I don’t think it’ll happen, since it’s a CLSC that’s outside of my service zone, but he’s going to try and make it happen. Side-note: The CLSC is called Benny Farm, which is insane sounding to me. It makes me think of Benny Hill (an observation Dr. Rishi actually got, and we laughed about) and also a farm where maybe Ben Affleck goes to get away from it all.

Meanwhile, I contacted the Argyle and I would be charged 50$ an hour for therapy there. So that’s an option too. I'm going to check it out.

You know, I'm kind of surprised by how much better I felt after seeing Dr. Rishi. There’s a French expression that says someone feels prise en charge which means, when literally translated being taken into someone's charge (like back-in-the-day English where a charge was a kid you took care of). Although it probably comes from this type of history, today we usually use it in a positive context, it means being handled, and you or a situation being taken care of. 

Well, I never feel that way, so yesterday was an odd sensation for me. He said his priority is my depression right now, and then we'll go into overall health. We also talked about what the St-Mary's Doctors thought about me, and he said they felt I could totally handle myself and that I seemed mildly to mid-level depressed. 

This irritated me, and I explained how I feel my verbosity and funny-nature (and big fat round face/head) often masks the intensity of my depression. My being able to talk circles around what I'm feeling often leads me to talking myself away from how dark my thoughts can be. My funny, absurd nature can also just detract from what I'm feeling and just leave people with a different impression of me than what might be needed for me to be read as "seriously depressed." He got that. 

I mean, the guy makes me sound like a dullard. He's well spoken, clear, and very quick. He's super charming, so he was able to understand that aspect of representation versus internalization. 

I also mentioned that other than "suicidal ideation" there is very little follow-up for mental health. Planning a suicide, an actively pursuing your death is a crisis. But, wishing you were dead all the time is a slow painful way to be. 

I have to go out and get my new meds, and then Dr. Rishi wants to see me in a few weeks. Once I talk to the nurse he referred me to, and I have a few weeks of meds in me. 

Overall I'm happy that . . .

  1. I found him (I didn't hallucinate getting a GP).
  2. He is still practising and wanted me as a client / I can follow him.
  3. My first impression of him was correct, he's kind, funny, warm and I can really talk to him he also seems to like me, which is nice. I like when people like me. 
I feel hopeful, which is so god-damn rare I can't even.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Inside / outside.

I wrote part of this as a writing class exercise. I decided to post it here, because it's true, and has some interesting bits to it. 

A. is very sweet. She’s good hearted and has a helpful nature. A. can also be a hot mess. She doesn't own the term. I've worn it for a while. My late teens and early 20’s were a cacophony of ugly-crying and deferred decision-making.

The worst of it came when my high school best friend decided to become a Jehovah's Witness in order to be with her boyfriend. I was a tattooed, pierced, vegan atheist. I attended Kingdom Hall with her to show my support. Eventually the only times I saw her were if I went to church with her. It became a battle to hang on to her, but it was a battle I engaged in willingly for longer than I should have. After losing my dad at 13, losing someone intentionally made no sense to me.

Post-high school friendships are odd. There’s just so much possibility in them. You could meet any other person and like them and spend time with them. We have cars now. We can set our own schedule. We can make our own dates and judge for ourselves what’s appropriate. No more friendships based on your neighbourhood or their geographical proximity. My high school time was spent with a few girls and a large group of guys. Good guys. Funny. Charismatic. The type of guys who could recite SNL dialogue on Monday and would stay up all night with you to study for an exam. I was a tomboy who loved our girl/boy sleepovers. A few parents understood platonic friendships were possible. We’d spend the night laughing and being ridiculous in a way hardly experienced in the self-censoring and sensitivity of girls. Boys’ll fart on your head without a care in the world.

Our movements forward lead us elsewhere. They were at bars and clubs, enjoying casual sex. I was in a basement bedroom, surviving my depression through a self-imposed hermitage. As my entrenched friendships from high-school began to decay I looked to school. I wasn't in a good place, struggling, I told myself if I went to school, at least I was doing something productive. I no longer recognized those who knew-me-when. They were filled with so much promise and excitement. I was not. I felt college was meant for me, for others. Here I could hear things I’d never heard. I could disappear into the walls and just absorb.

After university, I was navigating panic attacks on top of my chronic depression, so naturally I was loads of fun to be around. I figured the best way to avoid my life was to go back to school. A. and I met in technical college. We were both studying graphic design. She signed up for a service where a classmate acts like a sort of official nag, reminding you of homework and critical deadlines. I was that nag. We gradually spent more time together, bonding over the fact that we weren't born in the 90’s like most of our classmates.

As I got to know her, I learned her accent was from Nova Scotia and that she was new to Montreal. One afternoon after class I visited the condo she shared with her boyfriend. The condo was perched on top of a large, red-bricked building by a large public market. It was fancy. I was instantly impressed by the place. It was the nicest place I’d seen in the city for someone my age. There were no milk-crates anywhere, it had art on the walls. There was a guest room. When she lead me into the light-filled space we were greeted by two spastic jack russels. I love dogs, so though their energy was frenetic and overwhelming I was happy to pet them and babble encouragingly to them about their assumed goodness.

Over the span of the next two years we became increasingly close. Her boyfriend was rich. He had summer homes and a winter ski retreat in the mountains. We gladly trekked all over the province to babysit his family dogs in the lap of luxury while they were off, being rich internationally. We’d show up at his parent’s mansion with a menagerie of dogs and relax. It always took a few days for me to adjust to the level of comfort and grandeur that apparently had existed near me all this time. Was being rich common?

One summer we headed out to the coast to a sea-shore house that was over 100 years-old. We brought my brother’s discerning schnauzer Jack along for the trip. Every-time we sat quietly, appreciating the ocean air and breeze and A.’s frenzied dogs would run into the room Jack would look at me worriedly and sigh audibly. On the drive home the dogs were relegated to the back seat with A., Jack—over the span of 20 minutes or so—slowly squeezed himself between the driver-side door and driver’s seat in order to eject himself from the undesirable company. Jack was onto something.

Having enjoyed this mystery boyfriends many vacation homes, I was glad to finally get the chance to meet him. A. and I walked into a small café near her condo. It was small and familiar, seemingly filled with regulars. We were the only women, and I read the space as being a popular hangout amongst gay men. I made my way to the counter and was met by a smiling barista. He was slender and blonde, well coiffed and at ease, flicking a towel onto his shoulder as he pushed a coffee over to A. We all exchanged pleasantries until I received my order, at which point he pointed out how happy he was to finally meet me.

I was faced with an interesting dilemma. How to discuss with a friend, the seeming gayness of her partner. As we walked I made it clear that relationships take all forms. Sexuality is a spectrum, as is gender. People want and need different things. Monogamy isn't for everyone. When I broached the subject of her partner, she confirmed he was gay and that his family disapproved so she felt he asked her to move in as a beard. She casually talked about how she slept with whoever she wanted, and how she was seeing some of his married friends I felt for both of them, he for needing to lie to his family, she for being away from hers, desperate for a tribe of her own. I was uncomfortable with all the lying though. Seeing married guys, knowing their wives, not caring about outcome or after-math. She was so nonchalant about all of it.

A few weeks later we went for drinks. A. got very drunk very fast and left with a stranger. On Monday she asked what happened, casually referring to her propensity towards getting black-out drunk. I filled her in the best I could, and worriedly asked her if this happened a lot. She laughed it off and told me not to worry. I did anyway.

She eventually left the red-brick condo with good light, and I helped her find a place and get situated. The following few months involved a lot of sex with guys, while dating other guys. I was constantly worried and dreading her phone calls. She eventually got pregnant and it was unclear who the father was. Her drinking started and ended that problem.

It was at a friends wedding where her drinking lead to an early night in for her, and an enjoyable, joy-filled night for me. I reflected on that afterwards, friends pointing out they would rather I be present for various social events since she couldn't be trusted alone. She wasn't my drunken baby. I began resenting her. I had a lot of guilt about this. She was kind and very sweet, but she was so comfortable lying and putting herself in harms way, I was perpetually worried for her in ways she would never worry about herself.

One day I received a call from A. while driving. I let it go to voice-mail. Safety first. I listened to it once arrived at my destination. It was an easy going message about this one dirt bag and then there was this other dirt bag. I rolled my eyes. I didn't return her call. I texted her and told her I needed some space. That summer, I pulled away from A. Shortly afterwards she moved back to Nova Scotia.

I don’t like the way things ended between she and I. I guess I also don’t like that it had to end at all. I don’t regret the split - but I regret the indirect route it took. Sending a text message was lame. I don’t really see what I could have said that would have suitably answered any question she might have had whilst making it clear she’s free to her life and the way she wants to live it. It just became very hard to watch. She is everything I am not, and it’s always very hard to let go.

I often dream about her. They’re always nightmares. When I heard she had a baby I dreamt she showed up at my house with it in hysterics. I still have good memories about her, but usually, when I think about her, it’s with anxiety in my chest.

Lately I've chastised myself for the way I've thought about her. Sure, she’s a hot mess, but so am I. With her, it’s all on the outside. It’s evident. Externalized. She lets it out, and lives her life. With me, it’s all internalized. It’s all still there, it’s just recycled within me. I'm constantly in pain, I just don’t know how to let it out. I look at her with a hint of envy because at least she has that release. I long to cry. To sob. To completely spend myself through tears and gasps. To yell and scream. To slur curses. I don’t do that. I sit. I dwell. I remember. I fret. I long. I romanticize. I hate myself. It hurts. Nearly all the time.

I don’t know if it ever really gets better. I'm in my early 30’s now, and it just seems like I'm getting a knack for the language of it all, but that’s about it. Nothing is getting better. The struggle continues. I'm constantly disappointed by life's refusal to get any easier. What’s the old cliché, life, nobody gets out of it alive. I don't want to get out of it alive, but I'd like to live it as something more than as the walking cursed. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Human of New York (with depression).

I’m trying to come back to work after a period of depression. I’ve battled it off-and-on my whole life, but two years ago the wheels just completely came off. I’d just had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, and I went to sleep in a good mood, but then the next day I couldn’t get out of bed. I was still in bed four days later when my boss started calling. The next two years were a battle. I lost my job. I was hospitalized three times. I filled a giant binder with information about depression, where to find programs, and how to appeal your insurance company. I felt like I was fighting for my life. I’d call a hospital that specialized in a certain type of therapy, and they’d tell me they didn’t take my insurance. I’d say: ‘Please help me. I’m dying.’
Because this isn't a Tumblr blog I can't re-post this easily, but I really wanted to link to this. If you're not familiar with Humans of New York, head to the website as soon as you have some free time, it's a beautiful project.

This was a brutal read for me. So much of what this person is describing speaks to a lot of the fear I'm living with these days. I struggle everyday, but  my energy has been getting worse.

Will I just stay in bed one day? Will I lose my job? How will I support myself? I keep trying to access services, and I keep coming up empty handed. I also feel like I'm fighting for my life, but on some days I can really feel the fight draining from me, and that's terrifying. 

loving the body: a theoretical triptych.

Go check out loving the body: a theoretical triptych by Andrea Zanin.

Tip of the hat to my friend J, who lives with chronic pain and mentioned the post to me.

Andrea talks about self-love and ways of thinking about our bodies. I have a lot of work to do on that front. Self-hatred is a really confusing, deeply seated kind of bitch. I try and counter my negative thoughts, but self-hatred coupled with depression make a positive tone difficult to find, cultivate and encourage. It's baby steps for me.

Andrea's piece comes from a space that clearly struggles with loving her body, but is obviously well versed in the language and promotion of self-love. It's a nice read. Check it out. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Maz & Juan: Black Mental Health & A Hanging in Mississippi.

Just listened to a few Maz & Juan podcasts, one of which discussed mental health, specifically in communities of colour. I was linked to Maz & Juan through Ayesha Siddiqi’s podcast, pushing hoops with sticks. I follow Ayesha on Twitter and have read some of her work, she’s brilliant and I want to be friends with her. She's a great example of someone having some serious fucking things to say and then saying something funny about Kanye and not thinking it negates everything serious you've ever said. We are capable of having many opinions on various things, and they can occupy our mind at the same time. She did an episode of Maz & Juan on how white women hijacked the feminist movement (I'd argue feminism's roots are inherently racist, so it's not even about hijacking the movement but closer to neglecting / rejecting anything “other” to upper-class whiteness from the beginning). Feminism, like all anti-oppression spaces, has a lot of work to do.

After the episode, I made my way to another podcast, this one about mental health and black men. One of the main guests, Terrell Starr wrote an article on Buzz Feed about his experience with depression and suicide, his article discusses his experience. Our stories are different, but the pain is the same.

Terrell talked the importance of access to mental health, how he himself has access to insurance, but how those who usually need it desperately, do not. There was also mention of co-pay - what I understood to be the up-front cost of these services (that are then reimbursed by the insurance company). This has been an ongoing issue for me, since so few places are sliding-scale, and I can’t front 100+ dollars a week, or bi-weekly for therapy. It makes me so angry. Ask for help, but you know, once you do, shit kind of falls apart unless you've got money.

Terrell mentioned how part of the next step is helping people navigate the process of accessing mental health services. YES. YES THIS. How many times have a griped about the exhaustion I face attempting to find, locate, and access free or sliding-scale services? What kind of a success rate do I have? It's a discouraging process on a good day, let alone on a day when you feel like you're stuck in the anus of the devil. There are little organizations here and there, but there is nothing cohesive and all-encompassing, especially due to first-language access.

Another great point brought up by Terrell was the importance for him to find a therapist with which there was already a commonality. For him, that was a woman of colour with an understanding of racism and inequality. When I contacted the Argyle Institute, I asked for someone with an understanding of atheism, feminism, gender norms, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Having someone to speak to who understands certain fundamental pressure points for you is so important. I was able to find a real connection with A (my 10-week therapist at The Argyle) and I adored her. It changed everything. Therapy can be excruciating on a good day, I needed a safe space and she immediately offered that. I was bummed that she had to stop seeing me to finish her doctorate, but I'm happy I had her when I really needed her.

Maz & Juan end their podcast with a segment called Tell Me Something Good. It’s heavy, discussing racism and oppression all day, so I think it's a nice feature to end on a positive note, or with something encouraging or beautiful. We gotta go back into the world every day.

I recommend listening to their podcast. Check it out. 

My Tell Me Something Good is how the lone-female guest of the podcast (on the mental illness episode) Indrani Balaratnam, mentions Rupi Kaur's photography projects surrounding menstruation, and it clearly makes the guys uncomfortable. This made me smile. She challenges them to go check it out, as should you.

"Comic writers – tend to be desperately unhappy."

There’s an old stereotype that comedians – and perhaps comic writers – tend to be desperately unhappy, depressive or deeply unhappy. Does this match your experience with the folks you knew there?

Not just there. I know a great many people who do comedy for a living. And it’s kind of common. Comedy seems to spring from the desire of the underdog to rewrite reality. In a comedy scenario, some measure of justice is finally achieved when the poor beleaguered antihero finally whines his way into a little power. It’s a much nicer way to deal with feeling furious and helpless and disenfranchised than to pick up a gun. Maybe someday gene-splicing will allow us to give violent psychopaths the ability to create comedy instead.

Excerpt from an interview with Letterman head writer Merrill Markoe over on Salon. This is a reoccurring comment in a lot of the reading I've done on depression, and it's in a lot of the back-story of a lot of comics, so this will come up again, no doubt. I have a lot on the topic of comedians and depression but I haven't had the time to sort through it. Soon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hey I just met you, and I might be crazy, but here's my e-mail, so solve my problems maybe.

Hey B,

I hope you don't mind, I lifted your e-mail address from C's visit announcement.

It was mentioned in passing during conversation that your master's research is in the disability spectrum (I'm not sure in what regard).

I was wondering if you'd be willing to send me anything you come across dealing more specifically with mental illness and depression. I'm trying to work through some of my own stuff on my blog, and sometimes pieces about mental health, about self-care or depression or suicide allow me to focus what I think and feel a bit more.

I mean, a lot of things interest me . . . . feminist issues as a whole - which is basically everything. But my main point of view comes from someone who is chronically depressed and struggles daily.

I was also wondering if you have any orgs you can refer me to. . . If you come across them. I know disability is a huge umbrella term . . . . But maybe you know of stuff - local and otherwise - that could be helpful. . .

Lately, for me, my depression has been rough, and right now I'm really struggling with understanding it as a disability (and not a demon I deserve) . . . I'm also struggling with working full-time, so I wonder what my rights are . .

What a shit-show!

Anyway, I hope you're well. Sorry to be such an intense bummer.

I'm not having a good day today, and when that happens I try and reach out - no doubt a symptom of my desperation.

I have limp spoons today. They're plastic and have been left in a hot car. They're despondent.


Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.

I just recently finished Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. It was an intense read. First, because I read it in two days so I took it all in at once, and second because there were pieces here and there that poked certain parts of me.

Brain on Fire is part memoir and part investigation into a psychotic break caused by an extremely rare autoimmune disease. Cahalan is able to re-create periods of her life she has no recollection of, through the accounts of her father, mother, partner, brother and friends. Since she’s a reporter by trade, she’s able to access and include her medical reports, doctor notations and even video from a hospital ward she was in prior to her diagnosis.

There are more than a few things that poked the bear…

First, the initial few days where she knows something is wrong and nobody is hearing her, are really difficult to read. Luckily, Cahalan seems to have some good friends and works in a supportive environment, because I can only imagine what a shit-show that could have been (and is for many people suffering from non-obvious conditions). The feeling of, “I'm not right, something is wrong, I feel off,” is unsettling, but when it’s psychologically it’s exponentially more terrifying.

As Cahalan goes deeper into her story, untangling what she can, I can’t help but pull from my own experience when empathizing with her. There are significant periods of my life I do not remember. There are events and situations friends remember that I do not. There is a decade of my life that is imbued by a haze that only occasionally clears.

There are times when I feel so drained and disconnected, that it isn't hard to imagine being one notch further along, and that notch being what gets me hospitalized. I often seek mental health services when I'm on an upswing. When I'm down and out, I self-protect to such a degree that I isolate and hibernate until I have the energy to return to the world. But on those days, the days where I'm the lowest, most basic version of myself, I don’t doubt that my tone and expression would be alarming. Hospitalization stands as a possible reprieve, and a possible trauma.
Cahalan is forced to give up her apartment, and return to live with her mother. She is cared for by her parents for months. This also had me reflecting on my own situation living with my mother. Though I'm working and trying to save-up for a down payment, that rationale only goes so far. I've been such a mess for so long, I've been relegated to this decade-long childlike living situation that mirrors the feelings of infantilization and embarrassment that Cahalan describes.

Overall the book was a great read, in large part due to her prose, but maybe even more so because of how rare it is to hear the story of madness told by the one who lived it. Or lives it, presently. We are all so internalized. It’s all so frantic and immaterial. The consciousness of it slips through our fingers like mist. It takes beautiful and terrifying shapes that we want to capture and show to the world, but no matter how much we want that to happen, it’s nearly impossible. This vaporous state of being. These intangible tangents.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a recommended read.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I'm a Highly Sensitive Person.

My initial reaction to opening the Salon article What your levels of sensitivity say about you by Scott Barry Kaufman, was that it made me laugh, because, naturally, the banner image is Claire Danes crying.

The article starts with a quote by Pearl S. Buck. It irritates me that she uses the male pronouns here, especially since she’s the creative person she’s referencing, but I guess it’s a sign of the times.
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, and create— so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
This rung true in me, since I'm sensitive to a lot of things. Crowds, noise - I'm easily over-stimulated, especially when I'm tired. It’s not unusual for me to get home some days and need to sit quietly and decompress. That might sound like meditation, but it isn't It just me sitting down and attempting to allow my brain to release some of the stimulation it’s still processing. I almost shut-down. There are definitely ways in which creative output help me feel productive with my sensitivity. It’s difficult, and rare, to feel sensitivity benefits me. I know it benefits friends and those around me, in certain situations (situations where I can provide support) but for me, it’s as if I'm carrying something fragile at all times.

The article discusses how different types of sensitivity are measured in people, and how being sensitive can affect you:
On the one hand, this research confirms that ease of excitation and low sensory threshold are related to negative life outcomes. This is consistent with prior research that has found that these forms of sensitivity are linked to lower levels of meaningfulness and self-efficacy, and are positively related to anxiety, depression,poor social skills, poor attention details and difficulty describing and identifying feelings, avoidant personality disorder, social phobia, and agoraphobia.
On the other hand, this research suggests that sensitivity need not be negative. As the researchers note, “for some sensitive people, sensitivity does not necessarily have to be debilitating. Rather, it could enhance their complex inner lives, and possibly lead to higher subjective well-being.” Prior research has found that aesthetic sensitivity is related to a variety of beneficial outcomes, including greater attention to detail and communication skills, and higher levels of affilitativeness and openness to experience.
The author goes on to mention an Elaine Aron book The Highly Sensitive Person:
...highly sensitive people may thrive in a more peaceful environment. In such solitude, these individuals may be better able to take advantage of their sensitivities. Indeed, many famous artists, musicians, humanitarians and scientists were exquisitely sensitive to their environments, and used their experiences as grist for the mill of their extraordinary creativity and compassion. Sensitivity is not only associated with creativity, but also with spirituality, mystical experiences, and a connection to nature.

The article is pretty thin, but I appreciate the research dealing with sensitivity. Yes, there are many kinds of sensitivity, and different kinds, coupled with the difference of individuality creates a myriad of experiences with sensitivity.

This article doesn't touch the socio-cultural readings of sensitivity, but by experience it isn't something appreciated in working spaces, the corporate world, capitalism or in structures of power. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Empathy cards for serious illness.

These empathy cards for serious illness by Emily McDowell are beautiful and so so so so welcome tin a world of disingenuous cliché.

I have a few similar designs that focus on depression and "hard times."

Here are a few of Emily's:

Check them out on Emily's website.

Mental Illness in 90's film.

The Witching Hour is a great podcast that discusses popular culture, feminism and all sorts of rad things. I was turned onto it by one of the co-hosts, who I studied with at Concordia's Simone de Beauvoir Institute.

I miss Women's Studies often. Especially the pop-culture heavy classes, that really spoke to me in a way that I hadn't experienced before in an academic setting. I really miss the (relatively) safe spaces and the amazing discussions that would take place there. I miss daily inspirations. I miss the power-house professors. . .

The latest episode of The Witching Hour discussed mental illness as represented in 90’s film

Pop culture + things I know about = my wheelhouse. 

Girl, Interrupted is on my list of "to-do" blog topics, so I was really excited to listen to this episode.

Spoon Theory.

At a dinner party over the weekend, some friends who live with chronic-pain started discussing Spoon Theory.

They referred me to a blog-post as the origin source of the term, I recommend reading it: The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandin.

In the piece she discusses explaining her experience living with Lupus to her best friend:
I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn't have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.
I think her piece is really powerful, since it’s so rarely discussed - how difficult it is for us to represent our experiences to those who have no frame of reference for it.
Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.
Her use of spoons allows for an immediate representation of loss.
I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn't want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.
This was a big one for me. I have a fear-based foreshadowing sense of dread in me. I’m always worried I’ll go through a “bad period” and get so depressed and despondent my life will fall apart. Even when things are going relatively well, I need to make sure I have “backup” plans in play, that I have support services I can turn to. It’s pre-emptive, but it’s anxiety based. I think about my mental health daily. I know some things make it harder on me. I know walking into any situation tired means I'm at a a greater disadvantage than I usually am. I am only starting to use language to really discuss  and explore my experience (that's pretty much what this blog is), and ideally in doing so, I'll really develop the language to properly describe my state of being, and represent what it is I live to those around me.
I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn't want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse than others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”
This made me wonder about the friendships I have. I would say those closest to me know how deeply depressed I am, and have heard the stories that have come out of the most difficult times in my life. There are always friendships that are more superficial, and those are what they are. Only a handful life with depression and anxiety - so at least they have a frame of reference. I guess there's a limit to how close I can become you're a god-damn unicorn. Anyway, I have a friend or two who are these kinds of people, the happy kind. We hang out when I'm in a good place.

I once grazed a pretty dark topic with one of these "normie" friends. Her eyes glazed over and she looked horrified. So that only happened once, and it scarred me. It no doubt scarred her.

The way Spoon Theory was introduced to me, was by two wonderful, supportive people, so this already to me has a supportive, positive vibe to it. Hearing them discuss their spoons between each other was really sweet. They were speaking the same language, and were really empathetic to what the other was saying.

Anything that helps us represent our struggles, and helps us in conveying how we live our lives is always appreciated.

I plan on using this system from now on with these friends, and I hope to share this with friends and allies in various spaces.

I think I'm part of the Nation of Amanda.

This is me.

But this is also me...

Both by Nation of Amanda.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Quote: Quietly I Will Not.

This is nice:
You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.
From Quietly I Will Not.


What's happening in Baltimore, the protesting and rioting, is necessary. The absolute devastation of black experience is unarguably historically rooted and needs to be actively addressed and corrected.

I don't feel discussing racism is my place, since there are fantastic writers out there covering what's going on. You can go on Twitter and follow, in real time what's going on. You can watch guerilla journalism happening, and see what is and what isn't being represented by the media. 

I post on Pushing Hoops with Sticks' Tumblr just tore at me. 
i don’t think people will ever understand how tolling this shit is on black people. during the bulk of the ferguson/eric garner protests during november i fell into the deepest depression. i couldn’t fall asleep until 6 or 7 in the morning, my jaw was permanently clenched, no appetite. i had ridiculous migraines and i’m someone who rarely has headaches, i would cry out of nowhere, i felt paralyzed/paranoid in public around any white people even my own mother/friends. no one will ever understand how draining this is for us.
This is brutal. I feel so deeply for this. I don't know what it is to be black. But I've known discrimination, and I know pain. Not like this though. 

I might not be super effective at discussing everything that's going on, but I want words of support and kindness to come from me, and to be expressed outwardly towards all those marching, all those protesting, all those doing what they can while they can to fight the systems of oppression and corruption. 

Montreal has a big, thick history of protesting. We're big on unions, we're big on student strikes. There's a lot of racism here as well, the Montreal police department is part of that, as is the long history of the indigenous people of Canada. The Oka Crisis wasn't that long ago. There are ongoing reparation problems. There was a cultural genocide of natives here, and people consistently choose to ignore that. Hérouxville is still fresh. Our hands in Canada are just as dirty as the white majority of the U.S. There's a lot of work to be done. 

MLK said that riots are the voice of the unheard. We're seeing that now in Baltimore, and all across the United States. We're also seeing that locally here in Montreal, and globally as a show of support. 

I've read a few articles on how to show support and solidarity for people of colour, as a white person who lives with a certain type of privilege, and it seems the consensus is using your whiteness to confront the racism in white spaces. 

11 things white people can do to be real anti-racist allies

Dear white Facebook friends: I need you to respect what Black America is feeling right now

There's just a lot out there. I'm trying to stay abreast of the situation. It's just such a brutal time. It seems every-time I log into Twitter, there's a new name, another black man immortalized by a hash-tag. 

#Freddie Gray
#Michael Brown
#Trayvon Martin

I cannot imagine the way this demoralizes a community. I listened to Part 1 of This American Life's pod-cast on how Cops See it Differently, this disconnect between how police see what's going on, and how "regular people" see what's going on. 

All I hear in the pod-cast is the pain in the voices of those being interviewed. It's just so personal and raw. 

I just don't want to be silent and complicit in this. 

Baltimore riots: How the Western media would cover the unrest if it happened elsewhere

It's just so fucked. 

The Erosion of Ambition.

I've never had much of a relationship with ambition. Since as far back as I can remember I've always had a laid-back approach to education and work. When I was asked whether or not I wanted to attend regular high school or the "International" program, I said regular. Why make things harder on myself? I didn't think about my future, or prospects, or the way in which things line up for you as of an early age, I just didn't think about.

This is pre-depression. This is me 11, 12, 13. I've always been a sensitive kid, kind of bossy and opinionated. Depression only started really weighing on my at 16-17, as part of an eating disorder. I’d always been a thicker girl, a size 10 to 12. Curvy. Big chested. I was active, happily chubby. But all of a sudden I felt like I needed to lose some weight if I wanted male attention, to lose my virginity, to go to prom. And that meant acting against my nature. That meant forcing myself into certain habits, in order to attain a specific goal.

From there, things got hazy and lost. From there my concept of my own future never really took shape. It became about impulse control, and then when things started to fall apart, just survival. The issue with taking things one day at a time, is it becomes difficult to plan for tomorrow, let alone have a 5 year plan. Who gives a fuck about a RRSP placement when all you wanna do is curl up and die?

Lately, I've had a lot of feelings about this. I'm trying not to dwell on it, but it’s difficult. Here I am, 31, trying to get my shit together to buy myself a little condo, and have a little piece of space for myself, and my down-payment is just sad. What have I been doing with my money for the last decade?

Logically, I can see my privilege. I was able to live at home while going to school to minimize debt. I was able to go to university and pay for it myself. I was able to go to a technical college and extend my education into my late 20’s. I am a few months from being debt free. This is a privilege.

Things could have been very different. While deeply depressed, I had decided that as long as I was in school, I was doing something productive. So that’s all I did. I was in school, I worked part-time, and I survived each day. And every once in a while, I would look up, and see where I was, and what I was doing.

There was never any real ambition there. It was just, doing what I could, because I had to.

I look to friends who have callings, and I'm envious of it. Working in the social services is brutal. Friends are under-paid, under-valued and get by on sheer will. But there’s a desire there, a real feeling of accomplishment, and that their work matters.

I've always felt, I could really attach myself to anything. I have many interests, and would happily attempt a career in any of them. Yes, right now, I work as a graphic designer. It’s what my path led me to, and I needed a technical “skill.” But I could also be a writer. I'd write a novel. I’d happily be a comedy writer. I could see myself being a painter and working in the arts. I could have stayed in academia, and gone on to get a masters and worked in a social/political field. I could work in a kitchen. I could work in a garden centre. I could easily leave the city and work on a farm, tending to rescued animals of all kinds. I am not tied to any job. I do not identify with any one thing. Sure, there are parts of me that are emotional and creative, but those parts would find creative outlets no matter where I go.

Recently, it feels that one day at a time leads me to days where working (in the short term, every day) and a career (long-term working plans, prospects, goals) often take a back seat and just aren't even considered. There are days that are so difficult, I'm on an edge. I can easily be pushed to quit, or to alienate co-workers in a way I never would normally. This frightens me. I live in fear of this. Of self-sabotage. Of one bad day that sets it all on fire. It's all so fragile, my house of cards.

I don’t even think ambition is really part of my vocabulary of characteristics. I have so little understanding of it. All I really know is taking things one day at a time and hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. So much of my wants, or plans are tentative. If I feel up to it. If I have the energy. If all goes well. My moods and my exhaustion levels play too big a part.

Do I mourn ambition? It seems like I should. What I do have is gratitude for very basic things. I end up invoking that gratitude and being happy I have a job. That’s something. What it isn't is a plan, or a fire in me that wants and climbs. I just want to be quiet. I just want it to be easy. My basic, default state of being is so hard. I don’t want anything else to be harder or more than it has to be. So maybe my ambition has been sacrificed to other parts of me. Maybe I have zero ambition, and instead have a double-sized portion of grit. It keeps me alive, but if I think at what cost, I'm mournful.