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.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It's ok to grow.


Comfort animals on campus.

The New York Times ran an article on comfort animals being allowed in university housing, now that anxiety and depression are on the rise on campuses. Mental health is more likely to be discussed, as are the aids and comforts of those suffering.
Research on the therapeutic value of animals is limited. Some studies have shown that they can provide a short-term benefit, particularly in reducing anxiety and depression. A long-term therapeutic benefit, however, has not been definitively established by randomized control trials. 
Joanne Goldwater, associate dean of students and director of residence life at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is not concerned about objective evidence. “Having that animal has clearly helped to reduce stress and anxiety for some students,” she said, “which helps them progress towards their degree.” 
Students concur. Ms. Brill, a film major, wrapped her arms around Theo’s neck. “Theo helps me when I’m feeling isolated and depressed,” she said. On wobbly days, he gives her structure, she added, because she must get out of bed to feed, brush and walk him. “All I have to do is look at Theo, squish his face a lot in the evenings, and he’s like, ‘Hey, I love you!’ ” 
Her roommate Ms. McCarthy, a psychology major, tucked Carl into her neck, stroking his silky fur as he eagerly nuzzled her ear. “When I feel a panic attack coming on, feeling his heartbeat helps me regulate my own,” she said.
This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I really miss my brother's dog. I had him for three weeks while my brother was on holiday. I walked him, and took him to the dog park everyday. I He also slept with me. He's just a really nice dog, with a funny personality, and I miss him. 

Anxiety isn't as much of an issue for me as it once was. I was disabled by panic attacks in university and college, which now seems to be the norm
According to the New York Times, depression is no longer the most common mental health problem for college students. Anxiety is now the biggest concern, with more than half of students in a recent study reporting they suffer from anxiety.
Business Insider reports that students in this generation have a harder time coping with stress, due in part to the prevalence of helicopter parents. 
"They can't tolerate discomfort or having to struggle," Dan Jones, director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, told The Times. "A primary symptom is worrying, and they don't have the ability to soothe themselves." ​
There seems to be a lot of focus attributed to the generation itself. This is from an Atlantic notes post:
Everyone and their creepy uncle can get a psychiatric diagnosis. And it’s no secret that millennials are not only over-diagnosed, but see diagnoses as categories of oppression/identity (because of course oppression = identity). So we have the intersection of entitlement, coddling, hysteria, and identity politics, all in the person of a pot-bellied pig who’s allowed to crap all over a college dorm because the administration fears a visit from the litigation bogeyman. Oy gevalt.
See this person doesn't have a pet. They also have a shitty attitude. They're also super dismissive of mental illness as a legitimate problem. Overall, they're the worst. I can extract some use out of their shittyness, mainly that over identifying with an identity (like my being depressed) can be harmful to me. Sometimes I let it haunt me too much, and that limits me. This person still has a douchey-bro vibe though, and I guess, also Jewish? If they aren't then they're also culturally inappropriate.

Also from the comments/notes on the Atlantic, a dad wrote in about his experiences with anxiety and coping, and how he supports animals on campus:
My son is at college after being treated for anxiety and depression. Like most pet owners, he found our cat to be a great comfort and the cat did lessen his anxiety. He didn’t take the cat to school because he’s in a small dorm room that the cat wouldn’t enjoy. It’s also against campus rules.
But I would like to see pets in campus owned apartments 
I don’t think of this as coddling. It’s far better than the pot and alcohol I used in my college years to cope with anxiety. That’s how we anxious people dealt with it back in the “good old days,” when anxiety and depression were seldom diagnosed in college students. You think this was a better way to deal with it? I’d rather my child have a pet.
Well. I think this actually relates to the earlier argument that the generation can't self-sooth. It can, just in different ways. In ways that need to be addressed. It just makes sense. There's something tactile about petting an animal, it adds structure to walk a dog, to feed it, to brush it. You have a little being that cares about you, and you for it. It's a little friend. It helps. You can kind of empty your brain when with an animal. It's calming.

Also, people are actually talking about what they need, and what would help. There is an open dialogue on campuses about anxiety, depression and suicide. So people are actually saying, "Yes, I feel a lot of anxiety, and this would help me."

Any University that wants a future student-body, will listen to those who pay to go there. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mindy Kaling + Nick Kroll.

Just about to finish up Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? - and one of her last chapters makes mention of how many people in her life live with depression:
I should start off by saying that I am one of the only television writers I know who is not depressed ... I'm just bringing it up because depression is something that I've come to accept from my creative community and I realize that's probably alien to most people. I don't know why the funniest people I know are also depressed ... It's sad that so many of my friends suffer this way.
Depression in creative, and depression in comedy writers are themes I encounter a lot. I had seen a Buzzfeed article on Nick Kroll ages ago, and I kept the link to eventually mention it here.
As we start our gradual shuffle down from the observatory, I ask whether someone who hadn’t grown up struggling — for money, for comfort, for success — could succeed in the comedy world. He turns suddenly serious: “I mean, look, we all suffer in our own way; like,life is miserable. And I’m not, ‘Oh, I’m a stand-up who’s sad,’ but the reality is that just about everyone is quietly unhappy. I don’t think that pertains to comedians specifically. I think most people look at themselves in the mirror and are not happy with what they see.”
 I have a few archived sources I want to eventually get to on this subject, but it'll take some time on my part, since I want to watch a few segments and read a few articles. This is a reoccurring phenomena that I see in my life, that I experience personally, and that seems mirrored in the comedy community I value and "follow."

In the case of Kroll, he posits that general unhappiness is universal. Life is hard. But there's something about the development of humour and wit as a reaction to hardship or pain that I think is real. Part of accepting life as miserable involves also seeing part of it that are innately nonsensical and absurd. That recognition, when diluted with humour, is tangibly more palpable.

Monday, October 5, 2015

John Oliver on Mental Health.

As per usual, John Oliver nailed his segment last night. Yesterday's topic was on the representation of mental health by the media, and the general lack of knowledge and support, as well as the failures of our elected officials and systems.

Please watch!

Paper Kindness.

All from Paper Kindness over on Etsy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pavana पवन.

I've been knocked on my ass by the work and words of Pavana पवन. Initially saw her words on Ayesha Siddiqi's Tumblr, I googled the name and didn't find very much. I followed the source link and found the original master-post, but I had assumed this was a published author, that these were words that were older, and an established part of the canon.

I'm just blown away. Check out Pavana's site, Maza-Dohta dot com.
“I believe pain breeds wolves
and joys give rise to moons.

We grow forests in our bones
so our memories can’t find us.
I believe we hide and haunt ourselves”

― Pavana पवन
This is almost the exact wording to express the tattoos on my body. 
“Since the age of nine, I have felt an unbearable heaviness in my soul, an unpronounceable ache for a different time and place. I feel for things that have nothing to do with me, for budding flowers caught in the rain, for petals lost to the wind. I know what the earth must feel like, the way it serves as both the coffin and the womb for new life. I feel its heavy, heavy weight of loss, as if with every passing year I am both ending and beginning. Perhaps this is what growing up is, and perhaps some of us must die, over and over, before we are born again. Since the age of nine, I have been buried beneath my soul, and I believe I am beginning to bud again, like a strange flower grown from its own decay. I am in bloom, I have always been in bloom, and I am now just learning my own name. ” 
— In Bloom || Pavana पवन
A testament to maturity, and feeling the immovability of womanhood. I can relate to the feeling of a certain certitude of self, but the deep wound I walk with, never leaves me.

I am half a moon
where I once held
a heart.

I am not
I am simply
coming back
to myself.

— Pavana पवन
It's the hope I hold - that that's my direction.

love yourself.
this is how
we become

— Pavana पवन
I have my work cut out for me. 

‘What should I
look for in
a man?’
The woman in him.
Search for her.

— Pavana पवन
The loves of my life are the friends I have, I have had, and I will make. There is no love like that of a woman. The selfless. The giving. The empathy. The nature of the feminine in its maternal roots. I am not a mother. I will never be a mother. I reject that role. But there are parts of me that have that unquestioned reactive caring. If we're gendered to have certain roles, certain strengths, certain values to be valued, the feminine is it.
“We age not by years, but by stories.” 
— Pavana पवन
A story can age you terribly. A light-hearted nature can keep you young. You're an old soul, they said. Maybe that's why I'm so tired.

Check out the words. No doubt better read without my reactions.