Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Daily prizes.

By Anne Borges over at Buzzfeed.

Feeling these today, especially the first. Haven't been sleeping well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rockhaven sanitarium.

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

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

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

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

On "brain zaps."

Man oh man.

baby confused upset funny face pooping

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

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

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

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

"Oh, so I legit hear things now."

What a fun step forward!

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

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

The value of "mental health days."

sick flu cartoon adventure time cartoon network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The piercing eyes of children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Because he was so much older than me."

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

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

"But why?"

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

"Am I in high school?"

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

"I like art and gym."

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

"WHAT!? That's crazy."

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


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

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

Dog philosophy.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dogs as an antidepressant.

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

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

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

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

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

dog dogs panda dog s cute animals

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

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

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

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

The BarkPost  love animated cute dog

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

The BarkPost  cute dog food adorable

I miss having a little furry friend.

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

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

funny dog funny puppy funny animals cute

Charged by the pound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right in the innards.

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

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

What a time to be alive.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Calming cat.

Here’s a calming cat specially for you


Lady GaGa and the Emotion Revolution.

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Uncharacteristically warm days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would have something. Something in my name.

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

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

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

That is exciting but it also makes me tired.