Thursday, March 31, 2016

(Half) facing it.

Not a great day today. Not the best of moods.

I'm tired, and last night I felt weird and off. My mouth tastes like metal because of the steroids, and I'm feeling slow.

I don't know what's to be expected and what's psycho-somatic.

The prognosis on Wikipedia also mentioned how earlier healing is a good sign, so I'm well aware if things don't start improving in the next two weeks, things could be long for me. A co-workers buddy had it for over 9 months. That's significant. From Wikipedia:
Most people with Bell's palsy start to regain normal facial function within 3 weeks—even those who do not receive treatment. In a 1982 study, when no treatment was available, of 1,011 patients, 85% showed first signs of recovery within 3 weeks after onset. For the other 15%, recovery occurred 3–6 months later. After a follow-up of at least 1 year or until restoration, complete recovery had occurred in more than two-thirds (71%) of all patients. Recovery was judged moderate in 12% and poor in only 4% of patients.Another study found that incomplete palsies disappear entirely, nearly always in the course of one month. The patients who regain movement within the first two weeks nearly always remit entirely. When remission does not occur until the third week or later, a significantly greater part of the patients develop sequelae. A third study found a better prognosis for young patients, aged below 10 years old, while the patients over 61 years old presented a worse prognosis.
 Also, some "facts" according to Health:
  • Men or women of any age can suffer Bell's palsy, but statistics suggest that people aged 20 to 35 are at a slightly higher-than-average risk. 
  • Your risk of experiencing Bell's palsy in our lifetime is about 1 in 60.
  • Japanese research has found that 80% of cases can be traced to the common virus called herpes simplex 1, the virus that causes cold sores. The virus infects the seventh cranial (facial) nerve, which helps control the muscles associated with facial expression. As the nerve swells up, it starts to malfunction.
  • There is no known way of preventing Bell's palsy.
I guess it helps as I read more and as I am more informed. Sometimes I read articles that are like, "it's so temporary and you'll see improvements in 3-4 weeks!" But other times it's stories like, "I had it for over a year, my face never fully healed, and now I have synkinesis, and crocodile tear syndrome." So it's kind of a crap shoot.

So, synkinesis is when the new nerve paths make links to other nerves while regenerating, so every-time you might smile, your eye might blink, or curve a certain way.

And Crocodile Tear Syndrome, from what I understand, would mean tearing up when hungry, or when eating. For some reason this is kind of funny to me. I guess it depends how bad it would be. It's just kind of absurd as a chubby girl, to cry when you're hungry. 

Speaking of that, being chubby and hungry that is, the steroids are making me rage-hungry. Not in a craving kind of way, in a real "I need to eat" kind of way.  

I'm trying to up my water intake too, I'm always thirsty. 

Today I have my yearly work review, which, let's face it, will be awkward and hard. I was worried about it before, since I've been waiting for a raise for 2 years, and now I'm impaired and not really able to work as much or as hard so it's hard to feel justified in expecting a living wage. 

It's weighing on me. I'm looking forward to it being over, but I'm so tired, and I'm worried about "rolling over" to not being compensated properly. I also just really don't know what to expect since there have been so many changes company-wide. I've been where I am for over 2 years, and it's been rock and roll since I got here. Lay-off's and retirements and buy-outs and project cancellations and big contracts and drama, and I just don't feel secure. 

Work stress and money stress do not help. But they've been constant since my lay-off prior to this job. It's not a great job economy and I know I'm lucky to have a job, even if I'm under-used and over-qualified. I don't make good money, but I do make some, and that's not nothing.

I know I don't have to be grateful for what I have, but it's hard for me not to be. I am. It could always be worse. It's a mentality that gets me through, and it's hard to see things otherwise. 

It could always be worse. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Can't Feel (half of) My Face.

Technically this is incorrect. I can indeed feel my face, I just can't move it.

Last night I went to bed earlier, before 9 pm, I think it helped. A few colleagues who hadn't been in yet this week saw me today, so I've done the introduction to society bit, just like a débutante!

My mom is coming into the city today, we're going to go for lunch and meet with our tax guy to sign our tax returns for 2015. Fingers-crossed I get a decent return this year, it would be nice.

Pray for my tiny pile of money! Well, it's a bit of a hole now, so maybe pray that it be less of a hole and more of a wee pile.

Help me gods I don't believe in! Help me Tom Cruise!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No more spoons, only knives left.

Gargantua has this great t-shirt available.

Really happy to promote work I can get behind, and that's also (somewhat) local! Check out their other t-shirts, I also like "THEY."

Well, it’s been weird (like my face).

Well, it’s been weird.

I decided to buck-up and go into work. Sitting at home was just going to further along my narration of feeling sorry for myself. Besides, it’s not like I have tons of vacation days and am making enough money to actually take time off. So, I came into work.

I figured I need to work, I need the pay-checks, it would be good to get out of the house, and there’s no telling how long I’ll be living with Bell’s palsy for, so I might as well live as if it’s my new normal. And honestly, it hasn't taken that long for it to be my “new normal.” It's what I've got right now.

I was the first in the office, and the next two architects in were quick to notice and ask me about it. One got pretty upset, which upset me. I guess it’s kind of upsetting to see me. I look sad I think. I'm like a puppy in a cast. Only I'm a grown human woman with a half-paralysed face.

I decided to send an e-mail out to my co-workers, explaining what happened and linking to the Bell’s palsy wiki. I mean, you can’t not notice, so at least this way people might answer their own questions. A few people I’m closer to were more upset, and were pretty empathetic.

Overall, it went well, it just takes a lot of energy to manage people’s reactions. I got upset once, and it was Monday morning talking to one of the senior architects who just looked so sad. I was saying that Friday and Saturday had been hard on my morale, and I choked up a bit.

I'm lucky to have had Friday in the hospital and the weekend to adjust. It has helped me adjust, and just kind of accept it. I felt sorry for myself, but that got old fast enough.

Eating lunch is hard, so I try and take it slow to not be gross. I drink with a straw I brought in. I don’t buy plastic straws anymore ever since watching a video of a sea turtle with a straw up his nose.

My right eye has started twitching, and I'm tired. I'm going to have to try and sleep more, and rest the eye more. It's going to be an adjustment. Daily, I guess.

Navigating the world with an eye-patch on has been something. First, I look like a pirate. But I also wear black a lot so I look like an assassin pirate I guess. It affects my depth perception. And I can't really smile. Walking around it has a nice "fuck off leave me alone" quality. But sometimes I don't want to look that way. Sometimes I want to smile. 

I went to the Kiehl's store yesterday to pick up a moisturiser I had sampled the week before my paralysis. I got the same sales rep, who was quick to be like, "You weren't paralysed last week!" Which, in fairness, I wasn't.

The other sales girls were really curious about it.

To be honest it's kind of socially interesting to see people's reactions. People really internalize it. There are some people who have really big, deep reactions. Some are clearly terrified at the thought of waking up disfigured, even if it's promised to be temporary. Some look disgusted. Worried. Some are disbelieving. People want to know why and how they can avoid it. 

To be clear, it isn't promised to be temporary. There can be lasting effects, and I'm still learning about them. But, it's still early days and I'm overwhelmed as it is so I'm trying to take it slow.

All of this reminds me of an article recommended to me on how not saying the wrong thing when you're interacting with someone going through something difficult. Apparently this is known as "ring theory." 

The illustration is by Wes Bausmith, sourced from the LA Times article.

So, according to this theory, if you're communicating "inward" (towards the person or people who are more directly affected by the illness or trauma) you're meant to be comforting. If you're looking to "dump" on someone, or "complain" and make it about you, it should be to someone who is further out from the centre of that trauma. 

The closer that person is to the bullseye (as compared to you) the more supportive you should be. 

It's a great theory. I think that there are some people who are so innately self-centred and anxious that they're unable to truly empathize outside of themselves. So presenting this theory to someone who is a narcissist, won't change that.

It's been interesting to see peoples reactions. Who says something supportive? Who can't get past what my situation would mean to them? It seems that friends who are more likely to be described as being good looking, or who would self-identify as their looks being important to them, have taken it really hard. They have big reactions. I'm guessing for them, they can't imagine going out and living a life that's disfigured. 

Being pretty has never been an identifier for me. It's not even in my top 10. But for someone who whom it's in the top 3, I can see how it would really shake them.

I think most reactions have been because I look sad. I look like I'm frowning and I'm not wearing make-up and I just look sad. So people see me and reflect that. 

I think for a lot of people, it's potentially one of the worse "temporary" medical issues they can get since it's so visible and clear. 

For me my acceptance of this, is entirely reliant on whether or not this is indeed temporary. I say that, knowing full well, if this ends up permanent I have absolutely no recourse. I mean, I'm "accepting" this first and foremost because I have no real choice in the matter. And yes, it's easier to swallow if I tell myself it is most likely temporary, but this is all guesswork. It's a great way to sooth the worries of others. I get to say, "it's supposed to be temporary."

I understand that for some it might seem obvious that it's temporary, and that it could clear up in weeks, but in the research I've seen, and in the stuff I've read so far, there does not seem to be two cases alike. I saw a 4-week heal rate in someone very young, and I've seen cases drag on over a year, with very slow progress. Some people do have permanent impairments. I've read of people going through acupuncture and referring to it as a miracle cure, like I've seen people say they went to 10 sessions and had no change. Wikipedia is saying it's mainly treated with steroids, but for now it doesn't even seem like studies are conclusive on its efficacy. 

It could be inflammation based. It could be stress based. It could come from a virus. It could a lot of things. It's described as being a diagnosis of "exclusion" in that it's not a stroke and it's not B, C, or D, thus it's Bell's palsy. 

For now it's just a ton of questions and just trying to figure things out while resting because I'm exhausted and impaired. My eye has been twitching a lot. I get muscle pain in my under jaw, like right in my mouth/jaw. 

My mom wanted to treat me last night so we had turkey burgers with bacon in it. I was eating it like a bird with the side-hole of my mouth, the only part that works. It was kind of bananas. I feel like one of those impaired background players in an Adam Sandler movie. You know, one of his buddies he casts in all his films, to act dumb and usually back-watery. I laugh out of the side of my mouth and just want to make it even weirder by completely changing my physical comedy. 

It's been weird.

It's been absurd, really.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hells bells (palsy).

Well, what the fuck. If this my life?

I woke up yesterday with a numb mouth. I thought I slept on my face weird, and went back to bed. When I woke up I had lost all control of the right side of my face. If I try and sip water, it falls out of the right side of my mouth. I tried to eat toast and couldn't properly bite into it, or taste it. My right eye doesn't close. And when I smile, only half of my face moves.

I called Info Santé (which is a free health-care question line, answered by registered nurses) and the nurse asked me some questions and had me test some other muscle functioning. I could grip my hands, and the paralysis seemed to only be of the face, but the nurse recommended I go to the closest emergency room.

Initially, I was worried about a stroke, I was worried about being permanently "disfigured," I was worried about not being able to drink coffee in coffee shops, bite into a tomato sandwich or you know, smile ever again. I have this lopsided smile that seems sarcastic and shitty at best.

So we headed to the ER, where I went through triage and was coded as a Priority 3. I ended up getting in there at about 4:00 pm, I saw a nurse, did some muscle tests,  an EKG and a blood pressure test. Turns out, I didn't have to take a blood test because 24 hours earlier (more on that later) I had been to my local CLSC (a community-based health centre) for another medical test, so they happened to have those blood samples on-site. I was given a bracelet and a wait number. After that, it was a long wait. I was re-evaluated once, to see if my stats changed, and then continued to wait.

I saw a doctor around midnight. She did further tests. She said it seemed to be Bell's palsy. She said in most cases it resolves itself within a month or two. It can go away in as little as a week. She also said it can be permanent (like with Jean Chretien) and there can be long-lasting after affects, that maybe only I would notice. And so I left there around 1 in the morning shaken and exhausted.

Today, I've been resting and just kind of a mess. I've texted some friends, since yesterday the only people who knew I was in the ER were my mother, brother and my friend S. I texted her then called her once I was through the triage process. Her mother is actually partially paralysed due to a malpractice at her birth (the woman birthing her wanted to wait for the doctor so she "pushed her back in" and broke her fucking neck).

I explained what was going on with my face, and said it was great to have this happen right before my work review - which is this week. I'll be eye-patched and slurring, so here's to hoping that plays in my favour for getting a fucking living wage.

I don't look forward to going to work on Monday. I'll need to wear my eye patch and explain to my boss and co-workers what's going on. What a shit show.

Not even two months ago it was vertigo! Now it's fucking Bell's palsy! What the goddamn fuck! Before that it was my mom's global amnesia! All of this in the last 4 months!

Is this what happens once you hit your 30's?

The last time I went to see Dr. Rishi, I mentioned this bump I have at the top of my shoulders at the base of my neck. It's known as a buffalo hump. He said it's in line with something called Cushing's syndrome, which I then looked up, and for which I have 90% of the symptoms. It's eery. Down to the big'ol moon face.

So, he had given me a prescription to go for a blood test, and do a 24-hour urine cortisol test. So, Thursday of this week I got up earlier and went in for the blood test and got the giant pee-pee jug. No joke. Giant.

So, before I could even complete those tests I got Bell's. The thing is, Cushing's deals with cortisol levels, and the test I was suppose to do does as well. So I guess I have to wait to be off the cortisol to then test my cortisol levels.

I left a message with Dr. Rishi, it's easter weekend, so he'll be back in on Tuesday. I said I had been in the ER and that I was diagnosed with Bell's palsy, and that I had questions about my urine test and stuff. Hopefully he'll call me quick on Tuesday.

I would hate for the cortisol derivative I'm taking to fuck with me even more if I do in fact have Cushing's.

Part of me was hopeful the urine/cortisol testing would bring back the Cushing's diagnosis so I can at least feel justified in my having lived with, and experienced these symptoms for real. At least I'd have an answer. Maybe I could look into treatment.

Well, there's a reason I haven't written much about it or mentioned it to most of my friends, I'm afraid of being too hopeful. I don't want to set myself up for disappointment.

All of this has been side-tracked of course, by my facial paralysis.

I face-timed with my brother, which was a great distraction.

Happily I got more supportive messages from my friends.

A couple of friends in particular were kind of on-the-nose about how I was feeling. Really in the "what the fuck" "are you fucking for real" vein. I guess having them reflect that back to me was nice, like, it's not just me, it's been a rough 4 months.

Feeling vindicated in how you feel is a comfort.

I'm lucky, I have some good friends.

It's taken me most of the day to just work around to sitting down and writing. Yesterday was rough. Today I have good moments and bad moments. I'm mainly with my mother, and she was with me since the hospital so there's no discovery of it for her. But going out, and not being able to smile at people, and being impaired in my speech is hard. 

It's still early days, so those around me are pushing that it's likely temporary. I hope it is. When I think about never being able to smile again, it's a lot. 

One day at a fucking time. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I told the truth in my sister’s obituary, so that others might choose to live.

The Washington Post has a great piece up. Entitled I told the truth in my sister’s obituary, so that others might choose to live, the piece is written by a woman whose sister died by suicide due to her struggle with depression. The author, Eleni Pinnow chose to write and speak honestly about the death of her sister in the obituary she wrote for her.

The obituary, brought me to tears. Reading the obituary also moved someone over at the Washington Post, since they decided to contact Pinnow directly.

Read all of it. Read Pinnow's article, then the obituary.

Many feels.

Her call to arms at the end of her piece reinforces by desire to be open and honest about my struggles.

The article then linked me to this, An open letter to the Whole Foods shoppers who consoled me when I learned of my dad’s suicide which also made me cry. It's a testament to kindness and care, and my heart is just exploding right now.

Many, many feels.

The suicide note as literary genre.

Lit Hub has a piece up, The Suicide Note as Literary Genre. The author only focuses on literary heavyweights, like Virginia Woolf, whose note, like all of her writing is morose and distantly powerful:
Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. 
There's no real discussion of suicide as an act of desperation and pain, it's framed through the value of literary voices and of their written legacy. What Woolf is saying is not unlike any other "normal" suicide note, she's saying her partner is too good for her, and that she feels she's ruining their life, and that she was indeed happy with them, but that it needs to end for her now. She can't anymore.

He author ends his piece saying:
It is little wonder, then, that there are those of us who read and return to the literature of suicide with interest, and always with a sense of gratitude, an awareness of embattled courage. No matter how often I read them, it still seems an incredible thing to have laid words upon a void, to have given raiment even to expiration.
Raiment, or dressing that "expiration" in language only romanticizes it. A painter can represent a harrowing, isolate landscape and it can be truly beautiful to look at and ponder, but to live there is a horror. And in some art, there is an amount of exploitation. A photographer takes a picture of a war zone, of an absolute horror scene that someone is living through, and that piece of work will represent that horror for better or for worse. That photographer cannot claim responsibility for the way in which that photograph is interpreted. They can, however claim their intent. In the case of this piece on suicide notes as literature, the author does have a very romantic view of these pieces as literature first, and as a pained expression second.

That's not to say that there is no literary value to suicide notes, there can be. But for me, the context within which they were created cannot be extruded from the resulting literary output.

Having "given raiment even to expiration" is a pretty turn of phrase for something more plainly expressed by saying the writers of these suicide notes used their art, and their main communication tool - writing - to express their despair and attempt to explain their actions to those left behind.

I don't know, the piece bugs me. I think it's fucked up to overly enjoy this kind of writing, especially from a non-depression based reading. If you're mentally ill, reading a suicide note can evoke a lot of feelings in you, and it can be helpful in describing your own pain or experience if language isn't your forte. It's also speaking at a pitch that I recognize.

Overly "fetishizing" this writing is fucked up and seems disrespectful to me. The author is quick to point out that criticism and then dismiss it, but it's valid. These are intimate pieces written for specific people, mind your business. He writes about it with glee. It bugs me.

The Isolator.

Friday, March 18, 2016

I Can't Go On / I’ll Go On.

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read  I Can't Go On / I’ll Go On by Janice Lee. 

Quoting bits of it would be a disservice to the piece. Please read it in it's entirety. 


This made me laugh. Source.

Made by Animated Text - which seems like a fun thing!

Their shop is rad!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Intrusive thoughts.

Extremely well designed website on Intrusive Thoughts.

Check out the website, Intrusive Thoughts.

Blame the amygdala.

Huffington Post has a piece on how people with anxiety have mappable brain differences.

The cited study found that: "people diagnosed with anxiety are less likely to be able to differentiate neutral or "safe" stimuli from threatening ones." Which, I mean, like, duh. A bit more:
The scientists found that those with anxiety experienced lasting plasticity long after an emotional experience (aka a "stimulus") ended. This means the brain was unable to distinguish new, irrelevant situations from something that's familiar or non-threatening, resulting in anxiety. In other words, anxious individuals tend to over-generalize emotional experiences, whether they are threatening or not. 
Most importantly, researchers noted, this reaction is not something that an anxious individual can control, because it's a fundamental brain difference.
Apparently they found that the participants with anxiety has differences in the amygdala, which is associated with fear.

         * Pop-culture aside: amygdala makes me think of medulla-oblongata. *

Anyway, the piece goes on to say that an emotional event can induce brain changes that can then lead to "full-blown anxiety." It seems like something becomes unable to distinguish a given stimulation from something dangerous.
The new research is a sound reminder that a person is hardly responsible for having a mental illness; surmounting evidence shows mental health conditions have genetic and physiological underpinnings. A 2015 study found that anxiety may be hereditary, while other research suggests depression may be an inflammatory disease.
I hope research gets more funding, because something tells me we're so close to a breakthrough in treating depression and anxiety. There's a major missing link, in this "modern plague."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Classes I can't remember, grades I can't forget.

I've been looking into a local graduate program here, and looking into the admissions requirements has been a bit of a kick in the cooch.

First, staying in Montreal is my only real option. I could pay for an entire master's program here for the cost of one semester our of province. That's fucking malarkey.

Looking at the highs and lows of my university grades is something. Hit or miss really. My final university GPA was 3.19, but the start was rough. Going through my transcripts was actually upsetting. I didn't expect that. It's an actual record of a time in my life I barely remember. It's a cold record, which does not care for me or my problems. It's an official transcript.

This  next bit makes me laugh, because it shows the difference between hard-theory and classes where I could use a more creative approach to the work. A professor I thought the world of taught Feminist Thought which was heavy theory (Émile Durkheim and shit like that). I took her two introductory classes while also taking classes that involved more popular culture and the possibility of creative projects.

As you can see, the heavier theory classes (first two) didn't go down so well. Pop culture stuff went great though!

The start of university was rough, but eventually things got better as I ran from Human Relations and settled into Women's Studies.

What's difficult to look back on, is the grades, failures and class suspensions during the first year out of high school. In Quebec we have a CEGEP program, which is like a pre-univeristy college. We have one year less of high school than other places. Instead, it goes high school, then cegep/college, then university. Or, high school, technical college/cegep.

First, I left high school and went into Liberal Arts. This was a huge mistake. I didn't even know what Liberal Arts really was. I took the title of the program literally (problem #1), and was surrounded by rich private school kids that didn't even speak the same language as me (not literally). It was so alien.

Shit then hit the fan with a boy I was in an unhealthy relationship with. I changed school, went into Social Studies for a semester, did terribly, felt worse, and then headed back to my original school, where I bounced around the creative arts until I graduated with a Arts & Culture degree.

Things were such a mess. I was in so much pain. I was manic. It's just hard to look back on.

This "rough patch" lasted throughout my college life. Roughly 3 years. University continued that, but I was on a slow incline. My time in graphic design followed that (I graduated in 2011) and the last few years have been the best I've had in the last decade. 

It really bums me out that these grades follow me around. As they do anyone else who had an accident, survives a trauma or has some type of mental break. Registrars don't give a fuck. 

I know I shouldn't settle on this. I'm trying not to fixate on the image and the low numbers. I know that eventually, I was able to stand back up and move along, but it's so hard. It's like remembering a wound. It's a type of ghost-limb syndrome. A muscle memory for pain. A general sense of uneasiness and a heat in the chest. 

Things got better. I eventually got better. I have more good days now.

I was able to graduate from university. This is a privilege. This is something I earned. That I paid for. That I accomplished. That's not nothing.

I did okay. Excluding chemistry of course - but don't expect too much from me. I'm in the fucking arts.

What I'm feeling isn't fear. I thought maybe it might be, since I'm looking at grad school now, and that means re-learning an academic language. It means more work. It means academic texts. It means papers. It means a thesis. It means work and school. It means long hours. But things are different. I have methods of coping now. I have a support system. I'm able to better manage my expectations, and don't overly commit to things. I know how to say no. I can drop out. I can work less. I can move things around. I don't feel the same pressure now, maybe because I don't feel forced into it. 

For a long time, I was in school as to be "doing something." I felt like for as long as I was in school, I wasn't actively ruining my life. It was a pause on decisions. It was a pause on the big moves expected of your 20's.

What I feel now, when looking at these transcripts is yes, some sadness. But I also feel empathy for myself, then. I still feel the twinge in my chest. It hurts. It's the reverberation of a devastation. It's similar to that feeling you have when you walk away from an upsetting documentary, only it's evoked by your own memory. 


I thought this was cute as hell. It also applies to me.

Originally posted here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

That's not even close to right.

My mother has the ability to attempt to name an actor and consistently be incorrect through the oddest of twists and swapped letters.

This weekend while driving down to visit my brother, she said, "What's his name, Kevin Spacek?"

"Do you mean Kevin Spacey?"

It's constant. It's been for as long as I remember. My favourite, and the time that really sticks to my memory is the time she said something along the lines of, "He reminds me of Ganadoo."

"Gan-a-doo? Who's that?" I asked.

"Oh you know, the wizard guy in the Hobbit movies."

"You mean Gandalf?!" I exclaimed, horrified.

"Yeah yeah, Gandalf."

You have to understand, for several years my family and I re-re-watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy every Christmas break. She has seen hours and hours of LOTR and The Hobbit, it makes no sense that she can't name Gandalf.

I think the only popular culture figures she's never gotten wrong are Oprah and Ellen.

I'm trying to think of other names she's butchered, they're all great. I don't think anything will ever top "Ganadoo" but there's still time.

Lisa Ling and PTSD.

I watched an episode of Lisa Ling's This Is Life last night. It's playing on OWN, after originally playing on CNN.

I really liked Our America by Lisa Ling on OWN, and this is in a similar vein.

I don't know why she left OWN, Our America had a better production value, but the content is similar, and I really like and respect Lisa Ling. According to an interview with Ling, cited on Wikipedia, she could look at "edgier" content with CNN.

Last nights episode "Jungle Fix," was all about ayahuasca, a plant-based hallucinogenic that is espoused by some to be a useful tool in confronting and dislodging trauma. 

Ling travels to Peru and interviews folks who flew down there specifically to take the drug, and to try and face their demons. 

The most powerful interviews come out during her interviews with veterans. They are clearly (understandably) angry at the lack of help they're getting back home, and with about 22 American veterans committing suicide daily, they're willing to try anything to alleviate some of their pain.

While on Our America, Ling did an episode called "Invisible Wounds of War" that, to this day, my friend S and I talk about. It deeply, deeply moved and upset me. The pain was palpable. I could taste it and feel it and it was just an overwhelming viewing experience.

That might make it seem frightening, but it was beautiful and important. 

I recommend both of these episodes. 

Treatment looks like different things to different people. We don't all have the same needs. We don't process things the same way. We all struggle to access help, and our drug laws are antiquated, maybe access to assisted retreats with certain drugs could in fact dislodge certain things for certain people. 

If someone is in deep pain, they deserve the opportunity to try whatever they can to help themselves.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"After" mental illness.

Vice has this article up, What No One Tells You About Life After Mental Illness, it came out over a month ago but I just got to reading it.

First, I understand that for some, mental illness is temporary. You can be in a bad place, and you can move through it. This isn't my experience. I feel like it's been over a decade, and this is life-long. This is it, my lot. Things have been better as I've been trying to access services (with varying degrees of success) and trying to take care of myself. But, with that said, I still have a lot of anxiety and fear about my ability to take care of myself financially. I worry about job security. I worry about securing housing (which I've yet to do independently). 
The important thing to understand about recovery is that it should be treated from the perspective of the person. Many people say the most important thing for them is whether the help they got was focused on the things they wanted, such as sorting out housing and a career.
After something has such a devastating effect on you, regaining control and independence is the most important step in the recovery process.
I will not be recovered once I live on my own, I'll simply be managing. Or, living, just in a different set of circumstances.
My illness left gaps in my life where friends, experiences, and career progression should be, but I've learned to transition from a fear of leaving the house to being able to hold down a job and find a relative sense of stability. No one may have prepared me for illness, but we may as well do whatever we can to talk about what happens afterwards.
The author, Jessica Brown and I seem to have that "gap" experience in common. In some cases, there is the "afterwards," whether that's full recovery or just a batter state of being post-attack or post-episode.

I can understand why it's rarely discussed. As a survivor, or as the ill, it seems to useless and ridiculous to talk about "the future" and "afterwards." It seems beyond ridiculous. In the depths of it, you can barely wrap your head around surviving the hour, let alone having a vision board of what the future holds.

It's just a one-day-at-a-time mentality, moving away from that seems dangerous and unnatural for me.

After it. After all. There's also shame of the time lost. There's pain in there too. Lost time. Lost opportunity. It's a lot to carry around. And it's all so personal, so contextualized. Maybe it's because I'm still in it, still so close to it. It's a major factor in my life, there is no "after" for me. It's everyday.

And if ever it isn't now, it always could be soon.

Gaycation: Japan.

Really impressed by he first episode of Gaycation on the new Viceland.

Of course there's the "classic" look and production of Vice, but the production on the show is top-notch. I just genuinely feel Ellen Page's intent while watching, and it's just nice to see her really living her life openly now. She seems to have a really beautifully sweet friendship with Ian, and I think the show is important and just really well done.

You can watch the whole episode above.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

See Me: Fighting The Invisibility Of Mental Illness.

Great piece over at The Establishment, See Me: Fighting The Invisibility Of Mental Illness. Here are some of my favourite bits: 
Each time I made myself invisible, I did not realize that I was slowly but surely falling down the rabbit hole of severe mental illness. Sure I was always sad, confused, solitary. I led a life of few friends, bad relationships, and constant self-harm. But that was simply the way things were. I never thought that when I took the trowel to my arm when I was eight years old that I would be sitting here 30 years later, frantic that my food stamps were just cut off and my disability check would never pay all the bills. I never thought that the breakdown I had right after grad school was actually a psychotic break, that my bipolar disorder was in control of my life now, and that as hard as I tried, I couldn’t hold a job, or a relationship, or even a place to live.
This says so much about the power of aid and (in my case) diagnosis.  There is a reason why everything seems harder for me. There is legitimacy to your struggle.
It’s easier than one might think to stay invisible. When I speak out for mental health advocacy, when I tell my story, people get uncomfortable. Society wants us to stay behind locked doors, and if we are out, plenty of people want us to either accept the poverty level of living that being on permanent disability demands, or to fake being one of you “normals” and keep our illnesses invisible.
I think about this often, it doesn't show in my face - certain things can clue to it, what I talk about, sick days, medical appointments, my voicing having a "bad day," or "feeling sick" but what else?  If I don't speak out, and share my experience with those around me, how would they know? If I don't identify as "mentally ill" when the news and media use that term in one of many blanket statements, I lose that chance to represent a complex identifier.
It’s so easy to be invisible in a world that doesn’t want to see you. So I make the decision every day to be seen. I talk about my illnesses, my addictions, my pain. I encourage others to do the same. I give out my number. I even assure people that they can call me instead of texting. Little things like that to do anything and everything I can to keep us from vanishing into the ether.
This hits me hard. I started this blog a little over a year ago. Initially anonymously. I struggle with that. I struggle with that because I am open in my everyday life, but I worry about how using my full name here might affect a job prospect, or a google-search of my name.

Sure, The Bloggess Jennifer Lawson writes candidly about her experiences, but she also makes a living off of that candor. She's a best-seller. Before she was a best-seller she has a partner who worked. She was not an island that would sink if left to the option of representing itself honestly.

Jenny is very much the exception to the rule. Just scroll down her comment feed and see tons of people, linking to countless blogs, most of which deal with illness of some kind. Anxiety. Depression. Severe mental illness comes with it the specific curse of being an invisible disability. 

Here I will commit to my first name. My name is Kristin. 

I want to share all parts of myself here, but not quite yet.

Radical survival.

Something I made for a creative project I'm working on.

Not sure if it's complete, or if I'll make a sticker or a patch out of it. . . .

All survival is radical. Remember that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Daniell Koepke quote.

Your needs don’t make you too much. They don’t make you selfish or weak or greedy — they make you human. We all have needs, and we all need to be able to communicate and honour them. Making your needs known isn't demanding or selfish. It’s about self-care. It’s about acknowledging your limits and creating a safer space for yourself. It’s about using your voice and speaking your truth. It’s about giving yourself permission to take up space. It’s about listening to your body and your heart and the most authentic parts of your being and honouring them. It’s about honouring yourself. And most importantly, it’s about giving yourself license to navigate the world in ways that allow you to cope and survive. 
— Daniell Koepke 

For depression, primary care doctors could be a barrier to treatment.

Featured on PBS, For depression, primary care doctors could be a barrier to treatment has a few important points I'm going to pull-out.
Often referred to as the “common cold of mental health,” depression causes about 8 million doctors’ appointments a year. More than half are with primary care physicians. A new study suggests those doctors may not be the best to treat the condition due to insurance issues, time constraints and other factors.
That’s important. Most people with depression seek help from their primary care doctors, the study notes. Why? Patients often face “shortages and limitations of access to psychiatrists,” the authors write. For example, patients sometimes have difficulty locating psychiatrists nearby or those who are covered by their insurance plans.
I can attest to this, but my experience is isolated.  For me, I'm lucky to have access to basic insurance plan through work, which would cover up to 800$ of session through a co-pay structure. I think it covers 80% of the cost. And I'm reimbursed after several days. To me, this isn't ideal. I'm sure it's fine when you don't live pay-check to pay-check, but when you do, shelling out 60-160$ for a session upfront is brutal. It's not always even possible!
The approach to depression should be like that of other chronic diseases. By and large, primary care practices don’t have the infrastructure or haven’t chosen to implement those practices for depression.” 
My experience with Dr. Rishi, and the countless folks I interacted with before, leads me to think this is very generational. Younger doctors seem to have a more inclusive view of wellness. I often think this has to do with their inclusion in that generation themselves. They know. They're part of a generation or two that has high anxiety, and for which mental health is a part of the vernacular.
“When we treat high blood pressure, the blood pressure may start at 150 over 95, and then it’s monitored over time until it gets to a level that’s being aimed for. If somebody has depression, their symptoms need to be monitored until it gets to a level that the depression is lifted.”
If we actually treat depression as a chronic illness and use the level of tools we’re using for diabetes, then we’ll be able to better treat patients — and help them live healthier lives and more productive lives."
Well... yes. It is a chronic illness. I need to be checked-in on. I need to be able to say when things are going better or worse. We need to be aware of my treatments. I need to be followed. If I stop taking my medication, I become disabled by the withdrawal. I lose my mind! When winter comes around - I have to prepare myself for a few months of an additional bout of seasonal affective disorder, and my doctor needs to play a role in that as well. 

The ultimate goal is to have a witness to my health. To be able to map out if there are cycles and methods of coping with those cyclical ups and downs that work for me. I feel that Dr. Rishi could be a partner in that, and everybody deserves that support. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Everything is expensive. Please be less expensive everything.

So on a slow day at work I had started to look into further training and classes I could take. 

I get bored sometimes, and I also worry about my job security and my employability.

I ended up on the OCAD website, taking a look at their Inclusive Design master's degree. 

Turns out, their inclusive design graduate degree is made pretty exclusive by the 20,000$ price-tag. 

I think inclusive design could be an interesting field, and find it especially interesting in regards to mental health. While in crisis, sometimes I'm non-verbal. Design tools that cater to that, and that aim for a non-verbal representation of needs could be really helpful. 

I was introduced to K through a buddy while in Victoria. K is doing a masters revolving around disability at Concordia University. We talked at length on a beach in Victoria (not too shabby). She recommended Feminist Queer Crip and On Being Ill by Virginia Woolf. Both are on my to-read reading list. 

I hope I can talk to her about her experience with the Concordia master's program - I think she's doing it with the school of fine art though - I'm not sure.

I feel kind of stuck these days. I don't have much money coming in. I still have some credit card debt to pay off, I have a minimum amount saved up for a down-payment (10,000$) and now time is just passing. I'm still living pay-check to pay-check. I guess I just feel I need a project. 

I'm attempting to take better care of myself but I have good days and bad days. I haven't been cooking. 

I went for brunch with a buddy yesterday and she talked about her having greatly benefited from an elimination diet, which helped her figure out which foods aggravate her fibromyalgia and chronic eczema. We talked about it at length, since she says she feels drastically different, and feels her general mood, depression and energy have changed for the better. 

She's not one to preach on this kind of stuff, but she said I might find it interesting and helpful, which I might. I do feel lethargic and tired after bread and carbs, so I would probably see a big difference in reducing my wheat consumption. 

I am thinking about housing and I'm thinking about work and I'm thinking about what I want, and I just go back and forth on a lot of it. Sometimes I'm bored and feel like I could do more. Other times I feel like I should limit my responsibilities and commit to the least amount possible. 

Ups and downs.