Friday, March 31, 2017

You are not who you were.

From an article on Quartz:
The longest personality study of all time, published in Psychology and Aging and recently highlighted by the British Psychological Society, suggests that over the course of a lifetime, just as your physical appearance changes and your cells are constantly replaced, your personality is also transformed beyond recognition.
If your patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior so drastically alter over the decades, can you truly be considered the same person in old age as you were as a teenager? This question ties in with broader theories about the nature of the self. For example, there is growing neuroscience research that supports the ancient Buddhist belief that our notion of a stable “self” is nothing more than an illusion.
I would think that on a laid out time frame, the largest difference in self is from teenagehood to adulthood. Let's say, 15 to 30. The difference from 30 to 40 or 40 to 50 wouldn't be huge, but the emotional, hormonal and life difference of being a teenager to being an adult is astronomical. 

Once you're in a 9 to 5 and you're just trudging along, the space for significant discovery or change is mostly self-initiated, whereas in youth, in schooling and in entering the working/social marketplace you are forced to react to stimuli you didn't ask to be introduced to. Forced growth and change. Both of which are painful, and require a lot of time and energy that we ration carefully as we get older.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Can psychedelic drugs work magic on depression?

Some excerpts:
The pharmaceutical industry has developed the preparation of ketamine called esketamine which, instead of having to inject intravenously, can be inhaled under medical surveillance, of course. 
And there are at least three trials ongoing in different countries, in different centres. We are one of the centers and if everything goes well we're talking probably about commercialization in late 2019.
It could have a major impact because, for example, it could be given to people who have had treatment resistance. And then we would have the capacity to get them well very fast. And then more research will have to be carried out to see if it could be used earlier in the sequence of treatment. And like I mentioned before almost everybody experiences a decrease in suicidal ideation. And that's the major impact because there are 4,000 Canadians dying from suicide in Canada every year, 11 a day.

Check out the aricle, or the radio episode.

I'm willing to try anything to feel better - I don't care of it's horse tranquilizer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sarah Silverman and Pete Holmes.

Great interview/conversation between between Sarah Silverman and Pete Holmes on You Made It Weird (one of my favourite podcasts).

Silverman discusses her recent hospital scare, and her mourning for the deaths of three people close to her (Harris Wittels, Garry Shandling and her mother). They talk about life, religion and some pretty existential stuff.

Sarah has also been open about her living with depression and needing medication to function.

From this podcast:
Depression - there's a certain aspect of it that's self-obsession. As soon as you decide to focus away from yourself and have empathy and understanding of others, that's when it can go away. It's not a selfless endeavor, it's self-obsessed. Sometimes I forget that others exist. If I can throw myself into others ... you don't become as obsessed with your downward spiral.
Myu desire to get me "outside of myself" is part of why I started volunteering with the dog shelter and the prisoner correspondence project. I needed to get the fuck out of my head, and feel useful. In my case, it has helped.

Depression is ironic in that way, that you're so overly sensitive and feeling of everything, but at the same time, all of that attention is so internalized that you end up being self-obsessed.

Don't ever call a depressed person self-obsessed though - it doesn't come from a place of self-congratulation. It's more about being unable to look away from what you think is an oncoming train wreck you'll be the victim of but you're also responsible for.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm not a carpenter.

It’s a difficult place to be, taking stock in your life, knowing you’ve spent so much of your limited time in these immeasurable periods of waiting. A purgatory with no context.There would seem to be an entire decade of my life spent in waiting. I had these milestones I thought were necessary, not unlike a body grows up and out, so should there be measurable achievements in aging. For thousands of years they’ve been marriage, children, and prosperity. Now what?

And if I reject the more traditional roles and goals, then the means of production I do value - independence, art, critical thought - I should have in abundance. Shouldn’t I? Isn’t the goal always more? Aren’t there immutable ways one has value? Beauty? Skill? Health?

But here I am, the same age as Jesus. Nobody seems to ask if he was a good carpenter or not. I do. I hold no real importance to his value as a messiah since I prefer my fairytales with more whimsy. But, what if he was an excellent carpenter? It must have taken years to develop that skill, that's an impressive feat. What kind of tools did he have access to, B.C. (before, Christ!).

Is there truth in the notion that people aren’t moved by your credentials, but how they felt when they were in your presence? She was funny. She was warm. She was nice. She was well-read and interesting. She was kind to me. She saw me. She fed me cake.

I am not a carpenter. I’m employed as a graphic designer. It’s on my resume, and it’s on my current contract. It pays my bills. I spend my days doing little design work, but it’s the title attributed to me. Designer. But what of it? In our culture, we often ask what someone “does.” What we do for a living. What we do to pay the bills. Is this what I do?

40 hours a week to make a living. The rest of the week to carve out a life.

In the past, it’s been difficult to feel I was of any use. I felt so much pressure - self-imposed (?) - to be productive. Of use. Of value. I reject that now. There is a freedom in being able to go unnoticed. I do not want to be the hero of your story, I’d rather lazily stumble through mine.

What kind of world is this? So surreal in its magnitude, as in its infinite minutiae. So much matters. So little matters. Flip a coin. The micro and the macro. It depends on how much you can take in, and your ability to zoom in and out. Are you aware of your point of view? Can you change your perspective?

Looking at myself and my own life can be difficult because I’m just too close to it. On paper, things are such a way, but subtext isn’t always obvious. And whatever skill it takes for a literary mind to craft that subtext into a narrative, a similar craft is necessary in un-coding the layers of your own psyche.

If my mind is troubled with the impaction of years of soot, where do I begin?

If my feet are dirty and my hands blackened, how can I try and keep clean?

And if I reject my deep desire to understand myself and my dilemmas, how can I see outside of my ingrained constructs?

I slept for 100 years, will it all follow me?

If I woke up 100 years from now, would I feel rested?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Identity theft.

Friday I came home to a notice from the post office that claimed I had purchased mail-forwarding and to contact them if this wasn't the case. It was not, so I called. Turns out someone purchased a mail-forward for three weeks, on my name, and my address.

The post office canceled it. And are now looking into mail fraud.

So, Monday (yesterday) I received a pre-approved credit card. I had fraud on the brain since I'd just received that mail notice so I called and made sure the bank knew it was fraud and to look into it. Turns out the fraudster opened an account with that bank, and that the credit card was approved for 11,000$.

My current credit card limit is a grand, so just thinking about having access to that much debt makes me sick to my stomach.

I then had to call my bank to put a flag on my accounts.

Today I had to call two credit unions to put flags on my accounts, and to look into any odd activity. Turns out they contacted one of them on March 2nd attempting to access my credit report.

I'm satisfied with my handling of it so far, but it still makes me nervous.

At work, four other people are dealing with credit card fraud, but I'm the only one who also had the mail thing done, and had an actual bank account opened and a credit card ordered. I guess they saw my thousand dollar limit and maxed-out account and decided it would just be easier to start from scratch since I'm too broke to rob.

Too broke to rob. Let's go for fraud.

That's probably their shit-bag anthem.

What happened to Robin Hooding? Have a pseudo-moral code and focus on folks with money. Don't fuck with the working poor you fucking shit.

I don't know what the likelihood is of someone being caught - credit card fraud seems common enough, and I'm guessing people don't casually commit identity theft, they gotta be motivated.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Chronic pain, choice and the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers.

*This personal essay is a guest post by a good friend of mine, c.*

Chronic pain, choice and the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers

“I was surprised at how mobile you were given how you talk about your body”. Over the weekend I wrestled in the Garden City Smack Down with the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers. I got on stage, swung a foam bat around, got picked up, got beat up, snarled, kicked, and screamed. It felt amazing.

When a loved one made that comment to me the morning after the match, I felt defensive. Did the physicality of my performance somehow mean that I was no longer living with chronic pain and the accompanying fear of re-injury? I felt like mobility was being prized above the fact that I was actually really strategic and smart about the moves I chose; practicing for hours at home how I could fall in staggered steps to reduce the impact on my body while still putting on an entertaining show; how I designed my character to have a bat in order to give her upper body more strength since I can’t punch, pick up, or push my opponent; and how we were so selective of the types of upper body impact we had in our match. But most of all, the comment, and so many other comments I hear regularly, underline the fact that living with invisible chronic pain is a constant battle of reaffirming my personal boundaries and having to justify the choices I make about my body.

Having a space in the ring to perform strength and physical power felt so damn good. These are two things I have not felt for a few years since I was injured. Embodying my character and throwing down with my (amazing) wrestling partner was a risk I wanted to take. It’s my choice to decide if, when and how I want to risk hurting my body, as it should be for everyone. But because I choose to risk pain today, it doesn’t mean my disability has disappeared. And it doesn’t mean I am open to being questioned about the decisions I make with my body. When I ask for help, or say no, it’s because I am choosing to conserve the little energy I have left, because I don’t have the capacity to deal with the physical and emotional pain at that moment. And if I choose to risk it, that is for me alone to decide.

I decided to participate in the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers about a year ago, when I saw the Velvet City Rumble. When tickets went on sale the first thing I had to check on the event listing was if there was seating. I was worried about what kind of back support the chairs had, if I would be able to sit for the whole match, if I would block the people behind me when I had to get up every twenty minutes to stretch because the pain of sitting was too much. Sitting sucked, as it always did for the first two years after the accidents but the show inspired in me things I hadn’t felt since moving to Victoria from Montreal. At that moment, I decided I would wrestle in the next year’s rumble. I even thought of my character.

In 2014, two months into moving my entire life across the country, I severed several ligaments in my spine, resulting in debilitating pain in my neck, shoulder and thoracic area. A few months after that, I got whiplash, complicating my existing injury. The resulting pain meant that simple daily tasks like lifting the kettle, a frying pan, even brushing my teeth, was so painful, that I was forced to adapt every daily task, and rely on others around me for constant help. While I was avoiding the pain, I was also losing muscle mass. While the level of pain has slowly decreased over the years with countless hours (and dollars) of therapy, I have about 30% of the strength that someone with my build would have on average. The most physically demanding part of my match was holding my 1lb foam baseball bat in my right arm and dancing with it (yeah- the visual of this may sound silly but it was really tough in the ring!).

While I will likely never be able to carry a hiking pack again (a big part of my life pre-accident), and I can’t hold my partners hand on my right side, and I am working on adapting a bicycle so I can hopefully cycle again, I also live with a ton of physical abilities, and experience and participate in able-bodied privileges every day. My pains peak and recede depending on stress, and what I choose to engage in. For a lot of things, with the help of others, I experience life in a lot of the same ways as before the accidents.

My limited strength does mean that I am constantly asking others for help and saying “No I cant do that” and often repeating, “No, I really cant do that”. When those moments happen I am overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame because I feel that I am not participating equally in the tasks at hand. I have to remind myself that the world is a better place when we forget about over simplified notions of equality and rather focus on how we can each use our privileges, skills, and abilities to support one another when we can (or lifting that heavy thing up for someone else because you can) so that everyone has access to participate in whatever they want, in their own way, without judgment.

Asking for help is already really fucking hard. When I ask for help picking something up, if you’re able, just do it; referencing how mobile or strong I appeared on stage (or yesterday, or the week before) is hurtful and undermining because what I am hearing is “You chose to be in pain then why cant you chose to be in pain now?”. That is not your choice, it is mine, and mine alone.

Thanks to the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers and my wrestling partner for all the heavy lifting and reminding me of the other parts of me that are really strong. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh brother...

I've made allusions to some drama in my personal life over the last few weeks. I've had a falling out with my brother, which has taken me some time to process.

At first I was in shock at the confrontation, and was very hurt by it.

To preface this exchange, my father (who passed when I was 13) was in federal law enforcement, as is my brother currently.

Click to enlarge.
Then, as it settled in, I became deeply insulted, angry and disappointed.

Immediately after this exchange, I forwarded it to many of my girlfriends, wanting to know their opinions and their reading of the situation. I was overwhelmed. I needed help processing.

At the time I felt like a piece of shit, and they were quick to reinforce my underlying knowledge that I am in fact, not a piece of shit. I am the opposite. I'm pretty kind, and considerate and am trying to do my best.

The intentions my brother assigned to me were hurtful and disrespectful.

Here are some of my friends' reactions - which will allow me to address certain issues.
Calisse, c'est tellement disturbing. I'm sure you are really upset with this. If you want to talk about it, I'm here. It's such a violent interaction.
This little bit includes some French-Canadian swearing. I put this in Blue. It loosely translated to, "Holy shit, this is so disturbing." Her response to me validated my feelings of being attacked, and of his anger and seeming rage were palpable and unwarranted (in my opinion). Even if I was really angry, I would never be so hostile and mean-spirited.

whoa. i am really sorry. this clearly really triggered something for your brother. he obviously does not share the same world view as you about the prison system, and is basing his comments on his own lived experience and probably does not have emotional space (as a protection mechanism from what he experiences at work/has to put up walls to do what he does) to see your perspective.
i wonder if he will ever see your perspective given his own experiences and what he needs to get through his work day. 
he is clearly really upset and in the heat of the moment. it might be best to leave the situation alone for a bit for him to cool down.
I'm sorry that he is bringing your dad into it. that is not cool and he is clearly leveraging that as a way to guilt you into the action he wants. which is super shitty. I'm sorry. 
you are a good person and doing something that you believe in. unfortunately, your family might not believe in it, but that is their shit, not yours. in situation like this with my family i choose to not engage as a form of self preservation. 
i love you lots and am here for you.
I do not negate the fact that I know nothing of my brothers' experience. My main concern, above all else, is how approached me (assuming the worse), his language, and his general tone.

In the case of my above friend, she has a family that's not great. So I know where she comes from with her "not engaging" comment. Most of the initial comments I got were to let it cool off and take some time.

I think in most cases, my friends being really smart and well trained in people and intervention, in empathy and social justice, means we shared similar perspectives. Having said that, I don't know that I'm the participant in this altercation that needed the most help in processing this. Nevertheless, it's my nature.

It took several days and several conversations with friends to help me process it. I also spoke to my mom about it at different times. When it was fresh, and  days later when I had had some time to think about it.

Click to enlarge.

This was the conversation of the night of. Certain friends I spoke to first, knowing their familiarity with me and my family, or specifically of me.

When I re-read these texts, I can see my willingness to work things out in my head. Part of the subsequent conversations with my mother have been about my brother, how he handles stress and confrontation (poorly) and if he's at able to discuss what happened in a way that would be reflective and helpful to him. I don't know that he's able to do that.

We fall into excusing his behavior, "he's bad with his emotions," "he was too aggressive but he was really upset," and having now stepped back, I reject that. He's a grown ass man. He's my brother, and he shouldn't have come at me like that.

The crux of my disappointment is that he also didn't approach me with curiosity or a willingness to understand, he just attacked me. He could have disagreed with me, or even criticize my choices in a more respectful way.

Click to enlarge.

The lowest blow of all is referencing my father, more than once. He couldn't own his own anger so he dug up my dad to project shame and disappointment onto a bigger target. This is clearly his lashing out to hurt me.

I also made a point of saying I thought he was wrong. My father instilled in me a type of humanist philosophy. He challenged me and gave my philosophy books. I remember a conversation with him about the Oka Crisis, once that left me thinking he was sympathetic to the indigenous position and that he felt they had every right to their land and their protest.

My father was capable of nuance. He was able to hold two thoughts at once, and he nurtured and encouraged my pre-disposition to question everything.

My father is dead. He stopped growing and changing in October of 1997. I would like to think that had he lived, he would have been able to keep learning and growing, the way I aim to. If that were the case, his opinions and methods would have been subject to change.

I would like to think the same of my brother - but do not. Not today. He doesn't seem eager to better himself spiritually or intellectually. He doesn't seem to desire challenging himself in any way. He has his life, he has his priorities. And I have mine.

This fight also punctuated thoughts and fears I've had about him but have supressed. Namely his racism and sexism, and the way he speaks to his partner and children.

He no doubt has a lot of opinions about me and how I choose to live my life.

We're very different, and I don't entirely know how to move on from here. For now, it's been space. We haven't communicated.

I don't see my views or my personal moral code changing anytime soon. I still do not think I did anything wrong. I do not think I have anything to apologize for.

The disappointment that I feel in my brother about his assumptions about me and his approach to our discussion also extends to how I feel he's handled the days since.

We're in very different places, and other than my mother, I don't know what links us right now.

He doesn't feel like a brother, he feels like an antagonist.

Hey Fuzzy Yellow!

Check out the website. Gender is a drag!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A depression reading list.

Longreads shared Living with Depression: A Reading List.

They all seem to be personal essays.

I don't have it in me to read memoir right now, but thought I'd share the link.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Nietzsche and trust.

I'm not upset that you lied to me,
I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you. 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

A lot going on in my personal life this last week, I'll update as soon as I can.