Took A Day Off

So things have been more than a little crazy here. Went to a wedding with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and met his dad’s side of the family. Like any family, there was drama. It followed us. It was so stressful that AAB needed to take an extra day off just to relax and deal with it all.

Things at work are…… interesting. I took a look back at my calendar from last year. Figured out that I am working more days a week, but getting fewer hours. Unless everyone calls in sick, or everyone has the day booked off, 8-hour shifts don’t exist for me anymore. I used to get one or two a week, which I loved. 8-hour shifts seem to go by faster than the shorter shifts I usually get, and I feel so much more energized throughout the shift. But all I’ve been getting lately are 4 and 5-hour shifts. I’m picking up shifts on my days off, and are working few enough hours that other stores in the district have been able to call to see if I can pick up a shift with them. I work 7-16 day stretches, getting up early in the hopes that I can get a call-in for the day on my days off. Then I get weeks where I have like 3 shifts scheduled, and I have to hope that someone gets the flu so I can work. That in itself is super stressful.

Of course, we have the usual roommate drama. One of the guys downstairs got a job in another city, so he’ll be moving out soon. And the guy we share the main floor with is getting creepier with every passing day. He seriously walks like Michael Myers and stares at walls in the middle of the night. Even the precious and all-mighty Bowser Kitten is getting creeped out by him. He won’t eat when the roommate is in the same room as him, almost as if he’s afraid to turn his back on the guy for too long.

Add to this the usual family drama, ever increasing work drama, relationship drama, and the ever-crushing existential darkness that is creeping in closer with every passing day, and I’ve been super stressed. That “speeding heart rate and fluttery chest” feeling I get when my anxiety is getting worse has been like an every morning/evening thing for me. I’ve been existing in a constant state of panic for the last week and a half basically.

The final nail in my sanity’s coffin was Monday at work. We already had three co-workers off that day, with another filling in at another store. I traded shifts with a co-worker, so I had a morning shift and he was taking my closing shift. So while we’re already short staffed, he calls in sick AND our full-day closer calls in sick. To top it off, the three girls at the bottom of the schedule are students and couldn’t come in for a closing shift. We had craft beer deliveries all day, and our regular beer load, and not enough people to cover everything. I had to stay a few hours extra, and my co-worker and manager both wound up with split-shifts to close the store short-handed. I came home from that shift and poured wine right away. I know it’s not healthy, and it’s totally not a great way to deal with my anxiety, but I drank. And I mean I DRANK! Chilean cabernet sauvignon is both cheap AND delicious, and I buy it in the big bottles (1.5L). I had half of one left from the weekend and polished that off. THEN I worked my way through a second one while I stayed up too late watching Twin Peaks and writing emotionally draining notes for a writing project I’m doing.

So yesterday, feeling hungover and emotionally drained, I finally took a day to myself. I know I’ve been preaching self-care on here a lot, but I’m horrible at practicing what I preach. I always make sure AAB takes time for himself, and lend my ear to anyone who needs it at work. But when I’m at home, “Taking time for myself” usually means sitting at the computer watching old Vines and looking at job ads while I go through my social media accounts and make to-do lists for the day. Yesterday, I did none of that.

I laid in bed for way too long, not even touching my phone. I didn’t check my email, Instagram, or Twitter until the afternoon. I just laid there with Bowser Kitten, clearing my mind and cuddling. When I finally got up, I stayed in the bathroom for more than an hour doing random beauty things that I never take the time to do for myself. Threw in a hair mask, exfoliated my face, did a face mask, and then took a long relaxing shower. Took some extra time to rub coconut oil on everything, threw on tights and fuzzy socks, and took the time to use all those weird expensive face creams and toners and eye creams and stuff that I keep getting from Ipsy.

After doing dishes and laundry, I made some buttery pasta with faux crab and threw on the 10-hour Vine compilation, and relaxed while I ate. After that, I threw on an emo playlist on Spotify and it was more kitten cuddles while I curled up with a Bathroom Reader in bed to relax and catch up on my random bits of useless knowledge. Fell asleep at some point with Bowser Kitten laying across my legs. When AAB came home, we ordered a bunch of random Chinese food. I had never had Moo Goo Guy Pan before, and it turns out I love it.

We curled up on the couch with dinner and watched some old episodes of the British version of Kitchen Nightmares. We were in bed before 10pm. Somehow all that relaxing and napping was exhausting. I spent a lot of time just trying to work through things in my mind, find ways to combat the stress at work. I have been so mentally drained lately that trying to clear my mind just left me drained.

I’m still not fully charged. I’m tired today, and if I had more hours this week to fall back on, I would’ve called in sick today to relax more. Today would be a great day to play Mario 2 on AAB’s computer for hours while eating carrots. But instead, I’m working my way through my 3rd cup of coffee trying to wake my sorry ass up. It’s almost 12:30, I haven’t eaten or showered yet, and I’m already done with today. But it seems a little easier to get through being “done” somehow. I’m willingly doing the piddly little things on my to-do list, looking forward to eating some leftovers in a bit.

I need more time though. I haven’t been properly taking care of myself, so it takes more time to recharge. Honestly, I should be taking a bit of time to myself more often. I know I need time to just lay there and think sometimes.I need time to play old video games, or just lay there and listen to music. I need time to read and cuddle Bowser Kitten, or throw on a face mask and play MahJong on my iPad while it dries. I tried to fit all of that in in one day, and it was just too much for me. If I had taken the time to do this a little bit at a time, then maybe I wouldn’t be so damn drained all the time.

As it is, I’m damn exhausted today. I want to crawl back into bed. I want to eat leftover Chinese food with my feet up on the table, watching TV shows where people ask an angry industry expert for help and then scream at them because they think they know more than them. I’ve been practicing some very harmful act in the name of “self-care”, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I’ve been self-destructive, and I need time for healing.

Don’t let yourself get this far, Sunshine. Do something for yourself to take time for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting out for lunch sometimes, or throwing on your headphones and ignoring the world for a bit. Find a healthy way to clear yourself. The roommate I share the main floor with seems to poop like 6 times a day and takes forever when he uses our bathroom. So one thing I like to do sometimes is grab my iPad and just take forever in the bathroom. I’ll play MahJong and Rummy, or just browse Pinterest while I poop or just relax on the bathroom floor. Passive aggressive poop is my self-care I guess.

So go do something right now. Like seriously, NOW. Go grab a chocolate bar. Do a few push-ups and squats. Drink a giant glass of water. Open up the blinds and let the sunlight in. Just do something, anything, that helps you feel a little bit better about yourself for the day. No drinking, no drugs that aren’t prescribed to you to deal with this, nothing that harms you. Hell, if you can, go take a nap or curl up with a blanket and a book. Do something that helps cleans your mind, your soul, or even your colon if pooping is what relaxes you.

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Mental Health, Mental Help

 

This is the fourth time I’ve started this post in 13 hours. Woke up twice last night trying to figure out what to say. I spent years trying to ignore it or deny it. When I was younger and my symptoms first popped up (9th grade, right after I started at a new high school in a new city where I knew no one), I was made to feel like certain people wanted me to be sick because it made me wrong, and then they could laugh at my family because they had the weird little freak in high school.

During my lunch break, I would get this strange feeling. My heart would start racing and pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest and run down the hall. My breathing would get fast like I couldn’t get enough air in a regular breath so I switched to tiny micro-breaths. Sometimes I’d break out in a sweat, or I’d get too dizzy to stand. On more than one occasion I threw up in the bathroom by my locker. I went home on my lunch maybe 10 times by the middle of the semester.

I can still remember the very last time I dared to call home and have mum come pick me up. There was a full office staff, a few teachers on their spare periods, and maybe half a dozen students in the office with me that day for whatever reason. Mum came into the office to pick me up, and one of the secretaries pulled us aside where no one could hear us talk quietly. She suggested my mother have me speak to the school counsellor, and maybe get recommended to a therapist for a short time, because I appeared to be having some sort of issues with anxiety.

Well, mum was having none of that. She fucking exploded on that poor secretary, in front of everyone in that office.

“What do you MEAN she should see a counsellor? She was perfectly fine before I sent her to this school! How dare you tell me my daughter is some sort of freak! A psycho! Don’t you know what happens to people who see a therapist? They’re branded FOR LIFE as a crazy psycho! You want my daughter locked up in some NUT HOUSE for the rest of her life? Is that it? Have you seen her grades? She’s getting A’s in all her afternoon classes, could some FREAK do that? How DARE you tell me my daughter is damaged, how DARE you tell me my daughter is some sort of psycho FREAK!”

It’s been like 20 years since then, so that’s not exactly word for word, but you get the gist of it. She ranted like that for a good 5 or 6 minutes, referred to me as a freak more than a dozen times in front of a few of my classmates. The car ride home was a total joy! She ranted on even more, telling me that there was nothing wrong with me, that she couldn’t believe someone would think I’m some sort of psycho, that if I ever let myself see a therapist or psychiatrist they would just put me on meds and then no one would ever hire me because the whole world would just know I’m crazy. The rant went on even more once we got home!  I swear, that woman ranted on and on about this for a good two hours on and off that day.

After that day, I stopped telling my mother pretty much anything for many years. I made up some stupid story about a problem with the ventilation system in the hallway my locker was in, and that was why I got sick at school so much. It was the stupidest story, so totally obvious that I made it up on the spot, but she believed it. Hell, she still believes it. We saw an article about my old high school online, and she started telling people about the ‘ventilation problem’ and how it could’ve killed me. She was more willing to believe that the ventilation system in a newly built school was faulty in a way that only affected one student than helping me work through my issues.

So, for years I tried to ignore what was happening inside me. I beat myself up over things I couldn’t control. Instead of working to understand the racing heart and quick breaths, I locked myself away in my room so no one could see the panic. I did the same for the suicidal thoughts. The one time I did hurt myself and opened up to my mother, she flipped out on me again. She said that if I didn’t “cut it out and just act normal” no one would ever love me, I’d be shoved in an institution, and I’d die alone. Totally what you should say to a 16-year-old trying to deal with mental health issues, eh?

I tried to ignore all of this for years. I’d lock myself away from the world so they couldn’t see me struggle. I drank, I did a lot of drugs, I pushed myself to somehow be “normal” in the most fucked up ways. My parents were high school sweethearts who married and had three kids, for example. So, I thought if I found love early enough, I could be normal like them. But the forced isolation made it hard to meet people I could connect with, and I wound up engaged to a drumming ninja (he once put “ninja” on a job application as his current occupation), and got kicked out of my parents’ house to be with him. He treated me like shit, abused me, starved me, and burned the only copy of my first (and to date, only) novel I had written as punishment for something. But in my head, being with him made me “normal”, because…………. I don’t even know anymore.

It wasn’t until more than a decade after that first incident in the school office that I finally sought help. I had gone back to university, and the school had free counseling services. By that point, my anxiety and depressing were pretty bad, but I was still trying to cover them up. I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating like crap and chugging cheap malt liquor while I “studied”. Before a big panic attack, sometimes it feels like all my emotions drain into something deep inside my skin, where they can’t escape or be really felt. I feel this mix of heaviness and nothingness like I’m going to burst out of my skin and run ranting and screaming into the night. I stayed up for three days and finally passed out in our living room (I was living with friends near campus by that point), and rolled over on a pair of scissors in my sleep. The pain was some weird sort of release, and I started cutting myself right after that. It was the cutting that made me finally made me go to counseling services.

I wish I could tell you everything changed for me that day, that everything was magically fixed and I’m living a perfectly “normal” life like my mother wanted. That’s not how things go, though. I’m still fighting through this, learning how to handle both depression and anxiety. I’m learning the patterns they tend to follow (the depression gets bad right before or after a major panic attack usually) and am able to tell the people closest to me when I can feel my anxiety getting worse. I still don’t open up to my family about any of this, though. I tried to years ago, when I first sought help, and my mother denied everything I said. It’s healthier for me to just not tell them about any of this.

There is no magic cure for this. There is no one-way to deal with mental health issues. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years; some of them worked for me, others didn’t. That doesn’t mean those other things don’t work for other people, though. Going back to school brought out some huge stressors and triggers for my anxiety, and a lot of people I know who suffer through this have said the same thing. So, I just want to give you a little help, a little guidance. You don’t need to follow everything I say, or even try any of it. It’s just options, things to keep in mind when nothing else seems to work.

It’s not easy dealing with this shit. I still get panic attacks. The night I started posting about back-to-school help was because I was trying to work through a major panic attack that kept me up until almost 5 am, drained me of all my energy, and left me with a dark cloud over my head that made me wish I could just stop existing. I’m pulling through though, and I know you can too Sunshine.

Tip #1: Grounding

A friend recommended this to me years ago. It’s what she would do when she was living in a dorm and her anxiety would get bad around exam time. Basically, you’re distracting your brain from the inevitable overanalyzing of the ridiculousness of your panic. In my support group back in school, one thing we all agreed on was that our anxiety attacks made no sense to us. It’s like, there’s no reason for you to be panicking, but you still can’t seem to calm yourself down. You try to calm down, and you’re reminded that the fact that you’re panicking makes no sense, so there must be something wrong with you to be making you panic. And that makes you panic more. The more you try to calm yourself down, the more focused you wind up on the panic, and the worse it can get.

Anxiety Grounding.jpg

I know it says right in the little picture thingy there from Tumblr that it helps “when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings”. If you get that feeling in your more panicked times, then you can definitely give this a try. I don’t get that feeling, but this still works for me for other reasons.  That kind of leads me into my next tip….

Tip #2: There Is No “Right” Way to Be Have a Mental Issue

Sometimes having anxiety can mean heart palpitations and sweat. Other times, it can mean completely blocking out the outside world, staring off into space, unable to process the things going on around you. Some feel frightened, some are jittery, people get tense or worried or can’t focus on anything else except that anxious feeling bubbling up inside them.  Some of the happiest looking people suffer from depression. It’s not all locking yourself in a dark room and staring off into the nothingness around you. As a master of the Customer Service Persona, I can honestly tell you that it is entirely possible to feel hopeless and worthless like your entire life is one giant failure after another, like the world would be a much better place if you could just stop existing in it, and still slap a smile on your face and laugh about things. I mean, Robin fucking Williams suffered from depression. That man, to all outside appearances, was the exact opposite of depression.

There’s no right or wrong way to have anxiety, or a panic attack, or a depressive episode, or any form of depression in general. I check WebMD for a lot of things (even though somehow, no matter what’s wrong with me, it tells me I’m dying a slow and painful death). According to them, a panic attack should last like 10 minutes, and I should have fear of dying and a sense that I’m choking. I have NEVER had any of that. That panic, that feeling of terror, like my heart is going to burst out of my chest and the world is going to collapse around me, it can last for hours for me.

There is a tonne of different things associated with each and every mental issue out there. You don’t have to tick off every symptom or every box to have a “proper” mental disorder. You don’t have to take medication or see a therapist or psychiatrist long term to have a “proper” mental disorder. You can have the same issue as someone else, have different symptoms, handle it differently, and you can both STILL have that disorder. There is no one way to have an issue with your mental health.

Tip #3:  Regularly Practice Self-Care

I have a list of things that I consider “comfort things”. They’re things that I somehow find soothing, for whatever reason, and I fall back on when my brain starts to feel all fucky. They’re things that comfort me, that bring me to a place where I feel safe and secure, even if that place is just in my head. And the list is all over the fucking place.

  • soup
  • Vine compilations on YouTube
  • the movie Hackers
  • the movie Tank Girl
  • books about serial killers
  • books about cults
  • books about random facts
  • hugging my snuggle pillow
  • flannel
  • slipper boots
  • throwing a blanket over my head while I watch random shit on my computer so it’s like I’m watching it in a tiny blanket fort
  • painting my nails in dark colours
  • 90’s grunge music
  • 80’s new wave music
  • indie music from the 80’s and 90’s
  • Chilean red wine
  • fuzzy socks and lots of lotion

Now I don’t use all of this at the same time. I’ll throw on my slipper boots, maybe a flannel shirt or sleep pants, throw a blanket over my head, and watch a few short Vine compilations while I hug my snuggle pillow.  Or I’ll throw on a bunch of lotion and my fuzzy socks, paint my nails, and watch Tank Girl. I’ll throw on some Talk Talk and Psychedelic Furs in the background while I curl up with a good book about serial killers.

Everyone has their own little comfort things. You need to figure out what it is that is comforting to you. I doubt Charles Manson and Tank Girl will bring most of you much comfort, but it works for me.

Tip #4: Exercise, Get The Fuck Outside

I walk everywhere.

If I don’t get out of the house for a day, I make sure to at least open the blinds for a bit. The cat likes to sit in the window so I tell myself I’m doing it for him, when really just getting a little bit of sunlight can really help me some days.  If it’s nice enough out, I’ll open the window and let in some fresh air.

When I’m in mid panic attack, I completely close myself off in my room as much as possible. But when I’m not, I try to get outside at least a bit each day. I really should be exercising more, but I don’t. It really helps some people manage their mental health issues, and I know it’s helped me in the past. I have too much going on around me right now to focus on that though.

#5: Don’t Eat Like Complete Shit

Again, this is something I’m complete shit at. I have my good weeks, where I’m packing celery and carrots with me at work, and sipping tea all day. Then I have my days (or weeks even) where it’s nothing but pizza, french fries, and red wine.

Usually, the more hours I work in a week, the better I eat. If I have to pack a lunch or dinner to bring to work, I wind up with shit like veggies and hummus, soup, and mushroom meat (I also eat less meat and eat shit like “mushroom meat”, which is faux meat made out of mushrooms and soy, which I can only find at the Multifoods a little ways from my house). If I’m stuck at home, working 4-hour closing shifts every fucking day, I wind up eating a lot of frozen pizza for dinner, a lot of leftover pizza for lunch, and a pot of coffee for breakfast. This is usually when my anxiety starts to flare up a bit too.

For a lot of pizza, there’s a strong correlation between what you eat and how you feel. Eat like shit, feel like shit, basically. If you find that eating certain foods, or eating a certain way, worsens your mental state, then don’t fucking eat like that if you can help it! I know, that’s pretty fucking hypocritical of me to say, considering how I eat usually. This isn’t the easiest advice to follow, and no one is going to be perfect at it. Give it a whirl and see if it helps you out at all, though. Keep a food diary or something for a few weeks or months. No need to count calories or any shit like that. Just keep track of what you eat, what you drink, and how you feel.  If you see a pattern emerging, then fucking run with it.

#6: Stop Fucking Self-Medicating!

Again, fucking hypocritical of me to say this, considering how much wine I drink. I admit, there have been times when I could feel a panic attack coming on, and I reached for a drink. Working in a liquor store, I have constant easy access to alcohol and have to learn about it somehow. So, probably more often when I should when I feel the panic building, I grab a bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon, my book about wine (flavours, pairings, smart sounding shit), and curl up with a giant fucking glass or four.  Sometimes it calms me down a bit. Other times, I wind up still awake and drinking wine at 4 am, mindlessly reading through Not Always Right posts and going through old notebooks from 2003.

I’ve had friends who swear by smoking pot as a means of controlling their anxiety. Others have had a hard time controling it, using the anxiety more as an excuse to smoke than anything. I’ve known people to buy medication off the street instead of getting it prescribed. Yes, it’s a great way to get it cheap when you can’t afford your meds sometimes. But you’re playing with doses, and brain chemicals, and all sorts of stuff that can royally fuck your day up.

Don’t use substances that aren’t prescribed to you as a means of controlling your mental health. Yes, a drink or smoke from time to time can be fine. It’s a social thing, a way to calm you, a way to feel normal. But you can really easily start becoming dependant on these things just to feel normal. It’s a short fall into addiction when you let something be the only things making you feel “normal””.

#7: Find Your Fucking Triggers

I know, triggers are a joke to a lot of people. “How are you going to make it through life? There are no trigger warnings in the real world!” Except there are, fucking everywhere. Movie ratings, video game ratings, music ratings, content warnings on TV, allergen warnings on food, warning signs on the road, warning signs on heavy equipment, warning labels on medication……… The only difference between these and a trigger for mental health is that mental health isn’t always taken seriously. You can take a sick day for the flu, or for a broken leg, but most jobs and schools don’t give you mental health days.

Are there certain things that trigger certain feelings in you? No, you can’t avoid them completely, you can’t yell at people for bringing them up (unless they’re really fucked up shit and that person knows how it affects you), and you can’t hide from them for the rest of your life. One of my biggest triggers is finance. I’ve got a metric shit-tonne of student loan debt, a bunch of credit card debt, and feel like I’m going to die in debt someday. The thought of not making my bill payments sends my heart racing, more than it does for the average person. I know that when my hours at work take a drastic cut, there’s a good chance I’ll get thrown into a full-out panic attack at some point.  I can’t avoid that though.

Know your triggers can help you better prepare. Like I said, I KNOW that getting my hours cut can result in a massive-ass panic attack, which then leads to a depressive episode. I make sure I have some of my comfort items ready and waiting for me. I recently went from getting 40 hours a week at work to being scheduled for 15 hours. I know that by next pay day, I will most likely get thrown into a major case of anxiety. I have my soup stuff (powdered mix, noodles, and dried veggies from Bulk Barn), a 10 hour Vine compilation video, a new nail polish, some new murder books, a bunch of flannel ( I am Canadian after all),  and a copy of Tank Girl ready for that. No, I won’t be able to stop a panic attack. But I can help ease my way through it, or through a major anxiety episode.

 

I wish I could say that following all of this has somehow cured my mental state magically, Sunshine. I wish I could say that I’m a happy, mentally healthy, productive member of society now. I’d be lying to you though. Just today, I got so overwhelmed with my current situation (so many roommates, showing the house to prospective other roommates, hours cut at work, things with the boyfriend) that it started really getting to me. I sat there wondering what the hell would happen to this place if I just ceased to exist. Where would my Bowser Kitten be? Who would take care of this house? What kind of shape would the boyfriend be in? Have I really made a difference, or would there always be someone else could’ve stepped in and taken my place for each of these things? What’s the point of being here?

So, I made soup. I threw on some old Vines, and then a bunch of Rage Against the Machine. I typed, I read random useless facts, I played with eyeliner. I can’t fix myself completely, but I have to leave for work in 35 minutes and need to be able to fake my way through my shift. Luckily, I have the Work Bestie with me tonight. She’s one of the few people I actually open up to at all about this, so I can let her know I can feel it building again.

 

Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

Found a little inspiration on Twitter today

Brandon Calvillo tweet

So these popped up on my Twitter feed today while I was definitely NOT spending my morning off day dreaming about Brandon Calvillo’s social media brilliance. And they got to me somehow. I screenshotted them and kept them, looking at them from time to time, trying to figure out what it was about them that made me feel so damn “argh” and “blah”. They gave me this feeling that I couldn’t just put into words. Instead, I sat there trying to reason with myself, unable to get full words out at times, replacing them with random guttural moans.

It wasn’t until I had a nice long talk with myself in the shower (which I regularly do, in case you were wondering) that it hit me: I used to be a writer until everyone decided I should be a writer.

When I first got out of high school, I wanted to write. I had been writing on and off since 8th grade. I also had spent the last few years having everyone close to me tell me every single reason why I should NOT write. Now, this was when the internet was first getting to be The Next Big Thing, and everyone seemed convinced that we wouldnèt need journalists and novelists and satirists anymore. There would be a handful of these people out there, who would create content online, and we would all read the same thing.

I know, how so very Orwellian. These are also the same people who stockpiled water before Y2K and bought things like flashlights and candles that were labeled “Y2K Compliant”.

I was pushed into things like Political Science and Comparative Politics, which I had no interest in at the time. So I quit everything, took a job at Subway and a very small writing job as an Arts and Culture columnist for a little underground magazine. It was a weird time in my life I refer to now as my Dark Days (I hung out in goth bars and was kinda sorta engaged to a drumming ninja. Seriously.), and I was a complete shit writer for that magazine. But I was writing. None of my friends or family read it, and a lot of what I got paid to write was complete drivel. At the end of the day, after coming home from work or an art show or from seeing some random local band play, I would write. Not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was pure crap (I wrote a lot of poetry while sitting in a dark candlelit corner of a dingy goth bar). But I was writing all the damn time. And as crap as my life was, my writing made me happy.

Once I moved home, though, all of this changed. Suddenly, my family wanted to see everything I was writing. I could have the barest of outlines for a short story or an article, or even just a few lines of an idea, and theyèd want to see it. They’d critique it, or laugh at it. They were always asking me, “Well who would actually read this?”

The answer to that question should have just been: Me. I should have just kept writing what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. I wasn’t writing to make people love me, or make people want to run out and buy books a lame-ass poetry by me. I was writing because at that precise moment in time that is what I was feeling, and it needed to be said somehow.

Suddenly though, everyone was convinced that the only reason I should ever write is so people will buy my writing from me. I should be writing with images of dollar bills (or Loonies, as we have here in Canada) flashing before my eyes. I should be tailoring my every word to exactly what people want to hear from me.

And that killed it for me.

So I stopped writing for years. I’d push out the odd little piece here and there. I had one one little satirical story published in an off-campus University newspaper once when I went back to school. But I was more focused on my writing for classes at that point. I absolutely loved pouring over stacks of research papers and figures and tables. Academic writing was like some strange parallel between me writing what I wanted to write, and me having to write what people wanted to hear. As a Criminology and Psychology major, I got to write papers on criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony in wrongful convictions, moral panics, and all sorts of things I had a true interest in. If I had the courage to actually apply for the master’s program here, I would’ve been up to my eyeballs in research on events of mass violence specific to a school setting, and major media influences blamed at the time of each incident, cross-referenced with crime statistics and the release of other similar media not blamed for violent events.

Damn, I’m wet even just thinking about researching all that.

Sadly, there’s no market out there for a BA(H) who wants to write academic papers, unless they’re shelling out the cash for grad school. So, I work in retail selling the devil’s brew. And I want to write.

Problem is, it’s starting all over again. I try to jot things down on my break, and I have people reading over my shoulder. I tell friends or co-workers that I write a bit, and suddenly they know exactly what I should be writing. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the same guy tell me that I NEED to write a book on some specific topic because I could make MILLIONS on it.

I don’t necessarily want the millions though. I mean, that would definitely be nice not having to worry about rent or student loan payments or debt anymore. But I don’t want to write something just because it would make me millions. You know?

I mean, I’m not an overly eloquent writer. I swear a lot in my daily life. And I have a hell of a time getting things down in writing. I mean, I can ramble for hours if you let me. I can have intense, intelligent conversations. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could do a podcast or a vlog of my random ramblings and get a hundred posts out easily. But once I try to get that out on paper or typed out, the words just get stuck sometimes. It’s like I could have the greatest idea in the world, and be able to tell you all about it in minute detail, but once I try to actually get it down it’s the written equivalent of a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing of a giraffe.

I fell into that trap, though, where I figured I was supposed to be writing because I could make money from it. It killed my creativity and the few things I tried to get out where some of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever written. I wasn’t writing anything for me, I was writing crap I thought other people would want me to write.

So I came back to this blog. I mean, I know why I started it, and it was all for me. I’ve watched as hundreds and hundreds of people around me have been coddled and babied and taken care of as kids and teens and pushed to the breaking point in high school to study and learn. And then one day they’re thrown out into the real world at a university or college and expected to just function normally like a full-grown adult. They don’t know how to budget, or cook, or do laundry. They’ve never had to pay their bills on time or live on next to no money. And I’ve seen so many people fail in different ways. Hell, I failed at some of this crap epically, and I went back to school in my mid-20s! A big part of me starting this blog was because I just wanted to get the info out there that people need to know in order to function sometimes. I wanted cooking tips, and how to grocery shop, because I had to teach myself all of this and I had to watch a lot of my friends fail at this. I wanted to write something personal to me, but applicable to so many people out there, not to gain fame or fortune, but to let people know that they’re not alone.

And I really needed somewhere to bitch about work and roommates, too.

These two simple tweets reminded me of why I ever wrote anything in the first place. In 8th grade, I told off my basketball coach for a bunch of things. He wouldn’t let us play our annual Valentine’s game against the boys’ team because we were not very good, and he spent more time telling us what utter pieces of crap we were than coaching us some days. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it over and over. When I had the nerve to tell him what I needed to say, he said he’d pretend he didn’t hear that. So I shoved my rehearsal paper in his hand and said, “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it.” And that was one of my greatest pieces of writing ever. He sent it home with my sister to show my parents, and they weren’t even mad. My mother was impressed: I managed to explain myself at least at a 12th-grade level and tell this man off without resorting to foul language. She even said she was proud of me for it once! Writing all of that down, though, getting it out of me and down on paper, that was the greatest feeling ever.

Since then, I’ve lost that feeling. I haven’t created anything just for me in so long, aside from this blog. I’ve been mentally lost in this void, constantly being told what I SHOULD be doing and I SHOULD be writing and just giving up and falling further. My anxiety and depression have worsened in the last few years. My panic attacks are worse. I cry myself to sleep more often.

Just since reading these two tweets, I’m feeling better. I took 3 days off of work this weekend after working every single freakin day in June, so today is technically the last day of my little “vacation”. And I decided today would be a day just for me. I made a kick ass YouTube playlist of some pretty chill and awesome tunes to throw on while I write and clean. And they’re all songs I wanted to hear and I love, regardless of if they mesh well together in a list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to take “Cry Little Sister” from the Lost Boys soundtrack and pair it up with much. And I threw in all the Talk Talk and Lou Reed I could handle. I worked on a list I’ve been playing with for this blog, just things I really shouldn’t have to say to my grown-ass adult roommates but still have to. I wrote this massive shit-post of a ramble. I made a foot rest out of a laundry basket (ok I turned a laundry basket upside down, but it’s still something) and have mentally re-arranged the bedroom. Hell, I might even physically start moving things around tonight.  And I think I’ll rewatch some old Twin Peaks this week before I start watching the new series when I’m on closing shifts for a week.

Two little tweets from a man I’ve never met, but whose work I’ve come to admire, have changed my outlook completely. I feel alive and refreshed right now. I have the energy to do things, and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I completely wasted a day off.

I don’t really know how to end this. I guess sometimes we all just need to feel a little bit inspired, and sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do the things we do. Everything has become about the money these days, and it doesn’t have to be. Go do something for you, Sunshine. Go be you for you. Create, exist, touch people’s lives. And read random tweets from cute little ex-Vine stars, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from.

How It Feels

Imagine you’re walking home alone, late at night. None of your neighbours’ lights are on, no one seems to be around at all, and it’s just completely dark out. Suddenly, three very large men appear behind you with weapons; a pipe, a knife, maybe a chain. You walk faster, trying to put some distance between you and them; they speed up. You start to slowly job, while they loudly laugh and quicken their pace to match yours. Soon, you’re in an all-out sprint through your neighbourhood, wondering why no one is coming outside to help you. You run, you scream, you call for help, all the while these three are slowly closing the distance between you. Your heart feels like it’s about to burst through your chest, while your lungs can’t seem to take in air fast enough. Your head is spinning, your legs feel like they’re about to give out at any moment, but you keep trying to push yourself forward just a little bit longer. The men chasing you are getting closer and closer, until you can almost feel their breath on the back of your neck. You can feel them reaching for you, touching your hair, laughing at you.

Picture everything your body feels in that exact moment: the fear, the exhaustion, the panic, the almost overwhelming urge to curl up in a ball and cry and vomit and wait for the world to go away while you just pray that nothing bad will happen to you.

Now imagine all of these feelings, this intensity, come to you suddenly while you’re lying in bed on a Monday morning. THAT was my anxiety attack Monday morning.

I misheard something Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend mumbled to himself while he was getting ready for work. He’s a total grumpy asshat first thing in the morning, and tends to say random things that are pissing him off. Neither one of us knows exactly what he was rambling on to himself about, but I thought I heard a few words in there about me. I sat and thought about that for a little while after he left for work, and then the panic set in.

The worst part of it all is that I KNOW that it makes no sense. I know that there is no reason why my heart should be racing, or why I should be sweating like crazy when I’m just sitting still. I can tell myself that the thoughts racing through my head are just stupid and make no sense. I can tell myself all this, I can know that it makes no sense, but that doesn’t stop it.

The thoughts that go through my head are crazy too. I thought AAB mumbled something about our sex life. The next thing I know, I’m sitting here imagining that we bought a little house, and I was pregnant, and he was so pissed that I was going to have a baby even though we both want one. I’m sitting there imagining that he would leave me, that he would hate me, that he would want nothing to do with me. And that just made the panic worse. No matter how much I told myself that these thoughts made no sense, they just got worse and more intense.

I like to think I was lucky, though. I had my panic attacks happen while I was at home this time. Aside from a roommate chilling in his own room, and my kitten faithfully watching over me, I got to sit here all alone and deal with this the way I know I needed to.

You see, people want to help. And they really to mean well, honestly. They just don’t help though. One friend would just constantly tell me to calm down, as if her ordering me to do so would stop this whole mess. AAB’s first instinct is to kiss and cuddle me. As amazing and awesome as he is, him doing that is probably the worst thing he could do. I know myself that part of my panic leaves me feeling claustrophobic, and his snuggling up to me makes me feel even more closed in. My head on his shoulder, or laying with my head on his chest, where I am the one deciding how much space we take from each other, is fine: anything else just makes my chest tighten.  He is really trying to help when he does that, though, just like all the other people who have tried to help me over the years.

And telling people not to help me just makes me feel worse. Suddenly, on top of all the other thoughts flooding my mind, “They’re just trying to help and show they care, why do you have to be such a bitch, you’re pushing them away from you, they’re going to stop coming around if you treat them like this” rushes in there to join them.

Now I know for many of you out there, none of this makes any sense. If you get thoughts like these in your mind, you can make them stop. If your chest starts tightening up and your heart races, you go to a doctor. For someone suffering from anxiety, though, these things don’t work. I’ve had doctors suggest all kinds of things to “help” me: yoga, tea, meditation, reading, long walks, deep breathing……… and yes, these help me to feel a little more balanced sometimes. None of these things stop panic attacks, though, and none of them help once one has started.

For years, I felt completely alone in all of this. I had people tell me I was overreacting, that I was doing it for attention, that if I didn’t stop I’d be thrown in the “loony bin” and it would be on my “permanent record” that I was crazy (where the hell is this permanent record anyways?). I was made to feel like I was the only one in the world having this problem, and that I was selfish for not stopping it myself. It took many, many years for me to find others who share my problem, who are open about their anxiety. I now know that this is a condition that there is no complete cure for, but there is plenty of support around me when I need it.

So Sunshine, if you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, please know that you are not alone. And if you know others who suffer from this, here is a little insight into what may be going on in their minds and bodies. Everyone’s panic is different, there is no one right way to have a panic attack. Please take care of those around you, in a manner they need and are comfortable with.

Updates: Even MORE Roommates From Hell!

Good morning Sunshine!

It’s 9:30am here. I’m working tonight from 4:15-9:15pm (weird shift, I know. But I take what I can get), and have been up since around 4am. Hooray for coffee! I didn’t get to bed until around 11pm last night, and the new roommates were in the kitchen LOUDLY cooking until around midnight, making it hard to sleep.

That’s right new roommates!

So for those of you new to my scene, here’s a quick recap of my living situation:

My ex-boyfriend and I lived in this house together for years (even after we broke up) with a few friends and a few random people. His parents own the house. He moved out, and Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend moved in over the summer. It’s a 5 bedroom house, with the two of us using up two of those bedrooms (one for our bedroom, and the other for our office/hidey-hole snuggle cave). The landlord/my ex-boyfriend’s father puts ads on Kijiji to rent out the other rooms. For months we only had Downstairs Gal living here (a MA. Social Work student with a husband and kid living a few hours north of here), and she leaves to move back home the middle of next month. Oh, and her husband is staying with us for most of this month, too.

We’ve been showing the house to people for months, and randomly two guys moved in over the weekend. Downstairs Man is only here for two months, and is on contract for his job for that time. Upstairs Man is a student (I think), or a recent grad (possibly), who is studying for a test that he’s taking soon (maybe?) or in like 18 months (no clue). Oh, and his girlfriend is a student, lives nearby, and is over often.

Ok, so that’s a big and sudden adjustment to make (did I mention we didn’t actually KNOW that these guys were moving in? Landlord forgot to pass that message on to us). But I’m used to this…..kinda. I mean, I’ve been living with random people for close to a decade now. I mainly hole-up in my room, hermit at the computer while I job hunt, write, and watch Netflix, and then I go to work. I talk to the roommates when we’re in the same room, like when we are both making dinner or grabbing snacks. But it’s not like I’m poking my nose into their business all the time.

Well, this is the beginning of Day 4 of our new living arrangement here, and people are already close to murder. DG likes to park her car in the middle of our driveway, leaving no room for anyone else. If someone else is parked in the big 4 car driveway, no matter how much room they leave her, she goes and spends 10 minutes trying to parallel park on the street, and then comes up to the house to demand they move their car so she can park. This wasn’t a big problem until UM moved in, and his girlfriend started parking here while she visits.

Now, this is all secondhand information since I was at work when this happened, but AABoyfriend and Awesome Neighourhood Mama both told me pretty much the same version of events:

DG had her car parked in the driveway, and was sitting in it, like she was looking for something she had left in there. UM’s girlfriend showed up and parked behind her. While she was in her parked car, she took off her seatbelt and started gathering up her books and purse and such to come in the house. Suddenly, DG turned on the car, threw it into reverse, and slammed on the gas before quickly hitting the break. She stopped less than an inch from UMG’s front bumper. UMG didn’t even get out of the car. She backed out, went around the corner, and parked in the street. She was so shaken by this woman almost slamming into the front of her car, that she didn’t want to come in the house. In fact, she didn’t come in the house until DG had left. After that, AABoyfriend and his Totally Awesome Co-Worker helped UMG park her car on the far side of the driveway, where DG SHOULD have been parking all this time.

As our Awesome Neighbourhood Mama said: “Shit, home girl needs to learn pull up. If she don’t move her car, I’ll come out and move HER!”

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, incident here involving driving. DG has pissed off the neighbours all around us by parallel parking in front of their driveways. UMG is over daily, too, giving those two plenty of time to clash.

And not all of our problems are limited to the driveway. We are each given one cupboard to use for our food. AAB and I have cupboard connected to each other, since we share all our food. DG is supposed to be sharing a double cupboard with one of the new guys, but seems to be refusing. She insists that she NEEDS the extra space since her husband is living her (rent free) and she needs to cook for him. She refuses to let a paying tenant use the space he’s paying for, so that she can have extra space. So I’ve been cleaning out cupboards, re-arranging spaces, trying to find space for everyone.

And everyone cooks ALL THE DAMN TIME! It doesn’t matter if it’s 4am or 4pm, there is someone in the damn kitchen cooking something. The whole house reeks of curry, cloves, burnt toast, and fish. I have no clue what all these people are cooking, or why anyone would need curried clove fish on burnt toast at 4am, but it’s driving me nuts. The smell is so strong that I got a headache the second I opened the bedroom door this morning. And no one cooks quietly, either. They have to blast their music, clang all the pots and pans, turn on the fan and all the lights, and talk on the phone ALL at the same time. I had no idea one could very loudly make a ham sandwich, but I’ve learned that is entirely possible.

I’m not looking forward to the Thermostat Wars that have already begun heating up (and yes, pun TOTALLY intended). DM thinks the house is too warm…… in the basement, which is usually cold. UM thinks the house is freezing, in the room with the most natural light and heat. One wants the thermostat set at 60, the other at 75. I came to a compromise at 69……… and have to constantly keep checking to make sure no one has touched it. I feel like the dad from all the termostat dad memes. I awoke from a dead sleep the night before last just because the room felt a little too warm and I needed to make sure no one had touched the thermostat (they did, it was at like 75).

The worst part of all of this is that this is reeking havoc on my anxiety. It feels like there are walls around my heart and they’re closing in, while my head just keeps spinning. Between that feeling and all the noise and temperature stuff, I’m barely sleeping. I can feel panic setting in, but the attacks just don’t come. I stocked up on my easy comfort foods (sandwich fixins, soup, bagged salad), and made a cleaning list to work on (to occupy my mind and body a bit), but even thinking of that stuff right now makes me want to vomit. AAB and I are already putting plans in place to start saving up to get out of here, but between both of our consumer debt and my student loans it’s hard in an area where credit checks for shitty apartments are the norm. Thinking about that makes the anxiety worse, but not thinking about it just gives me no way out of here………. yeah, I can see a breakdown coming on before the end of the year.

So Sunshine, I’m going more than a little nuts here. Hopefully this whole hermit-dom thing I’ve been doing will mean more time on here. I keep writing down post ideas, but never get around to them. And with this being NaNoWriMo, I’m usually more motivated to write anyway.

My Anxiety

Ok, so when I started writing here, I thought this would just be for story and article ideas, maybe some advice. But on one of my other blogs, where I write about my life a lot more, I had quite a few people message me about their own personal struggles with anxiety. Reading these messages, corresponding with these people, sharing resources…… it really helps me a lot.

So I thought, what if that could help more people? I know personally, I feel a whole lot better knowing there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Sometimes it’s great to be able to talk to people, to exchange ideas on how to manage anxiety, to compare how we each feel when that dreaded moment of panic starts creeping in. Other times, just reading someone else’s accounts of what they’re going through is enough to help me through things. It’s enough just knowing that I’m not the only one out there feeling this.

So, I’ve decided to be a bit more open on this blog. Maybe it will help me keep it updated a bit more. Maybe it will help others out there who stumble across my ramblings. Whatever it does, Sunshine, this is part of my self-care. And you know how I loves me my self-care!