Hey Sunshine, I’m having a really rough time mentally right now. Started at my new store Monday morning. It’s twice as far to walk there, and it’s a tiny cramped store. Some of the other people transferred there came from a slightly bigger store, so they know how things get done around there. I’m completely lost though. Instead of pallets and forklifts, we have a conveyor belt into the basement and have to hand-bomb everything. There’s no cardboard baler, so apparently, we have to walk armloads of cardboard to the recycling a dozen times a day. Everything is different there, and I’m having a really hard time adjusting.

To top things off, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend brought home a tiny kitten named Sketch McCaffrey. The very solitary Bowser Kitten was very much not pleased. I’ve had to spend my days trying to follow the two of them around and force them to interact, or else Bowser Kitten just stands on counters hissing and growling at everyone. He was even mad at me!

I’ve had a lot of major changes happen in a very short amount of time, and none of them were changes I have been working towards. I still haven’t found a second job, which means I still can’t look for a house or apartment just yet. The goals I set for myself seem to be going nowhere, while the universe just keeps throwing giant steaming turds my way.

Having a hard time getting out of bed every day, and not just because my knee is so damn swollen from suddenly walking twice as far to work and going from 4 hours a week to almost 40. Been crying in the shower a lot. Not eating much. I just….. don’t know……. anymore.

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Well, the ever-cuddly Bowser Kitten did not want me to get any work done today! I sat down at my desk more than an hour ago with my coffee and a muffin, ready to start an online blogging course and catch up on the news. Instead, I got sucked into a Vine compilation because someone decided I didn’t need to get anything done. He planted himself in my lap, tried to steal my muffin in the cutest ways possible, and grabbed my wrists with his tiny little paws every time I tried to touch the keyboard. So instead of doing any actual work, I just sat there with him and watched some old Vines.

Not that it matters much today. This overwhelming feeling of blah isn’t breaking anytime soon, I think. I went back to work yesterday and reunited with my coworkers. After the long stretches I was doing last year, having two days off felt like an eternity away from them. Being back felt so useless though. With the holidays done and over with, my 6am-2:30pm shift is done. I no longer work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, guaranteed. Instead, the dreaded 4-hour shifts have returned. I’m back to closing almost every single night, barely seeing the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend thanks to our conflicting schedules. There isn’t as much work to be done at the store, meaning we have a lot more “standing around looking for things to clean” time, as opposed to the “throwing cases up on shelves and running around helping 7 customers at once” I’ve gotten used to over the last few months.

This switch in work schedules and responsibilities always leaves me feeling blah. I feel like I’m useless like there’s no point in me even being at work. That feeling bleeds into everything else too. Add that to the cold weather that keeps me indoors more often than not, the shortened days, and those holiday credit card bills arriving in the mail, and I wind up wanting to crawl under my flannel blanket with somewhat comforting Bowser Kitten and just hide from the world.

For a few years now, I thought there was something wrong with me. I mean, with all that joy and sugar from Christmas, how could I be so down right now? Well, it turns out this is a very common thing and there are varying degrees of it. Some people wind up with a case of the Winter Blues like I have. Everything is just kind of blah and pointless, but you can still mostly kinda function.  Others have full-blown cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The season, lack of sunlight, and lack of time outdoors can take a much greater toll on some people’s mental health than others. Thankfully, I’ve never seemed to be affected by full-blown SAD. I just get down and blue this time of year. Thankfully, there’s a lot of different things that can help mood and mental health. Here are some of the things I’m trying this year to get me out of this funk.

1. Try to eat healthier

I know, this is one of the first New Years Resolutions most people break. You stock your fridge with veggies and tofu, vow to do meal prep every weekend, and then wind up ordering pizza yet again. And you know what? That’s freakin fantastic!

You don’t have to switch from your holiday diet of red wine and cookies to a macrobiotic vegan diet overnight to get any benefits. I like to make little changes, like my muffin this morning. Usually, I would just guzzle coffee on an empty stomach and then wolf down a huge meal later. But yesterday I decided to use up the leftover pumpkin puree I had in the fridge, throw in the last of my flax seed, add some protein powder one of my last roommates left behind when he moved out, and make muffins topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Another thing to try is to just add veggies and fruits to your meals. You want to shove your face with pizza instead of cooking tonight? Then order a salad to go with it, or keep some bagged salad in the fridge. Then, instead of a meat feast pizza with extra cheese, just get regular cheese and one meat with a few veggies. Ideally, your meal should be 1/2 veggies, but no one is looking over your shoulder and counting. Just put forward an effort to throw some veggies into your meal. Pretty much every meal AAB cooks includes a big pan of sauteed or boiled veggies. When I throw meat into the oven to cook, I like to throw some baby carrots and potatoes in there with it, just in case I’m crunched for time later and can’t manage to make another veggie. We keep frozen veggies in the freezer (because keeping them in the cupboard is a dumb idea), canned veggies in the cupboard (far away from the frozen veggies), and we buy fresh produce bit by bit throughout the week.

2. Guzzle water like your very life depends on it.

I don’t mean start chugging gallon jugs of water, multiple times a day. While it’s damn near impossible to wind up with water intoxication when just drinking water throughout the day, there was a famous case about a decade ago of a young woman who chugged two gallons of water without going to the bathroom in an effort to win a radio contest. I wouldn’t ever recommend going that far with the water. But staying hydrated is important for your health and your mood.

New Year’s Eve, AAB and I had some drinks. On New Years Day, we went off to my parents’ place for their New Years Day party. I had a glass of juice before we left, and then dove straight into the mimosas once we were there. I played bartender for my cousins throughout the day and wound up drinking quite a few mixed drinks and a lot of red wine. The next day, I woke up and had my coffee as usual. I didn’t bother filling up my water bottle, and instead grabbed a half-finished bottle of Coke Zero. At some point int he day, I made some tea. But that was it for the day. I felt like absolute crap. I wasn’t hungover, but I was so slow and sluggish. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t manage to get anything done, and I just wanted to cry all damn day. Yesterday, after my coffee, I immediately chugged two glasses of water. I had energy enough to clean the kitchen, bake my muffins, make a batch of couscous, organize my grocery list a bit, to some stretches, and get some much-needed mopping and hand-scrubbing done on the entranceway floor here. Just drinking water can make a huge difference.

3. Get some sunlight and Vitamin D

A lot of times, I leave for work as it’s starting to get dark a bit, or it’s stormy out. On my holiday schedule, I would be out the door before sunrise, but have plenty of natural light through the big windows at work and running errands on breaks. Now, my breaks are long after the sun has gone down, and most of my daylight hours are spent in the house. Thankfully I have the ever curious Bowser Kitten here who loves to look out my bedroom window and watch people and animals walk by. So I have the blinds open for at least a few hours each day, letting in that natural sunlight.

Another thing I’ve found is that taking a Vitamin D supplement when I’m not outdoors much is a huge help. You get Vitamin D from the sun, so not being in the sun means you’re not getting your Vitamin D. Makes sense, right? Years ago when I was in university, one of the doctors in the school clinic told me to grab a cheap bottle of Vitamin D at the pharmacy in the winter, since I was spending so much time indoors reading and writing. It made a huge difference in my energy levels, my mood, my complexion, even my contact lenses felt better (as strange as that sounds).

4. Get up off your ass and move a bit.

This is a huge problem for me right now. Before New Years, I was on a stock shift. Every morning we would come in, sweep the store out, scan a store-wide divert, run the floor machine, pull stock in the warehouse, put stock away in the store, and then work on the load for the day. Basically, we were on our feet all day, lifting cases of wine and booze, putting away bottles, and just generally keeping busy physically. I got two 15-minute breaks and a half hour lunch on those shifts. The Work BFF and I would head to the coffee shop on our first break for bagels every day. Usually at least half of my lunch was spent running errands. And when we actually did take our last break (it would get so busy most days, we’d forget), half the time I’d run out and do a soda run for everyone or hit the Bulk Barn for a little bag of nuts and a Zevia soda (my new love). I was averaging around 13,000 steps just at work each day.

Last night, I had to job in place and dance around just to stay awake on my four-hour shift. There was no stock, there was no load to work on. We faced the store, scanned every price tag outside of the fridge to make sure the new year price change went through smoothly (it didn’t), and stood around talking a lot during the long stretches with no customers. I’m not lifting heavy things or running through the warehouse moving and reorganizing stockpiles. No, now I’m just standing at my register, bopping along to the radio and trying to resist the temptation to go buy a jumbo bag of M&M’s. A huge reason why I get so blah this time of year is because of that drastic and sudden change in my physical motivation.

One thing I keep up no matter how cold it gets is my walk to work. Right now I’m scheduled 6-7 days a week. Just the 20-ish minutes it takes to walk to work each day makes a huge difference in my mood. AAB went out and got me TWO coats for Christmas this year, and a new Oogie-Boogie hat to make sure I’m warm on my walks. Just walking to work and getting some steps in before my shift is a huge mood booster for me.

Unfortunately, when I’m around the house I am Lazy AF. Our bedroom is so packed with our stuff that there’s not much room to exercise in there. Our tiny little office is so small, there’s no room there either. And the last time I tried to exercise in the living room, I had a creepy-ass roommate constantly peeking around the corner and watching me. I hate working out in front of people, and that was just too damn creepy for me. So, I have to find little things to do around here. I make Spotify playlists and dance around the room to them, sometimes with Bowser Kitten and his four left feet. There’s enough room on the bed for some planks, and I can do stuff like standing donkey kicks and work with light hand weights in the bedroom. I just need to keep up the motivation to keep doing all of this, since it makes a huge difference in my mood for the day.

5. Find a new hobby.

I know, I’ve been saying I’m going to learn to knit for years now and I never seem to get around to it. This is the perfect time to try it, though. When the blah’s hit, stimulating the mind with something new can be exactly what you need to keep your mind from creeping further into crisis-mode. Last year I taught myself to arm-knit, which was a colossal waste of time. I mean, that really thick, chunky yarn is damn expensive! But, it gave me something to focus my mind on while I watched Walking With The Dinosaurs yet again and learned about the mating habits of the T-Rex.

It doesn’t have to be an entirely new hobby, either. Like I said, I learned to arm knit last year. Before that, I had been loom knitting for years. This year, I want to move onto traditional knitting, with sharp needles and all that dangerous stuff. I also plan on writing more, both here and on one or two projects I’ve been making notes on for way too long.

6. Find something new.

Something AAB like to do when we order Chinese food is to order things we’ve never tried before. That’s how we absolutely fell in love with the Moo Goo Gai Pan at the closest Chinese restaurant. Sometimes we Google something to see what it is first, but most of the time we order it anyway.

This is the time when we try new things. There’s a bunch of small restaurants in our neighbourhood, since we live near the local university, that cater to people on a very tight budget. Instead of our usual pizza or Chinese dinner, I’m hoping to try a new place every week or two. There is a vegetarian place just down the road that I have been dying to try for months that I think I will finally hit up!

And as any of my readers know, I watch the same damn thing over and over and over. I have a collection of Vine compilations that I watch over and over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve rewatched Daria and the first two seasons of Twin Peaks. And if I watch Tank Girl any more, I’ll have it memorized. So to cut through the gloom of the season, I am making it a point of watching new things. Already today I found Cheapest Weddings on Netflix and love it. AAB and I have found a bunch of shows and documentaries online about criminal profiling, serial killers, serial criminals, and crime theories. Even when it comes to books, I’m branching out and going through my huge unread pile. I’m already on my second Twin Peaks book of the year, and I may actually finish reading the Ray Bradbury collection I started last summer instead of rereading Stephen King’s Insomnia yet again.

7. Get warm!

I love curling up with a giant mug of tea, maybe another mug of soup, and a third mug with some noodles or scrambled eggs. In other words, I’m a big fan of stuff in giant mugs. When you get cold, you get cranky. The cold saps your energy and makes you tired and miserable. While it’s unavoidable to get cold ever in this weather, there’s a lot you can do to stay warm, even without giant mugs.

I have a small collection of warm blankets and a Snuggie, all of which were either gifts or I got dirt cheap at a thrift store. I also have a small collection of flannel shirts (and Bowser’s favourite flannel blanket) to curl up with. Even just having a warm hat and mittens this time of year can go a long way as far as keeping you warm. Dollar stores and thrift shops are pretty much the greatest places to be this time of year, with all their cheap warm accessories and mugs (and they’re always freakin hot as hell this time of year, so free heat!). Keep nice and toasty this time of year, and it will help keep the gloom and blues away.

 

I know, this all won’t work for everyone. These are some of the things that help me the most, though, when the blues set in this time of year. My anxiety is pretty high right now, and I wake up not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. But following through with some of this stuff each day really seems to help me. Hopefully there’s something here that can help you, too.

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.

 

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.