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Ode to my Anxiety Monster

To me, anxiety is a monster and the monster is made up of an infinite mouth space filled with infinite steely, sharp teeth, all the better to gnaw me with, and infinite blood-shot eyes, all the better to follow me with.

The more relaxed and calm I am the further away the monster feels from me. Sometimes I might even forget the monster is around at all.

As soon as anxiety creeps in the mouth filled with sharp teeth and eyeballs begins to close in on me. The more panicked I become the tighter the space around me gets until soon I’m not just anxious about what’s worrying me I’m also anxious about the anxious monster.

Below is a drawing and a poem about what it’s like to feel trapped in the monster with the anxiety moving in closer and closer and closer…

Anxiety has its teeth in me
Stabbed in my back where u cant see
I’m alone but it’s with me
Despite my trys to set it free
I’m battered, beaten&broke down
In depression I may drown
Alone&useless but that’s me
Trapped inside my own body

Can you relate? Tell me what anxiety is to you? what does it look like? How does it feel?

K

Sage Advice From My Father For 2018

To kick off 2018, Here’s some amusing advice from my Dad to make dealing with others a little easier ๐Ÿ˜‰

“It’s better to lower your expectations of others and be plesantly surprised, than to set your expectations too high and be diapointed.”

Happy New Year!

K

Don’t Wait, Access Services Now

If you’re feeling helpless, hopeless, alone, anxious, depressed, angry, or like you might hurt yourself or someone else do no not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to a mental healthcare provider.

I’m not saying to commit yourself tomorrow but do try shopping around to see what kind of assistance is available and what will suit you best. Just get the ball rolling.

Try calling a 24 hour distress line. That’s what they’re there for. You’re problems are in no way too inconsequential to be unworthy of help. Distress lines deal with panic and anxiety, depression, anger, delusions, and more all the time and if they feel you need further assistance or resources they’re usually able to offer info on the spot.

If you’ve often thought about talking to your doctor about ritualistic behaviours, like excessive hand washing, or checking and re-checking door locks but you keep putting it off because you don’t think it’s severe enough to mention, make an appointment now. You’re worth it. Look after your mental health as though it’s as important as any vital organ, because it is.

If you keep telling yourself your difficulties with flashbacks and nightmares about a trauma aren’t worth seeking help for, tell yourself to make you a priority and make an appointment to discuss your concerns.

If your worried the psychiatric world will ram drugs down your throat tell the doctor you want to try a drug free therapy before trying medication. Commit to helping yourself get help. Drugs are not the only option, nor are they always the best option. Everyone is different and that’s alright.

You are not alone. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Finding the strength to get help is something to be incredibly proud of.

If you’re concerned about monetary barriers discuss this with your regional mental health care provider. Many wonderful programs are often covered under provincial health or subsidized.

Try having a look here in canada;

https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

Try starting here if you’re in the USA;

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/

If you’re in a more rural location there are lots of interesting therapy options online. You should also be able to access a 24 hour distress line for the region or province.

Take control. Take care of you and remember, you won’t ever feel any better if you don’t bother trying. Fight for yourself with whatever bit of strength you’ve got left. Help is out there and you can begin to find your old self again.

K

Chronic Pain – My Experience

Ashamed, useless, defective, afflicted, weak, oversensitive, dramatic, lazy, broken; this is how chronic pains feels to me every single day although the levels fluctuate.

If I’m having a bad day and end up cancelling an appointment my feelings of being weak and useless will spike. Later that night if I find the energy to paint a little and cook something from scratch for dinner I’ll feel a little less useless but I’ll also be scared I overdid it while being active and I’ll pay for it physically tomorrow.

The other day I cried my eyes out watching Lady Ga Ga: Five Foot Two on Netflix. I was crying because I could relate to her frustration and struggle with pain that never goes away. She mentioned feeling as though she were always, “chasing pain.” I feel as though that sums up what it’s like to constantly having to pain.

I watched the movie in the morning then went back to bed at 11am and slept the rest of the day and all of though the night. The next day consisted mainly of the same thing. I had overdone it on two occasions during days prior, my body made me pay the price and no amount of guilt or self flagellation could change this.

My husband and friends are kind when a flare up like this happens and tell me not to feel bad about it. I can’t help it though, I want be out in the world or at least tidy the house. I want so badly to be useful but frequently dishes wait, dust builds up, and I am forced to rest and rest and rest.

Will I be in pain today? Absolutely.

How much pain? Depends on the day.

A long time ago, near the beginning of my chronic pain journey a psychologist asked, “what do you think it would be like to have a day without pain?”

Looking back it was a terrible question, a question that’s haunted me for years. I haven’t had a day without pain in 12 years.

K

Holiday stress – Hell Yes!

I felt sick yesterday. Couldn’t eat, just wanted to sleep. I thought it was the flu but I’m not so sure. In the evening I thought more and more about why I might be feeling ill and then it clicked.

I’m freaking out!

This time last year and the year before I’ve been holed up in the psych ward, suicidal but safe. This year I’ve been doing ok but no matter how positive I am I can’t help but recall flashbacks and fear going back there again.

I’m also slowly trying to get my house tidied up as my Awesome, super-lovable Mum-in-law is coming to stay for a bit. I’m really excited and I know she just wants to see us but I still want to make things special for her of course.

I’m trying to do some meal planning and feeling guilty I don’t do any of the baking I used to do before I fucked up my back. I want to make French-Canadian Toutiere (meat pie) as I have for many years like my Mom and my Grandmother but I’m cheating this year and not making pastry from scratch like I used to.

There are a lot of things I simply haven’t got the energy or mental wherewithal to do anymore and saying this at 38 because of mental illness and chronic pain is crushing no matter if I should be used to it by now or not๐Ÿ˜ข Lowering my expectations was never a goal I thought I’d make. Lol!

My social anxiety seems to have kicked into high gear lately which is super great because this is the time of year for visiting. Yeeeeeah!

Anyway, ignoring all these feelings and worries and then over thinking them sent me into a full panic attack last night. Luckily my husband was able to talk me down a bit and make me laugh. The anti-anxiety meds helped too๐Ÿ˜‰

But good things are happening also, I visited a close friend and her adorable baby and we decorated cookies, and chatted, and played with the babe. It was really a nice way to spend an afternoon. I even tolerated the first Christmas music of the season.

Happy Greetings & Season’s Holiday!

K

The Point is Not to Please You, Dear Reader

I am forcing myself to write this blog entry. I just haven’t been able to get it together enough to string together even passable prose.

“I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to feel. At all,” is what my mind cries out to me lately. I feel paralysed. I’m afraid if I put it in writing my crazy will be naked and real, for all the world to see. Yikes!

For the last two years, right around now, I’ve fallen into deep, dark, grief-tinged depression with suicidal ideation and a side order of self harm.

Why does it happen now? My Mom’s birthday on Nov 21 (died 3.5 years ago) seems to send me reeling, circling the drain, sucked down with low self worth.

Following her birthday Christmas crap is everywhere reminding me just how much I miss her helping to lead the charge. It’s hard to cheerlead for something I don’t really believe in.

I just cherry pick stuffed stockings, shortbread, gift giving, dim sum downtown, spoiling my husband and Dad and wilfully ignoring much of the other Christmas nonsense and hullabaloo.

Even paring Christmas down to a very small size still eats away at me for no good reason. The last 2 years I’ve been admitted into the psych ward for a month or two before feeling safe and well enough to go home.

This year I have been feeling a lot better I think. I’m also really excited my Mother-in-law, whom I adore๐Ÿ’œ, is coming to stay with us and we havent had a Christmas together in about 10 years.

In spite of my better mood I do feel myself dipping lower into that deep, sad place. I keep my head above water though and I don’t go too far. I can still easily see the exit. So far I’ve just felt compelled to poke around in the dark here and there.

I haven’t been self-harming, although the thought has crossed my mind. I don’t know if it’s better to push all thoughts of my psych ward experiences down and away, try to unthink them, or if I should just calmly let them replay in the background while staying focused on right now simultaneously.

I feel like I just wrote a whole lot but said sweet fuck all. Sorry about that. The point was not to please you, dear reader, but just to practice the act of writing, prove to myself I still can.

K

To Toronto 4 Tori

(Written Oct 28th on the plane to Toronto)

And today’s the day I’m Toronto bound to make a long time dream come true. I’m headed to Toronto to see my favourite singer/song wtiter/piano prodigy/rock goddess, the indomitable Ms Tori Amos!

Me outside the venue before the show

When her latest album, Native Invader, dropped I decided now’s the time, I need to do this, the ultimate indulgence, I’m going to get tickets and I’m going to do this.

Tori is only playing a scant handful of concerts in Canada. No shows anywhere near where I live.

Thanks to a wondeeful friend who happens to live in Toronto I had someone to go with, and a place to stay. I swear this friend of mine is an everyday angel. Her kindness, generosity and warmth have made this dream of mine a once in a lifetime reality.

Even now as I sit on the plane, getting closer and closer, my heart skips a beat now and then and I’m shaking from head to toe. The reason for these bodily tics is simple – I’m terrified!

Here’s how it is in my head:

I’m going to see Tori fucking Amos! Holy cow! This is amazing!

But what if I have a panic attack and annoy my hostess with my scared neediness?

Should I really be doing this? I’m not a healthy person. My back is screaming at me. I’m beginning to ache everywhere. My ankle with the nerve damage has now joined the party and im not sure I can take much more of this.

Do I deserve this? What have I done to be worthy of such a luxury? I’m still on disability leave as my body and mind continue to plague me with problems.

FUCK IT! I’M GOING!

๐Ÿ’›I know this post is really late. I’ve been back a week now and the recovery has been rough. It was an amazing, strengthening experience and so much fun!

I will write more as soon as my body and brain are feeling a little less burnt out. I will recover soon and the trip was totally worth it๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’›

K

Is This Enough for #Metoo?

When the #metoo movement began in order to raise awareness about how many women and men have experienced sexual harassment or assault I debated whether or not to include myself. How much sexual harassment is enough? How much sexual assault is enough? Does sexual humiliation count?

Perhaps these blurry grey areas are part of the problem. I suppose I have several stories but this one keeps coming to mind. You can decide if it’s enough, if I can say, “#Metoo”.

Long before the age of cell phones and texting, when I was about 19, I headed to a bar downtown with a couple of girlfriends. While they kicked up their high heels on the packed dance floor I was on the sidelines avoiding the crowd and allowing myself to be chatted up by an older guy in his late 20s.

I felt witty and pretty and bright as we laughed together and talked all night. When the lights came on I couldn’t find my friends anywhere. I had no idea what to do when half an hour after close they were still AWOL.

The guy who’d been chatting me up helped me look for them. When we couldn’t find them he said he lived close by and kindly offered to let me use his phone. He even said he’d pay for my cab since I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a taxi alone.

We walked along the downtown streets, flirting all the way. Head thrown back with laughter I felt alive and attractive. He seemed kind and sincere so I let him lead the way.

We arrived at his place and his kisses kept me from calling home right away. I lost myself in his eyes and arms.

“Relax. I’ll pay your cab fare later. You can hold off on calling a while longer can’t you?”

I nodded and kissed him back, nerves fluttering deep in my chest. I really liked this guy. He laid me down on his living room floor and began tugging at my clothes. I tried to slow things down and he kept trying to speed them up.

Soon I began squirm beneath him. His weight bore down on me and the butterflys in my chest turned ice cold and I began to panic.

He suddenly pushed back from me, impatience and disgust now glowered at me where I’d so recently seen lust and longing.

“You’re a fucking virgin aren’t you?”

I nodded slowly. I was so embarrassed I wanted to sink into the floor. What had I been thinking as I’d followed him home like a lost puppy?

“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

Anger sparked in his eyes, now cold and black.

“What did you think we were coming here for?”

“I… I… I couldn’t find my friends. You said I could use your phone. You said you’d pay for my cab. I thought you liked me. I thought you wanted to get to know me.”

“Whatever. Get out.”

“But I need to get home.”

“That’s your problem not mine. Get out.”

Crying now, I stuttered, “Will you still get a taxi for me? I don’t have enough money to get home.”

“I’m not paying for anything you cock tease. Get out!”

Humiliation bubbled up and poured from my eyes, “can I at least use your phone?”

“Make it fast. Then get out.”

I called home. My parents and friends were there and relieved to hear from me. I stammered into the phone that I wanted to come home. They didn’t ask questions, just told me to take a cab and they’d pay.

As soon as the taxi was called I turned to the stranger I thought I was getting to know. He glared at me, all interest gone.

“Get out.”

“It’s 4am, I don’t feel safe waiting alone outside.”

“Too bad. Get out.”

I flowed out the door on a river of tears and waited alone, scared, tired, hurt and humiliated. I shivered and cried and wished I could just disappear.

Is this enough?

He didn’t rape me. I wasn’t brutalized.

Does this story count? Were my tears and humiliation enough?

I dodged a bullet didn’t I? Maybe I should shut up, count myself lucky? Shouldn’t I be grateful?

It’s not enough is it?

I’m not enough am I?

I can’t really say, “me too?” Can I?

K

Ashamed of Shame & laying blame

In grade 6 I got lucky and hit puberty early. For me, puberty brought on a generous helping of acne. It was great because nobody else seemed to have acne yet and because I was so far ahead of the game I got to hear all about it from the other kids.

My grade 6 school picture shows only a bit of acne but there was a whole lot of tears and face scrubbing leading up to this.

I was already a freak because I was constantly reading giant books, writing poetry and short stories, acting in school plays, and generally not trying to fit in. I was terrible at popular indoor sports like; volley ball, soccer, and floor hockey. I was always picked last and constantly ridiculed for playing poorly no matter how hard I tried. I frequently spent the better part of gym class crying in the change room.

The addition of acne brought on some next level shit in the bullying department. I became known as; Zit Farm, Zit Face, Pimple Face and pizza face. I was accused of rubbing grease on my face and told to lay off the chocolate and French fries.

Every day I would go home with a heavy heart and hurt feelings. I just wanted to curl up and cry or go to sleep and never have to face the kids at school again. I was so ashamed of myself because of my acne and couldn’t understand why I was the only one.

My Mom was horrified that I’d developed the angry red marks all over my face.

“I just don’t understand where these zits are coming from,” she’d say.

“I never had acne when I was growing up.9 Why do you have it? Don’t you wash your face?”

My Dad told her gently and repeatedly that he’d had acne so it was likely due to his genes. He even apologised to me but I still felt overwhelming shame about my face and just wished I could melt away for good.

My Mom made it her mission to rid me of my acne. She bought me various facial cleansers, skin buffs and wipes and spot treatments. She had the best intentions but I felt it hard to hold back tears when she’d pull me in close on a daily basis to get a better look at my skin, ask how I thought the latest miracle cure was working, inevitably mutter that we’d have to try something else and nudge me in the direction of the bathroom with orders to, “go scrub your face.”

As puberty progressed so too did the volcanoes that pushed up through my epidermis and eroded my visage. The kids at school got meaner and my Mom grew more frantic about my affliction. There was no where for me to hide. I longed to cover all mirrors and began to keep my head down, hoping no one would see me, wishing for a safe place.

My Mom kept leveling up from the drug store, to the cosmetics counter, and finally to endless doctors appointments to try bigger, badder, stronger cleansers, creams, toners, lotions, potions and pills.

It was bad enough that I couldn’t exchange my face for another. It was bad enough the kids at school kept tormenting me. It was bad enough my Mom accused me of not scrubbing my face enough, of not caring about my skin, of being ugly. It was bad enough, it was bad enough, it was more than enough and there was no escaping my face.

Mercifully by half way through grade 7 almost everyone’s skin was as bad as mine or worse so the kids stopped teasing. I managed to find a group of friend who thought my weirdness was cool and I finally began to fit in for not fitting in. I discovered make-up and fashion and my Mom eased up.

I still get the occasional pimple but age seemed to be the cure for my acne. I’m still extreamly self conscious though and my self esteem, on a good day, hovers somewhere between crap and shit.

I assume people won’t like me or they’ll mock me or I’ll say the wrong thing. I always say the wrong thing. I’m ashamed of my ugly face, and unwashed hair, and too thick thighs. I’m ashamed that I’m still ashamed of myself. Years of therapy and I still haven’t fixed me.

Most of all I’m embarrassed and ashamed of partially blaming my Mom for my low self esteem. She was just trying to help. She bent over backwards to find me help for my face. Even worse, she’s no longer here to defend herself. I’m speaking ill of the dead and I loved her with all my heart, I still love her with all my heart and I feel such shame for the blame that I feel.

K

Mental Health Super Hero Begins

Sally Semi-Colon helps her first soul and discovers her power to emit epic empathy. Johanna’s cried an ocean when Sally finds her and helps her begrin to heal.

This is the first test frame I’ve developed for my mental health super hero, Sally Semi-Colon. She follows the credo that one’s life sentence can continue with a semi-colon, even after or in spite of dark depression, attempted suicide, or any other mental heath struggle, rather than end with a period.hhb

More information about the Semi-Colon movement can be found in the documentary film regarding high school sexual assault and the devastating mental health impact available on Netflix, Audrey and Daisy. There is also a book called Project Semi-Colon featuring,”essays and photos from the Suicide Awareness Organization that has helped millions, as well as plenty more information on line.

After watching Wonder Woman recently I was struck, once again, by something that’s bothered me for a loooooong time. There is a severe shortage of comic books, films and graphic novels featuring female super heros but no shortage of real world super women.

I understand I am not working for Marvel or DC and the characters I’m working on may or may not be going anywhere but that’s ok. I just feel like it’s therapeutic for me to try to create a Group of female super heros who might begin to fill in the giant gaps in the female super hero world.

What do you consider your own super power to be?

K