Gaming Addiction – Freakin Mental Monday

Watch as Another Freakin Athiest and I co-host our weekly show regarding mental illness. We discuss Gaming Addiction and it’s placement in the new DSM and with the WHO. We also spend time discussing what defines addiction with regards to gaming.

If you’re looking for more info regarding possible gaming addiction and recovery ideas check out http://www.gamequitters.com

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I’m Not Doing Enough… Really?

I often beat myself up for not doing enough. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing me by like I fell off the treadmill and can’t seem to regain my footing.

What if there’s another way? What if the treadmill isn’t the only way to get around in life? Is it a little scary to forge my own path? YES. But I don’t have to let fear stand in my way. I can be brave.

What if I choose to see it that the world isn’t working faster or harder than me but that we all do things at our own pace and that’s ok.

Occasionally I wonder, if I were a stronger person would I be able to cope with the pain and thrive? I’ve heard stories of others who prevail and cope with mental illness and chronic pain, like superheroes sent to taunt me with their power to overcome the very things that hold me back. Is this really the case though? or am I simply not as appreciative of my own work over that of others.

Why shouldn’t I value my own accomplishments and efforts in the same way I value the work of others? What would happen if I chose to value myself for just being me?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on challenging my negative thoughts. Therapy has taught me to check out the assumptions I make to see if my logic holds or if I might reconsider.

If I check the assumption that, “I’m not doing enough.” The first thing I notice is the ambiguity of the word, “enough”. How much is enough?! Who the fuck knows. What I take away from this analysis is that I’m mustn’t base my goals on nebulous ideals.

If I look at the word, “doing,” next and check my assumptions out something interesting occurs to me; drawing, writing, yoga, housework, visiting Drs, planning creative works, pacing myself so I can manage to have the energy for visits with friends and family, playing with my cat… I am doing quite a bit when I look at all these items.

Now if I go back to my original statement, “I’m not doing enough,” I can see this statement for what it is. It’s a thinly veiled put-down that assumes my value is based on physical output and monetary accumulation alone.

The statement is also judgy and unfair. I’m essentially telling myself I’m not good enough and because I’m not good enough, I’m worthless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to tell myself right?

Imagine if I called up a close friend with chronic pain and mental illness and said, “dude, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re doing enough.”

I cannot even imagine saying such a thing to an enemy let alone a close friend. If I wouldn’t say such a thing to a close friend why the hell would I say it to myself? I have to allow myself the same empathy, love, kindness and caring I’d show anyone else, otherwise, I might as well punch myself in the face every morning.

Sadly, I’d have to punch myself in the face a number of times throughout the day as that’s how often I’m making negative comments to myself, about myself. I want to be done with treating myself this way. I need to be my own best friend and train my brain not to hurl insults at itself. I need to teach my brain that I am enough, that I have worth and I’m worth valuing.

I know it’s going to take time to, literally, change my brain but I’ve already noticed my inner voice growing stronger and more loving. I’m the only engineer I’m allowing to rewire the circuits of my mind, fuck your iron rings, I’m best suited to this job.

I can change my thinking if I continue to build confidence in myself slowly but surely, celebrating each small victory rather than waiting for someone else to change things for me all at once. If I take charge of the change I want to see I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to end up happiest with that which I’ve changed.

Are you playing an active role in building the future you want for yourself? What small changes can you make right now? What’s your ultimate goal for your future and will the changes you make move you closer to it?

K

Aging Greatfully

If you’d asked me a year or so ago what I thought my future might look like I’d have stared into the distance, my mouth opening and closing as if to speak, like a fish out of water. Then I’d have begun to cry and looked around for an emergency exit or a way to tunnel out of the situation. I felt I was so useless and defective that I didn’t deserve a future.

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Truthfully, my days of being suicidally depressed aren’t far behind me. I still have bad days and good but I no longer wish to be dead rather than alive and for that I am grateful.

On this, the morning of my 39th birthday, I am still unsure of my future but it doesn’t vex me so much as it used to. Instead, there are many things I’m grateful for.

In the name of starting my new age in a positive way, I want to list off that which I’m grateful for. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in order.

I’m greatful for:

  • My husband, who makes me laugh and offers love, understanding and a shoulder to cry on when I need it most.
  • My Dad, for being so gentle, loving, kind and funny as hell.
  • The 34 years I had with my lovely Mom. I wish we’d had longer together and I miss her every day, but we made the most of the time we did have.
  • Chocolate.
  • My cat Rafe. He may be new to our little family but he brings us so much joy, laughter and love. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without him.
  • Feminism, I hope someday it won’t be needed but until then I will keep fighting for equality.
  • Extended family on both my husband’s side and my side are warm and loving, they make me laugh and offer such kind words of encouragement. I honestly am an incredibly lucky girl to have such a wonderful family.
  • The existence of both shaken margaritas and vodka martinis with extra olives and my ability to consume one or the other on occasion.
  • My friends for being such kind, loving and loyal pals. I may not have a huge group of friends but I wouldn’t trade the friends I have for anything. They challenge my mind, they open my heart, they value my opinion, they encourage me and remind me of my strengths and self-worth.
  • Having fucked up more than a few times and still made it through – to what, I don’t know, but making it, “through,” surely speaks to my resilience
  • Making visual art, as it has opened up a whole new world for creative expression. I feel joyful and excited just thinking of future artistic possibilities and how much I love the act of making the art I’m making right now.
  • Wine, especially buttery chardonnay and old vine California Zinfandel. Yum!
  • The people I’ve met through my pursuit of increasing my art skills. Theresa Grasby of Grasby Art Studios has become such an incredible friend and mentor. I also cherish the fun relationship I have with the Grasby family members who also work at the studio, the other instructors and other painters. Everyone has such inspiring, energetic, humorous and kind spirits. They all inspire me to paint more and to keep pushing myself.
  • Having the luxury of not having to worry about having basic needs like food and shelter met.
  • Now being able to say melodramatically, “I’m cusping on 40!”
  • Having access to universal health care (thank you Tommy Douglas). Our system isn’t perfect but what we have is so much better than many have access too.
  • Coffee, as it’s a substance I adore. I like it black, just like my soul.
  • This blog and the catharsis and sense of purpose it has brought me.
  • Having additional health insurance which has helped me find access to many different Dr’s and other medical professionals for help with my injuries, my struggle with mental illness and my chronic pain journey. I continue to be granted most of the care I need and for that I am grateful.
  • The word, “fuck,” and speaking it as often as I can, cuz it’s fun to say and it’s one of those miracle words one can use to jazz up any sentence in need of jazz or it handily provides satisfying emphatic emphasis in a way no other word can.
  • Having so much love in my heart I wish to spread around and having the opportunity to do so.

What are you most grateful for? Do you enjoy celebrating your birthday or, like me, are you a little apprehensive about aging? I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K

I’m Not a Flake, I Have Chronic Pain

Some might call me a flake. Yes, I’m that girl. I reschedule. I cancel last minute. I’m fucking unreliable, and I it makes me feel useless, inadequate like I’m letting the whole world down! (Yes, I’m that dramatic)

I’d be cocking up this blog job royally if I were actually being paid for it. I try to publish at least weekly but sometimes it’s more like a bi-monthly thing.

I’ve never managed to stick to the golden blogging rule of releasing on one particular day of the week. I’m woefully inconsistent at best.

This weekend I agreed to go to an event a friend invited me to at the last minute as she had an extra ticket. Her father had kindly, offered to drive me.

At first, I said yes, desperate to be part of such a thing, but I began adding up the amount of time I’d be out for and at 4 hrs minimum I could see by the by the time I reached home I’d be pain’s bitch for the foreseeable future.

I tossed and turned all night trying to decide and I woke up in so much pain I ended up in tears and calling to cancel. So predictable, so boring.

My unreliability makes me crazy. I always showed up and I always met deadlines before this disability garbage. I may not be a journalist anymore but that is where a great deal of my educational training lies. Writers must meet deadlines. That is the game. I would fire me.

Before all this crap started 10 years ago I remember thinking nothing would ever stop me. I recall resenting my Mom’s chronic knee pain. Why couldn’t the Dr just fix it? Why couldn’t she stop being so dramatic? How could her pain possibly be perpetual?

My Mom wasn’t always easy to be around when she was in pain. Her temper could be tempestuous, calm one moment and a storm of anger the next. Her constant random grunts and winces annoyed me. As a teen, I resentfully stomped down the stairs to the freezer in order to save her knee the grief when she asked.

I was a fucking monster. Maybe not, but I sure as hell know chronic pain now and it’s a motherfucker.

Chronic pain is so hard to understand, there are so many facets, so many inconsistent variables, and when you’re a kid like I was, it’s hard to understand when a parent, friend, or other loved one suddenly can’t do the things you once loved doing together.

Just as my Mom wanted her mobility back, wanted to be as she’d been, not deal with pain on a daily basis, I wanted her to be that way again and instead of resenting the disease I resented her sometimes. It’s just mind over matter right?

FUCK THAT NOISE!

If only I knew then what I know now. Chronic pain doesn’t fall into the mind over matter category, it falls into the, I can only do what I can do category.

For instance, as I mentioned, Saturday I had to cancel at the last minute on a friend because I was in so much pain. On Sunday I had a pretty good day and felt I accomplished a lot. On Monday I had a better day and got even more done. Today, I am sore but still kickin’.

My point is, even on a good day the pain is there roaring like a beast in the background and on a bad day, and sadly there are more bad days than good right now, the beast devours me and leaves my putrid and pathetic bod in bed for days.

Fortunately, before my Mom died I apologized to her profusely for not understanding her pain, for not helping her more with it. She was gracious of course and she also helped me all she could when I fell victim to chronic pain.

For everyone out there who knows one of us chronic pain copers please be better than I was as a teen;

  • Try to understand the nature of chronic pain as a constant that only gets softer or louder but never shuts off, and empathize, but please don’t advise.
  • Be understanding about cancellations. Believe me, none of us wants to cancel on a loved one.
  • Be attentive to your friend’s energy levels. Sometimes I get excited to be out and stay out too long then end up in utter agony for days. I police myself but it’s nice if a loved one knows energy with chronic pain is far from boundless and reminds me to take a break now and then.
  • Remember we’re the same people we were before the pain we just have a little added baggage now. This doesn’t mean we love you any less or don’t want to spend time with you. Chronic pain leads to all sorts of scheduling and emotional conundrums, please just be patient, believe me, patience and love mean the world.

I’d love to hear what helps you with loved ones when explaining chronic pain or how you interact with those with chronic pain. Please leave your comments below and take good care until next time.

K

The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It🌻🌼🌻🐙🌻 -Part 1

The Loony Bin, The Boobyhatch, The Funny Farm, The Madhouse, The Nuthouse, The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bedlam, The Bughouse.

Here’s a strangely monotone drawing I did while staying in the Boobyhatch (I think that’s my favourite silly expression for the Psychiatric Ward😜).

With so many bizarre, somewhat amusing, but mostly offensive, ways to refer to the Psych Ward it must be a pretty special place. Memorable for sure, lol! It’s not like there’s a huge list of alternate names for the Orthopedic Ward.

So if you end up needing a stay in Psych know you’re among the “lucky” few to experience it first hand, and add your own unique character into the mix that makes for such a storied reputation😉

If you or someone you know is in psychiatric crisis; a stay in a hospital psychiatric ward may be something to consider. If you’re unsure about whether or not such a drastic step is needed ask your family GP, Psychiatrist, Counsellor or any other health professional knowledgeable about such things or with easy access to relative information.

In Alberta, Canada if you need help but are unsure where to start you can contact Alberta Health Link by dialing 811 within the province or you can check out http://www.MyHealth.Alberta.ca, another brilliant resource in Calgary and Southern Alberta is http://www.thedistresscentre.ca They can also be reached by phone 24 hours a day at, 403-266-4357(HELP).

If it’s decided a hospital stay is recommended don’t panic! You’re getting help, which is of vital importance. You’re choosing you and you’re choosing life.

Don’t fight the stay, fight your inner demons instead❤ Take advantage of the help being offered in a safe, professional place where the goal is to patch your battered spirit up enough to get you back to slaying dragon’s in your regular life. Accept and embrace the help and rest and wierd that will be your world for a while.

Psych wards are endlessly entertaining if you open your mind and embrace the neurodivergent tea party as best you can. I’m not saying to laugh at others. Please be as empathetic as possible. I’m just saying wierd shit happens ALL THE TIME on the Psych Ward and since you’re a captive audience it’s better to appreciate the humour rather than being overly bothered by it.

You needn’t take abuse though, if another patient or staff member is bothering you tell a senior staff member or your Psychiatrist immediately to stop it before there’s drama. The goal is to rest and regain your footing not to cope with conflict on top of your, already full, emotional plate.

If you are checking in voluntarily or involuntarily don’t be afraid. Just as the cardiac ward is the right place for cardiac patients, the psych ward is the right place for psychiatric patients. While it can be a little frightening not knowing how long you’ll be admitted remember there are many benifits to a longer stay.

I’ll tell you about these benifits in lovely, monotony-breaking, point form;

-A longer stay allows you to spend more time with your psychiatrist adjusting meds, devising solutions for living better in your community, devising crisis plans, working on specifically troubling traumas, working on ways to cope better with your challenges, and offers a plethora of other personalized therapies.

-Having a little time away from tech distractions like cell phones, tablets and computers is good. These aren’t accessible on the many Psych wards, although once you’re able to go off unit for breaks you may check your phone for a short time.

It may feel strange, even scary, to unplug but the act is actually quite liberating and calming. Social media can be entertaining but it can also be incredibly stressful. You may not even realize how much of your time social media, endless browsing or game playing is sucking and how much stress it’s adding until you’re forced to take a break.

-A longer stay gives more time for both Drs and nurses to spend time getting to know you better and so they can fully understand how best to help you.

It may seem as though you’ve things to do and better places to be, but nothing is more important than taking time to focus on healing yourself. If there was a serious problem with your intestines you wouldn’t just leave the hospital. Taking health problems seriously is never frivolous or ill-advised. You are important enough to make caring for yourself a priority.

Fight for yourself. You’re worth it. If you need treatment of any sort please don’t be afraid to start.

If you’ve any stories relating to psych admission or being open to treatment in general I’d love to hear from you. Later next week I’ll have more information about the Psychiatric Ward, my experiences, some myths debunked, and some words of wisdom and encouragement. If there is anything in particular you’re curious about please ask and I’ll get back to you. If you comment directly through the WordPress site you can do so with anonymity, rather than having to post your name via Facebook or Twitter, if you wish.

K

Social Anxiety- A Self-Portrait in Texts

Me: Holy cow! I’m freakin’ vibrating from caffine overload! Lol!

Me: I am so sorry. I think I talked too much this morning and didn’t pay enough attention to you, your baby or (other friend). I was behaving selfishly and I’m really sorry.

Friend: Stop that! We enjoyed your visit. I didn’t respond to your message sooner because we are at ikea.

Me: No I wasn’t talking about u not responding, it didn’t take long anyway. I just keep playing the visit over in my head and realized how annoying I was being. Ahhh I hate anxiety. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned this. I’ve been really nervous lately and it’s fucking with my head. I’m sorry for being a freak and sorry for being sorry. Ok I need to chill out. Not sure why I’m not hitting delete rather than send.

It was really nice being there with you three. Just when I think I’m past ruminating and beating myself up it comes back and reminds me I still have a mental illness. Frustrating. I suppose I should appreciate that it happens with less frequency now. Thank you for understanding my crazy weirdness💜

Friend: Lol, all good my lovely. We were saying how nice it was to have you there this morning and how much we enjoyed your visit. So don’t worry at all. Never stop being you.

This is a text conversation I had after visiting with a friend, her baby and another friend from out of town. I think it’s a pretty good example of how social anxiety affects my life.

Fortunately the friend I was texting with has known me for more than 20 years and is familiar with my anxieties and pretty adept at helping me to dismiss unnecessary, repeating thoughts.

Here’s a little bit more about how this situation came to be:

I’m heading home after a nice visit with a huge smile on my face. There had been laughter and many old, inside jokes and stories, lots of catching up on each other’s lives, witty banter, genuine affection amongst ourselves, and a sense of ease together that only comes with long-standing, well-nourished, mutually appreciated relationships. It was an especially nice visit I’m thinking as I pull into my driveway.

I begin playing parts of the conversation from the morning back and I realize I forgot to ask about ongoing issue one of my friends was having at work. At first I’m starting to rationalize this oversight as we hadn’t seen each other in a while and there was a lot to catch up on. I’m able to tell myself I’ll be sure to ask about it next time we visit.

Next I realize how long I spent prattling on about some story about my husband. My friends were probably bored to tears. At this point my ability to rationalize away my subpar social skills begins to fizzle and I feel the familiar, but never comfortable, sensation of panic flip-flopping like a slippery fish in my belly.

Soon I am obsessively going over the entire visit with a fine toothed comb and analysing stupid jokes I made, things I now think I shouldn’t have said, other things I should have asked about and on and on and on.

I even begin to assess my mannerisms and actions; did I hug too hard or too long? did I gesticulate too wildly? was I warm enough or too familiar? did I stay too long or not long enough? Was I over-dressed or under-dressed? and on and on and on.

I consider possible consequences; they won’t invite me to visit again, I’ll lose two good friends, they’ll talk about what a crazy, selfish bitch I am, they must be mad at me, and on and on and on.

These thoughts and questions swirl round my mind and I’m rapping my knuckles against my temple to make it fucking stop. It doesn’t stop. I try distracting myself by painting but the thoughts keep interrupting.

I try reframing the situation and using my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills. I classify my thoughts; Mind-Reading-As in, I cannot predict if the others noticed my missteps or if they would even categorize them as such. Fortune Telling-As in, I’m predicting outcomes when I cannot know the future. Catastrophizing-As in, I’m making something small into a much bigger problem than it is.

Unfortunately I’ve never been able to make CBT work for me no matter how many times I write down my feelings, categorize and rate them. I know this type of therapy works for many but I’ve been trying to make it work for the past 10+ years and it’s yet to actually help.

Finally I decide to text my friend. Impractical as it is, this is what usually helps. I confront the situation and apologize for what I think I did wrong. As I mentioned before, my friend is familiar with my anxiety, sees it for what it is and easily calms my mind.

The frustrating part is, in other situations I can’t always go back and apologize, I generally haven’t done anything wrong anyway and I already apologize far too much as it is (I have anxiety about over-apologizing too. Lol!). Sometimes I just think things to death until it either goes away on it’s own for a while or until I’m having a full-blown panic attack and have to take medication.

If this is familiar behaviour to anyone out there I am truly sorry as nonsense like this is a waste of time and energy. Even if I actually had done something I needed to apologize for there’s no need to punish myself in this manner. Making the apology and meaning it is enough.

This is just one facet of how my social anxiety manifests but I thought it was a good example. If you’d like to share a comment, similar story or if you’ve got a coping technique that works for you I’d love to hear about it.

K

The Baby Question

“Why haven’t you had kids yet?”

Something I didn’t understand until I got a little bit of age on me is how uncomfortable this type of question can be. Once a woman reaches a certain age (25ish), whether her biological clock ticks or not is moot as, everyone from acquaintances to relatives will make sure she knows she’s born to birth and she best get on with it.

Consider this for a moment; what are women in movies usually haunted by or hallucinating about? I’d say babies. Some chick will start hearing a baby crying or laughing and it’ll turn out her unborn child, or her abortion is haunting her. This is standard narrative for the role of women on film. In books, the second the young mistress doth barfith one knows she’s in a family way. Just food for thought.

In reality there are many barriers to baby-making that are incredibly sensitive and personal such as, careers, fertility problems, general health issues, lack of a partner, marriage problems, genetics and genuinely not wanting children, to name a few. It’s important to be respectful and understand what goes on in another woman’s womb is really none of your freakin’ business.

I once had an older gentleman I barely knew tell me he felt it’s best for women to have babies well before they’re aged 25 or 30 at the latest otherwise, “they’re far too old.” He then asked how old I was and when I said 34 he shook his head doubtfully and said I’d better get on with it because I’d left it way to long.

When I was younger I asked women about babies with nothing but good intent. I meant it as a compliment, as in, you’d be a great Mom. Time has taught me great Mother’s don’t always give birth and some women have given birth and aren’t great Moms.

To me, Mother’s are women who care deeply for others, who nurture talent and encourage without expecting anything in return. Mother’s are role models but not perfect by any means. Being able to laugh at missteps and foibles is an incredibly important trait for a Mother to have. Also, giving advice isn’t as important as listening, further, understanding advice won’t always be followed and mistakes will be made is key. Helping a young woman rise from the ashes is far more important than scolding her for what she did wrong.

My Mom fell into the Great Mother catagory. She died 4 years ago and this profound loss, while often a traumatizing pit of sadness, has taught me I have many Mothers in my life. So many women have stepped in and shown me what strength truly means, offered me guidance and unconditional love. They’re my bonus Mom’s and everyday angels and I’m incredibly lucky to have as many as I do.

My Mother-in-law was kind enough to arrive in a week before my Mom’s funeral. She helped me write endless lists and knock everything off all the while ensuring I took care and rested so as not to cause a pain flare up. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve thanked her enough for this.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a step-Mother-in-law who is a great feminist role model who compliments my intellect and encourages me to move forward even when I’m feeling lost and as though, because of my chronic illnesses, I’ve lost my chance to be anything useful at all. I cannot thank her enough for giving me these little boosts here and there, gently forcing me to remember my self worth.

My two Aunts have been so kind and caring, offering me a shoulder to cry on and wonderful insights and stories about my Mom throughout her life. We’ve grown a lot closer since my Mom died and, recognizing how fleeting life is, we make sure to say, I love you, often and appreciate the gifts each of us offer.

There are also several of my Mom’s close friends who’ve continually been there for me. With these women there’s that wonderful feeling that no time has passed even if it’s been ages since we’ve talked. We’re just able to pick up where we left off and carry on. This type of friendship is so special and I’m incredibly pleased to have those pseudo Mom’s in my life. Furthermore, the Mother’s of a few of my close friends are also incredibly warm and caring surrogate Moms to me.

It’s been a great pleasure to watch many of my friends and one of my sisters-in-law becoming mother’s and I get the bonus of doting on their kids and spoiling them whenever possible. I hope to someday earn pseudo Mom status to all of them whenever they need it.

I’ll be so thrilled should I end up having children in the future, but I like to think I am maturing into the type of person who is a stand-in Mom or second-Mom to a number of lovely young people I’ve come to know. I don’t wish to infringe on any decisions made by the actual parents but I’m there to offer support and love whenever needed.

I’ve overheard new parents say things such as, “I didn’t really understand love until I had a child of my own.” I like to think this isn’t true for me. I love the people in my life with all my heart and all my soul. I am fiercely protective should I feel one of these people is being attacked, short-changed, or bullied. It’s clear the “Mama-Bear” behaviour so often referred to is alive and well within me, no labour required (see what I did there?).

The next time you wonder why a woman hasn’t had children I urge you to compliment her on something you admire about her instead. You may be speaking to someone who’s never given birth but is a mother to many. Look at Oprah and Ellen for examples of prominent women with no children who absolutely are exemplary Mom’s to so many. I bet you can think of many women you know who have earned the status of Mom one way or another, be sure to treasure this gift.

In this modern age where, hopefully, we’re smashing the patriarchy for breakfast and moving towards a society of gender equality, I think we should examine what it means to be a “Mother” and modify the definition accordingly.

Please Note: Men are awesome too. I am incredibly lucky in that department as well but that’s another blog for another time. I promise.

K