Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nobody is Ever Missing.

I just finished reading Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey.

The book is a really successful representation of living with depression and having a mind that is distracted and even removed from your life. What I mean by removed is that it’s this out-of-body feeling of distance and of detachment that sometimes flirts with disinterest.

If you've never felt this, your reading this is the equivalent of having taken a wrong turn, and this isn't a great place for tourists. You’re welcome to visit, but don’t complain about not speaking the language or not understanding the customs. The come from a very specific context.

This isn't really a book review. I enjoyed the book, but I mainly was impressed by how accurately it depicted the internal monologue of someone who is living through something alienating. It’s also more than that. It’s a dissociation that is similar to a lack of focus, to a blurred vision. You can see shapes and fuzz, you can deduce what you should be feeling, but you can’t quite get there. It isn't a choice either, it isn't trying to touch something and failing, it’s seeing it next to you, maybe recognizing it (maybe not) and it not being something you’re familiar with at that moment. It’s an alien sentiment at the moment. A foreign tongue.

Lacey does a great job of creating moments where we’re following a thread of thought. She accurately embodies what it’s like to always be spinning that thread, but not necessarily in the manner most do. It’s being irrelevant or ridiculous is of no value. Nothing is of value. It just happens. The thread links things together in a web that maybe she or I can identify, but maybe we can’t. We aren't always privy to the oddity of it. The constant spinning of it, is often against your will. All you want is quiet. But even the desire for solitude is in itself a social faux pas. There seems to be a great distrust of the anti-social. 

I just thought it was nice reading about someone’s experience of (what I read to be) mental illness. The main character is clearly going through something, and is actively trying to get away from something that just keeps following her. For her, it’s other people.For me, it would be my place in the world. The space I occupy. My role. I often think about how I’d love to go out to the middle of nowhere and rest and “do nothing.” Erase whatever it is I officially am. But nothing would change, really. I’d still be with myself. It would only be a temporary distraction from whatever it is I deal with on a daily basis.

Nobody is Ever Missing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm having a bad day Temple Grandin.

Today I don’t feel too great. I’m tired. I know the eternal winter that is 2015’s snow-dump doesn’t help. Seasonal Affective Disorder - or S.A.D - because why the fuck not.

Monday I found out that I’ll soon need a root canal. So there’s a few grand in medical expenses I wasn’t expecting. Hopefully my work insurance will cover most of it.

It’s odd though. The hygienist put this weighted protective vest on me in order to take x-rays, and I really liked it. I thought it was calming, and when she removed it I was tempted to ask her to leave it on me.

This made me think of Temple Grandin and how folks on the autism spectrum often like weighted blankets or feeling compressed. I think I’m going to look into this. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed I like lying on my stomach/on my face.

I’m going to look into possible getting a weighted blanket - or maybe there are at-home DIY versions that can help in self-soothing. An idea! Huzzah!

Onward!

So I can potentially access sliding-scale services through The Argyle again (between 40 and 60$), or through The Montreal Therapy Centre, which charges 80$ a session.

Still nothing regarding a psychiatrist.

This is what’s been made available to me so far. I saw Dr. Rishi yesterday and he mentioned contacting Dr. Singh from St-Mary’s to see if there was anything else I could access, but I take the silence to mean that there isn't.

So I have to figure out what I want. What’s next? From this vantage point it seems like The Argyle is where I’ll start. I'm not pumped about the commute, or the cost - but maybe I could go once or twice a month in hopes of it helping.

Part of my wonders if it’s really worth it. What am I trying to discover? There is no root, it’s just sadness. It’s just constant.

Not feeling great today, going to go home and sleep on my face.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Psychosociales.

First of all, as an Anglophone reading a French title I’d like to acknowledge that the clinic title sounds like “Psycho Socials” which rings like some type of débutante ball, but with less dancing and more internal-struggling. What it is actually is a program title within Quebec’s local clinics. It’s basically an intake service for psychological and social services.

I attended one yesterday, in order to potentially access sliding scale services locally.

It went alright. Though at this point I've answered the same series of questions a dozen times over the last two years attempting to access the golden ticket of mental health care. It’s redundant and demoralizing. Let me tell you the my story, so it can be filled away somewhere...

The nurse, Emilie, was kind and young. She was the only nurse who spoke any English. She struggled. I switched to French occasionally, but she never switched out of English, which I appreciated.

So, after an hour of questioning, I'm on a 9-month waiting list for therapy services. Of course, this could go longer since I requested someone who speaks English. I expect to be on some fictional waiting list, tantamount to having written a letter to Santa. My name is somewhere - but really who gives a shit.

My visit to the CLSC is a direct result to the 3 references given to me by the doctor’s at St-Mary’s:

First, I was referred to Suzanne Marcotte (514-369-9193). I'm not sure why. She’s French and Charges 100$ for 50 minutes. This didn't seem to align with my language preference or my budget constraints, so she referred me to L’Ordre des Psychologues du Quebec. I called and left two messages and never heard back.

Second, the Montreal Therapy Centre (514-244-1290) here sessions are 80$ a session and they’re located in NDG.

Lastly, CLSC Psychosocial Intake, where it wasn't easy pressing for English services, and where I met Emilie last night. Basically I'm on a waiting list (I'm still on a waiting list for a family doctor by the way, it’s only been a decade) and if I want to kill myself I should call them and give them a heads up.

Faith in the system: little to nil.

Harris Wittels.

Another comedian has lost his life to darker parts of himself.

I know Harris Wittels as a writer on Parks & Recreation. He was a regular one-liner in public town meetings on the show, and played Harris the Pawnee civil servant.

Harris died last night of an apparent overdose, at the age of 30. The guy was clearly a wunderkind if he's only 30 but already has Parks & Rec, Eastbound & Down and The Sarah Silverman Program on his resume.

The comedians I follow on Twitter all have nothing but praise for his sweet, funny nature. I don't have any original insight to his death. I just wanted to take the time to write his name because I just feel a lot about this.

I feel for his friends.

I feel for him. I can easily insert myself into last nights denouement.

These comedians, we funny people... With so much insight, such sensitivity and hyper-awareness, it is a gift and a curse. The curse comes first and the humour comes after. It's a way in which to unmask and undress the horror we feel from being alive.

Rest in peace Harris. I'm so sorry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"...The absence of exact information.”


Currently reading Men Explain Things to Me, a book I highly recommend. I was pulled into a section on Virginia Woolf and the limits of language:

“There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life, your own or your mother’s, or a celebrated figure’s, an event, a crisis, another culture is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness, those nights of history, those places of unknowing. They tell us that there are limits to knowledge, that there are essential mysteries, starting with the notion that we know just what someone thought or felt in the absence of exact information.”

- Rebecca Solnit in Men Explain Things to Me, page 87.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Afterwards.

It’s taken me a few days to get around to writing about my experience on Wednesday, since after the nearly 2-hour session I had a headache from talking so much.

I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.

I expected Dr. Singh and his team to be older, and well, shitty. They weren't. Dr. Singh seemed pretty young, maybe late 30’s, and his students were two early 30-ish folks, one male, one female. The conversations went well, they were receptive and seemed to be actively listening and engaged in trying to figure me out.

Apparently this will lead to a report that they will then give to my doctor. I spoke to a friend about it, and she said I should ask for a copy of the report (this hadn't occurred to me). We’ll see. I have an appointment with my doctor at the end of the month, it’ll be interesting.

Like I said, I left the session with a huge headache, it was just intense. It’s like running a sprint, but emotionally and intellectually. It's just so much talking, so much reflection.

I always find it so intense when you’re expected to recite your history. Your medical history. Your social history. I have such a bad memory for time lines and dates - it just seems like such a jumble. It also means sometimes really thinking about these things, when maybe you haven't - ever.

The entire day was odd - I should have started with that. The taxi drive over involved an aggressive cabby who asked a lot of personal questions in a pretty aggressive tone. Including gems like, “Why are you going to the hospital?” and “Are you married?”

Once I got there, the tiny hospital was a bit of a surprise. I made my way to the psychiatric floor - something I hadn't prepared myself for. Seeing folks in pyjamas with bandages on their wrists is very - pulling.

The waiting room was an exercise in staying calm and avoiding eye contact. This one person was just an avalanche of inappropriate comments and invasive questioning. 

A: Why’d you buy a coffee?
X: Um, because I wanted one.
A: Women always buy coffee.
X: That’s not true, guys like coffee shops too.
A: Then they’re gay.

I would read the person (A) as gay, so this was actually cute. But then stuff got progressively weirder.

A: You’re standing and leaning on the wall like you’re from the 1920’s.
Y: Oh….?
A: It’s good for your back. Stay there.

Anyway, it was just constant. There’s something about people with little or no filters - about how they could say anything at any time that’s just terrifying. Especially true things. Can they see everything that’s wrong with me? Why wouldn't they, isn't it obvious? What if they just rip me apart?

As if any of it is worse than the fear of what I really am.

Maybe he'd look at me, and see all of my flaws and just shower me with them. That's the fear. He'd list them, my shortcomings. My disgusting nature. Accuse me of my worst parts.

And then I'd be exposed. A raw nerve. An unclothed, grotesque body. To be pointed at, and ridiculed. To be jeered with revulsion.

That is the voice inside my head.






Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Walking into judgement.

I was lucky recently. A friend posted on facebook that a clinic in Westmount was taking new clients for gynaecologists and a few family doctors. I called and booked an appointment right away. My first appointment went really well. I really like my new doctor, he seems to be genuinely caring and concerned. He's young, and approachable, and doesn't seem like a douche. Our report was excellent, and he was engaged and listened.

My first appointment with him also meant discussing why I was there. This meant broaching my issues with mental health. I gave him a sparks notes version, and he ended up referring me to Dr. Singh, who is apparently part of McGill University's psychiatry department, and is heading up some type of practice at St-Mary's hospital. I called and booked an appointment, and a month and a half later, here I am.

My appointment with Dr. Singh is tomorrow around noon. I have mixed feeling about this.

Of course, I want to do everything I can to supply myself with emergency services and support if I ever need them. I want follow-through. My doctor seems to think Dr. Singh can potentially refer me to free or sliding-scale services I've yet to find. Maybe he's a wizard.

I also have a desire to be clinically assessed. I've experienced doctor's of all kinds, but I've never been clearly diagnosed. My assumptions are my own. Certain terms have been used. Nothing is official.

The only reason I'm even worried about this, is that months ago when a walk-in clinic doctor refused to be my doctor, he said psychiatric cases frightened him and that he wasn't comfortable taking on the responsibility of someone "like that."

What if one day I'm hit by a wave of depression so bad I can't function? Will it being clinically recognized aid me in asserting the legitimacy of what I'm living?

The legitimacy of my mental illness can only be recognized by others - since my brains and insides are nothing but glumness and tricks. How can faulty wiring calculate it's own efficiency?

And so I am filled with a sense of dread about tomorrow. I was told I would be evaluated by three doctors. Two residents and Dr. Singh. I will be asked to lay everything out. I will be asked questions I don't feel are pertinent. I will be asked questions that are cutting to me.

I want to think if I feel something is inappropriate or that someone is being a dick I'll have the gaul to say something about it. But I'm not sure. These spaces for assessment are cold and difficult. And as is often the case, so are the assessors.

How is it one can be a doctor of the psyche, yet have so little understanding of compassion and empathy?

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...

I sit here and try and think of the things I should or could say tomorrow. It ends up a long list, a long list of ways in which sickness can warp into different areas of your life.

Are there links I can't see? Are the habits I feel trap me, obvious to others?

Can you see that I'm in pain by looking at me?

I have questions. But that's not what tomorrow is about.

I am going to try and be... not bitter. It's very difficult. There are only so many times a doctor can ask you to regurgitate your pain without it leaving a bad taste in your mouth.





Friday, February 6, 2015

Depressing thought: douches and villains.

When I watch a movie where a character is clearly a villain, I always wonder about those watching who don't perceive them as villains, but as heroes. 

Right now I can't get Bradley Cooper as a douche in Wedding Crashers out of my head, or Dr. Rick in Fired Up (way more obscure but a good one) -  but obviously there are examples that are much more disturbing. 

I'm currently reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and here are two brutal murderers who still consider themselves the heroes of their adventure story. This is quietly evident in the way Capote writes them.

I can understand that the very concept of a "villain" is subjective, but there are still shitty people who make shitty choices - choices that negate the well-being of others. There are those who just don't give a shit. 

These people don't look up to Veronica Mars or Leslie Knope, they look up to Bradley Whitford in Billy Madison.

Just one example of a fun little thought that takes up space in my brain. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Web-comic: Hyperbole and a half.

Hyperbole and a Half is a web-comic (and now book) that's crossed my path many times. It's author lives with depression. Her comics are on point.

Check out her post on depression, and the follow-up.


I actually had a friend like this. We longer hang out, he now lives in Ontario. He's a really good guy, and I'll always think of him as a buddy, but we were never speaking the same language when we talked about the world. This comic is on point.

Scrambling for access.

Mental Health awareness campaigns trigger a lot of anger in me.

First, I want to say that visibility and the ability to name our experiences (and disabilities) openly is important. It's important to hear people's stories and for those without mental health issues to hear how devastating living with / surviving depression can be. I hope that hearing personal accounts and understanding how pervasive mental illnesses are lead to a more open dialogue and to a more empathetic view of these issues.

Having said all of this, these campaigns - for me - bring forth a lot of resentment.

A lot of front-line mental health services are there for those in crisis. This is important. My issue is with what comes next, namely, the silence that greets you when you are no longer in crisis.

I called a suicide hotline once. I had been unemployed for months and was feeling especially useless. The operator had a warm, soothing voice and she didn't have to say much in order for me to finally cry (I don't cry. My depression is painful but I am often despondent and very far from my ability to cry and release tension). Her next move was to ask me to call a friend. I lied about calling a friend next and then survived the night.

The big picture over the next few months involved my struggle to find English free or sliding-scale mental health services in and around Montreal.

If you'd like to picture the ensuing shit-show google "two girls one cup."

Basically: there are very few free services available to Anglophones in the Montreal area.

Highlights include:

  • The West Island support group where I was the only female-identified person, at which I listened to one guy talk loudly about himself for over an hour (we were 7). The group moderator did not moderate shit. Including racist and misogynist comments. Considering the long trek out there and the abysmal experience I never returned.
  • The Concordia psychiatry department and it's free services. Oh fun. This means you're therapy is with a student. Mine was about 19 and immediately looked like a deer in the headlights within a minute of my sitting down. I understand kids need to learn but this was a total train-wreck of an experience. Disheartening to the max.
  • Various phone calls and emails to orgs of all kinds, most of which couldn't even refer me elsewhere.
  • French-only websites and services. 

* Though I am fluent in French, I asked if they knew of English support groups or services (since talking about issues is hard enough and wanting to do so in your mother-tongue means having the ability to use precise language in a more natural, effortless way.


I also contacted various therapists, and asked about sliding-scale services. I got a lot of negatives.

Finally I was referred to The Argyle. The services were not free but I was able to access sliding-scale services. I saw a lovely counsellor who I'll call A for about 10 sessions. This helped me a great deal. What sucked was the limit to sessions with the same counsellor. This totally negates the report we build.

Unfortunately A had to go back to school. This also sucks because I liked her tremendously. So I’m back to seeking services, ideally something long-term so I can feel I have a support structure around me.

Asking for help is the first step. But it is the first step in an uphill battle.

I wish strength and resolve to those going through similar struggles.

First you survive yourself, then you do everything you can to make that easier tomorrow. Unfortunately you'll have to rely on yourself for a lot of the work, an irony that pains me considering we ourselves are the problem.



Detonating outwardly.


I originally wrote this in October of 2014, as a response to several weeks of news coverage following the Ottawa shooting at Parlimant Hill. I wanted to post it here, as it touches on the themes of my blog.


-

A poll in October of last year showed 38% of Canadians recognize the misery of the Parliament Hill shooting as being the result of mental illness, and not a "terrorist attack." I want to say something about this. It's been on my mind for a while.

This man was neglected and our systems ignored him when there were clear signs of distress and danger. Same goes for the guy behind the death in St-Jean. There's all this talk about how he came to be radicalised, the websites, the messages, but what about the actual path that led him to that "radicalisation?" I'm talking about the everyday, about the flagrant dismissal of family members attempting to intervene. About these people themselves asking to be removed from the world.

Mental health, or more concisely, the lack of mental health care systems and access is a growing shortfall. It infuriates me that the varied vocalizations of "I am in pain," go unnoticed, and that the only thing that is heard is the eventual scream of an individuals utter collapse of self.

Whether living through/with post-partum, anxiety and panic, bipolar disorder, chronic depression or some other disordered hurt, we all live with this or love someone who does - so I implore us all to be more compassionate, more understanding, and above all else incensed with the ways in which this on-going pain is ignored - often resulting in internalized horrors detonating outwardly.

This has been in my mind since the shooting. Nathan Cirillo was a kid. He lost his life doing his job, standing guard at a memorial for those he'd come to represent so fucking tragically.

And the other, he lost himself and his life over a longer period of time. And though he made choices, he was also forfeited to his diseases - diseases of the mind, and diseases of hate. All of it painful.

To be honest, I was surprised that 38% of Canadians understood the role mental health probably played in this heartbreaking story. Like most living with mental illness, I internalize, and I often feel alone, unable, and conquered. So, this statistic opened me up to the reality that there are folks out there who understand what’s going on for some of us.

It's only as I get older that I start to comprehend what health care really means to people and to a nation and culture. We here in Canada don't have a functioning mental health care system. We don't have the resources. We don't have the spaces. We have suicide hotlines that say "don't kill yourself" but we have deafening silence for all that comes afterwards.

Locally, here in Montreal I take the metro and walk-by people visibly living their mental health issues, daily. If I walk from Peel metro to Berri, I will walk by dozens of people who seem to be in distress. I can't help but identify with them. Maybe if I had turned to drugs, my mental illness would look very different today. Maybe you'd walk by me. I'd be one of those with a dog and a clever sign.

In Quebec, countless of us do not have a family doctor, myself included. Will it take protesting? Is that the only way our elected officials pretend to give a shit? I am able and be active in my own wellness, seeking what I need, and facing brick wall after brick wall in the form of waiting lists and non-existent referrals. Phone-calls to busy signals and disconnected phone lines. Put me in a room with a "hang in there kitty" poster and I'll burn the fucking building down.
I'm frustrated with the ways in which isolationism is applied to every event, every individual. As if nothing is connected. Context is never considered. Black boys being shot in parks, and it being represented as having nothing to do with his race or gun-culture. At 12, he's a "young man," a white girl at 15 is still considered "a child" in sex-crime related reporting. Their childhoods are not of the same value, and are not given the same space. I make the mistake of reading the comment section of an article, and I want to weep for humanity.

It's all connected. Our misery and the misery of others.

It’s too easy to de-contextualize. Too easy to blame the individual and not their environment and everything that came before.

Prevention is what I'm highlighting here, and prevention is only possible through support and access to the necessary services.
Let's all try and be better. But more importantly, let's start demanding better of the systems our ancestors built and that we maintain.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Night-time rituals.

The evening can be a difficult time. I perform my night-time rituals and make my way to the comfort of my bed. 

Some nights my thoughts are incessant. Cycles of habitual reprimands and unflinchingly detailed memories of the times my foot found my mouth.

Other nights are oddly worse in their placidity. I get lost in daydreams of myself as an other. Me without pain or fear. Me different. Better. Placated by absolute removal from myself.

On nights like tonight my sadness is gentle. It is quietly present.  Sometimes being grateful for the warmth of my bed is enough. The softness of the fibres that wrap me or the layered weight on top of me can maybe heat the parts of me that are cold.

Tonight I feel a despondency. Night-time also brings with it exhaustion. An exhaustion not unlike that I feel in the daytime. Am exhaustion I carry around. An exhaustion that points to just laying down and negating this world through sleep.

My body needs sleep. But so does every part of me that survives depression. My mind needs sleep.

Often I feel oddly attached to people, abstractly linked to me through feeling the same pain. As if we're linked by this void in our chests. Bonded by a unique, dull pain housed in our bodies. This traitor in our midsts. 

I lay still and feel a black-hole in my chest, quietly existing. Churning.

That is my lullaby.

I try and focus on things I'm grateful for. A warm bed. I am grateful for this warm bed. I find comfort here, tonight.

“Life is tremendously sad just by being in it.”


Louis C.K and Conan O'Brien.

"Have you ever done something awkward..."


Comedian Daniel Simonsen.

A blog of one's own.

Part of the exercise of this blog is to outwardly verbalize my thoughts in hopes that expelling them will quiet my mind.

It's only been about 24 hours but I've already ran through various almost-posts that were carried away by distraction.

So much of me is internalized. I wonder about the role that plays in my isolation.

What makes my thoughts, or my ideas worthy of "publication" and of being shared?

Part of my hesitation in beginning this project is how I don't necessarily feel there's anything original or special about me, my thoughts, or my vantage point on the world. 

I recently finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I credit her (blame her?) for my interest in starting a blog. Her main character blogs about race, racism and culture in such an interesting way, there is absolute value and importance to that work. She engages discussion and speaks to a true experience from an informed, critical and engaged place. I highly recommend the book.

I suppose I worry what I'm doing is futile. Worse yet, that talking about depression and other facets of my life is self-indulgent and cliché. It might be these things. But it could also be more than these things. 

I'm going to give myself a few months as an experimental grace period. 

Part of dealing with myself also means knowing that who I'm dealing with is extremely self-critical. 

When you have occasionally complex trains of thought, or these moments of left-field consideration, and it's all in your own mind and so intangible it's just so quickly blinked away. Collecting it seems prudent. Maybe even wise. 

Yesterday, I listened to most of the William Burroughs themed episode of This American Life.

This got me thinking on the importance of expression and of representation. Specifically the representation of the "freaks" and "queers" of a culture, and how in declaring ourselves we often free others. I am attracted to stories that represent pain because I know it. I understand it. It speaks to me. Surely it'll speak to others.

The Burroughs episode of TAL also got me thinking about how male writers have written about their experiences, their thoughts and whims for centuries, and how difficult it is for me, as a "girl" to really take that space and feel there's value in what I have to say. 

Do you think any of the beat generation really gave a shit? No. Also, they were all depressed as shit. So we have that in common. 

All of this to wiggle around justifying my blog. Justifying my voice. 

It's a muscle that needs to be exercised, worthiness.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A push from the mystical.

According to my horoscope from Free Will Astrology good things can come from that which has been rotted or destroyed. 

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In the baseball film *The Natural,* the
hero Roy Hobbs has a special bat he calls "Wonderboy." Carved out of
a tree that was split by a lightning bolt, it seems to give Hobbs an
extraordinary skill at hitting a baseball. There's a similar theme at
work in the Australian musical instrument known as the didgeridoo.
It's created from a eucalyptus tree whose inner wood has been eaten
away by termites. Both Wonderboy and the didgeridoo are the results
of natural forces that could be seen as adverse but that are actually
useful. Is there a comparable situation in your own life, Capricorn? I'm
guessing there is. If you have not yet discovered what it is, now is a
good time to do so.


I'm taking this as the nudge I've needed. Over the last few weeks I've felt maybe blogging about my experiences would help purge some of the reoccurring thoughts I have. 

I've had a lot of back and forth about it (internally of course). First, blogging seems to be a cultural cliché at this point. It sounds like a shitty comment I'd have made back when I was a bitch. 

Friend: "I really hate X politician."
Me: "Why don't you blog about it."

Second, it's in my nature to be honest. Sometimes brutally so. Especially when it comes to myself. So, this opens me up to criticism and possible negativity (and trolling) I might not be able to stomach. 

We'll see.