Sunday, October 1, 2017

Black dogs.

I continue to be busy. I'm working and taking care of Buddy and going to TMS 5-days a week during work hours. It's been a lot. 

The weather has been unseasonably warm in Montreal, so the fall is only starting to make an appearance. 

I've been thinking about how I'd like to write about black dogs as a theme. I read a memoir called Killing the Black Dog, apparenly the black dog is a metaphor for depression

I find it an odd metaphor, since for me black dogs have always been symbols of companionship and familiarity, since every dog I've ever had was black. A black labrador retriever, a black schnauzer and now with Buddy, a black pug. 

The labrador, a confirmation of my fragility and the cruelty of life.

The schnauzer, a crescendo of anxiety and tumultuous happenings.

The pug, an acceptance of the absurd and an attempt to move on. 

Depression to me may feel like a fog that creeps into the brain and covers me like a cloud. Or an evil spirit that feeds off of my energy, joy and ambition. I don't think a representation of depression in popular culture has ever been as spot-on as Dementors in the Harry Potter universe. 

TMS has been going well. The appointments break-up my day. After the first week and a half, I felt my brain to be less cluttered and "cloudy" feeling. Less foggy. It's like there was this density and weight I couldn't see past, and it lifted. I would imagine it to be similar to feeling congested, except without being centrally focused in the sinuses. It's also similar to being sleep-deprived. 

The doctor at the TMS/neurology lab also wants me to be tested for sleep apnea, since I'm perpetually exhausted. I'll be doing that this upcoming Friday. 

If TMS continues to go well (I'm about half-way through the 4-6 week treatment) I may experiment with lowering my anti-depressant dossage, and see if it helps with my energy levels and sleep. 

TMS isn't invassive. It's a time commitment and a hassle to get to, but it's covered by medicare. I think one American I read about having done it paid for it out of pocket and he said it cost him roughly 15 grand. SO, I thank my lucky stars for Canadian healthcare because that's the entirety of my savings for a downpayment. For a treatment that may or maynot help me. 

The treatment itself is a little odd. You sit in a chair, not unlike a dentist chair, lean back, and a large flat thing is put on your head. It's places on your frontal lobe area and then you get tapped on the head. That's basically it. It send you magnetic pulses that feel like being tapped on the head by a woodpecker with a blunt beak. Tap tap tap, 5 seconds, beep, tap tap tap and so on. 

After a few sessions I started falling asleep. It's not painful, just weird and hard to ignore. Some times the magnetic pulses must be stronger, because sometimes it's harder for me to fall asleep since I really feel them, and they make my eye and nose twitch. Other times I feel like a cat leaning into a scratch and barely feel them, but it's comforting. 

I think about writing a lot, I just don't want to spend more time in front of a computer. In a few months time I may start working from home a day a week, in which case I could set aside a little bit of time on that one day a week to write. We'll see. 

I'll definitely keep updating about TMS, since I myself came to it through online blogs and personal accounts, and there's very little out there about it. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

One long day.

It's been really difficult to find the time to update the blog. I have had a lot going on with the dogs' adoption and work. I've just been very busy. I get home during the week and I walk the dog, I have dinner I take a shower and I go to bed.

On top of all of this I started TMS treatments. Everything happened really quickly: they called me, they gave me an appointment for a few days later, there was an intake interview (How depressed are you on a scale of sheetcake to paint huffing? Do you think you're a bummer most of the time, some of the time or all the time?) and I started treatments the same day.

I started this past week. I went in on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I will be going in five days a week for 4 to 6 weeks.

It's all a lot of unknown. I don't know how long this'll last, I don't know how I might react, I don't know if they'll keep me for the full six weeks or shorter/longer.

All I know right now is I'm exhausted and it's a lot to go in for treatments and to work full-time. I am missing work for an hour or two daily to go to these sessions so I'm using a lot of my sick days and possibly also my vacation days. It's causing some stress. When I get home I don't feel like being on the computer so that's why I'm not really on the blog these days. Maybe eventually when things quiet down I'll be able to put some time aside every week and spend more time writing.

I'm still here, doing my best, not dead yet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Old dog learning new tricks.

It's been longer than a minute, I know. I've been meaning to sit and update, but when I'm at work all day on a computer I don't want to re-commit to a screen when I get home.

I've been at the new job for about a month and a half now and overall it's going well. There's still a lot of learning and training but overall I'm happy with my choice.

It being a "real job" with less down time means I can't log into my personal accounts while at work. Hence, less updating on here.

Sometimes I'd have entire days where I'd be waiting for work so I'd write or I'd work on other things.

When things settle maybe I'll have more time to write, but right now I'm still trying to figure out my schedule and my hours and what my life will look like while working a decent job.

I'm also only on a one-year contract, so there's still a lot of anxiety about job security.

The new job was a salary bump, and the same week I started our union signed a new collective agreement so my salary went up again. This amounts to sorcery since in the private sector capitalist models determine whether or not you're worth a salary boost. Basically, this means sales jobs get bonuses and raises and administrative staff get shit.

My salary has gone up by nearly 7 grand, or, to put it more accurately, it's reached a living wage. I still haven't received a proper pay check, but once I do I'll be able to see how much money I'll be making, and I can start putting money away for my house/condo.

I've been coming home after long days of training, and sometimes I'm so overwhelmed I just go to bed. It's been a lot.

But, the work conditions are better, the hours are better, and the forthcoming benefits are better. There are actual distinctions now in days off. Sick days. Vacation days. Volunteer days. Family-leave days. Before it was all my vacation time. Now I have an allotment for each. Since you know, you can get sick, a parent can get ill, roads can be closed, and other stuff fucking happens. Life fucking happens.

The new hires who started with me are both great, and my stress level has gone down significantly. It's nice to know I have a job where I actually do something. I see my accomplishments daily. They're tangible.

A good job helps. A living wage helps.

Along with all of this I've been actively looking to adopt a dog since I have the funds now to properly care for one. This is an ongoing project. It's difficult to adopt a younger dog. It's difficult to adopt a smaller dog. These are "in demand" dogs and I can't be everywhere looking for pooches. Size and age is a consideration because I'll be caring for the dog with the help of my mother, who will be the daytime caretaker. She doesn't want to wrangle anything, so size is an issue. I'd also like to train my own dog - so younger is preferable.

On top of all of this, my town has breed bans, so there are a number of dogs I am not even allowed to own. A lot of the dogs I've loved at the refuge have been pit-bulls, and they're on the ban list. A lot of pit-mixes are, which is a shame. I really love them, they're big babies.

So I'm keeping my eyes peeled for dogs that need adopting - but it's hard, people adopt quickly and there are a lot of factors to consider.

My friend C also came down from British-Columbia for nearly 2 weeks. This had me socializing and going out a lot. Probably more than I usually do in half a calendar year.

With my bi-weekly volounteering and some packed weekends, it's just been pretty nuts.

I happen to be online right now because a friend needed me to make a postcard design for her real quick while a printer we use is having a 25% off sale. So here I am, on the inter-webs.

I'll try and make more of an effort to take the time to update, or to sit and write on a given subject.

Wish me luck at living a life,
K.

P.S - No news on TMS, I assume my fax is at the bottom of a pile somewhere.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

New news, continued.

Well, it's been a while.

I started the new job on June 5th and it's been a lot. 

The Monday I started I got home and was just so overwhelmed I could barely stand it. The change of culture, from private to public, the training for the job, the new names and faces, the size and scope of the office, leaving the comfort of the old job, all of it - it hit me that Monday afternoon. 

I was in the archive, having a moment, lost in a spiral. I spiralled pretty hard. There was a lot of worry about whether or not leaving the safety of my old job was smart. If I would be able to cut it at this new job. If I would make it. If I would be fired. If I would go back on unemployment. If I would live with my mother forever. If I was ever going to be able to take care of myself. If I would just curl up and die. 

I felt like I should cry, and desperately wanted to but wasn't able to. It was all just stuck in my throat. 

My first week was a lot. I'm just overwhelmed right now. There's change and there are a lot of questions and there's insecurity and there's a lot of unknowns for which I just need to be patient - not my strength.

In order for my contract to becoming official, I had to take a French oral exam, in order to be classified as "officially" bilingual. If I pass with a C (grading goes, C, B, A, X for a fail and E for exempt) then I'll be "officially" bilingual and will be offered a 1-year contract and should also receive an 800$ raise. 

The test ended up being this past Friday. The whole ordeal gave me a headache. I'm now dependent on those results for an official one year contract. 

I'm just really tired right now.

Overall I'm feeling pretty good about the job itself, it's just been a lot. And I feel like my mind is racing. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time. 

I'm really tired.

I haven't heard back from the hospital about my request for TMS, so that was a build-up and let down as well. I'm just in this weird internalized place that I can't really get out of. Sometimes I feel like I need a hard re-start. 

Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Guided meditations by Tara Brach.

A lot going on, busy and exhausted. Nervous about my new job, starting Monday.

Here are some guided meditations by Tara Brach.

I know I should be doing them - but all I want to do is sleep. It's all I can think of.

I need a vacation. I just want to do little to nothing for a week.

I just want to sleep sleep sleep.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A weekend away.

Spent a weekend away in the eastern townships, which was nice. It was different. There's a lot going on these days - it was nice to get away and change the space, change the mood. The trip was a gift for my mother, we went back to her hometown, stayed in a B&B and ate at local spots.
Learn to know yourself. To search realistically and regularly, the processes of your own mind and feelings. 
– Nelson Mandela
We stopped by my brother's house on the way home. It was nice seeing everyone. It's brought up a lot in terms of knowing people, change, and reflection, which was once again poked by the above quote by Nelson Mandela, which was in a newsletter this morning. 

You can't force others into that search, and you can always escape your own, or turn it off. 

What do I know, really? I'm not very good at my life.

It was a long weekend, but it still feels like a Monday. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell.

Woke up to the news today that Chris Cornell died at the age of 52.

Hours later, it's now come to light that he committed suicide by hanging himself in a hotel room.

When someone dies by suicide, I always get a chill of recognition. As if we're known to one another, not through life, but through the method of death.

I'm sorry Chris. It's over.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New news.

Well, it's been a time.

It's been busy. I had a Mother's Day brunch and mani/pedi planned and volunteering this past weekend, and the weekend before was movies and housework. Sunday I had a ton of dogs, a lot of pit-bulls and large dogs, a few traumatized dogs, and that takes a lot of energy.

Over a week ago I got an e-mail from one of the pools I'd applied on and was testing for, saying I was now officially in the pool. This past Friday I got a call and was offered a job. I said I was interested and now they're doing the security clearance check on me. I actually went in just this morning for fingerprinting and paperwork.

Now I wait.

I need an official offer, with a contract, and a start date for me to actually feel like this is happening.

Some key points:

  • It's legit in the building where my bus drops me off downtown in the morning, so it's still in Montreal and it's not in some random location.
  • The starting salary will boost my income right out the gate by five thousand dollars.
  • They're filling 4 jobs, and I was offered the Archivist role - which matches up with my organisation and information management strengths. 
  • It's a one year contract - but that's to make sure I'm not cuckoo - nobody gets a full time permanent job with the government right away, it's too hard to get fired.
  • This pool I applied to in April 2016. So It's been over a year, S's whole process took 14 months. Depending on the next few weeks, it seems like my experience is lining up with her timeline.
The timeline so far:
2016-04-24 - Application
2016-11-28 - Questions to me by e-mail
2017-02-03 - Invite to exam
2017-03-09 - Invite to interview (3 person panel exam, reference request)
2017-03-14 - Exam results
2017-04-18 - Follow-up on references (boss didn’t call back)
2017-05-09 - Confirmation I'm in the hiring pool
2017-05-12 - Phone call of offer
2017-05-15 - Security forms and request for fingerprints
2017-05-16 - Appointment for fingerprints

Knowing my current workplace, I wanted to speak with the principal, and my manager ASAP. I reached out to the principal first, since he was my reference, and since I've worked with him longest. 

He ended up calling me into his office teary-eyed, which I did not expect. Thankfully both times he and I got teary-eyed he changed the topic so we both avoided full-on crying. 

He then announced it to my manager, who met with me, and that also went really well. I told them both I know this place well enough to know it will take longer than 2 weeks for everyone to get their shit together, so they both appreciated that. They basically need to write a new job description. They don't need a graphic designer, they need a marketing assistant or maybe an administrative assistant with basic InDesign skills. 

So, that was a huge weight off. I don't like secrets and I don't like games. I don't want to make plans with my current employer knowing full-well I'm on my way out.

It's also an ongoing process, and both the hiring employer and my current employer are open to being flexible, which I really appreciate and which is ideal. 

My new manager said she's like me to start June 1st - but that doesn't really match up with the 10 days it takes HR to send me a contract after I get my security check, I think it'll take longer than that. Which is fine by my current employer, since they'll keep me for as long as they can. 

I mean, it's not like I'm busy here, I just think they like me. 

It's ups and downs. 

So that's my news. It was great Friday afternoon news, but it's still kind of out in the ether, since there are a lot of unknowns. 

Other updates:
  • Things are still cold between my brother and I - I haven't seen my nephews in ages.
  • No news from the Neuro hospital regarding TMS.
  • This upcoming weekend I'm heading to the Eastern Townships with my mom for her Mother's Day/Birthday gift. We're staying in a Bed & Breakfast and going for dinner, I'm looking forward to the change of scene.
That's it for now. Ideally I'd get a later start-date with the new job so I could take a week off between jobs - but I'll take it any way I can get it. 


With love,
K.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Old Baby.



I watched Old Baby this weekend. I love Maria Bamford so much. 

It's like her comedy exists just for me.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Admission by Stacy Torres.

Longreads has a great piece up by Stacy Torres called The Admission. Torres recounts her admission to a psych department at the age of 20. 

The section on how she needs to "perform" her illness in order to be taken seriously was especially poignant to me:
“We’re looking for psychiatric emergency,” Jeanne said. 
“Outpatient services are down the block.” 
“What about inpatient services?” she asked. 
“Well, that’s in here,” he motioned to the door behind him. 
Well, then what are you waiting for? Let us in. I didn’t understand the confusion. Why the hesitation? Then a thought occurred. The week before Jeanne had half-joked about how one of her colleagues suggested they might not admit me unless I slit my wrists in front of them. I clenched my teeth and slowly inhaled before getting down to business. If they wanted a wreck, I’d show them one. In seconds, liquid was spilling down the side of my face. I didn’t bother wiping the fat telenovela tears that pooled on my cheeks. The man looked embarrassed, tugging on his eyebrow, and hustled us into the room from where he first came.
This has always been difficult for me since I'm so despondent when really depressed. A friend of mine cries incessantly when suffering, and I told her once that in a way it's a blessing because it's physical "proof" of how you're feeling, whereas I just look like I'm a sleepy bitch.

Read the essay here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Looking to TMS, for now.

I'm having a lot of trouble focusing these days. I have resting-anxiety that’s higher than normal, and I can’t get enough sleep. I’ve changed my commute to work in order to walk more, and also to cut from a bus and two metro rides to just one long bus ride. This means I’m on a bus for about 45 minutes to an hour, so I nap twice a day nearly daily. It’s still not enough sleep. It also allows me to read or just sit quietly. Then, once in the city, I have a longer walk uphill so it's a nice start to the day.

Right now my mind is on TMS. I’m considering TMS, and I hope I’m a viable candidate for it. I need a change. I’m afraid and worried, but I’m also at a low point right now and I’m all out of ideas.

So right now, the focus is on TMS. If it’s a yes or a no, I can then move to the next thing, which may be microdosing.

I have an appointment tomorrow with my family doctor, Dr. Rishi. I sent him a letter last week (they don’t have an office e-mail, so I mail him things like a war-time bride) asking him to look up TMS and microdosing before my visit. TMS is offered at the neurology department of the McGill University Health Centre, so it’s an option.

A piece on NPR mentioned TMS being used for "treatment-refractory depression" - which is depression that does not respond to common treatment methods. That sounds like me. I am on a pretty high dosage of anti-depressants and I'm barely functional nonetheless.

I also read a piece in a psychology journal about recent findings:
A recent study presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in Atlanta, Georgia, investigated the effects of TMS on depressive symptoms in a private practice setting.3 The sample included 123 patients (67.5% female) with MDD who had not responded to an average of 3.9 treatment attempts with antidepressants. The mean number of TMS sessions that patients received was 40.8. 
Following the acute phase of treatment, patients demonstrated a 76.4 to 78.8 response to treatment as indicated by their Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and Patient Health Questionnaire PHQ-9) depression scale scores, and no notable adverse effects occurred during or after treatment. Remission rates were between 52.5 and 72.4, and of these patients, an 80% long-term remission rate was observed among those available for follow-up assessments over a period of more than 4 years. “These findings further establish TMS as a safe, effective and durable treatment option, both acutely and on a continued basis, for those who suffer from a high degree of symptom severity and/or do not gain relief from antidepressant medications,” concluded the authors.
Those are encouraging findings, the article, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Effective for Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ends by saying that 60% claimed remission and that 70% showed significant remission. Those numbers aren't nothing.

For now, I just have to wait until tomorrow, where I can talk to Dr. Rishi about it.

Until then.

Update: 

Musician streams TMS treatment live on Facebook.

Also, there's this bit on gut health and the brain and TMS. They seem to correlate TMS with gut-health and weight-loss, but I'd argue if you're less depressed shit gets better in general.

What Happens When One Fat Patient Sees A Doctor.

Check out What Happens When One Fat Patient Sees A Doctor over on The Establishment. 

Written by Your Fat Friend (snap), it's pretty dead on.

I happen to be seeing a doctor right now who has had weight struggles himself, so he's understanding and kind, but he is not the norm. 

If you have someone who is shitty about your weight, and then also shitty about your mental health, it's really the most dehumanising shit to wade through. 

A common theme amongst friends of varying degrees of fatness is not being believed. There's no way we eat vegetables, or walk as much as we day we do, or don't eat junk food three times a day. We must be lying because we're ashamed of our fat-people-choices. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

♥ Alex Norris ♥ "Oh no!" ♥

Sometimes you come across art and just think, "YES."








These web-comics are housed oved at web comic name dot com (lol) and are all by Alex Norris.









I actually love these so much they're my phone wallpaper and lock screen. Well, I edited "oh no" and flying baby (lol) in photoshop so I could use them that way.



A floating "oh no" is pretty much my experience of life.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide.



The links seem to only link to the American version of HBO - so I don't know if this will be available in Canada. Womp womp.

Diana Athill.

From Write, Never Marry, and Other Love Advice from Simone de Beauvoir's Editor: An interview with acclaimed writer and editor Diana Athill shortly after her 99th birthday.
I really began to write entirely as a healing exercise. I didn't realize that, but that first book I wrote came out of the blue, a good many years after my unhappiness. I had been living carefully enough, working at a very interesting job, having lots of friends. But all during that time, I do know that if I stopped and looked at myself and said, "What is my life?," I would have said to myself, "It is a life of failure." Simply because I'd grown up in a family and at a time when my job was to get married and have children, and I had failed. There was this underlying thing of failure deeply buried. I didn't sit down and say, "I'm going to write that book." It happened. It was a very uncanny experience, and it came easily. And when it was finished, I was healed.
The interview is by Anya Raza, check it out. Athill is 99 and sharp as shit. Goals!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Microdosing and Medical Marijuana.

Rolling Stone has a piece up on micro-dosing marijuana and how it's an increasing trend. Lately, I've been reading a lot about micro-dosing in general, as its shown benefits to some in treating mental illness, and other maladies.

Why Microdosing Is Taking Over Medical Marijuana by Sara Davidson goes into weed specifically:
Humans and other mammals have cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body in tissues, organs, and especially the brain. The body naturally makes chemicals that fit into these receptors, and together they regulate and balance the body's systems, from digestion to nerve signaling to the immune system. Whether by coincidence or evolution, the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant mimic the endocannabinoids made by the body.

I've been looking into it and discussing it with a friend who's micro-dosing marijuana now - it's really interesting. It seems affordable and with the upcoming legalisation of it all, I have a twinkle of hope. 

I'm worried since I didn't ever really smoke well. I get anxious. So maybe micro-dosing would help anxiety and depression - I just have my doubts about treating severe depression with weed.  I have to keep reading up on it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Charlotte's Web and CBD.

Charlotte's Web has been consistently name-checked on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. Charlotte's Web is a CBD oil that is family business run, sold out of Colorado right now.

Pete has been open about how it's helped with his anxiety and general mood.

Pete's just featured the Stanley Brothers on his podcast:
   

CBD is shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and to have just a litany of uses in feeling better. The namesake of the oil is a young girl with severe epilepsy whose mother contacted the brothers in search of someone to help with accessing CBD for her daughter.

According to the interview above, CBD has been classed by the US government as being a neuroprotectant.

They also touch on microdosing, sustainable capitalist business practices, addiction, PTSD, and all sorts of wellness related stuff and the judgements that have suppressed their research and progress in CBD research.

Prohibition also means prohibiting research - which might open up if it's legalised in Canada.

A friend of mine with severe pain has been taking CBD oil for a few months and swears by it. Hers is through a green doctor here in Montreal. It does have THC in it, just a lower dose.

Hopefully, I'll be able to order something comparable through a local doctor, something that's covered by insurance - ideally.

Also I just really like stories of people doing drugs and freaking out/having profound experiences.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pain.

Wired has a piece on pain:
Pain has always been the price of being alive, but according to the National Institutes of Health, more than one in 10 American adults say that some part of their body hurts some or all of the time. That’s more than 25 million people. In study after study, more middle-aged Americans than ever before say they suffer from chronic pain. Because of that pain, more of them than ever before say they have trouble walking a quarter mile or climbing stairs. More say they have trouble spending time with friends. More say they can no longer work.
... 
IF YOU BURN yourself on a stove, it hurts. More specifically, the nerve cells in your hand sense the heat and send pain signals to your spinal cord. The signal then travels up to the brain, which instructs you to howl with pain or issue the appropriate profanity. This is what’s known as acute pain. It can stab or pinch or shock, hurting like hell and telling us to stop doing what we are doing, take care of ourselves, get medicine, get help. The medical community knows how to treat most acute pain. Temporary prescriptions for opioids dull the sting from surgical incisions; anti-inflammatories can mask the discomfort of a sprain. Acute pain persists, but it also goes away. Acute pain is also easier to empathize with: Show someone an image of a pair of scissors cutting a hand, and the observer’s brain will react as much as if their own hand were being pinched.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is a phantom: an enduring ache, a tenderness that does not turn off. It can be inflammatory (brought on by diseases like arthritis) or neuropathic (affecting the nerves, as in some cases of shingles, diabetes, or chemotherapy treatments). Some chronic pain never even traces back to a coherent cause, which makes it that much harder to understand. Give us broken bones, burn marks, blood—in the absence of proof (or personal experience), the hidden pain of others is easy to dismiss.
It's been an odd week for me.I missed work on Wednesday. Call it a "mental health day" I was in bed. Depression doesn't care. Anyway, check out End Pain Forever: How a single gene could become a volume knob for human suffering, by Erika Hayasaki.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Neal Brennan on mental illness, the brain and TMS.



Starting around the 01:01:00 mark, Neal Brennan and Joe Rogan start talking about mental health, research on the brain and all sorts of offshoots of brain health and mental health. Brennan discusses his history with antidepressants and the constant work of seeking treatment.

It's a solid conversation. Rogan is interested and Brennan is an active participant in seeking treatment. You have to be when you're depressed - as is pointed out many times in this interview - very little is actually known about mental illness and the brain in general.

In his stand-up special, 3 Mics, he also talks about his experiences with ketamine (in the above podcast he's still in the process of that treatment) and his experience with TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). 

I'm going to ask Dr. Rishi about TMS, because Brennan says it helped him a great deal. It's covered by medicare in Canada, and it seems to be available at the MUHC.

I'd suck on a magnet if it alleviates some of my fucking pain. I've sucked on worse.

Update (2016-04-20) - Jenny over at The Bloggess posted about TMS, asking her (extensive) readership about experiences with it. Check out the comments section for more.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics.



I watched 3 Mics last night and it was very good.

It's part stand-up and part one-man show. The premise is excellent (3 mics, one for one-liners, one for "emotional stuff" and one for stand-up), and it's poignant and funny. Brennan goes in deep and honest on his depression and the darker bits of his life, it's just real honest and unflinchingly straight.

I highly recommend it.

Thank you for being honest Neal. Depression is the fucking worst.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Outrunning depression.

Great piece by Kim McLarin on depression, race and all manner of interconnection.

OUTRUNNING ESHU: ON FINALLY SEEKING TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Some highlights for me:

On "mental illness" as a white category which alienates communities of colour:
Mental illness, mental disorder of any possible stripe, was definitely white folks’ mess. White people had nervous breakdowns; black folks just got tired of shit. White people had anxiety, black folks had nerves. Black folks got the blues sometimes, but only white people got clinically depressed. White people listened to Prozac. Black folks listened to their mother, their pastor, and God.
Some stats:
In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults (6.7 percent of the adult population) experienced at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A major depressive episode is defined as a period of two weeks or longer during which a person experiences depression, loss of interest or pleasure in everyday life, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning: sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, or problems with energy, concentration or self-image. (An important note: the NIMH did not make exclusions for depression caused by bereavement, substance abuse, or medical illness.) 
Women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime, says the CDC. On the bright side, depression among women improves after age 60, which is not true of men. 
Not surprisingly, people living below the poverty level are more than twice as likely to experience depression as those living at or above the poverty line.
An estimated 92 percent of African-American men with depression do not seek help, according to the CDC. Which makes it reasonable to consider the statistics off.
On what we know and highlighting how much we don't know:
I try to meditate. Psychological research, including a 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine analysis of forty-seven studies, suggests that meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be moderately effective in treating depression and perhaps more so at preventing relapse. Then again, psychological research (a 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Science) suggests that 60 percent of psychological research is, essentially, crap.
On the fear of sad people, and the reminders present in the melancholia of others:
The deep American suspicion of melancholy and its contents is connected to the deep American suspicion of intellect, of complexity of thought and perspective, of wakefulness.
On writers, creatives and depression:
Not all writers are tortured geniuses. I know many stable writers, levelheaded and content, writers who don’t drink or take drugs or require antidepressants, writers who use, without irony, words like “optimist.”
Still, there’s no denying some subtle connection between creativity and mental anguish. Several studies have confirmed the link (Andresen, 1987; Jamison, 1989; Ludwig, 1995) even if they fail to explain it. The largest study to date to examine the connection was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. That study found that creative types, writers in particular, were overrepresented among people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse problems. Writers were also almost twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.
Are we sensitive, thus we need to express creatively or is our need to look at things and think deeply, responsible for our melancholia?
The great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa famously said, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” How much toll does it take to not look away? Ecclesiastes says: “And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”
On "molecular residue":
But there’s even more than that. I am fascinated by (what I can understand of) the exploding field of behavioral epigenetics, which posits that the experiences of our recent ancestors leave molecular residue which adheres to their DNA— and therefore to ours. In other words, not just physical but psychological and even behavioral tendencies really can be inherited. If your grandmother or even your great-grandmother struggled with depression because she escaped from the Holocaust, or narrowly avoided a massacre in My Lai, or was enslaved and raped repeatedly or watched her father being lynched—or was simply neglected and unloved during childhood—it matters to you and in you. Whether you know it or not.
I gotta admit, when I was in my late teens and early 20's I  had this foreboding reoccurring thought that my sadness was karma. I must have been a terrible, monstrous shit in another life. Like researching philosophy and religion, it was an attempt at explaining why I felt the way I felt.

Read the entirety of McLarin's piece of you can.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Watch Big Little Lies.

Illustration by Keith Negley

I very much enjoyed Big Little Lies. As the series unfolded I had my suspicions and theories, and eventually grew worried it would let me down, but it did not.

It represented friendships and women in a very honest way and did not fall into any misogynist tropes about whether or not women can be truly supportive of one another.



Spoiler alert on these linked articles!

In Its Final Moments, Big Little Lies Transcends Its White Feminism

From THE SURPRISING GENEROSITY OF “BIG LITTLE LIES”:
In one lovely scene, Jane tells her new friends how detached she feels, as if she were peering at them from far away rather than sitting with the two of them. As Madeline chatters, Celeste stays quiet, locking eyes with Jane. The camera holds on the two of them, capturing the early alchemy of a friendship—and the suggestion that, even in mean-girl world, women might choose to be allies instead of enemies.
That's my main takeaway. I was adamant that the ending feature a show of solidarity, which seemed imminent. These women were able to talk to each other properly after really intense confrontations. Smart, empathetic women can see when they've been wrong and can see what's going on. Even if I disliked someone, I wouldn't stand for them being assaulted in my presence. Women stand up for one another much more than is represented in media and film. 

The praise Nicole Kidman is getting is deserved. And there are times Reese Witherspoon stopped me in my tracks. I wish they could each get an Emmy. They both deserve it. The entire cast was exquisite.

Highly recommended. If you can, watch it in tandem with a friend so you can talk about it.

UPDATE (April 6th), adding this:

Big Little Lies’ most riveting moments are the silent ones between womenThe HBO drama is a stunning study in the unspoken language women use to survive.

YES YES. This this this:
In seconds, and with the threatening man in question standing mere feet away, these women trust each other completely. It’s an unflinching instant of wordless recognition, an understanding so deep that speaking its underlying fear aloud is unnecessary. It’s a feeling of awful, vital solidarity — one that I, and countless other women, know all too well.
Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

Friday, March 31, 2017

You are not who you were.

From an article on Quartz:
The longest personality study of all time, published in Psychology and Aging and recently highlighted by the British Psychological Society, suggests that over the course of a lifetime, just as your physical appearance changes and your cells are constantly replaced, your personality is also transformed beyond recognition.
...
If your patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior so drastically alter over the decades, can you truly be considered the same person in old age as you were as a teenager? This question ties in with broader theories about the nature of the self. For example, there is growing neuroscience research that supports the ancient Buddhist belief that our notion of a stable “self” is nothing more than an illusion.
I would think that on a laid out time frame, the largest difference in self is from teenagehood to adulthood. Let's say, 15 to 30. The difference from 30 to 40 or 40 to 50 wouldn't be huge, but the emotional, hormonal and life difference of being a teenager to being an adult is astronomical. 

Once you're in a 9 to 5 and you're just trudging along, the space for significant discovery or change is mostly self-initiated, whereas in youth, in schooling and in entering the working/social marketplace you are forced to react to stimuli you didn't ask to be introduced to. Forced growth and change. Both of which are painful, and require a lot of time and energy that we ration carefully as we get older.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Can psychedelic drugs work magic on depression?


Some excerpts:
The pharmaceutical industry has developed the preparation of ketamine called esketamine which, instead of having to inject intravenously, can be inhaled under medical surveillance, of course. 
And there are at least three trials ongoing in different countries, in different centres. We are one of the centers and if everything goes well we're talking probably about commercialization in late 2019.
 ...
It could have a major impact because, for example, it could be given to people who have had treatment resistance. And then we would have the capacity to get them well very fast. And then more research will have to be carried out to see if it could be used earlier in the sequence of treatment. And like I mentioned before almost everybody experiences a decrease in suicidal ideation. And that's the major impact because there are 4,000 Canadians dying from suicide in Canada every year, 11 a day.

Check out the aricle, or the radio episode.

I'm willing to try anything to feel better - I don't care of it's horse tranquilizer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sarah Silverman and Pete Holmes.



Great interview/conversation between between Sarah Silverman and Pete Holmes on You Made It Weird (one of my favourite podcasts).

Silverman discusses her recent hospital scare, and her mourning for the deaths of three people close to her (Harris Wittels, Garry Shandling and her mother). They talk about life, religion and some pretty existential stuff.

Sarah has also been open about her living with depression and needing medication to function.

From this podcast:
Depression - there's a certain aspect of it that's self-obsession. As soon as you decide to focus away from yourself and have empathy and understanding of others, that's when it can go away. It's not a selfless endeavor, it's self-obsessed. Sometimes I forget that others exist. If I can throw myself into others ... you don't become as obsessed with your downward spiral.
Myu desire to get me "outside of myself" is part of why I started volunteering with the dog shelter and the prisoner correspondence project. I needed to get the fuck out of my head, and feel useful. In my case, it has helped.

Depression is ironic in that way, that you're so overly sensitive and feeling of everything, but at the same time, all of that attention is so internalized that you end up being self-obsessed.

Don't ever call a depressed person self-obsessed though - it doesn't come from a place of self-congratulation. It's more about being unable to look away from what you think is an oncoming train wreck you'll be the victim of but you're also responsible for.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm not a carpenter.

It’s a difficult place to be, taking stock in your life, knowing you’ve spent so much of your limited time in these immeasurable periods of waiting. A purgatory with no context.There would seem to be an entire decade of my life spent in waiting. I had these milestones I thought were necessary, not unlike a body grows up and out, so should there be measurable achievements in aging. For thousands of years they’ve been marriage, children, and prosperity. Now what?

And if I reject the more traditional roles and goals, then the means of production I do value - independence, art, critical thought - I should have in abundance. Shouldn’t I? Isn’t the goal always more? Aren’t there immutable ways one has value? Beauty? Skill? Health?

But here I am, the same age as Jesus. Nobody seems to ask if he was a good carpenter or not. I do. I hold no real importance to his value as a messiah since I prefer my fairytales with more whimsy. But, what if he was an excellent carpenter? It must have taken years to develop that skill, that's an impressive feat. What kind of tools did he have access to, B.C. (before, Christ!).

Is there truth in the notion that people aren’t moved by your credentials, but how they felt when they were in your presence? She was funny. She was warm. She was nice. She was well-read and interesting. She was kind to me. She saw me. She fed me cake.

I am not a carpenter. I’m employed as a graphic designer. It’s on my resume, and it’s on my current contract. It pays my bills. I spend my days doing little design work, but it’s the title attributed to me. Designer. But what of it? In our culture, we often ask what someone “does.” What we do for a living. What we do to pay the bills. Is this what I do?

40 hours a week to make a living. The rest of the week to carve out a life.

In the past, it’s been difficult to feel I was of any use. I felt so much pressure - self-imposed (?) - to be productive. Of use. Of value. I reject that now. There is a freedom in being able to go unnoticed. I do not want to be the hero of your story, I’d rather lazily stumble through mine.

What kind of world is this? So surreal in its magnitude, as in its infinite minutiae. So much matters. So little matters. Flip a coin. The micro and the macro. It depends on how much you can take in, and your ability to zoom in and out. Are you aware of your point of view? Can you change your perspective?

Looking at myself and my own life can be difficult because I’m just too close to it. On paper, things are such a way, but subtext isn’t always obvious. And whatever skill it takes for a literary mind to craft that subtext into a narrative, a similar craft is necessary in un-coding the layers of your own psyche.

If my mind is troubled with the impaction of years of soot, where do I begin?

If my feet are dirty and my hands blackened, how can I try and keep clean?

And if I reject my deep desire to understand myself and my dilemmas, how can I see outside of my ingrained constructs?

I slept for 100 years, will it all follow me?

If I woke up 100 years from now, would I feel rested?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Identity theft.


Friday I came home to a notice from the post office that claimed I had purchased mail-forwarding and to contact them if this wasn't the case. It was not, so I called. Turns out someone purchased a mail-forward for three weeks, on my name, and my address.

The post office canceled it. And are now looking into mail fraud.

So, Monday (yesterday) I received a pre-approved credit card. I had fraud on the brain since I'd just received that mail notice so I called and made sure the bank knew it was fraud and to look into it. Turns out the fraudster opened an account with that bank, and that the credit card was approved for 11,000$.

My current credit card limit is a grand, so just thinking about having access to that much debt makes me sick to my stomach.

I then had to call my bank to put a flag on my accounts.

Today I had to call two credit unions to put flags on my accounts, and to look into any odd activity. Turns out they contacted one of them on March 2nd attempting to access my credit report.

I'm satisfied with my handling of it so far, but it still makes me nervous.

At work, four other people are dealing with credit card fraud, but I'm the only one who also had the mail thing done, and had an actual bank account opened and a credit card ordered. I guess they saw my thousand dollar limit and maxed-out account and decided it would just be easier to start from scratch since I'm too broke to rob.

Too broke to rob. Let's go for fraud.

That's probably their shit-bag anthem.

What happened to Robin Hooding? Have a pseudo-moral code and focus on folks with money. Don't fuck with the working poor you fucking shit.

I don't know what the likelihood is of someone being caught - credit card fraud seems common enough, and I'm guessing people don't casually commit identity theft, they gotta be motivated.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

@smeagolsfree

Chronic pain, choice and the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers.

*This personal essay is a guest post by a good friend of mine, c.*

Chronic pain, choice and the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers

“I was surprised at how mobile you were given how you talk about your body”. Over the weekend I wrestled in the Garden City Smack Down with the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers. I got on stage, swung a foam bat around, got picked up, got beat up, snarled, kicked, and screamed. It felt amazing.

When a loved one made that comment to me the morning after the match, I felt defensive. Did the physicality of my performance somehow mean that I was no longer living with chronic pain and the accompanying fear of re-injury? I felt like mobility was being prized above the fact that I was actually really strategic and smart about the moves I chose; practicing for hours at home how I could fall in staggered steps to reduce the impact on my body while still putting on an entertaining show; how I designed my character to have a bat in order to give her upper body more strength since I can’t punch, pick up, or push my opponent; and how we were so selective of the types of upper body impact we had in our match. But most of all, the comment, and so many other comments I hear regularly, underline the fact that living with invisible chronic pain is a constant battle of reaffirming my personal boundaries and having to justify the choices I make about my body.

Having a space in the ring to perform strength and physical power felt so damn good. These are two things I have not felt for a few years since I was injured. Embodying my character and throwing down with my (amazing) wrestling partner was a risk I wanted to take. It’s my choice to decide if, when and how I want to risk hurting my body, as it should be for everyone. But because I choose to risk pain today, it doesn’t mean my disability has disappeared. And it doesn’t mean I am open to being questioned about the decisions I make with my body. When I ask for help, or say no, it’s because I am choosing to conserve the little energy I have left, because I don’t have the capacity to deal with the physical and emotional pain at that moment. And if I choose to risk it, that is for me alone to decide.

I decided to participate in the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers about a year ago, when I saw the Velvet City Rumble. When tickets went on sale the first thing I had to check on the event listing was if there was seating. I was worried about what kind of back support the chairs had, if I would be able to sit for the whole match, if I would block the people behind me when I had to get up every twenty minutes to stretch because the pain of sitting was too much. Sitting sucked, as it always did for the first two years after the accidents but the show inspired in me things I hadn’t felt since moving to Victoria from Montreal. At that moment, I decided I would wrestle in the next year’s rumble. I even thought of my character.

In 2014, two months into moving my entire life across the country, I severed several ligaments in my spine, resulting in debilitating pain in my neck, shoulder and thoracic area. A few months after that, I got whiplash, complicating my existing injury. The resulting pain meant that simple daily tasks like lifting the kettle, a frying pan, even brushing my teeth, was so painful, that I was forced to adapt every daily task, and rely on others around me for constant help. While I was avoiding the pain, I was also losing muscle mass. While the level of pain has slowly decreased over the years with countless hours (and dollars) of therapy, I have about 30% of the strength that someone with my build would have on average. The most physically demanding part of my match was holding my 1lb foam baseball bat in my right arm and dancing with it (yeah- the visual of this may sound silly but it was really tough in the ring!).

While I will likely never be able to carry a hiking pack again (a big part of my life pre-accident), and I can’t hold my partners hand on my right side, and I am working on adapting a bicycle so I can hopefully cycle again, I also live with a ton of physical abilities, and experience and participate in able-bodied privileges every day. My pains peak and recede depending on stress, and what I choose to engage in. For a lot of things, with the help of others, I experience life in a lot of the same ways as before the accidents.

My limited strength does mean that I am constantly asking others for help and saying “No I cant do that” and often repeating, “No, I really cant do that”. When those moments happen I am overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame because I feel that I am not participating equally in the tasks at hand. I have to remind myself that the world is a better place when we forget about over simplified notions of equality and rather focus on how we can each use our privileges, skills, and abilities to support one another when we can (or lifting that heavy thing up for someone else because you can) so that everyone has access to participate in whatever they want, in their own way, without judgment.

Asking for help is already really fucking hard. When I ask for help picking something up, if you’re able, just do it; referencing how mobile or strong I appeared on stage (or yesterday, or the week before) is hurtful and undermining because what I am hearing is “You chose to be in pain then why cant you chose to be in pain now?”. That is not your choice, it is mine, and mine alone.

Thanks to the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers and my wrestling partner for all the heavy lifting and reminding me of the other parts of me that are really strong. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh brother...

I've made allusions to some drama in my personal life over the last few weeks. I've had a falling out with my brother, which has taken me some time to process.

At first I was in shock at the confrontation, and was very hurt by it.

To preface this exchange, my father (who passed when I was 13) was in federal law enforcement, as is my brother currently.

Click to enlarge.
Then, as it settled in, I became deeply insulted, angry and disappointed.

Immediately after this exchange, I forwarded it to many of my girlfriends, wanting to know their opinions and their reading of the situation. I was overwhelmed. I needed help processing.

At the time I felt like a piece of shit, and they were quick to reinforce my underlying knowledge that I am in fact, not a piece of shit. I am the opposite. I'm pretty kind, and considerate and am trying to do my best.

The intentions my brother assigned to me were hurtful and disrespectful.

Here are some of my friends' reactions - which will allow me to address certain issues.
Calisse, c'est tellement disturbing. I'm sure you are really upset with this. If you want to talk about it, I'm here. It's such a violent interaction.
This little bit includes some French-Canadian swearing. I put this in Blue. It loosely translated to, "Holy shit, this is so disturbing." Her response to me validated my feelings of being attacked, and of his anger and seeming rage were palpable and unwarranted (in my opinion). Even if I was really angry, I would never be so hostile and mean-spirited.

whoa. i am really sorry. this clearly really triggered something for your brother. he obviously does not share the same world view as you about the prison system, and is basing his comments on his own lived experience and probably does not have emotional space (as a protection mechanism from what he experiences at work/has to put up walls to do what he does) to see your perspective.
i wonder if he will ever see your perspective given his own experiences and what he needs to get through his work day. 
he is clearly really upset and in the heat of the moment. it might be best to leave the situation alone for a bit for him to cool down.
I'm sorry that he is bringing your dad into it. that is not cool and he is clearly leveraging that as a way to guilt you into the action he wants. which is super shitty. I'm sorry. 
you are a good person and doing something that you believe in. unfortunately, your family might not believe in it, but that is their shit, not yours. in situation like this with my family i choose to not engage as a form of self preservation. 
i love you lots and am here for you.
I do not negate the fact that I know nothing of my brothers' experience. My main concern, above all else, is how approached me (assuming the worse), his language, and his general tone.

In the case of my above friend, she has a family that's not great. So I know where she comes from with her "not engaging" comment. Most of the initial comments I got were to let it cool off and take some time.


I think in most cases, my friends being really smart and well trained in people and intervention, in empathy and social justice, means we shared similar perspectives. Having said that, I don't know that I'm the participant in this altercation that needed the most help in processing this. Nevertheless, it's my nature.

It took several days and several conversations with friends to help me process it. I also spoke to my mom about it at different times. When it was fresh, and  days later when I had had some time to think about it.

Click to enlarge.

This was the conversation of the night of. Certain friends I spoke to first, knowing their familiarity with me and my family, or specifically of me.

When I re-read these texts, I can see my willingness to work things out in my head. Part of the subsequent conversations with my mother have been about my brother, how he handles stress and confrontation (poorly) and if he's at able to discuss what happened in a way that would be reflective and helpful to him. I don't know that he's able to do that.

We fall into excusing his behavior, "he's bad with his emotions," "he was too aggressive but he was really upset," and having now stepped back, I reject that. He's a grown ass man. He's my brother, and he shouldn't have come at me like that.

The crux of my disappointment is that he also didn't approach me with curiosity or a willingness to understand, he just attacked me. He could have disagreed with me, or even criticize my choices in a more respectful way.

Click to enlarge.

The lowest blow of all is referencing my father, more than once. He couldn't own his own anger so he dug up my dad to project shame and disappointment onto a bigger target. This is clearly his lashing out to hurt me.

I also made a point of saying I thought he was wrong. My father instilled in me a type of humanist philosophy. He challenged me and gave my philosophy books. I remember a conversation with him about the Oka Crisis, once that left me thinking he was sympathetic to the indigenous position and that he felt they had every right to their land and their protest.

My father was capable of nuance. He was able to hold two thoughts at once, and he nurtured and encouraged my pre-disposition to question everything.

My father is dead. He stopped growing and changing in October of 1997. I would like to think that had he lived, he would have been able to keep learning and growing, the way I aim to. If that were the case, his opinions and methods would have been subject to change.

I would like to think the same of my brother - but do not. Not today. He doesn't seem eager to better himself spiritually or intellectually. He doesn't seem to desire challenging himself in any way. He has his life, he has his priorities. And I have mine.

This fight also punctuated thoughts and fears I've had about him but have supressed. Namely his racism and sexism, and the way he speaks to his partner and children.

He no doubt has a lot of opinions about me and how I choose to live my life.

We're very different, and I don't entirely know how to move on from here. For now, it's been space. We haven't communicated.

I don't see my views or my personal moral code changing anytime soon. I still do not think I did anything wrong. I do not think I have anything to apologize for.

The disappointment that I feel in my brother about his assumptions about me and his approach to our discussion also extends to how I feel he's handled the days since.

We're in very different places, and other than my mother, I don't know what links us right now.

He doesn't feel like a brother, he feels like an antagonist.

Hey Fuzzy Yellow!



Check out the website. Gender is a drag!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A depression reading list.

Longreads shared Living with Depression: A Reading List.

They all seem to be personal essays.

I don't have it in me to read memoir right now, but thought I'd share the link.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Nietzsche and trust.


I'm not upset that you lied to me,
I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you. 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

A lot going on in my personal life this last week, I'll update as soon as I can.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Out.



Saw this on Saturday night.
It's excellent and worthy of the buzz it's getting. Go see it in theaters!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reconciliation by Melissa Febos.

Read Reconciliation by Melissa Febos over on Lenny.

Her piece is about two of her relationships, the most notable of them being her relationship with her dog.

Cheezburger funny dog cute funny dog

I really miss having a dog-friend. I think about it every day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vain. Selfish. Cruel.


There are worse things in the world than being called fat. It's a descriptor that's often hurled as an insult, a catch-all meaning unattractive, sloppy, uncontrolled.

I take up too much space. My shoulders are thick. My thighs are thick. My bones are thick. I could never be slight. Never delicate. Never the femininity of lace and fragility.

It took deprivation, mania, and obsession in order to have a 140-pound body that was rejected nonetheless. So much work. A constant, all-consuming struggle to take up as little space as possible, but still be seen.

If I did everything right, there was a chance I would get what I wanted. There was a chance the parts of me that felt empty and broken could be filled with his temporary solace.

Maybe I'd feel more alive with his hand around my throat.

Maybe I'm not happy, but I could feel that comfort temporarily if it's pounded into me when I ask for it.

There's a galvanization, a resolved confidence that comes when you project it all onto another body. It's easier to call out the cracks.

It's easier to walk away from when it's someone else.

How deeply can you hide from yourself?

On a good day, I wonder if my mental illness isn't just the compacting of my gender and existentialism.

I still have to live here. In this body. A body I too-often resent. Then it grows ill and I see it for what it is, infinitely complex and fragile. Precarious health. Absurd illnesses. Waking up to a paralyzed face. Eye patch and straws for weeks. Waking up to vertigo. A topsy-turvy wild-ride you can't ground. These illnesses of the head and brain. Your true center, unhinged and untethered and yet your only means of communication to this place and these people.

And how can you look to the future? What dignity is there in aging if the world falls apart? How can I live with dignity when it's torn from me, penance for my existence here and now. And when I chose to hold onto myself, when I make choices and attempt at living values I can stand, there is always a price. Goodness is its own reward. A reward you give yourself when nobody cares to look.

And if this world is as bleak as it seems to me, how do others bare it so wholly? How can your glass be half-full, when mine is vinegar in a children's cup?

Why does kindness make me cry? Seeing the goodness in men is something I've given up on an infinite amount, over an endless cycle. Masculine self-worship through the ages. Penis flags and ceremonies. How does a man reject generations of his kind? Why do I expect so little of men? The smallest of kindnesses seems a shucking of his ancestors. Maybe there's hope in him, he held the door open. Maybe he's a radical, he's being kind to the staff. He hints to tearing the system down, by wearing a pink shirt.

I can't seem to think of my body without thinking of those who have judged it so harshly. There was a time when it was new to me, my fatness. Always chubby, but never worryingly so.

Then it was too much. 

I remember walking across the busy city street when I noticed you. I yelled your name and waved excitedly. You mother gasped audibly and looked at my body in horror. She did not look at my face or address me. She looked only at my full body. I remember the look so vividly. Abject disgust. I was ignorant to it then, but it's seared into my mind.

I'd gained so much weight over such a short time.

I remember one night, courting sleep in my basement bedroom, wishing my mother and her friend would settle. They were on their second bottle of wine and were talking loudly. My mother spoke of my body. This new body nobody recognized or understood. It was too big. She couldn't defend it. She had no excuses for my body. She lowered her tone as she said it disgusted her. She said this with shame, hoping for absolution.

It wouldn't be hurtful if it was met with my own anger. But it isn't. My body has stretched outwards, away from myself and into spaces it isn't meant to occupy. Muscles and organs are taxed. Its integrity is compromised. It is not wanted by those I should be courting. It is not courted. It is too soft. Too large. Too heavy. It is the cause of, and answer to, all of my medical problems. No matter the question, no matter the doctor, I'm too fat.

I was never a delicate flower. Always tall. Always thick. Meant for labor and battle. Nordic Viking blood. Hearty settler bodies. Fat was rare. Fat was necessary.

For my frame to be feminine it takes deprivation. It takes sorcery. Body hair removal. Much of it. My hair is deeply rooted. Follicles sprout two or three hairs at a time, happy to keep me warm. My features seem toddler-like,broad faced, large grin, round features. My chest is large, heavy. My only feminine inheritance. Tits. Who cares. They're in the way. They're not perky. They've grown to accommodate my weight gain, obscene and too much. The need to be contained.

It can be difficult to think of my body in new ways. The paths have been set. My only experience with thinness was attained through anorexia and bulimia. That's what it took, for a thick body to be acceptably less thick.

What would it take to get there through acceptable means?

And if I stopped eating, what then? What if I lift weight and lose some weight. Will I be any happier? Will I resent the ways in which I have to manipulate my body in this world in order to feel less hideous? What of romantic love? What comfort is there in knowing your attraction to me is based on a body I've raged with, seemingly endlessly.

Will sex be more accessible to me, if my body fits into certain spaces? Will I trust an easier?

What if with every pound lost all I really gain is bitterness?

And if I'm able to find ways in which to alter my relationship with my body, will that be enough?

What if my thick body wants to be thick and round. What if getting out of my circle and spheres means disordered thinking?

Arguably, it's all disordered thinking. Calorie counting. Obsessive working out. Hard lines. These choices are for one goal, and that goal is acceptable and aesthetically aligned with what is wanted, so it's an acceptable harshness.

Bulimia and anorexia are not healthy. They are worrisome. But in the meantime, I looked good. My disorder was not outwardly visible. It is now. This fatness cannot be ignored.

I am not an easy going person, it seems. Oddly enough, my only true pleasure these days is sitting with a dog and talking to it in a ridiculously detailed way, narrating our situation. Unloading a grocery bag and explaining my purchases. This is a can of beans. This is cellery. These are mushrooms. Smell this cheese. This is garlic. Smell this box of crackers. Tail wag. Giggle.

How is it parts of me are so heavy and the other parts so light? I gravitate towards the ridiculous, no doubt because of the weight of my nihilism. Is that so obvious though, really? An appreciation for the silly and the absurd might be a desperation for levity. It could also just be the biological imperative to laugh at farts.

It always comes back to my body. I don't know how to move forward through mine. I don't know how to readdress myself.

I do not know how to think of my body in a healthy way.

As soon as I became aware of my body, it was through what was wrong with it.

And as soon as I starting craving attention through my body it was quick to be humiliated.

How can anyone want me and my body?

How can I move away from ingrained shame?

There are worst things than being called fat. And of all the terms I would use to describe myself today, many of them I am proud of. I've worked hard on certain parts of myself. But for whatever reason, the most obvious, daily realities of being fat will always be my main signifier. They're also the most painful. Unpacking it all is as difficult as weight-loss. Do I need to run, lift and reflect in order to shed a pound? Is everything linked? Do my guts know how I feel about my self as a sexual being? Does my metabolism slow everytime I wish I were dead? What if my fat cells stick to me in order to keep my warm, and comforted? Do they not know they're smothering me?

There are worse things than being fat, but it doesn't always feel that way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Organizing our way through mental illness.

McGill Daily has a piece up called Organizing our way through mental illness by Saima Desai.

The piece works through the links between mental illness and working in social justice/caring about social justice.

Desai quotes a Baffler article by Laurie Penny:
The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.
It's can be difficult to balance self-criticism with real, lived oppressions and limits. When discussing "the secret" of self-realization:
It would be nice to believe that all it takes to change your life is to repeat some affirmations and buy a planner, just as it was once comforting for many of us to trust that the hardships of this plane of existence would be rewarded by an eternity of bliss in heaven. There is a reason that the rituals of wellbeing and self-care are followed with the precision of a cult (do this and you will be saved; do this and you will be safe): It is a practice of faith. It’s worth remembering that Marx’s description of religion as the opiate of the masses is often misinterpreted—opium, at the time when Marx was writing, was not just known as an addictive drug, but as a painkiller, a solace when the work of survival became unbearable.
I find the language of it all odd. How "self-care" has been politicized, when really it existed before it was a headline. It was justing taking care of yourself. Or resting. Or taking a fucking break. I understand it as a political act, in the way in which it's used to describe consciously prioritizing taking care of yourself since the world is brutal and not kind. Penny herself ends with the Audre Lorde quote, "“is not self-indulgence—it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Laura Salaberry feminism march feminist protest

We gotta take care of our minds and bodies in order to resist.

Recommended reads:

Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless by Laurie Penny

Organizing our way through mental illness by Saima Desai


Tuesday's at home.

Monday night I ended up eating something my body didn't agree with, so I spent the evening folded in half with weird ghost-cramps and nausea. I ended up getting very little sleep, so I slept in on Tuesday and took the day off of work.

I spent the day yesterday sleeping, mostly. I got up in the later afternoon, took a shower and had something to eat. I then watched 13th on Netflix, which amongst a complex list of issues, was about the prison industrial complex, and the direct policies enacted in America to feed and sustain that system.

I haven't lived my life entirely ignorant of the prison industrial complex, but I didn't realize to what degree the political/corporate interests were all so directly linked. Nor did I realize the complexities of oppressing folks openly through shady language use and back-room deals.

I don't know that writing to Michael has changed the way I see prisons, but the reading I've done, and the information I'm trying to take in has changed the way I see people who are incarcerated.

I highly recommend seeing the doc, it explains everything so clearly. There are a lot of things I didn't really know about - as a Canadian. Things like mandatory minimums, or that prisoners lose the right to vote. In Canada, prisoners can vote. I don't know about mandatory minimums here, but I'm looking into it. The documentary also had startling statistics about the amount of people who do not face trial, but simply plead guilty in order to "cop a deal."

I know our systems are very different, but our cultures are linked nonetheless.

Some of the stories shared in 13th really shocked me. I have trouble understanding the logic, and enforcement of laws that put someone in jail for 20-30 years on a drug charge.

I have trouble understanding the ways in which prisons are expected to "rehabilitate" people. How are these dehumanizing systems to benefit anyone?

How likely is prison reform?

What I'm reading:

Why Scandinavian Prisons Are Superior

The Norwegian prison where inmates are treated like people