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My March Break Adventure

Decided to create a blog as writing is my best attempt at talking; it’s also my mental health ‘risky behaviour’. It also seems to be escalating; first I sent some friends some crazy emails, earlier this week I joined Twitter (it was pretty easy to figure out) but now egad I’ve decided to attempt creating a blog, primarily to update all of my other friends whom may or may not even know I am not at work and may or may not have heard of my March Break Adventures…

To summarize; the medical community will tell you I suffer from a mental health disorder or multiple ones, it’s still TBD pending other higher priority issues such as other psych assessments & other more critical issues such as H1N1 outbreaks perhaps?

But in my opinion I’m not like anyone else, I just have some health issues. Right now, but subject to change (perhaps owing to still being in a bit of a heightened state?) I believe I have a mental health benefit; it’s not unlike my physical health benefits of pain in the form of a cold/flu or feet that start killing me. It’s my body & minds way of telling me I need to either slow down and de-stress or I need to speed up and expedite management of my emotional health & well being. I’m different; I’m just not that different from anyone else. I just have a different life experience, different genetics and other factors that make up my personality. I do have a personality disorder or two for sure but then again so do you.

A ‘brief’ history of events leading up to my version of a National Lampoon’s March break vacation.

In 2008 I had my first episode of to me relatively major depression, it lasted ~9-months and I went to an ER for help; they redirected me to CAMH where I was given a diagnosis of ‘mild depression’ and told to get me some antidepressants. I believe antidepressants helped me but I’m not inclined to say it wasn’t just a result of the ‘placebo’ effect; someone let me know I wasn’t insane or all that different or special because I was miserable, and they offered something that might help. That helped and I took them on and off until 2010. A good prescription druggie knows that you should just stay on them and not go on and off, but I also had a physician who gave me the message I was just a selfish pill popper who was strongly against prescribing me anything to help. To be fair I don’t tend to ask for help until it’s a bit too late but his message combined with additional attempts at therapy and more conflicting messages ‘there’s nothing I can do, you just need to be on drugs’ from one, and another who told me ‘I don’t like just suggesting drugs but it’s something we’ll talk about’ in the first session and ‘why didn’t you get a prescription from your physician’ in the second session the following week gave me more than enough evidence to decide there wasn’t much help or support available to me via the mental health system. I believe I still have a few bottles of antidepressants stockpiled upstairs just in case I ever get depressed again and happen to have a physician who wants to call me a selfish pill popper; but I think I’ll throw those out now as I’ve already found my non-drug solution to managing depression (more in a later blog perhaps?).

Anyway depression for me has been at worst of the ‘nuisance’ variety level of life issues since 2010, so since that’s not much of an issue anymore I decided to go get me some hypomania and a Bi-polar II disorder diagnosis with a doctor’s indication that antidepressants were terrible for me, I could never take them again and I needed to be on Lithium for the rest of my life.

I didn’t know this also meant I’d be subject to quarterly lectures that left me feeling like I was also mentally incompetent as well (yes I smoke, but I actually do not do so because I think it’s in the best interest of my health! I can read the messages on the cigarette packages, I’m aware of the Internet and I believe the general consensus that smoking is unhealthy was largely agreed upon before I was even born. I’m up to speed on the smoking issue, but thanks for the lectures…). So after ~2-years of deteriorating self confidence, self worth and zero benefits to lithium that I could tell I quit my lithium drug habit and ended the lectures in March 2012. I am a bit concerned that following my 2014 assessments my medical records will indicate that I am not willing and/or ready to address my mental health issues because I stopped drugging myself and I started saving myself from the degrading quarterly lectures that left me feeling hopeless & helpless.

In December 2014 I had a Mirena IUD inserted in order to (hopefully) regulate my monthly mood swings and physical pain associated with being female. I believe that significantly escalated my mood swings to a rather spectacular, very interesting and fascinating but also a little terrifying level which I’d best self assess as Acute Psychosis; except I didn’t hallucinate I wasn’t delusional and it made me see the thought disorders I’ve been living with for decades along with some of the explanations and ‘evidence’. If a psychiatrist wants to label me with any of these symptoms I will be fine with that assessment as long as he’s willing to sort through all of my evidence and provide just as strong counter evidence to help me better understand my condition. I can explain almost everything I said and I have written documentation and evidence for all of it but I might not be able to gather and/or summarize all of it before May. I’d also like to review with him or her all of the existing Mental health disorder labels and understand why I’m best categorized via the label he/she decides to stick me with for the next 50 years of my life.

Mental health label rant aside, there was a lot of stress in my life, work, a potential promotion, life, tragedies, Winter Olympics and Curling Bonspiels to play in. I’m not being silly and/or stupid ‘stress’ is not a negative thing, excitement is stress and worry is stress. Life without stress would be too boring for me but going forward I’ll avoid having quite that much fun as I’d rather not scare my friends/family so much and I’d really, really, really not like to have my independence, freedom & rights taken from me ever again.

So back to my wild March Break Adventure! I hadn’t slept properly for at least two months prior and sleep kept getting more and more difficult to come by, so I took a week off at the beginning of Feb for some R&R in Cuba. It helped a bit but didn’t help me sleep in past 3am and too much heat & sun while generally good in the Winter (owing to depression); are very detrimental to me in a heighted state so this likely made things a lot worse too. My bad. Work was pretty stressful following my return; but owing to my heightened state this was super fun, I was taking on all sorts of additional responsibilities and I think I did a half decent job. But I also have and had a lot of other additional ‘negative’ stressors in my life at the time and work was ultimately just providing a distraction for my real stress.

I had planned to have my mental health breakdown the weekend after the curling bonspiel I helped organize teams for and after my VP was back in the Country and in the office. I had also planned to crash and be better in time for work on Monday. Opps! It seems this wasn’t one of my better plans -:). So I stressed myself out more extensively by figuring out how to explain I would not be in on Monday but I’ve also been experiencing some rapid cycling which is also net new and kinda crazy so while I was coming down and ultimately ‘crashing’ (crashing to me in this state means distressing enough so I can feel exhausted and just curl up and sleep for 15 hours or so & ‘normalize’ my sleep schedule in order so that my mental health will ‘normalize’ very soon afterwards.

But on Monday March 3rd my laptop and ipad stopped working; and as technology was my one last link to the outside world until normalizing (as I was afraid I would ‘harm’ people by stressing them out by being all crazy and shit and also by putting unnecessary additional strain on our health care system and myself as I believe it’s just going to ‘harm’ me and do far more additional damage than good. I wasn’t disappointed, I think it did but I didn’t have a clue how much additional information, insights and benefits I would get from the experience. I also didn’t know how much fun it is on the inside! Someone tell our Mayor it can actually be a pretty good time but you should probably also tell him to leave the crack at home otherwise you wont be allowed outside or alternatively you’ll be kicked back out and onto the streets… I think Jail is also an alternative solution for people in our society who aren’t ready for help. I believe our mental health care system & polices encourage jail as an alternative to psych wards for those who are not quite ready to get help yet. Any bets as to which option our Mayor choses first?

I went in to see my physician on Monday March 3rd and booked a hotel room for the evening so I didn’t have to come back to my house of weekend isolation. On Tuesday March 4th I scared my friends a bit too much with my crazy emails and crazy thoughts so I told them I would go to the ER if that’s what they & my physician thought was necessary to do. I’d already been seeing my physician regularly in Feb so she knew I was having significant sleep issues (she prescribed me the least risky sleeping pills as this was my decision but sleeping pills just make me feel terrible the next day and they only allow me an extra ~30-90 min of sleeping in time so not really a solution). She had already set up therapists and psychiatry appointments for me and was trying to expidite them but they decided on Tuesday that I should go to the ER. My doctor sent me to the ER where at the same hospital where she had set up my psych consult for; I believe she thought I could get in to the main floor ER and my 9th floor appointment could be expedited even quicker than she had hoped if she followed up my detest and distain but willingness for one more ER visit with a form 1. I’ve never heard of this before but practically speaking it essentially means you are being police escorted to the ER against your will. Which also in practice at least in my perception most people within the healthcare system and all of those who consider themselves ‘unqualified’ did and/or will believe to mean I posed a risk to society; either self-harm or other harm. Not untrue if you consider the harm I’ve done to my body owing to no sleep and forgetting to eat enough and equally not untrue if you consider the additional stress and anxiety I’ve caused for those who I did let know what was going on in the past three weeks. But I really, really hope I don’t have to work so hard to convince the rest of the people in my life that There is Nothing Wrong with Me & this was actually a pretty spectacular adventure! It had everything; the drama factor, the fear factor the excitement and elation. But most of all it taught me that I’ve got a lot more worth fighting for than just my work problem solving skills and the paycheck that allows me to maintain my independence, rights & freedoms that damn it I deserve because I am Canadian!!

ps – my sister flew in and helped planned my escape from Alcatraz (by this point I was considered voluntary and allowed outside for some fresh air for brief periods of relief and feeling human time). The 2-ER visit day was hell; getting locked up in a psych ward and stripped of my ability to make choices for myself has probably been my biggest life’s fear so it wasn’t all fun but I’m flexible, I adjusted and survived and had a great deal of fun doing so but I wasn’t prepared to wait another week and a half for the doctors to come back from their march skiing vacation so I could get assessed and released. But I’ll be going back (in May?) to find out if/what new mental health stigma they want to give me in my medical records but work wants me back and doesn’t feel the need to wait for this assessment and has indicated that I wont be punished for not complying with their ‘action plan’ of some more stupid drugs that will harm me. And as long as my current physician sticks around and keeps seeing me I’m totally fine with what ever net new negative stigma they want to give me; but I’d prefer to get them all (I think it’s just fair to assume I’d totally rock the post partum thing too but I just don’t think I can do it before May so how about we just have a little faith?).

FYI #1 – my physician has set me up with a really good therapist already and yesterday we talked about chiropractic, natopathic, massage and physiotherapy; an overall health & wellbeing approach that will work for me because it will also work with me & I’ll get a voice in matters related to my health & well being.

FYI #2 – I got the Mirena IUD out last Wednesday, got my period on Saturday and felt completely back to normal. That only lasted so long though, but that’s ok I’m still dealing with a lot of unresolved stress and anxiety but I’ve already resolved a heck of a lot of it & I won’t be back to a ‘normal’ life that requires ‘normal’ sleep for a while so I’ll just be a terrible, terrible sleeper and take naps, go to sleep when I am tired and not adhere to the action plan you might want to tell me I should because that’s what you’ll find when you Google sleep disorders. Trust me, I’ve probably already read that article anyway!

Anyway there’s a lot more to my ow personal version of One Who Flew Over the Cukoo’s nest during March Break but that’s enough for today; I’m trying to balance things better so I am going to go paint and clean and I have an orthodics appointment before my grand return to volleyball tonight; enough excitement & stress distractions already planned for the day (but I suspect I’ll have to check my new twitter addiction a few times too :).

Martin Luther King Jr. – Death of Illusions

“So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”

  • Martin Luther King Jr. on the assassination of President Kennedy

MLK was a pacifist and a #Diversity hero. While he’s no longer here with us in body, his words and teachings are. They are no less applicable today and sadly they are also no less necessary. Chapter 21, Death of Illusions in The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., covers a particularly gruesome period when a church in Birmingham is bombed and four young black girls are killed, three months later JFK is assassinated. 

Pacifism is often misinterpreted as a sort of passive nonresistance to evil but there is nothing passive about pacifism. True pacifism is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride Towards Freedom). In Death of Illusions King leaves no room for misinterpretation, we are all culpable. By tolerating hate and violence, by our inaction, we are all responsible the deaths of JFK, and similarly the death George Floyd, the US Capital Insurgence, the handcuffing of a 6-year old black girl in Mississauga in 2016 and in all the other egregious forms of discrimination that continue to be perpetuated on marginalized populations.  

But how could we possibly be guilty of any of the horrific events mentioned above? We are guilty when we see discrimination and say nothing. We are guilty when we ignore the inequality all around us. When we pass the a homeless individual and look the other way because acknowledging injustices all around us is uncomfortable, we are guilty. We are guilty when we pretend not to know that 40 First Nations communities across Canada are still under boil-water advisories. We are guilty when we reluctantly acknowledge the boil-water advisories but do not express outrage. And we are guilty when we express outrage but take no further steps to influence those that have the power and money to make change happen.

We are also guilty when we don’t acknowledge the micro-aggressions that occur all around us. And we are guilty when we observe them but say nothing, either because: 

  1. We don’t know what to say,
  2. It might make the dinner party/meeting uncomfortable, 
  3. We are too angry to formulate a non-emotional response and therefore remain silent

So, we are all guilty and I expect we will all remain guilty, I know I will anyway. That’s an awfully long and overwhelming list of things I am guilty of and therefore responsible for taking action to change. I can’t do it all, but I can try to do better.  

I will try to pay more attention and speak up when I observe comments or actions that are harmful to others or to me. When the comments that hurt me personally are made out of ignorance and/or unconscious bias rather than hate, and when they are coming from someone who I respect, whose opinion I value then I will do my best to find my voice and my words and have that uncomfortable conversation. And I know that’s not much, it won’t do anything to prevent any potential violence that might occur this week or next, and it won’t do anything to resolve the boil-water advisories. But every time I find my voice to speak up, even in small ways I find that my voice gets louder and with it, so likely does my degree of influence and power to effect change.

The teachings of Martin Luther King are often sugar-coated, presumably such that they don’t make the majority of us so uncomfortable that we ignore them altogether. He was a radical and a disruptive force but ultimately his message was one of love. John Lewis put it better than I can so I’ll finish this off with a quote from him.

“But I’ve also always held the belief that what he left us — the way of hope, the way of peace, the way of love, a philosophy and discipline rooted in nonviolence — cannot be taken away. These things are eternal.”

  • Congressman John Lewis on MLK’s Legacy

Reference materials:

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. Chapter 21: Death of Illusions here:https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/chapter-21-death-illusions

How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World, Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xabWOU6tU-M&t=29s

An Open Letter on Leadership and #MeToo

At a social work event a senior leader shared with me his view that the #MeToo movement had gone too far. He’s not alone, at least not in feeling uncomfortable as a result; polls show that the majority male managers now feel “too nervous” about being accused of harassment to interact with women in common workplace activities.

At the time, I could think of no better response than to nod knowingly but I’ve thought a lot about his comment, and more so about how I wish I would have responded.  I am providing my response here.

When exactly do you think #MeToo crossed the line? With Cosby? Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey or when Christine Blassey Ford came forward with allegations against Brent Kavanaugh? When Larry Nassar was convicted to multiple life sentences? 

Earlier in our conversation you told me I had nice eyes. It wasn’t sexual harassment, it didn’t make me uncomfortable but your subsequent #MeToo comments have now left me wondering, should I be upset? Does this compliment feed the incessant messages the media portrays about women, that we are worth little more than our outward appearance? We’d only known each other for about 60 seconds so I’m not sure how you could have noticed my intelligence, sense of humor or that I have other things to offer beyond my appearance. And if the answer is yes, I should be outraged then I’d be inclined to agree with you, maybe this whole #MeToo has gone too far. But I don’t believe that to be the case, that’s at all what #MeToo is about, so I am not going to modify my response to that comment, thank you for the compliment. 

I could say I’m sorry that #MeToo has now made you uncomfortable but you men have been making us uncomfortable quite some time. I could tell you how uncomfortable I can feel walking alone in the dark, how when there’s someone walking behind me for an extend period I either clutch my keys or dial 9-1- and keep my finger hovered over the 1, but while important points there’s no shortage of responses of this nature, I’ll let you google those on your own.

I am going to ask you to try and put yourself in the shoes, or rather the (likely unconscious) mind, of the women who came to talk to you, the one who now makes you feel uncomfortable as a result of #MeToo. I don’t know what she said to you, but I do understand and empathize with why this now makes you uncomfortable. However, I am going to remind you that being a leader is about being comfortable being uncomfortable and I will ask you to not so easily give up your power. The power you have as a man, and a as a leader.

And the woman that made you uncomfortable, maybe she’s getting right in your face because she’s worried if she doesn’t you won’t be able to see anything beyond the size of her breasts or the length of her dress. Maybe she’s desperate for you to see she has something of value to say. Or perhaps she thinks the only way you will recognize she has value is because of these things and she’s resigned herself to this ‘fact’ and so she’s going to leverage the assets she has to get ahead, because isn’t that what we are taught to do? Consider there is a good possibility she may not be consciously aware of any of this.

See I was that women, somewhere along the line the message that I’m not worthy, that I have no value beyond the sexual gratification of men. That’s not in any way representative of the vast majority of my experiences but our brains tend to focus and recall negative experiences strongly and, in more detail than positive events.  We are hardwired to ensure survival; connection is a basic human need and therefore essential to our survival. Positive events don’t threaten our survival, so they aren’t important to store to memory in order to avoid similar such events in the future. I’ve been racking my memory for an example from work of one of those negative experiences within my 15+ years of experience within the financial sector, where a man in a position of authority has made me personally feel this way and I haven’t been able to come up with one.   In more subtle ways have I been devalued for being female? Absolutely, over the years I’ve been told in different ways I’m too aggressive or too emotional, but I am both of these things and to what level has it been highlighted, pointed out or viewed more negatively because I am female I can’t say for sure.

On the other hand I have no trouble finding examples of all the times that men in position of power who have the opportunity to use that power – to reinforce my subconscious belief that as a women I am ‘less than’,  haven’t. They saw my value as an employee, and far more importantly, as a human that wasn’t broken, that didn’t need to be fixed. See the thing is I couldn’t see it for myself, I needed someone to see it in me to plant that seed, showing me often subtle and sometimes very explicitly that I am worthy, I have much more to offer beyond the physical package I come in. It’s these men that have helped me start on a journey of healing, that have taught me about leadership, forgiveness and love. It’s these men that have allowed me to start trusting men again.

I’m not asking you to save all the wounded souls, that’s not your job nor your responsibility.  And I’m not asking you to get comfortable, or even on board with, the #MeToo movement. I am asking that you not let your discomfort deter from coaching, mentoring, socializing or interacting with female employees. And I am asking that you continue to share your opinions, your discomfort with the #MeToo movement, this is a very important part of the discussion. I’m asking you to be a leader. I never got a chance to thank you for sharing your vulnerability, discomfort and opinions on #MeToo, which you must have known I may not agree with and that I may have strong opinions about. As it turns out I do, it just took me a while to articulate them. Thank you for sharing with me, let’s keep the conversation going.

Diversity and Inclusion requires Diversity and Inclusion.

Recently a friend brought to my attention ‘cancel culture’, a term I’d never heard of before but has seems to have been around for some time already. Anyway, it inspired me to write… Wikipedia provides a good high-level overview, describing cancel culture as a form of boycott in which someone who has shared a questionable of unpopular opinion, or has behaved in a way that is perceived to be either or offensive or problematic is called out and/or “cancelled”, meaning they are completely boycotted or shut out. Wikipedia’s definition highlights specificity to social media, the one being cancelled generally a celebrity and the ones doing the cancelling as said celebrity’s followers or supporters.  The Wikipedia post I read also highlights that ‘being cancelled’ often leads to massive declines in celebrities’ careers and fan base.

But I’m more interested in this culture as it applies to all humans rather than a focus on celebrity and/or social media. Social media is simply one platform to make the world a better place, or to try and tear it down, by tearing humans down. While I’d never heard a name to it before, ‘cancel culture’ has always existed in some form or another, and certainly long before the internet. It was just more hidden from plain sight, making it easier to ignore when people are being bullied and/or discriminated against for who they are, how they act or something they said… whether they meant it as a true belief of theirs, said in ignorance without knowing the context or that it might be harmful to some, or whatever other reasons we say the things we say and we do the things we do.

As humans sometimes, we do and say the things we want to say and do, the words and actions that align with our beliefs, core values and are reflective of either the person we are, or the person we aspire to be.  But as humans we also do and say things we later regret (sometimes seconds, sometimes years later), and we do this not because we are bad, terrible or evil people but because we are humans. And as humans we are complex beings and we live in a complex world. We have complex and often conflicting feelings and emotions, beliefs and values that get challenged sometimes by others and often by ourselves, when we behave in a way that contradicts what we thought our values were. Does this mean that what we thought were our values, aren’t really our values?  Sometimes, yes it does but more often than not it’s simply a reflection of our fallacies, our failings and weaknesses, a side-effect of being human.

So, what does being human mean in a world that promotes the more extreme ends of ‘cancel culture’ that from what I can tell, promotes a one strike you’re out principle of exclusion? From what I can tell ‘cancel culture’ is about calling people out for having less-than supportive views from the lens of Diversity & Inclusion, that is if someone were to make a remark that could be considered, or possibly just interpreted as racist or homophobic, they would be ‘cancelled’, shunned, boycotted. All of the so-called promoters of diversity and inclusion behind the cancel culture would be promoting strict and absolute exclusion of said individual. In the celebrity case it’s meant to destroy careers and it’s not that different outside of the celebrity culture, where the ultimate goal seems to be mass discrimination and exclusion of the individual accused of saying something hurtful.

We live in a complex world, and we absolutely do need to stand up and speak out when anyone is saying or behaving in a way that without question is harmful to an individual or group of people without purpose. Lesser extremes of the cancel culture, which don’t promote hate under the thinly veiled guise of love do make sense to me. They seem to be more about:

  1. Calling someone out when they are saying harmful things or behaving in harmful ways and genuinely talking to them, trying to help them understand why their words or actions are not appropriate
  2. Continuing to partner with them forgiving them when they show remorse and moving on. Not cancelling friendships or promoting others exclude said individual.
  3. Letting go, letting go of dedicating efforts to helping said individual understand after they have put in the effort to do this and the individual show no remorse or interest in being a better person going forward. And letting go of the person, not excluding them or promoting hatred against them but letting go more naturally, letting friendships fade but continuing to be polite and respectful to said individual.

This softer version of ‘cancel culture’ seems to make a lot more sense but could use a re-brand. Maybe what it should simply be called is Diversity and Inclusion. This is what diversity and inclusion initiatives should look like.

What I find discouraging and counter-productive is the promotion of Diversity and Inclusion that comes with a message of exclusivity and exclusion. That is contradictory and counter-productive, we’d likely better off without any promotion of so-called Diversity & Inclusion initiatives if the only ones that did exist were all the ones that do exist with the often not-so-subtle message ‘believe exactly what I tell you to believe, make sure you say only these words in this order and make sure you never, ever use these other words’.

But it’s not hard to see that this gets messy, very quickly as there are clear cut words that should never be used, and we should be educated on which ones those are. But outside of a handful, who gets to decide? Who gets to decide ‘crazy’ is a word that belongs in that category? Because I have tried, I really have tried to remove crazy from my vocabulary, but I just can’t.  It’s one of those blanket words that can be used to describe so many things, good, bad, amazing, wild, out there… and the primary reason I’ve struggled so much with removing crazy from my vocabulary?

No, it’s not just because I really want to see Crazy White Asians and felt conflicted, like I couldn’t go see the movie because that might imply I was promoting discrimination against those who have been labelled different. Or for those who have been labelled mentally ill and sadly have been subject to being called crazy as a means to marginalize and dehumanize. By our Premier presumably to gain support to cut more funding for mental heath care… The reason I have struggled so much with this word is I genuinely do want to be a better person and specifically because I want to be an advocate for myself and for those who’ve had the misfortune of being labelled as mentally ill and subject to all sorts of discrimination and violation of their rights because of this label.

But I’ve been called crazy/weird/strange so many times throughout my life. In retrospect, perhaps there have been an instance or more where it’s been meant as an insult, I sure the term has been thrown around behind my back that is the case but if one or more of many who have called me crazy meant it as an insult, I didn’t see it, I don’t see it. Because to me, being crazy has and always will be a compliment, a testament to my courage to live life loud and proud, and it’s the one compliment I’ve always been able to accept graciously. So even if I have been insulted to my face as crazy my brain doesn’t have the ability to perceive this as an insult because a long, long time ago I learned, and it was deeply ingrained within me that being different, leaning more towards the crazy size of the human spectrum between sane and insane is a good thing.

However, crazy has also been used as a genuinely insulting and deeming phrase to many others and I do not wish to intentionally harm others, but I have decided that I will not exclude the word crazy from my vocabulary. I will do my best to use it respectfully, and intentionally and in ways that bring me joy and hopefully do not cause others to be hurt but that is an impossible task, not only because I am not perfect (Surprise!) and subject to screwing up regularly but also because as humans we are diverse, and we think differently and we perceive things very differently. We can hear or see the exact same thing and have very different interpretations of it, truth outside of cold stone facts is subjective. If you call me crazy I will probably smile and say thank you but if you call someone else crazy you may genuinely upset or really, really hurt them. Because for them it could be something they’ve been called as an insult, or an excuse for violating them, inflicting violence against them or ignoring their legal and/or human rights, and that is never ok.

We need to leave room at the table of Diversity and Inclusion for diversity and inclusion.

This must include diversity of thought, opinions, beliefs and views. The thing is, it’s not only even ‘if’ we don’t agree with opposing views, it should be especially if we don’t agree with opposing views because we think they may exclude others that we want lifted up & included.

In the history of the world no one ever changed anyone by shaming them. EVER.

Homosexuals did not become heterosexuals because they were shamed, many likely just got a little better at hiding it. Similarly, you will never change one one’s existing views that marriage should be strictly one man and one female by shaming them for having that view.

Best case scenario taking that approach is we silence them, thereby reversing the discrimination we so loudly and proudly claim to be against.

Worst case is because of feeling silenced and discriminated against is the anger and frustration of being told they are ‘less than’ human for having these views is that they will eventually start their own movement and/or react in anger (as anyone whose felt marginalized for too long might do).

Unfortunately, we are already too familiar with this scenario. Violence, random shootings, schools in lock down, these are regular occurrences.

So please, when we talk about diversity and inclusion can we try to include and find space in that discussion for all humans that are not acting out of pure hatred, despite how offensive or triggering we may find some of their beliefs?  They may still hold onto learned or taught beliefs or values that we don’t agree with because change is hard or because no one has ever bothered to take the time to really listen to them and/or show them why their views may genuinely hurt or harm others. In more extreme examples, it may just be that they have found love, acceptance and belonging in a group we might classify as a ‘hate group’. Many who have got pulled into these movements (and then made their way out), often say this joining said group was the first time in their lives they actually felt they belonged, actually felt love and accepted for who they were. So imagine what we could do if we could create diversity and inclusion movements that rather than shunned others for having what we might consider less than diverse views or believes, what if we welcomed them in, gave them a voice at the table. Tried to understand their perception and lived experience that got them there?

Telling others, it’s my way or the highway is rarely an effective way to get them to genuinely buy into what your selling. Why not try to teach them? Who knows we may even learn a thing or two from them. In fact, I’d be surprised if we didn’t. We all teach and we all learn, that’s just life.

Summer is coming to an end and I’m feeling a little anxious about it. And that’s ok.

Winter and I had a terrible falling out ten plus years ago and we’ve never been the same since. Some relationships are toxic and it’s best to walk away (Bermuda anyone?), but that’s not always possible. Sometimes relationships are broken, and not as a result of toxicity or another person, but rather a misunderstanding or some breakdown in communication.

Since our troubles started I’ve largely come to dread winter. As the mornings have started getting cooler and August is quickly coming to a close I’m starting to feel some anxiety. I love fall, especially fall in Southern Ontario, the joy of being able to turn off the AC and sleep with the windows open, the stunning fall colours and wearing cozy hoodies again. But I haven’t been able to be fully present or enjoy all that fall has to offer, owing to the knowledge that it means winter is just around the corner.

After more than a decade, I have to wonder if it’s too late to repair this relationship (did I mention Bermuda?), but Canada really is a great country and Ontario is such a beautiful place to live for three of the four seasons. And this is home, so I’m not ready to give up on the possibility of reconciliation quite yet.

Now I know winter is not solely to blame for my depression or anxiety, maybe it’s not even an original root cause, but it is a significant contributing factor. I don’t anticipate that will change, it’s normal. The majority of humans feel happier, healthier and more energetic when out in nature and with adequate amounts of sunlight (note: studies indicate pretty much everyone at this latitude should be taking vitamin D supplements in winter). We are all individuals with different genes, impacted by life events and situations differently. Some of us are simply more susceptible to not coping well with lack of sunlight and exposure to nature, whether (pun intended) that be the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, full blown depression, anxiety or some other response.

I’m not ready to give up on finding joy in winter, going back far enough I used to love winter and have many life experiences that suggest we can be great friends; Newton Girls snow fort sleep over on a -27 Celsius Manitoba winter night, tubing in the ditch behind the truck, summiting Kilimanjaro just as the sun was rising, sliding down the machine shed into the snowbanks (until my Dad caught us and put an end to that one), curling up under a blanket with a good book or sharing popcorn while watching Family Ties (I still have crush on Michael J. Fox but who doesn’t?).

Last spring/summer I felt as though I’d had a major breakthrough in this war I’ve been waging with mental health and I was so optimistic that the winter of 2018/19 would finally be our moment of reconciliation. It wasn’t, and that felt devastating. It wasn’t winters fault, the stress of purchasing a new house combined with other changes and life stresses already triggered the onset of anxiety/depression in August. But at least in August and September I have all these ‘tools in my toolbox’ so to speak. When it felt unbearable I went paddle boarding, swimming, sailing or went and sat at the beach or in the Glen Steward ravine and just practiced deep breathing – and everything was bearable again, sometimes much better.

But when the grey skies returned, the leaves fell off the trees, and the cold started to set in I lost my most effective healthy coping strategies. Maybe I could have accepted the misery for the normal length of winter but the early onset of the anxiety and the miserable spring this year (weather wise) meant start to lift materially until June and I didn’t really start feel myself again until July. Combined with my optimism earlier in in 2018 that I’d made great progress in facing and what I felt at the time ‘overcoming’ my challenges with health struggles, I felt discouraged, defeated and while never fully without hope it was at times, hard to hold onto.

They say that the lie depression tells you is that life isn’t worth living, and while I agree with that, the truth for me is that it’s not worth living in the midst of a serious and extended bout of depression. A life worth living involves connection and requires purpose. I suppose survival is in and of itself a valid and noble purpose, but while I can find connection in the midst of depression and anxiety when it’s moderate, I struggle to do so when it’s severe. I guess that makes sense, depression for me anyway, feels like a disconnection from myself and if I can’t connect with my own heart or soul I’m not sure how I could connect with anyone else’s? Any stereotype or annoying thought in your head designed to make you miserable generally contains at least a seed of truth to it, enough to convince you that it’s the whole truth, if you’re not paying enough attention. So while depression lies and tries to convince me that life isn’t worth living, I remind myself that as all seasons pass, this will pass too. The beauty and joy that is life has always returned to me and I have no evidence, no life experience or basis for which to believe that it won’t again, it has 100% of the previous times. Those are pretty damn good statistics.

Even in the midst of the previous winter and discouraging setback there was evidence of real change and hope that perhaps efforts to end this vicious cycle do pay off, even if painfully slowly sometimes. The old me would have berated myself endlessly, how could I had been so stupid to think I could handle the stress of buying a new house? While I acknowledged I maybe took on too much or didn’t otherwise give myself the necessary support to deal with it effectively, I never berated myself, I never even regretted the decisions, I just asked myself what I’d do differently the next time. That may not sound like much, but it is everything.

The anxiety felt devastating, not any better than previous years, actually a fair bit worse than the last few. I was and continue to be frustrated but the anger is subsiding and its being replaced by sadness, and compassion, for myself and others struggling similarly. Knowing that there are so many others with similar challenges and that this struggle only means I’m human, not weak, provides a great deal of comfort but also a great deal of sadness. I wish this wasn’t just such a normal response to the world we live in, is this what it means to be human? To feel such pain? The burden of knowing there are so many others, living in so much pain often leaves me feeling more overwhelmed. On the other hand, I know the flip side of this struggle is the joy, wonder and awe we, as humans have the privilege of experiencing. And yes, it’s absolutely worth it, even when it doesn’t always feel like it.

So as I write this on the last Sunday of August, I am feeling a little anxious about the seasons to come, but it’s not a bad anxiety, it’s not overwhelming. One of my main roadblocks on this journey is the belief that mental health is a war I need to wage, that it’s a fight I need to gear up for. It’s not, it’s just a struggle I have to live with, not to overcome but to continue to try and find a way to accept. To maybe even one day, welcome in and say ‘oh hello anxiety/depression what brings you back? How can I make you feel safe and loved so that we can get along a bit better?’ We’ll never be friends and that’s ok, but perhaps we can learn to appreciate each other and the strength and courage we have when we put our differences aside long enough to have a real conversation, rather than just continue to fight each other.

I’m not as optimistic as I was about this coming winter as I was in advance of last winter, but I feel more at peace with it and confident that I can handle whatever is to come. I’ve decided to allow room for the anxiety and the possibility that it will begin to grow, but I’ve also decided that I won’t let that deter me, or maybe it will be the encouragement needed to ensure I enjoying every last minute of summer, I will appreciate the hell out of it, I will watch sunrises, swim, sail and express my deep gratitude for all the joy it brings me. And at the same time, I will prepare for winter. I’ve bought a sunlamp, I’m researching trips to warmer climates and I’m making commitments, because I’m finding that when I commit to things I believe in, am passionate about or that move my life in the direction I want it to go that I can show up, even in the winter.

Bring on the fall, I’m looking forward to it.

The Culture of Busy: Are We Good Enough as We Are, or Do We Need to Do More?

Last week my Gestalt Therapist said, “but do you always have 2 do more?”.

She said it w empathy & compassion and directed towards my feelings of self-worth & insecurities of ever being Good Enough.  But I heard it with pity, directed towards my so-called disability & the assumption that often accompany labels associated with Mental Health challenges 4 those of us who Dream Big.  I heard it this way not because of her delivery but rather because I’ve been conditioned & taught that I should see myself as ‘less than’, someone who should not Dare To Dream, or certainly not have grandiose dreams.

My response to her:

Yes, I must absolutely do more & how I know this to be true is that Every. Single. Time. I do more that aligns w what my heart soul & intuition lead me to do, I am rewarded.  Blessed w beautiful sunrises, soul crushing & soul reviving music vis-a-vis Spotify playlists, paddle-boarding in Lake Ontario water calm as glass or kayaking in water with (what feel like, but aren’t really) massive waves, hot beach day Tuesday’s and rainy day #SolitudeSunday 4 busy book takedowns and naps.

So, what of all this talk of this culture of busy we’ve created and how detrimental it is, to our health & well-being?  The way I see it, a culture of busy is both a good & healthy culture but we’ve just got the context a bit wrong.

With all the corruption, inequality Human Rights atrocities & down right evil that exists in our World today, Humans are desperate to ‘do more’ but to tackle things like Climate Change, the Profits before people, and success defined by money and power over others mentality and resulting rampant global corruption seems hopeless, and we feel helpless.

So we throw our busy, our evolutionary disposition to Hard Work, finding our purpose, making a difference to ensure our legacy lives on long after we are dead, we busy into what we’ve been taught success looks like.  Superior grades, high achievement recognition in sport, work, art or Other.  Such that we can get promoted to make more money, get more power, have more women so we can achieve all that beer & fashion commercials & other advertising tells us we should be striving for, because that is what will make us happy.

But when we get that promotion, that raise, that next notch in our belts & find it’s not delivering the promised happiness, that we still don’t feel Good Enough even if we’ve gained so much that others worship us (or pretend to for personal gain) it destroys our souls even more.  And then we have a few choices:

1. Decide the problem is that we haven’t yet gotten enough $, titles, girls or yellow Lamborghini’s, we need to work harder.

2. Reflect on how lottery winners are shown to end up no happier than they were prior to their Big Win.  To reflect on how achieving our own personal Life Goals, when not aligned to our heart & soul desires leaves us feeling even more empty, helpless, hopeless & often leads to a Mental Illness Diagnosis.  And we can then decide we need to do Everything. Possible. to reconnect to our hearts, soul & authentic selves’ intuition, no matter what the cost.  No matter how much courage we know it will take to face the seemingly insurmountable fear that exists between our current selves and our authentic selves.

3. Realize that this path isn’t working but at least we now have the $$$ that will allow us to buy enough beer to temporarily stuff the holes in our hearts.  We know this isn’t the greatest long-term plan, but we hope, with all the hope we’ve got left in us that it’s a good enough short-term plan that will allow us to survive long enough to find a way to climb out of the hell we’re living in, created by this bastardized version of capitalism the greed & selfishness of few have created.  Those few, who like us are also stuck in this vicious cycle and haven’t realized they are Good Enough, X-more billions lining their pockets isn’t going to change their self-worth or feelings of hopelessness.  It may increase their number of Twitter followers, of false worshipers that bow down to them either:

  1. In hopes of getting a piece of that pie, or
  2. Knowing deep down they’ll never get a piece of that pie but keep holding onto so much anger as a result of the discrimination, inequality and just general crap life throws at all of us. And when the anger they feel projected transparently vis-a-vis Twitter provides them with permission, an outlet for their own hurt & anger.  Finally, they are being provided with an opportunity to be heard, for someone to listen to the darkness they’ve been hiding far back in the closet.  An opportunity to belong to something bigger than themselves, to belong to themselves.  Because at the end of the day that is all any of us have ever wanted, ever needed, To Belong.

Anyway… once again, I digress and find myself going On And On And On.  In conclusion, I believe that everyone has a path, a story that at the end of the day, doesn’t really look all that different than anyone else’s, but the context in terms of the sliding scale between:

  1. Privilege & marginalization,
  2. Good & bad luck,
  3. Using wine (or beer, each to their own!) for bad numbing to stuff down our hurts & good numbing for a little end-of-day reward & giddiness that can accompany the warm buzz associated with a teeny bit too much booze
  4. Reaction & response

We divide, judge, build walls and groups of like-minded humans that align with where we currently sit within the sliding scales of Human responses. And if we were to adopt a true culture of diversity & inclusion we wouldn’t do this.  We would choose Love Not Hate & we would acknowledge all hurts, believing Everyone Belongs, the good, the bad and the ugly.  But Kindness is anything but weak and we would do everything we could to #GetLoud and hold those doing evil accountable for their actions that perpetuate this vicious cycle.

But we would Be Kind and probably wouldn’t subject them to the current state of our jails and mental Health institutions, because after all ‘we the good’ turkey believe in the possibility or rehabilitation and reform, right?  For sure we’d lock these suckers up but probably in nice spas with acres of land, clean water, massages and we’d clothe them in cozy hoodies and super cute shoes, or Other, depending on their preferences.  Maybe they’d prefer moccasins, I do too some days and twice on #SolitudeSunday.

However, also knowing how essential Hard Work is to our sense of self worth & purpose, we’d for sure put them to work.  Restoring the land, and our communities either vis-a-vis physical labour or based on their resume of accomplishments and skills, whether it be business expertise, research abilities or thought leadership.

But there would be governance, oversight, transparency and accountability models that would put the three lines of defense, heck that would put the whole Canadian Banking system to shame because it’d be that damn good. And that’s apparently real good cause according to Wikipedia as of a few seconds ago, “Banking in Canada is widely considered one of the safest banking systems in the world,[1] ranking as the world’s soundest banking system for six consecutive years (2007-2013) according to reports by the World Economic Forum.[2]


[1] World Economic Forum – Global Competitiveness Report Archived 2010-12-06 at the Wayback MachineWorld Economic Forum, In the 2010-2011 report Canada ranked 1st in the “Soundness of banks” indicator

[2] “Canadian banks remain soundest according to World Economic Forum, six years in a row”Cba.ca. 2013-09-04. Archived from the original on 2014-07-26. Retrieved 2014-07-18.”

Wikipedia link:



  1. Apologies for the lack of editing, excessive number of typos, grammatical errors and awkward sentences.  I just ordered a 2nd cup of caffeinated coffee so I gots to get outdoors & active else I’ll be flying high as a kite and subject to more racing thoughts & pent up energy than even I like.  And as it turns out I do like thinking and having lots of energy, I like them a lot.
  2. At some point I may (or may not) request someone to review for grammatical atrocities and then I may (or may not) edit this LinkedIn Post. Alternatively, I may just say… this is Good Enough.
  3. I did not come up with the beer to stuff the hole in your heart analogy, shout out to M! for that one.
  4. LinkedIn does not allow me to post articles vis-a-vis iPhone app so posting will happen later today, post walk & after I’ve worked off these caffeine jitters.
  5. Soon, but maybe not super soon, I will do some reflecting on my potential overuse and/or overuse of the phrase ‘vis-a-vis’.  But it’s a phase & I’m sure it will eventually pass all on its own w/o all this reflecting and responding/adjusting or deciding I’m good enough & not interested in changing vis-a-vis nonsensical societal unwritten rules that continuously contradict themselves to suit the purpose de jour.
  6. Cheers & Happy Sunday (now Monday as I took so long to log in to desktop LinkedIn)!  Enjoy Life.

To bring back the fire in her eyes

"It's not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person and makes you believe it's all true
And now I've got you
And you're not what I asked for
If I'm honest, I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

And then she'll get stuck
And be scared of the life that's inside her
Growing stronger each day 'til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That's been gone, but used to be mine"

- Sarah Bareilles, She Used to Be Mine

I’ve been caught up in this cycle of mania (or hypomania – don’t know that each year it would have been enough to classify as mania but going forward for simplicity I’ll just use mania) and depression/anxiety with little relief for the last five years, maybe longer.  Last year I finally had some relief, the mania that comes usually in March/April wasn’t full-fledged mania, it was mild and didn’t last long, only 2 months or so, and then I found myself just genuinely happy, like a huge weight had lifted.  A freedom I hadn’t felt in… well maybe I’d never felt that free.  And I thought I had broken the cycle, I really thought I was free, I can’t even hardly remember it let alone describe it, the feeling of just living, not fighting so damn hard just to survive the season, the day, the hour.  Believing I could have dreams and aspirations again, that I could move forward with my life.  That resulted in a new house and a new job, neither of which turned out and the stress of the move did a number on me, it took me down.

It took me down in more ways than one, the stress and accompanying paralyzing fear and sense of worthlessness that I’m all too familiar with and it some ways have learned to live with, (not live well, not live fully but live with) it just felt like it was too much.  Too disappointing after how hard I’ve worked to get better to know that one stressful event is all it’s going to take to bring me down?  Some of the habits stuck, I’m still exercising every day and I didn’t start smoking again (although I have to say I was very tempted) but my eating when to shit and I found myself back on the couch staring at the TV for most of the winter, not because I want to watch TV but because the fear, the terror is too much, it paralyzes me, everything becomes too much.  I’m still struggling with this, how to pick myself back up, how not to feel overwhelmingly discouraged.  I had to work so hard to clean up my diet and if I’m just going to continue to be hit with this paralyzing fear, where or how do I find the courage to continue to fight for myself, to fight the nasty thoughts that make me believe I’m not worth taking care of or that I’ll never be able to sustain it anyway.

This March, as usual the mania started to come back there were about two weeks that were a bit sketchy where the hyperactivity started to set in and I knew I could be in trouble and I had this moment where I thought, maybe I don’t need this anymore.  Maybe I don’t need to swing so far the other way to pull myself out of this paralyzing anxiety/depression, and maybe, just maybe I can find a way to believe in myself without the assistant of the grandiose thoughts that accompany mania.  And just like that it passed but now I’m not entirely sure that was the right choice because I feel like what I’m left with is depression, a lower grade and not accompanied by the paralyzing fear but depression all the same.

I’m really struggling to believe in myself, to believe that I can do this or that life will ever be anything but a gigantic struggle and to try so hard to get things back on track if I’m just going to be derailed again in winter.  I’m not entirely sure I can do it, but I also haven’t given up, and on days where it feels like too much but I manage to do something for myself anyway (e.g. wash the floors) then space opens up, while maybe I can’t reach the true version of me I can feel the spark and the next thing (e.g. cooking a healthy dinner) becomes a little easier and if I’m not paying attention I often catch myself feeling content.

They say happiness is a choice, I do believe this, but I don’t think I believe it’s always a choice that’s available, that if you don’t work on it when it is available to you that it might no longer be available, at least for a period such as the case in depression.  Happiness is a choice one must make very consciously and deliberately before the situation becomes desperate, we must choose happiness when things are going well, or ok, we must choose not to focus on that one thing that goes wrong and let it get to you.  It’s a muscle that needs exercise or it won’t have the strength to do the heavy lifting.  It’s not a choice I felt I had available to me this winter, but while I am still struggling, space is opening, and I am finding that I have a choice.

It’s not always easy, when I wake up feeling worthless, helpless and hopeless and kind of pissed off that I woke up at all, like was the case this morning.  It wasn’t easy, and I can’t just decide I feel great or even ok, but I can decide what I am going to do about it.  So I went for a long walk, because it’s hard to be horribly miserable when in motion (especially so when it’s beautiful out), and because this is already engrained as a habit (which makes it soooo much easier), cooking myself a good breakfast (not yet a habit) and going to the mental health march, not because I want to and not because it was uplifting (honestly it felt a little sad that there are so few people, a bit skewed by my attitude) but because it was something and I did it.  I’m not sure what will come, I’m not sure I’ll be able to heal, to find peace, happiness but now I know it’s available to me, I know I deserve it and I know that there’s a whole lot of fire left in me, it’s worth fighting for.

Mental Health Week

Tomorrow marks the start of Mental Health Week, I’m a bit conflicted as to what I should, or even how I do feel about Mental Health Week.  Last year I was speaking so mostly I just felt anxious (although surprisingly so much less than one would think for someone who suffers from anxiety!).  The year before that I wore a green ribbon (everyone did) and went to the mental health march but nervously so, afraid of seeing someone I might know, I avoided the cameras and in the end after some internal debate, ‘bravely’ decided to sign my name (my real one!) to the sign at the end of the march.  Lol, what a difference a year or two can make.  Something worth remembering and pulling up when I next get discouraged that change isn’t happening as quickly or as completely as I’d like.

I don’t have any notable memories of mental health week prior to that, presumably the organizations I was working with either didn’t recognize it or just paid it lip service.  Anyway, this year I’m not involved and have found myself wondering what I think of the whole thing.  One on hand I’m inclined to believe that anything that gets people talking about mental health is a good thing.  On the other hand, I’m really not a fan of a week-long marketing campaign for the pharmaceutical industry, and I have to wonder where all the diversity is when it comes to these sorts of events because the message seems to always be reach out for help, help is out there and it comes in the form of a pill, the last part isn’t always explicit but often it is.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of #BellLetsTalkAbout the very real fact that you might reach out for help only to find help often isn’t out there, I expect most anyone whose had any interaction with the mental health care system has encountered this.  And what about when ‘help’ comes with being stripped of your dignity, having your human rights violated and legal rights ignored?  Or that the drugs that are expected to help you might end up causing much more damage than good?  That the oppression and marginalization of a group of people might actually be a cause of mental distress and at best is a really shitty way of ‘helping’.  Haven’t seen any posters on these topics.

And these aren’t even radical beliefs held by a minority of extremists or psychiatric survivors that have caught on that their lives do matter and the message that they are ‘less than’ or ‘other’ is perhaps just fear or profit based.  The United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report that more or less says the same thing albeit slightly more eloquently and absent any sarcastic remarks about posters.

In the report they call out the power the pharmaceutical industry has over how mental health is treated globally, and how radical change is needed.  Here is a sampling of a few of my favs from the report:

  • “We have been sold a myth that the best solutions for addressing mental health challenges are medications and other biomedical interventions”
  • “At the clinical level, power imbalances reinforce paternalism and even patriarchal approaches, which dominate the relationship between psychiatric profession and users of mental health services.”.
  • “While many people find diagnostic categories beneficial in allowing them to access services and better understand their mental health, others find them unhelpful and stigmatizing.
  • “Mental health diagnoses have been misused to pathologize identities and other diversities, including tendencies to medicalize human misery.”
  • “Critics warn that the overexpansion of diagnostic categories encroaches upon human experiences in a way that could lead to a narrowing acceptance of human diversity.”

There are so many more… one should really read the whole document in it’s entirety, I’ve included a link below.  This is encouraging, that the United Nations recognizes and is trying to do something about it but also somewhat disheartening that the message that seems to be prevalent in all Mental Health Awareness campaigns is counter to this and doesn’t seem to have much room for experiences that don’t involve success stories that align with the existing reductionist biomedical model.

So how do I feel about Mental Health Week?  Not great, not super excited.  What will I do about it?  Probably not much of anything, I will wear a green ribbon, I might even like a few mental health blogs.  Maybe if I’m feeling particularly rebellious I’ll post some non-standard ‘Mental Health Week’ thoughts or on social media, maybe I won’t.  Who knows?  I’m a bit of a wild card or so that’s what they tell me.


PS – I’m not meaning to disparaging of anyone who takes medication and I’m not anti-medication.  I do think we have a right to understand what the risks are and the right to consent, to say no without fear of retribution or being labelled non-compliant because the last thing we need is more labels.

And while I believe the industry tries it’s best to stigmatize those who don’t, who wont or who quit taking their meds, I understand that there is also a lot of stigma for those who chose to use medication, for those who medication has helped.  This isn’t ok either, people should have the right to chose and no one should have the right to shame them either way.


More on Compassion

When I started writing this, I didn’t mean for it to be another blog on self-compassion but that’s where it ended going.

Two weeks ago, starting pretty much immediately after I wrote and posted my last blog was the best week I’ve had in a very, very long time.  Writing, I have found very helpful to me to my journey to maybe someday get to a better place.  Writing allows me to be with my emotions, it forces me to examine and try to understand them, enough anyway to be able to articulate them (if not always gracefully so).  It eases the constant rumination, slows down the thinking a bit and allows me to let go, to the extent I am able.  And I’ve already digressed, anyway….

I had fun that weekend.  Fun, genuine laughter that’s not forced, such basic simple things, human needs we often take for granted but there just hasn’t been space for it for a while.  There isn’t space for much beyond survival when the anxiety or depression is so strong, or at least I haven’t been able to find it.  Feeling light enough to allow for play and fun, I feel so grateful for that experience, so relieved that these experiences are still available to me.  When the depression/anxiety gets bad, like it seems to every winter, it becomes hard to believe that I will ever be happy or have fun again, laugh or just feel free.  But things have lifted significantly enough now that I don’t have to just hope, I can once again believe that happiness and joy are still experiences that are available to me.  I am so grateful for that and so relieved.

That week I also started to sleep through the night.  Finally giving into the urge to check the clock and realizing it’s already 4:30 and that I’ve slept straight through the night, very exciting. Sleep as it turns out, is also a very essential and not-surprisingly-so, makes a huge difference to the effort required to manage my emotions.  So with all these positive signs, when I’m starting to feel better about myself, my life, why then do I still slip back into bad habits, choices that go against my values and will, or at minimum are at least flirting with, sabotaging my ability to change, to try and build the life I want to live and not one I feel so desperate to escape from.  I’m not sure how much longer I can use the excuse that fear/bad habits/ego will fight back with a vengeance when you try to stand up to them, when you try to make different choices for your life and how you react.

How many times can I really expect to forgive myself for making the same mistakes over and over again?  At what point do I just realize it’s a lost cause and finally give up?  Don’t they say to break ties with those that bring you down, from people who make it difficult for you to grow, that keep making the same detrimental choices or that tempt you to keep making the same bad choices?  So if that is the ‘expert advice’ how can it not apply to myself aside from the simple fact that there isn’t really anyway to do so.  But it makes it easy to slip back into what is probably my worst bad habit and root cause of many others, shame and negative thinking.  The ego believing it’s doing what is in my best interest to shame me, to make me feel horrible when I do mess up because somehow that might prevent me from making the same mistake again in the future.  I’m so familiar with this, and sadly more familiar with how poor of a strategy this is.  No one ever shamed anyone into change, ever.  The only thing shame does is make us crawl further back into the closet, to stay small, to not try, because not trying means not failing or so ego wants us to believe.

And I already know the answer, compassion is the answer and compassion would say there is no limit to the number of times you forgive yourself, compassion says it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, you keep getting up.  You are worth it.  Self-hate, depression, anxiety, ego (whatever you want to call it) has this innate ability to convince us of the severity of our mistakes, where mistakes can be as mundane as the things we all do every day such as saying the wrong thing, even saying the right thing but in the wrong way, someone misinterpreting what I’ve said (or even just feeling as though they have been) or misinterpreting what someone else has said to me.  These are all ‘failures’ on my part, evidence that I’m either a poor communicator or not capable of connection, anything that provides support to the belief that I am not ok.

There are instances of success with applying compassion, awareness but it often feels like it takes every ounce of presence.  That when I do something ‘wrong’, something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out how I want it to that I can respond differently but that I have to be so diligent, on guard, watching every thought, breathing deep, going for a walk or to the gym for a workout.  Anything I can think to do to not let myself give into the thoughts that everything is wrong, which so quickly turn into I am something wrong.  It feels like it takes so much work, so much presence that I can’t help but wonder how can I possibly keep at this?  Can it possibly be worth the effort?  And then when I’m not paying so much attention a few hours after the gym yesterday I catch myself being perfectly content, effortlessly so.  And I wake up this morning and it’s a beautiful day, I walk down to the boardwalk as the sun is rising and I can’t help but wonder what could ever make me think it might not be worth the effort?


“Go full circle round
Catch a breeze
Take a spill
But ending up where I started again
Makes me want to stand still”

– Indigo Girls, Watershed

Ending up where I started… well at least that would mean I hadn’t moved backwards.  I concur, it makes me want to stand still, to go back to just trying to be as small as possible.  To stop pretending maybe I can become someone else, someone I like.  To stop this self-examination acceptance bullshit because IT’s NOT FUCKING WORKING.  It makes me see the wisdom in numbing, in avoidance through whatever means, be it work, TV, internet, sugar, cigarettes or alcohol, I don’t care what, I just want a break.  Standing still, moving backwards, it’s not so painful if I don’t have to look it straight in the eye.  Failing at life because I’m not trying well that at least makes rational sense to me.  It hurts less.

But that’s not true either, it doesn’t hurt less it just allows me not to feel it momentarily and I know I’d hurt much less right now if I hadn’t avoided my feelings to begin with.  If I had found a way to make space for them, to accept the pain of being human.  In the same light, perhaps it will hurt less tomorrow if I try to find space for all of these damn feelings today.  I kinda still hate feelings though, well not all of them just the tough ones.  But one cannot selectively numb, in order to feel joy there must be space for pain.  I just wish there wasn’t so much pain, I wish I didn’t feel so bad.  I wish I could sleep.

They say when you try to face your fear (or ego, or bad habits whatever you want to call it), fear will fight back with a vengeance.  It, they are fighting for survival – it’s only natural that there will be backlash for trying to change, for questioning the thoughts that tell you that you don’t deserve any better, for standing up to your oppressors, even or perhaps especially so when you are own greatest enemy.   I want to, maybe I have to believe that this is true, this is why when I took some risks that depression/anxiety would have never let me take in the past decade or so, that they fought back and that’s why they hit with such a vicious vengeance this winter.  Maybe I’m not moving backwards after all.

I read this morning that self-compassion is about picking yourself up 101 times if you fall 100 times, the number should have been exponentially higher, but whatever the point is not about how many times you fall it’s about being willing to pick yourself back up no matter how high that number is.  But self-compassion is also about not ripping apart every little thing you say and interpreting it as failure simply because perhaps you could have said it better, you could done better, you could have been kinder.  Not being perfect, not having things go exactly how you’d like them to be or not feeling happy or fully satisfied all of the time… this isn’t failure, this is life.  I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Another thing I read recently that really hit home is that change generally isn’t heroic and it’s not exciting.  More often than not it’s slow, it’s painful, it takes one small step at a time, and there will be setbacks, there will be steps backwards along the way.  Change is not a monotonically increasing function.  Damn.

After this past winter I am again, more so than in many years feeling rather discouraged and disappointed.  Disappointed with my ability to show up to life, to respond to my thoughts and feelings in a way that I want.  Discouraged that I can’t seem to be the person I want to be, the person I think I should be by now.  But acceptance is showing up as the person that I am, and l will never be able to show up as the person I want to be unless I make space for the person that I am today.  Allow her to show up, tears, anxiety, ineffective communicator with foot-in-mouth disease and all.  I need to keep working to accept and love her exactly as she is or there I will never give myself permission to grow into that person I want to be.

The overwhelming heaviness of depression and anxiety has now lifted and I’m feeling more choice, more space returning.  And while discouragement is still sitting heavy with me, I can see evidence of changes taking place within me.  Actually, I could see this through the depression and it returned with some sort of viciousness this winter that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  Just before that, before I fell into old patterns (maybe out of fear?) I felt genuine joy, a lightness and freedom last spring that I don’t recall ever feeling.  It’s incredibly infuriating to me to think that I would resist change, healing, that I would resist freedom but it’s true, I am struggling with a lot of resistance to let this go.  But I’ll leave that for another post…

I’m discouraged, disappointed and frustrated, but I’m not disgusted with myself.  Now I recognize that probably doesn’t sound like anything to write home about but for me to feel that even in the midst of depression, that’s a massive change in mindset.  I took some ‘risks’ last spring, I bought a new house, I took a new job (with much declaration as to how I was changing my career trajectory).  The job didn’t end up working out and I’m back in a role much similar to what I’ve done in the past.  The house, well still to be seen but at the moment it feels overwhelming and like much more of a burden and a bad decision.

And here’s the thing that’s really surprising to me, I seem to have forgotten that I should be incredibly humiliated and shamed about all of this.  I’m pretty happy with the role I have moved into, I am enjoying it.  And the house well honestly there really isn’t anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t feel like a home.  I don’t feel settled and at the moment don’t feel I have the decision-making capacity for design, furniture purchase and other such things I’m not all that interested in or ‘good at’.

There is acceptance, that it’s just a bit too much for me at the moment, and that maybe that is ok.   I’m not feeling the need to berate myself, to punish myself for ending up where I started out, for being foolish to think I could do something different.  I don’t even think I need to view this as failure (at least in the bad sense of the word), these weren’t terrible, foolish decisions, they were just decisions, period.  And not even ‘bad’ ones, they don’t need to be labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they just are and there’s a lot that I am reflecting upon and learning from.  Where’s the failure in that?

I wish change wasn’t slow and painful.  I wish I was so much further ahead than I am. And most of all I wish it didn’t feel like such an impossible task to take all the little, incremental steps necessary simply just to maybe, possibly, one day get me to a place where I can start living a life I don’t feel I need to escape from.

But I’m also so grateful for the changes that I am observing, the good habits I have introduced, the bad habits I’ve broken and how far I have come.  This whole being human thing is tricky business and it feels like shit some of the time but it can also feel pretty amazing and I’m really grateful that I am still here, still learning how to navigate it.

The Roller Coaster continues

I’ve got two existing blog posts well underway, started a few weeks ago in addition to the one I did post.  I’m guessing there was more than a little unconscious desperation at play, feeling myself starting the decent from the top of this roller coaster ride anticipating the bottom but not knowing how far down it goes or being able to see the subsequent assent.  After all it’s only July- it’s way too early to be spiraling down, some part of me has resigned myself to losing my winters, I’m not prepared to give up summer, or fall I love these seasons.

While I preach the value of mindfulness and self-acceptance as essential, I don’t live it, not when it comes to overwhelm, anxiety and/or depression (and a whole other host of things, like forgetting commas in emails and so forth).  All the ‘work’ I’m doing still tends to be focused on doing this work so I will be ‘fixed’, so I wont be subject to debilitating anxiety anymore, so I will be completely self-confident, insecurities will be gone and I will be able to thrive, peruse my dreams, not let anything stand in my way.

This week has been incredibly difficult, the anxiety is so high and is having significant physical and mental effects.  There are times I thought for sure I am going down in some blaze of glory, at the moment I’m much less convinced that has to be the outcome.  There have been full conversations I’ve been a part of but haven’t heard anything, my body is on fire and I’d crawl out of my skin if there was a way to do that, my digestive system has shut down, falling asleep and eating have both been fairly challenging.  The negative thoughts, the ‘you’re life isn’t worthwhile, isn’t worth living’, the certainty that I am a failure, have already failed in my role that I’ll never get my house packed, the movers I booked wont show up and the individuals who signed a lease to rent my current house are certain to be fraudsters.

What I find interesting is the thoughts about my life not being worth living, these  are of the nuisance variety, and yeah they still get to me, they do bother me but I also find it super irritating when the streetcar short turns, if forced to rank irritants I’m not certain I could say which I find more upsetting.  But the thoughts of failure, the ‘not good enough’, the anxiety that paralyzes me with fear and renders me fairly unproductive (adding evidence as fuel to the fire of thoughts of my usefulness or chance of success in life or work), these are still extremely upsetting to me.  Practicing acceptance here is a struggle, but I’m seeing optimistic signs, I am seeing an impact.

I haven’t had much ability to change my thoughts, feelings or physical reactions but I’ve been able to distance myself somewhat, while I was highly unproductive and not performing I still showed up and managed maybe what might just be the bare minimum but it was something.

I really ramped up my gratitude practice, and started writing down my gratitude for things that I could find to be grateful for.  That I did ok at a meeting, that another meeting I had (and one I organized) didn’t go ok, but I can see that perhaps that’s not the end of the world, that my anxiety relaxed enough to allow me to eat a full lunch.  That I survived the day, that I made it until I got home before I started crying, and the next day that I made it through work, that I didn’t start crying until I was on the streetcar (And now I’m adding some gratitude that I can see the humor in the ridiculousness of all of this!).  Gratefulness for the people who have reached out to offer assistance to help pack/move, and while it’s uncomfortable for me that I’ve been able to say yes to some of those offers.

So much gratitude that there are people I can share this with, that I don’t have to wear a mask with (or those that can simply see through any mask I try to wear at this stage), for the individuals who have had or do still have related struggles or similar (acceptance/gratitude/mindfulness) practices that I can discuss this with.  Gratefulness that I have so many more tools to deal with these thoughts & feelings, that while it takes an incredible amount of energy and effort to stay present, there are moments I am able to do just that and can genuinely believe that maybe it is ok, to not be ok.

And maybe, just maybe if continue to practice, that if instead of believing the thoughts or fears that I am a failure, and if I’m able to give myself a break for not handling something in the best way, or for an unproductive day, or week that the highs and lows of the roller coaster ride I feel I’ve been stuck on may continue to decrease in magnitude over time.  The belief that the decrease in magnitude  has to be monotonically decreasing or I’ve failed is a limiting belief has and continues to have detrimental impacts to my ability to manage my life and emotions.  It’s one I need to be diligent about continuing to challenge.

While the 2 half written blog posts I have underway were motivated by desperation to speak (or more accurately, write) my experiences while I still have a voice left, this one isn’t.  This is motivated by the question, can I still participate in life when I feel like this?  Can I not take my thoughts, feelings and physical reactions and translate them into impending doom ahead? Can I still find my voice, my soul, myself when I’m on this side of the roller coaster?

I think maybe I can.