Even though it's Sunday, I decided to get up at 6am so I could squeeze in as much work as possible before heading to London for the afternoon. I was sluggish but incredibly proud of my motivation and industrious ambition. As I made my way to the shower, I mentally rehearsed the discussions I would have later in the day, boasting of my incredible feat and patting myself on the back while criticizing others for the opportunities they had wasted by sleeping away those few extra hours in their warm, cozy beds. Then I reached the end of the hallway and discovered that anything not permanently affixed to a wall or floor had been removed from the kitchen and bathroom and were now occupying a significant portion of the living room. Turns out my father had taken it upon himself to execute a thorough, and in his words, "much overdue" cleaning. He was even rearranging some of the furniture to optimize space. He smiled and wished me good morning as I, wearing my boxer shorts and a dubious look on my face, struggled to remain upright - still half asleep and barely able to string together enough words to be coherent. Seems he had been up since three and was still going strong. Now he is outside shovelling the driveway. Touche, old man. Touche. He stole my thunder but proved once again why I continue to be inspired by him. I love you, you old bastard.
Sunday song of ambition: The Irish Rovers "Wasn't That A Party".
After forty-four hours or so of being awake, I finally crashed last night. Fully dressed in underwear, socks, jeans, t-shirt, sweater, and even my slippers. It must have been a restless night because I had to untangle myself from the sheets and blankets which had me trapped like a cocoon. Similar to a fever, the unbreakable grip of constant fear and anxiety has broken, but it's not all clear skies and rainbows yet. I am now slipping between multiple states and have already had one panic attack and broke down crying twice, overwhelmed by unprovoked bouts of grief.
For the most part, I haven't left the house all week unless I had to, and I couldn't motivate myself enough to change my clothes (except for throwing on a different sweater when I took photos so people wouldn't notice) or shower (very, very yuck, I know) and I drank when I shouldn't have. I did all the things I'm not supposed to do if I want to maintain positivity and balance, and yet I've felt powerless to do otherwise. To many, I'm sure this must seem a ridiculous excuse. Just don't do it. It should be that simple. I wish it was that simple. If it was, I wouldn't spend so much time disappointed in myself.
But I'm making this morning different. I showered and put on new clothes and I'm about to focus on catching up on some of the work I've been neglecting. I don't know if I'll make it outside but at least inside, things are different. It's another start. The key word being "another" and it's a word that will be in my vocabulary the rest of my life, at least if I want to continue having one.
There is a quote by Naoki Higashida which goes "Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight" and I believe it's a sentiment that can make all the difference for anyone living with a mental disorder. I also just decided that the number eight is now my favourite number (it used to be 42, for any Douglas Adams geeks out there).
So what have we learned on a Saturday morning? Life can suck, but most importantly, it can also suck less. I know, not exactly a stellar inspiration for most, but for those who share some of my same challenges, I think you know exactly what I mean.
Saturday's sing-a-long as picked by my father: Don Williams "I Believe In Love".
As a contrast to the tone of my latest posts, I thought I would share a new poem. Something lighter and a little different than my usual fare. It's titled "The Zoo On The Bus" and I'm toying with the idea of turning it into a children's book one day. If I'm lucky, some kid might enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It's Friday and day two of my mixed mania, anxiety fueled mini-marathon. I haven't slept since yesterday morning and my insides are in a constant state of compression, like my entire body is a damp hand towel being aggressively wrung without release. It's the same sensation I've felt lying on a hospital cart, with each passing minute of apprehension and anticipation feeling closer to an hour as I await my turn in the operating room. The difference is, these episodes don't come with a scheduled timeline. No opportunity to comfort myself with thoughts of "Just think, by this afternoon you'll be through it and it will all be over." It's more of a grin-and-bear it situation, managed as best as possible with self care and patience, until I come out the other side. I try hard to remember that I always do - or at least I always have. I remind myself that I am strong enough.
Dealing with extended periods of heightened, unrelenting anxiety is exhausting. It takes a terrible toll on your body and your mind as it wears you down from the inside. My particular affliction is commonly referred to as "rapid cycling bipolar", which means I can switch moods and states swiftly, drastically, and often. As frustrating as this can be, there are times I'm thankful I'm not locked into only one condition or another and sometimes during a transition, I occasionally catch a moment of calm and a chance to catch my breath.
So since I expect today will prove to be just as stubborn as yesterday by refusing to stop long enough for me to get my shit together, I suppose I'll have to be just as stubborn and push on. Besides, it's Friday and I prefer to reserve all my surrenders for Mondays when the very thought of the day itself can be daunting enough to drive me back into bed.
Today's song for the haven't yet slept: Creedence Clearwater Revival "Have You Ever Seen The Rain".
Woke up this morning with a lot of anxiety. Edge of panic attack type stuff. Bad dreams all night, upset stomach, the world is out to get me. OK, granted, the last one sounds kind of paranoid, and it is. My life isn't always just a coin toss between whether I love or hate myself, luckily I get a break once in a while when the anxiety becomes so overwhelming it locks all such debate out of my mind, just as it screams at me to hurry and lock all the doors in my house.
For me, there are few words in the English language that carry as much weight as that eight letter 'F' word. I have failed. I failed myself. I failed the ones I love. I failed those who depend on me. I failed to live up to my potential. I failed to be responsible. I failed to be smart enough or strong enough or even to be someone who could be loved enough. I am a failure. I tell myself it's all in my head (literally), that I am trapped temporarily in a skewed state of perception and it will pass. Ride it out and hold on until it does. Still, those thoughts of failure inspire so much fear and dread in me that sometimes I'm positive my heart is going to stop, and I'm not convinced I wouldn't welcome it.
The thing you have to recognize about fear, or any challenge you face in life, is that it can't be conquered through avoidance. You can't dig under it or sneak around it. You can't climb over it or hide from it, hoping it will pass you by. Even if you do manage to slip past it somehow, it will latch on to your back and stay with you. Wherever you go, no matter how far or how long you last, it will always be there, growing larger and bolder each day it remains. Eventually the weight of it will bring you to your knees.
Many days I like to go walking. Today I want to run. As much as I know being out and active help me both physically and mentally, I have learned that sometimes the best thing I can do is plant my feet firmly in one place and stand my ground. Tomorrow I may go for another walk but it won't be with anything clinging to my back and whispering threats in my ear.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or facing something you don't believe you can overcome, if you feel inadequate to the task at hand, then hear what I have to say and do your best to believe it. As strange as it may sound, your brain isn't always your best friend. It can deceive and mislead you. It can have its own perverse agenda and want to take control. Believe in yourself, even if it has to be the self you remember from yesterday, and stand your ground. We'll get through today and we'll do it again tomorrow if we have to. It's your brain and if it can be strong enough to bring you to your knees, you can be strong enough to stand up again.
A tune for conquering: Nine Inch Nails "Head Like a Hole".
Tiny, terse, and to the point for a titular (tee hee, I said titular) Tuesday. Not much to say, but not much is needed. At least I don't believe so.
Be good to others. Be good to yourself. Be good enough to be someone to look up to. Be someone others want to know. Be a better person. A better father, mother, sister, brother, friend, lover, husband, and wife. Do it in small ways if necessary, but be someone who tries. Believe that sometimes trying can be more important than succeeding and be prepared to fail. Be prepared to not give up. Be prepared to try again. And again. Be strong. Be truthful, especially when you know a lie would be easier. Be the person you want to be. Be the person you wanted to be at seven. Be thankful. Be respectful. Be someone who makes today a good day.
Most important of all, don't try to be someone else. Be you and be confident it will always be enough. It's where it all begins and it's the way you'll get to where you need to go.
A song to be a Tuesday: Electric Light Orchestra "Don't Bring Me Down".
Good morning, people. It's Monday and we're off to another splendid start to another splendiferous week. Actually, I have no idea how this week is going to go. I'm not even sure what splendiferous means but it sounded, well - splendiferous - so it won the description lottery this morning. Granted the other choices were "dingdackly" and "pop-poop-a-licious", both of which aren't even considered real words according to dictionary.com, so it could be argued that the whole debate was a non-starter.
But I digress.
The upcoming week is a mystery, but that's OK. Don't panic. We'll get through it together. Not knowing what's coming can be a scary thing, I know, I deal with the dread on an almost constant basis. Still, we need to remind ourselves the unknown can also deliver great things - new discoveries, pleasant surprises, and even solutions to problems that threaten to drag us down with despair, believing we're trapped with no way out. The unknown can reveal the door that leads to freedom from the pain we battle but believe we can never escape. Without the unknown, there would be no hope.
So, it's OK to be scared, but like a roller coaster, you need that moment of apprehension at the top to make the thrill of the ride possible, and if you knew what was around the next bend, you'd lose the edge it takes to make the trip worth taking. That's life. The climb to the top can be a long and tense-filled journey but it can also be one hell of a ride if you hang on.
Today, let's forget about knocking Monday and be splendiferous instead.
The song for a new start: The Pogues "Fairy Tale Of New York".
Tis a Saturday for the ages. Well, probably not, but I always look for opportunities to say things like "tis" and "for the ages" and it seemed as good a time as any to go for it.
We voted to brave the cold and make the trek to Tim Horton's for a caffeine boost and launch the morning properly. The best part is, I get to spend the day with Cheryl Holroyd, one of my favourite humans in the world. She is one of the strongest people I know and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have her in my life.
It's a Saturday, so let's start Saturdaying people. We all know how quickly Monday sneaks up, so every minute counts.
Cheryl's morning musical pick: Tina Turner "Proud Mary".
It's been a frustrating week so far but it's sunny this morning and I've already cleaned up and thrown in a load of laundry before I sat down to work, so I'm giving it my best start. Your turn Friday. Don't be a dick.
Speaking of work, I often get asked what it is I do and I usually respond with something along the lines of "consulting development websites copywriting proposals reports..." and so on, until the other person falls over drooling. I doubt I'll ever be able to succinctly relay the range of work I take on but here's a photo to show that, at the very least, I can pretend to work. Except for what is going on in the left monitor. That's "for real" work Heather Church. Promise.
And speaking of pretending, I find it ironic that considering its meaning, the word "lackadaisical" is both so long and difficult to spell.
Have a great Friday and maybe get out for a walk. I'm going to try to.
Friday's musical contribution: Roy Orbison "You Got It".
I have been trying out some different writing styles and subject matter and have at last posted my first short story online. It can be found under the aptly named Short Story section of this website and is titled "Intimate Encounter". Of course, being the literal person I am, I may have taken the "short" part a bit too far, but it's a start, with longer works yet to come.
It's 2018 people, time to wake up and get your life in order. Just kidding, go back to bed if you're lucky enough to be able to. No need for us all to be up and cranky at the same time.
For those of you still awake and reading, good morning and good Tuesday. We didn't need those slackers here taking up space anyways.
Like everyone else in the world with at least a vague idea of how calendars work and a yearning for good will and prosperity in ones future, I've spent the past week picking through the remains of 2017 and contemplating the possibilities of 2018. I'm not one to be overly optimistic, but in an effort to remedy myself of unwarranted negativity, I have decided to focus on potential over pitfalls throughout this next revolution around the sun. In the most cliche sense, only time will tell if I'm successful.
Deciding to join me in my efforts is Cheryl Holroyd. We've been through a lot together over the past several years and have come to the mutual conclusion that it's about time things started going our way. 2018 will be our year to make things happen. We will be proactive instead of reactive. We will be in charge of our own happiness. We held a meeting, called a vote, and by a show of hands, decided to leave the past where it had landed and move on without it. Already by mid-morning on the first day of the new year, things were looking decidedly brighter. Until a short while later when a phone call let us know that Cheryl's mother had passed away earlier that morning.
I realize that dropping such an abrupt and tragic announcement into what has been an otherwise optimistic and upbeat dialogue could give the impression that I'm treating the situation lightly or without proper reverence, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am deeply saddened by the heavy loss my dear friend and her family have suffered and I wish I could make things better for them, but I can't. That's how this type of news is given. That's how life works. As good as it can be or as good as you can make it, you have to be prepared to work with it as well.
At this point, it would be very easy to write off 2018 before it even has a chance to get its bearings, and I wouldn't blame Cheryl if she did. But I hope she doesn't. Life for her and her family is hard right now and will continue to be so for some time. The experiences of 2018 may seem a little less significant with one less person to share them with but they are still there to be had, and Cheryl, like the rest of us, deserves the chance to experience them to their fullest. I can't imagine that her mother would want anything less for her.
I still plan to stand by our vote and make 2018 the best and most positive year I can, but I'm entering an amendment into the charter. I won't be leaving the past behind, or at least not all of it. I realize now how important it is as we move forward, we remember to bring with us the people and things that still matter. Pay attention to them, continue to learn from them, and don't lose them in our rush for something better. Don't be afraid to make new memories, but also don't be afraid to hold onto the ones that brought you this far; the good and the bad.
So start your journey into the new year but on your way through the door, give the people in your life a big hug and a kiss and make sure they know how much they still matter. You never know when a phone call may make you wish you had.
Good morning everyone and happy new year.
A song for Cheryl: Bette Midler "The Wind Beneath My Wings".
If you dream of flying and I dream of dying, who’s the one crying for help?
You yearn for things, only my dream can bring, while I do not lie to myself.
To dream that you can, do things beyond man is exactly what I myself do.
But you try to clasp what lies past your grasp while I, to myself remain true.
Your fantastical dreams bring your life to its knees
In the end, you must take from yourself.
So, if you dream of flying and I dream of dying, who’s the one crying for help?
Saturday night turned out to be a quiet one as none of the sixty-four people I invited to celebrate my birthday were able to make it, but I received many kind birthday wishes from people here on Facebook and I want to give thanks for that. Special thanks to Cheryl Holroyd who travelled here from London on Saturday to keep me company with some drinks and laughter.
Well, I suppose it's time to get this Monday rolling. I'm not getting any younger.
Today's song to be 46 to: Pet Shop Boys "West End Girls".
Hey look! It's winter, it's cold, and I'm out walking. A big moment for me, seeing as how I've refused to leave the house for a week. I was coaxed out by a gracious birthday lunch surprise (thank you Melissa Daer, and I apologize again for assailing you non-stop with my inane blabbering) and errands that had to be taken care of (had to buy my load of socks, mitts, and hats for tonight) but I'm choosing to claim the outdoor trek as a birthday gift of sunshine to myself.
It took me two and a half hours to get out of bed this morning. I woke up (that part was the real struggle) and then just laid there. It was OK though. It was a good thing. I didn't get out of bed because I was tired. Plain, old fashioned, run-of-the-mill tired. Sure, there's a sliver of anxiety wedged in there somewhere deep but I look at it like having a metal pin your arm. It's always going to be there, so you learn to live with it. The things that weren't there? Depression and mania. I woke up a blank slate and as close to calm as I can generally get. I won't claim that I was happy or even necessarily in a "good" mood, so much as I was "here". To be here and in the moment can be a very difficult thing to attain as I (like I know many others do) tend to spend too much time either fretting over things I'm convinced need to be accomplished or things I have failed to accomplish. In therapy circles, they call this act of living in the moment, "mindfulness".
When people meditate, they are being mindful. It's not about clearing everything out of your head and staring blankly out of an empty box. That's impossible. Contrary to a popular misconception, you can't turn your brain off by flipping a switch, or drain its contents by pulling a plug like you've finished a bath. Being mindful is closer to the opposite. It's about actually paying attention to what's happening right there and then and not ignoring it. It's about receiving the information that presents itself to you, recognizing your thoughts for what they are - just thoughts - and then letting them go again. Thoughts are not inherently good or bad, they simply are, and we are responsible for giving them their power. When being mindful, we are observing without judging and without acting. Admittedly, it's not an easy thing to master and it surprises a lot of people that, like most things in life, it takes practice to do it well. Most people don't have the patience - which is ironic as patience is one of the key things being mindful can teach you. It's an odd concept I suppose, having to learn how to learn.
I wish I could say I'm a master of practicing what I preach, but I try to avoid lying unless it's absolutely necessary. I have enough things fueling my anxiety, I don't need to complicate things further by having to track what lies I've told. This morning however, for whatever reason, I was fortunate enough to be granted some unexpected quiet in place of my usual chaos, and for that I'm thankful. Whatever else happens today, I'll still have that.
It's another day, another dollar, another flight of stairs, but amidst all the other crap you pack into your life and convince yourself it means as much or more than you do, steal five minutes back and spend it on yourself. The other crap will still be there tomorrow but you're here now, and that's what's important.
A song for my Aunt Helen: The Marathons "Peanut Butter".
I know I've been posting a lot about depression and anxiety lately, but as a result of age and medication, I don't have many manic episodes anymore and I haven't felt motivated to share what those experiences can be like. The following is a conversation I had with myself, which I recorded (I sometimes record myself on my phone if I am feeling particularly moved by something and may want to write it down later) back on May 27, 2017. I have left out all punctuation and pauses so it may be a little hard to follow. I've done this to illustrate how it flows in my head. Very quickly, without breaks, and with a sense of urgency bordering on euphoria.
During these periods I feel positive and sometimes, even invincible. I feel good about myself and the world. I have an extraordinary amount of energy (I once stayed awake for 92 hours, then went to the bar for a while before heading home to bed) and I can be extremely productive. The downsides are; I can make potentially dangerous decisions due to my thoughts racing faster than rational judgement can keep pace, I often detach myself emotionally from relationships, and I can turn spending money into a passionate hobby. It also takes a heavy toll on me physically, leaving me exhausted for days after. Even so, I occasionally find myself yearning for the next episode as a "lesser of two evils" reprieve from the increasingly prevalent anxiety and depression. I compare it to standing in an empty house and staring out the window, waiting for a dysfunctional group of friends to pull up the drive. They're a rowdy, reckless bunch who party too hard and leave me laid out on the floor with a killer hangover once they're gone; but while they're present, while I'm surrounded by the laughter and music and frenzied activity that dominates that normally empty space, I know I'm not alone and I forget what it's like to be anything but incredible.
With that background in place, I share with you a brief, relatively tame snapshot of what it's sometimes like to be in my head on an "up" day. Remember, this is a transcription, word for word, of what I recorded on my phone.
"i went for an hour on the treadmill and burned about 700 calories and shortly after i came upstairs and felt guilty because I had this old photo cd of a friend of mine who is a personal trainer and once trained me personally and she uh gave me the cd to help her put together a calendar as a gift for her uh boyfriend husband whatever um y'know as a birthday gift and i did it but i was supposed to give it back to her because it was her only copy of all those pictures and i never got it back to her and i suddenly felt so bad so i just had to go find it so i went and found it and i took a look and yah i found it like pretty quickly so of course i felt really awesome about that so then after i found that i was looking for that and i found this box of stuff and in this box of stuff i found like uh like old uh y'know health card and uh y'know pictures and some canadian money or not canadian money american money why would i have canadian money in there i would be spending it if i had canadian money in there and anyways so i would take um and then i found some chains uh not some chains like some uh some like i don't want to call them necklaces that sounds kind of feminine but uh things for my neck and then um and then i found um oh i found an earing an old earing of mine and so i wanted to try it so i put it in and it slid right in so the hole i had for my earing is uh yah it never filled in it's still there and uh my i now have an earing in um and uh so i threw on some of my uh 80s hits mix and got in the shower and uh yah felt awesome and realized that uh this stuff is doable we can do this stuff um and uh yah yah things are good they're awesome i might go back on the treadmill and then go for a walk and i just realized that my car is what holds me back from connecting with the world so i should stop using it except for getting groceries because i can't carry them all unless i buy a bit at a time which makes sense because i can only eat one meal at a time and i could use the walk we could all use the walk i think i'll put together a walking group and we can see how far we can go but we might need someone to come pick us up because we'll go too far and not be able to come back cheryl can drive the van though so that would work i need to buy my kids some books because they like to read and i never read to them enough as kids I have to fix that i wonder if anyone knows how much i like those salsita chip things i'll get some when i walk over to get those groceries later we can do this because nothing can stop us if we just believe and i believe i know how awesome i am and i'm going to get some business cards that say that on them so i can give them to people i just meet so i don't have to explain it all to them i don't have time for that when i have so much to do i should go find the dog"
This is just a house. In the driveway, is just a car. The work I do to pay my bills, is just a job. In my world, I am surrounded by just furniture, nice clothes, gadgets, and toys. What I have in the bank, is just money. It's just the stuff I have, not what I am. It's all "stuff". It's just stuff, and stuff will never be more than just me. I can alter stuff and I can move stuff. I can replace stuff, ignore stuff, and even outright get rid of stuff. Stuff can never get rid of me.
When I look around and I start changing stuff - when I change the house, the car, the job - when I change all the things around me and I keep changing them until I encounter something I can't change, then I know I've found something real. Something that matters. If it matters, if it really matters, I can't change it. It's there, and try as I might, I can't replace it. I can't ignore it and I can't get rid of it. It's solid. If I love someone or something so much I can't walk away, if I can't abandon them - even if it's only in my heart and mind - then they're not "stuff". These are the things that matter. That's how I know what matters. That's how I know what's real.
I get depressed and despondent about the things that impact my life but the truth is, if I have to move, I'll find a new place. If I have to walk instead of ride, I'll tie up my laces. If I have to find another job, I'll hand out my resume. If I have to give up my furniture, my nice clothes, my gadgets, my toys, I'll learn to go without. There could be this house, this car, this job, another house, another car, another job. There could be another fifty, another hundred. I may not like it, I may even hate it, but only if I let it dictate my life and happiness, does it become more than just stuff. If I let these things change me, then I am no longer "me". I have become just "stuff" and stuff doesn't matter. I no longer matter.
I refuse to be just "stuff" and you should too.
A song for me: The Dream Academy "Life In A Northern Town".