Friday, 6 November 2015

It's November, people!

This warm weather in November is nice for some, but it plays havoc with those of us who tend to obsess over things we have absolutely no control over.

You think – Yahooo! Patio season is back!

I think – We’re all going to die

You think – I’m breaking out my flip flops again

I think – We’re all going to die

It’s NOVEMBER people! It’s Canada! We are not supposed to be this comfortable! We are supposed to be at the beginning stages of seasonal affective disorder and wishing for next spring. We are NOT supposed to still be wearing open toed shoes! The timing is all off.

Climate change. Global warming. End of days.

These are the thoughts that are racing through my mind while my kids are out enjoying t-shirt weather and skateboarding.

It is going to be 19 degrees today and I am wearing a voluminous cardigan. I am also sweating buckets, but I DON’T CARE! Not only is it appropriate that I stick with what the calendar says, it is necessary so I don’t fly into the abyss of uncertainty that the world is turning upside down.

I am going to stick to my schedule if it kills me (and it might) and will be shortly breaking out my toques, scarves and gloves.

Of course, this same rule will not apply if it is 20 below zero in July. Which it COULD be! I will bend my principles then, but I won’t be happy about it.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Taking the Fear Out of Death and Dying for the Overly Anxious

I read something on Facebook this morning that really spoke to me.

“Write into your will that you want to be cremated. Before you die, swallow as many popcorn kernels as you can.”

Well, I laughed.

As someone with a severe anxiety order, I spend an unhealthy amount of time fixated on my fear of death and dying. I am always looking for ways to manage this fear since there is really nothing I can do about it, right?

I was inspired then, to make up a list to help myself (and maybe others who share this fixation) take the fear and add some fun into the prospect of death.

1.       Start sleeping in a coffin when you turn 65 (earlier if you’re a smoker)

2.       Begin listening to Leonard Cohen – as I’m pretty sure that’s what they play in hell

3.       Take comfort in the fact that people will continue to insist on wishing you a happy birthday long after you die, so in fact, you never really die at all (I have gone on the record before as vehemently opposed to this practice as it really makes no sense)

4.       Go into Sephora and ask for a practice casket makeover (you know, like a bridal trial)

5.       As a transitioning dead person, contact Revenue Canada and inform them that you no longer will be filing your tax return

6.       Finally, what to be buried in? It’s so hard to choose just the right outfit for special occasions.  Consider changing styles of the future – in fact, why not buck trends and design your own burial outfit and really make a statement?

The above list is by no means complete, so I encourage you to come up with your own ideas. Today and especially tonight, being Halloween, is the perfect mood setter don’t you think?

Happy Halloween, y’all!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Damaged Vans and Corn Mazes

I am always learning things from my kid. As much as I like to think that I am smarter, more evolved and far more in control of my emotions than he is, I realize that we are so much alike sometimes it’s downright terrifying.

Take this Thanksgiving weekend for example. The kid drives me nuts. He always has, but on this particular instance, I realized that what he was doing was EXACTLY the kind of thing I have done (still do) to my nearest in dearest. In particular, when someone suggests a solution to an identified problem, instead of just accepting that’s the answer and settle down again, I (we) tend to ask for clarification over and over and over and….you see?

Someone smacked into the back of our brand new van while my husband was inside Loblaw’s shopping on Saturday. He came home and showed me the damage (it’s a healthy ding, but nothing too major). I tried to stay blasé about the whole thing. He even told me that he was putting a call into our insurance broker on Tuesday (today – I better check on this!) to see what our best option is. Fine answer. Logical answer. Still, I don’t think I’ve asked about the plan any less than a dozen or two times since then.

Honestly, just knowing the van is sitting in the driveway, damaged and we aren’t doing anything about it RIGHT AWAY, left me in a general state of unease the rest of the weekend. I even know it’s happening, but it doesn’t change anything. Annoying right? Yeah, for me and everyone around me.

Now my kid, who has an obsession about well, everything comes into the picture. Not only does he notice the van, he chimes in with the questions as to what, how and when will the damage be fixed. He is relentless. I’m not sure how he is still alive.

I took him to a corn maze yesterday to distract him. Think about that for a second. I took an overly anxious, OCD and panic stricken 13 year old into a corn maze as a way to distract and relax him. This is the part where I question whether or not I should be a parent.

Still, he wanted to go and go we did. Thank God his stepbrother was there to keep a close reign on the two of us and prevented us from spiralling out of control (FYI he’s 12). My stepson was enjoying the adventure, while my son and I were fake laughing (ha ha this is really fun, right? Fun? Isn’t it?) half expecting a homicidal maniac to leap from behind the stalks and end our pitiful lives. Because that is 100% possible at a family fun farm in Courtice overflowing with people on a Thanksgiving Monday. Where’s your imagination people?

After I took the chicken exit (don’t judge me), the boys persevered. I know in his heart of hearts, my kid wanted to leap on my back and follow me out, but he didn’t. He took a hold of his anxiety and continued through the maze determined to finish with his brother. I know his little heart was likely jackhammering away in his chest, but he did it. He did it!

While I freed myself from the terror of the maze and sat on the grass, they were enjoying themselves the way kids should. I may have thought about my van a few hundred more times while they played, but I have not mentioned it to my husband since. That’s a good twelve hours and counting.

I might shoot him a text now though.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Oh don't you worry, I have provocative thoughts...

I have a lot of provocative ideas and I’d like to express them, trouble is, my anxiety holds me back and well, I chicken out.

Maybe that’s just an excuse. Maybe I just don’t want to spew out my thoughts on social media and open myself up to criticism and debate. I’m kind of a coward that way, I guess. I’m often impressed by (though just as many times, embarrassed for) those that are able to keenly articulate their point of view on an issue and weather the storm that often comes along with that kind of openness.

I admit, I read a lot of those exchanges, but often find myself too tired or ultimately disinterested to continue. I guess in part because there are so many things in my life of managing anxiety, panic and depression that I don’t actively seek out ways to get myself more worked up than I need to be at any given time.

Of course I still educate myself on current issues and form opinions when needed or I’m inspired to, but then I stop short of posting those views publicly. Even if I wanted to post my views, I fear I would lose steam or energy in trying to valiantly defend my thoughts to those who may disagree.

I don’t like churning things up and I don’t like forced conflict (though I will advocate for the things I am passionate about) and sometimes I just want to keep my social interactions, pleasant and amiable.

Sound wimpy? Probably. However, through the years of dealing inside the tangled wires of my brain, I have found that I don’t need to participate in exchanges where I can add no perceivable value to the conversation. I have nothing to prove (at least not right now) and instead, choose to keep my opinions to myself and enjoy the spectacle that sometimes unfolds in front of me on my screen. When it’s not working for me anymore, I tune out.

Tune out that is, after I’ve done my share of reposting vague motivational sayings or Weiner dog videos.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Not always about me..wait..what?

When you are anxious on behalf of another person, you rev up your emotions to a whole new level.

When bad stuff is happening to someone you love, it’s natural to feel some of the pain with well-place empathy and support. When you are a person with an off the charts anxiety disorder, this becomes a little more interesting.

My anxiety order pushes me to act. This is not always (rarely ever is) a good thing. The anxiety, when at its highest, pushes me to take on the other person’s situation and “fix” it. Of course that’s ridiculous and I would counsel anyone who asks to NOT DO THAT.

However, my anxious spirit is not rational and therefore, I find myself a bundle of nerves with nowhere to go.

I am incensed. I am helpless. I am furious and I am profoundly sad when this happens. Sometimes, my anxiety masks itself as a super strong woman who is always proactive and makes the right decision. Let nothing stand in her way! She’s got this. All will come together to a peaceful resolution.

What’s really happening is that my brain is firing all over the place with half-baked plans and false heroism. Truth is, I can’t immerse myself in other people’s trauma as much as I am naturally inclined to do so. That’s some serious hard shit to swallow.

My emotions and my righteous indignation lead the way and my logical self is usually back at the spa enjoying a facial.

Dammit, this is hard. I have no sage words of wisdom for you if you ever find yourself in this position. In fact, I think I know what the wise thing to do would be, but it’s not in me at the moment.

I want to rail against the god’s on my partner’s behalf. I want to take all the shit that is happening and deflect it all. I don’t have the answers, but I have enough fight in me to take it on. Trouble is, I can’t.

It is not my fight as much as I want it to be. I can be there, with my anxiety and all, and support his way through the pain and injustice. I can soothe where I can, advise where possible and be a soft place to land. I just have to dial back my own emotions and not make this about me.

Not making stuff about me is a very hard thing to do when your whole life is affected by your own anxiety and panic. I live in a bubble a lot of the time and I’m a magnet for other people’s emotions. Time to put my big girl panties on and channel that anxiety into a calmer, gentler me so I can be of some use.

I just have to find my own anti-anxiety switch and power the heck down first.

Oh and finally, just let me say, I hate mean, ignorant and vicious people whose sole purpose in life is to cause pain for other human beings. They suck.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Game Changer

Hey all. It’s been awhile.

Lots has been happening in my world over the past couple of months and I feel like sharing some of it with you.

In my continuous effort to manage my anxiety etc. I was able to cross something else off my bucket list.

Solo theatre. Now, cross off might seem final, but instead, I found it to be an experience that I need to continue to work on forever.

It’s been hinted at growing up that I may have a tad of a desire to take to the stage. The timing is perfect for me now since I am at an age and stage in my life where I am willing to do battle with my self-doubt.

It’s still there, but I’m doing it anyway. For all of my life I have been looking for artificial ways to deal with my emotional ups and downs. Though they haven’t worked, they have certainly given me a shitload of material to work with as far as storytelling goes!

It’s only now that I am able to look back through the humiliation and despair and see the bit of (ok, a lot of) humour in my past behaviour. If I wasn’t able to do that, I would have been sucked down the drain of life for good.

At T minus 3 years to 50, I’m ready. I’ve wanted to perform and make people laugh since I could walk, but I didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. I would perform in my head and in some really dark times, perform while intoxicated and called it acting.

Soulo Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Tracey Erin Smith, has shown me a better way to clear the gunk out of my system and turn it into theatre. I found I enjoyed it so much more than flushing it out with alcohol. The euphoria I feel on the stage for 10 minutes is 1000x more than the 30 minutes of euphoria I feel getting drunk. The rest of the time is blank. And I don’t want any more blank spaces.

It’s ok what others think. It’s totally ok for people to roll their eyes. It’s more than ok for others to not “get” what I mean when I say that storytelling is not only fulfilling to me in so many ways and I will continue, it is also the best therapy I could have hoped for in my life.

So keep those challenges coming. It’s all excellent material.

And thanks to Soulo Theatre for showing me the way. And big thanks to Tracey, Brian, Kat, Chris, Domini and Eleni for the support.

Find your “thing” and make it work for you.

Friday, 1 May 2015

This S*&t Matters

There truly is something to be said for the freedom of being able to insult your closest friends after not seeing them for a few months.

My core group of girlfriends have grown from loud mouthed, free-wheeling, chandelier swinging party girls to loud mouthed, free-wheeling, less chandelier swinging (possibility of broken hips and all) party women. This group has been around for the milestones. They been around for the long absences. They’ve been around for the questionable decisions and they’ve been around for a laugh whenever needed.

When I saw a couple of these gals for lunch yesterday, I don’t think I managed to get my full butt in the booth before the insults were flying. It was like coming home. We comment on hair, what we’re wearing, what we’ve been doing or not doing and frankly just shooting the shit.

Someone like me who can spend quite a bit of time in the dark, seeing these girls is a shot of light that will keep me “up” for several days after the encounter. Whenever we get together we reminisce, but we always manage to do something stupid in that moment keeping our material fresh at all times.

It’s not always easy for me to be social. When I am social, it’s always best with them. I appreciate that. It matters.

You girls need to know that you’ve helped me in more ways than I can say.

Thanks Mary, Kimmer, Donna and Latch

Monday, 20 April 2015

Should I or Shouldn't I?

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I realize for the first time that I have spent the better part of my career (25+ years) trying to hide my disorder instead of trying to advance my career.

Let’s face it, that many years ago, if I did try to talk about it, the subject was either too uncomfortable for others or I was too embarrassed to bring it up. I looked for excuses to cover up any behaviour that could now be attributed to my disorder when I probably should have thought about healthier ways to cope.

As a young adult, I self-medicated. Not gonna lie, it was a method I grew accustomed too and relied on for way too many years. I could kick myself sometimes, and then I try to switch my thinking back to being positive. I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s a simple explanation, but difficult to process nonetheless.

As an adult who lives with a mental illness diagnosis, it’s hard sometimes to forget about it. It’s there and depending on who you are talking to or working for, there’s always, always trepidation about how much to share and when to share it.

I don’t hide it anymore, but I sure don’t wear a sandwich board announcing my condition to passersby. It used to be shame that kept my mouth closed, now it’s more careful thought given before opening my mouth. I’ll do it, I just try to gauge my circumstances as thoroughly as I can before I do.

I ask myself a couple of key questions (knowing that I may not get the honest answer, but I accept that).

Why am I disclosing? Does it benefit my situation and does it make sense for the other person to know? Will my disclosure bring about common understanding that can be useful? Do I trust the other person to at least try to process and understand?

There are probably a slew of others, but those are some key ones that I keep in mind.

I am an advocate for mental health awareness and so I’m obviously not shy about talking about my disorder (after all, the internet is kind of a public forum), but not everyone is going to read my blog and not everyone will be interested in hearing my particular story.

The whole point of my work around eradicating stigma (wouldn’t that be wonderful?) is to at minimum start the conversation toward understanding. A person with mental illness shouldn’t have to prove to anyone how sick they actually are or how little/much they can handle. Conversely those suffering with a disorder such as mine, should not force others to be compassionate and make demands that we may not have the right to make. People understand or they won’t.

I will keep at it as long as I can to spread the positive word around coping with mental illness. By god, it can be done.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Birthdays and Prom Dates

I discovered something while celebrating my 47th birthday this past weekend. Having a non-milestone birthday is like going to prom with someone who is just  a friend.

You know what I mean, right? Having a birthday, any birthday is really nice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just the fanfare isn’t there like it is when you turn 21, 30 or the big 4-0. People acknowledge on your facebook wall and you receive some cards, but it’s more like…”hey, it’s your birthday..yay”. As opposed to the parties and hoopla that often surround a milestone.

I am not complaining, far from it. It’s just an observation. It makes me think of my grade 12 prom when I went with a friend. I feel terrible because we had a great time, but his name escapes me. He didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have a boyfriend, so we went together. Kind of a “hey, it’s your prom…yay.”

None of the fireworks or romance, just a nice time. I had someone to hold my hair back when I puked and he got to walk in with a hot babe. Not necessarily in that order.

Strangely as I sit here writing this, I realize I feel much the same at 47 as I did at 17. I’m sure I’ve matured. I know I’ve made some adult decisions along the way. Heck, I’ve been married more than once and I have a teenager. Still, I enjoy much of the things about life that I enjoyed at 17.

That’s part of the beauty of having a birthday, any birthday. Even on those “off” milestone years, you get the opportunity to reflect on your life and your place in the world. Memories pleasant and otherwise bubble to the service and you see just how far you’ve come.

I look in the mirror and still see the kid I used to be. I see the person who has withstood a lot of adversity and can still laugh every single day. That’s a gift. Every day you wake up alive is a gift whether it’s a milestone year or not.

I look in the mirror and I realize that I wear 47 well. Yay.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Anxious Person's Worst Nightmare Day

I have restrained myself for an almost full 24 hours waiting for April Fool’s Day to pass. Or as I like to call it, The Anxious Person’s Worst Nightmare Day.

Seriously, I cannot ever remember a time in my life when I wasn’t beside myself with worry that I would be pranked on April Fool’s Day. When you already wake up each and every morning assuming life will prank you in some way, imagine the terror when there is an actual day dedicated to and sanctioned for pranking.

I shudder just thinking about it. Not only do I think April Fool’s Day is just plain mean at the best of times, it just adds another thing for me to worry about on an already long list. I simply haven’t got the time to layer on more anxiety about the unknown. The fact that April Fool’s Day even exists is enough to put me on edge.

And another thing, April Fool’s Day is for comedy amateurs anyway. If a prank isn’t just plain mean, it’s usually just really stupid and lame. Ok. Ok. I’m sure all of you have either crafted a brilliant prank and pulled it off or been the recipient of a clever stunt, but I think those are a rarity. Making people look stupid (and worse, feel stupid) is not my idea of a good time. Again, I have enough trouble not making myself look stupid on a daily basis! I don’t need the assistance, believe me.

My family knows that it is not in their best interest to prank me on April Fool’s Day. I am not, repeat not, a good sport in any way shape or form. I become angry and vindictive and things are thrown. It is not pretty and it usually ends in tears. My boys know to leave me out of the shenanigans and I thank them for it.

Trust me, this stand against April Fool’s Day isn’t about me not enjoying a good laugh. But that’s just the point, I enjoy a good laugh. Saran wrapping the toilet seat, setting an alarm clock an hour early, telling your spouse you are having an affair with their sister…not funny!

So, as I begin to relax and unwind a little, I plan on enjoying today and then ramping up my additional anxiety anticipating next year.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Judge, Jury and Executioner

My family has had a disappointing experience over the past couple of days around mental illness and the all too common stigmas attached to it.

Listen, I get that discussing mental illness can be a conversation killer at the best of times, that’s why we never let it define us as people or make depression and anxiety the centrepiece of who we are.

Having said that, it is terribly sad when family members turn away and blame those that are or have suffered from the debilitating effects of depression.  I’ve always said and will continue to say until the day I die, if you have depression you would not wish it on your worst enemy. It is a life altering and extremely lonely place to be.

My husband and I want to be the kind of parents who are open enough to discuss mental health with our kids so that, God forbid, should they suffer in the future, we will offer them safety and compassion. Compassion is key. I have never asked anyone to “fix” my depression nor has my husband during his struggles. We have always just asked for a little patience and compassion as we work through the cycle.

When people, particularly close family members, are unwilling or incapable of such compassion, the difficult decision must be made to do without those individuals; sometimes forever. If there is willingness on the part of the depressed person to take responsibility for behaviours that may have occurred or seemed hurtful in the throes of illness, it is also the responsibility of said family to at least listen. If it cannot go beyond that and understanding cannot be reached, perhaps the relationship must end.

We have experienced this in our family and it is a horrible feeling. Horrible yes, but to apologize for being depressed and making rash decisions is no different than asking for the cancer patient to apologize for getting sick and throwing up in front of you.

Sadly, we have a long way to go in eradicating the dark cloud of stigma that contending with a mental illness brings. In our family, we are grateful every day for every day. We have friends and family who may or may not fully understand the depths of despair that can be reached, but are willing to listen with compassion.

In this recent event, my husband was given a list by a family member of his bad behaviours and a demand for an explanation before said family member would consider letting him back in. Please note: the time in question was over five years ago without a word, a note, a care from this family member when it really would have meant something. Compassionate family members absolutely have the right to be hurt, disappointed and even angry at a depressed person’s actions before they receive treatment. It does NOT however, give them the right to act as judge, jury and executioner.

It is true, as with any illness, a person must take on responsibility for getting well if that is the desire, but they do not have to stand in front of family member and be judged worthy (or not) of support.

That behaviour is far worse than anything a depressed person could do.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Standing Your Ground from the Penalty Box

My son got a penalty in hockey this past weekend.

It got me thinking about the whole playing by the rules and not playing dirty vs. standing your ground and standing up for yourself. Granted, in sports there are boundaries and rules that are there to keep us focused on the game and to not allow players to deteriorate into a bloodbath, but are there times when bending the rules to reach your end game (i.e. winning) ok?

I watch my son every weekend play his heart out on the ice. I also notice that my skinny little thirteen year old isn’t afraid of anybody! Sure, he may suffer from sometimes debilitating anxiety in other areas of life, but when he is focused on a goal and that goal is in jeopardy of not being met, watch out. He is fearless on the ice no matter what size the opposing player may be. He knows what he needs to do and he does it. In today’s case, he likely went a little far and received a penalty for his trouble (as he should have). What struck me is how tenacious he can be and how I wish that I had more of that sometimes.

I don’t play sports and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a really competitive spirit, but man, there are times in my life I wish I could have just stood up for myself and not worried so much about how I would be perceived. I’ve spent most of my life relegating my point of view to the back burner in favour of keeping the peace. Sometimes, I was made to feel that what I thought or did was clearly wrong and if that happens enough, you just start to doubt your own judgement and keep your mouth shut.

The older I get, I accept that I am a relatively intelligent human being who is entitled to her own beliefs and opinions and if handled respectfully, should be able to express them for the greater good. Sometimes that isn’t always possible with the people in my life, but at least I am looking at this with a new perspective. I don’t want to compete for air time or force my point of view down other’s throats, nor do I want to be bullied into backing down. This is a tactic I’ve been subject to throughout my adult life and I’m finding that it is working less and less on me (which is a positive thing).

My hope is to continue learning from my son and hoping that he is able to make smart decisions and stand his ground for the important stuff in his life. I want him to respect the differing of views of others and to not make people feel somehow less for not agreeing with him. As a parent, I don’t think I am any different from anyone else for wanting that for my kid.

In the meantime, I will continue to watch him make his way on and off the ice and hope to God he spends less time in life’s penalty box and more times in the winners’ circle.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Don't mind me. I'm Sick

I’ve learned something about myself this week.

I’ve always hated being sick, but not for the reasons I initially thought. I thought I hated being sick for the obvious reasons like feeling like crap. I was home yesterday nursing what has become a pretty dreadful cold when I discovered there was more at play here.

As I sat down on my couch, blanket and tea in hand, I was swept with an overwhelming sadness. It wasn’t the kind of sadness that accompanies any physical ailments, it was more sadness cloaked in guilt.

As you probably already know, nothing is ever easy when you have an anxiety disorder. Instead of just realizing and accepting you are sick and deal, I have to turn it into a huge big deal that has me questioning my overall contribution to life.

For example, by taking the day yesterday and resting, I used a good portion of the day laying on the couch and berating the fact that there were countless things I could be doing at the moment to better the world. Instead of taking my Neo Citron and tuning in, mindlessly, to Maury and Jerry Springer, I bemoaned the fact that life was going on outside of my house without me and that soon I would be a distant memory to the players in my life.

Yes, I go that far. The common cold is anything, but common when coupled with everything else that goes on inside my body and that includes my brain. I don’t have a martyr complex. I know this for sure because I know martyrs. When martyrs get sick, they haul their sorry asses out of bad no matter how bad they feel, get dressed and spread their illnesses throughout the community in the name of “the show must go on”. They say things like, “Don’t mind me.” Hack. Cough. Hack. “I just have too much to do and I don’t want to burden anyone else with it.” Sniffle. Sneeze. Hack.. “Don’t get too close, I’m highly contagious, but still, I’ve got to be here or the entire operation will grind to a halt.” THAT’S a martyr and trust me, that ain’t me. I’m too self-obsessed to be a martyr.

When I’m sick, I feel there is NOTHING I can do, but roll myself into a ball and spend the day berating myself and trying not to talk to anyone. I make a mental list of all my life’s goals and then systematically go through it and tell myself why I will never accomplish anything since I am such a sickly, pathetic creature. I think about the world of activity going on outside my door and how I will never be a part of it. I think of all the inside jokes I am missing and that stresses me out (I LOVE inside jokes).

Instead of just leaning back and enjoying the solace for a day and the comfort my little dogs can bring me, I wreck it by assuming there are several fun and/or important things going on without my participation.

There may be one positive that comes from the cycling of anxious thoughts, they take my mind off the body aches, sniffles and annoying cough that threatens to blow my head clean off of my shoulders. Small mercies.

Friday, 27 February 2015

I Love you Please don't call me Call me!

It’s Friday afternoon and the weekend is here. My friends are annoyed that I don’t keep in better touch with them. Fair statement.

I am scared to answer the phone.

There, I said it. To all the people in my life who get annoyed when I don’t pick up, don’t always return calls and hardly ever reach out by phone, now you know. Is it rational? Of course not, but when has that every stopped me?

The phone is a necessary tool for communication, I get that. It's miraculous and just keeps getting more and more miraculous with every smartphone incarnation.

The fact is, I don’t care how smart the damn things are, they scare me. I am still intimidated when it rings (or in my case, plays the theme from the A Team) demanding my attention. I have a real phobia about answering the phone and I have to strategize my way through it every single time. I rarely pick up the first time around. Usually, I wait for the little message icon to show up in the upper left side of my screen and then take a little longer to determine if I am capable of listening to the message at that time. The deciding factor usually comes when the phobia of seeing the little message icon outweighs the phobia of not answering the phone.

All kinds of deep seeded anxieties are at play here and we are only scratching the surface. To be fair, my phone phobia really has nothing to do with the phone. I think it might be because I don’t like being caught off guard. I am a very jumpy person. In my last post, I described how I definitely do not go with the flow. This is a prime example of how I need to try and control my every interaction with people, especially those closest to me. I have no idea why. I definitely love my friends and family and most definitely want to be included in the lives, but the phone is both my conduit and my barrier to the outside world.

Here’s how this usually plays out. Inevitably what happens is that I am bummed that no one wants to hang out with me. I sulk and feel alone and unloved. One of my friends calls to invite me out. I do not pick up the phone. I have a panic attack. Then I calm down. Then I have a panic attack again when I realize that everyone is hanging out without me. If that isn’t bad enough, then I log into Facebook and see photos of my friends hanging out without me and laughing and enjoying themselves because I am not there. I have another panic attack.

It a vicious circle that keeps me awake at night. Anxiety is my gift that keeps on giving because as I sit here typing this post, you may be trying to call me and I see you on call display. There must be a 12 step program for this, but for now, I love you, but I am not picking up.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Falling Flat on my Face

Failure reared its ugly head a couple of days ago and forced me to pay attention.

Like anyone else, I try to look upon failure as an opportunity to learn. I try to tell myself that it’s those failures in life that make me stronger and wiser. That the mistakes of today will become the successes of tomorrow.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

The reality is simple; failure, on any level, sucks. I have to admit that to myself first, before I can hope to accept things gracefully. I don’t feel full of grace at the moment. In fact, I feel the opposite of grace. I feel whiny, rejected, stupid, and incompetent.

You see, for me, I take things perhaps a little further than some shall we say, more level headed individuals? That is not to say that I don’t get to where I need to be in order to accept and move on, it simply means that I have a series of “unconventional” steps I need to take to get there.

First, once receiving word that I have, um, failed, I have to automatically assume that I have failed at any and all things I have tried over the years. This one particular failure represents every perceived shortcoming I have ever experienced in my life. Next, I have to run and hide. If there is no physical place to hide, I pretend that I am invisible and therefore I am “hiding”.

Following that, I generally work myself into a state of complete nervousness that has me second guessing every decision I have ever made in my life. I believe myself to be a fraud and therefore undeserving of any positive recognition or reinforcement. I also believe that any compliments I have been given in the past should and will be revoked by the giver now that I am a colossal failure.

This process may take days, hours or even mere minutes. The point is, this is a process that is unavoidable for me. I accept that I am built this way. I will never allow things to roll off my back like the proverbial duck. I will never be able to go with flow. I have never, ever taken things as they come. Easy going is not my middle name.

However, despite the high drama I find myself embroiled in (mostly in my head), I do come out the other side relatively unscathed and looking fabulous. The lesson I have learned from this latest failing, is that my acceptance of the situation has occurred faster than it ever has before. I have not melted into a puddle and presumed that every undertaking from now on will be like this last one.

It has in fact, become clear to me that I am capable of managing any outcome, positive or otherwise and there is a sense of peace in that for me. The peace comes at a price (sleepless nights, never ending what-ifs), but come it does.

Now, I must end this entry and go and take my antacid which is key to my overall "dealing with failure process.” It used to be whisky in a flask, but I digress.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Truth about Butterflies

Anxious butterflies have served me well in the romance department. Not real life romance of course, but all the glorious romantic situations that constantly unfold in my head.

In my head, there are always dramatic plot twists, soaring musical scores and a mandated happily ever after. The heroine (that’s me), rarely makes a misstep and when she (I) does, it’s utterly adorable and forgivable. Her (My) missteps make her that much more endearing and lovable to the hero.

I have spent my fair share of time over the years trying to duplicate the perfect romance in real life. I have not always been successful (pause for uproarious laughter from those who know me), but I have never given up on those happy endings.

Anxiety, as I may have mentioned at some point in earlier posts, is a great tool to fuel the imagination. Since everything negative is amplified by the anxious spirit, I’ve always believed that the opposite holds true as well.

I am certain that I have had dragons slain for me, broken dozens of hearts, had ballads written about me, and forced many a poor soul into monkhood because they can’t have me. All of this while still maintaining the lovable girl next store image that all men secretly want and all women want to be. Every now and then I switch to the vixen role, but the results are usually disastrous and end with me either falling down or apologizing profusely.

At any rate, romance and anxiety go hand in hand because while I may be scared of the paperboy coming to the door, I have never been scared to chase those romantic dreams. I have never shied away from love (again, pause for uproarious laughter) and believe in forever, even after a few false starts.

My husband, Paul, is a prime example of this perseverance. When I was 14 and he was 18, I used to follow him around the mall, discreetly of course, most Saturdays. I felt sure that if he saw me, it would all be over and he would have to sweep me into his arms and ride off into the sunset. It didn’t matter to me that I was just starting grade 9, you can’t fight destiny.

Side note: when my friend Michelle and I would go into Big Boy’s after him and I asked to sit a few booths away so he “wouldn’t notice me” (didn’t want the spell to be broken too soon, you see), she brought it all back to reality as only she can, “Lori, he wouldn’t notice you if you sat in his lap.”

Hurtful, but in hindsight, I guess it was an appropriate statement since he likely could have been arrested if he took up with me at that time. Knowing that he obviously had to fight his feelings in accordance with the law at that time, just makes me appreciate him more now.

There are positives to living with sometimes crippling anxiety. That kind of intensity was made for romance! Just keep an eye on the creepy factor so as not to stumble into stalker territory.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

My Moral Compass and Organized Crime

It’s been said that I would make a terrible criminal. I think that’s ironic given that I am obsessed with organized crime and murder programs. I can’t get enough of Investigation ID. I think I could give up just about any of my cable channels if I could keep that one.

The titles of the shows themselves are inspired. Snapped, Murder Comes to Town, Mobsters, Homicide Hunter (love that one!), Forensic Factor, Deadly Sins, Sins and Secrets, Deadly Affairs, Fatal Vows. Ok, admittedly, maybe inspired is a bit strong since reading those titles back put me in mind of several romance novels from the 70s.

But I digress.

I picture myself as a mob boss quite often. I feel that I could totally pull this off. I imagine myself sitting at a boardroom table tenting my fingers and deciding who needs to get “whacked.” I think I would call myself The Face, but sit with my back to people, shrouded in shadows so people wouldn’t actually see my face. I think that’s a pretty intimidating image, don’t you?

Anyway, I would run all kinds of raquets (or is it rackets?) and have many soldiers out on the streets taking care of business. I would never have to put air in my own tires or pump my own gas. I would never have to take out the recycling, compost or touch anything gross and I would have people to piggyback me around town with a pedometer on so I will clock the steps without having to actually step. I would also be first in line at Starbucks (particularly sweet when the Saturday morning “run club” comes in and tries to takeover).

I would have a few rules too;  no teasing puppies,  no stealing from the Salvation Army drums (although I’m flexible on whether or not they steal the jingle bells at Christmas), no yelling at pharmacists as they are my friends and no overdoing it at the Costco sample tables (that’s just tacky).

The truth of all of this lies in the fact that as much as I would like to be flexible with my moral crime compass, the idea of actually getting in any kind of trouble leaves me palpitating and incapable of talking. Just ask my husband. I freeze up during RIDE season and I don’t even drink for God’s sake.

Still, participating in a crime spree does hold appeal for me, but don’t tell my mom. She doesn’t like crime as much as I do and wouldn’t understand.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Raven Lunatic Has Entered the Building

For me, my anxiety is so physical, I can hardly uncurl from the fetal position. Even if I’m standing upright, inside, I am curled in on myself as much as possible. I am hidden inside my own body if that makes any sense.

Then Raven Lunatic pops up (my anxious alter ego – and don’t be offended by the name, humour and bad taste are key ingredients to my working through the sucky stuff) and she is calling the shots. In fact, I feel like I’ve been blindfolded and turned around and around and left in the woods to find my way out. The only trouble is, I can’t move my legs to even start. I watch from a distant as my alter ego skips out of the forest and wreaks havoc for a few days.

The havoc, I should mention, is not earth shattering, but it is painful for me. Let’s start at the beginning. Waking up is harrowing. Have you every woken up in a full blown panic attack? If you have, you know of what I speak. It is like an internal burglar alarm going off in your brain. There is indescribable panic that has you running for the bathroom to pee. Usually, I hit the door first, fall down and then scramble down the hall, all the while hoping no one else wakes up and notices.

I am filled with dread and coated in sweat. If my day begins like this, I have to spend the rest of the day in an internal battle with Raven to at least balance some of the control she has stolen from me. She sees herself as playful, I see her as a pain in the ass. She makes me question everything and wonder about everyone’s motives.

Is everyone I care about ok? Did I turn my flat iron off? What happens if the fire alarm goes off? Will I get a bill if it’s a false alarm? What if I run out of gas and can’t find my CAA card? What if the CAA guy abducts me? What if I go to yoga and get stuck in the lotus position and someone has to untangle me? What if I fall asleep and never wake up? Where does a person go when they dream? Will I stick with one decision when it comes to Rogers or Bell? Will my husband ever stop smoking even though he quit? I feel sick. My head hurts. Raven has total control when I’m in this state.


I am exhausted after a visit from Raven Lunatic and the trouble is, I never know how long she plans to stay. When I was younger, it wasn’t so much of a problem because I could self-medicate and actually enjoy her highly erratic vibe. Those days are long gone and I just don’t have the energy to fuel her. But she still comes and I have to manage. Her visits are further between, maybe she is starting to realize I am not the fun buddy I used to be. Maybe she will start just emailing every once in a while and not just show up on my doorstep whenever she feels like it.

Who knows? She is part of me, but taming her is getting a little easier the older I get. I may never be completely free or her, but I’m going to stop letting her leave me in the woods. It’s scary in there.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Happy Birthday Dead Guy and other Peeves

It’s a month into 2015 and my optimism is still intact.

That said, every once in a while I think it’s healthy to let off a little steam. Pull out that list of pet peeves that, if left unchecked, can really start to put a damper on one’s otherwise sunny disposition. Oh don’t get me wrong, just because I call myself an optimist, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a laundry list of stuff that run the gambit of mild irritation to all out wild with rage.

So, as part of my good mental health hygiene (new for 2015), I thought I’d share some of the top contenders on my laundry list of peeves. Maybe you share a few. Maybe you don’t because you are a much more tolerant, spiritually awakened human being than I’ll ever hope to be (but I doubt it).

1.       Wishing dead people a happy birthday – first of all, the person is dead therefore unlikely to be keeping track of how many candles are on a cake much less able to appreciate the effort of party favours, presents and cards. The person cannot collect any more birthdays because, as I’ve pointed out, they are dead. By all means, mark the anniversary of a beloved person’s birth, but to actually say “Happy Birthday” to a dead person is just plain mean since you are obviously just rubbing their face into the fact that they are dead and will not get the first piece of cake

2.       Making things plural that are clearly singular – Happy Ground Hogs Day or Happy New Years for example. The opposite also bugs me. For example, can you drop me off at the No Frill? No? How about at Sobey?

3.       People who know how to artfully and effortlessly layer their scarves. Equally people who can wear bangles without making their wrists look fat

4.       When Keith Morrison has the night off from Dateline Real Life Mysteries

5.       When the bathtub stopper doesn’t fit exactly right and it makes fart sounds thus ruining the tranquility of my soak

Those are just a few of the peeves that send me into a spin and make it hard for me to concentrate on other areas of self-improvement (like learning how to align my own chakras and getting my dogs to learn to use the toilet)

I’ve learned over the years that my anxieties are just part of the magic of me and I am embracing them. As my good friend Donna has pointed out, and I quote “Lor, everyone has their things. Everyone. And I know because I’m bat shit crazy.”

These my friends, are words to live by….




Wednesday, 28 January 2015

When a Smile is Just Something You Do with Your Mouth

With today being Bell Let’s Talk day, I have allowed myself to indulge in a little self-reflection. As a rule, I try not to spend too much time any more obsessing about my own mental illness mainly because I think I have done that enough over the years. My quest, of late, has been to accept what is and manage what I can’t change. It’s been a decent policy.

From earlier posts, you have likely gathered that humour is my management tool of choice. I do get such a kick out of myself and it’s helped me weather some pretty major emotional storms. I look back over the years and I think about how lucky I am to be living in the time I am living. I’m thinking about all those who have come before me who have struggled with their own mental illnesses. Those who were brave enough to speak up in a time of more open misunderstanding and lack of support and those who couldn’t bring themselves to ask for help and buried their demons so deep, they were eaten up inside.

It’s terrifying to think about. My own father suffered severe clinical depression from the time he was 17 years old up until his passing from cancer in 2005. Imagine being that kid in 1957 who can’t get out of bed or cries continuously and doesn’t know why? Who did he talk to? How did he manage? Thankfully, even in those early days, he already had my mother. She was 16 and decided at that time, this was it for her and she loved and supported him for nearly 50 years. With her support and understanding, he was able to seek treatments, as scarce or as narrow as they were at the time. He tried all kinds of medications and even had to resort to shock treatments in the 80s to help stabilize his moods.

All through it, he managed to be a dad my brother and I could be proud of and someone we could count on even when he felt like he wasn’t doing a very good job by us. We never felt that way. He and my mom can be credited for that. Still, with what I know now with my own experiences, how scared he must have been at times when he felt at his lowest and most vulnerable. I know those feelings. I know how lonely it is to be depressed and anxious and unable to lift yourself up to be the person you know that you are underneath the layers of sadness, confusion and exhaustion. I know how it feels to wonder constantly if your child(ren) will know this kind of sadness and how guilt can stop you in your tracks. I know what it feels like and how tiring it is to keep yourself “up” when you know that you are not really smiling. A smile is just something you do with your mouth to make everyone else feel better.

It is these shared experiences that I believe that it is more important than ever to crush the stigma that is attached to mental illness and to better understand what people go through when they are simply trying to live their lives as fully and richly as anyone deserves.

I look at my son and see all of his amazing qualities that are right there in front of us and the fact that he has a diagnosis, does not alter what we or anyone else sees. I hope that he will live in a world that will see him as the whole person that he is, creative, sensitive, hilarious and annoying as hell!

Crush stigma. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. You never know what you’ll be missing out on if you don’t.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


“May I join you, ladies?”

“I don’t know, you got a Platinum Card?”

“Hey baby, where you been all my life?”

“In diapers.”

I can’t zing. Dammit. Never could. The above are examples of zings from the past from one of my best friends, Kim. The girl can zing. I love that quality in men and women. I love it more because I can’t do it. Being able to zing makes a person that much more attractive. For Kim, she has to beat men off with a stick because they love it when she puts them down! She’s awesome. She does it in such a way that it can only be taken with love and a good hearted, self-deprecating chuckle.

I’ve asked her about it in the past. I’ve tried to probe her and learn her secret. But, like most of my friends, my constant inane prattling and questioning often bores them into submission and they’re left wondering what we were talking about in the first place.

I can’t think fast enough in the moment to zing a well-deserving recipient. It’s a gift. I’m in awe of people who can. Sometimes I panic. Sometimes I laugh before I can get the words out. Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t get formulate a good zing whether I’m laughing or not. My zings usually happen in the car on the way home.  I am at my most clever when I am by myself.

What’s worse, if, on the off chance I DO come up with a credible zing, one of two things will happen, guaranteed.

One: I will not be able to get the zing out because I am too excited about how this amazing retort is going to land and that I will instantly be crowned the funniest person in the room thus ruining the zing by stumbling over my own over-excited words.


Two: I actually get to deliver my zing. Oh joy. It lands beautifully. I get the response I hoped to get. Everyone is remarking on how clever I am, but then it happens. I repeat the zing. I. Repeat. The. Zing.

The first and only mark of an amateur. Even as I am repeating I am telling myself to stop to just let it lay and step away. I should just bask in the enjoyment of being smarter than everyone else for that moment in time. No. I ruin it, not only by repeating the actual zing, but by also poking everyone around me and asking, “See what I did there? See? God, I’m funny. Did you see that? I just thought of that, did you realize that?” And so goes more inane prattling which again, leads to boring my audience into submission and then sleep.

My husband, Paul is also a master zinger. He’s so good at it that people are really careful to not say too much around him for fear of giving him the slightest ammunition. He has coached me countless times on the art of delivering the zing and as such, has deemed me unteachable in this area.

He believes (and he has said this with love), I may just be a tad high strung to pull off the cool, this-is-just-off-the-top of my head, kind of remarks. I was slightly offended at first, but then I realized, hey, I can’t be great at everything. I have to have some intellectual flaws so that it highlights how great I am in other areas. Right? Am I right?

Yeah, that’s it, great in other areas.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Anxiety and the Zombie Apocolypse

Flappable is often a word I would use to describe myself in a few situations that others may consider “no big deal.” I would never peg myself as someone you would want to lead you through a zombie apocalypse, however there have been quite few difficult situations in my life that I have, in fact, handled with aplomb.

It’s the smaller things. Those are the things that can cause a flap; running late, bad hair days or forgetting to PVR the Mindy Project, that kind of thing. In fact ask my closest friends how insufferable I could be years ago trying to everyone to be as punctual as I am.

All through my 20s one of my closest friends, Maria would try to get me to just go limp and accept that the Shaw sisters have their own time zone. Just deal with it, she would recommend. Ooohhhh, I start vibrating with anxiety thinking about it now.

More recently my son experienced one of his many nosebleeds. No big deal, right? However, my 12 year old, just like his mom (you’re welcome, son) suffers from terrible anxiety so both us flap fairly easily.

I’ll set the stage. He ran up the stairs, blood spurting, Monty Python-Holy Grail style, rushed into the bathroom while screaming at me the whole time. We spent the first 10 seconds dancing around each other in our panic dance before I snapped out of it. I start pulling reams of toilet paper off the roll while he is standing at the sink trying to remember if he should pinch or not. “Do I pinch or not, Mom? PINCH OR NOT? HELP ME!!”

While he is trying to figure this out, of course my immediate action was to scramble for a face cloth, push him out of the way on my way to the soap, then while he was still spurting and dancing, I proceed to start wiping the blood off of his hands. This low priority activity makes perfect sense to me and gives me purpose.

It’s at moments like these that I can depend on my child to be the adult. As I am frantically scrubbing, he pulls back and calmly points out, “Mother, the thing you are doing right now? It’s REALLY the least of my concerns right now. GET AWAY from me!”

Message received.

Sure my bathroom looked like a crime scene, but I was calm. My kid was calm even though he looked like he’d been shot in the face. We managed. We handled it.

Who says anxious people aren’t any good in a crisis? Call me when the zombies approach. I’ll be ready with the face cloths and soap.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Death, no big deal, right?

The best way to die is quickly. Being shot by a sniper in a parking lot while enjoying an ice cream cone would be both painless (if the killer was an excellent shot, critical) and ensure that my last moments on earth were spent happy. For the record, these are the kinds of conversation topics we bring up during lunch at work. I have the best work friends, because no topic is too racy or too controversial.

I don’t want a lingering death. I’ve thought a lot about it. A. LOT. I remember being so young that I might even have only been in kindergarten when I blurted out “I don’t want to die! Please I don’t want to die!” I’ve asked for clarification many times over the years from my mother, but she always just shrugs and says stuff like, “you always said silly, dramatic stuff. How am I supposed to know?” How did I come from this clearly unfeeling robot?

Even though I may not remember my exact age that I made that panicked declaration, I do know that it was while watching the Wonderful World of Disney (Sunday nights on CHCH TV 11). I don’t remember the movie, but I remember a terrifyingly sad scene where an old hobo (read: sanitized Disney version of a scary, toothless homeless dude who refuses shelter) who falls asleep with some sort of bottle in a brown bag and next to his scruffy dog/loyal companion. Give me a second, this was really traumatic for me. Ok. Anyway, morning comes and the dog is nuzzling the guy’s hand and whining. He keeps nuzzling and keeps whining and the guy doesn’t wake up. I’m starting to get concerned. I look over at my mom, but I don’t think she was tearing up (unfeeling robot), but she did look a bit sad.

“What’s happening, Mommy? Why isn’t that man waking up? Doesn’t he know that his dog is trying to wake him up?”

It was at that moment, my mom mumbled something about him not being able to wake up because he was dead. What?? I was horrified. She just told her five (maybe 6, but still inappropriately young) year old innocent child that a Disney guy was dead! I hadn’t even experienced Bambi in the theatre yet so I had no point of reference. Dead? What the hell did that mean?

Suddenly my world made no sense. I felt a cold sweat develop all over my body, making my onesie uncomfortable against my skin. I think it was then that I blurted out my “not wanting to die declaration.’

The rest of the memory is gone. I don’t know if my mother comforted me or not (my guess is not, given the aforementioned description of her being an unfeeling robot), but maybe she did, if for no other reason to stem off my theatrics before they got out of control resulting in another sleepless night for her spent assuring me that Dracula wasn’t real and Frankenstein walked too slow to catch me even if he wanted to.

Death was a biggie for me and I’ve never gotten over the terror I feel when I think about it. The premise of Final Destination about did me in and I didn’t even see the movies. I know I’m far from alone when I say I think about death, my own in particular, quite a bit. The only way I can seem to put some perspective on the whole thing is to try and focus on the here and now. Doesn’t sound too terribly challenging, right? It’s just that when you spend the better part of your life sharing the stage with your anxious alter ego, battling over brain space and what to obsess over next, it’s trickier than it sounds.

Somehow though, the older I get, I find ways to master this particular fear. Sometimes it involves worrying about the kids, thinking about work, or freaking out over a sagging jawline. Most often though, it involves reminding myself to get out of my own head and self-obsessed thoughts. I remind myself that I have so many other things, in the moment, that require my attention and my enjoyment.

Death may be inevitable, but so is living in the moment. The moment is here whether I’m anxious or not, so it’s best not to let it slip away.

Also, Frankenstein doesn’t know where I live anymore.