I Want to Give Up But My Mind Won’t Let Me!

It’s been a battle of epic proportions; me vs Trigeminal Neuralgia. I’ve hit it with chemical warfare, biological warfare and even hand to hand combat but it keeps getting back up time after time. I tell myself the disease may win the battle but I will win the war! But to be completely honest, most days I just want to give up. I just want to lie down and stop fighting. Some days I even come close. I lie in bed and think to myself, “will it really make a difference if I get up today? What will happen if I just stay here forever? Will anything really change?”

I’ve even had moments where I’ve crawled back into my bed and covered my head willing myself to just quit. But my mind just won’t shut up. It keeps nattering at me. What if the next thing you try is the answer? What if you give up and the cure is right there? What if you wake up one day and the disease is gone or there’s a medical breakthrough?

I try to silence this voice that goes around and around preventing me from achieving the peace of giving up, but it just won’t quit. I look at all the medications on my night stand and think, “you know you can shut this voice up once and for all”.

I tell myself I’ve become a liability to those I love so much, an albatross around their necks. I flinch at the pity I see in their eyes when this evil disease steals my voice. I rage at the lack of understanding when, during a particularly brutal attack, a well meaning service person shoots a cute little glib remark my way like “oh it’s okay I’m trained in first aid”.  What the fuck are you going to do against the worst pain known to man with your fucking first aid!!? My apologies. A momentary  lapse.

When I get to that place where I think I might just be able to convince my mind to let me quit, a running movie of all the things I might miss starts playing in my head. My mind shows me my children moving forward in their lives experiencing all sorts of wonderful things. It shows them buying their first homes, finding their life partners, grandchildren being born. It shows me all the places I’ve never been and all the things I’ve never seen. It’s incessant in it’s optimism, relentless in its possibilities. It just won’t stop!

So here I go again, strapping on my gloves and stepping in the ring to do go another round with this evil disease.

Labels

Labels; the very word suggests making order out of chaos. Think about it. No. Really. Think about it. Look at a desk filled with piles of papers and books. What’s the first thing we do? In order to organize them we place them in file folders with labels on them. Books and documents are labeled and grouped in order of similarity. If the subject matter in a folder is too broad, we break it down even further into subcategories. As human beings, we cannot abide chaos. We seem to need structure and stability and order. It’s a good thing. Right?

Through the years society has not only had a need to organize things but we have also had the need to organize people. We label and sort ourselves into groups in an effort to understand each other and our differences.  To do this we have created cultures, colours, religions, genders and even stereotypes.

We didn’t stop at just this type of labelling. We also seemed to need to put labels on idiosyncrasies or behaviours. Human subcategories. When we see people with behaviours that prevent them from comfortably fitting into a society, we group them together and place labels on them like Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder the list is endless. Even though we do this to help understand and treat these disorders it’s often used as a tool to segregate and discriminate.

The one thing I think we fail to remember is that even with labeling we are all very individual and unique with an incredible ability to change, to rise above the labels placed on us. A Catholic can convert to Judaism therefore changing that label. A fat person can lose weight and become a thin person changing that label. A dysfunctional person can learn to become functional changing that label. The human spirit has achieved the most amazing things when we refuse to be relegated to a subcategory. We are not only the labels society has placed on us but we are the sum of all of our experiences.  The real problem arises when we accept our labels. When we believe we are what others say we are and allow those labels to keep us stuck in places that don’t serve or suit us.

Through the years I’ve allowed society to stick numerous labels on me. These labels have shaped my perception of myself and societies perception of me. There have been times in my life when people have treated me entirely differently when they were unaware of societies labels, than when they became aware of them. I was still exactly the same person. It was their perception of me that changed. The times in my life when I’ve felt the most empowered is when I’ve pushed outside the limits of these labels. These are also the times in my life when I learned the most about myself. Unfortunately, more often than not I have been swayed from staying a course because I’ve bought into a flawed belief system. I’ve allowed labels to erode my self-talk and convince me to give up.

Humanity will always need to make sense out of chaos and labels have been a successful tool with which to achieve that end, but labels are just words and we know that words can build us up or break us down depending on the messages being conveyed. In todays’ world with so many negative labels we desperately need to make a shift in what we project. There is no better time to practice the positive, to use words that alleviate judgement and bring about community thinking that has room for all our differences.

Just a thought!

Mindfulness

Everywhere we look we’re being advised to do things ‘mindfully’, from mindful eating to mindful meditation it’s the catch word of the 2000’s. I’ve never really understood exactly what it meant until I started practicing mindful meditation. The hypnotic voice of my meditation recording instructed me to mindfully scan my body and be present in the moment.

Scan my body and notice all it’s nuance’s. Don’t name them just notice them.

At the end of the meditation the disembodied voice instructed the listener to strive to be mindful of our bodies at all times. Note when we are hungry or tired and act accordingly. She suggested we are a society out of touch with our bodies, ignoring our hunger, our exhaustion and dare I even say our emotions. We are a society out of sync.

The more I examined this thought and struggled to put it into perspective, the more I had to agree. From as early as I can remember I was instructed to ignore my bodies cues. If I was hungry before mealtime I was told to wait until dinner. Children are sent to bed at “bedtime”. Not necessarily because the child is tired but because the adults are. We’re instructed to wait to use the washroom, push past your exhaustion to achieve that “brass ring”.  Ignore! Ignore! Ignore!

I wonder what would happen if we stopped ignoring our bodies and fed ourselves when we were hungry, went to sleep when we were tired, listened to our basic bodily functions? What if we stopped worrying so much about keeping our babies on “schedules”? And what if we went even further and strove to live in sync with the world around us? What then? Would obesity still be as big an epidemic? Would people still be dying of stress related illnesses at the same rate? Would families actually start interacting again? Or would the world fall into chaos?

Just pondering.

Dreams

Every morning I used to get up, weigh myself (Weight Watchers), feed Artimus, take my vitamins and flop down in front of the computer. Since taking a break from Facebook my whole routine has changed and with it a monumental shift. Now I get up, weigh myself (Weight Watchers), feed Artimus, take my vitamins, make myself some breakfast and sit down at my kitchen table and read something inspirational and enlightening; currently it’s The Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson.

Today, while reading, I found my mind starting to wander. Because we’re preparing for a trip to Mexico in just over a week, my mind has been caught up in that excitement. Today, though, it went even further and soon I found myself dreaming of all the places I want to see in this crazy, amazing, beautiful world we live in. As I was eating and letting my mind wander the globe I came to a stunning realization. I was dreaming! I had a dream! What!

You see, I honestly thought I had lost the ability to dream. Through the years I would participate in self-improvement exercises where I was told that in order to find your true calling you must follow your dreams. What dreams? I searched myself diligently looking for my dream. Nothing! I concentrated so hard I almost gave myself an aneurysm. Still nothing! After numerous attempts I finally gave up.

I had a couple of theories as to why I lost my ability to dream. My first theory was that I’d used up all my dreams as an adolescent. From the time I learned to read, I would crawl into my books and live them out in my head. When possible I would spend probably 80% of my day sitting over the heat register or curled up in some obscure corner so deep in my dream world nothing else existed. It didn’t matter what was happening around me, I was safely enshrouded in my world of dreams. So when I discovered, as an adult, that I couldn’t access anymore dreams I suspected that maybe I’d used them all up. I tried to find them, I could see them in abstract but could never find the passion that gave them life. They didn’t seem like dreams anymore, just ideas floating around in the ether.

My second theory was that, through the years when I found a small spark of interest in something, life was so busy and heavy with adult responsibilities I just couldn’t give them the attention they needed to grow. As I took one soul crushing job after another, I found I simply didn’t have the energy to turn the spark into a flame and it just died.

But this morning something curious happened. As I planned my list of things to take on my current vacation, my mind started travelling to other places it would be awesome to visit. I started wondering how I could see them all. Then I felt a stirring deep inside my mind. A curiosity. An excitement I didn’t recognize, Eureka! I had it! I had a dream! And as I looked deeper I found that I actually had more than one dream. What!

How exciting is that!

Now it’s time to get moving and make those dreams come true!

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The Facebook Habit

For some reason known only to the cosmos, I find myself going to my Facebook every morning and scrolling through the posts. Almost every single morning, about three posts in, I am in tears over some terrible article or video showcasing the absolute depravity of humanity. I recognize how unhealthy this is. I don’t want to continue this trip down sappy lane but, to date, I’ve failed to change it. I even took a break from writing this blog and guess what I did? Without conscious thought, I went onto my Facebook and guess what happened? Correct you are! I found myself in tears over a heart wrenching post.

Why is change so hard for us humans? Is it just a human experience? I made a pact with myself a few months ago, that I would stop the negativity that consumed the better part of 2016 and start looking at the blessings in my life. I promised myself I would put my best foot forward and get moving to a better, healthier, happier life for 2017. I would shake off angry, intolerant me. I would let go of the self abuse in the form of poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. I would take the time to meditate and practice mindfulness every day. I wouldn’t let anything derail me!

Like a race horse I burst through the starting gate and flew down the track as though I had wings. The first thing I did was join Weight Watchers, then I joined not just one gym but two of them and a yoga class. I was on fire! I changed my eating habits, started exercising six days a week and lost 20+ pounds. But the one habit I could not break was my Facebook addiction.

Facebook is a great way to connect in a world were families are scattered far and wide. As a matter of fact that’s exactly why I started my Facebook page. My partner and I were being posted across the country and we wanted to stay in touch with our family and friends back home. But, when people found out they could use it as their own sounding board it became something much more sinister.

Facebook is no longer just a means with which to connect people who are oceans apart. It’s a forum for promoting businesses, political rhetoric, religious dogma, and bullying people literally to death. Ex lovers exact revenge on one another. Consumers voice outrage over poor customer service or inferior products. Activists use it to promote their causes. It’s even become the means with which identities are stolen and children are violated.

This is not to say I believe Facebook is the root of all evil. It allows those without the ability to connect to be connected to the world around them. It can be a great tool to combat isolation. It can bring old friends together distanced by years and life choices. Anything can be used for evil if that’s the intent of the user. It simply means that, like all the things we allow into our day, we need to monitor what type of energy it’s bringing into our lives.

As for me; the energy Facebook is bringing into my life is negative and although I’ve made many strides over the past few months, I recognize the one thing I need to to do more than any other is to take care of the wolf I feed. If I want to be a positive, upbeat and loving person I need to ensure that I start my day with positive, upbeat and loving messages. So Facebook, I have to say so long for now, we’ve had a great run but you no longer serve a positive purpose in my world.

 

Reset

Have you ever had a day start out badly? All it seems to take is that one thing to set the tone for the day, like tripping over your dirty clothes from the night before while getting up to make your morning coffee. Worse yet, spilling your morning coffee. Or maybe even tripping over your dog who is excitedly greeting you at the bottom of the stairs after being separated from you forever! (or just a few hours) Or maybe all of these things. Because it seems if one thing goes wrong first thing in the morning the whole day is going to be a minefield.

Take yesterday morning for example. I woke up very excited. It’s a beautiful warm morning, 3 degrees celsius! Whoot! I am finally going to take Artimus for a walk again. Because I want to share my enjoyment, I wait for my life partner to wake so he can come with us. It will be a family event.

As we get ready to go, Artimus (Artie) senses something is up. Then we use the “W” word. Yep, we actually say it! Artie is so smart, we actually have to spell “walk” around him. It’s like we have a toddler again. If we say the word and don’t follow through we have a very unhappy pup.

Because I want to get some exercise while we walk, I decide I will bring my walking poles and my partner will take Artie. Out the door we go. There is just one small problem. In our entire neighbourhood may 1/16th of the residents de-ice their sidewalks (trust me, I’m being generous here). So, no sooner do we get across the street when my walking pole slips on the ice. I go for slide. The pole catches my partner’s leg as he walks beside me. He goes for a trip. Artie gets very excited. He thinks we’re playing. He jerks on the leash which, inadvertently, keeps my partner from falling as Artie is actually pulling him upright again. I’m immediately livid at the irresponsible homeowners, my partner is ticked at me for taking my stupid walking poles and tripping him, and Artie – well he still wants to play.

We continued on our walk, slipping and sliding every couple of feet until finally, in exasperation, I take to walking in the street. My partner is hardy soul and refuses to give in to the ice so I get the pleasure of watching his feet do a little dance every ten feet or so. Yes, I did say pleasure. I was still ticked at him for being ticked at me and I was ticked at my neighbours for not salting and was ticked at the world in general.

And so my day began.

By the time I got back home, I was in a fine state. I didn’t want to be angry. This was not how I wanted my day to go. Somehow, someway I search within to find a reset button. I desperately wanted to change the direction my day was going. I try breathing, meditating, thinking of all my many blessings. Nothing.

So I carry on with my daily duties, running around to my millions of appointments. As I sat in the waiting room of my second appointment of the day I ponder the desire to change the course of the day. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could change my day like I change my clothes. I imagine myself going into my closet and stripping out of my crabby pants and slipping into my happy pants. Then I imagine myself doing a little happy dance in my happy pants and I giggle, internally of course.

The more I think about this the funnier it seems and my day begins to change. I can’t say it was a great day. My last appointment of the day was getting a bikini wax (from the neck down). But it definitely lost some of it’s edge.

 

Perfectly Imperfect

Chillin’ in my office with my headphones blasting Pinks song, “F*@king Perfect” quickly followed by Meghan Trainor’s “ME TOO”, set me to pondering. Both songs were very impactful and empowering in very different ways, however, Pinks song spoke to me about our struggles to accept ourselves and getting to that place of complete self love. Meghan Trainor’s song had a similar message but, if heard for the first time with no background information, may seem almost arrogant as the lyrics suggested everyone should want to be her. The one thing, I believe both songs are trying to convey is that we all need to see ourselves as perfect. The problem is, we’re not perfect.  We’re human.

Growing up in a crazy, chaotic household I strove for perfectionism early on in my life as in my child’s brain this was the only way to bring order to the chaos and confusion. Of course, it was an impossible goal and failing time after time lead me to believe I was born a faulty human model. And I was. But; in time I, finally, learned that the problem wasn’t mine. The problem was that of my, very imperfect, parents. Learning this gave me some semblance of peace but, in turn, I developed the habit of perfectionism that drove my every waking moment and led to burnout and eventually a complete breakdown.

On the other side of this breakdown I’ve come understand that humans were born into imperfection. I think there’s a monumental difference between believing we’re perfect and learning to love our imperfections.

While talking to a friend the other day and I mentioned I would like to get some minor cosmetic work done but it always frustrates me when they try to upsell me with more cosmetic procedures. She agreed saying they prey on people’s insecurities. I told her that that didn’t work on me as I don’t have those types of insecurities.

That’s not to say I believe I’m perfect. It means that, although I may have a couple of things that bother me, I am generally pretty content with my outward appearance. I don’t have a problem with my curvy bottom, or the lines around my eyes. I like my laugh lines when I smile. I earned them.

As a matter of fact, if you really look at the world around you, it’s not perfect. A flower doesn’t grow perfectly straight and it’s petals aren’t exactly the same. But it’s perfect in it’s imperfection. We live in a world that sees imperfections as flaws to be erased but in doing this we’re missing the beauty of that perfect imperfection.img_0019

 

A One Man Global Crisis

I struggle for things to say these days. Why, because I never intended my blog to be dark and depressing, nor did I intend it to be a political forum. As I mentioned in my first blog, a lot of quirky, funny, interesting things (to me) come to mind while walking Artimus every morning, positive things, things I wanted to share. I wanted my blog to be uplifting and relatable. That was my intent.

Then an egomaniacal, fascist dictator came into power in my neighbouring country and every day he does something more appalling then the next. And for all the things reported in the media, I wonder what else he is doing that we can’t see. I am proud of the Canadian Politicians who are standing strong against the racism and the Canadian Scientists who are speaking out against the attacks on the environment, but I am saddened when I read his supporters respond with such vile hatred and ignorance towards their neighbours. In one comment one such supporter suggested what happens in the United States is none of Canada’s business.

What this man does is not only Canada’s business it is the world’s business. This man IS a global crisis, a one man global crisis. He is not just an American problem he is a world problem and those who fail to recognize this, in my opinion, are simply ignoring what’s right in front of them and to suggest that Canadians have no right to weigh in brings that ignorance to the forefront. Especially since Canada has been a faithful and honourable ally to the United States, working side by side in good times and in horrific times.

We have suffered American actors like Leonardo Dicaprio and Jane Fonda spouting their ignorance about our oil sands and global warming, feeling it’s their God given right to come to Canada and preach their rhetoric as the environment isn’t just about one country it’s global and even though, they need to get their facts straight they are not wrong in suggesting environmental issues are a global problem, they are simply missing some vital facts that I’ll save for another blog another day.

I strongly believe that if there is any hope for this world we have to stop thinking as individuals and start thinking as a whole. The environment IS a global issue, discrimination against 50% of the world population IS a global issue, racism IS a global issue and we have to let go of our “selves” and start thinking like a community, a global community.

Gone to the Dogs

I awoke with my lovers hand draped gently across my stomach. l lay there for several seconds basking in the comfort of his love, then slowly reached over to stroke it and discovered two furry paws instead. I extracted myself from Artimus’s loving embrace and got out of bed shaking my head as I made note of the fact that my furry pup had, not only wrangled his way onto our bed, but managed to work his way in between us like a toddler after a nightmare.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the family bed but this ridiculous. I would have never guessed in a million years that my life partner, who is highly allergic to anything with fur or feathers, would ever agree to having a pet in the house let alone this silly ball of fluff and teeth. But as our lives changed and we both began working different hours, life became very lonely for me so, after researching allergy friendly dogs, I begged and cajoled him into giving a poodle a try. Reluctantly he agreed but with the proviso that Artimus would never be off the main floor. I eagerly agreed.

So, after a bit of a rough start, we integrated our pup into our lives. Some minor allergy symptoms occurred but nothing alarming. I did, however, notice some other strange occurrences though. This pup who was supposed to keep me company, was spending more and more time cuddling up with my partner.  It wasn’t long before the two became besties and the guy who swore he would never pick up an animals poop was taking Artimus for walks every evening after work armed with poop bags. It also wasn’t long before Artimus found his way downstairs to the family room; then to the upper floor and finally, wormed his way onto our bed. So now the only one who gets a good nights sleep is – you guessed it – Artimus.

Life is a lot more complicated now that this crazy canine has become a part of our family but there certainly is no shortage of laughter.

 

 

 

Ending the Stigma

Since today is Bell’s Lets Talk Awareness, I thought it might be a good day to talk more openly about my own struggles with mental illness. I’ve blogged, previously, about depression, but as is often the case, depression and anxiety are just a symptom of a bigger, badder disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Please understand, I am not PTSD. I am not Depression. I am not Anxiety. I am not the illnesses that plague me any more then I am gender or age or status. These are not the things that define me. These things are not sum the of all my parts.  I am flesh and I am blood and I am spirit. I am whatever I choose to be.

I, unknowingly, suffered PTSD, depression and anxiety most of my life. But it did not stop me from getting an education. It made it harder, but it did not stop me. It did not stop me from having a family. It gave me different challenges, but it did not stop me. It did not stop me from getting into the best shape of my life and being accepted into the Canadian Armed Forces and it did not stop me from excelling in my trade. I had different struggles than other Soldiers, but it did not stop me.

What did threaten to stop me were the labels placed on me when I sought help. Outside of the mental health professionals treating me, I found very little sympathy or understanding. I often found the reverse actually, like judgement, ridicule or even worse dismissal. Anything I had to say from the moment I disclosed the new labels placed on me, failed to carry any weight. I ceased being an intelligent, capable person. All my past successes simply ceased to exist.

Instead of seeing me as someone who survived these debilitating illnesses and continued to move forward despite it, I have been seen as someone flawed, broken, even crazy.

So I ask, for myself and all those fighting this fight; please stop looking at the labels. Please look beyond them to my intelligence, my compassion, my spirit, my innate ability to recreate myself. This truly is the sum of all my parts.

Mental illness does not define people and it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Proper treatment can result in full remission and no matter how deep the trauma you CAN come back from it and you can gain control of your life. There really is life after mental illness.

Let’s end the stigma!

 

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