Another Night, Another Dreamish Sleep

A guest blog post by Ocean Hayward

 

Anxiety

Here I am, up again. I start off well- I  doze off into dreamland and then am awakened from my slumber (usually because I need to urinate); then it starts. I try to go back to sleep, but I worry.  I worry that I won’t be able to get back to sleep. Then I worry that I’ll be tired in the morning because I didn’t sleep. And then I worry about all of the things I didn’t manage to get done and the things I need to do. And the worry goes on, and on and on (till the breaka-breaka dawn, yo!)

 

Anxiety.

 

So this morning I awoke, and I started thinking about my anxiety, and the fact that I have always had it. Or did I?  When did I start feeling anxiety all the time? Was it, in fact, always a part of my life?

 

I tried to remember the first time I felt really anxious. My first thought was that it was my very first day of school (which is ironic because I am a teacher now and tomorrow… no, technically now, today is my first day of school for this year.) So my first day of grade primary, I took the bus by myself and got to the school. All the kids at the elementary school were playing in the school yard. I remember sitting on a bench in front of the school by myself. Worried. Worried because I didn’t know where I was supposed to go.

 

Before the summer, they had given us an orientation to grade primary and I went to my mom to see the school and all of that. But I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go. Did they even tell me? Then the bell rang for the instructional day to start, and I sat on the bench and cried. I didn’t know what to do. A little girl saw me outside by myself, sobbing. She was arriving on a late bus. She asked me what was wrong. I replied that I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or where my class was. She said, “Maybe you’re in my class.”

 

Now, you may be thinking this is a happy story about how I made a new best friend who helped me find my way on my first day of school. Let me stop you. She did not become my best friend. In fact, I never made any real friends until I myself was in grade one. But that is another story and does not relate to my main point here and the epiphany I made this morning in my sleep-less state. Or maybe it’s not an epiphany at all. Maybe it’s just the ramblings of an extremely over-tired, worried, crazy teacher lady.

 

The kind little girl led me to her classroom. I arrived to a class full of strange faces. The girl told the teacher my situation and the teacher asked me my name. “No,” the teacher said. “You’re not in this class. This is grade one,” and she asked the other little girl to take me down the hall to the grade primary classroom.

 

I thought about this moment in my life- yes, I thought- it was all the people and commotion, this was the defining moment of when my anxiety started. Or was it?

 

It wasn’t.

 

I thought about the time my mother and I went to visit my Great-Aunt Evelyn and Great-Uncle Allison. (Yes, Allison is a man’s name too. Men with typically female names are prevalent in my family- my grandfather’s name was Beverly and I have other family members named Laurie.) Anyway, I was playing on the floor next to the Grandfather Clock in their sitting room. I guess I must have been too loud or something because I remember my mother snapping at me, “Children should be seen, not heard.” After that, I always worried about being too loud when we went visiting.

But no, that wasn’t the first time I felt anxiety. My mother was always yelling at me. “Clean up your toys” or “It’s time for bed” or “Get ready to go.” It was my mother yelling at me all the time that really triggered my anxiety. It wasn’t her fault though. My mother always acted like a bitch, but she really wasn’t. She would yell at me out of frustration. You see, she would ask me to do things, but I would be zoned out in my own little world of thoughts, play or television. As a teacher, I totally understand her frustration- you ask a child to do something again and again and again and they don’t listen. It makes total sense that she would eventually explode into a tirade of yelling and crazy bitchiness. In fact, I had such a problem with listening to both my mother and the teachers at school, in addition to a speech disability, that in grade primary I was sent to have my hearing checked. The result: I have perfect hearing. Not so great at listening.

 

This may be all coming together for you by now. Or maybe not. I’ll spell it out for you. I have recently been diagnosed with Adult ADHD. All of a sudden, my entire life makes sense.

 

Being diagnosed was a struggle. Throughout my teaching education and career, I learned a lot about ADHD and I suspected I may have it. Zoning out, daydreaming, messy, hyper… Of course, when I was growing up, ADHD wasn’t a thing. Or if it was, it wasn’t well known. But when I was sent to see a psychiatrist due to anxiety attacks, I asked if he could test me for ADHD. His response was that since I was a teacher and had been successful at life, I couldn’t possibly have ADHD. But he didn’t know my history, and how could he? Psychiatrists don’t have the time to learn our histories in this age of information overload, unequal work-life balances, and Donald Trump where everyone has some kind of mental illness. (Really, it should be called societal illness since we seem to be creating a lot of this madness ourselves!)

 

If he knew my history, he would know everything I’ve just explained to you. He would also know that throughout school, my assignments were often incomplete and late. He would also know that I struggled with attendance and drinking too much during my early university years and actually flunked out. I returned later, and turned that anxiety into motivation.

 

So this morning I had an epiphany. Which came first? The chicken or the egg, the ADHD or the anxiety. They are connected, you see. But if I had to articulate what came first, I think it is the ADHD. You see when you are constantly living within your own mind, you miss things. A LOT OF THINGS. Instructions, conversations, deadlines, places where you put your things. You miss out on so many things because of your inability to focus, and then comes the anxiety. What was I supposed to do and how was I supposed to do it? How come I can’t remember that my husband told me about Trump watching the solar eclipse when we had an entire conversation about it? (He thinks it was a conversation only because I nodded and said yes and no to make it appear that I was listening. When you have ADHD, you become an expert at faking attention.) When are those grades due again? Where did I put the keys? Where did I put the keys?

 

Then there is the hyperactivity aspect. I can do everything! I’ll volunteer to do this or that, because I always want to be busy. I will have these amazing, wonderful ideas and start planning something, then be overwhelmed by the amount of detail, effort and organization involved. This leads to procrastination due to the overwhelming workload I’ve created for myself. Then things either get done in a sloppy way or don’t get done at all because people with ADHD take on too many tasks due to our constant need for mental stimulation.

 

And so here is the equation as I see it: an inability to focus + a need to be active= ANXIETY. That is my epiphany in the early morning hours of dreamlessness.

 

Proof positive: in the time that I started writing this piece, I started making oatmeal for breakfast and got focused on writing, forgetting about the oatmeal cooking on the stove. Yummy, burnt oatmeal for breakfast. Just another day in the life of a person with ADHD.

 

Did I mention I ran out of my ADHD meds? It’s going to be a great day of chaos- I hope I can find my classroom.

~ Ocean

Image

“Thoughtful Young Woman Sitting on Red Sofa” by Ambro  www.freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don't sweat the small stuffI learned an important lesson from my step father.  When He first entered my life at age 12 he seemed a burly rigid man.  He was tall and broad across the shoulders, physically strong; he was a navy man.  He served for over 20 years on submarines as a sonar technician.  He was at times, an asshole, but I appreciated his efforts in keeping me on the straight and narrow and providing guidance to me when my parents were more consumed by themselves than how I was doing.  They had just separated; my father moved in with my now step mother and my mother began dating my now stepfather.  He showed up on a motorcycle with these ridiculous goggles on his face.  I later would learn he was a huge dork.  A Star Trek lover and fan of ABBA I wondered what this man could possibly bring to my life.  In addition to our mutual love of Star Trek, he had a sense of humor as well.  So we bonded.

I was an awkward teenager morphing into an awkward adult and stressing over something stupid.  Probably a shirt or my hair or some adolescent girl shit.  My step father says, “Hey, don’t sweat the small stuff.”  He later would offer solutions to whatever I was complaining about and rectified it quickly and efficiently.  He would do this many times over the course of our relationship.  Over time I learned he was right and this phrase would become a daily mantra to me in my adult life. 

So many times I have caught myself stressing over some minor detail and thought, “Hey, don’t sweat the small stuff.”  There are bigger things in life to stress about. 

I carry this through my personal life as kind of a philosophy.   There are things worth fighting over and things that aren’t.  I’m not gonna berate my partner for leaving her dishes in the living room or socks on the floor.  Who cares?  It doesn’t really matter in the long run.  

The things that are important to me are things like loyalty, honesty, kindness and love.  I try to focus on those things and try to keep things in the big picture.   Sure, my dog sometimes craps on the floor.  I could yell at her which would upset her and me OR I can remember that overall, she has given me 6 years of unconditional love and laughter so a little shit doesn’t matter.  Shit happens.  Which is another one of my personal philosophies/mantras.

Morpheus what if I told you

The next time you are about to have a freak out over something, ask yourself this?

How will I feel after I work myself up with anger?

What kind of reactions and/or emotions will this provoke in those around me?
Does it really fucking matter?
Ask yourself this

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Shit happens.

Shit happens

Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,

Sam
Images
Shit happens to make room meme https://pics.onsizzle.com/shit-happens-to-make-room-for-a-shift-to-happen-5839415.png

What if I told you meme https://i.imgflip.com/pr0do.jpg

Ask yourself this question https://i.pinimg.com/736x/cd/ed/40/cded40983f805281cbe63e306aceb3b4–good-advice-good-ideas.jpg

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff https://pics.me.me/dont-sweat-the-small-stuff-lum-skye-21183656.png www.pickle bums.com #Skye

Summer Road Trips and the Perfect Place “To Go”

A guest blog post by Ocean Hayward

Road trip

It’s summer road trip season, and I’ve been partaking all summer long so far.  My husband and I have been driving back and forth around the Maritimes visiting friends and family.  Yes, summer road trips- those long trips in the car filled with highways lined with nothing but trees for miles and miles, rest-stops, gas stations, fast food and sitting in the same position for hours on end, squirming around in the seat trying to find that sweet spot where your legs, neck and back don’t ache.  And, of course, holding in your business until the next rest-stop or exit.

Growing up, I went on a lot of family road trips in the summer.  My father generally drove and one thing about my father is he is always in a hurry.  He hates traveling, so whenever we went on our trips, he wanted to get there and back home as quickly as possible.  It’s because my father is not a public pooper.  The only place he will drop anchor is at home.  We’ve been out at stores, restaurants or family get-togethers and my dad will rush us all out to take us home because he has to shit.  I, too, suffered from the same shame about public pooping, (either a learned behaviour or inherited one, I’m not sure which) for years until the “Best Buy” incident. 

My husband and I were on a road trip of our own to visit his brother in Ontario and we drove through the U.S. because the gasoline is much cheaper there.  On the way, my husband wanted to look at laptops at Best Buy because electronics are also much cheaper, even with the exchange rate.  When traveling, I would always hold in my bowel movements because the shame, oh, the shame of shitting in a public restroom.  But when you’re on a road trip, you don’t have the luxury of driving home to use the toilet.  So there we were, my husband and I, in Best Buy, and that’s when the poop pangs hit me- my bowels weren’t going to allow me to wait to use the bathroom until our next stay in a hotel.  So I didn’t walk, I literally RAN to the Best Buy bathroom, without even saying a word to my husband who was examining each electronic item, the prices and doing the math for exchange rates in his head.  He didn’t even realize that I had disappeared.

The nice thing about the Best Buy bathrooms is that usually they are empty.  I was so relieved (Pun intended) when I got into the bathroom and there wasn’t a single other person in there.  I think that people don’t generally need to use the bathroom when shopping for electronics like they do at gas stations or rest stops off of the highway.  Probably because most people shopping for electronics are not that far from home, and they probably don’t stay in the store long enough to feel the urge.  So I had the WHOLE bathroom to myself.  I checked under each stall to ensure I was indeed truly alone, and I was.  It was quiet and clean, and I let it all out!  Afterwards, I felt empty in a beautiful way that only people who have held in their shit for more than a day can understand.  I was in there for a very long time.  When I came out, my husband immediately looked up to see me come out of the bathroom.  “Was that you?” Apparently the smell of my “brand” had emanated out into the TV department where my husband had moved to do more price comparisons just outside of the bathroom.  He was actually puzzling about the smell and wondering if the Best Buy had an issue with their sewage system. It didn’t.  It was ME!  But you know even though I stunk up the entire Best Buy bathroom and surrounding TV department, I didn’t care.  No one in that Best Buy in New Hampshire knew me and I felt so good to have it all out.

But back to my dad, where I learned to become a dysfunctional pooper in the first place, (Hey, Dad, EVERYBODY POOPS!) and his mad rush to get the family road trips over as quickly as possible.  Our most memorable road trip as a family was when I was 17 and had just finished the eleventh grade.  My brother was 12 at the time.  We lived in Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada.  My mother wanted us to visit her sister who lives in British Columbia (BC) on the west coast of Canada and instead of flying, my parents decided to drive to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC because supposedly they wanted us to have a learning experience out of it by seeing all of Canada.  (FUN FACTOID: Canada is the second largest country in the world!) As the trip progressed, I began to see that the learning experience part was more my mother’s idea. My dad, on the other hand, saw driving as a way to save money instead buying plane tickets for the four of us (which would have been very expensive and may have caused my father anxiety about the possibility of having to have a shit in the tiny airplane bathroom.)

The funny thing is we didn’t actually see much of Canada at all.  I mean, we saw it.  Some of it.  On the way up, we drove by the “Big Nickel” at the Canadian Mint in Sudbury, Ontario.  Then, in my dad’s rush, we skipped Manitoba and Saskatchewan altogether and drove through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana instead.  We even passed by the site of Custer’s Last Stand.  We drove through the beautiful Rocky Mountains.  Thing is, although we saw all of these things, we didn’t really SEE them.  We saw them through the car window, yes.  Whenever we asked to stop to actually SEE any of these things, you know, as in get out of the actual car and walk around, my dad said, “You can see it from here just fine.”  So our photo album of our trip to BC consists of blurred photos of mountains, plains and the Big Nickel with the edge of the car window bordering each scenic panavista and landmark.  An important lesson I learned from driving across Canada is that it’s very difficult to get good photos from a car window.

Another thing I learned is that families should not take road trips across an entire continent together.  My brother and I fought with each other the entire trip.  My parents had to separate us by having one of us sitting up front with Dad while the other sat in the back with our mom.  We still managed to annoy each other diagonally from time to time.  And we constantly fought over who would drive “shot-gun.” Remember shot-gun?  Running and trying to call out shot-gun at the first sight of the car so you would be the passenger in the front seat?  This was back in 1991 too, so we didn’t have any smart-phones or even hand-held video games like a Game-boy to distract us from the long drive.  There may have been Game-boys available but my parents wouldn’t have bought us both one, so we would have just fought over that too.  Smart-phones would have been a blessing for us.  It’s not like we could really see much of the country anyway, since my dad was speeding across Canada in a mad rush to get back to his beloved porcelain throne in the sanctity of his own home. So a smart-phone would have really made things a lot easier for all of us.  Today, families can go on road-trips and not even talk to each other for the entire trip.  In fact, maybe another part of my father’s rush was to just get some peace and quiet from the constant bickering between my brother and I…  in the bathroom, of course.

We also had to use maps.  There was not GPS or Google Maps to direct us.  So we had all these road maps- they folded up into the size of a pamphlet but when you unfolded them, they took up the entire front seat.  Then one of us, usually my mother or I, would read out the directions to my father.  We didn’t have computerized voices, but it didn’t matter because we were quite capable of mispronouncing place names.  Then there would be arguments over which way we were supposed to be going, and points where we would get lost.  My father was surprisingly willing to stop for directions when we would get lost, unlike the usual stereotypical man.  I think it was because of how he was always in a hurry to get the trip over with.  He was happy to get directions so he could get to his “home bowl” a little bit quicker.

I feel truly sad for my father, who at 70 still hasn’t learned the wonderful lesson I learned at the Best Buy that day with my husband in New Hampshire: if you have to go number two in public, you should just go do it, because it feels a lot better after and it doesn’t create as much of a stink as it does after holding it in for 2 days.  And no matter how fast you try to drive across Canada and back, you’re still going to have to poop at some point before you make it home.  So to anyone else who’s ever had anxiety about being a public pooper, I say take the advice of the Nike ads, find yourself a Best Buy bathroom and “Just Do It!” 

~ Ocean 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net  “Cars Traveling With A Blurred Image” by RK008

A Letter To My 10 Year Old Self

Writing a letterAs I was spreading a thick layer of depilatory cream on my upper lip and chin this evening, it occurred to me that no one prepared me for this. No one told me I’d have to spend extra time in the mirror looking for errant black hairs. No one prepared me for having whiskers. No one told me I’d turn into a man for fuck’s sake and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.  

Come to think of it, I feel like there have been a number of things I just wasn’t prepared for. I thought I would write a letter to my 10 year old self to warn her. 

Dear Sam,

I thought you would appreciate a head’s up from your future self. We are now 43 years old and things didn’t quite go as we thought it would, so I’m just going to lay it all out there for you in point form.  Brace yourself. 

You will get fat in your twenties, please for the love of God, stay away from those donuts, pizza and potato chips or at least pace yourself. Stay active and eat right. You may not be aware of this now but when you get older it becomes harder to poop, so eat all your fruits and vegetables.  

In the future we won’t be dating boys. You know how you like to watch Daisy Duke in her short shorts? In the future, this will become far more socially acceptable and you won’t have to hide your love of Madonna and her belly button. It will even become legal for a woman to marry another woman. They’ll throw parades for people like us and it will be fabulous. The only downside is that with gay marriage comes gay divorce and you will experience that too if you jump in too quickly and trust the wrong person. Pay close attention to the signs that your partner is cheating, you’ll be able to see that up close and in action in 2 short years when your mom and dad break up. 

You’ll become a dog person. I know that sounds impossible to you given your life long love of cats and all things kitty, but you will meet a dog one day that changes your mind about dogs and you’ll see how awesome they are.

Can you imagine a world where we can take our phones with us? Now, I know you’re thinking of one of those 15 pound phones with the giant aerial right? Looks like a shoebox? They get smaller, smaller and smaller and then a little bigger, then bigger again so we can watch TV on them! No one has house phones anymore. We all carry tiny computers around with us everywhere. Not like the Commodore 64 either. They’re lightening fast with bold bright lifelike colors and have this remarkable thing called the Internet. It’s like having a library at your fingertips with a world of information a click or tap away. The whole world is connected now and you can talk to someone on the other side of the world just like that. No one sends letters anymore and rarely do people actually TALK on the phones we all carry. We simply send each other text messages instead. In fact, we have basically developed a new language based solely on shortened words and pictures of faces we call emoticons. The whole thing is going to blow you away. You won’t need to visit libraries anymore, or bookstores for that matter, or really any stores since we have this thing called Amazon now that sells pretty much anything you will ever need. We don’t really do things in person anymore. You will hardly have to leave your house. The only problem is that we end up giving away all of our privacy and personal information in exchange for the convenience. There’s a book you should read, it’s called 1984 by George Orwell, that should explain it better for you. 

The world is a pretty crazy place right now, the Americans elected Donald Trump as their President. I know. Our Prime Minister is actually Pierre Trudeau’s son and he got elected with a promise of legal pot for everyone. You know that stuff from the Cheech and Chong movies your parents watch? Well in the future, a lot of people use it for medication, even you.

You will end up with crippling pain in your body from something called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Fibromyalgia as they generalize it. You also end up with pretty severe Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Degenerative Disc Disease and Endometriosis. You will have pain all the time and it will get worse as you age, so enjoy your life now. Enjoy being able to freely move and run, even with your bum ankles. Climb as many trees as you can find, sink as many basketballs as possible and ride your bike with total abandon because you will really miss that when you get older and your mobility decreases with illness.

You won’t ever be a Mom. I know you wanted to but that disease I told you about, Endometriosis, is going to cause cysts to grow all over your insides and destroy your uterus and you’ll only have one ovary. It’s okay though because in the future, less and less women are able to have babies, so you won’t be the only one. You can still have pets and enjoy your friends’ kids and honestly, you’ll be so tired and ill so frequently that you probably wouldn’t be the best mom anyway.  

A lot of famous people will die. People that you love. One of them, is Michael Jackson. Michael will leave quite the legacy. Some stuff will happen with him that you won’t know if you should believe. Just remember the good stuff about Michael. Robin Williams, Prince, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, George Michael and many others die unexpectedly. The one that will hurt the most is Leonard Nimmoy. I know how much you love Spock. On a side note, Star Trek is still going! They’re still making new movies and there will be several spin off series for you to look forward to.

Work hard in school. Work so hard that you earn scholarships. Education will become really expensive and very necessary to gain steady employment. Without it, you will have to work in retail or in call Centers answering questions and taking complaints from assholes. You’ll do it so long that when your phone does ring, it will make you sweat and shudder and throw up in your mouth a little bit. You will grow to loath a ringing telephone. 

Continue writing. Maybe work harder with that. In the future people can self publish, you won’t even need a publisher at first, you can write your book and put it right on Amazon. Keep reading, books never go out of style. Keep learning. Your love of learning will stay with you throughout your life.

One last thing I need to talk to you about it the reason you are sad. You have something called clinical depression and you already have a pretty remarkable case of something else called anxiety disorder. That’s the thing that makes you cry before you go to school, it’s what causes that pain you get in your stomach all the time. You will have this for the rest of your life. You will try many treatments, medications and lifestyle changes but it will always be there. Try not to let it get the best of you, learn to soothe yourself because your parents won’t. They will never understand it. Learn to be strong, secure and resilient. Learn to love yourself. You’re not alone and you will meet some pretty great friends that will become your chosen family.  

Your life will be hard but remember, God never gives us more than we can handle. You can apply that reasoning when you find out you can’t have babies. Also apply that logic when you don’t move past a B cup in bras.  

Stay strong little warrior. 

PS. You are lactose intolerant, please stop drinking milk and lay off the cheese slices.

Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,

Sam

Weird Things From My Childhood That Made Me the Weirdo I am

AnxietySo this is a little more personal, I often try to write with humor, but some things just aren’t that funny and that makes it difficult to put a humorous twist on it. Like many of us, I had an unconventional childhood. My parents had a rocky marriage, we didn’t have much money, I spent my early childhood living in a trailer. My father drank a lot, my mother cried a lot. My parents fought a lot. I hid in my closet a lot. I was an only child with no freedom who was afraid of everything and overly anxious. I grew up to be an overly sensitive, massively anxious adult.

My parents split up at age 12 so I had a lot of firsts at that age you’ll notice. I’m not going to get into every little detail but rather I will just highlight a few things that made me the neurotic mess I am.  

My father’s idea of playing with me was throwing plastic spiders at me, knowing I was terrified of spiders. He thought making me scream was funny. You know when your parents used to say “if you don’t eat your food, I’ll dump it on your head.” He actually did that. When I wouldn’t eat my dinner, he’d dump it on my head and laugh hysterically. Somewhere there is a photo of me crying with clam chowder running down my face. Hilarious. 

I wasn’t allowed to stay overnight anywhere until my parents separated. I stayed overnight once or twice at my cousins’ house, but they lived next door and it took a lot of begging. At my cousins’ house we could stay up late watching TV and eating treats. At my house, I had to be in bed while it was still light out and no treats unless it was a Friday.

I wasn’t allowed treats. Not to say I never had any, but it was limited. Sugar was limited. As a child I was underweight but my mother was overweight so I think she was trying to prevent me from being overweight in some weird way. At Halloween she’d ration the treats much like the Third Reich rationed butter during the war. I’d still have candy left come April. Same thing happened at Easter and at Christmas. I think this made me indulge too much as an adult. I only tried McDonald’s for the first time at 12 when my friend’s Dad took us and I thought it was amazing! In my twenties I had ballooned up to 260 pounds. I have since lost that weight but it made me obsessed with food for years. 

My family aren’t the hugging ‘I love you’ type. The way we showed affection was to make fun of each other until someone ended up with a crippling case of self consciousness. I got made fun of for my choice in music, clothes, make up, friends, grades, you name it. Doing that resulted in a lack of confidence. I was also being bullied at school, I wished for love and reassurance from my family, but it has always remained just a wish.

I never had a shower until I was 12. We had a dug well so my father’s logic was that it would run dry. It never ran dry that I can remember but my father insisted that we take baths. So first my Mom would take hers, then I would take mine, then Dad would have his- all in the same tub of water. At the time, I figured that everyone did this, but then I heard they didn’t. It was just us. The first time I had a shower was at my stepmother’s house and I had to ask how to use it. She couldn’t believe I had never showered before. I flooded the bathroom not realizing to put the shower curtain inside the tub. Now I bathe several times a day. I am obsessed with hygiene and I’m a compulsive hand washer. 

I wasn’t allowed to have friends over, I had to spend my summers babysitting my younger step brother with not even an allowance. I wasn’t allowed to join extra curricular activities; the list goes on and on. My aunts and uncles labelled me “the little prisoner” as a child for a good reason. I felt like a chained up back yard dog that you only occasionally pay attention to. I think this is where my love of animals stem from. My pets would become my best friends. 

There are so many other things that come to mind, some of which are hard to talk about. As an adult I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with things, I have PTSD and have been clinically depressed since I was a teenager. Writing about it helps. It can be therapeutic. Seeing it in print and learning about other people’s experiences seems to make it a little easier to deal with.  

I don’t have a relationship with my parents. It’s been almost 2 years since I spoke to my father and 5 since I talked with my mother. I miss them but it’s more like I miss the idea of them rather than the actual people. It feels weird to say that, but it’s true. I don’t feel connected to my family, I never really have. I’ve just always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t belong simply because I’m not like them. I am more compassionate and sensitive, I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and I care about others. Some of these characteristics I attribute to the fact that I had a less than caring family and in many ways I’m glad that I am who I am.  

Just know that actions you take with your children can last a lifetime. It can hurt and even damage them. Show your kids what unconditional love is, be patient, listen to them. 

Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,

Sam

Image courtesy of tuelekza at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Appointments.  Are There Anything Worse?

I am sitting here dumping a Lukewarm cup of tea down my neck hole fussing about my appointments today in my head.
I’m guessing normal people don’t do this. They probably just get up feeling rested in the mornings, go to their jobs and appointments and then home to their pet unicorns and eat mana as it rains down from the Heavens.. 

Stress. Why do I stress about everything? My anxiety levels rise, my heart beats a little faster, I start walking into door frames and bumping into things as I am otherwise distracted by my worries, then I start chewing on my fingers and cuticles as scenarios play out in my mind.

Today’s appointment is with Mental Health. I have been dealing with clinical depression for my entire adult life. I’ve been on medication since I was 18 years old. I have severe anxiety as well as PTSD. I moved to Saint John, New Brunswick with my partner two years ago and it has been DIFFICULT to find doctors here. It turns out I moved to the sickest province in Canada; meaning there are more chronically ill people here than anywhere else in Canada. That means doctors have limits on how many patients they can see, it means limited access to specialists, long wait times and full emergency rooms at the hospitals. I also don’t have a vehicle so that makes transportation difficult. I have to do quite a bit of walking to get around, and on days like today (rainy, damp and cold) I am going to need an appointment with a long hot bath and my heating pad when I get home. So this appointment with Mental Health; I don’t know what to expect really, but these are the possible outcomes:

“Ugh you people with your “chronic illness” and your “chronic pain” don’t you know how much of a drag you people are? You people are just whiny little pissers who just can’t toughen up and deal.” I picture a nasally lady with glasses much too large for her face with one of those long gold chains that attaches to your glasses so you don’t lose them. She has a knitted sweater around her shoulders  probably knitted by her friend Myrtle last Christmas, poor Myrtle has the rheumatoid arthritis so she can’t knit like she used to so Sheila (that’s what I named the Mental Health lady) wears it often because it reminds her of the everyday struggles and that people can overcome anything. Sheila is also slapping a nightstick in her palm. Not sure where she got that but, I feel scared.

“Wow. You are literally THE craziest broad I have ever met. You need some serious help. How do you get through life at all even? I’m not sure I can continue this session today.” The uptight tight faced lady then places a call and requests Igor and Hugo immediately. At that point I am carted away by 2 beasts of men in a straight jacket against my will. 

“Yeah you have some legitimate issues for sure, unfortunately so does everyone else so you will need to go on a waiting list for a year or so. It could be less if suicide rates continue to rise.” This time it’s a man who looks like kind of like David Suzuki only less Asian. He’s wearing brown pants with brown loafers and grey socks to match his grey shirt. I find him oddly comforting so I agree to go on his list.

“What problems? You’re completely and utterly lying. Pain? You are not in a wheelchair nor do you have cancer, why are you wasting my time today?” This guy kind of looks like Sigmund Freud only he speaks with a British accent and wears his shirt collar buttoned up with a bow tie. Normally I think, ‘Bowties are cool’ but not in this particular case. It just comes across as simply pompous. 

I don’t make it to my appointment at all, instead I just collapse from exhaustion and pain in the street while the rain beats on my face. The camera pans out from above and I am all alone drowning in rain, tears and failures while people hurriedly walk past and over me.

Wow, that’s a little dramatic Sam, and yes I am aware of that but this is how my brain works. Mostly I’m simply afraid of opening up to yet another doctor/medical professional with little to no help as an end result.  

After this appointment, I have yet another with a social worker from Community Living here in the city. They assist people with disabilities attain help from different resources. I don’t have some of the documents they want though and need more time so again I stress.

What would a life without anxiety feel like? Would it be as liberating as I assume it would or would you even notice how lucky you are?

Worry

Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,
Sam

Photo credit http://www.demotivation.us/worrying-works-1281560.html

Mastering Myself in My 40s

cropped-ferry-n-chucks.jpgLet me begin by saying you will never master life.  You may master cooking the perfect pot roast, the art of knitting perfect stitches or baking the perfect cake, but never life.  You can improve your life through self examination, by releasing your intentions out into the universe, a healthier diet or yoga certainly, but I’m not sure any of us will ever master it.

 

Why I Struggled to Write This Piece

 

My friend approached over a month ago to submit a piece to her website dedicated to women Mastering Their 40s.  Eager to please and flattered she asked I embarked on something more than I expected.  I was stumped.  Me?  I haven’t mastered anything.  I have been disabled for a few years now and unable to work.  I struggle every day to get out of bed as I never feel rested from constant pain and restless sleep frequently filled with PTSD nightmares.  I am 43 but have the body (inside, biologically) of a 65-70 year old woman.  I have been plagued with illness my entire life and now I am constantly exhausted, it creates what they call “brain fog” so different days I am cognitively impaired, stiff and very sore.  It makes me miserable.  Illness, pain and depression stole and is slowly consuming my life.  I can’t do what others expect of me which frustrates me as well as them and leaves me burdened with a tremendous amount of guilt and self deprecation.  I thought to myself, “Who am I to give advice?” and, “I’m not that interesting or fabulous”

 

I Am Neurotic.  I Apologize

 

I’m not one of these broads that have it all together.  I don’t have a husband; I’m a gay woman, I have no children; I have a dog.  I will never own a home and I don’t have a vehicle.  I am poor.  Not, I can’t afford a cruise poor, but sometimes I can’t afford tampons poor.  I still drink sometimes, I smoke marijuana, and I curse a lot.  My idea of a fancy meal is delivery from Boston Pizza on pasta Tuesday with maybe a $15 dollar wine if it’s a special night.  I am more apt to drop my food on my shirt than to drop cash on something I don’t really need.  I have to be extremely frugal.  I am more apt to have a peanut butter and jam sandwich for dinner than orchestrate a full meal.  I am more likely to exchange delicious and inventive curse words with someone who cut me off in the crosswalk than to exchange delicious and inventive recipes with a friend.  Martha Stewart I am not.  I worry.  That’s what I do.  I worry about everything.  I stress about everything.  I get nervous about everything.  I fart when I’m nervous.   I am … a neurotic mess.  

    

So instead of writing advice or listing things that has helped me I’ve put together a few things that illustrate where I am as a woman in her forties.


Finding My Niche


Once I hit my forties, I threw out my thong underwear.  All of them.  Not because I was planning on giving up intimacy, not because I wasn’t concerned about VPL (visible panty line) but because I wanted to be comfortable.  My comfort comes before you seeing my panty creases in my pants.  For the first time I started to become more comfortable in my own skin.  I don’t have the body of a 25 year old; I never will, I am 43.  I have flabby arms, a big round bum and less than perky breasts.  So what?  So does every other 43 year old woman unless you’ve had surgery or live in Hollywood.  Now leave me alone with my bacon cheeseburger.  I also enjoy my food a lot more than I used to.  I take the time to taste each bite and savour flavours without worrying how long I need to spend on the stair climber to burn it off.

 

I also learned that working a 9-5 office job wasn’t for me.  I had to accept that and learn to be okay with that.  I needed to find ways to earn money from home and focus on writing more instead.  Writing has always been a passion of mine since I was a child and I take a lot of pleasure in completing and publishing a piece.


Taking Time to See the Beauty

We spend so much of our youth speeding to hit adulthood that we find ourselves in our forties thinking, “I missed so much.”  Then we spend our midlife and beyond trying to recapture our youth.  Enough of that.  Now I just try to savour moments like I savour food.  Take mental pictures of things that make you smile.  Remember details of the things you enjoy so you can revisit those moments on your bad days or store them in your brain locker for when you’re in your old age.  Whenever I encounter beauty, I breath it in, I fully immerse myself in that moment and remember every detail.  A breathtaking view overlooking the serenely sapphire Atlantic ocean on a sunny day when it seems the sun is dancing amongst the waves, the only sounds are the waves hitting the rocks and racing to the shoreline.   A peaceful swim on a quiet lake at midnight, the only light is that of the moonlight that reflects upon the still lake, the only sound being that of your own heartbeat as you float on your back, effortlessly breathing in the brilliant moon.  That delicious meal you’ve been waiting for and it’s finally arrived; the aromas, the colors, the textures, that perfect sear on a meaty juicy buttery steak; that first bite as it pleasures your palette with delicacy and satisfaction.

 

People can be so removed from the moment, thinking of something else, worrying, stressing.  These actions do not serve us at all.  All they do is distract us from things we should be enjoying.  When you’re with your family or close friends- BE with them.  Put your phones down, talk and really listen to one another.  

Exercising Gratitude

This was a big thing for me to do.  Struggling with illness and depression for so many years and not having the support I truly needed left me with the sour taste of bitterness throughout my thirties.  Sure I sometimes took time out to express gratitude to God, but I felt pretty jaded and cheated.  It wasn’t until my latter thirties early forties I really tried to take time out daily to think about what I was grateful for in my life and to come to terms with my sexuality despite my faith and beliefs.  Through prayer I determined that God knew what was best, that I should live my life genuinely and honestly.  I spend a few moments each night reflecting on that day and I thank God for putting certain people in my life, providing food and clothing and shelter in addition to His love and forgiveness.  


I Couldn’t Care Less About Gossip

There’s an old adage that says,
  

 “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

I have tried to move away from paying attention to things like gossip for example which seems to not only require a lot of time and energy that in the end benefits no one.  So why waste the energy?  Let’s talk instead about I don’t know… Changes in our society and how to adapt, because I don’t know about you but, doesn’t it seem there are far more important things to talk about right now?   There’s that impending war, or the changes in our laws that affect everyone or how our food has become practically toxic to most people?  Hey, those bees are still dying.  There’s an increasing rise of violence and crime?  The fact that respect and courtesy are dying attributes in our society?  I don’t know about you but I am ready to pop those snotty kids at the drive thru windows these days… But hey, I digress.

    

Writing Notes For Myself

I have several notebooks that I have stored all over my apartment, my purse, my nightstand and by my couch.  Each notebook serves a purpose.  I have one for short stories, one for poetry, one for writing ideas, one for organization- listing things I need to do or take care of, one for hopes and one for prayers.  Writing is a great tool for self discovery.  It allows you the freedom of emptying your heart without judgement.  It’s therapeutic to put into writing how you feel, how you’ve grown and the things you’ve learned about yourself, the world and others.  It allows you to be present in that moment and experience those feelings.  I find even spending just a few minutes a day with just myself and my words leaves me with a small sense of peace and accomplishment.  

Self Care

This is still fairly a new concept to me but I am taking it in stride.  As we get older and get bogged down by every day life: Work, children, spouses, finances, illness, it becomes crucial that we take moments out for ourselves.  Even if it’s a long hot bath or a solo shopping trip.  Taking care of ourselves and our health allows us to put our best selves forward.  If we are healthy, happy and strong we can be better spouses, parents, employees and friends.  We can be more supportive of others and lead by example.

Meaning What You Say/Saying What You Mean

I spent a lot of my thirties searching for inner peace, immersing myself in my faith, reading a lot of self help books and I even went back to school for Nutrition and Wellness, Personal Training and Fitness Instruction.  I guess I spent a lot of my thirties trying to become a better version of myself.  Along this journey I stumbled across a little book called The Four Agreements you may have heard about it through a friend or through the original lady’s guru Oprah.  Admit it, you watched it, we all did.  One of the agreements is to Say What You Mean and Mean what you say.  That resonated with me simply because as a Customer Service/Sales person for years, I had heard  A LOT and what always frustrated me was people who beat around the bush.  Just say what you mean but only say it if you really mean it.  Words can easily be thrown around like monkey feces at a zoo and sometimes words can hurt people.  So think about what you’re going to say before you say it.  I have a checklist:

  1. Is it important?  
  2. Will it make an impact?
  3. Is what I am going to say going to possibly hurt someone’s feelings?
  4. Is it really necessary?

If it’s not necessary and if it’s just a matter of pride to speak up and voice your opinion, like just to prove you’re right for example then I say nothing.  Whatever little quip or sarcastic remark I may be thinking, I refrain from saying it out loud.  It takes a lot of practice and I have the bite marks on my tongue to prove it, but think of how much nicer the world would be if people considered these things before speaking?

 

I don’t know, I’m no expert in anything as I previously stated.  I’m just a broad with a potty mouth who is trying desperately to just be a good person.  

 

Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,

Sam

Burger Lover