Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Is there no way out of the mind?" - Sylvia Plath

Sometimes it feels like I have spent the vast majority of my life actively attempting to survive it.*

I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but since I was in grade 7 I've suffered from varying forms of mental illness. In University I was officially diagnosed with Depression and generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some days, on bad days, it does feel more like surviving than living.

The truth is that a lot of the time I feel a sort of disconnect to everything...like there is some sort of invisible emotional barrier keeping me from fully being in contact with the outside world. Feelings and experiences take ages to sink in and sometimes they don't at all. I experience an almost complete inability to live in the present at times. I get confused easily. I often have to concentrate very hard to keep a train of thought or to remember what someone told me. Things that may have happened a day ago somehow vanish from my brain and to access them again I need to sit and focus for a long time, or be reminded. The worst of all of it is someone telling me they love me and me just...not feeling it.

It's these things that make me hate my depression, hate being on pills.

Otherwise, my depression is like a scar from childhood- a faded line on my body that I can trace with my fingertips. It's ugly and marred, but it's been with me so long I wouldn't quite know how to be me without it.

My depression is cyclical. It comes and it goes for varying amounts of time. It's been doing this since I was young and yet I never quite see it coming or even realize it's arrived until it's been there a while. It all starts with my not giving a flying fuck. "I don't care about my health, I'm gonna smoke. Who cares if people think I'm fat? This is my body and I wanna eat that whole god damned cake! My room is a disaster, but whatever, it is what it is." At first it really is a comfort, you feel free...it's usually around the point that I'm eating six meals a day and smoking about as many cigarettes that I realize something has gone terribly wrong. Once I've clued in, I then realize it's been a few weeks since I've actually truly ENJOYED anything. I look in the mirror and realize I've gained ten pounds and I absolutely HATE myself for it. For all of it...and of course, that doesn't help matters. I then end up on a self-hate spiral. You're FAT. You're UGLY. You don't DESERVE love. You're WEAK. You are a PIECE OF SHIT. Part of you knows that as soon as you're out of this haze you wont feel that way anymore, but in that moment you're helpless. And it is a haze. It's like being stuck in a thick fog where everything seems warped and unclear. One day out of no where I will wake up and the fog is just...gone, as if it were never there. End of cycle. All of a sudden I can see the mess around me and I want to clean. I want to exercise. I want to eat better. I want to smile. And I do...I do it for as long as my mind stays clear, but eventually old depression will come around the corner again.

Sometimes it takes an obscene amount of effort for me to live my day to day life. It's like trudging through mud. The effort it takes on a bad day for me to get out of bed and be at work and laugh and joke...I don't think it's that hard for other people. On those days I constantly have to remind myself to smile and that everything is going to be fine. That one little mistake I made isn't the end of the world. I repeat my mantra of,"I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm okay." while my hands shake. 

Today is Bell Canada's "Let's Talk" day.  It's about ending the stigma of mental illness across the country. If I can help someone even a little by sharing even this small part of my story, then I'm happy to. If I can get even one person to maybe show compassion instead of indifference when facing someone with a mental illness, then job done. A bit of kindness and empathy can go a long way.

I wanna say for worried friends and family who read this - I'm alright. Really, I am. I'm still the same silly Karla who will put a box on her head just to get a laugh out of customers at work. I've just days ago come out of another cycle and I'm on a new medication that lets me really feel things again. I haven't touched a cigarette since September. Life is good for now. I know at some point things will get dark again, but I'm luckier than most: I have people who love and support me unconditionally through the really dark times. I have people who understand...too many people just don't have that.

Don't be afraid to speak up if you need help. Don't be afraid of who you are. Don't be afraid to talk.

 *I just realized that I ripped this line from Hyperbole & A Half. I honestly didn't realize it at the time. I should have known better, I've never been that eloquent.

drawing by Sylvia Plath

Here are some useful links to help you better understand mental illness:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Salad In A Jar, Apples In A Bag or Things I've Learned From Pinterest

When I first heard of Pinterest over a year ago, I scoffed. Why on earth would I need another social media platform? My best friend Kate insisted I sign up, requesting my help with her 'wedding board' for her impending nuptials. Soon there after I became an addict. A dirty, dirty addict. It really didn't take that long, for I am a collector of...things. You see, when I was a kid I romanticized the idea of always being prepared for anything. I saw that little boy in the film 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' who had a bag full of seemingly random but useful things and wanted to be that cool. Thus, my love of collecting was born. As a child I collected rocks in jars, clippings about Dawson's Creek from magazines and posters of JTT. As an adult I have a button/pin collection and save every neat image I come across on the internet. One never knows when one might need a random still from The Simpsons (see fig. A) or a picture of a walrus in agony over the loss of his precious bucket. These could be important things!

The point is, Pinterest played into my love of collection. I could make neat little boards of my interests, recipes, places, anything my heart desired! AND I could share it with people! AND it took up none of the precious little space left on my hard drive. Pinterest and I were a match made in heaven.

But Pinterest is not only a place for my image hoarding, it is also a place of learning. I have learned much about my fellow humans and myself over the course of this past year-and-a-bit. I wish today to share some of those lessons with you:

1. People Hate Themselves. Deep down, we all really, really hate ourselves. I've come to this conclusion from the sheer amount of exercise and diet dogma that appears in this place. People will turn anything into an exercise routine. Watching Doctor Who? Here is a game you can play to keep fit: every time the Doctor says 'Allonsy!' do a sit up! Cooking dinner? Extend your pinky five times to keep fit! While I find some of these crazes great if you are seriously obese or seriously unhealthy, I often see them on my friends boards who are healthy, tiny or athletic people. A healthy diet and moderate exercise will keep you fit. I know I'm not an expert, but I would rather be pudgy and happy than stick thin and miserable. I just can't fall for that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" crap.
2. I Apparently Hate Myself. I am not exempt from the above. I have repinned recipes and exercise plans that promise an easy fix. I don't use any of them cause I'm too busy over here eating that chocolate cake that someone repinned from Martha Stewart Living.
3. ALL THE THINGS. Much like youtube, if there is something you want to learn how to do, you will find the know-how on Pinterest. My How-To board is my most popular and has 1000+ followers. Thanks to Pinterest I now know how to bind my own book, contour my face, make a squirrel stuffed toy using only an old glove and a sewing kit, and how to painlessly remove splinters!

4. Everyone On The Internet Is Craftier Than Me. I feel like somewhere along the line I should have learned how to knit, paint, photograph or create. The education system has failed me. I want to make myself that olive green cardigan out of an old t-shirt, but god damn it, how the fuck do I use a sewing machine!? I guess I should refer myself to number 3.
5. Everyone Is More Prepared For Their Weddings Than Me. It appears every girl on the planet except for me planned for their perfect weddings as children. The women (and some men) of Pinterest have great ideas for themes and venues and flowers! I just know that I one day would like to be married. In a dress. That's probably white. In a place where my future husband can't wear flip-flops, because no.
6. We All Need A Little Encouragement. Some of my favourite boards are ones where people have pinned inspirational quotes or lovely song lyrics. It's nice to know that we're all going through similar things, have similar feelings and find solace in the same places. Solidarity, man!
In the end I fear these may only be lessons to me. Perhaps if you use Pinterest you will learn completely different or contrary things. Perhaps you will actually make that t-shirt cardigan or gluten-free pumpkin pie. Maybe I should get off the internet and learn some real life lessons. 

fig. A

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Adventures In Social Anxiety: There's A Pill For That

If you ever meet me in passing, chances are you will think I'm a giant weirdo.

No, really.

I am so ridiculously socially awkward. I have no idea how to make normal small talk. I want so badly to make a good impression and it's almost like my brain shuts down so that all it can do is attempt to make people laugh in bizarre ways (my default setting). In new company I am almost always either way too honest or I make a deprecating joke that would be totally acceptable for close friends but is borderline offensive to most strangers. The end result of this is people thinking I'm a giant bitch or a weirdo. Or both.

If I could just stop talking after the initial "Hi, nice to meet you!" there would be no problem, but I can't do that. Another thing I tend to do is word vomit the absolute strangest thoughts I've ever had like a really bad 'best of' tape. For instance, a really great plot for a slasher flick (I got very blank stares) or my family's lineage (OHMYGODKARLA,NOONECARESSTOPTALKING). Were it fully functioning my brain would say "Hey Karla, let's not share this weird (but awesome) idea for a movie to total strangers who don't know you and thus don't know that you're a perfectly sane and reasonably adjusted person". Instead, my brain says "TELL THEM. TELL THEM EVERYTHING. MAYBE THEY WILL LAUGH....WHY AREN'T THEY LAUGHING. OH GOD, THEY'RE STARING, MAKE A JOKE. QUICK!"  and after that flops I'll probably involuntarily make a quip about something offensive and it either gets better or much, much worse depending on the company.

I think maybe I try too hard.

Perhaps the worst part of all of it is that afterwards I can't stop thinking about the horribly awkward exchange. How I came off like an incredible jerk-wad and how perhaps for the sake of society I should bury my head in the sand AND NEVER COME OUT. Of course the reality of the situation is that this stranger probably forgot about me immediately, or even better - not thought anything was awkward at all. And really, it shouldn't matter so much what people who don't even know me think. I have friends who love me (see: tolerate me), a family who thinks I'm cool and a boyfriend who somehow finds me endearing. It still matters, though. I hate it, but it still matters and until I learn not to give a damn my brain will continue to sabotage my attempts at making a good first impression.

So. Hi there! Nice to meet you! Have you heard the one about the nun, the vampire and the rapist who walked into the bar?

 Cried every awkward person ever.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Strangers on this road we are on...

If I could meet one person living or dead, I would meet Vincent Van Gogh and ask him to paint my portrait. It would be an incredible honour, that's for sure, but mostly I just want to see what he sees. Would he paint my sorrow? Would his heart see the heaviness of mine? Or maybe he would see my joy. The part of me that radiates. My light. Perhaps he would see something in me that is yet unknown to myself.

Or maybe he would tell me to go fuck myself and to pass him another shot of absinthe. Yes, probably that.

That would be an honour, too.

The Olive Trees Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In want of a genetic abnormality.

I have dark blonde hair but I've always found myself in want of it being orange or red. I adore the fieriness of the colour, found it sexy and intriguing. I imagine my life with a crimson mop as more exciting and maybe dangerous (as if I could have been a spy were I born with one more "genetic flaw"). I've always had a secret red-headed desire, but after thoroughly considering the subject I suspect I wouldn't truly appreciate it were I to have it. Think of a red-head in your life. How many times have you heard them bemoan the redness their hair? Or maybe you yourself have thick curly hair and have always wished for it to be straight, but your friend with the seemingly perfect, thin hair (that appears to not deviate a single strand) just wishes hers would hold a curl even once. I, for instance, know a girl who has the most gorgeous and natural strawberry blonde locks but has spent every day of her adult life with it dyed almost every colour of the rainbow. I would murder puppies (sorry puppies) for hair her natural colour and yet here she's been wanting anything but since she was a child.

The long and the short of it is that we always want what we don't or can't have...it's a universal truth. So I say I want a head of violently ruby hair, but if I was magically granted it today I'd probably wish for a return to my dark blonde. Maybe we should just spend more time appreciating what we have and our lives the way they are instead of wishing for something else. We'd almost definitely be happier.

If only lust could be thwarted by common sense. Ah well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Same old song and dance.

We're taught from childhood that being an adult means growing up, which in turn implies eventually being fully grown. I feel like that's a bit of a lie and it clashes with other things that we've been taught our entire lives. Things like the fact that we're never to old to learn something new, that learning itself means personal growth, and that something new can be gleaned from every single day. We're constantly in a state of growth in one way or another.

Being older has certainly made me wiser. Who would have thought that adults were right when we were children? There are some things you just can't fully understand until you're older. It makes me almost feel bad for hormonal youngsters (I say that as if I, at 27, am closer to 103) who think they know it all. However with knowledge comes responsibility and responsibility...well, it sucks (I could use a more "adult" word, but I feel this one does it the justice my inner child craves). Just because I'm wiser in the ways of the world doesn't mean I make better decisions or magically have solutions to all of life's problems...that's the real issue. It comes back around to the fact that we're always growing and while I'm wiser now than I was at 17, my future self possesses a wisdom that I am yet to know or comprehend, and so on until the day I die. By the time we know it all, it's too late to really use any of it.

We never really finish growing...so I guess when people say it seems like I'll never grow up, it's kinda true.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tis the season...

Christmas is just around the corner, so I thought I'd collect my wishlists all in one place. If anyone ever reads this, feel free to share yours!