The Weight of it All

You know that weight that comes to crush you – that weight when you have so much to do, and you’re stressed, tired, and just generally overwhelmed, and then this weight comes to visit and all of a sudden you don’t do anything? You’re just done. You decide that you’re not going to do any of it because you’re just so overwhelmed. And then you feel bad about yourself because you haven’t done anything off your list, or anything at all really except watch reruns of a tv show that you’ve seen a million times before. That weight can be soul crushing.

Anxiety is that weight for me. Oh sure, I get that weight like everyone else gets it. I get it when I’ve said yes to too many things, and when I have so much to do that I just tap out.

But then.

Then I get it in the form of anxiety. All of a sudden leaving the apartment is impossible because the weight is too heavy – because panic is too close. Eating right is not going to happen. Exercise? Nope. Then to distract myself from it I read. And I read a lot. And then when I finish reading the anxiety is usually still there waiting, but now it’s brought a friend. Self-loathing because I didn’t do anything that I was supposed to. Because I haven’t been productive. Because I’ve wasted time and wasted life doing nothing because this weight is so encompassing.

So what do you do? God, I wish there was a button I could push, a cure all pill that I could take to make the anxiety just go away permanently. But, as we all know, life doesn’t work like that now does it?

On the bad days, the weighted days, I give myself permission to do what I can and to not do what I can’t. It seems like a silly small thing, but it helps. Some days are just not going to be good days. And that’s okay.

And on the good days – the days when I feel light and ready to tackle every problem – I cherish them. Because they are just so damn good. And they remind me that even though sometimes you have bad days, that’s okay. Because there is always a good day coming your way.

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Apartment Stories: Anxiety

Anxiety is a rather constant companion of mine. It use to be an every wakeful moment companion, a not let me sleep companion, and then it also use to bring its close cousin panic attack to the party. Thankfully, those days are behind me (for the most part), and anxiety only usually shows up occasionally, for small doses of time. Then this past week happened.

This past week –  last Sunday night and not stopping until about Friday evening, was rather brutal. Anxiety was with me more often than not. Doug, got sick last Sunday night, Monday we got our apartment sprayed for cockroaches. Those seem like insignificant things in the grand scheme of things – and they are…now. At the time it was anything but.

See, I have a phobia of throwing up. And Doug was throwing up. Was I there for him and taking care of him when he was sick – of course. Did I lose it thoroughly afterwards to my anxiety? Yes. Did I have a panic attack? No. Years ago I would have. So small steps in the right direction.

Then the spraying of the apartment. I had a sick boyfriend sleeping finally, and a piece of paper saying that I didn’t have to leave the apartment. Turns out the paper I had was wrong and we did have to leave – for 6 hours. Packed up sick boyfriend and we all went to my grandmother’s. Oh, and did I mention I was working from home that day too?

The next 48 hours were spent with me worried – irrationally worried – that I was going to get sick. Was I? No. Even writing that sentence makes me a little anxious because I’m afraid I’m jinxing myself. Doug had night shifts later in the week, and I slept over at my parent’s place after finding another cockroach after the spray and losing it. Because, hey, I hadn’t really been sleeping well. You can’t really sleep if you can’t really stop shaking.

The big triggers for me from this week that set me off were the throwing up and the change of my routine. Everything in the kitchen was in the living room and dining room, the stuff from the bathroom was in the hall and the bedroom. The apartment was in disarray, and I felt like I was in disarray already. Small drops of water as it were, that easily turn into a flood.

Now reading all of this from my calm mental and relaxed state – I know that I sound irrational. And that’s because it is. Anxiety is irrational. A switch gets flipped, a light goes off and all of a sudden your flight or fight response is triggered for no rational reason. And it can (as it did in this case) go on for days. It can be terrifying when you can’t easily calm down, and there’s no rational way to explain why you can’t.

So how did I calm myself?

As the week when on it started getting a little less on its own. I helped it along by meditating a lot. Meditating slows down your wayward thoughts, makes you breathe deeper, forces you to calm down slowly. I use the app Insight Timer. A friend of mine recommended it and it’s wonderful. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of meditations all for free. It’s fantastic.

I walked. Doug and I (when he’s not on night shift) taken 30-60 min walks around the neighbourhood. The exercise is light, but it gets you moving, gets your endorphins running, and by going with Doug it gave me someone to talk when my brain started running away with me again.

I also purposefully made this weekend my “reset weekend”. Doug and I put the kitchen and bathroom back together because a) it had to happen and b) it made me feel so much better. Friday night I went to bed at 9:30 and slept for about 9 hours. I woke up feeling refreshed. Saturday I made my day of rest – I cooked myself French toast for breakfast, I read, I relaxed. Sunday, was (is) more productive as we cleaned the apartment, and I sat down at my laptop to work. But even so, Sunday (today) is being approached with a relaxed productivity. Things need to get done, but there’s no racing around. It’s almost like nesting or puttering.

So here’s what I’ve been reminded of this weekend. Life happens, and it’s okay to fall apart after you’ve handled the important things (like taking care of a sick boyfriend), and it’s also okay to take the time to reset yourself. We’re not machines, and sometimes we don’t function like we think we should. And that’s all okay. We just have to take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and most importantly try to remain positive that the irrational cloud that’s hanging over us from time to time isn’t a permanent fixture in the skyline.

Apartment Stories: Moving In

Near the end of May I moved in with Doug, boyfriend extraordinaire and love of my life. We had always planned on moving in together this year, but a shitty living situation at his old apartment (a neighbour with a reoccurring bedbug problem that became Doug’s reoccurring problem) had us looking for a place earlier than we anticipated.

Doug moved into our new place in January, and I lived at the apartment on the weekends. I was saving up for a car, which is why I wasn’t able to move in at the beginning of the year. The apartment though was always “ours”. My name was on the lease with his, we furnished and decorated together, and also moved in some of my stuff in January too.

Finally, I moved in at the end of May, and I have to say the first week was a bit rough for me. I have an anxiety problem, and ulcerative colitis. Each of those on their own sucks, but the fun times start when one of them sets off the other, and that’s what happened the first week of me officially moving in.

I am not good with change or with new things. Do I adapt and overcome and succeed? Absolutely. It just takes me a little bit longer than everyone else to do that. I think Doug was worried for the first week that I regretted moving in or that I was going to change my mind because I was just so anxious. And I kept reassuring him that it was simply because everything was new.

Lo and behold by week 2 and 3 I was no longer anxious. There was no hum zipping through me like electricity or anything. Do I still get anxious in general? Of course. It’s something I deal with on a regular basis, and Doug is amazingly wonderful for helping me deal, and just being supportive. But the “new apartment, this is where I live now” anxiety is completely gone because this is home.

Anxiety is fantastic at helping you live inside a little box where you get way too comfortable – and incredibly bored. So, as nerve-wracking as it is, you have to continuously push yourself to try new things and move forward because while the anxiety can get really bad, it never lasts, and it is so worth it when you get to the other side of “new”.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s Apartment Story!

5 Things: walks, books, musicals, and colouring

My 5 Things this week, is as ever, inspired by Emily and Cupcakes and Cashmere.

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Last weekend I hung out with my friends Carmen and Sarah, and we went to the east end of Toronto to have lunch, do a little shopping and to take a nice walk. This picture is from our walk in Glen Stewart park. It’s completely gorgeous and very peaceful.

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Last weekend I also went and saw Matilda the musical with my mom at the Ed Mirvish theatre. It was very cute, and I loved the story that Matilda told about the escape artist and the acrobat. The girl can definitely tell a tale. It also makes me want to read Matilda.

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The best boyfriend in the world (aka Doug) order me the new Harry Potter for my birthday back in March. He picked it up for me while I was at Matilda and dropped it off at my place, along with a chocolate glazed donut (my favourite), with a note on the bag that said, “because power reading needs a little energy xoxoxoxo.” How awesome is he?! Also, my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming on Tuesday!

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I know that some people find adult colouring ridiculous, however, I find that it really helps me when my anxiety kicks in. This is one that I’ve been working on for a night or two, and I do it while I watch tv. I find that it gives my brain something else to concentrate on (because sometimes tv isn’t enough to keep my attention) and it also gives my hands something to do. It’s incredibly relaxing.

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My two books that I’m currently reading! I’ve just started both of them, and I’m excited for them. They should be really good!

The Lure of the Bookstore

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved books. I use to play library as a kid. I would have all of my stuffed animals set up for story time and then I would pretend that my bedroom walls were really bookshelves and I would walk around looking for the perfect book to read. Once I found the perfect one I would “pull” it from my wall, after which it would turn into a physical book – one that I had already preselected to read and of course my stuffed animals never knew the little magic trick. Or if they did they never let on that they knew – and with physical book in hand I would read to my little audience, even before I could read on my own.

At school, I was always the girl who was reading – I inhaled books. I definitely remember using the library as a kid, and being awed that I could check out so many books – it seemed, at the time, more books than I could ever want to check out. And my little library card got a great work out. But somewhere along the way, I started using the library less and less, and started using the bookstore more and more.

When I was kid, Beauty and the Beast was (and let’s be real, still is) my favourite Disney movie (hello that library?!). I loved Belle because I felt like her. She loved to read, and no one around her really did. And all she really wanted was what I wanted: “And for once it might be grand, to have someone, understand.” It’s hard for your head to be full of stories and for no one around you to have any in theirs.

Belle at the beginning of the movie sings a song as she walks to the village to visit the bookstore. The bookseller is the only one who gets her love of reading and readily lets her borrow books.

This scene was the scene that I acted out when I was kid. My parents would put the song on, or the movie on for me, and I would skip around our house with my little wicker basket and pretend that I was Belle going to the bookstore. When I “got there,” I had a hardcover book  that my parents used when they were kids and I put it in my basket and skip “home,” singing the song as I went.

Because of moments like that, and many many others where my parents would take me to bookstores and let me buy what I wanted, bookstores are my kryptonite.

The perfect gift that you can ever give me is to let me wander into a bookstore with no time limit on when I have to come out again. Some of my favourite afternoons are spent when my best friend/sister and I go to the bookstore and just wander. We can definitely spend at least an hour, though probably longer, browsing, shopping, and talking about books.

I started also using bookstores as a kind of therapy. Time stops for me when I enter a bookstore, and I relax. Walking through the shelves is wonderful because I meet old friends that I’ve either read before or have sitting on my own shelves back at home, and they introduce me to new friends. New adventures. New escapes. New ideas and thoughts and dreams.

The bookstore closest to me has just closed recently. It’s been there for a very long time, and in fact I use to work there a couple of years ago. (I might as well have asked them to just pay me in the books, the amount of books I bought while working there was ridiculous). There’s another one opening in the mall across the street, but it isn’t open yet.

I didn’t realize just how often I depended on that bookstore until it was closed. A couple of days ago I needed to get out of the house, and destress. I was halfway out of the house before I remembered that there isn’t a nice big bookstore to walk around in anymore. At least not until the new one opens. Instead of going to the bookstore I read instead, which was good, but not what I really wanted at that moment in time.

Bookstores are definitely one of my happy places. I can’t resist going into one, and when I travel I’m always popping into bookstores to check them out. And the funny thing is no matter where I am in the world, if I’m in a bookstore I relax and I feel like I’m home.

 

 

Personal Friday: The Happiness Jar

Everyone has bad days. It’s a given. Most of my bad days come from my colitis and my anxiety (most, not all). I find that when one of those acts up or when both of them act up at the same time it’s very easy for my thoughts to turn negative and my energy to lower and to just feel all around down.

My thought process when this happens also quickly becomes something like “it’s always going to be this way,” “it’s never going to get better,” “no one will want to be with me because of these problems,” etc.

So, to combat these negative thoughts and feelings when they happen, I’m taking a page from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, and making a happiness jar. I follow Elizabeth on Instagram and recently she posted a picture of her happiness jar, and explained what it is.

Essentially it’s you, every day, writing down on a piece of paper something about the day that made you happy and putting it in the jar. It seems simply enough. But it’s a powerful thing I think to combat your bad days.

My plan to help combat my negative thoughts when I have them, when I think that “it’s always going to be this way,” or “I’m always going to feel this way,” is to simply look at my jar – my jar full of happiness – and remember and see right there in front of me that no it won’t always be this way and here are the moments that prove it.

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I got the jar from the dollar store, and I was just going to use whatever paper I had lying around, but the jar is ribbed so it’s a little hard to see into, and thus regular paper is super hard to see in it. So I went back to the dollar store and bought a little thing of coloured paper, which as you can see in the above picture, shows up better in the jar. I think that this is going to be a good thing for me, and it cost me less than $5. You really can’t go wrong with that.

I’ve also realized since starting this that even on my bad days, I can find something to be happy about. I’ve noticed too that I’m a bit more aware of my days, and what happens in them because I’m looking for the happy moments, and I think that also helps change your attitude about the day because it puts it and your brain into a more positive setting.

So thank you very much Elizabeth Gilbert for sharing the idea 🙂