Haggling For Peace

I was out for a walk yesterday when I crossed paths with a Buddhist monk.

While we passed one another he held out a card, smiled, and softly said “peace to you.”

I took it, thanked him and continued walking when I heard him call back.

I turned to see him opening a book and waving a pen towards me. The top of the book explained that he was Buddhist and relied on the generosity of others.

I awkwardly shrugged. “Peace” he clarified, pointing at the card, “$40.”

Taken aback, I said “I’m sorry, I don’t–”

“$20?” He negotiated.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any money.”

“Okay, okay. $10.”

I pulled my wallet from my pocket, opened it, showing all of the pockets were empty.

“No money?” He asked.

“No money.” I answered. “Or, well…” I smiled uncomfortably and fished a tonnie out of my pocket, offering it.

He took the coin without a word and walked away.

Peace is out of my price range, it seems.

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Let’s Talk About It

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My dad and I went to an event at Brock tonight called “Let’s Talk About It”, wherein a panel of students, parents, and nurses openly discussed mental health issues. It was really interesting, and well done. Three current students spoke openly about their struggles with different types of mental illness, the mother of a student discussed her experience both with her own issues, and being the parent of a child going through it (there was a recent article in the Review about them), and a nurse from Health Services moderated / answered questions.

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The whole thing was about an hour and a half, and anyone interested can watch a recording here. I was pleased to see that Brock’s relationship with students who are dealing with mental health problems has vastly improved in the years since I graduated. Not to say it was terrible back then, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it could have been. The event itself was put together by a committee that included Brock, CMHA Niagara, Niagara Public Health, and a student group called Active Minds.

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All of the speakers openly discussed their histories, victories, and loses with mental illness. It was incredibly emotional to listen to, and I give them so much credit for standing up there and doing it. I’m honestly not sure I could.

In saying that, I can’t finish a blog titled ‘Let’s Talk About It’ with an ‘Or not’ comment. I’ve always tried to be as open as I’m comfortable with, which has often meant writing over speaking. But I’m not sure I’ve really openly discussed my full experience before. I made a brief summary of it on Ending The Stigma, back before it crashed and burned. ‘Brief’ being the operative word.

So… *deep breath* …in the hopes of helping to break the cycle of silence, end the stigma, and ‘talk about it’, here we go…

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About It”

Explaining Panic: An Open Letter

I’ve become accustomed to explaining (or attempting to explain) anxiety and panic disorder to people. Seriously, I should just print out little cards with the CMHA blurb written on them and pull it out whenever I meet someone new.

“Hi, I’m Spencer. Are you familiar with panic disorder? Here’s a leaflet…

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a feeling of intense fear or terror that lasts for a short period of time. It involves physical sensations like a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, shaking, sweating or nausea. Some people feel like they’re having a heart attack or suffocating, others fear that they are dying.

Panic attacks can be a normal reaction to a stressful situation or a part of another mental illness. With panic disorder, panic attacks seem to happen for no reason. People who experience panic disorder fear more panic attacks and may worry that something bad will happen as a result of the panic attack.

Got it? Awesome. Please keep it in mind in the future! Oh, and nice to meet you!”

Now, of course it’s never that straightforward and simple, but I’ve made a point over the last 5 years or so to not shy away from talking to people about it. Chances are that if we have even casual contact with once another you’re going to see me having an attack eventually.

Unfortunately, every once in awhile I reach a place of thinking ‘what’s the point?’

Especially knowing from experience that such a definition is meaningless to most people. Because in spite of a diagnosis from a doctor and the above explanation, I still find myself stuck in regular conversations where I’m told things like “for god sake stop it, you’re an adult!” or “just get over it” or “try harder” etc, etc, etc.

I understand that the people around me are frustrated, I really do. But saying things like that on regular basis do nothing whatsoever to help. In fact, not surprisingly, they hinder. Do you not realize that whatever frustration you’re feeling, I’m feeling tenfold? Honestly, you think it sucks being around me for an hour or two- Try living inside my head. It’s a nightmare. And, bonus, after a short period of time in my company you get to leave. I don’t.

And this is every single day for me. I have panic attacks for little to no reason on a daily basis, meaning that on a daily basis my body freaks the fuck out when my brains sends a ‘you’re going to die‘ red alert signal. My blood pressure skyrockets, my nose bleeds, it feels like someone is standing on my chest, and I can’t stop crying. This has become my life. Do you honestly think I’m not beyond infuriated with it? Do you not think that’s why I’ve been going to doctor after doctor, trying medication after medication for years? Did it ever occur to you the lengths I’ve gone to find relief from this? The things I’ve done that I would never even utter on this blog, but done nonetheless because at the time they’re all that worked?

I’m sorry that me and my imbalanced brain are an occasional annoyance to you. But this is my (often unbearable) reality. I can’t even escape it when I sleep! Did you know I wake up sweating, nose bleeding, and crying from dream-induced attacks on a regular basis? Plus the panic/anxiety is often worsened by other factors like depression and PMS. Please don’t even ask me what the trifecta looks like… I’ve only just worked up the nerve to talk to my doctor about that one!

Anyway, the point being: I know I’m a lot to take and if you need to bow out, I understand. You won’t be the first and you certainly won’t be the last. But for everyone else- the family and ‘you’re stuck with me forever’ friends- please don’t be too harsh. All of that frustration and anger you’re feeling towards me, know that I’m feeling it towards myself too. Spending too long with me, does not a good relationship make. Small doses, all that. It’s the reason I try and keep a lot of space between visits. It’s the reason I try not to stay in one place for too long. It’s the reason I generally stick solo.

I’m sure that sounds fairly sad and pathetic to most, but it’s how I roll. I’ve always done my own thing, in my own time, and have been fortunate enough in life to find some people who get that. And the rest, well, I vent to them in passive-aggressive blogs that they’ll probably never read.

IMG_8524One day I’ll know this to be true.

 

Autumn With Bruce & Glen

Happy Thanksgiving! I spent a lovely day solo hiking the Bruce Trail and at the Niagara Glen, and then finished it off with a pumpkin spice muffin. Mmm. The colours are pretty amazing right now. Niagara in the autumn really is a sight.

autumn2Bruce Trail

autumn5Queenston Quarry

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autumn1Niagara Glen  autumn6Niagara Glen 

16 Small Steps To Happiness

I just came across this and love it. 16 small steps to happiness:

1. push yourself to get up before the rest of the world – start with 7am, then 6am, then 5:30am. go to the nearest hill with a big coat and a scarf and watch the sun rise.

2. push yourself to fall asleep earlier – start with 11pm, then 10pm, then 9pm. wake up in the morning feeling re-energized and comfortable.

3. erase processed food from your diet. start with no lollies, chips, biscuits, then erase pasta, rice, cereal, then bread. use the rule that if a child couldn’t identify what was in it, you don’t eat it.

4. get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. sit and eat it and do nothing else.

5. stretch. start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes. roll your head. stretch your fingers. stretch everything. 

6. buy a 1L water bottle. start with pushing yourself to drink the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

7. buy a beautiful diary and a beautiful black pen. write down everything you do, including dinner dates, appointments, assignments, coffees, what you need to do that day. no detail is too small.

8. strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine. put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener in there and wash. make your bed in full.

9. organise your room. fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. light a beautiful candle.

10. have a luxurious shower with your favourite music playing. wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth. lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

11. push yourself to go for a walk. take your headphones, go to the beach and walk. smile at strangers walking the other way and be surprised how many smile back. bring your dog and observe the dog’s behaviour. realise you can learn from your dog.

12. message old friends with personal jokes. reminisce. suggest a catch up soon, even if you don’t follow through. push yourself to follow through.

14. think long and hard about what interests you. crime? sex? boarding school? long-forgotten romance etiquette? find a book about it and read it. there is a book about literally everything. 

15. become the person you would ideally fall in love with. let cars merge into your lane when driving. pay double for parking tickets and leave a second one in the machine. stick your tongue out at babies. compliment people on their cute clothes. challenge yourself to not ridicule anyone for a whole day. then two. then a week. walk with a straight posture. look people in the eye. ask people about their story. talk to acquaintances so they become friends.

16. lie in the sunshine. daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing. open your eyes. take small steps to make it happen for you. 

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3 Things

In an attempt to begin working my way out of my current rut, I’m putting myself on what I’m calling the ‘3 Things Weekly Challenge’. Every week I need to make a conscious effort to do each of the following (often difficult/scary) things:

  1. Make a decision / take an action that puts my health before anything else.
  2. Apply for / take action towards a dream job, regardless of the likelihood of success.
  3. Have a proper (non-email / text), honest conversation with someone about how things are going.

And when doing each of these things I’m not allowed to get myself worked up, be embarrassed, fear failure or judgement, or give up before trying.

I can’t say what positive changes this will make, if any, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

Also! Autumn is here! HUZZAH!

Blood Moon Eclipse

Band name! CALLED IT!

This morning there was a blood moon / lunar eclipse. Not being able to sleep, I thought I’d wander outside and check ‘er out.

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