Learning to be gentle

A friend of mine manages her anxiety with  pet analogies. When I was having a hard time eating and resting yesterday I texted her and she told me “If you forget to let a dog out to do his business in the garden, he barks. If you forget to put food in your stomach, it growls. If you hear the dog barking you, you can feeling guilt about forgetting, but you will still let him out because otherwise he will poo in your shoes.” She followed this up with: “Anxiety is your barking dog; he barks at everything right now because everything is new and both exciting and threatening. There is room for anxiety in your blanket but only if he is willing to settle down and be quiet”

I was curled up in a blanket on the stairs trying to eat and breath without suffering. I’m really proud of myself today. I don’t feel comfortable posting on my Facebook about it because those “friends” of mine are the people I down play my anxiety to. I’m proud because I told my husband what was going on, where the anxiety is coming from, that I’ve been having nightmares all week which is causing me to have a panic attack within the first few minutes of waking up. I’m proud because today instead of 5 hours it took 3 to get back to a good place. I made a smoothie, I’ve been eating  crackers all morning. I started to readjust to the feeling of hunger instead of fear.

This is incredible news.

I’m learning to be gentle. To take the time to relax, swaddle, feed, and love myself. I stopped feeling shame over crying and accepted that it makes me feel better. So much better just to let myself burst into tears and feel all the sad stuff. I get scared that once I start I wont be able to stop (it used to happen that I’d be hysterical for hours if I let myself cry. Shame does intense things.).

On the darker side of things, I’m getting pretty sick from the food I’m eating. Being half moved means I don’t have a proper kitchen set up and eating out makes me sick. I think I’m going to shed the few pounds I managed to gain back if this keeps up.

Soon I’ll be writing to you about the curtains I’m sewing for my new house. I’m very excited.

-Love, Ange.

New place same fears

I’m laying on the stairs. I just woke up.

I woke up at 5 this morning and didn’t eat soon enough so I got hungry and crashed. I’ve spent the morning trying to recover. Eating and sipping water until I feel better. I’ve started to confuse hunger with other feelings. I can’t feel hungry without thinking I’m panicking. Its hard to talk myself down. Do I talk about the fear or try to move on? What is the right answer?

We have started moving into our new home. I’m enjoying the unpacking process! Every time we bring over new boxes I get a little more cozy being here. I’m going to paint one of the bathrooms red, and we are going to make our own curtains. The windows in this place are oversized and to buy curtains that for is outside our budget. The basement is unfinished and seems like a fun summer project after we have settled in more. I might go and mud some of the dry wall after I post this. Get my body moving and hopefully change my mood.

Sorry for being away for so long. I got all moddy again and felt no one wanted to hear that so I isolated which really makes no sense. This is my blog. I’m not forcing anyone to read it the shame of being in a rough patch is artificial.

Thanks for being here for me. Sometimes getting better takes a long time. Oh! But I haven’t lost any of the weight I gained so at least I can have comfort in knowing that.

Invisible Illness

On of the most amazing women I’ve met is Cindy Baker. She is a phenomenal artist who taught me in my last year. She introduced me to the idea of taboo bodies, invisible illness, and revamped my personal search for a diagnosis (right now it’s up in the air as for ADHD or ASD, but really I just want better help). What I understood from her about invisible illness, is that it encompasses illness/difficulty  that are visually unsubstantiated. I don’t want to speak for other people or interject into theories I don’t study. BUT! I can relate. And I want to share my experience.

I casually brush off my mental illness because I feel like everyone struggles. I deny myself the kindness I show others in validating their experiences and emotions. I have a severe generalized anxiety disorder comorbid with chronic depression. That makes my life is exponentially hard.

Yet, I’m told I look amazing, graceful, put together, flawless.

I guess.

I’ve disclosed my difficulties here in virtual reality where none of you have to see me everyday and your support is kind words. The everyday effect of people not knowing, or not taking me seriously because of the perfect artifice is best explained in an anecdote. As I’ve just graduated a lot of my friends suggest hanging out, but won’t meet me somewhere I already know. They give me an address and suggest we meet at these random locations. If I say yes, I usually cancel that day because I can’t stop crying because I am scared. If I say no, we don’t see each other. Ever. Seriously. I spend hours stressing over going places and how to feel safe and comfortable. I waste so much energy on it. The social impact sucks! I don’t go places I want to be, I don’t see the people I love, I isolate myself because in spite of all the ways I’m vulnerable I never tell people about my mental illnesses.

Another anecdotal telling is the end result of my psychosomatic symptoms. I hate getting “compliments” on how thin I am. I don’t choose it. I don’t want it. I actively try to put on weight. I’m 5’4″ and lucky if I can get myself to settle at 117lbs. I don’t eat out at restaurants because of my dietary sensitivities I tell people. Although this is true, it’s mostly nerves that cause my digestive and intestinal distress. I like to go for tea. A warm water based product, what could go wrong?!

The people I love aren’t aware of how hard this is for me. I get complimented on my courage and bravery, but this a fabrication. I act that way so I don’t feel scared. I’ve been doing this for years. I was diagnosed at 12 because of how severe the symptoms were. It’s obvious to health care professionals that I am experiencing fluctuation and emotional extremity beyond average experience. But if you talk to me you usually get the impression I’m just quirky. Not that I compulsively plan, that I regularly have intrusive thoughts, that if I don’t like a feeling or conversation I deflect or have to leave the room. I pretend things are going well. I figured if I did this long enough it would become real, but I met someone who pulled the loose threads of my fabrication and I don’t think things will ever be pretendable again.

I’ve eaten three meals in the last 5 hours because I can’t tell if I’m hungry or nervous. I’ve opted for meal replacement drinks for today.

Love always! Ange.

 

Recovery happens in stages

Preface: I tried to be focused, but that quickly fell apart, and for today I’m not correcting myself. Recover in stages. Show self love. Learn to live with contradictions.

It’s been about a week since I last posted. I was super sick with anxiety and my husband took me home for the weekend. Going home was good. I recuperated. I saw my kids (if this is your first time hearing about them they are my siblings who are 10 and 12 years younger than me and I am one of their primary caregivers. I’ll stop before I go on an epic rant about what makes “parents”). As I was saying, I saw my kids, my mum, my gpa, and all my cousins! AAAAAAHHH they are great. We went out to a provincial park and had an epic water balloon fight. There are 11 grandkids in my family and I am the second oldest, our youngest is 7 and rocks. These kids literally give me life. I did spend the first day home crying in bed about what a failure of a parent I was due to my inability to get out of of bed or spend time with the kids.

It’s hard on me. I love and care to a degree that causes physical suffering. Today, I’m doing better and I want to write about that so I can remember in the future and let myself (and you!) know what ended up working. The yoga rituals were great. I found them helpful in controlling my body. I’ve also started drinking meal replacements at every meal to help put on the lost weight and for the first night in a month I slept through the night. It seems to be working.

My husband and I decided not to buy the condo and instead are buying a duplex (this is a hfl house for those who aren’t familiar. The house is divided vertically into tall narrow homes) and this is FABULOUS! It has an unfinished basement so I’m going to get to show off my reno skills and build a ceramics studio in the basement. We get possession on the 6th which makes me grateful that I began packing when my semester ended.

On the downside I cyberstalked an ex in a moment of weakness. Which is bringing out my unmanageable anxious symptoms.

I saw a few really dear friends while I saw home who helped to piece me back together. I don’t know how much of it to describe or write about because it’s an epic mess that involves so many other people but it’s about the ex I cyberstalked. Looking back it had a lot of elements of abusive behaviours in it. I think that’s why it’s so hard to let them go. I loved them deeply but they hurt me intentionally. And it freaks me out that I was and sometimes am okay with that?!

This is why I wanted to title the post recovery happens in stages. I don’t want to feel ashamed when I fail, or relapse. I come from a family of addicts. I know the experience. I also know how hard it is to love someone who is actively hurting themselves or making what appear to be the wrong choices. After reading  this paragraph I wrote the preface. Like, maybe today I just need the chaos. And none of you judge me. Oh! the relief. I used to post on my facebook about my blog posts but eventually I didn’t want my close family and friends reading this type of thing so I stopped. I compartmentalize my feelings as a defense mechanism to feel safe.

Okay. I love you all. I might post tomorrow. I have yet another dental appointment so I might be a grouchy baby.

-Ange Kid.

Abstraction and Shape

Hello again! I feel miserable again. It’s just a thing going on right now. I know this is an illusion. Things will change; I’ll be fine. So, I’m going to do at least one thing today. I said a few days ago I’d write about abstraction. I’ve written about it before in terms of fine arts but I also want to apply it to reality and my lack of belief in a reality.

Abstraction and representation are the usual ends of a sliding scale for art. Is it an accurate representation/does look like the real/tangible/object? Weeeeeeeell, that’s not a helpful question. Try asking “what does it represent?” Maybe the best way to express a feeling is a broad stroke of colour, or a sculpture so heavy it cannot be moved, or a performance where you blow up a queen sized air mattress to understand the stress of single handedly trying to make a two person relationship work. (That’s something I did once guys. 520 breaths. It turns out that in blowing up the air mattress I loss most of my body heat and proceeded to tremble and shake thinking “this is the end. I’ve accidentally gotten hypothermia.”) In this system, all of representation is inherently abstraction because it is not the thing.

Now for incoherent tangential thoughts on the application of abstraction and representation to my life as anxiety begins to overwhelm me. If I can remember that nothing is real or has a way is “should” be then I can operate better. This does run the risk of dissociating, which sometimes happens to me. I develop the inability to feel grounded. Reality starts to dissolve, I hallucinate, I have to be around others or I spiral into tremendous panic. When it works best is when I stop thinking of how to fit in or make things work an begin asking “What do I/my behaviours represent”?

I am not my anxiety.

When I’m having a breakdown moment and I know I can’t trust myself to accurately gauge my surroundings I am an abstraction. I am representing something real without becoming it. Example! Lately, I cry because I’m afraid to be hungry. I cry because I’ll have to eat. I am giving shape to my anxiety. I cry and that too gives shape to my anxiety. However, one is more helpful and manageable than the other. I’m going to be anxious. I know this. I’m going to be okay if I can give that abstract overwhelming fear an essence or purpose. This is another example that shows me how hard it is. Especially as someone who looks “healthy”. Today I got out of bed because I was scared of going back to sleep. I wake up feeling like I’m starving. I’m at the point where I can’t tell if I’m hungry or nervous. The feedback loop of my psychosomatic stomach pains has developed in a way that I experience stress  and pain whether or not I’ve eaten. I cannot escape my internal suffering but I can give it shape. I can control what those feelings make me do.

I reach my hands above my head and I hold myself as straight and stretched out as possible. I tell myself “I will be at peace with all things, at all times…” and I reach down to hold my toes and finish “…and in all places.”

I find it useful to give my feelings shape through spoken or written words, through tears, ritual actions, and stillness. There are days when the only thing I can do is sleep away the feelings.

Whoa, so much better. Talk to you again soon. sorry if this is all moody and dark but right now I need this. I need my feelings to go somewhere.

Whatever I said is false.

This will be gross and tmi.

I’m currently at the dentist. I can’t tell if I’m hungry. The appointment is two hours long and truthfully people I’m falling apart. I experience epic psychosomatic symptoms. I had a panic attack all night. No joke. I woke up at two thinking I was hungry and spent the next few hours with the worst diarrhea of my life and every time I tried to eat or drink I’d gag. It’s unfortunate to say this a common experience for me. Not to this degree but my body is sensitive in a way you can’t possibly imagine.

Back story to the main event. My dad passed away when I was 16. It was traumatic. He never met my husband. It’s a gaping wound of sorts. Close friend said to me “your dad wouldn’t approve of your marriage and you know it” super false and totally damaging. And it sent me into an anxious spiral. I hurt. I’m sad. I love my husband. This friend is not so friendly right now. I just need to share my pain today.

– Ange

A River Season

The best way for me to explain my views on an abstract reality are to share those life movements that altered it. I consider them river seasons:

“…a river season will last as long as it takes you to reach your new
place. If you get into the river and let it take you where you need to
be, your river season will last an afternoon. But if you fear change
and struggle and hold on to the rocks, the river season will last and
last. It will not end until your body becomes exhausted, your grip
weakens, your hands slide off the rocks and the current takes you to
your new place.”
― Andrew Kaufman, The Waterproof Bible

This single most impactful author in my life is Andrew Kaufman. All his books hit me directly in the heart and profoundly changed my world view. He is a magic realism writer, a genre I’ve found I die for, and the way he writes in relaxed everyday way makes me feel so involved. Ideas of emotional projection, empathy, change, direction and directionlessness, and the place love and passion in his works change me every time I read them.

Sample River Seasons:

Meeting Jules. Without her… *stares off into an alternate history* This woman changed my life forever. You probably know that, but I can’t say it enough.

My only option in four years of uni; Science Fiction Religion. This class changed my life in every way imaginable. I got obsessed with objects, relationships, and ritual because of this class. I reconsidered most of my firm beliefs in order to see what I actually believed vs what I simply accepted as part of a system of belief. I fell in love. I adored the class and my classmates. That prof remains one of the only people who immediately saw through my childish playful facade and challenged me. To this day he is a recurring river season.

My friendships with Posie and Eli. These fantastic women come from such opposite ends of the spectrum from me. I’ve found in getting to know them I’ve very actively and fluidly changed the way I talk, move, express affection, and think. The pattern here is the ability of close relationships to change the universe. I’ve discussed this view on reality I have with both of them and their expressions and head tilt made me laugh.

SO! I see reality as cones of vision projecting outwards detecting all the things, like this shape <. Now imagine people lined shoulder to shoulder, a small portion of their reality/vision overlaps. These are people like friends, family,strangers you talk and share with. The point is standing parallel/close creates shared reality, here is where I believe understanding and transformation take place. When I love, I’m so close to them that I begin to create more and more of a shared reality and take on many of their ideals.

The rest of the time we are going about “normal” life. Just existing. I think that by existing/talking/thinking/loving/ the way I want all reality to be I force it into existence. I embody the reality I demand to exist. If I am acting out my reality then in the moment someone sees me I become a reality. Me, the person, the way I choose to live becomes an option.

Isn’t that weird? We don’t know what we don’t know, and when confronted with alternatives we never imagined it can startling. I just think there is no concrete reality and that ideals and opinions we hold are really so fluid there’s no point to them. Simultaneously, I love them. I’m attracted to systems and understanding their function, the place they grow from, and how examining them says more about who created them than what they actually represent! Even this post. This could be a cool way of thinking OR it could be my justifications for being uncertain, changing my mind frequently, refusing to choose or commit. I dunno. It;s just my system right now and I’m sure another river season will come along and drag me somewhere else.

-Love, Ange

P.S. Next I’ll describe something I think is super neato about abstraction and art.

Contagious Joy

I have this one amazing ability: to greet people with my whole heart in my voice.

This may not sound like anything special but when I say “Hello” or “Good morning” I stop people dead in their tracks. A few weeks ago we had some summer snow  (not unusual here at all) and I was enjoying my walk through the snow endlessly. When there is snow falling around me I know that everything is right in the world. So, when I passed someone on the street I sang out a sweet “Hullo!” and this guy stopped. He stared at me and exclaimed “You are so cheerful! I love it! have a great day.” I laughed and thanked him and kept walking home.

This happens to me a lot and I don’t think much of it until I’ve been through a rough patch because that moment of people lighting up reminds me that I exist and have a profound impact by existing. Today my vocal joy got me to the next stage of a job interview. The woman on the line said she liked me and that she’s sure her manager will too. (This is good because I’m both bored and stressed out about the upcoming move and costs of paint. Ugh.)

Heck! even yesterday I saw my real estate agent and she told me I have “the nicest goodbye. It’s just so cheerful” which is why she calls instead of emails. I pour out all my joy and love into greetings. I want people to feel comfortable. I believe that if we become the reality we want to see then other people are forced to confront and question that reality. This method of reality creation is something I’m super passionate about and will write in detail between my chronological posts of what I have been up to since being depressed and graduating.

Love you lots, Ange!

P.S. I’m meeting up with Posie soon.

P.P.S. I love typing right now guys. I painted my nails a matte electric orange, and a sparkly bubblegum pink. The world could not be more at ease.

Cry baby day

I’m a weepy mess for no apparent reason. (I deflect my feelings a lot. there are so many reasons. That’s why I’m here.)

  1. We are trying to buy a condo and move.
  2. Our lease is up June 30th
  3. The seller is trying to negotiate price with the possession date
  4. I have to apply for my cat to live in the condo
  5. She has to get fixed
  6. I made plans with Posie but I’m weepy because of the above
  7. I have near constant heart break lately

I had mentioned Boy Wonder (my hubby) and I are getting place together and I’m thrilled to paint it but as everything is going through there are hiccups. Like that they want asking price, aren’t willing to give us possession until the day our lease is up, and I find this petty and annoying. I really want to paint. I want the time and freedom to paint. Our real estate agent suggested we threaten to walk away but we really want this place. These feel like hard adult decisions that I don’t want to be making and it tempts me to bury myself in the love of people I shouldn’t (this is 7. the constant heart break)

valencia-1.jpg

This is Valencia. she is 5 years old and my emotional support companion. The idea of bringing her anyway to undergo surgery is deeply upsetting to me. What if somehow it break her and she is never the same cat again?!

She’s supposed to my emotional support. I can call her from across the house and she’ll come running to cuddle. She follows me through the house too. the idea of her being in pain is just awful….

 

As for Posie, we made plans. I have a lot to talk through with her. she is one of my closest ladies and I do want her support but I’m making plans and phone calls and signing documents and UUUUGH. I don’t have the courage to leave my house today. I just want to curl up and sit quietly.

What reads like a melodrama.

One of the most important women in my adult life is my close friend Dr.Jules. She and I met in my second year of post secondary and I hated her. The brief is that Jules saw my potential and proceeded to challenge me and expect greatness. I complained about her endlessly and wanted nothing more than for her to leave me alone. This imagined conflict culminated in her teaching me performance art. This was new and I immediately hated it. She asked my class to come dressed in black that day, so I arrived dressed in red spandex as the Flash. The most unexpected happened, instead of being angry (as I’d hoped) she loved it, she felt I was making it my own and I loved her from that moment on.

She’s continued to have a huge influence on the shape and direction of my life. Jules was the first prof I had who suggested I teach. Not instead of doing art, but that there was something about me that said “I want this“. I radiated joy when talking about my kids or my students. My passion was uncontainable and she used to talk to me about what it’s like to teach. I loved those days. I would sit on the floor with my back against the bed, my hands buried in the rough shag carpet, and we would talk for hours about the best way to get through to people.

She always gets through to me.

We’ve both recently emerged from a period of isolation and I am so delighted to have her on the other side still willing to hold my hand and accept everything. There is nothing I wouldn’t share with this woman and in her grace and wisdom she’s shared with me her heart and ideas. Right now that is mostly about mindfulness and relating it back to performance art. I’m skilled at performing, I am frequently praised for my intense and isolated attention on the task at hand, and comments that my inattention to reality is mesmerising. Jules suggested focusing this energy on the present as a way of combatting anxiety. When I found that helpful I thought to apply it to a greater issue in my life; impulse control.

I haven’t talked with a counsellor about these thing so this is all just me expressing myself in imperfect words buuuuut… It helps me to recognize that although somewhere in my mind I’ve made a sudden decision that my body doesn’t have to act as quickly. I feel this small decision making box in my head that is on the lookout for decisions to make and when it does I feel I can’t do anything else.

Nowadays, instead of losing control over my actions, I breath in deeply and gesture slowly as I do in performance. I perform the tension of indecision/conflict, pushing my body and aura outwards and in large circles that threaten to implode or explode. I want to describe the tension I experience. It’s the inner conflict generated by having an impulse and not acting on it. This may seem tangential but humour me, I’ve recently been told of intrusive thoughts. These are unpleasant, undesirable, disturbing, obsessive, or hard to get rid of thoughts. I would use this to describe what it’s like for me to fight an impulse. I get an idea in my head and until I act on it, it pesters me in every second I’m not actively engaged.  Like a siren wailing in my mind that can play for days, sometimes weeks, until I finally do the thing. The thing I didn’t get to choose. One of the worst triggers for my anxiety is the real or imagined loss of internal control (more on that tomorrow). When I feel out of control I can’t function and I spiral out unpredictably. My performance/mindfulness/gestures are a way to force me into the moment and recognize “I am in control. am choosing this.”

I push at the boundaries of my physical embodiment and I remind myself I am here. I exist. Creating an imaginary circle around me and pulling my hands back into my chest and feeling myself breath until I feel like I can say no. I would have written earlier today but I’ve been fighting this all day. Fighting an urge that started this morning at 9, subsided till 1 and I haven’t been able to shake for more than 7 hours now. It’s overwhelming some days, but when it is, I have people. I have Jules. I have you anonymous strangers that I only semi explain my bizarre ritualized habits to!

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being an outlet.

-Love, Ange.

P.S. I made a cake today, it taste like sugar cookies and has a chocolate icing to die for.