Vanity, dentists and drugs.

I’m getting all of my wisdom teeth removed tomorrow morning. 8:30am.


My parents spent thousands of dollars on orthodontal work to get me to have a functional smile. From grade 3 till grade 10 I had all kinds of hardware in my mouth, expanding my jaw to make room for my teeth that were growing in all directions.  Had my parents not spent that money, I would’ve looked like a shark. Given that I am inordinately vain, especially about my face – I think I am rather pretty – I am extremely grateful that they spared me from that shark fate.

I moved out in 2005. I failed at adulting, too busy trying to learn to survive on my own, not declare bankruptcy, figure out school. Typical early-adult struggle. I didn’t go to the dentist, because I didn’t particularly like dentists and I could feel one of my wisdom teeth growing and I didn’t want to hear that it needed to be removed. #denialskillsonpoint

2010. Two of my wisdom teeth had made an appearance. One became infected, really painful, causing the entire right side of my face to swell. Unacceptable! Emergency appointment at a high-end dentist downtown who prescribed antibiotics, took an X-ray, and advised me that not only are my wisdom teeth growing, they are growing in all kinds of shark-like directions, and one of them has its roots wrapped around the nerve that controls facial expressions. This would be a high risk surgery, because the risk of nicking the nerve and causing facial paralysis was extremely high. See a specialist, stat.

Excuse me, what? Facial paralysis?! I took the antibiotics and never called the specialist.

18 months later, I was due for a cleaning, and as Murphy dictates, my wisdom teeth were irritated and painful. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back to the dentist, mainly in the hopes that he’d prescribe me more drugs. He yelled at me for not having my wisdom teeth removed in the meantime. “Irresponsible! SO irresponsible. I told you. There are only 2 specialists in all of Montreal with the skill-set to remove that tooth. And they are busy. I told you. You are at risk of paralysis. And if you don’t get them removed, and the nerve gets infected, you are at risk of even more problems. GO SEE THOSE SPECIALISTS AND HAVE YOUR TEETH PULLED.”

So, I did what any adult with inadequate coping mechanisms would do. I pretended the problem didn’t exist, and tried my best to forget about it. I’ve done a fairly good job at ignoring it, despite sometimes having almost unbearable pain, and being unable to eat solid foods. But hey! At least I was still pretty and not paralyzed.

These past few months, as I’ve been struggling to get my health back on track, I began to consider going to a dentist. After all… not seeing a dentist for 6.5 years is not really best practice. But I felt I was at the limit of how many problems I could face, I didn’t want to hear that I had 45 new cavities, so I promised myself that I would deal with the dentist in the second half of 2018, once the rest of my life was under control.

Then I chipped one of my teeth eating a scone. Cue a hysterical meltdown. “I’m a terrible person, undoing all the money my parents spent on my teeth. What a brat I’ve been, I wonder how many cavities I’ve self-inflicted due to cowardice. OMG WHAT IF THE NEXT TIME ONE OF MY TEETH CHIPS IT’S A FRONT TOOTH?!”

That isn’t hyperbole. I ugly cried for 30 minutes, as I Googled the best ranked dental surgeons near my home.

That is how I found myself a few weeks ago in a dentist’s chair one block away from my apartment. The hygienist blinked when I told her it had been 7 years since I had a cleaning, rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She did a quick run through, and told the dental assistant that she’d have to do some cleaning before determining where the fillings were. I mumbled I didn’t have any. She stopped. “No fillings? And you have only seen a dentist twice in 13 years?” Yup. I told her of my previous experience with Dr. Doom-n-Gloom. She laughed. “Don’t you worry. Dr. Dentist here has pulled out thousands of wisdom teeth. He has seen it all. He will tell you if you are actually at risk of paralysis.” I nodded. She told me to open my mouth, so she could get back to world. I nodded. She waited. I told her I was scared my teeth were so fucked up she would chip them while cleaning them and then I would be disfigured. Twice I made her stop the cleaning. She thought it was because it was hurting me, or I had sensitive teeth. I explained that nope. Didn’t hurt at all. I just was so scared, I had trouble breathing. I needed time outs.

Dr. Dentist examined me. He looked at the X-ray. Good news: other than the molar that is next to the messed up wisdom shark tooth that has turned into a monster-cavity, I don’t have any cavities. I’m lucky. So we made an appointment for my wisdom teeth. Tomorrow. I told him I was really nervous. I asked for all the drugs. All of them. Knock me out, render me unconscious, because otherwise I will not survive this ordeal. I will have a heart attack from the fear that the Universe will use this opportunity to force me to deal with my vanity, by rendering me paralyzed. How could it resist? Even I find it funny, as a concept. And terrifying. I explained to Dr. Dentist, “Sir, I’m still single, you have no idea how brutal it is out there, nobody gives a shit about your personality, so if I am already having this much trouble while I am pretty, can you imagine how brutal it will be if I am paralyzed? Please sir. Please. Don’t paralyze me. I’m too young to be relegated to a life of loneliness and solitude. My face. You’ll take care of it?” He promised. He also admitted that usually he motivates his patients to take care of their teeth for health reasons, but in my case, he could see that I could best be manipulated through my vanity. And so, if I was so vain, surely I could see that smiles with receding gums were not attractive, so perhaps I would consider taking up flossing on a regular basis?

I’ve flossed every day since that visit.

He prescribed me all the drugs. All of them. Including a sedative so that I sleep tonight. Which I appreciate, except that now I have anxiety that I will sleep through my alarm and miss my appointment.

#vainestanxioustrainwreckever

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Phase 4 feels like resignation

Coming to terms with the implications of my diagnosis, and the severity of it feels a lot like working through the 7 stages of grief:

  • Shock & denial
  • Pain & guilt
  • Anger & bargaining
  • Depression (lol!), reflection, loneliness
  • The Upward Turn
  • Reconstruction & Working through
  • Acceptance & Hope

Sometimes Facebook memories suck.

One year ago today, I shared this post on my wall, along with the query “To my people who’ve taken huge risks to follow their dreams… any advice for a risk-averse accountant that has a list longer than the Income Tax Act of all the reasons why my dreams won’t work out, which paralyses me? Is it really just a case of “Just doing it?” Anyone ever succeed by “Just doing it gradually”?” To which I got a lot of comments of encouragement and advice that boiled down to, “Just do it consistently, grind away with persistence and determination. Achieving your goals is worth the effort.”

One year later, and I am no closer to any of my goals. If anything, I’m farther. That’s depression for you. Being alive without being alive. Zombie-state, drifting through life, unable to summon the energy to even dream, never mind follow through on those dreams. Until this past year, I was ashamed of my drifter status. Now, having barely survived the worst depressive episode of my life, my life in shambles, I realize that really… surviving was a dream in itself. On the darkest of my dark days, when all the voices in my head were screaming in anguish, I clung to the dream that my misery would one day lessen. And as the worst of the trough appears to be over, and I am “only” in a moderately-severe major depression, technically on the upswing, I now cling to the dream that I might one day find peace. There has been no room to dream for anything more luxurious than that.

My blog keeps me accountable: I’ve been having the same realizations, followed by progressively worse depressions, since 2014. I’m trying. I’m trying so fucking hard.

4 years of battling this shit and nothing to show for it, other than I am still alive. I’m exhausted. I’m broken.

It scares me, this capacity for drifting. The last time I hung out with friends was 2 weeks ago. I spent this weekend doing nothing. Isolated in my apartment, because I just didn’t want to see people, too exhausted from trying to appear normal at work. I craved nothingness, I managed to write this blog post (after trying to concentrate for 3 days) and do a bit of coloring. That’s all. This version of the depression is such that I am relieved that I’ve given up on my dreams, because that saves me from the bother of feeling shame for not being able to accomplish them. Haven’t gone on a date in over a year? Sweet, one less social situation I’d rather avoid. Friendships falling to the wayside? Too bad, but oh the effort of caring was too big. Family calling me to check up on me? Please don’t, I don’t have the energy to reassure you about something that I can’t reassure myself about. Dreams? Yeah no. Day-to-day mini-goals only. Stay employed. Shower. Clean laundry. The odd vegetable. Gym.

I say this fully aware of the incredible privilege of my circumstances: for the first time in my life, I accept that this is the best I can do on my own, and I deem this is not enough. I accept, now, with humility, that I need help in order to access a life that is more than just endless struggle, foisted upon me by my sick brain. I accept the need for a psychiatrist.

Hopefully the Qc healthcare system will not fail me, and my time on the waiting list will be only 1-2 months. I want help, I want to move on with living. For once.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about how Vanilla I am

Hey Nene! Hey Coach! Clearly your work is unfinished, because while you made serious efforts to render me less Vanilla, and a little more hip/urban/ratchet… I am still vibrantly vanilla.

Context: Teacher is in Baltimore for a kizomba-salsa-bachata congress. Guy calls me up to ask me a question, and in true ADD fashion, gets distracted mid conversation.

Teacher: “(…) oh look, I just saw an oreo cookie babylon.”

Me: “a what?”

Teacher: “Oreo cookie. You know, 2 black 1 white.”

Me: “I know that, but what’s an oreo babylon?”

Teacher: “babylon. It means police.”

Me: “ooooooooooh”

Teacher, turned away from the phone, answering the people he is with (the event organizers are Indians): “yeah, I know! A white girl. SO white.”

That obvious, huh?

#nowIknow


I gotta give it up for Teacher. The dude, on top of being a mind-blowing dancer and artist (check out this post which includes many of his videos) is also a blogger. His life is stranger than fiction, and he has seen and lived much from his travels for dance. It’s a good thing he documents all his stories, because otherwise nobody would believe the shit that happens to him. Take, for instance, his recent trip to NYC earlier this month. You don’t have to know him to get a laugh out of his stories.

I might be biased, but I definitely recommend bookmarking his blog: drkizomba.com/blog .

Phase 3 feels like humility

I had a follow-up visit with my GP last week. He was relieved to hear that my medication is starting to take effect. Moments of clarity, brief glimmers where I can concentrate the way I used to. Every positive moment encourages me to keep fighting, and creates a (shaky) momentum of hope and perseverance.

I told him how the timing of this medication was fortuitous: I am so grateful for the relief it is providing me, while remaining daunted by the amount of work and effort to dig myself out of this hole, that I no longer am struggling with the doubt that has haunted me my entire life: how much of my success is due to big Pharma, and how much is really my own? At this point, I don’t care. The reprieve from the acute state of misery and shame is good enough. If that relief can only be caused by a pill, I’ll take the damn pill. I will take all the pills. And if there are other pills that I can take to further balance out the havoc that my brain wreaks upon me, yup, I’ll take them too. Not a bad attitude to have, leading up to an (as yet unscheduled) appointment with a psychiatrist!

My GP nodded, but added,

The success is still yours, you know. The pill is helping you access your intelligence, but it cannot create intelligence. It is like digging for oil. You can have all the fancy machinery in the world, if you dig in the wrong spot, you can dig and dig and dig until you are on the other side of the world, and you won’t have struck oil. Striking oil requires there to be oil in the first place. Sometimes you have to dig just a little bit, a shovel will do. Sometimes you have to dig a long way, and then you hit an enormous well of oil and you are rich!

You have the intelligence. You just were using a shovel, and probably hitting small veins of oil. But if you want to hit all of the oil you can access, taking the pill is like investing in the proper machinery for oil exploration. What a pity it would be if you never found the oil because of a refusal to consider all the tools required for the job, hmmmm?

Put like that, my lifelong dislike of medication sounds a lot like pride. Too proud to admit I need help. Too proud to admit that while I’ve been given a gift of intelligence, I struggle to reach my potential on a daily basis. I would rather jeopardize everything than accept that I have an innate shadow in me, one that requires medication to keep under control. It has taken something of this magnitude, a depression that almost blotted me out, to strip me of this notion. And I can’t even claim virtue in this new found humility: my exhaustion has become so paralyzing I no longer have the energy to cling to this pride. My depression has truly broken me. Stripped of all my defenses, maybe now I might grow up?


This hasn’t been a particularly good week. I’ve had some productive moments, but never quite recovered from my Monday paranoia episode. I’ve slid back into old habits: crying at the slightest provocation (but not uncontrollably! progress!), and overwhelming tiredness. Concentration is pretty weak, only the easiest of tasks can I do, and not many each day.

Tuesday morning, after I finally made it into work, I told CSD of my Monday kuduro paranoid meltdown. He looked a little freaked out, “yeah no, that isn’t normal. I mean, I think we all experience thoughts of that nature from time to time, but not that intensely, to the point that it disrupts your life and can result in very real negative social consequences. Intense. I hope your waiting time for the psychiatrist is not too many weeks, it would be good for you to get the help you need.” Agreed. (I’ve been put on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist at one of the local hospitals. Waiting time of a couple of months. I am not deemed an urgent case, since I am not inclined to self-harm and am still employed. Lucky me.) Later that morning, CSD, who outranks me but doesn’t work in finance, invited me to crash a meeting at work. During the meeting, I’d been distracted, checking my phone too often, really hungry and needing to pee. #professionalAF I contributed a bit, when I wasn’t considering what I would eat for lunch.

At the end of the day, I received this from CSD.

This made me so very happy – CSD is a smart shrewd cookie. His praise means something, and compliments are not easily given. But at the same time, this saddened me. I know what I am capable of, and am not even delivering 5% of what I could. He was impressed when all I did was show up, because that I was all I was able to do on that particular day.

But.

Whereas in recent months, that knowledge of my under-performance made me wanna take a shame-nap, now I want to get better. I want to reach a level of health where I can deliver the impact I know I can give to the world.

I’m willing to work on getting healthier, even though this is gonna be a bitch. I’m daunted, but determined. I’ve accepted that it is going to be months before I am ok. Months of sub-par work. But, goddammit, imma dig till I reach that oil reserve. It’s waiting for me, and if I don’t, nobody else will, and it will remain unused forever.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

Phase 2 feels like consternation

First: a long ass preamble. About 2 weeks ago, I quit my dance team.


It happened in phases. In January, I quit the performance team due to some concerns about how some choreographies could be perceived by my coworkers and superiors on both sides of the pond via social media.  Teacher makes shows that are unexpectedly humorous. However, to the extent the humor is poorly executed – a risk for any person other than Teacher himself & his partner – the show can easily cross a line from frothy fun to earnest and vulgar. If my blog is the topic of scrutiny, I can only imagine what kind of raised eyebrows might occur because of dancing. I might find such views narrow-minded and archaic, but to deny their existence and impact on my advancement in the company would be naive. So I quit the performance team, which didn’t really bother me because I don’t enjoy performing. Teacher allowed me to keep attending the practices and team meetings as an honorary member, given my dedication and desire to improve as a dancer. But my strained relationship with the team became even more difficult. I didn’t belong. Which, to be fair, was accurate. My status was not the same as theirs, I was apart. And that apartness could be felt by everyone. I was unhappy. Like baby Vanilla in kindergarden, I could tell that something was off, but had no understanding of how to fix it. Coupled with my as-yet unidentified major depression, I was not having a fun time, to the point that I started to associate dance with a state of acute misery.

After my shocking doctor’s appointment last month, I’ve been working hard to identify and eliminate any areas of my life that are causing me stress and unhappiness. I don’t have the energy to fight the fight I need to fight against my brain and fight people or situations. The biggest priority is getting my career back on track: my job and my identity are so tightly intertwined that when I underperform at work, all of me suffers. And while I have the best boss anyone could ask for, supportive and understanding, my performance at work is directly a function of me. So I have been funneling all my energy into trying be productive. Drugs. To do lists. Being patient with myself. Reorganizing my priorities so as to do more solo-driven work instead of team projects because I can’t handle people and the burden of appearing normal right now. And it’s paying off. I’m crossing some things off my interminable to-do list. I experience 15-60 minutes of clarity and concentration every day now. I occasionally know the answer to things. I only forget half the conversations I am involved in. Progress. Exhausting progress. Worthwhile, but so so so tiring. I have nothing, absolutely nothing left for any other battle.

So I’ve just been dropping everything else. And that meant dropping dance. I’ve never been good with groups; at boxing a similar dynamic existed with my team until they accepted that my sweet spot for social activities was once every 2 months. Spending 10-15 hours a week with the same squad is hard. I need space, time-outs, alone time. I always have. I told Teacher I was demoting myself to a student, nothing else. A student that was under no obligation to show up to class, and whose progress was entirely up to their desire to learn – and currently mine was non-existent. I recognize that I have a lot left to learn in dance, and that dance as a form of vulnerability is an excellent way to fight depression. But I am not there yet. I am too busy surviving the worst depression of my life.


I decided to go to kuduro yesterday. I really wasn’t feeling it, having had a draining day at work and a few interactions that left me feeling raw and exposed. But kinda like forcing oneself to go to the gym in the hopes that once onsite, it won’t be so bad, I thought the workout aspect of kuduro might trigger some endorphins and make me feel better.

Instead, the room was too crowded, my former teammates were taking up too much space, the music too loud… I felt myself slide down a tunnel vision of misery. I was despising every second of it. I had one thought pounding through my head, on loop, “I shouldn’t be here, I hate all these people, and they all hate me. I fucking hate dance, I’m quitting everything, I never want to dance again” over and over and over again, as I went through the motions like a robot. As the first hour of class drew to a close, I accidentally bumped into the girl next to me. I was irritated. Then I realized that the girl next to me was Darlene, my friend, a guest at Allie’s wedding, my former coworker, who has been taking lessons at Teacher’s school for the past year. Through my haze of misery, a thought, “Wait a second. I don’t hate Darlene. Darlene doesn’t hate me.” Followed by the realization that if I could be so caught up in my fog of paranoia as to not notice my friend dancing next to me for an entire hour, then my grasp of reality was clearly off, which meant that I was probably wrong: I didn’t actually hate the team, nor they me. It felt like it, but clearly my feelings were out of whack.

So I left. Because the only thing to do when on the verge of a meltdown is to take an immediate time-out from people, go hide in the safety of my home, with my PJs and my teddy bears and my coloring books and my music.

Darlene called to check up on me. Suggested that next time I try focus on the music, build a relationship with music and block everything else out. Good advice, except I’d been so far gone in my tunnel vision of paranoia and misery, I hadn’t heard a single song. Couldn’t name one song title that played during the hour.

Teacher called me after class. “So that was unusual, you leaving like that. What’s going on?”  I explained I wasn’t feeling well. “Nah, girl, what’s up. Let’s be real. Something with the team? Why you mad. Real talk, come on.” So I told him what had happened, and asked him if I could take a rain check on any real talk, since clearly my feelings weren’t my own. They might FEEL real, but they weren’t true and I didn’t want to say anything that I would later come to realize was a product of my false reality. Silence. “Is it the drugs making you like that?” What? No. The drugs are helping me, by making my emotions less overwhelming. No, this is in spite of the drugs. “So this is your conflict then?” My condition, you mean? Yes. This is what it’s like living with depression. “Nah. I think you are just tired. Get some rest, sleep it off.”

I did sleep. I slept like a rock, waking up 10 hours later at 9am, late for work, feeling like a train hit me. Completely spent. But clear-headed. No negative thoughts. Shaken by the realization of how strong the hold of one of these paranoia/anxiety phases can be. I believed my thoughts, they left me no room to believe anything else. My thoughts were my reality, and yesterday my reality was unreliable.

The road to remission is gonna be long and arduous, apparently. Fun times.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

Phase 1 feels like capitulation

February 28 2018, I posted my recent mental health snafu. So much to think about.

My father has been texting me almost daily, checking in on me. Allie and William tried to convince me to move in with them for a few days so I could have an unlimited quantity of cuddles and home-cooked food. My fairy godmother offered to accompany me to my first appointment with the psychiatrist, and referred to GAB and CSD as my angels for giving me the necessary push to get help. People I haven’t spoken to in months messaged me, to wish me good luck and positive vibes. One friend opened up about his own mental health struggles – something I’d have never guessed about him, I’d always pegged him as the party animal over-achiever. He gave me practical pointers on how to handle my sudden loss of bearings, and encouraged me without being over-familiar.

I’ve been strongly recommended a book on empaths, for fear that I will fall victim to the narrow-mindedness of traditional Western medicine. Teacher got mad at me, “Vanilla, your brain is beautiful, how can you believe this shit about yourself? You are smart, you are brilliant, you give up on yourself too easily. Keep fighting!” My boss blinked. “Transparency is the best policy, I agree. I hope you get the tools you need to reach your potential. Good timing too, that this is happening now in the slow months before busy season. You have some breathing room to try find your bearings.”

I started back on Concerta for my ADD immediately, and as expected, the loss of appetite (common side-effect) was extreme. For the first 4 days I barely ate 700 calories/day despite trying to eat. I almost fainted in dance class, and when I showed up to the gym, I was so light-headed I couldn’t walk straight. I brought Coach up to speed, warning him it would take me up to 2 weeks to adjust to the medication, and who knows what might happen should I eventually see a psychiatrist. Coach was silent, because that was a lot to process, and immediately modified the group workouts so that I wouldn’t risk injuring myself but could still trigger the endorphins that I needed. I admitted that my doctor had reprimanded me for ignoring my therapist’s long standing instructions to workout intensely 3x a week if I wanted to avoid anti-depressants. Coach reminded me gently, “I’ve always been here for you – even when you wouldn’t show. I got you.”

I was called braved on Facebook for sharing my story, putting myself out there. It’s not bravery. It’s a coping mechanism to try disarm the shame of all this.

Shame drives two big tapes —“never good enough” —and, if you can talk it out of that one, “who do you think you are?” The thing to understand about shame is, it’s not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.

There’s a huge difference between shame and guilt. And here’s what you need to know. Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And here’s what you even need to know more. Guilt, inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive.

(…) empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy,it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

Brené Brown, Listening to shame, Ted2012

Secrets are shameful. Shame is toxic, eating away at you till you are nothing but a hollow shell. I don’t have the energy to fight this fight against my brain and fight the corrosive effects of shame. So I publish my struggle with the world to prove to myself that it (it = my struggle = me) is not shameful, thereby disabling shame. It is not without consequences: it does impact people’s perception of me, sometimes negatively. But I feel that the consequence of those negative perceptions on my friendship, dating and career prospects are worth it vs trying to cope internally with the destructive negative soundtrack shame pumps into my already sick brain. I’m not brave. I’m exhausted, and if I am to have a shot at surviving this bitch of an illness I need to be pragmatic.

I’m taken aback by my rejection and discomfort with the potential diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. I who prided myself on being a mental health advocate… turns out I’m fine with vanilla mental health issues, but faced with one of the more heavy duty issues? Nah man, not cool. I guess that makes me a depressed hypocrite. That my doctor would even entertain such notion about me was a wake up call. I’ve been down-playing the gravity of my mental health struggles. A form of pride, I suppose, refusing to admit just how hard I’ve been finding life, how exhausting and frustrating to keep up the appearance of being normal, at the expense of friendships, interpersonal relationships, and a real chance of happiness. And now that I am being honest… it has been brutal. I have no fight left in me. I’m totally spent.

This has forced me into an unnatural state of humility. Whereas I’ve always struggled with the implications of taking meds for my ADD (how much of my success is my own, how much is the by-product of my privileged circumstances that grant me access to Big Pharma magic?) this time round I feel nothing but gratitude as I begin to notice the drugs taking effect: a slight moderation in my crazy roller coaster emotional swings, 1-2 moments of clarity during the day, 5-60 minutes of actual concentration on most days, the ability to answer emails, knock off the occasional item from my overwhelming to-do list, do laundry, or read a chapter from my favorite books every few days. I’ve a very long ways to go, but when I have these flashes of the Former Vanilla, I honestly don’t care if it is me or the drugs making the difference, I am just relieved.

Relief is sweet, y’all.

CSD was hesitant to send me his newest favorite Spotify play list. He didn’t want me to think he was laughing me. I wonder why?! Just because I am depressed AF doesn’t mean I can’t find the humor in the absurd. “The Drugs Don’t Work” has got to be one of the best song titles EVER. Shitty song tho.

Update on the psychiatrist: Quebec bureaucracy, yo. I’ve been seen by a social worker to evaluate the urgency of my situation, who filled out a report I never was given an opportunity to read and have not heard back since. Apparently waiting times to consult a psychiatrist range from weeks (super urgent cases) to months (for run-of-the-mill cases… totally acceptable description of the lives of individuals that require a psychiatric evaluation). #ourhealthcaresystemenragesmesobad

A moment of reckoning

Friday, like a good girl, I went to the doctor’s appointment GAB had scheduled for me at a random clinic. The doctor asked me why I was there. “Because my coworkers got fed up of hearing me complain about how unwell I am. I had the flu on NYE, I had aching kidneys in mid-January, I had some sort of bronchitis end of January, and ever since, I am just so tired.” He took my blood pressure, made me say Aaaaah, and tested my knee reflexes. “You seem perfectly healthy.” Bro, really? After 3 minutes, no questions about my medical history, you feel you’ve done enough to give me your professional opinion? I look ok, but I’m not ok. I used to be an athlete. I know my body inside out and I am telling you this fatigue is not normal. I am exhausted, always. “Fine, we’ll do some blood tests.”

$378 later (thank goodness for insurance!), I was told that the clinic would contact me if and only if any of the tests came back positive. I was dismissed.

On impulse, I called the clinic where I’d last seen the GP with kind eyes that saw past my social front, and first diagnosed me with my shadow.  I was way overdue to see him. Last spring, he’d prescribed me with 6 months’ worth of medication for my ADD, and requested a follow up appointment. Bureaucracy and an unfriendly receptionist resulted in me missing the appointment; my medication ran out in beginning November. To my surprise, I got an appointment immediately. I saw him yesterday.

Ever the professional, he insisted on taking me on as a patient because he was not comfortable prescribing a controlled substance (ADD medication) to someone whose file he couldn’t properly follow (I NOW HAVE A FAMILY DOCTOR FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE I MOVED OUT IN 2005! THE RELIEF IS REAL!). In doing so, he got access to my blood test results. Clean bill of health, other than some slight anemia, which is normal amongst menstruating women. So why the fatigue?

And so started the conversation of my shadow, because fatigue and unusual sleep patterns are a major symptom of depression. Yes sir, I’ve had another episode since we last spoke. Just pulling myself out of it, actually. He made me fill out a standard questionnaire used by professionals to monitor the severity of the patient’s depression. To my surprise, my score indicated that I am currently suffering a major depression, moderately severe. “Impossible! I’m BETTER now. Sir, you should have seen me in Nov-Dec, I was a wreck”. We went through the questionnaire again, only to conclude that in December, I’d been undergoing a severe major depression, one that would have required antidepressants AND psychotherapy AND a leave of absence. One that I’d navigated alone, and survived. Barely.

So here I am. With a referral to a psychiatrist. My GP has requested that I be assessed for bi polar disorder.“Bi-polar?! Me?!! No. I’m not manic. No. Impossible.” My GP smiled. Not all manias manifest themselves the same. He’d feel more comfortable if we could rule out that possibility, given the increasingly disruptive frequency and intensity of my depressive episodes. He gently suggested that I’d done all I could do to manage this burden on my own: it was time to consult a specialist, someone who could determine what exactly was going on, and what drugs/treatment, if any, could alleviate my condition.

I admitted that part of me had always hoped he was wrong – maybe I didn’t have a shadow, I didn’t have major depressive disorder. Maybe I’d just been unlucky. Maybe blowing out my knee and having my mother die unexpectedly in her sleep within 3 weeks of each other was enough to make me depressed (2012). Maybe finding out the guy I’d been sleeping with had forgotten to tell me he had a girlfriend, a bunch of terrible bad dates, a stressful job and a boxing concussion was enough to make me depressed (2014). Maybe all the minor blips in 2016 the result of that concussion + my terrible taste in men. Maybe I just couldn’t handle stress well, and boy, had 2017 been stressful. Maybe I was just insecure. Maybe I just needed to eat better, exercise more, try harder. Maybe I was actually ok?

No. My GP was as confident in his diagnosis (major depressive disorder) now as he had been a year ago. It was time, he felt, to leverage a specialist would give me the tools to free my brain from its poison, and allow me to “access the full potential of this amazing gift you have been given of your intelligence. It is your extreme intelligence that allowed you to get this far without help. Even now, as I talk to you, you fool me. Your mannerisms and demeanor are that of an overworked, tired professional. You look healthy. But your eyes give you away. Your eyes show suffering.


I pride myself on being fairly self-aware. Yet I had no idea it was this bad. I knew my year-end evaluation was not great (inter-personal difficulties), I knew my dance squad has repeatedly mentioned I’m too intense, too emotional to be around. I knew I was dangerously apathetic towards work. I knew my meltdowns were still happening (on Monday, a relatively innocuous convo triggered a two hour sob-fest at my desk that I couldn’t control, such that I had to leave work, take a sick day and I continued to cry uncontrollably all afternoon. I am still dehydrated from that experience, 48 hours later). Yet… I couldn’t see these signs for what they were: I am not ok. Really not ok. I was in denial.

It feels like grief, accepting this sentencing to a life of struggle and suffering. I don’t know that I have the energy to keep fighting this hard, forever.

It feels like fear. My career, my beautiful, precious, wonderful career, my biggest asset, my pride and joy, jeopardized by the very brain that got me here.

It feels like paranoia. The inevitable labels of ‘weak’, ‘crazy’, ‘unpredictable’, ‘unable to cope’.

It feels like loneliness. Few are those that can sustain the burden of loving someone like me. I tire myself, and I definitely wear out those around me.

It feels like exhaustion. Bone deep exhaustion.

But today, 24 hours later, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it also feels a tiny bit like the possibility of hope.

It’s a lot to process.