ADD

Well… fuck.

The psychiatrist fetched me from the waiting room, 10-15 mins late. I was finishing up publishing my previous post on Facebook, “Mademoiselle, may I recommend you put away your phone and stay focused? We only have 45 minutes, and there will be no followup appointment.” Excuse me? 45 minutes to determine what is wrong with me? I waited 6 months for this? Lady, you better be good at your job.

Cue the questions about family history. No, it’s true no history of bipolarity in my family. Cue the questions about my ADD, who diagnosed it and why. No questions about how the symptoms manifest themselves. Minimal questions about my depressions.“Mademoiselle, I cannot comment about whether you have Major Depressive Disorder because right now you seem to have acceptable energy levels and seem fairly engaged.” Lady… I almost torpedoed my career in Nov-Jan, should have been on medical leave of work, and had the worst year-end evaluation of my life. Yeah, I am doing better now. Much better. But before calling into question my GP’s assessment, maybe our healthcare system can not decide that because I am still employed and not prone to self-harm that means I can just hang out, totally miserable, for 6 months before seeing an expert. “Well next time, consider seeing your doctor before you hit that low and get a prescription for anti-depressants.” Lady, are you SURE you are a psychiatrist? Do you KNOW what depression is like? I had trouble showering, had absenteeism issues at work, and you expected me to get my shit together sufficiently to see a doctor? The only reason why I saw a doc at all in February is because my little junior at work staged an intervention because she thought I was at risk of kidney failure. But thanks for that tip. I’ll keep it in mind.

At the 45 minute mark, the psychiatrist gave me my diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder. Gave me the name of a book I should read and suggested I take up psychotherapy. Any psychologists she could refer me to? No. I should just consult the website of the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec, it lists all licensed psychologists and their specializations, and pick one. Other highlights of her wrap-up convo?

Lots of artists have BPD. It just makes them more sensitive to their environments but they find ways to channel that into productive forms of self-expression. Cool. Except I am an accountant. That’s not the same thing, did you know?

You should focus on regulating your emotions. OH REALLY??? WHAT an idea. THANK YOU for that. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before, silly me. Boy oh boy, I am sure happy I saw a professional to give me such valuable advice. Let me just call up all the coworkers I’ve ever alienated, exhausted friends and family, and all the dudes I’ve failed relationships with. “Y’all, WE’RE GOOD NOW. Imma regulate my emotions and everything is gonna be just peachy. Woo hoo!”

She smiled, shook my hand, and promised me she’d send her report to my GP.

That’s our Quebec healthcare system for y’all. Its most notable feature is the bitter aftertaste it leaves anyone unfortunate enough to require its services.


I took the day off work. I was very upset. BPD has a reputation of being a garbage (“controversial”) diagnosis that is a catch-all for any patient that doesn’t fall neatly into a more firmly recognizable condition. It’s not a neurological/chemical illness, it is psychological illness so medication typically doesn’t work. It isn’t a broken brain. It’s a broken personality. I am broken, apparently, my identity and my personality are so problematic, they get a label, one that comes with a lot of stigma.

Except, gotta say… it does describe me well. “In general, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others (oh hey! funny you mention that, that has been my impression MY ENTIRE LIFE). The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main areas:

  • emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation” –> so many examples to chose from. Exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D.
  • disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – (“cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions”) –> remember the time I thought my dance team was out to get me? That was fun.
  • impulsive behaviour
  • intense but unstable relationships with others”

It’s the last part that upsets me the most. As per the NHS’s website:

If you have BPD, you may feel that other people abandon you when you most need them, or that they get too close and smother you.

When people fear abandonment, it can lead to feelings of intense anxiety and anger. You may make frantic efforts to prevent being left alone, such as:

  • constantly texting or phoning a person
  • suddenly calling that person in the middle of the night
  • physically clinging on to that person and refusing to let go
  • making threats to harm or kill yourself if that person ever leaves you

Alternatively, you may feel others are smothering, controlling or crowding you, which also provokes intense fear and anger. You may then respond by acting in ways to make people go away, such as emotionally withdrawing, rejecting them or using verbal abuse.

These two patterns may result in an unstable “love-hate” relationship with certain people.

Many people with BPD seem to be stuck with a very rigid “black-white” view of relationships. Either a relationship is perfect and that person is wonderful, or the relationship is doomed and that person is terrible. People with BPD seem unable or unwilling to accept any sort of “grey area” in their personal life and relationships.

For many people with BPD, emotional relationships (including relationships with professional carers) involve “go away/please don’t go” states of mind, which is confusing for them and their partners. Sadly, this can often lead to break-ups.

Who knew the NHS had a section detailing the implosion of my relationship with Hickster?  Suddenly, I see myself as he did. I reread our text message convos and I am dismayed. Pages and pages of texts, at all hours of the night. Him trying, but really trying, to understand and contain these tsunamis of text assaults. His bewilderment, that I used to assume was faked or an avoidance tactic, suddenly seems more plausible. Dude goes to sleep having ended the day with normal interactions with Vanilla, and wakes up to a novel of vitriolic accusations and lamentations. Maybe his tendency to leave me on read, decline my calls or to respond curtly/meanly was not him being awful to me, but his coping techniques for months of non-stop volcanic eruptions.

I think back to Beaut, who told me once that he found my waves of emotions difficult to handle. I disregarded that comment, because it was his fault: had his life not been such a mess, and his communication skills so weak, I wouldn’t be so worried/uncertain/insecure.

I think back to my ex. He used to complain that I could spend 3-4 days glued to him, refusing to leave him even long enough for him to go do groceries alone. He had to implement a rule: even though we had the keys to each other’s place, we (aka I) could not show up unannounced, even if it was just for a surprise. “Vanilla, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, I promise. I just need my space.” At the time I thought it was just the growing pains of my first relationship, I was young and really in love, and learning – I’ve never exchanged keys with a dude, since. But until my ex imposed that boundary, my impulse was remove any distance between us.

I think back to ICB and the pre-Paris fiasco caused by texting habits that didn’t meet my 48 hour requirement. My 48 hour requirement is a hard limit, regardless of the guy, trust issues, relationship status, anything. If 48 hours go by without me hearing from a guy, cue the narrative of “he’s not into me anymore”. I can manage to keep my shit together and avoid a complete meltdown for 72-96 hours, but on the inside? I can’t focus, I’m miserable, checking my phone 285,764,873 times a day, and practicing the breakup conversation. I thought this was me having standards, finally. Maybe it is. But maybe it is also a completely disproportionate reaction to what is most frequently not an impending breakup?

I feel sorrow. So much pointless suffering. Were any of these relationships meant to be? Nah, really doubt it, they all had their legit problems. But I made myself ill with misery. I inflicted WAY more emotional baggage on these guys than I meant to. So much unhappiness.

I think back to the number of “episodes” I’ve had with coworkers over the past decade. I’ve made people cry at work far more often than the acceptable never. Some ppl have even quit, citing me as the mean reason they lost their appetite for accounting. I have always been hurt by these incidents – why couldn’t they just accept my feedback about their performance? Why didn’t people like me?

I can’t even blame it on my brain. I did this, with my broken personality. To people I loved. To coworkers I respected. To myself.

You should focus on regulating your emotions.

Apparently.

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The Imitation Game

After class on Monday, Teacher explained that the key to improving in kuduro was to never miss a class, “It’s like math class in university, you know? Miss one class, and you show up at the next one, and you’ve completely lost, with no fucking clue what’s going on.” Everyone agreed, missing math class was the worst. I stayed quiet: I knew that saying “yeah no, I actually have no idea what you’re talking about” wouldn’t go over well, perceived as being attention-seeking, or showing off.

But it’s true, tho. I actually have no idea.

All through Cégep and University, for all non-calculus math classes and all accounting classes that did not have “participation” marks or group projects, I didn’t bother attending class unless I found the teacher inspiring. For the most part, I found my teachers insipid and incompetent, my classmates annoying and frighteningly stupid and the whole experience a waste of my time and a trial to my patience. So I’d buy the textbooks, skip class, and teach myself the content of the syllabus, sometimes more if the topic was interesting. I’d attend the review class before each midterm/final and write the exams. Twice that I can remember, I was approached by teachers, so offended by my behavior that they promised me they would personally see to it that I failed. I’d laugh at them, “You can try. You won’t succeed, sir.” I graduated University with a 4.13 GPA (between A=4.0 and A+ = 4.3). I never got below an A- in my undergrad, and I challenged myself to never finish out of the top 3 in any acco class, and top 5 in any business class. I won an award at graduation for the best GPA in accounting.

I always knew my transcript was a thing of beauty. But it is only this week, after Teacher’s comment, that I realized just how unusual my story was. Sad, too.

When I was very young, my parents had me tested for autism, because I had some odd quirks. Refusing to speak when spoken too, easily overwhelmed, bigger meltdowns than typical toddler tantrums. Ultimately, I was deemed to not be autistic. The doctor concluded I refused to speak when spoken to whenever I felt the person speaking to me was not saying anything worth responding to. Ask me what sound a cow made? Silence. Ask me if I was hungry? I’d answer. This was back before the notion of the spectrum or Asperger’s was a thing.

I had difficulty integrating in social settings (e.g. kindergarten woes). In Grade 5 I transferred from a French immersion elementary school to a local French school next to my house. Despite excellent marks at the previous school, I could barely string together a sentence in French. My new school had a very homogeneous population, all Québécois families, except for 2 anglophone families (including mine). Because of my mother’s intense tutoring, I immediately started scoring the top marks in all the tests and homework. The kids resented me – the anglo new kid that couldn’t speak French to save her life, being the top student. A rumor started: I must be cheating. The rumor spread like wildfire, such that the younger siblings of the kids in my class would point at me in the schoolyard during recess, “tiens, c’est la tricheuse” (“hey, there goes the cheat”). Coupled with the fact that I busted my knee and was in and out of the hospital for all of Grade 5-6 and STILL getting top marks… the rumors persisted. I didn’t have enough command of the French language to defend myself, nor did I understand how bullying worked. It was so unfair. I was busting my ASS at home to get those grades, under Sergeant Mama, and these punks were claiming I was trying to get something for nothing, just because I was different and didn’t fit in?!

As I grew older, my mother set out to train me, explain me the rules, so I could mimic socially acceptable behavior: someone smiling without showing teeth = polite not genuine smile, probably pissed off. Don’t ask personal questions, it’s perceived as invasive not friendly. Touching people is not affectionate, it is considered a lack of boundaries. Interrupting is not a sign of interest, it is considered rude. Speaking too rapidly or in too loud a voice is not seen as being animated or interested, it is deemed aggressive. Smile when you say thank you or people will think you are insincere – it doesn’t matter if you don’t mean it, they expect you to smile, so smile. All the lessons and rules I needed to learn to not ruffle feathers, my mother drilled into me. I became rather good at pretending to be normal, so much so I had to convince a doctor that I really do have moderate ADD and a perpetual shadow. It’s not flawless, I often make small slip-ups and frequently get the feedback that I am phony/aloof and my favorite: a “bit of a bitch”.

Pretending to be normal, however, comes at a cost. It implies that parts of me deserve to be hidden, are shameful. Fertile ground for my shadow. After my 2014 depression, I reorganized my life such that I didn’t have to pretend so much. As a consultant, my success had depended on my clients liking me. By moving into industry, all I need is for my coworkers to tolerate me and deliver on my projects. I can be more myself, quirks and all. Still, my inability to sit in a room of people that cannot keep up with my brain – I find it physically painful, my blood pressure rises from the strain of holding my tongue and not lashing out in frustration at their uncomprehending questions, off-topic reasoning, I just want them to understand for all our sakes – is starting to limit my career growth, just like it has limited my social life, and my ability to make friends at school. I might not actually be arrogant, but I definitely come across as displaying, an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions”. I know this, I can see people withdraw and judge me with contempt, but I don’t know anymore how to address this. I’ve reached the limit of my social (un)savviness.

Here’s the thing. I’m mad. I am so fucking mad at all the people who judge me for being different. For being quirky. For being arrogant. I am DONE with having to hide who I am, change who I am, so I don’t ruffle feathers. Heaven forbid who I am generates a sense of insecurity or takes people aback. I’ve spent 34 years accepting people that cannot keep up with my brain through no fault of their own AND trying to mold myself according to arbitrary social norms. I am not normal. I am close to normal, but I am not. I am smart and I am poor at matching my outputs to social inputs, through no fault of my own. WHY IS THAT SO HARD FOR PEOPLE TO ACCEPT.

Just like in university, I’ve decided to pay the price by isolating myself, to spare myself from the masses of judgmental assholes. If that means taking a hit in my career or socially, so be it. It’s either that or a hit to my mental health.

I’m done. I’m tired. The cost of appearing normal is not worth the benefit.

I am nowhere near as smart or awkward as Alan Turing. But boy oh boy can I relate to this sequence. Thank goodness for the few people in the world that can see past quirks and differences to a person’s real merit.

The show must go on

Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann’s fantastical take on the novel La Dame aux Camélias & the opera La Traviata (my favorite opera). Nicole Kidman’s character is a blazée, beautiful cancan dancer who falls in love with a penniless but respectable writer (Ewan McGregor). Practical considerations (money) trap her in her lifestyle, subject to the patronage of a vain, occasionally violent, jealous, rich Duke. The decision to renounce her true love leads to heartache, and misery. She finally breaks free from the Duke only to die in Ewan’s arms from tuberculosis, contracted from a previous client.

Moulin Rouge is a movie about “truth, beauty, freedom and love“. It is also about the struggle to achieve each of those virtues, in the face of Life’s propensity to repeatedly sucker punch all of us. Those who dared to dream in this movie were rewarded by heartbreak or death. Watching it at 15 years old, I was swept away by the romantic pathos of it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it is a very melancholy movie, albeit delightfully packaged with style, humor and dramatic flair. One particular scene that is not frequently cited (unlike Jim Broadbent singing Like a Virgin, or the brilliant/disturbing Roxanne scene) has always haunted me. It is the moment when Nicole Kidman gives up her fragile belief in her right to happiness.

Zigler: You’re dying, Satine. You’re dying. (…)

Satine: I was a fool to believe, a fool to believe. It all ends today. Yes, it all ends today.

Zigler: (…) You are a great actress Satine, make him believe you don’t love him. Use your talent to save him. Hurt him to save him. There is no other way. The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

Satine & Zigler: Today’s a day when dreaming ends.

Zigler: Another hero. Another mindless crime, behind the curtain in the pantomime. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? The show must go on, the show must go on. Outside the dawn is breaking on the stage that holds our final destiny. The show must go on, the show must go on!

Satine: Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.

Zigler: The show must go on. The show must go on.

Satine: I’ll top the bill. I’ll earn the kill. I have to find the will to carry on with the show.

Zigler : The show must go on.

 

Watching it, 16 years ago, I felt an odd recognition – this scene captures how I see life.

“Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” 

I didn’t know at 17 years old that my shadow would turn out to be my constant companion. But I did know how to appear normal, even though I felt anything but normal on the inside, like my heart was about to split open from the sadness it carried. As I’ve gotten older, this has become even more true: I’ve become an excellent actress so as to avoid vulnerability: nobody asks questions when it looks like you got your shit together.

“We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.”

A coworker asked me recently, after a few too many beers, “Vanilla, this is going to sound awful, I can’t find the words to phrase this properly, but you are a beautiful, sexy, smart, accomplished professional, with an amazing life ahead of you… why do you go for such losers in your dating life? Why don’t you find somebody with the same life situation as you?” My coworker was referring to Athletico, Beaut and Hickster. I pointed out that each one, although not as educated as me, nor pursuing a traditional corporate lifestyle, had risen to the top of his respective field, and was respected for his athletic track record; any athlete that can successfully monetize their skills has street smarts, dedication, perseverance, talent and work ethic. So however terrible their grammatical skills, they can not be fairly labeled losers when it comes to their careers. But my coworker didn’t mean that. He meant that they are living trainwrecks and haven’t mastered the concept of honesty.

It’s taken me months to figure out why I gravitate to these guys, and why I feel so alive in the boxing and dancing world. I belong. These guys all have good streaks, so much of their characters is worthy of admiration and respect. But they also have this dark side to them, and they are caught up in the struggle of their two sides. Often their dark side wins, causing them to act in ways that is harmful to themselves and those around them. I get that. Every day is an internal struggle -against my ADD, my shadow and the lazy, mean, irresponsible and cowardly Vanilla that constantly undermines the hard work of good, kind and sweet Vanilla. So many of my friends and coworkers appear to have mastered the whole adulting concept, lives cleanly scrubbed and responsible; while I kinda wish I could adult like them, I also know that I’d hate it. I love/hate the struggle, but it is my struggle. It proves to me I am alive. These men that struggle and periodically fail at realizing their best selves makes me feel less different. I relate. I too am a creature of the underworld.

“On and on, does anybody know what we are living for? Whatever happened? We leave it all to chance.”

I haven’t found my purpose. I drift through life, too exhausted by the fight against my shadow to dream, or pursue proactively my happiness.

“The show must go on.”


Disclaimer: I know my posts sometimes alarm my readers, especially friends and family. My funk is still firmly in place, but it is not spiraling out of control: I’ll take treading water over being swept willy-nilly by the current of depression. I’m doing my best to fight it, but it’s hard. I promise I am trying.

Recap of the current funk:

Me & Prince Harry: same

Last week I wrote about my constant struggle with my mental health issues (ADD & depression – diagnosed; anxious personality) and my reluctant return to therapy.

Writing it was hard. Those aren’t easy, simple or pleasant emotions to unravel. Posting it to Facebook? Excruciating. I was ashamed, and I feared people’s reactions.

Feared their contempt for being:

  • Vulgar. Airing my dirty laundry in public. Ew.
  • Dramatic. Happiness is a choice, obviously. With my life, wtf is my problem thinking I have the right to be discontent. There are children being gassed in Syria, you know. THEY should be sad.
  • Lesser. Mental health is icky. Only weak people have mental problems.
  • Incompetent. The disappointment to my close friends and family that I still don’t have my shit together like I should, that I still underperform, that my inability to do regular adulting activities with consistency causes problems for others, professionally and personally.
  • Crazy. Any emotion, reaction, opinion that doesn’t coincide with theirs is obviously the result of my unregulated mind, and should therefore be discounted. Vanilla is crazy – don’t listen to her.

My coworkers, both above and below me on the corporate ladder, read my blog – would I lose their respect? “I’m not sure we should consider Vanilla for that promotion, her mental health is too fragile.” Boys I’ve dated, boys I have crushes on, boys who might one day date me, read my blog – would they find me less of a woman? “She’s cool and sexy, but I dunno man. All that mental health shit. No, thank you!”

Knowing that yes, it is quite possible I will suffer consequences for posting this, makes me mad. I refuse to let myself drown in self-imposed shame. I feel compelled to write about this, own it, and post it publicly. The ONLY way to get rid of the shame – so unnecessary, so poisonous, so destructive – surrounding mental health IS by talking about it. And if my approach is too brash, well… hopefully I’ll polish it over time, which can only happen if I take chances and try this open approach.


Record number of likes on Facebook. People reaching out to me privately, to commiserate with the incredible burden that is the shame associated with mental health struggles. To ask me more questions because having read my blog they wonder if they/their child/sibling/parent/best friend might have X health issue, they never considered that as a possibility, they’ll approach the struggles differently, with greater empathy and understanding. To say they too have Y mental health issue. To compare resources they’ve used. To thank me – they feel less alone in their struggles; they always thought I was one of those ppl, “so happy and smiling and friendly, fit, has her shit together”. They realize now that no, I just have (mostly) mastered the art of faking it, at huge personal cost.


A few days after my post, Prince Harry made the news for admitting he’d been in therapy for the long-standing, serious repercussions stemming from his inability to process his grief following his mother’s death. Anxiety, aggression, all had negative impacts on his royal duties, and professional and personal relationships, and culminated in him seeking professional help to work through his issues. (*)

Even at royal engagements, he said, he had found himself battling a “flight or fight” reaction without properly 
understanding why. Once he started opening up to friends, he added, he found those same friends felt able to “unravel their own issues”. (…)

“I know there is huge merit in talking about your issues and the only thing about keeping it quiet is that it’s only ever going to make it worse,” he said.

YES.


I told my boss. I wanted to warn him that I’d recognized the blips in my performance, and I was taking steps to rectify them before they further deteriorated. Was that the right thing to do? I dunno. It was risky. I’ll find out the next time I am up for a promotion if it paid off.

As for boys… I tell myself, the blog doesn’t really make a difference – they’d find out first-hand about my emotional messiness anyhow, live. Best they find out via the blog and move on, than find out gradually and make those hurtful comments to my face.

I don’t have the energy to pretend anymore. I don’t see the point. Life, adulting, is fucking hard enough without pretence.

None of us should feel ashamed for our struggles.

Sometimes, silence is overrated.

#OkToSay

 

(*) Check out their Royal Highnesses‘ work on mental health, through their charity Heads Together. I think it is brilliant.

 

I lied about my shadow

Ridiculous bureaucratic reasons resulted in me seeing my third GP in a year. I explore my rage about the Québec healthcare system here; that’s not the point of this post. Tuesday’s doctor was kind. He cared. Despite the two previous doctors at the same clinic prescribing medication for my ADD, he grilled me about me & my family’s medical and mental history.

“Your behaviour does not suggest ADD to me. You are un-medicated right now?” Sir, at the risk of sounding vain, I am extremely smart. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA; I ranked above average/excellent performer at all 3 multinationals I’ve worked at during my career. I am deemed quirky and “unusual”, but I can – I must – succeed with or without my drugs. I excel at appearing normal (or as normal as I’ll ever be). Nobody need ever know at what personal cost: the depressions, the failed relationships, the stunted dreams, the years of therapy. “I see. You are what we call a gifted, high-functioning patient. My son is in accounting. Bright kid, good attitude. No mental health issues that we know of. He struggles to maintain a 3.4 GPA.” I forget, sometimes, that what I view as a commonplace performance (of course I graduated with a 4.0/was an excellent employee at a Big 4: anything else would be beneath me) is not commonplace for others. Rather than appreciate my accomplishments, I’m aware of how much more I could’ve done, had I been more disciplined. Had I not had ADD.

“3 depressions in 5 years. Where any of these circumstantial? Diagnosed by a professional? You woke up crying one day, for no reason, and cried for 3 hours a day every day for 3 weeks straight? Ok, that’s a real depression.” Yes, my 2012 depression came on the heels of my serious knee injury, followed by my mother’s death a few weeks later. Circumstances in 2012 sucked. But I was already unwell, battling symptoms for months, when the “justifiable” depression started. How lucky I am to have experienced my scary 2014 depression, otherwise people would once again dismiss my story because I am too gifted, too high-functioning.

“So how would you rank your mental state right now, on a scale of 1-10? 1 being suicidal and 10 being perfect and blissful and without a cloud in sight?” Ummmm maybe 7-8: despite my recent struggles, overall I notice a distinct trend. 2014: a depression so bad I quit the job I loved, changed my lifestyle, reoriented my career so as to have the head-space to tackle my mental health issues. 2015: clawing my way out of depression, and therapy therapy therapy. 2016: remission from depression, dating and my first heartache in 6 years, career full throttle2017: I discover I have the capacity for happiness, and for the first time in my life,  I believe that I can build a life of happiness for myself. Surely that merits a B+ as a mark?

My doctor stopped me. “You didn’t know you had the capacity for happiness. You thought happiness didn’t apply to you. You didn’t have depressions. You are depressive. It’s always there, like a shadow, isn’t it?”

Yes, it is.


My shadow, my old friend. Always there, waiting, whispering, seductively trying to pull me back into the dark cloud. Always. Admitting that, out-loud, was hard.

I would love to wake up, put in my 9-5 productively. I would love to not work 60-80 hours a week to deliver 45-60 hours worth of work. I would love to be focused enough to have dreams, to not fritter away HOURS a day, to blink away 6-12 months again. I would love it, but I can’t imagine it. I know such people exist, like I know lactose-intolerant ppl exist. And as I can’t imagine a life without cheese, that analogy is particularly apt. It’s so frustrating feeling time slip through my fingers always, acutely aware of my inefficiency. I mourn the potential I will never reach, because of the time and effort spent managing my brain. I have the tools to do so. But it is exhausting. At any moment in time 25-50% of my brain’s bandwidth is taken up monitoring, managing, analyzing my shadow to ensure it stays a shadow, and doesn’t succeed in becoming an asphyxiating dark cloud. 25% of my bandwidth is dealing with the 16 simultaneous ping-pong matches in my ADD-head. That leaves me with 25%-50% (on a good day) to handle life, professionally and socially. Gifted, he said. Fed up, I say.


As my remission from depression continues, my capacity to take on more, handle more pressure, be alive grows. This is good – much better than existing in a half-dead depressed state: a life without feelings is no life at all. However I feel too much now. I had a breakthrough at the end of 2016, where I acknowledge my right to feel anger and give voice to it. But everything sets me off now. My anger fuels me to be productive, but it leaves me exhausted, with a long list of people that dislike me. My blow-ups range from snarky comments, to feeling hurt so deeply I lash out like Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Silver Linings Playbook – I’ve been told more than once that I remind people of her.

These daily meltdowns are awful. Mortifying. Uncontrollable. ADD & impulsivity! Yay! EXCELLENT RECIPE FOR SOCIAL DISASTER. My anger is always merited, my comments are fair, but they are not kind. I know the pattern, too. The less compassionate towards others I become, the less compassionate towards myself I will be, leaving myself open to my shadow’s pull. I’ve tried to find moments of happiness here in Montreal, post-Dubai. And I do. But these moments contrast too sharply against my negative emotions, and the roller-coaster leaves me spent, too tired to concentrate, and hours slip away from my life. Again.

I am a weather-vane, at the mercy of my emotions.

My shadow watches, ready.


After one meltdown too many yesterday (an offhand comment by a coworker filled me with so much rage, I considered punching him, but then remembered that would get me thrown out of the CPA Order, so I cried quietly at my desk for 15 minutes instead), I called up my beloved therapist, and asked for a tune-up. My last appointment was April 25, 2016. I didn’t last a year.

I feel shame at being so incompetent at adulting I need help, again. I feel shame at having so much wasted potential. But I refuse to let my shadow win. I have dreams for the first time in my life. I have lived greater happiness than I knew possible in Dubai. Over my dead body, I’m not gonna let my shadow steal that from me.

I always said I was a fighter – that is why I boxed.

Here we go for another round.

Prepping for my first boxing fight in 2 years. NBD.

T- 3 days. Below, a moderate extract of my thoughts in the past 48 hours:

Well, I am 2 kilos underweight, so I guess that means I can eat as many KitKats as I want right? No, Vanilla, no. Cherish your body. Nourish it with the best, most nutritious foods you can find. You are an athlete. Eat like one. Go get yourself a delightful spinach, quinoa, cranberry salad, with a side of chicken. Doesn’t that sound delicious? Sure it does! Wait, how did this grilled cheese sandwhich find its way to my mouth?! Yummy. Can I have a 2nd one?

I hope I win my fight.

What if I break my nose? I don’t wanna be ugly????? I wonder what would upset me more: a broken nose or a bad concussion? The nose, but I don’t think I should say that out loud. Makes me seem vain. I am vain, but I don’t want people to know. Heck, everyone can tell anyways. I have nothing to hide: I need to OWN my sassy fabulous self, just like Beyoncé. I AM VAIN, BITCHES. DON’T BREAK MY NOSE OR I WILL BREAK YOUR OVARIES AND DROP KICK YOU AND SPRAY YOU WITH THE BLOOD FROM MY BROKEN NOSE. That sounded exactly like Beyoncé. #lemonade

I wish Walking on Sunshine could be my entrance song. That would confuse the hell out of my opponent. VANILLA IN DA HOUSE.

I probably should start concentrating at work right now.

I am pretty sure I only know how to throw 2 punches. Can I win a fight with 2 punches?

I wish I had gone running for 35 minutes twice a day every day for the past 6 years – what if my cardio isn’t on point for this fight? I don’t want Coach to yell at me AGAIN… This time if he asks me if I am tired, mid-fight, I must remember to LIE. Amazons are NEVER tired.

I kinda want all of my friends to show up. Except if I lose. Then I want none of my friends to show up. I want my friends to know in advance if they should show up or not.

I look like a kitten when I spar. When will I look like a badass boxer? I want to look legit. I wish I had any athletic talent whatsover. I guess I should hold onto my day job.

OMG what if I lose, how embarrassing is that? POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHT. Or wtv. Really, I just want another grilled cheese sandwhich. How can I be hangry if I am eating this much. Oh wait. What if I am overweight? I want to weigh myself RIGHT NOW. But I am at work.

I really wish I wasn’t at work.

This sport is stupid.

 

The problem of happiness

April 29th, 2016: I had my last appointment with my therapist.

We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. I’m too happy for him, too consistently. While he always enjoys our talks, the past few sessions were more status updates than real therapy sessions. He felt that I had acquired the tools necessary to navigate through life alone: Ritalin, writing, and daily exercise. He encouraged me to continue with my network of caring people that teach me compassion in my day-to-day: Dynamo, Coach and my mentor from work. Of course, in the event my life unravells beyond my coping abilities, I can always give him a call – but he was convinced he wouldn’t hear from me for a long long time.

20 months worth of work. 20 months of appointments. A LOT of money spent, since unfortunately, my insurance didn’t cover much. So many tears. Quite a bit of laughter. Lots of time thinking over all my therapist told me.

We reminisced on how far I’ve come. Depression. Public meltdowns. Paralyzing anxiety. Fear of vulnerability. Unwillingness to put myself out there and date, because the slightest rejection could send me weeping. Taking small risks – singing in public. Asking Beaut out, and handling the weird evolution of that interaction. Changing jobs, because I wanted to be happier – thinking that was a worthwhile reason. Navigating a trip in a strange country by myself, and the intense roller-coaster emotions well enough to pull through and experience joy. Accepting my limits, and going back on Ritalin, because I am willing to get help, in my quest to get my shit together. Signing up for my first boxing fight in two years, because I am ready for a challenge, and am able to accept the risk of getting hurt.

I’m happy. I’m SO happy. I’m almost scared, because I don’t feel I deserve this happiness. I’m aware that this might be a temporary reprieve, that depression is a relentless disease, and strikes at the most unexpected moments. I’m aware the rug might get pulled out from under me at any moment, that it is probable that I will have at least one other depressive episode in my life.

But right now, every day I wake up, and I am filled with gratitude to have finally reached a point in my life where my brain is at peace, and the negative voices in my head no longer run the show. I finally can hear my heart singing with happiness – I had forgotten that it once knew joyful melodies.

It feels so good to finally start getting my life together, instead of spending all my time and energy fighting the exhausting noise in my head. I am slightly daunted by how much I let lapse in the past 6 years as I struggled with depression. But mostly, I am just grateful that I have gotten to the point where I have a to do list, and the wherewithal to deal with it. 

I’ve noticed that the happier I get, the less compunction I feel to write. I hope this is temporary, or that I learn to find blog content that is triggered by fun and happiness. An interesting challenge, and one that I don’t mind AT ALL.

#grateful