fail

I mismanaged my mush

If that isn’t the perfect blog post title, I dunno what is.

As I mentioned, the hardest part of having my wisdom teeth removed has been the lack of real food. I am not a fan of starvation. Despite a fully recovered appearance, my mouth remains extremely tender. I can only handle mush. And it turns out that mush requires a certain forethought. For someone who never cooks and only buys bougie packaged meals at the grocery store or the cafeteria, that is a problem. My entire approach to nutrition is based on making reasonably healthy choices at a moment’s notice, with whatever is immediately available to me. Now I am forced to not only think about it, but in most cases exert some effort in the preparation of the consumables. And yes, I consider adding a scoop of protein powder to a bowlful of yogurt to be effort – because that means making sure I have access to yogurt AND packing a serving of protein power AND finding a spoon. SO. MUCH. WORK.

Thursday I stayed at work late, missing my chance to go to the grocery store and get one of their delicious custom soups for lunch the next day. Friday at work, I ran out of instant oatmeal. Oye. I didn’t see the time fly, and by the time I made it to the cafeteria for lunch, they were closing shop. I got a bowl of their vegetable broth. Oye. By 4pm, I was light-headed from hunger. My coworkers offered me snacks, but no-go: granola bars, nuts, carrots and dip… non-mush. No bueno. By 6pm, I gave up. I had spent 3 hours typing a total of 7 sentences. The brain could not function. I admitted defeat. Time to go home and eat.

Convo with TooWhite on my way to the grocery store

It’s a well known adage to never do grocery shopping when hungry. But doing grocery shopping while hungry and UNABLE TO EAT ANY FOOD? Awful.

I settled on a lentil stew (not soup! Woohoo, big girl food!), some freshly pressed fruit smoothies, and for dessert, prune yogurt. I like prune yogurt. I find it tastes like what chocolate yogurt should taste like.

I inhaled the lentil stew.

2 fruit smoothies? Disappeared.

I was still hungry. I knew I was probably not THAT hungry, it was just my body refusing to catch up to calories I’d just consumed, so I drank a gallon of water.

Still hungry. 5 days of only liquids and mush, and my stomach wanted that full feeling of satiation that only happens from chewing REAL FOOD. Preferably with animal fat. #Icouldneverbeavegan.

I tried distracting myself by watching a Netflix special of my favorite French comedian, Fary (check him out, he is so deliciously sarcastic). Still hungry.

As I began watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, I ate a hefty serving of prune yogurt. Yum. So enthralled was I by the difficulties of a choreographed lip sync battle on roller skates with luscious wigs, that I didn’t notice that I served myself second serving. Then a third. The entire container of prune yogurt. In my belly.

I felt satiated for the first time in a week.

2 episodes later, I felt the apartment shake. An earth quake? Odd. Rumble rumble. Not an earthquake. My innards.

I will refrain from describing what happened as my body rid itself of the lentils and juice and water and prune yogurt. There were multiple supplications and exclamations to the Porcelain Bowl gods. Cold sweats. Shattered morale. A dehydration headache.

I definitely mismanaged my mush.

Advertisements

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

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

We are not immortal

I am going to a funeral on Sunday.


By the time I met Sandra in grade 9, her scar above her left eye had started to fade. She didn’t make a big deal about it. She’d had cancer in grade 6-7. She survived. That was all. I liked Sandra, everybody did. She was petite and sweet and kind and funny. One of the popular kids, without ever being a Mean Girl. She had a light about her that everyone – including teachers – gravitated towards. She lived near me, and sometimes her Ma and my Ma would chat and encourage each other through the trials and tribulations of raising headstrong adolescent girls. I liked her Ma: a little lady with twinkling eyes that could worry like the best of them, but always had faith, a smile and a hopeful word. Although I never was close to Sandra – I never was close to anyone particularly in high school, that’s how I survived – I always felt seen by her. Seen and accepted, which is a gift.

According to Facebook, after graduating, she went on to Cegep and University, tried her hand at various entrepreneurial ventures, met a guy that was absolutely nutty about her and got married. A while back I saw a GoFundMe being shared by my former classmates. I read it, it mentioned Sandra & medical bills. I didn’t pay attention, I saved the link, and never looked at it again, distracted by life.

Her cancer came back.


That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I recycle.


I haven’t seen her in 10 years, but somehow the world spins slightly differently now that her smile is gone.

I feel shame. Shame that I have been distracted by the triviality of my life, rather than being present in the lives of those that matter. We are not immortal. Time lost now is time lost forever. I made that mistake with my mother. Clearly, over time, I’ve forgotten that lesson. Would that I not do so again.


Recently, I’ve been trying to clean up my diet, start going back to the gym, in an attempt to feel better, for real. Despite a stable weight – even some weight loss! – and looking really good, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a long stretch of feeling so meh. My mental health is also clearly affected, as evidenced by my 8 month struggle with this depression shadow shit. My tool box dictates health starts with nutrition and exercise. I’d forgotten, until I got hit with the flu on NYE.

I complained at work about feeling under the weather, again, today. CSD rolled his eyes at me, “GO SEE A DOCTOR”. I pointed out I didn’t have anything specific to complain about, other than not feeling myself for the past ever. I used to be an athlete. Now I sleep 8 hours and can barely drag myself out of bed. “GO SEE A DOCTOR”, he said. “Ask for blood tests, see what they say. You’ve got nothing to lose.” I dithered. Maybe. GAB heard that maybe and stood by my desk until I gave her my Medicare card. She found me an appointment tomorrow at 11:30am. She even paid the $19 registration fee to ensure my spot was reserved. Then she did a happy dance and high-fived CSD 15 times as they congratulated themselves that they’d saved me from impending renal failure.

They teased me that I was too quiet. How to explain how much that meant to me? They did not let themselves be distracted by life, even as I was too distracted by life to take care of my own.

We are not immortal. But love is.


Sandra, Vechnaya Pamyat.

“In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto Thy departed servant and make her memory to be eternal!”

This is true love, part 2

I have the best team ever, right? Right. My darlings. They keep me going when nothing else does.

For the 2nd year running, my little GAB surprised me on Valentine’s day with a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese… with BACON.

I was so overwhelmed, I hugged her. #professionalheartemoji

It was delicious.

Yesterday (Feb 15) I showed up to work, around 9:30 as usual (#earlybird), and as I walked past GAB’s desk, she looked at me with reproachful eyes.

I was SO sure you’d show up with chocolate today.

Oops.

So like any good manager, after getting such direct feedback, I addressed the situation.

Last night:

Little GAB looked quite touched when I gave her her Lindt flower stem.

#dreamteam


Do y’all remember Nene? You should. He’s cool. He sent me this. #goodtiming

Where is the lie?

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.

#slay

Remember Brad? Of course you don’t. Let me refresh your memory.

Back when I was online dating in 2012-2014, I went on a stranger-than-fiction date with Brad, putting myself in a situation where I could easily have been raped, but luckily that wasn’t Brad’s particular fetish (for the entire saga, click this link). I’ve wisened up a lot since then.

Brad, however, is a persistent dude. Every 9-12 months he resurfaces, sending me an email asking how I am doing. Most recently, today.

Where are you???

Happy New Year!

Y’all. Our date was in May 2013. Almost 5 years ago. Why? Why is he still trying, albeit not very hard? He takes the whole “Minimum Possible Investment” notion to a whole new level!

No, I’ve never emailed him back since our date. And no, this is definitely not how I anticipated my first blog post of 2018 to be.

#thisiswhyimsingle

#whytho