mental health

All of the colors in Paris

Sunday. Landed in Paris, took a quick nap, then off I went for a little bit of solo-sightseeing. Y’all. There are SO many tourists in Paris during the summer months. No, I do not think of myself as a tourist. I am an invited guest. A wannabe Frenchie. Obvi.

ANYHOW.

I stopped by la Sainte Chapelle for the first time since 2012 to stare at the beautiful stained glass windows. Then I skipped over a few blocks to attend Mass at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. An organ. A skilled choir. Pomp and circumstance. Mozart! A very French archbishop cracking very French jokes that only a small percentage of attendees understood, because Mass at Notre-Dame is packed with hundreds of Christian tourists from every corner of the earth. During Mass, Notre-Dame is no longer a historical monument, but a living breathing space where people find solace from their grief and pray for salvation. There is something very humbling about uttering the same prayers that have been said by thousands of people for the past 7 centuries. The current emotions mingle with those that fill the walls of that sacred place.

Sunday night, as is my habit, I went to the Louvre. The contrast of the modern art (pyramids) and the old grandeur is magical, preventing the Louvre from merely being a fancy building that hosts a vast quantity of antiques. It is anchored in our current day world.

That statue reminds me that this used to be a real palace with carriages and horses stomping their hooves impatiently amongst the bustling activity.

In case you are wondering, all the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone 8. And other than this pic and the next pic below, all pics in this post were taken solely by me. ICB helped me get the right composition for this one. Filters applied by me.

Usually, the passage way to the courtyard is deserted. On Sunday, there was a very talented cellist playing Bach’s cello suites. I stopped to listen for 15 minutes. The cello was my mother’s favorite instrument: my father’s wedding present to her was a cello + music lessons, which she never got to take advantage of because of her health that began to fail almost immediately after their marriage. It took her years to sell the cello. She liked looking at it, she said. What a mama. A mama that never got to see the Louvre. Who never got to see much, yet who gave me everything so that I could live my best life. Since her death, I’ve been sent to Paris 9 times for work. I felt so much joy and sorrow, standing in that courtyard, listening to that music, my heart tried to break through my body. Instead, I cried.

That is me, on the left, hiding behind the column. I didn’t want to distract the cellist with my tears. I was unaware that I was in ICB’s line of vision.

I’ve been listening to Elgar’s Enigma Variations on repeat this trip since Sunday night. #perfect #mood.


Monday, I stopped by the Jardins des Tuileries  before (8:30pm) and after supper (10:00pm).

Unfortunately this pic doesn’t capture the brilliant blue skies, which I could barely see because of the bright sun.

Jardins des Tuileries is an oasis in the middle of Paris. Joggers at all hours, families with preschoolers, tourists, people taking naps in the lawn chairs around the fountain, business people taking a break for icecream, students reading books in the shade. These gardens are where Parisians find shelter from the hustle of the city. I’ve never seen it so quiet and peaceful as it was on Monday at 10:00pm.

That sky tho. NO FILTER. Let me write that one more time. NO. FILTER.

No filter AND so peaceful a pelican came and hung out with me.

Laters, dude. Also, would y’all LOOK at that sky.

As the pelican took flight to new discoveries, I decided it was time to lead ICB through Paris, to discover the Eiffel Tower. With the beautiful weather, and vivid skies, there would be many opportunities for spectacular pictures.


Spectacular doesn’t begin to cover it. It is a 40 minute walk from the Jardins des Tuileries to the Place Trocadero, according to Google. It took us over 2 hours because we kept stopping to take pictures. The number of times I heard ICB triumphantly exclaim, “That’s it! I am never taking a picture ever again in my life. Would you look at this shot? It is PERFECTION.”

That is Paris for ya. Perfection in beauty.

Oh hey, guess what. Yup. NO FILTER. Can you imagine walking by views like this daily?

As we walked, I talked. I told ICB of how Paris saved me following my mother’s death, when I was badly stuck in my grief. Of how I feel like I am coming home, every time I come to Paris. How I feel like I belong here, like a missing part of my identity is found as I walk through its streets.  How in Paris, I feel fully alive, being surrounded by such beauty encourages me to strive to find my own – because there is nothing more beautiful than being fully myself.

Paris is a CROWDED city. And yet, the power of it’s beauty is so strong that you just have to look around to see moments of peace and serenity.

We finally made it to Place Trocadero. We spent almost an hour there, in silence, soaking up the atmosphere. Sitting on the steps of the Place, listening to the talented street musicians sing pop songs in French accents, children laughing, adolescents flirting in the background. We ate box of macarons. ICB took 200 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, from every possible angle. As I sat back and watched him work, I felt deep contentment. Here I was, 24 hours from my birthday, seeing and feeling colors. All of the colors. What’s more, I’veve been feeling colors, intermittently but with increasing frequency, since beginning May. I am getting better. One year, day for day from the start of this vicious episode of depression, I am on my way to remission. I survived. Normally I feel depression strips me of so much of my life, time just slips through my helpless fingers, month after month, year after year. But as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle on Tuesday night, I felt gratitude. As Rainbow once told me, surviving deep pain and suffering opens us up to the capacity to see “all of the colors, so very brightly. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and tiring. But I wouldn’t trade the beauty that I can now see for anything.”

My depressions might steal from me the ability to see colors for long stretches of time… But my depressions make me kinder, more compassionate, and much more willing to take risks and live during those brief moments when my shadow is sleeping. Here I was in Paris, working at my dream job, accompanied by a guy I barely knew. Despite a bumpy start, we were having a total blast. I was enjoying every single moment without trying to determine anything about the future or what this means for “us” – who cares, really? This trip was a trip of memories and happiness, time well spent. I was taking the lessons I’d learned in Toulouse last year, and applying them in the best possible way.

I sat on those steps, under a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and cried tears of happiness and gratitude.


Yesterday was my birthday.

ICB surprised me with this present.

Vanilla, I know you slide into a world of no color, of black and white and grey. I know you find it hard, that it makes you suffer. Paris is your happy place, where you feel alive and see clearly. I want you to have this, so when things are not going well, you can look at it and remember those colors that you can and sometimes do see. I want you to remember the colors. I want you to see them.

Kindness, y’all. Wrecks me everytime.

There have been a lot of tears on this trip. For the first time in a long long time, these were the best kind of tears.

All of the colors.

All of them.


Previous Paris posts:

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A Parisian pickle, ice cream melt and fatigued

ICB. Anyone who makes it past 3 dates gets his own page in the dating section of this blog. #doesnthappenfrequently

For 3rd year in a row, work is sending me to Paris for my birthday week. Yay! It just so happened ICB had a week off work at the same time, with no set plans. On a whim, I suggested he buy himself a plane ticket and join me. I didn’t think he’d do it, not really. He didn’t think he’d do it, not really. 3 weeks ago, he did it. We are leaving this Saturday. Imma work 12 hours a day, he will vacation 12 hours a day, and in the evenings we will meet up for a nice walkabout and a meal, and listen to each other’s stories.


Something is up with ICB. There’s been a sharp decrease in his texting over the past 2 weeks. I’d gotten used to his daily “Bon matin” texts, asking me how I’d slept. Last week he went 2.5 days without messaging me. I finally caved and asked him if he was ok. He had a lot going on he said, his silence was unintentional. 1-2 sentences later, he politely dismissed me. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is to never run after a guy. At best, they will allow the attention bc they are too lazy to refuse it (#freepussy #flattering); at worst, it will annoy them and they will ghost and whatever might have been is choked to death. So I accepted his dismissal and continued with my busy life. Friday, ICB called me at work to check up on me. Friday night, he asked to see me. We had a good time, although I did notice he was less chatty than before; he was tired from work, he said. Saturday, I told him how the silences of the week had made me feel – off balance, although I recognize he hates texting and has a lot going on. He agreed we’d find a better way. Ok. We would. Great.

Crickets this week. Unacknowledged messages of dancing events taking place in Paris. Hyperbolic delays in answering me. He’d warned me this would be a big week for him, but still. It’s hard to reconcile this version of ICB with the ICB who set an alarm for himself at 2:50am so he could call me to make sure I wouldn’t miss my 6am flight. My paranoid brain shakes herself awake. Reminds me of the time I convinced myself Beaut had a wife he kept hidden in his closet. Reminds me how it turns out I wasn’t far off. “Trust your gut” my paranoid brain whispers. I did tell ICB, in explicit detail, about my episodes of cognitive distortion. “Yes, yes it’s good you are so open about your mental health struggles. Best he find out now, so he can bail before either one of you gets attached. Because he will bail, it’s too much to handle.” I tell myself he can’t really be ghosting me – we are getting on the plane in 36 hours. “Yes well, now that he has gotten what he wanted out of you – a severely discounted trip to Paris, with a side dish of sex – why would he still pay attention to you? I thought you learned after the last dude that you shouldn’t try buy a dude’s affection. It never works.”

Y’all. I just wanted a fun trip to Paris. I don’t know how to raise this without sounding SO lame. “Hi, I know you dropped $700 to come hang out in Paris, but ummm, you don’t say Hi or pay enough attention to me.” I beg my brain to ease up just a few more days – I just wanted a fun trip. That’s all. One fun trip. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the anticipation of this trip with ICB. Watching his excitement of discovering a new city, my favorite city. Instead, we haven’t even discussed the logistics of getting to the airport tomorrow. At this point, I’m ready to sit back and see just how far he can take this. We each take our own taxi? Cross paths at the airport? Tempted to call the hotel and switch the reservation to 2 single beds. Then I feel bad: while this is the most extreme episode of shitty texting I’ve witnessed from him, he has always called or resurfaced. Maybe he is just busy. Maybe silence doesn’t mean an absence of thought about me – he can’t have forgotten about Paris, at very least. My paranoid brain smirks. “That is true. He cannot have forgotten about Paris. His silence means you are unimportant to him. Annoying. Just accept it. Your days of smiling are over.”

Seems like a reasonable approach to me.

OR… it could just be the FIFA world cup that is the issue.


I’ve struggled with my birthday for a long time. Adulting isn’t easy.

While I’ve always enjoyed being the center of attention, the past few birthdays have been very bittersweet, starting with my 25th birthday. Every birthday felt like a day of reckoning, where I realized just how far I was from achieving my dreams. With every additional year of reckoning, I felt increasingly stuck by how unsatisfactory my life had become. Sure – I had moments of happiness, but the weeks leading up to each birthday were filled with shame and regrets, as I accumulated years without any significant life events to validate that I was living life to the fullest.

Add to that the guilt and remorse I feel every year since my mother’s death:

My birthday and my mother’s death are forevermore linked in my mind, because on my 28th birthday, I couldn’t be bothered to find time to see my mother – I barely managed to squeeze in a phone call. She died unexpectedly 11 days later, on the day we were supposed to FINALLY see each other. I’m hoping that I’ll one day forgive myself for that. So yeah, the weeks leading up to my bday are also a period where I brace myself for the recurring wave of grief, of which my birthday is merely a foreshadow. It gets stronger the days following my bday, up until the anniversary of her death.

I can feel the increased volatility in my emotions lately, the familiar dread. Yes, spending my bday week in Paris has been a nice distraction these past few years, but the complicated emotions are still running in the background. It doesn’t help that my trip to France last summer was the catalyst to my slide into depression, that got progressively worse throughout the 2nd half of 2017. I am anxious to go back. I have many demons to face. I am hoping that by going to Paris I can close out the chapter of another year of my life stolen from me by my mental health. I want to start fresh. I want to celebrate. I want to hope that I can and will see life in color again, after living in a desaturated reality for the past 12 months.


At work, I’ve noticed a certain rigidity and intensity in my reactions. I am stressed, I am having trouble quietening my mind enough to be productive. I feel a little overwhelmed by my to do list. I am not remotely as prepared for my work trip as I should be and am behind on my Montreal deliverables. My boss has been checking in very frequently, asking me how I am doing and feeling. She typically only does that when she has reason to believe I am not ok. My little GAB sent me an email on Tuesday, asking if I was ok. I wasn’t – I was having a meltdown in the parking lot, hidden away, my favorite place to cry in summer months. GAB admitted to me yesterday that she could tell immediately on Monday morning that I was off, but generously suggested I seemed to be doing a bit better? Yeah, I suppose I am, but that is because I’ve lost the battle against procrastination. #cantwinthemall. I worry that the ppl in my life, professionally and personally, have to pay the price of my unstable mental health, which is unfair. I worry I am slipping back into my bad space of Oct-November. I tell myself that no, it is just a reasonable increase in stress from the fact that I am leveling up, getting better, and taking on more. This is the consequence of being healthier, my ability to take on more. And then I reread my post from December, and I worry. Maybe I bit off more than I could chew?


This is a lot to process. I need a lot of energy to handle all of these emotions. I need to give everything I’ve got.

I’m tired. So very tired.


Previous Paris posts:

Best start ever to a work trip

Other than when work sends me to Paris, which I definitely enjoy, I don’t particularly enjoy work trips. Especially solo work trips. Especially solo work trips to the USA: their politics frustrate me no end, and more importantly, I can’t handle the portion sizes at restaurants. Depending on the location, I’ve gone a week without eating any fresh vegetables because that wasn’t part of the menu at the restaurants. It’s not so much a question of gaining weight, even though I inevitably do during a week-long trip. It’s the bloating, and the constant feeling of fullness, and the icky digestion, that comes from eating in restaurants non stop. Add to that the time constraints that prevent exercising as much, if at all, as I would normally do at home, and the corresponding strain on my mental equilibrium… Work trips make me feel gross.

I was scheduled to spend 1 week in Tualatin (suburb of Portland), OR this week. I didn’t wanna go. For the reasons stated above, but also because these kind of mandates are rather stressful, and require good planning, focus and delivery. I haven’t been performing anywhere close to my normal output for the past 6 MONTHS. I might be doing and getting better, but I worried that this trip might be too much, too soon. I had never met any of my coworkers at the Tualatin office, so that meant a week of socializing with strangers. To make matters worse, my flight was at 5:30am on Monday (yesterday) morning. Y’all. I am the LEAST morning person EVER. EVAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. 5:30am! The horror.

All in all, I felt nothing but dread for this trip.

Well.

Guess who called me at 2:50am yesterday morning, to make sure I woke up in time for my 5:30am flight? That’s right. ICB. (Yes, I am behind in my posting, so here is the abridged version: a handful more dates, and a 6 hour drive home from Boston that was one delightful non-stop conversation. He knows that I don’t cook. He knows I don’t drive. He knows I take medication for my ADD and he knows I have depression. He knows I failed out of engineering before graduating top of my class in accounting. He knows about this blog. He knows quite a bit about me, and has not yet run for the hills. What do I know about ICB? Some things, but not many, it’s true. He is a damned reserved man and I am enjoying every layer he peels back, bit by bit. I know that I feel safe with him. I know he makes me smile, so much, so often.)

So. Yeah. 2:50am. I did not hit snooze, I did not fall back asleep. I got outta bed and made my way to the airport. I made my flight. When I teased him as to why he would do such a thing, he explained that he is a lighter sleeper than me, so he figured he should put that to good use. Bruh. 93.7% of the world’s population is a lighter sleeper than me, but they ain’t calling me to make sure I make my early morning flight. Nice try.

Acts of kindness always take my breath away. At the risk of sounding like an autistic alien, kindness is not something that comes naturally to me, nor am I particularly used to receiving. Not sure why, possibly because kindness and vulnerability are siblings, and I do my best to avoid vulnerability always, keeping everyone, including friends and family, at a comfortable safe distance. That’s how I feel least threatened, normally. I’m prickly, like a hedgehog. And because I am prickly, I am not used to being cared for, even momentarily (e.g. Dynamo. Allie. GAB). I am used to clear transactions. Birthdays: gifts. Christmas: gifts. Favors for favors. But kindness? It doesn’t fit into my neat world of debits and credits. But… It fills me with gratitude. Bewilderment. Wonderment. And it makes me smile, so hard.

That ICB. Damn.

And just like that… my trip so far has been really enjoyable. My coworkers are friendly. The weather is beautiful. I’ve chosen to walk to and from the office to the hotel, a beautiful sunshiny hour long walk, each way. With geese.

My hotel is lovely, with a restaurant that has a fairly healthy menu. The portions are not toooooo crazy. I ate breakfast and supper today, skipped lunch, and I didn’t feel like I’d burst or gross.

The skies are the bluest blue. The walks are doing wonders for my mood, and allow me to see the unexpected like this totally non-ironic display of car husks.

2 days down outta 5, I am behind where I should be, but the work is going and I am not panicking. Each day is better than the previous, I am more focused than I have been in ages, and while I might not accomplish everything I should in the established time, I am very grateful to realize I am capable of delivering more than I could 1-2 months ago. Progress.

Not bad for a solo work trip I dreaded with every fiber of my body!

Little gifts

In March I attended MTC’s birthday house party. I was too exhausted for socializing, but I forced myself to go. She lives a 15 minute walk from my place, so I negotiated with myself that I would show up for 1.5-2 hours and then if necessary, I could make a quick getaway. I like MTC, and I knew everyone who would be attending: over the years her friends have become my own, thanks to her 2-3x annual get-togethers. Hers is a low stress, safe environment and I’d be able to fulfill my obligation as a friend.

I had a low-key good time, catching up with DD and a couple of other friends I hadn’t seen in a while. 1.5 hours elapsed and as I got ready to take my leave, one of MTC’s besties, Bloggerina, pulled me aside. I steeled myself for a well-meaning but tiring inquiry into my mental health. Instead, Bloggerina hugged me,

Vanilla, I’m so proud of you, of what you are doing for mental health. You might not realize it, but you are making a difference. I have a close friend who suffers from depression, he’s thought of ending his life before, and I didn’t know how to be there for him. We’ve had much better conversations since I read your blog. I tell him that I might not live through depression, but I read the words of someone who does, so I sorta get it. He has read your blog on some of his really bad days, and it helps. He feels less alone because you say the things that many people can’t. You share your struggle, you speak up, even when it can impact your career. Vanilla, don’t stop writing. You are making a difference. You are doing so much to counter mental health stigma. It doesn’t matter if your audience is small, every person in that audience is benefiting, which means they can have a positive impact in the lives of the people in their network. That is huge. You are changing lives and you don’t even know it. I know it’s hard for you right now. But I wanted you to know that your voice fucking matters. Who cares if you can’t write as much as before? Take your time. When you do manage to write, what you produce is amazing. Just keep writing as much as you can, when you can. I am so proud of you.


In beginning of May, I met up with a long-time reader of my blog and follower on Instagram. Rainbow was introduced to my blog through one of my cousins. Over the past year or so, she has DMd me a few times when a blog or IG post particularly resonated with her. She confessed to a conviction that had we lived in the same city, we’d be friends. When Rainbow realized she would be passing through Montreal, she wrote to me to suggest that we meet up. I agreed. That is how I found myself on a blind-date a few hours before my infamous ice cream evening with ICB.

I was nervous, a little. The interweb is a curious place. I’ve forged 2-3 virtual friendships with fellow bloggers, one of whom has repeatedly invited me to come visit her city. I’ve met up with one long-time reader 2 years ago, when I happened to be traveling to his city for work. It is very odd meeting someone who already knows so much about me, without actually knowing me. But it is also kinda wonderful.

 

Y’all. We had a fantastic time. 3 hours of raw, authentic, deep conversation. Rainbow was right. Had we lived in the same city, we definitely would be firm friends. She lives life the way I wish I could, if I didn’t have depression. She feels so much, the highs and the lows. “It’s like seeing all the colors, so brightly. Max saturation. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but so beautiful.” Yasss girl, #goals. Several times during our supper, I was amazed that such a vibrant woman could relate so strongly to my words, when most of my reality is opposite to hers: numb, muted, color blind. Then I understood: she could relate to my pain. Vibrant people all know pain, it is by embracing it that they develop their deep capacity for joy. And boy, did Rainbow ever emanate joy! In her presence I began to see the world in shades of color, for the first time in a long long time.

I came out of that encounter feeling deep gratitude. I will never forget that evening.


I share a considerable social circle with Kiddo. Kiddo is extremely private about his mental health, but having read my blog for the past 4 years, he has occasionally confided some of his social struggles to me. My openness of my (relatively mild) conditions has encouraged him to adopt a more transparent approach with some key figures in his life. He has been checking in on me as I struggled through the worst of my episode in Nov-Jan and encouraging me as I put up with the interminable waiting list for a psychiatrist, sharing some of his coping mechanisms from when he had found himself in a similar situation. Last week, Kiddo wrote to me to admit that he was once again having suicidal thoughts following a change in his medication. Not because he wanted me to intervene, but because voicing that was a necessary part of his acknowledgment the situation that he was doing everything he needed to do to address. A moment of vulnerability.


It has been hard, lately, to keep blogging. I’m more aware of the possible consequences, how intense my blog can appear to anyone who stumbles upon it. I’m more aware of the stigma of mental health on my career and dating prospects. I am exhausted always, so voluntarily choosing to be vulnerable on my blog seems like a Sisyphean feat. My sick brain whispers to me that I should just be quiet, to give up, my voice doesn’t matter. Except it does. I don’t quite understand how or why. But people read my blog and my words make a difference in their lives.

So even though all I wanna do is take a nap, imma kindly tell my brain to fuck off, and keep on writing.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

Phase 6 feels like mourning and confusion

My godmama cornered me at a recent family gathering.

Sweetheart, I read your blog because your god-sisters tell me when they think I need to be aware of what you are going through. It make me so sad to know that you have such a big sadness. Tell me what I can say to make it better, I wish I knew. I know you are having a hard time right now, but the only advice I can give you is: don’t worry about the forest. Focus on the trees. Just take one thing at a time. Tell yourself, ‘I can’t handle this thing right now, so I will work on this other easier and smaller thing and make it better. I know I need to fix this third thing, but I’m not strong enough right now, so that will have to wait and that’s ok. Instead I’ll take care of this little thing.” One tree at a time, sweetheart, bit by bit, that is how forests are made. It breaks my heart, sweetheart, that you are feeling so sad. Please, please just remember that we are a phone call away and that we love you. I wish I knew what to say to make it better.

That’s a godmama, right there.

I tried to tell her that I know she loves me, and it comforts me. But at the moment, I just can’t show up. I’m exhausted, and I’m trying so hard. All my energy is consumed trying to salvage my career and fight my brain. Knowing that she and my close friends and family are a phone call away sustains me. But other than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, building up my career, and then attacking one by one the trees that need fixing in my life, I have no energy for anyone or anything else.


For reasons that are not relevant to this blog, I am still in contact with Hickster. There are some loose ends we are trying to take care of, which involve us communicating with one another far more often than never.

Before my diagnosis, especially from November to January, Hickster and I were locked in a pissing contest to see who could hurt the other more. He was soooooooooo frustrated with my constant tears, yelling meltdowns and screaming matches. He would dish out 3-10x as good as he’d get, warning me “you mess with me, I’ll make sure you never try that shit again”. We were the ultimate case study for a toxic destructive relationship. I’d rage at him that he was an ungrateful coward who couldn’t recognize everything I’d done for him, and he’d reply, “You can’t see what I’ve done for you. Who else would put up with your social awkwardness and your tantrums and tears. You’re a fucking child who doesn’t know how to behave. There is a reason why people find you so hard to love. I have moderated your odd quirks and made it easier for people to accept you and like you. You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit. Grow up.”

#romance101

February, I got my prelim diagnosis. I begged Hickster to reach a truce in our warring, while I was on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist and sort out my shit. I was sick, sicker than I’d ever realized and I didn’t have the energy to fight him anymore, not when I was losing the battle against my brain. I had nothing left in me. For about a week, he refused to accept the diagnosis, telling me I just needed to learn to control my emotions. Classic reaction of someone who doesn’t accept mental health issues. The warring continued. I thought I would drown in my own tears.

One day, something switched. Hickster saw me. He saw me trapped in my own misery during a conversation. Since then, he listens and can flag in my voice if I’m sliding down own of my paranoid tunnels, experiencing an episode of cognitive distortion. He stops short the conversation, “Vanilla it isn’t you talking right now, it is your sick brain. You are upset, I see that, but we have to finish this conversation later once you are better. Or else your brain will say something to hurt me, and I will say shit I don’t mean, you know my temper. Let’s just wait till you are better. No, Vanilla. Don’t insist. I have a relationship with you and I have an entirely different one with your brain. I need to manage both.” I assumed at first he was manipulating me. Except rather than use my brain as an excuse to avoid the difficult conversations we needed to have, he checks in periodically to assess my mood, and when he feels I am clear-headed, he DOES have the painful, complicated convos we need to have. Almost overnight, the fighting has stopped. We are closing out the loose ends I thought would choke me to death.

It has been disorienting to have Hickster switch from being the guy that almost broke me to someone I can trust to protect me against myself. To be clear: this doesn’t absolve him of all the incredible bullshit he did during our time together. He was an asshole, sometimes still is. But whereas for the longest time I felt unseen, unacknowledged, and devalued, here he is, for the 2nd month running, seeing me better than I see myself. Even though we are dealing with the shitty aftermath of a relationship, he is still showing up. I hear the echo of all the times he told me “You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit.” I wonder, now. How much of that was abusive demeaning talk, and how much of it was actually true? He is attempting to fix some of the messes he made in my life even though we are done. He talks to the real Vanilla, the one he always cared for, and has taken on the considerable burden of managing my sick brain. I am grateful for that, because I need all the help managing it.

I feel so much grief. I wonder how many of our fights could have been avoided had we known about the extent and gravity of my condition. How much unnecessary scar tissue we could have saved ourselves. I don’t doubt for a second that Hickster and I were doomed from the start, regardless of my mental health state, because we both are very broken individuals in incompatible ways. But it seems such a waste to have inflicted SO many scars on one another because of my unmanaged condition and unmanageable emotions. I wonder how many other romantic relationships and friendships could not bear that burden and caved or faded. I wonder. I remember some of the fights I had with my ex, over the 6 years of our relationship, the number of times he told me I was exhausting, he couldn’t get through to me, I was vortex of despair. Again, I don’t think we would have ended up happily married, but I mourn how hard I made it for him. How hard I’ve made it for the people in my life, and how many I pushed out of my life.

The real Vanilla wants to love these people, wants to show up, wants to be. But I can’t most days. I fail them, despite my best efforts.

#mentalhealthisbullshit


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

Phase 5 feels like accountability

On Monday I had a series of doctors appointments.

I got bitched out by a nurse at one point, “Oh, so you know about the importance of exercise when it comes to mental health? Yet you are only exercising 1x a week? I see. And you know about the link of sugar and carbs on someone with your condition? Yet you tell me at least 20%-50% of your diet is processed carbs? Okay. Well. You should know that many therapists in the private sector refuse to take on mental health patients until the basics have been handled. You are very lucky that your GP has put you into the public healthcare stream. (*)”

Thanks for that, lady. Really, you are gonna give my sick brain ammunition to help it convince me that this is all my own fault? That if I just tried harder, I wouldn’t be in this mess, I wouldn’t be so unhappy? Only thoughts that spin through my head everysecondofeveryday, you, as a health care professional, you are gonna give credence to that corrosive narrative? Merci beaucoup. I needed that. On top of me having to handle my sick brain, you are now gonna suggest this is, at least partially, my own fault? Fan-fucking-tastic. It wasn’t hard enough already. News flash: If I am only working out 1x a week, it is because I can’t get my shit together to workout more often, despite knowing how much good it does me.

In the moment, I was too stunned to respond. I was angry, very very angry, but didn’t want to make a scene. Finished my appointments. Made it to the office 3 hours later than expected, cried from stress the entire commute at the office, cried when my boss asked me if I was ok, cried when my GAB gave me a cookie she’d set aside for me to make sure our coworkers didn’t eat everything before I got in. Worked for 3-4 hours, went home, and cried some more.

Yes, I know about diet and nutrition. They are the staples of my toolbox. As I wrote back in June 2016, all still true except for the Concerta which I’ve updated:

  • Concerta. For my ADD, but it is also an upper, and since going back on it since Feb, I’ve noticed a sight moderation in the potency of my mood swings.
  • Exercise. My therapist told me to never go more than 2 days without exercising – to view it as seriously as medication, that without it I would eventually need to medicate my brain’s inability to keep my emotions in check. Funny that when I need exercise the most, I feel like doing it the least. I get paralyzed by all that I have to do at work, and working out feels like a vanity. I blink, and 3 hours have gone by with nothing to show for it other than crippling anxiety about my unproductivity, and I stay late at the office to try make up for it, and skip my workout.
  • Diet. A well regulated diet, without too much sugar, helps keep my mood swings at bay. Like any female, anywhere, when I am emotional, I live off of bread, chocolate, and alcohol. Not because that is healthy, but because my soul demands it in exchange for not burning the world to the ground.
  • Friends. When I get into my funk, the last thing I want to do is to inflict my moodiness on any of my friends – besides, they are all so busy with their lives, they don’t have time for this.
  • Writing. I have writer’s block.
  • Sleep. Anxiety takes care of that, real good. I flip-flop between insomnia and overwhelming fatigue, and needing 12 hours a night.

Tuesday morning, late for work, but I packed my gym bag. Made it to the gym. Coach was very surprised to see me, because my weekly visit to the gym has typically been on Saturdays, if at all. I told him, outraged, the nurse’s comments. “Now that’s a lady who gets shit done. Yes! She did! I mean, you are here, aren’t you?! When was the last time you were here on a Tuesday. What’s that? November 2017? I thought so. She got shit done, alright. She played you just right.”

Coach, y’all. I love him, but damn, does he ever piss me off sometimes.

I renewed my membership on Tuesday. I made it to the gym on Thursday. 200% improvement. Coach smiled. He remains, as ever, Coach, the puppeteer.

So yeah. Apparently Imma be working out a helluva more often now. Time to try beat this shadow to the ground.

(*) “lucky” is a very relative term. The public healthcare system in Quebec is free (don’t get me started on our taxation model). And like in all things, what you pay is what you get. A waiting list of 6 months to see a psychiatrist because I am not deemed an emergency, since I am still employed and don’t have any physical self-harm tendencies.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

When it’s too cold for ice cream

I know. Not something I ever thought I’d write. But it happened nonetheless.

Two weeks ago, Cute Boy and I were supposed to go for ice cream, an essential component of my wisdom teeth recovery. But Cute Boy mismanaged his work schedule, and bailed last minute. I didn’t particularly mind as I’d fought a bad anxiety attack earlier that afternoon at dance class. I was too tired to feel anything but relief at the unexpected alone time.

The next day, Cute Boy apologized again and requested a second chance. He offered to come pick me up and take me to any one of the incredible ice cream shops in the city. Ok, then. I normally can’t bring myself to care about first dates, especially those that get off to rocky starts. But something about Cute Boy made me willing to take a risk. More importantly, I realized I was looking forward to it. I genuinely wanted to spend time on Cute Boy. I was attracted without being psycho, which is rare – when I crush, I crush intensively and overwhelmingly. Our connection when we danced was really good – I was comfortable letting myself be vulnerable with him as a leader – and he made me laugh. I wanted to spend time with someone who had made me smile. No stress, no pressure, just the expectation of spending a comfortable moment chatting with someone pleasant and easy on the eyes. My unfamiliarity with that feeling made me question it further. I realized the last time I’d gone on a proper date was with Beaut, to the Opera. Y’all, that was in November2015. Almost 2.5 years ago. 2.5 years of my life, spent investing in, and then recovering from, 2 successive dead-end situationships. (#1 = Beaut, blogged about in great detail, #2 = Hickster, barely mentioned because I’m still putting the pieces back together of my life after that destructive trainwreck. Some stories should not be told in real-time.) Two point five years. Approximately 900 days.

900 days since I’d last felt inclined to spend time getting to know someone.

Not gonna lie, that realization made me feel a little sad. Almost like grieving. A chapter of my life that was so turbulent, with so much personal growth, moments of love and thrilling happiness, and so much pain, betrayal and sorrow, was fully over. Not only had I moved on from both Beaut and Hickster, with their familiar yet toxic love, but I had moved on from the comfortable mix of pain and numbness that follows every breakup. Just like the odd disappointment at turning the last page of a good book, I was disoriented that the Beaut/Hickster journey was over. No more sequels, no more anything. I was done and had been for a while: I just hadn’t had the opportunity to realize it. Time for new stories. Time for ice cream.

Except we didn’t go for ice cream at all. It was FREEZING when Cute Boy came to pick me up, I was chattering from the cold, and he turned up both warming seats in his car to the max. We decided instead to go for hot chocolate. He brought me to Mr. Puffs, which is like Dunkin Donuts except a million times more decadent and yummy. 2 hours of laughing and chatter, and then he brought me home. I gave him 2 kisses on the cheek, and that was that (#stillvanillathankyouverymuch).

I had a smile on my face for hours.

It isn’t lost on me that this is a very concrete sign that I am doing better. Going on a date, even if it is with someone that I already know, is a form of vulnerability. Vulnerability is the antithesis of depression. This was a very tiny step, that meant so much.

Cute Boy promised to take me for ice cream when it would be warmer.