social anxiety

BPD series: the ability to see colors

I adulted!

6 months after ICB gave me the best present of my life, I looked up a store that does frames. I felt like such a grown up, discussing standard frame sizes, methods, style. I was so excited. I learned mounting a painting onto a frame requires time: it would be available for pickup in 1-2 weeks.

I picked it up yesterday. ICB came along. I was jumping up and down in the store while I waited for the clerk to fetch my painting from the back. ICB didn’t understand, it had been 6 months, what was a few more minutes?

So rational, that guy.

Well, that rational guy had a little something in his eye when he finally saw the painting mounted on its frame. We walked to my home in silence, both of us deep in our memories. I put it in my favorite room, the room where I write most of my blog posts.

It’s an interesting dynamic I have with ICB. He is a dependable rock, always there for those he cares about. A good, solid man. He uses few words, but he cares deeply. Observant. His stability makes me feel more grounded.

But.

He does not accept my mental health issues. At all. More than once, he has told me that while he rationally accepts my diagnosis, he can’t reconcile that someone as “beautiful, smart, and wonderful as you could have such problems. I know you are emotional, I can see sometimes you struggle, but part of me thinks that if you just learned how to not let it get to you so much, you would be fine.

His good-natured non-understanding has both been an inadvertent motivator and a burden. Like a child, I try work on certain aspects of my behavior, and proudly announce when I’ve succeeded on something small, like cleaning my floors or keeping my temper. The benefit of that is clear: I have a less messy apartment, and I have navigated some social situations better than I would have had ICB not given me advice. But it’s that wanting to please him and make him proud of me that is a problem. Because it implies that who I am, my baseline, isn’t something he would be satisfied with. Which, considering that I want him to be proud of me because I inconsistently and haphazardly manage to do Adult 101 tasks and avoid brutal, exhausting and mortifying emotional meltdowns… isn’t a stretch. The more I want him to be proud of me, the more I believe that who I am is not enough for him. And that is without him saying things like, “I worry I won’t be strong enough to handle your emotional swings. That I won’t be what you need from me. The intensity scares me.” Bro, if only you knew how much it scares me too.

Who can blame him? I am the girl who had a week-long meltdown about some Instagram likes. It isn’t unfair for him to wonder what my reaction would be like if ever we hit a real hiccup or problem. BPD is the most associated with suicide amongst personality disorders; it is estimated that 40-65% of suicides have a personality disorder; among BPD, 8-10% commit suicide, up to 75% attempt suicide and 69-80% self-mutilate. That knowledge is a heavy load to carry. Heavier still is my realization that I have on multiple occasions this fall considered that not living would be an acceptable option for shutting out the whirlwind in my head. Most days, I can easily see that I have many other options, and that not living is a pretty terrible option, but whereas I used to not have these thoughts, with every year that goes on, I understand more and more why people chose to end their lives. That is something I have to deal with, but is not easy knowledge for those who care about me.

I wish I could explain to ICB, I know the burden I am to those around me. I value so very much those that love me as I am, including these very imperfect sides of me. Those who are proud of me whether or not I clean my floors, because they know I am trying. The ones who try to fight away my pockets of shame, because there is no side of me too awful for them to love. The Allies, DDs, Dynamos and Coaches of this world, who hear my paranoid rants, realize that I am in one of my episodes and offer practical suggestions while patiently waiting for me to ride it out, always speaking to the Vanilla they love, ready to give me a reassuring hug once I’m back on the other side of paranoia and cognitive distortion. They give me the gift of acceptance. I give them… not sure what, but their love for me is so deep I don’t worry about my inability to reciprocate like a normal adult.

I want to tell ICB – my inability to see the world as he does doesn’t make me any less lovable, it just makes me different. Occasionally, I do manage to see the colors in the world. This duality, living mostly in a world of greys, with flashes of colors, is what gives me my capacity to love – I am in tune to others’ suffering and shame, and it doesn’t phase me. It gives me my humanity.

I wish my humanity were enough.

To the extent it is not, I retain a friend who does not understand but who cares.

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.

All the colors in Paris

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BPD series: dealing with shame

Without justifying or condemning ourselves, we do the courageous work of opening to suffering. This can be the pain that comes when we put up barriers or the pain of opening our heart to our own sorrow or that of another being. We learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our successes. In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

I was working late at the office, a day like any other lately, when my bestie Allie FaceTimed me with her little baby Willie. They blew bubbles and kisses at me together,”we love you Auntie Vanilla and we are proud of you. You got this!!” My heart. I hung up, goofy smile on my face. My phone rang again, another FaceTime call. Laughing, I picked up, “Yes, Allie, what is Willie up to now?” Except it wasn’t Allie. It was Hickster, video calling me on Whatsapp.


Months. It had been months since I’d cut my losses and blocked him. Months of mourning the absence of someone who’d made me feel more alive than I’ve ever been. Months of trying to understand and accept that love is not enough. He made me feel fully whole and fully broken at the same time.

Months.


I might have blocked Hickster on all our usual platforms for communication (his number, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram), I’d forgotten that since I was in his contacts, he could use Whatsapp. My stunned brain couldn’t connect to my fingers to end the call. I sat in silence looking at a 2 dimensional small rectangle of a face that once meant the world to me.

“Vanilla, please. Hear me out. I want to apologize.”

He apologized for the relatively mundane trigger of our last fight. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before that. As I tried to cut him off, and let him know it was ok, we didn’t need to revisit the past, he could just drop it, Hickster insisted, “No, Vanilla. I need to say this, and you need to hear it. I am sorry.”

45 minutes. It was a real apology. Not a “I’m sorry but” apology. No “yes I did this but you did that too” bullshit. He covered the big betrayals. The micro-betrayals. Specific moments where he made me feel inadequate. The accusations, the disregard. He described with precision and sadness the impact it had had on me. It was painful to listen to and hard to watch a proud man struggle to push the words of his shameful behavior out of his mouth. “I did all that. Me. I did that to someone who loved me. I broke something beautiful and I have to live with that knowledge every day. I am sorry.” 

I thanked him for the apology. Hung up. Cried for 2 hours.


I woke up different. The gaping wound I’d been carrying for all of 2018 felt slightly scarred over. One of the hardest parts of the deterioration of my relationship with Hickster was the cruel switch that happened almost overnight when I went from being his love to being nothing. It was like a denial of my existence in his life. I know I matter, I know I mattered to him, I know I brought goodness into his life, how can he pretend it never happened? I am so worthless, even the memories of me can be forgotten? Reconciling my reality of what we’d shared with his behavior made me almost insane. During those months, I gained a whole lot of understanding of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. And now, unexpectedly, I had confirmation that not only I mattered, but that his behaviour had been intentional, born not of a revulsion for my worthlessness but of his own brokenness.

The world had titled, somewhat.


A week later, Hickster texted me an innocuous comment, a feeler to see if I would be open to the idea of cautiously settling those few items which we’d never settled. I felt the bubble of panic rise inside of me. I can’t do this, I won’t manage, I can’t face any more pain, followed by the dread of another meltdown at work, I can’t afford that right now, I need to concentrate, I have too much on my plate, I can’t do this, I can’t, I can’t…

And just like that I was back in the grips of this other me. The endless texting, pages and pages and pages of lamentations, and pleas and regrets. Hickster initially reacted abruptly, but as my texting continued, uncontrolled, as I cried hysterically in my office, it shifted to bald responses: “Vanilla, I can’t read your think” followed by “Chill Vanilla. Chill. It’s ok. We’ll talk later, when you are better.” I cried and cried, used an entire box of Kleenexes, still typing. Silence. I kept typing, using scrap paper to blow my nose, because I couldn’t leave my office and show my coworkers my wrecked face. Typed some more. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t do this, please don’t be mad, ok? Please. I’m sorry, I don’t understand this either. I know I’ve annoyed you and I’m crying and crying. I’m sorry Hickster, for real I don’t know how to control this. I don’t think this can work out, I’m just too fucked up. I want to try keep my shit together, to close out our shit on a good note, but I don’t think I can handle interacting with you. I think I’m more fucked up and hurt than I even realized. I hope you believe me; I can’t control this and I hate it as much as you do. I’m sorry.” I continued crying and typing into silence for another HOUR, until it dawned on me that Hickster had just demonstrated the same behaviour he used to when I was very depressed. He had flagged I was “off”. He had tried to keep me calm, and when that failed, stepped back until my emotions burned themselves out. THAT is when I realised I was having one of my BPD meltdowns triggered by my feelings of inadequacy. Almost 75 minutes after Hickster had backed off, I had finally understood what was going on. I felt deep shame.

I left work early, feeling defeated, and mortified.

The next day, around lunch, a text from Hickster. “You ok?” I called him up, started apologizing for my meltdown, for using him as an emotional punching bag, as I had so many times before. That I realized now how much exhaustion I’d caused him, while believing myself to be the only victim in our relationship. He cut me off. “Vanilla. Stop it. When I called you to apologize, I knew what I was getting into. This is who you are. You can’t control it, it just is. I know that now, even though back in the day, I didn’t know what was going on and I reacted very badly. You didn’t know you had this condition. You were doing your best. I know you can’t help these waves, I just gotta ride it out, not engage and wait till you are better and clear-headed. That’s ok. That comes with the territory, and I knew that when I decided I was ready to apologize. Don’t be sorry for who you are. Who you are is who I said sorry to. All of you.”


A few days later my 3-part Instagram meltdown with ICB. One week after that, ICB and I decided to part ways. ICB admitted that he feared the burden of my emotions, that he wouldn’t be able to manage them, long-term.

Who can blame him?


I’ve come to believe Hickster’s purpose in my life was to help me uncover my BPD diagnosis.

My whole life, I’ve known something was painfully off about me. I leave a long trail behind me of broken, confused relationships, filling me with shame. Some times I manage to hide it better, to appear more normal, but I always felt different. Apart. Managing to mostly fit in while being painfully aware of my secret brokenness.

And then came Hickster, like a hurricane, and he pushed all my buttons and overwhelmed me until my brokenness became so obvious and problematic I needed to get help.

I have a name now for what I have. An action plan. Books. Therapy. With hard work I’ll eventually build healthier responses to my brokenness such that I don’t in turn in Hulk Smash those I care for.

Without Hickster, I would never have known what it means to be fully broken and fully whole.

Revisiting the Instagram meme through the BPD filter

Writing the Instagram meme post was hard. Untangling the mess of knotted emotions, gaining an understanding of what I was feeling, and why, uncovering the deep well of shame and insecurity was unpleasant. I am happy I got to the crux of my truth, I am proud that I was courageous enough to tell my story, but oye, do I ever have a vulnerability hangover.

ICB was not delighted when he read it. Understandably. It leaves no room for intention. It is a single-view story, mine, in which he is portrayed one-dimensionally. Nor did he appreciate being mentioned in the same post as Beaut or Hickster: while I don’t make it a habit to discuss my previous dating experiences with him, he has read parts of my blog and is not fond of either dude for how they made me feel and the very real complicated baggage I retain from them. It is not flattering company to find himself in. I get that.

ICB did give me an explanation for his behavior that, true to form, exonerates him from any disrespect towards me. Not surprised. I expected the hurt to lessen, but instead, the whole weekend it has been my companion. I had hoped that by putting my hurt into words I would be liberated from its heavy burden. But all that has done is help me understand myself: I am hurt because I have gotten feedback, yet again, that I am not enough to be a person’s priority. I understand myself, yay! But my feelings are still overwhelming.

At a social gathering this weekend, I went out of my way to avoid any one on one contact with ICB. I couldn’t be close to him, I wanted to cry every time he got within a foot of me. Hickster used to trigger that kind of physical reaction. I’d always assumed that my physical manifestation of pain was caused by the epic, sometimes ruthless, asshole behaviour Hickster could casually dish out. He was a Grade A jackass. ICB is not. ICB liked some girl’s very pretty IG pics and has not liked mine. But never, not once, has he ever disrespected me. ICB’s “crime” is a lack of positive behaviour towards me, which is totally different from Hickster’s objectively very negative behaviour towards me. Two very VERY different sets of behaviour but a very comparable degree of hurt. That doesn’t make sense. The gap between my cerebral vs my emotional take on the situation is huge.

I think I’ve shifted into borderline territory.

Out of those 9 traits, 7 very clearly apply to the Instagram meme post.

  • Identity disturbance: unstable self-image or sense of self: If ICB liking another girl’s IG pics can produce an obliterated sense of self in the form of a never ending soundtrack of “I am not enough”, we can agree that my self-image is unstable. Just a tad.
  • Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment: This weekend I spent a few hours helping ICB out on a project (via the safe distance of texting and emailing). Why? to show I was a team player, I was still there, I was a good girl, don’t be mad at me, I am still worthy. Heyo! The same dynamic as with Hickster. Hickster would do something to hurt me, I would overreact dramatically, we’d have a ginormous fight, and before we had even finished patching things up, I was back helping Hickster with stuff he hadn’t even asked me to do. I’m still here. Don’t hate me. I am a good girl, I am helpful. I am valuable. Forgive me. I’m sorry I overreacted. Don’t give up on me.
  • Unstable relationships, alternating between idealisation and devaluation: This one is hard for me to notice as it is happening, bc I always think I am fairly and even empathetically characterizing the person I am dealing with. But I notice my thought patterns about ICB are beginning to sound one dimensional. “HE never makes me feel special, HE isn’t making me a priority, HE isn’t finding ways to show me he cares”… aka he is not doing enough to make me feel cherished and valued. That strident blaming tone is the perfect breeding ground for an unstable relationship.
  • Stress, paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms: I was SO stressed this weekend, I had trouble breathing at the social gathering, while ICB was present. I ended up just ghosting, and taking an Uber home without saying goodbye. I felt my stress levels drop significantly as soon as I was in the car.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger: While I describe my feelings as being hurt, there is anger. Anger at having revealed myself, an exercise I find excruciatingly painful, only to be told, effectively, that I am not priority. I revealed myself, and have been treated carelessly, as having no worth. I described it as wanting to howl away my pain, but especially with Hickster, the impulse – never manifested – was to claw his face. To make him hurt physically as much I did emotionally. My therapist has often told me in the past that sadness and anger are two sides of the same coin, so I wonder if this completely disproportionate reaction to some Instagram likes is not an example of this BPD trait.
  • Emotional instability due to a marked reactivity of mood: I think this one is fairly self evident.

So here I am. With an even deeper awareness of what I am feeling and why. Go me.

But where do I go from here? I can’t help that ICB’s relatively minor action has produced this hurricane of hurt. Those are my feelings. My reaction is to feel he should be doing something differently. He should value me more. He should let me know he cares. He should apologize.

And maybe probably he should.

But this is my life. I refuse to let my happiness depend on some other person’s actions, especially when every person has their own shit going on, so it is very likely that they will not be able to meet my emotional requirements to my very needy satisfaction. That is an unfair burden to place on anyone, especially those I care about.

So I guess the real question is:

Accepting that ICB does not make me feel like I am enough;

Accepting that it isn’t ICB’s job to make me feel enough;

Accepting that until I feel enough, I will have this rage-pain-hurt that consumes me;

How the fuck can I get to a state where I feel and believe that I am enough?!

Phase 7 feels like a reawakening

Friday evening, I landed in Montreal at 6pm. By 7pm, I was home. I weighed myself, and realized that my diet in Paris had been a tad too decadent, and there was no way I would fit into the dress I’d intended to wear to Dynamo’s sister’s (#family) wedding the next day, Saturday evening. Time for some impromptu shopping.

25 minutes, 1 store, 2nd dress I tried on, $100CAD (aka monopoly money), I was done. In bed by 9:45pm.

Y’all, the jet lag this time was no joke. I woke up at 10am on Saturday feeling concussed. I dragged myself to the nearest coffee shop by 11am, determined to pass the time vertically until my 2pm hair appointment. Not because I wanted to be vertical, but because I was pretty sure that sleeping 15 hours was not gonna help me recover from jet lag, nor was I certain I would be able to wake up again. My brain felt like it was cotton candy. I drank two lattes, and pinched myself to stay awake.

And I read.

One of the side effects of my depression has been an inability to concentrate. Brutal. For months, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch Netflix. I could only handle about 10 minutes at a time of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or else RuPaul’s Drag Race (don’t ask – I hate reality TV. But those girls are just so shady and so funny and so real, you know? #goals). Movies? Forget about it. Poor DD. We used to go to movies on a bi-weekly basis. I think I’ve seen a total of 2 with her in 2018, the most recent one for her bday at the start of the month. Well. At the airport on the way to Paris, I spotted a new book by my favorite author, Susanna Kearsley (she’s Canadian, weeee). Figuring this was a good omen for the trip, I bought it. It was a good omen… but I didn’t read it while in Paris. Too busy seeing all the colors, which was most lovely and deserving of my full attention. But to come home and realize that those colors translated into a concrete improvement? The ability to read 30-40 pages in one sitting, despite a brain that desperately wanted a nap? SO EXCITING!!!!

I celebrated by getting myself a third latte and going to get my hair done for the wedding. Y’all. I’ve never done that. Never had hair long enough that I could do it, and never had an occasion where that seemed worthwhile. Some people do it for their annual Christmas party, but I’ve always been too much of a lazy tomboy to bother. Still, I knew what was expected of me for this wedding (Arab weddings are fancy, y’all).

After getting my hair teased and curled and pinned, no choice! Had to stay vertical up until the wedding time. So I went for a walk to buy some lacy undergarments (I do love me some lingerie!) and makeup. I then came home and, like Cher’s character in Moonstruck, reveled in the gradual and luxurious process of getting ready. I did my nails, slowly, while sipping on mimosas. I played classical music, loudly, on all the speakers in my home. I read some more. I did my make up bit by bit. With nice long rests in between each step, and a lot of boozy hydration. I was alone, and I really enjoyed my gradual transformation into a duchess for a day.

This past year stripped me of the energy or the resolve to take care of my appearance. As long as my body stayed relatively ok, I just couldn’t be bothered to try. Hair in a knot on the top of my head, no makeup, clothes that were clean and that were flattering, purchased back when I took pleasure in my appearance or could enter a store without anxiety or dread. With an overwhelming list of things draining me of my energy, I cut corners where I could, and that meant dispensing myself with the obligation to spend anything more than the bare minimum time required to shower on my appearance.

So, I’d forgotten. I forgotten that I quite enjoy feeling pretty. That I can feel pretty. That I like feeling pretty. That I like spending time on myself in order to feel pretty.

Remembering that was very satisfying.

And if I am gonna spend a few hours getting all glammed up… you know I am gonna knock it out of the park. #perfectionismevenwhendressingup

I’m loving these concrete indicators that I am doing better.

#allthecolors

#ifinishedthebookyesterdaymorning

#itwasakickasswedding


For a recap of this recent battle with depression, I have created a new page under the section Vulnerability – check it out: The Great Depression of 2017-2018.

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: