To hell with everyone

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It’s now been two months since I felt like me regularly. While I feel like I’m living in reality more often now, I’m still often floating off somewhere, barely holding onto the real world. Some of the thoughts I’ve had and the things I’ve said have been so outrageous, I scare myself a little. My memory is shot and I frequently forget things I’ve done, arguing with my mom that she threw out my bowl of donuts when actually I put it away in the most ridiculous cupboard.

But, in some ways, my broken brain is benefiting me. Breaking some of my old bad habits is easier than it was before. I know that when my brain heals and the fogginess lifts, something about who I was has changed. The biggest difference is that I’m becoming a selfish bitch, and I’m totally okay with it.

They say being lonely when you’re in a romantic relationship is worse than being lonely when you’re single. I’ve been there and it does suck. But what’s far worse is being lonely when you know you have plenty of friends.

Before the accident, I complained to my therapist that I was so busy because so many people wanted to see me all the time. I was stressed from juggling all my friendships. With this concussion, I’ve barely heard from many of the people who used to fill my time.

I realized a lot of this time I was sharing with friends was actually me helping them. I spent hours driving people around, listening to their problems and organizing to get them the help they needed. All the while, I was leaving so little time to take care of myself, I probably needed help as much as they did. But I knew they’d do the same for me if ever I asked. At least, that’s what I allowed myself to believe.

The truth hurts. In this case, it’s made for one of the most painful times in my life. I asked my friends for visits or friendly mail to cheer me up through the monotonous days of lying on a heating pad on the floor, listening to podcasts when I could and sitting in silence when the headache, lightheadedness and dizziness settled in. Based on the minuscule response I receive, I realized that what I thought were friendships were too one-sided to be called such.

I’m fully aware that some friends, true friends, haven’t been around because their lives are so busy, they can’t give more of themselves up to someone else. “Have at least a couple of people been here for you?” one friend asked, unapologetic that this was only her second visit despite my public admissions of depression and loneliness.

I know pre-accident Meg would have resented her lack of guilt. In fact, even a few weeks after the accident I was outraged that some of my closest friends hadn’t even really tried to get in touch. But, now, I just feel admiration. And jealousy.

Amidst my embarrassing monologues explaining how doing anything—looking at my phone, listening to music, cooking—makes me feel faint and nauseous, I’ve been asked for favours. And I’ve unapologetically said “No,” despite wanting to say “Yes” and then “Are you fucking kidding me?”. After the inner outburst of rage that someone would dare ask me to physically or mentally exert myself for them right now, I came to understand that it’s solely my responsibility to know when I’m available to help, just as it’s my responsibility to know when I need to ask for help.

Saying “Yes” isn’t automatic anymore and it’s easier for me to say “No” to going out of my way to help someone who hasn’t earned a place in my heart. As my brain heals, I’m hoping this becomes it’s new way of functioning and one day I can ditch all the guilt I feel about putting me and the people dearest to me first, and everyone else dead last.

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Mindless help is hurtful

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Yesterday, my doctor told me I’ll be out full-time for at least another month.

I feel like I’m on the edge of reality, not completely myself and lost in a fog. The symptoms fade if I sit virtually still and do nothing, so I won’t be blogging as usual for a while.

Instead, I’ll just jump over to my podcast for a few weeks. Audio will be unedited and my concussion ramblings are, well, ramblings, but at least I can feel like I have some connection to the world.

Holy crap, people are nice.

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I received the above gift anonymously in the mail a couple of weeks ago after a particularly annoying day. I don’t remember what was going on, but I do remember feeling ridiculously stressed and anxious. A lot of that slipped away after I found this in my mailbox.

If you know me at all, you know I don’t go to theatres. What you might not know is that I don’t go because some months I barely slip by financially and going out to see a movie isn’t in the budget. Like, it hasn’t really been for more than a year. But the beautiful feather, kind note and lovely handmade envelope were just as special. I had to sit down for a minute and cry. Multiple times over the next 24-hours.

People are just so dang nice to me!

I’m not going to lie, after really enjoying receiving this gift, I put on my detective hat and tried to figure out who’d sent it. There were some telling clues, but I stopped myself before coming up with a list of suspects and instead shifted my focus to thinking about how damn lovely this was and how I want others to feel this way.

That’s sort of why I started Sending Love to Broken Hearts. But folks staying in women’s shelters over Valentine’s Day aren’t the only ones who need some love. Talking with a good friend, we decided to start getting together somewhat regularly to create nice little packages like this for people who we know are struggling, whether or not we really know that person.

Whoever sent this, thank you! I’m holding on to the love you sent me and making sure to spread it. You’re fucking beautiful, amazing and lovely.

 

I can do this, with you

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I really felt like shit about myself last week. Despite knowing better, I was judging myself rather harshly for not being able to take care of myself properly on my own. And then you all stepped in and set me straight.

An acquaintance responded to the status update about last week’s blog post on my Facebook wall with this:

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She’s right. I’ve always had high expectations for myself. I was the kid who cried when they didn’t get an A in a class. I was disappointed in myself for getting 98 per cent as my final grade in a high school pre-cal class. I stopped drawing in junior high because, though I loved it, I didn’t think I was good enough (looking back at my old sketchbook, I was again judging far too harshly).

Last week, two friends popped into my place to help clean and I told them to leave the disaster that is my living room. At the time, there were piles of whole rags, stripped rags and braided rags which are part of my project to turn worn-out clothes into dog toys for animal rescues. I had a suitcase of wallpaper, wallpaper cut into squares, notched/creased wallpaper for envelopes and some actually glued into envelopes for sending issues of Cockroach mag out. I had a little bin of mason jars for packaging the dried greens I foraged this summer to make teas and the vegetables I collected and dried for soup mixes. And there was some yarn lying about for a gift I’m working on.

The time I spend putting supplies for craft projects away and taking them back out is ridiculous, even though everything is sorted nicely in labeled bins. Having the projects I am currently trying to power through all over my living room saves me time. Maybe one day I’ll have a little workshop for these things, but right now I do all my making in the living room. What Lynn said made me not only feel better, but realize that it’s totally acceptable to have my home however I want it and not feel guilty.

While all the comments on my post were supportive and lovely and made me feel better, this one also really struck me:

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If you know me, you know I do a lot for others. Friends are often encouraging me to stop helping people so much, but it’s hard because I truly believe this world would be a much better place if we all did as much as we could to take care of one another.

Part of making that a reality is actually accepting help. So, when a dear friend offered to deliver a care package to me, I didn’t object. Rather, I said thank you and appreciated the dried goods and vegan hot chocolate mix (which she’ll have available at The Half Moon Market). When another friend called to tell me she was coming over to clean, my response was also simply “thank you,” as was my response when she surprised me the next day by bringing another person along plus food her husband had made me.

My friends’ generosity (whether that was them physically being there, sending me cat stickers on Facebook, or texting me cute emojis or a tiny compliment) helped rejuvenate me. This week isn’t awesome. The pain is minimal but I’m just exhausted. One afternoon, I passed out on a co-workers couch when I stopped by to feed his cat while he was out of town and then considered going to bed at 7 p.m. that night.

However, the love I’ve received gave me the energy to get most of those dog toys ready to go to D’Arcy’s Arc and Hampers of Hope, watch a friend’s kid and sneakily clean her kitchen a bit while she went to an appointment and start to plan a sleepover at my place for four children who I absolutely adore but don’t make enough time for.

The past week strengthened my belief that if we all put more time and energy into supporting and loving one another, we’d all be better off.

I can(‘t) do this

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It’s fucking embarrassing needing help.

I’m a 26 year old white woman from a middle-class family. On paper I’m able-bodied, I have a safe home and just enough money to squeak by every month. I shouldn’t need anything.

And yet, my knees hurt so badly sometimes I can’t leave my three-storey walk-up to get groceries. When my heart starts pounding and my chest tightens, I need to pull over my car before I get too dizzy and find another way home.  When that dizziness becomes constant, I can’t stay vertical long enough to make a meal, clean or even go for a walk.

It’s embarrassing because I don’t know what’s wrong. Saying my fingers are too weak and the pain shooting from them up my arms into my elbows is too sharp for me to be able to do my dishes sounds like bullshit when the reason is anxiety. It’s just anxiety. I should be able to lift my crock pot into the sink. Even I judge myself and have trouble believing that something in my head is taking over my entire body. Maybe I’d feel different if I was diagnosed with arthritis. Maybe then I’d feel okay asking someone to take care of my dishes.

On good days—or at least on better days when moving isn’t too much to bare—I’ll power through the cleaning and the errands. Satisfied, I’ll go to bed in my clean sheets which aren’t filled with dishes from midnight snacks, books I plan on reading and countless notebooks.

But it’s only a few days before I inevitably crash again and my home becomes such a disaster I’m hesitant to have anyone but my closest, least judgemental friends over. Those are the friends who also suffer from anxiety or who truly understand and empathize. To them, anxiety is a valid excuse. I’m not lazy. I’m not a slob. I’m sick. And I’ve seen the looks of people who don’t understand. They tell me I’d feel better if only I’d clean my home and keep it that way, not really understanding what’s stopping me. Not getting that anxiety gets in the way.

But, even to me, that’s not a valid excuse. Working up to asking someone I love and care about to take time out of their own hectic life to vacuum my living room because I’m anxious feels disrespectful, like I’m taking advantage of having them in my life. When someone buys me groceries, I panic that they’ll start to think I’m ungrateful if I don’t do something equally as caring back.

Without that help, I’m sitting in a messy home, hating myself for not being able to deal with the basics of my life. With that help, I’m sitting in my clean home hating myself for being a burden on my friends.

There’s no winning.

Find your people

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I’ve always had a lot of friends, but never have them in my life for long. Making friends has always been easy for me in the past because I never let my personality out. I was quiet and easy-going. As long as people liked me, I was fine, so I tried to act in ways that I thought would make them like me.

As an adult, I’ve realized being liked isn’t enough. Friendship isn’t about having someone to kill time with. It’s about having someone who will reassure you that you’re not an awful human being when you think you’ve done the worst thing. It’s having someone who will sit next to you when you’re at your worst and they really don’t mind that you’re not peppy and upbeat. It’s about having people who love you so much, you feel their support even when they’re not around.

My boss at The Uniter has a blog called Dry Wit and she recently wrote about finding other people who were sober. That community was so important to her, the way my vegan community is to me.

But I’m not just a vegan. I’m a feminist vegan who cares about the environment and is struggling with an anxiety disorder, healing from the emotional trauma of being sexually assaulted and trying (with a few unfortunate setbacks) to quit drinking. I’m finding that those are all things that are difficult to do alone. Being the only one in a group not drinking is awkward. Not being allowed by condo rules to compost at home is frustrating. Being honest about my mental state is embarrassing around people who’ve never dealt with anything like this.

The other day, I had coffee (also having unfortunate setbacks when it comes to quitting caffeine) with comedian Adam Schwartz. Getting to sit down with another passionate artist and talk about our crafts and our paths was so motivating. It’s another event that made me realize just how important a like-minded community is.

To all those dealing with issues similar to mine who have reached out, thank you. To all those who haven’t reached out but feel alone, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Dealing with this shit is so much easier when we’re not alone.