I’m takin’ a break

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Things with my brain are starting to get better. However, I’m really struggling with resting.

I need to time how long I can do anything before symptoms appear, including neck pain, and then make sure I’m doing that activity for two minutes less than that. I can be in a store for eight minutes, walk for 20 and be on my computer for 10. After that, I need a rest.

It’s taking a lot of energy to remind myself that folding laundry and putting away dishes aren’t really rest times; a rest is when I’m sitting, with my neck supported, not thinking about anything terribly strenuous and not looking at screens. Sunglasses, headphones and crafts are often involved.

While I figure this out, I’m going to take a bit of a break from my newsletter and blog so I can focus more of my mental energy on other online activities, like chatting with other anxious creatives in my new Facebook group (if you want in, just let me know what email is associated with your Facebook account), organizing events in my new city and getting items up on my Etsy shop.

If you’d like to write a guest post for either, let me know! You’ll be hearing from me rather sporadically for the next few months. Current estimations are that I **could** be back to being able to work more than a few hours a week within six to 12 months.

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Concussed as hell, but still being kind

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This past month has been kind of scary. I slipped on the ice in late January. Although I didn’t hit my head–or even actually fall–the fast forward-back motion injured my already twice concussed brain. Since I haven’t really been feeling better, my partner made me an appointment with a physical therapist who specializes in concussions.

That was this Tuesday and it was terrifying. There are lots of things wrong with my spine, neck, brain and other things. It was too much for my concussed brain to take in, especially when she was doing tests that were extremely draining.

This all makes me so proud of how My Kindest Year has been going. I’ve continued to do a kind thing for at least one person a day. I’m still sending out letters of appreciation. I’ve been making food or gathering my favourite junk food to give to people. I’ve checked in with friends who aren’t doing well.

Being kind to myself has looked very different. Being re-injured and not healing has been frustrating. I want to work to earn money to contribute to my family. I want to cook and clean so my partner doesn’t have to do most of it. I really just want to be able to participate in life. The kind acts towards myself have included finding the positives in this situation, checking in with my body to see what’s going on and doing what is best for my brain even when I really, really would rather keep listening to audio books than take a nap.

I’ve also been keeping up with doing one huge nice thing for someone each month. In January, I organized a few people sending a good friend of mine a basket of self-care items for Valentine’s Day and in February I planned a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law with my partner.

After an awesome brainstorming session with Jenna Anderson, I came up with a few more things I’d like to do and am already working on two! I may start doing more than one a month.

Life has been frustrating for me, but looking back on the past month and seeing that I’m still managing to stay on top of my goals while never sacrificing my health makes me so happy and proud. Being concussed feels a little less awful when I know I’m still accomplishing things with my life.

Being flexible for my health

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I have a clear picture of what I’d like my work life to look like. I want to wake up early, grab a cup of earl grey tea with a splash of soy milk and sit down at my desk to work. I want to be able to work for hours at a time, but also be able to take a day or afternoon off once in a while to go for a hike or indulge in a little self-care. I want to have lots of healthy snacks around and remember to drink lots of water throughout the day.

This is something I was so close to having before the car accident. After a second concussion recovery set-back in the past year, I’ve been back to only being able to be on the computer for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time, needing at minimum a 45 minute break afterwards. I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, so if I don’t wake up when my partner’s alarm goes off, I want to stay in bed. If I wake up at 5 a.m., I’ll happily get up, but regret it by the early afternoon. I’m always forgetting to eat until I’m so hungry I’m shaking and I know I’m not drinking as much water as I should, but it slips my mind. As do my vitamins, which are so important for my brain right now.

My ideal work life is lovely and beautiful and I still am working towards it, but it’s just not realistic right now because of my health. So, I’ve been finding ways to work that keep this in mind.

What this mostly looks like for me right now is a gigantic mess of scrap paper, button-making supplies, yarn, paint brushes and wheat paste all over our living room. Between my little bits of time on the computer, I’m making envelopes and buttons to sell in my Etsy shop and knitting scarves to sell at markets.

This isn’t what I want to be doing with my days, but it’s what I can do, so I’m choosing to be happy with my current work life while still working towards the ideal. My health is always going to be more important than my work, so I need to be flexible in order to be able to get shit done and take care of myself.

I’m spending some of my computer time editing photos and listing items in my Etsy shop. Check it out!

How do you alter your work life to your current health needs?

Rejection anxiety

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Before I send any pitch or story to an editor, I read it approximately 5,000 times. By the fifth time, I’m just tinkering with words that don’t really need tinkering with, but I keep going.

Before even getting to the point of writing anything, I sometimes spend hours on websites I’m interested in writing for, scrutinizing every piece and trying to convince myself that I’m as good as everyone else who’s written for the publication. Granted, it’s a great idea to really familiarize myself with a publication before contacting an editor, but it’d be healthier to be doing so strictly for research and less so to convince myself of my skill level.

I don’t find rejection all that difficult to deal with when it comes from time-to-time. When I worked as the arts and culture editor of The Uniter, my boss and co-workers gave me so much positive feedback and constructive criticism that it was easier to be okay with editors for other publications letting me know they were passing on my ideas.

Barely working as I’ve been since the car accident, it’s been more difficult to deal with rejection. I send out about two pitches a week and hear back sometimes months later, so the acceptance emails and rejection emails are often spread so far apart.

A “Sorry, but this isn’t a great fit for this publication at this time” feels more like a “You’re pretty shitty at what you do and should just quit” when it’s been a while since I’ve gotten a green light.

I’ve chatted with a few friends and posted in an anxiety group I’m apart of, asking what others do to deal with rejection.

Some advice I received was to look at the evidence that I don’t suck balls (I’ve been making a living as a writer and editor for years), remind myself of outside factors (it’s a numbers game: publications get tons of pitches and can’t accept them all, someone else may have just pitched a similar story) and be understanding of my personal circumstances (I’m just getting back in the game, I still have a head injury, I’m dealing with mad anxiety and depression).

A few weeks back, I got a rejection email weeks after sending in a piece I was sure would be accepted. Honestly, I was so crushed that I spent the rest of the day on the couch and today is the first day that I’m actually back at my computer, pushing away the excuses of why I shouldn’t work.

While all the advice I got was helpful, struggling with the anxiety and depression–which has been taking over my life since I moved–along with still recovering from the concussion, I just couldn’t pull myself up. It was more work than I was capable of handling.

To prepare for future blows, I’m going to work on a set of cards that outline how to deal with different situations. On the “rejection” card, I’ll put the above advice. I’m going to make “Sensory overload,” “Panic attack” and “Anxiety for no fucking reason” cards as well. Sometimes the feels get so overwhelming, it’s hard to remember how to deal and written instructions to follow before the situation gets out of hand might be helpful for me.

But, before I do this, I’d love to hear how you deal with rejection? Comment below or join in the discussion on my Facebook page.

Accepting anxiety

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I’m staying at my partner’s home in Montana right now. With the concussion, I can’t get out on my own a whole lot and he’s at work all day. I’m loving my days and the occasional evenings to myself with the hoard of dogs, podcasts and knitting projects.

Alone, it’s easy to get lost in my head and start drowning in anxiety. But I haven’t been.

A number of the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques my therapist has given me or that I’ve picked up from the books I’ve been listening to about anxiety have helped a great deal. Still, sometimes that feeling creeps into me.

A couple of years ago, I might have turned that anxiety into anger and lashed out at someone. Or I might have curled up in bed, trying to hide from my feelings and drowning them out with Netflix and other acts of avoidance.

Earlier this week, my chest tightened and my limbs buzzed. Going back to work has been stressful and overwhelming, and doing so from another country with a computer that isn’t my own added to the difficulties.

I thought about what could be making me feel that way. There was no reason. At least, not one that I could pinpoint. I thought about doing an exercise video, but I can’t because of the whiplash. I decided the two cups of caffeinated coffee I’d had that morning were definitely too much and my decision to switch to decaf at home was the right one, but nothing I could do about the caffeine in my system at that point. I considered meditating but knew I was so far gone to be able to reign in my thoughts and instead focused on being more generally mindful as I moved throughout the house.

And as I was walking with a cup of tea and my current knitting project to sit out on the back deck with the pups, I realized that some days I’m going to feel this overwhelming sense of anxiety for no particular reason and that’s okay. Not just a general “It’s okay to feel that way” but, more specifically, I’m okay with having this feeling sometimes.

IMG_1069The anxiety went nowhere, but some of the tension I was holding inside slipped away. Me and my little anxious body sat outside in the sun, listening to my new favourite podcast Kind World and alternating between brushing the dogs and knitting.

I’ve spoken a lot about accepting that I have an anxiety disorder and therefore will always have some unusually high levels of anxiety, sometimes for no particular reason, but I haven’t actually felt that way until now. True acceptance of my body and it’s overreaction to the normal struggles of life is a beautiful thing I hope I can hold onto.

What has your experience with accepting your life circumstances been like for you? Did it help you to move forward in a healthy way or did it feel like giving up?


Concussion update

An unfortunate part of having whiplash and a concussion is that I can only do as much to heal my neck as my brain will allow. While the neck/shoulder/back injury has mostly healed, the muscles are weak and need a lot of work. My physiotherapist put a lot of that on hold while my brain got to a place where it’s ready for that. It’s still not, but she cleared me to do some light yoga.

If you know me, you know I have trouble doing anything “lightly” so of course I took it a bit too much to the extreme and started a 10-day yoga challenge through an app on my phone. I made it to day four before the pain became too great and I realized I was doing more harm than good. Back to the two minutes of pulling on a stretchy band every second day.

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My brain is doing much better. I managed a short hike this week. Although, shortly after this photo was taken I completely concussioned out and Luke had to drive a very ill-looking lady home and make her dinner. Whoops.

I’ve realized that I’ve been pushing myself physically by doing housework and going for walks, and I’ve been pushing my brain to re-adjust to looking at screens for work purposes, but I haven’t actually done much watching of action (plays, movies) or reading. This week, I’ve been putting more focus on trying to do those things as I’ve missed reading a great deal and, being in the states, I have access to American Horror Story on Netflix.

Each day is a frustrating balance of doing my brain exercises, body exercises and re-introducing all the normal activities of my life that I haven’t been able to do—including cooking, shopping and being in moving vehicles for more than a few minutes—without pushing myself so hard that by the end of the day even speaking coherent sentences is difficult. I need to choose what I’m going to push myself on each day and what I’m going to avoid doing or ask someone else to do for me.

A few days in, I’d say my plan of coming out to Montana to relax a bit and stay with an adult who can help take care of me was a great idea and I do think I’ll be coming home feeling much better.

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.