List of reasons to live

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In the past year, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts. I’m doing much better, but there was quite a dark period where continuing to live seemed unbearable. This is when I started making lists of things worth living for.

I’ve written quite a bit about my love of lists, besides grocery and to-do lists, I keep a list of activities that will calm me down when I’m incredibly anxious and a list of things and people who make me happy. In a way, the collage of photos on my fridge is a list of people who I love so deeply I can’t help but smile when I look at them.

During a crisis, it’s so hard for me to get my brain working. It’s also critical that I figure a way to do that. So, on top of my many other lists, I’ve made a list of reasons to live.

  • My cats love me so much and they’d be sad without me;
  • I love my cats so much and want to spend all the time cuddling and playing with them;
  • My parents would be so upset;
  • My partner is super awesome and I’m so lucky to have him. I really want to see how our relationship gets more awesome;
  • There are so many books I haven’t read;
  • I still haven’t written my book!;
  • If I died, someone might look at all the snippets of writing and lists of story ideas that are all super raw and unpolished and I don’t want anyone seeing them but me;
  • I have so much stuff. That’d be too much for anyone to go through;
  • There’s a vegan mall in Portland, OR and I have to go there;
  • My yard is huge and it’s ugly and it really needs a beautiful garden. I should be the one to rectify this awful situation;
  • My three nephews are all so cool, clever and funny. I just have to see how they turn out and spend so much more time with them;
  • Although it’s really painful now, I’ll laugh again. I’ll laugh so hard my stomach will hurt and when I think back to that laugh, I’ll start chuckling all over again and it will be beautiful.

Are you as obsessed with list-making as I am? Do you make any unusual lists?

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Book review: Since We Fell

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This novel is a hot mess, in a super addicting, gotta-read-until-I-finish way. Dennis Lehane’s Since We Fell is basically a short soap opera on paper. With a main character who suffers from debilitating anxiety.

After a traumatic event, Rachel starts getting panic attacks. She starts to unravel until she reaches a point where she stops leaving her home for months at a time. Stepping out of her apartment doors causes her both intense anxiety and great amounts of pride.

I’m not going to say anything else about this mystery because I’m afraid of giving something away. I don’t even want to go over the general plot because it starts in one place, goes to another, skips over to another time and the finishes with a wild, unexpected adventure. And then just drops off, leaving readers wondering what the hell happens next while giving so much unnecessary information about what went on before. To tell you the first part of the plot gives you no real information and to go further risks spoilers.

I’m not dissing this book at all. Relaying the juicy details of Rachel’s life to my partner gave me great pleasure. “Babe! Guess what happened in my book today??? Well … ”

What I specifically loved about Since We Fell was that the main character had an anxiety disorder. In the past year, I’ve been pretty much non-stop listening to audio books because of my concussion and this is the first work of fiction that dealt with mental illness in a major way. What’s better is, Lehane dealt with it in a great way.

Rachel’s anxiety is normalized by an understanding partner who holds her hand through her recovery, offering the right amount of support while still pushing her to break out of her comfort zone in small ways. It touches on the loss and loneliness that comes with struggling with an unseen illness that most people don’t understand. Her anxiety plays a central role in the novel; as the mystery unfolds, Rachel’s choices are to take a huge leap out of her bubble or risk death.

If you dig mystery, drama and anxious characters, I highly recommend this novel. It’s no great work of art, but reading it is a fantastic way to spend a lazy day.

I’d give this book three out of five cats.

Unhealthy anxiety coping mechanisms

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When I drink, I can’t stop until I black out and pass out. When I start working on something, I find it difficult to stop–no matter how hungry I get or how badly I need to pee–until I’m done. And, even then, I find myself really, really wanting to get started on the next project. In the past, when I started eating junk food, I’d find it to difficult to stop; I’d make grilled cheese after grilled cheese until I was out of bread or munch on cookies until none were left in the bag, no matter how full and sick I felt.

I figured I had impulse control issues and poor self-control, although I’ve been vegan for a decade, studied enough in high school to get a 98 per cent in pre-cal and never handed an assignment in late.

As I’ve been dealing with and exploring my anxiety, I’ve realized these are all coping mechanisms. A early 2017 car accident, resulting in a head injury that I’m still struggling with, took my coping mechanisms away, highlighting how much of a dependency I’ve had on them. Kicking the crutch out from under me forced me to find new, healthier ways to cope with my uncomfortable emotions. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Write about ’em: In outbursts of complete rage, I’ve sat at my computer and vomited my intense feelings into a piece of writing. In some cases, they’ve actually turned out pretty good and I’ve been able to publish them, giving others some insight into what’s going on with me.
  • Talk it out: I’ve gotten so much better about reaching out to friends and family when I’m feeling like I’m going to snap. I let them know if I’m looking for advice or just need to vent, ask if they’re up for the task of listening and then let it all go. I usually end up talking myself into a place where I can look at the positives.
  • Find the upside: Last year, I moved to the US from Canada. If I had known it would take months, rather than a few weeks, for my cats to follow, I likely wouldn’t have done it. On Christmas day, my little David ended up being hospitalized in our new Montana home town. A few days later, he was transported to another town for an invasive surgery, which was followed by weeks of healing. I was so upset, beating myself up about not having been with him for months, agonizing over whether I could have prevented his suffering. Realizing there’s nothing I could then but care for him, I looked at the bright side. I’d felt like the worst cat mom for months. This was an opportunity for me to love him and nurse him back to health, making me feel like a good cat mom again and giving us a chance to re-bond.

When my brain heals more, I’m going to find more healthy coping mechanisms. I used to love to run and have always loved going for long walks, so I’ll try them out again. I’d also love some suggestions of different things I could try out! What healthy coping mechanisms do you use?

Build healthy relationships

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I used to hold people at arm’s length. I was afraid of letting anyone in too close because I hated who I was and didn’t wanted others to truly see me; then I’d be alone.

I moulded myself to fit the type of friend I thought those around me wanted. In junior high, I agreed with the friend I spent the most time with that female masturbation was disgusting. I went to parties because my boyfriend wanted to go, even though I hated being in houses crowded with strangers and couldn’t stand having nothing to do but drink and look around for a cat or dog I could pet.

In my early 20s, I met a woman about 10 years my senior through a vegan meet-up group. She started inviting me to events at her home, which led to us frequently chatting via Facebook messenger, be babysitting her kid and her helping me out with rides and groceries. She was openly flawed and I still loved her. Even when I fucked up, she still loved me and I became comfortable being vulnerable and real. I knew she wouldn’t ditch me if I had a different opinion than her, as long as I was respectful.

That woman completely changed my life. I learned what a real, healthy friendship looks like and began striving to model all my relationships after what I had with her. I weeded out the people who weren’t good for my mental health; the ones who didn’t understand I needed time away from my phone and expected me to always be there for them, but who were seldom there for me.

I started being more honest and finding ways to be a good friend despite my anxiety. Opening up allowed the people around me to support me in the ways I didn’t know I had needed and that anxiety lessened. On the worst days, I knew I had people who I could talk to, people who cared and would understand.

Relationships of all kinds are difficult when you struggle with your mental health, but they’re incredibly important for coping and recovering. My number one tip for people with anxiety disorders is to find and develop meaningful friendships to help get you through.

I’ve started a private Facebook group for anxious creatives to chat about what’s going on with their work and lives, ask for advice and give support. If you’re interested in joining, send the email attached to your Facebook account to me at megjcrane@gmail.com and I’ll add you!


So many things are wrong with my brain, which is making blogging difficult. If anyone is interested in guest-posting about their experience as an anxious creative, tips for dealing with the struggle or explanations of different types of treatment, email me at megjcrane@gmail.com.

Book review: 100 Days of Mental Health

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Full disclosure, I haven’t finished this book. This time, it’s not because I hated it. Actually, I was quite enjoying it when I slipped on the ice. While for most people jerking back in time to prevent a fall would be a good thing, but for my concussion-weakened brain, it wasn’t so great. So, I’m back to being unable to read. Sigh.

When my brain gets itself sorted out again, I’ll dive right back into Paul Green‘s ebook, 100 Days of Mental Health. Each day for 100 days, Green wrote a bit about what he had gone through that day. There are triumphs–like getting out to large public events–and lots of bad times–like feeling unable to get anything done.

For people who struggle with anxiety or depression, I think this is a great read. Knowing others have similar struggles can make those struggles seem normal and okay.

Who I’d really recommend this book for, though, is people who have not experienced mental health issues. It’s a quick read (if you’re not concussed) and Green has a great sense of humour, which definitely shows through in the book. Although it’s just one person’s experience, Green’s book gives some insight into what it’s like to be constantly fighting with your brain and emotions. For anyone who has difficulty understanding mental illness, this book could help.

This book was only available as an ebook, but I’m having trouble finding it now. But Green does regularly blog on his website, so that’s a great place to get a taste of his dry humour and openness about his mental health.

List of acts of love towards me

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This year, I’ve been working on a project I’m calling My Kindest Year. Each day, I do one nice thing for another person and one nice thing for myself.

Doing nice things for myself has been the most difficult. I’ve been putting it off until the end of the day and then not doing anything particularly special. Which is okay, but I do want to go a little above and beyond some of the time.

Here’s a list of acts of love I can do towards myself:

  • Go to bed extra early;
  • Take a long, hot bath;
  • Stop for a coffee on my walk home from counselling / biofeedback;
  • Cook myself a nice dinner when I’m going to be eating alone;
  • Ask others for help or to do something special for me;
  • Knit myself gifts;
  • Read for hours without feeling guilty about not being productive;
  • Take breaks from work to cuddle the animals in my home;
  • Bake my favourite pastries and desserts;
  • Do my nails;
  • Ignore emails / social media comments from trolls;
  • Sit out on social events when I’m not feeling up to it;
  • Buy myself nice vegan cheeses and beauty products for no occasion;
  • Be totally okay going out without make-up;
  • Give myself compliments; and
  • Use the things I’m saving because “I’ll probably never be able to afford this again!”, like soy candles and dark chocolate and face masks.

Are you frequently nice to yourself? What do acts of love towards you look like?

The ugly side of self-care

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Self-care isn’t always bubble baths, spa days and expensive chocolate. It isn’t always something Instagram-able or costly. When self-care started to be a thing, this is actually why I shied away from it. I didn’t have money to order food in and I was cuddling up in bed early to watch Netflix because the feeling that a giant was standing on my chest and the heart palpitations made anything else impossible.

What I’ve realized is that this makes self-care even more important for me.

Self-care is dragging my ass to the doctor to let her know I’m feeling worse on the new dose of meds. It’s telling my partner I’ve been feeling suicidal and need to change something major in my life. Carrying a water bottle around so I remember to drink water, cornering myself into answering texts from friends so I don’t isolate myself and eating breakfast even when I still feel too nauseous to actively want food at 11 a.m. are all forms of self-care in my life.

It’s important for me to remember this. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll buy myself a vegan cheesecake and eat it for dinner in the name of self-care, when really I should be saving that money and eating a big salad instead. Especially when I’m so down it’s hard to get myself out of bed and dressed to go to the store for said cake. That sugar isn’t going to do shit to get me feeling better.

It’s when I’ve got the basic self-care down–getting all the nutrients I need, staying hydrated, keeping active, finding time for connection and play–that the fun, pretty self-care can come into my life in a way that adds something beneficial.

What’s your relationship with the self-care trend like?