What needs to be removed from your life?

That’s the question I’m asking myself today. I’ve taken great pains and made great strides when it comes to moving in a more positive direction, but there’s always room for improvement. For me, I think fear and insecurity are the two biggest things I need to remove from my life.

Fear, of course, can be healthy. It keeps us protected. But like everything in life, there are two sides to fear. It can keep us silent. It can keep us isolated. It can keep us from pursuing our dreams.

In my own life, I have both a fear of failure AND a fear of success so I just end up frozen in the same position. If I go for what I want and fail, then I’ll be disappointed and people will judge me for being silly enough to think I deserved to chase my dreams. On the flip side, if I go after what I want and am successful, then it’s possible my life will change in ways I can’t imagine and for a creature of habit that idea can be terrifying.

I imagine this is partly why I stayed a barista for so long. I love the job, but while everyone around me was going to school or doing creative things I was content to stay in my bubble and never really move forward with anything else. I felt like moving forward was for other people and that I was somehow less deserving of the chance to do the things I really love.

I truly believe there is more to life than what we do to pay the bills. Chasing your passions, even if you never make money from it, fuels your life and stokes the fire in your heart. It brings like-minded people into your life you never would have met. I see people attending writing meet-ups or joining clubs or participating in activities and I’ve always viewed them with a little envy. In the past, I have had short bursts of participation but I always backed out before I got in too deep. Before I made those connections. I’ve kept most people at arm’s length my whole life because I’m afraid of what would happen if I let them in.

My aim, for this upcoming year of my life, is to change all that. To lean into the changes that are coming and not be afraid (or at least to be afraid and then do it anyway). To be confident in myself and know that wherever I choose to go, I’m there because I’m worthy and deserving. There is absolutely no reason on earth that I shouldn’t do the things that bring me joy and put myself out there. No one is more deserving than anyone else and in the end, every single one of us deserves to be happy. Even if I go for what I want and fall flat on my face, I know there are people around me who will pick me back up again, laugh it off with me, and support me as I try again.

So what do you think needs to be removed from your life?

Categories: Life

Happiness is a funny thing. We all know we deserve it, but not everyone can find it. Those who do find it are also aware of its fleeting nature, because no one stays happy all the time. Our lives, and the changes it brings, are so often driven by conflict and problems that require solutions. But it’s striving for happiness that gives us the energy to keep going through whatever comes. We all want to be happy.

This year, I can honestly say I AM happy now. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to improving myself and my life, but I’m finally able to feel content and at peace with who I am right now. Recently, my life changed again for the better and I’m overwhelmed with the good things that have been coming my way. I recently got a job at Life Time Athletic in the LifeCafe and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited to start a new job. This position lines up perfectly with the direction I want my life to go. Exercise, as I’ve mentioned, is a major part of my plan to keep combating depression, and what better way to get exercise in the winter than working in an actual gym?

I’ve also finally managed to get myself into a routine with housecleaning and my place looks better than it has in years. I can’t speak for everyone but having a tidy space does wonders for my mood.

Winter is here now and there’s just something wonderful about seeing the sun glinting off the snow. It’s beautiful. While it does get dark around 5PM right now, at least the morning hours are bright. I have a very warm coat and sturdy boots so I am truly blessed to have those things and it makes me happy to be able to enjoy the outdoors while also staying cozy.

I have a warm place to live, plenty of books to read, food to eat, and two snuggly cats to keep me warm. A lot of people out there don’t have those things, so I know I should never take this for granted. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that right now, I’m completely overjoyed and grateful and happy to be alive.

I hope all of you out there are also warm and loved and blessed, too.

Categories: Life

As I move forward with my depression prevention action plan, I’m beginning to notice just how easy it has become to do things I never would have had the energy to do before. I always used to look at people like my sister, who would get it into her head that she wanted to rearrange the living room furniture one day and then just do it, and wonder why they didn’t have to sit there and try to motivate themselves. It seemed like magic, that simple ability to just go to the grocery store if you needed something or wash the dishes when they were piling up. No “I’ll go after two more episodes” or “Maybe I’ll have a nap first and then I’ll shower”. Just action. It might sound dramatic, but for the last decade I have actually struggled with things like that and I know I’m not alone. It was even to the point that unless I had work or was meeting up with a friend later, I wouldn’t even bother showering. Taking care of myself seemed pointless. In fact, the longest I have ever gone without bathing is two months. TWO MONTHS. No shower, no bath, I wore the same hoodie and jeans every day and covered my greasy hair with a bandanna. I stunk to high heaven, let me tell you. I didn’t wear deodorant and rarely brushed my teeth. I was fifteen years old, in high school, and nobody would talk to me or sit near me and to be honest, I don’t blame them. If that’s not a sign of severe depression, then I don’t know what is. The system failed me. My teachers, the principals, the guidance counselors — none of them recognized that I needed help. Their solution was to remove me from school and put me in an alternative learning program because I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know how to ask for help either, because I didn’t really think I deserved it.

My mother, bless her heart, was going through her own journey at the time. We had moved from Newfoundland two years before and she was still getting settled into working life after being on welfare for many years. I truly believe she was trying her best, but she simply didn’t know how to deal with someone in my situation and in a new province probably didn’t know where to go for help. She’s also a product of her time, and the stigma against mental illness was much more prevalent in her day than it is now. Even when I was 15 it was still an uphill battle to be taken seriously, so reaching out for help still carried a measure of shame.

I did have one person in my corner, my S.A.L.E.P. (Supervised Alternative Learning for Excused Pupils) coordinator Nancy. She asked me why my clothes were dirty and took my sister and I to the laundromat to wash our clothes when we explained we had no money to do it. She asked me why I wrote lyrics and poems in a notebook and kept it to myself when I should be sharing my writing with people because I was passionate about it. She got me a co-op placement at an employment resource center and told me I had to go twice a week and made it quite clear I would be expected to shower regularly.

I hated her with a mighty passion.

She was exactly the type of woman I now admire. Strong-willed, no-nonsense, and entirely direct. She heard my million excuses and then called me out on all of them. She had a massive impact on my life and was one of the first people to recognize my problems and offer solutions. Of course, at the time I would tell her what I thought she wanted to hear and then do whatever I wanted, which must have been endlessly frustrating, but her words resonated with me despite my best efforts to ignore them.

Now, I work full time and have been doing so for the last twelve years. I’ve lived on my own for about the same amount of time. I was 17 years old when my sister came into my room to tell me that my now former stepfather had been talking to my mother about kicking me out. Ash had been frightened he would act on it and helped find me a place to live, so rather than let him have the satisfaction of giving me the boot, I announced I was leaving and moved out. See a problem, find a solution. I learned that from Nancy.

The only problem I didn’t learn how to solve until much later was how to cope with depression. With winter coming, in addition to 10mg escitalopram, I’m also taking 2000 IU Vitamin D and 180mg Magnesium Glycinate. The doctor told me to take the glycinate as opposed to any other type because the side effects are less severe — but let me tell you that first week I ran to the toilet more than once because it essentially acted as a laxative. Now that the side effects have worn off, things are going much better. My life is going in a direction I’m immensely passionate about and I know 2018 is going to be an amazing year.

Nowadays, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.

My last published post here was just over a year ago. I’d had a really good day and wanted to let my internet friends know I was doing better, that depression wasn’t winning the battle and I was still around. This post is somewhat different.

As anyone living with depression can tell you, it comes back. It always comes back. For me, I found my rock bottom this past summer. A lot of things have happened in the last year, so much that I’m not even sure where to start. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever post here again, especially after so much time. I debated deleting this blog many times, but given that I started it back in 2012 and it’s really served as a place for me to express my thoughts, I decided even if I wasn’t going to post anything I should at least preserve this little piece of my history. Now I’m glad I did.

I’m not a coffee wench anymore. I quit my job in July after the company I worked for, STARBUCKS (I can definitely say it now because I’ll never work for them again) fired my boss and beloved friend over some nonsensical bullshit. They had fired my sister years before for a bullshit reason but at the time I was in Toronto and living alone so I couldn’t afford to quit, so when this happened I was like, “FUCK THIS COMPANY” and handed in my notice the day after I found out my boss had been fired. (I’ll save my Starbucks rant for another day, but I assure you, it’s coming.)

My sister broke up with her boyfriend last summer, which was a really positive move. They were completely unhappy together. Ash and I moved to a new apartment in the same neighborhood. She supported me for several months after I quit my job, for which I will be forever thankful (and forever paying her back, to be honest). During the two months I was out of work, I finally found what I believe to be my rock bottom. I have not been that mentally unstable since I was a teenager.

My sister started dating a new guy and basically disappeared from the face of the earth. (I don’t really fault her, that’s kind of how the women in my immediate family operate.) Jobless and broke, I was spending all my time alone. I was angry over what happened with work, I was angry that all the grand plans my sis and I had had for our shiny new lives had completely fallen through, and I was painfully lonely. Granted, my cat Bella is basically an emotional support animal at this point given how often I’ve hugged her and sobbed into her furry side, so I wasn’t *completely* alone, but human contact is important. I stopped leaving the house, which meant whenever I had a job interview I would go into a massive panic attack. I began to believe there was no reason to keep going. Everything I had been hoping for had disappeared from my life. I missed my mom. My entire support system evaporated in the span of two months, or at least that’s how it felt at the time. Depression likes to make you think you’re isolated even when you’re not because it prevents you from reaching out for help.

I remember one time Ash stopped by to pick up some clothes and then she was heading back to her boyfriend’s house. I had been hoping she would stick around because I hadn’t seen her in days. The instant she left I completely lost my shit. It felt like I had been abandoned (which, again, was mostly in my head). I remember grabbing a baking pan out from the drawer under the oven and beating myself over the head with it until I actually bent the metal. I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. That night, as I lay in bed still crying, I punched myself in the face over and over while obsessing about what a waste of space I was, how I would never find another job and if I killed myself my sister wouldn’t even find me until days later. Maybe weeks.

Things started looking up again when I was hired by Second Cup at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I was so excited! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was being hired as a store manager (for which I have ZERO experience) with no training and was expected to take over the store after two days. You can imagine how quickly I panicked. I didn’t even call to quit, I just had a panic attack one morning before work and never went back. THAT was when I really started to fall apart.

I spent days in bed. I was trying to get out of my own way and try to be positive and keep looking for work, but everything seemed pointless. It was like all the color drained out of the world. I did manage to get hired as a cashier at a pharmacy, but that nearly fell apart too. All the upheaval and depression and anxiety crashed over me like a wave and I woke up one morning weak and throwing up. I called in sick and spent the whole day sleeping. The next day I managed to head to work but I was anxious the whole time, to the point that I was literally red-faced and sweating. I was sent home. Then I called in sick again over the next couple days and I was certain I would be fired. I didn’t know how to explain what was happening because I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt physically weak and sick to my stomach and although I had had panic attacks in the past, this felt different. It was like I was walking through mud. Everything took tremendous effort.

That was when I began actually planning my suicide.

I have thought about killing myself many, many times. This isn’t a secret. I have self-injury scars, I’m not ashamed of having struggled for many years just to stay alive. But this was different. At one point, I became convinced that I must be possessed by a demon or something because I felt like I wasn’t in control of my feelings or actions. I began to dissociate from my own body. It felt like my limbs were foreign objects, that my mind was poisoned and separate from my physical being. I have NEVER experienced that before. I decided I was going to go to several different stores and buy the strongest over the counter sleeping pills I could get, then take them all and slit my wrists in the bathtub. It was an actual plan. Given that I had spent my teens and early 20s cutting myself, it seemed like the natural choice. I even knew what I was going to wear. I have never planned my own death in such detail before and I hope I never will again.

Behind those intrusive thoughts and the dark cloud, my sense of self-preservation made a last ditch effort to get help. I knew I needed a doctor’s note for work, so I asked my sister to come to the walk in clinic with me. I told her the gist of what I’d been feeling (although this is the first time I’ve ever gone into detail about what happened to me) and asked her to make sure I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I have a tendency to downplay things and I wanted Ash to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

We went to the clinic on a Saturday. I sat in a room with my sister and the doctor and told her EVERYTHING. About my very long history with depression, the Paxil I took as a teenager, my brief time locked up in the psych ward, my past experiences with cocaine and ecstasy, I mean EVERYTHING. She suggested I try Cipralex and wrote me a prescription for a two month supply. I don’t have insurance so I went with the generic version which costs just under $50 for two months.

It has completely saved my life.

The first couple of weeks were difficult when it came to side effects. I felt groggy and nauseated and I lost my appetite. The pills made me feel like I was high. But I kept taking them and eventually the side effects settled down and I slowly began to feel normal. I had more energy. It took less effort to get out of bed than it had in years. I felt like I could breathe again. I decided to walk to and from work every day rather than take the bus. It’s about a 20 minute walk each way, so for the past two months I’ve been walking 40 minutes a day five days a week, which is far more physical activity than I’ve had in ages. Plus I’ve saved around $360 because walking is free.

When the pills were almost gone, I went back to the clinic and told them I would like to stay on the medication. I now have another two month supply with two refills. I still have bad days (and one VERY bad day when a friend passed away from cancer, which I will write about in detail very soon), but instead of being overwhelmingly devastating, I’m able to manage my emotions. I still occasionally think about suicide and I probably always will, but I’m able to listen to my rational mind and I certainly don’t plan on acting on those momentary thoughts. The meds are like a buffer or a delay between myself and my depression. It’s still there, but it no longer rules my life. I feel more like myself than I have in over a decade.

There’s no shame in having a broken brain. There’s no shame in needing to take medication every day, possibly for the rest of your life, so you can enjoy the same quality of life as everybody else. I would not still be here if not for the meds I now take.

When I think back over my life, I can see why I grew up with depression. It runs in my family so I was predisposed anyway, and then my life experiences built on that predisposition. But I’m not the only one who has suffered from this, and I’m not the only one who has had to ask for help. If anyone reading this is going through something similar, I encourage you to get help now, before it’s too late. You are worthy.

Shortly before my breakdown, I found my way back to God. I went to church and cried my heart out at the hymns and I felt connected in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I prayed before my sis and I moved into our current apartment and asked God to take over my life and show me what He wanted me to do. I truly believe He sent me on that downward spiral so I would hit rock bottom and get the help I’ve needed for years. I believe He wanted to show me how dark it could get so I would have the strength to seek the light again. I realize not everyone believes, but that belief has helped me so much. If I hadn’t opened my heart to Him again, I would definitely not be here right now.

Jen: 2 Depression: 0.

I had a great day today. I mean, a really great day. My sis and I were both off work so we went out for coffee and bagels and then did a little shopping. I wasn’t desperate to get back inside my house, and I didn’t spend my entire day off on the computer. I even had enough energy to do a giant load of dishes. I haven’t had a day this fantastic in ages.

It was like I got out of my own way long enough to resemble a functional human being. My sister has always been an incredibly supportive person, especially when I’m feeling down. Talking to her is easy — she never judges, she never takes any of my “no one cares about me” comments personally, and she listens and offers advice in a way that doesn’t annoy me. She just gets it. We’ve both been working insane hours lately so we haven’t been able to spend much time together so today was a real treat.

We even have plans to go visit the Casa Loma haunted house tour in Toronto next week while I’m on my vacation. And we’re having a Ginger Snaps movie marathon for Halloween. I always treasure it when I’m able to have a good day. I really haven’t had one of those in WAY too long. Most of the time, I can’t bear to be outside for more than five minutes unless I’m on my way to work. I’ve been doing the work-home-work-home routine for months now, with quick trips to the corner store as my only real trip outside. It was nice to actually be out and enjoy the sunshine for once.

So I’m taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I’m not always going to feel like shit. There are always going to be really great days, too. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’ve enjoyed my time in this little mental clearing.

I hope you’re all having a great day, too.

Holy man. Been a rough ride, hasn’t it? This blog has shifted and changed so much from what I had first anticipated. What began as a place to tell stories about my life working in coffee shops turned into a chronicle of my ups and downs and major life changes.

I’m still barely hanging on right now. I fill my days with whatever distractions I can so I don’t have to face the reality that I’m down. Way down. And I know I need help (which yes, I also know I’ve said before). There’s been a major change at work, though, so that help is closer than ever before.

Before, my employer only offered $500/year for mental health services. I didn’t see the point in seeking help because there’s no way in hell $500 would be enough and I certainly can’t afford a therapist on my own. Beginning Oct. 1, that coverage is increasing to $5000/year. You read that right. $5000. They have quite literally saved my life, because if I have to continue the way I have been, I don’t know that I would make it to my 29th birthday. Janelle died over a year ago but the ripple effect of her choice to end her life is still affecting me in a big way.

I still withdraw from people when I’m like this. I can’t bear to see pity in people’s eyes when they look at me. I can’t stand knowing I’m no fun to be around because all I can do is sit there staring into space. Most of us put on a show when we’re at work or out in public because we have to, but when I’m at home it’s a totally different story.

I had my first major panic attack a couple weeks ago. I was at work, everything was fine, and suddenly my hands started shaking hard. I felt like there were millions of bubbles inside my body and if I stopped moving they would all pop and kill me. I have plenty of tiny panic attacks at work and usually I just keep my head down and clean like a maniac until that bubble feeling passes. This time was VERY different.

I went to the back to pull some pastries from the freezer and started sobbing. I mean full-on sobbing to the point I couldn’t catch my breath. A coworker sat with me and tried to calm me down but I couldn’t get my breathing back to normal and I couldn’t stop the tears. I ended up being sent home, where I continued to be anxious for the next couple hours until I finally fell asleep. And since that day, I haven’t felt quite right. I’m angry. The slightest thing irritates me. That’s not the person I normally am, so this is weird.

I also found out some news that really upset me recently. There’s no reason it should’ve upset me, but it did. And I fixated on it. For some reason I felt like I was being cut out and fucked over but I knew if I said anything while I was feeling like that it would’ve come out completely wrong. So I’m still sitting here consumed by those emotions, because I don’t know how to articulate them without sounding like an asshole. I feel like the largest portions of my days are spent trying desperately to regulate my spiraling emotions but it’s a battle I’m beginning to lose.

September is almost over though. And then I can finally reach out and get some help. I can’t keep doing this. I’m so tired from the last couple of years. I should’ve known last October that it was getting worse because when I was hit by that car, I didn’t give a shit. I was honestly a little disappointed that I wasn’t hit harder. Because I want to be dead, but I’m too afraid to do it myself. It’s the same reason I still smoke and drink way too much caffeine. I’m a coward. It’s not bravery in the face of depression, it’s me being too chickenshit to do what Janelle did. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I want to live. I just need help finding my way back to that path. I can’t wait to look back on this one day and barely be able to remember what it was like to feel so terrible. I want this to be a distant memory.

I was diagnosed when I was around 15-16. I stopped taking my meds shortly after I started them. I’m now nearly 29, which means I’ve been walking around in constant emotional pain for almost thirteen years, and I’m fucking tired of it. I have two solutions: death or therapy. Since the first option seems awfully permanent, I think I should go with the second option first.

So that’s my explanation as to why I abandoned this blog in July 2015. I just couldn’t do it anymore. The noise in my head got to be too much.

I’m back now. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I’m going to do my best to be around to see it.

Uh… hello. Hi, there. Ahem… allow me to reintroduce myself.

I’m Jen, abandoner of blogs. It’s been over a year since I bothered to write anything here, and the reason is probably pretty obvious if you read my last post.

My friend had just died, and I wasn’t even remotely prepared to deal with that. I don’t think anyone is EVER remotely prepared to deal with a friend’s suicide, but you get my drift. I totally lost my shit in a very spectacular way. I’ve had some time to heal, and I’m ready to take baby steps back into the world I used to know.

That world includes writing.

So here I am, asking your forgiveness for leaving you hanging. I have so much I’d like to share with you, but it’s already really late and I have to be a functioning coffee wench in the morning.

So hello again. I’ve missed you.

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