On Vulnerability

This will be my last post for the indefinite future…I need to get back to being myself.

At any given point, I usually have two or three of these posts in the works, swapping places with a handful of others in the trash. The topics range from the less personal (e.g. talking about seasonal affective disorder – which y’all should definitely read up on if you haven’t before – or some other mental health condition), to those that are deeply personal – ones that I’d always struggle to share.

Over a year ago, I decided to start this blog to share a lot of what I had and have been struggling with in an effort to help myself and others heal. I would give myself a year to turn my mental health around. It was never easy, I was never fully comfortable telling my stories, and – I’ll admit – most times I didn’t want to. In every case, though, what made me share was the fact that maybe I’d be able to help just one person who was going through something similar. I became terribly passionate, not about sharing my life, but about helping someone.

I’d like to think I did.

Now, sixteen months after I began, I think it’s time I call it. This will be my last post for the indefinite future…I need to get back to being myself. I unknowingly took on an incredible task, and didn’t realize just how far this little project would go. I am tremendously happy with the results, both internally (within myself) and just how much positive feedback I’ve received from various people and groups.

Before I sign off, though, I’d like to leave my readers with a few of the lessons I’ve learned during this journey – and hope I’ll be able to give you something worthwhile one more time.

Being vulnerable is ridiculously difficult.

I get a lot of messages from people along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it”, or “you make it look so easy.” It really isn’t. Being open is very, very hard for me – especially in such a public setting. Being vulnerable can – to many – be seen as a sign of weakness, neediness, and a source of shame. It’s definitely not something I would willingly sign up for all the time. What made me share, though, was the hope that by being vulnerable it would inspire others to do the same, and to show that it’s not always a bad thing to ask for help.

Sometimes, people will get the wrong impression of you.

If you met me seventeen months ago, for example, you’d probably never think I would have been capable of doing something like this. I greatly enjoy my privacy and personal space, and it’s not a regular thing that I would be so willing to open up. By sharing so much of my personal life, I may have made myself too available, too open, in certain situations. While I enjoyed receiving messages, both for help and for encouragement, I’d often need to take a step back and re-evaluate if I was really ready to keep doing this. At this point, I think I’ve had my fill of the spotlight.

It may seem wrong, but sometimes, it’s OK to be selfish.

Selfishness is usually looked at as a bad thing, but sometimes it’s necessary to protect yourself. I’ve always believed that everyone needs a recharge sometimes, and as of late, I’ve been stretched thin. I think I’m a pleaser by nature, and love taking care of other people and other living things (if my dogs and plants could talk, they’d tell you)…but sometimes taking care of myself needs to come first.

That being said, I’m looking forward to being just a bit selfish over the next few or more days. Time for a little social media purge and do a little retail therapy! *googles closest Designer Shoe Warehouse*

All fun aside, for my readers: if you’ve been following my writing since the beginning, or have just recently found this blog…thank you so much for taking some time to read it. I’ll probably leave this site up for a while, so feel free to share it with someone you feel could use a little reassurance, or even just a break from their own struggles. I could definitely use a break myself. For my friends: you know how to reach me.

Wishing you the best and Happy Halloween,

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Phil.

 

 

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On Medication and Mental Health III

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I suppose I needed some closure, some sort of sign that I made the right decision with my mental health, and life sorted that out for me.

Hey all. Sorry for the delay.

In the last few posts, we looked at medication for mental health – from the various kinds to reasons why some people choose to (or not to) start a treatment plan involving medication. In this post, I’ll get into why I personally decided to give medication a try.

Now for the heavy shit.

Just about a few weeks shy of four years ago, I was driving home from a night out that involved a work Christmas party, as well as a few bars in Hamilton, ON. I had had more than a few drinks at the party, but stopped drinking several hours before a friend and I left to go out to the bars. I barely drank there (maybe a Heineken or two), and after another few hours, left the area to go home after dropping my friend off at his house.

Before we get into the rest of what happened that night, let’s preface it by summarizing my last few months leading up to it.

To start, I had gone through a rough (but amicable) breakup, and while we did talk often enough I was still struggling with the fact that she had moved more than half a world away. I had just begun to really get back on my feet again emotionally, but regardless of the reasons – losing any kind of support system is a bitch.

The romantic part aside, I was having a rough time with my life in the professional sense. Unsure of what I really wanted to do (or even if I wanted to stay where I was working), coming into the office everyday was a struggle. Once I would get there, however, there was enough work to keep the mind busy – at least until the end of the work day. To top things off – I was still adjusting to a move from the city to suburban living, and had to keep adjusting in the middle of the coldest winter I could remember. It was the first year that I really started believing that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing.

Now back to the night that would change my life, thankfully for the better.

Overnight, the weather had become incredibly colder and even icier. As I’m driving home, my thoughts are racing. What could I have done better in my failed relationship? How do I feel more fulfilled at my job? Do I even like it there, or am I only really actively going because I know it’s a distraction? These and what felt like millions of other thoughts shoot through my mind to the point where I don’t notice that the lane I am in is rapidly ending, and I need to switch over to the left-most lane to get on the highway.

I must have hit a patch of black ice, because my car just won’t slow down. I pump the brakes rapidly, but no luck – my car is sliding sideways towards the ditch between the on-ramp and the highway. A sign on the side of the road (one of those directional arrows that line the ramps) crashes into and through my driver-side window and nearly ends up in my lap after missing my face. My car careens off of the on-ramp, and ends up sideways in the ditch.

I have to escape out of my mangled vehicle through my passenger door, crawling through snow, ice, blood (from superficial cuts, thankfully), metal, and glass. I make it to the top of the on-ramp, where eventually a police officer shows up and helps me into his car and out of the cold. I admit to having a few drinks earlier, and blow and pass a breathalyzer (I still get a ticket for driving with alcohol in my system – didn’t have a full license at the time). Sitting in the back of a police car, regardless of why you’re there, is a sobering and humbling experience. Given what I had already went through though, I was just happy to be alive and warm.

I still had to get home, though. I ended up having to tow my car back – where overnight a branch from an iced-over tree fell through some power lines and cut power to my side of the neighborhood. No power meant no elevator, so that meant at least eleven flights of stairs just to get to my freezing apartment. I quickly change and jump under a blanket, still a bit shaken and absolutely done with that night.

At this point, I was already seeing a counselor every few weeks or so to try and get help with my mental illness. After these events, though, I decided I needed (scratch that, I owed it to myself) to give myself more of a fighting chance. Cue the medication, which I spoke to my family doctor about and have been on since.

Flash-forward to just over four years later, I’m driving back from Hamilton. Same sort of on-ramp (no booze this time, though – I’m still watching my intake very mindfully), same shitty weather. This time, the thoughts are different. I’m content and hopeful. I am excited to finally fly out and head back to The Bahamas for a few weeks to see my parents and friends I don’t regularly get to see. Same slippery black ice too, unfortunately.

I hit this patch at a much slower speed, but still couldn’t get my car under control enough to slow down and avoid a collision. This time, however, I don’t end up in a ditch. I hit a guard rail, break a fender and bend a rim just enough to where driving it home wouldn’t be safe. Not so bad, all things considered.

I end up having to tow my car off of the highway and back home again, but this time it’s to a house I own. There’s no power outage this time. I sort out the payment details with the tow-truck driver, step into my warm townhouse, take off my shoes, walk up one flight of stairs to my master bedroom, and fall into my comfortable bed.

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I suppose I needed some closure, some sort of sign that I made the right decision with my mental health, and life sorted that out for me.

I hope if you’re reading this and are struggling, that you’ll make my advice and try and take care of your mental health. It’s always worth it.

10 Things I (Sometimes) Hate About Me

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate.

I initially had a longer and more emotional post lined up for this week, but I’ve been having a rougher-than-usual last few days (even by my standards). That being said, I decided to post something with a bit of a lighter mood.

I couldn’t stick to just ten, so here’s a bunch of random things about me. Maybe you can relate. I may make a “Part 2” sometime. Maybe.

  • Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Like…do you actually want to know about my day? Because I accidentally spread a mask on my toothbrush this morning instead of toothpaste…Clarins tastes like shit.
  • Are we still talking or can I, you know, just walk away now. No? OK cool I’ll just stand here. Wait, was I supposed to say “You too!” or just “Thank you.”? Fuck!
  • I really love dogs and every one I ever dog-sit becomes my child. Sorry my son peed on your hydrangeas Kathy.giphy[1]
  • Being a neat freak and caring for animals is an interesting mix. I love dog sitting but do not love cleaning enough hair out of my vacuum to stuff a decorative pillow. Wait, do people do that? *Googles ‘can I stuff a pillow with my dog’s hair’*
  • I used to be a morning person. Then I became a night person. Some days it’s debatable if I’m even a person at all and I need a coffee IV to function like a human being.
  • One of my fears in life is not having a future or making a terrible decision and ending up alone and homeless and never being able to make beautiful, emotionally-and-financially-supported mixed babies.
  • Sometimes the most anxious moment of my week doesn’t have anything to do with my future, but ma’am you are ringing in that guy’s groceries way too fast and I can’t pack mine fast enough aaaahhhhh…
  • Ma’am I really do have two dimes just give me a second *shuffles in pocket* – NO it’s not OK I have it I really do just give a second *awkwardly places condoms on counter* – What? Yes I have an optimum card.
  • I’m usually very good at eating healthy, but sometimes I have a setback emotionally, can’t be bothered, binge eat, and immediately hate myself. #OxfordComma
  • I quit drinking for 4 months earlier this year. I lost a bunch of weight and it really helped the pockets. Since then, I don’t drink heavily or regularly…but will have a beer or a rum here and there.
  • After an eight-month layoff due to various personal ills, I finally made it back to the gym last week. Now I just have to make it back.
  • As of late, most of my depressive days have been manageable. Some days though, I just want to go home and hop into bed for an eternity. Sometimes, instead of bed, I make a blanket fort in my kitchen by draping a duvet over the bar and hiding under it.
  • Managing my medication and activity have been pretty good as well. Some days though, I forget and I’m just a mess the next day…which is a struggle. The recently-increased dosage isn’t helping the cause either, I’m sure.
  • Sometimes I leave my mom’s voicemail messages on my phone longer than usual…just in case I ever need someone to tell me I’m handsome.
  • Sometimes I use my sister’s Instagram account to check up on people I no longer am in contact with. Not because I’m stuck in the past or am holding onto something I shouldn’t…sometimes I care more than I probably should and am always back and forth on how I feel about that.
  • Most of my closer friends are a significant distance (e.g. a plane ride) away and sometimes it sucks (Hi Hanna). 
  • I think it’s cool that more and more people are opening up about mental illness, especially men. I hope this trend continues.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my life, and the blog as a whole so far if you’ve been following.

Until next time,

xoxo (my love is very special),

Phil

 

Why I’m Afraid Of Ghosts

So, in my growing list of fears, you won’t find actual ghosts or zombies or vampires.

I am deathly afraid of ghosts.

Not the paranormal kind, mind you (in fact, I enjoy a good horror movie). I’m talking about something – in my mind – a little more sinister.

I’ll give you a quick scenario. You just met someone, maybe at a bar or a restaurant or on the bus and you exchange numbers. You text back and forth for a while, and things seem to be going smoothly. Then, all of a sudden, nothing…you’ve just been ghosted.

“Ghosting”, according to Urban Dictionary, is the act of suddenly and inexplicably ceasing all communication with someone.  No phone calls, no texts, no bone threw or hint given. It’s been described as horrible, selfish, and inconsiderate, and I am in agreement with all three. I hate that this word exists in any sort of dictionary, and I hate that it happens to even the best of us.

I’ve been ghosted more than a few times, and my experience with ghosting ranges from mild to utterly heartbreaking. Once, I was texting back and forth over a few days with someone I met in a bar the month before. One day the texting stopped with no explanation. Bummer. Whatever, move on right?

On another occasion, I had already gone on a few dates with my ghoster. Things seemed to be progressing well, dinner was great, and so was the conversation. We planned another meet-up, and were texting up until an hour or so before I was to pick her up. Then the texts stopped. Cool, maybe she’s just getting ready right? “I’ll meet you at Kelsey’s,” I texted before I left the house. If you guessed that this anecdote ends with me eating dinner and tossing back rum and cokes alone in a dimly-lit restaurant, you’re right. I never heard from her again. The food was good, though.

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Actual text.

This next time resulted in the most depressive episode I’ve experienced to date, and it took me a long time to be able to even write about it. I had been seeing this person for months, and was on top of the world emotionally. I was feeling confident that hey…maybe I’ve got this whole life thing figured out.  While we lived a bit of a distance apart, we made efforts to see each other regularly. We had done the whole “hey let’s post about each other on social media” thing, had a collection of mutual friends, and were even planning to move in together. Needless to say, I was riding high.

One day, things stopped. I didn’t get a “hey babe I’m on my way to work” text, no “Good morning boo thang” snap, no phone call on her drive home. No response to my texts either…strange. Monday night would go by, then Tuesday, then Wednesday – the first night I got any decent amount of sleep (shout out to melatonin). I woke up Thursday and everything from social media was slowly disappearing. I was watching myself be erased from someone’s life, one post, one memory at a time. Eventually, there was nothing left. No photos, nothing.  The worst part was that it wasn’t like they ceased to exist as a person: the Snapchat stories, Instagram selfies, Facebook status updates all continued.

Did I dream that all of this had happened? Surely this must not have been real. I was crushed, and would spend the next several months trying to pick myself back up again (a story for another time). If not for a few good friends and some good old-fashioned therapy (I owe you Carolina) mixed with 10 mg of Lexapro daily, I may not have been around at the time of this writing.

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Thanks, Twist.

See…the problem with ghosting for me isn’t always the act itself, but rather the emotional fallout from being ghosted.  I’m not here to demonize people who ghost, but whatever someone’s reasons are for cutting someone else off completely…it’s disrespectful, cruel, and a huge blow to my self-esteem. It can take a huge emotional toll on your best days, and is devastating at it’s worst. I’m not saying I’m a perfect person (I’ve ended relationships in less-than-ideal ways myself – but always openly and honestly), or the perfect lover or friend, I’m saying I deserve better. We deserve better.

I read somewhere once that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. So, in my growing list of fears, you won’t find actual ghosts or zombies or vampires. You’ll find rejection, indifference, and the thought that I could potentially go from meaning everything to someone to meaning nothing at all.