Jumping off the Control Cliff

I posted on FB this week, “I have gained weight, I’m loving it and have been very happy.” And I know a lot of people don’t understand, so I’d like to explain why this is such a good thing on so many different levels. But before I get started, I want to thank all of my awesome friends and family who showed nothing but love, support, and a sense of humour! LOL!

I had posted about Depression a couple of times in July. (Twister: A Description of Depression https://deanitalianoblog.wordpress.com/2022/07/18/twister-a-description-of-depression/) Of course, this caused concern, BUT! I had a plan as we moved toward August. I was in CONTROL OVERLOAD. My OCD was cranked and high revving. I was going to overcome Depression, and I had it all laid out. I was going to go to the gym at least three times a week, and do a clean bulk (which means only clean, healthy foods to build muscle). I was going to go out to events, see more friends, read more, paint more, maybe get back to writing. I was going to spend more time outside, and and and… you get the idea. 

It was going to WORK, dammit. I was going to destroy depression!!

And then the knee. Oh the innocent moment of having fun around the campfire with kids and friends. Dancing that evening and hitting uneven ground, going down like a sack of bricks. A sprained ankle (again, didn’t know), a small tear along the shin? Two fractures on the upper rim of the tibia, bone swelling, and a high-grade 60-70% ACL tear. When you don’t slow down for life, life will take you out at the knees.

I will spare you the rage, frustration, Fibro flashbacks, and moments of self-pity. All of my plans were knocked down so hard and fast I could hear the bowling ball smash the pins. But the flashing sign didn’t say “strike!” 

It said, “You don’t control a goddam thing.”

I sat with that for days on end, weeks, even. I sat while my fabulous husband did my laundry, made meals, did fun things with the kids who also felt bad for me and tried to help as well. No gym schedule, no events, I was happy to get to the bathroom. (Which in itself is quite humbling.) No control. 

So I said fukkit. I’m going to gain weight. Part of this statement was just a fact. No gym, couch time, unless I got really strict with my diet it was going to happen. 

I stood on the edge of my control cliff. This cliff, this set of self-imposed standards and rules and “goals” that I have to achieve to be deemed acceptable. These heights I always, ALWAYS, had to strive for so that I would not be a complete failure as a person, were heights I could never reach. All my life, I was always failing. So I jumped.

G and I talked about how I was going to swing hard the other way, obliterate the rules. (While staying healthy.) No weighing, no measuring, no counting calories, no old Anorexic rules that still pop up in my brain like Whack-A-Moles. That leftover pizza slice that I wanted? Not only did I ignore the first “no”, I skipped past the “should I?” and went straight to “you have to.” This is what I want. Not because I’m being acceptable or unacceptable, not turning into a failure, just having what I want. It sounded ludicrous to me.

I’ll pause to include what I wrote years ago in a blog that included: “…I never liked being SMALL. To be described as small, tiny, frail, wispy, bony, skinny, little, slim, etc, have always had negative connotations for me. (Your mileage may vary!) Being small has made me feel childlike, dismissible, beatable, easily overpowered, easily moved out of the way, weak, and a victim. During the times when I battled Anorexia it also meant I felt sick, depressed, out of control, wanting to disappear, incompetent, and worse. But I got more compliments. People didn’t know what I was going through, and I was obeying social rules and expectations, right? Strive to be smaller at any cost? But, I never liked being small.”

I’m going to gain weight. I tell you now, it’s one of the best fucking things I’ve ever done for myself. And I didn’t realize how much it would affect so many other aspects of my life. Keep reading…

Every time I looked at the scale and didn’t get on it, I felt a little surge of freedom. Joy even. I started saying yes, yes to pizza, yes to seconds, yes to a little more cream in my coffee. I told the kids with far less detail, I was “not going to stress” about my weight or the gym and simply be happy.

I don’t have to do anything to deserve it.

I talked to my therapist about this turn of events. He has never seen me so calm. Ever. He loved that G and I had created this behavioural conditioning on our own, and that it was working so well. Essentially what was happening, after jumping from my Control Cliff, was that I had not turned into an automatic failure. It was not black or white, Cliff or Death. There is no drop, and I had a LOT of space in between to discover. He was excited and literally on the edge of his seat. “Tell me more!”

As I told him more about my “reckless abandon” I began to understand.

I can stop constantly analyzing everything I read, and I can just read for fun. I don’t have to use a timer when I sit outside (yes, I do that) and I can just enjoy the sun. I can throw out the small mountain of socks I’d kept that were still good. I can leave the linen closet full of unfolded things. I didn’t have to always do things “a certain way” because I always have. I was stopping and looking at things I was doing. Did I have to always fold and keep and count and control? No.

I didn’t die, I didn’t become an instant failure. I was…okay. I was better than okay. I felt such freedom, such joy, I was almost tearful at times. I was discovering a part of me that could function on a different level, and be comfortable. I was even a little shocked at the thought that this was how some people live all the time, and how wild is THAT?

G took advantage of this and opened up the storage room doors. We donated and gave away a LOT of stuff. Stuff that was still good, stuff that wasn’t. I opened my closet doors and did the same. I was reading just for fun.  I could finally be comfortable eating. I sat outside and smiled as I enjoyed the warmth. I even wrote two poems.

I feel a deep soul calmness I have never felt before. The ripple effect was both shocking and amazing. The boys have told me how much happier I am, relaxed, laughing more, singing more (for better or worse), smiling more, but… more importantly, not frowning when I’m not smiling. The boys are also benefiting from shopping in my closet and taking all the cool shirts that are now too small. LOL!

I’m going to be 49 in December, and I’m fat and sooooo happy. A newfound Fat Dean who’s enjoying life in a different way, and calm with a new understanding of what my “reckless abandon” has really gifted me. I hope I can keep it, as time goes on, that I don’t forget this lesson, and don’t lose this place in my heart and mind.

All it took was a smashed knee… and that will heal.

Twister – A description of Depression

People who have never been diagnosed as Clinically Depressed may not understand what it means. I’m going to try to describe it so that you may get a better picture, and may be able to recognize it in others down the road. (My experience/description will vary from others.)

Depression not event based. It’s not, X happened and I’m going to call you and cry for three hours. It’s not, X happened and I’m going to be sad and angry and yell and “work through it” with you. I love and appreciate the offers from everyone to talk any time, and I will, when things are event based. But Depression is not. So here we go…

Have you seen the movie Twister? There is an early scene where Jo and Bill are under a bridge as a tornado passes over them and tosses their truck. Dusty asks Jo what it was like.

Jo says, “It was windy.”

That is how I would describe Depression. Allow me to explain. There is a logical brain and an emotional one. They rarely are in touch with each other. Depression lives in the emotional brain, that is where we find the tornado.

You *cannot* begin to describe the tornado. I can’t tell you what the storm is like in its entirety. There are many pieces of debris flying around that make up the tornado. If I tell you about one of those pieces, it sounds like a normal, event-based occurrence. Some of those occurrences are relatively insignificant, and in telling them, would make me sound like an over emotional basket case. But the flying barn and the flying tree branch, although vastly different, are equally part of the storm. “I got into a car accident” and “I dropped a plate in the kitchen” can have the same “crashing” feeling, but only one sounds ridiculous. The plate is not worth talking about. But… It is the storm that’s the problem, not the pieces. The storm is too much to describe, and the exhaustion leaves no energy to try.

“It was windy.”

And if I say to you that it’s windy, you will not assume that it’s a tornado because it’s not in context. When someone is Depressed there is a good chance you will not see tears, or anger, or sit for long talks. When the logical brain steps in to communicate, it already knows how trivial it will sound. It might look like…

“I’m emotionally/mentally exhausted.”
– Ugh! I hear you. Aren’t we all!

“I haven’t been sleeping.”
– I’ve been having nightmares, too, it sucks.

“I’m not doing well lately/I’ve been feeling down.”
– Hopefully things will get better soon.

Logical brain KNOWS it sounds mundane. You become numb to get through the days/months/years, hoping to gods there are no cracks showing because there is no energy left to get into describing the storm. Because it’s not about a car crash, and it’s not about a broken plate. It’s not about a barn, or a branch flying around you. You just need to get through the day.

If you or someone you know is dealing with Depression, please get help from a professional therapist or councilor. If you or someone you know is dealing with an event-based trauma, please get help from a professional therapist or councilor. They may be intertwined, they may not. You may not be able to tell.

From those who have shared with me, and from my experience, feeling “numb” or “frozen” is common in Depression. The fact that I’m talking about it, and trying to describe it like this… means I’m coming out of the other side, not currently in the path of the storm at this point.

That’s a GOOD thing.

What can you do to help someone dealing with Depression? Most of the time I don’t know. I’ve been asked, and I always hate answering. Usually I’d say, nothing. But honestly, looking back at the past year, and to use this metaphor?

I suppose offering to talk about one piece of debris, knowing it’s one piece, and giving it the weight and respect of the entire storm? “Is there anything specific you’d like to talk about?” Ugh, just thinking of talking about an insignificant broken plate makes me roll my eyes, I don’t know.

Remove debris, if you are able. Offering to take some weight off, a task, an overwhelming phone call, something you can do that they’re dreading or making them feel drowned. Including cleaning up a smashed plate. (For some, the guilt of burdening others is great, and they may turn you down.)

This next one is tough to describe and will probably come off wrong, but I’ll say it anyway. People still want to be there for each other. I still want to be there for you, all of you, to support and love you. Maybe I’d call it a tornado warning? Like, hey Dean, when you’ve got a chance, can we chat about a problem I’m having? That gives me time to firmly settle into my logical brain and not mix our storms. I can give you my fully-functioning, logical attention. Does that make sense?

Offer a safe space. Spending time without the tornado. Something fun, or at least distracting? Sharing space just because you like their company, nothing more.

I have not been in a car accident this year. I didn’t break a plate. Those are not my debris. Chances are, I’ve already told you about some of it. The job switch and back was a big one, to which I might have said, “the grass was not greener.”

Perhaps that one was barn-sized, but not the whole storm.

So, when I describe this past year? Now that I’m coming out of it and able to talk more?

It was windy.

I hope my perspective on this helps a little.

Dealing with Depression

Originally posted on Facebook July 15, 2022

I’ve been dealing with Depression this past year, and even moreso in the past 6 months. It’s been a hard couple of years for everyone, and I’ve tried to be there for people in real life, but it’s been mostly online of course, our only lifelines, tethered to our phones.

But I haven’t talked about this Depression for a few reasons. Some of which are not mine to tell. Sometimes because it’s downright embarrassing, and/or I don’t want to worry anyone. Most often, it’s simply been *so overwhelming* I barely got through the day without drowning, let alone know where to even start talking about it. I have continued to see my therapist, and we’ve been discussing my increased panic attacks and shutdowns, and how bloody hard I’ve worked to hide them.

Most of all, I get quiet.

I’ve been here before, I know it well. I’ll be okay. I’m not posting for reassurance or comments, and I don’t want to worry anyone. I’m going to try to spend less time online, and put the phone down. Engage in more real life stuff, now that I can. Read more, art more, maybe even write something. I wanna go places and do things and engage with people, and get out of this funk soon.

So, please give me extra time to answer emails, PMs, and texts, as I try to shed the urgency of instant responses. I’m turning off notifications. It’s not my only lifeline. Not anymore.

Again, no need to comment, just a quick “Like” that you saw this and get where I’m coming from, and let’s make REAL plans instead. 👍

Hearing Aids are NOT Glasses

It sounds ridiculous to say, right? I mean, of course! One is for ears, one is for eyes. DUH. But there’s more to it. There are a number of points I’d like to cover in this blog post. 

(Yes, I know both glasses and hearing aid experiences are not the same for everybody, I can only speak from my own experience and from what others have shared with me. If your experience is different, please feel free to share.)

The first misunderstanding is that both glasses and hearing aids equally FIX the problem. They do not. If you need glasses, without them you are limited. You can’t see, or you can’t see or read clearly. You put your glasses on, and unless you have other eye problems or are legally blind, you can see clearly again because your prescription allows it to be so.

Have you ever tried to listen to song lyrics, and turned the volume up only to find out they were still muffled even though it was technically louder? As kids in a pool, have you ever tried to talk underwater, and then tried yelling underwater to find that it doesn’t make the message any clearer? Most people, and especially most Canadians don’t annunciate, soften letters like “T” to a “D” or “N”, and others letters sound mushy and sound the same like “M” and “N”. Out of context, can you really hear the difference between cat and cap? Came and cane? These are things hearing aids can’t fix.

Comparison: You’re in a dimly lit room, and on the wall is a red, blurry image. You turn on brighter lights, and the image is still blurry and you can see the blur better, but now you can see that around the blur is a faint painting of a tree, so the blur must be an apple. 

(*This is also how I imagine colour blindness works, where glasses would not help.)

Hearing aids are better now than they used to be, and the clarity and sound quality is much better. Also, the ability to digitally adjust where your worst hearing loss occurs (low-mid-high pitch ranges) helps immensely compared to the old, plastic earplug, volume-only adjustments that gave me constant headaches. But even the high-tech, Bluetooth, comfortable, hardly visible aids don’t “solve” the problem. And that’s bloody frustrating for first-time wearers.

So why wear them?

Because now you’re catching the tree.

It is because of the blurry apple that many hearing imparied people, even with hearing aids, still rely on reading lips and faces. As a matter of fact, many fully hearing people read lips and facial expressions and don’t know it… well, with all this mask wearing, they know it now.

I need to put on my glasses to hear you. And in context, I can put it all together.

(If you saw me lean forward during Zoom meetings, it was to try to read your choppy-video lips to match with the sound cutting out. This is also why I hate talking on the phone. Sigh… I digress.)

Another aspect I’d like to talk about is what I call “the world without” (assistance). My eyesight isn’t that bad right now. I can do most things without them except read/read lips – which I find mildly frustrating. When I take my glasses off I like the freedom to hug without banging them, no rain to wipe off, and I can lay down to watch TV. Others I’ve spoken to have varying experiences from my type of vision, all the way to folks that are terrified to go for a walk because they really can’t see and are dependent on that tool to get through their day. Life is easier with the glasses, despite the annoyances that may come with wearing them.

Life without hearing aids is bliss. BLISS I tell you! I can get wet without worrying about these expensive computers on my ears. The world is nice and muffled and calm. I can enjoy a run or walk in the rain or swim, do almost any task throughout my day, turn up the radio or TV to suit me, a lot of parts of my day are so much nicer. Except talking. It’s all YOU PEOPLE that are the problem, not me, I’m fine and happy without them.

And I’m only half joking.

Between my plastic earplug aids from Hell and the new ones, I went for years without. All I asked is that people would face me when talking to me, and speak clearly. The first half of that is only polite, and I still feel that way. Come and face me when talking to me. The speaking clearly part, well, here we are with the blurry apple again. I could ask people over and over to repeat or rephrase things. Many people would give up and say “never mind” which angers me, am I not worth a little clear-speech effort and three more seconds of your time?

When I’m not wearing glasses and I can’t see, I know *I* am the problem. 

When I am not wearing hearing aids and I can’t hear you, it FEELS like *you* are the problem, because I’m fine without them. 

No glasses = The tree is missing and I can’t function with only a blur, vs… No hearing aids = I can enjoy the music without a few lyrics.

This leads to a very important and sometimes drastic difference between glasses and hearing aids.

Emotional stress. We react to sounds in a very emotional way.

If a person feels calmer, more relaxed, more satisfied when putting glasses on, that is usually because the stress of not seeing well enough has been fixed. When you get new glasses or a new prescription (especially bifocals or progressives), there is a learning period where you might be dizzy or get headaches for about… a week or so. It’s frustrating and you know it will pass. Then you’re happy to have them.

Relearning how to hear? The world gets so much louder. All of a sudden you can hear every background sound, every bang, shuffle, slam, and it drowns out the voice of the person in front of you. And wasn’t that the point? To hear the person in front of you? I want you to take a moment to remember your body’s reaction to a door slamming behind you. A jolt. A car on the street suddenly sounds MUCH closer and feels like it’s going to hit you. You jump. Someone yelling in excitement about a wonderful thing that happened or a team scores a goal. You squint or close your eyes and maybe even want to cover your ears.

You want to tell the world to STOP SCREAMING AT ME! Every bang and clang in a restaurant, every slurp from a straw, any clapping across the room, all of it, a giant cacophony of sound that’s attacking you like you’re being punched in the brain and you need it to STOP! Stop, world, stop screaming at me. Stop being angry at me.

The world around you feels angry. Attacks you from all sides. You may get headaches, you may break down and cry. You may feel alone, like you’re losing your mind, because nobody understands this.

When you get new hearing aids, the Audiologist tells you to take breaks. Wear them for a few hours, and take them out for a while. Try to increase a little every day. This is why.

If learning how to wear glasses were the same, I would equate it to random strobe lights. Imagine being in a restaurant and for every bang and clang you hear, a strobe light flashed in your face until you learned to get used to it.

Because you need the tree.

Because cat and cap, came and cane, and so many other words will always sound the same. Because people speak quickly, slur sounds and entire words together, skip parts of a word or cut off the end… You need the tree to communicate, without it there is no apple. You’re not getting the whole picture, you’re missing the message.

Without context, you are cut off, cut out, a silent bliss that can only last for so long.

I considered learning Sign Language for a looong time. Leave me alone, don’t yell at me, world. But nobody I speak to regularly knows ASL. Neither does the cashier, waitstaff, or general public. That is also, still, very cut off, and cut out. So I went back to hearing aids.

It can take a long time to relearn how to hear, and you can often doubt your sanity, especially when you STILL can’t hear things properly. And during that learning curve time, some people also have to contend with “old age jokes” or “too-much-rock-and-roll jokes” – hearing loss is not always an age thing, or a music-too-loud thing. Sometimes it’s hereditary (my case), or from ear infections, or bone conduction, etc. Who educates themselves on causes of hearing loss? Not many. Most people just get frustrated or mad when you can’t hear them and they have to repeat themselves, even when they know you’re hearing impaired. 

You’re treated like you’re stupid. The worst is the condescending yell. “I *SAID*…” Followed by an eye roll, giant sigh, and maybe even a fuuuuck. (And don’t get me started when my speech slurs a bit from years of hearing loss.)

Nobody has ever gotten mad at me for not being able to see something clearly, or when I ask someone to read something for me because I don’t have my glasses. They are compassionate, they understand, and they help. You’re treated like you’re smart, but just need a little assistance.

Does that sound familiar?

Before I get worked up writing this (LOL!), I’ll summarize. There is the obvious physical difference between glasses and hearing aids, eyes and ears. There is a difference in results, clear vs helpful but not 100%. The learning curve is vastly different. The emotional impact, I would say, is completely opposite. Relief rather than stressful and emotional. How people treat you? Not even the same ballpark.

So turn up the radio to hear the lyrics to your favourite song, see if that helps. Turn up the TV if the actors have an accent you can’t make out, who knows, you might catch more. Remember what it’s been like to talk to someone with masks and plexiglass blocking sound and lips and facial expressions. Or not.

But try to remember, hearing aids are not like glasses.

…Every summer, I have a lounger in the backyard where I go to live in my “world without” and turn up the tunes, or just quietly feel the breeze. This is my spot to take off my glasses, take out my hearing aids (or “ears” as I call them for brevity), and be in my little blissful, aidless world for a short while. I’m looking forward to doing that again soon. 🙂

**Dean is a published author, and you can learn more here: http://www.picpublishing.ca/writing.html

One person’s “before” is another person’s “after”

I haven’t been able to work out properly for about four months. I haven’t eaten properly, and then got sick, and I am now the lightest weight I’ve been in years. My body feels literally deflated, and I hate that feeling. This month, as I’ve recovered from the ‘vid, I kept telling myself, I’ve come back from injuries before. Matter of fact, I started this whole body improvement trip from a huge muscle deficit after having Fibro for twenty years. I was jazzed to be feeling better, ready to start anew! I’m going to get back on track, startiiiiiiing …NOW!

I’m going to record my weight! Take measurements! This will be my BEFORE picture, my starting point! I have an uphill battle in front of me and I can do it! Better workouts, lots of protein, tons of water and proper sleep! I’ll gain the weight again and get that size back I want and more! Woot!!

But then… this morning, Facebook showed me a memory from three years ago. I was floored. This pic was taken exactly three years ago on Jan 24, 2019. That was an “after” photo, and I was so happy, and so proud. (Don’t mind the hair. LOL!)

Then it became my “before” picture, and when I saw it today I thought holy shit, look at how damn skinny I was. Nuh uh. Not what I want. But I WAS proud, you can see it. I took a step back this morning and gave 2019-me a high five, dude.

So there’s not really a “before” and “after” because we’re always in the middle somewhere. The only difference for me this time, is that I’m taking the time to reset my brain, recommitting, taking stock, correcting my attitude because I haven’t recently failed… this is how I evolve and grow.

So… I’m going to post my current numbers/stats, and see where life takes me next with all of my effort, and knowledge of nutrition and bodybuilding. I want more muscles, I want more belly, and definitely more weight. I’d like more size overall, but in as a balanced way as possible while staying healthy, of course. Here we go…

Age: Rockin’ 48 now, definitely more grey

Height: 5’4″ and not shrinking yet

Weight: this month’s lowest was 161.6lbs (so I’m really trying to not feel like I’ve erased all the hard work since the last time I was this size)

It’s been a long time since I took measurements (all in inches) so it was interesting to see where I lost the majority of the size I had previously put on. Waist – 37, Hips – 41, Thighs – 23 (lost a lot there), Calves – 15, Neck – 14.50 (lost some here), Chest – 40, Shoulders – 45.5, Biceps – 12.25 (ugh, lost there, too), Forearms – 10.

Forgive the seriousness of the expression in the first one. I was inspecting as I was aiming. The way I was standing I could almost see abs before it gives way to soft belly. Not sure I like the abs part.

But I’m not skinny. And as much as the 2019 picture was both a before and after, so is this. I would have loved back in 2019, to snap my fingers and see the me-now version in the mirror. A lot of learning and hard work went into my progress, and I am always in the middle of all of my befores and afters. I understand I have different goals than… most people. I’m working against society’s constant message of weight loss, commercialized “ideals”, and decades of brainwashing. Those messages are NOT for me. I don’t want to lose weight, I don’t want to be thin, I don’t want that 2019 size back, that I know for sure. I’ve learned that I am happier as I get bigger in every way, and well, it’s none of the rest of the world’s business anyway. Don’t like it? Look away. I think I look much better this way. Bring on the beach!

No really. Fuck this snow bullshit, bring on the beach.

Covid update

The kids have been 100% back to normal for a while now. They’re totally done with it.

Me and G? Not so much. We *thought* after a couple of weeks when we were no longer contagious, to treat it like a cold that was on its way out, take meds for the symptoms left over, and try some real life for a couple of days. This is NOT a cold.

NYE I napped hard to make it to midnight, and we had a few beverages. That was probably not the best but we needed a mental break. We also both tried a small workout to “shake it off” and that was definitely NOT GOOD. I quickly felt dizzy, my heart POUNDED, and I nearly threw up. Big no on that one. LOL!

We have rolling or rotating symptoms at this point. One day I’ll have digestive issues, the next a piercing headache, and the next I won’t be able to stay awake for more than a few hours, and then dizziness with sneezing and coughing… and then I’ll have a few hours where I feel kind of okay but I don’t trust that anymore.

I’m working from home as much as I can, trying to keep my hours and tackle issues online (despite multiple people at work telling me to JUST REST). Doc says I can’t go anywhere until symptoms are gone and I am not passing the screening for the schools anyway. But damn, this is hanging on. I’m losing patience and getting really frustrated.

This picture is a random moment of water, tea, apple, we gave up on Kleenex boxes and just grab TP now, and of course, TV. I’m currently binging House Hunters International. Now I want to travel again.

So, not horrible in bed, but not back to normal. This shit just sucks.

May be an image of apple and indoor

Whirlwind of change

The cat is out of the bag, so I can finally share now…

Before the holiday break, the IT temp job (that was originally to last until May) became permanent – WAY before I expected. It was mine to take, as I was told I’ve been doing well in the short time I’d been there. They needed a fairly quick answer.

The answer was no. I turned it down and I’ll be going back to Library Clerking on Jan 31st. This was an *extremely* stressful and difficult decision. I had worked hard to get that job, studied, made notes… and when I make notes, I do NOT mess around. But ultimately I had to decide on the best thing to do for me and my family at this time.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped and supported me throughout this absolute whirlwind of the past few months. Especially G and the kids.

To say I’ve learned a lot is an understatement. Not only did I learn a lot of updated tech information, but I learned a lot about myself. One of the most striking and immediate lessons was changing how I talked about myself as a teen. I wasn’t a “bad teenager” as I initially joked about with a couple of staff members, who looked shocked.

There are no bad teenagers, but there are teens in bad circumstances. I learned to reframe my description of my teen self with kindness and empathy.

I’m thankful to have had this opportunity, and thankful for the option to go back when it wasn’t a good fit. ❤️

May be an image of indoor

When COVID came to my house…

I keep replaying over and over in my head, how to start and tackle this post about when COVID came to our house. But there’s no one way that begins properly.

We’ve spent two years of being terrified of COVID, the many names and variants, for two years. We’ve watched the whole world shut down, so many people have passed away, too many loved ones. Those who are immunocompromized have even more intense levels of fear, as they’re in more danger. We’ve had to go back to work, we’ve tried to have a little bit of a normal life, perhaps going to a movie or a restaurant, we’ve been vaccinated, some are already boosted at the time I write this. The rules have changed back and forth depending on case counts, governments, protesters (and I’ll leave it at that), and the season as we’re all forced back inside. Fear. Anger. Frustration. This virus has seriously fucked with us on every level.

So when our family member did a rapid test at the first sign of a sore throat last Thursday, and it was negative, we assumed it was a regular cold and went about with life. On Sunday, before going to an outdoor event, the same family member with a stuffy nose tested again, and it was positive.

FEAR. Fear, stigma, trying to figure out how, and when. Anger and frustration, trying to follow the rules, sacrificed so much for two years, wearing masks, not seeing family and friends, constantly questioning what you can and should do, and shouldn’t. And there sat this positive little test. Knowing it didn’t mean the hour before was safe, and we knew it was already in our house. No need to make one person isolate in the house, the sore throat had been there since Thursday, it was already too late. We had to get ready to ride it out, and so far it was showing as a mild cold. We had to ride it out together.

By Sunday night I had a sore throat, but my rapid test was negative. Both kids were positive by then. I knew I couldn’t go into work. We had to decide as a family how to handle it, who we had to tell, and get those official PCR tests asap. But the testing centres were all booked solid for DAYS. On Monday morning I did the work notifications, I had to isolate, and again I tested negative. By around lunch? I took a dive. The headache and exhaustion set in (and I rarely get headaches) to the point where reading English became difficult. Emails and notices had to stop.

If you don’t like reading about symptoms and gross things like that, I suggest you stop here. If you want to know because you want to be prepared, or want to learn more, by all means… but I’m writing this to track it for myself.

Like a bad cold, the congestion set in. But I wasn’t stuffed up like the kids, it was back in my sinuses and felt like it was all in my throat. Lots of wet coughing, which sounded like wheezing, and what I managed to cough up was extremely sticky. We were paying attention to the moments between coughing, to make sure I could still take a deep breath. It was not in my lungs. I tried to imagine, even with clear lungs, what that would have been like to cough up so much like that with Asthma or another breathing issue to worry about. Body aches set in. I didn’t have a fever, but regulating my body temp was all wonky with cold sweats. My stomach ached a bit if I ate, and the other end was… overactive. It felt like a cold and flu at the same time. I let episodes of Chopped run back to back and I just wanted something to stare at while in bed, slipping in and out of sleeping until I choked awake again.

I like breathing, breathing is good.

I discovered that laying up on an angle was better for letting the junk go into my stomach instead of my lungs. I tried the soups and teas and hot showers, and yes, line up all the home remedies here. I slept for shit. Coughing, aching, etc. When I woke up a hacking zombie on Tuesday, my rapid test was positive. YA THINK? The boys still had cold symptoms, stuffy nose, sore throat, low energy, but not to the extent I was experiencing, thankfully. (Have I been more worn down this year? Could that have any effect? Who knows.) At this point G was feeling a little tired, a few body aches, but otherwise fine and testing negative. He was up early to snag testing PCR spots on the website, and generally take care of the rest of us. He’s the best. I spent the day in bed, unable to be a functioning human. Lights were too bright, sounds too loud, back hurt too much to sit up, going to the bathroom was exhausting. I let Iron Chef America play quietly in the background of my dark cave bedroom, taking cold and flu pills when I could.

Wednesday G had mild symptoms, a little sneezing, tired. He took us all for the tests he was able to book, and they came out to the car to test through the window. I’m sure I looked as shite as I felt. The boys felt 99% or 90% better already, tired, runny noses hanging on a little. I was still having both cold and flu stuff going on, digestion unhappy, aches, headache, coughing a little less, body running hot and cold but no fever. At this point I was just fed up with the miserable coughing/diarrhea combination. But I could tell I was hacking a lot of it up. I binge watched the first season of House, part on the couch, part in bed. Sleep was a little better that night.

Thursday, my symptoms reduced enough to feel like a part of the family again. Digestive not normal but better, coughing but not as often, tired but not totally wiped out. Head and body aches a bit better, too. Kids felt 98% better, blowing noses but energy back. And G started feeling more tired, stuffy nose, and a sore back. His rapid test was still negative.

It’s Friday. Kids look pretty much back to normal except for some “lingering” symptoms like dripping and a sneeze or so. I’d say I’m 90%, I can still feel remnants of both cold and flu are hanging on, my ears feel sore/leaky and ringing, a few coughs and sneezes, digestive not quite back to normal but I can eat. G is more achy, tired, and sneezing. His rapid test shows a light positive line today, so yeah, he might have held it at bay a little longer?

Is this the Omicron variant? I assume so, we have not yet received the official results back yet, but we know we had COVID, and what it did to us. We’ll still get the booster shots when we can in a month or so, and I assume getting it will also act as an immune booster from here on out.

We’re no longer scared. This was the mildest variant, none of us went to the hospital, thankfully. It’s sweeping through the Province, that “everyone’s going to get it” feeling like when we were sent to a friend’s house to get Chicken Pox is sinking in. I don’t WANT anyone to get it, but stories of cases are constantly coming, and word has come out that they’re going to stop doing the official tests for everyone in the public. They’re too many days behind to be effective. It’s more contagious, and spreading like wildfire. This has been crazy, I felt like shit, but I have been WAY sicker in my life with other stomach bugs that made me feel like I was being pulled inside out. But it still sucked. I might be tired for another day or so, a little more coughing, but I consider myself on the other side of it. I hope G doesn’t get hit too badly as he heads into his turn? (I can hear him sneezing as I type this.) Maybe this will be all he gets? Maybe his will be shorter? Who knows.

It’s Christmas Eve. We’ve postponed all of everything until it’s safe again, of course. I have no idea what’s going to happen with schools in January, and guessing will get me nothing but frustration. We’ll see. But I have a different perspective on it all now, coming out the other side.

If you read all of this, I hope it helped in some way? Maybe I’ll look back on it years from now and think, damn, that was the beginning of the end of all that COVID shit? Here’s to hoping.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays from the Italianos, from this side of our windows.

Smartness and PTSD Memory

Most of my friends are smarter than I am. Some of them are very much, exceptionally, can’t fathom how smart they are, smarter than me. And that’s awesome. I don’t say this to put myself down, it’s simply a fact. I love having smart people around me, I’m always learning something. Well, as long as I can remember it all. I’ve had PTSD since I was 15 (which was “renewed” again at 31), and the memory loss that goes with it.

The inner workings of brains and memory and dreams, have always fascinated me. My friend Gordon posted a few times recently about it, and this blog post has been filling space in my head for months so it seemed like a good time to bring a few things to light.

Everyone has trouble from time to time, remembering a word, or why they walked into a room. Everyone experiences knowing a song title is “on the tip of your tongue” and other memory slips. For some people memory worsens with age, for some it doesn’t – I know some extremely sharp seniors. PTSD memory loss is not like any of these, although I also experience those slips like everyone else.

PTSD memory loss is very similar to concussion memory loss. I cannot stress to you enough, that it is very, very different. Two of my coworkers, unfortunately, have suffered a concussion in the past few years. One of them, while discussing her sudden memory impairment in tears, said to me, “It’s terrifying! It’s not like I’m just forgetting, it’s like it was never there!” And I will tell you, some moments are terrifying. It’s not a tip-of-the-tongue feeling, it’s a complete void, like a twilight Zone level of never there in the first place. She said, “It’s just… gone.” I have had moments where I went to introduce people I’ve known for over twenty years, and couldn’t. I looked at their face, and their name was completely replaced with the feelings their friendship, but the name was a total void. I stammered as I remembered moments camping, at parties, long talks… but their name was completely gone.

How? Here is a quick article that sums things up quite efficiently, and I’d like you to read it, please: PTSD MEMORY LOSS: 10 WAYS IT’S AFFECTING YOU. https://www.aprillyonspsychotherapyboulder.com/blog/ptsd-memory-loss

This is the first point: “According to recent research, the hippocampus, an organ in your brain, literally shrinks by 8 percent in the brains of PTSD sufferers. That’s a significant problem because the hippocampus is responsible for regulating emotion, storing long-term memory and sorting old and new memories.” That’s the HOW.

I’ll mention the last point about shame, as well. You see, I FELT stupid for most of my life, and that exasperated the problem. Information I should have known was not there. Learning new things is always a challenge. Depending on what I was trying to learn, some would stick beautifully, and others could be repeated over and over (and in different ways) and never stay. It has NOTHING to do with how important I find things, how interesting, or how meaningful. Unfortunately, PTSD memory is indiscriminate. Not being able to remember names, well that gets downright offensive, and fucking embarrassing. But I don’t back away from learning new things, I always welcome it! I try to come up with coping mechanisms. Making notes, filling my calendar, keeping the instruction books, needing pictures of students, writing on my hand, whatever it takes. It doesn’t always work, but it helps. I always appreciate your patience.

Y’know… I might have even written about this in my blog before. I didn’t go searching, and I’m posting now because I need to communicate it. Again. Anew? And that goes to say as well… If I tell you a story you’ve already heard, politely say with a smile, “Oh yeah! You told me about that one!” You see, I want to communicate with you, and I’ll forget I’ve done it. I just get excited when I talk with you, and I want to share things! (In this case, it’s my blog and there’s nobody here to stop me from repeating. LOL!)

I’m not stupid. I have a brain that was literally, physically changed for the worse, twice. I have limitations that I cannot fix. I have accepted that, and am finding new workarounds all the time.

But… Am I smart? That depends on how you’re measuring intelligence. Can I cite passages from literary books I read in University? Can I learn a language? Could I pass a Grade 11 Math test? Can I remember the plot of the book I read six months ago? How much money do I make? I suppose how smart I am, depends on how YOU judge it. I’m sure I’d fall short for many of you (perhaps shockingly), if you really tested me.

But please don’t. Don’t test me. I won’t engage with “testing” anymore. Try not to judge me, but if you do and decide I’m not smart enough for you, I can live with that. I understand. People who love me know I’m always giving my 100% and it’s good enough for them

Well, I guess my 100% minus the missing 8% means I give my 92% best?

92 will have to do. I’m okay with that if you are.

I’m Withdrawing

This is a serious post. I need to work things out. This is really not like me, and this new state has me befuddled. It may not be a bad thing, I don’t know. But, I’m withdrawing.

Withdraw:
1 – to take or move out or back, or to remove
2 – to stop talking to other people and start thinking thoughts that are not related to what is happening around you

Escapism:
1 – a way of avoiding an unpleasant or boring life, especially by thinking, reading, etc. about more exciting but impossible activities
2 – the activity of avoiding reality by imagining exciting but impossible activities

In 2020 I struggled between shutting down completely (feeling like not getting out of bed), to exploding into the world with the most pent-up energy I’ve had since the kids were babies and I couldn’t leave the house to do anything fun without assistance. When we shut down, many people could not function normally, myself included. Seemingly simple things like reading, writing, or other things that required focus and an attention span, became difficult or impossible. 

That’s not happening to me right now. I feel more functional, I can read, write, paint, I even sit at the piano on occasion. It’s been great. I don’t mind being in my own head, which was a very bad place for me to hang out during my younger years. It’s a more positive place. I’m enjoying it for a change.

Too much?

I currently suspect that I am protecting my mental health in a new way. But I’m not jumping to help people all the time in all the places. 

For example, I’m in a few Facebook groups. Often someone I don’t know will ask a question or have a problem, and I’ll sit and take the time to help if I can. Every time. The past couple of months, I’ve stopped doing that, and found others gave wonderful answers, too. I’m not needed ALL the time. And that was without anyone criticizing anything. This past year I’ve noticed more than ever before, it feels like everyone is sitting online, usually angry, and jumping all over posts to comment with either “you know what you should do” to “that’s just stupid” to “eat shit and die you fucking snowflake.” And I don’t need it. I can’t deal with it all. So I briefly hop on my socials, see if anyone tagged me or PMed me, maybe scan a few posts, and get off. That means I’m not checking Birthdays, either. I’m sorry if I missed yours. Happy Birthday this year, my friends. You look fantastic!

Another example was at work. For seven years I’ve been going for coffee runs for a handful of staff on my afternoon break, three times a week. Sometimes if I was busy, I’d feel stressed about finishing up/getting a class out to get out the door so I could go. If I made any order mistakes, I felt horrible. Sometimes, I didn’t even want a coffee. Deciding not to do it anymore kept me up at night. Literally. It was ridiculous. I had to stop. I know people were thankful, always said so because they’re all lovely. They also were very understanding that a good thing had to come to an end. Trust me, during February, not having to go out that extra trip made me feel much calmer. I had no idea it was having that effect on me. Just this year, though, just because the pandemic has been pulling me thin.

Also, I am an empath. I absorb EVERYTHING. As much as I want to be there for everyone all the time and listen to the problems and hear out the stresses, there have been so, so many… that I have been saving my emotional energy for very specific things I can actually help with. I can’t take it all in, my heart breaks, and I worry, and I want to help all my peeplez.

In a larger part of my life, this past year I felt pulled to fight when we were on strike. I felt pulled to fight for BLM but couldn’t go to the rally, scared of Covid – and that still bothers me. I felt pulled in June when Pride Month “issues” bubbled to the top. Again. But I can’t DO anything in most cases. A call to action in a Covid world is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever felt, when your heart and logic split you down the middle. (And don’t get me started on politics.)

And I’m just done. I want to stay in my house, write, paint, read… escape. I absolutely understand that I say all of this from a position of privilege. I have heat, food, a paycheck, I’m able bodied, have a cool family, and the internet. I want to escape, and escapism is very new to me. I usually come at things head on, but the inability to act on things has thwarted all action. I usually seek the company of friends and people and life outside these walls. But I can’t have that, and this winter without outdoor visits (which I can’t do, please don’t suggest how I might), I’d rather just be alone.

Everything is a struggle to literally hear as well, even with my hearing aids. At lunch in our separated seats in the gym, I jack my hearing aids up to combat the echo and distance. All day long, I can’t read lips. It’s really fucking hard for me to talk to people. Last week I sat in the back corner with my phone, head down, mentally alone, because it was so much easier than straining and guessing what was being said and hoping I was answering correctly. Or asking them to repeat things over and over. I just want to sit and talk to my friends, and it’s too hard. So I withdraw.

When at home, I surf within a small range of websites I like, do some writing, make sure I lift some weights, and stick my face in a thick book. I’ve begun to feel ANGRY when I’m pulled out of, or denied these activities. If you’re going to break my attention from these things, it had better be for a reason. (I joke with the kids, “Are ya bleedin’?”) I’ve created a mentally safe place, a comfortable emotional space where I’m not pulled, absorbing, fighting, explaining, jumping to answer questions, or straining to hear. 

My enjoyable things have become hard things. Work. Joking with a student. Grabbing a coffee for/with a workmate. Socializing with friends, too. Having a conversation. Sitting beside someone, and hugs, and even a lighthearted punch in the arm. If I can’t have all of it, then dammit, leave me alone? How fucking WHINY is that of me to say? I’ve never met this side of me coming out now. This anger, these feelings of a heart-weary foot-stomping, door slamming, took a fukkittall pill, done with all the bullshit attitude, can be overwhelming. But I can’t seem to stop it. Do I want to? How much of this is healthy? I’ll be talking to my Psychologist in a week, so I’ll have some actual doctor’s answers to these questions soon. This was not covered in any of my Psych classes when I was in Uni, that’s for sure.

One of my Library Clerk friends noticed I hadn’t been posting to our group, not jumping in to help, not even to joke around. She emailed me, “Dean, are you okay? You’ve been quiet.”

I’m trying not to disappear. Because the truth is I DO care about all of it, everything, and all of you. I’m trying to stay visible, and available-ish? I’ve never pulled back like this before, it may be helping me, a lot. I hope it’s not hurting any of you.

What I am able to give of myself, please know it’s the best I’ve got right now. I appreciate your patience, especially if you’ve felt like you had to “deal with” me at all, or if I’ve pissed you off in any way, please tell me.

I’m just getting incredibly prickly with our presently overly-prickly world. Now… where’s my book?