Easing high anxiety

A friend asked to check in with me about starting medication. I figured elements of our discussion could maybe be helpful for others, so I’m posting them here. Hopefully it helps.

Starting medication definitely is a journey, and I don’t for a second assume that it’s the same for everyone. The meds have worked really well for me, and I know that there are lots of complex chemical interactions happening that mean different brains adapt differently.

It’s great to go in with zero expectations. My hope is that everything just gels for you, but it’s very understandable that maybe these meds aren’t quite right, and it could be an adjustment that takes time. I was very lucky that after the initial loading period (~ 2-5 weeks), things felt a lot better for me, and the side effects weren’t severe. Some people have intense side effects that mean years of going off and on different medications, doing the bioaccummulation thing again and again, until they find a combination of helpful effects and low side effects that works for them. For some people, it just clicks. I really really hope this is the case for you.

My experience isn’t far ranging. I went on cipralex. It’s been fantastic and I wish I did it years ago. I haven’t tried anti anxiety meds, but from what I’ve heard the experience can be similar. The big thing is to give yourself all the patience and time, and understand that this will be a process in one way or another. Take breaks when you need it, and be honest with people if they’re asking more than you have the capacity to deliver on. You’ll probably feel a little mentally foggy at first,, maybe a little nauseous. This is very normal and unfortunately a big part of the bioaccumulation.

Also this should go without saying, but a doctor will usually prescribe a ramp up period where you take low doses and incrementally increase until you’re at the desired dosage. Mine was 5mg for the first five days, then 10mg after. It took me a few days to adjust to the 5mg, then again for the 10, rather than it all hitting at once. Please follow their timeline. Please make sure you take your meds every day, and at a similar time. Most people set alarms. With anything SSRI based, you might feel a teensy bit high after you take your meds. Not everyone does, but when I was taking them in the morning, it made my commute a lot more pleasant.

I did find that after the fogginess subsided, it really helped me with focus. I know I get a lot of manic energy. Going on these meds has really given me the capacity to do projects again. Instead of freaking out over there being too many steps, I can take them one at a time. Also the big thing is that I can do multi-day projects again and not freak out that everything isn’t finished instantly. I’ve gotten back my ability to plan, which I lost for a long time. Everybody feels shitty and useless when starting this stuff out. It sucks, and feels really discouraging when the whole point is to push all that stuff aside. It takes time.

Please trust the process. It’s a hard and frustrating lesson, but it’s been helping me a lot now that I’m in a place where I can hear it.

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Guess I finally have a political platform to run on

I don’t know when you last watched Family Guy, but maybe keep it that way.

When I was 14 or 15, I loved Family Guy. It was this blend of irreverence, dirty humour and pop cultural references that gelled perfectly with a burgeoning teenage brain. It was something fresh, a kind of amalgam of The Simpsons and South Park, an animated comedy where reality played second fiddle to a good joke. The archetypes were way out there, and I watched a lot. It got cancelled, eventually, then brought back. It’s had 17 seasons now, which is probably 14 seasons too many.

At work last night I had to describe some episodes from season 12. It was fun to work on, with a huge variety of description, but egads, what a shitshow. I mean, also a shit show. It’s abysmal. I swear it wasn’t always this bad, but who knows? The plotlines are contrived and unnecessary. There’s very rarely ever any message or meaning to them. Just an excuse for crude comedy. That makes me sound like I’m trying to shit on the hoi polloi, but I’m not. I like crude comedy. Have you seen how often I talk about poop here? I think farts are funny, but part of that is how you use them. Crude comedy for the sake of being crude or edgy lacks real bite. Do something clever with it. I dunno. There was an episode I worked on yesterday where Peter gets a whip (the entire plotline got discarded after ten minutes). During this time he slashes Meg, whips Stewie (the infant) across the face, enough to leave a bloody gash. He goes to a Devo concert and whips fellow concertgoers. That’s about it. I’m not coming at this with any hesitation over an animated show causing violence to an animated, talking infant, but there was no point to the gag. He whips his kid for retreading a dumb “cool whip” joke from early in the show’s run. The kid sits there with a bloody face for two seconds. End scene. The crowd roars with applause?

Here were some plotlines I saw last night:

  • Peter, Jo and Quagmire get ousted from their usual booth at the Drunken Clam by some tough looking dudes. They feel emasculated, and everyone in their lives starts taking advantage of them. Lois tells Peter to Man Up, so they go back to the bar and get the shit beaten out of them by the dudes in a 3-4 minute fight scene. It turns out the dudes were soldiers, and the bar holds them up as heroes. End episode.
  • Stewie and Brian become blood brothers to cement their friendship. Stewie gets herpes from Brian. Turns out Chris got herpes from Brian too. They enact revenge. They sabotage his date. Chris steals his car. Stewie and Brian make up.
  • Chris starts dating Pam, the daughter of Jerome (bartender at the Drunken Clam). Pam is black. The family has no issue, but Jerome doesn’t want his daughter dating a white man. There’s a dumb song (and it’s seen as dumb in the show. Great lampshading there /s) about all the amazing things that white people have given black people. Eventually, Jerome is okay with it. End episode.

I can only imagine what season 17 is like. Who knows? Maybe the show had a major mea culpa and changed course. Maybe it has something to say. Somehow I doubt it. Then again, since Family Guy‘s popularity waned, there have been a ton of great adult animated shows to take its place. Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, Archer, Bob’s Burgers. It’s not like the show even needs to be relevant any more, so maybe who cares?

Now that I think about it, “maybe who cares?” is a great motto.

If that garage has running water, it might be a steal in this economy

I just got paid out the unused vacation time from my last job. Immediately I started looking up quality Dyson cordless vacuum cleaners. Am I an adult yet?

I was out to dinner last night between film screenings. The news was playing. They had a story about “Millenials” putting fraudulent salaries on their mortgage applications to qualify for first time home purchases. In true irony’s sake, it was followed by a story about a garage for sale for $600,000 in Toronto. Home ownership is prohibitively expensive here, that’s not news. For most of my generation and generations to follow, home purchase will be impossible without either a high paying job, or a heavy investment from wealthy parents. Or leaving Toronto, buying something suburban with a partner, commuting for three hours each day, and building up equity in order to try buy something closer years later. Psyche, home prices in Toronto Proper are just gonna keep rising. We’re fucked. We just don’t have the options that previous generations did. If you’re earning $40,000 a year, you will never own a house unless you somehow finagle prime Squatter’s Rights. Or like, licking the house and asking if they still want it. It’s what we have to resort to.

I think the average home price in Toronto got to something like $700,000. Home prices have risen exponentially higher than wages. If you don’t believe this, think about how much house prices have risen in the past ten years. I recently went for a job that was asking five years professional experience. They were offering $35,000. I gave them an amicable fuck you. I talked to someone who’d come from that particular job. Guess what his salary was ten years prior? $35,000. The salary hadn’t budged in ten years, and they absolutely refused to offer me more for the role. Look at fucking DoFo stomping down on the $15 minimum wage increase. All these old entitled pricks being like $15 an hour for kids to flip burgers? That’s outrageous. In my day we got $7 and spent the summer surfing. Sure, but how much did a Big Mac cost then? A Big Mac in Canada costs $5.69. No combo, just burger. Fast food is supposed to be affordable, right? What do these old rich dudes think minimum wage earners should be able to afford? Because once you add a drink and fries to that, it’s probably about $10-$11. Their income has to stretch to a lot further than that. There’s rent, transit, bills, clothing, etc. It’s very likely that these people wouldn’t blink twice at spending more on a meal than these burger flippers earn in a day.

It’s the “fuck you, I got mine” mentality in action.

I honestly don’t understand it. Isn’t half the point of growing old, to leave the world better for those who come after? Campfire rule? But all these Boomers target social media and avocado toast as public enemy No. 1 as a sign that this generation can’t pull itself up by their bootstraps. Dude, I understand that’s how things were in your day, but these days the same kind of rugged boots you had cost $300. And a bootstrap is an optional $50 extra. But most burger flippers can’t afford that on their sub $15 per hour wage, so they buy a cheaper version off the internet because they kinda need boots. And they eventually can afford the $50 bootstrap and get it attached. But this cheaper boot isn’t quite as sturdy as the $300 pair, so the strap falls off and needs repairing. And it’s hard to do some good bootstrapping pulling up while your bike needs maintenance so you can keep getting to work. And oh, now you need winter boots with special winter bootstraps, and the cycle continues. Getting ahead is near impossible when you’re struggling to maintain.

I’m 32. I’m finally in a position where I can afford to live, and pay a little extra to get Buy it for Life goods that won’t fall apart in six months. I’m going to try to save as I can, to make smart financial decisions and get all that in order. This has not been a possibility for years, and I was earning a lot more than minimum wage.

If you’re prone to making “in my day statements”, maybe take a look and realise that your day was a long long time ago. The world has changed a whole heap.

As the wise philosopher Justin Timberlake once said, “Bye Bye Bye”

Last day in this job. Finally. Here’s the leaving message I wrote to my team, with obvious redactions.

Hi team.

I’ve been waiting for this day for some time. As all y’all know, it’s been many years since I’ve felt challenged by this job or enjoyed it, and I’ve devoted most of my energy to trying to leave it. Fingers crossed I won’t be fired from my new job immediately and come crawling back. Given my hubris, that’s probably inevitable.

*Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” starts playing* (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8W5U2tIFQI)
ANYWAY. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom. We had some good times. Despite my big mouth getting in the way, I’m probably on good terms with most of you. I’ve seen many people come and go. It’s been odd, mostly.

I’m not gonna give words of wisdom, ‘cause that sounds like weird, condescending posturing. But here are some things I think could help in the job, take or leave them:

  • The 5th floor usually has the best free food. Take a walk up there sometimes just to check. It’s worth it.
  • The 5th floor also has the only freezer I’m aware of in the building. It’s in that narrow kitchen on the Eastern side of the floor.
  • If you’re ever unsure, ask questions. There’s no need to feel embarrassed to not know something. We’re all just faking it and hoping nobody notices. If you ask, you learn, then you know.
  • If you’re asking questions, don’t be afraid to ask for the “why” as well as the “what”. There are a lot of rules in a corporate environment, and it’s helpful to be able to discern which ones make sense, and which are totally arbitrary.
  • Email is great, but it also can lead to a lot of passive aggressive bollocks. It’s one dimensional conversation that lacks intonation or facial expressions. If it’s not important to keep a paper trail, and you can either call or talk to someone in person, you can often avoid a 15 email chain to get a simple answer. Also you get to chat with people, which is neat.
  • If you’re frustrated by another department, it can often help to ask them what their process is, so you understand why things aren’t working out. Oftentimes they’re just as frustrated with something up the chain and it’s not their fault.
  • Everyone we’re dealing with is just trying to do their job, and they’re all human beings. Don’t be afraid to be friendly. If we humanize one other, it’s a lot easier for us all to judge people by their intentions than actions. It often goes both ways, and will make your job flow that much better.
  • Mental Health is important. Take care of yourself. If you’re frustrated or need a breather, go for a walk. Have an hour nap in those green half-couch things in the atrium. If you want to have a bitch session with a co-worker, book a meeting room on another floor and vent. Don’t hold that shit in, it’ll only make you feel worse.
  • To that end, don’t be afraid to take sick days as mental health days. If you Just Can’t Do It, your managers will understand. They’re people too. Sometimes it’s all a bit much, and it’ll mean you can come back in fighting shape the next day. At absolute worst, they’ll ask you to come in, but maybe spread some stuff around to lighten the load.
  • Talk To Your Managers. You can be honest, and I’m sure it’s appreciated. I had a ton of mental health struggles this year, and mine was incredibly helpful with working around them.
  • I know that formal hierarchies and status differentials can be intimidating, but please remember that someone does not become a more functional human as they earn more money. It’s all bullshit, we’re all people, and everyone’s a unique mess.

That’s probably a long enough lecture for now. I’d shed a tear or two, but being stuck in this job made me miserable. I went on anti-depressants and the one side effect is that I can no longer cry. It’s strange, but better than struggling with the weight of the world every day.

So long!

iPod, iSaw, iCompared

It’s 2019. I did not expect that I’d be struggling to buy an mp3 player.

My ipod classic shat the bed, and it’s gonna cost $450 to fix. It cost $350 to buy, so this seems like a big stretch. It’s probably the fourth ipod I’ve owned in the past 15 years. I use them all the time, 1-2 hours daily. I’m not kind to my electronic devices, and that’s clearly shown in the life expectancy of my gadgets. With an ipod, there was so much I didn’t need to think about. Since it was the market leader, the proof was on them to make a solid product that was easy to use. I didn’t love going through itunes, but it worked. Everything was categorised and simple to scroll through. I liked the tactile, physical nature of the product without touchscreen. I could operate it without looking. It sounded good, and was surprisingly robust. I could take it to the gym, and it weighed enough to not constantly bounce around. The UI was excellent, and while I didn’t use most of the features, I didn’t have to. It just worked.

With my ipod dead, I’ve had to do my research on figuring out what to buy next. For the past few months I’ve been using my phone. I hate it. It’s too bulky, and fits awkwardly in workout clothing pockets. I don’t have an online music subscription, primarily because my internet connection isn’t reliable. I want something with a huge storage capacity, so I can curate what I want on there, but also don’t have to worry about filling up any time soon. I’ve had so many issues with my ipod over the years, and it’d be kind of cool to have removable stuff so I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Removable batteries, storage, etc. That way I can just get a new microSD card instead of having the whole unit repaired for hundreds of bucks. I want something sturdy and rugged, physical controls rather than touchscreen. I want a decent battery life of around 10-15 hours per charge. I want 200+ gigs of storage. I want a UI that’s functional, easy, categorises by artist, album and whatnot, taking ID3 tags into account. If I’m stuck with a file tree to navigate, that’d feel clunky and undesirable. I want a player that sounds good. I’ll most likely just be using mp3 320kbps. It’d be too much work to start getting FLAC by this point. Still, to my untrained ears 320kbps plus my M50x headphones should be good enough. Who knows, maybe I actually try buying a good pair of earbuds for active work like running or gym stuff. I don’t want apps, internet connectivity or wifi. I want something that runs as a self-contained unit, that just plays music and does it well. I’m sure that’s not too much to ask.

And yet, holy hell it’s a lot of work navigating the landscape. There are things like the Sandisk Clip that would be perfect if only it had expandable storage. The FiiO III Mark 2 looks like exactly what I want, but it only supports storage up to 120 gigs. The FiiO III Mark 3 doesn’t have the same weight or size as the Mark 2, which is disappointing. But at the same time it’s still an all tactile, non touchscreen unit, plus it handles larger expandable memory. The UI is apparently a little slow. The HIDIZ AP80 has so many features that I like. It can hold up to 1 TB of expandable storage. It’s a little smaller and dinky than I’d like though. Apparently the UI is functional, but it’s all touchscreen with tiny onscreen buttons. My fingers are not diminutive. Then there’s the Ibasso DX50, which looks like it mostly has everything I want. It’s a tactile unit with decent weight. It has up to 2TB expandable storage. The battery is user replaceable. But I can’t find any in Canadian stores. It’s gonna cost a mint to import from the USA. Apparently the software is a little sluggish, but if I can find one that works, maybe that’ll be the go. I spent hours last night looking up models, comparing specs, figuring out how one of these units would fit into my life. I even made an excel spreadsheet to help make my decision.

It’s almost enough to make me want to resurrect my dead ipod once more.

As always, my survival method is to beer and grin it

Let’s get at it.

Holy hell I drank a lot last night. I’m lucky that I got to the work party several hours late. Had I arrived at 2pm, with an open bar, I’m sure I’d be in worse condition today. Yeesh. Counting it back I had seven strong Belgian beers between the hours of 5-11pm. One beer per hour. That’s far more than I’m use to having on a school night. As it stands, I still felt not great this morning around 5am. I had a headache, and I was mildly dizzy, overheated, etc. Usual hangover symptoms. I took some ibuprofen, drank some water and hoped for the best. Instead I just felt poopy for a few hours, and eventually drifted back to sleep.

Since weed was legalised, I’ve been getting hangovers far less, supplementing the usual large assortment of drinks for a couple of tokes. Maybe this has been a blessing, having heard just how much worse hangovers get in your 30s. I still woke up before my alarm, and rallied to overcome my ailment. More ibuprofen, kimchi, electrolyte water and stocky porridge. It helped. Coffee this morning hammered in the last of my support structure and I’ve been right as rain. Considering the number of co-workers that came in with dark glasses this morning, I think I got off lightly.

Right now I’ve got a can of coke chilling in the freezer several floors up. Much as I’d like to work in a different building, the fact that my new job keeps me in a place I know is actually kind of helpful. Like in this scenario, I know that 90% of the fridges do not have freezers. But I also know that the eastern mini kitchen on the 5th floor does. My timer is set, and in a few minutes I’m gonna run up there to get an ice cold can. There are interesting ins and outs in this building. Pecularities that I’ve stumbled upon, and should make this transition a lot simpler for me than my future co-workers. I know where the meditation rooms are. I know which floors are more likely to have free food hanging around. I know the secret rooftop seating areas and balconies. I know about the bike lockers and showers. Even though it sucks to have to work all the way down the bottom of town, with nothing but condo developments around, at least I’ve got the run of the place in my head. Small mercy.

I had my first training day yesterday and egads, this job is hard. You wouldn’t think it was that difficult to narrate what’s happening onscreen, but it’s a lot. You need to find the right spot so as not to talk over dialogue. It’s all improvised, no scripts. Someone picks up a pillow and jokingly “smothers another character”? Wait for the laughs, then say “the woman grabs a couch cushion and places it on the man’s face”. It sounds simple. In the moment though, there’s a bizarre kind of pressure. It was literally my first time ever doing it yesterday, and I did not do a great job. It’s fine, I didn’t expect to. I imagine that I’ll shit the bed for a while, and probably do a Rocky montage of narrating people’s behaviour for a while to get in fighting trim for my first day. I can’t emphasize how exciting it is to try something new that I’m bad at. I love progress, becoming incrementally more masterful day by day. This is a fresh skill set, it’s different and unfamiliar. I’m thrilled to get a chance to learn it right from the start, then one day look back at how green I was. Until then, I’m gonna have to eat metaphorical dirt.

Speaking of which, it’s time to get to my training.

Look, that poison craving/Every Rose link wasn’t intentional, but I’ll take it

I think there’s a lot of power to the phrase “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other person.” It’s pretty valid.

But also, who’s to say I don’t sometimes have a craving that only poison can satisfy?

Case in point, my girlfriend and I were walking down to some thrift stores to see if I could scope out a potential costume piece for Halloween. I stepped out the front door to check the weather. It was sunny, but there was also this massive dark grey cloud blanketing the sky. I heard the rumble of thunder. Now, I don’t mean I heard one big crack, the rumbling was pervasive. It went on and on in a way I haven’t known thunder to act. Minutes and minutes of low level rumbling. I went back inside to assess if I needed to bring my big floppy sun hat.

I was in a kind of pissy mood for… reasons, and for me this translated into a singleminded problem solving mode. The walk was meant to be a lackadaisical traipse through neighbourhoods, stopping to smell each and every rose. Because of my mood, that faded into the background. I imagine “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was playing low level in my brain. I didn’t want to bring contingency plans for rain. I had my keys, wallet, cellphone and sunnies. Still, the thunder rumbled along. The dark clouds clawed for real estate, and pulled themselves across the sky. I turned to my girlfriend and commented something to the effect of “It’s like we’re in a horror movie, and there was a sign saying “Beware all who enter here”, but we ignored it. Then there was another sign saying “Hey, didn’t you read the sign before this one? Turn back.” But we didn’t. Then another sign cropped up that said “Hey idiot, turn the fuck around already” and we were like hmm, I guess the sign making industry is really booming around here. Then we were likely to be eaten by a grue.” [Okay, the gist was there, but I definitely punched it up in post – Ed]. My girlfriend asked if I wanted to stop in to get a second coffee of the day. I looked at Wallace Espresso, looked up at the sky, and thought out loud. It’s probably gonna take about four minutes to get a coffee, but we might be 10 minutes from a torrential downpour. If we walk instead, we can get to Value Village and be there when it rains. I did not get my second coffee, we crossed the road, and the heavens opened.

Here we were, hiding in the little nook of someone’s front door, and things got biblical. Surprisedpikachu.bmp. Massive gobstopper drops of rain thudding constantly on the ground everywhere. Cars slowed, people frantically ran for cover. Folks shielded from the rain all pulled out their cellphones to film. Keep in mind that it’s been blindingly sunny for the past few weeks. This was out of nowhere. Well, excessive thunder warnings notwithstanding. In my pissy mood, I looked around in a huff and was like well, what did I expect?

I started to think on what we could do. We didn’t have umbrellas, coats, anything. We would just get totally soaked if we tried to make a run for it. The thrift shopping wasn’t especially useful or necessary, it was just something to do. Were we at the ridiculous point of evolution where, if the rain didn’t let up, the logical course of action was to go on our phones, locate a stranger with a car, get in said car and have them drive us home? We were maybe a four minute ride away from our front door. Everything about it was totally absurd. Then my girlfriend turned to me and asked “so how long do we wait until we just call an Uber and go home?” We waited maybe a minute.

So we went home, had a big difficult talk about important relationship stuff, and I felt less pissy. The weather let up and it turned into a surprisingly nice day.

I didn’t come here to write a big ol’ metaphor, but sometimes they write themselves.