Was that enough of an info dump for you? Well now you know how I feel

I just had my first session with a new therapist.

This doesn’t mean I’m replacing my beloved current therapist, it’s just another potential option. My therapist is The Best. She’s incredibly perceptive and her style is very complementary to my way of processing. If I could see her on the regular I would. But I can’t. Or rather, I could but it would cost me a lot. She’s not cheap. So while my benefits can currently afford 3 of her sessions per year (which frankly isn’t enough to deal with a lot of things), I don’t want to¬†not have those sessions. I do want to jump further into therapy as a means of finding ways to cope with unhelpful thoughts and patterns. I got a call a few weeks back saying that I’d finally come off the waiting list for an OHIP sponsored therapist. Today was the first of potentially a few sessions.

Introduction sessions with therapists feel kind of weird. There’s protocol and bookkeeping that needs to happen. They’ll tell you of the boundaries in place. Confidentiality is assured, except in a few key circumstances. Primarily this revolves around you being a potential threat to yourself or others. If you have suicidal thoughts that your therapist deems sufficient as a precursor to taking action, they can notify authorities and have you escorted to emergency to gauge whether you’re at risk. If children under your care are potentially at risk, therapists can also alert authorities. If you’re unsafe to drive in any capacity, whether that’s admitting to a habit of drink or drugged driving, being off certain necessary medications (like epilepsy medication. Which is fine to come off, but in that case you should not be driving), etc. If you could harm yourself or others, that is a valid concern. With that out of a way, the session turns over to you.

A therapist is only as good as what they can divine from what they’ve heard. The more they know about you, the wealth of information they can utilise to find ways to help. So they ask questions. It’s kind of like a first date, but a shitty one-sided first date where you’re monopolising the conversation. They keep asking questions, but you don’t get to interject. They’re also jotting down all of your answers too. It’s sort of checklist-y, but with good reason. It’s the most efficient method to get a base of understanding. An intro often happens over a couple of sessions where the therapist will dive into your background and mood.

Today was background. She asked about my upbringing, family structure past and present. She asked about relationships. Was I in one? For how long? At which stage? That kinda thing. She asked about my history of education and employment. What had I done to get to where I was? History of therapy and treating mental illness? Personal struggles? Drinking and drug use? How often? In what quantities? Did I have close friendships and a support network? Was I physically healthy? How did I think cognitive behavioural therapy would work for me? What were my expectations of our sessions?

You’d be surprised how long it can all take. There’s a little probing here and there, perhaps clarifying or asking for further information on something you’ve said. Going back to the first date notion, what the introductory sessions are used for is to see if the relationship of care would be a synergistic fit. Some people’s issues and personality don’t mesh well with particular methods of therapy. You want to find someone whose style complements your own. It’s the most effective way of ensuring the sessions are time spent wisely. If something doesn’t feel quite right, chances are it’s not. Intuition works pretty well with this sort of stuff. If you’re actively looking for therapy, please shop around and find someone who’ll be able to tailor their skills to your issues. Therapy is amazing. It can be life changing when it works. That said, “work” is the important word. It’s a lot on both sides, but it’s so goddamn worth it.

Let’s see how “date two” goes…

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Stink or swim

I woke up this morning in the same mental space as yesterday.

I drifted in between tasks, trusting in routine to get me to work. Zoning out and kind of dissociating, I caught my bus, transferred to the train and stood there, hazily noticing my forlorn reflection in the train’s window. I was lost, just totally gone. Not there in the slightest. Then I felt something. I didn’t hear it, but an unfamiliar sensation slipped out. I farted. It smelled noxious. Just a rough and tumble dropped guts. Brutal. My features stayed neutral, but something stirred beneath. I felt my skin, came into contact with my body. I noticed a couple of people looking around, narrowing their eyes. I stayed silent. I also stayed present, in the moment in all facets. The all-encompassing dread that’d inhabited my total being couldn’t hold court against that kind of injunction. I was myself.

Then the moment passed and I felt myself drift back into the aether.

I’ve been on and off today, as I expected. For the most part though, I’ve been better than I’d hoped. It helped running into a friend in the kitchen at work today, pushing away the gloom for long enough to get a tenacious hold on things. I’ve had distractions, which have all done their part. I dunno, dumb shit like wondering whether it’s an insult or not to say that a dead DJ was “spinning in their grave”. Sometimes that’s enough.

I was thinking about a good way to make this all understandable, what it feels like when I’m in a rough patch and trying not to constantly dissociate. Have you ever tried to fix your posture? You’ll force yourself to sit up straight, then five seconds later you notice you’re slumping again. So you’ll force yourself to straighten again, then slump. The cycle repeats ad infinitum. When I’m depressed to the point where my grasp on reality suffers, it’s because it’s hard to retain that grasp. I’ll notice that I’m in a regressive, negative thought spiral and try to push back towards positivity. It may help for a matter of seconds, then I notice I’m right back in the mire of negativity. I try again to think of nice things and maybe I do, which helps briefly. So I keep trying, and it keeps getting harder to get back there. So most of the time I stop trying and just give up. Occasionally it helps, and my mental posture is effortlessly solid. Or something dumb will knock me out of it (like the aforementioned fart) and I’ll wonder why I was so densely sad. So often though, it doesn’t and that’s okay. Much as it sucks to feel that way, I never tell myself that I’m wrong for it. I’ve at least gotten rid of personal stigma against depression and I think that’s far healthier than judging myself for it. It’s just a part of me and accepting that is pretty damn important, oddly enough, for my own mental health.

I guess that’s about what I was trying to say. I’ve got no real intention of turning this into a dedicated depression blog, but at the same time my goal here is to never be anything but honest. Depression may be a part of me, but dishonesty isn’t.

If you’ve read this for any length of time, however, you’ll know that toilet humour most definitely is.

Oh fuck. This is a Drake song, isn’t it?

I’m Upset.

I got another job rejection. I know it’s not personal, but I’m taking it personally. I know it’s not about me, but it feels like it’s about me, y’know? It feels like if it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have this problem. I don’t think logic has any place in where I am right now. Logic would say that 200+ people apply for every position I apply for and only one person can be the right person. Logic would say that disappointment is inevitable for n-1 people where n=the number of people who applied. Logic would say this this is another singular disappointment in a series of singular disappointments. It doesn’t feel like a singular disappointment. It feels like a cumulative pile of failure in which I haven’t been the right person for anyone. That every time I’m not enough. Not experienced enough or talented enough or smart enough or capable enough. It feels like I’m coming up on several years of feeling at the very least low key bone deep miserable at all times and just kind of holding it together. This time feels different.

Logic has told me time and time again not to get attached, but I do. When I get an interview and the interview feels warm and responsive I get attached. I start thinking about what it could be like to meet new people in an all new department/workplace. To grow my skills and gain satisfaction in having done something well. To see progress and development in my own aptitude and confidence. To show myself that I am capable and bring value to the world with my output. When inevitably this doesn’t happen, I once again doubt all of the above. Logic tells me that I have value all of my own and I do bring something to the world in how I connect to others. It’s been a while since any of this felt logical.

I’m not logical right now. I’m Upset. “Capital U” Upset. I feel like I’m at a point of nothing. I’m 31 and I’m drifting, with no idea of what the future holds and zero assurance it’ll hold anything. I feel like any skills I had were honed almost ten years ago and my relevance has just been fading year by year. I know a fucking job doesn’t mean anything but it means something to me. I know the way I pay my rent doesn’t define me but I want it to, at least a little. Emotional as I am I know that even a dream job is still a job that sucks like any other job. I’m not asking for a dream job. If there’s anything the past ten years have taught me it’s to dream smaller. I’m just asking to do work that I can feel proud of, that makes people feel happy or understood in some way. That makes me feel like I’ve given something of myself. To feel like I’m connecting at least a little with others. I’ve long since known that money isn’t a motivator for me, but meaning is and I’m running on empty. I don’t know what I’m doing or why. I don’t know why I’m still trying. I’m scared that soon enough I’ll just stop caring and I don’t know what happens then.

Oh, I’ve had affirmations. That it’ll be my time next time. That something is right around the corner. That this wasn’t to be, but not to worry because something will come. That I am experienced enough and talented enough and smart enough and capable enough. Affirmations are great and all, but they don’t mean a thing unless I believe them and I don’t know that I do anymore.

I don’t know what the point of this is beyond venting, but I’m venting. Things feel pretty shit right now. They have for a while, but just that little bit more at the moment. I *know* that other people are struggling with worse problems, but I also know that doesn’t invalidate any of mine. I *know* that on a long enough timeline this won’t matter, but feeling shitty and worthless for years on end seems like a timeline that’s been long enough already. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of getting my hopes up and getting let down. I’m so tired of getting another deftly worded email that essentially tells me to go fuck myself. I’m so tired of putting energy out and feeling like I’m wasting my life. I’m so tired of swallowing my own disappointment day by day. I’m so tired of people telling me that things will just work out and both of smiling like either of us actually believe it.

I just kinda want to stop existing for a while.

And I know this too will fade. That everyone else feels this way a lot of the time. That we all feel shitty and worthless and like we’re not enough. That we feel like we’re just beating our heads against something, tasting our own blood and shrugging. That treading water is technically surviving, but it’s not a life. That there’s a piece missing that’ll make everything click, but its absense feels like a hole within ourselves. I know we all feel like this, but I’d kind of like to just not for once.

So for today, at least, I’m Upset.

Love yourselfie

I’ve developed a tradition. After each Tough Mudder I’ll post some kind of shirtless vanity shot on Facebook. I don’t know if it’s a case of diminishing returns, but I don’t think so.

The first time was nerve racking. The notion of taking up space, putting myself bare (well, with pants) in front of people was really fucking tough to do. As with anything else, practice helps. A few years in it’s become incredibly empowering to have something to look back on, to soak up the sensation of feeling strong and capable in my own body. I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing old and finding it harder to give a shit, but with each passing year it’s getting easier to push away that little negative voice that comes from decades of regressive body issues. Of course it’s a push for validation, but I’ve learned enough in life to know that Tall Poppy syndrome is bullshit. It’s okay to feel proud about progress. You’re not a piece of shit for enjoying the kind of acceptance that others can provide.

With each passing year it’s also getting increasingly difficult to reach the same peaks. Getting old is definitely a thing. This year in particular was miserable. Most years I have a three month training period leading up to the event. This year, three months prior, I fractured my wrist and sprained both ankles. It was not ideal.

Two weeks after the accident I was champing at the bit to get physical again. I started adding in jogging, little by little. I’d run around the block and feel exhausted, betrayed by my own body. I worked up to a slightly longer run day by day. Eventually I got back to my regular lunchtime 5kms and I’d run 3-5 times per week. Saddled with my cast, it would accumulate sweat and a few km in I’d be carrying the weight of that on my right arm. With each stride I’d fling sweat ahead of me. It was gross as hell, but I wasn’t taking any movement for granted.

I still couldn’t really open jars or chop vegetables without pain, but I gradually worked more exercises into my repertoire. Eventually I got back to the gym and did anything I could. Everything felt like a godsend. Picture some dude with a rainbow cast doing one armed assisted pull ups. It was a pretty nutty sight. I didn’t care. I was single mindedly heading towards my goals.

This year, more than any other, was a reminder of how I physically felt for so much of my childhood. Incapable, insufficient. It brought back a lot of those unhelpful emotions and patterns. Physically and emotionally, the past few months were a ton of work. It felt like I had to relearn a heap of simple movements that I’d always taken for granted. I’d look at a couple of dishes and be overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. I’d be on the TTC trying to stand while holding onto a pole, wracked with pain. I was far too proud to take a priority seat away from others who needed them. I felt worthless in my own body. I’d look at chopsticks and sigh.

So y’know what? I’m quite okay posting a picture showing the muscle tone I managed to build up. I’m happy to saddle myself with whatever amount of vanity that takes, with no sense of guilt. Why should anyone feel guilty about enjoying the way that they look? Isn’t it kinda fucked up that society has instilled that sense in us? It’s more than alright to like yourself, right?

So right now I feel pretty damn great. I like that.

Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

In that case, I’m sure we’ll find some other way to make fun of all those cumulosers.

As I occasionally do, I’m gonna cheat with today’s writing and start by reposting a Facebook comment I made. I’d seen a post about the discourse surrounding being overweight in our society and how nuance is so quickly lost in the shadow of fatphobia.

“A hill that I am willing to die on is that the apparent healthiness of your food intake is not a moral issue. The way that society has developed language around it is bullshit. An entire swath of foods is grouped under the label “junk food”, which automatically gets slammed with negative connotations and we start to associate guilt with our intake. It’s lead to a mentality where you’ll hear people about to eat something sweet and say “oh, I shouldn’t” or “I’ll be bad” and wink. This entire concept can fuck right off to the fiery gates of Mt. Fuck. It’s all predicated upon a ridiculous social fear of gaining weight, as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. What’s more, it only serves to entrench this view in people who have issues with moderation, leading to pointless and unnecessary self-loathing. Then others wield it like a badge, as if your ability to count calories says anything about your character.

Let people enjoy things. Their consumption is not your business.

Edit: Let’s also not forget that for many, cost is a gatekeeper to healthy eating. It’s entirety possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet on a low income, but it requires a ton of education. Nutrition is a minefield of information and most of us don’t really know what’s in our food. Pre packaged and manufactured foods are often far more affordable than their fresh counterparts and this has a trade off. So any kind of snooty moral superiority can take a fucking dip in the Arctic depths of Lake Fuck.”

If you’ve spent any time with my daily writing, you’ll recognise that these sentiments have been repeated ad nauseum. I’ve had to struggle with precious little in my middle class white cis male life. Body issues have been one of the few repeat offenders. While it may seem kinda ironic posting this in the middle of my tussle with the ketogenic diet (I’ve never professed that I’m doing it for anything but weight loss), my hope is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The point that I’d like to drive home is that your relationship with your body is a personal thing. Not all relationships are healthy, but neither are they the domain of strangers. In the same way that moral panic has been used through the ages to control mass behaviour (the concept of sexual pleasure outside of marriage as a sin, for instance), being outside a slim definition of physical norms has become aberrant. We’re told that irrespective of health, being overweight is cause for disdain. Hell, even the euphemism “overweight” implies a deviation from the norm. Fuck that noise. What right does a stranger have to cast judgement on your health or worth based on the way you look?

Turnabout is fair play, supposedly, and it’s easy to point the finger back to me. For the past 17 years I’ve pushed myself to the gym three or more times per week. I’ve tried diets, cut alcohol and run to work in order to drop weight. I’ve constantly fought with the scales, yet I’m standing here advocating against demonising people’s weight? I want to be clear, I’m not saying I’m any different or better than you. I have internalised personal fatphobia, I just come by it honestly. As a child I was teased and physically bullied for being fat. It hindered my ability to be confident in myself. I drank deeply from all the media messages telling me that to be successful and admired was to be trim and attractive.

I didn’t feel trim or attractive and as such thought of myself as pretty damn unlikable. At the age of seven I started to believe that if I was to be fat, nobody would love me, I’d never get married, then die alone and childless. I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. Isn’t that fucking ridiculous? The only thing seven year olds should care about is the wonder of the universe around them. Not their inevitable entropy. You know what? I bought in. I struggled unsuccessfully with weight loss for years. I started going to the gym at 5.30am three times a week before school at 14. I ascribed to the notion that I would never be liked or desired unless I fit a certain body type.

At 31 I’d love to say that I’ve grown out of it, but you read the keto diet thing. I know that in my brain and heart, I’ll always be fat no matter what my body looks like. It’s absurd, but therapy to unpack and dismantle all that trauma would cost more annually than my salary. My hope is that we as a society improve. That these attitudes die out. That we change the language and perceptions around the way people look to save future generations from needless anxiety.

Until we upload our consciousness to the cloud, anyway.

More like High Confide-lity.

It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.

I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.

Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking¬†doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.

Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.

Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.

I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.

Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?