The Perfect Storm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately

Thinking about people…society

Thinking about being a ‘sick person’

About having a mental illness

I struggled long before my MS diagnosis

I struggled for years because of anxiety and depression

Even with treatment, I still struggled

Like MS, there is no cure for my mental illness

There is no quick fix

Even the medical treatments for both come with explicit warnings and precautions

So it seems like there a lot of similarities

Except for one major difference between my mental health and MS:

The way society perceives both

While many people don’t understand or really know what MS is all about

There is more empathy for people with MS than there is for mental heath sufferers

People seem to acknowledge that nobody would choose to have MS

However with mental health, people place a huge amount of responsibility on the individuals shoulders

Especially with mood disorders like mine

‘Snap out of it’

‘Be positive’

‘Exercise..it’ll make you feel better’

I’m sure I could fill countless pages with similar pieces of unsolicited advice

Not just from friends and family

But also from the medical field

It’s almost funny how after I found out about the MS

There was a certain credibility that I was awarded

My mental illness wasn’t enough to warrant unbiased compassion

But MS…

That’s different

Or maybe it’s the combination

Like your mom’s handwritten recipe for human compassion

While I’m grateful it’s awarded me more understanding in some avenues of my life

Something about it also strikes me

It must mean that I’ve become something like the perfect storm

The time the internet turned against me..

So I nonchalantly commented on a Vice Canada article about whether or not Don Cherry should be fired for his xenophobic comments.

My comment was solely on the story and agreed that Don Cherry has gotten away with this behaviour for too long and should be fired.

The amount of hate I got was a little startling.

I’m a lot older than the typical person who gets cyber bullied so I’m a little removed from this sort of thing.

People immediately went after me

They went after my appearance firstly.

They stereotyped me for my hair colour.

They called me fat.

Said I was dumb, stupid and so much more.

Instantly, I wanted to hit back.

After all, that’s what you do when you’ve been attacked.

But I quickly learned it was getting me nowhere other than infuriated.

I deleted my comment.

Not because I don’t stand by it (because I do)

Not because I can’t handle the criticism (because I can)

But because this war behind a computer or a phone or whatever

Is not one I can win.

That anyone can win.

People become so brave they will literally say anything or do anything.

Frankly, it makes me afraid of the world we live in.

How scary is it when you can’t even risk speaking your opinion for fear of retribution?

This speaks to something so much bigger than internet trolls out for blood.

This is a not a liberated society.

This is totalitarian.

If you dare to step out of line you risk facing the wrath of the legions of people willing to do and say whatever it takes to make their mark.

While I can handle the criticisms, I can’t handle the anger and anxiety that explodes inside of me as a result of such an encounter.

I was so angry at the words they were tossing around.

Not because I’m hurt by them but because someone else might be.

Some teenager might be reading along in agreement and see the inflamed ego it caused and the hurled insults and bullying that ensued.

They might not have the self security to hold strong to their own beliefs.

And that is the biggest tragedy of all.

‘Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do And I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two’ The Tragically Hip

Scared is different from panic

Panic is unwarranted

Panic is your body misinterpreting signals

Panic is reading everything as danger

Scared is a reminder of what we have to lose

Scared is a prayer on our lips

Scared is being alive

It’s okay to be scared

Sometimes it’s even expected

Sometimes I struggle to sort out in my mind what is ‘normal’ fear and what is my panic disorder

Yesterday I felt my heart beat fast and I felt panicked

Surely it meant something was wrong

Maybe I was bleeding in my brain

Maybe I was going to feel the way I did last week

Maybe I would receive bad news

Today is different

Today I am scared that my blood levels won’t improve

Today I am scared that this could turn into something worse

Today I am scared to miss out on anymore of my life

And tomorrow

Is another day

That I can’t be afraid of

Just yet

‘At Times, Our Own Light Goes Out And Is Rekindled By A Spark From Another Person.’ Albert Schweitzer

Dear David (from Gerstein Crisis Centre)

It’s taken me four days to finally be able to compose this letter.

Not because I didn’t care to but because I became too emotional whenever I thought about your kindness towards me during my short stay at Gerstein.

You were the first person during my ordeal who did not see someone who was ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ but instead you saw someone who was tired of fighting so hard.

Someone who just needed a safe place to land.

You gave me that.

From the very minute I stood in front of the office doors as a crying hot mess, until we had talked long enough for me to enter a sleep-like.

state.

You threw me a lifeline.

You listened.

You talked.

You joked.

You laughed.

You related.

You made me feel heard and understood, and there are not simply enough words in the English language to convey my complete gratitude towards you for that.

So from one panic attack sufferer to another…

In words I know you’ll understand best.

I’ll just say:

I’d lay down in the snow with you, until your panic attack passes. 😊

Forever grateful,

Angela

PS if anyone knows him or how to get in touch with him let me know

‘If I Could Start Again. I Would Keep Myself. I Would Find A Way.’ Trent Reznor aka GOD

I watched Birdbox the other night

With difficulty

Anyway

It’s a post apocalyptic film that is more unsettling than scary

The characters apparently ‘see’ something that is so troubling, distressing or terrifying that it makes them kill themselves instantaneously

The only way to prevent this

Is to be blindfolded effectively eliminating the chance to ‘see’ anything and that in and of itself is probably the scariest aspect of the film

Spoiler alert

The characters flee to a safe place which happens to be a home for the blind

Although in the book

This sanctuary is comprised of people who have voluntarily blinded themselves

Which I must say

Is a far creepier ending than the somewhat optimistic one the movie left us with

Regardless

This movie left me with a lot of thoughts

Two of my fears just happen to be the end of the world and going blind

😬

The former because of a weird experience I had with magic mushrooms when I was something like 16 years old

And the latter

Well that’s pretty self explanatory

What the movie gets so right though

Is capturing the fear of the unknown

Seeing the monsters always takes out some of the scare factor

Leaving them hidden

Allows us, as the watcher to assume the worst

Creating our own separate and distinct versions of the scariest creatures possible

And then this got me thinking about Multiple Sclerosis

Because these days, what doesn’t?

That very reason

The unknown is why people with MS tend to have high rates of anxiety and depression

When we are left to conjure up visions of our futures

We think of worst case scenarios

Each of us coming up with what would be the most horrific outcomes possible

Based on our individualized dreams, aspirations, loves, passions and etc

So how do we move forward?

When there is no way to accurately predict the future

Or even an adequate idea of what you want your future to look like

Even with scientific facts and doctors and MRIs

Several years ago, after a particularly bad period in my life filled with panic attacks

I attended a cognitive behavioural therapy group for panic and anxiety sufferers

One of the techniques they taught us to cope with our panic/anxiety

Was the use of exposures

Another was challenging negative self talk

At the time, I was struggling with my panic attacks occurring when I felt trapped

So I did my exposures in locked closets and on long subway rides through tunnels

I challenged all of the ‘I am going crazy’ and ‘I am a failure’ negative self talk

And replaced it with things like ‘I’m experiencing a panic attack, not going crazy’ and ‘having a panic attack does NOT make me a failure.’

The 14 week program was probably the biggest reason why my anxiety for the next several years was manageable

Until Multiple Sclerosis came along with its lesions and inflamed optic nerves and steroids

And literally upended my entire world

But what if I could use similar techniques to cope with MS?

Like my anxiety, it’s not going away and is a part of who I am

What if I imagined the worst case scenarios of MS? Like really felt and experienced what it would be like

And survived?

What if I challenged all of the painful thoughts that float in my head so many more times a day than I care to count?

Would it make this more bearable?

What if I accepted the unknown future and made a promise to myself that I could still bitch and hate and moan about it but ultimately roll with it and move on?

What if I accepted that I can’t finish my Bachelor of Social Work?

What if I accepted that I probably won’t be able to work full time?

What if I accepted that I will likely continue to struggle with my vision and the pain it brings?

What if I accepted that I will never have the life that I thought I would? That I hoped I would?

Would I then be able to finally end the chapter on all of that?

That chapter which has been left on a permanent ‘to be continued’

Which feels more like a permanent hostage situation

So what if I could erase that last line

And start a new fucking book

With all of my ‘defects’

With all of my broken pieces

With all of my changed dreams

Could I burn that old book filled with my past and all of my hopes for a future that isn’t really mine anymore?

Could I do it and just start over?

Not knowing what the ending will look like

Not knowing what will fill the table of contents

Knowing that a piece of me will burn with it

I have a tattoo I got years ago which reads ‘Tabula Rasa’ which translates into ‘Blank Slate’

I got that because I liked the idea of being able to start over

At any given time in our lives

To stop the story

And start something new

I think it’s been somewhat of a motto for me

When I didn’t like school or work

I called it

And started anew

So maybe that’s where I’ll start this new year with

My tabula rasa

My slightly broken

Slightly defected

Slightly damaged

Perfectly

Blank slate

‘I Regret Those Times When I’ve Chosen The Dark Side.’ -Jessica Lange

I always thought I was a ‘no regrets’ kind of person

Did the things I wanted to

Things I loved

With minimal regrets

I told myself that’s why I got tattoos

Why sometimes I could be impulsive

It now seems so childish to think you could live an entire life without regrets

It’s an impossibility

Sure maybe you took that trip you wanted

Or you told that person you loved them

But we each carry some type of regret over something we wish we could have done

Or just done differently

Sometimes it doesn’t take ones deathbed to look back over your life

Sometimes all it takes is a really restless sleepless night

And suddenly regrets pop up faster than you can search for the sleeping pills

So you’re stuck

Staring into space and reviewing 37 years of a life you’d thought you had lived regret-free

I wish I could wax poetic like Sinatra did

About admitting to having had regrets and yet having had too few to even mention

But it’s nearing 4 am and I fear I won’t be able to get some rest until I lay them out there

So here are some (in no particular order)

Regrets:

◦ Not getting my degree when I was younger

◦ Wasting time with forgettable people

◦ Not spending enough time with memorable people

◦ Not reading a book in every spare minute I had

◦ Giving up my job (this one haunts me)

◦ Selling a home that I felt instantly connected to

◦ Not telling off a former boss (or two)

◦ Some coworkers too

◦ Not speaking my mind when I knew I should have

◦ Declining certain invitations from the aforementioned memorable people

◦ Allowing some people to make me feel less than

◦ Every time I felt embarrassed for not knowing something

◦ Not showing or telling some people how much I care(d)

◦ All the time I spent wishing instead of doing

◦ Not relishing the enjoyment of watching a movie or tv show

◦ Not relishing the enjoyment of reading a book

◦ Not relishing every single peaceful moment

There are more

Of course

I’m sure I’ll add new ones to this list as well

Although I’d much rather say from this moment on, there would be none

But that would be a lie

And I’m too tired to pretend with myself

——-

I did fall asleep about two hours after writing this but it didn’t give me the relief I was craving

Instead I laid in bed crying about my job

Feeling sorry for myself

Feeling sorry for Joey

Feeling sorry that there are kids out there that I just know I can help

But that I won’t be able to

And that last one

Just fucking guts me

My tears now feel hot and painful as they roll down my face

My chest and stomach hurt

And I’m overcome with feelings of guilt, sorrow and that same fucking regrets

So it seems that exorcising your regrets isn’t the same as having none in the first place

Who knew? 😒