This week there was a solar eclipse. And I made another visit to my doctor.
I don’t know if there’s a connection.
“I think it’s my adrenals,” I tell my doctor. Who rolls his eyes.
“Medical professionals don’t believe adrenal fatigue is a real thing.”
This is completely the opposite of what my naturopath tells me. But then again her suggestion that all things can be solved by cutting out wheat, dairy, and taking a thousand dollars in vitamins and supplements could also just as easily be BS.
“Maybe it’s hormonal?”
It comes out like a question because I don’t know what’s going on. All I know is that I’m tired, and anxious, and depressed, and I can’t sleep, and I’m breaking out, and my stomach is massive even though I’ve cut out wheat and dairy and exercise and do yoga.
Worst of all I’ve suddenly become red wine intolerant.
Good bye, dear friend
Also I can’t remember anything. My hands shake sometimes. My pores are enormous. My chin has sprouted a thicket of hair. I can’t concentrate, and find myself reading the same line over and over. I imagine terrible scenarios so clearly they keep me from being my normal, free-wheeling self. Even when I boycott “real” news.
My doctor pretends to write something in my chart while I’m listing off my symptoms. “How old are you?”
I tell him and he sighs again.
“I need help,” I tell him, pleading.
He tells me it’s a year’s wait to see a medical plan-covered psychiatrist. I can see a counsellor within three months, but they’re all students doing practicums.
Just imagining a 20-something year old student pretending to understand and sympathize with my life makes me cry harder.
Imagining the free advice: “Like, maybe you should try some positive visualizations,” makes me rock back and forth on the examining table.
My doctor offers me an antidepressant. Like he did last time. Which I made the mistake of taking because who wouldn’t love to believe that complete mental health is just a pill away. But the prescription was just a guess on his part and ended up having a terrible effect – one of the reasons I’m back here, sobbing in his examining room.
A month ago a friend of mine drank a bottle of wine and took a bunch of pills. She woke up in a private room in a medical health facility where she got a team of doctors, tests, a thorough examination, daily one-on-one cognitive therapy, free morning yoga classes, meditation classes, art therapy, water therapy, access to a nutritionist and a career counsellor. She got meals – which were not great – so she opted for juices – which is basically like doing a cleanse. Which I’d have to pay a couple hundred bucks for.
She came out a month later looking fabulous, rested and healthy.
I visited her a couple times. “Imagine a cross between Orange is the New Black and the Scandinave Spa,” I tell my husband while trying to sell my plan to almost kill myself.
“God,” I yell as he walks out of the room. “You never let me do anything!”
But I’m determined to get healthy so I draw on the acting classes I took in college. Who knew they would be so useful for effectively navigating Canada’s medical system.
As it turns out – it is impossible to access any capable mental heath professional unless you get fully into character. My inspirations include a toned-down version of my schizophrenic aunt and the video of Britany Spears when she shaved her head and attacked a car with an umbrella.
“Do you have thoughts of suicide?”
Best not to answer this question directly in case I over do it and end up being hauled off to the psych ward against my will. (Which happened to a colleague of mine) So I just burry my head in my hands and hyperventilate.
“Do you have a plan to kill yourself?”
I go the manic route – “More like I fantasize about not existing. I’m sure I’ll be fine once I get some sleep. All I need is a rest. I just need to calm my brain. Because it keeps racing. It just keeps racing, you know?”
… I’d like to thank the medical academy
I am immediately referred to the same outpatient assessment and counselling program, I’d been informed was impossible to get into just a week ago.
I can’t believe I don’t do this professionally. Although I guess as long as I try to get to the bottom of my possible adrenal/menopausal/thyroid/depressive/exhausted/wheat and dairy intolerance issues – I actually am.
That’s me enjoying a meal at an authentic Italian eatery
I came back from my holiday feeling like a lump of foie gras after four weeks of eating and drinking my way through Italy.
Anyway, I’m feeling good about this new plan to exercise daily, so I take my dog to the park. I’m going to let him run around a bit while I look for someone so focussed on their personal trainer, they won’t immediately notice that I’m following along.
One of my absolute favorite things about being in a foreign place is getting lost. Wandering around streets, stopping whenever something catches my eye. Looking up every once in a while, just to notice what’s there. Nothing feels better than hanging out in a public place sipping excellent coffee, people watching and just soaking up the vibe.
Since I’ve settled into Vancouver, my life can mostly be described as trying to fit as many things into a day as possible. It’s my fault that my quality of life has dropped from an 8 to a 5. In a city as laid back as this place, there’s no reason for my cortisol levels to be this insane.
This week my challenge is to treat at least one day like an exploration rather than a mad rush to get from one appointment to another. (more…)
My mother used to irritate the shit out of me whenever we had a party because inevitably she’d haul out the same four stories about the only four interesting things that ever happened to her and tell them over and over. Even though we’d all heard them about nine thousand times.
Sometimes when I was an especially bad daughter, I’d finish the story.
“Ya. Ya. And then the Dalai Lama asked if he could use that line in one of his talks.”
Sadly, three of the four exciting things that happened in her life are completely made up.
This weekend my family hosted a BBQ. Once the drinks start flowing, I get that familiar itch to be the center of attention with one of my witty stories. I’m about four sentences in when my husband fake coughs.
“I think you’ve told that one before.”
“Ya like a million times,” my daughter pipes in.
Some of my friends nod or stare at their drinks.
Not one to so easily give up the spotlight, I launch into another one. When a voice from the crowd says,
That’s not a toast that’s my friends begging me to shut the fuck up
“Isn’t that the one where you meet Tommy Chong at a salsa club?”
And it hits me. Every single notable, exciting thing I’ve done in my life happened 20 years ago. My stories are old and tired. And now so am I. Total humiliation.
So I do what most middle-aged women having an attack of social anxiety do – pretend to be busy in the kitchen.
I recently watched a Netflix special about the Queen of England. In this one scene, Elizabeth realizes that the only two topics she can speak intelligently about are horse breeding and dogs. Bent over the dishwasher, my nose prickles and I frantically blink away tears. I’m just like her. I’m like the Queen, except for my table manners and also I don’t have a yacht.
It’s a scary moment when that realization hits: my life has shrunk. That free-spirited, adventurer who’d take impossible risks has morphed into the cranky, play-it-safe woman I swore I’d never be. What’s next? A pair of mom jeans, a mini-van on the slow, steady descent to death?
Just kill me. Please.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day.
Of course, I know this randomly chosen day is really just a BS marketing gimmick to sell cards, flowers and cheap perfume. I know it means nothing in the larger scheme of things, but this doesn’t stop me from feeling… just a little let down.
It’s the same feeling I get after Valentine’s Day or an arranged blind date:
Really? This is what you think of me??
Every year, instead of giving me what I actually want (a bottle of gin – the good stuff and a whole day off) I end up getting crappy home-made cards. I keep them, of course. I can’t throw out any of the ugly shit my kids make because, gosh darn it, I’m a sentimental fruit. Here is a sampling of past Mother’s Day cards I’ve gotten over the years.
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this joke before
And then there’s the one I got from my husband as a joke/hint
But by far and away, the best Mother’s Day message I’ve gotten this year came in the mail yesterday.
download and print to prank your mom or anyone else who needs a good scare.
There are some great things about having a mid-life crisis. But as with any shitty gift from the Universe, the benefits are not immediately apparent. I go through the same process before I get it. Which looks like this:
1. Freak out because some part of my life sucks and I can’t take it anymore.
2. Wallow around Whole Foods until I see an eye-catching poster for a self-help guru, healer or workshop.
3. Make a list of things that make my life suck.
4. Fix those things. (more…)
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’d been getting parenting lessons from a real-live Tiger Mother. The Tiger Mother openly describes her parenting style as Brainwashing. Which initially made me very uncomfortable. But there’s no discounting her kids are respectful, have excellent manners, and get top marks in everything. As enviable as they seem, I’d never trade my feral offspring for hers. But I’d be an idiot not to take her advice. I just bend it to fit a little better. Make it my own.
I don’t know if all children have the same heat-seeking-missile-like ability to sense parental weakness and go in for the kill.
But my kids sure do. Since birth, it seems, they know the best way to make me lose my shit is to refuse to eat. In more lucid moments, I know it’s not a big deal.
Except I feel all pissy tossing more uneaten food down the garburator. My youth was mostly spent sitting at the kitchen table until I finished everything on my plate. No way in a million years would my mom let me waste this much food.
But that was the 70’s. Today, forcing children to eat is child abuse because everyone knows that beating the picky out of a kid only leads to trust issues and eating disorders. So I’m supposed to suck it up and eat their dinners as well. Standing over the kitchen sink. Even though I’m totally not hungry.
My son is 7. Until last month the only green thing he’d ever eaten was snot.
I took him to our doctor, who rolled his eyes. “He’s perfectly healthy.”
“For now,” I cried.
But come on. If you are what you eat, then what does a diet of bread, peanut butter, jam, cheese, and pasta make you? There’s no way a kid who doesn’t get even one daily helping of fruits and vegetables isn’t going to experience some severe consequences.
A canker sore.
When my son, whimpering, pulls down his lip to show me the big white canker on his gums, just under his bottom teeth, I take a page from the Tiger Mother Handbook and leap. (more…)
Just at the moment, the walls of my crisis viper pit started closing in. Just when I had resigned myself to a life of wallowing in mucky bad choices I’ve made, a little crack of light appears.
I enrolled in a watercolor class.
First attempt at a self-portrait. So keep your shitty comments to yourself
It occurred to me that the only difference between a wealthy, successful person and me is that she would probably take this gift of free time to take a watercolor class instead of binge watching Frankie and Grace (which I’d already finished).
There’s a certain freedom in taking these classes in my mid 40’s. I no longer feel pressure to make a career of it. In my 20’s, if I invested in a yoga program, it was to pay my way to travel the world, by offering yoga retreats to wealthy unemployed women. If I took a cooking class, it had to be the first step to opening a restaurant. Now all I want is to get out of the house.
“Wow,” says Alice when I tell her why I can’t meet for our Wednesday coffee date. “You’re so brave.”
Alice says this only because she doesn’t follow the news and also because she knows I have zero artistic talent.
Is it a Canadian thing not to try anything we aren’t already good at?
It used to be my thing until I just impulsively signed up.
In the first class, I’m totally blown away by how loud and limiting my creative process is.
As soon as I walk in the room, I can tell everyone is better and more experienced at painting than me. For starters, it’s obvious no one else had purchased their paint set from the dollar store. My stomach squeezes a little.
Done with ZERO drinks. Can’t you tell?
The voice in my head says, “You’re going to suck.”
My asshole voice is super pleased when people pull out their paintings – most of which are already half finished and awesome.
Then I remember seeing an ad at Whole Foods for a painting class called, “Anyone Can Be A Great Artist If They’ve Had Enough To Drink.”
At the very top of the supplies list was:
One bottle of wine – or 1 pre-rolled joint – whatever works for you. Wine quiets that asshole voice, the editor that bungs up any creativity that wants to come out. Every time someone stops painting to criticize their work, the teacher pours them a glass of wine or offers a lighter and tells them to keep going.
I remember thinking I should sign up, but I wasn’t ready to dedicate my life to becoming a professional artist.
I start to sketch out what I want to paint. I’ve got a thing for abstract designs of nature. Like Emily Carr, because any moron should be able to paint like that on her first try. I look around the room and notice most of the excellent artists use a picture or photograph as a guide. But since this is my first time, I decide to enter at pro level and freestyle.
When I write, I also start off by comparing myself to Margaret Atwood or David Sedaris and immediately start freaking out because my writing totally sucks compared to theirs and now I’m going to die a miserable failure. And then, if I can pick myself up from that, I attempt a project that will cause me the maximum amount of stress possible – like deciding to write, act in and produce an hour-long one-woman show.
And when I can’t manage that, I toss myself back in the viper pit and wallow.
Sitting in this painting studio, brush in hand, I can see this whole pattern laid out in front of me.
This is why I’m here – to break free from that shitty cycle – without the aid of medication (although, don’t think I wasn’t tempted to smoke a joint right then and there.)
I tune out everyone around me. Stop looking across the table at the woman feigning humility as she adds finishing touches to her beautifully executed “Still Life in a Zen Garden.”
Instead, I just let myself breathe. Feel the bench beneath me. My feet on the floor. Then I pick up a brush and begin, first with the light colors, then carefully layering the darker details.
Every time, I tell myself that it’s not going well. Every time I make a mistake, I tell that asshole voice, “It’s just an experiment. I just want to see what happens – so fuck off.”
Then, I hear a voice that isn’t my regular asshole voice say, “Whatever wants to happen will happen.” Because no one can totally control the paint. It goes where it wants to – especially if you add too much water. But you just have to go with it. Watercolor paint demands that you follow and make the best of it.
It was supposed to be the sun, but I have no idea what happened
Whatever wants to happen will happen. That’s the great take away. That’s the new metaphor I’ve been searching for. The one that erases my compulsion to foresee the next five steps before I even take one. The one that makes sure I don’t try anything unless success is assured. The one that equates success with perfection and so keeps me safe in bed, popping Ativan, like Melania Trump (probably).
Anyhow, none of that prevents my painting from seriously sucking. Even now when I look at it, I have no idea what I was trying to do. But I don’t even care. And I’m still going to go back next week.
Modern Parenting Manual – unless you’re a Tiger Mom
You know the worst thing about being a modern woman? I’ve been trained to appreciate the potential value in everything. Like a cubist, I contemplate each situation from every angle, which makes reality seem fucked up, much like one of those paintings. It also makes it difficult to take a hard line on anything. A lack of black and white reasoning makes parenting very challenging.
To tiger mother or not to tiger mother, this is the question.
During the summer, when my entire life revolved around the summer swim club, I spent a lot of time with bonafide Tiger Mothers. At first, we barely acknowledged one another. After all, what could I ever say to a woman, with zero facial flaws, who dresses in Gucci to watch her eight-year-old swim lengths?
While I can’t imagine what she might say to a spotty looking woman, hunched over her Starbucks cup, muttering about stupid rules that prevent her from throwing a piss-stained mattress in the alley.
Swim club Tiger Moms and I come from two different worlds, but eventually, we found the humanity in one another and built a connection. After one particularly lovely exchange, I say casually, “We should get the kids together for a playdate.” (more…)
My apologies for dropping the ball for the last three weeks.
I’ve been trying to find a job for the last month and have understandably been too depressed to write a blog post. That’s because nothing brings up the self-doubt more intensely than putting myself out there, best foot first – only to discover no one is buying what I’m selling.
I’ve applied for 22 jobs and have not been called for one. Single. Interview.
If I’d gotten any of those jobs, I would have failed, and my life would have sucked. That’s what hurts.
It kills me that I’m trying to get something I completely do not want. I don’t want a job. There. I said it. I’ve tried to succeed living a conventional life, and it has resulted in:
Two breakdowns – bad enough that when our family doctor sees me coming, he cringes just a little.
Loss of three friendly acquaintances because I made them uncomfortable. Nothing I can prove, or speak directly to – but suddenly they’re all too busy for coffee, and I don’t seem to be getting constant Facebook updates like I used to.
Which had resulted in experiments with useful self-medications – including binge watching every half-decent Netflix series, excessive dependency on gin, being an asshole to people who don’t deserve it, and nameless, faceless sex (with my husband) (more…)