It’s Not Easy Being Green

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Ever feel like you’re being weighed down by bags? I have only two hands and so many bags but I only want to make one trip to carry them all. But I can’t. I need help. I’m weighed down by bags, some of which I didn’t mean to pick up and I didn’t pack them, but I have them nonetheless. What to do with all these bags? It’s overwhelming.

I always try to use reusable shopping bags. They are eco-friendly and I can fit more things in them. I live on the second floor of a flat and the fewer bags the better to carry them up the stairs.

I recently started reading this book given to me by a friend called Choice Theory. I have only read the first chapter but it resonates. The idea is that we are all seeking the same thing: the freedom to make our own choices. Often we feel like things happen to us. But really everything is about our choices. I chose to pick up these bags. And now I have to figure out how to get rid of some of the load.

Life would be so much simpler if we allowed each other the freedom to be our authentic selves. I see it so clearly: the outside pressure on me to choose what others want me to do, what they think is “best.” But I also know in my heart what will make me happy.

Right now I am in a situation where everyday, my bags cause me a mixture of anxiety and depression (which I’ve been told are like ugly step-sisters.) I search my soul for a solution- the anxiety, the depression- the PNES- they are but symptoms of the larger thing that is wrong: the biggest, heaviest bag which seems to be collecting more and more items as each day progresses.

The theory of choice says that I should just do what will make me happy- others can’t make me do anything. But it isn’t really that simple. Each bag I carry represents either a person I love, or an outside entity, or “the system.” It’s not easy to make a choice for yourself that you know has implications for others around you and even yourself that could be negative, especially when you know it is the one thing that will lighten the load.

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Maybe it’s time I stopped being so eco-conscious and started just using disposable bags. I can just let stuff fall out through the cheap plastic bottoms, leave them on the ground, pretending I didn’t notice. One less thing to care about.

 

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I’m not young anymore. I’m in my 40s and I’ve wasted so much of my life carrying around these damn bags. It’s time for someone to either help me or for me to leave a bag behind and let the contents rot on the road side, with the carcasses of raccoons and porcupines.

It’s either the bag or me.

O.H.

 

Mental Illness: A Cancer

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So it’s 4:39 am. I am awake. I’ve been awake since 3:50 am. So I thought… maybe I’ll write something. My good buddy, Sam, said to me, you haven’t been blogging lately. What’s up? Nothing is up. Everything is down.

You see I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been feeling the greatest. My anxiety and PNES has swallowed me up like a person trapped in a cove when the high tides of the Bay of Fundy come roaring in. I’m off work again because people have suggested to me that I should be. I didn’t want to leave my classroom. I love teaching; it is who I am. It was a difficult decision to take time off. The worst of it the fear of judgement. I have left the small town I live in and am staying with family in another city. Being in a small town and appearing healthy makes the anxiety worse: If I go grocery shopping, people will think I’m not really sick. If I go to the gym, people will think I’m not sick. But even being with family and friends in another far-away place is difficult. They want to know why- why aren’t you at work? It’s October, how come you have two weeks off? And then the anxiety…what do I tell them? The truth: I’ve gone completely off the rails because I can’t handle the requirements of my job? Or a lie. I have cancer. I do have cancer figuratively. Cancer of the mind. It starts off as a small bit of questioning. Can I do this? And it snowballs like a growing tumor until it takes up all of the space in my brain. Just get through one more day… one more day. All the things you didn’t get done, you can do tomorrow. Except that tomorrow is the same as today. There isn’t enough time to do all the things. Everyone has a breaking point.

So here I sit…trying to think but trying not to think. I need to sort it out, but thinking about all the stuff is exhausting. All of the players in my world have their own ideas of what is “best” for me. Some of the players don’t seem to understand that I am not well. Here are some of the things I have been told/ asked to do:

  • Take two weeks off. Don’t think about work. You’ll be fine in two weeks.
    • Will I? “Don’t think about work.” Asking a teacher not to think about how their students are doing is like asking a person not to breathe. It is in my nature to think about what went wrong. To question, to wonder, to worry.
  • Come up with a plan of how we can support you if you have a seizure in front of your class.
    • Okay, but generally I don’t have seizures due to the students. It’s due to the immense amount of bullshit…er… paperwork, policies, etc.. So what do I do to get out of that? Not check emails so I don’t know about all of the new requirements of my job this year? Don’t talk to anyone who might tell me about things I’m supposed to have done and haven’t because it’s not humanly possible to do all the things required in my job and do my job well?
  • Since you’re off, take this minimum wage job as a housekeeper/nanny.
    • So my mother-in-law thought it would be a good idea to volunteer me to help look after her niece’s house and twins. You know, they put me off work to ease my stress and for me to focus on taking care of and healing myself but why don’t I just go take care of other people for two weeks.
  • Since you’re off, can you input this data into a computer for me? And set up a website?
    • My husband, god love him, is excited at the prospect of me having time to help him with his job. I spent much of the summer doing that at the expense of my own planning for new courses. Maybe if I had been better prepared for the 5 different courses I was teaching, I would not be in this situation right now. I love my husband, and I do want to help. But right now, I have to focus on what to do to heal myself.

I guess I wrote something. It’s not my best work. I’m sorry for being a Debbie Downer. Wha-Whum…

Hopefully, I’ll be in a better place soon. I’ve gone through this before and gotten through it. I have no reason to think I won’t get better this time.

-O.H.

Featured image:

“Debbie Downer.” Wikipedia. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debbie_Downer&gt;

October   11, 2017.

 

Playing with PNES

By Ocean Hayward

Anxiety. ADHD. PNES. Okay, you’re probably all well versed on the first two, but the last acronym is probably not as familiar. About a year and a half ago, I was officially diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). I always like to joke that, yes, it is an acronym that if stated phonetically would sound an awful lot like penis. Pee-Nes. Just my luck. I don’t typically share my PNES with most people. I used to because the seizures were so frequent that I was afraid I’d have one in front of people. I’d rather them know up front why I’m shaking and trembling like a person during DTs so I don’t alarm anyone.

I started having seizures about 8 years ago. They aren’t fall down, unconscious on the floor-type seizures. They are tremors, twitches and jerking motions that I have no control over. They can last for a few seconds, to a few minutes, to a few hours. It all depends where my state/ level of anxiety is. During the attacks, my blood pressure elevates as well. My seizures are my body’s way of dealing with extremely high stress situations. I’m not sure why it reacts with seizures. Maybe it’s because I tend to be a quiet person, especially when it comes to how I feel. I try to avoid conflict as much as possible and when faced with the anxiety of having to confront someone, that tends to set off the seizures quite a bit.

Certain situations are much more stressful than others. A big one for me is crowds. I hate crowds. Over the summer, my husband and I were walking along the Saint John waterfront and it was “Saint John Idol” night. You know, like American Idol? But with Saint Johnners singing instead. For whatever reason, the whole “Idol” show concept is still surprisingly popular in Saint John, even though in every other place in the world the craze has fizzled out.  It seemed that everyone in Uptown (That’s right, every other city/town has a “downtown” but Saint John has an “Uptown,”) and surrounding areas had amassed into this tiny closed-off-to-vehicles street. Some idiot (because it should be called Saint John Idiot/ American Idiot, in my opinion) was up there singing their heart out and I was stuck with my husband trying to walk on this street through the crowd of both people standing still and watching the Idiot and people also just trying to use the street as a through-way to another part of town (like my husband and I). I started to feel the panic because of all the people around me. My husband was behind me and he could see my body jerking, shaking and trembling as I tried to keep my calm. If I’d been asked to rate my level of panic, it would have been a 10+.

Suddenly, I couldn’t stand it anymore; I needed to be out of that crowd and quickly. You know how they say to stay calm in emergency situations, like if you’re in a crowded building that’s on fire? I was that person who panics and pushes through and stomps on people and kills them. That was me. I was pushing people out of my way in a mad dash to get the hell away from all the fucking people! I don’t remember much about it other than my feeling of panic, but I’m sure I pissed a lot of people off. Although perhaps my panicked voice saying to my husband, “I have to get out of here” made them sympathetic. All I know is my husband grabbed me suddenly by my waist and pushed me into a pub, and out of the crowd. I was still seizuring, but I was out of the source of my anxiety. In about 2 hours, it was as if it had never happened. But it did.

The worst thing about having PNES is I never know when something is going to happen that will spin me into a frenzied state of nervous energy. It’s unpredictable. Some people with PNES can never hold a job. I am determined, however, to beat PNES. (To improve the humor in the piece, read PNES phonetically in the last two sentences.) Where was I? Oh, yes, I will beat PNES. Er… I will overcome PNES. I have strategies. I use self-talk to calm myself down. I try not to take on too many things at once. I try to make sure I take time to take care of myself. I take drugs. Lots of prescription drugs. And I try to always find the humor in life, even in my PNES. The most important thing I’ve learned on my journey with PNES is that I have to put myself first, and keep myself healthy. I’m no good to anyone else if I’m not good to myself first. And on that note, I’m going to go play with my PNES.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose your neighbours?

6 a.m.. The early morning sun creeping into the windows, lighting up the world. Oh, the sounds of the dawn of a new day: the birds  are chirping and my neighbour is hacking up his  lung. Every morning I awake to the sound of a man coughing like a car engine struggling to turn over as he smokes his morning cigarettes in his garage before leaving for work.

Neighbours. We all have them. Even if you live in a desolate wooded area, you still have them. They may just live a little farther away. Or they may not be human neighbours. They may be bears, or deer or raccoons or some other kind of critters.

I’ve had many neighbours over the years. In the grand scheme of things, the neighbours I have in the city aren’t so bad. They may get a little rowdy on a Friday night, and cough loudly in the morning, but they are kind enough to bring my grandfather his supper every evening.

Some of the worst neighbours I’ve had were in apartments. Living in a small town, it’s rare to find an actual apartment complex. The best you can do are big old houses that have been divided into smaller units. These are the worst. There is no sound-proofing between units. You can hear everything: pleasurable howls of lovers in the mid-afternoon, the thundering thuds of a large, older lady who walks on the floor above, Muslim chants at 2 in the morning praising Allah, the clanging of empty, recyclable bottles on early Monday mornings. Their schedule becomes your schedule.

Sometimes it’s better to hear your neighbours though than to see them. The most disturbing image I have that I wish I could unsee is of a neighbour in his yard in the early morning hours wearing nothing but his under-shorts while doing yard work. He was a skinny, scrawny man, balding and pallid.

The worst part about neighbours, though, is that you can’t choose them. They choose where to live or somebody else chooses them for you. Right now one of my neighbours is a crazed lunatic with orange skin and a dead animal toupée/hat. As a Canadian, I had no say in the election of President Donald Trump.
Trump, as president? Who saw that coming? Who would ever have thought that a joke made on the Simpsons in the 90s would ever come to fruition. Now whenever I see hyperbole being used on adult cartoons like the Simpsons and Family Guy, I’m going to get a sickish feeling in my gut. What if that really happens?

The sounds and sights of the Trump presidency

When Trump was first elected, I felt the most fearful that I’ve ever felt. I remember in high school, I used to lay awake at night, worrying about the end of the world. That November morning when I awoke to the news that Trump had been elected, I thought “here it is.” I remember during the Bush Junior years, always being pissed off by the stupidity of Americans, but Bush is a moderate compared to Trump. I would give my left breast to have the Bush years back again. Yes, the years immediately following September 11th seem like a simpler, kinder, gentler time.

Do you remember the coverage of the first 100 days? Almost daily some new policy was being implemented such as the Muslim country immigrant ban or news broke of another scandal. Bets were actually being waged in Las Vegas on how long it would be before Trump was impeached. So now we’re not just betting on sports’ outcomes, now we’re placing bets on the presidency of the United States? It was swift and cunning how quickly Trump was able to take one of most respected and revered positions of leadership in the world and turn it into a joke.

But it’s not a funny joke. Yes, we can laugh at Trump, and I enjoy the Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketches and late-night fodder as much as the next person. However, when you really think about it- it’s not funny at all. A megalomaniac has taken up the office of president of the United States. Orange-man has his finger on the button every day. The Blue Man group would be more qualified for the job. At least they’d be more pleasant to look at.

We are approaching the one-year mark of Trump’s presidency in November. I imagine all the major U.S. television news networks will be doing “breaking news” reports on “Trump: the first year” or CNN will call it “breaking news” for sure. Apparently, stories that broke two years ago are still breaking news to CNN. What I’m noticing after almost a year of this nonsense is that I am no longer glued to the News Networks every day like I was. In fact, I am in hiding from the News. I didn’t even know Trump looked directly at the Eclipse until somebody else told me. I think it was around March that I got exhausted of the whole thing. It’s either you watch the news about Trump’s antics and live in a state of incessant agitation, or you isolate yourself from the news and social media in order to maintain your sanity.

The good news I have to report about my neighbour, president Donald Trump, is if I can’t hear him or see him, I don’t think about him. Then I just live my life in the most stress-free way possible. I know many people who write blogs are on social media a lot of the time.  Lucky for me, as a teacher, I’m lucky if I have time to squeeze in writing, let alone to be checking social media sites all the time. So it’s easy for me to bury my head in the sand. The best stress reliever in the world is to turn off from all forms of the media. I wish I could just as easily turn off the coughing hack of my city neighbours. I guess you just can’t have it all.