Month: December 2016

A Farewell to 2016

A Farewell to 2016

As 2016 comes to a close and I look back on this arbitrarily branded chunk of time, I am met with a feeling of relief. For many, it seems, 2016 was a bad year. It’s difficult to say whether this difficulty was really higher than usual, or only seemingly made so with confirmation bias on a background of major celebrity deaths.

For myself, 2016 wasn’t so bad. Come to think of it, it wasn’t that great either; sort of a mixed bag. Here are some of highlights and lowlights from a year now come to a close. I’m going to try to get this in chronological order as best I can remember.

The Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course offered locally through the Sask Arts Board in conjunction with Creative Saskatchewan proved to be a major growth point for me. I met some great people and I learned a lot about how to run art as a business. I came to some realizations about myself, about my art, and about my struggle with mental illness and how that affects my art.

Changing my name was an act that was inspired by the aforementioned course and I am so glad I did it. I realized that my name was holding me back from really wanting to pursue anything major in my creative career. I wrote more in depth about it here. Changing my name also acted as a catalyst to me starting this website, which brings me to my next point.

Starting this website! Prior to starting this, my blogging and online presence had been floundering for a while with a few false starts. With a new name, a new website, and a virtual clean slate, it’s been nice to have a place to store my art and my thoughts. I haven’t been all that consistent with it yet, but I’m hoping to change that in the new year.

Being sick. A lot. It seems like this year has been an olympic event for my immune system. I’m okay. My doctor says everything is normal and that it’s simply a side effect of having a child in daycare/school.

Being sick in another way. I am foggy on the exact timing, but this year has been one of experimentation(again) with psychotropic medication. I tried Prozac for a little while, and switched to Wellbutrin shortly after. It seemed to work okay for some months but soon enough I began to feel like more of a zombie than a human being. I wrote more in depth on my decision to go medication free again here.

My son started school. It was a scary time – for me, not for him. Sending your child out into the big scary world and hoping that they do okay is overwhelming, but he’s doing better than I ever could have hoped. He loves school, his classmates, and his teacher, and they all love him too (this doesn’t surprise me).

I wrote a novel. When I dove into the deep waters of NaNoWriMo, I had no idea what to expect. I learned a lot and I came out on the other side with a novel in desperate need of editing, which I’m going to begin soon after my much needed break from the story.

We got a puppy. Her name is Daisy and she is wonderful. She’s a rat terrier and definitely keeps us on our toes. She’s so smart and adorable. You’ll see more about her soon.

With all this written out, I’m feeling pretty good about my 2016. It was a year of struggling with my health both physically and mentally, but getting shit done anyway, and for that I’m pretty proud.

 

Insomnia

Insomnia

A blue screen flickers in a room where the only sounds are the distant hum of a refrigerator and the perfectly timed ticking of a clock on the wall. There is no traffic droning by outside the window. There are no voices or footsteps in the hall. The neighbor’s piano was hushed hours ago. The world is asleep, but I am awake.

Persistent thoughts spin a web of bloodshot through my stinging eyes. Though my body is exhausted, my mind is on fire. I try to push it all away and breathe but deranged panic turns my insides into knots. I shake like a leaf, and I can’t catch my breath. I watch public be-headings on the Internet. I want to close my eyes and escape, but I don’t.

Dawn. Soon the sun will peek through my windows, to spread warmth across the wall. The world is waking up outside, where the static of night becomes a dull roar. In these clean early morning hours, I will feel safe enough to collapse. Maybe the sunrise will keep nightmares from dancing through my head.

Panic Attack

Panic Attack

This fear came out of nowhere and a hummingbird has taken the place of my heart. My palms are sweaty and someone turned down the volume of this room that suddenly doesn’t have enough air in it. Full-blown panic attack. Every dark thought I’ve ever had shows up for a party in my brain that I don’t remember sending out invitations to.

I’m choking on all the words I’ve not had the courage to say while simultaneously worrying that I’ve already said too much. Nothing makes sense. It’s too hot in here. I wonder why the hell I ever decided to deal with this illness without medication, because it seems so much easier to just pop a few pills and forget that there are things in this life that are just too difficult for people like me. Breathe, Wendy, breathe.

In this moment I want nothing more than to blink out of existence so that maybe when these feelings go away, I can come back as a whole person. My head pounds and my hands shake. I put down my glass of water while I clutch for anything to stabilize myself as all the strength drains from my arms and legs and I fall to the floor.

I feel like nothing. I feel like less than nothing. I mean nothing to nobody. Would even a single person care if I dropped dead right now? It feels like I might. Deep down I know these things aren’t true, but they’ve stained themselves on the surface of this moment, in this room, and they all look so ugly in this light.

Heart pumping hard in my temples and my throat. Eyes wide and raining salt water down my face. Constriction in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. I want to scream at every person who ever told me to just “get over it” because in these desperate minutes I’m barely surviving just living an average life. The ringing in my ears grows louder as my breathing becomes faster and I just hope that somebody calls me or shows up to shake me out of this tear-soaked nightmare. But they don’t. And, even if they did, would I have the guts to answer? Would I let someone see me at my weakest and most frail, with all my walls in rubble at my feet?

I don’t know. But it seems the popular theory is that those of us with mental diseases are meant to suffer in silence rather than make others uncomfortable by holding our little weirdnesses. And so I do just that, waiting for the storm to pass; for the colour to return to this world so I can breathe again.

Man Made of Pain

Man Made of Pain

He was a tall, broad man with shoulders that could hold the world. Maybe sometimes they did, because he never seemed to stand up straight and even though he faked a smile, it was as transparent as the tears that framed his eyes.

He told me stories of a little boy and his father before lifting his sleeves to point out perfect circles of scar tissue with cigarette stained fingers. And I would wonder about the similarities of father and son when he would order his whiskey neat, start a bar fight then drive home.

He took a handful of pills every morning to try and balance his mind. They made it difficult to sleep, he said, but they didn’t take away the pain or the feeling that he had already died. There were permanent dark circles under his eyes in the fluorescent light during our late night talks about life and death and pain.

For every time we stood on the top of the parkade to watch the sunset while smoke came out of our mouths, he would stare at his shoes as if he didn’t deserve to see the beauty of it. He sent the most beautiful poems as email attachments in the middle of the night while I slept, and when I woke to read it would always seem like he wrote his life the way he wanted it to be.

So I guess when he stopped showing up for work without a word, nobody was really surprised. It became a conclusion that was just as expected as the full stop at the end of a sentence. He was there one day and gone the next; no note or explanation. He didn’t even clear out his desk or tender his resignation. For a while I watched obituaries, expecting to see his face.

I never did see him there.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

Life is a waiting room. We wait. We wait in line. We wait in cars and on buses and planes. We wait for phone calls and mail deliveries. We wait for appointments, promotions, birthdays and anniversaries. We wait for holidays and the passing from one year to the next. We wait for life. We wait for love. We wait for death.

An endless expanse of chairs draped in matching blue fabric that doesn’t quite distract you from the dated magazines meant to hold your attention until your name is called. Such is life, with our minds holding hands with smartphones and TV screens to avoid real human touch, or a connection made through more than a WiFi signal.

We breathe in the tombs we create for ourselves because we’re afraid of life. We construct walls made out of the past so that we can keep the future out. We wait for meaning in the meaningless worlds we’ve programmed to spoon feed us exactly what we want, and then we wonder why nothing surprises us anymore.

So here we wait for life to start happening to us when we should be out there happening to life. We’re stuck in a social Limbo of sterilized status updates and instant message dates. Love has become a formula you follow while sedated with compatibility tests and prescribed profile questions. Whatever happened to baring your soul; to being vulnerable with another human being without fear so that you can feel something real? It’s all too clean. Too safe. Too guarded.

It’s a lonely place coated in plastic with hand sanitizing stations; where starting a conversation is considered an annoyance and eye contact is avoided. We keep to ourselves with faces lit blue by our wireless phones. We say we’re connected, but we’ve never been more alone.