Anxiety, and the Struggle to Recover from Injury

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2017 was supposed to be “the year”.

The year…

I got in shape
I gained muscle
I improved my stamina on the bike
I conquered my anxiety
I finally felt comfortable again in my own skin

But, of course, life does not listen to your planning. It often does the exact opposite.

The Injury
As I’ve written about before, I suffered an injury this year. And 7 months later, I am still recovering. I injured my ulnar nerve (aka the funny bone nerve) back in June, in both arms. Most significantly in my left arm which is my dominant arm.

How did I do it? I think in my case this is the result of years of poor posture, lack of core strength, and a “slippery” ulnar nerve.  I’ve had smaller issues with this nerve – numbness at night, tightness when doing certain weight exercises, elbow tenderness at work, etc. This all combined to make my arms ripe for this type of strain at some point.  I think the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and staying on my road bike for two days, in a fixed position, expedited the problem. I also suspect that I wasn’t properly fitted on my bike. (I want to be clear: I don’t fault the event itself at all. I think this was purely the result of my physiology and my position on the bike).

I knew when I first injured the arm that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. For the first couple of days I couldn’t hold a pen. I had trouble flexing my hand. I was in a lot of pain. There was numbness. I went to a few massage therapy appointments, which helped a little, but the pain wasn’t going away. I went to the doctor, and was sent to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. He diagnosed me with an entrapped ulnar nerve and gave me a prescription for anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy, and a referral for a nerve function test (to be certain I hadn’t damaged the nerve permanently). I was told it could take about a month for my symptoms to subside, and to lay off cycling until I was pain free.

The First Two Months
I kept waiting for the day when I’d wake up, and the pain would be gone. I took time off from the gym, and dove into physiotherapy. While at first I thought I could get away with just riding a stationary bike, or going for runs – it soon became apparent that even those activities were causing flare ups. I stopped knitting. I had to limit my handwriting, use of my cell phone, reading, and even the way I sit on the couch had to change. Just about everything I did caused pain. It was exhausting and frustrating. It felt like every tool I regularly used to combat my anxiety was taken away from me. It left me feeling very helpless against my mental battles.

This ate away at my confidence, and my mood. I became depressed about not being able to ride my bike, or do more at the gym. I watched my social media feed become filled with people achieving goals throughout the summer, getting fitter, while I worried I was just going to become a lump. I started to monitor my calorie intake so I could do my best to ensure that while I was losing muscle, I wouldn’t gain too much fat. While I tried to stay positive, my anxiety ate away at me.

“How much muscle am I losing right now?”
“I am going to be so slow when I start running again”
“All that hard work, ruined”
“I am never going to get in shape”
“What if this is permanent?”
“What if this is a sign of something more serious like MS?”
“Are people at the gym judging me?”
“Are my friends judging me?”
“What’s going to happen when I try to workout again?”
“What if my heart is losing its conditioning, and it gives out the next time I try to run?”
“What if I can never ride my bike again?”
“What if I can never knit again?”
“Why can’t I even just hold a book?!”
“Why aren’t these drugs helping?”
“Why isn’t it gone yet?”
“I wish I had just fallen off my bike instead”
“If I had broken a bone, it would have healed by now”
“I bet I am doing something wrong, and this is why I don’t feel better”
“All these online articles say I should have recovered within 8 weeks”

Over and over, those thoughts and questions have plagued me. I can’t even sit here and say that today I no longer have these thoughts. At least once a day, most of those questions run through my mind.

Reality vs. Expectation
Over the summer, I slowly had to come to accept my reality. I wasn’t going to be running, and certainly wasn’t going to be biking. I had to back out of a cycling event in September. I stopped training for my 5km race in October. Instead, I started to just take everything one day at a time.

I had ups and downs. There was a point in late July, into August that I thought I was getting better, and had finally turned a corner. I started running again. But then, BANG, all of my symptoms came roaring back, and I was back to incredible pain and discomfort. So I stopped exercising, outside of going for long walks. For most of August, I just walked around my neighbourhood.  This continued into September.

One of the hardest things has been watching others. I’d feel sad when I would have runners pass me by. I felt embarrassed to just be walking. Part of me felt like screaming “I usually run! I’m injured!!” because for some reason I craved the validation of strangers. Same thing at the gym when I’d make an appearance. I felt like others were thinking I was just wasting space by only stretching on the mats, instead of doing weights or squats, or even planks. I felt like people were thinking “why isn’t she doing more??” Even though I know, 99% of people are just focused on their own agenda at the gym, and not what I am doing. I felt like a loser, and a failure.

I had really hoped, when I was first injured, that it would just be a couple weeks and then I’d be back to normal. I never would have thought it would be January, and I’d still be experiencing symptoms. The good news was that my nerve function test came back without any signs of permanent damage. I am literally just waiting for this to go away. I am also working to correct posture, and release the muscle tension around my nerve. I still, though, get very scared that surgery might be inevitable, or that this is just going to be my life from now on.

And through it all, it’s been really difficult finding resources online with how to deal with injuries psychologically. There’s so much out there for what to do physically, but no one really writes about what your brain is going to put you through. Most well-intentioned people just keep telling you over and over to have patience, and that it will get better in time. Patience is hard. Patience is not an action. Physio at least makes me feel like I am actively doing something to help my body get better. But nothing is more frustrating for someone with anxiety than being told to wait.

The anxiety also leads to a lot of self-doubt. I’ve wondered a lot about what I’ve been doing wrong, or how I could have prevented this.  You blame yourself for not being a psychic. If you’re part of a team or group, you feel like you’ve disappointed everyone. I worry about missing out on things. I can’t even think about not riding for TEALPOWER in 2018, but there’s a real good chance I’ll be unable to. I worry about how much muscle mass I’ve lost, and whether I’ll ever be able to put it back on. Over and over, your anxiety just reminds you of the possible ways you’ve failed. And then through it all, you’re physically in pain.

So I know what most of you are thinking – “just keep working and you’ll get there Tesla” and “you’re too hard on yourself!” or how about “Tesla, don’t measure your self worth against others!” I know. I know all of these things. Trust me, I’ve tried not to care about what others may or may not be thinking about me. I’ve tried to love my body as is. I’ve tried to just roll with the punches and wait for the day the pain has subsided enough that I can get back on a bike. And I’ll keep trying to make the “loud voice” in my brain that one that accepts me for who I am at any given point in time, instead of the “loud voice” being in love with the version of myself that ran a half-marathon.

I guess what I wanted people to understand is that, injuries force you to recover in two ways – mentally and physically. And sometimes, I just need to cry about being in pain, and be angry, and resentful. Sometimes I just need to let those emotions out. And sometimes I know I need to be better at reminding myself that even if this is forever, I will find ways to cope, manage, and be happy. Everything needs to be one day a time and less focused on what my world might look like six months from now. If anything being injured has been a good reminder that the best way to live your life is completely and fully in the moment.

If you’re out there, reading this and struggling to overcome an injury or chronic pain, my best advice would just be to keep focusing on what’s right in front of you, and what you can do today. If today you can go for a walk, consider that a success. If tomorrow you can’t, don’t consider that a failure. Remind yourself of the other positive things in your life, beyond whether or not you can bench press today. Have coffee with a friend, watch a funny movie, sit in the sunshine, do anything to make your heart happy. Meditate when you can. Write out your feelings. Go to the doctor and ask for help. Get a second opinion if you have to. Ask for support. And remember it’s OK to cry and be angry. Let it out, don’t hold it in. Let the feelings pass so you can then move on with your day. Keep looking forward, and stop comparing yourself to your “pre-injury” self. Trust me, it will only cause you more pain. Just keep going and remember to forgive yourself. We can do this together.

Thanks for reading as always. I’ll be Tweeting all day about #BellLetsTalk to help raise money for mental health services in Canada. Join n the conversation if you wish. 

If you would like to also read my other Bell Let’s Talk Day posts, they can be found below: 

2017
2016
2015

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Live Band Rankings 2017!

My other annual countdown is upon us! The top live bands of 2017!

This year was a “quieter” year, owing to the fact that we didn’t go to Osheaga. But it was still another 365 days of fantastic music. This may have also been one of the harder Top 10’s I’ve had to do! I could honestly rearrange this a dozen times and still not feel that it’s right! But I think this is as close to “correct” as I can get.

Special thanks as always to those I drag along with me, or willingly join me as I dance/sing along to some of my favourite tunes.

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32. VOWWS (Lee’s Palace, February 4th 2017) 
This band was the opener for White Lies. I always feel bad when I have a band ranked last (except for last year. Future was awful). I mean, I am sure someone enjoyed VOWWS, but Sean & I both agreed it was not an enjoyable experience. For a concert on a Saturday night, VOWWS were dark, slow, meandering, mumbling, and just didn’t set us up for a great headliner to follow. Summing it up, Sean at one point leaned in to me and said “I really hope this is over soon”.

31. Royal Canoe (Field Trip, June 3rd 2017)
I must have got this band confused with another, because I could have sworn I knew some of their songs. I didn’t! It wasn’t a bad show, just wasn’t a memorable one.

30. Dams of the West (Royal Alexandra Theatre, May 6 2017)
Was pretty curious to see the solo project of Chris Tomson (drummer for Vampire Weekend), and it was a nice opener, perfect for setting the tone for Father John Misty later in the night. What was really neat about DOTW, was his entire backing band was all female! Girl power!

29. Third Eye Blind (Echo Beach, June 28 2017)
This was one of three “anniversary” tours I saw this year, and this one had Third Eye Blind performing their self-titled 1997 album in its entirety. For me, this album wasn’t as defining in my childhood as it was for other people my age. I do love their big hits, but the rest of their catalogue is foreign to me (and I thought sounded quite generic). The lead singer’s voice wasn’t in great shape, and found they didn’t have too much interaction with the crowd. But, hard to beat singing along to some classic 90s rock.

28. Cold War Kids (Danforth Music Hall, March 22 2017)
The kickoff to my birthday weekend! I was pretty excited to see Cold War Kids, and it’s tough putting them this low but the show left me with some mixed feelings. The vocal mixing was off for the first few songs, and considering they played their hit “Miracle Mile” second, it kind of took the wind out of my sails a little. It was also a night where I remember the crowd really not being that into it. A little disappointing, as I thought this would be a more memorable show.

27. Feist (Field Trip, June 4 2017)
Probably one of the more “controversial” rankings on this list in the world of Canadian hipsters. But I am going to come out and say it – Feist hasn’t put out a memorable record since “The Reminder”. I also find her incredibly misplaced at music festivals. While she is a big name, her shows aren’t incredibly engaging in a big outdoor setting. She excels when she has an intimate venue to connect with the crowd. I also am really underwhelmed by her most recent album, so I wasn’t that jazzed about hearing it live. Sorry Feist…

26. The Lumineers (Rogers Centre, June 23rd 2017)
I ranked these guys last year, and it’s the same story this year. I WANT to love The Lumineers. I think there is so much potential there! They SHOULD be like The Avett Brothers, or Mumford & Sons but I find their live sets tend to get a bit slow. Sadly, they also had the unfortunate task of being an opening act in the Dome, where with the roof closed, the acoustics were awful. (Which certainly isn’t the fault of the band). It is always fun to sing along to the big hits, but the rest of the show falls flat for me.

25. Warbly Jets (REBEL, November 23 2017)
Sean LOVED these guys, and is probably going to be annoyed with me for putting them so low. I enjoyed them, but not nearly at the same level Sean did. This band is definitely in his wheelhouse.

24. Hannah Georgas (Field Trip, June 4 2017)
I actually think I need to go see Hannah Georgas again, because some of her newer stuff is really growing on me (like the song I’ve linked to). Prior to see her at Field Trip, I only knew her big singles. Her new stuff was a bit of a departure from those, but it sounded great under the summer sun! Plus, she has a fantastic voice. Wish I knew her stuff a little better, so maybe next time I’ll appreciate it more. Side rant – she didn’t play her biggest radio hit “Robotic” and that always annoys me…

23. Big Sugar (Danforth Music Hall, November 24th 2017)
Another one of those bands from the 90s you probably forgot about, but Sean still loves! (I say this with love, it’s actually a lot of fun rediscovering some of these bands). Another band I don’t know well outside a few of their hits, but it was still an entertaining show. He joked through technical malfunctions (a contrast to another artist we saw the night before…) But put Big Sugar also in the category of “didn’t play one of their biggest hits”, Nicotina – the song I’ve linked to, was absent from their setlist. WHY.

22. Matt Mays (Field Trip, June 3 2017)
The perfect summer festival singer! It’s loud rock, you can dance to it, jump around, and just let go. I loved Matt Mays’ set! I only knew “Cocaine Cowgirl” going in, but the rest of his work was engaging and really enjoyable. One of the highlights of Field Trip!

21. Frightened Rabbit (Danforth Music Hall, May 29th 2017)
I was supposed to see this band at Osheaga last summer, but their flight was cancelled and only the singer, Scott Hutchison made it and performed a lone acoustic set in the woods. I was SO EXCITED to finally see the entire band. Their 2013 album Pedestrian Verse was one of my favourite albums of that year, and their newest, Painting of a Panic Attack is another solid record. I loved their show overall – great interactions with the crowd (even with thick Scottish accents!), and Hutchison’s voice was pitch perfect. My one complaint… you guessed it, they didn’t play “Late March, Death March“! Indie88 played that song into the ground 4 years ago, and it’s the reason I love this band!!! COME ON. Had they played that song, it might have launched them into the Top 20…

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20. Liam Gallagher (REBEL, November 23rd 2017)
I probably waited about 22 years to see Liam Gallagher in the flesh, and it was certainly an unforgettable night. He came onstage to “F***ing in the Bushes”, and then BELTED out “Rock & Roll Star”. HOLY CRAP. I was so excited I didn’t think I’d last the entire night. The second song out of the gate was “What’s The Story Morning Glory” and I am not surprised my voice didn’t give out then and there. The show was off to a fantastic start, but then it slowly became clear Liam wasn’t having as much fun as the rest of us. He started sitting while he waited for the band to close out songs, looking bored. He took some time to yell at the sound bound operators standing just off stage. He didn’t talk to the crowd much. But I was determined to still have a blast, and just cross my fingers that he wouldn’t storm off stage. And I want to say, I really enjoy his solo album. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s definitely his best work since Oasis fell apart. (Sorry Beady Eye). So the night is rolling along with a grumpy Liam, and he’s been on stage for barely an hour, and then after “Cigarettes and Alcohol” he just suddenly went off stage. He had mumbled something just prior to that song about “No breaks, we’re playing through”. But, it was still so early. It was barely past 10pm… surely he was coming out for an encore? At the very least, he hadn’t yet played “Live Forever”… I wandered out of the crowd to find Sean and kept hoping he’d be back… but then the house lights came up, and then someone else told me the sound guys had started packing up. It was over after 13 songs. I had been joking leading up to the show it would either be amazing or a disaster and I guess I got a bit of both. At least I can say I’ve seen a grumpy Gallagher performance!

19. Portugal. the Man (Field Trip, June 3rd 2017)
My second time seeing this band, and while this year they’ve been accused of “selling out” with their latest album, I really could care less about that and just enjoyed it! “Feel It Still” sounded awesome live, along with the rest of their newer songs. Is it a depature from their older albums, sure – but who wants a band to sound the same at all times? I like a little growth and change! These guys grooved, and made a perfect summer soundtrack!

18. Joseph (Field Trip, June 3rd 2017)
My surprise of the year! This sister trio knocked it out the literal park – Fort York! I had heard their song “White Flag” on Indie88, but hadn’t put two and two together that this was the same band I’d be seeing at Field Trip. By the end of their set, I wanted to join them on stage and be part of their flawless harmonies. If you’re into female bands like First Aid Kit, or just love a classic mix of folk rock/indie rock, these girls might be for you. Their album was also one of my favourite albums of the year.

17. Classic Albums Live: Imagine & Band on the Run (Roy Thompson Hall, January 27th 2017)
This was such a unique experience! This group performs classic albums from to back, and on this night we were treated to the double bill of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Band on the Run”. John & Val came up with the idea as part of a birthday gift for Sean, and with all of us being Beatles fans, it was a real pleasure hearing these albums come to life. The Imagine album is one of my all-time favourites, and the singer who took on John’s vocals did a fantastic job. I loved getting to hear a live rendition of “Oh Yoko” (one of John’s best tributes to Yoko). Before this night, I didn’t know the Band on the Run album, so it was pretty cool hearing some of the deep cuts from that album for the first time as a live concert. The musicians and vocalists in this group are all really talented, and it never feels like a “tribute band” in the cheesy sense. I highly recommend checking them out!

16. White Lies (Lee’s Palace, February 4th 2017)
When Sean & I had our first date he mentioned this band, and when I listened to them the next day I knew I had found a keeper – both in Sean & the band! These guys are my JAM! They are modern Brit Rock, but the lead singer sounds so much like Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode! I LOVE IT! So we were naturally very excited to see them. The one thing that we had a hard time appreciating was they played a lot of their early albums, whereas Sean & I love their last two albums (go listen to them!) But they were still really impressive, and their new album has so many great songs it was awesome to hear them live. My requests for the next time I see them would be a little more crowd interaction and more songs from Big TV!

15. July Talk (Budweiser Stage, June 24th 2017)
A top 15 finisher last year, so no surprise July Talk made it again. I will say, hands down, this band is one of the best live acts around. Their onstage energy and chemistry is second to none. So their place is a little deceiving. What made this one a little tougher for me was we were far back in the crowd, and July Talk are best enjoyed up close and personal. Also, they unfortunately had some audio issues which took away from some of my favourite tracks. But, if you get the chance, see this band. If you leave bored, or underwhelmed, give your head a shake!

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14. U2 (Rogers Centre, June 23rd 2017)
The second of three anniversary tours – this was the Joshua Tree anniversary tour. I was being treated to the FULL U2 experience as well! My friend Sarah is a huge fan, and knows the ropes when it comes to getting a prime spot on the floor. We technically started lining up the night before at 7pm, and I took the entire day of the concert off from work to secure my place in line. The set up for this show was incredible – with a 192ft wide screen, that felt like it spanned the entire width of the Dome. They also thankfully opened the roof for the show, so it was awesome watching U2 perform under the stars. We stood in the perfect spot – we were close for the opening songs on the B stage, and then had an incredible view of the gigantic screen displays.

They played the Joshua Tree album front to back, which was also a lot of fun to hear. Especially being surrounded by hardcore fans who were hearing a few of these songs live for the first time. Some interpretations were a little odd (“Red Hill Mining Town” comes to mind, where it’s clear Bono can no longer hit those notes, but they also added in a much more prominent horn section which kind of distracted from the song). But other moments were clear standsouts, like the endless running road onscreen for “Where The Streets Have No Name” and the powerful “Mothers of the Disappeared”.

While many of the big U2 fans around me declared it wasn’t their best show, as my first time U2 experience I have to say I thought it was really entertaining, and their ability to transform a giant live venue into a full 360 viewing experience is still the best in the business.

13. Matthew Good (Danforth Music Hall, March 11th 2017)
The third anniversary tour we saw this year – Matt Good played the album “Beautiful Midnight” front to back. As a longtime MGB fan, it was an incredible joy to hear that album in its entirety. So many great tracks! First of all, I always love when I get to hear “Giant” live. Throw in getting to hear deep cuts like “I Miss New Wave”, and “Failing the Rorschach Test” and I was in Matt Good heaven!! It was also a great crowd, and Matt was feeding off the energy, even doing a song from the crowd. It was a lot of fun reliving that album. It’s always a good year when I get to see Matt Good. I am really bummed I’ll be missing his tour with Our Lady Peace next spring!

12. Bastille (Air Canada Centre, March 24th 2017)
So I benefited fro a fussy baby, and my friend Jeff kindly gifted me his Bastille tickets that he and his wife were unable to use. So I turned it into a birthday bonanza and went to the show with MC & Sean. Having been a fan of their album “Bad Blood” I was intrigued to check them out live! And you know what, they were fantastic! They really held their own in the ACC with high energy, a great stage setup, and songs that you can’t help but dance and sing along too. (The Brits always put on a good show). I was really impressed that they were able to engage the ACC and bring the house down.

11. Lady Gaga (Air Canada Centre, September 7th 2017)
Let me tell you, I am SHOCKED Lady Gaga didn’t end up finishing at #1 this year. Going into 2017, I would have told you she’d easily be number 1. I wasn’t a huge Lady Gaga fan, until I saw her Monster’s Ball Tour several years back, and she blew me away. What still impresses me is the sheer power of her voice. This girl can really sing, and belt it out. As always she had a creative stage set up, with floating catwalks and three satellite stages. Her dancers are also incredibly talented, and the entire performance is stellar. What brought this down a litle for me was the show was heavy on her new album “Joanne” and some of her old hits were combined into a medley. While I love some new songs like “John Wayne” and “A-Yo”, the album isn’t nearly up to the same level as “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster”. But damn, Gaga can sing. play instruments, dance, and also make an arena full of thousands of people feel intimate when it’s just her and a piano. People love to criticize Gaga, but from all the “pop divas” I’ve seen live, Gaga is the one who can truly stand up there and say it’s authentically her on stage. And that is why she’s my Mother Monster!

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10. The War on Drugs (Massey Hall, October 21st 2017)
The last time we saw The War on Drugs, Sean & Will fell asleep on the hill at Osheaga. So I was really looking forward to a nap-free experience this time with Sean, and a couple of our other friends Jay & Chobi (who were having a child-free night on the town!) And The War on Drugs didn’t disappoint. Shoutout to his drummer who seemed to be having the absolute time of his life. ‘Red Eyes” was fantastic live with an extended guitar solo that brought Massey Hall to its feet. “Under The Pressure” and “Holding On” also sounded great. What you can really appreciate about this band is how talented, and how in sync they all are. My one complaint – War on Drugs is one of those bands where you often have no idea what the singer is saying, so it’s hard to sing along!

9. Kasabian (REBEL, September 18th 2017)
This show was all Sean’s idea, and I went into this concert only knowing a couple of their older songs, like “Club Foot“. So I went in thinking I’d have an “OK” time, and lose a bit of interest not knowing a lot of their catalogue. But WOW, I left a huge fan of Kasabian. As soon as they hit the stage, every single person in the packed room was jumping, dancing, cheering, and the band threw everything at the crowd. Their songs are so high energy, and the band do a great job of involving the crowd. During one song, they also came into the crowd. Other than a band you’ll see coming up, this was one of the most fun shows I went to. And this is all despite the fact I could barely see. This was one of the tallest crowds of the year! But once the band hit the stage, I didn’t care. I was too busy jumping along! Good choice, Sean!

8. Father John Misty (Royal Alexanda Theatre, May 6th 2017)
In the words of the great Rob Duffy, “Father John Misty is a treasure”. What a vocal performance! Sean & I were blown away at how pitch perfect his voice was. With an orchestra alongside him, this night was a pure clinic on how to put on a fantastic listening experience. This wasn’t a concert you got up and danced along to. This was a night of appreciation, and it was a welcome change. I really can’t say enough about how good he sounded. But listen to his albums, and magnify it a little, and you’ve got his vocals live. Just incredible. If he hadn’t been playing the same night as Kasabian at Massey Hall this September, we might have gone to see him again.

7. Gorillaz (Air Canada Centre, July 10th 2017)
This was a birthday gift gone wrong, as we bought the tickets originally for our friend John, but turned out he already had them! So Sean and I still headed to the show, even though honestly we both weren’t 100% excited for it. I hadn’t really listened to the Gorillaz since their debut album, but I was still curious to see their stage set-up and how the live performances would worked. Like Kasabian, I was hooked on this show from start to finish, again despite only knowing a few songs. It was a loud, booming, fun, impressive display of talent. I was also surprised at the relative simplicity of the stage, with just a large screen and the band out front to keep us entertained. It worked so well! From there, it kickstarted my love of their last album “Humanz”. Plus it had been nearly a decade since this band had last performed in Toronto, so who knows when we’ll get to experience this again. Need a new party soundtrack, go get “Humanz” and I dare you not to rock out to “Momentz” (one of my fave songs of the night).

6. Arkells (Budweiser Stage, June 24th 2017)
Last year’s #1 artist has fallen in the ranks this year! CUE TO CONTROVERSY! Or not… let’s be honest, it was going to be really difficult to top last year’s stellar performance at Massey Hall. But they did come close! Hard to top an encore that included all of the day’s openers, and July Talk, singing “Dancin’ in the Dark”. Arkells just put on such a high energy show, it’s impossible not to dance, clap, and sing along with the band as they steamroll through their impressive catalogue. During “Drake’s Dad“, Max also ended up singing in the crowd just a few rows away from us which was a lot of fun (that song is so fun to sing along to). I’ll keep saying it, but check these guys out live. Their songs are so catchy, and so enjoyable, and their clear love of performance makes for an incredible experience live.

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5. Broken Social Scene (Field Trip, June 3rd 2017 & Air Canada Centre, November 4th 2017)
Starting to lose count of how many times I’ve seen this band, but the past part of seeing this group is you never really have the same experience twice. There’s always different members, guests, etc that shake up the setlist and the vibe. At Field Trip, it was virtually a full house with pretty much every single member of BSS, ever!, presented and accounted for. It’s been a long time since I last heard Emily Haines sing “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”, and she was in top form. At the ACC, I got to hear one of my all-time faves, “Fire Eye’d Boy” live and I think I was the happiest person in the arena. Their new album is fantastic and might be my favourite of 2017, so it’s great seeing this band rejuvenated and still rocking after all these years.

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4. Phoenix (Field Trip, June 4th 2017)
Going into Phoenix at Field Trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sean had seen them a few years ago and thought they mailed it in. I was hoping it wouldn’t be the case this time. And WOW, I was completely floored. I danced the entire show, and it was the most fun concert of the year. Their energy was off the charts, and grabbed my attention right from “Ti Amo” the opening song, which they quickly followed with “Lasso”, another big hit. Their setup was also one of the most unique of the year – with an angled mirror behind them, giving the illusion of two bands on stage (and the front few rows were able to see a glimpse of what it looked like from the bands’s perspective.) The lights would reflect from all angles of the mirror, and as the sun set it created an awesome atmosphere, making it feel like we were in an arena (in a good way!) After belting out “1901” lead singer Thomas Mars crowd surfed as the band played on. I was completely exhausted after this show, and it’s been the one I’ve reflected back on the most. A sign of a great concert indeed!

3. Alt J (Massey Hall, October 27th 2017)
Alt J had blown Sean & I away at Osheaga back in 2015, and these three young guys are still doing just that. From the opening song “3WW” to the closer “Breezeblocks”, it was a near perfect setlist. I only wish they had kept playing! The most impressive part of Alt J is their albums are so layered, and their sound so complex, you’d think it wouldn’t translate to a live performance, but they pull it off. These three musicians filled Massey Hall with sound, and light. Their light show was one of the best this year, only barely edged out  by the next three bands. 2017 was an impressive year, and it seems insulting putting them at #3 as this was truly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. (My parents who both came with us, are probably shaking their heads that this isn’t my #1 show of the year!)

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2. Coldplay (Rogers Centre, August 21st 2017)
Guys. I waited over 5 years to see Coldplay, and it was worth the wait!! It had everything! Confetti! Lasers! One of their most colourful setups! An acoutstic set! Chris getting confetti in his mouth!! Jumping to “Charlie Brown”! A near perfect setlist! (What would make it perfect? If they played “Talk“). I can’t say I loved every single second – I found the slow portion of the show always drags my mood down. (In general, this can be a pet peeve of mine at concerts, but I accept that they happen). But despite this downfall, what always propels Coldplay above the rest is just what a full EVENT the night is. They play with passion, and leave you completely overwhelmed. There is always so much going on onstage, and because so many of their songs have that “swell”, things like the confetti truly do heighten the mood and lift your spirits. I truly do feel that they are incredibly appreciative of their fans, and it shows when Chris boyishly tries to charm the crowd, or playfully puts himself down. His banter is always just charming, and makes you feel like you’re watching them in a smaller venue. BONUS – they opened the Dome for the show! Instantly improves the sound quality! I hope Coldplay can continue to find their creativity and touring. I need this level of happiness in my life more regularly.

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1. Arcade Fire (Air Canada Centre, November 4th 2017)
For the first time ever – there is a repeat winner!! Arcade Fire took the crown in my inaugural rankings back in 2014 and it’s really no surprise they’re taking it again this year. I know, the trendy thing right now is to hate on their latest albums and the shenanigans that came along with it, but regardless of whether their album is good, they are a talented group of people. This tour is by far their best. The unique “boxing ring” style show, set in the middle of the arena, was simple but genius. What I appreciated about it, was because the stage could rotate, I could at any time get a glimpse of what different members were doing. And that is my favourite part of an Arcade Fire show. By the end of the night, I am DYING to join them on stage. I could watch Will Butler roll around, banging a drum all day. It’s captivating watching them give everything for a performance. I also thought the new songs translated well to the live performances, and even enhanced the album for me. It’s also been a pleasure watching this band mature, and continue to improve live. They’ve come so far from when I first saw them on Toronto Island back in 2010.

Can we also talk about how I nearly EXPLODED with joy, when for the night’s closing number “Wake Up” they brought out Broken Social Scene?!?! I mean, two of my favourite bands, performing one of my favourite songs TOGETHER, IN FRONT OF MY FACE?! It was incredible!!!! That moment alone sealed the deal that this would be #1.

It was just a fantastic night of music, that I was lucky enough to enjoy with people I love. Can’t ask for much more than that.

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That’s 2017 in the books!!! Once again, get out and find your passion! If it’s music, go check out that band you’ve been dying to see, you never know when you may not get the chance again!

Thanks as always for reading!

 

12 Days of 2017

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Jasper, Alberta views

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. Truth be told, it’s not for lack of trying. I have 10 entries sitting in my drafts. The real roadblock to actually finishing something has been my own hesitations. I began to convince myself that everyone was judging me for having this blog, and that it serves no real purpose. But I forgot that at the end of the day, I do this because it helps me. It gives me something to do when I am feeling sad, or anxious. It gives me a task instead of going in circles. If someone reads it, and finds it helpful, that’s a bonus. If someone reads it and thinks I am a loser, or an idiot – well then, so be it!

But I didn’t want to finish the year without looking back, and doing one of my favourite reflection exercises – and that’s picking the 12 days that impacted me in 2017. (And as usual, they’re in no particular order).

June 10, 2017

Day One of the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I trained so hard for this year’s event, and my hard work paid off. My goal had been to ride with the lead TEALPOWER riders for as much of the distance as possible, and I did! I was so scared I’d be the last person to catch up to the group, and would hold everyone back. Instead, I proved to myself that I did work hard enough, and am strong.

The downside… it came at a price. I badly injured my ulnar nerve (aka the funny bone nerve) and have not been on my bike since crossing the finish line in Niagara Falls on June 11th. It’s been months of being in pain and discomfort nearly every day. I also haven’t been able to lift weights and my running has been very limited. In fact my last run was over a month ago. Any time my pain flares up, I have to scale everything back and let my nerves rest.

This has been the source of a lot of anxiety and upset for me since. It’s been so frustrating being unable to do some of the things I love to do, including many of the things I also use to combat my anxiety such as knitting and exercising. I’ve been trying so hard to think positive but all too often it becomes easier to just think I’ll be in pain forever – or worse – that this is a sign of something more serious.

I’ve struggled a lot too with social media. I find it very difficult to see so many of my friends being active, and achieving new goals at the gym. I’ve often felt like a failure for still not being healed. I feel like others are judging me for NOT exercising or getting in better shape. But like all the doctors and physiotherapists have told me – nerve injuries take time and are incredibly stubborn. I just have to keep waiting.

But would I go back and do the Ride all over again? You bet. It’s always a life affirming weekend, that teaches me so much about the power of the human body. Plus, I get to share some laughs and memories with an incredible group of Riders. So cross your fingers I can clip into my pedals again in 2018.

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June 16, 2017

Who doesn’t love a good wedding? My Aunt Serena married her partner Jo, making her an official part of our family! It was just another wonderful night with my family, getting to let loose and celebrate a wonderful partnership. I truly cherish and appreciate these times I get to spend with my family. Because we’re all so busy, and spread out across the Golden Horseshoe, it’s also not often anymore that we get the whole gang together. Like at Christmas, I love being able to get everyone in one place, so once again it reminds me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful, loving and open family.

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The one and only Lake Louise

September 29, 2017

Sean & I went to Calgary, and on this day, I saw the Rocky Mountains up close for the first time in my entire life. Any time I spent in the mountains was spent in awe. It was breathtaking, humbling, and overwhelming all at once. When we hiked through Grassi Lakes, I just couldn’t get over the sheer size of the Rockies. Nothing puts your anxiety into perspective quite like realizing how small you are in the world. It was a strange feeling at times, being surrounded by the mountains. But I loved every second of it. It reminded me how much I love adventure, and exploring. It showed me the importance of getting out, and experiencing new areas of this beautiful country I am lucky enough to call home. Being outdoors, always gives me so much peace of mind. It’s the way I reconnect to my spiritual side as well. Seeing so much natural beauty convinces me that there is so much more to this world that we will never understand.

And… I even went several days in a row without any nerve pain! Bonus!

I really hope one day we can go back. Not to mention, we have some incredible friends who live out West, who were kind enough to open their homes to us. I am always happy when I get to see Sean reconnecting with his childhood friends, and spending time with people he cares about.

February 14, 2017 

The start of another BFF vacation! This time I temporarily joined the Myner Household, and became one of 15 members of our Mexico squad! MC’s family were so welcoming to me, and never made me feel like a 5th (or 15th) wheel. I never felt as if I was “crashing” their family party, and not a full member of the team. And as usual, I am very thankful I have such a great BFF, who I get to travel with. Not all friends travel well, and somehow we’ve figured it out! MC and I also both discovered that snorkeling is an excellent therapy for anxiety! It is the perfect way to be mindful! You’re focused on your breathing, swimming AND staring at fish! You don’t have time to be scared! We both agreed all future trips must involve snorkels.

March 9, 2017 

On this night, a group of George Brown Marketing students put together a media panel. My group was discussing the changing state of affairs in sports broadcasting. I was so humbled to be asked to be part of the panel, and also incredibly excited!

One of the things that inspired me to get into sports broadcasting, was some advice I heard during a sports media panel when I was at Ryerson over a decade ago. A female producer was asked if she ever felt that she was treated differently for being a woman in a man’s industry. Her answer was surprising. She said that she actually found that being a female helped her stand out. She wasn’t just another “Mike” or “Andrew” in the newsroom. People noticed when she did good work, and when she showed off her sports expertise. She took the situation, and used it all to her advantage. With those words, I saw the power in re-framing a perceived detriment to a become advantage. I was so thrilled to have the chance to maybe inspire other kids to stick with sports media, and especially my fellow females. It was also fun getting to network with media personalities, and hear what young students think about the current state of media. I really hope I get to do more of these talks in the future.

December 10, 2017 

Toronto FC finally won the MLS Cup, and I was lucky enough to be in the stands for it! After being a fan of this team through so many difficult years, and watching them come SO CLOSE last year, I really didn’t know whether they’d be successful this year. It’s moments like these, too, that also remind me why I work in sports, and love it. I am so lucky to be involved in so much at my job. Sports have given me the chance to meet so many new people, challenge myself, and make new friends. I wouldn’t trade my line of work for any other area of the media business.

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Hadn’t showered in like two days, but it was worth it

May 19, 2017

Years ago, if you had asked me what my Bucket List would contain – somewhere on it I would have had Algonquin Park listed on it. This year, thanks to Sean & his friend Chris, I was finally able to cross that off! We portaged into Lake Louisa via Rock Lake. Carrying all of our supplies was no joke, but so rewarding once we arrived at camp.

I camped a lot as a kid, but it was always car camping. This was my first time where I was off the grid. It was a little scary. I was definitely terrified of a bear attacking us at night, and didn’t sleep well at all. And even though it was May, it was still quite chilly in the Park. I think I wore about 5 layers at all times during the entire weekend. But I’d do it all over again in a second. I love everything about camping. You have the fresh air, the peace & quiet, campfires, hiking, and for the first time in my life I canoed! I really hope we get an opportunity to go back, I miss the beauty of Algonquin so much already.

Also, the best part of the weekend was being completely shut off from social media and our cell phones. With no service, there was no temptation to scroll mindlessly through Instagram or Twitter. Instead, I opened my eyes and absorbed every inch of scenery around me.

Not to mention, camping is another great cure for anxiety. You don’t have time during the day to be scared because you are just too busy! When you camp, everything is an ordeal. Want a cup of tea? Time to find the kettle, collect some water, start a small fire for the burner, wait forever for the water to boil, well you get the idea! There’s always something to be done, and it requires your focus. If I tried to even start worrying about something random while chopping wood, well I probably would have needed to be airlifted out of the park. It’s a great way to remind myself that being mindful and focusing on what’s right in front of me, is the best way to keep my anxiety from taking over.

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Beautiful Algonquin (Lake Louisa)

August 26, 2017 

I can honestly say this was an unremarkable day by most standards. We didn’t do anything fancy. But it was one of the rare nights this summer that Sean & I just got to sit, and relax on our balcony. We enjoyed a warm summer evening, listening to new music, and enjoying the view of the city. To me, it was the perfect way to spend a night together. The summer was such a busy one this year, so I am thankful we got a little downtime together. As I usually find each year, it’s often the little moments that can stand out the most.

March 25, 2017

I know, I know. A little lame to put my own birthday party on this list, but I’m doing it anyways. With my confidence issues, it’s very easy for me to convince myself that I am not worthy of my friends. I can sometimes feel like I am just not good enough for them, and that one day, they’ll all realize this and stop hanging out with me. But on this night, they all reminded me that I am loved, and appreciated by so many different people. And we also discovered that ax throwing is the best way to spend a birthday party!

May 7, 2017/October 22, 2017

This is really a 2-for-1 since both of these dates were road races I completed this year. And both times I went into them with a lot of doubt. For the Goodlife 10km in May, I did not feel ready. I had been focusing on cycling, and didn’t train properly. My original goal had been in under an hour, but I adjusted my expectations. I was embarrassed with myself, and thought I was a failure. I thought that people would see my finish time and think “what a loser, she does all that training and still can’t run 10km in under an hour?” It was the same for the Scotiabank 5km in October. I knew I wouldn’t finish in under 30 minutes, and feared I’d barely get in under 45 minutes. For Scotiabank, it was my nerve injury. I had run only a handful of times before the race.

But with both races, I exceeded my expectations. I have to keep reminding myself that my finish time isn’t always important – and that often setting such high expectations of myself when I am not 100% isn’t going to do my confidence any favours. Instead, I need to remember that I still achieved it, and still attempted it. That’s all I can really ask of myself.

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November 30, 2017

Sadly, like 2016, in 2017 I said goodbye to another grandparent. This time it was my Grandmother on my father’s side. It was a bittersweet day for a number of reasons. I wasn’t terribly close to my Grandmother, but I always knew she was proud of me, and loved me. But she was a bit of a mystery to me. Her and my grandfather moved from Welland to Elmira before I was born, and she remained there even after my grandfather passed away of a heart attack in 1982. It was at her funeral I learned the extent of her “other life”. What broke my heart was just seeing how many people she impacted throughout her life. I was sad for those who loved her dearly, and now had to say goodbye. I was also sad because, as with all deaths, it’s that final realization that you’ll never get that time back with that person. I will now never have the chance to know my grandmother better, and that saddens me. But, I am trying to see this as an excellent reminder not to let me anxiety hold me back, and live life fully.

July 29, 2017 

We actually made a big decision that will impact 2018 more than it did in 2017 – we officially booked our plane tickets to South Africa! We’re heading there in just a few months, with our good friends Peter & Giles. The trip has been in the works for a long time, but to actually put a real date on our departure, was a big moment. We’ll be gone for nearly a month, so it’s definitely the biggest travel undertaking I’ve ever experienced! (Oh… and that night we went on to enjoy a fun BBQ hosted by our friends Alan & Amanda)

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And that’s 2017 in a nutshell! It was another incredible year, and one that truly felt like it went by too fast. I really hope time slows down a little in 2018, so I can stop and enjoy the little moments a little more.

I don’t have many new resolutions for this year, but it’s much of the same as last – stop beating myself up over the things I cannot control, and don’t let my anxiety stop me from experiencing new and memorable things.

Have a great holiday season everyone, and stay tuned for the Top Live Bands of 2017!

Riding Forward

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Me, at last year’s starting line for the 2016 Ride to Conquer Cancer

On June 10th, I will approach the start line of the 10th annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Back in October, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post Blogs as part of World Mental Health Day detailing why it means so much to me to participate in the Ride, and highlighting my journey with health anxiety. All of that still remains true, but I feel my journey hasn’t quite taken the path I envisioned seven months ago.

Let me explain…

For TEALPOWER, the team on which I Ride, this year has been a success! We’ve made so many strides raising cervical cancer awareness.

On May 25th, we held our second annual event – “TEALPOWER Presents: Heart to HeART”. The night was centred around an art battle, where three different artists created paintings in real time. We raised $27,000 for cervical cancer research, with proceeds going to Team TEALPOWER’s 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer campaign, benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Those of us on the TEALPOWER committee knew Alison Salinas, TEALPOWER’S late Co-Founder in some shape or form. Most of the group knew her as their best friend, their sister, or the love of their life. We all want TEALPOWER to succeed because Alison believed in it, and we believed in her. It’s not often nowadays that you can get so many people to commit so fully to something. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our lives and push things aside. We held ourselves accountable on weekly calls, meetings, and set deadlines preparing for our fundraiser.  A successful event would mean all of us would reach our Ride fundraising goals. TEALPOWER would grow, and new people would hear our message.

With this year’s Ride around the corner it’s been a time of reflection for me. Part of this winter hasn’t been what I wanted. I thought I got off to a good start with my “January Goals“. I wanted to be completely anxiety free. I thought I could lose about 15lbs in the span of three months, and get off my anti-depressants with very few withdrawal symptoms. I wanted to be “perfect”. Instead, the “perfect Tesla” I had in my head drove me downwards at times. I got down on myself when I wasn’t losing weight “fast enough”. I struggled a lot with my health anxiety this winter. I’ve probably diagnosed myself with about 10 different ailments since 2017 began. At times, it’s taken over my emotions and it’s been tough to re-focus my attention.

After last year’s Ride, I felt amazing. I was so deeply proud of myself, and my team. The entire weekend reminded me how important it is to believe in yourself. I soaked in every second. Living in the moment is the only way to truly keep my anxiety at bay. My hope was that I would carry that confidence all year, and feel like a million dollars leading into this year.

Instead, I beat myself up. I told myself I wasn’t training enough, that I wouldn’t be good enough. Even though it isn’t a race, I didn’t want to be the slowest one on the team because in my mind I would be dragging us down. And this is what I do. I tear myself down, expect the worst. Anxiety doesn’t let you have nice things. You don’t spend time, sitting back and really appreciating accomplishments. Instead, your mind will criticize, and nit pick. The smallest detail will become the biggest flaw. I’ll see a photo of myself in my helmet and think “I look terrible wearing that”.

I have two ways of looking at how my winter/spring went. I could regard it as a total failure, and go into the Ride feeling horrible. My mindset going in would drag me down, and inevitably I would become a self-fulling prophecy. Or, I can look at things differently. I could say to myself “you did a lot of positive things, and you continue to work on yourself”. I can remind myself how I’ve trained a lot more this year, specifically on my bike, and that no one cares how quickly or slowly I finish the Ride. We are a team, after all. By re-framing how I look back on the start of 2017, I can change how I will approach the moments before kick-off. Being nicer to myself, and forgiving myself will allow me to be the best Tesla for Team Tealpower that I can be.

Anxiety and mental illness shouldn’t get to take my big accomplishments away from me.

I am so thankful I have a wonderful group of Riders to call my teammates. They will give me hope, and lift my spirits – often without even realizing it. By completing this, I will once again tell myself that I am strong, worthy, and capable.

I can do this. 

To donate to my 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer journey, please click here

In Like a Lion

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Missing the soothing waters of the Gulf!

So February absolutely flew by! Between a quick trip to Montreal as part of Sean’s Christmas gift, and my BFF vacation to Mexico, it’s hard to believe that March is already in full swing. I have to admit, I missed having specific goals in February like I did in January. Being busy is good, but the OCD in me loves rules, guidelines, and deadlines!

Coming back from Mexico, I was hit with the infamous stomach bug that travelers often face when heading South to resorts. So I went back on the IR and couldn’t exercise immediately following my return to Canada. This was at first hard to accept because there were so many times on vacation where I’d look at photos of myself in a bikini and be disgusted at what I saw. I hated my stomach. In some pictures it would look OK, but in others all I saw was fat. I was so embarrassed of myself. I thought I had no business in a bikini.

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One of many photos of myself that left me feeling horrible about my body. In hindsight, I realize how foolish I am to judge so harshly.

Whenever I get sick I struggle so much with being “forced” to do things differently. I like to do things on my terms. So when an illness keeps me from running, biking, or eating what I want, it makes me upset. I get down on myself. I start to think I’m going to lose all of the strength I’ve built up. I wonder how many people I will let down. I think about how it means I’ll be awful at the Ride to Conquer Cancer. One morning when I sat on the couch bawling, and saying all of these things to Sean he asked me “why do you keep piling on?! Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Honestly, I don’t know. Anxiety just catches me sometimes and gets on top of me. When I am sick, it’s harder to fight it. It makes it easy to think I will never get healthy again. Then the little voice creeps in and says “what if this is actually some form of cancer? Or other terminal illness?” I become less inclined to challenge my thought cycles. This is why I need to stick to therapy and continue to  get back in the habit of recognizing my destructive thought patterns, so when my defenses are down I can still stand as tall as I possibly can. I can’t let being sick absolutely tear down all of my self-esteem and confidence. Being sick is a reality of life, so I can’t let every stomach ache turn into an immediate death sentence. So right here, right now, I am vowing to DESTROY the month of March!

March Goals: 

  • Try at least one new recipe a week from my new cookbook!
  • Get better at getting up early! (I want to get up earlier during the week to focus more on better breakfasts and possibly even sneaking in some early running)
  • LISTEN to my body! Don’t be afraid to SLOW DOWN (It won’t undo ALL of my hard work)
  • Journal more! (I’ve fallen behind and need to get better at my mood journal and challenging my upsetting thoughts)
  • Get my bike tuned up! (I went to the Toronto Bike Show and am feeling inspired to train hard for the Ride to Conquer Cancer! It’s also made me realize that Spring is nearly here, which means getting outside more!)

I am hoping that having some goals and ideas in mind will help keep me motivated, and continue to force me to focus on other challenges other than just getting in shape. I am also really working to try and shift my thinking in terms of finding “happiness” and “satisfaction”. I need to keep asking myself questions like “Why do I think I look bad in a bathing suit?” “What dictates my feelings about myself?” “Would my life truly be “better” if I thought I “looked better” in a bathing suit?” And so on… so far I’ve started reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” which isn’t a book about being disconnected and uncaring, it’s actually about challenging “positive thinking” and making a case for the beauty of suffering, and carefully selecting WHAT to give a f*ck about. So far I am really enjoying it, and am really using it to constructively think about HOW I value things and why!

To tie this all together – going back to my bathing suit photos. I’ve already started asking myself “Would the vacation have been ANY different if I had looked ‘better’?” The answer is, of course, no! I had an absolute blast in Mexico, and how I looked in a bathing suit, workout gear, shorts, WHATEVER, had no bearing on that. The follow-up question is also one my therapist would likely ask me – if I am so unhappy with how I look; how do I know that my “goal” image would actually satisfy me? If I weighed 10lbs less, would I actually be happier? Would I then say “that’s enough” or would I instead turn my focus to something else to criticize. I think we all know it would be the latter – I’d just continue to find something else to pick on, instead of looking at what I need to appreciate.

And this will be my overall task for March – while I strive to keep improving, I can’t lose sight of what gives my life value and satisfaction now despite whether or not I achieve some of my other goals.

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated through these last final wintery weeks?

#JanGoals: Final Recap!

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Well, January has come and gone, and putting aside the obvious roller coaster ride that has been the news lately, I want this last post on #JanGoals to focus on where I started and how I did with achieving my goals. (Maybe I’ll write something else on keeping your anxiety in check while the world descends into chaos another day).

Goal #1 – “Somewhat Sober January”

I held pretty faithful to this and only had around 14 drinks this month. I say “around” because I wasn’t doing a true count, or counting times I sampled some of the beers Sean would have. The whole point of this month wasn’t to go stone cold sober, or give up alcohol altogether, but it was a good exercise in restraint. It was also helpful to do this while I transition off my medication, as I don’t want the depressants in alcohol further confusing my brain.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

Given that I injured my knee, I was unable to stick to this. But I did get the gym a lot, and stayed very active. Even when my knee was sore, I tried to keep walking around, or doing a few laps in the pool we have in our apartment building. I am glad I didn’t push myself too hard and recovered properly.

So how about my stats? Well, let’s put it this way – according to the scale, measurements, and body fat scale – I didn’t change all that much. I lost an inch off my natural waist, and half of an inch off my hips. My body fat actually went up by a 1%. I originally was really mad and disappointed by this. This is where setting goals like this can be tough for someone who struggles with forgiving themselves. I had this idea in my head that I’d drop like 5lbs of fat, or some sort of “drastic” reduction to show that this month was a total success. But as Sean reminded me, weight loss doesn’t happen that fast. What I am trying to focus on is how good I feel. I feel great completing circuits (well, exhausted but great), I am still running at a good pace despite only getting for a run about once a week, and I feel myself getting stronger. My upper body has always been something I’ve wanted to improve on – and slowly but surely I am getting better and better at something as simple as push-ups. So I am trying hard to focus solely on that, and not just the information on the page. It doesn’t tell the whole story.

Goal #3 – Practice more “Mindfulness” 

I’m slowly still reading through my new book and learning new techniques. I’ve definitely needed it at night, as this is when I tend to find my mind racing the most. I find it helpful even just reading about the activities before bed. Overall, I am happy that I am putting more of an effort into healing myself and taking proper time each day to unwind and unplug.

Goal #4 – Stop Taking Anti-Depressants. 

This one was easy at first, but as time goes on I am noticing some of the side effects. I am have times when I have been quite sad and overwhelmed – but once I have a good cry it seems to subside. It also seems to be tied to when I’ve gone two days without a dose. So we’ll see what happens when I come off the drug completely. The nausea seems to have gone away. I have been having vertigo from time to time, but it comes and goes. I still think I am quite lucky overall, as I know many others have had awful experiences.

What I learned, and what’s next

I took away from big lessons this month.

  • Forgive yourself. When I hurt my knee, I was really hard on myself. But the world didn’t end, I didn’t gain 20lbs, or ruin my progress. I confronted my discomfort and came out the other side. Time to be nicer to myself.
  • Cry when you need to. I sometimes hold in my emotions too much and resist the urge to be too upset. But as I go through withdrawal I think I just need to let it out when I need to, and then try to find ways to move on.
  • Winter running is still the best. It just is.
  • I need more protein in my diet. Using my nutrition tracker again is once again showing me how low I am. I gladly welcome any and all suggestions – especially for breakfast (keep in mind, I can’t eat eggs)
  • Drinking an electrolyte beverage each morning is exactly what my body needed. One side effect of my antidepressants is they make me sweat – a lot. I talked to my doctor about it, and some related symptoms I was having, and he suggested adding electrolytes to my diet more frequently. So now I start each day with a serving of Biosteel and I’ve noticed a big difference. I have more energy through the day, and my mind feels sharper. If you’re s sweaty person like me, maybe talk to your doctor if this is right for you too! (I swear I am not being paid by Biosteel!)

Now, rest easy – I won’t be spamming your social media pages through February with #FebGoals. But I do plan to try and keep putting these goals to use all year. I’m going to continue to try new recipes, new exercises, and keep the hangovers to a minimum.

The biggest goal I have for February is to have fun on vacation with my BFF, and not to worry too much about what I look like in a bathing suit. I know I am pressuring myself to look “perfect”. So I have to keep asking myself “what does that mean? Is it realistic? What will happen if I don’t look “perfect”?”

So to anyone who set resolutions or is trying to set new habits – keep believing in yourself and forgive yourself if you stumble a little. Trying is succeeding. Focus on what makes you feel good, what makes you happy. For me – it’s running outside on a January morning and seeing the fat squirrels run around. Maybe for you it’s something else. But find it, challenge yourself, and surprise yourself. And let’s support each other!!!!

Cheers to February being even more badass than January.

 

When You Can’t Trust Your Body

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This will now be my third Bell Let’s Talk Day posting. The first one, “When My Body Is My Worst Fear” was my honest admission that I have anxiety and have been dealing with some form of mental health issue since my teen years. Last year, I wrote “What Talking Taught Me” as a way to express my gratitude, as well as share lessons learned in my journey to good mental health. One thing is certain – the best decision I have ever made about my own mental wellness is speaking up. Last year with my article, I hoped to show others suffering in silence that things can change.

This year, I wanted to go back and talk about what it’s actually like to suffer from health anxiety in particular, and the way my mind works when it comes to my body. I find what helps most to break the stigma around mental illness is talking through our experiences. Through this, we can find common ground with people, and find common solutions. Supporting each other is key to recovery, and what better way to do that than through understanding.

One of the things I continue to struggle with most is trust. I don’t really know when to believe the “signals” my body is sending me. I’ve spent so many years terrified of every sneeze, ache, twinge, spasm, and headache, that it sometimes is impossible for me to tell the difference between a real symptom and a fake one brought on by my anxiety. How vigilant do you consider yourself of your own aches and pains? Do you know how many times a day you feel a pain in your side? How about a spasm somewhere? Do you regularly check your heart beat? Do you remember the last time you had a headache? Do you know exactly how many times you sneezed this morning? Usually, I know the exact answers to all of these questions. This over-monitoring has led me to be incredibly sensitive about any little thing that happens with my body.

It might seem that being acutely aware of your body is a GOOD thing, but anxiety takes advantage of this. Just Google a phrase like “anxiety causing fake symptoms” and see what comes up. Pages and pages of studies, patient questions, etc, of people dealing with symptoms brought on solely because of anxiety. YES – Your body is actually capable of tricking you into thinking you are truly experiencing something! The flip side is, of course, that when my body produces real symptoms – back pain, sore knee, fever, my brain begins to work in overdrive thinking of the WORST.POSSIBLE.OUTCOMES.

Speaking of Google – fellow health anxiety sufferers please STOP asking the internet to diagnose your symptoms. Take it from me – I have convinced myself I have everything from MS to a brain tumour just based on what some sites tells me. It’s a habit that took years to break, but I am so thankful I have (to an extent…). Also – know when to stop reading an article if it’s going to trigger you. I have lost count of how many stories I’ve read about people dying of cancer that have led me on furious Internet searches looking for what symptoms the person had, how they had it diagnosed, etc. I sometimes now have to force myself to stop reading, so I don’t get caught in the cycle.

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But getting back to trusting in my own body, I want to walk through an example and in this case it’s something I have dealt with since being a teenager – heart palpitations. I still remember the first time I ever had one. I was in the movie theatre, eating nachos with gooey cheese when suddenly I had this bizarre flutter in my chest. It scared the hell out of me. It felt like my heart had stopped beating for a split second and then suddenly kick-started itself. I actually stopped eating my nachos entirely because I was scared THE NACHOS were causing my heart to beat irregularly (because you know… somehow nachos can instantly impact my organs like that). I told my parents about it when I got home, and my mom told me that is what her palpitations felt like. Years later, in 2013, I had them tested. That was when I was in a very hypersensitive state, and I was having a lot of severe anxiety symptoms. My palpitations were increasing in frequency and I was terrified that I was on the verge of a heart attack.

The doctor sent me home with a monitor, and anytime I felt a palpitation I was to hit a button, and the monitor would record the event. I had to wear electrode pads on two places on my chest, and somehow had to disguise all the wires every day because I was so embarrassed that I was walking around hooked up to a machine. The results all eventually came back clear – my palpitations are benign. Both my family doctor and therapist at the time explained to me that palpitations are often caused by stress and anxiety. Even just THINKING about palpitations can trigger them. If I calmed down, they would start to become less and less frequent. Easier said than done when at the time I was spending most of my day paying close attention to my pulse, heart beat, and any sensations that could possibly be a palpitation. Breathing exercises to calm myself down rarely worked because I actually got SCARED as I performed them. I became so focused on what my breathing sounded like, and how hard my heart was pumping that I actually was getting MORE anxious as I tried them.

But your heart is important – quite literally without it, you die. So when it has fooled you in the past, how do you really know when it needs real attention? And then begins the next struggle – deciding when to go to the doctor. It’s a real fine line for people with health anxiety. Some, and this once included myself, go to the doctor for every symptom they feel. But you eventually wear out your welcome and the doctor can begin to tune you out and dismiss your fears. Which of course, only fuels your unrelenting suspicions that something is SERIOUSLY wrong with you. So, I set “standards” for going to the doctor (outside of obvious emergencies, like a possibly broken limb or a high fever).

  • Have my symptoms been going on for more than a week? 
  • Are they getting progressively worse and worse as the days/hours go by?
  • Have I had this before? What did the doctor say then? 
  • Can this be explained by anything I have recently done? 
  • Do I have this symptom even when I am not thinking about it? 

See that last question – how often have you had to ask yourself that? For many of you, the answer is probably never. That’s the luxury of trusting your body. You KNOW it isn’t tricking you, because it’s never done it before. For me – I have to be certain “it’s not just all in my head” before going to the doctor. Because I’m always afraid that when I do go to the doctor, I’ll be dismissed because I can’t actually prove the symptom is real.

And getting dismissed is the hardest part. Because at the end of the day – all of this boils down to a fear of dying. More specifically – dying at the result of something I could have stopped. I always think – well what if this stomach ache is actually the beginning of stomach cancer, and if I catch it now I will survive? Or – what if this headache is actually a stroke and if I don’t get to the hospital in the next hour I will die? And even – if I don’t ask the doctor about my heart TODAY, what if I die in my sleep tonight? As I’ve said over and over, anxiety is a control freak. Anxiety makes you think you need to control EVERYTHING so you can stop worrying about EVERYTHING. By controlling my health, I will control what kills me.

So while I have improved over the years, it is still an ongoing battle with myself about when to raise alarm bells and questions about various symptoms and experiences I have with my body. I wish I knew definitively when my body was lying. I wish there was an app I could open that would say “Just your anxiety. You’re 100% fine today” or “You’ve just got a slight cold. You’re operating at about 75% today”. But until then, I’ll stick to my plans of regular physicals, working on calming my anxiety, and avoiding asking the Internet what my symptoms mean. I also have to work on forgiveness – because if I do get really sick, I have to be able to remind myself that it isn’t my fault. As badly as I want to, I can’t control everything – especially  how I’ll die. And then, I just have to hold onto the hope that things will slowly get better, and I’ll slowly stop being afraid.

Thank you for reading! If you are just reading my blog for the first time – welcome! I hope you will all join me on Twitter today to raise money, and awareness, for Mental Health. Remember to use #BellLetsTalk so Bell will donate money towards initiatives in this country to help those in need.