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

The Things We Leave Behind

I’ve been trying to write a new blog post for about a month now. I have about three half finished posts, just sitting in my Drafts. I thought as we all reel from the news of Gord Downie, and grapple with one more amazing person about to be lost to cancer, that perhaps this was the post I needed to finish, and share with you all. 

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Late in April, I said goodbye to my “Granny”. She was a fierce woman, and a personality that my family will miss dearly. It was my first time losing an immediate family member. I’ve been very fortunate. I am very uncomfortable with death, and am so grateful that up until now, I’ve only had to go to a handful of funerals and memorials. I know others have not been so lucky.

But one absolutely positive thing to come out of the heartbreak of losing Granny is that death gives perspective. It forces you to pause, and reflect. You suddenly become acutely aware of your place in the universe, and what you’ll leave behind.

As we cleaned out my grandmother’s things from the nursing home, my cousin spoke about how you just leave “stuff” behind, and what matters is the memories that your loved ones have of you. Of course we always see quotes that like when we scroll across our social media news feeds, but until you’re there, cleaning out the home of a dead loved one, that message really doesn’t sink in. The clothes I worry about on a day to day basis, will eventually just get donated or turned to rags. No one will remember that I accidentally wore a stained shirt one day to work. Certainly no one cares at this moment that when I first moved to Toronto I really had no idea what the word “style” really meant. It’s also true of the items we fill our homes with.

So from those little “ah-ha” moments during that time, I am trying to get back to loving myself more, and forgiving myself. I say this all too often, but I waste so much time being hard on myself. There’s so much I can’t control. But I have such a hard time dealing with that. I need to be in control. I’m impatient. I’m a perfectionist. I also have a pretty good memory, and I remember what I looked like when I was in better shape. It’s hard to forget that. I don’t feel proud of my body right now. So I need to work on getting that back.

Aside from the feelings associated with my body, dealing with a death always triggers a lot of deeper anxiety for me. I have a real problem with death. It terrifies me. I have so many fears. I have days where I am convinced of the Afterlife and that something awaits, but then others I think that can’t be possible, and that there really isn’t anything beyond this life. My mind starts to think “how can there be heaven if we have so much suffering? What is the point of creating a world where depending on where you live you might have a great life, or a really, really horrible one?”, and it goes on and on.

But really, I am just scared to say goodbye to the people I love and care about. My family means the world to me, and I can’t bear to think of saying goodbye to everyone. Change doesn’t allow me to be in control. When suddenly that one person won’t be at Christmas Dinner anymore, I get so anxious thinking about how different things will be. How will I cope without certain people? I suppose you could call it the world’s worst case of “FOMO” as well. I get sick thinking about all the things I could miss out on one day, especially if I die young.

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My Granny & I 

So how do you become more comfortable with the idea of death? For me, the only way would be knowing with 1000000% certainty that an Afterlife exists, and that YES you get reunited with everyone. That’s the controlling nature in me, the anxiety that needs ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. But that doesn’t exist in life. Maybe what losing Granny has also taught me is that in addition to spending time working on my mental health, I need to work on my spiritual health. Because the day will come when I will have an even more devastating death to mourn, and I want to make sure I can get through.

And then, with some of the roots of my anxiety laid bare, we return to the original point of this post. Only the memories are what matter. The relationships you forge – whether it’s family, friends, animal companions, whatever, that is what transcends everything else. I can’t take six pack abs with me to the Afterlife, and certainly they won’t be on display at a memorial. (Seriously, have you ever seen anyone’s ACTUAL body at a funeral? Another reason I should stop worrying about what my stomach looks like). Sure, you can be remembered for being an active, athletic person, but is that why people truly love you? Is it the only reason they’ll always be there for you? Odds are, no.

So with that being said, it’s about doing what all of those internet quotes tell you to do: “Live. Laugh. Love”. With doing that, hopefully I can find peace and eventually accept that one day, everything will be out of my control.

Thank you, as always, for reading and of course, share any advice you may have for myself or others. 

 

 

 

 

What Talking Taught Me

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It was nearly a year ago today that I opened up about my struggles with depression and anxiety. Today has been on my mind a lot. I’ve thought a lot about what to write, how I want to move forward, and how to encourage others to use this day as the beginning of their road to good mental health.

So, here are the top lessons I have learned from opening my mouth on #BellLetsTalk Day.

Opening Up is the Hardest Part

Admitting you need support is difficult. I waited until I was 29 to tell the world what I was going through. Before then, it was reserved only for partners and maybe a couple friends. Even then, no one knew the true depth of my pain. It’s easy to come up with conversations and scenarios in your mind of how you will tell people. The worst part of having anxiety, though, is that your mind will then come up with 100 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut: “Everyone will think you’re lying”, “no one will want to be your friend anymore”, “you won’t be loved anymore”, “you’ll be made fun of behind your back”, “people at work will think less of you and you won’t get promoted”, “nothing will change anyways, you’ll always be like this”, “your problems are stupid, there are people out there with REAL problems”, and it goes on and on. Before you know it, you’re crying into a bag of chips and feel a lot worse about yourself than when you started. I even know that feeling where you desperately want to say the words “I need help” but your lips feel like they’re sealed shut. I know it feels like you’d rather jump out of your skin and run away forever than have to actually verbalize those words. It’s horrible. It’s hard. But it’s worth it. Once you get over that hurdle, you will find your journey will begin, and you will be so happy to have the weight of the world off your shoulders.

(Side note, those “reasons” your mind comes up with are all why it’s so important for us to change the conversation around mental illness. Stigma kills and hurts in so many ways. By speaking up, and being supportive, you may not change the entire world, but you will change a small part of it.)

You Will Stumble, and Fall

No one is perfect, and no one is cured immediately. Sadly, getting to a place of good mental health takes a lot of work and dedication. I wish it were easy. I’d give anything to just snap my fingers and have all of my obsessive thoughts disappear. But remember, this is why you are strong for getting help, and not weak. The most important thing, though, I have really begun to learn is to not be too hard on myself. The key, for me, when I fall down is to have a plan for getting back up. For example, I am now keeping an Exercise Journal to hold myself accountable for getting back into shape. I mark off days in the calendar with a giant X so I can look back at the month and go “YEAH – Look at what I’ve achieved!”. That sense of accomplishment will help erase your feelings of failure. Will I miss a workout some days? Of course. Will I eat a cupcake instead of fruit? You bet. Just remember to step back, and forgive yourself. You’re not the only one to stumble.

Keep Busy

Find hobbies, and things to help calm your mind. I love my colouring books for example. I can’t meditate – my brain is always in overdrive and I can’t turn it off long enough to meditate properly. But colouring does force me to focus and not think about anything else except which marker to use next. I have also bought some knitting needles and plan to start giving that a try! I like being creative, so those options work best for me. Maybe you will find comfort in something else. You will find that the more you find joy in a small hobby, the less time you find wrapped in pain. And keep a journal! Write down your fears and challenge them when they don’t come true. Write down what made you happy each day. Write down something new you did, or learned. Write, write, write. Remind yourself each and everyday that it isn’t always bad. That even on the darkest days you can find a small bit of light. Even writing “I didn’t cry today” should be remembered as a big moment for a lot of us with depression and anxiety. Write it down so you don’t forget the good.

Turn Off Your Phone

This year, I am making a conscious effort to be checking my phone less and less after I get home from work. Instead of wasting time on social media, I am now researching new recipes, ideas for a balcony garden, or colouring. Now that I am spending less time comparing my life to others, I find myself much happier with who I am. And also, you can’t freak out and get upset over some random Instagram post when you never saw it to begin with. Social media is like gasoline to mental illness’ fire. Turn it off, and you’ll immediately notice a benefit.

Be Mindful 

If you ever find yourself in those never-ending thought cycles, the best way to break it is to instantly focus on exactly what you are doing in that moment. I used to find I would start to have anxious thoughts when doing the dishes. I would mull over moments from the day, and start to get worried about the next day. So I started forcing myself to stop those thoughts and instead think “Now I am washing this butter knife. Now I am rinsing it. It goes into the utensil holder on the drying rack”. It sounds tedious. It sounds boring. And it is, but it works. Do that for the remainder of the activity and you will forget about what was bothering you in the first place. And if it comes back, start it all over again. It also means re-engaging yourself in conversations with friends, loved ones, and co-workers. Start to make memories again. I know that when I spend so much time absorbed in my own thoughts, I find I barely remember where the days go.

Get Sweaty

Exercise in any shape or form can do wonders for depression and anxiety. There’s endless studies about the science behind why, and I’ll leave you to Google, but you really can’t beat a good workout to help calm your brain and unleash a lot of pent up energy. I know for depression, it’s often hard enough to get out of bed let alone go for a run, but maybe start small and promise yourself you’ll go for a walk each day, or do some yoga in the living room. Whatever you do, I’ve always found that it makes the biggest difference in my life.

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Remind Yourself You are Valuable 

I used to write myself really intense motivational messages like “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE STRONG. YOU ARE HEALTHY” and read them over and over again before bed. You might laugh, but it works. Repeating those mantras that YOU have value as a person and that YOU deserve happiness will help you see that you are worth fighting for. For a long time I didn’t think I was any of those things. I thought I was a worthless loser. But here I am, stronger than ever before with a purpose in life. Write down what you need to tell yourself to kick yourself into gear and find your confidence. And read it until you believe it deep into your core.

And finally, and this one is the most important: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

The moment I started talking, people starting sharing their struggles with me. It was incredible. And also very sad to know how many people I knew were also hurting. But there’s a strange comfort in numbers. It means you have people in your corner. It means that someone else can understand. It means someone else can help. There’s nothing defective about YOU. We’ve all comes across some form of mental illness in our lifetime. YOU are not broken beyond repair. WE are all here for you.

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So in a year, I’ve turned things around little by little. I still have my down days, and I still have those nagging thoughts that sometimes rear their ugly heads. But I battle through and move forward. I find happiness. I find purpose. You can to. Just take everything one step at a time.

Please don’t be afraid to talk, and also don’t be afraid to listen. We all need to change the way we view mental illness. It’s time we all find the love, comfort, and happiness we deserve.

Thank you for reading, and please share and spread the word to help those suffering in silence. Show them you care.

I’ll be tweeting about #BellLetsTalk all day today, join me and let’s raise some money for mental health initiatives in Canada. 

 

12 Days of 2015

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Christmas in Prague!

Another Christmas season is upon us, and just before I bid goodbye to 2015 (and post my new annual tradition – my concert rankings of the year), I wanted to reflect on what’s transpired over the past 12 months, and how I can move forward from it all. And since everyone loves a good list, instead of the “12 Days of Christmas”, I give you the “12 Days of 2015”. 12 days that changed my life this year, for better or for worse. (And these are in no particular order).

12) March 24th 2015

My 30th birthday. Well documented in an earlier blog post, turning 30 definitely marked a significant point in my life. To many, age is just a number. But 30 felt like so much more to me. I am a happier,  healthier, and stronger person than I was at any other age. I am in the best time of my life. I need to hold onto this day, and the positivity I felt at turning 30 to get me through the dark times.

11) November 27th 2015

Sean & I went on our first official vacation together as a couple, starting on this date. Yes, we’ve done many small road trips together (Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit) but this was the first time where it would just be the two of us, 24/7, ALL THE TIME. I mean, what if we ended up hating each other by the end of the trip? But instead, I feel like it really helped make us stronger as a couple. I am so excited about our future together, and getting to continue travelling the world is one of those things. The trip was a special point in our relationship, and coming home on December 6th in one piece meant it wouldn’t be the last time we set off together for new adventures.

10) July 31st 2015

Day One of Osheaga. I could really have picked any day of Osheaga, but the first one means a lot to me for a couple reasons. Number one – I did this day mainly by myself. Doing things on my own always boosts my confidence. I took Montreal transit on my own, I watched bands on my own, and fed myself. I know at 30 I should be able to do all of this on my own, but when you suffer from social anxiety doing all of these things in a public setting can be quite terrifying. Number two – I finally got to see Florence! Along with a BUNCH of other great bands. It was a fantastic day of music, and reassurance. Days like that make me happy to be alive, and thankful that I am able to enjoy days like that.

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My hair was ON FLEEK this day

9) June 5th 2015

My cousin Amber married Neil, and our families celebrated. I have two female cousins that I am very close with – Amber is one year younger than I am, and Shauna (her sister) is four years younger than me. We grew up together, and have continued to stay close. As an only child, they are as close as I will ever get to sisters. Seeing Amber getting married to an amazing man in Neil was very special. Family is incredibly important to me. I am lucky to have a fantastic one (on both sides – my mom and my dad). It also hit home that perhaps the next time we celebrate, things may be different. We may lose family along the way. It reinforced that you need to embrace these moments you have with everyone and cherish them. You don’t know when you’ll be able to capture that again. On a personal note, I truly never felt more beautiful on that day than any other (even if I was wearing more make-up than I ever thought could be humanly possible to fit on my face).

8) January 6th 2015

This was the day I bawled my eyes out in therapy and asked for his advice on antidepressants. As documented in my first mental health blog post, I was at a low and didn’t know how to pull myself out. My anxiety was rampant. I couldn’t shake this awful sense of doom. It was horrible. Within a week, I was on pills. Other than the frustrating amount of weight I seem to have gained since being on these pills, I am happy I am on them. My anxiety hasn’t completely subsided (if only it were that easy), but my compulsions have eased. Do I still get depressed? Yes. Do I still find myself in a spiral of bad thoughts? Yes. But I find it a little easier to do as Tay-Tay says and “shake it off”. It took all of my strength to ask for medication. This was a dark day but looking back, it was a good day.

7) February 12th 2015

I had my gastroscopy (say that 3x fast) on this date. I was convinced going in that the doctors would find cancer. If you had asked me to put money down on a result, I would have had to really think hard on what they would find. Or I also feared that if they didn’t find cancer, they’d find that stomach acid had done so much damage to my insides that I’d be doomed to one day having to fight cancer. It was scary. I don’t remember, but I was probably close to tears at some point during the day. In the end, I just have gastritis and otherwise have a good looking stomach. It was such a relief.

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Beautiful Mexico

6) April 25th 2015 

My first full day at an all-inclusive resort! My BFF Marie-Claude and I jetted off to Mexico for a week, and it was EXACTLY what I needed. I’d never done a vacation like that, and had no idea if my ADD-brain would  be able to handle staying in one place so much. But I LOVED it. Day One was perfect – we had beautiful weather, drank on the beach, only got a small sun burn, and ate like the Queens we are. We also did some outstanding people watching. I really needed the time to re-charge and just spend some time to myself. I didn’t have to make any decisions, answer emails, or really do any type of thinking outside of “do I want beer or a cocktail?” and then “do we want the beach, or the pool?”. It was heaven.

5) November 17th 2015 

I’ll never forget this day. Subject of my last blog post, this was the day TSN suffered a number of layoffs and Alison Salinas passed away. A truly awful day that reminds you of the darker side of life. That sometimes good people die young, and that life often isn’t fair at all. I’ve still been left with lingering feelings of guilt and sadness. Work isn’t quite the same, and I still find it hard to believe that Alison is gone (and I wasn’t even that close to her!) But at her visitation I spoke briefly with her mother, who was so composed and so wonderful. I can see where Alison got so much of her grace from. Seeing Alison’s mother on that painful day gave me a lot of strength, and oddly, hope. Hope that one day I can be that strong when faced with adversity.

4) May 15th 2015

Our one year anniversary. The details of our first date can be found on the Live at 605 podcast (available for download here or on iTunes), and I encourage you to take a listen. Our first date is quite funny in hindsight, and definitely a night I’ll never forget. (Readers of this blog may recall that our first date was the Haim concert, and ranked in my Top 10 Concerts). Our anniversary to me marked so much more than that. I’ve gained such a wonderful partner in Sean and I am so thankful that he feels the same way about me. I know I am incredibly lucky, and won’t soon forget that.

3) October 23rd 2015

Sean & I signed our new lease! We’re moving in together! Yes, we hit a lot of big milestones as a couple this year, and we’ll truly be starting 2016 off “fresh” as our lease begins January 1st 2016. Again, another time of excitement and yes, some nerves, about the future. It was also a great night in that we went to have dinner at The Irv (one of our fave little pubs in the city) and went to see The Darkness in concert! (We’ll just ignore the fact that this was the night the Jays were eliminated from the MLB playoffs…)

2) June 16th 2015

My last day of therapy. My therapist moved to the US to be closer to family, and I decided to go it alone for awhile. You may recall this was when I wrote one of my most heartfelt pieces. Around this time was when I started to realize that I’d begun to gain weight, and started to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ve still put on some weight, but I am working a little harder to try and get fit again. I’m still upset with myself, and those shadows are still there. And I know that I need a new therapist. 2016 will also mark the start of seeing a new one, and continuing to heal myself. I don’t want to completely lose my confidence, and all of my hard work.

1) October 18th 2015

The Scotiabank Waterfront 5km race. Overall, I had an up and down year with my running. When I feel good about my running, I usually feel great about myself. Being a strong runner makes me feel like an even stronger person. Completing this race, and feeling the drive to possibly do another Half Marathon was the motivation I needed to really kick start my training for next year. It feels good to be re-dedicated to running, and I only hope my poor back muscles can keep up with me this time.

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So what can I remind myself about all of this? That I had more good days than bad this year. That 2015 was a total success. Yes, it had it’s terrible moments. I cried, I was angry, I wasted time worrying about crap that I had no business thinking about. But I got through it. I made it. And so did all of you. 2016 may be our year, or it might not. We don’t know. And that’s the biggest lesson of all I’ve truly learned this year – that we don’t know what’s ahead. Our anxiety might think it knows (anxiety really is a big know-it-all), but we’re usually wrong. Remember that. Remember the good, the beautiful, and the possible. It’s what will keep me going next year, and I hope it will keep you going too.

Thanks for a great year everyone. Stay tuned for my next blog entries – ranking all 40 bands I saw in concert this year. 

And don’t forget – you can support me on the Ride To Conquer Cancer by clicking here. Help me reach my fundraising goal! Go Team #Tealpower 

Finding Myself in a Crowd

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This past weekend I attended my first “big time” music festival. I’ve attended ones on a smaller scale, but this year experiencing Osheaga was unlike anything else I’d ever been to. First off, the sheer number of people was something I’d never really experienced before. It was also the thrill of getting to see so many bands, many of them new to my ears. And it was a chance to be part of something big, something “cool”.

I never considered myself a festival goer. I had a million excuses. “Too many people, I won’t see anything, the food lines will take too long, everything will be so expensive, I don’t know most of the bands”. But so much of my life has changed. For starters, and as I’ve written about here, music has become much more important to me. After a couple of breakups I began to fully embrace the indie music scene, especially here in Canada. I started looking for my own sound, my own bands to find, and everything in between. I had become lazy in finding new music prior to then. But now I constantly scour for new tunes, and news on my favourite artists. It’s given me a drive outside of work, and quite frankly, something to occupy my mind. Music is also therapeutic beyond being like a hobby.

Case in point, one of the headliners of Osheaga was Florence + The Machine. Her album “Ceremonials” came out during a key turning point in my life. I played that album endlessly. It spoke to me. It helped me get through some difficult moments and helped me move forward. I identify with so many songs on that album. And even though that album helped lift me out of some darkness, I still love that album and hold it dear to me as a sign of strength. I powered through my life like Florence Welch sings. (I know, a lame sentiment but I couldn’t help it). So now with her latest album, I was ridiculously excited to finally see her in the flesh. If I could trade places with any lead singer, it would be her. She is me onstage. She runs, twirls, dances, you name it she does it. She’s so free onstage. It was inspiring to see in person. Her persona onstage is truly how I feel when I listen to her. She inspires me to continue fighting my inner battles, and keep getting freer.

That was just day one! But the thing I realized as the weekend went on, is that I’ve come so far in my life. I have gone from the girl who complained about festivals to the girl who embraced it. I danced. I sang. I jumped around. I found exhilaration in a rainstorm during Interpol. I had so much fun. There I was, little old me in this big crowd. Sometimes I did worry. Was my outfit OK with my Converse shoes? (That was Sunday), do I look stupid wandering around on my own (Friday)? and a few other thoughts that really shouldn’t have been there. But I let them go. I didn’t let them stop me from having fun.

Too often in my life I’ve let my negative thoughts get in the way of having fun, of letting go and truly enjoying myself. This past weekend was a big leap for me. I planned for Osheaga for months. I listened to every single band on the bill. I ranked them from high to low on who I wanted to see. I talked endlessly to Sean about which bands we should see. I couldn’t wait to experience the weekend with Sean. I set a schedule. I was incredibly excited. And the weekend didn’t let me down one bit.

So now, here I am in full swing withdrawal. Thankfully, summer is far from over and there’s much more to look forward to. Aka, many more things to keep me feeling happy, healthy, and full of life. Sorry anxiety. Ain’t nobody got time for you.

Osheaga Rankings

Curious to know who I saw and who I loved? I crammed a lot of music into all three days. Here’s my day by day rankings:

DAY ONE – Friday July 31st

10. Catfish and the Bottlemen (Song you might know: “Kathleen“)
These guys weren’t bad so it’s tough to put them at the end of the list. Great energy to start the day and full of catchy rock hooks.

9. Guster (Song you might know: “Simple Machine“)
Val & John speak highly of this band, so I wandered over to the Tree Stage to check them out. Awesome set, and look forward to checking out more of their stuff.

8. Grace Potter (Song you might know: “Stars“)
Grace and her band rock. Period. She has a very classic sound to her voice. Check her out if you dig Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and need a great sound for summer.

7. Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell (Song you might know: “Such Great Heights“, a cover featured on the Garden State soundtrack)
Sounded awesome, and suited the summer weather perfectly. Great set.

6. George Ezra (Song you know: “Budapest” but please listen to “Blame It On Me” since it’s way better)
George Ezra is so much more than his huge hit “Budapest”. His album is one of my faves this year, and his voice was perfect. He’s also adorable and will make you swoon in the summer heat. But seriously, his album is awesome. So great to hear him live! One of my favourites of the whole weekend.

5. Stars + Friends (Song you know: “Your Ex Lover is Dead“)
They performed their 2005 album “Set Yourself on Fire” in its entirety and it was incredible. The best part of anniversary shows is getting to hear songs you never thought you’d hear live, and SYOF didn’t disappoint. Also, click the link if you don’t know the song. One of my favourite music videos and such a beautiful song.

4. The Decemberists (Song you might know “O Valencia“)
It was hard to chose between them and Stars but The Decemberists were a highlight of the weekend. I’m a casual fan of theirs, but their live act completely won me over and has left me with a burning desire to rediscover their music.

3. Of Monsters and Men (Song you know: “Crystals“)
It’s tough to put them at number three because they’re such a great live band. They are so much fun to sing along to, and dance to, so it made for a perfect Friday night.

2. The Avett Brothers (Song you might know “Morning Song“)
Both Sean’s cousin Will & I were absolutely blown away by these guys. They came out swinging to their song “Satan Pulls The Strings” and didn’t let up. Their violinist basically did her own version of a mic drop with her insane talent. They were my shock of the weekend. Truly a convert.

1. Florence + The Machine (Song I want to you to know: “Queen of Peace” from their latest album)
I think I said it all already.

DAY TWO – Saturday August 1

9. Milky Chance (Song everyone loves, but I hate: “Stolen Dance“)
I can’t stand that song above (I know I am in the minority on this, and was clearly the only person at Osheaga that hates this song), and their live set didn’t do anything to change that. I found every beat in their songs the same. Ugh.

8. Young the Giant (Song You Know: “My Body“)
They’re an odd band. Their non-single songs don’t really sound like the songs that were overplayed a couple years in a row. They’re not a bad live band, I think they just need to figure themselves out a little, and it really showed this weekend.

7. Weezer (Everyone knows their singles.)
Weezer aren’t bad, but they aren’t AMAZING either. But they are a lot of fun to see live since their catalogue spans such a long time period, that you inevitably end up travelling through time and memories. Plus, it’s fun to sing along.

6. St. Vincent (Song you know: “Digital Witness“)
Sean walked away with a small crush on St. Vincent. I walked away really impressed with her, and willing to give her album another shot. So win/win?

5. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Song you might know: “Terrified“)
God I love this band live. Please check them out if you ever get the chance. So much passion and energy from three people. And I guarantee you will forget it’s only an acoustic guitar onstage.

4. Interpol (Song you might know: “Slow Hands“)
Even though I had just seen these guys about a week before Osheaga, I still found them to be one of my faves from the weekend. It also doesn’t hurt that it poured rain during their set, enabling me to dance like a maniac in the mud and rock out.

3. Kendrick Lamar (Song every white girl at Osheaga seemed to know: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe“)
I have famously ranted about disliking rappers in person because their concerts are generally the performer rapping over piped in music. But Kendrick Lamar was a lot more than that, and even this hipster white girl was entertained.

2. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Song you should know: “Ground on Down” live version)
Sean convinced me to stay and see Ben Harper over some other bands, and I am so glad we stayed. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals delivered a fantastic performance, one of the best of Osheaga. Not only is Harper an incredible talent, but his entire band performed at a top level. It was also great to hear some blues/rock/country mashed together as the sun set, and the clouds rolled in.

1. The Arkells (Song you know: “Come to Light“)
I know. I am shocked I am putting these guys ahead of some of the bands from Saturday. But they nailed it. There was such an infectious energy coming from them. Afterwards, it left me wondering they weren’t given a higher spot on the bill, considering there were only the third act up on the main stages Saturday afternoon.

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DAY THREE – Sunday August 2

8. X Ambassadors (Song everyone knows from the Jeep commercial: “Renegades“)
This band is probably the most “mainstream” rock group that I will listen to. Radio friendly tunes made for a big start to the day as the first band up. I just hope they can become more than a one-hit wonder and find a more diverse sound.

7. James Bay (Song you know: “Hold Back The River“)
The pretty boy of folk rock, he drew a huge crowd as we watched from the hill. I am unsure if I like him past his big single, but he did sound fantastic live. I am curious to see how his career will unfold.

6. Ryn Weaver (Song you may know from Songza: “Octahate“)
This girl is still getting her feet wet, but she’s well on her way to being a big stage presence. She has a truly unique voice, and I love her synth-pop sound. I hope to see her expand her live set and see what she does as she matures.

5. Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros (Song you know: “Home“)
This was a real roller coaster for me. When they first came out I honestly thought it sounded terrible and was going to be a total disaster. But slowly this group won me over with their charm, especially after encouraging a fan confined to a wheelchair to crowdsurf to the front and join the band on stage. I give the band full credit for doing that. It was also fun to sing “Home” campfire style with about 40,000 or so people.

4. The War on Drugs (Song you might know: “Red Eyes“)
Sean & Will might disagree with me, but I really enjoyed hearing this band live. While they lacked the charisma that Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros had, I found their sound and overall performance of a higher quality. It also hurt doesn’t that I am in love with their last album.

3. Father John Misty (Song you might know: “Ideal Husband“)
You either love this onstage persona, or hate it. I loved every second of it. He’s snarky, arrogant, but also hilarious brings out teenaged girl-like devotion in grown men. I don’t know many acts that can get MEN on the shoulders of OTHER MEN. I was just disappointed he didn’t play the above song, since it’s my fave off his latest album.

2. Future Islands (Song everyone knows from last summer: “Seasons (Waiting on You)“)
I linked to the infamous David Letterman appearance by this band because it really sums up how much fun these guys are to watch. The dancing, the assortment of the most random men in such a dance-rock-80sesque band is unlike anything else out there right now. Something did seem to go wrong with lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s mic after the first song, but it didn’t deter his energy. It also didn’t stop me from dancing my face off and nearly getting heat stroke.

1. Alt – J (Song you know: “Left Hand Free” but I want you to listen to “The Gospel of John Hurt” and “FItzpleasure“, oh and “Every Other Freckle” too)
I’d probably put this performance as Top 3 in the entire weekend. I really regret not seeing them on their last tour here in Toronto last year. Their sound is so unique, and watching them perform these synth-rock-electronic songs as the sun set on the final day was just perfect. This performance brought up my respect and love for this band and I would now place them as one of my favourite bands of today. Please give them a listen (even if you’re sick of “Left Hand Free”, I promise you will get some incredible music to listen to).

My end of the year rankings are really going to be difficult this year. 2015 is shaping up to be an truly outstanding year of music.

As always thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter for other random thoughts, rants, etc. 

Coming Out of Darkness

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It’s been one week since I posted what I consider to be my most emotional blog post yet. I was really down on myself. I still am, to an extent, but already I’ve been feeling better about myself. So I wanted to write a follow-up.

First things first, I know I am being incredibly hard on myself. It may not be the most healthy way to motivate myself, but it’s how I’ve always done it. Whether it was school, work, getting healthy, I set a high standard for myself and work hard to achieve it. Because I always put so much into everything, it can get easy for me to be complacent in other ways, including my eating habits. The difference this time was that it wasn’t the best messages I was sending to myself. Instead of “Hey, I should think of a way to get onto my bike more often” it was “You’re getting fat and you look disgusting. Get on that bike.” Big difference. So I am working on turning that around. I can’t be angry with myself. What’s done is done and I cannot dwell on it (like I tend to do). I can only change what lies ahead for me. Depression is often worrying and obsessing about the past, and anxiety is fearing the future. For the past month I found myself in that pattern of being angry at the past. My therapy has taught me to be mindful and focus on the moment, the present. Another habit to start getting back into.

Speaking of which, the Happiness Journal that I have mentioned in earlier blog posts was a habit I started falling short on. I became really lazy at writing down my happy moments each day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my lack of enthusiasm for keeping track correlates with my downturn. The journal reminds me to be happy each day, it reminds me that no matter what happens there are always at least three moments in my day that made me smile. I do go to bed feeling happier when I write in it. I stop and pause for those moments each day. Falling off that habit meant I wasn’t paying attention to those moments. I stopped looking for happiness and was instead focusing on the negative. My perception on my day started completely changing. I wasn’t taking the time to reflect. I sat down a couple nights ago and caught myself up to July 1st. It was hard. I had to think back to what I was doing a couple of weeks ago. (I mean, how often do you remember exactly what you were doing for an entire day?) The worst part about it is I probably forgot some of the truly happy parts of my day. Like the mindfulness above, turning your attention away from the anxiety is what will defeat it in the end. Anxiety feeds on attention.

In terms of food, and eating, and that horrible word “dieting” I don’t follow any of that crap. I eat what I want. I believe in “everything in moderation” and that life is too short to say no to that cake. As much as I have spent good chunks of my life fearing disease and death, I know that one piece of cake won’t ruin my life and give me cancer. For me, I truly believe that I can’t spend my life scared of food. I don’t want be afraid to eat carbs, gluten, sugar, whatever! Food should never be something you fear, or avoid. I am trying to find the balance in my mental health, and I have found that over the past few months I lost the balance in how I eat. I was eating too much of the wrong things, and not sticking to my old habits that helped get me in shape several years ago. I am trying to get back to my smarter eating habits and just relaxing about what I consume. I can’t start obsessing about the food I eat, it’s just another form of anxiety manifesting. And that’s dangerous. Eating disorders are no laughing matter, and I think I owe it to myself to keep things from getting that serious.

I have also been better at sticking to an active routine. As I have mentioned, I need to get that energy out of my system, otherwise it builds up. I can’t have a day where I sit around and “do nothing”. It backfires on me. Take this for example – this past weekend Sean & I were in Ottawa. The drive home on Sunday took 7 hours thanks to some terrible traffic. I barely did any activities on Sunday other than some shopping. When we went to bed that night I felt anxious. It felt like I was ready to run a race. I hadn’t burned enough energy for the day. And of course, when you become less active not only will my anxiety build up but my waistline will too. Exercise for me is therapy. It’s just as important to me as seeing a therapist or taking my medication. So that’s why sometimes I’ll need to make sure I set aside time for myself. I need that time. And since I’ve started making it a priority I have felt better. It feels good to know I am at least DOING something. Have I dropped that weight yet? No. But I know if I work hard enough it will come off.

So slowly but surely I am coming out of that dark place I’ve been in. It takes time. Healing your mind isn’t always as fast as a cut, or a scrape. And the pills I take are definitely not a “fix all”. Many people assume once you’re on them you don’t have to keep working. It does help, but it isn’t a catch-all. At least not for me. Maybe I am rebounding faster because of the pills, but the pills didn’t stop me from feeling like crap. Proof that taking them isn’t the “easy way out”.

And thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out to me. So many of you shared some similar stories of battling their body images and self-worth. We are not alone, and we never will be now that we’ve shared our stories together. It was so inspiring to hear about how many of you have overcome your struggles, but also sad to see so many of my friends share the same demons. I want us all to be happy. I’ll fight for myself, and for all of you. We deserve every bit of happiness. Sometimes life is horrible, so those little moments that make us happy need to be cherished (and perhaps even written into a journal). And all of you are beautiful, wonderful, and strong people.

I am doing okay, and getting better. I hope all of you are too.

Thank you for reading, as always. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for other random musings.

Going It Alone

It’s going to be an interesting summer for me in so many ways. I’ve got some great concerts to look forward to, road trips, and just enjoying being outside in the warm sunshine. But it also marks the first time in two and a half years that I won’t be going to therapy. My therapist and his family are moving, and so just a couple weeks ago I had my final appointment with him. I could have immediately found a new therapist, or took him up on his offer of web counselling. But I didn’t. “Summer is busy enough” I thought to myself, and so I decided to take a break while I look for a new therapist. I don’t plan on seeing a therapist of any kind until the leaves start to change colour.

So now, it’s essentially up to me to pick myself up if I fall. Yes, I have my support system (and I can email my therapist if needed), but when it comes to quieting those thoughts when I am alone it’s time to put into work the tools I have learned. And the timing is quite perfect, because right now I need to give myself a kick in the pants. I’ve fallen.

I became lazy this winter, and this spring. I put on weight over the winter. I knew I would after my half marathon, but what I didn’t expect is to gain a full ten pounds more than I would have wanted. I’m at a weight I hate right now. I have moments where I look in the mirror now and hate what I see. I don’t fit into some of the clothes I own. I hate the thought of buying new ones to suit this “new look”. I feel ashamed because I’ve been so vocal about my running that I feel like people must be judging me. “How could she look like that when she runs so often?” I hate it. My confidence has definitely taken a hit in the past few weeks.

I’ve looked for excuses. “Oh it’s because of the anti-depressants”. But then I Googled and apparently the pill I am on is LESS likely to cause weight gain than other anti-depressants. The truth is, I just haven’t kept at it like I used to. I am not running three to four times a week. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky to get two workouts in during the week. I am eating more. I’ve noticed that my lunches are getting bigger, and even at dinner I’m eating bigger portions. I truly have no one to blame but myself.

So it’s all tied together. My feelings of depression, self-loathing, frustration. I am obviously gaining weight because of bad habits, and my anxiety is getting higher because I am not exercising as much. It’s just a lose-lose situation. I am also impatient. I want this weight gone, NOW. I want to go back to the body I had in 2014 this instant. I don’t want to wait a month, two months, whatever. So I get angrier with myself. And the spiral continues.

I just need to turn all of this angry energy into motivation. I need to turn this into a good thing, instead of something to bring myself down. And I wanted to write about this to emphasize that a journey to good mental health isn’t perfect. It isn’t all “Oh I love my 30s, and woooo concerts make me happy!” No. I have bad days. I have bad thoughts. No one’s journey is perfect. So this is where my support system is going to come in handy. Sean is going to hear a lot of rants, and I am probably going to talk about my weight a lot. I am sorry in advance for this. My friends might notice I am skipping out on some group nights out. It’s likely so I can get out my bike and go on a 30km ride to burn about 500 calories. I am sorry. You know it pains me to miss out on things. But I need to do these things, especially the latter. If I don’t change my habits and get myself back into my old routine, I’ll just keep feeling worse about myself. I’ve worked hard to keep depression out of my life, and I do not want that returning. Depression is a horrible guest.

So bear with me as I try to get myself on track. I am an independent person at heart, so I stubbornly want to do this on my own. I got myself into this mess, time to get myself out.

Thank you as always for reading. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter for my random musings about life, sports, and the TTC. @TeslaMay