Yeah – It’s a Resolution Post. Sorry.

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New Year, New Me! Let the memes begin! As Christmas wound down, we began to see all those memes either proclaiming inspirational quotes about the year to come – or jokes about how quickly you’ll break your resolution. To me, the idea of resolution is a double edged sword. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, your health, or just expanding your horizons. However, the downside being you either set yourself up for failure, or just don’t apply yourself and wind up making the same promises next year – and possibly, start a cycle of guilt year over year.

I try not to make resolutions. I try to pick up new hobbies, make goals, or eat healthier all year. But there is something cathartic about starting over along with the year; especially after the overindulgence that is the holiday season. The winter months can be devastating for a lot of people, myself included at times. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and can have a very drastic impact on people’s lives. (If you suspect someone you care about suffers from this, I highly recommend reaching out. Take them for coffee, a walk through a path, or out skating on an outdoor rink. Outside activities are often best, as our bodies need the extra Vitamin D to help regulate our moods. Take advantage of the limited sun we get here in Canada during the winter). Resolutions are in some way meant to help ease our trudge through January, February, and March. They get us through the dark times, so we can relax, kick back, and enjoy the warmer weather, proud of ourselves for “being good” all winter.

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So while I would love to sit here and ramble about the psychology of resolutions and weigh their pros and cons, quite frankly, I think it would be hypocritical to sit here and denounce them, when I myself have a plan for January. But – in my defence, the key word here is “plan”. It’s not a resolution for the entire year, but rather, some specific goals I have for the month of January. Maybe I’ll try to start new goals each month; or most likely, I’ll just aim to do a little better all the time. Either way, rather than trying to sit here and say “NEW ME!”, I’m trying to think of it as “Me just less lazy”.

Goal #1 – “Somewhat” Sober January

Going completely alcohol-free is, admittedly, difficult for me. Not in a “OMG I NEED MY BOOZE” type of way, but more in a realistic way. I firmly believe in not depriving yourself, and so the idea of being out for dinner and not having a glass of wine, or trying a new beer just doesn’t seem fair on myself. What I am promising myself is to do the following as a comprise: 1) No drinking at home. 2) If I am out or we are hosting guests, observe a strict 1 drink limit.

The reason I want to do this is three-fold. I wanted to refresh my body after having a lot of alcohol over the holiday season. The second reason is I am curious to see how much weight I can lose within a month if I really cut back on alcohol, especially beer. The third reason will be explained later.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

I am pretty good at working out at least 4 times a week, but I’d love to try and do a month where I workout at least 5 times a week. For a lot of people this is an easier goal to manage – twice on the weekends, and just three times during the week. One disadvantage I have is that I get up early on weekdays, and I have no appetite for getting up earlier to work out. Also, because I tend to workout at night more often, I like giving my body a full 24 hours rest. Combine that with a busy social life at night, and I sometimes have weeks where it’s tough to get 4 workouts in. But maybe I need to ditch that “excuse” and drag myself out of bed at 5am instead of 6am to squeeze in a run, quick HIIT session, or even just riding the indoor bike. Again, this is highly motivated by curiosity to see if the combination of dropping booze, and ramping up the exercise is enough to kickstart even more weight loss. It also ties into Goal #4….

Goal #3 – Practice More Mindfulness Exercises

This is something I have really begun to neglect over the past year or so, and it’s starting to show. My negative thoughts run away, and sometimes I have a hard time calming myself down. Once a week I’d like to try a new exercise, and see how it works for me, and then try to practice it a few more times. By the end of month, that means I’ll have five new exercises in my toolbox for fixing my anxiety.

It also means if I am setting aside time to do these exercises, it’s less time on social media, idling flipping by photos and memes. I can then spend the time to do more journal writing, and relax more.

Goal #4 – Stop taking Anti-Depressants

January 2017 will mark two years since beginning Pristiq. I feel I am ready to come off the drugs and attempt to deal with my anxiety through therapy, mindfulness, and other at-home exercises. This goal scares me the most. I am so worried about the side effects of withdrawal, and how my body is going to behave. This is also one of the primary motivators behind avoiding alcohol as much as possible. I figure my body will be going through enough changes without me adding alcohol to the mix. Same with the exercise – I am hoping the positive effects of working out will help balance the chemicals in my brain.

But I am really unsure if I will even go for Goal #4. My fear of coming off these drugs is just that real. All I know is prepare for more blog articles if I do start to come off the drugs, as I am likely going to be needing a lot of support, reassurance, and have A LOT on my mind.

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Keep Me Honest

Okay, so I am lame and am going to use a #hashtag to track any social media posts I make about my attempt to have a ridiculously healthy and productive January. So, follow my #JanGoals! Also look for my equally “basic” Instagram posts to match the blog.

As of right now, I plan to blog a lot during January. Not only is Bell Let’s Talk coming up on January 25th, but I plan to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable for completing, or attempting these goals. I want to document my ups and downs with all of them. I am hoping that by doing this, I will motivate myself to keep improving, and maybe we can start a conversation where we support each other through the twists and turns of starting new habits, or breaking old ones.

So look, love them or hate them, you can’t argue against trying to better yourself through a resolution. I guess the thing I want myself, and others, to remember is – it’s not about changing me entirely. I don’t need to start from scratch. I am good person, who tries hard, and attempts to do my best. It’s more so that there’s smaller things I can do better, to make a larger impact on my life.

And PS – for the record, I didn’t start this until January 2nd, so don’t go too mad at yourself if you’ve already “broken” your resolution.

Stay tuned a little later for a recap of my first week attempting my goals!

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 

Running Away

Taken last week from my bike ride along Polson Pier and Cherry Beach
Taken last week from my bike ride along Polson Pier and Cherry Beach

In 2009 I became fed up with working out indoors. I moved to the waterfront here in Toronto and I was enticed by the idea of running outside. But I had never been a runner. I didn’t do cross country in school. I remember walking for a large portion of my high school 1500m fitness test. But working out for me was always my chance to relax. Yes, I find it incredibly relaxing to work up a sweat. It’s also a huge part of my recovery process with my anxiety. If I don’t burn off that energy working out, my mind will pick up the slack and start working in overdrive. In fact, my first panic attack after I had started therapy in 2013 was brought on from being sick and cooped up in the house. And oddly enough, one of my symptoms of my anxiety is the desperate urge to move my legs. Sometimes when I am lying down in bed I have to kick my legs violently against my mattress to try and shake that feeling. So for me, going to the gym was a way to combat that. But I was getting incredibly bored of my apartment building’s gym. I am an outdoors girl at heart. Nature is the way I connect spiritually to the universe. So I needed something else.

That’s how running entered into my life and became a game changer. I’ve always tried to stay active but in 2009 I found myself getting to a weight I was really unhappy with. I hated my body. It only fed into my insecurities and made my attitude about myself worse. So one day I sat down and drew up some monthly goals for myself, and started a workout journal. I went downtown and raided a few stores for running gear. I bought a bad-ass pair of shoes. It was April and the air still had that edge from the winter but I forced myself to stick with it. Slowly but surely I found my pace. It was exhilarating being outside and exploring the waterfront, even in the cold. I found myself completely forgetting about my day to day stress. I’d lace up and focus on the beauty all around me. The sunsets, the ducks, the houseboats, dogs, flowers, birds, you name it, I ran past it. I watched ducklings grow up. I saw flowers bloom. I ran past the seasons.

About a year passed and slowly I started dropping pounds. I started to tone up. I changed my eating habits and started to really focus on eating a varied diet. I started to love being in my own skin. I then decided to sign up for my very first race. Training was a word that had never entered into my vocabulary before. Training?! Isn’t that for people who run marathons?! But there I was setting up a 5km race plan. I worked hard. I logged it all in my workout journal. I tracked the inches I lost, and the kilometers I was running each week. I went into my first race, the 2010 Scotiabank Waterfront 5km a bit disheartened. I had set a lofty goal of 30 minutes, but went in thinking I’d be lucky to finish in about 45 minutes. I was a nervous wreck leading up to the race and on race day. I am a competitive person, and I am very hard on myself. I want people to look at my time and be impressed. I want to be impressed. In the end I finished in 35:44 and I was on top of the world. The runner’s high is a real thing and it brought out motivation in me I didn’t know existed. I became hooked on running and racing.

Running for me has always been about three things: staying active, getting outside, and setting aside time to de-stress. The last point is the key one. If I didn’t run, I’d be a miserable person. I would hate myself. My anxiety would be rampant. I would not have the confidence I have today. Running has made me a stronger person in more ways than just the physical. It’s a chance to clear my head and drift off into my imagination, or just enjoy the music. It’s that time of the day where no one can reach me, there’s nowhere I need to be, and nothing else I need to worry about. I just need to put one foot in front of the other.

After I completed my first half-marathon this past October I found myself burned out from running. Training for the half marathon turned running from a love to a chore. I didn’t look forward to lacing up my shoes anymore. That’s when my parents stepped in and re-ignited another love – my love of cycling. It’s once again tapped into the wanderer in me. I love exploring the new paths, and seeing more sides to the east side of Toronto. Now that urge is back. Where once I’d get the itch to run, now I actually look forward to looking ridiculous in my helmet.

For those of us with mental illness we need these escapes. You’re trying to silence your mind and fight the demons the best way you know how. I am lucky. I found my escape in running and the outdoors. It’s now as much a part of my therapy as my anti-depressants, and just as important. Especially suffering from health anxiety, staying active is the best way to keep proving to myself that I am alive and well. I often go into races fearing death. In the lead up to my half marathon there was a strong part of me that believed my heart would give out on the course and I’d die. I’ve felt this way before 10km races as well. I always think to myself “what if I am one of those people you read about?”. But each time I cross that finish line it is my triumph over my anxiety. That’s me saying “I DID IT!” Finishing the half marathon was a huge kick in my anxiety’s pants. It’s hard to believe my heart will give out on a 10km course when it survived a 21km course. Each medal is a symbol of a moment where I defeated my demons. They are accomplishments that no one can take away from me. That sense of pride is powerful.

I encourage everyone with mental illness to find their pride. Whatever it is. You might hate running. But maybe you kick ass at knitting. And those moments when you’re on your own with your needles are the times when you get to say NO to your anxiety. My races give me the runner’s high, but when I’ve had a terrible day at work sometimes the only thing that will cheer me up is heading outside and getting sweaty. I find so much peace in watching the sun go down. In the winter, I love running by the Christmas lights and seeing snow fall around me. You need to find that. If anything, those moments when you’re busy focusing on something you love they are moments where you aren’t letting your anxiety cloud your mind. If you’re supporting someone in their battle, hopefully this allows you to understand why your loved one is always going out for a walk, or heading to the gym to hit a punching bag, or taking art lessons. Whatever it is, they are probably just trying to find their way.

I know that if I didn’t have my running shoes, or now my bike, I’d be completely lost.

As always, you can find me on Twitter @TeslaMay