I'm Alive Again

Carrie and I are still unpacking and getting settled back into our routine after returning from BC this past Monday. We let a friend stay at our place for Stampede, so we were displaced for half a week. It was great having them in Calgary because hotel prices during Stampede are crazy. We stayed with some friends downtown whose condo building had an amazing rooftop hot tub, so we basically have to move there soon. Then Pemberton Music Festival was amazing. Lots of love and quality time with some buds, tons of dancing, and amazing shows. Bassnectar, Kaskade, J. Cole, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, The Killers, Arkells, Purity Ring. Kaskade was definitely my favourite, but J. Cole was a close second. Last month, I somehow thought ahead and scheduled a massage following StamPemberton 2016. I truly don't know how I survived 10 days of partying.

Anxiety has taken over this week. I feel intense pain that I haven't felt in years. When your calendar is all booked up, you don't have time to process everything, and sometimes that's a good thing. Despite that, life is a lot simpler now that I'm not working. I don't need to make a ton of money to be happy, I want just enough to get by comfortably. Some people break their backs to make a bunch of money, and then they forget to enjoy it. My piano teacher taught me that if I want to play louder, I have to play my quiet passages quieter, not by smashing the keys like Lady Gaga does with her high heels. Proverbs 17:1 says "Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict." I'm very fortunate to be able to stop working myself into the ground, but it's not a vacation since I just face my overwhelming problems all day every day. I think some people are jealous of me not having to go into the office, but I don't think they'd want to have a debilitating mental illness in exchange. However, it is nice to not have to wake up and get ready to go to the office every morning.

I thought I would have way too much free time at home, but I got a wake up call this week. Short Term Disability (STD) is about getting healthier, not just about taking a break necessarily. I had all these plans to do things around the home, but similar to how the dam burst when I started counselling and couldn't stop feeling everything, taking time off work has burst my Anxiety Dam. Now, every day is a struggle to survive. My body feels like it's on fire sometimes. I have to remind myself to take it easy and pace myself because my workaholism means that taking it easy is the same as going hard for other people. In Halo and other first person shooter games, if you fire certain weapons for too long, they overheat and burn your hands so that you can't use them for a few seconds. I tend to work myself so intensely that my body locks up, so if I end up playing games for a few hours, it's because I was diving way too deep into my problems just before. The heart wants what it wants, and somehow it's calming to play Hitman until 3 AM when the anxiety keeps me from sleeping. I had all these plans to keep the place clean and do all these chores, but Carrie reminded me that my health comes first. I shouldn't do anything I can't handle or I don't feel like doing, and she'll still be around to help around the house.

I talked to my STD case worker this week, and they were just awful. It felt like they were just trying to rush me back to work after taking three days off. "Why can't you do counselling outside of work hours? Lots of people are able to do counselling and maintain a full time job." It's because I've been doing that for a year and a half across 28 sessions and two counsellors, as well as being in grad school with Carrie. "Why haven't you already addressed your PTSD and created a treatment plan for it?" Because the diagnosis is new, and I have multiple issues I'm dealing with concurrently in counselling. It's not straightforward like physical treatments where you do these stretches and take these pills and BAM! you're fixed. I see my counsellor about once a month (I'll increase it to probably twice a month now that I'm off). We were both on vacation this month, and I'm already scheduled to see her next week. "Why haven't you addressed your work-life balance with your counsellor? What are you even seeing them for?" I'm not working right now, so there is no work-life balance to maintain. I'm seeing them for childhood sexual abuse and 20 years of emotional and spiritual abuse as well. Dear reader, I shit you not, this is actually what she asked and how I actually responded. There are other ugly parts that I won't get into, like her insulting and condescending tone, but it was a bloodbath. I thought someone in their position would be more understanding and sensitive because of what their clients go through, but not this case worker, I guess. Somehow, I gathered the resources to tell her off and request a new case worker, so I hope that makes things better. I don't mind writing about it because if they somehow stumble onto this post, then they'll be able to flip through my newly enabled Archives section to witness the extent of my counselling and how I'm not faking my mental illness to get time off work. If they still aren't convinced that I'm not faking, then that only further proves that I have something wrong in my head if I've been lying to everyone about not doing so well since early 2015. Either way, I need to take time off work in order to get well soon.

It's also been a hard week because I made a decision that deeply hurt a dear friend. I already get bad anxiety from hurting people, but I know I messed up real bad with them. We were like two ships sailing alongside one another, supporting each other and sharing resources in little, practical ways, but I got silly and looked into their control room to try to solve what I perceived to be one of their bigger problems. In reaching over, our ships collided, and now we're both worse for the wear. The pain has been paralyzing for me, but I know I hurt them worse than what I'm going through. I shouldn't have tried to fix their life for them, and I was motivated by selfishness. My life isn't going so well right now, so I tried to feel better by helping someone else. It backfired. I messed up, and the worst part is this is the second time I've done this to them.

The pain lets me know that I'm alive again. In Brené Brown's TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, she says that you can't numb the painful feelings like shame and embarrassment without also numbing the nice feelings like joy and gratitude. When I removed myself from the game, I became a spectator to my own life. I've been listening to a lot of J. Cole's album "Cole World - A Sideline Story" lately since I saw him kill his set at Pemberton, and in his song "Sideline Story," he says "I wish somebody made guidelines / On how to get up off the sidelines." It feels like going on STD is actually getting benched and taking a break so that later on, I can get back in the game at full strength. Taking time off work allows me to focus on my health, and the recuperating process has been painful. If I can hurt this bad, then it means that I can feel the same extent of happiness. I'll let Butters from South Park explain:

Butters' break up speech. The only way I can feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le