life, Uncategorized

Those problems you have … it might just be you.

I turned 39 a few days ago (holy Eff!) and in honour of the big day, I wrote a Facebook post reflecting on all that has changed over the past several years. Birthdays tend to bring out my naturally contemplative nature and this year was no exception. The post was basically about how drastically things have shifted in my life, and how extremely grateful I am that they have. (Twenty year old Christine wasn’t exactly fast-tracked for success).

When I look back and examine what changed, I found something interesting. Now aside from just growing up and naturally maturing, I was blessed with some amazing people in my life. They picked me up, dusted me off, and sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming along the way. (I am exceptionally grateful for the people who have had my back and supported me over the years.) But there is another piece to the puzzle, one that played a pivotal role in my turnaround. It seems that somewhere along the way, I finally started to see myself as a participant in my own life. Someone who was not just a poor down-trodden victim, but who had choices and accountability.

(mind blown)

I may seem flippant right now but I am dead serious. I was someone who made terrible choices, very rarely took responsibility for them, and hid behind excuses, blame, and self-pity. I viewed life as something that was happening to me. And if I am being completely honest, these patterns are something I still have to be mindful of as they can pop up from time to time.

Now I am not trying to beat the crap out of myself here. I was also always a really good kid. I was caring, generous, and empathetic but like many people, I was the product of a tumultuous childhood and struggled deeply with abandonment issues. As a result, I ended up creating a story in my head that I became very attached too. A story that served me in some way at the time.

Or so I thought.

Since my story was rooted in trauma and shame, I would actively seek out people or experiences that reinforced my feelings. I made poor choices, and put myself in situations that would support my beliefs – which were that I was worthless, undervalued, and always getting ‘shit on’.

So, how did that serve me? Well it didn’t. But looking back, I can see that I received attention and sympathy which is something I craved as a child. Also, as no one expected much of me, I had a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’. But I was oblivious to all of this at the time. In fact, I was completely unaware that any of that was my choice. I just thought I was a big ol’ loser with terrible luck. Little did I know that none of that was true at all. No one was shitting on me. In all reality, I was running around looking for piles of shit, rolling in them myself, and then feeling sorry for myself cause I smelled so bad.

I was, quite literally, my own worst enemy.

I’m not going to lie, realizing that many aspects of my crappy life were my own doing didn’t exactly inspire feelings of warmth and hope. I definitely rocked a shame spiral for awhile there. And pulling myself out of it didn’t exactly happen overnight either. Accountability is hard, as is self-forgiveness. And looking at my life and realizing that much of it was my own doing definitely required forgiveness. Taking ownership sucks. It was so much easier to blame other people or make excuses for my circumstances. BUT, when I did start taking responsibility for my life, and finally decided to sit in the driver’s seat, it was amazing how many opportunities opened up for me.

Now, I want to clarify, I am not saying that really hard things don’t happen. We experience loss, sudden change, trauma, and pain. Some of us much more than others. Life will throw curveballs and we are entitled to have emotional reactions to them. But what I am saying is that oftentimes, there is still an element of choice. We may not be able to control everything that comes our way, but we can choose how we manage it and how much of it we make our story.

One of my dearest friends Rebecca was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 9 years old. It is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, joint disfiguration, and affects mobility. This was obviously devastating not only for Rebecca, but her family too. She dealt with extreme physical and emotional pain as she tried to navigate her teenage and young adult years managing a disease that very few people her age could relate to. Rebecca had every reason to feel angry, sorry for herself, and hide behind excuses but when she was 29 years old, she decided that that was not going to be her story anymore. She still deals with extreme physical pain every day but she gets up and chooses to hold herself accountable for the life that she wants. Rheumatoid arthritis is still a part of her story, but it isn’t the headlining act anymore. She is not ‘Rebecca – the woman who struggles with arthritis‘, she is ‘Rebecca – the Entrepreneur, Life coach, Published author, Public speaker, and creator of the Ignite Women’s Conferences‘. She is my hero and I think of her every time I get caught up in my own head.

We all have stories and not all of them are negative but it is imperative to be aware of them. We need to remember that we have choice and that if something isn’t serving us anymore, we can choose differently. If you find yourself experiencing the same conflict or problem over and over again, whether it is in your marriage, job, or friendships, I can promise you that 99% of the time, the problem is YOU. You are likely subconsciously seeking evidence, situations, or people that support a negative narrative in your head. And for that to change, you have to be willing to heal it and let it go.

Letting go of an identity we have been holding onto for years can be scary, and it can be painful. Don’t be afraid to access help if you need it. (Seriously, reach out to Rebecca!)

If you find yourself becoming aware of a particular pattern in your life, explore where it might be coming from and how it might have been serving you. The first step is awareness. Also, don’t forget to be gentle and forgiving of yourself. I really struggled when I looked around my mess of a life and realized that I was the only one to blame. We are all just doing our best and offering ourselves some compassion and understanding for how we got where we are is a sure way to fast track getting over it. Lastly, you may find pieces of your story still pop up from time to time. Even years after you think you have dealt with it. I still find piles of shit to roll in sometimes. And I still fall into the pattern of blaming other people. This is not a linear journey and it can often be ‘one step forward, two steps back’. But keep calling yourself on your crap. Keep holding yourself accountable. And hold the people in your life accountable too. They will thank you later.

Remember, this is YOUR story, you hold the pen, and you can re-write the chapters anytime you like.

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life, Uncategorized

Happiness – create it your damn self

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Whether it is the mild weather, the fact that fall fashion really works for me, or that it is the season in which I was born, I just feel good in the Fall. It always feels like a fresh start to me, a second ‘New Years’ of sorts. I find that I start hibernating a little more, getting more contemplative, and setting goals for myself.

This year’s contemplations and goals are focused much more around my mental health and outlook than they have been in the past. Perhaps this is a normal part of maturing, or maybe it is a result of the current events we have been facing, but I find that I am much more focused on my ‘happiness’ now than I have been in previous years.

Of course, happiness has always been on my radar. Everyone wants to be ‘happy’. All you see on social media is people #livingtheirbestlife. But my focus lately has been finding and creating happiness in my life NOW, rather than promising myself I will be content when …

  • I finally get in shape
  • I start making more money
  • My book is complete
  • I get into my dream house
  • etc., etc., etc.

Now there is nothing wrong with having goals. In fact, they are crucial. The problem is that so many of us rate our satisfaction in life with how close we are to reaching our goals.

I think we all ‘know’ that happiness isn’t something that you can buy but we still seem to get trapped in that loop that says ‘As soon as I get/have/accomplish …., then I will be happy.”. In the meantime, we shuffle along, feeling ‘semi-content’ with our lives but with our sights laser-focused on an end goal (the house, the partner, the body, the promotion). An end goal that never really seems to come, because if/when we achieve it, it isn’t enough. There is always another goalpost.

We view happiness as a destination, one which we will arrive at when we have achieved enough, accumulated enough. And while accomplishments and milestones do bring a wave of happiness, they tend to be short lived, with genuine happiness being found in the connection and the small moments of day-to-day life.

Now, I do believe that money and the feeling of mastery (feeling as though we are good at or doing well at something) can contribute to mental wellbeing. Afterall, if our basic needs aren’t met, it becomes a lot more difficult to pursue or perceive happiness in our lives. As per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see below), food and shelter trump everything. But I do think that beyond that, it is relative.

I think we can all think of someone who seemingly ‘has it all’ yet is as crusty as they come – always griping about what they lack or striving for the next best thing. Similarly, I think we can all think of someone who may not have a lot, yet seems to relish in the small moments of life.

The bottom line is, we create our own happiness. Nothing outside of ourselves, good or bad, has the ability to have a long term effect on our happiness, unless we let it.

“Happiness is an inside job.” – William Arthur Ward

So, what gives? How do we balance having goals and striving towards them while not letting them dictate how satisfied we are day-to-day? How do we find the ever-elusive happiness that we seek?

Well, I am no happiness expert. In fact, I’m not sure I am an anything expert. But this is something that I have been working on, on and off, for years now and I do have a few tricks that I find really helpful when it comes to finding happiness. ***Hint: You don’t find it. You create it your damn self.***

Here goes …

#1 – Stop numbing everything. I know, I know, I am about to get super lame here and tell you to lay off the ol’ wobbly pops. Trust me, no one was more resistant to this idea then me. J’adore le vin! Buuuut, one cannot guzzle copious amounts of a depressant every Friday night and then wonder why they aren’t feeling 100% in the mental health department, you know? Although touted as a tonne of fun and the answer to all things, alcohol is not good for us mentally or physically and giving myself a little break from it has been a game changer in terms of my outlook and general happiness. I am not saying we should never indulge in a drink with friends, but I am saying that we should be aware of how often we do it, and why. When I really examined when and why I was drinking, I found that the answers were ‘anytime’ and ‘for any reason’. I was using alcohol to cope, grieve, celebrate, soothe, entertain, excite … let’s be honest, I used it for anything. Taking a step back from booze has allowed me to actually feel and process my feelings. My mind is more clear, I have more energy, and my mood and sleep are better. I am not numbing anymore. Am I still going to enjoy drinks with friends? Of course! But I am going to be more mindful about it. Besides, no one looks back on their fabulous life and says, “You know, my only regret is that I didn’t drink more.

#2 – Get Connected. For real. And not electronically. Connection is one of the most important factors when it comes to happiness. So much so that it ranks pretty highly on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Feeling supported, desired, loved, and cared for literally has the ability to support not only our mental health, but our physical health too. I’m not talking about being around a lot of people, or even conversing with them. A person can be in a room full of people and still be the loneliest person in the world. Connection is about vulnerability. It is about sharing all the little bits of yourself, even the shadowy parts, and feeling that someone still has your back. It is having someone to cry with or phone at 4am. Social media and electronics have been both a blessing and a curse in this department as they have made it easier to interact with people … but that doesn’t necessarily equal connection. Your funny meme or cute selfie might get a lot of ‘likes’ and make you feel good but it tends to be short lived and doesn’t fill your happiness cup in any sustainable way. So put down the phone and spend time with people who love you. Share the embarrassing childhood story. Talk about your worries and your fears. Laugh. It will light you up in a way that lasts way longer than how many followers you have on Insta. Promise.

#3 – Practice Gratitude. I remember when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I went through a stage where, every day, I would choose one thing that I was excited about. Every morning, I would sit my tiny butt down and consider what my ‘one thing’ would be for that day. I clearly remember looking down at my hand and seeing one of those chintzy little rings that you get from the dentist for being good and deciding that that was going to be my ‘one thing to be excited about’. Some days it was getting to go to a restaurant with my mom or staying up past my bedtime, and other days it was getting to have a playdate with a friend. It was always simple (after all, I was only 7), and it always made me feel good. At the time, I had no idea that I was actually practicing gratitude. I would reflect on my day and consciously focus on what I liked or what went well. I was, without knowing it, training my brain to seek out the positive and appreciate the little things.

Gratitude is still something I practice every day and in my opinion, one of the keys to creating happiness in our lives.

My advice – do it every night before bed and get specific. It becomes easy to rattle off “I am grateful for my house, food, air .…” and although it is important to be grateful for those things, the real magic is in the details. Take a few moments and really reflect upon your day. What happened that you are grateful for? Did someone let you into traffic? Did your co-worker buy you a coffee? Did your partner do the dishes? It doesn’t have to be grand. And I promise you that when you start listing things, more and more things will start popping to mind. I also do this whenever I am in a bad mood. I instantly start mentally creating a gratitude list and while it may start out feeling difficult, once I get going, it just flows. And my mood instantly lifts.

Also, pay attention to your perspective. Here is the deal, what comes out of our mouths can be an excellent indicator as to what is going on in our heads. If you find yourself bitching and complaining a lot, chances are your mind is not a very happy place. The good news is, you can change it. Just like gratitude, we can literally ‘practice’ looking at things through a positive lens, and eventually it will become a habit. We can train our brains for positivity. That is not to say we need to be ‘Positive Pollyanna’ all the time, it is okay to get ticked off from time to time. But if you notice that you are feeling ticked off more often than not, chances are the world isn’t crapping on you and … you are the problem. Whenever I notice myself bitching and complaining non-stop, I try to slow things down, give myself a breather, and consciously focus on changing my outlook.

The bottom line is, happiness is really quite simple and much more often than we realize, it is a choice. It isn’t a result of getting more money or finally getting the big promotion. It doesn’t come ‘when the kids get past this stage’ and it is not found at the bottom of a bottle. It is in the little moments that we often overlook. It is connection, appreciation, and sometimes, even chintzy little rings from the dentist.

life, Uncategorized

Judge not lest ye be a jerk

So, I have a confession to make. I’m judgemental.

For real.

It pains me to say it, but it’s true. And I feel like I have been in denial for a long time.

As a friend, a writer, and as someone who has spent their 20’s and 30’s immersed in the ‘self-improvement’ culture that is ever-present in our society, I have always prided myself on how ‘open-minded’ and ‘non-judgemental’ I am. In fact, I have always considered empathy and compassion to be some of my most positive attributes. I strive to be an open ear, a safe place where friends and loved ones can share whatever is on their minds without fear of criticism or disapproval. And although I feel as though this is still true – I am empathetic, compassionate, and open-minded … it is also true that I can be a judgmental dickhead.

Women love judgement. We think we don’t, but we do. I cannot count the number of times I have shaken my head in disgust at a woman judging another woman, so entrenched in my own self-righteousness that I have been completely oblivious that I am doing the exact. same. thing.

Ugh, she is being sooo judgemental.

Seriously …

But here is the deal, as annoying and catty as judgement is, it is actually very normal, stemming back to the dawn of time when we were dependent on our group or village for survival. The desire for everyone to stay ‘in line’ and do/be like the general collective is a primitive desire. When someone strays from what we consider the norm or represents something unfamiliar to us, we feel afraid and we judge.

We judge other people. We judge religions and lifestyles. And, much more often than we realize, we judge ourselves.

What has become apparent to me lately, and why I decided to write this blog, is that I have realized that it doesn’t matter whether I am judging someone’s clothing or hairstyle, their parenting choices, or their political beliefs, my judgements have very little to do with the person I am critical of … and everything to do with me. I have noticed a pattern – the more dissatisfied or unhappy I am with something in my own life, the more judgemental I am of others. And likewise, when I am content and at ease in my own skin, I am able to view others through a lens of compassion, empathy, and understanding, even if I disagree with them.

Judgement highlights a wound that I am avoiding or even unaware of. It allows me to take the focus off of myself, tells me that I’m not doing ‘that bad’, and allows me to feel better about whatever is going on in my life.

Now that being said, we are allowed to disagree with people and we are allowed to have boundaries. But I have found that when I am in alignment in my own life, I can offer people grace, whether we share the same opinions and values or not. I can walk away from a conversation without laying in bed for the next week and a half stewing about all of the ways that I am right and they are wrong.

About a month ago, I found myself engaging in ridiculous debates and conversations. Now, a healthy debate can be a good thing. It can be stimulating, and provide new ways of looking at things … but these were not healthy conversations. They consisted of me talking ‘at’ the other person, trying to convince them how much ‘righter’ I am, and if they could only see how right I am, they would quickly realize what an idiot they were.

Pretty reasonable, yes?

No. Of course not. And when I actually sat down and gave it some thought, I was able to see that I really didn’t care that much about the matter at hand at all. I was, quite simply, frustrated. I was tired, depressed, missing my kids, and anxious. And, rather than face that overwhelming pile of baggage, I turned my focus outwards and lashed out at people who didn’t think like me. What should have been a brief interaction and respectful exchange of thoughts and opinions, turned into me stewing in a pit of indignation for an embarrassing amount of time.

So what gives? How do we deal? Well, for me, I had to start with offering myself the same grace that I should have been giving my debate opponents. This is a stressful time, we are fatigued, and sadly, there is no end in sight. We need to be just as gentle with ourselves as we are with others. And now, when I feel a twinge of judgement pop up, I pause, and ask myself ‘What is really going on here?’, ‘What about this is triggering me to react?‘ and ‘How can I respond in a more healthy way?’

We might be judgey by nature, but we can choose compassion. We can disagree with someone’s viewpoint, while also offering them grace. We can have boundaries, and empathy, all at the same time.

It’s not always going to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. But I am committed to trying.

PS. If you have a mullet, I’m probably judging you a little bit. (I’m working on it though).

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Becoming an expert on saying no. Well, working on it …

Okay, okay, I know it has been a while since I have posted a blog. A long while, actually. Truth is, I needed a little break so I decided to give myself the summer off. Between writing a book, working full-time, kids, and the continued chaos around the Coronavirus, I needed to let something go. Cause, you know … boundaries.

So I took July to let myself relax a little, enjoy time with family and friends, and get a few things off my plate that I have been needing to deal with for a while (ie: I FINALLY wrote my chapter).

The 6-week hiatus was just what the doctor ordered but I am feeling refreshed now and ready to get back at it. And I figured what better way to start back up again than to write about some of the other stuff I am committed to letting go of this year.

It is not uncommon for women in their 30’s to finally get to a point where they start saying ‘no’ to some of the stuff they have tolerated, pretended to like, or agreed to for far too long. I feel as though I got to that party a little later than some (#slowlearner) but hey, I’m here now and making up for lost time! From clothing choices to apologies, here is my list of things that are getting the heave ho this year …

#1 – Clothing items that do not make me feel good. I know I am not alone when I say that I have a pile of clothes in my closet that I never wear but pull out every so often and try on in hopes that this time they will be flattering. You know, the clothes that we keep because one day we will have lost enough weight to get into them again, they will all of a sudden fit us properly, or maybe we were just really bloated last time we tried them on?! I also know that I am not alone when I say that these closet fashion shows always leaves me feeling terrible about myself and stewing in a pit of shame and self-loathing for several days afterwards.

Well, I am done. My new rule is, if it does not fit me or flatter me, it is getting the boot.

See ya, suckers! Go find someone else’s closet to clog up.

#2 – Stilettos. Now, I considered putting these into the above category but decided against it because stilettos/high heels do not make me feel bad about myself at all. In fact, I feel hot AF when I’m wearing them … as long as I don’t have to walk. They are ridiculously uncomfortable. Actually, they HURT. And as much as they really polish off an outfit and make my legs look fantastic, it is inevitable that I will have to walk at some point (Shaune refuses to piggyback me) and it just isn’t worth the pain.

Gilda Radner once said, “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”, and I’ve got to say, this is an excellent rule of thumb. If it itches, chafes, doesn’t breathe, contains wires, bends the arch of my foot into inhumane angles, or makes it hard to eat … I am probably going to look for another wardrobe choice.

Besides, I can still look great in a pair of cute flats and a bralette.

#3 – Commitments and events that I don’t want to attend. Now speaking of dressing up and looking cute, that is something I usually reserve for an outing or social gathering of some sort. I LOVE a good party or night on the town with friends … except for the times that I would rather stay home. One of the hardest parts of this ‘learning how to say no’ thing has been getting comfortable with politely declining invites out to social gatherings when I do not want to go. For some reason, I find it excruciating. As in, I would rather eagerly accept the invite, tell you that I can’t wait to attend, and then call you that day of and pretend to be sick so I don’t have to go.

Seriously, what is with that?! Why is it that I feel more comfortable lying to someone I care about than just politely saying ‘No.’ #peoplepleaser

I hang my head in shame and apologize to those of you who are reading this and thinking “So she wasn’t sick that day?!”

I am working on it. As someone who fears disappointing people more than anything else in the world, this has been challenging but … I am committed to being brave and turning you down like an adult. #recoveringpeoplepleaser

P.S.

Bear with me

#3a – Excuses, explanations, and unnecessary apologies. Maybe it is my Canadian nature but I am terrible for unnecessarily apologizing. I am embarrassed to admit this but I have even apologized for apologizing before. Yeesh. Same goes for excusing and explaining every decision I make. From unwanted sexual advances to menu choices and everything in between, I always feel the need to either explain my decisions or ask for forgiveness.

What the heck?!

We don’t owe anyone anything. Well … within reason. Obviously, there are times when an apology or an explanation is warranted. And we need to use our manners,

But generally speaking, I don’t need to explain or apologize for my every move. So I’m not going to.

And I’m not even sorry about it.

4 – Toxic people. Ooooh boy, this is a big one. And to be honest, one of the most difficult. I have always craved a strong sense of community and belonging. In fact, up until recently, all I ever wanted was for people to approve of me. So when it came to drawing some lines in the sand or distancing myself from people, I struggled. I found I would make excuses such as ‘Well, they have been in my life forever.’ or ‘That’s just the way they are.

And while it is true that long term relationships are meaningful and no one is perfect, putting up with toxicity or abuse is a very different thing.

Life is short and I want to surround myself with people who cheer me on, build me up, and hold me accountable. Perfection is not necessary but I do require the people in my life to not be giant jerks, no matter how long they’ve been around.

Oh yea, and they have to be okay with the fact that sometimes I will turn down an invite out. I am really turning into a homebody.

So there you have it. It is good to be back!

I would love to hear, what are some of the things you are letting go of this year?

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Recovering Chameleon

I have always been a people pleaser. And a pretty darn good one, too. Like, if there was ever a ‘People Pleaser Olympics’, I would definitely have a shot at taking home a medal.

It is a skill I learned very early on – be what people want you to be and you will never be left. Simple.

I was raised an only child and have some pretty significant abandonment and daddy issues so I developed an innate ability to not only worm my way into people’s lives, but to make sure I stayed there. I craved belonging, and became the ultimate shapeshifter.

Oh, you like country music? I don’t mind it either.”

“Scary movies? Me too!

** Note, both scary movies and country music make me want to cry. But there is no way in hell I would ever risk rocking that boat so I spent much of my youth with bleeding ears and terrible nightmares.**

I was the funny kid, the sweet kid, the energetic kid, the charming kid. I was whatever was required of me in the moment.

Even as I got older and became a little more rebellious (read: a teenaged nightmare), I remained likeable. And it was a title I wore with pride.

My friends, parents, teachers, and employers all tolerated even my most rascally behaviour, because I was … agreeable.

Christine, such a nice girl.

My people pleasing nature went beyond just pretending to like the twang of a steel guitar to slightly meatier issues. From not sharing important opinions at work or biting my tongue when someone hurt me to nervously laughing at inappropriate jokes or tolerating abuse so that I wouldn’t be ‘rejected’.

I can’t remember how old I was when I realized that there was a downside to my ‘please everyone at all costs‘ approach to life, but I am guessing it was my late 20’s, a fairly typical age for women to get tired of bullshit.

I think I was getting exhausted. Exhausted from having to be a chameleon in order to feel safe in my relationships. Exhausted from pretending to like or dislike things I didn’t. Exhausted from not feeling confident enough in myself to show up in the way I wanted.

I was fed up and shit had to change.

And it did. Or … it is. Let’s just say, it’s been a s-l-o-w recovery. You don’t go your entire life making sure everyone else is happy to confidently ruffling feathers overnight, it takes time and is a bit of a process.

I have had to literally train myself that I can share my opinions without worrying about being left. I have had to get used to the super uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I tell someone they have hurt me or I don’t agree with them.

It is like everything in my body is screaming at me, “No, don’t do it! There will be conflict. We hate conflict! What if they leave us? We will be all alone.”

But here is what I have learned, although there is a bit of a learning curve on both sides (it is an adjustment in any relationship when you drop the people-pleasing routine), and you might lose a few along the way, the people of value in your life will actually appreciate the change. Turns out, people like authenticity. Go figure.

Like anything, it is a bit of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process, and I stumble along the way. A lot. I have had to learn to take things slow, to let people adjust with me, and that being a people-pleaser is NOT the same thing as being ‘easy going’.

But I am working on it. And I am committed to myself and to that little girl who thought she wasn’t enough.

So for now, I say, “Hi, I’m Christine. I am a recovering chameleon.”

Are you a recovering chameleon? Drop me a comment if you can relate. Also, feel free to share using the super-easy share buttons below!

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Running in the sand while being chased by a bear? Nahh, just anxiety

I said I wasn’t going to write about the virus again. Mostly because I am just tired of hearing about it. The death toll, the fears, the protesters, and now the conspiracy theories that ‘Big Pharma’ is trying to control us all … I am just over it.

But as the province prepares for the gradual re-open starting next week and everyone, albeit apprehensively, looks forward to a shift back towards normalcy, I have noticed that my anxiety is worse than ever. I have been fairly open with my anxiety in my social circle but have yet to really touch on it in my blog so I will give the coles notes version.

I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Like many mental illnesses, it gets better at times and worse at others. For the most part, I am able to manage it well, but there are times (such as last spring) when it gets unmanageable and I have to take medication.

** For some reason, even though I know better, I have always felt some shame around needing medication … which, quite frankly, I am DONE with. When you speak to shame (or in this case, write), you take away it’s power so there you have it. #medicated #noshame #endthestigma

Anyway, when Covid-19 initially hit, everyone braced themselves. There was talk of how we were experiencing a trauma response, of how we were thrust into flight, fright, or freeze as we grappled with the panic, uncertainty, and sudden restrictions. Even my doctor cautiously called me, “Christine, how are you doing? I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you were coping okay”.

Oddly, and much to my surprise, I was okay. Generally speaking, my anxiety level was very manageable. Yes, it could be argued that I seemed to do well due to the fact that I was proactive with my mental health. Or that I was not in a demographic that was highly affected by the virus (ie: I am not living in a high-risk area, a small business owner, immunocompromised, a frontline worker, etc) but still, when there is a pandemic sweeping the globe causing mass panic and economic crisis, it would certainly not be surprising to find ones anxiety a little higher than normal.

I mean, of course, I went a bit stir-crazy. I definitely had my days. But for the most part, and particularly as things went on, my mental health actually seemed to improve. In fact, I almost felt guilty about it. Seriously, Christine. You get anxious about going into a department store to get shoes but a global pandemic has you feeling all “I got this”. It didn’t make sense.

Then again, mental illness rarely does.

But, a few days ago, things shifted. As the community and my social circle started to buzz excitedly about the glimmer of hope that we might see a ‘normal’ summer, as workplaces started to get ready to ramp up for business again, as my kids expressed their hope that even schools might re-open, the only thing I felt was dread.

Okay, seriously. You have got to be kidding me.

I felt even more ashamed.

I reached out to a friend. “Of course, you are feeling anxious Christine. There is still so much uncertainty. We don’t know what is going to happen. Just be gentle with yourself.”

Although excellent advice, that wasn’t it. At least that wasn’t all of it. These past 6 weeks have been filled with uncertainty, nothing has changed on that front. I think the thing that has been causing my angst is the inevitable increase in speed that we are all going to experience. Back to the hustle.

I have realized that the reason my anxiety seemed more manageable during these last few weeks is due to the slower pace of life. I realize that I thrive in a slow, predictable routine. And the very thought of things speeding up again, has my stomach in knots.

Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to sit on a restaurant patio again, sipping a drink with my friends. I miss my people and I can’t wait to hug them ALL. But the idea of the work grind, the rushing, and the weekends jam packed with socializing and plans makes it feel like I can’t breathe.

We live in a world where ‘the hustle’ is not only glorified, but celebrated. And rest is considered ‘for the weak’. (Another bullshit stigma.) But one of the many things this pandemic has taught me is how badly I need downtime.

One of the things about anxiety is it always has you feeling like you are running in sand. Rush, rush, rush. Panic, panic, panic. Not getting anywhere.

The ability to slow down and convince my nervous system that we are not, in fact, being chased by a grizzly bear has been an absolute blessing.

Things are going to speed up again, there is no doubt about that. And in all reality, it would be terrible if they didn’t. After all, we need an economy. But I don’t want them to go back to full-tilt again. Not for me.

These next few months are going to be filled with a lot of learning, change, and of course, more uncertainty. But I think my main focus needs to be balance. I’ve learned what I need, and now I need to learn how to incorporate that into this new normal. How to give myself time to reset and recharge. How to recognize that when it feels like I am being chased by a bear, I need to rest, not run.