Summer is here….yay?

Tell me about it!

Tell me about it!

Ok, what I am about to say might very well be considered sacrilegious – I hate summer! There I said it, I have admitted it. Let the tar and feathering begin!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about summer that I love. Summer is a time of flip flops, longer days, no heavy coats and outdoor BBQ’s. These are all great things, and things that I look forward to as I trudge my way through winter. However, summer for me is also a time for allergies, humidity and increased anxiety.

Earlier this week, the weather started to get a little warmer. It wasn’t incredibly warm, but there were a few days where the temperature got up to the high 20s with humidity. Everyone around me was so happy, and was even celebrating the arrival of sun and warmth. I, however, started to feel a little dread and a lot more anxious. When the weather broke, and the temperatures plummeted, everyone around me was complaining and I was secretly cheering.

I haven’t always been this way. I use to celebrate and adore summer the way most Canadians do. I am not a fan of winter either, and much prefer weather like we had yesterday – the sun was shining, but the temperature hovered around the mid teens.  However, if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have been one of the first whining and complaining that it was too cold and asking “where the heck is our summer?!?”. Today, however, I have a real intolerance to the heat, and as the temperature inches upwards, so do my anxiety levels.

I googled to see if this is a common thing, and it turns out that it actually is quite common among people who suffer from my particular form of anxiety – health anxiety. There are several possible reasons for it. The first is something that is pretty rare, and that not many people are aware of, which is Season Affective Disorder – Summer variety. Most people have heard of the winter version of Season Affective Disorder, where a person gets depressed due to a lack of sunshine. Apparently, there is a summer variety where people get depressed from too much heat. Weird, I know, but it is true. Of course, me being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately decided this was what was wrong me. However this form of SAD is very rare, something like 1% of winter SAD sufferers will suffer from this as well, so I highly doubt that is what causes my anxiety.

The more likely culprit is the anxiety about the panic. Believe it or not, this is actually a thing. Once you have suffered a panic attack, you are more likely to have increased anxiety about the possibility of having another panic attack. When you find yourself in similar conditions to those that caused the original panic attack, you will feel increased fear and anxiety over it happening again. This is what happens to me, which is why summer causes increased anxiety levels for me. My first panic attack happened 7 years ago, right around this time. It was actually exactly 7 years ago on the Victoria Day long weekend. I spent the friday night of that particular long weekend in the emergency room, feeling like I had absolutely lost my mind. So, the combination of it being a little bit warmer, and the long weekend, triggered the memory of that night and set off a series of mini anxiety attacks all this week.

Also, last summer was not a particularly fun summer thanks mostly to my really bad anxiety and my neck and back problems. This past Wednesday, I woke up with a really bad kink in my neck. Not only were the muscles tight, but I could also feel that my joints were jammed out of place. In addition to causing me a fair amount of pain and discomfort, it also triggered the memory of last summer. The fear of going back to that place, where I could barely function out of pain, dizziness and numbness, triggered even more anxiety.

Finally, and this is really the big one, the main reason I do not enjoy summer. One of my biggest fears, that triggers the most anxiety in me, is that I am not going to be able to breathe. It is the reason why I don’t like small, confined spaces – such as elevators, airplanes, subways and rooms without windows. With summer comes increased pollens in the air, and I suffer pretty bad with allergies in the summer. Also, I am fat, out of shape and a smoker. So, as the heat goes up so does the humidity and smog levels. I just have to move and I overheat and get winded. This immediately makes my mind jump “oh my god I can’t breathe, I am going to die!” And yes, I do see the irony in a person who is afraid she is going to stop breathing continuing to smoke. Trust me, I recognize the insanity in that every time I light up a cigarette in the summer.

So, you can see, summer and I don’t have a really great track record the last few years. Which makes why my anxiety levels go up in summer completely understandable. However, I do not want another summer like last year. Thankfully, the Farmer’s Almanac says that while we are going to have a warm summer, with temperatures about as high as last year, it is going to be broken up with many more days of cooler more manageable heat. This will go a long way to help control my anxiety levels. However, I also recognize that I need to do some work myself. One of the things that helped this week, was researching and understanding why my anxiety got so bad this week. Recognizing that I was actually suffering from anxiety over the anxiety/panic attack returning, helped me to calm myself down and recognize that I was over thinking again.

Talking about it helps a lot as well. So, I am going to make a real effort to reach out either here, to my friends or DBF when I feel my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. I am also going to start doing more cardio. I recognize that if I start doing more cardio, I won’t feel so winded when walking or exercising, which will help stop the “oh my god I can’t breathe” bullshit that my brain starts spouting. I know the big one, the one that will help with that the most, is quitting smoking. But, quite frankly, I am just not ready for that one yet. Just the idea of it triggers a whole other litany of anxieties, mostly around the idea of gaining even more weight. I know that is just my addiction looking for reasons not to quit, but it is something that I am just not ready to tackle yet.

So, here is to a better summer then I have had in 7 years. I believe that if I can make this summer a good summer, it will go a long way to help diminish the negative triggers I associate with summer. Because, quite frankly, I miss the carefree, happy feeling that comes with loving and enjoying our oh-so-short summer season!

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Mother’s Day Blues.

So, I have been avoiding writing the last couple of days, because I have been allowing myself to wallow in self-pity. The problem with allowing myself to wallow in self-pity for too long, is it eventually turns to depression. I realized yesterday that it reached that point when I didn’t get out of bed until 2pm and just couldn’t stop crying. I often will isolate when I am in these moods, and the few times I do show my face in public (including Facebook), I put on a fake happy front. This blog, however, has become the one place I don’t want to do that. So, rather then put on the happy front, I have just been avoiding writing.

This week has been especially hard emotionally for me because of the never-ending Mother’s Day commercials on tv, the radio, in store windows, etc… Mother’s Day for me is like Christmas is for a lot of people. I get really down and depressed. I do not speak to my mother and today, for me, is a day devoted to reminding me that for all intents and purposes I do not have a mother. My mother is alive, in fact I pass her house every day on the way too and from work, but I have barely seen or spoken to her in about a year and a half. I won’t go into details about why we don’t speak, but I will say that her and I have had a very difficult relationship since I was a teenager. There have been numerous times over the years when I have gone several months without speaking with her, but I usually have allowed myself to be guilted in to seeing or speaking with her around holiday or her birthday. This is the first time that I have held strong to my resolve to not speak with her.

I do not regret my decision, it has been the best decision I ever made for my emotional well being. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t often feel guilty, and that it isn’t hard. I often hear my friends talk about their relationships with their mothers, and how their mother’s are their best friends. This is something that I often envy, but don’t understand. It is something that I wistfully dream of, even though I know it will never happen.

Like all things in the universe though, when you are lacking in one area of your life, the universe tries to make up for it in another area. While I may not have the best mother in the world, I do have the most amazing father. In a lot of ways, he more then makes up for what I am lacking in the other parent in my life. He is not only my father, he is my best friend, my rock and the one who makes everything all better. The relationship I have with my father is similar to  the relationship that I often imagine other women have with their mother’s. I know I can talk to him about anything, I respect and desire his opinion and I just want to make him proud of me. My gratitude to the universe for allowing me the privilege to be his daughter is more then I could ever adequately express in words.

This year I seem to be taking Mother’s Day especially hard though, I think because of my PCOS diagnosis and what that means for me fertility wise. I have always said I didn’t want children, that I was too selfish to be a mother, that I would be afraid of what kind of mother I would be. All of that is true, but none of it is the real reason. You see, on some level I haven’t believed I was physically able to have a child. I had a miscarriage in my mid-20s, and ever since then I have known on some level that having a child was going to be difficult for me. And so, I have always said I didn’t want children, even convinced myself of that fact. Because it is easier to believe you don’t want them then it is to accept the fact you can’t have them. Getting the PCOS diagnosis, is just confirmation that for me having children will be very difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.

I am also in a relationship with a man who already has a child, and doesn’t want anymore. I knew that from earlier on, but I love him and accept the fact that being with him means not having a child of my own. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt from time to time. On some level I also thought I could just be a really great step-mother. However, it seems like DBF’s daughter is like I was at her age. She wants her mommy and daddy together, and has no interest in knowing me. Even if he and I end up living together, if she is anything like I was, she will probably never fully accept me. I don’t blame her for that, I of all people really get it. I treated my mom’s new boyfriend exactly the same way. It still hurts a little though, to know that the other important person in your partner’s life doesn’t even like you before they meet you.

And so, because of all of this, I am taking this Mother’s Day particularly hard. I am going to do the things I need to do for me today to try and pull myself out of this funk. This includes going to a meeting today, and DBF is going to take me out and keep me distracted. Despite my own self-pity though, I do want to honour the amazing mother’s I am privileged to know, including my sister and many of my friends. Your love and respect for your children is amazing, and you can see it how wonderful your children are. I hope your children know how amazingly lucky they are to have you in their lives. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!

Judge not, lest ye be judged….

Well, I survived my weekend away with no panic attacks, and no Ativan required! The weekend was amazing, just what I needed. I did have big plans to get some things done while I was gone, but I didn’t really get to any of that.

Some of the things I didn’t do:

  • Yoga in the morning
  • Eat clean all weekend
  • Read the spiritual literature I brought
  • Blog or do any school work on my laptop (which I brought)

What did I do then? Simple:

  • Relaxed
  • Spent time with DBF
  • Found my spiritual center in the peace and beauty of nature
  • Relaxed, relaxed, relaxed! (yes I know I already said this)

I decided early on to just enjoy my weekend. The food we were served was nutritious, healthy and very delicious, so I decided to enjoy it. I did not track it, I did not obsess about it. We got out on Saturday and walked around Peterborough, so that was my exercise. DBF and I just enjoyed each other’s company, without schedules that had to be followed and other people that had to be considered. In short, it was sublime.

A couple of things did come up this weekend. The first happened friday afternoon when we were buying snacks for our room. I was doing a very good job of buying healthy snacks – apples, almond butter, bananas. Then I was lured in by the dreaded sample lady! She was giving out samples of various Skinny Cow products, and I just couldn’t resist. Not because I particularly like Skinny Cow, because I don’t. They are “low-fat, healthy” products, that are full of chemicals and artificial flavouring. But I was hungry and they were free. After trying samples of all of her products (I know, I know…I just couldn’t stop at one) I decided that I was going to buy a box of the Dreamy Clusters, because they just tasted so darn good 🙂

DBH saw me with the box, and asked me what I was doing. I should note here, that he does not tell me what I should or should not eat, but he does try to be my voice of reason because I have told him that he could do that for me. He asked me what the calorie content and sugar content was per serving. Before I knew what I was doing, I lied! I told him the sugar content was only 5g/serving, when in fact it was 10g. Of course the worst thing that could happen, when you have just lied, happened – he asked to look at the box. Darn it! He didn’t ask because he didn’t believe me, but I knew that I was busted so I fessed up.

Why did I lie? It’s the same reason that an alcoholic lies about their drinking, or a gambler lies about how much they are betting. Because we want to use, and we don’t want people judging us. It is really that simple.

The other thing that I began to realize was how warped my view of my body size is. There was another couple staying at the B&B this weekend as well, and the wife was also plus sized. At one point, I asked DBF “Am I the same size as her?” He looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t believe I was serious. “Um No! She is about 1-1/2 of you”. I was serious by the way. I don’t know what size I actually am. I know what my weight is, and I know what size clothing I wear, but I truly don’t know how that actually translates into my physical size.

This is not something new. There have been times in my life where I have thought I was very overweight, only to see pictures later on and realize that I wasn’t. There have also been times where I have thought I was thinner then I am. I think that my perception of how big or small I look is directly related to how I am feeling about myself. If I like myself, then I feel “thinner”. If I am full of self doubt and self loathing, then I feel “fatter”. I think it might also have something to do with how much my weight has fluctuated over the years. In the past 10 years I have been a size 22, a size 10 and everything in between. I often joke that my attic is like a used clothing store for plus-size women lol

Why does this matter? It doesn’t really. The only reason it bothers me, is because I find that I am constantly looking at other women trying to judge what size I am in comparison to them. I think I do this because I am looking for some kind of validation that I am “better than”. That no matter how big I am, I can always say “At least I am not as big as her”. This is so wrong, because really who am I to judge?

I hate when I feel that I am being judged by other people, so why am I doing it to other women. Just like someone may not know my story, I don’t know hers. I don’t know if she’s a food addict, has been abused, has PCOS or a metabolic condition. She could just not give a rats ass, but how do I know that? I need to remember the old adages: Judge not, lest ye be judged and Do unto others as you would have others do unto you and stop judging these women. But most of all, I need to stop judging myself.

 

Facing my first fear

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen

Today dbf and I are finally headed out of town for romantic weekend away. We have found a beautiful B&B on a lake about two hours east of here. It’s on a beautiful piece of property, with horses and a driving range. The room looks great, the food is apparently terrific (if the reviews are anything to go by) and it should be a really nice weekend. I need this. I need to get out of town for a couple of days to recharge my batteries.

There are a couple of concerns, obviously as this is me, but I have done everything I can do to prepare for this trip. I have all my medications/supplements, the nearest hospital is only 20 minutes away (I already googled it lol) and I have packed all the things that help me cope with my anxiety (books, knitting, computer). I am as prepared as I am going to be.

I am still a little nervous, scratch that a lot nervous, but I know this will be good for me. Not only because I just need to kick back and relax for a couple of days. It will also be good as a first step on me getting over my fears and starting to travel outside my comfort zone again. I have spent too many years locked inside this little bubble that I have built myself, it is time to force my way out of it, even if it’s only baby steps.

The circumstances are not perfect, as I am currently dealing with some side effects from my hormone medications. It would be so easy for me to just back out, but I am not going to. Two reasons – first I am pretty sure that would be the last straw for dbf. As patient as he has been, my issues frustrate him. I already cancelled one pre-paid vacation, I am pretty sure doing it again would be the end of our relationship.
The second is solely for me. Even if I spend the entire weekend in our room hopped up on Ativan, at least I will have done it. I need to take pride in small victories, hopefully this will be one.
I will keep u posted!

A beautiful day in the neighbourhood…

Bloomin' Daffodils!

Bloomin’ Daffodils!

Oh my goodness! It was an absolutely glorious day here in Toronto. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there was a nice breeze blowing. It was, in my opinion, the perfect day. Or maybe that’s just the lack of warmth and sunshine this spring talking. Either way, I loved it!

Today was also the first day of the David Suzuki 30×30 Challenge. What’s that you ask? Well the David Suzuki Foundation is challenging us to get outside and enjoy nature for 30 minutes for 30 days in May (if you’re doing the math that means you get 1 day off lol). Since this happened to coincide with the beginning my lifestyle changes, I thought it would be a perfect thing for me to add. The challenge doesn’t specifically say that you have to exercise, just that you have to spend 30 minutes outdoors enjoying the natural wonder that surrounds you. I have decided to try and spend my 30 minutes walking, biking, or doing some kind of physical activity.

This challenge will be a great way for me to make sure I get some kind of physical activity in every day. It will also be good for me to get Vitamin D from a source that doesn’t come from a bottle.

I am also going to use it as a time for me to get spiritually grounded again. As I have mentioned, I am not a religious person but I do try to live a life based on spiritual values. For me that means living a life which allows me to feel connected to the world around me, both nature and human, and that helps my spirit (inner essence) to grow and thrive. I don’t know if that makes much sense to anyone else, but it works for me.  For me, I have always found the most profound connection when I am in nature. Whether it be the local park, or a field in the middle of nowhere, nature is where I find my grounding.

This is why I love where I live. Not only do I live in a city that has so many amazing green spaces to choose from, I am also fortunate enough to live in a neighbourhood right on the water with a beautiful beach and boardwalk. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking advantage of this the last couple of years, since I had to put my dog down. So, I will use the David Suzuki challenge as a way to get back to enjoying that.

Alright, time for me to get some studying done. Thanks to a crazy couple of weeks at work I am two weeks behind and need to get caught up before my quiz on friday. Enjoy the beautiful weather, and Happy May Day to all!