Tincture of time…

TinctureIt’s been almost four weeks since I woke up one Saturday morning, clammy, nauseated and with the room spinning. At first I thought I had a hangover. I had a whole bottle of wine (and likely more) over the course of the previous evening’s whine and cheese urban bonfire. But this was no hangover.

What was ailing me was likely a virus, exacerbated by a painfully blocked Eustachian tube from sea water in my ear and airplane travel. I had had this before and my doctor charmingly prescribed “tincture of time.” You cannot buy it. You just gotta make it.   

I tortured myself by googling my symptoms and confirming my worst suspicions. I had vertigo. I had Meniere’s disease. I had multiple sclerosis. I had a big, pulsing brain tumour. Go ahead… google any random selection of symptoms and it will invariably lead you to “big, pulsing brain tumour.”

I’m finally starting to feel normal –back to walking and eating real meals. I can watch videos again without the flickering images making me nauseated and I can bend down without the room becoming a merry-go-round. I can even stay up until it’s dark! Woot!

So, my friends, this is my long way of explaining where the heck those blog posts have been AND letting you know I’m baaaaaaaack.

A love letter to my depression

ImageI have suffered from depression since I was a young child. Depressive episodes would come and go. Each episode was a little deeper, a little longer, a little harder to come out of.

The pain of my depression was terrible. With mere words, I cannot begin to describe the despair. Thoughts of suicide were as soothing as a lullaby, yet I felt that I was already dead to the world. I was hollowed out, disconnected from life. When I did feel anything, it was sorrow, anger, anxiety or shame. Oh, I felt such shame for being so broken.

Deborah Shields, a woman who only knew me through an online chat group, was the first person to actually name my condition. She plainly told me in a private message “Heutzie, I think you are suffering from depression.” I was furious. Startled. Busted.

And I am forever grateful to her.

Once Deborah named it, I couldn’t deny that something was “not right.” I went to my doctor. I got a prescription for antidepressants. I stared at that bottle for days, giving it the stink eye, refusing to take the pills, refusing to believe I had a mental illness.

But the bold truth is I do.

My brain chemicals don’t work the way they’re supposed to. I take antidepressants, which are wonderfully effective for me. And like any other disease, I manage the illness. I have an open and regular relationship with my doctor. I exercise. I eat whole, healthy foods and cook from scratch. I get enough sleep. I limit my alcohol intake and I quit smoking. I accept help and talk through problems with friends or professionals (my swans). I keep my life balanced.

My depression, so long a part of my life, has made me who I am and who I am is splendid.

In Canada, May 5 to 11 is National Mental Health Awareness week. The US gives the topic the entire month of May. Good on them!

My body is…

My body is fat, with a BMI that makes my doctor tilt his head like a quizzical dog and sigh. My body is also strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what has my doctor so quizzical. My body is defying all the conventional wisdom about the perils of obesity.

My body has 46 inches of scars (from one surgery!), a tattoo, four missing teeth thanks to orthodontics, and extra bones in my feet that hurt. All. The. Time.

I used to hate my body. It didn’t conform to the flawless and waif-thin images that our society cleaves to. I, on the other hand, did conform to all that conventional thinking about what was beautiful, and that made me hate my body.

Because I hated it, I mindlessly treated my body terribly, eating the wrong things and too much, not exercising enough, sleeping poorly and doing things that did me no good.

As I grow older, I’ve realized that my body – my healthy, perfectly functional body – is one of the most cherished and valuable things I have. It’s my most important tool. It gives me joy. It lets me experience life. It’s powerful, ever-changing, self-calibrating and amazing.

My body. In every sense it’s a really big deal.

The compliment habit

compliments

Our mothers told us “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But what if you do have something nice to say? Do you say it? I do.

Many years ago, I realized how often I admired something specific about others without ever expressing it – a lost opportunity to share something positive. I made a New Year’s resolution to share the sincere compliments I was thinking.

I started telling friends and coworkers that that colour suits them, or their laugh makes me smile or I enjoy their different perspective. Soon, I was telling strangers on the bus that I thought their baby was beautiful or the supermarket cashier that he was rocking some great tattoos.

Surprisingly, I’ve had many people say that they were feeling low and my comment made their day. Most people smile and thank me. No one has been annoyed or accused me of harassment. And every time, I felt happier.

It makes me wonder why, as a society, we don’t have a compliment habit. With so much to gain and seemingly nothing to lose by sharing sincere compliments, why aren’t we doing this more?

Burpees

“You need to do burpees,” my friend announced.  “What’s a burpee?” I asked.

My friend demonstrated one. Jump up. Get down onto the floor into a push up position, then stand or jump back up again (presumably one should repeat this move several times). It didn’t look so bad – a sort of cheerleading move.

See a burpee demo here on YouTube.

My friend insisted that we women of a certain age needed to do burpees. She challenged, “When do you go down on the floor? How do you know you can get off the floor if you ever needed to?”  She had a point. I couldn’t remember the last time I sat or lay on the floor, and I used to do it all the time.

I dutifully went home and tried a burpee. Ohmygoddess! Which one of Satan’s minions invented these? I look like a trussed walrus. My knee crunched (crunched!) and other joints crackled and popped as I got up. It was scary to realize how hard this move was to do. How close was I to completely losing the ability to do something as fundamental as get up from the floor unaided??

I texted my friend: Burpees blow.

She replied: Just do it

The next day, I burpeed again. It was a bit better but I had to whine anyway.

I texted: This burpee business is from hell.

She replied: Just do it.

My next text to her read: My massage therapist says burpees could make a person’s heart explode.

burpeeShe replied: Just do it.

And so I burpee every morning – once ~ grunt~, twice, ~ oooph~, thrice, ~ugh~ – and again at night.

Burpees. Just do it… because you still can.