Sundown

Sometimes I find it’s a shame when I get feelin’ better when I’m feelin’ no pain
~Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot’s song was playing while I shuffled around my kitchen trying to simplify my thoughts and push down the anxiety. God Damed Anxiety is back.  It puts this tight clamp on my spine where the cortisol moves in and stirs up feelings of hopelessness, lack of confidence, uselessness. All those wonderful wonderful feelings to carry like a monkey through the days.

In 1999, in postpartum after the birth of my one child, I was flung into a psychosis which turned into a straight-jacket and a rubber room experience.  Haldol and all.  (Locked up in D.C.).  I was then, at the age of 33, diagnosed Bipolar. I had never had any symptoms prior to that. But you see, I am Military Martha.  My whole family of six siblings call me that.  I am the sensible one.  The rule-follower.  List maker (thank’s Annie). The one who solves problems.  I am definitely NOT the one who ends up in a Johnny coat running for my life out the hospital doors at -20 Celsius with my undies on show. (Crazy Train 2011)

But this is mental illness folks.  It takes all that you know and turns it upside down.  It makes that positive side of me disappear.  It makes it nearly impossible to reach out to friends and family (unless it turns into mania and then it is impossible to NOT reach out to friends and family and just about anyone else, and even at 3 in the morning).

Even the simplest of tasks cause me to turn in circles and not know where to begin.  I need adult supervision. Thanks Uncle Buck.  My husband of 27 years becomes the one person who knows me so well.  He takes my hand and leads me along through the cloud.  He will encourage me with a  simple tasks to focus on and accomplish, telling me all the other stuff can wait.  It’s not going to be a problem if it all just waits, he says.

Yesterday I was trying to explain the anxiety to my sister on the phone, three provinces away.  It is like I know cerebrally that the task is not important but even knowing that, I feel like I am swimming in goop and am finding it hard to keep my head above it.  Couple that with the feeling of a huge alligator clamp on my lower spine and that everything I look at is somehow wrong: not good enough, out of order, messy, needs fixing…AHHH!  It becomes just overwhelming.

I was explaining how some things seem to help.  Letting things go until a better time, cancel, reschedule, forego, cross it off the list.  Listening to up and happy music.  Walking in nature.  Holding hands with my husband and quietly talking and walking.  Simple tasks: peeling potatoes, hanging laundry, watering the garden, weeding, sweeping the floor, scraping the paint on the house with a warm sun on my back…all seem to help, if I can get out of my own way to do them.

Because We Love We Cry

By Sheree Fitch, Poet and Author of Nova Scotia, Canada after the tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia Apr 2020

Sometimes there is no sense to things my child
Sometimes there is no answer to the questions why
Sometimes things beyond all understanding
Sometimes, people die.

When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared, suffering, confused
Even if we are not together
Together, let us cry

Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.

Sometimes the sadness takes away your breath
Sometimes the pain seems endless, deep
Sometimes you cannot find the sun
Sometimes you wish you were asleep.

When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry

Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.

Wish that I had answers, child
Wish all this wasn’t so
There are impossible things, child
I cannot bear for you to know .

When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry

Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.

Copyright: Sheree Fitch, April 2020

Sheree Fitch says poem flowed out following news of mass shooting.

Sheree Fitch recited her poem, above, on the CBC Special televised vigil on Friday April 24, 2020.  I found myself weeping at these words which were so completely apt and heartfelt.  Thank you Sheree.  Rest in Peace to the fallen.

Proactive, Positive, Helpful

Si Se Puede ~ Yes We Can!

Staying sane during the COVID-19 lockdown?  So, what I have been doing is in the title.  Just keepin on keepin on, but, also thinking of how I can help with our bottom line.  In so doing, I have found peace in the little tiny things around my house and yard.  I have learned to be alone.  Dance in my undies.  Breathe deeply and easily and BE HAPPY for each deep easy breath.

Last week, for the first time in my 54 years of life, I successfully baked sourdough (bread made from natural, live yeast – active dry yeast from the grocery store being hard to come by due to hoarders) bread.  My good friend shared her culture with me (she left it in my garage for me), I ‘fed’ it and using her shared recipe, actually made a delicious loaf on my second attempt.  The first wasn’t bad.  The second was amazing.  Little ole me.

I am also sprouting seeds – many, many seeds. And vegetable ends and stuff.  So very cool how much we can grow right on the windowsill, from the veggie ends…

Yesterday, the sun shone so hubby and I were out in the yard (we have a large in-town lot with a park behind us (this is my video about growing a meadow instead of a lawn: https://youtu.be/KjqEJHNQSRs).  He pruned the big trees to allow more sun in.  (I pointed to the branches to be pruned and avoided the sweat pouring off of his brow).  We then made another vegetable bed by stacking materials lasagna style: drenched paper/box board, newspaper, compost from our old pile, leaves from under the hedge, more compost, more leaves and lots of water.  This will sit for a few weeks now until it is warm enough plant the seedlings.  Sitting will help it all to decompose slightly more and will bring the worms. (Worms are good says Mark Valencia of Self Sufficient Me: https://selfsufficientme.com/)

It was a gloriously warm (plus 9 folks – celsius – so, balmy! lol) and the sun was so pretty so, I hung all of our bedding out on the clothesline and it baked in that week but pretty light.

Lots of simple but lovely activities that help me to feel productive, proactive, helpful and, ultimately, happy.

What are you up to these days?

My Reverse Bucket List

We’re here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day…
~Trooper

This is a concept I just heard on CBC radio.  The Reverse Bucket List is a list of times in your life that you would love to return to or that you are happy about or proud of or that taught a great lesson that you carry forward through your life.  So, looking back on your life for the best, most profound or impactful moments instead of always projecting that those moments need to happen in your future.  It is a method of making yourself happy for the accomplishments of your life thus far.  I realized, while writing my list below, that that is mostly what I am doing by writing this blog. I’m writing my reverse bucket list!

Here’s my list (with links to the stories that correspond).  No particular order except the first two are the top for a reason.

  1. Eloped to marry my best-friend and we are celebrating 28 years this year (2020);
  2. Had a son and stayed home to raise him for his first five years;
  3. Trekked for a month in Nepal in the Himalayas;
  4. Traveled by VW Van all over Canada, including the North West Territories and Yukon and into Alaska, visiting one national park in each province, territory and in Alaska;
  5. Hiked the 3-day Chilkoot Trail from Bennett, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska;
  6. Traveled and worked on a farm in Australia;
  7. Visited the Taj Mahal; and witnessed pilgrims bathing in the Ganges in India at dawn;
  8. Backpacked with our 4-year old throughout Mexico’s West Coast and most of Central America;
  9. Moved to a small Nova Scotian town without jobs and made our lives from scratch with our four-year old because we wanted him to be able to walk to school safely;
  10. Founded and incorporated a small education-services business that is now 15 years old and employs three others besides myself;
  11. Posted a listing on AirBnb and have hosted folks from all over the world;
  12. Started a school garden with a friend and made a blog about it and taught children how to sow, germinate, water, grow, harvest and save seeds from it;
  13. Had an eating disorder in my teens that gives me great compassion for that type of suffering today and a hope and am open to help others get over it;
  14. Lived and worked in Germany for three years and visiting most countries near there;
  15. Lived in Virginia, USA for two years then packed a large U-Haul and drove home to Canada and we were glad to be home (sorry American friends, no offence);
  16. Took a gondola ride in Venice and then got somewhat lost in its ancient twisty turny laneways;
  17. Drove from Germany into Czechoslovakia just after the 1989 removal of the Berlin wall and witnessed a country coming alive;
  18. Had three big dogs (not all at once) and a cat who were cherished as part of our family, And currently have a doodle who is just too darn cute and funny!
  19. Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef in Australia;
  20. Completed the PADI dive licence which was very difficult for me due to my claustrophobic tendencies.  (I no longer dive but I love to snorkel);
  21. Rappelled down a cliff on basic training in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C. (9 PLATOON DOGS OF WAR!)Rappelling was terrifying to me due to a fear of height;
  22. Rappelled out of a helicopter on a special training day;
  23. Joined a group seven-day biking trip through France and gained a very sore bottom;
  24. Marched in the International Nijemgen Marches in Holland in 1989.  160 km over four days;
  25. Skied in the Swiss and the Austrian Alps;
  26. Own a house out-right with my husband;
  27. While living in the Arctic hand-built several high-fired, clay pots and still have some of them over 25 years later;
  28. Taught my son to sign American sign-language before he could speak;
  29. Was sporty and a scholar at school, for the most part;
  30. Completed Advanced Yoga Teacher Training at an ashram in the Bahamas;
  31. Taught yoga for several months then gave it up because it just didn’t suit me and it took a lot of courage to admit that;
  32. Joined a book club and read daily;
  33. Took several horse-archery ground training lessons and loved it;
  34. Mastered a hand-stand with no wall;
  35. Made yogurt from raw farm-fresh milk for years;
  36. Joined the Army and stayed in for 6 years, leaving honourably as a Captain;
  37. Completed Recruit Term at Military College in Sooke, B.C. and it was tough;
  38. Completed Off-Road driver training in the Army;
  39. Shot a fire-arm with fairly good accuracy, and cleaned it, stripped it and reassembled it blindfolded;
  40. Completed the Officer Challenge twice (only woman): 75 km trek over 24 hours with 18 mini-competitions, in combat gear, in France;
  41. Was awarded the Sword of achievement for Junior Officer of the Year while in the army;
  42. Besides my first language of English, I can communicate somewhat in French, German, Spanish and American Sign-language;
  43. Studied dance for several years as a girl and still love to dance;
  44. Was a gymnast in elementary school and won a silver medal in a competition for the county;
  45. Have traveled by jet, helicopter, ferry, ship, sail boat, canoe, kayak, car, truck and train, including a train across most of Canada for days and into the heart of Australia on the Gahn;
  46. Hitch-hiked successfully in Canada and Australia;
  47. Witnessed flying foxes by the thousands in Australia;
  48. Have driven back and forth across Canada (several times) including solo enroute to Logistics training in the Army in 1988;
  49. Have been to all Provinces of Canada and two of the territories;
  50. Have lived and worked north of the 66th parallel, two hours North of the Arctic Circle;
  51. Was ‘Screeched In’ in Newfoundland where my husband is from;
  52. Hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and met curious Elk while on top of its tablelands;
  53. Sewed some clothing and curtains with a sewing machine, self-taught then decided I wouldn’t be doing that again;
  54. Learned how to cut a basic haircut from my sister;
  55. Met a harem of Bison in a National Park in Alberta;
  56. Miscarried my second son, late, which was heart-breaking but which helps me to cherish given life;
  57. Learned how to read music and play piano and the flute;
  58. Met, hugged and kissed Deepak Chopra before he was very famous; and
  59. Love nature and simple times and love to laugh and be silly;
  60. Have read a friend’s manuscript and helped with some edits;
  61. Am currently living in the 2020 COVID-19 world pandemic and I am social distancing to help flatten the curve and reduce stress on our healthcare system.

Leave a comment with your top 5 or 10 Reverse Bucket List items…Come On….Go ahead.  I know you want to!!!

(picture of view from top of Gros Morne Mountain is from google images…thank you)

Feelin’ Fine

‘ So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key’ *

In mid 2016 I started on Lithium Bicarbonate (again!) for my mental illness: Bipolar 1.  If you have read my previous posts on body image and on mental illness, you will know by now that I was struggling against succumbing to meds due to the strong suspicion that taking them would cause a large weight gain.

Well, it has done just that. My body now is the stuff of my previous life’s nightmares.  So, why is this post entitled Feelin’ Fine? Confused yet?

Well, I have changed folks.

It started when I hit rock bottom in May 2016.  I had extreme anxiety for days and a panic attack that rocked my world and I was sure I was about to die.  I could barely let go of my husband Dean’s hand.  All I could do to feel better was walk, and poor Dean, suffering with a broken toe, walked with me, holding my hand. (Ya, I know. I have the best husband in the world.)  If you had seen me then you would not recognize me.  I was barely able to look up.  I was debilitated.  The cortisol buildup in my low back was like a knife jabbing me.  Every thought spun out a new list of worries that multiplied.  I clutched Dean’s hand and he guided me gently along through the days.  I did simple tasks like pealing potatoes and hanging laundry.  That’s about all I could do without making copious, confusing lists and notes.

This was the point that I finally succumbed to medication.

Since then, I decided that it is far better to have a clear mind and psyche than it is to be small and trim.

img_1594
By my amazing sister Eva*

 

This has not been an instantaneous transformation.  It has taken hours and hours of concerted effort and two years of time going by to change my thinking.  I am doing this by reading books, blogs, articles, scientific studies and by listening to podcasts on this very topic…non-diet, body-neutral, non-fat phobic, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating by podcasters like Christy Harrison on Food Psych; Meret Boxler on Life Unrestricted; Chris Sandel on Real Health Radio; Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio.  These people have helped me immeasurably.  As has my husband of twenty-six years.  He is truly my best, most supportive friend.

It hasn’t been exactly easy to transform my thinking one hundred and eighty degrees.  From a very disordered existence of constant striving to maintain a small, lean body where in almost every waking moment over the last 35 years, I was aware, concerned, worried about eating less and moving more (it was a full-time job to maintain the energy deficit that then felt normal).  I mean, I was eating low-fat while trekking in the Himalayas while simultaneously battling a bowel parasite for jeezus sakes.

Scan10100

I have become more peaceful by NOT doing anything to try to stay small.  I eat when hungry, whatever I want.  I drink when thirsty.  I move when it strikes my fancy to do so.  No schedule.  No goals.  No competitive work-out sessions.  No marathon-type activity in the off-ing to compulsively train for.  No $60 ++ per week of yoga classes, plus thousands of dollars for months of yoga teacher training at an ashram in the Bahamas (which in retrospect I now realize that I had done not to achieve Zen but mostly to achieve small-ness.  It was like going to a Fat Farm for me.  Okay, a Zen Fat Farm, if you will).

dancer on the fallen tree

I look back on my previous life and shake my head.  But it is all part of my path.

And, who cares if I am not small in size.  I am still ME.

My being is still here.  My me-ness.

You know me?  That person who loves an adventure;

a good doubling-over belly laugh;

a deep talk solving the problems of the world, including what to do with your hair;

a great beach walk or rainy-day stroll;

a carefree dance around the living room or in a random cafe to some good eighties tunes,

a pint and a good cry????

That person is still here and that person is doing okay.  She’s just in a bigger, softer body and she is doing much, much better on the inside, and, thankfully, not doing those annoying hand-stands every five minutes.

prospect-handstand

One last one for the memory bank.  My son took this in Prospect, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The next time I asked him to take a picture of me doing a hand-stand was on the Keji Seaside beach, he goes, ‘Mom, that ship has sailed, don’t you think?’

Right on Buddy.  Gotta love kids.

+++++++

I would love your comments…

(The sunflower pic is from Google Images, all the rest are mine, Martha Valiquette, except the amazing Dragonfly which is by my eldest sister.)

*Excerpt from Already Gone (Eagles) Songwriters: Jack Tempchin / Robert Arnold Strandlund

 

Update: Fall 2020

I have now dropped several kilos of weight and it happened by accident.  I learned a valuable lesson.  Alcohol and lithium do not mix.  I was holding a lot of water and extra weight due to consuming a daily drink of wine or beer and sometimes a bit of a liqueur in the evenings.  I decided to give up alcohol because I was waking up for hours a night and feeling quite toxic – not quite right – in my skin.  It was odd.  I am quite in tune with how I am feeling and it wasn’t right.  I just said, enough of this.  I’m gonna cut some substances out.  So, out went alcohol.  I then peed out about 10 pounds of water seemingly overnight.  I also slept much better for the first time in years.  It was an epiphany.  I think I am particularly sensitive to substances.  I have also moved my devices to charge outside of my bedroom, have blinds on windows, don’t read or watch exciting / heart-quickening movies or books before bed. Walk more. Finally, I eat more protein and fewer carbs which seems to make my belly settle down.  I also drink much more water stopping two hours before bedtime.  All these measures have helped and I feel much calmer and not so bloated.