Story time – Anxiety is not a made up construct.

I’ve had anxiety since long before I ever knew what it was. I remember being a teen and pre-teen and suffering from full blown panic attacks for reasons I couldn’t even understand. My brain was convinced there was going to be an earthquake and that I’d die in my sleep. Or I’d be at school and was convinced that there would be a mercury spill in the science lab and we’d become violently ill.

Nothing made sense, but I had these fears and if I ever told anyone about them they’d laugh, or tell me I was being dramatic or tell me to not worry about it.

I have very distinct memories of sitting in a ball in the corner of dark classrooms to wait out my panic attacks while at school. I think the first full-blown panic attack I ever had was in fourth grade. And I continued to have them all throughout elementary and high school. I didn’t know they were panic attacks at the time, but I knew I couldn’t be around people. At home, I would go for hours, days (if allowed) on end without even leaving my room. I was afraid of going for a walk and someone trying to kidnap me. It really didn’t matter where I was, I was always on high alert. I could walk into a room and would scan for exits, memorize faces, know what I could use to protect myself. I was anxious. I was always anxious.

In my mind, something was going to go wrong. Always. I was on high alert and prepared for the next disaster to happen.

Another side effect of my anxiety, that I didn’t realize at the time (probably due to my lack of knowledge about anxiety) was sleep. My parents used to yell and scream and me that I needed to go to sleep. They thought I was purposefully laying awake until 2 or 3 or even 4 in the morning just to be a troublesome child. I didn’t want to lay awake worrying. That’s just what happened. Any time I told anyone what was really happening they’d laugh it off or just tell me to not worry anymore.

Because clearly, the solution was that simple.

There was one point, I do recall, going to the doctor for annual check-ups, my mother told the Doctor that I was not sleeping. The Doctor told my mother that I was either acting out, or that I was consuming too much sugar/caffeine. As a fifth grader, I wasn’t consuming caffeine. So in her mind, the problem was sugar. She didn’t let me have sugar for MONTHS! It was probably close to a year. She’d specifically take my siblings and I out for ice cream and tell me that I wasn’t allowed any treats until I proved to her that I was willing to sleep when it was bed time. As you can imagine, this made fifth grade me extremely angry. She was treating it like it was something I could control. And, when I didn’t have any sugar in my life and I still couldn’t sleep at night, she’d convinced herself that I was sneaking sugar and lying to her about it.

During the few hours a night that I actually did sleep, I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. Every time I went to the dentist he’d tell me I was ruining my teeth. He convinced my parents, on three separate occasions, to get expensive ($500 or more) mouth guards for me to wear when I slept. They never worked. They fell out, or they’d break, or they just caused me to struggle even more so with my sleep. I was asleep and grinding my teeth. I couldn’t control it.

Many a conversation were had in which my parents discussed there frustrations with me not properly wearing my $500 mouth guard so the teeth grinding woke them up. They were both angry that I was ruining my teeth and felt as though they couldn’t wake me up because I slept so little.

All of this… and I mean ALL OF THIS was symptoms of my anxiety. My parents, while good people for the most part, openly acknowledge that they believe anxiety and depression are a made up construct.

I moved away from home. I went to University, got a job, built a life for myself and, for almost a decade, things were really good. I learned what anxiety was, as per my own research, and learned how I could cope with it on my own. I found great friends, and I was managing the anxiety I had, after finally learning what it was. I got into a good sleep rhythm and, the teeth grinding stopped.

Last year, when everything fell apart the anxiety and panic attacks hit me like a ton of bricks. I was experiencing it in ways that I hadn’t since I was a teenager. Knight and I came to see my mom right after her second surgery and I remember her telling me she could hear me grinding my teeth so loudly that it woke her up.

I sought out medication to help me cope with the sheer weight I was carrying in my brain and I cannot tell you what a difference it made in my life. No one in my family knows that I take this medication. My family frowns on medications of any sort. And, since they believe that mental illness is a made up construct, it just didn’t make sense to try and pick a fight with them about it. I wish I could tell them. But, maybe it’s just something for me to teach the next generation about.

I think it’s so important to note that that mental illness is not a made up construct. I also think it’s extremely important to acknowledge that mental illness does discriminate based on age. When I hear people say ‘No she’s too young for that’ or ‘No, he’s way too young to experience that’, there’s a little voice screaming in my brain ‘YOU’RE WRONG, YOU’RE NAIVE, DO BETTER’.

Who knows what would have happened had I known what anxiety was when it started affecting me. I could have found/gotten help and learned how to cope ten years before I actually did.

I think it’s so important to talk about the subject of mental health and well being with kids. I would never look at a kid and think ‘No, they’re too young’. I look at kids and think ‘Perhaps we could help them thrive a lot more as humans if we have these difficult discussions rather than avoiding them’.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone tell me they’ve had anxiety since before they knew what it was, I’d be rich. I’d be a fucking millionaire.

My only hope is that the present generation of kids, the kids of Millennials and Gen Xers, are being taught about this because their parents can speak from experience.

The doctor was convinced that I was consuming too much sugar. The dentist was convinced that I needed a $500 plastic mold to stop me from moving my teeth in my sleep. A teacher who saw me having a panic attack in his classroom just told me that I needed to ‘man up’. My parents were convinced I was just trying to be a troublesome child.

And all I really needed was someone to teach me what anxiety was.

Bragging Ahead

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of analytics. Analytics can teach you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Because of this, I’m a huge advocate for tracking your analytics and using them to your favour.

Well, I’ve been putting together some analytics tonight and this blog has been read more than 120,000 times from 165 countries and territories around the world in 13 months.

120,000+ views from 165 countries and territories all over the world.

That’s pretty damn cool.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring about something I had to say. Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for making this girl feel like maybe there is some value to the things she says (once in a while).

Also, if you’re not presently tracking your analytics, start!

Small things that annoy me.

I recently touched on the subject of small annoyances on twitter and a few people chimed in on the subject. This sent my brain on a deep-dive down a rabbit hole of stupid things that don’t really matter at all but tend to annoy the crap out of me.

When people pronounce it ‘frigerator’. Its Refrigerator. RE. RE. RE. RE. REFRIGERATOR.

When you’re driving and the person in front of you is half-way through turning before they put their turn signal on. Clearly we can see that you’re already mid-turn so there’s no need to warn us now…

When people ask me when I’m having kids. Or, when anyone gets asked this. Me, I’m just indecisive on the matter, but I can’t imagine what this question must feel like for someone who struggles with infertility. It seems like such a small question but it annoys the fuck out of me and I reckon it weighs really heavy on the hearts of people who are struggling to have kids or just can’t have kids at all.

When people park their vehicles on sidewalks. Yeah, this is a small annoyance for able-bodied individuals who use the sidewalk, but remember that this is a MASSIVE struggle for disabled individuals who now have to walk/wheel around your vehicle (likely onto the street) just to be able to continue on their way.

When people don’t hold the door open and it slams shut right as you’re getting to it. I realize that no one is entitled to having the door held open for them, but if the person behind you is so close to you that the door is going to close in their face, couldn’t you just stand there the extra three seconds? Kindness means A LOT more than people realize.

When you go out to dinner with someone and they’re constantly checking their phone. Check your phone later. The people in cyber-land should not be more important than the person in front of you.

When people wait until they get to the front of a long line to decide what they want. You couldn’t have thought about it at all during the 20 minutes we were just waiting in line?

When grown women call their father ‘Daddy’. I never really gave this any thought prior to hearing Ivanka Trump call her father daddy. Now every time I hear it, from anyone, I cringe like I’m listening to nails on a chalk board. I think it’s weird to be an adult and refer to your father as daddy.

When people use the end of the toilet paper and they don’t replace the roll. When you have to pee and there’s no TP in sight, yeah that’s fucking annoying.

Clickbait. It’s not cool, it’s not necessary and it makes you look like an asshole when you use it. So don’t do it.

When people title something “Not Clickbait”. It’s still clickbait. Sorry, not sorry.

When you go to use something and it just happens to be, at that very moment in time, in the middle of an ‘automatic update’. Might as well do something else now…

I could go on and on about this one but I think I’ll leave it here for now and maybe just make another list on another day.

Letter to an unconfident soul

Dear Self ,

It’s okay to not be okay.

It’s okay to be a mess.

It’s okay to not have to a plan. To not know what’s next. To not know how to fix your problems.

Newsflash: EVERYONE has problems. Everyone has struggles. Not everyone knows how to deal with them. That’s not shameful, or embarassing, nor does it make you stupid. It makes you normal.

What matters is that you continue to make an effort. What matters is that you don’t give up. What matters is that you just keep going, regardless of what the universe throws at you.

You can take it.

I promise you that you can take it. You can conquer it. You can defeat the demons, slay the beasts, defy on the odds and come through this with your head held high.

No one escapes struggles in life. So please, stop thinking that you’re alone in this and realize that people can and want to help. Likewise, people need help themselves and you can be an ally. Be an ally.

As much as you might not believe it, there is a reason for everything in life. If you’re being tested right now, you’re being tested for a reason. If things aren’t falling into place, no matter how much work you put forth, no matter how much progress you feel you’re making, there’s a reason for that.

Buckle in. Be ready for the fight to continue. Until the tables turn, until it’s your time for the limelight, until things fall into place, you need to keep going. You cannot give up.

No matter how messy it gets, no matter how much you doubt yourself, I beg of you, please don’t give up.

Sincerely, Me

Will you be my Valentine?

I love Valentine’s Day. I do. I’m a sucker for any day that allows you to scream from the rooftops just how much you love someone. Thus, it baffles me when people tell me they don’t celebrate it… To each their own. I guess, I just… don’t get why not?

I’ve heard the arguments.

‘It’s too commercialized.’

‘Why do I need big business to tell me how to tell someone I love them?’

‘It’s a made up holiday for girls to force unnecessary gifts out of the men in their lives.’

And so on and so forth.

Honestly, when I hear arguments like those, I can’t help but feel like people might have the wrong impression of what Valentine’s Day is supposed to represent.

Sure, the commercials tell you that this run-of-the-mill diamond heart pendant is something she’ll absolutely love! And, that Fossil Chronograph Stainless Steel watch is definitely something that will make his eyes pop! It’s true. Spending exorbitant amounts of money on someone you love for February 14th is what the commercials would lead you to believe the day is about. I hope that everyone knows Valentine’s Day isn’t just a day for women. Valentine’s Day is a day for love.

I beg to differ, though.

It’s not about the money. It’s not about the gift. It’s about the love. It’s about reminding someone that with all the things that go on in this cazy life ‘I choose you’ to do it with.

I’m a hopeless romantic, I’ll admit. I love love. Love letters are a quick, and easy, way to my heart. Oh and food. But we’ll save that for another time. To me, Valentine’s Day is a perfect day to remind someone that hey, no matter what this world throws at us, no matter what we go through, your existence makes my life better. You don’t have to spend a single dollar if you don’t want to. If you do want to spend on gifts, I do believe that’s a wonderful way of reminding someone you care. But, if you don’t spend a single dollar, you can still do just that.

I’m sure that Knight would love the Chronograph Stainless Steel Fossil Watch. Though, I think if I were to spend any money on him, I’d likely trade in the token ‘flower bouquet’ and create him a custom bouquet of all of his favourite protein bars and cookies. Because, much like me, food is an easy way to his heart. I didn’t take that route this year, and though I wish I could have, I’m certain he’ll be appreciative of what I sent. Because it’s the thought that counts. It’s the reminder of love, even in the smallest ways, because their existence matters.

There are plenty of stories that you can read about how Valentine’s day came to be. And honestly, whichever one you do choose to believe, I hope that you use it as a reminder of the importance of love. Of the importance of reminding someone just how much you love them. Of the importance of gestures, whether small or grand, and what they can mean to someone.

Yeah, it’s commercialized. Almost everything in life is commercialized these days. So, in the grand scheme of things, is that something that really matters, or are you using it as an excuse? You can spend zero dollars or a million dollars, just remind someone that you love them. You owe them that much. It’s a day, one day, per year that’s a bright shining opportunity for you to remind them their existence matters to your existence. So take the opportunity, whether you’re buying flowers or not. Take the opportunity.

I read a story about a girl who, last year, woke up on Valentine’s Day to find post-it notes on objects scattered throughout their house, each with a different reason for why he loved her on them. It only cost him the price of post-it notes and it might just be one of the most romantic and loving things I’ve ever read. And I’m a sucker for romance.

I encourage everyone to take advantage of this day. If you have someone you love, let them know. It’s not just for women, it’s for everyone. Write a letter. Bake a cake. Give time. Buy plane tickets to Antarctica. Get the flowers and the chocolates. Whatever you do, just make sure it counts.

Breaking down the language of job postings

Don’t mine me today, I’m just ranting.

They say ‘Urgently Hiring‘ but what they really mean is ‘we’ll get to you when we get to you‘. I’m completely and utterly convinced that ‘Urgently hiring’ is a ploy to collect more resumes and faster.

Under type of employment they say ‘Full time, part time, contract’ and what this ALWAYS means is that it’s a contract position. More and more companies are leaning towards contracting employees because they don’t have to guarantee their hours, they don’t have to give them a benefits package and they don’t have to guarantee them a position tomorrow, if they don’t want to.

‘Bilingualism would be considered an asset’ means that you shouldn’t bother applying for this position if you’re not bilingual. Gone are the days when marginal understanding of a second language was enough to help. If you’re not fluent, written and speaking, in a foreign language – brownie points if it’s in French or Chinese or sign language – you’re really not going to be considered.

When they say ‘We are an equal opportunity employer’ that means they prefer men, but they’re not allowed to say that they prefer men. Thus, the questionnaire at the end of every job application has appeared where you’re required to answer if you’re male or female, consider yourself to be of a minority, and whether or not you have a disability. This information is none of the potential employers business whatsoever, but they’re required to meet a quota… so, you know, they can’t meet that quota if they don’t have this information before they even bother to consider/call potential candidates.

When they say ‘must be a fit individual who meets the aesthetic requirements of representing our brand’ what they really mean is ‘if you’re not skinny and beautiful, we don’t want your resume’. Honestly, I’m not even sure how companies can get away with having this on their job descriptions… but, hey, it’s 2020 and I’m reminded of just how closed minded the world still is about beauty standards.

When they ask ‘Do you have a diving license?’ what they really mean is ‘do you have a driver’s license?’ See, this one is just them trying to throw you off. What it actually shows is that no one proof-reads their content before it’s published. Which is not the best look for a company. But… you can decide if it’s worth it or not.

When they say they’re looking for someone to ‘develop and execute social and influencer engagement strategies’ what they really want is for you to find local ‘Insta Famous’ folk to pretend to use their products. It should be a giant red flag if a company solely wants to use influencer marketing to build its brand. A real marketing strategy has a development plan that executes all levels of marketing, not just Instagram.

When they say people of all education and skill backgrounds will be considered, what they’re really saying is ‘If you don’t have a Master’s Degree, you’re not welcome to sit at our table. Because you know, it’s 2020 and that Master’s Degree means everything.

When they say ‘Thank you for your application, after careful consideration of your information we will be moving forward with candidates we believe better match the skill set that we are looking for this position’ largely what they really mean is that they haven’t even looked at your application. Yeah… I don’t think a lot of them care about the fact that you can now see on both Indeed and LinkedIn which companies even bothered to download/open your application. I get a lot of these ‘after careful consideration of your application’ emails from companies who haven’t even bothered to acknowledge my application exists. They didn’t read it. They didn’t glance at it. They didn’t even download it. I just got filed in the ‘No’ pile, immediately.