When It Kills to be Kind

I did not wind up working with my ex after all. One part of me is relieved, the other part of me is a little disappointed because I miss having him around. I was a little mad at myself for being disappointed because why should I care about seeing him after what he did to me? And I know that I’ve certainly been doing better not having him around. It’s just that he was such a big part of my life and now he’s not there at all.

I also almost ran into his girlfriend at school right before one of my midterms. I’m not sure if she saw me, she just walked by a couple times, but boy, she did not look like a happy camper. Which is frankly rather satisfying. Normally I don’t like seeing unhappy people, but after she turned my workplace into a living hell by rubbing her relationship with my ex in my face while I was trying to do my job and that she continued to do that after it was made clear to her that her behaviour was upsetting me and making me extremely uncomfortable and suffered no repercussions from that, I’m glad to see that she’s not getting her own way (or perhaps that her own way is not working out for her quite as well as she hoped).

Then I went to work to discover that Ex has been using the cards we send to encourage students to flirt with Her. Since she takes classes there as well as working there, she always got these cards, but it was left on the top of the pile to be mailed so it was the first thing I saw when I got in. He wrote way more on her card than anyone else’s and ended it with, “Love you, *winky smiley face*”. It looks like it was written a couple weeks ago. My mom thinks they’re being enormously unprofessional and that it might’ve been left deliberately where I could see it and says that it will catch up with them but it never seems to.

I’m just so sick of it all because I’m trying my utmost to be professional and good and gracious and kind and I’m starting to reach my breaking point because I seem to be the only one putting an effort into that and do they even give a damn about anyone but themselves? I just want to scream at them both “You’re so selfish! You’re so selfish! You’re so selfish!” But I don’t because I care about my reputation and because they’re human beings with, y’know, feelings and stuff. So I just screamed it into the ether while driving home from work where no one could hear me.

And I can feel this negativity and bitterness and resentment rushing in and I hate it. I can feel it eating me alive and I’m weeping because I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if I can be kind anymore. For me that it a huge blow. In my view, my kindness under extreme pain and stress is one of the most important parts of me but now I am beyond breaking point. Losing my kindness is a real loss. I want so badly to be good and kind but I’m so tired and I keep getting hurt so I don’t see how I’m supposed to keep this up.

Once a friend of mine was talking about a fight she had with her boyfriend (who is now her ex) and she was really quite upset and she said “I could just scratch his face off.” At the time, I was rather disturbed by the graphic images this sentence provoked, but now I see where she was coming from. It’s not that I ever would do that to someone, or that I even want to, but that there is this intense pain and desperation and longing for things to be different and things to be better but nothing is working and you don’t know what to do and you feel destroyed and it doesn’t even seem possible to contain that destruction to just you. There’s the urge to claw these people and rip apart the walls and books and anything within reach. Maybe this is why in some cultures, tearing your clothes is a symbol of mourning: because you just feel so awful that you have to destroy something.

And there are times when I ask myself, “Why do I even bother?” I’ve been kind to them both for a very long time but neither of them seem to appreciate it or even see it. And I’m sick of having to be “the bigger person” and of being held to a higher moral standard than everyone else. Can’t somebody else here be good for a change instead of it always being me? I’d really like a break.

So why do I bother?

I bother because kindness doesn’t expect kindness in return. It hopes for kindness in return, but doesn’t demand it. And kindness hopes to be returned not just for the sake of the person being kind, but also for the sake of the person receiving the kindness. That is the nature and purpose of kindness. There is a peace and security in that.

I bother because I am kind. It’s not just a behaviour, but a fundamental part of who I am.

There are times when I can’t seem to understand or justify why I am that way, I just am. And maybe I need to stop figuring out why I am that way and just accept that I am that way. I am kind.

Sometimes I don’t like my kindness. So many times it is interpreted as weakness and cowardice and compliance. Sometimes it’s even called anti-feminist (as a feminist, this really bothers me; it gives feminism a bad name). I have these indoctrinated thoughts of “You’re such a doormat” and “If you’re so strong, why don’t you stand up for yourself?” But often times, what is thought of as standing up for yourself is just tearing others down. Maybe being kind is a way of standing up for myself. I am refusing to compromise my morals. I am being kind on my terms, not out of desperation for approval but for the sake of all that is good. At least my conscience is clean.

And I’ve just realized that that is actually an incredibly empowering thought, so I’m going to hold on to that. I am kind. So I will keep being kind and hope that it will bring out the beauty and goodness in others and in the world.

Sometimes, it kills to be kind. And when it kills me to be kind, that’s when I have to remember that kindness also resurrects.


Crushing Homework is Not Going As Planned


She’s soaking up the information through the cover by laying on it.



Well, my plans for tonight fell through. My plans of doing homework, that is. I have midterms in the next two weeks and I still haven’t started on my two papers yet. One is due in a week and a half and the other at the end of October. I’m pretty up-to-date on my readings, but I have only taken three chapters of notes out of, like, twelve chapters so far. I was going to power through the note-taking because how hard could it be? I already read and highlighted the stuff. But it took me all day to get just one chapter of notes. Chapters are around forty pages and are really information-dense so reading takes about five hours per chapter even when I’m not taking notes.

My mom thinks I’m expecting too much of myself. “I thought everyone worked on their school like this,” I said, but once I said that, I realized that maybe that’s not true. When I glance at other students in the class, most of them have printed out the PowerPoint slides that the professor posts before class and they fill in notes as the prof lectures and goes over the slides.

Whereas I’ve insisted on taking my own notes from the textbook and then integrating the professor’s notes into them. The plan was to get the notes done before class so that way I already have all the important ideas written down so I can just listen to the professor and add in anything in the lecture that’s not in the textbooks. But I’ve only done the readings and no note-taking, though I still just sit and listen in class and participate in class discussions.

I would’ve worked on (and agonized over) my homework today, but Mom said last night that I need rest. When I woke up exhausted this morning and then wonder of wonders, joy of joys, my period decided to show up, I thought maybe she was right, so today has been a day of rest for me.

I started the day off cuddling my cat. She was laying up by my pillow and purring really loud. I think she knew I was tired and hungry and sick and sore, so she was trying to make me feel better. Then I ate breakfast and went for a shower then I finished reading a book, did some packing and some cleaning, got all my laundry done, and posted two more things on the blog.

Tonight I will get a good sleep, then tomorrow I will start by reading the one chapter I didn’t read so that’s done for Monday’s lecture, take my notes as I read it, then I will read some research studies and narrow down which ones I want to use for my literature review, then I will review the PowerPoint slides. If I have time, I will get a bit caught up on my backlog of note-taking.

So that is my game plan for tomorrow. Here’s hoping I actually do it!


Perks of being a psych major: Googling APA citation and finding Publication Manual of the American Psychological Ass

The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition): Go Ahead, Feel Your Feelings

Go grab yourself a snack, because this is going to be reaaaally long.

After the break up, my feelings were so all over the place. It’s the most unreasonable and disoriented I’ve ever been in my life. I had no idea what to expect when I went in to work with my ex. It’s not just that I didn’t know what to expect of him (whether he would be moody or friendly was a total mystery, which meant I was on eggshells a lot of the time) but I also didn’t know what to expect of my own feelings.

Sometimes I would want to scream at him, other times I’d instinctively want to give him a shoulder massage because he looked a little tired.

Sometimes I wanted to hold him and kiss him, other times I’d have to repress the urge to hammerfist him in the neck anytime he was in arm’s reach.


The fact that this turned up on Pinterest showed me that no, it’s not just me.


There were times where I was so in love with him, and other times I hated him just for existing and everything little thing he did just pissed me off. Like the way he stretches, or the way he flips his stupid phone and all his stupid little fidgets. (But he’s still cute when he hums and when he talks to himself while he’s trying to teach himself something…)

And sometimes I wanted so badly to be with him again and for us to be happy and in love again, and other times I want him to fall for me again only so I can reject him because going out with him again offends my sense of justice.

There was a part of me that looked forward to working with him and liked having him around, even though we’re broken up, and there was another part of me that dreaded seeing him and never wanted to see him again.

Sometimes I would think wistfully of all the good things we shared, other times I would think of when he’d been inconsiderate and how deeply he hurt me, all because he was being selfish, and I’d wonder how I ever fell for someone like that and maybe I really would be better off with someone else, but then the thought of being with someone who’s not him seems abhorrent, and sometimes I think maybe things could work with him if things changed and other times I wonder if maybe him and I are star-crossed somehow and doomed to fail…

I’ve never felt so conflicted over one person in my life. And that’s saying a lot.

So, everyone I’ve talked to says these feelings are pretty normal. The feelings I’m having are probably amplified by my anxiety and depression but the core of the feelings are apparently what most people experience after a breakup.

And no, feeling like this does not make you a bad person. I really want to drive that point home because when you have a psychological disorder, like depression or anxiety, like I do, sometimes you do everything you can and still have all these negative feelings crowding in on you and you don’t know why these awful thoughts and feelings are still hanging about and why you can’t seem to make them stop and wondering what’s wrong with you and why you’re so horrible when you’re trying so hard to be good.

So let’s talk about feelings and how they relate to you, your identity and your experience.

Firstly, they’re just feelings. You are more than just your feelings. Your feelings are only one part of who you are. They’re still important, because they’re your present experience, but you have other, more stable aspects of your identity too: your morals, your values, your reasoning, your choices, your thoughts (and yes, sometimes thoughts can be separate from feelings). Are those things related to feelings? Yes, but they also have some degree of independence, enough independence that people can retain a sense of identity even though their feelings fluctuate daily. You recognize your friend when she’s laughing at a bad pun and also when she’s upset over some family conflict. You wouldn’t think she was two separate people because she’s displaying two different emotions, right? So there must be more to a person’s identity than just feelings.

Secondly, the only person really affected by your feelings is you. Of course, because your feelings affect you we want you to be feeling better, but my point is, you can still be good to other people while feeling this way since it’s your behaviour, not your feelings, that impacts other people. Though I’m not going to ignore the fact that feelings are motivations and as such they do influence behaviour, it’s also important to remember that feelings can be contained to the mind and that you can feel like crap and still do wonderful things.

Third, feelings change. Example: You know when you get hangry? You’re really moody and irritable and weepy and then you eat something and then you feel fine? That shows how easily our feelings are affected. They’re affected by what we eat and don’t eat, how long we sleep for, what stage of sleep we wake up from, the temperature, whether we stubbed our toes or clipped our shoulder on the doorframe walking by, whether we’re coming down with a virus. Our feelings are very linked to our environments. Why? Survival.

Feelings serve to motivate us to survive. Feeling weepy or grumpy or sore when you’re hungry motivates you to go eat, to get your body what it needs to survive. If you didn’t feel that way, you wouldn’t recognize your body’s needs and consequently would not meet those needs, resulting in your death. This is demonstrated by the few people who are born without the ability to feel pain, who typically die young because without the feeling of pain, they don’t learn self-preservation.

So, when your feelings are all over the place, it’s not that you’re going crazy. It’s just that your needs aren’t being met and you’re in that uncomfortable spot where you don’t know how to meet your needs and perhaps you don’t even know what your needs are. Once you get what you need, the bad feelings will go away.

I’ve heard people condemn feelings and treat feelings like they’re something to beat into submission and that if you “just had some self-control” and “weren’t so weak-willed”, you would be happy all the time. But that’s not the nature of feelings. Yes, we can influence our feelings with certain thought patterns and by managing our behaviour (this is essentially what cognitive-behavioural therapy comes down to), but it’s important to acknowledge that there is a biological basis to this and once that is accepted, we can work with our body’s limits instead of against them. And also to acknowledge that feelings, behaviour, environment, and biology all act on each other in a complex cycle so we can’t even say which causes which. In fact, I could argue that certain feelings and genetic predispositions can enable one to have self-control or will!

Feelings: best and worst part of the human experience.

And it’s okay for you to feel like a human. You are one, after all.

However, though I acknowledge your right to feel your own feelings, that doesn’t mean I’m telling you to act on those feelings. As already mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was the most unreasonable I’ve ever been in my life. If I’d acted on my feelings, I could’ve destroyed all the things I’d worked to build in one foolish impulse. Also, it’s important that your actions remain moral and that you don’t do harm to others. Even if he is being really moody and childish, it is still not moral for me to hammerfist my ex in the neck, for example. Or to punch his girlfriend’s face because she’s being inconsiderate and kind of a suck-up. Feel your feelings, but behave in a way that you can be proud of, a way that you can build a good future off of.

Also, I am not telling you dwell on your feelings. As already discussed in the “process” post, there is a time for everything and that means there is a time to let your feelings go. Sometimes, you need to indulge in feeling miserable. That’s okay. Go home. Curl up in a ball. Cry. Scream into a pillow. Punch your pillow. Tell your best friend what a jerk your ex is being. Complain. Listen to some depressing music. Cry some more. But only temporarily. It’s not in your best interest to remain in that state for too long and at some point you will need to come out of that. The difference between feeling your feelings and dwelling on your feelings is the amount of time spent on your feelings. “Too long” is when feeling turns into dwelling. Again, what “too long” is varies from situation to situation so you’ll have to figure out how long that is for you.

It’s okay to be angry at your ex. There are probably things they did royally screw up and you don’t need to deny that. Be honest about the bad things they’ve done. But, again, you will have to let it go at some point. With my ex and his new girlfriend, loving them was killing me, but hating them didn’t make me feel any better, either. Hate felt like a poison. What is needed was for me to come to a point between those two extremes.

At first, I couldn’t bear to hear others say bad things about him, even though they were true, because I loved him so much. Too much, perhaps. I didn’t make excuses for him, but when my mom would call him an asshole, I’d ask her not to because it made me sad.

So for me, complaining about all the jerk things he’s done is a sign of how far I’ve come. It balances out all the rose-tinted, lovey-dovey thoughts that I have to distance myself from. One day, I won’t have to be angry at him to distance myself from my love for him but right now, I need that anger to keep myself together. Remember, anger is a survival instinct and it’s okay to use it as such.

It’s okay to feel sad. It doesn’t make you weak. It means you love.


I’m a feminist and sometimes there’s this attitude going around that accuses you of “You’re not a real feminist” and “You’re a poor role model” because you didn’t just turn your feelings off and are hurting over a man. I am grieving someone I love. Don’t you dare turn this into my life revolving around a man and don’t you dare suggest I am weak when I am fucking strong.


It’s okay to be happy. Feeling happy again doesn’t mean you’re absolving them of any wrongdoing. They are still responsible for their actions towards you regardless. And being happy without them doesn’t mean you didn’t love them. It just means that you’re moving on in your life and taking care of yourself.

And it’s okay to not know what the fuck you’re feeling.

I think of my emotions as a pendulum. Right now, they’re swinging back and forth, from one extreme to the other. But as time goes by, the laws of physics act on that pendulum and the swings become slower and less extreme, until it stops right at the middle. The middle is my neutral. That is where I want my feelings for my ex to be. Not in love with him, but not hating him either. Neutral. Fact-oriented. Painless.

I’m still in the swinging stage, but sometimes I do stay in the middle for a short while. Honestly, no matter where I am emotionally at present, I’m not sure what to do with any of it. It all feels very foreign. I’ve really had to turn off the “analysis” part of my mind and just let my feelings be without agonizing over the how and why. This is I mean when I say “feel your feelings”. Feel them, don’t think about them. Centuries of philosophers and scientists still haven’t figured out how exactly feelings work, yet here we are, seven billion strong. You don’t need to figure it out right now.

I hope that all made sense to you. Since I’m in psychology and philosophy, I see feelings as the final frontier and even now science still finds human emotion mysterious. I feel like I’ve skimmed over a lot of ideas here¬†but I can’t come up with a better way to say it all than I did here and I don’t want to do anymore editing of this post.

In summary, feel your feelings, but don’t think on them and don’t act on them. Feelings are survival instincts, abilities, and tools. They are a part of normal human experience. Feeling angry, sad, happy, or confused is okay. You are more than your feelings and you are still a good person.

And I’m so proud of you. Keep going. You got this.

This Past Week’s Been Rather Tough and I’m Overwhelmed


I think I am a sassmaster. I had this one dream where my ex was bragging about how smart his girlfriend was and she was acting all proud and I just said, “She can’t be that smart. She’s still dating you” and they just looked puzzled and offended and my one co-worker was like, “Ooh, ouch!” That’s the only dream containing my ex’s girlfriend that I’ve actually enjoyed. But it makes me kind of scared to run into them because I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my big mouth shut if I do and will probably get myself into trouble.

Anyway, it was Thanksgiving last weekend. We had my mom’s boyfriend and his daughter out for Thanksgiving, which was fun, but we also babysat my nieces and nephew the day before and I had to write that paper so I was pretty tired by the end of the weekend.

I keep remembering that Thanksgiving last year, I spent the morning and afternoon with my boyfriend because we had the day off work and school. We drove around town and he showed me these places he often goes and we went for lunch at this place he usually goes with his family and walked around in the park close to where he used to live, holding hands and talking the whole time.

So I’m sad because I don’t get to do that anymore and I know he’s probably doing something with her for Thanksgiving and that she actually gets to do dinner with his family, which I never got to do because he never told them about me even though I was under the impression that we were kinda serious. So, yeah, I’m sad.

And this past week whenever I’m sad my mom tells me it’s been nine months since we broke up and I need to get over him and let go and that he doesn’t deserve me and now I just nod and try not to throw up my hands and scream “I KNOW, OKAY!?” I know she’s trying to help, but I’m so sick of being told what to do and what to think and what to feel. I’m sick of being told that I need to get better “somehow”. “Somehow” is useless. I can’t make a game plan off of “somehow”, I need a bit more information to go off of than that!

And I feel like every time I have a bad day where I’m feeling down, she acts like I’ve been like that forever even though I’ve made so many improvements lately. I wish she would just stop giving me advice (since it’s nothing I haven’t already figured out for myself) and just let me cry for a bit.

I’m also emotional because next Monday is the first time in almost two months that I’ll have to work with my ex. I know I’ll do fine, because I’m awesome at my job, and because last time him and I worked together, we actually kind of had fun, but the thought of seeing him and knowing he’s with someone else really hurts.

I also had my car broken into because there’s no door on the underground parking in my apartment complex and some genius left a broom down there and guess what was used to break my driver’s window? Nothing was stolen, so clearly they did not find what they’d hoped to find, but I had to file a police report, vacuum out the glass, miss a day of work because I’m stranded at home, and then shell out a $300 deductible to get my window fixed.

I was very tempted to leave a snarky note on my car the next night, like “Hope you find something valuable in here, like your conscience” or “Don’t bother, you didn’t like anything in here last time”, but figured that would be interpreted as asking for trouble.

BUT! I am pleased to announce that I am moving! My mom and I found a basement suite close to where she works and it’s much smaller (and more expensive, unfortunately) so we’ll have to downsize, but it’ll be worth it to actually have a standard of living again. I will not miss this place at all. I feel like all the misery I’ve felt over the past two years has been absorbed into the very walls of this place and that I’m breathing it in like a toxic gas or mold spores or something.

So, the place is a mess because, hey, that’s moving, and it’s very distracting for me. I’m constantly walking into boxes and clipping my shoulder on things as I walk by and it’s hard to find space to do my homework on.

And I have a lot of homework to do.

For my one class, there’s a major paper due at the end of October that I have barely even started on. It’s just the rough draft due, which only counts for 5%, and the good draft isn’t due until mid-November but that good draft counts for a quarter of my grade and I want to give myself enough time to work on it. For my other class, I have another three papers to write over the course of the semester and I don’t even know what to do my next paper on. And in both classes, I have midterms to study for and though I’ve done all the readings up to date and attended the lectures, I haven’t taken my notes yet so I have to do that this weekend along with getting a start on those papers.

And it smells weird in the apartment, like someone rubbed their armpits all over the place, not even kidding and we’ve cleaned pretty much everything and that smell is still there and that is just depressing. It’s been like this for months and it’s not the furniture and it’s not the laundry and it’s not us, so I guess it’s the apartment itself.

And I need to submit some receipts to my health insurance and apply for bursaries and make an appointment to get the cat to the vet before we move.

And I’m worried about my cat because she’s old and arthritic and I don’t want her to die.

And we ran out of laundry money, which means I have a huge pile of laundry– including my bedsheets that are dirty from my cat laying all over them– taking up space and that I can’t make my bed until they’re clean, which is distracting.

And between the deductible for my window and the damage deposit and the pet deposit, things are very tight financially, which means I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for my cat to go to the vet, or how I’m going to buy sparring gear that I need for my martial arts class, or how I’m going to pay for massage therapy which I would really like because everything hurts, or how I’m going to buy a new sports bra which I need since my old one doesn’t fit anymore. And I’m just so sick of having no money.

And I weighed myself and thought I was gaining weight and I was so excited. “Mom! I’m 125!” I shouted. She was excited at first then looked at me and said, “Are you sure? You don’t look 125. You look more like 115.” She looked at the scale and it turns out the thing isn’t working quite right and that it’s set forward ten pounds. So I’m not 125 pounds. I’m only 115, which is even less than what I weighed when I weighed myself at the doctor’s and decided to work harder to gain weight. I just wanted to cry because I’ve been working so hard and nothing is happening and my old clothes don’t fit and I can’t even wear my favourite pair of jeans anymore and same goes for all of my really nice bras and bathingsuits.

And I’ve just been so sore lately. My whole body hurts all day and I’ve been getting sharp pains in my arms and chest. I haven’t had them for years, since I was in high school, I think. I know the pain is from anxiety because I’ve already had my heart and stuff tested a couple times, but, ugh, I thought I was done with the anxiety pains. Granted, I’d rather have the anxiety pains in my body than the crippling panic thoughts I’ve had over the past six months and the headaches from crying so long and hard over those thoughts, but it’s certainly not fantastic.

And I was going to get together with a friend of mine and watch movies with her, but she cancelled because her parents planned something for them instead so now I will be at home, doing homework, so I want to cry because my whole life looks like homework right now.

And I haven’t really had the time and energy to work on the blog (I told myself I had to complete my paper first) and I’ve really missed it. I feel like school is taking up all my resources then wonder if maybe my problem is that I’ve been spending too much time on Pinterest and that’s what’s eating up my time. I decided that since I can’t focus on homework right now, I might as well write this and get it off my chest. At least I’ll get something I want done this weekend.

Really, though, I think it was that damn paper that did me in. All that other stuff is a lot, but working so long and hard on that paper really exhausted me. And it’s hit me how much more self-care I need than other people in my life. I need more rest to recover from even normal stressors. It’s taken me all week to recover from writing that paper and I dread having four more like it. I’m just glad I’m only taking two courses this semester because I could not keep up with more than that right now.

And it takes me literally all day to eat because of feeling sick to the stomach, which is why it’s been so hard for me to gain weight since eating takes so long that sometimes I’ll decide eating is just too much work and go to bed. This is what I mean when I say I have a disability. I might be able walk and run and speak and move like I’m able, but so many daily functions like just eating take such a toll on me.

There. I should be done complaining for a bit. I know things will get better. It’s just been a tough week, having one “bad day” after another. Next week will be better, I’m sure. And next month better yet once I’m in my new home.

Now it’s time to go crush some homework.

Paper-Writing, Exposure, and Cognitive Therapy

I’ve spent last weekend alternating between exploring Pinterest and working on the paper I’ve been procrastinating on for the past three weeks. The weekend before, I looked at the actual outline for the assignment and realized it was a bigger project than I’d anticipated, so good thing I didn’t procrastinate as long as I usually do or else I’d be screwed.

My mom says I’ve always been an anxious procrastinator and that I’ve always freaked out whenever I was assigned essays, but this time was more of an anxiety-driven, hope-it-will-go-away-if-I-ignore-it-long-enough-but-I-know-it-won’t kind of procrastination than usual. A couple years ago, whenever I had to write something for a class, I would put it off but it was more of a “Whatever, I know I can write the whole thing in one sitting and pull a B, if not an A”, though well-seasoned with thoughts of “But what if I don’t?” Now, I dreaded it and felt like anything I wrote would fall short of my standard, like I would be embarrassing myself by even trying.

But I needed to write it. I told myself, “This is the first paper. It counts for 5% of your grade, which isn’t too much. You have another three papers to write for this professor this semester, which in total will make up 20% of your final grade. You need to complete this paper and see how she marks it and figure out what she expects.”

In my head, I know how unreasonable it is for me to be anxious about writing this paper. There’s no reason for me to think I’m anything but good at writing. People keep telling me I’m good at it. I have a stack of high school and university papers–history papers, psych papers, philosophy papers, analyses of English literature and of music– all marked with Bs and As, telling me that I’m good at it. In the English course required for my degree, my one professor assigned a paper and when he handed it back, he said that most people scored quite well, but no one ever gets perfect marks for this paper… except this time, this one student wrote too good a paper for him to mark it at anything less than 100%. When he handed the papers back, I found out that student was me.

But this past two years, I feel like I really haven’t been able to rely on any of the skills I thought I had. Easy, breezy test writing? Gone. Easy, breezy paper writing? Gone. And this paper is a lit-review type paper for a second-year course and it needs APA citation, which I’ve never really done before. And it requires research, which on the one hand should be great because research means reading and I love reading, but on the other, reading scientific research can be very dull and very hard to focus on because one does not take poetic license with science. And I’ve heard this professor is a hard marker…

But I’ve been thinking about something we’d covered in class, exposure therapy. It’s probably most well-known for treating phobias, but is often implemented in treatment of other anxiety disorders as well and is considered one of the most effective treatments. The idea behind it is that you expose the person affected to what they’re afraid of to show them that those worst-case scenarios that occupy their mind won’t happen and when you build up those neutral and positive experiences of the feared object, eventually the person will learn that the object does not need to be feared. Exposure can be combined with cognitive therapy to help the person interpret the situation to be less negative and so reduce their fear.

So I decided that writing this essay will be exposure therapy for me. The past couple years have been filled with so much stress for me and the recent negative experiences in my academic work (mostly related to my anxiety) are crowding out the older positive experiences, even though those experiences probably outnumber the negative. It seems that having recent positive experiences is really important so I need to create those, starting with this paper.

And on the cognitive end, I told myself that it’s just been a really long time since I’ve done academic writing, I just need to get in the habit again, that I will probably do okay and if I don’t, I can use this to learn what this professor expects from assignments. These things I’m telling myself are responses that I come up with to combat my “I’ll never finish it on time. I’ll probably do really poorly on it” thoughts– cognitive therapy.

I put the finishing touches on my paper the morning right before class, leaving the specifics of APA citation for last. For anyone who is unfamiliar with APA or MLA citation styles, the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) has a lot of information on it. My old English prof recommended it to the class and I’d recommend to other university students. I also noticed Purdue OWL has some sections for different kinds of writing, including academic writing, ESL, and job search writing. I haven’t read through those sections so far, but if they’re anything like the stuff they have on APA citation, it should be helpful and straightforward.

I actually feel pretty good about my paper. I was talking with a classmate during break and asked her how her paper went and she said “Okay, hopefully”. When she asked me about mine, I was able to give a lot of details about what I wrote about because I’d immersed myself in it, which I don’t know if other people did. I’d memorized a lot of the points in my paper.

After hearing others talk about their papers, I think that I probably put a lot more work into it. Sometimes while I was writing it, I thought, “This is an awful lot of work for 5%.” I wrote about double or triple the maximum word count and had to hack it down to a thousand words and end the body of it with a derivative of “And there’s much more, but that’s beyond the scope of this paper, so there.” I’m wondering if maybe I put the same kind of effort into this paper that most people do for a final paper counting for half their grade. So, yeah, I am still perfectionistic but if this paper is up to my standard, then maybe it meets my professor’s standards, too.

Of course, sometimes I still have some anxiety about it and don’t check my school email because “What if my prof emails me to tell me how awful it was and it upsets me so I can’t focus on my other homework?” But really, that’s ridiculous because a) professors don’t email you about that, they write, ‘Come talk to me during office hours’ on your paper when they hand it back and b) my paper couldn’t be that bad.

But I finished it. One down, four to go.


Here’s my study buddy. She’s been snoring and purring contentedly next to me the whole time.



And this is her sitting up to investigate the thunder.

The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition): Let Yourself Go Through the Process

I’m writing this bit first because I think it kind of serves as a model to fit the rest of my suggestions into. See, a process has multiple stages that require different behaviours and such from each stage, so it’s very much about context and so all the rest of what I will say fits with different stages of the process, so I think this is an excellent place to start.

Dealing with a break-up (or any loss) really is a process. For me, it’s been a very long process.

This has been my life:

I dreaded my shifts at work so much that I was nauseous pretty much all the time. Because of this, I ate less and lost a lot of weight and even had to have someone cover my shifts, losing precious wages as a result. I was tired all the time. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I had to because I had a job and I needed to survive somehow. I kept busy all day, trying to distract myself. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I also dreaded falling asleep because I kept dreaming about the two of them together, which is somehow worse than any dream I’ve had about my abusive father or about that guy who stalked me in high school or the nightmares that would leave my heart pounding when I awoke. And then, of course, having dreamed about them, they were the first thing in my head when I woke up. And I just wanted them out of my head, but I couldn’t get them out.

I really didn’t know what to do with myself because nothing made me happy. Watching movies and reading books were depressing because I’d see these interactions between the characters that reminded me of him and I together. I was too miserable to try writing music or journaling or blogging because writing out the way I was feeling meant thinking about what I was feeling which I did not want to do. I avoided friends and family because talking to them about how I was meant rehashing all this break-up stuff and I didn’t want to think about it.

The only thing that truly distracted me was Pinterest. Bizarrely enough, looking at photos of wedding dresses did not make me depressed. It was actually a pleasantly neutral stimulus that only had the thought process of “Wow, that’s really pretty”. But as soon as I had to pull myself away from the distraction, I fell right back into the abyss.

Things got tense around the apartment because my mom was the only person I was really talking to and so I leaned way more heavily on her while she still had a physically demanding full-time job to work, plus commute, plus grocery shopping and bill-paying, plus I was so tired and unmotivated that I didn’t keep up with any of my chores which meant she was either having to do the chores herself or expend the energy of nagging me to get my butt into gear.

Now, this isn’t what I would call “healthy” behaviour on my part and I hope you never feel this awful. Having depression and anxiety probably amplified “normal” break-up feelings and thoughts into these mutant, unmanageable, life-sucking emotions that I had. But my point is this stage will end. IT WILL END. Trust in that. It will end. You will come through this and learn to live again.

It will take some trial and error to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, when it works and when it doesn’t. That’s part of the process (and I’m guessing that’s why I hear people say the first break-up is usually the worst: because you haven’t worked out how to cope yet).

Sometimes, you will regress. There will be times when you’ll think you’re getting the hang of it and think you’re getting better, then a particularly bad day will hit you and you’ll wonder if you’ve made any progress at all. And the answer is, yes, you’ve made progress. Sometimes you’ll have bad days that seem to come out of nowhere. That doesn’t mean you haven’t been trying or that you haven’t made improvements. It’s simply a fact of life.

I’ve, ahem,¬†created a visual to show you what the process isn’t.


(Please excuse the lack of artistry; I have too many other things to do than to care about whether I’ve mastered Paint on my computer)


I think a lot of us expect our process to look like this. We think all we need to do is cross this line, cross a certain barrier and then we’re “fixed”, like magic, and we never go back. We’re cured! Hooray!

Except, in all likelihood, it won’t happen like that.

I think the process actually looks more like this visual from page 98 of When Love Hurts (Second Edition) by Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis. The book is geared specifically towards women who have experienced abuse in a romantic relationship and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced abuse, but I found this visual so helpful that I think it would apply to all kinds of losses, even ones where abuse isn’t involved.


Diagram 11.1 The Healing Process, from page 98 of When Love Hurts (Second Edition) by Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis


You see above that there is a figure eight. The top half of that figure eight is rebuilding. The bottom half is grieving. And notice that the arrows circle around and between both the top and bottom, through both grieving and rebuilding. The arrows don’t go one way. This isn’t a thing where you start out grieving and then BAM! You’re healed and you never go back. It’s a cycle. It’s a process.

How long this process lasts will vary between situations and people. Sometimes the process can be concluded in a matter of minutes. Other times it can take months, years, decades…. Sometimes it’s the rest of your life. Before you’re too disheartened at the thought of this process being lifelong, remember that rebuilding is also part of the process. There will be times where you do feel good. And the more time that goes by, the more opportunities you have to heal, you will be spending more time in that rebuilding stage and less time trudging through that grieving stage.

And there will be some periods that are worse than others. Milestones are what comes to mind. Things like his birthday, him getting a promotion at work, what would’ve been our anniversary, starting school again (this time without him to wander around campus with), etc are awful because I don’t get to share it with him anymore.

And little everyday things will sometimes get you down too. Things like my mom buying a DVD that I’d wanted to watch with him. Or listening to a CD and wishing I could listen to it with him because it’s just the sort of thing he’d like to listen to.

But it will pass. You’re not irreparably screwed up. One day, it’ll get to the point where the sad thoughts drop out of your mind as quickly as they popped into it. You’ve just got to stay alive and keep going and you’ll get there. I’m finally starting to get to that point (and I drift away from it… then come back to it…).

There might be people acting like you should be “over it” by now. But they really don’t have any right to tell you when you should get over something. Those people are likely well-intentioned and can’t bear to see you in pain, or perhaps you’re taking longer than they did to deal with it and they don’t understand why, but I find the process is something you need to go through yourself, in your own time. As already said, the length of the process will be different for each person and rushing it is not going to help you. Just trust that you will get through it. Others have done it, I’m doing it right now, and you can too.

The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition): Intro and Disclaimer

I present to you “The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition)”! I’m breaking it up into several posts because this is really long and it might take a while before I finish this series of posts since I’m on the brink of returning to school, so time and energy will be limited. Anyway…

I’ve hated this whole break-up experience, but I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot about myself. One thing I’ve learned is that I can be particularly bad at taking my own advice. I’ve doled out a lot of advice (excellent advice, actually) to family members who’ve had bad break-ups and now that I myself have had a bad break-up, I think I’m lucky I didn’t get smacked by anyone I gave advice to cuz, gee, it is really hard to take.

So I’m gonna give you a few disclaimers before I start.

Firstly, these are context-dependent. Here’s an example of what I mean by that:

I stand in court, accused of speeding because I was driving 50km/h. Was I speeding or not?

Your answer should be “I don’t know”. Why? Because you don’t know enough about the context. You don’t know whether I was speeding just by how fast I was going. You also need to know the speed limit of where I was driving. If I was on the highway, I definitely wasn’t speeding. If I was driving in the suburbs, I was going only the speed limit. If I was in a school zone, I was going almost double the speed limit. And if I was in a school zone, you also need to know the time of day I was driving at because the school zone limit often does not apply on weekends, instead going up to 50km/h instead of 30km/h.

My point is that I don’t know everything that you’re dealing with. I am not the expert on your life. You are. So you are the one who must decide whether or not these things are likely to work for you.

I do ask that you keep an open mind and consider all that I’m saying. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out a person’s tone in their writing (as opposed to hearing them speak), but I am not being bossy or telling you what to do when I’m writing this guide. I’m just writing down the things that have helped me and am hoping that you will glean something useful from it. Whether or not you apply any of this is your decision.

Also, keep in mind that these aren’t guarantees. There is as of yet no set equation for healing your mind. Some days you do everything “right” and still feel miserable. Other days you feel awesome without even trying. And still other days you fall somewhere in between; you feel unhappy but with the right strategies you can pull yourself out of that. And I hope that you find some of those strategies here.