The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition): Move!

So, today I’m continuing where I left off from the last BUSG post: basic self-care for your physical body. Seeing as your brain is responsible for your mental health and your brain is housed in your physical body, it is probably in the best interest of your mental health to make sure your body is getting what it needs.

(Just to clarify, since I know I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve moved to another city, when I’m talking about moving today, for the most part I’m talking about getting your body moving, not packing up and moving to another place of residence.)

I’m starting to consider that maybe I should’ve titled this “Depression and Anxiety Survival Guide (Break-Up Edition)” instead of the other way around, since so much of this is strategies for handling anxiety and depression, but it feels wrong to change it now. Oh well.

Your body is made to move. Exercising regularly decreases your risks for a myriad of diseases and delays a lot of age-related health problems, so it’s an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. If I’m remembering correctly, we start seeing these preventative effects when a person exercises for three hours or more per week, which is why I am aiming to get three hours of exercise a week. I’m halfway there right now, but seeing as my life is very unsettled at present, I figure it’s better for me to get more things in order before I get the other hour and a half or else I’ll overwhelm myself and give up for several months.

Also, endorphins. One of my counsellors told me that forty minutes of brisk walking three times a week can be equivalent to an antidepressant. (For the record, if you’re on antidepressants, I’m not telling you to go off them and just go for a walk instead. Do both, and keep in touch with your doctor.)

Movement also gives you something to do. It’s not like I stop thinking when I move or that my thoughts are now only focused on the act of moving, but thinking about depressing things while moving around and reorganizing my room isn’t nearly as depressing as thinking depressing thoughts while just laying there staring at the ceiling. Moving doesn’t stop the depressing thoughts but I do find it can sometimes dial down the intensity because there’s a little bit of distraction there.

And I totally get it if you feel tired and sore and don’t want to get up. I understand and respect the need for rest. But spending too much time laying around can make things worse. You ever heard of disuse atrophy? It’s what happens when you don’t use your muscles enough– your muscles start wasting away, becoming smaller and weaker.

I also find that if I don’t move enough, my body gets sore from that, too, and frankly I find it a less pleasant type of sore than the kind I get from exercising. “Good workout” sore makes me a bit sore and stiff, but stretching feels great and I know I’m getting stronger and I’m admiring myself more in the mirror even though I probably don’t look any different. But “selectively bedridden” sore is different. I feel weak and tired and purposeless. There this sinking, sluggish feeling about it and it’s awful.

But going from barely able to get out of bed to exercising three hours every week is a bit extreme and overwhelming so that’s not what I’m telling you to do right now. That’s why this portion is entitled “Move” not “Exercise”. Take breaks from reading or watching movies or interneting to get up and walk around your room for a few minutes. Shrug your shoulders. Reach for the ceiling. Try to touch your toes. Stretch a little, just enough to feel it (don’t tear anything!). Basically, just use your muscles to do everyday tasks. Integrate movement into your regular activities.

Me, I’m lucky that I don’t have to go out of my way to do that. To give you an idea of what implementing everyday movement looks like, I’ll use myself as an example.

In my job, it is an office job (part-time, since I’m in school), but I still stand whenever people come to speak to me, I sit when I’m inputting at the computer, I walk around to follow up with people and to grab things out of the back room, I crouch to pick things up of the floor or to talk to children, so I get everyday movements implemented into my work. It’s not physically demanding but it’s movement.

Same goes for simple things like keeping my room clean, reorganizing things, picking things up, putting things down, doing my laundry, emptying and reloading the dishwasher, cleaning the cat box, vacuuming, sweeping the floor. Not demanding, but movement nonetheless.

Of course, this satisfies not just the need for movement, but it also increases my standard of living and it makes me feel like I’ve done something useful that day. It also means less work for my mom to do, which in turn means less strain on our relationship. We both start to feel like I’m pulling my weight, so… win-win.

I also try to implement movement into meeting with friends. Usually we grab lunch or a hot chocolate then walk around for a bit. That way I’m both socially and physically active.

Before I moved, I lived in an apartment and would take the stairs instead of the elevator. Now, I have to park down the street from where I live since there’s no more room in the driveway, so I get some movement walking to and from my car.

Movement can also be used in tasks like grocery shopping, walking from the parking lot into the store, etc.

And I actually do get exercise too, since working at a dojang means I get free martial arts classes as an employee. Again, I’m not telling you to dive headfirst into exercise. You’ve got to slowly and gradually work your way into it, allow your body to adapt to these new habits, so that you’re less likely to be overwhelmed and exhausted and more likely to be consistent and succeed.

And now that I’ve moved, I live in a nicer, safer neighbourhood. I feel comfortable walking around on my own where I live now, so I can go for a walk when I want to. This unfortunately isn’t a privilege everyone has. If you can’t go for walks like I can because you feel unsafe or live in a dangerous area, don’t feel bad about yourself, just stay safe and do what you can.


The Break-Up Survival Guide (Depression and Anxiety Edition): Eat, Drink and… Try to Be Merry, I Guess

There are days when I probably would’ve been fine mentally, but feeling discomfort or pain physically triggered off or intensified my depression and anxiety. And sometimes being depressed or anxious can make you very tired and sore and create a great deal of physical pain, so it can be a nasty cycle.

So let’s talk a bit about caring for your physical body.


In the words of Remus Lupin, “Eat. You’ll feel better”.


I found myself really having trouble eating while depressed. Sometimes I was too nauseous to eat, other times I just didn’t feel like eating and nothing tasted good, other times I didn’t even feel hungry even though I should’ve, and other times I felt hungry but was too exhausted to eat.

A lot of people have the reverse of this problem and overeat when they’re depressed, but since I don’t really have any personal experience with that particular problem, or much book knowledge on it, for that matter, I won’t talk about it right now.

One thing I learned is that sometimes, I can’t trust my body’s feelings, not even the feeling of hunger (or lack thereof). So eat regularly, even if you’re not feeling hungry. I realized that my hunger started to manifest itself differently when I was depressed. Instead of hunger pangs in my stomach, I just felt weepy and tense and tired and sore all of the time plus my thoughts were more drawn to negative things like my ex with his new girlfriend. Just because you don’t feel hungry doesn’t mean hunger isn’t taking a toll on your body. Make sure you’re giving your body what it needs.

Learning to eat again is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do (which probably warrants its own post). Eating made me sick. Not eating made me sick. But once I got past that threshold and got regularly eating again, I felt so much better. I had more energy. I slept better. My dreams weren’t always pleasant, but they didn’t upset me as much as they used to. I feel more optimistic about my future. I have better control over my thoughts. I’m not in physical pain all the time.

If you are not eating enough, you will feel worse. Remember, feeling like crap is your body’s way of telling you to feed it. I think the fact that the word “hangry” exists shows that this is a pretty well-documented phenomenon even among people who aren’t mentally disordered and aren’t under a lot of stress. Imagine how much worse this gets when you are mentally disordered and stressed out.

So please eat. If you’re having trouble eating, just focus on eating period. Don’t worry about getting healthy food because that can be too intimidating. Just eat. Once you’ve got yourself eating regularly again, then you can focus more on healthy foods and getting nutrition into your system.

Also, pick up some multivitamins. Even people who do eat regular meals don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need from their meals because of how processed our foods usually are, and when you are not able to eat as much as these people do, you are getting even fewer nutrients than they are. And there are certain vitamins your body needs but does not produce on its own, so you need to get that from what you’re eating and drinking. I take gummy vitamins because I find the capsules too hard on my stomach at present.

My mom helped me pick up the vitamins. She also picked up these meal-replacement drinks that are used to help people put on weight. She spoke to the pharmacist at the store, told him I was depressed, on medication, having trouble eating, and needing to gain weight, and he suggested those drinks.

The drinks don’t fill the tummy the way that an actual meal does, so I’m not using these to actually “replace” meals, but rather to add in “extra” meals, since I need to gain weight.

I also realized that another thing that makes me feel like crap is being dehydrated. It seems being dehydrated doesn’t necessarily make me feel thirsty, but it can make me nauseous and really, really tired and weepy, also can give me headaches. Point being, pay attention to the less obvious symptoms of hunger and dehydration. A growling stomach and a dry throat aren’t the only signs.

Make especially sure to drink lots of water in hot weather, or in cold weather when you have the heat cranked up, when you’ve been exercising, and if you’re on medication, since dehydration can be a side effect of some medications.

Also, water is better for you than any other drink, so that should be what you’re drinking the most. Drinking eight cups of Coke or iced tea is not going to produce the benefits that drinking eight cups of water will. The cells in your body run off of water, not root beer.

I cut soft drinks out of my diet ages ago due to the caffeine and the amount of sugar in them. I rarely ever drink them. I’ll drink them occasionally, like, once in the span of several months, but whenever I drink them, I usually regret it because I feel like crap afterwards.


If you have anxiety problems, seriously consider cutting caffeine entirely out of your diet. I know I felt so much better doing that. No more heart pounding for no apparent reason, less jumpiness and fidgeting, less sluggishness, no sugar crash…

Seriously, lots of water. It’s refreshing.

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┬ábut 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): 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.

Break-Up Drama

Well, this post has been a long time coming. My boyfriend broke up with me in January. Now it is August. I’m still not over it. See, I work with my ex-boyfriend… and his new girlfriend… and his mom. It has been an ordeal. Hands down, worst I have ever felt in my life and that is really saying something.

This is the first time I’ve been able to distance myself from it emotionally to write about it at all.

It took ages for me to even start thinking of him as my ex. We’d broken up once before and wound up getting right back together and picking up where we left off, so I didn’t really believe that this break-up would be permanent. I thought maybe once he’d had a bit of space and gotten his life together a bit more that maybe we could try again.

But then he started making moves on my co-worker, in front of me, while we were all at work. For a while, I ignored it, because surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to jump into a new relationship when he hadn’t even worked out the conflicts in the old one (conflict being him being severely depressed and he’s lousy at dealing with it).

Then I couldn’t ignore it any longer and confronted him on it, which resulted in the most unproductive conversation I’ve ever had which did not give me any answers or solutions whatsoever and it was like talking to a brick wall because though he did pick up the phone, he gave me the silent treatment the whole time.

I then wound up talking to his new girlfriend because he wouldn’t give me the truth about what the hell was going on (she did, though), then talked to his mom, because he’d never told her the truth about our relationship and it made me uncomfortable working with her when she didn’t know the truth, and then had to talk to my boss to try and do some damage control on the situation. Did this all outside of work out in an attempt to maintain some professionalism.

I wound up switching locations to get space away from my ex and his girlfriend, which resulted in cutting back my hours and turning down what was basically a promotion. I still work half my shifts with my ex, which is bearable, but at least his girlfriend isn’t there.

Then as soon as I get switched over to the other location, his girlfriend starts hanging out there because she’s out of school now and only works part-time and apparently doesn’t have a life outside of him.

After a few weeks of this, I wound up hissing at the two of them for having no subtlety or discretion. It’s not like they’re making out or anything, but it’s still my place of work and they’re flirting in front of me and I certainly wouldn’t be behaving the way they’re behaving if I was in either of their positions. And that’s what I’m really upset about: that they aren’t treating me with the same respect and consideration that I would be treating them with if the roles were reversed. They don’t seem to grasp this concept; she got uncomfortable and booked it out of there about a sentence into this debate while my ex was a jerk about the whole thing and told me to “get over it, deal with, and grow up”, completing missing the point. This isn’t about my feelings for him but about his behaviour, then he goes making it about my feelings.

I told my best friend about it and she says, “Woah, that’s a lot of drama. And he told you to grow up?! Sounds like he’s the one who needs to grow up!”

“That’s what I told him: ‘You grow up’. Then I walked away.”

“Good for you!”

And really, it is a lot of drama. I often wave my arms around, talking to myself, and mutter, “I’m twenty-two years old! I’m too old for these high school dramatics!” And sure, he is four years my junior, but I wasn’t that bad when I was his age!

These events were spaced out over the course of six agonizing months.

This is probably the first time in my life where I’ve actually wanted to forget something. Generally, I value my memories as an important part of my identity and have no desire to part with even the negative ones because I consider them so essential to who I am, but this misery has been so all-consuming that I never want to reflect upon it again. It got to the point where I didn’t really care who I was anymore as long as I could be happy again.

A break-up is bad enough, but combine it with severe anxiety and depression and I’m amazed it didn’t kill me. Honestly, there were times when I really did think it would kill me. But, somehow, it didn’t.

See, whenever you watch a movie or read a book, the romance always ends with happily ever after, with the two happy and in love. But the thing is, it doesn’t always end that way. Honestly, I love romance (I watch, I laugh, I weep) and I love seeing the two fall in love and a movie about people falling out of love would probably be depressing to me. But the result of so many movies portraying that “happily ever after” and only that is that when you don’t get to have that, you feel really alone, like you’re the one person who can’t get what they want or need. The problem is that your loss is never really represented in storytelling and so you feel really alone.

And that’s why I’m talking about it here. Because I want you to know that it won’t kill you, and that you’re not alone in this, and that others have been as miserable as you are right now and those others have learned to be happy again. You will survive, as many have done before you, and you will one day be telling someone about how you survived, giving them the strength to go on.

And so I’ll talk about the effects the break-up and depression and anxiety has had on me, and what I’ve been doing to deal with it, but I don’t want to do that today because a) that would be one hell of a long blog post and I’m exhausted and b) this post has the backstory of my failed relationship and I want it separate from the other stuff because the other stuff is, in my view, more positive, and I don’t want it tainted with the misery of thinking about my ex and how things ended with us. So use this as a reference post because I don’t intend to talk about the whole uncomfortable situation anymore.