Friday, 30 November 2018

Strike One (Oops)

Yesterday my oldest (5yo) had a doctor's appointment that I completely forgot about and we totally did not go too.


Luckily we got of easy this time with a warning, but next time we will be fined $50, and if it happens a third time they will close my daughter's patient file.

Talk about a parenting fail. Life with three is nuts and with me still not on my ADHD meds and not sleeping well (oh life with a newborn!), my organizational skills and memory are complete shit right now.

It's easy to become overwhelmed and feel like a failure, but on days like that I need to take a step back, breathe deep, give myself a break...and just hope that it won't happen again for the sake of my own sanity and mental health. Thank goodness for grace.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Running for Body and Mind

About 7 months after having my second kid a few years ago, I decided to take up running. Honestly, this decision had nothing to do with mental health but everything to do with me wanting to play tag with my kids without any shortness of breath or feeling like I was going to collapse.

When I first started running I knew I had to get a new pair of running shoes because my old ones weren't going to cut it (they made my feet and shins hurt after walking for an extended period of time) so I bought a pair of these and I felt ready.

Turns out I wasn't ready at all and my first run with my brand new pumped-up kicks was a complete disaster. I managed to jog down the street a measly 100m (or less) before my legs burned and lungs felt like they were about to explode. It was pretty pathetic.

To help myself, and salvage my pride, I downloaded the C25K (Couch to 5K) app but, even so, it was still really hard for those first couple of weeks (I couldn't even run 30 seconds without struggling to breathe and feeling like I was going to die). I kept at it and followed the plan for about 6-7 weeks before I just started running as long as I could before having to stop. Turns out by then I was able to run 20-25 mins non-stop (!): a huge improvement from where I began. After about a year of running I ran 6K non-stop (which was such an accomplishment for me) after which I pumped my fist in the air, went home with a huge smile on my face, and then didn't run for months. I haven't done 6K again since lol.

I wouldn't say I love running because I don't (sometimes getting off my ass to go out for run is just so damn hard), but I do like the affect it has on me. Not only does it increase my endurance and overall health, it is also my "me time" (I generally run at night by myself near my house and with my cell phone in hand) and while I'm running my body goes on autopilot and I find I can think and reflect on things better too. And (who am I kidding?) slimming down, toning up, and getting leaner legs is a great plus too lol.

PLUS it turns out that choosing to run was bigger blessing than I originally thought because while I started running with only my physical health in mind, it also affects my mental health positively too. Running releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters which helps with my depression as well as my ADHD. (Here is another interesting article about the neurotransmitters that are involved with ADHD - all of which are affected with exercise/running.)

Anyway, I took a break from running when I got pregnant, but now that it's over I'm starting it up again! It's too beneficial for my mental health for me not to plus it will help me get back into shape after packing on all the pregnancy pounds. I'm no olympian (or high school track team member), but I'm getting out there and doing my thing so I'm happy with that.

If you're new to running and have no idea where to start, I'd recommend something like the C25K app to help you structure your running as a beginner. I'd also recommend investing in some clothing that wicks away sweat, especially during the summer. (I'm pretty cheap so most of my stuff is from Old Navy which I find works just fine.) During winters, I generally don't wear a jacket (I get too hot while running), but I do go out with a headband, gloves, and multiclava for my neck (which I wear as a headband during the warmer months) although if it's really cold I'll wear a fleece neckwarmer and I just won't run if it's colder than -12 degrees celsius. (I went out in -15 before and it was SO COLD).

I've really found running beneficial for me and love how easy it is to do (all you really need is a good pair of shoes). I'm already looking forward to the next time tie up my laces (although ask me again when I'm about to go for a run and I'll probably say something different, lol)!

p.s. Because I'm a visual person, here are the running shoes and accessories mentioned in this post in visual form. :)

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Family Members

(A quick aside: "Family" here refers to one's family of origin - the parent(s) and sibling(s) you grew up with.)

So here we are at our final post of this series. This post is going to be my attempt to tackle the last, and most challenging, category of toxic people: toxic family members.

Unlike the other toxic groups we have already addressed (acquaintances and coworkers, and friends), this particular group of individuals are the hardest to deal with because of the following factors (to name a few): 

1/ You have history with them because they are your family.
2/ They can affect you like no other people can because they are your family. 
3/ You didn't choose them, but you are stuck with because they are your family.
4/ They are your family. Enough said.

For me, I grew up in a household where I was taught to "honour your parents," not to "air any dirty laundry" to save face, and that family was supposed to come before anyone else. I was a shy and quiet kid who who liked to keep the peace at home (read: people pleaser), and because I hated confrontations I tried my best to avoid them at all costs even if it meant bending over backwards for other family members, repressing my own thoughts and feelings even if I felt taken advantage of, and making amends even if I wasn't the one at fault sometimes. Needless to say, I thought everything was fine at the time (or maybe I had repressed my own thoughts and feelings so much that I just had no clue), but when I look back now I can see that things definitely weren't as straight-forward and peachy keen as I once thought they were. I think many people probably experience this kind of insight once they become adults, start their own family, and realize that there can be a different way of doing things from what they experienced growing up.

Anyway, the realization coupled with other drama hit me like a ton of bricks and brought me way down, but I'm now in a much better place after starting to see a therapist for depression who, during my first session, helped me identify this particular area as my biggest emotional sore spot that needed to be addressed. Since then I have worked hard to create and instil boundaries such as:

1/ Not divulging more information than is needed.
Why do I need to share more than I have to? Why should anyone know the ins and outs of my life just because they are related to me? I just share what feel I need to share and leave it at that.

2/ Speaking up if necessary and not worrying about how they might react to what I say.
If I am civil and say things amicably, and am rational, logical, and fair in what I say, then I've done my part; How someone else chooses to react or respond to what I've said is NOT MY PROBLEM so it's not worth thinking about or losing sleep over (especially if it's not brought up again by the other party). 

3/ Limiting my interactions with them
For example, I generally no longer meet-up with my parents by myself during the week for meals. The last time I did this was a couple years ago when I found myself crying alone in a restaurant bathroom stall, but that's another story for another time.

4/ Lowering my expectations
I have come to the realization that people are who they are and the only person you can change is yourself. The relationship is what it is and while it saddens me sometimes, I have come to accept things as they are.

5/ Not feeling guilty for things that I don't need to feel guilty for
Whether it was intentional or not, guilt was used as a manipulation tactic on me again and again.  I didn't realize it at the time and always tried to "right" things because of the resulting guilt (even if I didn't do anything wrong in my opinion), but once I made the connection and saw the guilt tripping for what it really was (read: manipulation), I was able to see things more clearly whenever this tactic was used on me. It sounds obvious now, but I eventually learned that if I didn't do anything wrong, there was no reason for me to feel guilty.

6/ Being able to say "No" to them
I am still working on this one, but I have come a long way from where I started. There was time when the thought of disagreeing or flat out refusing to do something (such as not going to family dinners) would cause me so much anxiety that I would just do whatever I didn't want to in order to avoid any kind of confrontation or tension. While it still difficult for me (old habits and family patterns from childhood die hard), but I've gotten better at it and it doesn't terrify me quite as much as it once did.

In my case, I still see my family about twice a month, but now the interactions are much more bearable because of the above boundaries. It is still hard at times and sometimes I find myself slipping back into old patterns and ways of thinking, but I no longer dread visits and don't leave them feeling tired and completely exhausted anymore. Sure there are still hiccups and things are far from "perfect," but at this point everything seems to have stabilized. Don't get me wrong, I love my family, but I feel I need to love them wisely for my own mental health and well-being. I have come to the conclusion that while I love them, I also need to love myself so, in the name of self-care and self-love, this is what I've come up with and it seems to be working so I'll take it.

In other cases, however, the toxicity is too much to bear and if you find yourself in this position and it is taking too much of a toll on your mental health and well-being, then the final and most dramatic boundary you can instil is cutting yourself off from them/the family member completely. It's a change that is bound to have repercussions re: relationships with other family members and/or extended family, but should you feel there is no other option, then create that boundary and stick with it for as long as you need to. There is no guilt or shame in this. You do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

I have learned that just because people are your family doesn't give them the right to treat you badly and repeatedly take advantage of you and just because they are your family doesn't mean you need to stay there absorbing the negative treatment. Sure, you might be related to them, but sometimes 'family' can be found in those who are not related to you. I know no one chooses their family, but you can choose how you interact with them. Create boundaries, love yourself, and release yourself from the toxins. Set yourself free.

Well this concludes this series on toxic people. I really am no expert (these posts are just filled with my own observations, thoughts, and experiences), but hopefully they have been helpful in some way or another.

If you enjoy reading or are interested in reading more about boundaries and/or family dynamics, here are a couple of book recommendations for you:

I found this book ("Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life" by Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend) really helpful in terms of giving me a better perspective and seeing the importance of establishing boundaries. The authors wrote this book from more of a Christian/Biblical perspective, so keep that in mind if you do end up choosing to read this one.

I also recently finished reading Tara Westover's memoir "Educated" which is hugely popular right now. I'm including it here because so much of the book is about her family dynamics and her journey of detaching herself from her family's way of life and line of thinking. It was fantastic (easily one of the best books I've read this year) and I definitely recommend it if you haven't read it yet.

And with that, I'll finish this post and series on toxic people here. Kudos to you if you're reading this - you've made it to the end!

Read the other posts in this series:
Toxicity Be Gone: An Introduction to Toxic People
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Acquaintances and Co-Workers
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Friends

Monday, 26 November 2018

Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Friends

In our last post in this series, we addressed the people on the periphery (toxic acquaintances and coworkers) and now it's time to move to the next level in our social circle: friends.

I think there are two types of toxic friends: 1/ individuals who you know are toxic who have somehow wormed their way into your friend zone without you realizing it, and 2/ those who have been your 'friend' for an extended period of time who you had no idea were actually toxic until you took a step back and were like, WHAT.

1/ Toxic people who have somehow wormed their way in without you realizing it
No need to feel bad if this has happened to you - toxic people tend to be sneaky and make a really great first impression before they go all batshit crazy on you; They either hide their true nature or dampen their toxicity intensity while they are acquaintances, but once they are 'in' your friend zone they throw all caution to the wind, their toxicity starts oozing into your life, and you're left trying to deal with shit that isn't yours to deal with. If you find yourself in this situation then the first thing you need to do is set up some boundaries and make space for yourself for some self-reflection. Ask yourself some reflective questions such as, "What exactly is bothering me about so and so," "How do I feel after interacting with so and so" or "Is so and so someone that I want to keep investing my time into?" After this stage, if you have made the realization this person has gotten too close for comfort and is toxic, start actually following through on your boundaries and begin backing away by distancing yourself. You will likely get a negative reaction from said person in question who are likely thinking, "What happened? Why is this person doing this when before they didn't?" but that isn't your problem. They start complaining to you that they are sad or whatever, not your problem; They were unhealthy for you and were sucking life from you (which was your problem) so if they come to you feeling sad because you won't let them keep sucking your life from you then that's their problem. You look after you, they can deal with themselves.

2/ 'Friends' that you didn't realize were toxic until later
Sometimes this happens: you have a friend who you thought was a good friend and were close with, but then over a period of time you start realizing things don't add up and actually aren't as peachy as you once thought they were. This may be because your friend has changed or because you have changed, but either way change happened and the friendship just isn't the same anymore.

In my experience I was previously really close friends someone who I used to have a great friendship with, but in the last few years or so I began realizing that things weren't quite right: I always initiated our conversations, went out of my way to say things to make her feel better even if they were self-deprecating, and would let things go that actually bothered me quite a bit. Anyway, it really wasn't until I sought help for my depression and was on my journey of healing and on my way to becoming a stronger and mentally healthier person that I started making more connections in my head regarding this friend saw the 'friendship' for what became: a toxic one-sided friendship where I was the fool.

When I came to this realization, I began asking myself the same self-reflective questions I mentioned above and came to the following conclusions:

1) Someone who makes you feel small and foolish all the time is no friend.
2) Someone who you don't feel comfortable sharing personal information with anymore is no friend.
3) The past isn't a good reason to put up with a friendship that is presently toxic.

With these things in mind, I started creating boundaries for myself regarding this person: I no longer initiate conversations (and since then we haven't talked one-on-one, seriously), I no longer engage in self-deprecating humour or talk around this person, and I don't disclose personal things with this person. Basically, I've stopped investing in this person and I no longer consider her a good friend anymore, but the thing is I'M MORE THAN OK WITH THIS. Life is full of ebbs and flows, and people move in and out of our lives depending on what season we are in; that's just how it works. In this particular scenario with this person, we just changed over the years and that's ok; If we didn't change and were the same people we were as kids/teenagers then I think that would be a bigger problem. I still see this person from time to time, but these days she doesn't have the same affect on me anymore. I friendly and civil with her, but mainly I just do my own thing; I'm not concerned with gaining her approval anymore and I don't let her affect me the same way she was able to before. If she attempts to become close friends again, well, what is that saying? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." (Yah, no thanks.) I wish her well (it's not like I hate her or anything lol) I just won't be 'living life with her' the way that I used to.

Basically when it comes to toxic friends, the best thing for you to do is to create boundaries between you and them. I don't mean physical barriers (although sometimes you do need physical space from them), but more internal barriers where you detach yourself from them emotionally. The thing is, from my own experience, the big change was my own perception of things; my good friend-turned-acquaintance actually didn't do anything at all other than be herself. I feel a lot of the time toxic friends try to make their shit yours (like fishing for you to say certain things to them to make them feel better to your own detriment because of possible insecurity issues), but why should their stuff be your problem? Here's the truth that they don't want you to know: their problems are not your problems. They might try to drag you into things, but stay true to your boundaries and don't let them get you involved. They have no right to make you feel like less of a person because they need to feel like more of one so remember: their problems are not your problems. You can try to be helpful if you'd like, but if things start going south for you because of the toxicity, cut yourself loose and give yourself a break. Just because you aren't helping them with their problems doesn't make you a bad or mean person. Their problems are their problems (not yours) and they need to learn to deal with their own shit in a healthier way just like everybody else.

Phew, that was a doozy. Next up, the hardest group of toxic people to deal with: toxic family members...

Read the other posts in this series:
Toxicity Be Gone: An Introduction to Toxic People
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Acquaintances and Co-Workers
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Family Members

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Acquaintances and Co-Workers

My apologies for the delay in writing this post - we welcomed another little one to our family in October and while I was pregnant I didn't have the energy to post anything (it was quite the challenging pregnancy on the "let's-try-to-be-functional" front, but more on that later). I'm back, though, and ready to pick right up where we left off. Now, where were we...ah yes, toxic acquaintances and co-workers.

Let's start with toxic acquaintances. In many ways, this category of toxic people are the easiest to deal with: keep your distance and make sure these individuals remain acquaintances. Sometimes toxic people will try to charm you to one-up their position from 'acquaintance' to 'friend' in your social circle, but NO. Don't be fooled. Keep your guard up and shut that down otherwise you will likely be their next victim. As someone once told me, "You give them an inch, they'll take a foot." Well, truer words have never been said regarding toxic individuals; If you let them get even a toe in your doorway, they will blow the door right off its hinges leaving you to pick up the pieces while they wreck and potentially steal everything in your house - including the fractured pieces of the door they busted open. These people are sneaky so be wise with who you let into your more intimate circle of friends. You don't need someone who drains your energy, makes you feel shitty, and takes but never gives as a 'friend' (because they are anything but) so keep these people at arm's length and stay alert. The good thing about this group is that because they are on the periphery of your social circle, there is no real sense of loyalty or obligation from your end to keep in contact with them at all. If you observe they are toxic and you don't want to deal with that shit, then demote them from acquaintance to stranger with a "Good riddance" or a "Goodbye, see you never." Wash your hands of the toxicity before it even has time to seep into your life.

Toxic co-workers are harder to cut off because unless you quit your job or they get fired you're stuck with them (and generally need to see them on a regular basis). It's even more complicated when the toxic person happens to be your boss or some other sort of superior, but basically the strategy for dealing with said person is the same. So what do you do? Well, like I said, the same things apply as above: keep your distance - you don't need to be friends everyone at work and you don't need to feel bad about it. You do, however, need to remain civil with them because you don't want to contribute to a toxic work environment either; It's about being mature and professional, but wise at the same time. Also, try not to get involve in any gossip or smack-talk either because that is toxic in and of itself, plus it's not professional, it's just mean. You aren't responsible for anyone's actions but yours, so just keep doing your own thing without any regard to what that other person does. Do your job as best you can, clock in your hours, then leave that toxic person behind when your head home. They are not your problem. It can also be helpful to limit interactions with said person if at all possible (i.e. get your drink later if you see they are at the water cooler), but if you do have to interact with them then limit the interactions: don't chit-chat, get your shit done with them, and leave. Oh and remember, you don't need to see or interact with said toxic person outside of the office if you don't want to (and who wants to be around a toxic person when they don't have to?). If they ask you to hang out or go for dinner or whatever, you say "No thanks!" but if you have no other choice make sure you are with them in a group setting so there are distractors present and other people (non-toxic people) to interact with - no need to potentially create opportunities for toxicity to seep into your space.

Basically when it comes to toxic acquaintances and co-workers, maintain your distance because you deserve better. Don't let them in and don't feel bad about it; It's not your fault they are toxic and their toxicity is not your problem, but you are responsible for how you respond to them. Remember, you can be friendly with people without being friends with them and you can take the high road and keep being your friendly self even if they don't like you - they are not your friends and you don't want toxic friends anyway so who cares whether or not they like you. Unfortunately, sometimes you're not able to identify a toxic person until they have already crossed that barrier and are in the "friend zone." Ahh toxic friends. I have much more to write on this but I'll stop here because this topic really needs it's own post. Stay tuned...

Read the other posts in this series:
Toxicity Be Gone: An Introduction to Toxic People
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Friends
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Family Members