My nerves are made of steel. Except when they’re not.

All the talk from the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on Twitter today has me thinking back to a rough time in my life.

In 2007, I wrote about the issues I had with anxiety three years earlier. Go and read that if you want to know what happened. I still stand by the statement that I wouldn’t wish that level of anxiety on anyone. I barely ate for months and had constant stomach and digestive issues. My brain was cycling so hard between “Shake it off” and “WTF is really wrong with me?” that I was always exhausted.

I’ll never forget looking Sean in the eye and saying to him “Maybe I’d be better off if I jumped in front of the train”. We had been married for less than six months.

I knew deep in my heart that I didn’t really want to jump, but my brain was just so tired of all the cycling.

I was on a platform at Bloor station on the way to the doctor’s office when I told him that so he physically guided me up to the escalators and made sure I was on a southbound train. I wasn’t sure if my doctor would tell me to tough it out with the new prescription she had given me less than a week before. When I saw her, she must have seen something in my eyes that told her I was Not Okay. I am grateful to my doctor for seeing that in me and guiding me to treatments that worked for me. I am grateful to Sean who had to live with me during that time, feeling helpless that he couldn’t help beyond hugs and soothing words. I am grateful to my parents who fielded my early morning phone calls talking through what was wrong with me. I am grateful for friends, family and colleagues who told me they had been through similar issues and made it out okay.

Talking about it makes it less scary. You are not the only one.

I’ve had occasional issues with anxiety in the nine years since my breakdown. They have never been as severe, and I have better coping skills to deal with them. Knowing that it is anxiety and it will pass makes a huge difference.

I am a worrier and overthinker by nature. Worrying is not the same as anxiety but it can lead that way. If you feel yourself losing control, please reach out for help. People want to help and more people have been there than you think.

The song I used in my 2007 post, The Right Stuff by Monster Magnet still inspires me. I don’t want nerves of steel all the time but nerves of tinfoil are far worse.

Weighing in on the strollers on the TTC debate

Flora's First Subway Ride
She slept through her entire first subway adventure.

My daughter was born in early September of 2008. I knew that it was a good idea to get used to traveling with her while the weather was still good. I wanted to get used to traveling with a baby and all the Stuff a baby needs before it got too cold. I didn’t want to look out the window longingly and feel even more housebound than I already was.

As a city dweller with one car between my husband and I, that meant I had to learn to navigate public transit with Flora. If I wanted to go anywhere on the days my husband took the car to get to work, I had to figure out how to do the subway. I wasn’t going near the bus when she was super small.

The picture over there is of Flora’s first subway ride. She was about a month old. That’s why she’s in one of *those* strollers. She was too small to sit up in the stroller seat so her car seat attached to the top so she could travel safely and I could bring the various stuff a baby needs in its constantly-hungry-or-leaking phase.

I planned this trip to get a couple of things done. I was canceling my membership in the Metropass Discount Plan because I wouldn’t be TTCing much while I was off work. That’s why we’re at Davisville. (Taking a stroller to the TTC head office – I hope someone did that this week.) Then we were off to visit Sean at work up near Mel Lastman Square. So a couple of stops and a long-ish subway ride to and from Warden Station.

I had planned for my trip to be done well outside of rush hour. I wanted to be considerate of other riders, especially since this wasn’t a time-sensitive errand. I know it’s hard to navigate around a stroller – I’ve done it too. So I did my best to take up as little space as possible and get out of the way of other people. I mostly succeeded, and I don’t remember getting any stinkeye from other passengers.

This was not the largest stroller on the market, nor was it the smallest. It was reasonably affordable (and a gift from Grandma to boot), held up for all of Flora’s stroller-needing years and I am grateful I had it.I did my best to be mindful of the people around me no matter where I was so I wasn’t crowding them or blocking their way. No one ever yelled at me, so I hope I succeeded.

Flora and Mummy at City Hall
This was taken at a stroller march held in 2009 to support the need for childcare in Toronto. This stroller got me through many daycare pickups and some dropoffs on the TTC.

When Flora got bigger (as in over six months, but under twelve months old, so still a baby), I knew I needed to get a smaller, more portable stroller. While our plan was to have Sean drive her to and from daycare, we knew that sometimes I would have to do the daycare run via TTC.

The days we knew I would have to pick her up, Sean would bring the stroller when he dropped her off and I would bring her home on the bus in it. When the bus would come, I would pick the stroller up to get her on the bus and wheel the stroller to the best spot to be out of the way of the most people. That spot was different every time depending on how people were sitting on the bus.

I was lucky that I was going against the flow of traffic at that time of day so most buses going to my place from my daycare provider’s home weren’t too busy. Still I did my best to be watchful and get out of people’s way.

Morning dropoff on the bus was less fun. There were several routes that went by my stop, but at least two went past a nearby highschool. Taking Flora to daycare on those buses meant getting on a standing room-only bus with a stroller. I was a cliché and I hated it. I did my best to get Flora and I the hell out of the way. I didn’t have far to go on the bus – I got off before the highschool kids, so I felt even more like an jerk when I had to pull the cord and wheel my kid precariously off the bus, apologizing the entire way.

I was relieved when Flora was walking well enough that I could stop using the stroller for doing dropoff and pickup on the TTC. I was paying a fare for her by now and she could have her own seat without guilt. I was even more relieved when Sean and I would park the car at Kennedy or Warden station and I would just take the subway to my car, then pick her up. It was just so much less hassle for me, even if Flora enjoyed the bus.

I was lucky. I lived close to two subway stations that had parking. My daycare provider lived less than fifteen minutes away from us and was easily accessible by car or transit. Not everyone is that lucky. Until the TTC’s coverage is more evenly spread throughout the entire city (and not just downtown), people will cobble together solutions that work for them.

I don’t live in Toronto anymore, but I still work there and use the subway five days a week to get to work. I also don’t have a baby anymore, but a little kid. As a TTC user, this issue affects me. Public transit is for everyone and that includes those who have to ferry small children around.

A note for those who want to say just wear your baby.

Flora in the wrap
I wore Flora plenty too.

I took short and medium-sized trips on the subway with Flora in a wrap and no stroller. It’s okay for the first bit, but doing errands that way is tricky at best. I can’t imagine doing a trip from let’s say, north Scarborough to downtown with a six month-old strapped to me, diaper bag on my arm, and possibly another child beside me. I’m just not that much of a masochist. I loved babywearing and I did it regularly. Babywearing was way better for our walks to the library over deep snow drifts, walking the dog and trips where I just didn’t want to bring a big stroller along. It’s not so good for trips where you’re going to end up carrying lots of other things besides your baby.

I believe that the issue of strollers on the TTC would be less of a hot button if all TTC riders just behaved a little better in general. We all have to get where we need to go. Don’t be a jerk, whether you’re commuting to work, daycare, or whatever it is you do with your time.

For other opinions on this issue, you should read these thoughtful blog posts:

 

“It is what it is” Isn’t Good Enough

20130115-114519.jpgI hate the phrase “It is what it is”.

When someone uses that phrase while speaking with me, I interpret it as “I don’t think you’re worth it”:

  • Not worth the time to deal with the issue, or
  • Not worth fixing the issue for

I’m not so arrogant to assume that every issue I have is important to someone else. I try to solve my own problems, and come up with solutions myself before I ask for help. But after all that thinking and reasoning, if I come to you with an problem, issue, or challenge, don’t brush me off by saying “it is what it is”.

That is just not good enough.

It’s lazy. Disrespectful. Diminishing. I expect more of someone that I am placing my trust in to have a potentially difficult conversation with.

Sometimes there really isn’t anything that can be done. Tell me that. Tell me why. Educate me. I’m not stupid, and I won’t rip your head off if I don’t get my way. Most people won’t. Don’t just brush me off by telling me to go away in a slightly more polite fashion.

I read this article by Katrina Onstad in Chatelaine back in 2009, and it has stuck with me ever since (an eternity is the age of information overload). I knew I wasn’t the only one would couldn’t stand this neutralized version of “Whatever” or even “Meh”. Her theory that IIWII is an “anger snuffer” is an interesting one. It says “don’t get mad at this, you can’t change it”.

IIWII creates complacency and compliance. I keep hearing people say that isn’t good enough either. So why do we encourage it and such passivity in each other?

IIWII is meant to diffuse anger, but most of the time, it incites it.

When someone tells you “it is what it is”, what do you say back to them? How can we eliminate this phrase from our vocabulary?

Do you exercise at home? I need advice.

Sometimes I feel like my body is just something that carries my mind around for me. My mind-body connection is tenuous.

I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to get more active. I have a sedentary lifestyle – my work and my hobbies are very computer- and technology-based. Except for reading, which exercises my mind. So my mind is reasonably sharp, but my body is…less than sharp.

I’m fat. Most of the time I’m okay with it. Well, maybe ‘okay’ isn’t the right word. I don’t beat myself up about it too much. Not openly anyway. I believe in buying clothes that fit me as I am, not buying clothes I’ll shrink into someday. I believe in small improvements, not complete short-term overhauls I cannot possibly maintain.

But sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to eat to stay alive. That makes me so angry. The act of eating is – and should be – a pleasurable one. A life-sustaining act shouldn’t be filled with such guilt and shame and neurosis.

I know I need to move more. I’ve spent the last few weeks (months? years?) figuring out what I’d like to do to be able to introduce more activity into my life. Everything I want to do seems to have barriers: too expensive, not enough time, worry that I will look stupid in front of people who I wouldn’t give a shit about if I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable in front of them.

I can’t sit at my desk and listen to my ass grow bigger without trying to do something about it. I need this body for a long time.

So for now, I’ve decided to go with streaming fitness videos at home. I don’t want to buy a pile of DVDs, do them a few times and never use them again. I also figure I can start exercising in my bare feet at home – I haven’t had a good pair of running shoes in years. I’ve found a few sites online that I can join to access full-length workout videos in a number of genres. I’m also considering a Fitbit – I’ve heard good things about them, and seeing the stats of how much I move (or don’t move) in a day may encourage me to move a little more. That can’t be a bad thing.

Flora recently discovered my yoga mat and she likes to “ex-ter-cise” on it. (I love how she says exercise, and I never correct it.) She got it out to do some yoga (her latest issue of Chirp magazine came in and it featured simple yoga poses). She’s pretty good. I asked her if she’d do exercises with me, and she said she would. We’ll see if that happens or if it turns into me exercising and her doing colour commentary on my technique.

If you’re a fitness video junkie, which ones do you like? I like yoga and am intrigued by Pilates, but I know I need to do more traditional cardio stuff too.

Any advice is welcome. This stuff is so new to me, and maybe just a bit intimidating.

A small start to a new year

Why it’s probably a good thing we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve:

What can I say? Loud noises scare me.

We spent our evening flipping between college football, kid’s TV and old music videos. I didn’t have remote privileges or much veto power so I worked on (and finished) the book I was reading. When Flora went to bed, Sean and I poured ourselves a few drinks and had a few laughs while watching more old music videos.

Today has been lazy, but not a complete write-off. We took down the Christmas tree and decorations earlier this afternoon. I made beef stew in the slow cooker knowing I wouldn’t want to come up with dinner after a long day at home. Flora spent most of the day in her new ballerina outfit and I spent most of my day in my jammies. We’re both dressed now, but she is wearing a summer dress that is much shorter than it was last summer.

A perfect illustration of time moving forward.

I feel like I should have all these grand plans for 2013. I’m not ready to make any big commitments yet, but I’m thinking about stuff. I want to succeed with small changes – and honour those successes – before I proceed  to any major overhauls.

For now, I’ll go with this:

8am #photos12 artwork on my desk at work

This is author Ami McKay’s Pledge for Digital Humanity. I printed this image out from her blog post “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”. It’s on my desk at work. I find it inspiring there, but probably need to apply the pledge outside of work too.

That’s a start. Happy New Year.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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