My 20 Favourite Podcasts of 2018

I’ve mentioned this before here on Lexical Abandon. Now I’m saying it again: I’m obsessed with podcasts.

What are Podcasts?

Podcasts are audio shows. They can be narrative, fiction, non-fiction, news, quiz shows, science, education, comedy… the list goes on. They’re like TV but only for your ears. Or radio shows that you can download for free and take anywhere. You can listen to them anytime, and you can save favourite episodes. You can use your phone’s dedicated Podcasts app, such as “Podcasts” on iPhones. Other options are third-party apps like Overcast, Audible, or Stitcher. Usually podcasts run in seasons, with a new episode being released either weekly or bi-weekly for a certain period. You can even set up your phone to auto-download new episodes, so you don’t have to go searching for new stuff or memorize when things come out.

Why do You Like Them so Much?

I started listening to podcasts around February of 2018, about 14 months ago. It quickly became an obsession that is only continuing to grow. Listening to podcasts is almost akin to meditation for me. I most often listen to them while driving, running, showering, doing chores, and playing mindless games on my phone. Listening to music is something I used to do while doing these activities. However, I love getting to give my brain some extra simulation. Podcasts have taught me and introduced me to so many things over the last year or so. I hate to waste time, so I love to feel like I’m doing two tasks at once.

It’s great to be able to listen to podcasts while also getting stuff done or while doing an activity like running or driving. Those are times when I can’t actually do anything else, so it’s awesome. I also find really inspiring. They really help me feel motivated to write, journal, be introspective, and work on my blogs.

So, What are Your Favourites?

So glad you asked. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but I’ve narrowed down my top 20 podcasts. I also added a couple of honourable mentions for specific categories. Considering I now subscribe to 166 podcasts, this was no small feat.

In no particular order…

    • Homecoming, by Gimlet Media. Written by Eli Horowitz and starring Catherine Keener and David Schwimmer. This is a fictional narrative about a rehabilitation project run by the US Department of Defense.
    • Reply All, by Gimlet Media. Hosted by Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt. A podcast about all things weird and interesting on the Internet.
    • The Pitch, by Gimlet Media. Hosted by Josh Muccio. Startup founders pitch their companies to real investors.
    • Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, by NPR. Hosted by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis. A weekly, hilarious news quiz show.
    • Not by Accident, by Sophie & Astrid Harper. A non-fiction narrative about choosing to be a single mother.
    • Science VS, by Gimlet Media. Hosted by Wendy Zukerman. The podcast version of mythbusters, Science VS determines the validity of various topics.
    • Nancy, by WNYC Studios. Hosted by Tobin Low and Kathy Tu. A podcast about all things LGBTQ+.
    • Modern Love, a WBUR Podcast. Hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti. Public figures read essays published in New York Times “Modern Love” column, and Chakrabarti has conversations with the authors.
    • Conversations with People who Hate Me, a Night Vale Podcast. Hosted by Dylan Marron. Dylan has phone conversations with people who have said hateful things to him on the Internet.
    • Endless Thread, a podcast by WBUR and Reddit. Hosted by Ben Brock Johnson. It explores compelling Internet stories found on Reddit.

Phew, That’s 10! So here are 10 More…

  • Ear Hustle, a Radiotopia Podcast. Hosted by Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. A podcast about life inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison.
  • Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, hosted by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile. The hosts discuss Harry Potter chapter by chapter as if it were a sacred text.
  • Vancouver is Awesome, by Glacier Media. Hosted by Bob Kronbauer and Lindsay William-Ross. An outlet of the Vancouver is Awesome website, the two hosts talk about all things Vancity.
  • Warm Regards, hosted by Eric Holthaus. Co-hosted by Jacquelyn Gill and Andy Revkin. A podcast talking about global warming.
  • WorkLife, a TED Podcast. Hosted by Adam Grant. The host is an organizational psychologist who is working to find out what makes work better.
  • Caught, an NPR podcast. Hosted by Kai Wright. A deep dive into children’s experiences with the juvenile justice system.
  • The Chasing Joy Podcast, hosted by Georgie Morley. Georgie interviews awesome people to get to the root of joy.
  • Sounds Good with Branden Harvey. Part of Branden’s “Good Good Good” company, Branden interviews all kinds of inspiring people creating positive change in the world.
  • Slightly Problematic, hosted by Bailey Carlin and Erica Esper. Two friends who talk about some “slightly problematic” topics in hilarious fashion.
  • Self-Care Sunday with Kayley Reed. A minimalist media project that comes out only on Sundays and interviews awesome people about self-care.

Honourable Mentions

These podcasts don’t necessarily make my top 20, but they’re really great. They also fit into categories that are pretty saturated. So I think it’s impressive that they’re favourites for me.

Best True-Crime Podcast: They Walk Among Us, by Benjamin and Rosie (last names not provided). This podcast tells stories of UK true-crime.

Best Limited-Episode Podcast: Unburnable: The People vs. Arctic Oil, a RadioWolfgang podcast. Narrated by Cormac McAuliffe (9 episodes). It covers a court case against the Norwegian government. The people want to stop drilling of new oil in the Arctic.

Best Historical Podcast: The Secret Life of Canada, hosted by Leah Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson. This podcast is fairly new. It features untold (and gruesome) stories of Canada’s colonial history.

See you in October!

I’ve decided I’ll do this every 6 months or so. I discover new podcasts all the time and love to share my obsession, because they’re so awesome!

Happy Listening!

Peace and love,


Thankful Thursday 2: Sunny Vancouver Spring

Last week I shared the things I’d been grateful for in the preceding week for the first time, in my original Thankful Thursday post. Welcome to the second week of my new habit, with a new dose of sunny gratitude!

This week’s post continues the segment, but it’s shorter now that the introductions are out of the way.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the Sunny week of April 20-26, 2018!

Things I am thankful for this week:

  • I have taken a lot of joy from the podcasts I’ve listened to (this week, mostly Modern Love and Nancy)
  • I crossed the distance threshold in the half-marathon training program and have started to taper – I ran 20km on Sunday and the longest I have to do now until the race is 10km

It Has Finally Been Really Sunny in Vancouver!!!

(This one deserved its own header)

Continuing the list…

  • I went to the chiropractor on Tuesday because my hip has been acting up and I feel MILES better now
  • My doctor called to follow-up about my thyroid results – this is HUGE. My levels are low and I need to increase my medication dosage. This means that my significant issues with depression and tiredness might not have been just SAD – they could have also been caused by my low thyroid! Post upcoming on this for sure.
  • My dad did mine and my husband’s taxes (having a parent who’s an accountant is a godsend – thanks Dad!!!) and I’m getting a huge refund (Thanks, university tuition credits!)
  • Andrew and I booked our flights to New Brunswick for this summer so we can visit friends and family
  • Found out that my dad and step-mom are coming to Vancouver for work and a visit really soon!

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this sunny week. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Thankful Thursday 1: An Introduction

One of the people I follow on Instagram, Alexandra (@alexandratheoptimist) has started doing something she calls Thankful Thursday. She’s a really great mental health advocate, and I love these little initiatives that she shares.

What is Thankful Thursday?

Every Thursday, Alexandra shares some things in her Instagram Story that she’s thankful for, and they can be big or little or somewhere in between.

Why do I want to do it?

I’ve tracked things I’m grateful for in my bullet journal for a couple of years now, and I find it really helps me to stay grounded. Often, I get in a downward spiral of anxious thoughts. Thinking about the things that have made me feel good in my week is a great way to remind myself that things are not all bad. In fact, they’re often pretty awesome!

Also, for a couple of years I did a project on Instagram that I called #beccashappylife. It was a trend that started with a project called #100happydays. Sadly, I think the reward ended up being not real (them sending you a gift), but it did end up starting a pretty great gratitude trend.

Finally, I think this project is “on brand,” if you will, with what I’m doing here in this blog space, so I’m going to start having it as a regular, weekly segment!

Here’s my Thankful Thursday!

Things I am thankful for this week:

  • The sun has come out three out of four days so far this week (yes, in my opinion the first day of the week is Monday)
  • I got a serendipitous phone call on Monday
  • Less trouble getting out of bed in the mornings, which is probably the second biggest thing
  • I got some funding for my Master’s degree from work (YESSS!!!! Definitely the biggest thing)
  • Really great tutoring session with a client
  • Chocolate and cookies
  • I went to sleep before 10 once
  • This morning I got this view as a reward for getting up at 5:45am (let’s be honest, it was 5:48 after I spent 3 minutes feeling sorry for myself) to go for my run:

What Next?

I’ve been really ruminating on something my counsellor recently suggested to me about this gratitude tracking. What she said was that it’s great to retroactively track the things that you’ve been grateful for. However, there are important next steps to make it an even more meaningful practice. The first is to start noticing great moments as they’re happening, not just after when you have the chance to take some time to think about it.

Being able to recognize these happy, warm, gratitude-filled moments as they’re happening is a really great way to combat anxiety and depression and to just have better days in general.

The next step my counsellor talked to me about was being able to draw on memories of these great moments when we’re struggling or in a dark or difficult place. They can give you a great buffer between your brains and destructive thoughts, and can increase mood in general when you can call on them at will.

Some of my Favourite Moments to Call on in Times of Darkness and Anxiety

  • Sitting on my couch in a puddle of sunshine
  • The first taste of hot coffee on the weekend
  • The moment I press the timer on my running watch when I’ve completed a training session
  • The feeling of wake-up cuddles with my dog Jazzy. She used to wait at my bedroom door for me to get out of bed
  • The feeling of closing a really great book after I’ve finished it

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for the week. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Medication: Self-Care for Anxiety Strategy 3

This post is all about the third of the 50 anxiety management strategies I wrote about in my last post: MEDICATION. Like the previous two strategies I wrote about, sleep and exercise, medication is a prevention method.

The Background

It took a long time for me to decide I wanted to try using medication for my anxiety, and that fact is strange and surprising to me.

I’ve never had an aversion to medication, aside from the fact that it does cause me some anxiety that I am on a number of regular meds (more on that later). I’ve always had people in my family who need daily medication to stay healthy. My dad has been on thyroid medication since I was really little (and now so am I and my mom, surprise). I even have a friend who’s been on antidepressants since we were in middle school, and that’s always just been a fact, not something to have a negative opinion about.

I’ve also seen many people in my life profit from taking medication for mental illness(es).

Not Cynical About Medication’s Effectiveness

I’ve also never been a skeptic about the effectiveness of drugs. My mom is a pharmacist, so I’ve always had a pretty pragmatic view of medication. As a person with chronic migraines, Advil has been my friend since I was old enough to take it. I also have exercise asthma which my inhaler works wonders on, and bad acid reflux that Zantac treats magically.

Clearly, I’m on a lot of meds. At one point in my life, I was taking four pills at night and one in the morning. Chronic conditions tend to do that to you. I’ve got hypothyroidism (under active thyroid), chronic migraines, anxiety, asthma, seasonal allergies, environmental allergies, and eczema (asthma, allergies, and eczema are a trifecta that often come in a package deal). I also took birth control for a decade. That’s probably a long enough story for an entire other post. For the sake of this argument, it was just another daily pill requirement.

So why did I feel like medication for my anxiety was not for me?

Reflections on Medications

Taking all these meds has recently become a cause of a lot of my anxiety. There’s got to be something I can do to cut the number of health problems I have, right? I don’t want to be shackled to meds my whole life. Unfortunately, genetics has a lot to do with it. However, since I’ve had years to track and observe my conditions and their responses to different events and stressors, I’ve made some reflections recently.

Thyroid meds are for life. I’ve accepted that. And it’s easy to do, because the pill is replacement therapy. It literally gives you what you don’t have. Wham bam, thank you ma’am. No side effects, nothing. With the pill, I have normal thyroid levels. Without it, I don’t. I fall asleep standing up and my hair falls out. No brainer. The only mild annoyance to do with having hypothyroidism is the once yearly blood test to make sure my dosage remains correct.

Things That Have Changed

Birth control is not forever. It also has a ton of side effects. So recently, I quit. More on that in that later post I mentioned earlier.

I also used to take preventative migraine medications. They stopped being effective, so I stopped taking them. The side effects of those were fatigue (solved that by taking them at night before bed) and dry mouth. Annoying, but no solution to that. Turns out the migraine prevention meds I was on were actually also used as an antidepressant, so when I quit those without the guidance of a doctor (again, it’s a long story that I CAUTION AGAINST) I had major withdrawal symptoms for a few days. Again, DO NOT RECOMMEND.

Also recently came down with stomach problems that I was taking daily meds for. They stopped working, so I stopped them. Thankfully, no side effects from stopping those, but my stomach still isn’t better. More tests upcoming.

What I’m getting at is this idea that once you’re on a lot of different meds with a lot of different side effects and possible interactions, it can start to feel like maybe some of them are actually doing you more harm than good. Which I think is one of the reasons I was hesitant to go on medication for my anxiety. I didn’t want to add to the already difficult and sometimes harmful cocktail I was already consuming.

Myth: Taking Medication is “Giving Up”

Another reason I think I was hesitant to go on medication for anxiety was the feeling that I’d given up, or failed. That sentiment is perpetuated by the toxic mental health culture that has persisted for years (but is fortunately fading with time and effort). This culture is maintained mostly by people without mental illness who say things like “Just calm down” or “just smile,” as if it’s that simple.

I felt like if I had to go on medication, I just wasn’t trying hard enough in therapy, or with my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), or with my self-care (exercise, sleep hygiene, etc.). Which is totally not true.

Sometimes these things are not enough. I was seeing a counsellor for about 8 months before I decided I wanted to try medication, and that decision was made completely independently of the opinion of my counsellor or anyone else. I did yoga, learned and practiced meditation, exercised, worked on my sleep hygiene, journaled, ate a healthier diet… all of those things helped me. But I still felt like anxiety was running my life more than I wanted it to. Deciding to try medication was not giving up. It was just adding another thing to my list of management strategies.

Medication Benefits I’ve Experienced

The first major benefit I’ve experienced is, obviously, a reduction in my anxiety. It’s hard to describe. I still have anxiety. Medication is not a cure, like antibiotics are when you have a nasty infection. But they do help me.

I like to think of people as operating on different frequencies. Unmedicated, my frequency is very high. This manifests itself both mentally and physically. Mentally, I have a hard time thinking things through before I react, controlling my emotions (lots of irrational anger and tears), I’m constantly dwelling on things, and I worry about everythingall the time. Physically, I often have headaches, digestive issues, tenseness in my neck and upper back, shaky hands, and a knot high in my stomach that never goes away.

Medicated, my frequency is several notches lower. I’m able to process things that annoy me without reacting with anger. I don’t cry much. I can control my emotions more easily.The dwelling still happens, but I find it easier to stop those thoughts using CBT or ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). The same goes for my worries. I find it easier to tell my brain to stop worrying about things when those worries come up. I have fewer headaches and digestive issues, and consequently less muscle pain. It’s really hard to get rid of the knot in my stomach, but it’s not as bad.

I tell more jokes. Overall, I’m more relaxed. I’m definitely happier.

I also have far less frequent panic attacks. I think I’ve only had a couple since starting the meds, when they used to be weekly or so. It’s still a struggle with things like going to the grocery store (I’m sure I’ll do a post about that in the future), but overall life in general is much easier and less stressful. It’s great!

Ways to use Medication as Self-Care:

  1. Take them! Consistency is key. It can take up to 4-6 weeks for SSRIs to take effect, so it’s important to continue to take them every day even if you don’t notice much change at first. It’s also good to have someone who is in your life regularly actively paying attention to how you’re doing when you start meds. Andrew noticed a change in me long before I recognized it myself.
  2. Also, take other meds when you need them. There’s no need to suffer without providing relief when you’re able to (headaches, acid reflux, etc.). Medication is not failure.
  3. Regularly follow-up with your psychiatrist or physician, whoever is providing you with your prescription. They can help you manage things like side-effects, will know if it is a good idea to change dosage, and will be able to help you if you think you need to change medication or stop.

In that vein, next I’m going to talk about a few things that you might find a bit difficult when transitioning to taking meds for a mental health disorder.


Everyone goes about it differently in the medical profession. Some doctors will prescribe medication without much conversation with you, while others will want to do what I would call a mini therapy session each time you go for a follow-up and refill.

You could also see a psychiatrist and get therapy from the person who prescribes your medication. Personally, I get my prescription from my family doctor, and see a certified counsellor for therapy. It’s all very individual.

Coming off the Meds

First thing’s first, this might never happen. Just like my thyroid medication, I might be on an SSRI for life. And that’s okay.

However, there is the possibility that I won’t need them anymore at some point in my life. I am hopeful that will be the case (again, see my not liking being shackled to medications).

There is a withdrawal process for medications like these, so it is important to make sure you are conferring with your physician or psychiatrist if you are planning to lower your dosage or stop taking your medication entirely. As I said earlier, I stupidly took myself off a preventative migraine medication that also happened to be an SSRI cold turkey, and it was not pleasant. Consult a medical professional.

Other People’s Opinions

This isn’t something that I’ve ever experienced first-hand, but I’ve touched on this already – there’s a lot of stigma related to medication for mental illnesses. Many people think that mental illnesses are not something that should be medicated. But really, it should be looked at as something just like my thyroid problem. It’s a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain than can be rectified using medication, just like my under active thyroid gland can be supplemented to normal levels by meds.

Finding the Right Medication for You

Finding what’s right for you can be an arduous and stressful process (and is definitely long). Fortunately for me, the first one my doctor decided to try me on worked really well. But there are many SSRIs out there, and they all can have different effects and side-effects on different people. The same medication could make one person with depression start having suicidal thoughts, and another person with depression feel like an entirely new person.

Also, these medications tend to take a long time to come into full effect (like I said, up to 4-6 weeks), so it is a long process before you even know if a given medication will be at all effective for you. Then if it’s not, you’ve got to slowly come off it and start the process again with something else.

Side effects

The same goes for if you’re experiencing negative side effects. I’m taking Cipralex, and a side effect that I experience is low libido. When I started taking it, this was small change in comparison to the amazing positive effects the medication was having for me, but after about 18 months, it’s getting kind of annoying. Now I have to start having the mental conversation about whether I want to try something else.

Also, I’ve noticed I almost never cry now. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. For one, most of the times that I used to cry were when I was having a panic attack. Obviously, I’m stoked that those panic attacks are incredibly rare now. However, I also don’t really cry at anything else, and at times I worry that the medication is somehow dampening my emotional reaction to things. This is a concern of a lot of people about medication for mental illness – that it changes who you are as a person, or makes you feel numb, so essentially, nothing at all.

I often wonder if that’s just what a “normal” person feels like – consistently less emotional. Now that I’m a lot more stable mentally, I find myself wondering what I would be like if I weren’t taking the meds anymore. It’s something my doctor has suggested we try in the next little while, so I’ll definitely post an update if that happens.

It’s Personal

If there’s only one thing that comes across when you read this post, I hope it’s that this is really personal. Like all things to do with mental health, medication is a very individual issue. The decision to or not to medicate someone with a mental illness is up to that person and their medical professional. What is helpful for one person could be harmful to another. Some people will need a combination of medications to feel themselves, while others will only need one. Some people will need small doses, others large ones. And things can change over time, too. The most important things are to find what works for you, and to ignore the stigma. Do what works for you. Always.

My Recommendations

Personally, I highly recommend that if you are on medication, you are also seeking counselling or therapy. I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well as I am now on medication if I didn’t also supplement that with monthly sessions with my counsellor.

I started taking medication after I’d been seeing a counsellor for almost a year. Counselling wasn’t enough for me, and medication made things miles better. But I definitely don’t consider the meds as a substitute for the progress that can be made (and has been made for me) through therapy.

Best Wishes!

If you’re struggling with your own medication journey, I wish you all the best. And feel free to ask me any questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Peace and love,


Lexical Abandon’s Life Lately

I recently read a blog post by Bethany Menzel, a Vancouver blogger, called Life Lately.

For reference, here it is.

Life Lately

I do a lot of talking on here about my status with my mental illnesses, but not with my life just in general, so I thought this would be a fun little update post about life for me now!

But… before I get to the “lately” questions, I figured I’d share a couple of updates on my life, because it’s been full of excitement these last couple months!

I got accepted to UBC’s Master of Education in Counselling Psychology program. Starting in September, I will be attending part-time (while I  continue to teach full-time) with a specialization in School Counselling. The end game is to become a high school guidance counsellor. It should take me about three years!

I also accepted a  full-time continuing contract teaching for West Vancouver Schools (SD 45). This is a huge step for me because now, after four years of teaching, I’ve finally got that coveted job security I’ve been talking about. Right now it’s looking pretty certain that next year I’ll be teaching at the same school I’m at this year, which has never happened for me before! I’ll also know what subjects I’ll be teaching in May or June, instead of the day before school starts! It’s a breath of fresh air.

Finally,  I just went on a Spring Break trip to Cuba with my mom!

Andrew’s not big on hot vacations and has a lot going on at work right now, so after not being able to visit my mom for a year, it was the perfect occasion for us to travel together! I had never been to Cuba before and it was absolutely amazing. Perfect beaches and weather. Now if only Vancouver could get itself together and start getting sunnier, life would be totally grand…

Lately I am…

Eating for breakfast: Oatmeal made with milk and mixed with a little maple syrup. I used to think oatmeal was disgusting, but milk makes a HUGE difference (over water). I’ve also found the most amazing brand of oats, Rogers. The kind that I get is called “Original Porridge Oats and Healthy Grains.” It’s a combination of oat flakes, wheat bran, oat bran, and flaxseed. It’s DELICIOUS. I buy it at London Drugs, and unfortunately I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

Reading: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket, and The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated to English from Chinese by Ken Liu ). If you’re  interested in what I’m reading, I have a fully-dedicated reading blog over at Paperback Patronus, or you can follow my Bookstagram account at @paperbackpatronus. I’m in a book club, and the Liu is our March pick! We’re meeting this weekend to discuss.

Wearing on repeat: Jeans and floral, spring/summery tops. My heart is still in Cuba even though Raincouver is coming at me with a vengeance. Good thing I’ve overfilled my vitamin D stores, because otherwise I’d be risking an SAD relapse.

Inspired by: Jenny Lawson. See my upcoming book review of Furiously Happy for more details. But, suffice it to say that she’s an amazing mental health advocate, and her writing is both super hilarious and super relatable and uplifting.

Doing before bed: Reading. As always.

Listening to: The Gilmore Guys podcast (I’m late to the train on this one) and several other amazing podcasts. The podcasts I most regularly recommend to people are Homecoming, Serial, Reply All, The Pitch, Science VS, Sounds Good with Branden Harvey, and The Chasing Joy Podcast.

Wishing I was better at: Getting out of bed shortly after I wake up. I’m hoping this is just lingering effects of SAD and I’ll start getting up and doing some yoga before work soon. 

Trying to stop: Wasting my time on my phone and eating (as much) dairy. I’m doing Ali Edwards‘ One Little Word project for 2018. The word I chose is “presence.” It’s a work in progress. On the dairy front, I’ve been having stomach problems since about June of last year. It’s the next thing that’s been suggested I cut down on. We’ll see.. like I said, milk in oatmeal has been a life changer for me. Anyone have any favourite milk alternatives (coconut? cashew?)?

See you soon…

That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed; I plan on doing this type of post at least a couple of times a year!

I’m also really feeling like I’m out of the woods on my SAD funk. So, I’m hoping to get the next post in the self-care series up in the next week or two!

Peace and love,