Thankful Thursday 16: Breakthrough

Welcome to the sixteenth instalment of my Thankful Thursday series, Breakthrough!

I’m coming back at you on a Friday again. I’m getting into the swing of things slowly but surely before work starts up again and grad school starts up for the first time, both on Tuesday!

This week I’m focusing on gratitude for a breakthrough I had mid-week.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the week of August 24 – August 30, 2018!

Things I am thankful for over the past week:

  • I lost my glasses on our trip to NB, and on Friday my new ones arrived and I love them:

Funko HQ!!

  • This place deserves its own subtitle. On Saturday, I drove to Everett, Washington. I went there because it’s the home of Funko HQ, and a friend that I met on Bookstagram and I decided to meet up there! She lives in Seattle, so it was a place in between Seattle and Vancouver for us to get together. It was AMAZING.
The day we were there, you could build your own monster or Freddy funko.
Posing with a life-size Hagrid funko! (And two of the five funko I purchased.)
  • My friend and I also hit up this beautiful coffee shop called Narrative, both before and after our Funko HQ adventure.

Other things I’ve been thankful for this week

  • It’s been a pretty quiet week in terms of doing things or going places. And it’s been nice sometimes, but also pretty dreadful others. Sometimes I get so anxious that I fall into a depression, and that happened to me this week. One thing that helped to start bringing me out of it was following the suggestion of a mental health advocate on Instagram and posting a selfie of myself in the sun.

    I did it, and the supportive response was really amazing.
  • A lot of my quiet time this week involved coffee and reading in the sun, which is pretty much my favourite thing ever.
  • I also took some time to make my cozy space a little neater and more spacious, and I feel like it’s so much better now! I find that living in a small space I have to be really conscious of the things I keep and how I organize and I’m constantly moving things around to make it work better. This also goes along with the tendency my anxiety has to go up incrementally in tandem with the cleanliness/organization level of my space.

  • Finally, pumpkin spice is BACK! And as much as I’m sad to see summer go, autumn is my second-favourite season, and PSLs are my all-time favourite hot drink (but half-sweet, because holy is that syrup ever brain-tinglingly sweet). I’ve had three already. I know, I have a problem. TAKE MY MONEY, STARBUCKS!!!

And finally, the theme for this week, Breakthrough!

This week I have some major gratitude for a breakthrough I’ve made. Since getting back from our trip to NB, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling depressed. Like I said above, when my anxiety gets really bad, it transforms itself into this full-blown depression monster who also has anxiety, and it’s the worst thing ever. I have already started brainstorming a post to tell you all about it. For now, just know that most days in the past couple weeks I’ve been pretty comatose.

On Monday or Tuesday, however, I had a major AHA! moment, and since then I’ve been slowly climbing my way out of that dark hole. My motivation, happiness, purpose, inspiration… everything – I guess you’d call it mojo – is starting to come back. I’m going to write a whole post on this soon. I wanted to share about it now though because it was so meaningful for me this week. I’m really thankful for all the things I was doing in my life even though I felt like shit that helped the breakthrough to happen.

There you have it!

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

Peace and love,


Thankful Thursday 8: Healing

Welcome to the eighth instalment of my Thankful Thursday, Healing! I’m really late this time, even with the best of intentions. I actually finished the post a while ago and then forgot to actually hit the button. I think I’m going to stop making promises, considering I’m in the thick of the last two weeks of school!

This week I’m focusing on gratitude for healing that has happened this week, both mentally and physically.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the Week of June 1 – June 7, 2018!

Things I am thankful for this week:

  • I got a yummy donut and coffee for Camp Day at Tim’s
  • We celebrated #nationaldonutday with Lucky’s

  • It’s been kind of grey but still warm
  • I’ve been really busy (more on that in a minute) but I haven’t dropped the ball on anything, which feels awesome
  • I went to this lovely café called the Corner Stone with some friends from work whom I worked with on an innovation grant project this year to wrap up
  • I also went to an awesome bike-themed café with a friend
Love me a well-executed theme.
  • And we walked on the seawall after
Again, grey but warm
  • The Capitals won the Stanley Cup (fight me, Ovechkin deserved to finally win)
  • Registration for my first year MEd courses went reasonably well (one class didn’t work for some reason, gave me a mild panic attack, and then worked on the second try – as usual)
  • This crazy large brussels sprout (I bought a whole bag of them, all this big)
  • My friend Joy got me the most beautiful paint-by-numbers for my birthday
  • Joy and I went to our favourite Starbucks, the fancy Reserve one on Main Street, for reward Nitro Cold Brew floats and we got the best table in the place!

The title of this post, Healing!

  • First and foremost, this week I’m really grateful for physical healing: MY HIP AND QUAD ARE FINALLY WELL ENOUGH FOR ME TO RUN! And this is what I got to see on my first trip back to the seawall… baby geese!

So cute. Anyway, at three weeks to race day, I finally felt well enough to give my legs a try. At this point in the program, Tuesdays are 6k fast, Wednesdays are sprints, Thursdays are 8k steady, Saturdays are 6k steady, and Sundays are looooooong distance. The geese photo is from Tuesday evening when I did a slow 3k, which felt stiff but good.

Then on Thursday, I decided to test my distance and was able to do the scheduled 8k (but a lot slower than target pace). I got this great view!

My hip is a ton better, but my quad still has some progress left to go. It’s not getting any worse from the running, which is great. I’m going to be my stubborn self and train and race, and then I’ll make sure it’s fully healed before I do anything else. I’ve done weekly physio and bi-weekly chiro this whole time, so don’t worry about me! 🙂

Second (and last but not least), I’ve really noticed some mental healing this week.

It’s obvious to me that this has been progress that I’ve made over the last almost two years on medication. However, it’s often things like these that we don’t really notice until we get thrown in hot water. Which is where I am now. Well, I wouldn’t say hot water. Just slightly uncomfortably warm water. It’s the last two weeks of scheduled classes at work. I’m coaching a rep rugby team, my report cards are due, and I’m getting things sorted for the MEd I’m starting in September. Oh and all the rehab and training that’s happening for my half that you just read about.

Anyway, the healing that I’m trying to get to is that I’m not panicking. I’m still sleeping eight hours a night. I’m able to get out of bed in the morning. I’m not crying. I don’t have daily headaches. I’m eating properly. It’s amazing. It used to be that when I was working through a really work-heavy, stressful time, I would start to self-combust. Now I’m fully functioning, albeit a bit more tired!

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m functioning better socially. This week, I had 4 social events after work. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say that I was excited for them (I still dreaded them as usual), but I managed them especially well IMO. I’m an introvert, and I usually use most of my extrovert energy at my job as a teacher, so being required to go socialize with coworkers or other volunteers, etc. is often incredibly difficult for me. This week, although I dreaded each event, I quite enjoyed them while I was there. Healing!

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this 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,


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Coming out on the Sunny Side

I think Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was probably the first mental health issue I ever knew about.

If you’re not super familiar (and you may not be, if you live closer to the equator than I do), here’s a quick definition from the Mayo Clinic: “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

I first heard about SAD from a friend who self-identified as having it around middle school.

I grew up in New Brunswick, which has terribly snowy and cold winters, although there is still a fair amount of sun. Its impact wasn’t very real for me until I moved to Vancouver, however.

Affectionately known by many as Raincouver, part of the notoriously rainy Pacific Northwest, and quite near to the rainiest place in North America (Henderson Lake, Vancouver Island), Vancouver borders the biggest temperate rainforest in the world.

I regularly say that Vancouver has two seasons: “rainy,” and “hot and less rainy.” The “rainy” season runs from about October through April, and the “hot and less rainy” season is (clearly) May through September. Usually every rainy season, we have at least a span of 20 days without sun. They’re not necessarily all wet, but most of them are. This January, we had 24 rainy days in a row, and October and November 2016 had 47 days of rain.

Long story short, it’s wet here. It’s also grey.

And because we’re in Canada, from November to March it’s also pretty dark. I know we’ve got nothing on northern Europe, the Canadian territories, or Alaska, but on the darkest day of the year, the sun rises at 08:05 and sets at 16:16. When I was in Williams Lake for the 2014-15 school year, on the darkest day of the year the sun rose at 08:15 and set at 15:58.

All of this is a pretty perfect recipe for SAD, especially for someone already prone to depression and anxiety.

For years I’ve had suspicions, but I think this year is the first time I’ve actually fully acknowledged that on top of generalized anxiety and periodic depression, I also have SAD. Looking back on it, my first serious experience with it was probably my first year in Vancouver when I was a freshman at UBC. I missed my husband (then boyfriend), I missed my family and all of my friends, and I was going through that stressful first-year university time when I realized that school was actually going to be hard for once.

Now I recognize that it usually starts in early November, and kicks around until mid to late March. Does this time period sound familiar?

My SAD symptoms

When I’m in the midst of SAD, I sleep more but don’t feel more rested. I usually fall asleep within minutes of starting to read in bed, when normally I can stay up reading for an hour or more. Accordingly, I end up sleeping about an hour more per night (usually about 9pm – 6am).

I also drink more coffee. Both because I feel more tired, and because it’s my comfort drink, and I find myself seeking mental and physical comfort more than usual. In the depths of SAD, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with five blankets and pillows, sipping on a steaming mug of coffee goodness, scrolling my Instagram feed, and poking my nose out occasionally to search for a tiny sliver of nonexistent sun.

I feel listless, tired, burnt out, unmotivated, and down.

Getting out of bed in the morning is so hard. I dread going to work. My job is awesome and I love it, and I always feel fine once I get there, but in the midst of SAD, I do not want to go.

How do you know you’re not just depressed, you ask? Well…

When the sun occasionally comes out, I have the best day of my life.

I think this is how I finally realized I was dealing with SAD. It was a Saturday, and the sun had come out after that above-mentioned stretch of 24 rainy days. I woke up earlier, my energy was up, I was ultra-productive, and I just felt so happy. At some point early in the day, my husband turned and looked at me, and said in surprise, “You’re super happy today.”

My response was, “Yup! It’s sunny! And nice! and I feel good! YAY!”

It was pretty black and white.

After having this epiphany, I knew I needed to write about it on the blog.

That was two months ago.

I find it hilariously and incredibly affirming that I’ve only been able to sit down and write this post now I’m in recovery. SAD is real, people, I don’t make this shit up!

Strategies I use to help with SAD

  • Vitamin D. I have no idea if this actually works, but I take it every day of the rainy season. I think it helps? It might just be placebo, but I’ll take it. The Globe and Mail says that Health Canada’s recommended daily intake of vitamin D for people aged 1-70 is 600 IU per day.
  • Exercise. I’ve already talked a lot about how exercise is one of my main sources of self-care, as is a regular sleep schedule. These are fantastic when I’m not under a dark cloud. During SAD-season, they barely keep me above water, but at least they do that. It doesn’t help when my runs have me swimming in icy cold rainwater.

    Running the West Van Run in 2017, in snow and rain, looking like a drowned rat.
  • Extra sleep. I’m an advocate of giving my body what it’s asking for, so when my eyes want to close two pages into my book instead of 50, I let them.

I think recognition is the most important part of all of this.

This year it was a lot easier to handle SAD because I realized what I was dealing with. I made sure to really soak up the sun every time it came out. My 5x weekly half-marathon training schedule made sure that I was usually outside on sunny days. If it was an off-day, I tried to make sure I got outside, even briefly, anyway.

Especially with opportunity to see cute raccoons on the seawall.

I also really worked hard to bottle the sunshine inside of me. On those rare sunny days, I would sit in a pool of it on the floor just like a cat. I’d meditate on how amazing it made me feel. Then, I would package that feeling up. I’d imagine locking it into a special compartment in my heart. I could pull it out when I needed it.

Finally, I just did what my body wanted. I drank more coffee. Got cozy more often. I snuggled with my magic bag a lot. I slept more, took care of myself.

Happy first day of Spring! Here’s to hoping the rainy season (or snowy season, for those of you not in Vancouver) is on its way out.

Peace, love, and heart compartments full of bottled sunshine,


P.S. – Next post on self-care for anxiety is coming soon!