Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Is Not a Blog Post


So it's like this....

I have been fighting depression for a very long time, it seems. I've had a few severe episodes that were worse than the others, to be sure, and one of them cost me much of 2013 and the early days of 2014. All one has to do to confirm this is to look at the number of posts I made in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I made one post all of last year. One. I don't even really know how to react to that.

On Facebook I have been very forthcoming about my struggles and have documented my journey back "into the light" there in some great detail, but I have not been able to do the same thing here, and I know that leaves out a few of you who do not follow me on Facebook. For that, I apologize. In the next few months I will do my best to catch you up on how I got here, if I can figure it out myself.

"Here" is an interesting place, though. For many months last year I was on one long upswing from the bowels of abject despair and, where it once was impossible to see any light, it had become impossible to see any ceiling on my climb. But I think I have reached that ceiling—at least for now—and I don't really know how to react to it.

I started taking Cymbalta early last Spring and it immediately had an overwhelmingly positive effect on me. Everything about my personality changed—not just the most recent depths of depression but paradigm shifts in my core personality itself. My "normal" was new. I was calmer and more focused than I can ever remember being in my entire life (and I have confirmed my beliefs with some long-time friends), leading me to ask, out loud, "Just how freaking long have I been depressed, anyhow??"

On June 23rd of last year, I attended a meeting at the Zoo, for which I had been hand-picked by my Supervisor to represent the entire Volunteer crew in talks with board members and high-ranking Zoo officials. I was able to get it together enough to accept the invitation only because I was on the incredible recovery path that I was on, but I did show up and acquitted myself very well. For the rest of that week, I had a reason to get out of the apartment and interact with society every single day and I took note of that 7-day streak.

I managed to keep it going through the end of last year and it's still intact as I write this. It will reach thirty straight weeks tomorrow when I drive up to Lindsay to visit my Dad. I'm pretty damned proud of that.

But here's what's happening right now.

Sarah is in Kenora, giving her Dad a hand, as he just lost his mother last Thursday. She was 103 (!) years old when she died and I had really thought she was going to be the subject of a blog piece this week, but I have decided to wait until Sarah returns so I can make sure I have all the information about her life as accurately as possible. But while Sarah has been away, I have felt a strange sense of ennui return to my life. I do not feel in imminent danger of it turning into a full-blown depressive episode, but it's not a pleasant sensation nonetheless. I am keeping a very close eye on it indeed and will likely take an anxiety pill today to supplement the Cymbalta. As I type this out, I am sitting in front of my 10,000-lux "S.A.D. lamp" (phototherapy for the dark winter months) and it does seem to be helping a bit. I am also fairly confident my diet in the days since she left has not been a help; I have been doing much of the cooking since we moved into our new place last November, but I have never been one to cook for just myself and I'm ashamed of the kind of crap I have been eating since Thursday.

I have been attending a CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) group session every Monday morning for the past nine weeks and will continue to do so for another six. My task from the past session's homework was to write at least one blog piece before Monday but for one reason or another I just have not been able to sit still long enough or get my head enough "into the game" to do so, so I thought I would instead try to explain why this is the case. Along those lines, I actually am soon to see a psychiatrist to be assessed for adult ADHD, which I am fairly confident I will turn out to suffer from. Even at my new level of calmness I still can't stop feeling restless and easily bored. In fact, it might be worse than it has been for a while, since the depression masked a lot of feelings of unease and replaced them with helplessness and immobility.

I will return at some point—because I need to sharpen my blogging skills (more on that later)—with new and better posts. I have borrowed a friend's macro lens for my Canon; I am sure there will be some cool photos forthcoming. If not, there are about 18 months' worth in the tank, ready to be shared here. Or I could talk about my calendar success of last year. I have lots and lots to blog about, but for some reason I just couldn't bring myself to do so right now. I simply could not write a "real" blog post.

So I wrote this instead. Hope you're okay with it. We'll talk soon.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thanks, Jimmy Kimmel.

I've had a chance to digest the squirm-fest that was the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show last night and I've reconsidered my original stated position about the entire event. Now I am happy it happened and Jimmy Kimmel has earned a little of my respect in the process.

It's been clear to most of us up here for quite some time that Rob Ford is mentally challenged in some way. I think he's got a learning disability, but whatever the truth is there is definitely an issue there of some kind. I don't think that's been quite as obvious to the international media, most of whom have come to this story only tangentially and mainly through YouTube. To my mind, Kimmel has likely thought all along that Ford must simply be a brazen, larger-than-life character—a sort that Kimmel himself has probably bumped up against in his own country many times. When he was able to convince Ford to come on the show, I can only imagine he felt confident that Ford knew exactly what the joke was going to be. How could he not, truly, and still be the mayor of the largest city in Canada? It was unthinkable, to Kimmel's mind I am sure, that Ford might not see what was going to happen ahead of time—or at least one of his staffers or family members would advise him against it.


Sweating even before it gets going
But that didn't happen, for reasons we in Toronto are all too familiar with. And Ford showed up looking like he was the best man at a 1985 wedding. And he tossed out t-shirts and magnets and had all his local political talking points in order, because that's all he's ever had going for him in the past four years. But he was not in Toronto and the audience—in person, that is—were not the sheep of our city who still believe everything Ford says because it's on the radio or television. I'd love to have seen the results had there been a poll taken after the show of exactly what percentage of Kimmel's audience last night had even the remotest of clues what "TTC" stands for, for example. No, these were people who had shown up to witness a good stoning and they sure weren't disappointed.


It's never fun to watch a bully—or a group of people "in on the joke"—embarrass and destroy an ill-prepared person. (Think of the movie "Carrie".) It's especially not fun when you know that person being picked on is mentally challenged. But as I watched the show last night, it became pretty clear to me that Ford's low IQ was a surprise to Kimmel; or, if not a surprise outright, then it was probably startling to Kimmel that it had more to do with his shenanigans than any sort of brassy, anti-social, eff-you sort of mindset.


Daughtry sings "The Ballad of Rob Ford" on an earlier show:
how could the Fords not have known how this would end?
What I thought was interesting was the way the host handled it from there. During the video montage segment—clearly meant to be the payoff of this entire show—both Kimmel and his audience were quite obviously uncomfortable with the reaction of Ford himself to the relentless butt-kicking. At the end of each video, Kimmel had a clearly prepared and rehearsed question for Ford but didn't wait for an answer that was so obviously not coming and almost rushed through the segment, I thought. Now, abandoning the segment was not a consideration because Kimmel is not a journalist or a mental health expert; rather, he's in the entertainment business, pure and simple. He was the wise-cracking sidekick on the show "Ben Stein's Money" and co-created "The Man Show". It's not really fair of us to expect him to abandon this gold mine that landed in his lap, but still I felt he very nearly did. He even gave Ford a chance to take all the wind out of his own (Kimmel's) sails in the third part where he gently suggested that Ford might want to seek help for his alcoholism. Had Ford taken that opportunity to show real human contrition and frailty, all the sympathy would have transferred immediately to him and Kimmel would instantly have become the "bad guy". It was a big chance Kimmel was taking, but he took it anyway and I have a lot of new respect for him for doing that.


But, of course, Ford denied, denied, denied and even started to say, it seemed to me, "Maybe YOU'RE perfect, Jimmy" but was quickly cut off by Kimmel.


Two puppets and a host
And you know what? I don't care what the reasons are for Ford being in this situation right now, I was very glad to see him completely ashamed on international television last night, because Kimmel did what Mansbridge et al could not do, and shame on all of those who fell short before now. I'm way past hoping RoFo gets help; I just want him to disappear completely, because Kimmel's other guest was Gonzo the Muppet....and he managed to squeeze in a Ford joke himself. Which led to my favourite tweet of last night:


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kenora 2013: Wasting No Time


Our "lodgings" in Kenora
When we woke up Saturday morning there was no trace of the bad weather that had plagued us over the second half of our drive. It was sunny and cool and we knew that we were going to be fishing before the clock hit double digits. Lana made us a pretty fantastic breakfast which we ate in the sun room overlooking the street, then we made a quick check of the weather and winds (sunny and calm, according to our sources) and bundled our gear into the car. I had been a little worried about getting my camera and lenses wet, so Lana came up with a Ziploc bag large enough to hold everything in it at once and still close properly. I tucked this precious cargo into a sports bag and off we all went to pick up the boat and (for Sarah and me) our fishing licences. At Sunset Baits, where we took care of the paperwork (and, of course, picked up our minnows), I bought a pair of FroggToggs waterproof pants—a steal at $18.99—and changed into them from the non-waterproof sweatpants I had been wearing. If I had known, as I discovered later on, that my baseball jacket was not even water resistant, I'd likely have bought the whole set. Live and learn, I guess. (Trust me: that jacket will be waterproofed by us very, very soon.) Once we were done at the bait shop we made a quick stop at the home of Lana's dad, Sam, to pick up the fishing gear and then we headed down to the Rec Centre parking lot to launch.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kenora 2013: Shortest Day, Biggest Pay-Off


Kakabeka Falls
After a very restful night in Thunder Bay (followed by a delicious continental breakfast) we started out on the final leg of our journey west. It had rained overnight but had stopped long enough for us to load the car, although the air was cold and crisp and the sky dim. Almost as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, however, the rain started up again and it was our nearly constant companion from there until about half an hour out of Kenora. As a result, our nearly compulsory stop at Kakabeka Falls was cut quite short: just long enough for us to take a few pictures from the viewing platform nearest to the parking lot and run for cover as the skies began to open up. In years past we have spent quite a bit of time at this gorgeous natural wonder, but this time we didn't even cross the bridge that you can see in the above picture. If I wasn't 100% certain we'd be back in the future this might have bothered me more; however, the single-digit temperature reading and the piercing rain washed any regrets right out of our heads.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kenora 2013: The North Shore of Lake Superior


Sarah about to "test the waters"


Kayaks again, in a different light
The morning dawned dull and cool but dry. This last feature was a very rare one for us while camping, but especially while camping in Pancake Bay Park. The new air mattress had rewarded us for our struggles by bestowing upon us one of the best sleeps we had ever had in a tent together, helped along by the wolf song that started up just before we nodded off. We broke camp quite early, but were reluctant to leave the beauty of the park. We headed down to the beach and just breathed in the fresh air for a long while, checking to see if the clear waters of Lake Superior were any warmer than last night (they were not) and listening to the water lap gently at the sand. After an almost tragically short amount of time we left the beautiful vista and drove to the comfort station for showers. We left the park, keeping the vehicle permit to use for stops later in the day, and drove across the highway to the shops and gas station there, a must-visit on each of our trips to Pancake Bay. We enjoyed some free coffee and friendly service, purchasing a small bottle of blueberry syrup to bring to Kenora as a gift. The skies looked threatening as we pulled out of the station and headed for Thunder Bay, but we managed to avoid being rained on for much of the day. We munched on granola bars and fruit as we entered the spectacular Lake Superior Provincial Park.

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