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Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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You have great teeth!

About two and a half hours ago, I was sitting anxiously in my dentist’s office, waiting for my semi-annual cleaning. I’m always nervous when I go to the dentist and today was no different.

I’m not afraid of the potential pain – that’s never bothered me. Even that one time about 20 years ago when I had to get a filling and the shots never fully deadened the area. I can’t remember how many shots they gave me before finally saying they couldn’t give me any more and I had to get the filling sans deadening. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a masochist. I didn’t enjoy the pain. It was just a necessary thing and I knew it wouldn’t last too long. I also know it’s a very rare thing.

What actually makes me nervous is the “grade” I’m going to get. Will they scold me for not flossing enough (even though I floss every day)? Will I be in for a lecture because all of a sudden have a whole mouthful of cavities has appeared out of nowhere? Will I pass or will I fail?   WILL I PASS…. OR WILL I FAIL?!?!?!

Of course, I know they don’t literally grade you. But that’s what it feels like as I sit there waiting. Actually, the whole entire day of my appointment has that anxiety. It’s like that time between when you do all your exams and you are waiting for your transcript.

I turned 49 a few weeks ago so it’s been a LONG time since I’ve waited for any transcripts. You’d think I’d be over it by now. But I’m not. I want to know. Aaaaaaaand yet, I don’t. Ahhhh…that great dental paradox!

Usually I sit there, mouth stretched wide with the hygienist scraping the plaque and tartar away, listening to see if I can figure out the verdict by the amount of scraping she has to do. “Hmmm…that didn’t take too long. Maybe I did good! Oh…nope. She’s just changing tools. Dang.”

Sometimes I get brave and I ask, in a feigned casual, not-that-I-really-care voice: “So…how does it look in there?” It has been a VERY long time since the answer has not been a good one. So long, in fact, that I don’t even remember when. Even when I wasn’t flossing daily or having regular cleanings, they’ve told me that I should keep doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Needless to say, like any good cheater, I have never admitted my heinous hygiene habits. And now that I have good habits, I’m kinda like that person who always gets A’s on their tests, but invariably they swear they’ve failed.

So, even though I always get a good grade, I still worry. And, as I said, today was no different.

So you will understand my absolute joy and pleasure when, about 5 minutes into my cleaning, the hygienist – fully of her own accord – said…

“You have great teeth!”

 


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The Phone Scam in my Head

If you read the Dairy Queen Discoveries post from a few days ago, you may recall that I talked about the negative thought cycles that frequently take over when I’m experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

As mentioned in that post, those thoughts have little to nothing to do with reality or logic. But they feel very much like they do.

It’s like if I had planted a garden and it turned out beautifully – all sorts of flowers with their vibrant colours intermixed with greenery of various sorts. (I don’t have a green thumb, by the way, so this is definitely a metaphor!)

Mackenzie King Estate, Gatineau Park

Garden in front of the tea house on the Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park, Quebec. Taken in Sept 2007.

Some days all I see in that garden are the beautiful plants – they are a feast for the senses – and I love it. Most days I enjoy it for the most part, but I notice that a couple of the plants could have been placed more optimally visually. While I’m aware of that and it bothers me a little, I can push that thought aside and still enjoy the overall appeal and am mostly happy with it. Then there are the days when the beauty is completely quashed. My brain only points out those out-of-place plants and I’m convinced that that’s all anyone else sees, too. There are no vibrant colours. It’s all a big, blah mess. In fact, I shouldn’t have even bothered with the garden at all. I should just tear the whole thing up because it’s all ruined and blah blah blah.

That’s ridiculous, right? Tear up a whole, beautiful garden because of a minor “error” in placement?

When I was writing that post, and thinking about those negative thoughts and how ridiculous they are (from the outside), phone scams popped into my head.

As you must be aware (and if you aren’t, please tell me your secret!), phone scams of various sorts have become a more and more common annoyance the past few years. The “Microsoft” guys who want access to your computer to fix problems. The tax department that says the police are all but on their way to lock you up and the only way out is to rush out and buy a bazillion iTunes cards and give them the numbers on the back of the cards. The vacations we’ve all won. And so on.

I called them an annoyance and for most of us, that’s all they are. But for those who fall for them, they can be quite devastating.

When they first started, I felt so badly for the victims. Some of them lost tens of thousands of dollars. But, over time, there was more education about the scams – warnings everywhere – and, well, my sympathy diminished. I still felt badly for the victims, but I mostly wondered how they could fall for what seems so obviously to be a scam. I couldn’t help but wonder… What on earth were they thinking? How, in the name of all that is green on this planet, could they fall for it nowadays? iTunes cards to pay your tax bill?? Seriously? Come on.

Yet here I am. An intelligent, successful woman and I, on a regular basis, and despite multitudinous evidence to the contrary, fall for the phone scams in my own brain. I am all too often ready to trash that metaphorical garden because of any number of internal phone scams. That is ridiculous.

That comparative thought did two things:

  1.  It made me go back to feeling super badly for the victims of actual phone (and other) scams. Who am I to judge those folks?
  2. It made me realize how ridiculous my own thoughts were, in the literal sense of that word.

The Cambridge dictionary defines ridiculous as “stupid or unreasonable and deserving to be laughed at”.

I had already realized the thoughts were negative, harmful, untrue and so on. But I hadn’t thought of them as truly ridiculous.

Thinking of them from that perspective – particularly the “deserving to be laughed at” bit – takes their power away. How can you be afraid of something that makes you laugh?

Now, that is not to say that I will always remember that they are  unreasonable and laughable. But, it is another tool in my arsenal and if I can remember it while I’m at the start of a negative thought cycle, it will likely help to keep it from really spiralling to the point where nothing is laughable. And I call that a win!

Tear up the garden because of two “misplaced” plants? Ridiculous!

 

 

 

 

 


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Dairy Queen Discoveries: A Mental Health Me, Too

Our annual general meeting for our condo corporation was this evening and afterwards, since it was a pretty toasty and humid evening, a friend an I decided to go to DQ for a treat before heading home.

Whenever we go out, we have the best conversations, ranging from totally banal topics (such as dipping French fries in your ice cream – which is great, btw, especially if the fries are salted) to various state-of-the-world topics (we have yet to solve world hunger and world peace, though, I regret to admit). Those are my favourite types of conversations – we giggle and we think. This evening was no different and I came away edified, as usual, and even with a new term in my vocabulary: imposter syndrome.

If you’d like to go into more detail on it, you can read up on it here.

Essentially, per Wikipedia, it refers to:

…high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”…Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Now, I don’t think that I truly suffer from this, but parts of what it is definitely resonated with me, particularly right now.

Almost three weeks ago I had a medical emergency that required immediate treatment and I have been off work since then. (Nothing life-threatening…)

Having to take this much time off work (about three and a half weeks by the time I go back next Tuesday) has definitely thrown me for a loop, particularly because I had only been on the team just over two months at the time it happened. I can’t help feeling that everyone now thinks I’m unreliable and a terrible member of the team. I’ve left them in the lurch and that is what is foremost in their minds, especially since I haven’t been on the team long enough for them to have developed any real sense of any of my positive traits.

I should add at this point that I have had recurring issues with anxiety and depression, at varying levels, throughout my adult life (and likely before). So when I say those are the things I’ve been thinking and feeling as a result of being off, I don’t just mean that I feel kind of badly and guilty about it. I mean it’s really been playing havoc with my anxiety in a very disruptive, life-impacting kind of way.

Despite the “logical” side of my brain telling me, “You had to take this time off. It couldn’t be postponed and you didn’t have a choice” and “Nobody thinks you’re a horrible person for doing this,” my anxiety found fertile soil to flourish, so I’ve been dealing with that, as well.

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you likely know it feeds quite well on itself when left unchecked. In my experience, one negative thought leads to another negative thought, which supports the first one and leads to others – kind of like a creeping vine. Similar to imposter syndrome, anxiety takes little to no notice of facts or reality. In full swing, in fact, otherwise completely unrealistic thoughts seem absolutely real and plausible, which, I suppose, is where they get their power.

Somewhere in the past week or so, I read a post by Wil Wheaton where he talks quite frankly about the panic attacks he was suffering through at the time. I was impressed by his openness and honesty in sharing his experience.

I don’t know Wil Wheaton outside of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory, but somehow reading about his experience (which lead me to some of his other posts on the mental health issues he deals with) made me feel better. Not just because he’s a famous person – but because he’s, well, a person and he seems to be functioning fairly well in his life.

I am also quite fortunate to have a few friends who struggle with anxiety and/or depression. It’s easy to find people who are OK with hearing about your physical ailment (you break a bone, you need a surgery, etc.), but having people with whom you can talk about mental health issues is truly a treasure!

There’s something…liberating… when you can see, in someone else, parts of yourself that you think are “less-than” and even “crazy” – someone who you’d never dream of putting those labels on, even though you’re more than willing to put them on yourself. It’s amazing what happens when you are able to normalize it somewhat – it’s not a weird, freakish, abnormal thing and I’m not a weird, freakish, abnormal person for having it, either. It doesn’t totally make it better, but it definitely helps.

I guess this post is my bit in trying to do the same – to maybe normalize it just a bit more. Of course, my reach is a touch smaller than Wil Wheaton’s (my 45 to his however-many-thousands 😉 ), but every little bit helps, right?

So… Hello. My name is Lucy and I have anxiety and depression.