Withdrawal…

On April 10th, I stood on my scale and said, “Oh hell no!”

I had gained a lot of weight in 2016/17, going from the low 170’s to 225lbs. That fall I lost most of it, ending in the high 180’s. And then winter came. I didn’t want to go outside and all I wanted was carbs. Soon I was back at 202lbs.

busy dayI had 14 pounds to lose, it was definitely doable. Except, instead of losing, I’ve gained two pounds in the past month and a half(ish). That’s with walking at least 10 thousand steps a day and watching what I eat.

So I looked elsewhere, right at the last medication I started taking. Mirtazapine. And discovered it’s secondary use was as a weight gain drug. Trying to diet on this drug was similar to trying to dive while wearing water wings. You can try as hard as you want, you’re only going to bob back to the surface.

I saw my psychiatrist 10 days ago and he cut me down to a half dose then told me to stop taking them a week later. My last dose was on the 24th.

Since then I’ve been feeling worse than I have since 2016. The suicidal thoughts and ideation are back, although thankfully not with intent. I have to drag myself out to go for my walk and feel miserable for most of it. My anxiety has skyrocketed and I’m getting more panic attacks. Then I looked at the withdrawal symptoms and, what do you know, those are all side effects from withdrawal. Apparently the withdrawal is supposed to be slow and gradual, not a week. A gentle tapering of 10% at a time.

peonies.jpgMeanwhile I’m trying, I’m really trying. I went out for a family lunch today and a walk in the local botanical gardens. I’m going out for dinner tonight with our local UU congregation. There’s be line dancing, which I can tolerate, and likely country music, which I can’t. Please send ear plugs and Advil.

I’m still attending all three of my groups, although they come to an end in the next couple of weeks. And I’ll be helping Kait move.

And in the meantime I’m dealing with thoughts of just jumping off the balcony right now! How I feel is going to be forever. It doesn’t matter how many pictures I take or sunsets I see, my life will continue to feel horrible.

I tell myself that’s not true then I grit my teeth, post something positive on Facebook, and head out for a walk.

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The pause…

I don’t know why I’m surprised each time it happens, but I am. I’ll be in a conversation with a stranger, like a cashier, and then it comes. The pause.

“… and is your… son vegan too?” the cashier asks as she scans my vegan margarine and packages of Gardein vegan “meat”, giving Colin a not so subtle second glance.

Colin smiling on his balconyThe pause is *just* long enough to be noticeable and happens often enough that I know it’s happening. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Colin’s been through puberty and now wears all his clothes from the mens section of clothing stores. He’s also horrible at shaving and usually has a tad more than a 5 o’clock shadow. I know he has long hair but so many men do these days, it shouldn’t warrant confusion. And, yet, people (multiple people) still pause and give him a second glance before choosing his pronoun. Some even start out referring to him as female, only to revert to male pronouns with no little amount of embarrassment.

These days everyone we know has settled back to Colin and him, as if he never was Emma and her. As if it’s not even been half a year since he detransitioned for fertility reasons. Everyone except for his doctor’s office, who he never informed otherwise. Maybe he just forgot? Maybe he gets some relief from hearing someone calling him by his real name? I don’t know. I haven’t asked.

Meanwhile, we’ll still continue to go out for walks and shopping and Colin will continue to get “the pause”.

Just a stones throw away…

When I was a little girl, in the 70’s, a family named the Martins* moved across the street from us. They had three kids, just like us, and both us kids and our parents clicked. A few short years later the family moved to farm country on the other side of Toronto. They bought a lovely ranch house with two basements (something that intrigued us to no end), a tiny barn, and a pond complete with frogs.

The parents decided to make the friendship work despite the distance. We’d go up there to visit on occasion and every summer the parents would each take turns having all six kids for a week. It was on one of those weeks that we ran into the bull.

Penny the pony

I’m in the yellow

The Martins lived a quarter mile down the road from the Waltons. In the city that would be blocks and blocks away but in farm country that meant they were one neighbour apart. We’d walk down the dirt road to the Waltons, stopping half way to splash in a little creek and wash the sweat and dust off us. That cleanliness didn’t last for long but it sure felt good at the time.

Kirsten was always waiting for us to show up. Usually we’d go to the cow barn where the cats and all their kittens were. This was a huge favourite of ours but not so much our parents because sometimes we tried to sneak kittens home.

“Why don’t we go to the garage instead,” Kirsten suggested this time. We were all underwhelmed at the prospect.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she cajoled. “My grandfather never threw anything out and we have all sorts of neat stuff in there. Antique cars, old fashioned stoves, umm, lots of stuff.”

Well it was obvious she wanted to go and maybe there would be something interested so we agreed. In hindsight we should have checked out those damn kittens.

“We have to cut through the cow field,” Kirsten explained unnecessarily as we passed a cow.”

“There’s just cows, right?” Sarah Martin asked.

“Cows and one bull,” Kirsten replied. That didn’t appear to make Sarah happy.

“Don’t worry,” Kirsten continued. “He was my 4-H project. I raised him from a tiny calf. I bottle fed him. He knows me.”

She scooped down and grabbed a handful of gravel. She threw one over toward the fence where several cows grazed. “See? That’s him there.”

“Should you be throwing rocks at him?” I commented warily. I was a city kid but was reasonably sure bulls could get a tad testy. I was also sure that throwing rocks at anything was a bad idea.

“Oh he’s fine,” Kirsten replied as she threw another rock and then another. “The only time we have to worry is if he starts snorting and pawing the ground.”

That was when, with absolute movie timing, the bull began to snort.

“Just walk fast,” Kirsten urged, “don’t run. He’ll start chasing if you run.”

Her advice hadn’t got us very far yet but it wasn’t like the rest of us had any better ideas so we sped up but not too fast. How fast is not too fast?

“You can run when you get around the side of the building. There’s a missing board in the wall that you can squeeze through.”

She had to be kidding. A board? We had to squeeze through a gap the size of a board? Course the plus side was we didn’t have to wait for her to unlock a door.

My sister Sue and her friend started out at least 10 feet ahead of us but we were closing that gap quickly. Soon I could hear their feet pounding. At least I hoped it was them and not the bull. I was too busy speed walking to look back. Then I finally got around the corner, just in time to see Kirsten and Sarah dart in front of Sarah’s sister Megan. Megan was portly so to speak. I watched as she squeezed into the hole and listened as the bull’s snorting grew louder and louder. Then it came.

“I’m stuck,” Megan wailed.

“Really?” I blurted. It had to be a joke because I could hear that bull now.

I looked past her and realized there were two wooden walls with a missing board each. Of course they weren’t one across from the other, they were about a foot separate. And Megan was stuck between the two of them.

“Pull!” Sarah yelled as she grabbed Megan’s hands. Meanwhile I pushed. What felt like years later, she popped out of that wall like the cork from a champagne bottle.

I quickly slid through and moments later the bull arrived, battering at the wooden boards like he could plow his way through. Kirsten eyed the wall suspiciously then climbed onto the hood of a 20’s car and scampered onto the roof.

“There’s a hole into the loft here,” she explained as she slipped out of sight.

I scrambled up after her and soon was joined by Sarah and Sue. Megan was too big to fit so she had to settle for hiding on the far side of the shed.

Kirsten was right, there were interesting things in the shed but I was too busy paying attention to the bull raging underneath us to give them much attention. At first he raged and the pounding of his hooves was thunderous but he slowly quieted down and eventually there was silence.

Kirsten volunteered to leave first and soon gave the okay. All the cows were grazing peacefully by one of the fences, the bull amongst them, and we made it out of the field safely.

I’d like to say that was the last time we went to that shed but I’d be lying. I’m reasonably sure that was the last time Kirsten threw stones at a bull though.

*all names have been changed.

The wrong way home…

It wasn’t the stop I’d planned to wait at. My original plan called for me to walk five more blocks but that would take me 10 minutes and my bus app informed me I had nine. So I hurried over to the nearest stop and stood beside the man who was waiting there.

It didn’t take long before he started to chat. His truck was in the shop, otherwise he wouldn’t be here waiting alongside me. A standard topic for drivers who find themselves catching the bus. They wouldn’t normally be there, hanging out on the street corner with us plebeians but circumstances happened. He’d just dropped his truck off and had been up since yesterday so was looking forward to getting home and getting a few hours rest. There wasn’t really any time for me to speak, not that I knew what to say.

Then he asked, “Do you know what bus to take to get to Taunton and Wilson?”

Taunton Road is in the north part of Oshawa. It used to be pretty much the edge of town but the city’s sprawled north of it now. And Wilson was to the east of us by about ten blocks. We were currently downtown, so nowhere near either road.

Three years ago he could have caught the 407 Ritson bus and it would have taken him straight down Taunton but, short of a time machine, that wasn’t going to happen. However, the 416 Kedron did go down there. Plus it left from the college bus loop. The 401 Simcoe, one of the main buses in Oshawa, ended there and it conveniently came to the stop where we waited. So I told him just that. He thanked me and continued on with his one sided conversation.

“My house is worth 800 thousand dollars,” he proudly informed me. “When I bought it in 2009, it was worth only 300 thousand.”

I was about to congratulate him when he continued. “My wife is indicting me. You know, for the house. You women have way too much power in this country.”

I silently cheered for his wife.

“See?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money, sliding one twenty from the top. “Who’s on all your money?”

“Queen Elizabeth,” I replied simply.

“See, a woman. That’s my proof,” he said this cheerfully, smiling the whole time. “Every time I look at money, I’m reminded of who’s in power here.”

The 401 bus arrived and he climbed on then back off within seconds. The bus pulled away without him.

“Why did you get off?” I asked.

“The (male) driver told me to catch the 407,” he replied.

“It won’t take you to Taunton,” I cautioned him. “But it will take you to Coldstream and Wilson.”

“That’s even better!” the man said happily.

The 407 came along moments later. I got on first and settled myself while he sat down behind me a bit later. Two blocks later he was up and out of his seat.

“Where are you going?” I asked in bewilderment. He had at least another twenty minutes left before his stop.

“The (male) driver told me to go to Centre Street,” he replied as he slipped out the back doors.

Oshawa has one way streets through their downtown. Simcoe Street runs north and Centre Street runs south. There’s no way on earth he could catch a southbound bus on Centre to get to the north west part of town. No way at all.

I looked out the window at him standing there, still happy, clutching his transfer in one hand then settled back in my seat to go home. I wonder how long it took him to get to his?

drt_8159

The bus he should have taken

A vegan “offended me”

*heads up* this blog isn’t a democracy and I delete posts that I find offensive. One thing I find offensive is an inability to read the post fully before replying. Try reading every word. Another is simply being an ass. And, a head’s up to the last person who got deleted, the “race card” was played by a white woman. That’s why I used the term.

vegan offended meI checked the joke three times before I posted it, just to make sure there wasn’t anything offensive that I’d missed. I had to because I know how butt-hurt meat eaters (aka carnists) can get when faced with vegan humour, no matter how mild. But it looked fine so I shared it with the title of “for my fellow vegans”.

It garnered a couple of chuckles and then it happened, a friend posted a picture of herself eating a burger from Wendy’s. Immediately one of my vegan friends jumped in to say that was really crappy of her and she was a shit human being to do so. I stepped in to say that she was a good friend of mine and this was really out of character of her. And she certainly wasn’t a shit human.

Then her own post showed up on my newsfeed saying that “white vegans claim oppression over nothing”. No one had said anything about oppression and there’d been no discussion of race but she knew if she wrote that she’d posted a beef burger in a vegan thread she wouldn’t get much (if any) sympathy so she, a white person, played the race card. I hope all her friends are happy at how well she manipulated them. Then she went on to block me and two other (non vegan) friends. Their crime? Telling her she’d gone too far. We’d been friends for seven years and simply seeing a vegan joke was enough for her to block me. She then went on to report my post and Facebook, who will leave up posts telling LGBTQ youths exactly how to kill themselves, immediately complied.

Vegans make an easy target. There aren’t many of us and, as in any group, there are always some vocal outliers to focus on. The problem is that people act like those loud spoken few are the majority. That would be like me claiming all Christians were like Westboro Baptist. You’re all just hiding those placards, ready to bust them out, right?

Lately I’ve seen a few posts against veganism, sadly from friends, and I decided it was time for a rebuttal of my own.

One of the first assertions is that vegans claim to do no harm. Umm… that’s so not true. There might be a small handful who think they’ve achieved perfection but the rest of us are a lot more aware than that. Vegans try to do as little harm as possible. Every vegan group I belong to fully supports prescription medication, for example, even though it’s all tested on animals, simply because we deserve to live just as much as animals do.

I’ve heard and seen it mentioned far too many times that vegans are all white women following a trend. Did you know Ghandi was a vegan. He started in 1931, far before any such “trend”. Plus my vegan groups span the globe, encompassing people of all races and religions.

People argue that veganism is a rich person diet. I say those people are woefully ignorant. Sure, someone who goes to an expensive grocer and buys all organic produce and processed meat substitutes are going to have an expensive diet but what about rice, lentils, dried beans, tofu? I buy produce off the clearance shelves whenever I get a chance. Each package is 99 cents. And, in the States, they have Dollar Tree, which sells frozen, canned, and jarred vegan products for a dollar each. If you travel anywhere in poor, rural countries, you will see people cooking meals with very little, if any, meat. They’re not vegan, they just can’t afford meat. Meat is a luxury, not the other way around.

They go on to claim that around 500,000 thousand undocumented children harvest 25% of American crops “but I guess brown people don’t fucking matter”.

Wait for it… wait for it…

opinion receipt

Sorry, that one slipped out.

On what planet are vegans the only people eating produce? Every non-vegan meal I’ve ever seen has had plenty of vegetables and grains served on the side. So, if you think the above argument is valid, go look in the mirror because you’re part of the problem. Actually you’re even more of the problem because guess who eats most of the soy crops? Cows. They eat around 85%. And, since soy is added to almost everything, it’s not just vegans eating the rest. Plus one third of the world’s grain supply is fed directly to animals. There would actually be more food for starving people if we ate less meat. More potable water too as farm animals drink a lot.

Then comes the argument over quinoa, saying that it’s leading to starvation in South America and it’s all white vegans fault. Once again claiming that white vegans don’t care about brown people. Know who eats quinoa? It’s been billed as a superfood so fucking everybody. I’m currently enrolled in a wellness class that has a nutrition component. The POC nutritionist was extolling the virtues of quinoa to my mixed race class. I guess my brown nutritionist doesn’t care about brown people. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

I used to belong to an atheist group that mocked vegans on a regular basis, with no provocation. Someone asked an honest question, “Are you vegan for health or ethical reasons and can you explain why?” and I answered. One of the moderators started in on me because I have a smart phone. Didn’t I care about child labour? Of course I care about child labour. So I asked her where she got her child labour free phone. My contract was almost up and if there was the equivalent of fair trade for a phone, I would certainly look into it. Her response? “I don’t give a fuck about the children. I just wanted to harass you.” Alrighty then.

Then comes allergies as an excuse. Soy, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts are all common allergens and people with those allergies can’t be vegan, goes the argument. Except there are all sorts of people who are vegan with those allergies. No one’s living solely on those four products. There’s beans and legumes, teff, the ubiquitous quinoa, spelt… the list goes on for longer than I care to type. I’ve seen people with more allergies than just those four who are successful and healthy vegans. I don’t see the reverse argument though. Milk is a common allergy. Does that mean having milk products should be frowned upon?

confused girlSomeone claimed they’d starve to death as a vegan because they can’t eat nuts. Umm really? Deep sigh. Vegans eat a whole lot more than nuts, which are expensive and full of fat. First there’s all the fruits and vegetables, literally all of them. Then there’s legumes and beans. Then there are grains like wheat, spelt, and teff. That person could make a feast at every single meal and never use a single nut. If they don’t want to be vegan, that’s fine, but don’t claim nut digestion to be the reason.

Honey gets mentioned several times. First claiming that people are against bees by not eating honey. Honeybee farmers are trying to save the bees (while making a profit off their labour). Bees are transported from farm to farm, resulting in accidental deaths due to the jostling of the hive. I’ve also read that bee farmers consider a 15% loss of bees acceptable each year as some bees will starve because sugar water is not honey and doesn’t sustain them as well. I don’t know about you but I actually don’t need honey. It’s not a necessity.

The second claim is that vegans shouldn’t eat any fruits or vegetables because they were pollinated by bees, thus exploiting them. Refer to above picture for my reaction to this. Bees pollinate flowers so they can make food for themselves. If, for some bizarre reason, we stopped eating all plants and let the land go fallow, bees would still be out there pollinating the flowers. They don’t care about the plants at all or us eating them for that matter.

Then comes the incidental damage to animals. Rabbits getting shot at, mice getting run over by combines, rodents getting killed, warrens destroyed. As I’ve mentioned before, vegans are not the only people who eat produce so it’s hardly only vegans. And the whole mice and other small animals getting killed by combines is mostly a myth. I’m sure a small amount get caught but they have legs and are fast. They run away from combines. They’re more likely to be eaten by hawks as the combine flushes them from the earth. Still a death but definitely a natural one.

I hope this blog post made you think, because I want you to think. I’ve had people say they dislike vegans because one vegan was an ass to them. Okay. So, using that logic, would it be okay to hate all Chinese people because a Chinese person was a jerk? All white people because some white man cut you off in traffic? No? So throw out that attitude. Chances are there are more vegans that you interact with regularly that you don’t know about simply because most of us don’t talk about it. And if you ever want a kick ass brownie recipe, let me know because I know one.

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One of my yummy vegan dinners

Cloudy with a chance of confusion…

Our language needs a word that means relieved and disappointed. I need that word right now but it’s not there. Bittersweet just doesn’t cut it. Maybe reppointed? Disalieved? Umm… nah for both.

Two weeks ago I asked one of the social workers from the Canadian Mental Health Association (I deal with a revolving team) where I was on their subsidized housing list. She didn’t know but would look into it and let me know the following week. Last week it wasn’t her and that worker hadn’t been informed of my question. She had, however, heard the housing manager mention me by name and thought she saw my name near the top of the list. Cue excitement and panic in equal amounts.

When I applied for the list last year, I was told there was a four to five year wait list, which gave me plenty of time to save up for a moving truck and any extra necessities. It also gave Colin a chance to get farther along with school and college. Now, suddenly, we were faced with an imminent move. How soon was soon? July 1st? September 1st? We had no idea.

What about my plans? We get what’s called a Trillium Benefit in Ontario and you can choose to get it monthly or in one lump sum in June. I was going to save this lump sum and next one for moving expenses then switch to monthly and start putting most of that aside too. I’m figuring I’ll get around $500 each payment. One payment is meh for hiring a mover and my closest friends are in wheelchairs (plus I don’t drive) so I can’t exactly rent a Uhaul and get friends to help out.

And what about Colin’s plans? He’s currently taking an accelerated program that crams all the core subjects of high school into a matter of months. He’s struggling already. Having to pack and move while going to school every day would be too much.

So the both of us have spent the past week alternating between excitement and panic, relief and disappointment. Our own places sound great. No clutter for me and no one nagging about the mess for Colin. No getting woken up at 5:45am because the sun was up already and it’s close enough to morning (seriously Colin?). I could put up the wall art I’ve been saving and use the dishes I have tucked away. But who would help us move? And would we have enough saved. Both of us had thoughts running in circles.

And then came my meeting today. Colin called right as the woman met me at the front door then begged me to ask her right now while he was on the phone. So I did. I’m 40th on the list so it should be a couple more years before there’s a place available.

So there’s a disappointment that my new apartment will not be soon. I will not be celebrating my birthday or Christmas in my own place. And yet there’s a relief that I will have time to save up for an easier move. Now to live with Colin and his clutter for three-ish years.

Also, you should be seeing less of me soon. Not less of me posting, just less of me. Last fall I started watching what I was eating and getting 10 thousand steps in each day and I lost 37 pounds. Then winter came and I gained 14lbs. Just a setback, right? I’d lose it quickly with exercise and healthy eating. Except I didn’t. It’s been over a month now and I have lost, zip, zilch, nada. What had changed? Nothing except my psychiatrist put me on Mirtazapine this winter. So I googled and came up with this…

Screenshot (60)

I’m already on three other antidepressants and an anti anxiety medication so I didn’t really need it. And I certainly don’t want to gain any more weight. I saw the psychiatrist yesterday and I’m being weaned off as I type. I’m down to half a pill a day for a week and then nothing. I am looking so forward to getting back to a healthy weight. I’ve walked 15 thousand steps today so I know I can do it.

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A pink trillium growing beside our building

When bullying lingers…

20180515_154637.jpgIt was the day after Mother’s Day and Kait and I were in one of my absolute favourite stores, Icing. They sell just about anything sparkly and have glittered word art, a combo of two of my favourite things. All Kait needed was a wallet with a strap on it but she found two more things and there was a buy three, get three free deal going on that day. By the time we’d circled the small store at least twenty times, Kait was rapidly running out of possibilities and patience. She needed just one more thing and it had to be under $9, which, sadly, left out all the word art. Then I saw it, a sparkly pink butterfly clip, complete with tiny fake pearls. It was $6, which made it free with the deal and thus became my Mother’s Day present to go along with my glittery card.

I put it on right away, before Kait even paid for it, and double checked that it was positioned perfectly before I headed out the door. It was a matter of seconds before anxiety began gnawing at my stomach and clawing at my chest. Suddenly I expected every person we passed to laugh at me, to point out my butterfly clip, to taunt me. I flinched when people drew close because what if they hit or punched me? No one paid a single bit of attention to me but that didn’t stop the fear. It was overwhelming… all encompassing. I tried to reassure myself. I’d got the butterfly from Icing for pete’s sake, it wasn’t like I pulled it out of the toddler section of a department store. No one was going to think I was that weird.

I managed to make it down the hall and even got in a brief run through Dollarama, another favourite store, but I didn’t start feeling better until after we left the mall and were standing in the open by the bus stop. My chest and stomach slowly started to relax although I had to inform my daughter there was no way I could cook dinner that night. My spoons were done and gone. Simply getting home was going to be challenge enough.

Kathleen in 1981It wasn’t until later that I realized the origin of my fear. School. The crowds plowing both ways through the hallway felt like the halls at school and, as soon as my heart took me there, fear followed.

If I’d been bullied the same way as an adult instead of as a kid, it would have been considered abusive or harassment but I’d been a student in the 70’s and 80’s, part of the ere where kids were expected to sort “school yard squabbles” out on their own, so nothing was done.

As far as I could tell I was a perfectly normal kid. I loved to read, especially Trixie Belden books, and adored my pet cat Spotty. I rode my bike, climbed trees, and loved to write. My favourite colour was green and I’d travelled most of the way across Canada twice. My bullies didn’t know any of this. In fact they didn’t know anything about me at all. That didn’t stop them from calling me a freak, a retard, a homo. That didn’t stop them from tripping and pushing me in the hallways and chasing me down on their bikes.

I quickly learned that if I hid in the convenience store, the store owner wouldn’t kick me out and my bullies would get bored and wander away. That if you were hiding behind a car, you had to hide behind a wheel, in case they look under for feet, and move along with them, hoping they wouldn’t take a second peek under the car when you were at the back and they were at the front. I learned to check my assigned seat for spit before I sat down and wipe it up quickly before the rest of the class arrived. I learned that people, no matter how kind they seemed to others, could be absolutely vicious even when they were unprovoked.

It’s been 34 years since elementary school (28 since the end of high school). It’s been decades since I’ve been chased, punched, or spat at and still, feeling a bit different, feeling a bit like I’m standing out, is enough to bring me back to being 11 years old, being attacked for no reason other than I didn’t quite fit in.

Most days I don’t think about it but on the days when fear is triggered, when my heart pounds, and my breath tastes metallic in my mouth, I wonder about my attackers. Do they ever think about how they acted as children? Do they ever feel any guilt or do they brush it off as something everyone did? Do they flip though their grade school yearbook with their kids and think “there’s Kathleen the freak” or do they think “shit we treated her badly”. I’ll never know the answers to those questions. To be honest, I never want to see any of them again.

As for me, I’ll keep rocking my butterfly hair clip and glittery tops and I’ll make sure to keep my trips to the mall on weekday mornings instead of busy afternoons. I know I don’t fit in and most of the days I’m fine with that. On the days I’m not, I’ll try to assure that small, scared part of myself that it’ll be okay.