Archive for the ‘Anxiety’ Category

Taking control (social media)

I’ve written about paring down on social media previously, but I’m finding that it is something that periodically needs re-visiting.

Since starting to use “Facebook without friends” (enjoying articles and select pages, but not using it for connecting with friends) about 10 months ago, things have been much better. I have no regrets, despite the decrease in the number of people I communicate with regularly. Quality over quantity and all that, along with the fact that it is exhausting attempting to maintain so many connections and the constant influx of information was incredibly overwhelming. Unlike many others, I’m not a twitter or Instagram (what else is there? Are there others now?) person. I had less to detach from.

After removing the web browser from my phone (with discomfort but a profound sense of freedom) as well as “work” related e-mails, I did slip back somewhat. The browser crept back, the e-mail crept back in. Checking and searching slowly increased again, even if I didn’t actually spend much time at all when checking. My small amount of online shopping also became less contained in regards to when and where I did it. In addition, I also stopped putting my phone “away” (out of site in a special box where I could still hear it if desired), which increased compulsive checking of… the weather (what else was left?)

So, after running myself into the ground with various work things which in turn crossed over into phone use and e-mail checking and the like (it makes it all so much easier!), I stopped to re-evaluate. I needed, for the sake of my sanity, to take stock again.

This time I enabled restrictions on my phone, disabling all web browsers, the ability to download new applications (I.E. web browsers) and also inhibiting my ability to make any further paring down very difficult to undo (deleting my work related e-mail access.)

A trusted party has my restrictions pin number, and I don’t see her for at least a week, if not two. I have too much pride to contact her prior to the scheduled time. I doubt I’ll re-install after a week, but removing the ability to give into temptation in the first couple of weeks makes it much easier to stick to.

Again, there has been a combination of feelings – a profound sense of lightness and freedom, but also that slight discomfort. It is odd not to be able to google the answer to any question at any time. It’s difficult to not pick up my phone and compulsively check… the weather… but it gets easier by the hour. I put my phone away more and do word searches (on paper!) when watching TV to occupy my hands. I play Tetris on my 23 year old Gameboy. I am left to wonder about the answer of what ever I’m wondering about at any particular time; I’ve discovered (again) that it can actually be nice to not always find the answer… there is a nice feeling of mystery just being left to wonder.

Things are more peaceful. My mind is calmer. I am starting to find my feet again.

I still have access to all of these applications on my laptop, which I keep out of my main living area. I can still look things up or tend to e-mails or do work that I want or need to, but it is easier to enforce the needed time away from these things without them in the palm of my hand. If I really want or need to know something, I’ll go look it up. If I’m away from home or in bed at the time, I leave it, and if I care enough or it matters enough, then I’ll remember to look it up later; it’s amazing how rarely I do remember or care enough.

So, that’s my experience. Take something from it or don’t, but either way, it’s working for me.

Johansen X



A Worthy Story

“For all the talk of ‘telling your story to inspire people,’ no one wants to hear the story, until you’ve fully transcended your illness and stand there a hero…” (Violinist, quoted in The Broken Musician, H. O’Donnell, 2016)

This particular quote stuck a cord for me, for I feel strongly that it is not just in the realm of music and injury or disability that this rings true. People like stories of overcoming, of success, of beating the odds, of triumph, of happy endings. Thousands of books and blogs are published and interviews given by people who have overcome their struggles and recovered from mental health difficulties. The vast majority of stories presented to us are ones of full recovery – of great triumph and freedom after a very challenging journey. Everyone loves and inspiring story, everyone loves a story of hope. But what does this mean for those of us whose journey continues without a pretty bow and a nice, neat ending?

What happens when the literary form of “beginning, middle, end” is lacking a clear “end”? Can we still tell our stories? Can we still learn from and be inspired by such stories?

I would argue, yes.

For me, living with chronic health challenges that fluctuate, improve, regress and change, but never seem to have an end point, I’ve come to actually find those neat recovery stories irritating at best. I feel happy for the person who has achieved that measure of recovery, and glad that their journeys are able to inspire others, but on a personal level they can trigger feelings of failure, jealousy and resentment; they don’t reflect my own experience and that of many others I know.

I think that one of the problems is that for those of us who continue to struggle so significantly, we find it difficult to believe that our stories are worth telling. Maybe our successes over the years don’t feel big enough? Maybe our lack of a clear ending (or new beginning) has us feeling that our story is incomplete? Despite this, one thing I have learned from my own life and those of others around me is that regardless of what struggles are still had and challenges are still faced, the effort, the energy and the courage of those still struggling is no less of those who have overcome or recovered. It’s easy to feel as though we’ve done something wrong or just not tried hard enough (I mean, if we had, wouldn’t we, too, be telling a story of “triumph over”?) But I sit and reflect on the struggles, the courage, the daily slog, the never-giving-up, the constant falling down and getting up… and these stories without an ending are just as full of courage, triumph and personal success as those that look a little shinier. Merely surviving can be an awesome triumph. Creating a life worth fighting for in the face of such challenges (internal or external) is a feat to behold. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t undersell us.

Our stories may not feel as inspiring or hopeful, but they are definitely worth telling, and for those who can relate in some way, can often feel more inspiring in their “realness” than those that feel so distant. They can help encourage others to keep working to build a life they feel worth living, even when the difficulties, challenges, illness or disability are still present.

I wish for all to be able to completely “overcome” and have that nice neat bow to tie it up with. But more so, I wish everyone a life that is rich and meaningful enough to make enduring the toughest of roughest times worth the fight.

Your story is important. Your story still has the power to inspire. Your story is worth telling. Our story is worth listening to. You may not have a nice neat bow, but I’m sure if you look, you’ll be able to find countless specks of glitter.

Copyright,, 2016

It’s just an experiment

When so many things seem so scary

and fear has you paralyzed

in the world of “I can’t”,

how about an experiment?

Start with a table, four columns (nice and neat):

  1. Date (that’s easy)
  2. The thing you’re scared of doing (naming it is okay)
  3. Rating the fear of the task out of 10 (that can be tricky)
  4. Reflecting on how doing the scary thing actually went (eh?)

That’s right, four columns, but five points…

Pity you can’t just sit at your laptop and columnize the missing task (that would be too easy).

Nope, the missing task you have to choose to do so that you can come back and fill our column four.

With column four already made and waiting for you, you have a reason to do the missing task.

You are a researcher;

you are setting out to discover the reality of column two

(glasses and note pad at the ready!)

Some times something will end up being as scary or as difficult as you imagined.

Some times it will start off scary but then end up being fun or worthwhile.

Some times it will be scary and then fun or relaxing and then scary again.

Some times you will wonder why you were scared at all.

Whatever the outcome, if you make it back to fill out column four,

then you have real life evidence that you survived and maybe even evidence that it is something worth going through the hard stuff to do again.

May you conduct many experiments and discover more things worth being scared for than not. If anyone asks you what you do for a living, just tell them you’re a researcher.


Copyright,, 2016


Accepting while hoping

Acceptance and hope do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Acceptance can still allow for hope for better, lighter, easier…

Resignation gives up on any hope.

Resignation is living it one static moment:

“This is how things are now, this is how things will always be.”

Refuse resignation.

Choose acceptance and hope, and like any juggler would, practice.


Copyright,, 2016

Who are you?

My anxiety often has my mind so turned inward and caught up in what I imagine others may or may not think of me and whether or not they “approve” of me, that I lose any sense of who I am separate from these things. Rationally, I know that these things don’t determine who I am or my net worth as a human being, and yet I still live (if you can call it that) basing so much of my sense of self on the answers as I see them.

Last night in the response to the question I posed to myself – “Who am I?” I came up with a list of things that was surprisingly unrelated to any of the above.

I discovered (remembered):

  • I am an Aunty
  • I am a Neighbour
  • I am a Daughter
  • I am a Sister
  • I am a Granddaughter, Cousin, and Niece
  • I am a Citizen

I also notes that I am a number of other things, but for me these seemed to hold less weight:

  • I am a flutist
  • I am a writer
  • I am a thinker
  • I am a problem solver
  • I am a reader

What I found  interesting was that the first list I experienced to be incredibly freeing: all these wonderful things that I am and that hold great potential that are not dependent on what I do, what others think of me, what I think of myself, whether or not I’m at a weight that I’m comfortable with and are stable in the face of any choices I make or actions I take. Without trying or doing anything, I am all of these things.

In my mind each of these roles and identities comes with some kind of responsibility and potential for positive action (What kind of Aunty do I want to be? What does it mean to me to be a global citizen or a decent neighbour?) but none of the answers change the the original title or role.

The second list of “doing” things is a little more shaky: am I still a flutist if I don’t practice every day? Am I still a writer if I haven’t written anything this week? Am I still a reader if I’ve been watching more television instead? There is more room for movement here.

Everyone is going to answer the “who am I?” question differently and knowing this, what is most important aren’t the answers themselves but what they mean to you.

To me, my list gives me a sense of inherent worth and the potential to be and do great things within each of these realms.

I am grateful for what I am.

I am grateful that I am…


Peace be with you 🙂


Rome has fallen,
nothing to grasp to.
Grow wings?
Scavenge for materials to build a platform?
There is nothing.
You fall.
You just fall.
But if you are falling perpetually and
there is no ground,
is it falling?
To fall, you must be in a direction,
headed toward something.
If there is nothing to fall toward
then where are you?
What are you?
You are in a state of groundlessness.
THE most scary, frightening state
available. You cannot grasp.
There is nothing to hold to.
All anchors are illusions
and in this state… You see them for that.

So what does that leave you?

Only this moment.
Only. This. Moment.

Copyright,, 2016