A Halloween virtual costume parade

Halloween was fun as a kid, but since then I’ve never had much interest, and dressing up seems like more of a production than it’s worth.  But if by chance someone were to bop me over the head and knock some Halloween fever into me, these are the characters I’d think about dressing up as.

She-Ra princess of powerShe-Ra Princess of Power, the alter ego of Princess Arora, and He-Man’s sister.  Damn the 80’s were a wonderful thing.

 

Jem and the HologramsSticking with the 80’s theme, we’ve got Jem and the Holograms.  Because who wouldn’t want to be a rock star with massive pink hair?

 

rainbow unicornA rainbow unicorn – really, no explanation required

 

woman with phoenix wingsOk maybe I don’t actually want to be on fire, but the phoenix wings look pretty darn cool.

 

Grumpy CatI sometimes feel like the human version of grumpy cat, so why not?

 

hairless guinea pigThis ugly little critter is a hairless guinea pig, also known as a skinny pig.  They look kind of like a dwarf hippopotomus.  This is pretty much what my beautiful little babies look like under their mops of hair.

 

What would be your fantasy Halloween costume?

 

Image credits:

She-Ra: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She-Ra

Jem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jem_(TV_series)

unicorn: SilviaP_Design on Pixabay

phoenix: NightMareDrug on Pixabay

grumpy cat: NME.com

skinny pig: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skinny_pig

Getting things done

sticky notes covering laptop screen

geralt on Pixabay

The last several days my brain has felt like it has the approximate cognitive power of a bowl of Jello.  I try to read, and it’s more like a hazy skim.  Decision-making seems like a foreign concept.

It’s fascinating, though, how my natural tendency to be uber-organized can kick in and compensate for the deficits caused by depression or prolonged jetlag or whatever is going on.  Yesterday I managed to check several things off both my to-do list and my more vague want-to-do list, and I’m pretty proud of that, even though none of it is stuff that’s actually that big a deal.

I managed to get a phone call and an email done with the goal getting my monthly health insurance premiums reduced.  I had been thinking I should go visit my grandma this month but had no idea how to decide when to go.  Then I realized I should check with my uncle, who’s her main caregiver.  So I did, and he told me the dates that would be helpful for him – boom, decision made.  Next step was rebooking a massage therapy appointment that fell on those dates, so I go that done.  Then I was able to pick a date that would work to do my annual CPR re-certification.  By lunchtime I’d already checked several things off my to do list.

I’ve always used my organizational skills to make up for the fact that my memory isn’t always that great, and that’s something I’ve been aware of for a long time.  It’s important to be able to recognize what our natural abilities are, and give ourselves credit not only when things are going well but also when those abilities are able to shine through whatever darkness might get in the way.

Is there anything that helps you compensate when things are difficult?

Finding little bits of peace

Self-care is about taking time to do things to take care of ourselves.  Sometimes self-care is a more active practice, but it’s also good to fit in some pure relaxation, and just be.  Here are some of the things I like to do to relax:

  • Massage: my massage therapist uses a weighted blanket sometimes, which is also very relaxing
  • Aromatherapy: lavender is one of my favourite calming scents
  • Tea: it’s nice to curl up with a good book, a blanket, and a cup of tea on a cool fall day
  • Bubble bath: unfortunately this hasn’t happened for me for a while because my guinea pig boy has taken over that corner of the bathroom
  • Snuggles with the guinea pigs
  • Napping: I seldom get much sleep when I lie down for a nap, but if I can I like to take 30-60 minutes out of my afternoon to lie in bed and just go blank
  • Baking cookies: I need the motivation to actually get started on this, but once I’m at it I shift into domestic peace mode
  • Reading my favourite books I’ve read a million times, or watching the movies I’ve seen a million times
  • The sound of water: things like fountains, streams, and the ocean, preferably in person but also from a digital source

What are some of your favourite ways to relax?

20(ish) Questions

pile of question marks

I’m taking a break from doing blog awards since they can be time-consuming.  Instead, when I’m nominated for awards I’ll answer the questions posed to me in this 20(ish) questions format.  I’ll also answer questions from assorted other question tags and the like.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own answers to any or all of the questions 🙂

 

A few questions from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip‘s Game On series – the philosophy of living life:

  • What is your take on ‘free will?’  We may have free will, but there’s a lot of free won’t floating around to get in the way.
  • We all ask ourselves at one time or another what is the point?  So what is the point to our existence?  There is no point.  Ah, the simplicity of being an atheist.
  • What is your belief on fate and Karma?  Lady karma got run over by a train a while back.
  • As a species, how do you think humans will become extinct or do you believe that we will not?  We’re killing off so many other species, I’m sure we’ll manage to kill ourselves off too.
  • What is your belief with regards the meaning of life?  It’s hidden inside a container of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
  • Ok, fess up, do you believe in aliens from outer space – is there really other life out there in the far reaching galaxies beyond our own?  It seems rather implausible that in this vast universe ours is the only planet with life.  But do those alien life forms know about us, and even if they do, do they give a shit about us?  Unlikely.
  • What doesn’t kill us – makes us stronger – yes or no? Explain.  Food poisoning doesn’t kill m (at least not yet).  It also doesn’t make me stronger.
  • If you could find out the exact time and cause of your death – would you want to know?  Nope.  Imagine all the time I’d end up spending on to do lists of shit to get done before dying.
  • Is it more important to help yourself, help your family, help your society, or help the world?  Well, no one else is going to help me if I don’t, so I’ll go with that.
  • What is the biggest waste of human potential?  Donald Trump.
  • Why do you think that as a species, humans need to believe in something? Be this religion, fate, karma, magical, mystique and so on.  Because it’s rather uninspiring to think that there’s no point to any of this.  Plus it can be a convenient cop-out to avoid facing up to one’s own bad behaviour.
  • If we could not retain any of our memories – who would we be?  We would be a bunch of people who didn’t pee in toilets because we wouldn’t remember what toilets are.
  • Time is such an important part of our world, but do you think you would notice if time was altered in any way?  Time is subjective anyway, and you throw in Einstein’s curvature of space time and then you’re all kinds of confused.
  • How important is play in living a healthy and fulfilling life?  I think the guinea pigs are a good model of healthy living, and they make plenty of time for play.
  • With no laws or rules to influence your behavior, how do you think you would behave?  I would wear pyjamas all the time.
  • Should euthanasia be legal? Why or why not?  Yes, I think people should have the right to die with dignity.  But this brings to mind the first time I heard the word euthanasia.  I was in high school at the time, and wondered what the big deal was about youth in Asia.

 

Questions from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip‘s Game On series – Adventures and Travels:

  • What is the last holiday you took?  I recently went to Italy.
  • What is your most favourite place in all of the world that you have seen?  I’ve been to so many amazing places I’m not sure how I would pick.
  • Do you think travelling enriches your life, your learning, your wisdom or it’s just time off?  I think travelling is amazing for promoting an open mind.  Seeing all of the different ways other people live is a great way to see how we’re so diverse, yet fundamentally we’re all the same.
  • Recently l read, and it’s not new about windowless aircraft which will be the future of air travel, what are your views on this?  I’m indifferent to windows.  What matters to me, being on the taller side, is leg room.  I’m that person who will beat on you through the back of your seat if you try to recline it and take away a few precious inches of my legroom.  Manspreading is also an issue.  On a recent flight I sat next to a dude whose knees and elbows were both venturing into my seat territory, and I was very unimpressed.
  • In your opinion what is a great quote that symbolises adventuring and travelling?  I had to do a Google search for this, and found a good one from the late Anthony Bourdain: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
  • What is a great song to get you in the mood for adventuring? [provide link please]  Down Under by Men at Work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfR9iY5y94s
  • When on holiday, travelling or adventuring – do you take books/kindle to read or simply rest on the knowledge that your time away is enough to provide all your stimulation anyway?  I used to take paper books and now I take my ereader.  It’s good for down-time like waiting at train stations.
  • Five best holidays you have had and list why?  They’ve all been good.  Definitely one of my faves was going on safari in Kenya and Tanzania and seeing all the wildlife.
  • Do you have a favourite blog that deals with adventuring or travelling that you read before you go?  Lonely Planet has always been my go-to for travel advice.
  • Are you a soloist traveller or prefer company?  Solo
  • What is the most significant lesson you have learned when adventuring?  That a little bit of impromptu sign language and a handful of super-basic English words pronounced in a local-style accent can go a long way in overcoming language barriers.
  • When in a new location, what are the first five things you check or do to ensure your adventure/holiday is successful?  First thing is figuring out the toilet situation.  You also have to figure out how to buy tickets for trains and various things – is this a rigid queue kind of place, or an elbows flying free for all?  You also have to watch how the locals cross the street.  Are traffic signals actually followed, or are they seen as more of a mild suggestion?
  • Are you a rigid planner for adventures, or just throw a few things into a bag and let the day take you wherever?  I plan.  That lets me be more efficient, which allows me to see/do more.
  • In your opinion what do you think is needed to make an adventure/holiday really successful?  A sense of curiosity.
  • Are you totally relaxed as in let your hair completely down, or hang on to a sense of reticence?  Being a solo traveller I’m cautious in some ways in order to stay safe, but otherwise I’m pretty relaxed.
  • How important is adventuring/holdaying away to you?  Very.
  • Are you completely and utterly true to your personality when ‘away’ or do you become someone else?  I’m more outgoing in general when I’m travelling.
  • You have been gifted a 42 day holiday of your dreams all expenses paid – where would you choose to go?  I’d really like to go to Tibet.

 

Come on, you know you want to answer a few – that’s what the comments section is for!

 

Image credit: qimono on Pixabay

Life is still there waiting for you

I got home a few days ago from a 3-week trip to Italy.  Jet lag has been a bitch, and I’m in even more of a mental fog than usual.  I’ve managed the basic tasks of getting settled back in at home, but anything requiring more cognitive involvement aren’t getting very far.

While getting away may offer a bit of temporary reprieve from life, the problem is, life is still right there waiting for you when you get back to it.  The day after I got back I got a call from my manager and HR person at my new job.  They had emailed me while I was away and informed me they were going to call at that date and time; the fact that I didn’t actually agree to this was not a factor at all.  They wanted to chastise me about a patient that I had refused to see shortly before my trip because they were not going to pay me fairly to do so.  I decided to take the approach of not trying to defend myself.  I had a brief prepared statement (which they clearly didn’t actually listen to a word of), but aside from that, all I said was yes, no, or okay.  It meant the call was over fairly quickly, but I was left thinking that if I see even 1 patient a week for these cheap dumbfucks it will be 1 too many.

I’ve also learned that someone with more seniority than me at my other job is going to be snapping up more of the shifts that I would normally have taken (casual shifts are offered in order of seniority).  So, my ability to earn an income seems to be shrinking.  Aside from that, my motivation to work has been shrinking, as is the feeling that I am capable of managing work.

I’ve been home a few days and it feels like I never left.  I am so tired – tired of being jet lagged, tired of dealing with BS, tired of dealing with life.  I’m not seeing anything to look forward to in any way.  Welcome home.

What is… hope/hopelessness

psychology word graphic in the shape of a brain

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: Hope/hopelessness

Wikipedia defines hope as “an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”  Psychologist Charles Snyder identified three main elements related to hope: goals, finding pathways to achieve those goals, and having the agency to take action toward achieving those goals.  He described hope as a cognitive skill and also as a potential mechanism in therapy to help people overcome barriers to achieving their goals.

Wikipedia explains that hope plays an important role in health.  Hope can motivate people to pursue healthy behaviours.  It can also alter the experience of pain by triggering the release of endorphins,  and it can improve the prognosis for chronic and life threatening illness, and enhance quality of life.  Hope appears to play a role in the placebo effect.

The opposite of hope is, obviously, hopelessness, something that many of us living with mental illness struggle with at some point.  It can be a symptom of depression, and it’s a major risk factor for suicide.  An article on PsychCentral identifies 9 different types of hopelessness, taken from the book Hope In The Age of Anxiety (by Anthony Scioli and Henry Biller): alienation, forsakenness, uninspired, powerlessness, oppression, limitedness, doom, captivity, and helplessness.  These are based on disruption in the ability to meet the fundamental needs of mastery, attachment, and survival.  On first glance, these types strike as being related to but not necessarily  the same as hopelessness.

A paper by Liu et al. describes the hopelessness theory of depression developed by Abramson et al.  According to this theory, causal attributions of negative life events fall along three dimensions: internal to external, stable to unstable, and global to specific.  Individuals who attribute negative reasons to internal (i.e. they have caused it), stable (i.e. it will be enduring), and global (i.e. it’s not limited to the specific situation) are more likely to become hopeless, making them more vulnerable to becoming depressed and suicidal under conditions of stress.  This is a diathesis-stress model, so these cognitive styles don’t increase the risk of depression without the presence of stressful events.

Abramson et al. also proposed a hopeless subtype of depression, in which a high degree of hopelessness is enough to trigger the onset of depression.  Hopeless depression is characterized by 5 of more of the following symptoms: sadness, slowed voluntary responses, suicidal thinking, difficulty falling asleep, fatigue, self-blame, concentration difficulties, slowed movement (psychomotor retardation), brooding or worrying, reduced self-esteem, and dependency.

This was the first I had heard of the hopelessness theory of depression, and my initial impression was that it makes a lot of sense.  I don’t know if this has always been the case, but when depressed I definitely tend to have stable and global attributions for negative events.  I sometimes think difficult situations arise from internal cause, but even when I attribute things externally I feel very powerless in response, which probably isn’t good either.  There are certainly times when my depressive symptoms would meet the proposed criteria for hopeless depression, but when my depression is at its worst I fit much more into the melancholic subtype.

How do you balance hope and hopelessness in your life or your illness?

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-9-types-of-hopelessness-and-how-to-overcome-them/

Liu, R.T. et al. (2015). The hopelessness theory of depression: A quarter century in reviewClinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 22(4), 345-365.

 

Image credit: GDJ on Pixabay

Useful mental health apps

We live in a digital world, and we’ve come a long way from dial-up internet and the Snake cellphone game.  There are tons of apps that can be useful for mental health, helping you to do things like meditate, track your moods, and practice using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tools.  Here’s a list of some of the apps I’ve stumbled across that I found interesting.  You can find more on my mental health apps page.

Calm : a meditation app

Calm Harm app logo  Calm Harm: 5-15 minute strategies to ride out the wave of self-harm urges

CalmintheStorm.jpg  Calm in the Storm (only on the App Store): stress management, safety plans

Catch It app icon  Catch It: mood tracking app from the NHS

CBT-i Coach app logo   CBT-i Coach: CBT for insomnia tools

eMoods bipolar mood tracker logo   eMoods bipolar mood tracker

Fear Fighter app icon   Fear Fighter: CBT for anxiety and panic, from the NHS

FearTools app logo  FearTools: for managing anxiety

Happify  Happify: guides you in building skills along chosen tracks

InnerHour app logo   InnerHour: self-help for anxiety and depression

InsightTimer    Insight Timer: a meditation app

Mindshift   MindShift: anxiety symptom check-in, thought tools, coping activities

MoodfitMoodfit: mindfulness and breathing exercises, track factors like mood and sleep

nOCD app logo  nOCD (only on the Apple App Store): CBT-based self-help for OCD

Pacifica  Pacifica: mood and health activity tracking, CBT tools, and meditation

SAM  Self-help for Anxiety Management (SAM): tracking tools and coping strategies

Simple Habit   Simple Habit: a meditation app

Smiling Mind app logo  Smiling Mind: a meditation app

Therachat app icon  Therachat: tracking tools and journalling

TruReach  TruReach: CBT audio lessons

Whatsup.png  What’s up – A Mental Health App: info, tracking tools, coping strategies

Youper icon  Youper: an “emotional health assistant” that uses AI technology

 

Are there any apps that you find helpful in managing your mental health?

The pros and cons of travelling for mental health

I decided a few months ago to go ahead and book an overseas vacation. I hoped that it would give me something to look forward to, and that it would help to finally put a dent in the anhedonia that’s been such a challenging symptom of my depression. I decided to go to Italy because it was already high on my list of places I wanted to go, and being a Western European country it seemed like it would be pretty easy logistically.

Now, as the 3-week trip draws to a close, it’s time to review the good and the bad.

Pros:

  • I was having a really hard time just before I left. Knowing I’d soon be able to get away from it all gave me that faintest glimmer of hope to keep on going.
  • Present moment focus: It took about a week to really ease into this, but I was able to keep myself mostly in the now for a pretty good chunk of the time.
  • It was good to have a break (mostly) from all things work-related. I despise my new employer and I really need to consider whether it’s worth the agitation.
  • It was also good to have just a general shift in focus and environment, a way to sort of press reset.
  • My energy wasn’t too bad, and I was out and about each day all morning and for the early part of the afternoon.

Cons:

  • Too much choice is a bad thing. I was quite lost when it came to picking out restaurants to eat at, so my go-to became supermarkets. Still good food, but I didn’t get the real Italian culinary experience.
  • I’m naturally good at organizing. So it really highlighted a deficit when I struggled to figure out how to structure each day. In the end I managed ok, but it was frustrating to have the feeling of looking at my guidebook and my notes and just totally drawing a blank.
  • Negative interpersonal experiences: from perv-y hostel guy to being ignored by staff at a cafe, this trip has definitely not helped to restore my faith in humanity
  • The anhedonia firmly stayed put. Many of the things I saw that would normally be considered amazing and beautiful came with an attitude of bland indifference.
  • My lithium-related lack of coordination was worse than usual, and I managed to wipe out, sprain my ankle, and scrape myself up.
  • I am frequently having the feeling that the ground underneath me is vibrating or rocking. I wonder if it might be due to overstimulation or anxiety (even though I don’t feel anxious emotionally). If it continues when I get home I’ll go see my doctor about it.

So, what’s the final assessment? I think I did as well as could be expected. Even though I hoped travelling would counteract the anhedonia a bit, realistically I knew that external circumstances would be unlikely to accomplish that. Probably the biggest thing was knowing I would have an escape from my world, which helped me get through a really rough September. Now I head home feeling ever so slightly more able to face my world again, and that at least is a good thing.

Book review: Shattered

Book cover: Shattered by Patricia J Grace

In Shattered: A Memoir, Patricia J Grace tells her story of the lasting impact of childhood sexual abuse.  This abuse occurred at the hands of multiple brothers, as well as others, after the death of her father.  While her mother was aware of the abuse, she did not intervene to try to stop it.  In fact, when she became infected with public lice, her mother gave her DDT to apply, adding that her brother had already been treated.

Patricia writes about the body image issues she developed as a result of the abuse.  She believed fat=ugly=safer, although of course it didn’t work out that way.  As an adult, her weight continued to rise as attempted to fake her way through her various role functions.  Her mother pressured her to have weight loss surgery, and she went ahead with this.  She later realized: “Without changing the internal messages of badness or dealing with the fear of others, I would continue to turn to food and fatness to feel safe.”  This reminds me of Roxane Gay’s book Hunger, in which she wrote about overeating to seek safety, and try to make herself less vulnerable to abuse.

Patricia eloquently describes the psychological torment that resulted from the abuse she experienced.  The abuse battered her sense of self, leaving her feeling like “a ghost of a person undeserving of the same rights, voice, or worth as others.”  She had learned to remain silent, and she felt emotionally stunted and without a centre.  She felt “trapped alive in a coffin with nails hammered down, scraping and clawing for a way out, fighting for a life with my head up and heart full.”

The difficulties Patricia faced in getting effective therapy will sound sadly familiar to many.  It was challenging to overcome the taboo and break the unwritten rules of silence instilled in her.  Heartbreakingly, like so many other childhood abuse victims there was also a great deal of guilt, “as if I were the abuser not the victim.”  One therapist commented “oh, so you were a precocious child” when Patricia disclosed her childhood sexual abuse.  Another would regularly disrupt sessions to take calls on his cell phone.

I find it so gut-wrenching to hear how even non-abusing parents can be complicit in covering up abuse and allowing it to happen.  Unlike her brothers, who were trusted to maintain silence, Patricia’s mother “needed to work diligently in shaping me”.  She explains simply that “It’s not hard to silence a child. Just threaten to abandon, not in words but in actions. Do this, you’ll be loved. Don’t and you’re not.  The message hit home over time. It took repeated lashings of, “You should be ashamed of yourself” to brand that scar into me, burned so expertly into the template of who I was to become that shame replaced wholeness like a headstone.”  Her mother even went so far as repeatedly pressing her to forgive one of his brothers, minimizing what he had done to her when she was a child.

She explained how she became split in two, with a part of her that remembered and a part of her that had repressed the memories until they became inaccessible.  She felt like Humpty Dumpty with no idea how to put herself back together.  In the end, it was Buddhist meditation that helped for to find peace and connect with herself.  She has come to accept that what happened is inescapable.  She writes that “Moments of peace, internal connectedness, and the late blooming birth of self-acceptance make aliveness worthwhile.”  She has found that she is worthy, and she is okay, and this really is an amazing story of healing.

 

You can find Patricia on her blog Grace to survive

 

You can find my other book reviews here.

I like airplane mode

For the last 2 weeks and a bit while I’ve been travelling in Italy, I’ve had my phone on airplane mode. No phone calls, no text messages, and for large chunks of the day I have no wifi access. Part of the reason is a desire to run away from the world, and part of it is more practical – I don’t want to deal with roaming charges.

It’s not as though I’ve got all that many people communicating with me when I’m home, plus I tend to screen my calls, but I like that now it’s not even an issue. I like not being exposed to that sinking feeling of seeing an unwanted number pop up on the call display, or a notification of a voice mail that I don’t want to listen to. It makes me realize just how much dread I was having about ordinary communication.

WhatsApp has been convenient because it’s allowed me to keep in touch with my best friend. We talk usually a couple of times a day, and that’s helped to keep me grounded.

In less than a week I’ll be back home, and while I feel ready to be done with the trip, I wish I could leave my phone on airplane mood indefinitely.

Book review: Living With Vaginismus

book cover: Living with Vaginismus by Victoria Johnston

In Living with Vaginismus: Dealing with the World’s Most Painful Pleasure, Victoria Johnston provides a comprehensive overview of this pelvic pain condition.  She opens up about her own personal experience in order to try to raise awareness about an issue that most people either don’t know about and/or aren’t comfortable talking about.

Vaginismus involves the involuntary contraction of pelvic muscles (the pubococcygeus or PC muscles) making it difficult or even impossible to penetrate the vagina with even small objects like a tampon.  It refers specifically to the muscle contractions, and doesn’t encompass other sexual difficulties related to things like desire or ability to orgasm.  One physiotherapist cited in the book describes vaginismus as panic attacks of the vagina, and Victoria describes sex as feeling “like you are being ripped apart”.

Unfortunately, even many medical practitioners have a poor understanding of vaginismus, and the book includes multiple stories of negative experiences with health care providers.  The causes of vaginismus can be complex and multifactorial, and the book describes various physical and psychological factors that have been identified.  The book also includes stories about the often devastating effects the disorder can have, including strain on relationships and problems with mental health.

Victoria describes the various treatments that are available, taking a holistic view and explaining that what’s most effective can vary greatly from person to person.  Treatments include the use of dilators slowly progressing in size, physiotherapy, counselling, and medication.  There is a chapter devoted to physiotherapy exercises, complete with photos to demonstrate.  Another chapter describes Botox, a promising approach that isn’t yet commonly performed and is quite expensive.

The book includes contributions from a number of other women who live with pelvic pain.  Many felt invalidated by their health care providers, and a common theme running through their stories was how alone they felt in their experience.  The book also includes the stories of men whose partners have vaginismus.  I was surprised by how many partner stories Victoria was able to gather, and how openly these men spoke.  It really illustrated how this disorder isn’t just an individual problem; it’s an issue that couples need to face together.

Victoria calls out the many unreasonable societal expectations around sex, including the idea that is the only way of truly achieving closeness and connection, and the expectation that it’s normal for females to have pain during sex.  She advocates for more realistic, open conversations about sex, something I heartily agree with.

While vaginismus manifests itself physically, mental health is often involved, either as a contributing factor or as a consequence.  As such, it’s important to raise awareness in the realm of mental health as well as sexual health, which is why I thought it was important to review this book on my blog.  I would definitely recommend it.

 

You can find Victoria on her blog Girl with the Paw Print Tattoo.

 

You can find my other book reviews here.

The downside of being a solo female traveller

I have mostly felt pretty safe travelling alone as a female. Sadly, there have been exceptions.

One of those exceptions happened today. There was a staff guy at the hostel where I was staying who said that he “liked” me and would joke that he was “stalking” me, doing things like popping into my dorm room. It was a bit much, but it wasn’t creepy. Until today.

I was sitting in a chair outside my dorm room while my phone was charging. Dude went into my dorm room, and he stayed there. For a while. And then the moaning noises started. Not once or twice, but an extended masturbatory adventure. I wondered how the fuck is this actually happening, and what the hell am I supposed to do about it? And then a female roommate walked into the room and pretty much walked straight back out again. He then comes out after her, and I overheard her saying something like “it didn’t look like you were just sleeping”. Then buddy heads back into my dorm room.

At that point I realized there was no way I’d feel safe staying there, so I started checking other hotels online. Several were full, but I managed to find one with a room available that wasn’t too expensive.

I had told the other guy that was working what had happened, and he didn’t believe me. He was humming and hawing about giving me a refund for the next 3 nights that I’d prepaid for, and his main priority seemed to be just getting me to stop shouting. I decided fuck the refund, I wasn’t willing to put up with another minute of being brushed off as crazy. So I walked out.

So now here I am in my safe private room drinking room temperature Prosecco straight from the bottle. Seems a rather fitting ending to a fucked up day.

Going through the motions

I’ve been in Florence that last couple of days and I’m not much of a fan. There are a shit-ton of people here crammed into a small area, many of them in large obnoxious tour groups. I’ve been having quite a bit of derealization to get me through it. Yesterday I walked right over some art that some street vendors had laid out on the sidewalk because I was so disconnected from my surroundings.

My hostel closes between 11am and 2:30pm each day for cleaning. That’s hard because I run out of steam by noonish (more like 10am-ish, to be honest).

It’s becoming clearer that my hope that this trip would help put a dent in my anhedonia was just not realistic. If anything, wandering indifferently through the great Renaissance museums of Florence reminds me just how much of a presence depression is with me on this trip.

The pic above is of Michelangelo’s David. The detail of the veins on the hands and arms was pretty amazing.

Falling head over heels for Italy

Despite the happy-sounding title, I’m talking about falling in a very little sense. The combination of lithium-induced clumsiness and cobblestone streets was bound to catch up to me. It was around 6am and I was walking to the train station to catch an early train to Pompeii. I was crossing a street and completely wiped out. There were only a couple other pedestrians around, but they ignored pathetic me sprawled on the cobblestones.

I was sore, but thought there was no lasting damage. It was only later that I realized that I’d scraped up my foot and knee and sprained my ankle. Sprained ankle and walking around ruins isn’t really the best combination. The picture above is a plaster cast of a body buried in the ashes from Mt Vesuvius at Pompeii, and that’s kind of how I was feeling.

Yesterday morning I went to this tiny little cafe (maybe 6 tables), and the staff totally ignored me. I sat there for around 45 minutes and they didn’t even acknowledge my existence, much less take my order. During that time I was waiting I saw a triggering email from work. Cue public cry fest.

Anyhow, this morning I leave Rome and catch the super-fast train to Florence. Who knows, maybe when I’m there I’ll get hit by a bus, followed by falling into a canal in Venice…

Sometimes “meh” is the best I can come up with

I’m in Rome, the first stop of my Italian vacation and home of amazing art and history. And by amazing I mean more along the lines of “meh”. I’m finding the crowds hard to handle. At the Vatican museums all I could think was get me the hell outta here, and my response to the Sistine Chapel was that I didn’t see what all the fuss is about.

But at least I’m getting out and doing stuff, even though my passion for culture and history seems to have died out. Morning is my active time, and then I don’t do much in the afternoon and go to bed early.

Things are well signed, so getting around hasn’t been too hard. I feel like I’m getting negative vibes from a lot of people, but that’s probably more my depression talking than reality. Still, it makes sitting in restaurants/cafes a bit uncomfortable. They do have good coffee here, though.

20(ish) Questions

pile of question marks

I’m taking a break from doing blog awards since they can be time-consuming.  Instead, when I’m nominated for awards I’ll answer the questions posed to me in this 20(ish) questions format.  I’ll also answer questions from assorted other question tags and the like.  Feel free to join in the fun with your own answers to any or all of the questions 🙂

 

A few questions from A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip‘s Game On series – weird life stuff

  • Why are supposedly easy to open packages always so difficult to open?   To make doofuses like me feel really stupid.
  • Time to fess up … what music from your teenage years do you turn on and still dance to?  It’s not so much from my teenage years as my childhood in the 80’s – a little New Kids on the Block, Belinda Carlisle, Roxette…  Ah, good times…
  • What was either weirdest book you ever read or the weirdest film you ever saw? [Please provide link]  When I was in university a roommate of mine was doing a paper about porn, and so she wanted all of us roomies to watch porn together.  I think we were all virgins at the time.  Anyway, we borrowed Ass-openers 8 (or whatever number it was) on VHS from one of our guy friends, and had a girls night in watching Ass-openers.  It was very educational, and no, I will not be providing a link.
  • Time to fess up again, what was the weirdest or craziest fashion craze you were in to as a kid?  Well, since acid wash jeans have made a comeback that probably doesn’t count.  Perhaps the neon spandex bike shorts.
  • What words did you make up and claim as your own as a kid?  I wasn’t much of a neologist as a kid, but my brother made up a ton of words and the rest of the family adopted many of them.
  • In what game is the word snap used?  Going back to the 80’s theme, one in which you’re wearing a snap bracelet?
  • Have you ever gotten completely and utterly lost? Explain please.  Living in neat, orderly Canada I assumed that streets everywhere had names and signs displaying those names.  And then I started travelling and discovered yeah, not so much.  I have a good sense of direction and am good at reading maps, but there were a few times I got completely lost in India because of the total lack of street signs.
  • Did you have a favourite piece of clothing as a kid or even as an adult? [For me it’s my sneakers, serioulsy old and battered but l love them!]  I am totally in love with Gap maternity leggings.  No, I’m not pregnant, but these leggings fit right over my psych-med-weight-baby and they’re the comfiest thing ever.
  • Do you have any strange family traditions?  I could say we celebrate Festivus, except I’d be lying (unfortunately).
  • Have you ever taken part in some kind of weird adventure?  When I was in university and living in residence my roommates and I had somehow managed to break our toilet tank lid in half.  One night we pulled off a switcheroo and swapped our broken toilet tank lid with one we stole from a washroom elsewhere in the building.  And we were drunk at the time, so we thought it was the funniest thing ever.
  • What is the ‘worst haircut’ you have ever had?  In grade 4 I cut my hair short and used hair gel to make it spiky.  Not a good look at all.
  • Can you remember who your worst school teacher was?  His name was Mr. Boyd.  He taught grade 9 honours math, but he was a PE teacher and hadn’t the slightest clue about math.  We’re talking 3×4=14 kind of thing.
  • We all have one, but who is yours? The crazy relative?  That would have to be me.  But I do recall a hillbilly cousin Gerald that my dad didn’t want visiting back in the day.
  • What completely safe animal are you TOTALLY afraid of??  Moths.  They’re like the ugly drunk uncle of the butterfly stumbling around and just generally being icky.

 

Come on, you know you want to answer a few – that’s what the comments section is for!

 

Image credit: qimono on Pixabay