Yet another shining example of my coolheadedness in the face of a crisis was brought to you by "an acute onset of episodic ataxia" in my dog last night. In other words, Liam had a moment where he was stumbling and unable to stand, and then proceeded to get sick... and I LOST. MY. SHIT. Without any previous dog experience, I've had breakdowns with all of his firsts (i.e. dog sneeze, throw up, etc.) and I must applaud my veterinarian's, I'm sure practiced, lack of judgement or impatience. However, this particular episode took place at 9:30pm, so I wasn't sure if the emergency vet clinic could handle the tears and endless questions that Dr. Downing, Liam's primary vet, has grown accustomed to.
Oddly, if somebody else is having a crisis, my brain goes into full problem solving mode and I typically am a good person to have around. When it's my crisis, I'm a useless pile of emotions and irrationality.
So into the car we went, and at a modified speed limit, we met my boyfriend at the emergency clinic. En route was the expected pleading with higher powers as my dog sat on my lap, tail wagging, excited for wherever we were going. Upon arrival, my boyfriend was greeted by an excited and seemingly fine dog in all his cuteness, and his blotchy, red faced girlfriend still crying in an over sized t-shirt, messy bun, and flip flops. Luckily for everybody, due to the speed of events, I did not have time to Google Liam's symptoms, so I could not bust through the doors with my catastrophic, self-diagnosis and demand he be seen immediately.
While we waited to be seen, I quietly wept over my dog while sitting on the floor in a variety of animal fluids and fur, hummed "Baby Mine" to Liam with his head on my lap because I thought it would comfort him and it added nicely to the drama of the evening, and repeatedly sent my boyfriend to get me tissues because my nose was running from all the weeping and it was impacting my humming.
Anyway, we finally saw the vet who answered my questions and provided a couple potential explanations for the episode. After grilling her with questions to the same or greater extent as a doctoral thesis defense, we ended up going home around midnight. Liam seems to be doing fine, but will not enjoy the blood work we have to do with his primary veterinarian later today. If you read my post, "Even My Dog Has Anxiety" you would know that my dog is very important to me. At a different time, I might be embarrassed by all the tears and panic a different kind of person might not experience in this situation. At this point in my life, I'm just grateful have something I care so much about, and anybody who judges me for reacting strongly can shove off. On your way, robots.
Thank you to the veterinarians who deal with patient parents like me all the time and keep our beloved pets healthy. <3
I used to be afraid of blowing my nose in front of my boyfriend. In my head, it threatened to deteriorate the Disney princess mirage I've falsely built up in my own mind. I'm not sure why the mismatched socks, propensity for cheeseburgers and tears, and untidy apartment seemed right on brand, but when I got sick, I did everything to avoid validating to him that I had snot I needed to clear from my head like everyone else. We laugh about it now. I still get anxious wondering if he can hear me pee through the door, but it's all a work in progress.
This past weekend, I made a dinner so horrifyingly gross, that my brain literally played out the break up in my mind. It told me that my inability to cook, despite the many other very successful meals I've made, translated to my inadequacy across the board. My boyfriend, being the appreciative delight he is, choked down some of it before claiming he was full. I took two bites, was well aware it was awful, pushed my bowl away, and spent the remainder of my time trying to ignore it so I wouldn't have to face my own shame.
If there are any Westworld fans - I'm the robot that claims "It doesn't look like anything to me," when something comes to my awareness that I was not programmed to cope with. I wanted this gross bowl of food in front of me to disappear so I didn't have to acknowledge it. I am not well programmed to deal with failure.
For a long time, I was the person who argued against anybody who tried to convince me that "people make mistakes" or that I "shouldn't be afraid to fail". Blasphemy! Failure is terrifying. My obliviously imperfect self genuinely felt, and may or may not still feel, that if I tried hard enough, perfection was achievable. Wanting to be liquefied by my own embarrassment over a crappy dinner so I could simply absorb into my couch and disappear, perfectly illustrates that my struggle with perfectionism is far from over.
I am that woman who wants to have it all - great career, ideal family, physically fit, wealthy, fulfilling hobbies, altruistic, and well loved. Currently, I'm chubby, poor, and living alone with my dog in a 500 square foot apartment, so we have a ways to go. The good news is, as a millennial, the world does not have high hopes for my success, so that's something. I feel so many people who experience a failure, whether it is something as trivial as a failed attempt at dinner or as substantial as losing a job or relationship, equate that temporary failure to a permanent, innate character flaw in those moments. Unfortunately, the pursuit of your best life requires accepting that at some point you'll make the dinner that gives your boyfriend such a stomach ache, he'll wonder if he's been poisoned.
Since by now, I can feel how eager you all are to learn about my recipe, I'll start by saying that mistake number one was attempting to make a healthy version of pasta bolognese. I used black bean pasta and veggie marinara with my ground beef. The kill shot that decided the fate of this meal was cooking the "pasta" the rest of the way in the sauce. For real pasta, this is the play to make as the pasta absorbs a lot of the flavor while finishing cooking. With this bullshit pasta, this was the point where my bolognese sauce took on a blackish hue and seized into a cement, dog food-esque texture. Brutal.
Moral of the story - carbs never embarrassed me like this. I'm sticking to real pasta.
My dog, Liam, and I have been battling anxiety together for almost 3 years. For anybody who has seen the movie Coco, and somehow didn't expatriate yourself to a cave to live out your days contributing to the sea with your tears, and decided instead to maintain access to technology in order to read this... Liam is my spirit guide. If you have not seen Coco yet, it's a tearjerker. Bring tissues. And your therapist if they're willing.
I adopted Liam from Helping Hounds Dog Rescue on July 11, 2015, at the height of my quarter-life crisis, and after my physician prescribed me Xanax and a pet after another tearful outburst in her office. I was 25, on the awkward edge of almost single, hated my call center job, and was bombarded by well meaning friends and family with every reason why getting a dog was a terrible idea. I didn't care. In hindsight, if you have to pay your dogs adoption fees on a credit card because you only make $30K a year, you're probably not in a good financial position for said dog. How could you have known that every vet appointment would cost you approximately one car payment? Or that he would never play with the pile of toys you bought him because he's afraid of them? Or that while your human body was running on $1 cheeseburgers, you'd have no problem serving him Blue Buffalo's Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice with LifeSource Bits to the tune of about $50 a bag?
That's true love. He was and is worth every penny and minute spent on him. He is the best thing I've ever done for myself and my mental health. You'd spend $50 a bag on this face too. Here he is eating his feelings in ice cream, while somehow still looking worried about something, just like his Mom.
He was found in a drainage ditch in Texas before making his way into and out of a high-kill shelter, into a Texas foster home, and finally up to New York to be put up for adoption. I adopted him before he even got here. I saw his picture, took one look at his glorious, old man eyebrows, and called to say I wanted him. On the phone, they told me if I was looking for a playful, exuberant puppy, I did not choose the right one. They told me he was a nervous wreck and very anxious. I assured them, I was too. Even in dogs, being anxious is considered a deficiency. As if we anxious bitches are less adoptable because we won't jump up and lick your face. I came to find out he also had worms, but that's completely besides the point.
The morning after he arrived from Texas, I showed up a half-hour before Helping Hounds opened. I pressed my nose to the glass like that obnoxious customer who hopes if a staff person sees them, they'll decide to open the store a few minutes early, even though we all know that staff person wants to spit the scalding coffee they didn't get to finish into our face. Helping Hounds did not open early, and the staff enjoyed their coffees at their leisure as I was having a conniption in their parking lot.
When the doors finally opened, a woman emerged and asked if I was Caitlin. They must have somehow made the connection that the high strung woman on the phone, who called 3 times in the last week to ensure her dog was still coming and they weren't going to give him away to somebody else, was the same woman who would show up a half hour early. I said yes. They told me my dog was too nervous to leave his crate or walk out to me, so they would have to go get him and carry him out. My heart broke. When she returned, my dog in her arms, his tail was so far between his legs in fear I thought it might come out of his nose, it was love at first site.
Once all the paperwork was signed, and he was officially mine, I proceeded to drive at a literal 15 miles per hour home, afraid if I drove too fast he might disappear. We made it home, and he now spends his time hiding beneath his eyebrows, snuggling, giving staunch side eyes, pouting when he needs to poop, falling asleep on me as I read or play music, and not playing with balls. He is, however, the fastest dog alive and loves to run.
We're still anxious messes, though both of us are showing significant signs of progress. For example, while there is not an aggressive bone in his fluffy body, in the past year he's discovered his inner wolf. Now, if you come up my stairs too quickly, or come near me when I'm sleeping he feels brave enough to growl and bark. After a short courtship of treats, Liam now enjoys a genuine, mutual adoration with my boyfriend and is showing more trust in people. Sometimes, he eats grass and growls at the refrigerator. I eat everything else and growl at people. We are two peas in a pod.
All of this is to say, if you can (and are not an irresponsible garbage person), I highly recommend a pet for those suffering from anxiety or depression. Especially a dog. If I wanted to spend my day in bed, this fluff reminded me that I needed to go outside, at least long enough for him to go pee. And once I was there, in the fresh air and sunshine, a lot of the time I didn't crawl back into bed. If I felt embarrassed for needing to cry, yet again, Liam reminded me that dogs love licking your salty face afterwards and that our angsty loss is their salty gain, and they love you for it. Dogs are better than people. And in my case, I seriously wonder who the hell saved who. Cheers to you, Liam <3
There are Olympians, titans of industry, philanthropists, scholars...individuals who push boundaries and themselves to accomplish exceptional things. Yet, the most impressive individuals, those who leave me in awe, are those who don't require all of the sleep just to function. They are the narwhals among us who can genuinely claim they are "full of energy" or "not tired". I can't remember the last time I didn't feel as though I could sleep for approximately 2 weeks.
I have never pulled an all nighter. Caffeine is powerless. I don't just get sleepy, I'm borderline narcoleptic. I require naps and am prone to tantrums and bouts of elevated anxiety when overtired. I, basically, never outgrew my infant bedtime of 7 PM. If it's a special occasion, I can stay up to 8 PM and eat ice cream after dinner. In other words, I am this dog:
Hypochondriacs beware: if you attempt to Google fatigue as a symptom you will find yourself in a black hole of diagnoses from thyroid disease, to anemia, to chronic fatigue syndrome, and then the more obvious depression. You could also simply be getting a cold or are not enough quality sleep. Doctors have tested me for mono repeatedly or blamed the Lyme Disease I had earlier in my life as the culprit. After multiple negative test results, the conclusion is simply that I must live my life as a sleepy bear. However, I don't get to hibernate because I have to pay bills, which is bullshit.
I used to get mad at myself for being tired all the time. I used to get upset when I was compared to Prince Valium in Mel Brooks's Spaceballs movie, because who the hell wants to marry somebody who is yawning all the time? Gonna die alone. At least I'm comforted knowing I would end up a crazy dog lady with a baller personal library. I have since accepted my need for more sleep than others as just another part of myself that I have to accept, love, and laugh at. Lone Starr was a much better choice anyway, Princess Vespa.
To add another layer of frustration, considering that half of those with depression also have anxiety, they are familiar with the vicious cycle of being too tired to do things, and then feeling anxious because you should be doing more things, and then getting more depressed because your anxiety kept you up so now you're even more tired and feel less capable of doing anything at all.
My advice: let yourself be tired. Give yourself permission to spend a full day or weekend sleeping or resting. Rock your messy bun, yoga pants, and no bra with abandon. I'm not sure what the male equivalent is, but I imagine you're on day 2 of the same boxers and sporting a mean cowlick. The less you stress and pressure yourself to not be tired, the more you are able to embrace your destined identity as an old, young person. I'm still waiting for my Benjamin Button moment where, as I age, my behaviors revert and I become a downright night owl, or at least able to stay up past 10 PM.
Some other self-care tips that I've picked up, but have yet to implement in my life even though I know they would help because I'm apparently a self-sabotaging ass, include:
1. Remain hydrated! Apparently drinking water is a big deal. I dunno.
2. Exercise and don't eat like garbage. Allegedly, you'll feel better if you take care of your body. Also avoid extreme diets, don't skip meals, and look for iron rich foods.
3. Limit caffeine. Oops.
4. Look into vitamins. You might not be getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need.
Wishing all you fellow sleepy bears some self-compassion and a good nights sleep. zzzZZZzzz
The amygdala in your (emotional) limbic system is responsible for your basic instincts: fight or flight, hunger, sex drive, and fear. As a highly sensitive person (HSP) my amygdala is much more reactive than those less or non-highly sensitive. So when I'm hungry, I've learned it's my ancient brain warning me that if I don't find food soon, I'm going to starve and die (despite the fact that I'm sure my fat reserves could sustain me for a while). MUST SURVIVE. EAT ALL THE THINGS!
I then need to soothe my limbic system by transitioning to my (rational) pre-frontal cortex and remind myself that I am not going to starve, and am extremely lucky to have food as a readily available fuel. However, instead of pretending like I'm not going to continue losing to my extremely strong limbic system, I now look for minimally damaging foods to eat my feelings knowing I can forgive myself after. No, this will not be an article recommending you chomp on celery or carrot sticks as though it's never dawned on you. Who has ever binged on a bag of carrots in the throws of an emotional breakdown?!? Anyway, here are a couple of my favorites. Comment and let me know what your guilt free(ish) binge or "cheat" foods are when you need to eat your feelings.
Kale does not make my list. Kale is gross. I'd rather be fat than eat kale.
Once again, these are just a couple of my go to items I somewhat guiltlessly enjoy whether I'm eating my feelings or simply in a snacky mood. Once again, I would love to hear what your top healthy snacks are. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
"I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy..."
ang·sta /ˈaNGstə/ (n) - one who suffers from angst, but has a good sense of humor about it.
Angsta Rap is NOT a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a professional. For more information visit:
National Institute of Mental Health or HelpGuide.org