Antidepression Quandry

For the past several months, I’ve been actively trying to wean myself off of my antidepressants. It’s been going quite well, which is why I’ve been keeping it up. Slow and steady, as I am in no rush. I just feel like it’s time to get off them, and since I know from previous experience how difficult that can be, I figured I would take my time, and just aim for an eventuality. I don’t really want to be taking them for the rest of my life, if I can help it.

I’d forgotten how physically sick I would feel when I changed the consistency of taking them, so I went back to super steady, and made incremental changes as I went along. I keep forgetting when I last took one, so sometimes I still don’t feel great, even though my weaning period has been going on for a long time.

As far as depression goes, however, I’m still feeling pretty balanced. That, for me, has been the main thing to keep an eye on. Even when PMS-ing, though, I’m thus far able to differentiate between when I’m legit upset by something versus weeping unnecessarily hard over a commercial on television.

I mean, I have a new TV now, so everything looks splendid, but still…I can tell when I’m being hormonally over-sensitive, most of the time. So that’s good.

I’m wondering now, though, if I should start taking them regularly again, even just at the lowest dose. I find my ability to focus on one thing at a time is suffering a lot lately, and it occurred to me this morning that it might actually be due to taking myself off antidepressants. It was easier for me to direct my focus when I had something to take the edge off. Is it something I can learn to do for myself, if I keep working my way off of them? I actually don’t know. I’m not entirely sure I ever could. It’s fine on the surface – things still get done, and some of them even get done well. I write everything down now, anyway, because I have trouble remembering things since I started on these MS meds. So keeping track in alternate ways helps me, and is a habit I’ve developed anyway. But it’s frustrating on the inside. I feel almost overwhelmed sometimes, and more often now than I used to. Again, maybe I can learn to focus better, anyway.

But maybe not.

The other point in favour of going back on them more regularly is how, like…not exactly over-sensitive, but I’m having a lot more anxiety now, and as such I am getting much less sleep. I’m constantly thinking about things, and going over things in my mind. That on top of the usual MS fatigue I’ve been experiencing the past few years is making it harder for me to NOT break down and cry about even the smallest things.

Again, maybe in time I’ll learn how to quiet my mind naturally and get better rest. But maybe I won’t. Maybe I never really could. I’m not actually sure.

For now, I’m not really going to make any decisions. I just started thinking about it this morning, and since I’m definitely PMS-ing (bring me salt!) right now, I may as well wait until I at least have whichever faculties I usually have about me again, and go from there!

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I’m Still Standing

So basically, I was done with today well before I even left the apartment this morning. I debated whether or not to do even that much, but only briefly, because there’s just too much to do at work at the moment. In a way, it’s easier to just come in and do it than figure out what happened while I was off when I get back. Plus, in today’s case, I think being there in the heat and the ridiculousness of all the things that went wrong for me this morning would have been worse than coming to work.

Just, you know, to put into perspective how much my morning sucked.

However, there was no one big thing to which I could attribute my feeling that everything was spiralling out of control, but rather a plethora of small things that overwhelmed me as I was being bombarded by them. Despite just wanting to give up and go back to bed, though, I was instead able to take care of home problems as much as possible before I left, push the panic surrounding things I can’t control at the moment to the side long enough to realize that it’s probably not as bad as I’m fearing, and get myself to work. On time, even.

I haven’t really slept, I feel physically quite terrible, and I am struggling to focus on the tasks at hand…but here I am. Doing it all, anyway.

I realized that, while the frustration and panic and stress and fatigue made everything seem out of control, I can still actually function in small ways, and today that’s enough. It’s enough for me to feel a sense of pride in my ability to do the things I can do, even when it seems like there are so many more things that I can’t. Somehow, I was able to recognize that my feelings are still valid, even if there are all kinds of external reasons for feeling them more acutely than may be necessary. Maybe I get frazzled easily over little things sometimes, but even that is valid, because it’s how I feel. And that I am able to recognize that as it’s happening – as I stand in the eye of that emotional storm – yet still manage to keep up the struggle, makes me proud of myself.

I didn’t let the frazzled-ness win. What felt overwhelming didn’t actually overwhelm, because I’m still standing. Struggling, yes, and unsure as to how some things will turn out, but even that is a far more positive step than giving in and giving up. Any step forward is better than no step at all.

I think my therapist would be crazy pleased with me today, as well. And who doesn’t want that kind of validation, really? πŸ˜‰

Monday

Had a lovely bout of 3am anxiety again this morning, but eventually went back to sleep after about an hour and a half or so, I think. I can’t really remember what I dreamed about, only that I did dream. Of course, I’m also pretty tired, and that makes it hard to think.

Man, I just don’t know. There’s so much I feel like I can’t talk about. Not just to you guys, but to anyone. Sometimes it all builds up and spills over a little. It’s frustrating.

There’s a lot coming up this week for me, I think. Got some news at work this morning which will directly affect my role, although I’m not sure how much or how little. Will have to wait and see, I guess. The Mind Reels is potentially doing our first radio play later in the week, but I’m still struggling to find people who can fit it into their schedule this week, so may have to push it to next week. I’d rather not, just because it’s already been changed a couple of times to try and accommodate various shooting schedules, but if we can start off this new segment of the show with a strong cast, I think it’ll really have some legs. So as much as I’d hate to reschedule yet again, I know it’d be worth it to get the caliber of performers I’m hoping to. I also have my volunteer orientation at the place I’ve been thinking about volunteering. I’ve also been thinking about backing out, but I’m determined to at least see how the orientation goes before I make any actual decisions on that front.

I’m also aware that it’s one thing to commit to something like that in the summer months, and an entirely different affair to remain committed once February hits. We’ll see. I stress out about this kind of thing ahead of time, trying to contemplate all possible scenarios – which, of course, is impossible. But I try, anyway. I figure there is at least an attempt to meet life halfway if I manage to not make any decisions until I’ve actually checked it out, rather than deciding based on my initial freak out period.Β  Plus, all signs are pointing to the notion that I should do it.Β  Fingers crossed for a shift in my life that changes things for the better.

I can’t remember if I mentioned before that my most recent neuro appointment went well. It was probably one of the best yet, actually. I’m not having any flare-ups or relapses, my bloodwork was fine (because I didn’t drink the night before this time), and my MRI, while just of my brain, showed no new lesions forming, and no growth in the ones already in there. My neurologist actually exclaimed, β€œYes!” when he looked at the scans. I thought for a moment he was about to hi-five me. He was pleased, so I was, too.

Just messaged a couple of more possible guest cast members for the radio play, just in case they are available on such short notice. The hope is to do this first one, and then do a second one soon after, when even more people are potentially available to join us. It wouldn’t get posted on iTunes until late July, but if we could get the first two episodes recorded and in the can quickly, that would set the tone and I believe it would all just grow from there. If need be, we’ll push the first one into July, but if we can do it this week instead, I’ll be thrilled.

Technically, there is a fuck ton of just Mind Reels stuff to do, and the sooner the better. The next voting round for the Reelies has to get started, there are a handful of guests for regular interviews that we need to schedule, we’re trying to do the Mind Reels Minute once a week, and get this radio play thing going. I’m pretty excited about all of it, too, so it’s hard for me to focus on any one thing, rather than flit about and try to do it all.

As I do, apparently. Geez. No wonder I can’t sleep.

Oh! I also heard back from GWR about a question I’d asked regarding one of the attempts I’ve been approved to make. This one I am doing with a partner, so I can at least now talk to him about it more and start actually planning and working towards breaking that one. More details after he and I confirm that we’re actually going to try for it, but I’m more hopeful than I was before I got the clarification email from GWR. Much more, actually.

I’ve also been waffling on the other attempt I’ve been approved for, but at the moment, I think I’m not only going for it, but I’m also thinking of putting it out into the world and enlisting assistance from basically everyone I know. If not everyone they know, as well. Haha

We’ll see. I just formulated a vague plan yesterday while I was day drinking, so I’ll wait until it’s more clear before I talk about it in detail.

That’s it for my lunch break. I have a lot of work today because I was just off for 4 days, and while much happened in my absence, just as much did NOT happen, so I best get to it.

Living In Fear

I guess I pretty much live in some state of fear or anxiety most of the time. I suppose I always have. Some part of my brain is always on alert; listening, watching, trying to stay one step ahead of the world in an effort to see things coming, and plan a way to avoid or survive them.

It’s kind of exhausting, and occasionally somewhat crippling to boot.

As a kid, I would do routine inspections of the border of my bedroom to ensure nothing was close enough to the heaters to catch fire in the night. In the event of fire, I had an escape plan in place, and a mental list of the things I would try to take with me or toss out the window, along with saving the animals and family members in the house, too, of course. Somehow, in my head, that was all up to me. In the event of tornado, I also had survival plans in place. We didn’t have a basement, so I had to get creative. I wasn’t too worried about a tidal wave, being land-locked and all, though I did still have nightmares about them from time to time. But then again, zombies or alien invasions were also not out of the question, so I had to have plans for those, too.

As I got older, I started packing more on instead of less. Concerns about walking alone at night, having things stolen…I mean, stuff actually happens, and while there’s no way to be fully prepared, per se, it is possible to just be afraid and alert all the time as a way of lessening the chances it’ll happen to you.

Then I got Kate, and suddenly a whole other life depended solely on me. Keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies got added to the concerns, along with general financial worries that go along with unexpected expenses popping up suddenly. As unexpected things do.

It’s hard to expect everything, after all.

When we no longer had roommates and it was just the two of us, I started worrying that something would happen while I was at work; when I wasn’t home to take care of us. Every morning before I left the apartment, I would give the same little speech to her, and that became a superstitious kind of mantra. If anything bad had happened while I was out, a part of me would have blamed myself for not doing enough to prevent it, even if simple words do nothing specific at all.

As it turned out, what happened to Kate wasn’t while I was at work, but rather when I went away on vacation. I figured out pretty quickly after I got home that she was sick, and I hadn’t been around for her to let me know any earlier. She was euthanized within a few days of my return, and part of me will never forgive myself for giving up so many of those last precious days I could have spent with her, let alone the 5 months I’d left her in Colorado without me. Part of me will always believe it’s my fault she got sick to begin with, too, though.

Anyway, that’s how it was with one cat. Now I have three and a dog depending on me to take care of them. Depending on me and no one else, at least in day to day life. So now when I leave the apartment, the anxiety is the same, but multiplied by four. Some of them (I won’t name names because it’s not important) are less self-sufficient than Kate was, in that they need more care and attention from whoever is looking after them. So it’s harder for me to decide to leave, even when it’s just for the day. So many things can go wrong, even when I am there, but when I am not, the worry – the fear – is almost overwhelming sometimes. Usually before I leave and in the moments right before and after I get back home, but yeah. It’s always there, to some degree or other.

I guess it’s good we don’t really realize how out of control things are. We’d all go mad, I think. We’re on a rock, spinning in space, with plates shifting and mountains moving and the oxygen around us all we have to breathe with. At any time, another much smaller rock, hurtling through space, could slam into us and end it all in an instant (or in a slow, agonizing way, but I’ll be hoping for the instant, personally), yet here we are; all of us trying to bend, twist and force order into the chaos. Trying to assign it all meaning, and leave our mark to prove we were ever here at all.

Making plans can feel stifling sometimes, but not nearly so much as realizing that there can never be enough preparation. There will always be something we can’t predict; something we can’t avoid with forethought.

Sometimes we have to let go and see what happens. It’s really the start to living.

But it’s also really freaking hard.

I was watching an episode of a TV show wherein an artificial intelligence had taken on the voice of a human who had passed away. Hearing that voice again was hard for those humans left behind; those who mourned. And yet, at the same time, it’s a comfort. I thought of all the voices I’d give anything to hear again; voices from the past. Voices of those who helped shape who I am. A laugh, a curse, a playful tease, a story told just once more, even though it’s already been told a hundred times. What wouldn’t any of us give for the 101st?

A lot of a person is contained in their voice; certainly as much as in their appearance. That we communicate without voice so often now is a bit of a detriment – we text, we email, we comment on Facebook and Twitter. But it’s not really as much of a connection as when an individual’s voice is included. Even with Hudson the polar bear, the last time I saw him was also the first time I’d really heard his voice, and I was almost in tears when I made the realization. I know each of the cats voices; how they differ from one another and from other cats in the world.

Yet I really hate using the phone. Maybe it’s just easier to stay hidden behind a keyboard. As though taking our faces and bodies out of the mix isn’t quite enough most of the time, we also feel the need to remove our voices from the world at large. It just feels safer that way, somehow.

Safer, even as we cling to life and everything around us is shifting and spinning, spinning, spinning through space – until the day comes when we decide to sound our barbaric yawps over the rooftops of the world – and make our voices heard for all time.

What the hell am I even talking about? I think it’s time to eat lunch.

On Cats & Dogs

My horoscope says I should spend a quiet night in with my beloved this evening.

I hope that doesn’t mean I can’t at least take him out for walks.

The Brody part of my beloved, at least. The cats are all good with staying inside.

It’s possible Miss Flynn is developing another urinary tract infection from the stress and anxiety caused by the construction outside. I’m hoping to head it off for her this time by closing the window and curtains in my bedroom and leaving the fan running to drown out some of the noise. They introduced a new machine to the mix this morning, which is I think what stressed her out today in particular. When I was leaving to come to work, she was under the bed cleaning herself, so hopefully the β€œsafe room” I created for her will do the trick. My poor anxious girl. So much like me in that way.

Piper has a sensitive tummy, but it seems to be mostly diet related now. She threw up a lot while she was in the shelter, too, which delayed her being spayed and coming home with me for a good month or so, but since then it’s any change in diet, including eating stuff she’s just not supposed to. Jack Bear and Flynn both have bellies like a steel trap, really. They can eat pretty much anything, so long as it’s actual food. They almost never throw up. But where Flynn is emotionally sensitive, Jack is pretty chill. Except when he’s being a little jerk, but that’s usually just for attention, so it’s more likely my fault for not giving him enough in the moments when he’s just relaxed and hanging out.

And then there is Brody. The loud noises outside don’t seem to bother him, and now that he has his own couch from his first family, he is happier than ever. I keep hoping some of that confidence will rub off on the kitten girls, especially Flynn, but so far it’s not working very well. She and Brody do try to groom one another on occasion, but as far as relieving anxiety goes, the presence of a chill doggie is not really helping her out, from what I can tell.

The one issue I am having with young Mister Brodykins is his aggressive reactions to the attention of some dogs. At first, he loved saying hello to every dog and person he met, and even got just as excited 30 seconds later upon meeting them again on the sidewalk going the other way. He was always very patient with those smaller than him, and with the enthusiasm displayed by exuberant puppies. I loved how he was the always the calm one; the friendly one. Everyone else seemed to love him, too.

Well, except that one doggie, but apparently she set every dog in the neighbourhood off when she was on leash, so Brody reacted just the same as all the others. She was a rescue and no one knows her history, but she was giving off some vibe when on leash that other dogs picked up on and did not like. Cute and calm little Brody would lose his mind and strain to get at her even just seeing her down the street.

Now, however, he seems to be far less tolerant of attention from other dogs, and he unleashes the Hulk more often than he used to. He did it twice this morning, the first time at a dog he’d done it to before, but who didn’t even get close to us before Brody snarled and leaped at him. And the second time a few minutes later, with a puppy at whom he’s also snapped, but who managed to get a few sniffs in this time before Brody launched.

I can usually sense it coming now; he gets really still for a second or two before unleashing. I just don’t know how much of it is coming from him, and how much is from him sensing me tense up in anticipation. Both suck; I just don’t know how to resolve either one. I’m not even sure what specifically sets him off, nor whether or not he actually tries to bite the other dog, versus fire several warning shots off their bow. My gut tells me he doesn’t actually make contact, for the simple reason that not one single dog has retaliated yet. Which…thank goodness, because he’s liable to get himself killed one of these days as it is. If he was doing it before, it’s likely the reason why Sophie almost killed him a couple of times. No way would she put up with that behaviour, from him or anyone else.

As near as I can tell, he seems to take issue with any form of attempted domination, however remote it appears to me. He doesn’t like to be humped, nor stood over – which I can totally get. He hates being pawed at or stepped on, even in play, because that’s not how he plays. Totally get that, too. He doesn’t like when other dogs get all up in his face instead of giving him space while sniffing politely – I also totally get that. I don’t like those things, either, but I’m not the one lashing out at everyone who doesn’t behave the way I want them too. I mean, who has the time for that?

I am not sure why it seems to be happening more often lately, unless it’s because I’m worried about it and watching for it and he’s picking up on that and reacting in kind. He’s also possibly a bit more possessive of me recently, which doesn’t seem to really be a factor in encounters with other dogs, per se (it’s the people who might have treats, and therefore earn his greater interest, after all), but I kind of feel like…and this will come out wrong because I’ve never put words to it before…it’s almost like he’s concerned with saving face, or looking tough…for me. Not that he needs to protect me, but that he wants me to know he can, if it comes down to it. He doesn’t want to let any other dogs get the upper hand, so he snarks them down if he senses anyone trying to get the better of him.

Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t really know. I was just thinking about it more today because it happened twice this morning – and with really cute doggies I wanted to pet!

It’s usually okay because the dogs’ people seem to understand, for the most part. Some even let their dogs know that Brody has a right to warn them to back down, and help settle the situation so the dogs can just sniff one another and be on their ways. Some people I am always apologizing to, but without chastising Brody too much because, in the end, I want him to feel safe and like he has the right to defend himself from unwanted attention. Which he does. I would just prefer he choose a less violent warning before prematurely escalating to a snarling fit of rage!

The thing is, he’s one of the gentlest, sweetest souls I’ve ever met in this world, and it hurts my heart for anyone else to get the impression that he’s one of those schitzo, frothing little dogs that walk around with a chip on their wee shoulders simply because they are tiny and angry. Brody is so not that dog. He just gives off that impression sometimes, and while the dogs – I think – learn the difference, I don’t think most people do. They know what they see, and what they see is a tiny black and blond Tasmanian Devil taking shots at their sweet dogs.

It bothers me.

That being said, though, we have FAR more positive interactions than negative, so it’s not like this Hulk-ness has taken over his sweet personality. Far from it, in fact. He’s still one of the very best guys I know, and continues to far and away be the puppy I love most in the whole world.

Which he knows, because I tell him that several times a day. Usually whilst rubbing his belly.

Brody.jpg

Over Everything Brain

Oh, 2am anxiety and your devilish sleep-stealing-ness. I’ve not had a chance to miss you yet! Perhaps try staying away for longer next time?

So freaking tired today, but still upbeat, because after this I am of for the rest of the week. The construction guys were louder than usual this morning, so I don’t anticipate being able to sleep in tomorrow or Friday, but we’ll see. I have some things on the go that I will probably do better getting up early for, anyway.

Met up with a friend for catch-up drinks last night after work. So much fun! And really nice – I feel like our conversation covered a lot of territory in a relatively short period of time, and that’s always a good thing when it happens. Hopefully we’ll do it a tad more regularly now that the weather is nicer, so that we have less catching up to do next time!

Sucks that my brain wouldn’t give me a break in the wee hours this morning, though. I hate not having a place to go to in my mind when stuff like that happens. It makes everything more difficult, really. I’ll have to figure out a new one soon, I guess. It’s like my subconscious knew the whole time when I lost my usual go-to…maybe even before I realized it myself…and now it’s toying with me at every opportunity. Lame brain.

I used to want to be some kind of detective when I grew up. Not like a cop, exactly, but more like Nancy Drew. I read a bunch of Nancy Drew as a kid. Maybe all of it. I had a library card and my mom and I would go to the library quite regularly and I’d sit on the creaky wooden floor in the children’s area and pore over all the yellow-spines of the Nancy Drew hard-covered series and try to figure out which ones I hadn’t read yet. It smelled like books in there. I still love that smell.

When I’m rich and famous and design my own house, there will be a library and a movie theatre, and I’ll collect old books so as to always have that smell when I want it, and I’ll have a big air-popper for perfect theatre-style popcorn and hire someone else to clean that mess ’cause I ain’t doing it. There will also be an observatory – perhaps in some kind of tower – and a huge plot of land for all the animals I rescue.

Indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna, small private gym that I almost never use but when I do it plays 80’s music a lot of the time.

You guys can come over and visit sometimes, and we’ll have full scale murder mysteries to play when we’re feeling particularly feisty. There will, of course, be secret passages and the like, as well.

It’ll probably be on an island (which I’ll also own), but I’ll charter various modes of transportation so you can get there easily, don’t worry.

What was I talking about? Ah yes, detectiving.

I liked all that cool mystery stuff – invisible ink, puzzles, codes, fingerprints, and a trail of clues to follow. I used to try and make up mysteries for myself to solve (this was way before the interwebs, kids, so I couldn’t just Google shit; I had to use my imagination) using old photos and documents and…just anything laying around. I liked calculator watches and anything with hidden compartments. I mean, even now, the deluxe Lost DVD complete series collection boxed set is one of the coolest things I own. I still haven’t discovered all the goodies hidden inside that beauty!

‘Cause therein lies the problem with my career as a private detective. I suck at it.

My brain just doesn’t work that way. I either don’t dig deep enough or, more often, I over-complicate everything. Over-think. Over-analyze. All the overs.

I love, love, love whodunits…wow. My maternal grandmother did, too. That just hit me. She was always reading murder mysteries and such. I never made that connection between her and I until literally just now, as I was typing β€œwhodunits”. In my mind, I was thinking of TV shows and movies more than books, but as soon as I typed that word, I had a vivid recollection of her bookshelves and the jokes about how such a nice, tiny, elderly lady could love reading about such grisly subjects. Nothing to do with whatever I thought I was going to say. Just a sudden link between her and I.

Aww…I miss you, Nanny. ❀

I’m sorry about the stuff I lost. I know you know that, but I also know you know that knowing you know doesn’t make me less sorry.

Anyway. Mysteries. I love immersing myself in them; suck at solving them. That’s kind of why I like the TV series Motive so much, too. It tells you who the victim and killer are right at the beginning, and then it’s all about learning the how and, most importantly, the why. Also, I’m not sure I could love actress Kristin Lehman more than I do already, but you never know. I guess anything is possible.

As I got older and ran out of classic Nancy Drew to read, I spent some time with The Three Investigators, though only in book form. I of course watched Pamela Sue Martin as the girl detective as much as possible…and I think I still have a book at home called Susan Super Sleuth, now that I think about it…Sue is such a good detective name, and yet…I fail. At any rate, I’ve hosted a couple of boxed murder mysteries in my day, and was blessed to have friends get completely into their roles each time. I loooooved all the Carmen Sandiego games, both on the computer and that TV game show thingy. I really want to check out some of the city’s escape rooms someday, too, though I will probably suck at those, too. The brain, the braaaain! The over everything braaaaain.

So long as there aren’t actual lives on the line, or anything, though, puzzling through various types of mysteries is really very fun for me. Be it a book, TV show, film, or something more personally and/or physically involving like murder mystery dinners or escape room puzzles – even games like Clue or those insane word puzzles that I always have to draw a chart for in order to figure out. I love all that stuff, even as I fail at it most of the time. It’s the puzzle, the questions, the awesome gadgets (I love gadgets), and that rare sense of utter victory when you actually figure it out without being told.

I guess that might be part of what makes me a good detective at my job, too. Even with this new system in place, the things I can do can’t really be taught. It’s kind of impressive. My talent in that area only exists here and holds no value in the real world, of course, but at least it exists. I’m feel accomplished – extremely gratified – when I’ve solved one of our little mysteries and sorted everything out.

Then I usually write a lengthy email to document and share my own brilliance, but that usually falls a bit flat. Nevertheless – I know when I rocked something, and I know when I’m one of the only people who could.

In other news, I’ve lost just over 15lbs in just under 4 months, and that ain’t bad. It at least explains why it seemed so much faster than picture memories on Facebook would have me believe.

So that’s good.

Edited to add: I just found this. OMG. The 8-year-old me is squeeing her 8-year-old squee.

On Quitting Smoking

On this day, April 13th, in 2003 I quit smoking. That makes today my 13th anniversary. Not really sure how I feel about that, actually.

See, I looooved smoking. Loved it. It was the biggest crutch I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t walk down the street without a cigarette in my hand. I’d have one before bed, when I woke up in the morning, sometimes even if I woke in the middle of the night. I’d have a cigarette before and after every meal, and every time I went out for drinks. I’d smoke when I was angry, or sad, or stressed, or anxious – I mean, mostly anxious. I am anxious pretty much all the time. Smoking calmed me or, at least, I believed it did, which is really all that matters.

At the time, we could still smoke inside some establishments, or on patios of others. And packs of course cost way less, just like everything else did in 2003. It was far less difficult to find a spot than it is now. I went on multiple breaks from work during any given shift, and I drank way less because my hands were kept busy. I always had a lighter on me, but still preferred the smell of matches. It was kind of a social thing sometimes, too. We’d go out together and have conversations that didn’t include the people inside, and the cigarette would act as a timer to let us know when it was time to go back in.

For me, though, it was mostly just a huge crutch. A thing I felt I needed – or at least really wanted – to help get me through the day.

Then one day, I found out I’d been accepted to teacher’s college, and I’d promised myself that I would quit before school started, because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite teacher – one who tells the kids not to smoke, but then hangs out in the parking lot every recess and lunch break, puffing away and setting a bad example. I figured I could be the poster child for Don’t Ever Start, but I didn’t want to be a hypocrite if I could help it.

So I planned a big party to celebrate my acceptance, and smoked as much as I wanted that night – then stopped as of the next morning. It sucked, too, because my last cigarettes weren’t even mine. I ran out too close to the end to make it worth buying another pack, so I bummed a few off someone at the party, and THEIRS were the last ones I ever had.

To make matters worse, I’d done all kinds of research into quitting, and thought I’d set myself up for success, but it turned out that the information I had was only part of the issue. I don’t think even now addiction is truly understood, let alone withdrawl. Nothing I saw online prepared me for the acute depression, for example. Not one mention of it. I had the patch ready in case I needed it, but that only helps with cravings, not all of the other crazy things that happen to your system when you’re going through severe withdrawl.

The other thing that sucked was that, for months prior, I’d cut down to the lightest cigarettes I could find, so that it’d maybe be a bit easier to stop smoking completely if I happened to get into school. But the first step of the patch contained way more nicotine than I’d been ingesting, so it actually ramped me right back up to higher doses than I’d been used to. I could feel it in my veins, I thought. And it gave me crazy vivid dreams.

A few weeks later, my partner decided to cheat on me fairly publicly, and then break up with me not long before school started, so there went my financial and emotional support system out the window. Luckily I’d loaded up on student debt that I’d hoped to not need. Poor timing much?

The bets were on as to whether or not I’d cave and take up the habit again, but to my mind that would be failure, and I suspected my ex would love to see me fail, so I kept not giving into temptation, which I’m sure also saved many lives.

Also, I’m stubborn as hell sometimes.

Now, keep in mind that I really loved this habit I’d quit, and my reason for quitting was simply not to be a hypocrite. It wasn’t for my health, it wasn’t because it was too expensive, it wasn’t for my own good nor the good of anyone else. It was ONLY so I could face the children each day in class. As well, I got very depressed very quickly, and not being able to smoke felt not only like a punishment, but a punishment I deserved. In that sense, it was easy not to break down and buy more, because not having them made me feel bad, and in my mind, I deserved to feel bad.

So, there I was – alone, unbearably sad, my self-esteem the lowest it had ever been at that point. Trying to teach children. I started drinking more and eating more, so I packed on an unimaginable amount of weight in a very short period of time, and have the stretch marks to prove it. Hell, I have pictures to prove it. I almost flunked out of school a few times, but knowing that failure would also make my ex happy, I hung in there, too. I took on another shift at work, and all but maxed out all the lovely credit I’d been handed as a student. Hating myself pretty much every minute of every day.

But hey – at least I wasn’t a hypocrite.

I haven’t had a cigarette since that day, except for one accidental inhale when I’d only meant to pull it into my mouth to help out a friend. I was drinking at the time, and even though it was years later, habit still kicked in. My body still knew the motions automatically, and I knew that if I ever did have one myself, I’d be back to a pack a day in no time. And who can afford that, really?

Do I feel better as a result of quitting? Not really, no. Am I proud of myself? Meh, kind of, I guess, but more in that it was one more way I made my ex wrong about me. And I’m told nicotine withdrawl is actually harder to go through than heroin, so there’s that. Don’t worry, though – I can’t afford a heroin addiction, either. It does seem that I am always a little addicted to something, though. I tend to just temporarily quit something long enough to get it out of my system, and then pick it back up later, just to make sure I still can. I don’t really want to quit anything else I love forever, though. The very idea makes me sad. I can cut way down, and even quit temporarily – but for good? No thank you. That feels like punishment, too, and I don’t wish to punish myself that way anymore right now.

I likened the whole experience to getting out of a bad relationship. You know they aren’t good for you, and that your physical and emotional health is suffering as a result of such toxicity. But against all rational argument, you still love them, and even though you’re technically glad you got away, you really do miss them quite a lot.

Then, every time you go anywhere, you get see them with somebody else.