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˜‰

Just Keep Swimming

Sorry guys, my so-well-planned-out weekend completely got away from me, and I never managed to get back on course. Now it’s Monday. Ah well.

Today isn’t really going very well…I’m pretty much a mess. Like, not in a horrible way, but I am more tired and run-down than usual, and that’s led to me being clumsy and making mistakes and having trouble focusing on anything for long. I just generally am not feeling great.

However – I did purchase my ticket for the Mark Hamill Q&A at Fan Expo, and confirmed that my Press Pass for that day, in conjunction with that extra ticket, will suffice as admission to the special event. Tomorrow photo ops go on sale, so I’m hoping to snag one of those to split with my awesome nephew, too. My brain can’t quite believe it yet, but it’s possible that this is really happening!

As well, I think we might be recording our next radio play tomorrow evening! I have one guy who can ONLY make it tomorrow, so I’ve been trying to find a few more guests who can also make it that day, and while it’s not as many as I’d hoped, it’s possible that we now have a enough to move forward with booking it. I’m hoping to do a second radio play episode in a couple of weeks, too, once more people are available.

Now if I could just get them posted up on the Smithee.TV site. It’s killing me that all of this content for our show is sitting in the can for so long. Hoping to take control over some of it myself, at least to some degree. Just…maybe not in time for tomorrow. But soon, definitely. ‘Cause this is ridiculous.

At last count, there was one video file still to go up, and a whopping 10 which haven’t been posted yet! 10! What the actual hell?

Okay, now I’m not sure if we can make it happen for tomorrow. Might have to postpone to later in the week when there’s a better chance more people will be available. So stressful! Haha

But not really. I just love doing it, and am excited whenever I can bring people together and have a whack of laughs. We’ll see how things play out, I guess.

So much to do. From little things like picking up more chicken necks for Brody and sewing up a hole in a pocket of one of my pairs of jeans, to larger things like getting more Guinness clips cut and posted, casting a radio play, requesting interviews for the show, getting a Patreon page in order so I can launch it in the near future. And continual things like checking my budget situation or doing small chores around the apartment.

Days like today, I just don’t trust my mind to keep on top of things.

I can’t even remember if there was anything specific I wanted to write about here today.

One thing, though, is that I am trying to stay on top of my frustration with certain other people and push through all that crap to get what I want in the end. I still have moments where I just want to walk away and put my energy into other things, but for now, I am instead trying to remember why I wanted to do it in the first place. For now, I’m trying to believe that the part I play in all this struggle is not for naught; that even when none of it goes as planned, there’s still a chance that I myself can make some personal progress.

And for now, that’s enough to keep me going.

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.

Owning Life

Man, I am such a mess of scattered and random anger today! My mind is juuuust spinning. So that’s part of the reason why I won’t write about what I’d been planning to write about for this post. Also, I wanted to use some pictures for it, but haven’t chosen which particular ones yet! πŸ˜‰

Hence, I shall again ramble away for a bit about nothing in particular and see what shakes out.

I don’t think we can own living things. Not the way we think we can. Other than the Buy Friends app on Facebook (or whatever it was called – I haven’t played in years), we don’t own people, in terms of legal possession, for example. Many of us even frown on the notion of ownership of another person. One does not procreate and consider that they own their child. Even if you pay to adopt or be artificially inseminated or whatever – money has changed hands, and yet there’s usually no ownership mentality that comes with it. No deed or some such paperwork. Children and other people aren’t generally considered property. At least not anymore, or in most places.

Yet every other living thing, we think we can own. A pet. A plant. Livestock. Land. We draw invisible lines across the earth and consider what’s within them ours. Our property. Our country. Our continent. Our rivers, lakes, oceans and seas. Even airspace, for the love! We think we can own the air ABOVE our land! We tax and tarriff, we charge fees to cross our land, our waters or travel in our air. We fight for it, to the death. Our territory. While we are not the only species on the planet known to do such a thing, I think we can safely presume that we are the only ones who go to such lengths to β€œown” it. Even space we’re not using, we don’t want anyone else to use it, either. We’ll destroy something beautiful rather than let another enjoy it.

Yet the whole idea is kind of ludicrous, when you think about it. You own a plot of land, so you build a house upon it, which you also own. You plant trees and grass on it, and you own those, too. Do you also then own the insects and wildlife which traverse it occasionally? Of course not. Do you own the birds that fly through your airspace above your land? Nope. You don’t even think of them as the tresspassing illegal aliens they so clearly are. When the wind (also a tresspasser) blows your leaves off of your tree and onto your neighbour’s lawn, do you go rake them up? Nope – they become your neighbour’s problem, even though you just owned them a minute ago. How quickly you relinquish ownership then, right?! When precipitation falls from your sky, do you claim to own the rain and snow and hail? The floodwaters in your basement – yours? Of course not. It’s a completely silly notion, because life is fluid and temporary and ever-changing. Life cannot be owned.

We claim to own our pets, yet same thing – we own them no more than we own our human children. They are intelligent, unique individuals, and we make them dependant on us for their very survival, but we have also made ourselves responsible for the quality of their lives. We can own the responsibility, but not the individual lives themselves.

I think we’ve just become so bored as a species that we need to control and dominate everything and everyone. We need to twist and shape those around us into what we think we want. All these years of technological advancement and we still don’t know how to plant trees so that their branches and roots don’t grow to collide with power lines, sidewalks and the like, so we cut them, trim them to our liking. We need to travel quickly because we’re all very busy going nowhere, so as long as that’s not a human we just ran over, we’re good. Speed on ahead to get to that red light faster. We measure our worth by what we have. By things. I have this, therefore I am that. We don’t realize that we can have all the things in the world and we’re still going to die. We are not immortal – not in the way we think we want to be – and we are not going to live forever. But the damage we cause will outlast us; all of us. Destruction is our immortal legacy.

I wonder what those who come later will think, when they look back at who we appear to be right now. Will they wonder where all the green went? What happened to all the art and beauty and music? Will they look at our piles of treasured material things as garbage and gaze at our faded selfies and imagine the lives of a people who had the time and need to take portraits of their meals, while simultaneously destroying all of the living things around them? All of the living things they thought they owned?

Will they wonder what the ever-loving fuck we were thinking? Or just wonder if we were ever thinking at all?

On The Need For Mental Health Reform

So, back in 2008, a guy named Vince Li got on a Greyhound bus and, seemingly out of nowhere, started stabbing the young man sleeping next to him, 22-year-old Tim McLean. Β Li would go on to sever his victim’s head, show it to the horrified passengers who were huddled on the side of the highway, and then not only remove other parts of McLean’s body, but eat them, as well.

In court, Li was found not criminially responsible for the crime, and sent to a high security psychiatric ward.

Less than 8 years later, he has legally changed his name and is preparing to live on his own again.

I have to say, I am really struggling with this whole thing. On the one hand, I understand that mental illness is a legitimate reason to not be held responsible for committing a crime. On the other hand, this man took the life of another, and while he may be feeling better now, the other passengers, the bus driver, the trucker who stopped to help, the police on the scene (one of whom has since taken his own life) and most of all, the friends and family of Tim McLean, will carry this horror and loss with them for the rest of their lives. I’m just not sure how I feel about someone causing – deliberately or not – so much pain and suffering to others, being able to just move on and live out the rest of his life.

I think this whole scenario serves to highlight the many issues and problems with the way mental health is handled, both in this country and possibly around the world. I think, even though great strides have been made, at its heart, we still don’t really know what to do, what to think, or how to feel. We can couch our thoughts into PC wording, or spread clever memes and hashtags on social media, but I am not sure anyone actually has any real understanding of how best to deal with mental health issues. I’m not sure it’s even possible to really understand, not for those suffering, and not for anyone who is not.

It’s not that people aren’t trying hard enough. I think it’s just such a vast and complex issue overall, and the fact that mental health is completely intangible, and invisible – we can’t touch or see the problem itself, only the external effects of it – that all makes it even more impossible to truly get a grasp on. In addition, actual focus on mental health – in terms of the wider public, at least – has really only come about in recent years, comparatively speaking. We hear horror stories of drilling holes in skulls to release the demons within whenever someone had a headache (along with pretty much anything that happened in asylums around the turn of the 20th century or so), we shake our heads in dismay at tales of electroshock therapy and the mishandling of postpartum depression. Even the effects of addiction and withdrawl haven’t been fully investigated and treated as of yet. There’s still so much more we don’t know or understand than we can claim to have a handle on, and that’s kind of terrifying, if you think about it.

We have procedures and punishments for those who break the law outright, deliberately and knowingly. Those have changed a lot over the years, too, as we learn more about incarceration and rehabilitation. We aren’t sure what to do with the criminally insane – those who seemingly can’t be rehabilitated and released back into the wild (aka civilization), so we keep them locked up indefinitely, for the safety of themselves and others.

But we have a very vague line drawn where accountability and responsibility is concerned, and that is part of the problem. We agree that some people shouldn’t be punished for crimes that they can not be found criminally responsible for. But…what can be done, instead? Can justice still be served if the offender can’t ever be held accountable for his or her actions?

Li claimed he’d been hearing the voice of God for a good 4 years before β€œGod” told him to kill Tim McLean. There’s zero point in trying to find the logic in it. Like, God also said β€œThou shalt not kill” – there was no caveat in that statement. And did God also tell Li to eat parts of the guy he’d been instructed to kill? To defile the body and cut pieces from it to put in his pockets? To show the head of his victim to the other passengers on the bus once he’d removed it? Did God create the aliens that he wanted Li to save the rest of us from?

Did God tell him to carry a big-ass knife around with him, just in case?

We’ll never know any of that, because we weren’t inside Vince Li’s head, and if we were, everything would make sense to us, because that’s how mental illness works. You see one thing; the rest of the world sees something else entirely. Everything you see is real, whether it’s actually there, or not.

In that way, reality is subjective.

So, basically, to Vince Li’s mind, he did nothing wrong. He was a hero, in fact, saving us from aliens, or whatever.

At the time.

But what about now? What does he think and feel abuot what he’s done now that he’s medicated and doesn’t hear voices anymore? His condition is currently not curable, so he must remain medicated for the remainder of his life. And there’s nothing to say that his treatment won’t need to be adjusted in the future to remain effective, so hopefully he’ll be closely monitored for the rest of his life, too, since he won’t be able to determine on his own if his reality is slipping again.

And that’s the thing, really, because who can tell? In the days and weeks leading up to the murder, no one noticed anything wrong or different about him. He’d been hearing God’s voice for 4 years, and apparently no one could tell anything was amiss. So how do we, as a society, know that we’ll still be safe even when he’s back out in the world, living on his own?

We don’t.

Maybe it’ll be fine, and he’ll never do anything like that again. But guaranteed there’s more people out there listening to the voice of God speaking to them and only them, every day. And no one around them can tell. There will always be more people slipping, and breaking from reality. There will always be crimes committed for which the perpetrators are not criminally responsible.

I realize that we can’t just lock everyone up and throw away the key, or hospitalize them until they die. I understand that, in this case as in many others, Li is and will continue to be closely monitored, even when he’s on his own.

But I think we need to find a better way. Some way to not only research and find new methods of treatment, but to also see that a better sense of justice is served. What Li did may never seem real to him, but it’ll never be anything but real to those who suffered as a result of his actions. There needs to be some form of punishment, some price to pay. Some attempt at atonement for crimes committed.

And not just in this case, nor just in cases where there is an added criminal element. We need to do better for mental health issues overall. Even something that seems simple from the outside – depression = sad, so therefore sunshine, laughter and hugs are the cure – is more complex to the person living with it, and to those around them who are affected by it. Hugs can sometimes be the cure for sad, but being sad isn’t the same as being depressed. Being sad is a mood. Being depressed is a condition. Hugs won’t cure depression any more than they cure a broken arm or a ruptured spleen. And that’s how we have to start thinking about mental illness in general. We need to treat it the same way we treat physical illnesses – as something that’s actually not all in our heads.

Even though it technically is in our heads, but not in a way that can be brushed off as irrelevant or easily remedied. It’s not something that can be quantified nor understood, even by the sufferer.

It’s a physical ailment of the mind.

As for when there is a criminal element involved…I just don’t know. There needs to be something in between institutionalization and rehabilitation/release. At least for the length of time a mentally competent person who’d committed a similar crime would receive in a court of law. Something that would allow for closer monitoring of the individual, as well as further research into the disease, the hopefully both understand and treat it better. Like a halfway house, but with stricter controls, medical and therapeutic monitors and less tangible access to the outside world. We don’t allow murderers out on unaccompanied day trips and the like while they are serving their sentence; the same should really hold true for those who kill while suffering a break from reality. The act is the same, the accountability is different, the punishment should be somewhere in between.

I think that might make it easier to determine what punishments would best suit others, too, like those who commit crimes of passion, or while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction is itself a mental illness, and while someone may commit a crime while they weren’t entirely in control of themselves as a result, there is still a price to be paid.

They always say the punishment should fit the crime. I think the real problem is that we’re slowly realizing that the issue is not nearly that clear-cut; not so black and white. It’s a series of complex layers that we’re only beginning to dig into.

So maybe the way we deal with it should have several layers to it, as well.

For Michelle Nolden

Michelle Nolden is one of those actresses who turns up in things all the time (because she’s so talented), but that you keep thinking of her as β€œthat girl” until a role comes along wherein her performance is so strong that her name is finally retained in your brain, and she ceases to be β€œthat girl”.

For me, with her, that role is of Dr. Dawn Bell on CTV’s Saving Hope.

It’s funny, too, because in the beginning, I hated Dawn. She was Charlie’s (Michael Shanks) ex-wife, she pulled the plug on him when he was in a coma (but he lived, luckily for all), and she was a thorn in the show’s main love story’s side for quite awhile. Always cropping up to cause trouble for Charlie and Alex (the impossibly gorgeous Erica Durance). To boot, she became everyone’s boss as Chief of Surgery, and she ran a tight ship. It was annoying.

Over time, however, something changed, and Dawn slowly became one of my favourite recurring characters on the show. When I saw Michelle Nolden’s name in the opening credits (because by then I totally knew her name), I was certain viewers were in for a treat.

Like, more than usual, because I freaking love this show.

Anyway, once I got to that point, I reached out to her agent to see if it would be possible for her to join The Mind Reels at any point over our Guinness World Record-breaking weekend. It turned out that she had to work a long, emotional day on set, but that she would try to stop by if she could. I was ecstatic, and said we’d definitely make time for her if she was able to be there at all.

Much to my joy – and, if I’m being honest, surprise – she DID make it, after all! I saw her come into the hotel lobby that first night and completely forgot I was interviewing someone. I said, β€œMichelle is here! Yay!” and flagged my team down to make sure they knew to sneak her in between guests. I wasn’t feeling well already that night, so I barely remember what we talked about, but I know there was some discussion of the evolution and growth of Dawn’s character arc, and I gave her condolences for what happened to Dawn’s little sweater-wearing guinea pig that she didn’t even want but then fell in love with.

Since then, we’ve been wanting to bring Michelle into the studio for a better/longer chat, but there hasn’t been time or opportunity – yet. I’ll keep checking in with her agent until we make it happen, though!

However, turns out Ms Michelle Nolden won a Canadian Screen Award last night, and Tim and I made sure we were there to congratulate her on the red carpet in the press area after she left the stage!

You see, this season in particular has been insane for Dawn, and while there wasn’t time for chit chat, I do have a few things I wanted to tell Michelle about how her performance has affected me, and how much I feel it comes from a place of truth.

So I’ll do that here, instead.

There’s an episode – and anyone who’s seen it will know exactly what I’m talking about – wherein Dawn is raped – violently – by her colleague/boyfriend (Shaun Benson)…in her office. It was so powerfully filmed and performed by both actors that I can’t even remember anything else that happened in the episode. Just that, and the immediate aftermath. The rape scene was violent and disturbing without being graphic – a tight shot on Michelle’s horrified eyes with Shaun’s voice whispering in her ear. Gah!

To be clear, I know and adore Shaun Benson. I think he’s a fantastic talent. But part of me wished he wasn’t THAT fantastic as I watched that scene, because it was like watching a nightmare, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Damn you, Shaun!

There were red flags, of course; little warning signs that viewers and Dawn could pick up on, and then promptly ignore because he’s just so damn charming, and in a position of power, to boot. I still don’t think I expected what eventually happened to be as powerful and real as it was, though. In her office?! With windows everywhere, the space that she’s made her own. Her refuge from the trials and stress from running a hospital. And all the power she had job-wise didn’t make a lick of difference in the face of her attacker. Not only was it someone she trusted, but it was also done in such a way that everything Dawn had believed about her world was torn apart and demolished. Everything. She had nothing left to hold on to.

Well, almost nothing.

The next time we see Dawn it’s at the end of the episode, and she is alone again in her office. She is bruised, and in tears, her sensible work skirt ripped almost completely off. Her sanctuary looks much the same as always, but it no longer feels safe. Not to Dawn, and not to any viewer who’d just witnessed what transpired there.

In my mind, I wanted to hug her and get the police and all the big guys she works with and go beat the shit out of Shaun…’s character (haha He really is that good). I wanted to scream from the rooftops about the crime that had been committed, and go get the bad guy once and for all. I wanted him to lose everything, just as he’d taken everything from her.

Instead, I watched the scene play out as it was written, and was thunderstruck by how absolutely right it was. Dawn frantically searched in her desk drawers for something, and when she finally located it, she sat on the top of her desk, composed her features, and began to sew her skirt back together.

I lost it.

It hit me like a truck…how appearances inform our interiors sometimes…the attempt at retrieving a semblance of normalcy and some sense of control over something. Over anything, even if it’s something as simple as mending a ripped skirt. It wasn’t about pride nor humiliation. Not even fear, or anger at what had just happened to her. Dawn’s facial expression changed and her concentration was total. In that moment, that skirt was all she had.

When I was in University…I want to say third year? I decided to walk the few short blocks to McDonald’s (as you do) and grab myself some dinner. It was around this time of year, so even though it was only 7pm-ish, it was already dark. It was also unseasonably warm, though, so I was feeling pretty giddy with the touch of spring in the evening air.

I passed a young guy about my age, standing under a streetlight by one of the houses lining that portion of the street. Once I got by him, however, I could hear his footsteps on the sidewalk behind me. Warning bells went off in my mind, but I shoved them aside, because paranoia can be a dangerous thing, and usually when we think something is cause for concern, it ends up being nothing, and then we feel dumb.

Like, can’t a guy walk down the same street as me? Who the heck do I think I am?

I got near McDonald’s, and turned to go up a little grassy hill that led to the drive-thru and parking lot. As soon as I’d stepped off the sidewalk, though, I was banged into from behind, and felt two powerful-ish arms pin my arms to my sides. Well, my hands were in my pockets, so they got pinned there.

It all happened so fast, I was still thinking that it was someone I knew, just being a jerk. The force of him slamming into me actually pushed me further up the little hill, and he didn’t have his balance enough to lock his hands, so I ended up a step or two in front of him for a second. I turned to look at him, expecting a friend, and saw a stranger instead. He wasn’t looking at me, but rather past me, to where the cars were lined up in the drive-thru. I think at that point he realized we could both be seen, so he turned and jogged away. Or walked away. I don’t really remember. Just that it all seemed so normal, and wouldn’t draw attention to him either way.

And what did I do, you ask? Now that I was momentarily safe and had just basically been assaulted (see I can’t even call it anything specific because it still sits as a possibly jerky but innocent boys will be boys act), but it could have been way worse but now I was in full view of lots of people in a public place?

I went inside and ordered a Big Mac combo.

Yep. I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t try to confront him, or call for help. I simply composed myself enough to order the dinner I’d been looking forward to, and then sat down at a table by myself.

I tried to eat, but got nauseous, so I threw most of it away. Kept the fountain Coke, though.

I wasn’t sure what to do at that point. Had I been targeted? Or was being a female alone on a busy street enough to warrant what he’d tried to do. What had he tried to do? Rob me? Beat me up? Kill me? Rape me? Where had he gone? Was he still out there, watching me through the windows of the restaurant and waiting for me to come out? How would I get home? Could I stay in McDonald’s until morning?

So many questions.

I couldn’t figure out how I felt, nor how I should feel. I wasn’t sure of his intentions, and wasn’t sure I had a right to be angry or afraid or upset. I had no idea what to do.

I sat and thought and waited and finally decided to take a chance on crossing the parking lot to the phone booth on the corner. It still didn’t occur to me to ask for help, because I felt like…not that I’d deserved what happened, but more that nothing much had happened. I didn’t feel I had a right to expect anyone to come to my aid. My brain kept coming up with excuses for the guy, even. Maybe he’d just stumbled and lost his balance. Maybe he’d thought I was someone else and left when he realized his mistake. All kinds of crap went through my mind.

And because I’m old now, there were no cell phones. I had to get to the phone booth on the corner. At least it was lit up, and there were lots of cars nearby. Cars he could also be hiding behind, but maybe he wouldn’t know I would try for the phone. I didn’t know.

So I finally got my courage up (or stupidity…tough to tell sometimes) and speed-walked to the phone booth. I’d gotten a quarter out and had it in my hand to save time. I called the home of friends who lived down the street. I’d actually passed their place on the way.

Thankfully, they rocked.

They came to get me, en masse, and while I’m pretty sure Izzy in particular would have rather tracked the guy down and beat the tar out of him with her bare hands, they all convinced me to call the police. That the guy had done wrong, and that a crime had been committed, and that it was worth reporting.

They walked me back home, and stayed with me while I made the call, and together we waited for a police officer to arrive. Even though I was going through a myriad of emotions by then (including wishing I’d beat the tar out of him myself and humiliated him and perhaps ruined any chance he’d had of procreating), one thing that kept nagging at me was that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’d misread what had happened and misunderstood the whole thing.

Maybe I was wrong.

I worried that the cop wouldn’t believe me, or brush it off as the non-incident I feared it was, or that he would believe me but the guy would never be found and how would any of it ever be proven, anyway? I thought at most it would end up on the back-burner and eventually forgotten.

The policeman arrived, and even though he was kind of cute and had a kind face, I wondered briefly about the decision to send a male officer over to talk to a female who’d just encountered a less-kind male. He was, however, pretty great. Took us all for a ride in his police car (I got to ride in the front, though), so I could show him where everything happened.

The problem, of course, is that a lot of it was murky in my mind. I could not remember exactly which house he’d been standing by. I couldn’t remember the colour of his clothes, or his hair, or even if he’d been wearing a hat. I could see him in my mind, but I couldn’t see him at the same time. There were no details. Unfortunately, even when there are warning bells and red flags, I don’t go into super spy mode and memorize every detail possible. Stuff happens, and I apparently can’t quite recall the main points to any helpful degree. The chance of catching him was getting slimmer. It was a University town, after all. Maybe he was just visiting, and didn’t go to school there at all. Who knew?

Definitely not me.

My lack of recall, coupled with my inability to completely agree that the guy had done anything really all that wrong was crippling, and as a result, my case got more flimsy by the moment.

The police officer, however, was on top of it. Less than two weeks later, he called me and wanted to come over with a photo line-up for me to look at. Apparently some other poor girl had been sexually assaulted in the same area, with the same basic desciption of her attacker.

(Insert guilt forever that I wasn’t able to stop him from going after other girls)

I looked through a book of mug shots and more candid photos, all of guys who were roughly the same age and description as my guy. The officer told me to take my time, and even pick out a few photos, if any of them had certain qualities that reminded me of the guy. He said I didn’t have to be certain; that I could kind of pick parts of some of them to give a better idea of what little I recalled about the dude. He said the guy may or may not even be in the line-up. It was just to get a better idea.

I chose 3 different photos, two of them were on the same page. One was mostly based on angle, because when I’d turned to look at him, he was no longer facing me directly. It was more of a profile view. I can’t really remember what drew me to the second photo. But the third, there was just something about the third. I couldn’t shake it. I kept going through more photos and always came back to that one. Finally I just pointed it out and said that it maybe wasn’t exactly as I remembered (vaguely remembered), but that it was the closest one. I wasn’t confident enough to proclaim, β€œTHAT’S THE GUY!”, but it was the only one which felt close enough to be accurate in the light of day.

The officer wrote everything down, and then collected his things. He told me he wasn’t allowed to confirm or deny if the one I’d pointed out was the same guy they’d arrested in the other attack. I said I understood.

And then he winked at me.

We had our β€œman”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone over that night – and a few other incidents which have occurred over the years – and re-written it all in my mind. I change how I reacted, I…sometimes become kind of violent, and I always, always stand up for me and mine.

My reality, for whatever reason, has always been very different. I freeze, I shrink, I keep walking, I put my head down, I stay quiet and still, I ignore the signs, I make excuses for the perpetrator, I wonder if there was something I’d done to cause it in the first place. After the fact, I am all indignant righteous rage. But during? I just have never figured out how to go against my very instincts and react differently.

The following year I was walking home from an evening class, and heard footsteps behind me, running up the sidewalk. I flashed back to that other time I’d felt the warning bells, and in a moment of pure terror, I spun around at the last second to at least greet my inevitable end head on.

But the jogger went right on by.

I see something like this portrayed so realistically – and intimately – on screen, and I’m all, β€œI would have done THIS!” But at the same time, I know from repeated experience that I would not. I only wish I would have.

That is what struck me the most about that episode of Saving Hope. Sometimes there are no heroes rushing in to save you. Sometimes you don’t suddenly know street fighting. Sometimes you don’t keep weapons on hand and aren’t afraid to use them.

Sometimes you don’t do what you β€œshould” do, or even what you think you’d do.

Sometimes, all you can do in the moment is order a Big Mac, or mend your torn skirt.

MS and Gilenya – Some Possible Side Effects

I can’t remember when I first started taking Gilenya, exactly, but I believe it’s been just over a year. Sometime in summer 2014, I think. Considering I had to spend a day in a clinic having my heart rate and such regularly monitored after I took the first dose, you’d think I’d have a more clear recollection, but I was also going through some personal stuff at the time, and most of the past year and a half, or so, is pretty much a blur.

To be clear, though, I absolutely prefer the daily oral dose of Gilenya compared to the weekly injectible dose of Avonex I was on before. I’d lose a day a week to extreme flu-like symptoms that kept me home in bed, and feel like hell for another day or two after once I was functional again.

I’d also meant to keep a closer eye on any changes that cropped up in the beginning, and in the time since, as my body became more accustomed to the new medication, but I didn’t really do that. As well, it’s often difficult to tell if any of the changes I have been noticing are a result of my age (I turned 43 in Sept 2015), MS itself, or my body’s reaction to the medication. As such, I’ve often spent time online checking out what other people are saying in forums and the like, to see if I can find any similar experiences. This is my first attempt to compile some of my observations together.

Bruising

I remember pretty early on after I started taking Gilenya that I went online to see if anyone else was experiencing increased bruising in their day to day lives. I’ve mentioned I’m not the most graceful person around, but for awhile I seemed to be getting bruises without any recollection as to what I’d done to earn them. Like, more than usual.

That observation fell off my radar for several months, but popped back up again recently when I ended up with a fairly huge bruise on my upper arm – that’s still visible now, at least 4 weeks later. Maybe more, since I can’t quite remember when I got it. I seem to take longer to heal overall, really, be it a bruise, or cut, or cold virus, etc. I don’t get sick as often as I thought I would, thankfully, but when I do, it’s hella hard to bounce back from. Takes weeks.

After my Guinness World Record attempt, wherein I’d been awake for over 55 hours straight, I experienced numbness over pretty much all of one side of my body. That also contributed to physical injuries, because my sense of balance was off, my sleep pattern was disrupted, and it was easier to walk into things without noticing because the impact wasn’t registering in my brain. That’s pretty much cleared up now, at least.

Fatigue

I’m pretty sure it’s more the MS than the Gilenya, but regardless, the level of chronic fatigue I’ve been experiencing for the past few years or more is…ridiculous. MS is such a dumb disease, and if I could vote it out of existence, I would. It won’t kill you, necessarily, but it’ll make every single aspect of your life more difficult, uncomfortable, and in some cases, impossible. My body is tired all the time, but my mind struggles to keep up to day-to-day activities. I can’t remember things, so I put notes in my phone to remind me that I need to do dishes when I get home, or whatever. At work I write everything down because I can’t remember what I’d just been working on once I get interrupted for even a moment. It’s frustrating. And all of the effort it takes to focus on doing any mental tasks causes me to be extra weary by the end of the day. I feel like everything inside me has slown down, while the world keeps going at the same pace it always did. Again, that’s probably more an effect of MS, rather than Gilenya, but let’s just say I definitely don’t feel any more alert than I did before I started taking it!

Muscle Control Problems

Everything from weakness, to tingling, to nerves jumping, to dropping things, to controlling when I need to use the washroom versus when I just want to – even simple things like zipping up my jacket takes a lot more concentration than it used to. And that’s probably more MS-related, as well, but definitely worth mentioning. I feel like all of my muscles are just slightly out of control now. Not to the point where it’s noticable from the outside, but inside, I feel like I have to focus to keep from falling, or dropping what I’m carrying, or taking a billion attempts to screw the top back onto my Coke bottle. Β I even have to schedule my loo breaks. Β Activities that could previously rely on simple muscle memory – like zipping up a jacket or washing a plate in the sink – are more difficult, and things requiring more advanced motor skills – like threading a needle – are next to impossible. So much so that when I do accomplish something that used to be simple, I almost feel it’s worth a Facebook status update, or something. Maybe a nice shiny plaque. β€œIn honour of Sue, for getting her key in the lock on the first try.”

Menstrual Cycle Chaos

Not something I love to talk about, either, but that might be why there is less information out there on such a new medication as Gilenya. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older. But the timing seems pretty coincidental if that’s the case, and when I posted a question to other ladies in a related online forum, the concensus seemed to be that I wasn’t the only one who experienced a sudden change. What was once pretty freaking regular has become so impossible to anticipate that I spend a good 2-2 and a half weeks each month trying to be prepared for anything. And that’s just not for the start. It also is difficult to tell when it’s actually done, versus just taking a nap. Haha

Ridiculous.

I’d like to say things have kind of evened out lately, but I’m not prepared to commit to such a statement just yet. It seems maybe a bit better – for quite awhile in the beginning of my Gilenya experience, it could be anywhere from a week early to ten days late. And then go on for however long it felt like it, apparently. Now, for the past few months, at least, it seems like there is less of a huge gap between the early and late ends of the spectrum, but that could be any number of factors affecting it all, really.

Tough to tell. Just another annoying aspect of life that I have to live with.

I know I’m forgetting things (why didn’t I write them down first?) but that’s a fairly good start, anyway. I’ll write another post if I think of more another time. The switch to Gilenya has definitely made my life much easier overall. Well, maybe not financially, but the drug company has actually been really good about working with me to make sure I don’t miss too many doses in a row, so that’s good. And none of these things are actually complaints – more just observations, because I know new side effects will be discovered over time as more and more people start using this particular medication to treat their disease.

It’s definitely the condition that’s complaint-worthy, not the medication for it!

But THAT’S for another post.