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Part 2: Running away from your problems isn’t always a bad thing

14 Apr

In my last post on having a mental breakdown I ended with the idea that in order to survive a mental breakdown you must face your problems. Now I’m going to tell you that I coped with my mental breakdown by running away.

I know, I totally contradicted myself there. But hear me out.

I am running away from my problems because I can only draw one type of tree.

Wait, wait! Stay with me! Let me explain.

I recently read Creativity Inc. which was written by the founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Edwin Catmull. In the book, Catmull discusses the importance of being able to see outside of a particular paradigm or way of thinking. This is something that can be facilitated by a creative and positive environment (the specifics of which I won’t get into, just read the book, it’s worth it).

For example, if I ask you to draw a tree you will visualize a particular type of tree such as a maple or an olive tree. That is your model for what a tree is. Some people are able to shift their default understanding of a tree, to allow it to encompass other types of trees. Additionally, they can see and draw the tree based on the area around the tree rather than the tree itself (i.e. the negative space).

I found myself living in a reality where only one type of tree existed and that tree was all there was to life. There was no negative space, no alternative. And when any other type of tree came in the mix, I couldn’t accept it because it challenged my entire worldview.

So what did I do to overcome this? I changed my world. By moving myself into a new environment, I allowed myself to see more trees. I detached myself from my problems so I could gain greater perspective and learn to accept.

(Okay, so my analogy is lame. Whatever, you understand what I’m trying to say. I’m going through something, gimme a break.)

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What it feels like to have a mental breakdown

14 Apr

I pride myself on being smart. Intelligence has always been the benchmark of success for me, something for which I have been consistently praised. Those who know me well know that my modus operandi is one where logic trumps emotion. Being smart and being a good problem solver is such a strong part of my identity and my self-worth that when I am faced with a situation that I cannot think my way out of, it bothers me to my core. And because I don’t place much value to emotions, I push my way feelings down, away from my coveted brain, so I can focus my energy on fixing.

When the unresolved problem visits me again and again, it lingers on the sphere of my consciousness. It taunts me and sends me on a downward spiral. The more I fight it, the more it pulls me down. I can’t help it. I have a neurotic compulsion to obsess and fix. It’s how I’m wired, it’s how I was socialized, and it’s what I consider to be normal. If I can’t solve the problem, then I have failed and I am an idiot.

Working within this all-or-nothing and everything-rests-on-my-shoulders paradigm of thinking, I recently I had to face the reality that my mental capacities were being threatened and that I was becoming stupider. I was expending too much brainpower trying to fix an unfixable problem and suppressing my emotional problems. And that’s never a good thing.

I finally reached a breaking point and because I have neglected things for so long, I’d like to finally share what it feels like to have a mental breakdown so you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Here’s what you can expect:

You can’t concentrate

You can’t really focus on any one thing because so much is going through your mind. You check out and stare into space frequently become tired easily. You also get lost driving home on a route you are very familiar with.

Your emotions become unregulated

Because I was never good at addressing emotions as they came up, when I hit my breaking point, my emotions spilled out of me like projectile vomit. The majority of what I felt was anger or sadness, and that’s mainly because I don’t really understand how other emotions feel because I never gave myself the freedom to feel in-between emotions like disappointment, sadness, vulnerability, abandonment, joy.

I would become livid at a coworker for not responding to my email within an hour and cry while watching Keeping up with the Kardashian’s reruns because “before it was just Kourtney alone dealing with Scott but now it’s Kourtney AND Mason”.

Yes. This is what it got to: crying during the Kardashians. DON’T LET YOURSELF GET TO THIS POINT!

You are consumed by negative thoughts

I spent a lot of time imagining intricate and disastrous scenarios.

I would imagine a scenario where family members die and I’m unable to cope, or I would imagine losing control of my car and crashing it into a pole (this is while I am actually driving). Similarly, I would imagine myself falling and breaking my ankle as I’m going down a set of stairs, or imagine being told I have an incurable cancer and only have a few weeks to live.

I couldn’t stop these thoughts. I think it was my subconscious trying to tell me that what I was going through was as important as life and death and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

You have fucked up dreams

Not only are you haunted by negative thoughts during your waking hours; you can’t even be at peace while asleep. I have had a few sweat-inducing nightmares in my lifetime, but nothing compares to what I experienced in the past while.

One particular dream shook me.

I am on vacation with my sister and we are on a beach. In the horizon there is a tsunami coming. We have to climb up a hill to get away but we aren’t going to make it in time. My sister is scared and begins crying because she can’t swim. I tell her to climb a nearby tree with me and to hold her breath when the water hits and to hold on tightly. I tie her to the tree and then tie myself and try to calm her down. 

Then I look down and there’s a baby in my hands. I think, ok, I need to protect the baby. I hold onto the baby and tie the two of us to the tree.

When I look down again, my mom is on the beach. She can’t swim either, so I have to untie myself and bring her up and tie her to the tree as well. 

The water is roaring towards us and then I wake up.

The more things slip out of control, the more you fight back and try to tighten the reigns

When I woke up from my dream, the first thing I did was look up what it meant to have a dream about tsunamis. According to Google, the water represents your emotions and feelings, and by watching the water approach you, you are essentially seeing the effects of your buried emotions. Tsunamis are caused in the real world by changes under the surface (i.e. earthquakes) and symbolically this represents fundamental changes in you and your life that you must accept. Moral of the story: you need to let the water hit you.

I didn’t like that answer and my first response was to shake my head like nah man, fuck that, and Google “how to survive a tsunami” as if I could change anything. Bad news folks, if you don’t know the water is coming there isn’t much you can do but get hit by the waves.

If you want to survive, you’re eventually going to have to face your problems. Bring them the surface and address them. Let the tsunami hit you and trust you can swim.

So how am I going to face my problems? By running away.

Read more in part 2.

An Open Letter to Anyone that Ate my Cookies

30 Dec

Casa de Saaqshi presents:

White Chocolate & Raspberry Shortbread Pizza-Cookies.

I love pizza and I’ve never baked before so my brain got a little confused. BUT, like Pfizer discovered the unique side effects of a little hypertension drug named Viagra, I discovered this inventive masterpiece. Enjoy!

 

photo 2-2

 

Okay, so here’s what really happened:

My cookies are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination.

At first this made me feel like an utter failure. I went in guns-a-blazing and gung-ho on an idea that I thought was sure to kill it, so ya, I was disappointed in myself. I’ve never baked before (besides pizza), so some might even think I was overzealous and deluded to think I could reinvent the wheel. Did I share this sentiment when I saw my non-cookie shaped creation? Sure. Did I let the steam of the oven evaporate my tears and the exhaust fan muffle my sobs? I’ll never admit to that.

photo 1

This mess right here broke my heart

 

Should I have practised beforehand? Maybe. But if I did, maybe I would have been too cautious and too afraid to take a risk. Maybe I would have lost the initial excitement, that spark that leads to all great ideas. Maybe I would have convinced myself not to bake at all. That, my friends, would be a greater tragedy than my cookies. Cookies that are quite possibly still raw on the inside. (I’m sure they’re fine. You can’t get food poisoning from eating uncooked flour, right?).

So I will brazenly leave these cookies here. You are not obligated to eat them. But, just know that they have every right to be here. I made a choice. A choice to walk in with my head held high and leave my pizza-cookies with the ranks of yours.

It’s moments like these that define us. I went rogue. And I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it cuz YOLO.

braveheart

Seriously though, I won’t be offended if you don’t eat them. I totally get it.

I am a quiet alien genius. (And I may be a robot too, I’m not sure.)

29 Sep
It would be pretty cool to be Kickpuncher

It would be pretty cool to be Kickpuncher

Stop trying to change me.

I don’t want to party or eat out at a restaurant every weekend. I want to stay home and write, and brown bag my lunch to work. I want to eat raw cucumbers without dressing. And drink water. I enjoy these things.

Is that so wrong?

Why can’t it be acceptable to want to be away from people every now and then, to be away from all the noise?

People call me anti-social a lot (even though I think I’m loads of fun). But what they should be calling me instead is “quiet genius”. And they should understand that geniuses need time to rest so that they can continue being geniuses and awesome, and that’s not going to happen when you’re yapping away about your life and bombarding them with continuous stimuli.

The sound of you tapping your foot the forceful smell of your perfume and shampoo the sight of your loud pink shirt the heat of your breath when you talk the pitch of your voice the way you always hum off key your repetition of the same phrases over and over and over and over and over…

That was a long sentence that was probably hard to read, especially because I cheaped out on the punctuation. You probably had to mentally break. that. down.

How do you think my brain feels when it actually happens to me?

How are quiet geniuses supposed to sort through all the information, all that noise, without a break, without a semi colon? Just leave them alone, at least for a little bit. And don’t hate them or resent them for it. Just be a little aware of yourself so they don’t need to be aware for you, because honestly, they are always aware and it’s exhausting.

And because we need to sort and process this information, a couple things might happen. Firstly, we may exhibit resting bitch face/asshole face. We may also respond to you in mechanical and rational way because that’s just how our brain works. Yes, we can be highly creative and have strong emotional intelligence, but that doesn’t mean we can apply it with you when you’re crying about how you feel fat. We understand it, yes, we feel fat sometimes too, but we deal with it on our own, in our own logical way. We are good at perceiving and understanding, but not so good on the approach for fixing when you can’t fix it yourself.

And sometimes we don’t want to fix it because we’re tired.

And selfish.

At least I am. I want ‘me time’.

And I don’t want to be responsible for making you feel better about yourself. It’s not fair for me, because trying to make you feel better makes me feel worse about myself because I’m bad at this whole ‘connecting-with-people-on-an-emotional-level’ thing. I know it should come natural and it’s what makes us human, but for some of us, it’s really hard to execute convincingly.

So I’d rather stay home and ignore your calls. It’s just easier. And it makes me feel less shitty about myself. Although I might very well be a robot, I do have feelings, and sometimes they are intense and confusing.

Sometimes I feel like my lack of willingness to be social and selfless is going to turn me into a horrible excuse of a person that will never genuinely care for another. And as a result, I should never bear children. In fact, this is a legitimate fear of mine because I can imagine myself telling my five year old, with a straight face, that there’s no reason for him to be afraid of monsters under the bed and that he’s stupid for thinking that monsters exist in the first place.

Then I turn off the light and leave them in the dark and ignore his calls for help.

I’m a cold-hearted, rational bitch.

Reason-For-Sheldon-Cry_o_93515

It pains me to be this way, but at the same time, I don’t want to change. Because it feels like no matter how much I do, it’s not enough. I see changes as huge progress but others only see a person who does not smile every waking minute of her day. They only see someone chooses to live what they presume to be a bland life, skipping the salad dressing like some sort of freak.

And that’s when I go back to the comfort of my solitude, away from your judgment. The judgment you think I can’t see because you’re not aware of how blatant it is. But we went over this already: I’m aware of a lot.

I see you

I see you

So the next time you see me, do me favour, bite your tongue, and don’t tell me to smile. And don’t give me the speech about frowning using more muscles than smiling.

Because I’m fucking exercising.

Life is beautiful. Even when it’s not

20 Jul

If there’s one thing we can learn from literature, it’s that all of the pain, grief, love, betrayal, and joy we experience in life is necessary and will shape us for better or for worse tomorrow. If all of these things didn’t exist in our lives, we wouldn’t be human.

We need more child-rearing and chalk-throwing career women as role models and anti-telecommuting policies make this difficult

22 Jun

For those of you who know me know that I want to be a boss. You know, like a baws. And as such, I often look for role models to emulate, especially lady bawses.

My master’s supervisor would respond to emails at 4 a.m. in the morning with a newborn latched onto her breast.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I first found out she was pregnant, dreams of graduating on time and producing an award-winning thesis vanished into thin air faster than my paycheck at a Nine West sale. What I didn’t realize at that time, however, was that she was a stubborn woman who loved what she did and wouldn’t give up on herself, or on her students.

In light of the new anti-telecommuting policies set forth by Yahoo President and CEO, Marissa Mayer, I can’t help but think of my Superwoman mentor. Where would she have been if her workplace enforced such rules? More importantly, where would I be? Although I never won a Nobel Prize for my work, I was driven to succeed and make the most of my graduate experience because I knew that a woman who could soothe a crying baby while performing logistic regression analysis would expect no less of me.

In fact, she would throw chalk at me if I even so much as whimpered a complaint.

Mayer’s stood by her controversial decision to prohibit virtual work, stating “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”(1) Although I don’t disagree with her logic, the argument is countered by current technology. Modern day business is global, and conducted through mediums such as email, text messages, and Skype. Even if an establishment isn’t up to date with technology, there’s always the old-fashioned telephone to fall back on.

The truth is that a woman’s success is largely influenced by the surrounding social and political climate, including policies set forth in the workplace. India, a country riddled with sex slavery and violence against women, ranked last in a poll of the best G20 countries for women(2). This was followed by Saudi Arabia where only 35% of women with tertiary education are employed, and women were only given the right to vote in 2011. Canada and the United States ranked number one and six, respectively, with pro-labour factors such as small wage discrepancies between men and women, and time for maternity leave playing a large role in this ranking.

These findings highlight the importance of economic independence and security for women, but there is still a long way to go before women are given the same opportunities for financial and professional success. Canadian women commit greater time and energy rearing children (3) than men, meaning that not only do traditional gender roles persevere, but that there is a greater demand for working women.

By denying working women the opportunity to work from home, anti-telecommuting policies place roadblocks in front of women who want more than a career. This is especially true for women working in ‘time-sensitive’ fields since time away from work can seriously jeopardize career ambitions. In academia, for instance, the most prestigious and recognized researchers are those with the most publications. The more the publications a researcher can produce, the greater the likelihood for tenure, and the more generous the funding for future research. Taking 15 weeks off for maternity leave without the opportunity to work remotely doesn’t exactly fit well into this equation.

Mrs. Ronzulli, an Italian member of parliament, with her daughter at a vote at Strasbourg.

Licia Ronzulli, an Italian member of parliament, with her daughter at a vote at Strasbourg.

So what choice is to be made? A career or motherhood? For ambitious women who want to have it all, blanket policies such as those enforced by Mayer’s immobilize progression in the workforce in hopes of bettering the organization, without consideration for the individual nature of the worker. The fact of the matter is that if I’ve made the choice to check my Facebook or Twitter, it’s not going to matter if I’m at the office or not because I’m going to commit to that choice. Alternatively, if I am serious and passionate about my work, I am going to work, and I am going to use whatever resources I can to make that happen. As a result, my value to a company should be based on a measurable output, and not necessarily by my attendance record.

Being given the choice to work from home means that I, and women like me, can remain intact with the culture and growth of my organization while fulfilling my desire to care for my family. It means that I can one day inspire a young protégé as I was once inspired, and it means that I don’t have to choose between my career and motherhood.

On that note, I’d like you to leave you with this message on why we may actually have too few women bawses, aka leaders:

Works Cited

1 http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-defends-her-work-from-home-ban-2013-4#ixzz2RRnhc4kf

2 http://visual.ly/g20s-best-and-worst-countries-women

3 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/89-503-x2010001-eng.htm

31 Dec

Our wealth is the result of the historical and present suffering of others- from the theft of land and natural resources to the exploitation of third world labourers- and not necessarily a reflection of our work ethic.