For the first time in my life, I slept through my alarm. It wasn’t what I call a fail-n-snooze, where you think you stealthily hit the snooze button but fail miserably and rather turn the whole damn thing off, nor did I accidentally set it to go off in the evening instead of in the too early morning. I simply snored my way through not only the alarm itself, but also its three subsequent snoozes.
This past month, I have finally started to discern patterns and eccentricity within the uniformly ominous mass that has been my emotions these past five months. The sheer weight of the mass used to leave me feeling heavy and solid in places that are normally squiggly and light. It had me laughing and crying simultaneously, experiencing all feelings, all the time. As it was getting aggravating to feel angrysadeuphoricdepressexpialidocious all the damn time, this new discerning development has been welcomed. It was tedious, never knowing exactly what it was about a cucumber that made me break down and cry at the grocery store. Or giggling uncontrollably at the very same cucumber a couple of days later.
I’m very, very tired.
I first noticed this emotional categorisation about a week after I stopped drinking (somewhere, someone is saying ‘I told you so!’ …asshole). It started with a surprising moment during the appreciation show at Keyano Theatre for the first responders, where we were asked to turn to the person next to us and speak of an act of kindness we had experienced during the evacuation. As I had gone by myself and all the seats around me gaped empty, I shrugged and decided to think happy thoughts instead, when suddenly a man appeared in the seat beside me. To my surprise it was Chief Darby Allen and he asked me, what was my act of kindness? He smiled and I sniffled. There was a pause, a beat where I should smile back and tell the amusing tale of the lady with the garbage bags, or how our newfie neighbour called out of the blue to see how we are doing, or crack a joke (for the love of god woman, please just crack a joke). A hundred words were fighting their way out of my chest at the same time. I choked. Out of all of the heart warming, funny, despairing, confusing words that were trying to be said, out of all of the stories and gestures and helping hands – all I could muster was a faltering ‘everything – thank you for everything’. Then I cried. The Chief was very gracious about the whole thing.
I go to bed exhausted, but can never seem to stay asleep.
On good days, every single emotion makes sense. I understand where they are coming from and why they are here, what they want with me. Gratitude and kindness tugs hard at the heartstrings – making me cry over the smallest of gestures. General small talk about the fire and its ramifications makes me unreasonable angry or creates an instant detachment from the subject and whoever is talking about it. Being home is a huge source of happiness, with its high windows and furry inhabitants. Crude jokes and cheap puns make me laugh – but then again, they always did. Some things will never change.
On bad days, nothing makes sense.
I wake up achingly tired.
These past couple of weeks have been odd; there is a slight strain to the skin on my cheekbones, gently pulling, making it feel as if my eyes are constantly slanted. The back of my head feels heavy – filled with thoughts resting against my cranium, shifting its weight as I move my head. Most prominently, my bones ache, as if a bad cold is setting in or like I haven’t slept in weeks. It’s a deep ache that persists through both yoga and massage, so I did what every responsible millennial would do: I googled it. This is what I found:
Headaches, muscle pain, muscle tension, tight muscles, body aches and pains, and stiffness are all common symptoms of stress-response hyperstimulation. As long as the body’s stress remains elevated, one, or a group of muscles, can remain tight causing persistent body aches and pains.
Anxiety is caused by and contributes to long term stress and the release of adrenaline from your fight or flight system. As adrenaline pumps into your body, your blood vessels constrict. That causes your muscles to not receive the blood flow they need, which in turn causes them stress that leads to tension and aches.
This is not only logical, but very reasonable. I have been pushing hard, harder and hardest lately, never wanting or caring to stop. Just a little bit more, I’ve thought. Just a little bit faster, pedal to the metal, just a couple more things, a few more edits – just a little bit more. My body has been telling me in panic to please pull the breaks and slow down. It’s a very natural consequence really, but one I don’t appreciate one bit. When I could suddenly distinguish one emotion from the other, they terrified me. Never completely stopping allowed me to ignore them. If I just kept going, I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this emotional crap.
Now, there’s one thing that is extremely important to know, one thing that I want you to remember and take to heart: I’m happy. Very happy. Content and well taken care of. Everything isn’t perfect (obviously – this is life we’re talking abut), but each and every day I make little lists in my mind of things that I’m extremely grateful for; the cats, our apartment, all kinds of creativity and my involvement in the arts community, amazing friends, my job that can actually make a difference, family, our fully demolished house, a husband with an envy inducing moustache, my new tea mug, our upcoming trip to Ontario – all that good jazz, big and small.
The fact of the matter is that one doesn’t exclude the other – I’m happy and content while also being riddled with bone aching anxiety. They co-exist. A lot of the anxiety and stress comes from me constantly pushing myself as hard as I did before this all started. Add the pressure of going full tilt with my first campaign, which is filled with all the extra hurdles this year has brought along. At the same time, I’m doing even more things than I did before. Not wanting to admit to anyone, least of all to myself, that I need more space to breathe. That the pressure is coming from none other but myself. That I can’t use up more hours than there is in a day. That one way or another, I’m going to have to deal with all these feelings.
I’m tired, not lethargic.
Last night, I was relaxed and content, albeit exhausted, surrounded by friends. Today, I broke down crying repeatedly while trying to find a winter jacket. Tomorrow will hopefully be still and quiet – a soft humming of a song you once loved that you haven’t heard in years, but that still lingers in your mind.
Because you know the thing about feelings? Ignoring them won’t make them go away. Pretending they’re not there will only cause them to appear somewhere else. Hiding them under work and projects and to do lists doesn’t absolve you from having to deal with them.
So I suppose that’s what I’ll do – deal with them. One emotion at a time, one foot in front of the other, step by step, little by little, to the best of my abilities. Remember that there is no rush, this is just life. You don’t have to do everything all at once. For me, I’ll start with Sunday scones, a musical and a great friend – then take it from there.