Monday, February 13, 2017

Ignorance is Bliss

Facebook is my life.

When I say that out loud it sounds childish.
It sounds teen-angsty.
It sounds like I live for friend-counts and post-likes.

But no. What I mean is that Facebook is how I have come to deal with/stay in touch with/hide from/sort out many areas of my life.
I have a very small circle of people that I see outside of the digital world. I would love to see more people but everyone either has children or lives too far away. Every has their own schedules. Toby has never been the type of child to travel well or be ok jumping from place to place day after day. So I only regularly see a group of friends that I can count on one hand, and two of them I live with.
Facebook has always been my social escape. I can 'visit' with people I miss. I see photos of their kids and their trips. I post my own photos and quotes for a small sense of being liked and a part of something. My photo albums serve as a memory bank and a backup of the best photos I have in case my computer craps out before I've done a file transfer (which has happened before. Which is why I can't bring myself to delete out-of-date albums). The Facebook memories algorithm fills me with beloved nostalgia as it daily reminds me of the funny things Toby once said, or the conversations I've had.

Facebook is my life in the sense that I don't feel like I have much of a social life without it. It's like going to a friend's house and seeing another few friends you know are already there and you sit around swapping funny cat videos and embarrassing photos.

But Facebook has changed.
It happened slowly over the last year. The political memes changed from Obama's goofy smirk to over-zealous debaters. The comedy monologues changed from poking fun at fast food restaurants and news media, to calling out the idiocy of the new presidential campaign.

It didn't bother me at the time. I like to be informed. I like reading the summaries and watching the highlights and researching the truths.

And besides, it was all a big show. There was no way that Trump would possibly be elected president.

But then he was.
And that had to be accepted.
And there were marches to show that humans value human rights.
And there were protests to say that families shouldn't be kept apart based on citizenship records.

And that was fine too. I was happy that the world was standing up for itself, albeit it shouldn't have been necessary in this era of freedom.

But then the doubt started creeping on to my Facebook feed. The doubt that marching and protesting were the right things to do. The doubt that things would have been any better with a different President.
And then the anger started creeping in on top of that. Anger at the people who were 'needlessly' speaking up, and anger at those who questioned the protests and stayed silent. Anger towards the people who voted, and towards the people who didn't vote.
And then criticism of the leaders of other countries who either agreed or disagreed with what has been happening. And criticism of religious groups for either speaking out or not. Neither was the right answer.

I like to think that I've dulled my emotional senses over the years (and by "like to think" I don't mean I really like it or am particularly proud of it). I have tried hard to no be an emotional train wreck over small things. I try to tell myself that these things are beyond my control.
But the funny thing about anxiety is that it has a mind of it's own. You think you have it turned off and then from out of nowhere it pops it's head back out again.

I can make a dozen trouble-free trips to Toronto, but then next time we want to go I feel very strongly that walking casually anywhere is a recipe for getting shot.
I can drive highway 400 over and over, but then there's that one time where I am convinced that the tire on the freight truck directly in front of me is going to blow and send the rest of us into oblivion, but I'm blocked and can't get to an off ramp.
I can accept that Anthony has successfully driven through more bad weather situations than I can count, but there will be that one day that being 15 minutes late means he's definitely DEFINITELY dead this time.

I felt the signs of anxiety a few weeks ago with no explanation. My heart would suddenly go in to over drive when I was sitting in a chair. My head would spin and become frantic when simply washing dishes. I would take deep breaths and drinks of water and find a corner to curl up with my phone and try to turn whatever was wrong with me off.
It took 4 days to realize that my heart rate spiked after being on Facebook.
Aimlessly scrolling, not even reading articles.... but the anticipation of 'What did Trump do today?'...or subconsciously realizing that people's comments were making me upset.

My sister has participated in several media detoxes. A full media detox involved no phone apps (phone calls ok, texting allowable, but avoidable), no computer games, no tv, no movies. Email only if it was needed for work.
A later social media detox was less strict, but still difficult. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Tumblr, email only for work, movies allowed.
I always said she was nuts and I could never do that even though I knew I probably should. Facebook is my life. I can't cut myself off like that.

And so I was surprised by the speed with which I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

I was surprised that I was not even tempted to check anything for several days.

Facebook is not my cozy home anymore. I miss it but it has changed. I will still share my Instagram posts on Facebook. I still have the messenger app so I can text with Facebook friends. I may occasionally check my notifications. I may occasionally post a batch of photos. I may some day come back. Today I tried, just for work. I had to look up a toy company of ours on Facebook and then scrolled through a few photos. I found a very sweet supportive message posted at the time of the Women's March, and the comments were nothing but anger and disappointment and several people declaring that they would never buy their clearly heathen pro-abortion femi-nazi products ever again.

I don't like feeling helpless and sad all the time. I have comments to make and opinions to post, but I fear the lash back. I'm tired of scrolling through Facebook as though it's a game of Russian Roulette. I'm tired of my body feeling the need to be on high alert all the time. I'm tired of the deepening pit in my stomach that is akin to accidentally seeing posts of your ex with someone else.
I've started calling this feeling the 'Bee Hive' instead of 'Butterflies'. A bee hive looks zen and calm and even has a soothing hum, but if you look close it's writhing and squirming and flitting and never sitting still. It's ready to explode in rage and defense if poked the wrong way.

I can't keep doing this to myself.
I won't.
So until I find a way to shove my unpredictable Bee Hive in a box, or until things die down, I will be remaining blissfully ignorant for a while.
You can still tag me or message me, but don't be offended if I don't respond for a while.

And now I'm going to turn the computer off and have a cup of tea.

Thursday, January 5, 2017



The year all the celebrities died and Donald Trump was elected President.

2016 was a year I was glad to see go. It was a year full of stress and grudges and breakdowns.
Every year I write a Christmas letter that gets sent to a few friends and family, and I sometimes find it hard to bridge the gap between honesty and good impressions.
If you read our Christmas letter you will see that the store is doing well, Anthony is done school, I made a ton of costumes, we took a few trips and Toby continues to enjoy homeschooling.
If you look at my Facebook over the last year you will see beach trips and birthdays and smiles.

But Facebook and Christmas letters only give you a split second out of a bigger reality.

This photo, for example, wasn't taken because we were having a great time outside. it was taken because Toby hadn't set foot outside in months because of his anxiety of how bulky his outdoor clothes feel, and wonder of wonders one day he decided we'd try the new coat. This was documenting that we made it outside but it was amid complaints and whining, which consumed my winter.

In February I started seeing a councillor for my still un-officially-diagnosed depression. I was hoping to find an 'in' somewhere so I could bring Toby with me to begin the process of trying to get him assessed for Aspergers and SPD. Instead I spent months going by myself and venting about the violent dreams/daydreams I was having towards family members and how miserable I was as a parent.
This photo was taken on a miserable day for both Toby and I, where I somehow convinced him to come outside with me, and we just sat on the bridge doing nothing for a long time.

This video that Shannon and I made was filmed on Mother's Day. Two days prior to that Anthony and I nearly ended our relationship and at this point we were still discussing the logistics of him moving out.
This video took my mind off of it for a few hours.

This was a summer project that made me almost want to quit the theatre industry.
This prop making project was rewarding, but being asked to do several other jobs beyond my expertise on top of this made for some very late, very teary nights.
This particular night involved an exploding champagne bottle, an emergency cleaning of my kitchen, a complete mental breakdown, and needing to be bailed out by friends and family.

Yes, 2016 was a year that I would like to put behind me.

But on December 31st at 9:25 pm I heard uncontrollable sobbing coming from Toby's room.
I went in and asked what was wrong and got a muffled scream of "I don't WANT it to be 2017! I want it to stay 2016 forever!"
My first reaction was to come back with how awful 2016 was, but quickly caught myself.
I wanted to say how silly that was, but caught myself again.
In Toby's world, none of the news media or my personal problems existed.

In Toby's world this was a year where:

He got to go to the Aquarium and finally see the sea turtle. It didn't matter that Anthony and I were dancing around each other the whole time, unsure of whether our relationship existed or not.

He got a new bike. It didn't matter that it was at the end of a very stressful week of sewing for me.

We spent more days at the beach this summer than usual. It didn't matter that I was often sick or tired when we went.

We got to see Joseph twice. It didn't matter that the previous 6 months had been a nightmare of costume deadlines and ignoring Toby because of this very thing.

We visited Stratford, Toronto, and Sudbury.
We had Birthdays.
We had just come to the end of a week of Christmases, food, and friends.

And so how could I just tell Toby, who has always had a hard time with transitions, that this year was finally due to be gone.

I rubbed his back and told him that we didn't have to call it 2017, we could call it 2016.1.
I told him that it was just like a Minecraft update, you get some fixes and surprises, but the previous edition doesn't change.
I asked him if he felt any different when he turned 8, and that this is the same - it's just another day.
I asked him what his favourite parts of 2016 were.
Even though he didn't want to answer me I asked what he was looking forward to about 2017.
I told him I was most looking forward to the spring thaw so then the squirrels would finally move out of the attic. He laughed at that and we talked about some Lego sets he was looking forward to seeing the release of.

2017 is going to be a year of just taking an extra breath.
I want to pay more attention to myself.
I don't want to be afraid to say no to people.
I want to minimize the chaos on my house, both visually and emotionally.
I want to assert my needs more than I've been accustomed to.
I want to re-build.

I hope everyone has a good 2017.
Take too many pictures.
Have too much fun.
And take time for one extra breath.