Today, I'm taking a break from Electroconvulsive Therapy. I need it.
A QUICK ANGELA UPDATE
The last time Angela and I spoke was on Monday, when she said, "I'm holding my own."
She sounded calm and relaxed while watching the Olympics. On Sunday, she admitted she was feeling a little bored. She had wanted to go snowboarding, but those plans didn't work out.
Over the last few days, she has punctuated our conversations with short bursts of laughter. Giggles, really. Her voice is sounding buoyant. I can always tell how she's feeling by the way she answers the phone and over the weekend, her "Hello" sounded brighter to me than it had sounded in the months prior to her ECT treatments which began three and a half weeks ago.
So today, I'm going to break away from Angela and her ECT and discuss my mood and one way I stay anchored.
This method has nothing to do with pharmaceuticals or psychotherapy, though it's therapeutic – healing.
SHINING LIGHT ON MY PERSONAL LIFE AND HOW I COPE
Today, I'm going to shine a little light into my personal life. The last few months, for me, have been more stressful than usual with the ominous possibility of a strike looming for all 24 Ontario community colleges and no resolution in sight. I am not good at "not knowing" even though, believe me, I am growing increasingly adept at enduring stress.
Three years ago, I walked away from a full-time job with full benefits and 100% security into an occupational abyss. I felt something would come along, but I also felt, even more, that I had to leave to survive.
My job may have had all the financial rewards and benefits, but the work itself was killing me. Things had changed. For my health and well being, I had to leave after 30 years. It was a huge risk for me but it turned out to be the best career move of my life.
All kinds of windows sprung open for me. Ten days after I walked out of The Toronto Sun newsroom, The Globe and Mail published an op-ed piece I wrote in its editorial section. Two months later, on March 8, 2007, International Women's Day, I was hired on the spot to teach Women's Studies in the School of English and Liberal Studies at Seneca College. I graduated from Seneca in 1971.
Today, I'm teaching a course I was asked to develop called Leadership in Society. Seneca literally saved my life. I went on to Queen's University, Ryerson University, though it was a Polytechnic when I attended, then my 30-year Toronto Sun newspaper career and now I'm here at The Toronto Star – and loving it.
I'm learning more than I ever dreamed possible every day, between teaching and writing here. I love my blog, though it can be emotionally taxing, as my friend, mentor and polymath Tufts University psychiatry professor, clinician, writer, poet and fellow blogger Ron Pies empathized the other day, “'fighting off the Mongol hordes' (if that is not offensive to Genghis Khan’s people)."
I have an endlessly fascinating and adventurous life with my husband, Marty, and our two dogs, Lucy and Riley. We rarely travel, but we are never bored. Ever.
OURS IS NOT ALWAYS AN EASY LIFE
Ours is not an easy life. Marriage is a PhD in living – compromise, communications, acceptance, open-mindedness and all the challenges of inclusivity that culminate when two people over 50 join together, with three previous marriages between them, not to mention his two daughters. (One was 12 when we met and 13 when we married. She lived with us because Marty was a widower. His older daughter is a successful film producer, independent and now happily married.)
Here's what's best about my life and why I can cope. I respect my husband's values more than you can imagine. He is highly principled, generous, caring and compassionate – about all people who are oppressed. He's also excitingly political. I never knew anything about politics until we met and now I'm learning. His humanity is colouring mine, I'm happy to report. Also, living with Marty, I like to say, is "like living with Google," to borrow from my friend, journalist Cheryl Hawkes who has said that about her late husband, the brilliant journalist Bill Cameron.
Besides being a film historian and teaching the History of the Cinema to aspiring film and TV actors at Humber College, Marty is an actor, screenwriter, TV writer, playwright and baseball fan. He has an encyclopedic memory and does the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink every Sunday. Best of all, he's a humourist. Almost everything that flows from his fingers is funny.
Nothing thrills him more than making me laugh and he's on a constant quest to do so. We share a passion for The New Yorker magazine, The Sunday New York Times, good coffee, old movies, great books, spectacular art, our darling Dandie Dinmont Terriers, a small coterie of dear, faithful, fun loving friends, and our bright little yellow house in Toronto's suburbs.
We both work hard, but we thrive on our work, and it is our work and these three significant "others" (my husband and my two dogs) that anchor me day-by-day. Marty, it goes without saying, has transformed me in many other ways. He loves me unconditionally, as I feel no one else ever has. My confidence and self-esteem has grown, though I'm still plagued at times with insecurity. (My other significant other is my psychiatrist, Dr. Bob.)
Marty is rock solid, with a kind and gentle temperament that complements my madness. I'm emotional. Histrionic. Larger than life. Impatient. He calms me, just with his touch.
Do we have lots of money? Not by a long shot. We have more. Each other. Our routine. Our health, at the moment. Plus, we're both card carrying members of Weight Watchers.
WE LIVE IN THE MOMENT AND THINGS ALWAYS LOOK BETTER IN THE MORNING
Here's the clincher. We know we have enough. More than enough. We live in the moment. Marty has taught me the futility of worrying and that guilt is a waste of time.
So, that is how I live my life and how I can sit here and muse here about all aspects of emotional health and well being. I learn as I go and believe me, it's often really hard for me, like what went on last week. But I'm learning so much and ultimately, I know that we're all next to normal in varying degrees. I am stubbornly hopeful. I believe in recovery. It's hard work, but it's real. It happens. And it's different for all of us.
Feeling this way, knowing this, makes my life lovely to live, even when the living gets tough.
I have one little secret. Not a secret, really, but it helps me survive the rough times.
Things always seem to look better in the morning.
Take care. Speak soon. Thanks for listening.