2016, A Personal Year In Review


There are a lot of things people can say about the year 2016, mostly about what occurred during this designated time span. For this blog, my focus has to be personal. As a result, 2016 looks downright cheery and an improvement compared to 2015.

As I keep doing in my novels, let’s provide reams of backstory

Years like 2010 and 2011 fall under the umbrella of “The Injury And Its Long Recovery”, or, how RSI screwed up all my working situations for roughly four to six years. That was just about finished by 2012, and from there, the first half of this decade is defined by me trying to move out from my living situation on a more permanent basis, lasting a year wherever I went, and returning disappointed to the same place as before. With each “move back home” comes a sort of catastrophic letdown period and a blow to confidence. None of that was 2016, so it’s already ahead of the curve.

The constant moving and returning could be a benefit, in hindsight. Now some mental issues I had been living with for a long time were inflated enough that I couldn’t ignore their effects and sought treatment for them. Interestingly, the motivation to seek treatment overlaps perfectly with living away from my current home and living closer to mental health services, and also having a space where I could quietly handle these sorts of things and not have to think about concerned parents wanting to know what I’m doing or asking unintentionally awkward questions; that’s just something they do, while they’re doing their best. It really helps to have a space where you can feel completely like you’re living your own life, but it can also be an expensive privilege.

The various campaigns and fundraisers took their toll as well, becoming a deciding factor. If I learn a lot of things by running headlong into them and feeling the pain, I’ve done above average for myself because that suggests I only needed to sprint at the wall once to learn not to sprint at the wall. Some people will probably not speak to me again, and in some cases I don’t want to hear what they would say. In truth, you can probably find three forehead-shaped dents in that wall which I can call my own with such pride.

2015, the year that mostly wasn’t there

This is all a lead in to 2015, a year that existed less than any other year for me. When group therapy hadn’t in the long term rendered me less reactive to the slightest personal anguish, then came medication. With the dismantling of my neat 2014 living-away-from-home situation, you can bet I wanted an increase in the dosage. You can also bet that in my long history of half-baked ideas, “I’ve seen minor improvements in fluency on this medication, maybe if I ramp it up I’ll see greater improvements” crossed my mind. And just like those other half-baked ideas, I failed to reconsider at all before acting on it.

2015 then became the kind of year where life was lived in two bursts of four to six hour consciousness per day, or a minimum total of eight hours; while many people hope to get eight hours of sleep, I was hoping to be able to stay conscious that long. I had no reasonable hope of full time work as I could conceive it, when those eight hours were the length of a full time shift, and also had to include all meals, personal hygiene, and the kicker, this time span was always divided in half with a longer bed span in between. The four to six hours of being awake were achieved with the assistance of approximately two full cans of energy drink per period in which I hoped to work, and sometimes if I drank a can too late I would have to go collapse into bed anyway despite the high levels of caffeine in my system, as if the drinks were just some security blanket that weren’t actually having any effect. I like to think they brought me over that fine line from “conscious” to “able to focus on a transcript at all”.

I was not terribly distressed thanks to the medication. I felt emotionally flat. The way I was thinking never changed, but my reactions to the thoughts just became flatter. “I’m 30, seem rendered incapable of work, have a self-published flop on the market, no sex or romance to my existence, have to live over a public transit hour away from my friends and interests, and my entire life looks like a catastrophic failure; no problem.”

The combination of so much sleep without any reduction in appetite did what you might expect it would, with my waist size jumping about six to eight inches. A phlebologist at Canadian Blood Services, where I continued to do my thing and as a side effect get weighed each visit, thought there must be some error in the documentation because “Who gains that much in that little time, and why?” I hoped whoever’s life might get saved was a person in a greater position to actually have a life and do relevant things with it. I managed to keep tidying up after my adopted pets so there were a number of commitments I could still manage to live up to, like some of the lowest-maintenance pets I’ve ever had in my home, so these were the little things I would cling to for any semblance of satisfaction with myself, any notion that the fail was not yet 100% fail, just dangling at 99% or so.

And finally, what you actually came to read–but hopefully it makes more sense now

This takes us to the beginning of 2016, and as all my ideas begin, it starts with some half-baked and probably irrational urge that I can conveniently rationalize later provided it works. This just wasn’t working. Whatever I was living through on the medication felt worse than whatever I had tried to escape by going on medication. I could only hope for some long term improvement even after I stopped taking the stuff, but I wasn’t prepared to continue down this path. My doctor cautioned that I must have agreed to that dose as I claimed I needed it, which I don’t believe was a lie at the time considering what I thought it would do for me, but my felt sense of the situation had changed. I quietly agreed to a reduced dose, then on my own time and with this remaining supply, tapered the dose down to nil. All this care over a very common type of meds probably considered soft core by people who’ve had to take stronger, but I never said I wasn’t a lightweight.

The withdrawals I was warned about either didn’t happen at all, or were no different than life in general and thus went unnoticed. Now it was time for a damage report; what shape was I in and what was I willing to do about it? I have an elliptical stepper, a really simple model, sitting in my bedroom from some of the efforts I made; there was no way I could balance on that thing unicycle style as it was intended, not without all my leg muscles screaming after a mere five seconds, but put a simple musician’s stool in front of it and now I had a recumbent bike of sorts.

For personal reasons, or sentiments, whichever, I was taken with the urge to do this monarch conservation thing, and began scattering all those wildflower and milkweed seeds around that you read about me doing earlier this year. That went on for a time because my employment situation wouldn’t change for most of the year, but it all got me outside, moving, and stared at by normal people, just like old times! Many of those seeds were probably planted too late or incorrectly or ended up being mulch or food for critters, but it was something. When monarch butterflies seemed to return on their migration to communities west of my own, east of my own, north of my own, yet somehow avoiding my own like it was cursed, I raised a few of my own for local release just to do something more. I don’t pretend it made much of a difference. This by itself did not do any immediate thing for my weight situation, and I just braved the knee and back pain and ripped pants and everything. What did I have to lose anymore?

I had gone to a sleep clinic study to solve the tiredness problem, where even after I had no medication, sleep wasn’t really resting me. This had just about the most straightforward solution of any problem I was living with, and I still use my CPAP now. But the sleep doctor was the other person to weigh me regularly, scales at home being busted some of the time, and she confirmed that after all this effort my weight was identical. I took this to mean things got even worse than I thought, then returned to the level they were at; or, and I preferred this narrative, I had effectively put a wall or a line in the sand and said I refuse to let this one issue get worse.

My social media enjoyed a turnaround. I had nothing to say before but to keep pushing and promoting this one thing, because otherwise you would have to constantly hear about the above things and they just didn’t sound positive enough to me. So I was stuck between negative updates I wasn’t sure anyone would appreciate, and repetitive instances of another one of those small things I could cling to, just like the continued ability to function well enough to clean up pet crap. I suppose with some big help from the local library communities I finally started going out and meeting people, which is the only helpful thing I can do as a mostly unheard-of independent writer. They want to see my face, not my banner ads, which makes sense in hindsight because my banners were all created with MS Paint.

Labour Day approached. In the background of everything, I was living where I lived for a reason, using up my credit to the max on social media ads and spur of the moment promos for that self-published book I mentioned earlier, trying to figure out how I would afford anything at all let alone the production and release of the second book. At least I had a creative project ready to go, whenever I was in some working condition to get it ready. I felt like I hadn’t touched that manuscript since Ethiopia 2012, frankly, more focus having gone to the book I was releasing in 2014 (or, ultimately, March/May 2015). My first effort was to recall what was there before coming up with more intelligent plans of what to change, and that was one of the rare times I employed a handwritten notebook. I still have the notes, and to this day nobody cares that I have them. One day after the fall and re-rise of civilization, some archaeologist is going to be very confused. But the initial point of this paragraph was that I had removed obstacles to working, and though I still had bad memories of getting RSI in a bindery environment, and not sure what I could keep up with, I should still try. I didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t getting sufficient freelance work in a field that wasn’t nearly my top choice of work; it’s one thing to suck it up and do some form of work, but it’s another when that work doesn’t manage to pay the bills.

Everything after Labour Day has looked exactly like it did on my social media. I impressed myself by physically keeping up with a manual labour job at Lush Manufacturing, and I’m not going to question how that worked. I was used to no more response to my resumes than an automated system telling me I had sent the files to the correct address, and then I would remain ignored and move on to the next fruitless job search, until I went through periods of deep discouragement where I didn’t even try; that’s more like a 2015 thing. In 2016, all of the sudden this workplace answered my resume and set up an interview on the first try, and very quickly.

I spent the interview time scared of how I would somehow manage to screw up everything, because this seemed too easy, and because life has a way of correcting me when I’m foolish enough to think I’ve had a good idea or gotten a big break, or it otherwise enables me to cause my own problems. The interview, orientation, onboarding all going off without a problem, I spent every day thinking I would be considered too slow, some sort of slacker, or just not working up to par and getting the sack–and if not, when would some sort of physical pain inevitably happen? Am I really going to keep getting up at 4:45AM and making the commute? I mean, how’s that 20 minute walk to Martin Grove going to get when the cold weather kicks in?

Every day as I took the outdoor route to the break room (because Miscellaneous doesn’t always want me trapsing through their space, unless it’s pouring buckets outside) there would be monarch butterflies going over and around the building. They seemed to like the front garden, which is not surprising since it had milkweed and some wild flowers. The butterflies just suggested to my symbolic mind that I did belong here, and things were as they should be, and not to get too anxious to work. I had to commit myself to going through what I was managing to do right now, and deal with the above questions as they happened. At least I had a right-now that was preferable, a welcome change.

“In closing,” he wrote, resulting in a negative comment from the teaching assistant on his undergraduate paper

This year is coming to a close, and somehow I’m still at that workplace. I can’t imagine for much longer, as the seasonal maximum of the contract is in fact the end of this month, and incidentally year. I have applied to continue working there because a position was open, but it occurs to me that I’m at peace with whichever outcome; I don’t know how things are going to work out if I have to go back to the resume game, but then again I don’t ever really know how things are going to work out, so what has changed? Only that I feel somewhat okay right now.

2016 has been a bitterly hated span of time, and in the sense of geopolitical and environmental facts, the loss of icons and loved ones, I’m not going to tell you that the year was great or even that your year was great. I’m not qualified to do that, and more importantly I don’t feel like it. I just wanted to illustrate that somewhere, in one weird person’s fittingly weird world, some things got a little bit better. I hope that in the upcoming year, things get at least a little bit better for everyone.

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