C25k Journey, Part 4

The couch-to-5K program is supposed to be done consistently, like any other exercise program, for it to be effective. I did not do it consistently over the summer. It may sound like I’m making excuses, but the weather just was not adequate for me to be outside running and I didn’t have the means to get to an air-conditioned gym or indoor track. I know what’s bad for my health, and exerting myself in humid and hot conditions is something that’s definitely, definitely bad for me.

So I’m restarting C25K! Now that fall is approaching, the temperatures are chillier (to a certain amount, but they’re still higher than they used to be because #climatechange). I’ve tried running in different temperatures, and anything above 18*C is too hot for me. What better way to get my regular exercise in by just restarting a program I knew was working and knew I could do? I’ve already done the first week again, and it was weird running the 1-minute intervals again after working myself up to 3-minute and 5-minute intervals! I felt like I was doing HIIT cardio while redoing Week 1.

The unfortunate thing is that the temperature has picked up again this week, so I haven’t run since I last went, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get a run in until the end of the month. But I know that when the temperature is a consistently comfortable one, I’ll be out every other day for my run. I’m so excited.

Week 1 was easy, even if I was blindsided by the 60-second intervals. I’ve gotten faster and my cardiovascular strength has improved. My usual 30-minute route isn’t long enough to fill 30-minutes now, so I loop back in a few sections to make up the difference between the time and distance. My heart rate returns to normal and has lowered significantly compared to when I first started.

Overall, I’m proud of what I’ve done even if it wasn’t a completed couch-to-5K program. This time, though, I’ll finish it for sure.

C25K Journey, Part 3

C25K Journey, Part 1| C25K Journey, Part 2

I know I’m supposed to do C25K three times a week, but the weather is not nice where I live.

Week 3

3 sessions of 28 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Two 90-second runs
  • Two 90-second walks
  • Two 3-minute runs
  • Two 3-minute walks
  • 5-minute cool down
June 21: Week 2 Day 3 (repeated)/Run 7

It had been nearly 3 weeks since I last went for a run, so I repeated the last one I did to make sure I could still do it. And I could! It was nice to get out again after being sick.

Runtime: 9 minutes

June 24: Week 3 Day 1/Run 8

This run was later in the day, right before sunset, so it was a little too dark for me to be very comfortable. I did a road run instead of a trail run, and there was a large hill and the distance was more than I thought; so I did more walking than the program calls for, which is okay by me!

Runtime: 9 minutes

June 26: Week 3 Day 2/Run 9

An okay run. I think my stomach was a bit too full from dinner, since I got a side stitch in the last 1/4 of the session. This was a trail run, and it was again too close to sunset, so the paths were dim and my fear of the dark was intense.

Runtime: 9 minutes

July 3: Week 3 Day 3/Run 10

I tried to go before the weather got too hot, but unfortunately had to stop the last 90-seconds of the final 3-minute run. I wasn’t sweating properly—my skin was abnormally dry compared to how it is when I run. I was getting lightheaded and nauseated, and that’s how I knew I had to stop exerting myself so much. Overall, though? It was a pretty good session.

Runtime: 8.5 minutes

July 13: Week 3 Day 3 (repeated)/Run 11

I was so excited I got a run in! I woke up, checked the weather, and managed to get it in really quickly after getting out of bed. Breaking my fast with a granola bar, then going for a run 15 minutes later? It was do-able, but probably not the best. I loved that it was raining, though, since it kept me cool.

Runtime: 9 minutes

I think I need to put the program on hiatus until September. The temperatures just aren’t good for me to be outside running. I can get my exercise in with free weights, yoga, and at-home cardio… I hope.

Month In Review: May 2017

Since I moved at the beginning of May, I had a lot to adjust to this month. I’m not sure how well I did, though, since it’s now the end of the month and I’m only just feeling settled. It’s hard to get into a routine when it’s so different to the routines you’ve had for years in school.

A celebration: My living expenses are next to nothing, since I’m living with my dad again.

A change: Well, I was still unpacking into the first week, so I guess my move—but mostly the season got warmer.

A conflict: Living with my family has proved to be a little difficult for me.

A relief: I found more resources for helping treat my mental health.

A regret: I didn’t put time toward my manuscript this month.

A random memory: A cashier at a convenience store, whose first language was definitely not English, said to me, “Have a happy day.” It made my morning, and I did have a happy day.

Onward to June. I’m hoping that this month I can really, actually, finally get revisions going on THE PILGRIMAGE. That’s really my main goal. My priorities are so shaken after moving and diving straight into work. I also have another project that I’m working on (that has been on the backburner for ~3 years) that has suddenly picked up momentum again.

My Hometown

I’m moving back to my hometown at the end of the month. The longest time I’ve spent there, since I moved out for university, was from April to August of 2015. Now, I’m moving back to live with my dad for an indefinite and longer period of time.

I’m not going to get into the fact that I’m an adult and I’ll be living with my parent again. Instead, I’m going to focus on the parts of my hometown I’m excited to see again.

The local library is a 20-minute walk away, uphill. I can either walk along the street and end up there, or I can walk through the trail in the forest by the creek—and get there in the same amount of time. Because the library works within a county and has three branches in different communities, there’s an interlibrary loan system. Considering the population where I’m from is 99% white, I don’t have high hopes that the reading selection reflects that, but I’ll see what’s available when I’m back.

I feel conflicted about how out-of-the-way my hometown is. We have to drive into a town to get groceries and literally anything that we may need. Nothing is within walking distance, aside from the library and a nearby plaza. A positive about this is that I won’t be impulse buying fast food or other products very often. A negative about this is that I’ll have to drive, get a ride, and work with my drivers’ schedules in order to get things.

I can’t wait to see stars. In Windsor, the light pollution is bad and I can’t see many stars. But in my hometown, I can look up and see actual constellations. I love the cosmos, and being able to look outside at night and feel small under the sky.

The air in my hometown is so breathable. I’m lucky to not have pollen allergies or asthma, so living in Windsor wasn’t too terrible. But the pollution is horrible and the smells from downriver are awful. Every time I visited my dad, I’d get home, step out of the car, and take a deep breath. The fresh air through the summer will be amazing.

A backyard, a book, and a comfy chair under the sun or umbrella shade. What more do I need to say?

The temperatures will be lower during the summer. I’m tired of the 30 to 40-degree (Celsius) temperature in Windsor, plus the humidity. My hometown is still warm, but it’s more bearable.

I’m looking forward to being with my family again, too. My grandparents and one of my aunts live nearby and I’ll be living with my little brother and dad. My brother can be a huge pain, but he’s still my brother. My dad is eager to have my home and support all my creative endeavours in the best way he can. The best part about living with my family? They’re often not home. I’ll have lots of time to myself, and fewer distractions and auditory triggers.

The best part of moving back home will be the lack of bills. I’m so grateful my dad won’t be asking me to foot rent, utility, and grocery bills. It’s another way he’ll be supporting me, since he couldn’t support my university career.

I’ve always had an appreciation fro my hometown, but it’s grown as I’ve lived away from it. It’s not the same feeling of love I had while I was a child growing up there, and it’s not as if I return home and expect or hope for good childhood feelings. Instead, I’m coming back to my small village and excited to be somewhere quieter, cleaner, and comfier.

My PTSD And Motivation

This is part of a series where I talk about my complex posttraumatic stress disorder. The first post outlines my C-PTSD/PTSD.

The majority of motivation lies in the thought, “I am able and want to achieve this.” We’re motivated to do something because we think we can get there, and ultimately we want to get there. There is an inherent desire spurring us to do whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves. We want to go to college, so we’re motivated to do what it takes to get there. We want to have a published book. We want to get the job. We want something and we see the means to the end goal, or we at least discover them on our way to the goal.

Having PTSD makes this a little difficult. I struggle with desire and capability.

I find it hard to set a goal and reach it, shown by my track record and trail of unfinished projects, because my PTSD fills me with fear and insecurity. My PTSD developed over a time of instability, and this affected my ability to set goals and maintain progress toward them. I grew up without knowing when something will get upended. I became highly alert of the possibility that things would change. In short, I was always on the lookout for the next interruption and disruption.

This pattern of seeking disruption stalks me. I’m a mile ahead of my goals and their means. I’m a mile ahead of doing Step 1. I process to a hypothetical Step 100 and essentially create disruptions for myself by looking at setbacks and obstacles between 1 and 100.

This is why I cried when I finished a complete rewrite of my novel.

Now, I’m there again, processing from Step 1 to 100 for the revision of that same novel. I’m trying to stay motivated to see Step 1 through to completion. I write to-do lists. I make checklists. I break my goals down into specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely, small goals. “Revise THE PILGRIMAGE” becomes multiple steps of revision, with a checkbox beside them and an end point. I’m still on Step 1, which is a read-through and note-taking. I’m struggling to stay motivated. I’m jumping past Step 1, trying to rationalise and strategise how to make my way through the next steps… when I’m not there yet.

My motivation turns into tactics for the big picture journey, rather than the small goals I set up. The “traumatic” and “stress” aspects show in motivation and goal setting. The trauma comes back, and the past occurrences and similarities show themselves. The stress comes back and soaks through all the rational efforts.

Dissociation and low self-esteem are also factors that inhibit my ability to stay motivated, even with end goals and actionable steps to reach them. My PTSD also features manic episodes, and they’re a form of elated dissociation. I’m untouchable in mania, just like I’m untouchable in dissociation; but with mania I have power on the world, whereas with dissociation I have invisibility and disconnect from it.

How can I stay motivated when I’m not here, or when I am but I’m filled with wishful thinking? How can I stay motivated when my brain is wired to find every possible setback? How can I stay motivated when I’m too occupied with navigating fears? How can I stay motivated when there are 99 steps between my current state and the end goal, and I have zero idea what I might need to face with each step? How can I stay motivated when my brain and body have only been used to strategise my mortality?

It’s hard to rewire myself. All the motivational quotes, lists of achievements, goal setting, and reassurance in the world won’t help me if my mind can’t believe them; or if my mind is unable to use those to its advantage; or if I have a counterpoint to each one. There’s nothing my brain wants to do aside from continue its current patterns. After all, it’s spent most of my formative years and life doing that, and it’s seen the results: I’m still alive.

At this point, I think the only way I can really be motivated to do anything is remind myself that I’m hard to destroy. Is that the key? Do I need to rewire my brain to one of confidence in order to be motivated? Do I need to be confident in my existence before I can be motivated in my projects? We’ll see. For the time being, I’m… well, as I write this, I’m stuck in dissociation and can’t even feel my fingers as I type. But for the time being, until I’m managing my PTSD better, I’m going to focus on completing my checklists and ignoring the future.

Thoughts On Feeling Inadequate

I intended to post this on Friday (the 7th), but in a stroke of cosmic irony, my inadequacy peaked that night. Writing this after the fact is… more powerful.

I hit a low point when it came to feeling valid as a human being. As in, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be alive. (Don’t worry, nothing happened aside from a crying session.) I felt inadequate in every aspect of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, romantically, sexually… The list goes on, but it was generally in that order.

There are so many ways to feel like you’re not good enough.

I shrunk one of my favourite shirts in the dryer, because my memory wasn’t good enough to remember it was in the wash; because my attention wasn’t good enough to look out for it when I changed the load over from the washer to the dryer; because my body wasn’t good enough to fit into a smaller size.

I had been feeling like crap for the entire day, but when it was 10:00pm and I was folding laundry, and there was one of my favourite shirts I’ve had for half a year… The domino toppled and so did all of the pent-up inadequacies I had lined up. It was one thing after another, a catalogue of how I wasn’t good enough at anything.

That was a few days ago, and I still haven’t picked up the dominoes and put them in a box. I haven’t lined up the things I’m good at. I haven’t lined up the reasons why I’m good enough. I haven’t had a chance to reflect on why I’m okay as a human being, and why I don’t have to be The Best to exist.

I’m going to play the mental illness card again: my PTSD makes me extra hard on myself. I’m significantly reduced compared to the “normal” or neurotypical standards. I feel like less of a person because of things that happened to me that I, for some reason, can’t let go of. How is it that things beyond my control come back to haunt me? Why does my brain hold on to things that hurt it? What do I need to do to make myself good enough to see that I’m good enough?

The standard to which I hold myself is unattainable. I can never reach it. Yet my mind and self-perception constantly reflect back to those standards, to the aspects that will make me worthy.

It’s times like these that I transcend my body in the worst possible way. Dissociation acts as my safety blanket, but it’s the same as starving yourself in order to avoid food poisoning. Haven’t we all learned that “abstinence-only” tactics aren’t the same as being informed about hazards? Living is a risk and dissociating is my way of avoiding risk. Dissociating is the closest I can get to separating from life without committing suicide.

It has been a significant amount of time since I said aloud, “I want to die,” and meant it. I hold back tears now as I look back at myself curled on the bed, weeping around the words. I see myself holding the worn out domino pieces I played with before therapy, before getting help, before putting effort into my well-being, before my diagnosis that explains so much of myself—before valuing myself even a marginal amount.

I’m better now, in the relative sense. It’s not like I’ve put away all the dominoes, but they’re no longer strewn, encircled, around me and keeping me hostage. They’re shoved to the side and I can see past them a little bit. But they’re still there. They’re still within grasp. I still want to set them up again and watch myself topple, because lining up these pieces and seeing how far the line goes seems to be the only thing I’m consistently good enough at doing.

2017: 2nd Quarter

We’re nearing the end of March, which means I’m preparing for the change in season and my goals. If we look back to my post starting the new year, I listed all my goals by quarter.

January, February, March
  • finish writing The Pilgrimage
  • edit The Pilgrimage and send it to beta readers
  • open an Etsy shop for my art
  • redesign my blog with a custom-coded theme
  • rebrand my personal identity online

I striked out are the goals I did not accomplish. Considering that I’m working on the fourth one (redesign my blog), and considering I’m going to start editing The Pilgrimage next week (FINALLY), I could very well get all these goals done!! Or at least in progress, which is better than not getting to them at all. I have plans for the Etsy shop still, so I’m not dashing that goal away just because I didn’t get to it when I planned to.

So now the seasons are changing, and for once I’m looking forward to spring. I prefer fall and winter over spring, but since I won’t be in Windsor for the spring months, I’ll be more comfortable. Is that weird? I’m moving farther north, so it won’t get as warm as quickly, and there might be a chance for snow still, but spring in my hometown is invigorating.

In the blog post opening the new year, I hesitantly planned goals for the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year. A lot of things were up in the air, so these goals were simply wonderings, rather than actual plans.

April, May, June
  • query The Pilgrimage to agents
  • start a second writing project
  • code WordPress themes for sale
  • consider freelance design, and a related portfolio

That first goal? I haven’t started editing, but I edit quickly and I wouldn’t be surprised if I got to the querying phase during the spring! I already have my portfolio up, so that’s a bonus. However, these goals are definitely not enough for me to work on during the upcoming three months. When I have more to work on, I’m happier. I need to prioritise all my goals, but I have a lot that I want to do.

I will be moving in April. When I first made my plans and goals for the year, I didn’t know whether I’d be moving at the end of the semester or in the summer, but that was finalised in February. I might not have the time to code themes for sale until I’ve moved, but at least I don’t have to worry about finding a place to live. My dad is looking forward to having my home again. I’m a little on-the-fence about it, just because it’s hard to ignore the trauma I incurred in the house before my parents split. But, it’ll be nice to not pay rent and bills, to help him out around the house, and to hopefully get some driving practise in. My dad is planning on doing renovations soon, so I’m hoping to motivate him into getting that started, as well as cooking for him so he has less to worry about while he works his butt off to get the house refinanced! He also really wants to support me in my freelancing, which is such a godsend.

My updated goals for April, May, and June
  • move back in with my dad
  • send The Pilgrimage to beta readers
  • start outlining a new writing project
  • finish website design
  • code WordPress themes
  • design more

There are more details behind each of the goals, but I’m going to keep those to myself as I prioritise my goals and all the little tasks for them! For instance, I’m still planning on opening an Etsy shop, but I need to design more in order to get that underway. I’m thinking printables and other design resources, so I’m really, really excited! If I can get to that this quarter, that would be wonderful, but I’m not gunning for it.

I’ve realised I work better if I prioritise my projects, rather than working on everything all at once. I gotta get my head out of the “student” mindset—I’ve finished my degree. I can do my own thing now, whenever I want, and I don’t need to spread myself over different topics.

My PTSD

I first started seeking help for my mental health in 2011 when I said to my parents, “I think I have depression.” My father then revealed to me that he has depression (something he has been successfully managing since 2013!) and mental illness is frequent in our family.

A year ago, in February of 2016, I saw my third therapist: a trauma counsellor with a focus on spirituality, psychosomatic medicine, and cognitive behaviour therapy. She was a fantastic fit. I can’t stress enough how therapy is most successful if you have a therapist who actually helps you.

I had seen two other therapists who specialised in treating depression, and though I could have gone on antidepressants (I fully support them!), I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like I was being treated the way I should have. I didn’t feel like depression was the end of my mental health struggles. I felt like there was more that I needed to figure out.

During the standard first meeting with my most recent therapist, she instructed me to get comfortable. In retrospect, when she saw me assume the Lotus Position in my socked feet, she knew exactly how to approach my treatment. I remember having doubts about how successful our work would be, and she challenged that. While sitting on the couch, I told her in detail about my life and the experiences that mattered to me. She told me I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that it might be complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). She told me how a traumatic life, specifically childhood, can lead to PTSD in adulthood.

Everything clicked for me. It made sense: I wasn’t just depressed. I was traumatised over decades. I developed PTSD.

Often, I feel like saying I have PTSD is a sham. I’m not a military vet, I didn’t grow up in a war-torn country, and I haven’t experienced sexual assault. There are so many “poster child” representations of PTSD that feel more valid to me than my own—hence why complex-posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) has been proposed. I grew up and experienced more frequent trauma, on average, than people my age.

But I still have PTSD. I say PTSD for simplicity’s sake, though it’s really C-PTSD. I haven’t found much difference between the two for me personally, but I know others have a different experience with PTSD and C-PTSD.

So that’s why I’m writing this post: to share my experiences with my mental illness.

My PTSD and experience with it mean that I am…

  • prone to violent anger.
  • prone to psychotic episodes, where I can’t discern reality from imagination, dreams, hallucinations, or delusions.
  • unable to regulate emotions, particularly strong emotions.
  • afraid of developing dependency on substances like alcohol and strong painkillers.
  • terrible at sleeping normally.
  • terrible at remembering things without having a record of them.
  • dissociating frequently from my body, to the point where I can wake up, go through an entire day, and not remember what happened by the time I’m in bed again.
  • triggered when events, sounds, and images are similar to the traumas I’ve experienced.
  • unpredictable and a lot to handle emotionally and mentally, especially for myself.
  • comorbidly suffering from depression and anxiety.
  • struggling with grief.
  • suicidal and ideating suicide more often than not.
  • controlling, with very specific preferences.

Like all mental disorders and illnesses, it’s impossible for me to separate myself from mine. I have PTSD, and I expect the rest of my life will be a journey of coping, surviving, and managing my mental illness. I have lots of resources and good methods for working through it, but I’m always struggling.

Questioning

Two tree trunks with spray-painted question marks and a text overlay reading Questioning

Lately, I’ve been in that hellish stage of questioning.

Again.

I was here at age 13 and here I am again, and it sucks.

I’m still not comfortable enough to do a broad “coming out” or “here’s what I’ve been questioning” post, but I’m putting this up for a very specific reason.

I’ve written about the fluidity of identity, in a way, when I discussed fluidity in sexuality. I intend to write a follow-up post to that one where I discuss gender identity. But I’ve always been a firm believer of supporting changes in the way people label themselves. There are some parts of your identity that can’t change, like your skin colour and ethnic heritage. There are others, however, that can only change or come about when you find out they exist, like gender, sexuality, romantic attraction, and religious beliefs—and you’re allowed to change your mind based on how much you learn about them.

So I’m posting this to say that I’m wondering if I need to change my mind, too. I’m unsure of the labels I once used. I’m unsure of the identity I once claimed. I’m being intentionally vague here, because I’m not entirely comfortable (let alone certain) of all of this and what labels are accurate. It doesn’t matter which ones I’m specifically questioning. What matters is that I’m back in this space and filled with uncertainty. Part of me is scared—as is normal when something changes—and that part right now is big.

When you question your identity, it often has a domino effect: it can change your relationships, your expression, and your interactions with society. You may have thought you were cisgender, but then you start to question that… and your life changes. There can be small changes or big changes, but it’s not going to be the same after you realise whether or not you are what you thought you were.

Changing Identities

A broken computer monitor on tiles with a text overlay that reads Changing Identities

This isn’t going to be a deep, profound, or philosophical post about my personal identity. It’s about my online usernames!

Since 2009, I have made my online presence as “coryldork”—to the point where it’s literally every online handle for every account I use. 2009 to 2017 is a very long time, and it’s time for a change. I’ve grown up, after all, over the eight years I’ve been doing this online thing. I’m in my 20s, no longer in school, and—arguably—at the biggest changing point in my life. Finishing classes means a natural transition into a different world.

Early during my social media days, I used my real last name on the Internet. But as time has gone on, and as I’ve navigated the concept (and reality) of being a writer and creative with a digital platform—being a person who could have a large presence online—I came up with a pen name. Since the middle of 2016, I’ve been itching for a change from “coryldork” for a few reasons. The first is hearing about it from my family, and how they didn’t quite get the slang of it. (Honestly, the twentieth time you hear your grandmother say your email address with scorn, you’re exhausted.) The second reason is drifting away from “Coryl o’Reilly” and feeling uncertain about that presence. And the third is the realisation that I’m gunning to be more than a writer—I want to create more art as well and delve into editing.

So, starting February 1st, I’ll be using the new handle of “corylwrites” and the name “Coryl Reef”!

Coryl Reef is obviously not my real name. “Coryl” is, and every time I introduce myself to someone by saying my name, I say, “Coryl, as in coral reef.” It was a punny suggestion from someone and it just… clicked. It makes sense. It’s obvious and helps people to know how my name is said. It also makes it fairly clear that the identity that I put online is only half real. I’m more than my tweets, Instagram photos, and blog posts. There are still facts and truth in it, but at the end of it, I want to better curate my presence on social media.

My blog is registered until October 2017, so I’m not sure if I’ll renew it then. I had a second website for the previous name, but I’m going to let that one expire this spring. But anyway! I’ll be moving to a new Twitter account (which will be a relief, actually—there is so much whiny garbage from my younger years), but simply renaming all other social media that I can. If I can’t rename the account, then I suppose I’ll be moving to a new one.

I’m so excited!! Have you ever changed your online presence? I feel so liberated.