Smoke Free? An Update On My Quitting Smoking

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Me smoking a cigarette. I’ve smoked for about three years and in the height of my smoking I was going through a pack a day.

I decided two start this endeavor we call “quitting smoking” about two months ago in my family doctor’s office. I mentioned my smoking was bothering me and she immediately suggested a program through her office that helps people quit smoking. When she mentioned I would get free NRT products, I was immediately sold and enrolled myself that day and even met with a counselor for a one hour introductory session on the spot.

The great thing about this program is that it holds you accountable and you get out of it as much as you put into it. The counselor is there to monitor your progress, provide you with NRT products to help with  cravings, but most importantly they re there to counsel you and provide aids to quitting smoking. My counselor, for example, told me about a man who put a photograph of his grandchildren on his bathroom mirror so he would be reminded why he was quitting everyday – for them. This really resonated with me and I decided to put a photograph of my father on my mirror to remind myself where I was heading at the rate I was going (smoking a pack a day) which was to a hospital bed, dying from cancer.

My counselor also provides several tips to quit smoking like to delay a cigarette for as long as possible. When I was first decreasing the amount I was smoking I would try to delay a cigarette by a half hour to hour. This rewires your brain and programs it to respond less often to cravings. My counselor also suggested I avoid people who smoke often, A.K.A all my closest friends,  for the first week I am trying to become smoke free. I could not, however, do this and it delayed my quitting smoking for quite awhile. Eventually I was able to even say no to my friends who consistently offered me cigarettes by sheer willpower alone.

I asked my counselor if he had any literature on quitting smoking and his response was to hand me a booklet titled “Journey 2 Quit.” It is a workbook you fill out about quitting smoking and one section stood out for me the most which was the section on the costs of smoking. Smoking affects not only your health but your bank account. This booklet points out that the money you soend goes to the Tobacco industry and that if you smoke a pack a day, you can spend upwards of $4000 a year on cigarettes. That is ridiculous! I knew after reading that and the health costs that I had to quit sooner than later.

Two months into this program, and I can say I have not had a cigarette in three days. Prior to those three days I was smoking one cigarette a day for two weeks which is a significant change from me smoking a pack a day. One NRT product that I am going to mention helped me get to this point immensely – the nicorette QuickMist spray. This spray stops cravings within 60 seconds of spraying it on your tongue. I decided to make a conscious effort to use the spray in place of a cigarette throughout my day and it worked! The spray costs around $45 but in this program all NRT products such as patches and nicotine gum are free.

In a previous post I mention my quit date being January 4, 2019 and that on that date I would like to be smoke free for two weeks. At the rate I am going I should be smoke free for two weeks by the beginning of December (if I keep it up). I am extremely proud of myself for the progress I have made so far. I do not doubt that I will reach my goal of quitting smoking by January 4. I encourage those who want to quit to talk to their family doctor about options. Your family doctor may have a similar quit smoking program in place. And most importantly I want to impress upon my readers that you can do it and you can do whatever you set your mind to – because I have.

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I have included this image as an end note of how I am now mentally ripping cigarettes apart in my process to quit smoking.

 

The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl Ch. 1 – Manic Psychosis

When I was entering into my fourth and final year of University I experienced a manic induced psychosis. It was possibly the strangest and most frightening experience of my life. I experienced paranoia, delusional thinking and auditory as well as visual hallucinations. It was triggered by a LaSenza scout who contacted me to ask that I send in my portfolio to be considered for a Fall Photo shoot.

At this period in my life I had been pursuing modeling as a means to supplement my meager income. The majority of the shoots I did were in the nude so when it came time to send in my portfolio I was afraid of my nudes being leaked – the paranoia already beginning of what would ultimately result in a full blown psychosis. I emailed the scout asking for a waiver to ensure my nudes would be delivered safely over the big wide web. She did not understand what I was asking for and thought I was already asking for a contract to which she gave me attitude and stated that if hired I would receive upwards to $10, 000 but that I would receive no compensation for sending in my portfolio. She clearly did not understand what I was asking for.

This inspired me to don my journalistic cap and write a piece on the exploitation of models by major companies such as LaSenza. My editor loved the idea but did not understand the delusional reasoning behind my wanting to pursue this article which was to take down LaSenza and expose them for the unethical way they approached aspiring models. When my editor overheard a conversation between me and another writer of my ultimate idea and plan to take down LaSenza she decided to kill the article because she was afraid of being accused of slander and with good reason. However, during the process of researching and writing this article my paranoia grew indicating the onset of my psychosis.

My paranoia got so bad that I believed LaSenza was possibly following my every move trying to stop my attempt to expose them as a power hungry and immoral company. My paranoia became so severe that in a state of delusional thinking I actually believed they were watching me through my laptop. I had left my photo booth app open and saw the green light that indicated my webcam was on and thought it was them tuned into my laptop watching my every move. I did not stop to think rationally and realize I had photo booth open but minimized on my laptop. I even tried to stiff the pizza delivery guy when he accidentally forgot to bring his debit machine, thinking he was a spy of LaSenza who had tracked my whereabouts down. The scary thing is that in the moment all these delusional and paranoid thoughts seemed valid and rational but looking back I can’t help but laugh at how insane I had acted.

Unfortunately this was only the beginning of what was to result in my most delusional thinking. I began reflecting on my experiences as a model for the article I intended to write about how photographers and companies take advantage of amateur models and came to the conclusion that I had been taken advantage of. I even went to a photographer I had previously worked with under the guise of writing a piece on specifically waivers and their necessity for models without proper representation. It was ironic because I was trying to expose him for taking advantage of me when really I was taking advantage and misleading him on my true intentions for my article. I no longer have the recording of the interview but something tells me that I may have heard what I wanted to hear from him or that I even hallucinated his answers as proving me right – that he did in fact take advantage of me. What I do remember of the interview (again this could have been exaggerated in my mind or even hallucinated) was him confirming that photographers take advantage of amateur models without representation by paying them an extremely small fee than reproducing their image and selling it for more than ten times what they were paid.

I left that interview feeling smug but also dejected because I thought I had proved myself right – that I had been exploited as a model without representation. Again, this was only the beginning of what was to become my biggest and grossest delusion, that I had been raped as a result of my exposure to the underground modeling industry.

The deeper I got into the writing process for this proposed article and reflecting on my modeling experience, the more I reflected on relationships I had had with other models, photographers and other people I had encountered while working. One of these reflections was on the time I did a fashion show for Melia Concepts at Lobby Nightclub which is attached to Mansion Nightclub. During a run through for the show I had the entire club to myself to practice my dance number because I had the lead role in the show in which I was supposed to lip synch Kristen Bell’s famous “Doctor Long John” scene from the movie “Burlesque.” I noticed the DJ who put on the track so I could practice was someone I had slept with previously on one occasion, a.k.a. a one night stand, and that the minute he realized it was me who would be performing in the show immediately bolted and took off down the corridor to the adjoining club.

This resonated with me and in my paranoid thinking I thought he was guilty of something, something that I did not quite recollect. I began remembering the events of our one night stand and the details of that night did not seem to add up. I blacked out half of the sex because I was ten shots deep since it was St. Patrick’s day and I had ended the night in Mansion nightclub which is where he worked as the assistant manager. I remember not going home with him that night but having forgot my leather jacket in his office with my bus pass in it. As a student in the city of Ottawa, my bus pass might as well have been a bar of gold, it had that much value. I remember him texting me asking if he could come by and drop it off and possibly come up to hang out for a bit. I was also really sick and hacking like a disgusting 80 year old smoker when he came up and passed me my jacket. He sat on the bed and immediately began kissing me then one thing led to another and we were having sex. The next morning I woke up and instinctiually had the gut feeling I needed to run to the pharmacy and pick up Plan B because I remembered enough to remember he didn’t use a condom. In my paranoid and delusional thinking I thought this was the first indication of foul play since I had never, not even with partners of years let a man have sex with me without a condom. The memory of him bolting when I went to rehearse my part for the fashion show only seemed to confirm my delusional thoughts and I thought he bolted cause he knew he was caught and that his victim had come to face him.

I went to the hospital demanding a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago, which in hindsight was simply insane.. I showed up at the hospital around one in the morning with this bizarre request and the nurse on call asked me if I had been drinking, assuming I was drunk. I demanded to see a female doctor and only a female doctor is who I would agree to see but they were short staffed that night and the only doctor on call was a male. The nurse then asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which at the time I found strange and thought nothing of it until two days later when I would officially be diagnosed with this lifelong affliction.

I left the hospital that night not feeling satisfied and still extremely delusional. I felt that I needed a physical to prove that I had been raped and give me grounds to hopefully go after and catch my rapist. I woke up with the same determination and showed up at the women’s sexual health clinic the next day with the same bizarre request. The lady who did my intake interviewed me and asked why I believed I had been raped two years ago and how I thought it happened. As I explained I began to ramble and talk excessively about my past, a classic symptom of mania in bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder who are experiencing mania tend to “talk a mile a minute.” I began to reflect on the nurse from the emergency room the previous night and her question of whether I had been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began to ramble about how my father must have had it because he was a raging alcoholic with anger issues who could never seem to express himself or behave properly. Then I started to hyperventilate and exclaim, “I must have bipolar disorder!” The nurse at the sexual health clinic looked extremely concerned by my speech and behavior and suggested she call me a cab to go to the hospital to be properly checked out.

I arrived at the hospital and immediately went to emergency explaining once again that I needed a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago and that I feared I may have bipolar disorder. They told me to wait in the waiting room and this was when I experienced my first visual hallucination, however, my delusional brain thought it was a memory. I saw the club assistant manager “in my memory” forcing my head down to give him oral sex. I felt drugged and like I could not refuse and ultimately performed the act. I snapped back to reality and immediately fell to the hospital floor rocking back and forth saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok, you’ll be ok.” The emergency staff noticed my strange behavior and immediately admitted me for a psych consult. When the doctor realized I was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as I insisted it had been over two months since drugs were in my system (which was true), she admitted me into the psychiatric unit for a three day observation.

Stay tuned for chapter 2 of The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl

 

thank u, next

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Ariana Grande and Mac Miller (one of Ari’s exes mentioned in “thank u, next”).

Ariana Grande released a new single called “thank u, next” recently in which she name drops exes and claims a new beau, Ari, a.k.a herself. Two things stand out for me the most when I listen to this song, firstly the sweet tribute to recently deceased Mac Miller, “Wish I could say “thank you” to Malcolm ’cause he was an Angel,” and secondly the power behind her lyrics.

“thank u, next” is a great break up song because of what Ariana Grande preaches and that is to love yourself. She hooks the listener in with the lyric “Plus, I met someone else. We havin’ better discussions.” The listener is left wondering who has Ari moved on to now? She answers this question in the following lines, “But this one ‘gon last. ‘Cause her name is Ari and I’m so good with that.” Grande chooses herself in the end and there is a certain power in that.

“I’ve learned from the pain. I turned out amazing” are the lyrics that resonate with me the most, however. Throughout my struggle with bipolar disorder, I can honestly say I learned from the pain. I grew as a person and came to have more gratitude for the things around me. I appreciate a good day so much more now that I have experienced so many bad ones.

I appreciate the little things like going shopping at the mall or going for a walk because there was once a time my mental health was so poor I could not do that. I had agoraphobia which meant I was terrified to leave the house and as a result ended up in a vegetative-like state on my couch for months on end. After experiencing a depression so deep, I now have a better understanding of what’s important.

Ariana Grande understands pain. She owns pain. Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester was attacked by a suicide bomber and rather than let it steal her voice she decided to put on a benefit concert for the victims. She truly has “learned from the pain and tuned out amazing” as the song goes.

I believe I too have learned from my pain and am better for it. I lost everything that ever meant anything to me when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had to quit the thing I love – school, to focus on my mental health and stabilization. This may have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth but in the end I gained something – a better understanding of life’s ups and downs.

 

 

The 5th Stage of Grief (Acceptance) and Diagnosis

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There is a sort of grief that comes with bipolar disorder. When you are first diagnosed it can come as a shock and feel as though a part of you has died. This death of self needs to be grieved in order to accept the diagnoses and move on.

Just as you would grieve someone you have lost, you must grief the past version of yourself you upheld as a healthy, mentally stable individual. You must now come to accept yourself as a person with a mental illness and who will need treatment in order to keep it in check.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The first stage, denial, is the easiest to fall victim to and the most detrimental to the well-being of a person struggling with a mental illness. Often when first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the individual will deny they even have the illness and refuse treatment. This could waste precious time that could be used to stabilize the individual. Denying the illness can take away from time spent living a healthier, more mentally stable life.

Acceptance is a very important aspect of mental illness. The individual must first accept their diagnosis before ultimately seeking treatment. One has to accept the death of their previous self, known as not having a mental illness, and the emergence of a new self who needs medical intervention to remain healthy. It is important to grief this loss of identity so one may accept entirely the new one.

Anger is another stage of grief that many newly diagnosed bipolar individuals experience. I was extremely angry when first diagnosed and misplaced a lot of that anger on to myself. I thought there must be something seriously wrong with me that I ended up being bipolar. I believed I was being punished by God for past mistakes and that bipolar disorder was my cross to bear. I even was angry with my parents for awhile too since the illness is hereditary. I thought how dare they pass this on to me! I realize now how ridiculous of a notion that is.

Bargaining is another stage of grief we often experience. When I was first diagnosed I found myself bargaining with God. I would pray to him that I would do anything he wanted if he could just take away my bipolar disorder. However, the stage of grief I experienced the most and longest following my diagnosis was depression.

After having my first psychotic and manic episode leading to my diagnosis, I returned home from the hospital to my bed. I laid in bed for months on end crying endlessly, “why me?” I could not seem to understand why this was happening to me. I would sit on the couch for tens of hours at a time watching tv, feeling completely numb. It was not until I started asking questions and seeking answers that this depression lifted and I finally experienced the stage of acceptance.

Knowledge is power and this power helped me come to terms with bipolar disorder. I began watching documentaries on the illness and reading books taken out from the library on the disorder. The more I understood about it, the more I felt comfortable coming to terms with the fact that I had bipolar disorder. I was less angry and disappointed with myself because I finally understood it was not my choices that led me to have the disorder but shitty biochemistry. I also understood that I needed to seek treatment to alleviate the symptoms caused my bipolar disorder after researching how it could get out of hand and how there were several mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics that could check and balance the illness.

I accept my bipolar disorder now and everything that comes with it, including my monthly injection of an anti-psychotic.  Acceptance is important as I mentioned before to ensure the individual seeks treatment. It is also important because the individual has to let go of their past self without the disorder and accept the new norm.

We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.

My Father and Quitting Smoking

I lost my father to lung cancer at the age of fourteen and I can’t help but wonder if that had an effect on my mental health. I have a tendency to fixate on death especially when I am depressed, ever since he passed.

The last words my father said to me was “Just cut them off!!” referring to his legs that had become useless from paralysis. That’s enough to traumatize anyone if not seeing my father slowly wither into a living skeleton.

My father was an intelligent, hard working man but he had addictions and demons. I knew his addictions but less about his demons which he never seemed to want to talk about. My father was a heavy smoker and drinker. He was an alcoholic who made questionable decisions but always loved his kids.

My father tried to give me everything he could whether that be a good work ethic or the latest pair of jeans. He taught me how to build with my hands and that with determination you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

I inherited from my father a predisposition to addiction. I struggled with drugs and alcohol in University using them to excession and sometimes to the point of being detrimental to my health. I coped with my demons the same way my father showed me how to – with intoxication.

I currently smoke the occasional bit of weed but for the most part my addiction is of a much simpler kind – cigarettes. I cannot seem to shake the habit of smoking since being hospitalized, ironically. The only fresh air and freedom you got at the hospital was going outside for a smoke which my friends did often. After standing around and watching them smoke, I decided to try one and then was hooked.

Three years later, I am trying to quit but am finding it extremely difficult. Smoking has become unfortunately a part of my life. I am also a social smoker and will share cigarettes with friends at the bar or smoke in the garage with my step father.

You would think I would know better having watched my father die from lung cancer. I watched the cancer spread throughout his body and to his brain to the point he was having visual hallucinations of a dog in the corner of the hospital room. I watched my father, who always had a beer belly and long curly hair, lose weight rapidly to the point he was skin and bones. I watched his hair slowly fall out from the chemotherapy and thought to myself I would never smoke a cigarette and subject myself to this pain.

But you know what? I did. I smoked a cigarette and then another, and another until I was addicted. I regret that decision to this day. I realize I am young, being under 30, and have plenty of time to quit but I find myself frustrated with my attempts.

I recently enrolled myself in a quit smoking program at my doctor’s office. I meet with a counsellor every three weeks to receive a supply of nicotine patches and gum and to discuss how I am doing. At my latest appointment I admitted I was not doing so good with quitting smoking. My main issue is that people around me consistently offer me smokes and I seem to be unable to say no. My counsellor suggested I avoid my friends until I get a smoke free week under my belt. I find this unrealistic seeing as I hang out with my friends everyday. However, I did agree to make a greater effort to quit in these following three weeks than ever before.

I asked my counsellor if he had any literature on quitting smoking to which he proceeded to hand me a work booklet titled “Journey 2 Quit.” Inside the booklet is questions you need to answer about smoking and facts about the harm smoking does to your health. The following are four facts I found alarming and further motivation to quit:

  1. Up to half of all smokers will die because of smoking.
  2. A smoker will die about eight years earlier than a non-smoker
  3. Smoking makes you 20 times more likely to die of lung cancer
  4. Smoking kills 13,000 people in Ontario every year

My counsellor also told me about another patient who quit smoking with a visual aid of a photograph of his grandchildren on the bathroom mirror. He would wake up every morning to brush his teeth and be reminded of why he was quitting. He wanted to grow up to see his grandchildren. I decided to do something similar and put a photograph of my father on my vanity mirror (ironically he is holding a cigarette in the photo). My motive behind doing this is to remind myself everyday that I do not want to become him. My father never got to meet his two beautiful nieces due to his premature death.

I have decided to set my quit date at a realistic two months from now (January 4 2019). On this date I want to be smoke free for at least two weeks. I know it may be hard but I CAN do this. I want to do it for my dad because I know he would want me to quit something that was ultimately hurting me in the long run. Quitting smoking will not only help my health but further prove to myself that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.

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A picture of my Dad on my Vanity mirror to motivate me to quit smoking.