February 22, 2009

Who the Fuck is Sunny Crittenden?

It’s currently 2:18am and I have Gogol Bordello playing pretty loudly and I seem to be in a much better mood that I was yesterday. This is in part to getting a crapload of sleep today, talking to Blake until 5am yesterday morning, internet friends coming through with birthday presents so I don’t feel like a total loser, my friend Raya subsidizing my subscription to the Toronto Star because she’s amazing like that and having a good, productive meeting on a project I’m working on with Suzi Blu and some lovely ladies I’ve met through her Ning community.

Another thing that has helped is that I have my friend Jesse back and last night he and Alex came over and we just hung out, watched trashy TV and Battlestar Galactica and all in all had a grand ol’ time.

Now what I mean by having my friend Jesse “back” is that, of you’ll recall, in September me, him and his now ex-girlfriend Jen had a falling out due to them pissing me off by getting a dog when they weren’t ready to care for one and also got it at what I would consider a backyard breeder instead of a shelter. It’s a long story, but if you’re interested, feel free to dig through my Live Journal archives for August or September and catch up.

This week Jesse and Jen parted ways and he moved back home and as a result, we’ve picked up our friendship pretty much where it left off, minus our mutual love of marijuana and cigarettes. This makes me really happy because right now, I think Jesse and I kinda need each other and I missed that bald motherfucker, so I’m glad he’s in our lives again. Plus, the kids adore him and were happy about the reunion too.

Here are a couple of shots I took last night of my dog Lucky being a total suckface with Alex and Jesse:

(Alex is the girl, Jesse is the…..girly boy.)

I know this “high” is only temporary, it’ll maybe only even last through to tonight, but I’ll take what I can get. Tonight I took advantage of my good mood and extra energy and put the first coat of varnish on Wes’ painting finally. It’ll be dry by tomorrow and I’ll do the second coat and when that’s dry on Monday, I’ll do the final coat of light varnish on the sides and it’ll be ready to hang on his wall.

Anyway, none of this is what I wanted to write about tonight. Tonight I wanted to write about agoraphobia and my plans to overcome it, as prompted by Blake and I’s tearful 5 hour discussion on the matter yesterday. There are so many new people coming to my site these days that I feel like I need to put down some backstory and explain who I used to be and who I am now.

Here are the facts:

  • I’ve only gone somewhere by myself twice in the last almost 7 years.
  • I used to be an excellent, confident driver, but I stopped driving altogether about 4 years ago.
  • I used to be sort of the mascot for a well-known Canadian indie band called Scratching Post and it was my job to run around venues during shows, dancing on chairs and selling t-shirts and albums while wearing panties with the band’s logo, one of the band’s t-shirts and knee high leather shit kickers.
  • I used to be an independent single mom going to college at the same time.
  • I went to college for ADVERTISING, where everything took planning, was done in groups and you had to present something in front of the class pretty much every day. And I was good at it.
  • I used to be a (fairly popular-ish) camgirl, unafraid to bare it all in front of up to 20,000 viewers at a time.
  • I used to drive to Toronto every single day, down the 404 to the Don Valley Parkway and then to downtown, all at 120 km/h. On the rare occasion I drive to the store in our tiny town, I get freaked out going 50 km/h, which is the speed limit, so I go 40.
  • I used to pay my own bills and handle my own money.
  • I have an evil grandmother who used to be our landlord who beat me the fuck down and is definitely part of the reason why I’m so fucked up.
  • As much as I love my mother, she plays a big part in my neurosis as well, which stems from her having me when she was 15.
  • My biological father abandoned me for good around age 2 or 3, but we have a relationship now. I call him by his first name, Phil, instead of “dad” because it just doesn;t feel right.  I love his wife, Lisa and my two little sisters, Raili who’s almost 4 and Rachael who’s only a few weeks old.
  • My mom married when I was 5 or 6 and gave me a step-dad for a while, but he turned out to be creepy and emotionally abusive in the end. I haven’t spoken to him for almost 7 years and don’t plan to ever again.
  • I have a brother named Chad who’s 20-something. I haven’t seen or heard from him in about 3 years and don’t expect to.
  • I’ve been on my own since I was 15. This was made possible by student welfare.
  • I’m a serial monogamist. I’ve been in one seriously abusive relationship, one seriously long distance relationship, one brief “friends with benefits” relationship and then I met my husband Blake.
  • I had my daughter at 19 because the only thing I knew I wanted to do with my life was to be a mom and due to endometriosis the possibility of that was slipping away so I took the chance while I still had it.
  • Because of endometriosis I’ve had 3 laparoscopies (cautery) and a colonoscopy because they thought I had endometrial deposits in my bowels. (I don’t, thank god.)
  • On March 11th of this year I’ll be having my 4th laparoscopy, just to assess the extent of the disease and 3-6 months later I’ll have my 5th scope where they’ll remove the endometrial lesions with a laser.
  • I’ve never had a 9-5 job and don’t ever intend to.
  • I consider expressing myself through writing and art my job and some people have been following my life online for about 11 years now.

And I think that covers just about everything, although I’m sure some people would probably add to that list.

I get sad a lot, and frustrated, thinking about the fearless, independent person I used to be and the scared, nervous headcase I am now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been out of my damn mind since forever and I’m as bipolar as they come, but the agoraphobia is something different. It keeps me not just from living my life, but from having one at all.

Our theory on why it even happened at all is pretty simple. As a child, I took care of myself a lot and survived a lot and then as a teenager, I had to make my own way and take care of myself. And then after that I was a mom and it wasn’t easy and I did it while surviving an extremely abusive, fucked up relationship. After that, it was single mom time and getting through college all by myself. Do you see what might of happened there? The fact was, all throughout my life shit got piled on me and “losing it” was never an option because I was in survival mode. But when I met and married my husband, suddenly there was someone to help me carry these burdens and at the same time, I had a little more headspace to examine the previous 22 years of my life and fully absorb everything that happened. And it fucked me up.

Suddenly Blake could do the groceries, so I didn’t have to. Blake could handle the bills so I didn’t have to. Blake could go out and get take-out food so I didn’t have to. We lived in a very rural area where you had to drive to go anywhere and since Blake either always had the car for work or was willing to acquire the things we need, I never left the house. And after a while it just became easier to stay in the house where I couldn’t get in any trouble, where I couldn’t spend money, where I wouldn’t waste gas, where there didn’t have to be any worry on Blake’s part that I was seeing someone else, where if the car broke down, it wouldn’t be my fault and I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Where I didn’t have to interact with other parents at Sparks or my kid’s teachers, where I didn’t have to go to the birthday parties or school plays.

But back then, it was a choice. Somehow, and I don’t even know how, it stopped being a choice and suddenly the idea of leaving the house was scary. And much to my surprise, one day I realized that I could no longer do it. I remember the day well. Blake had won tickets for us to go see Metallica and on the day of the concert I found myself unable to get dressed and move my feet towards the door, so I sat on our bed and cried instead. It took Blake about 20 minutes to talk me into going, which made us late for the concert so I missed seeing the Deftones. The whole time we were at the show, all I could think about was getting back home and it got to the point where I don’t even remember the show at all except that I was there and didn’t want to be. I know I wore my purple Paul Frank polar bear pajama bottoms and a black tank top though, which is what I’d slept in the night before.

After that, we moved to the town where we live now, called Elmvale, which is very very small and has a population of only 1700 people. To be fair, this town is exactly what I wanted when we were looking to buy our first home, but once we moved and I realized how unlike the locals I was and the fact that I was now 2 hours away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known, the agoraphobia worsened.

Then I had my psychotic break and was hospitalized for 10 days. It would be a year later that I was diagnosed with biploar 1, generalized anxiety and agoraphobia by the shrink at the mental health centre I go to every month. Then came two years of psychiatric medication hell, which I’ve done my best to chronicle both in this blog and my Live Journal.

I’m so sick of telling that story. I’m so sick of telling people that I was the product of a teen pregnancy. I’m tired of telling people about why I was a young mother myself. I’m tired of writing about pretty much everything I’ve just written about and I’ve decided that after this post, I’m never going to write about them again. If you want to know the nitty gritty details, that’s what Live Journal archives are for.

I’ve always said that my agoraphobia felt like I was in a cocoon, that so many fucked up things have happened that I just needed time to rest, regroup and eventually grow and I feel that it’s finally time to turn into a butterfly.

I’m going to be 30 in exactly one week and thus begins a new chapter of my life. Do you know that tonight I found some new wrinkles under my eyes when I smile? I swear they weren’t there a week ago. Even my body is showing signs that it’s time to move on and become a new and improved version of my former self. And while the prospect scares the absolute fucking SHIT out of me, I’m also excited and I feel somewhat fortunate that I have the opportunity to start building my life from scratch, exactly how I want it.

As I mentioned, Blake and I had a long talk about all of this last night, mostly in regards to my insecurities about being productive, having value and contributing to both our family and the world at large.

My immersion therapy begins once the weather starts getting warmer and it begins by walking to the end of our driveway every day to get the paper. Ideally I’m going to adjust my sleep schedule and make it part of my routine to do this around 11am or noon. Then I’m going to read the newspaper while I have some sort of breakfast – BEFORE I check my e-mail, BEFORE I check my Live Journal’s friends list, BEFORE I  hit up Twitter, before I do any of that.

My next step is similar to the above, except my goal is to have some sort of breakfast inside and read the rest of the newspaper on the couch we have under the carport outside. Where people can see me. Where I’m sort of sheltered, but also exposed if anyone were to walk by.

After that, it’s to do all of the above, then do internet stuff, then take Lucky for a walk to the end of the block and back. I may not do this every day, I do have pain often and some days it does rain, especially in the spring, but it’s going to be something that I’m going to do for as long as it takes for it to be no big deal.

Then comes the big step. I walk to the end of the driveway to get the paper, I come inside, I make myself a sandwich and pack it up and put it in my new bag along with the sections of the paper I like the most, my cell phone, my camera, my Nintendo DS, my sketchbook, my journal, my notebook and whatever book I’m reading at the time. (It’s a big bag!) Then I take a deep breath and Lucky and I walk down to the next block where there’s a park with a stage for outdoor music, but at the back of this park, there’s also a path with a river that leads to a bench in the middle of a garden maintained by the town’s horticultural society. The bench has a plaque and is dedicated to someone, but I’ve ony seen it once so I don’t know who. A couple I think, though. It is this bench that I’m going to make my own. It is here where I’m going to lie Lucky up and share my lunch with him while I read the newspaper or do the crossword or sodoku and every day I’m going to try to stay at the bench longer and longer.

But my plans go even further than that. If you go down the path, past the bench, there’s a clearing where the river opens up and there’s a bridge over it. Black squirrels run around everywhere there and the horticultural society plants all kinds of flowers there. If I were to go further along the path, which I don’t plan on doing, I would eventually come to a park for kids, with playground equipment, in a neighbourhood.

It is my intent to not only be okay with doing all of this, but to document it all through pictures and videos and post it all on this very site, because that’s pretty much what I do.

After I come home from these journeys, I intend to watch Oprah and make art and then after dinner edit pictures and video and make my blogs posts. This is how I want my life to go, at least in the beginning.

Once I become more comfortable in being by myself, in public and Lucky’s training (he has separation anxiety and takes off if you leave him alone), I plan on exploring this town a little more and photographing what I can, like the homeless man we have who’s probably the most amazing homeless man you’ve ever seen. Also? There’s this shed behind the hair salon where about 30 stray cats live that all the kids play with on their way home from school. I’ve never seen it myself by my daughter’s told me about it and I wanna see. There’s also a particular alleyway where high school kids like to sneak smokes that in my head sounds like a fabulous place to take pictures.

I would also like to be confident enough to be able to treat myself to lunch in one of our town’s restaurants and maybe even getting to know some of the locals.

In the summer I’m home with the kids and don’t feel comfortable going anywhere with them, so I’m going to take care of my garden, which, as I wrote about earlier this week, I was afraid to do last summer (seeds are coming!) and move my newspaper/breakfast activities to my front porch which is more exposed and prone to neighbour aggro, which is one of my fears.

And that’s about as far as I can see right now. I’m not sure what fall is going to bring, but I would like to be able to go to the post office and the pharmacy to pick up my own packages and drugs so Blake doesn’t have to do it, but I don’t know if I’ll be that comfortable with things yet. We’ll see.

What Blake and I talked about all last night, as I said, are my fears of being productive, having value and contributing to both our family and the world at large. I feel like it’s selfish and unproductive to sit in the park all afternoon and do something leisurely. I feel like it’s selfish to go to a restaurant and have lunch while there’s perfectly good food at home and my kids and husband are brown bagging it. (Even though I’d be using my own money from paintings, it’s not really about money anyway.)  But then Blake pointed out that it’s just as “selfish” and less productive to sit in this house and basically do nothing but bitch about the fact that I can’t leave the house on the internet. Blogging, he says, does contribute to the world at large, he’s seen some of the e-mails I get that basically say that, and he says that me being in a better mood and being inspired is contributing to the betterment of our family and also the betterment of my art and writing.

I asked him what kind of life he envisioned for me one year from now, five years from now, 15 years from now and he said that all he wants for me is to have the adventures I’m prone to having when I actually decide to step out of Sunnyland and grace the real world with my presence. And he thinks that those adventures will only get bigger as I grow, which I agree with.

So, in a nutshell, it’s time to live life and today, I’m kinda psyched about it. Tomorrow I’ll probably be back to being a moody bitch, worried about my birthday and my upcoming surgery, but for tonight I’m okay and I’m going to take full advantage of it.

And with that, I’m off.


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  1. Deanna says:

    I hope for the best for you, I really do!!

  2. “So, in a nutshell, it’s time to live life and today, I’m kinda psyched about it . . . for tonight I’m okay and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

    This is awesome. I’m so glad you’re having a good day.

    I split up your quote above to highlight the positive parts of it. They’re also the parts where you’re speaking completely in the moment about either the present or the very near future.

    That’s one thing I’ve learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Being in the moment. I’d heard the expression tons of times — Zen and all that — but I had never learned how to apply it. I have a few months training under my belt now, and it’s made things a lot easier for me. I hope that you can get into a DBT program, or learn this stuff on your own, or just figure it out yourself somehow. It’s not always easy to do, but whenever I’m able to make it work, it really helps my anxiety a lot.

    “I’m tired of writing about pretty much everything I’ve just written about and I’ve decided that after this post, I’m never going to write about them again. If you want to know the nitty gritty details, that’s what Live Journal archives are for.”

    You definitely write a lot about what you’ve been through and what you’re going through, and while that can definitely be cathartic and useful in order to help you figure things out and process stuff (I’ve done plenty of the same kind of writing myself. Hell, I even hand-wrote blog entries from inside the psych ward and had people post them for me on the outside.) sometimes you just need a fucking break.

    I’m not writing my Health Updates nearly as often as I used to because I just got sick of writing them. It was painful for me to talk about how shitty I was doing but I kept feeling like I needed to keep updating people on my situation so that everyone who cared about me would know what was going on with me.

    But it was always bad news. Maybe sprinkled with some good bits here and there. Mainly it was awful. And I hated going through writing about it. Trouble was that NOT writing about it was also stressing me out, cuz I wanted my friends to know what I was going through. I needed their support even though I didn’t want to burden them with my emotional baggage. The whole mess of this just totally sucked. I couldn’t keep writing about my mental and emotional problems but I also couldn’t STOP writing about them.

    Gradually slowing down the pace was the only thing that worked for me. Interestingly, I’ve had a really good 3 weeks. In a row. And I’ve told friends about this in person and on the phone, but I haven’t blogged about it. Not for any particular reason. I’m just enjoying living it. That’s all.

    Then this weekend, I had a really stressful couple of days. Friday and Saturday, I did the first of any kind of actual professional work in almost a year. I got very little sleep each of those nights and I was really manic this morning. I thought about posting an entry about it on my blog, but it just didn’t feel like the right way to go. I went to my friends page, and here I am: On your Other Blog, where I never expected to be again because of the whole no-comment-notification-pain-in-the-ass-I’m-lazy-thing.

    But you said some stuff here that spoke to me, Sunny. And I wanted to let you know that this is the kind of post that I find encouraging. That you’re writing about letting go of the past and enjoying today and tonight and focusing your energy on taking small steps that will lead you to more joy and more fulfillment and more relief and a greater sense of accomplishment.

    This reminds me of conversations I’ve had with my friend Britta. I talk to her 2-3 times a week (she lives in California). She’s one of my very best friends, who I’ve known for almost 20 years. Over the past few months, I kept telling her that I was trying as hard as I could to go back to how I was before I was in the hospital last April and May. I wanted to be able to do all the things I used to do. Go back to the way things were.

    She told me something that’s really stuck with me. She said that you can’t go back and do those things the way that you used to do them. You’ve changed. Your mind is different. Your body is different. You’ve got to figure out a new way of doing the things that you used to be able to do.

    And I am very slowly, very gradually doing just that. Britta suffered severe postpartum depression for 18 months after giving birth to her 2nd child, and I was there on the phone with her 2-3 times a week over the next 2 years while she recovered and figured out how to live her life differently . . . in a way that worked for her.

    I suppose what I’m taking so long to say is that I was there while she was relearning how to function the way that she knows she can. I saw her regain her capabilities to do what she was able to do before and feel what she was able to feel before. It took a long time, but it happened and it’s still happening. And when I figured out that what she was saying made sense to me, it was helpful for me. It made it easier for me to look at things differently.

    What I see in this post is you making the same kind of realization.

    That fucking rules.

    Way to go.

  3. Sunny says:

    Thanks Resk. I think it’s just time to take my life back. <3

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