Monday, October 24, 2011

Mental Migration

I have made the move. I currently set up in a little farm house on a couple of acres, with a big garden out back that hauled in 100+ lbs of tomatoes this year, and i'm sure at least double that for next year. I am looking after the dogs, cats and chickens of two of my friends (to read more about the land and the lovely family that makes their magic here check out: This Rural Life.
During the day I drive up the hill to our new home, a single wide trailer sitting on the hillside.

Picture this:
When you stand up from lighting the woodstove, the cats brushing by your feet to get a taste of the toasty warmth you've ignited, you look out the window. The view, past the trees filled with squirrels and bluejays, the hillside goes down and down until it reaches the large and dammed kootenay river, and then back up the other side to a tree covered hillside. When the sky is clear out here the stars are so plentiful and bright that they look to a city kid like "movie stars". Stars like in some movie where a romantical scene is playing out on the front of a car, lovers looking into each others eyes while shooting stars blaze across the seemingly painted milky way.

I live in that storybook now.

I am grateful that I escaped the city. And today I honestly answered someone for one of the first times about what brought me here. I was buying a mattress off of some guy from the internet and he asked me what brough me up here. I told him straight up, "mental health." He echoed my words to assure that he had hear me correctly. I assured him that yes, I can't handle the city, and I am hoping that the quieter life helps.

The last few weeks in the city really served as a climax, confirming that I did in fact NEED to leave. In some cruel act of conspiracy against me the city was ensuring me that I needed to leave. I was having panic attacks almost everytime I left my house. Going out for meals, shopping on a busy street, or taking a bus were out of the question. My anxiety had sky rocketed. My sensitivity to everyone and everything around me felt like it was being pumped through an over driven amplifier. A new family moved in upstairs. We lived in one of those houses which had never been designed or even properly remodeled to have 2 separate groups of people. The power box for the whole house was in our bedroom (a corner of the somewhat finished basement.). The upstairs families storage room was mysteriously downstairs in a room that saddled both our rooms, with walls made of a single layer of drywall. And the upstairs family wanted a reasonable living condition for their babies. I get that, but it doesn't happen easily in Vancouver. So many landlords know that they can turn down requests for upgrades and repairs, because they will probably find another tenant who will pay more for a continually degrading living condition. Housing vacancy rates are very small (about 2.2% as of 2009) and affordable units make up even less of that. Anyways, by some type of strong arming or coercive 'the secret" style jedi mind trick manifestation, the new tenants had managed to get the landlady to assess and address the faulty electrical, falling off gutters, leaky roof, broken windows, and unstable back porch. This may have been fine, but it was headed up by the house next door, which had just been sold to new owners, being completely dug up to have water and sewage mains replaced and the foundation re-sealed. Given the density of the houses, this meant there were crews of men slinging gravel and operating mini-excavators about 2.5 feet outside my single pane bedroom window. Then, as construction of the house immediately across the street picked up, the city joined in, digging the street up and cutting pavement every morning starting at 7am. As the combined projects ranged from city crews to 2nd shift temp labourers, the heavy noise would sometimes go for 13hrs a day. Then the landlady started pricing out the electrical work, which would involve rewiring the entire house up to code, laying new cable from the street and addressing the fact that the house had not been properly grounded. So the crews were coming in to my space, and shutting off the power. With so little escape the panic and anxiety continued to skyrocket. When I tried to go out for a walk a ship would be pulling into the shipping port, sirens would be going off and helicopters would fly low overhead. Luckily my lovely partner and some dear friends were able to help with the packing and moving. Dealing with all of this left me feeling like I had been run through the spin cycle on a washing machine with cheese grater sides. Eating, sleeping, forming sentences, all had becoming more complex tasks than I could undertake alone. I watched endless amounts of television in an attempt to mentally escape to Weed's Agrestic, Big Bang Theory's Pasadena, or the quiet village where Angela lansbury and her army of magic dancing nylons and armoursuits defeat a nazi raid in Bedknobs and broomsticks (disney1971). I couldn't find a way to maintain peace, order or sanity in my own home, and it became addictive to escape in these alternative universes.

I got out. I won't say unscathed, but I got out. I have some recovery and healing to do. I am feeling it start as my days start feeling longer. I am not spending so much of the day waiting, running away, or hiding. Going out to a book launch yesterday wasn't too overwhelming, as I knew there would be less than 20 people in the room. When I got there I was relieved to be reminded that there is no cell phone service in the remote location. 20 or so people, without the unpredicatablity of all of those people tapped into a broad network of everyone they know via smart phone, facebook, texty texty tech. I realize that as my anxiety has elevated, my paranoia about people, environmental disasters, surveillance and general apocalypse stuff has gone right along for the ride. I hope to write another post about the book launch once I've given the book a read, but so y'all have the heads up its by a woman named Marcia Braundy. It's a book about men's resistance to women's participation and general integration in tech work spaces. I am looking forward to reading the book and hopefully getting to know this woman and swapping ideas and experience with her. Book is available through Fernwood Press and is called Men, women and tools.

I hope that this is the magical place of healing and growth I need right now. I need to build myself back up. I am tired of feeling broken and vulnerable in a space I can't seem to trust.
and ... mad gratitude to the many of you who've done your part to keep me alive and close enough to well in the city for the last few years. It's a tough place for lots of us; I want to give credit to the teamwork that kept it going as long as we did. Thanks.

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