Close Calls & Toxic Positivity

Between my recent close calls and ongoing pursuit of a rhythm that works for me, this blog might be a cautionary tale on toxic positivity.

On the upside, I think my current challenges stem mainly from progress. New challenges are inherently challenging but that’s better than no progress at all, right?

Of course not everything is new; my anxiety has been really high and unexpected bouts of Depression still strike at random. At least it seems random, which is probably what I hate the most. I refuse to accept the lack of sense and reason that characterize Depression in the first place. It’s ridiculously frustrating! Anxiety is equally frustrating in its own way, which someone cleverly illustrated in this post I wish I could take credit for. (I don’t know who the creator is and I’m writing it from memory.)

My Anxiety: “Something’s wrong.”

Me: “What is it?”

My Anxiety: “Something.”

Me: “Can you give me the general idea?”

My Anxiety: “S O M E T H I N G .”

I find this hilariously accurate and had to share it. What an amazingly concise explanation of generalized anxiety! I also shared this with my boyfriend who understandably doesn’t understand the anxiety that strikes and leaves me incapable of explaining it to him. (Or to myself, for that matter.)

Finding a Rhythm

I’d like to bring you up to speed with what’s been happening lately, both old and new:

  • Maintaining more hours at the pet store. (Floor + marketing, without going overboard… or trying to at least.)
  • Making and selling bone-shaped keychains to raise money for Assistance Dogs. This part of the initiative just finished and I look forward to sharing the total money collected for the cause!
  • The Federal petition for Assistance/Service Dogs has been sent and is awaiting approval from a member of Parliament before we can start collecting signatures. When that happens I’ll explain the project. At first I was disappointed by how long it’s taking but now I’m relieved; I want to have full energy once we begin to make the most out of it!
  • My neck issues that go back a while were aggravated and have been causing me trouble at work. Thankfully I was approved for some free sessions with a wonderful Osteopath. I had no idea that some foundations do this if you fill in an application explaining your health and financial circumstances. (Thank you Canada!!!) If you’re in a similar situation I recommend making some inquiries. If it helps, the place I go to is Physio Extra.
  • Speaking of money, I’ve been getting really discouraged by how difficult it is to make ends meet. I barely have enough to cover my expenses, leaving nothing left to save for emergencies, much less the future! I’ve been looking for a sustainable way to bring in extra money and decided to start delivering food for DoorDash. I’m starting my fourth week and so far I’m very happy with the results.
  • I caught a cold while visiting my boyfriend who got it just a little before I did. (A nice way of saying that I caught it from him who probably caught it from the friend he saw earlier this week.) I hate being sick. I don’t have the patience to deal with it on top of the mental crap I juggle. I find it insulting and I really don’t have the time or energy for this right now. (Do we ever, though?)
  • I started Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. This includes 12 weeks of group sessions and a one-on-one session every two weeks. It’s not the first time I’ve been referred for DBT. It’s most frequently used for Borderline Personality Disorder and is apparently effective for managing Bipolar Spectrum Disorders as well. The first time I was waitlisted so long that I was no longer in the region when a spot became available. The second time I was told that my case was ‘too severe’ to be accepted into the program at that time. Want to know the best part of those two instances? It was recommended that I try DBT so I went along with all the shuffling involved with the referrals – all for nothing. Both times I had no hope, practitioners built up an idea of how great it would be, and then nope! Sorry…I’m getting bitter and that’s not what this blog is about. I’m grateful to be getting the chance this time.

Good Things

As you can see, there are many good things happening in my life right now. I enjoy my job at the pet store, I found a fun and profitable way to make extra money, there’s an important project I’m working on, and my neck problems are improving. I’m grateful for these things, among others, and try to remember them even though my head can make that hard. This by the way is an example of healthy positivity.

Healthy vs. Toxic Positivity

I see improvements and I fully expect the hard work and persistence that sustainable success requires. No one said it would be easy and I haven’t deluded myself into thinking it would be. That said, there’s an important message I want to get across. Despite toxic positivity being a popular (and maybe overused) term, I’m hoping that its validity in proper context won’t be disregarded.

We know that a negative outlook shapes our reality accordingly. However an overly positive outlook has the potential to be equally detrimental. To me it seems like the ultimate form of denial and it comes back to bite us in the you know what!

Strength isn’t refusing to acknowledge and accept bad circumstances: Strength is continuing despite those things. unpleasant emotions for what they are. I don’t remember where I read this but, “pain demands to be felt”. I haven’t lived very long but I think that’s true.

The Problems With Toxic Positivity

I’m not saying that positivity is bad. I’m saying that as with many things, an excess of it can be a problem. That’s when it becomes ‘toxic’.

  • Toxic positivity acts as a sort of tunnel vision permitting only one point of view. How can we improve anything if we refuse to accept the presence of an issue in the first place?
  • If we want to experience positivity we probably need to accept experiences of negativity. One state exists because of the other: The definition of good exists with respect to bad. The same with light and dark…happy and unhappy. If only one state were to exist, how would we define it? What would make it unique and special? (Important note: I’m not saying mental illness is required to appreciate the good in life.)
  • Using toxic positivity to cope with unpleasant emotions, experiences, etc. can be a form of avoidance that delays resolution. Sooner or later, the volcano of repression is going to erupt.
  • Toxic positivity is hugely invalidating, whether it comes from within or is rec
  • There are also people we meet who hold an attitude of toxic positivity and willingly/unwillingly subject us to their mindset.

I Can’t Deny It

Having been with my brain for over 24 years, I can’t deny that something’s up. I recognize the denial and avoidance despite being very effective at it this time. What I can sense is the scope, and that’s what’s scaring me. Simply skirting around it in writing like this is making me very uneasy. Long story short, it’s following me everywhere and I’m noticing my reaction to it more than the avoided thing in itself. Is it a good thing that I’m catching myself in the middle of my pattern?

At least I’m noticing that my attempt to stay positive, keep moving and push away what’s bothering me (both consciously and subconsciously), is starting to cause problems. I think life has been sending me red flags in the form of close calls. I’ve been super lucky to date and I don’t want to push it. Even getting sick (and how long it’s lingering) might be a sign that I’ve lowered my endurance. Have I taken on too much again as a way to stay busy? (And because I’m very impatient?) The thought of that is really frustrating but if I want to maintain my progress, I’m going to need a refresher on prioritization and balance. Remind me to read my own blogs cause I’m being a hypocrite!

Close Call – Mia

My first close call involves Mia which is terrifying, as you can imagine. If this is your first visit, allow me to introduce Mia, my miracle Yorkie Psychiatric Service Dog:

I’ll try to make this story short, which I’m pretty bad at but here goes…

I was working at the pet store with just one other person. On days like that we stay close on our breaks to help out if it gets too busy. I was having a snack in the training room with Mia when a client came back with her dog to check the fit of a harness I helped her choose earlier (without her dog). She said her German Shepherd is reactive, so I made sure he wouldn’t see the other dog in the store and start barking. I took them to the training room and closed the door to keep things quiet. My assumption that reactive meant barks a lot, could’ve cost Mia everything. I figured with him on a leash and Mia tied on a bench, the worst would be a bark fest that wouldn’t disturb other clients.

Instead the dog rushed over to Mia with an approach unlike regular sniff-greetings. They were face to face since Mia was on a bench and the Shepherd pulled against the client who did her best to keep him away. It’s not her fault that she couldn’t; he’s about 90 lbs and saw Mia as prey or a fluffy moving toy. He kept snapping at her, his big face within an inch of hers and without exaggeration, nearly the size of Mia’s torso. She squealed the way she does when in pain and for a horrible moment I thought he’d bitten her. Things happened so fast and maybe I could’ve done better but I just put my hands between them and did my best to keep his face away. He bit me instead and thank the Universe for that because I can take far more than Mia’s tiny bones.

Once the woman managed to pull him back more I was able to pick Mia up and bring her to another room. She was shaking but miraculously untouched; the squeak must’ve been from fear rather than pain and I can’t express how grateful I am that she’s safe. We were all shaking for a long time after and the woman was so apologetic even though it wasn’t her fault at all. She had warned me and had no idea Mia was in the room. I can never make a mistake like that again.

Close Call – Driving

My other close call involves DoorDash. I was feeling sick and should’ve never accepted the delivery. It’s no excuse but being sick and tired reduced my reaction time. In a moment of distraction I failed to brake on time and rear-ended the car in front of me. Thankfully it was in a stop-go traffic situation where we weren’t going very fast, but it was enough of a jolt for my neck to feel it. I can only imagine what a high speed impact would be like.

However as I said, we were extremely fortunate; my mom was fine and Mia was safely inside her car crate. The other car had no damage and my bumper worked exactly as intended by absorbing the force and popping back out. My grill is fine with my Volkswagen logo being the only thing to replace. (It kind of broke my heart to see it shattered on the ground. Driving is one of my biggest passions with my Jetta being the first love.) Still, it could’ve been much worse. All in all, this was only a mildly painful life lesson!

Side Note: This story emphasizes the importance of proper safety for animals in a vehicle. My pet store side is obliged to interrupt this blog with the following tips:

  • A loose animal is unsafe for everyone. Even a small impact can propel them into or through a window causing them serious injury or death. Remember how a simple tissue box can become a dangerous projectile with enough momentum? The same is true of an animal. They can also distract the driver and cause an accident in the first place.
  • Cats should unequivocally be in a transport carrier and there’s a strong argument for doing the same with small dogs. (Like Mia.)
  • If you don’t want your dog to be in a cage, there are a few options. In every case it’s essential that they be tethered with a harness and never a collar. A collar = a broken neck even in small impacts. It’s also important that the harness be approved for the car. They can be a little pricey but I assure you that it’s not a luxury spend. You don’t need a $200 model for you and your dog to be safe. (If you want to save money, I recommend getting a model that works for both walking and the car so you need only spend once. It’s also more convenient than swapping…trust me.
  • Car seats, (for small dogs only), are safe if they fasten properly around the back of a seat and around a headrest. They also need a secure mini-leash otherwise there’s no point. The mini-leash has to be attached to – yep – a car harness!
  • I haven’t forgotten about big dogs who love sticking their head out the window. Unfortunately letting your dog do that always carries a risk. Even without an accident, a rock kicked up by a car or truck in front can take out an eye. Goggles might seem silly but at least they offer a bit of protection.
  • Large dogs are also safest with a harness and should be attached with a car leash. These are really affordable and have a regular clip on one end that attaches to the dog’s harness while the other end clips directly into a seatbelt buckle. It’s important to adjust the length depending on the size of your dog and their behaviour in the car.

What's YOUR take?