Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I had to make a bunch of phone calls today. I hate making phone calls. This is where my social anxiety peaks. I was already feeling anxious about my Dad’s situation, but phone calls make it worse.

The following captures the pain accurately: 


So I was feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of cigarette smoking danced through my head. Instead, I went fabric shopping. Didn’t find much. Then I went tea shopping and bought a new tea as well as some of my regular varieties. Realized that, in my anxiety, I had forgotten to eat. Picked up some lunch at a local place. Still feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of smoking return. But I know I really don’t want that. Stopped at the grocery store to pick up some herbal tea, something that helps me relax. Found some and on my way through to the tea, I went through the natural supplements aisle and noticed a supplement called L-theanine with a claim to be stress relieving.

Naturally, I was skeptical. I had never heard of it. A quick Google search, and I discovered it is an amino acid derived from green and black tea. Ok, but is actually effective. I then looked for actual research via Google scholar and apparently L-theanine is a well studied amino acid with anti-anxiety effects. I figured what the heck, the FDA approved it considering it to be not harmful nor habit forming. Worse case nothing happens or I experience the placebo effect. Best case, it is effective. So I pay the $13.99 for 30 125 mg chewable tablets. Cheaper than a bottle of e-juice or a pack of cigarettes and healthier too.  

I got home, chewed a tablet and made myself a cup of herbal tea. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything, but after about 20 minutes my anxiety seemed to dissolve. Not the rapid relief of nicotine, but three hours later, I still don’t feel anxious. It seemed to clear my mind. I suspect it would enhance meditation. Now it isn’t supposed to make you drowsy, but I suspect because it relaxed me more than I’ve been able to relax in the past four or five days, the cumulative sleep debt of the past few days was suddenly apparent and I had a nap. I plan on taking another tablet before bed and hopefully I have a better sleep than I’ve had in the past few days. 

I found another blog post that has done a great round up of primary research on L-theanine.

This amino acid might explain why I like the way tea makes me feel vs coffee. Both have caffeine, but I always feel more anxious after a cup of coffee. 

Hopefully things get better with my dad soon. I hope… 

How Stigma Around Mental Illness Affects Supporters 

I’ve wanted to write about this for awhile. I considered posting on my Facebook about this on October 10th, because it was World Mental Health Day, but my own anxiety around rejection and caring what people think stopped me. What will people think? Will they think I’m selfish for my stance because I’m not the one that directly suffers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was ‘The Stigma’. The stigma of mental illness is something that the media often is ranting about fighting, but the truth is, it is still there and it is still pretty strong. 

What is stigma? The dictionary defines it as: 

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

I’m not sure I feel disgraced, but perhaps shameful like there is something wrong with me. This stigma doesn’t just apply to my own mental health ,which I haven’t held an ‘official’ diagnosis of illness since my teens, although it could be that I’m undiagnosed ‘something’. But it applies most recently to my father’s mental health. I consider myself one of his supporters as I am still in his life, unlike my three older sisters, who have never had that great of a relationship with him because of how abusive he was towards their mother mostly during their childhood. I get it, I mean right now it is hard enough for me to be here for my dad and he was there for me as a child. He was a good caregiver mostly in spite of his mental illness.

My dad isn’t doing well right now. This is where I struggle with ‘the stigma’. To use an analogy, if my dad’s mental illness was cancer, doctor’s would describe it as “terminal stage cancer that is unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation”. But my dad’s mental illness isn’t cancer. He isn’t dying although sometimes when he is in certain moods I feel like the dad I grew up with is dead. Like a cancer unresponsive to cancer treatment, his illness isn’t responding to medications anymore or at least medication isn’t managing his illness like it did in the past. Hospitalized on and off for the past 12 to 14 years, the doctors have tried everything including electroshock therapy to try to find something that works. Almost 70 now, my dad will no longer go willingly to hospital, in spite of the fact that his manic episodes are worse than ever. So to get him to see the doctor we usually end up having to get him court ordered to see a doctor.I get why he refuses, doctors really haven’t been much help for him in the past and the combo of drugs, while much less effective than in the past, is more effective than no drugs.

Trying to put myself in his shoes, I feel terrible about doing that. I mean if he was dying of cancer and chose not to get cancer treatments anymore and just wanted to live out the rest of his life in peace, I wouldn’t have an issue. I’d be having a difficult time dealing with him dying but I would respect his wishes. 

The difference: in a mania my dad tends to drink excessively and then endangers others by getting into his car and driving.He takes out massive loans to buy vehicles that he can’t afford to pay off. During a depression, he barely takes care of himself. 

My step-mom couldn’t live with him anymore. He was destroying their house while manic and still blames her for how his life has turned out. In his defense, she tends to escalate during conflict but she means well. His last visit to the hospital, the doctors claimed his medication levels were OK and that it was ‘marital discord’ driving the manic behavior.If we were to plug this into the cancer analogy, it would be like the doctor saying: it is your fault he has cancer. 

By the hospital’s recommendation, we found him a place to live on his own. The place happens to be an independent living apartment building for people that are 55 plus. Not a nursing home or supported living facility, an independent living apartment. 

He has been rapid cycling every 2-3 weeks since he left the hospital alternating between very depressed and manic/mixed manic. He is drinking heavily during his manic phases. Right now, he is angry at us because he feels like we decided for him where he would move. I can’t deny that we pushed for it, I mean he has gotten himself kicked out of the transition housing and basically had nowhere to live. 

Back to stigma, here is where the stigma comes in. If my dad had terminal cancer, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone. They would sympathize. But people get judgemental when it is mental illness or if not judgemental really awkward, having no idea what to say. 

I hesitate to tell people my dad is Bipolar. I feel like it is his story to tell. At the same time by not sharing, I both miss out on support that I need and also perpetuate the stigma and the idea that having a mental illness is less normal than having cancer. 

Bipolar is a difficult mental illness. Right now, my dad has come down from the high. He speaks to me rationally and there is no way that I could activate the personal directive I came down here to activate, even if I wanted to. I want to hold off on activating it as I know it will strain our relationship. If I had come down last week, it would have been a different story. I’m not even sure they would admit him to the hospital right now. I’m not even sure the hospital is the right place for him right now. I mean, he isn’t depressed enough. Not suicidal, thank goodness. If only psychiatrists were more plentiful, I wouldn’t be talking about getting him admitted to the hospital to see one. Later, when he wakes up from his nap, we are going to call his mental health outreach nurse. She is the key to seeing the psychiatrist. 

I’m done ranting for now. I am really not sure what I’m supposed to do? I mean, he is fine now, but two or three weeks from now when he has cycled into his belligerent ‘I do what I want’ mood will I be able to say the same thing? 

I feel like an asshole saying that I’m having a hard time with this. I mean whatever I’m feeling can’t compare to actually living his experience. But I am. It is hard to watch your parent struggle. I get through this like I always do…

Watch “What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety” on YouTube

My cousin posted this on my Facebook. My reaction was: this explains my life. 

I noticed that my thoughts of smoking have increased recently. I’m dealing with some stressful stuff. My dad is currently in a bad manic state. He is drinking and driving and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t worry. To be honest, it has been hard keeping up appearances that everything is OK. 

I noticed my cravings to smoke have increased, but it is really that my anxiety is sky high. I know I don’t want to smoke, that it is just my mind looking for something to decrease the anxiety. 

I’m doing my best to cope, but I’m looking into going to talk to my doctor and a counsellor, just to have someone outside the situation to talk to. 

I haven’t been on meds since I was a teen, but maybe it is something to consider.

Without further ado: 

150 days…already?

To be honest, I feel like I quit vaping nicotine, recently. 150 days it turns out is 4 months and 28 days so almost 5 months. 5 months is almost half a year. What? Where did the time go?

Thoughts of using again pop into my head periodically, but quickly dissipate. I think I will deal with those types of thoughts for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I find smoking sexually attractive. I have enough other ways to deal with anxiety that my anxiety no longer triggers cravings for nicotine.

Also- I think this is the longest I’ve gone sans tobacco in a very long time. I guess only time will tell. The hardest social situation smoking wise I will have to face is still 5 months away. The conference I attend every year for work. If my work friend isn’t smoking, it will be easy. We will not smoke/vape together. I likely will bring my vaping gear, load up with nicotine-free juice and vape. Of all things, I think it will make a difference being able to ‘join in’ without actually ‘joining in’.

I have another goal for that conference. I normally get entirely too drunk. Then I spend the next day too hungover and I don’t enjoy the conference speakers. My goal for next year is to not exceed three drinks over the course of each evening. So a total of 6 drinks total… I think is is reasonable, it will just take some planning. My downfall last year was free wine at dinner and buying $10 worth of twonie bar tickets. So no drinks at dinner and I am going to only bring enough money to buy two drinks. Reasoning: you normally win or get drinks from co-workers over the course of the evening. Three drinks is my upper limit recently without feeling shitty the next day. My tolerance has way decreased since I’ve started moderating. Not to mention, I feel better the next day.

Just some random things I’ve been thinking about. Because most days I don’t have cravings anymore. Most days are exactly like before I started using nicotine regularly. But special events have always been when I’ve engaged in smoking and/or excessive drinking and this conference is literally where I started my pattern of more frequent, than everyday smoking. I teach relapse prevention and I teach my students to have a plan to prevent relapse. So I’m working on the plan… it isn’t perfect yet, but I guess I have 5 more months to perfect it. 

How To Exercise Out Of Self-Love – Not Due To Fat-Shaming — Everyday Feminism

I feel like I could have written this article: How to exercise out of self-love, not due to fat shaming

I am kind of a curvy lady. I say kind of because there are many ways in which I can pass as thin.

I can shop wherever I want and no one would charge me extra for an airplane ticket. But my jeans come in double digits, and my doctor recently told me that I am a “good candidate” for a weight loss program

This is me.Minus the doctor part. Despite my BMI falling squarely in the high end of “healthy” to the low end of “overweight” for my entire adult life, my doctors have always taken into account how active I am and other health indicators rather than the deeply flawed BMI. The only time I’ve been ‘skinny’ in my adult life was hitting my goal weight of 150 post Jenny Craig starvation diet. But I wasn’t healthy nor was I happy. 

I’ve been caught in the trap of exercising to get skinny. It didn’t work. 

I’ve also been caught in the trap of eating a certain way to lose weight. It works, but if the way of eating isn’t sustainable, you just gain the weight back. 

I’ll be honest, when I started my healthy eating plan, my goal was to lose weight, at least enough that my clothes would fit again. Now that I have hit that goal, I’ve actually noticed exercise is easier. But more importantly, I’ve noticed that when I’m eating food that fuels my body rather than crap (like what I ate today), I feel better. Today started OK, but I didn’t eat enough for lunch (bad planning) and ended up eating a poutine, plus half a large box of Chicago mix popcorn at the theater. The result: major bloating and gas, which is why I avoid popcorn usually. It is one of my IBS trigger foods along with raspberry and quinoa. 

So this article addresses exercising out of self-love, I think we should add eating out of self-love. My motivation moving forward is to eat foods that fuel my body because I love my body and want it to be able to do all the things that I love doing like walking my dog, running, swimming and hiking. Be more mindful of fueling throughout the day instead of binging at the end of the day. Avoid foods that make me feel shitty (trigger foods above, plus deep fried food, very sugary food). Stay hydrated. Maintain current weight while increasing fitness.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day in which I will not eat popcorn. 

How to deal with having a smoking fetish (in my non-expert opinion)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this given where I am today vs where I was when I started this blog. I used to be super ashamed of my fetish like it was something super freakish that I needed to suppress. But this instinct to suppress it, only made it stronger. Now I simply see it as something that developed during my formative years, likely in response to the anti-smoking propaganda that was very prevalent in the 90’s when I was growing up. My fascination started young, pre-internet and completely disconnected from pornography.

I recently read this article: Are Sexual Tastes Immutable? which describe a bit about how sexual tastes are acquired and whether or not they can be changed once they have been acquired. From this article asserts that:

Indeed, most of us have a good bit of indirect say over our sexual tastes (as contrasted with our sexual orientation). Brains are plastic. The truth is we are always training our brains—with or without our conscious participation. We can choose to avoid, pursue, and cease pursuit of, stimuli that condition our sexual tastes in particular directions.

On the many smoking fetish forums I’ve participated in, most people feel as though:

  1. Their sexual fetish for smoking developed young, often pre-internet exposure or even pre-pornography exposure.
  2. They feel as though it is something that they have always had or always will have.

This makes sense because the younger someone develops these sexual tastes, the more likely it will seem that they are innate and unchangeable.

My fetish has changed over time, but it certainly does feel as though it is here to stay. That said, I think if I had really wanted to rid myself of, I’ve been going about it completely the wrong way for many, many years.

That said, it isn’t too late if I want to change. The article quotes neuroplasticity expert Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself:

Their treatment for sexual tastes acquired later in life was far simpler than that for patients who, in their critical periods [of development], acquired a preference for problematic sexual types. Yet even some of these men were able, like A., to change their [preferred] sexual type, because the same laws of neuroplasticity that allow us to acquire problematic tastes also allow us, in intensive treatment, to acquire newer, healthier ones and in some cases even to lose our older, troubling ones. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, even where sexual desire and love are concerned.

The article mentions, that if one is going to try to rid himself or herself of an unwanted sexual taste, they should avoid their stimulus. For example, in my case, a stimulus I could avoid is watching YouTube videos featuring women smoking. I’ve never watched smoking pornography, although when I was confessing my fetish to my partner I referred to it as ‘smoking pornography’ as for a person with a smoking fetish, no sex need be depicted for it to be an arousing image.

So what is my advice to you if you have a smoking fetish and it bugs you:

  1. Figure out where your fetish might have started. I found the more I explored the roots of my fetish, the less powerful it seemed to be.
  2. Avoid masturbation to smoking stimuli. This only reinforces the fetish.
  3. Avoid visiting website promoting smoking. Pro-smoking websites only reinforce the alluring parts of smoking.
  4. Start seeing smoking as a normal thing to do. The more I saw smoking as simply something people did rather than what I had built it up in my head to be (the ultimate ‘bad girl’ action, ‘the worst thing I could do to myself’. As I started to see smoking as ‘just smoking’, I found it less arousing.
  5. If all else fails, seek professional help.

If you have a smoking fetish, it doesn’t bother you but you are having trouble being aroused by your non-smoking partner:

  1. If they don’t smoke, don’t try to get them to smoke.
  2. Eliminate consumption of smoking media (videos, stories, forum posts etc.) This will increase your attraction to your real life partner.
  3. Incorporate non-nicotine vaping as a way to ‘play with the fetish’ in a non-addictive, less harmful way.If that doesn’t do it, see 2.
  4. Read step 1 again. Seriously, don’t do it. If it is that important to you that your partner smoke, find a smoker to be with.

If you are a non-smoker with a smoking fetish thinking about trying smoking because of your fetish:

  1. Experiment with non-nicotine vaping. I actually got a huge kick out of chucking giant clouds with my sub-ohm device. I suggest not going the route of nicotine as there really isn’t any need to add a nicotine addiction that you don’t already have. If I get the urge to smoke again, I have my device ready with my favourite juice precisely for this purpose.
  2. Get real with why you want to try smoking. For most people with a fetish, it starts as a curiosity about how smoking feels. For other people, it is an escalation of sorts. When pictures and videos don’t do it for them anymore, actually smoking ups the ante. So is it curiosity or a desire to escalate the intensity of the experience? Either way, proceed with caution. You basically have no idea how your body will react to nicotine and it can be a powerful reinforcer.
  3. If you do decide to try it, be okay with the possibility of becoming addicted. I know that sounds super ominous, but some people have a pretty intensely positive reaction to smoking. I know I did.

Where am I at? I am thinking about reducing my reliance on smoking fantasy when I masturbate. This sounds a bit daunting as I cannot recall a time in my adult life where I haven’t masturbated to smoking fantasy. No seriously. I’ve never been a huge picture or video watcher (although I have done it). I was much more into smoking erotica. Currently, watch some videos and mostly rely on my ‘what if I had started then…” fantasies which are pretty mundane but do the trick. Interestingly, my fantasies have changed since my 9 month vaping stint. Pre and during vaping my fantasies were always about future me starting to smoke. Since quitting, I know I don’t want to smoke in the present or future (and have to endure quitting again). The thought simply doesn’t arouse me anymore. This is a big change and I think that if that can change other things about my sexual tastes can change.

One thing that I have started doing that seems to be helping is incorporating mindfulness into my masturbation. What does this mean? Instead of using a fantasy to bring on arousal, I simply focus on all of the sensations that I am feeling while I masturbate or even on my breathing. Just like with mindful meditation, when I find my mind wandering or drumming up my regular fantasies, I just gently bring my attention back to my breathing or to the sensations that I am feeling. It typically takes longer to ‘complete’ than with fantasies but I’m finding that I am more satisfied. I think I could write a whole post just on this. For me, this seems more sensible than avoiding masturbation entirely (as I do not compulsively masturbate) and I think it will help on some level with retraining my brain.

The Hard Things in Life

While I talk a lot about my innermost thoughts on this blog, things I don’t share with anyone in my life, I still sometimes feel that social media reflex of projecting that “I’m OK”. 

Health wise right now, I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. I’m working on my body image issues and my issues around food and feeling successful. I’m exercising regularly and feel myself getting stronger and having more stamina. And I haven’t touched tobacco or nicotine… So body wise, I’m doing wonderful. 

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling right now. My dad is sick. If he had cancer or some other physical illness, it would probably be easier to talk to people about. My dad is Bipolar and has been my whole life. I don’t tell many people because I feel like it isn’t my thing to tell. I also feel that families dealing with mental illness face a lesser form of the same stigma that people dealing with the illness do. 

For years, my dad’s illness was well managed by medication. But as he got older, his medication stopped working as well. The past 10 years, my dad’s been in and out of hospital. My step-mom, while still loving my father, can no longer live with him because of how abusive he gets during his manic episodes. That is why I’m visiting him this week. To get him set up in his new place. 

It is hard to watch two people that love each other so much be torn apart by an illness. 

It is hard to be with my dad right now, as he is currently in the depressed phase of his illness and it takes all the emotional energy I have to be with him. I feel exhausted when I’m around him, almost like I’m empathizing with his depression by actually feeling depressed myself.

It is hard listening to my dad say he feels like his life is ending because he can’t live in his own house with his wife anymore. 

It is hard trying to be strong for both of them when all I want to do is cry.

It is just hard…

Next Frontier: Better Budgeting

I’ve never been good with money. So my next goal, since I’m enjoying this change one thing per month thing, is to get my budget under control. 

The money thing is almost harder for me than food, but I feel like if I can do the food thing, I can do the money thing. Areas I think I can be better: (ironically) my food budget. When I read about people feeding their family of four on $250 dollars a month, I am in awe. I think I spend at least that right now for two of us. 

Now to do some research…

The Frenemy

I haven’t posted in a bit, mostly because largely things have been going well. Changing how I eat has helped me with managing my moods and despite my normal ups and downs I’m taking them in stride. I’m not sure I’m any less moody, but my perception is different and I think it has to do with being mindful. When you are paying attention, to the present moment without judgement, it allows you to step back and actually determine what you need. So instead of getting worried, upset, frustrated or angry over feeling a certain way, you step back, notice that you are feeling that way and for me that seems to lead to the question: what do I need?

For example, I went on a camping trip with my husband and some of our friends. I went ‘hunting’ one day with my husband which essentially involves a lot of driving around. Not necessarily my cup of tea but it was important to my husband so I tagged along. At one point during the drive, he said to me, “You are bored, aren’t you?”  I said, “Yes, I’m getting a little stiff just sitting in the car, could we stop to walk around outside for a bit?” He said yes and that broke the drive up for me, allowing us both to enjoy our time together more. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I needed to move around. Paying attention to that moment allowed me to identify my need and vocalize it so that I could get it met. Both my husband and I had a great camping trip I think because we were just living in the moment, experiencing the present as best we could.

Which brings me to the title of this post. One of the people on this trip, I consider my frenemy. Why frenemy? Because she is in my circle of friends but I don’t consider her my friend anymore. We might have been at one point, but somewhere along the way she started treating me really coldly, prickly for no apparent reason. I’ve thought about calling her out on it or at least to ask her why but I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it or not. I mentioned it to my husband at first, and he brushed it off and said it wasn’t me, it was her but I couldn’t help but take it personally for a bit. But he was right. It is just her and there is something about me that she can’t stand. She goes out of her way to ‘correct’ me even when it is something so minor or not even wrong. It is like she is looking for something to pick apart in what I am saying. Like I had a bite of my husband’s PopTart and I commented that it tasted like something that would quickly raise your blood sugar if it was low. She then ‘corrected me’ and said that it probably wouldn’t act that fast and besides a diabetic trying to ‘balance out’ their bad diet through alternating sugary foods and insulin is a sure way to a heart attack.

Anyhow, as the weekend drew on, she became more and more grumpy (in general, not always directed at me) because she was cold or ‘felt like she was wasting her weekend’. Oh and she hates my dog too. Sees it as a giant pest even though it mostly stays out of her way. So the saturday night, she barely said a word all night and cast glares at my dog. I basically just ignore all of this passive-aggressive behaviour and try to not let it affect me. I started doing this awhile ago knowing that I would have to see her at group gathering where everyone is invited. I honestly think it upsets her more that her snide, passive-aggressive comments seem to have no effect on me. What I didn’t know, is that my husband was noticing this too. But I think it was the first time that it has bugged him. His solution was an easy one: I don’t need to be around a negative person like that. So on the Sunday night, he told me he wanted to make a campfire at our camp instead of going over to them camp. I thought this was weird and I couldn’t get it out of him that night as to why. At the same time, it is not like I was really going to miss hanging out with my Frenemy. The next day, he told me that it was because of her that he didn’t want to go over to their campfire.

I have a feeling we’ll be doing less with the Frenemy and her husband. Which sucks, because her husband is a pretty laid back and friendly guy but is also good because I find her hard to be around. I think my husband is fed up with her selfish, insecure and passive-aggressive ways. For the most part, I don’t have to deal with her because she seems to avoid coming to anything that I am invited to. I think she only decided to go camping because she thought I was only going to be there for part of the weekend but then my plans changed and I ended being there for the whole weekend. Our other  friend’s wife doesn’t come to most things that the Frenemy is invited to because of how the Frenemy treats her. But when she does, she just kills the Frenemy with kindness.

So far what I’ve learned about how to deal with toxic people from my Frenemy:

  1. Avoid spending time with them if possible.
  2. Greet their passive-aggressiveness either assertively or with kindness. Remember, more than likely their lashing out at you is not a personal attack. I happen to think my frenemy is jealous of me.
  3. See one. Really if at all possible ditch all the toxic people from your life

I had a great weekend camping. I didn’t let my Frenemy get in the way of a good time. Which brings me back to the start of this post. I think aside from what she thinks of me, my Frenemy didn’t enjoy herself because once she was ‘done with’ enjoying the camp fire or camping in general, she became very future oriented. Thinking: look at all the stuff I could be getting done instead of enjoying the moment. 



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