Fight or Flight

I suppose it had been too long since I last fainted. Big thanks to my nervous system for always doing its job. Probably a little too effectively, I’d say.

I didn’t faint when I got my first dose. I figured I’d be in the clear. Everyone mentioning the second dose said it was worse than the first, but only in terms of side effects, not in terms of losing-consciousness-in-the-car-and-thank-goodness-I-wasn’t-the-one-driving-or-I-would-have-murdered-a-bunch-of-people-and-maybe-myself-but-hey-they-would-at-least-have-had-a-chance-because-we-were-relatively-close-to-the-hospital-to-get-the-care-they-required-to-make-it-out-alive.

Yup. I’m a fainter.

Do you have a History of Fainting?

Last time I talked about it live, someone in the audience also fainted, so content warning, I guess?

I do it a lot. The most critical time it happened was on an airplane. Shortly after, the sensations I get when I know I’m about to pass out decided to lend themselves out to general life situations that were a little higher stress than everyday life. Like that time I had to get scalped tickets for a Coldplay concert, and was afraid to get found out by the French police. (As if they give a shit, they’re way too busy being generally racist.) Or that time I was on the island making my way back from Osheaga and it took forever to get onto the metro back to the apartment where we were staying in Montreal. Wait. Why do so many of these panicked situations happen at / around rock concerts? I also fainted at a QOTSA concert. Wait. I’m sensing a pattern.

But hey. Vaccines are no rock concert.

Basically, when I finally had my anxiety disorder labeled, the symptoms matched up with the responses I feel when I’m about to faint. In my late twenties, they began to appear much more often than they should. When I was riding my bike, or sitting on a bus, or riding in a friend’s car or… yeah, you guessed it, at a dang music festival.

I went to a doctor and was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and prescribed medication. They’ve helped tremendously. I’m still an anxious person, but at least I don’t feel like I’m going to faint when I’m driving my vehicle anymore. (That was a scary time to be on a 400-series highway.)

Unfortunately the drugs apparently still can’t seem to calm my nervous system down when I get a fucking needle.

Second Verse, Not the Same as the First

What happened? Why was #2 so much worse than the first?

The first time, a nurse gave my my shot. She asked me if I ever fainted. I said yes. She said not to worry because we were surrounded by paramedics, firefighters, nurses and doctors. This put my mind at ease, I sat in the waiting area and went along my merry way afterwards. I felt a bit of anxiety, because I’m still not a huge fan of needles, (understatement.)

The second time, a doctor gave me my shot. He didn’t ask if I had a tendency to faint. He made some weird comment that when couples come up to him to get their shots, the wife always goes first, and why is that? Maybe it was an attempt at humour to put my mind at ease. Or maybe it was an offhand sexist remark. Anyway, the shot went in, quick and easy just like the first time. I went to sit down in the waiting area once again, and nothing. I felt fine. We left after the allocated waiting period, and I thought I was home free.

My husband and I checked in on each other. How were we feeling? I said just a bit anxious, like last time. He mentioned this time it felt like if he’d smoked a big cigar last night. (Whatever that means.) We were driving with the windows down and it was quite hot and muggy out.

And then it hit me.

I did NOT feel well. I asked Dan to turn the air conditioning on because it felt like there was no air circulation. He turned the air on, and I was like: NOT ENOUGH and pumped the AC to max. Still I was seating like a madman. I told him I was going to faint. I can feel it coming after thirty some odd years. He said I wouldn’t faint. And even if it did, it didn’t matter because I was laying down in the truck so it’s not like I’d hurt myself. Ever cool in a stressful situation, he is.

Then I went. I was gone. I never know for how long. It’s usually a few seconds. Oddly enough, it’s long enough to dream.

I came to and could hear how high the air conditioning was blowing, Dan had begun driving back towards the arena to get help. (I thought you said I’d be fine, Dan!) (He later told me if I hadn’t woken, he was going to head to the entrance of the arena and honk his horn until people came out to his truck to help. I’m not sure how effective that strategy would have been, but I do like knowing he’s a man of action.)

Apparently when I was unconscious, I shot my arms up in the air. I think maybe I was unconsciously trying to shoot the vaccine back out of my body via my fingers.

It didn’t work.

Everything ached, my muscles were all clenched. Slowly they relaxed, sometime on the way back home.

After that, it was just the normal side effects everybody else shared who got their second dose. Muscle and joint aches, drowsiness, and the sigh of relief that thank goodness I didn’t drive myself and end up engulfed in flames in a ditch somewhere in the back roads of Niagara.

TDLR: Get the fucking vaccine.

When Anxiety Meds Work Too Well

Anxiety is weird and sometimes I think my SSRIs are even weirder.

Follow the Path

I’ve recently rediscovered a love affair with hiking. I live near the Short Hills Provincial Park, and over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with nature trails, steep climbs and butterfly cocoons. It’s also a great way to get my rings closed (amirite?)

I’ve got pretty comfortable with one trail in particular. It takes just over an hour to hike the whole thing and there’s a lovely waterfall along the way. Delightful.

But every once in a while, I don’t want to take the comfortable trail. It’s human nature to explore, so I seek out new paths.

Earlier this week, I went off and followed a different path than usual. One that indicated at the beginning that no horses were allowed. It started very tame, but after a while yeah, I get why you wouldn’t want to bring a horse along with ya. I eventually started to realize I had no idea where I was in relation to where my car was parked. I considered returning in the same direction from where I came, but felt like I was already too far gone to go back. And anyway, I think I’d jumped onto a completely different path along the way, so I’m not even sure I would have been able to find my way back!

I take my phone with me when I go hiking because I’m not an idiot. There’s still a fair amount of cellphone reception in the Short Hills that I could find where I was on Google Maps and try to connect up with some of the main paths outlined in the GPS. Except that my iPhone 7’s battery ain’t what she used to be, and the power quickly began to drain from 30% to 20% and uh-oh now the bar’s gone red I should probably turn it off and hope for the best.

An open field amongst the woods with a beautiful blue sky.
Conversation with myself: “Hey jerk, maybe you shouldn’t be taking pictures when your phone’s about to die?” “But look how majestic this open field looks now that I’ve escaped one heavily wooded area and am en route to another?”

Thought Process Pre & Post Meds

This is where pre-medicated Brie would have started to freak out. I even felt the urge a few times too. Thoughts came up like “maybe now’s a good time to cry super loud or just sit down and bash your fist against the ground? Maybe that’ll be helpful!”

And just as quick as those thoughts occurred, I could feel ol’ SSRI stepping up to the bat:

“No need to cry Brie – just keep walking, you’ll connect with the right way back anytime now! Trust your cadet training and outdoor prowess” and;

“Keep going. 5% is more than enough juice to call someone!”

It did go a little far when I recall myself thinking:

“Don’t worry Brie, I’m sure if your phone dies, you can sleep in the woods overnight and find your way back tomorrow! It’s totally cool out here, you’ll love it! Curl up to a cuddly critter for warmth!”

Very shortly after that, I did reconnect with the main path easily made my way back to the parking lot.

However, it did make me wonder if sometimes my medication might work too well.

Fuck it. Who wants to go play in the woods?

greyscale image of a stop sign with the sky and phone lines in the background.

Stop Doing the Thing

Well hot damn, this took a turn. I’m always using my busy schedule as an excuse not to blog. Well, that’s not so much an issue now, is it? With Covid-19 spreading like wildfire (another very serious problem we’re also still facing globally), there seems to be nothing to do BUT write.

Or so I thought. But you’d be amazed all the stuff you can do instead of writing. I’ve managed to get all my physical receipts ready for tax time. Not enough, so I organized my husband’s too. I’m learning to teach improv online. (Yes, and… it’s gonna take some adjusting!) I’m sorting through junk drawers (and bags, anybody else got junk bags from moving so often?) I’m cleaning this and sanitizing that. I’m taking naps. I’m meditating. I’m watching way too much Netflix.

So here. Gah. Here I am, keyboard. Let’s type.

2020 was gearing up to be great and fun and BUSY:

  • I was about to teach more improv than ever before.
  • Improv Niagara had just secured a second monthly show, which was to take place in downtown Niagara Falls.
  • IN was about to make a huge deal about our 2nd Birthday Fallout show.
  • I was starting to get corporate gigs.
  • I was getting better at Pilates (ie farting less)
  • I’d received a newfound confidence from performing The Vagina Monologues in knowing a) I can, indeed, memorize big chunks of text b) I can, indeed, rock full-faux leather performance attire.

The last month of February was BUZZING. I’m telling you, BUZZING. A huge Improv Niagara event in Niagara Falls, followed immediately by two sold-out, explosive performances of The Vagina Monologues at Camp Cataract.

And now it comes crashing to a halt. No more shows. No more events of 250 people or more. Wait, now it’s 50. OK I get it. No more events. Gatherings = virus spreading. Non-essential services must cease.

Yes, of course, for the best. We must do our part to flatten the curve and keep as many people safe as possible. And yet, it is an adjustment. I guess at least with improv, we’re good with making those.

Me, as cult leader "John" in Outlaugh Toronto.

2019 Briear in Review

I get it. We’re well into 2020 by now, and I should have done this earlier in the year, but I’m not giving up on me, and the end of 2019 was rough, so just let me do me, OK? OK.

I’ve found tremendous joy in 2016, 2017 & 2018 writing my Year-in-Reviews and I don’t want to miss the boat. And hell, why not feel like it’s January again and not like 2020 is taking off like a rocket into the future and we have no control over it. That reminds me, my Lighthouse Word this year? NOW.

NOW…

In 2019 I…

  • had a continued run of successful Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? shows with amazingly talented special guest improvisers at Comedy Bar, allowing more opportunities for improvisers to share the stage with the improvisers to whom they look up.
  • Completed the Harold Studio Series at Bad Dog Theatre.
  • Released 7 new episodes of The Constant Struggle Podcast with my brother Nick.
  • Performed many fun sets as Semper Pie with my wonderful improv partner Alicia Douglas, including a few rounds at the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament and on the Stupid Good Comedy Show.
  • Continued writing and performing sketches in The Utilidors with my sketch partner Dave Lahti.
  • Continued seeing a counsellor to help manage my anxiety.
  • Had a super successful monthly run of Improv Fallout with Improv Niagara at Mahtay Caf√© in St. Catharines.
  • Was invited to be a guest judge at the Brock Improv Summit.
  • Got a fun Valentine’s Day make-over on the Marilyn Dennis show with Dan.
That hair though!!!
  • Continued run of successful POPAGANDA shows at the John Candy Box Theatre with the amazing faculty members of the Second City Training Centre & other awesome local improvisers.
  • Taught my first (couple) Level C class(es) at SCTC.
  • Was asked to be the special guest in a few improv shows.
  • Improv Fallout celebrated its first birthday with a sold out performance, fun prizes and a special toast.
  • Changed my phone number. (Real-talk: I never liked the 647 one)
  • Survived another year around the sun.
  • Got to reconnect with an old pal & former roomie who lives far far away now.
  • Got back into stand-up comedy, performed all around Toronto & Niagara.
  • Opened an improv studio for Improv Niagara. Promptly closed it after 6 months because of its drain on resources.
  • Was asked to guest on a few podcasts.
  • Got a callback at Generals!
  • We released the series of informational videos about recycling for the Niagara Region.
Stuff Tie Toss!
  • Performed narrative longform for the first time with Improv Niagara in St. Catharines’ In the Soil Festival.
  • Played another season in the Toronto Comedy Softball League. The Jokebox, my team, took home the championship again, although I missed the finals. ūüėĘ
  • Performed in the Toronto Fringe Festival for the first time with the awesome KidsFringe show: BOY VS FLY
You don’t have to throw a shoe.
  • Ran a few improv & mental health workshops for women with Fantastic Funny Folks (Candace Meeks & Alicia Douglas.)
  • Survived a Twitter ban.
  • Had a blast hosting a fundraiser show for my buddy Dan Rosen.
  • Survived my car trying to kill me on College St. Subsequently got a new-to-me car.
  • More auditions this year than ever before. (Thanks Samm!)
  • Went camping for the first time in a long time with Dan under the craziest, brightest Full Moon.
  • Booked my first commercial!
More squeeze, please!
  • Taught stand-up at Second City for the first time.
  • Met the Mayor of St. Catharines at a flag raising ceremony for Culture Days, in which Improv Niagara participated for our 2nd year in a row.
  • Took a really cool photo I hope to be able to share with you one of these days.
  • Made it to our 3rd wedding anniversary with my love, Dan.
  • Took an improv workshop with the former Artistic Director of the UCB, Shannon O’Neill.
  • Made it to Tribal Council in Outlaugh Toronto.
  • Celebrated Guess Who’s Coming to Improv’s 5th anniversary! Brought the show down to Niagara for the first time.
  • Performed with a new improv duo partner, Andrew Lizotte, in a fun project entitled High Status Idiots.
  • Voted in another Federal Election. (My guy didn’t win.)
  • Sold a friggin’ house & moved into a new home.
  • Raised 150lbs of food for needy people in our community in Niagara.
  • Nous avons dit adieu √† ma tr√®s ch√®re grand-m√®re, qui nous a quitt√© √† l’√Ęge de 99 ans.

So probably the end of the year is why it took me so long to write this year-end post. I realize that now. However writing it now feels very good, very cleansing. My grand-mother was full of joie-de-vivre and a very funny woman. I’m certain she would want me to continue doing a similar path.

Que la sant√©, l’amour et la r√©ussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne ann√©e!

Days Go By and Still I Think of…

…all the great stuff I learned last week!

All right, maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I’m a total dork, but I am sortof obsessed about learning about comedy. I probably don’t watch enough stand-up comedy specials on Netflix, I do read about it often enough, (currently on Bruce McCulloch’s “Let’s Start a Riot,”) and I suppose one of the big fears I deal with regularly is how much I should be “learning” vs. how much I should be “doing.”

One of the major problems I face with my own comedy is time. I have a Mon-Fri 9-5 job, which is great for paying back debt, but not so great for staying up late and going to multiple shows and partying until all hours of the night at the local open-mic/watering hole. (I do this extremely rarely.) I’ve tried to strike a balance by producing many of my own shows, thus giving myself ample play time, but also seeing many of the acts around town who inspire me and more importantly, who make me laugh.

Another thing I’ve just taken on, is the co-creation of the “Women in Comedy Toronto” group. It seems, so far, that people are really excited about it, and based on the first couple events we’ve had, it’s really evident that this is the kind of community group from which women in the Toronto comedy scene can really benefit. For example, last week Christina Walkinshaw came by to talk to us about her career in comedy thus far, her writing process, tales from the biz, and many other fascinating tidbits, and I tell you, it was inspiring! ¬†I think anyone who was in attendance will tell you the same.

Also, on Wednesday, I attended the I ‚̧ Sketchfest event at the Steamwhistle Brewery, where they screened the premiere of Bruce McCulloch’s “Young Drunk Punk,” which was excellent, and I’m sorry I didn’t give it it’s own page, like I did with “Sunnyside“, I just ran out of time.

Which is my point. By this point, it’s Wednesday; I’ve helped a friend film her one woman-show, produced a 2+ hour talkback with one of Canada’s most amazingly hilarious female comics, supported my favourite Toronto comedy festival… and I haven’t had time yet to do any of my own writing or work.

Problem solved: Thursday, I booked, produced, and performed in a show put on by my improv duo, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Friday, I produced and performed in Improv Game Show (and I won! Thanks again Maddox! [as if he’s actually reading this!])

And alas, the weekend called for fun family celebrations in Niagara, which are lovely, but¬†don’t really allow for much writing time. (Nor should they. Family time is important, dangit!)

So, I guess what I’m trying to say, is that it would be nice to have a little balance. Maybe last week was just crazy, or maybe I’m over-committing to stuff. Either way, I’d love to know what your solutions are to feeling like you can never get fully on top of the multiple things you’re trying to accomplish?

My brother recommended I read Chris Hardwick’s “The Nerdist Way,” and it already seems like a great process for helping people achieve their goals. But I’m already looking at it like “I don’t have TIME to create a fancy CHART with all my WANTS AND DESIRES on it, and make it pretty with pictures?!!?”

And again, so much is the nature of an anxious person. ¬†Sometimes we have so much to do, and we can’t just… take… a … breath. It’s always go go go. Sometimes what we need is to slow down, and only in those times can we think clearly and make a plan towards actually accomplishing our goals. Like finishing this damn spec script I’ve been working on for MONTHS. (The outline is now finished. Thank you.)

Sometimes it’s about balancing a crazy week with a following week of cuddling up with your computer at home with a nice (several) cup(s) of coffee in a cozy hoodie.

That’s where I’m at this week. ¬†Until I’m not.

 

Guilty Conscience

I was all excited to get out there and see some comedy shows this evening after spending a bit of time away to “recharge.” ¬†(Note, I’m not a robot.) ¬†But when I got home after work, (first day in my new job, I might add) I started to feel feverish, tired, unwell in general. ¬†I kept saying: “I’ll feel better in an hour or so.” But my condition didn’t really improve.

I then get to the point where my mind asks: “Are you really sick, or are you just trying to weasel your way out of going to shows tonight?” ¬†But I DID want to see shows. ¬†And I was NOT feeling well. ¬†Seeing shows isn’t like going to a job you don’t want to go to. ¬†You don’t need duvet-days when there’s so much great comedy to see on any given night here in Toronto.¬†

How to balance this self-judgement? ¬†People say I’m too hard on myself, but ¬†aren’t you supposed to be in this business? Should I have just gone to the shows anyway? ¬†I’ve done that in the past when I feel kindof sick, and I don’t get anything out of the experience, I just sortof daze through the show, even if it’s a really great show, I don’t appreciate it. Then, I just go right home because I feel too crappy to socialize with anyone and I worry about getting them sick in turn.

Is this rationalization?

Is it just anxiety and over-thinking?

Does anyone else get this way?

Send me your feedback. ¬†I’d be glad to have a conversation on the body vs. mind + guilt = more guilt.

Relatively Hardcore Girls & A Couple Dudes

 

I confess it was somewhat of a weird night at the Black Swan, where a friend/colleague¬† of mine just started what will hopefully be a successful regular half booked show/half open mic.¬† It was run by the wonderful Amber Harper-Young, who unfortunately had to absent herself mid-way.¬† Nevertheless, the show is called “Hardcore Girls” and it seems as though the premise is about getting mainly women (and some dudes) up to perform in an encouraging space where they feel comfortable enough to talk about what terrible human beings they are… um, in a good way.¬† In a funny way!¬† The show doubles as a fundraiser for “Because I Am A Girl” – a charitable organization set to empower women in Canada and around the world.

The audience¬† was composed of performers and maybe one or two of the performers’ partners/friends.¬† It was not a particularly receptive crowd – but it could be because they were so few in numbers.¬† OR the heat.¬† Yeah.¬† Let’s blame the heat.

I took the bullet, which I (and every other comic on earth) hate¬† – although it did lead me to realize that I need to try taking it more so I can get better at pumping up a crowd very early on in the night, because it’s a really tough thing to do.¬† Part of me feels responsible for the low energy of the room tonight.¬† Part of me blames the heat.

THAT being said, the chairs!  OMG, the Black Swan has some comfy ass chairs, which is highly unusual for a comedy venue, considering it seems the venue owners seem to want their clients to feel as uncomfortable physically as they do internally when they see a comedian bomb on stage.

It was nice to catch some performers I’d never seen before too.¬† It’s nice to broaden the social network.¬† Speaking of which, Erin Rodgers will be pleased to know that I did engage in an incredibly awkward conversation afterwards with the sound guy because I’d admitted to absolutely detesting the song he played when I was brought up on stage. (Seriously, KT Turnstall makes my stomach turn.¬† She’s awful. Fuck!! She’s bad.)¬†¬† … I didn’t need to bring it up again after my set.¬† Why did I bring it up again?¬† Sometimes I just don’t know about myself.¬† It’s almost like anxiety medication permits you to say things you wouldn’t otherwise say – both in a good way AND in a terribly humiliating way.¬† And to Natalie Norman, who also performed tonight.¬† I hear you loud and clear about the chair sweat.

Here’s me wishing best of luck to Amber on her Hardcore Girls project!¬† I look forward to hitting the spot up again soon and hopefully the word will get out and more and more people will come check out this awesome show!

Fears & Closing

Rehearsals for our upcoming LaughDraft show are going well and we’re set to get into the space for a cue-to-cue tomorrow.¬† The only thing worrying me right now is that we won’t have as many people as we did at our first show, which was a huge success.¬† The difference, this time, the money’s coming to US.¬† The first show was a fundraiser for the Kapisanan Centre, but now, we’ve paid our dues to rent the place out and the rest is coming back to us, so we can continue to make videos and better content for our website.

This isn’t a plea to get people to come out to the show (well, maybe kinda) but it’s more an insight into my anxiety.¬† What if we flop?¬† I know we’ll just try again, but what if more people lose interest?

They shouldn’t, and I really shouldn’t worry, because the show’s going to be great.¬† I know.¬† I was at rehearsal. Now all we have to do is figure out how to end the show & we’re golden.