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My March Break Adventure

Decided to create a blog as writing is my best attempt at talking; it’s also my mental health ‘risky behaviour’. It also seems to be escalating; first I sent some friends some crazy emails, earlier this week I joined Twitter (it was pretty easy to figure out) but now egad I’ve decided to attempt creating a blog, primarily to update all of my other friends whom may or may not even know I am not at work and may or may not have heard of my March Break Adventures…

To summarize; the medical community will tell you I suffer from a mental health disorder or multiple ones, it’s still TBD pending other higher priority issues such as other psych assessments & other more critical issues such as H1N1 outbreaks perhaps?

But in my opinion I’m not like anyone else, I just have some health issues. Right now, but subject to change (perhaps owing to still being in a bit of a heightened state?) I believe I have a mental health benefit; it’s not unlike my physical health benefits of pain in the form of a cold/flu or feet that start killing me. It’s my body & minds way of telling me I need to either slow down and de-stress or I need to speed up and expedite management of my emotional health & well being. I’m different; I’m just not that different from anyone else. I just have a different life experience, different genetics and other factors that make up my personality. I do have a personality disorder or two for sure but then again so do you.

A ‘brief’ history of events leading up to my version of a National Lampoon’s March break vacation.

In 2008 I had my first episode of to me relatively major depression, it lasted ~9-months and I went to an ER for help; they redirected me to CAMH where I was given a diagnosis of ‘mild depression’ and told to get me some antidepressants. I believe antidepressants helped me but I’m not inclined to say it wasn’t just a result of the ‘placebo’ effect; someone let me know I wasn’t insane or all that different or special because I was miserable, and they offered something that might help. That helped and I took them on and off until 2010. A good prescription druggie knows that you should just stay on them and not go on and off, but I also had a physician who gave me the message I was just a selfish pill popper who was strongly against prescribing me anything to help. To be fair I don’t tend to ask for help until it’s a bit too late but his message combined with additional attempts at therapy and more conflicting messages ‘there’s nothing I can do, you just need to be on drugs’ from one, and another who told me ‘I don’t like just suggesting drugs but it’s something we’ll talk about’ in the first session and ‘why didn’t you get a prescription from your physician’ in the second session the following week gave me more than enough evidence to decide there wasn’t much help or support available to me via the mental health system. I believe I still have a few bottles of antidepressants stockpiled upstairs just in case I ever get depressed again and happen to have a physician who wants to call me a selfish pill popper; but I think I’ll throw those out now as I’ve already found my non-drug solution to managing depression (more in a later blog perhaps?).

Anyway depression for me has been at worst of the ‘nuisance’ variety level of life issues since 2010, so since that’s not much of an issue anymore I decided to go get me some hypomania and a Bi-polar II disorder diagnosis with a doctor’s indication that antidepressants were terrible for me, I could never take them again and I needed to be on Lithium for the rest of my life.

I didn’t know this also meant I’d be subject to quarterly lectures that left me feeling like I was also mentally incompetent as well (yes I smoke, but I actually do not do so because I think it’s in the best interest of my health! I can read the messages on the cigarette packages, I’m aware of the Internet and I believe the general consensus that smoking is unhealthy was largely agreed upon before I was even born. I’m up to speed on the smoking issue, but thanks for the lectures…). So after ~2-years of deteriorating self confidence, self worth and zero benefits to lithium that I could tell I quit my lithium drug habit and ended the lectures in March 2012. I am a bit concerned that following my 2014 assessments my medical records will indicate that I am not willing and/or ready to address my mental health issues because I stopped drugging myself and I started saving myself from the degrading quarterly lectures that left me feeling hopeless & helpless.

In December 2014 I had a Mirena IUD inserted in order to (hopefully) regulate my monthly mood swings and physical pain associated with being female. I believe that significantly escalated my mood swings to a rather spectacular, very interesting and fascinating but also a little terrifying level which I’d best self assess as Acute Psychosis; except I didn’t hallucinate I wasn’t delusional and it made me see the thought disorders I’ve been living with for decades along with some of the explanations and ‘evidence’. If a psychiatrist wants to label me with any of these symptoms I will be fine with that assessment as long as he’s willing to sort through all of my evidence and provide just as strong counter evidence to help me better understand my condition. I can explain almost everything I said and I have written documentation and evidence for all of it but I might not be able to gather and/or summarize all of it before May. I’d also like to review with him or her all of the existing Mental health disorder labels and understand why I’m best categorized via the label he/she decides to stick me with for the next 50 years of my life.

Mental health label rant aside, there was a lot of stress in my life, work, a potential promotion, life, tragedies, Winter Olympics and Curling Bonspiels to play in. I’m not being silly and/or stupid ‘stress’ is not a negative thing, excitement is stress and worry is stress. Life without stress would be too boring for me but going forward I’ll avoid having quite that much fun as I’d rather not scare my friends/family so much and I’d really, really, really not like to have my independence, freedom & rights taken from me ever again.

So back to my wild March Break Adventure! I hadn’t slept properly for at least two months prior and sleep kept getting more and more difficult to come by, so I took a week off at the beginning of Feb for some R&R in Cuba. It helped a bit but didn’t help me sleep in past 3am and too much heat & sun while generally good in the Winter (owing to depression); are very detrimental to me in a heighted state so this likely made things a lot worse too. My bad. Work was pretty stressful following my return; but owing to my heightened state this was super fun, I was taking on all sorts of additional responsibilities and I think I did a half decent job. But I also have and had a lot of other additional ‘negative’ stressors in my life at the time and work was ultimately just providing a distraction for my real stress.

I had planned to have my mental health breakdown the weekend after the curling bonspiel I helped organize teams for and after my VP was back in the Country and in the office. I had also planned to crash and be better in time for work on Monday. Opps! It seems this wasn’t one of my better plans -:). So I stressed myself out more extensively by figuring out how to explain I would not be in on Monday but I’ve also been experiencing some rapid cycling which is also net new and kinda crazy so while I was coming down and ultimately ‘crashing’ (crashing to me in this state means distressing enough so I can feel exhausted and just curl up and sleep for 15 hours or so & ‘normalize’ my sleep schedule in order so that my mental health will ‘normalize’ very soon afterwards.

But on Monday March 3rd my laptop and ipad stopped working; and as technology was my one last link to the outside world until normalizing (as I was afraid I would ‘harm’ people by stressing them out by being all crazy and shit and also by putting unnecessary additional strain on our health care system and myself as I believe it’s just going to ‘harm’ me and do far more additional damage than good. I wasn’t disappointed, I think it did but I didn’t have a clue how much additional information, insights and benefits I would get from the experience. I also didn’t know how much fun it is on the inside! Someone tell our Mayor it can actually be a pretty good time but you should probably also tell him to leave the crack at home otherwise you wont be allowed outside or alternatively you’ll be kicked back out and onto the streets… I think Jail is also an alternative solution for people in our society who aren’t ready for help. I believe our mental health care system & polices encourage jail as an alternative to psych wards for those who are not quite ready to get help yet. Any bets as to which option our Mayor choses first?

I went in to see my physician on Monday March 3rd and booked a hotel room for the evening so I didn’t have to come back to my house of weekend isolation. On Tuesday March 4th I scared my friends a bit too much with my crazy emails and crazy thoughts so I told them I would go to the ER if that’s what they & my physician thought was necessary to do. I’d already been seeing my physician regularly in Feb so she knew I was having significant sleep issues (she prescribed me the least risky sleeping pills as this was my decision but sleeping pills just make me feel terrible the next day and they only allow me an extra ~30-90 min of sleeping in time so not really a solution). She had already set up therapists and psychiatry appointments for me and was trying to expidite them but they decided on Tuesday that I should go to the ER. My doctor sent me to the ER where at the same hospital where she had set up my psych consult for; I believe she thought I could get in to the main floor ER and my 9th floor appointment could be expedited even quicker than she had hoped if she followed up my detest and distain but willingness for one more ER visit with a form 1. I’ve never heard of this before but practically speaking it essentially means you are being police escorted to the ER against your will. Which also in practice at least in my perception most people within the healthcare system and all of those who consider themselves ‘unqualified’ did and/or will believe to mean I posed a risk to society; either self-harm or other harm. Not untrue if you consider the harm I’ve done to my body owing to no sleep and forgetting to eat enough and equally not untrue if you consider the additional stress and anxiety I’ve caused for those who I did let know what was going on in the past three weeks. But I really, really hope I don’t have to work so hard to convince the rest of the people in my life that There is Nothing Wrong with Me & this was actually a pretty spectacular adventure! It had everything; the drama factor, the fear factor the excitement and elation. But most of all it taught me that I’ve got a lot more worth fighting for than just my work problem solving skills and the paycheck that allows me to maintain my independence, rights & freedoms that damn it I deserve because I am Canadian!!

ps – my sister flew in and helped planned my escape from Alcatraz (by this point I was considered voluntary and allowed outside for some fresh air for brief periods of relief and feeling human time). The 2-ER visit day was hell; getting locked up in a psych ward and stripped of my ability to make choices for myself has probably been my biggest life’s fear so it wasn’t all fun but I’m flexible, I adjusted and survived and had a great deal of fun doing so but I wasn’t prepared to wait another week and a half for the doctors to come back from their march skiing vacation so I could get assessed and released. But I’ll be going back (in May?) to find out if/what new mental health stigma they want to give me in my medical records but work wants me back and doesn’t feel the need to wait for this assessment and has indicated that I wont be punished for not complying with their ‘action plan’ of some more stupid drugs that will harm me. And as long as my current physician sticks around and keeps seeing me I’m totally fine with what ever net new negative stigma they want to give me; but I’d prefer to get them all (I think it’s just fair to assume I’d totally rock the post partum thing too but I just don’t think I can do it before May so how about we just have a little faith?).

FYI #1 – my physician has set me up with a really good therapist already and yesterday we talked about chiropractic, natopathic, massage and physiotherapy; an overall health & wellbeing approach that will work for me because it will also work with me & I’ll get a voice in matters related to my health & well being.

FYI #2 – I got the Mirena IUD out last Wednesday, got my period on Saturday and felt completely back to normal. That only lasted so long though, but that’s ok I’m still dealing with a lot of unresolved stress and anxiety but I’ve already resolved a heck of a lot of it & I won’t be back to a ‘normal’ life that requires ‘normal’ sleep for a while so I’ll just be a terrible, terrible sleeper and take naps, go to sleep when I am tired and not adhere to the action plan you might want to tell me I should because that’s what you’ll find when you Google sleep disorders. Trust me, I’ve probably already read that article anyway!

Anyway there’s a lot more to my ow personal version of One Who Flew Over the Cukoo’s nest during March Break but that’s enough for today; I’m trying to balance things better so I am going to go paint and clean and I have an orthodics appointment before my grand return to volleyball tonight; enough excitement & stress distractions already planned for the day (but I suspect I’ll have to check my new twitter addiction a few times too :).

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The Roller Coaster continues

I’ve got two existing blog posts well underway, started a few weeks ago in addition to the one I did post.  I’m guessing there was more than a little unconscious desperation at play, feeling myself starting the decent from the top of this roller coaster ride anticipating the bottom but not knowing how far down it goes or being able to see the subsequent assent.  After all it’s only July- it’s way too early to be spiraling down, some part of me has resigned myself to losing my winters, I’m not prepared to give up summer, or fall I love these seasons.

While I preach the value of mindfulness and self-acceptance as essential, I don’t live it, not when it comes to overwhelm, anxiety and/or depression (and a whole other host of things, like forgetting commas in emails and so forth).  All the ‘work’ I’m doing still tends to be focused on doing this work so I will be ‘fixed’, so I wont be subject to debilitating anxiety anymore, so I will be completely self-confident, insecurities will be gone and I will be able to thrive, peruse my dreams, not let anything stand in my way.

This week has been incredibly difficult, the anxiety is so high and is having significant physical and mental affects, there are times I thought for sure I am going down in some blaze of glory, at the moment I’m much less convinced that has to be the outcome.  There have been full conversations I’ve been a part of but haven’t heard anything, my body is on fire and I’d crawl out of my skin if there was a way to do that, my digestive system has shut down, falling asleep and eating have both been fairly challenging.  The negative thoughts, the ‘you’re life isn’t worthwhile, isn’t worth living’, the certainty that I am a failure, have already failed in my role that I’ll never get my house packed, the movers I booked wont show up and the individuals who signed a lease to rent my current house are certain to be fraudsters.

What I find interesting is the thoughts about my life not being worth living, these  are of the nuisance variety, and yeah they still get to me, they do bother me but I also find it super irritating when the streetcar short turns, if forced to rank irritants I’m not certain I could say which I find more upsetting.  But the thoughts of failure, the ‘not good enough’, the anxiety that paralyzes me with fear and renders me fairly unproductive (adding evidence as fuel to the fire of thoughts of my usefulness or chance of success in life or work), these are still extremely upsetting to me.  Practicing acceptance here is a struggle, but I’m seeing optimistic signs, I am seeing an impact.

I haven’t had much ability to change my thoughts, feelings or physical reactions but I’ve been able to distance myself somewhat, while I was highly unproductive and not performing I still showed up and managed maybe what might just be the bare minimum but it was something.

I really ramped up my gratitude practice, and started writing down my gratitude for things that I could find to be grateful for.  That I did ok at a meeting, that another meeting I had (and one I organized) didn’t go ok, but I can see that perhaps that’s not the end of the world, that my anxiety relaxed enough to allow me to eat a full lunch.  That I survived the day, that I made it until I got home before I started crying, and the next day that I made it through work, that I didn’t start crying until I was on the streetcar (And now I’m adding some gratitude that I can see the humor in the ridiculousness of all of this!).  Gratefulness for the people who have reached out to offer assistance to help pack/move, and while it’s uncomfortable for me that I’ve been able to say yes to some of those offers.

So much gratitude that there are people I can share this with, that I don’t have to wear a mask with (or those that can simply see through any mask I try to wear at this stage), for the individuals who have had or do still have related struggles or similar (acceptance/gratitude/mindfulness) practices that I can discuss this with.  Gratefulness that I have so many more tools to deal with these thoughts & feelings, that while it takes an incredible amount of energy and effort to stay present, there are moments I am able to do just that and can genuinely believe that maybe it is ok, to not be ok.

And maybe, just maybe if continue to practice, that if instead of believing the thoughts or fears that I am a failure, and if I’m able to give myself a break for not handling something in the best way, or for an unproductive day, or week that the highs and lows of the roller coaster ride I feel I’ve been stuck on may continue to decrease in magnitude over time.  The belief that the decrease in magnitude  has to be monotonically decreasing or I’ve failed is a limiting belief has and continues to have detrimental impacts to my ability to manage my life and emotions.  It’s one I need to be diligent about continuing to challenge.

While the 2 half written blog posts I have underway were motivated by desperation to speak (or more accurately, write) my experiences while I still have a voice left, this one isn’t.  This is motivated by the question, can I still participate in life when I feel like this?  Can I not take my thoughts, feelings and physical reactions and translate them into impending doom ahead? Can I still find my voice, my soul, myself when I’m on this side of the roller coaster?

I think maybe I can.

 

 

 

 

This last year

This has been an interesting year.  More interesting than 2014?  Maybe… perhaps not quite as spectacular, or not as spectacularly disastrous anyway.  Actually this last year wasn’t disastrous at all and it certainly could have been, for good chunk of it  I felt I was walking a thin line, one false step, one small gust of wind, that’s all it would have taken it to end in disaster but I held on, hopeful and determined and it’s really been the most amazing year.  I can hardly write that without a huge sigh of relief, because quite honestly I don’t think I could have handled another disaster, I’m exhausted.

Every year for at least the last decade, maybe longer I’ve started the year off and said to myself, with as much hope as I can muster, maybe, just maybe this will be the year things turn around for me.  I’ve never quite believed it before this year but I’ve always said it, mustering up what hope I could find so that maybe if I said it every year, maybe some day, some year it would be true.  Honesty though, I was starting to lose hope, I was starting to give up.  But giving up isn’t really in my true nature and I’ve always been scrappy, perhaps it was that last bit of hope starting to slip away, not much left to lose, may as well give it all I’ve got while I still have got something left to give.

But the beginning this year, this year when I said maybe this will be the year, this time it was the ‘maybe’ I doubted.  I really just thought yeah, this is the year, things are going to turn around.  The protector, my ego, added the maybe.  Confidence is still a struggle and giving myself permission to believe in myself, or life, that it can be anything other than miserable… well what would happen if I let myself believe that and then it ended up being miserable?  It would be devastating, heartbreaking and heartbreak doesn’t bring out the version of myself that I want to be, I generally don’t handle disappointment with grace.  So as long as I don’t believe life can be good,  as long as I don’t believe I am good enough, I am worthy then I can’t be let down when life throws me evidence to the contrary.  And if you are looking for it, there will always be evidence to the contrary, because life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and life isn’t fair.  It’s quite easy for my mind to translate all sorts of ordinary day events and interactions into evidence why I am not enough, or sometimes why no one else is.

This feeling, of true optimism for my future was foreign to me (or rather the permission to allow myself to be optimistic) and really strange too because this year really didn’t start well.  As per usual, and somewhat expected after a period of what they call mania, not sleeping for months anxiety and depression set in late last fall.  And I struggled, I was frustrated and not particularly accepting.  I was particularly frustrated this time around the anxiety/depression block because I really felt I’d had some success in managing my mood and my mind, that all my mindfulness practice was kicking in, that I’d had my TSN turning point.  But life will never be a straight line trajectory in any direction and it’s going to take me a lot longer to let go of the ”I need fixing, there is something wrong with me” mindset.  And when I say a lot longer, I recognize that likely means ‘until death do us part’, that I’ve spent 40-years (unconsciously) tensing against so called ‘negative’ emotions, training my brain to reject them, my emotions to go to shame when ever I feel them.  So breakthrough or not, it’s unlikely I’m magically going to wake up one day miraculously’ full of the perfect amount of completely justified confidence balanced with the perfect amount of humility and ‘cured’ from all insecurities, anxieties and feelings of worthlessness.

And if I’m going to allow myself to be completely vulnerable (ugh) , completely honest (double ugh), the other fear underlying the return of anxiety/depression was the part of the TSN turning point that had someone else believing in me, a belief that succumbing to anxiety/depression and the associated paralysis and inability to move forward, to accomplish, to produce, that generally accompanies high anxiety would disappoint, would make them realize they had made a horrible mistake in judgment about me.  Or maybe it wasn’t that so much the fear of disappointing them as it was the fear that they’d realize the truth, that really I was just a fuck up could never be anything more, that I was not worth of being believed in and certainly not worth their time or energy.  And just now as I type that, I’ve realized that again, this isn’t my real truth, this is just a defense mechanism masking the true fear that’s maybe too scary to look at, that what I was truly terrified about is not that they’d give up on me but rather that I might give up on me, for good this time.  Eleanor Roosevelt was spot on when she said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, but she didn’t tell the whole story, that on the flip side it’s also true that no one can make you feel loved, no one can make you feel good enough without your permission.  That you need to do the work yourself, that you need to give yourself permission to believe you are good enough, just as you are.  No one, and certainly no pill is ever going to make you feel worthy, to save you, this is work we need to do for ourselves.

So with all my preaching on the value and need for acceptance, not resisting I still have a long way (again, I suspect another ’till death do us part’ long journey) to go, especially when it pertains to health challenges.  But despite the resistance and great frustration, there was something so fundamentally different in this last year’s round in the ring with depression.  While I felt miserable and frustrated the permission to be optimistic stayed with me, maybe not right with me but beyond the subconscious, perhaps best described as some sort of mid state between the conscious and subconscious.  I didn’t feel optimistic, I felt frustrated but at the same time the belief in myself, optimism for a future, for thriving rather than just surviving was somehow also right with me.  I’m not articulating this very well and I don’t expect to, I’m not sure I really understand it.

The dreams and goals I had determined were truly mine didn’t go away, they stayed with me and I still believed in them.  I didn’t make any progress on any of them during this period, I didn’t move them forward or take any even minimal action but I’m ok with that, I think that’s life.  While goals, meaning and purpose are essential for thriving, and getting out of one’s comfort zone, being comfortable with being uncomfortable are all very important and things I agree in, I don’t agree we should be pursuing them all full force ahead.  There is time for all seasons and similarly while we need to spend time actively stretching ourselves, expanding our comfort zones and chasing goals, just as much we need to set aside time for quiet reflection, to relax and restore so we have the energy to go at it again, and the stamina to be resilient when we no longer have a choice because life has given us such a large kick in the ass, it’s less like stretch and more like being catapulted into a comfort zone in another dimension.

However, the rollercoaster I’m on between contraction and stretch and have been on for a long time isn’t healthy, it’s not balanced.  But it’s where I’m at and what I’ve learned to be true for myself is that until you can accept yourself where you are at, you’ll never accept yourself no matter where you get.  And not accepting yourself, it’s a detriment to getting anywhere because shame never motivated anyone to do anything, it just forced us to deeper in the closet.

My intent when I started writing and original title of this blog was to talk about the themes of this past year; being fear -> shame -> grief.  I touched on the first two but let go of expectations and ended up on a tangent so I guess I’ll need to circle back sooner than later with the my next blog and tie in how those themes played out over this past year.  For now I’m debating whether or not I want to properly edit this or just post?  I think I’ll just post, I can always come back to proof read and edit later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Depression

Dear Depression,

Actually scratch that, there’s nothing ‘dear’ about you, I hate you. How could I not?  You have stolen so much from me; time, confidence, self-worth… the list is long.  I feel like I could have had a better life, a meaningful life, actually made something of myself, had an impact, had a family of my own, been happy, been ”normal”… whatever that means.   I don’t understand what is fundamentally so bad about me that I don’t deserve happiness, why you have been so determined to convince me I don’t, that I’m just taking up space here in this world, that I’m a waste of a life.  You tell me I’m stupid and useless that I’ll never be good enough, you keep me small, telling me to get over myself and suck it up, so I pretend I’m ok.  Maybe if I just don’t let on, let anyone in, no one has to know that there is something wrong with me.

If I had anyone in my life who was even a small fraction of how emotionally abusive to me as you are, I would have gotten rid of them a long time ago. But you are a part of me, you are in my head or you are my head – I’m not really sure, I just know you have the ability to bring me down to a place so dark I fear I’ll never see the light again.  After all the time we’ve spent together you’d think by now I would have confidence to know that you’ll eventually leave, for a while anyway.  But I really hate it when you come to visit, I’m terrified you’ll never leave and when you do I’m always on edge wondering when you’ll come back.  I can’t even have a regular bad day anymore without at least a little paranoia creeping in, is this it?  Are you back?  How long are you going to stay this time?  6-months, a year, longer???   Am I strong enough to withstand another visit?  Am I strong enough to scrape myself off the floor and dust myself back off once you’re done with me this time?  Somedays I think I am, other days I simply can’t fathom how I can live through that again.

And I do feel like this is a weakness, a failing on my part, an epic failing that I’ve let you do this to me, that I haven’t been able to get rid of you, that I haven’t ‘fixed me’. I am well aware that’s precisely what one is not supposed to say, or even think about anyone with depression. I know it’s not the truth, but it’s my truth, a conditioned belief, another lie depression repeatedly tells me is true, about me. I am trying really hard to change my mindset; I know how very harmful this belief is to my own wellbeing, my potential to heal, but it’s engrained pretty deep and I fear I won’t be able to, that I won’t be able to accept you.  That I will never be able to truly accept myself.

You’ve brought me a lot of pain and suffering, but they say it’s life’s challenges that present the largest opportunities for growth and you have also taught me so much. You have made me a better person.  Depression is still so hard for me to wrap my head around, it’s not something I could have comprehended and I have strong doubts I even could have empathized with someone suffering from depression without the firsthand experiences I’ve had.  You forced me to slow down, to take stock, to realize I needed to start looking at my life, caring for myself, caring about myself rather than the perception of me and how my life looks on the outside.  I never would have done all this work; I wouldn’t have found mindfulness without you.  You’ve taught me about compassion, empathy and acceptance but I still have a lot of learning to do and a long journey ahead.  I know just how critical and powerful self-acceptance can be but I still haven’t been able to accept you and the impact you’ve had on my life.  I expect you will continue to return until I do learn to accept all of myself and maybe you’ll never leave me but with acceptance I believe we could learn to get along, I could make peace with you.

I’m sorry I have been and still am so angry at you. If I look a little deeper I know it’s not really anger I’m feeling but a mountain of shame and grief.  I’m not confident I’m strong enough yet to face all that pain and I need to protect myself from it, so for now I’ll continue to be a bit angry with you.

Yours truly,

Tamira

 

The Lost Years

Ok they aren’t really lost and I wasn’t lost (I was finding my way) but ‘the three years since I last blogged’ didn’t sound quite as catchy of a title.

A lot has happened in the last three years and I’ll reiterate (with a few additional exclamation marks) what I said earlier; had I know the journey to healing would be this hard I don’t think I would have ever been able to start down this route.

But I guess that’s why they say to just take it one step at a time. Because even just that one step is so difficult that it seems more insurmountable than Everest. But if you can find the strength to take just that one step, the next one will might be a minuscule, unnoticeable amount less difficult and then one day you might wake up to realize that if you reflect on the last five years of your life you can see how clearly all those minuscule improvements actually amount to what is noticeable change. That even though it still feels like Everest, that’s just a feeling – not reality. The reality is it’s much more like Kilimanjaro somedays and other days it’s almost feels like a walk in the park and you think to yourself, might I end up taking up running one of these days?

And the other thing that starts to emerge to consciousness is that all those years it felt like you were taking one step forward and ten backwards… it wasn’t the ten that mattered. You survived, and surviving is precisely what you needed to do, however you had to do it. And sure, some of your survival mechanisms are precisely the reason you had to climb Everest rather than Kilimanjaro but no matter, if you can summit Kili it’s just a few more thousand feet to the top of Everest. Those rare and singular steps you somehow managed to take, it turns out they were so much bigger than you could have imagined, they were laying the ground work that allowed you to start climbing once you found yourself on the right side of your rockbottom.

Ok so this entry took a completely different direction than I anticipated but I’m learning to go with the flow. Anyway back to those lost years… All I meant to say here is this: a lot happened and I’ll probably come back to fill in the details at some point, for now the only detail of any note is that I am no longer working for the same organization that I was over the period the previous blog entries were made. Sometimes a change of scenery really can make a difference.

11-Month Update

A friend shared the opinion with me last year ‘it takes a year to recover from the trauma of being incarcerated* in a mental ward’. I’m paraphrasing perhaps and using the word ‘incarcerated’ I don’t recall the exact language used but this is the word I would use.

It was said with compassion and meant to be encouraging and supportive, and I took it that way, but at the same time the one year time frame was daunting at times. Surviving another year, and then 9-mths, and then 6-mths, and then 3-mths, somehow trying to reconcile what I’ve always believed about myself with the fact that I was forcibly locked up against my will and then subsequently unable to work and on disability, twice. Terrifying.

But now it’s a tad over been 11-months since I was locked up and a tad under 11-months and one week since I executed my dramatic One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest / Prison Break escape [Footnote #1] and I’m no longer counting the days, trying to survive in hopes that that ‘one year to recover’ holds true for myself as well. I only realized just now while writing his and doing the math how close I am to that anniversary.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ll ever fully ‘recover’ and I frankly don’t want to if that starts to mean what ‘recovery’ used to mean to me. And while I’m still experiencing some issues with my physical health and my mental and emotional health is not ‘perfect’ and certainly not without challenges I’ve been really happy lately, feeling pretty passionate about life, my future and optimistic about my ability to remain content in the future, during the periods of time when I don’t feel quite so happy or passionate about life.

I’m starting to believe in myself, to believe in life, trying to let go of control and let life happen. At the same time I think the scariest thing of all to me, at least on par if not more frightening than the inevitably that depression, to some degree will eventually return is the fear of happiness. Things just seem to be going so well right now, I’m not worried that they won’t always feel quite this good – I just know that’s fact, that’s life I’m not scared of letting go of my current ‘loving life’ state of mind.

I am however, quite worried that this love of life, not hating myself but rather feeling pretty content with myself flaws and all, is not real. I’m worried that the reality is all of this just means I really am actually delusional and everything I’ve been feeling and tried to summarize written a warning sign that I’m becoming manic.

Grandiose thoughts that I’m actually an ok person and happiness, (although slightly drenched in cynicism and personal projection) I have been told aren’t reality but rather is just a result of my illness and there’s a pill or three that can’t cure me but can help numb me so I don’t have these delusional thoughts that cause me to believe I’m ok just being me.

And being worried about being happy, being content with myself, being worried that I’ll get locked up and stripped of my rights and freedoms as a Canadian? Well that just makes me fucking angry. Or perhaps it just makes me really sad and the anger is an easier emotion for me to accept.

Either way, I’m not going to be able to fully let go of the anger I’ve been carrying around especially as it pertains specifically to (what I would call) the abuse I’ve suffered from CAMH under the false pretence of it being ‘help’ over the past 3 years.

But it’s a beautiful day out here in cottage country, there’s all sorts of fresh snow and a pair of snow shoes calling my name so now I’m going to go burn off another layer of that anger, I don’t think Mother Nature will mind if I take it out on her and that beautifully fluffy, bright white snow!

Completely random extra note: the book Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs – super funny & totally worth reading! I keep having to stifle my laughter in order to avoid waking up the not-so-early risers up here in cottage country. It’s one of life’s challenges I’m striving to cope with better going forward, think i can handle this one.

Footnote # 1 (Start)

ok so the reality is my incarceration and subsequent ‘dramatic’ escape wasn’t really all that dramatic, but it was for me and this is my story. And in the interest of full disclosure I’ve never even watched a full episode of Prison Break so it’s possible if I watched the show I’d find the fictional Prison Break escape to be far more dramatic than my real adventures in escape.

If I do ever get around to watching the TV show, and this is the case I’ll be sure to publish a full retraction to my blog and a follow up apology to the writers and cast and crew of Prison Break. But right now catching up on Grey’s Anatomy and the Good Wife is higher on my TV watching priorities list and I’ve already fallen miserably far behind.

Footnote # 1 (End)

Back to work, again…

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here, things have been hard and I guess I’ve been scared to revisit the blogging, admitting things to myself is hard enough, publishing them a tiny bit more difficult, plus I’ve been feeling pretty low and didn’t want to end up just complaining. Back in the spring I felt so good, so optimistic about life, about myself, about my ability to take responsibility for my health and for things to be different going forward. Anyway it hasn’t ended up being quite as easy as that… but I guess life wasn’t meant to be easy.

After a few months back at work, the inevitable crash they all say happens after a manic episode occurred, although probably better described as anxiety rather than depression but I think they are more or less one in the same, just slightly different manifestations of the same thing – as is mania. Anyway, anxiety hit me full force and it was debilitating (or rather I let it be debilitating??); and at my doctor’s advice I decided to go back off work.

I realized it wouldn’t be easy, but had I had a clue how difficult (or long) it would be I suspect I would have opted to remain at work and plough through until the overwhelming anxiety subsided. And I think I probably could have done it, I’ve done it before and in the short term I think I would have been better off having work to distract me from the real issue(s). But I think I needed the time to observe and be present with what is going on the other side, in a depressive or anxiety-ridden state when anything but hating myself feels like a difficult endeavor.

Given the hassles, stress and anxiety associated with trying to obtain disability insurance, not having any control over the process or any clue how it works, timing etc. I suspect working may have been less stressful. After over 3.5 months I found out my disability insurance claim has been rejected, there’s still one more opportunity to appeal but I don’t have the heart for it and I had started to feel quite a bit better and I’m tired of not working, being at home with my thoughts all day so I am just in the process of trying to coordinate back to work start date.

I had expected I’d know the decision a long time ago, I’ve never been a patient person to begin with and this waiting, uncertainty has caused a fair amount of stress; I think I’ve handled both the waiting and the decision a lot better than I would have in the past but nevertheless it’s causing me stress and my digestive system is acting up; I suspect as both a direct result of stress and an indirect as a result of some nervous eating, but it’s waking me up at 4am and that in turn causes more stress.

There are so many thoughts swirling around my head about going back to work and the increase in stress I’ve felt; how I won’t be able to handle work how it’s all going to come crashing down on me, I will fail, I wont be able to sleep and I’ll end up manic again, or I’ll crash and burn too tired to make it through the day etc. etc. etc. Not like I haven’t heard this a million times, but I’m still not quite capable of laughing it off; it’s effective because I am stressed about the return to work, mostly I’m just scared.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood”
— Marie Curie

Unfortunately believing this statement to be true doesn’t prevent the fear from existing or from taking me over and I’ve been living under a great deal of fear for all of 2014 and I’m exhausted my nervous system and my digestive system are exhausted and neither are working properly.

I was chatting with a friend who suggested that perhaps until I really, really believe that I am not going to cease existing then I will continue to exist with a nervous system that’s ready for the fight of it’s life; it doesn’t know the difference between a real threat and the threat made up by a mental story. I think this is true and the fear of not being able to handle work, when I look at it is the fear of never being able to work again ultimately means losing my friends, my house, family, becoming homeless and it means I’ve been defeated by mental illness and people will find out I’m ‘crazy’ (opps, kind of late for that one!).

I don’t even know that I would have considered getting locked up in a mental facility as my worse case scenario prior to this year, simply because I don’t think I would have believed it to be a plausable scenario. Not that I believe any longer that not working right now means I will lose everything but somehow the story where losing my job (same as not being able to work) means I eventually lose everything resonates, affects me and scares the shit out of me and now so does the possibility of being locked up as it clearly is a plausible scenario!

So despite already living through being off work twice, being locked up and while none of it has been pleasant and it’s been extremely challenging none of it holds a candle to the fear of such events and none of these terrible downstream effects have occurred but I still can’t seem to shake the stories. I don’t know that I’ll really be able to believe I’m ‘safe’ until I have been back at work for some time, have regained confidence and no longer live in fear of not being able to.

So yes, I am scared, I don’t know how many more ‘failures’ or setbacks or stress I can handle this year. I’ve ploughed through working during some pretty dark times and while there are all sorts of doubts about going back and stories about how I can’t do it, I kinda think I can. I think it will be rough for the first few months but I’m pretty sure I can do it and deep down I know I can handle whatever is to come, even if I go back to work and it doesn’t work.

Today I’m angry, and then I’m not…

Today I’m angry, they say how you feel is your own choice. I agree, I’m angry because I want to be today. Because like happiness anger is also a generally acceptable emotion. As long as your not too happy or too angry you are ok, you are normal. So because sadness isn’t acceptable unless someone dies and because it’s somewhat exhausting too and I’m tired after 2-days of feeling sad today I am choosing to be angry.

But I’m not angry at anyone in particular, either because I can’t find a good candidate or I’m just not interested in being angry at anyone specific, not sure. I’m just angry with life, I’m angry with the human race or perhaps more accurately the human condition or conditioning. I’m angry that I’ve lost so much of my life to surviving rather than living. I’m angry I continue to not live every moment to its fullest and I’m pissed off that I’ve already lost so much time that I can’t simply be happy now all the time, that I have to grieve and start to sort through it all and likely continue to uncover the memories that are lost. That’s going to suck I really am not interested in knowing any details or uncovering actual memories of traumatic events, I can now see the impact it’s had on me the self hatred that’s been my primary mentor until recently.

But alas I don’t feel I will have much say in this matter, I suspect that as I start to get stronger both emotionally and physically that it’s likely to happen, but maybe not who knows. But I can take whatever comes and I’m trying to let go of worry of what might be and stay present because in my experience when those worst case events do happen, I can deal with them and it’s not as catastrophic as I spend much time imagining them to be.

I started writing this a few days ago, but before I started I made myself a delicious peanut butter with dark chocolate (no added sugar) smoothie and it was so good I was no longer jealous of the people I passed walking home with take out pizza and as I wrote I guess I got bored with being angry, realized I don’t like being angry all that much, it’s kind of boring after an hour or two so I decided instead to be happy.

Yesterday was sunny and nice outside – and a Friday, so it wasn’t difficult at all to be happy but definitely more enjoyable while I’ll no doubt still get angry and still be sad from time to time, I’m going to choose to be happy more often than not. And when I’m angry or sad I’ll treat myself with some compassion and allow myself those feelings momentarily but i won’t let them linger for long and I’ll be more careful going forward with respect to expressing sadness or grief because as someone who has a number of black marks on my (mental health) medical record this will only serve as further evidence that I’m crazy and should be medicated back into silence.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up anytime soon, silence is what allows this (sexual abuse, victimization of victims of abuse – sexual or mental health) to continue. So I’m sorry for you if this makes you uncomfortable, it is an uncomfortable topic, but pretending it’s not happening doesn’t stop it from happening so while I’m sorry the topic makes you uncomfortable, I refuse to be sorry for talking about it.