Taking life one little bit at a time…

20180509_150012.jpgThere was a time, before, when I didn’t need lists. Stuff needed to be done so I did stuff. It was that simple. Now I get overwhelmed so easily. I forget to do things or get halfway through and just stop because there’s too much to do. But I’ve found a way to help. I wouldn’t be writing this post except I know I’m not the only one in this situation. The solution I’ve found is to micromanage and make lists.

When I was in grade school and when Colin was as well, the teachers set up something called “chunking”. That’s taking a big task and breaking it into little tasks. Let’s take a shower for example, because I’m pretty sure that almost everyone with a mental illness struggles with this. Don’t write down “have shower” if you know you’re going to really struggle. Write down get undressed, put clothes in hamper, turn on shower, shampoo hair, rinse, condition hair, shave legs and pits (optional), wash body, rinse hair and body, turn off shower, dry off, get dressed. It’s a lot of stuff but it gives you a chance to work through every step so you’re not stuck just conditioning and forgetting to wash or missing shaving one leg.

As you can see from my list above, I’ve done some minor chunking. Laundry has three mentions because all three steps are separate and, as you can also see, the chore chart is almost done. All that’s left is dinner, which is still cooking as it’s only 3:30pm. I even got my 10 thousand steps in on the Oshawa Creek Trail and doesn’t that leave a sense of accomplishment.

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Everything’s so green! I didn’t even need a sweater today!!!

 

If I’d been left to my own devices, without a list today, I don’t think I’d have got nearly as much done. One thing chunking and writing a list does is help you maximize your time. For example, I had laundry to wash today. It takes an hour and 38 minutes but in reality I’m only spending 5 to 10 minutes down there total. So my lunch was eaten while the laundry was in the washer and I made the biscuits while my laundry was in the dryer. By the time it finished, I’d not only made the biscuits but washed the dishes and taste tested two biscuits (the second just to be sure of course). My two heart shaped biscuits are in the fridge, ready to go for tomorrow, and my favourite tea cup is tucked safely away in one of my favourite bags, also for tomorrow (we’re having tea and biscuits).

Making a list gives you some accountability. It’s easier to put something off until tomorrow when it’s not staring you in the face. Also, pro tip, you will not want to do that thing tomorrow either. It’s better to get it over with unless you’re totally out of spoons. No one wakes up with a smile on their face and says, “Yay! I can’t wait to scrub the toilet today!”

The other side of micromanaging is don’t add too many things to your list. Just because they’re in smaller chunks doesn’t magically give you more energy. Listen to your inner voice, or in my case, the scribble in my stomach, that says “whoa there, I’m going to be crying in a fetal position halfway through dealing with this list”. I don’t care what your Mom, your uncle, or your friend Sarah can do in a day. Unless they’re coming over and doing this for you, plan for your limits. I could throw scrubbing the bathroom onto my list today no problem. Would I have the energy to do it? Hell no.

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For my fellow spoonies

So try taking your life in baby steps. It might seem overly simplistic when you first start but when you’ve got a day that requires a lot of spoons it can be a real lifesaver!

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Yay! My chores are done!!!

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Playing depression limbo…

I got my glass measuring cup from the cupboard and started carefully pouring milk. It took me a couple of seconds to realize it was cow’s milk. I’ve been vegan for five years. No harm done though. Oreo was right by my feet so I pulled out a ramekin and gave him the milk before carefully rinsing the cup. I put the milk away and got out a carton of cashew milk and set it on the counter then got a carton of cashew milk and stared in bewilderment.

I laughed about my forgetfulness and made a humorous post on Facebook. Then it came time to make dinner the following evening and I just did not have the energy to make anything. The simplest meals seemed much too hard. So I had an english muffin with peanut butter and a mug of hot chocolate, my usual breakfast and standard depression dinner.

Last night I had a dream that I was an inpatient in the psychiatric ward again. I can remember thinking “how did I get here?” and remember the frustration of being back yet again.

This morning I finally recognized the depression clinging to me like tar. It’s heavy and weighs down everything I do, making each task take twice as long. I tried to carefully plan my breakfast but still ended up with two hot chocolate mugs waiting on the counter because I’d completely forgotten I’d got one out already. Depression fucks with your memory.

20180505_101511.jpgI know life isn’t fair but that was my first thought anyhow. I’m on twelve pills a day (seven prescriptions) and have been trying so hard. The weather’s getting nicer, the sun’s shining, and the buds are almost exploding from where they’ve been hiding all winter. Every day brings a bit more green… a bit more colour. I should be happy. I should be eagerly anticipating Kait and Josh’s move to their first apartment together. I should be eagerly anticipating their first child and my first grandchild. I should be thrilled to pieces about Colin’s acceptance into college prep classes. And I am… underneath all that tar. So far anhedonia hasn’t reared it’s ugly head. I’m still scrapbooking, still going to karaoke, still visiting family.

So I’m going to dye my hair teal and take the bus to my parents’ house this afternoon, hoping I can fake it well enough to be good company. And I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Depression has pulled out the limbo game of “how low can you go?” but I’m not interesting in playing that. Hopefully, somehow I can work past it. Hopefully I’ve got enough supports in place to work through and past this depressive state.

Two years…

I deserve better blankTwo years ago I cried until I thought I could cry no more and still the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes swelled shut and my head ached. I felt like my entire world had fallen in on me and there was nothing left but ruins. Like there was only one option left and that was to jump off my 7th storey balcony to the unforgiving pavement below. All that stopped me was the concern that it might not be high enough. What would happen if I ended up paralyzed? I wouldn’t be able to try again.

Luckily for me I’m a writer. I write about everything and this was no exception. I got on Facebook and a veritable flood of words was released. I lied and said I wasn’t planning to kill myself. Even so, what I said was worrying enough that my sister Jen called then drove me down to the hospital. My Mom traded off with her when Jen had to pick up her kids. It takes a long time to be seen for mental health issues but they do keep close track of you.

In some ways that day feels like the beginning of a whole different life but it wasn’t. I’d been struggling with my mental health for at least a year. My family doctor started me on Effexor the spring of 2015 and prescribed Ativan for my rare panic attacks. It was getting harder and harder to stay at work. Some days I’d grip the sides of the cash register or my arms in an attempt not to run screaming out the door. I had always been the fun loving person. I cracked jokes, sang along with the radio, hugged people who liked hugging, and joked with the regular customers. My manager joked that Happy was my theme song. All that slowly drained away as my focus turned inward, a silent struggle to keep running my life.

20180418_101120.jpgIt’s been two long years but I’m slowly rebuilding my life. I’m printing out my scrapbooking pages and am finally up to mid 2017. I’m starting to read again and am thinking, once again, about my novel. I’ve joined three groups and enjoy every one of them. I visit my family every week and try to get out once a month for karaoke (yes, I can sing LOL). It’s not the same life I had before. My attention span is negligible. I find two hour classes to be just long enough. Any more would be overwhelming. But I’m surrounded by friends and family. Life is good.

Am I back to normal? No. I’m currently taking twelve pills in order to function and still struggle with anxiety. Am I happy? Yes. And I think that’s the most important answer of them all.

building your life

Struggling with irrationality…

I’ve lived in my body for 47 years now and I had grown accustomed to how it behaved. Well at least up until two years ago when my depression quickly spiraled out of control and my anxiety skyrocketed.

These days I’m taking Effexor, Abilify, Mirtazapine, and Lithium to keep my depression in check and so far they’re working quite well. But I’m only taking one Clonazepam a day and, quite frankly, I might as well be taking a baby aspirin for the amount of help it seems to offer. I’m not about to stop taking it to see if it gets any worse. It got dropped down by half once already and that was not good.

Right now I’m working on getting myself out of the house for walks at least five times a week. On three of those days, I’m in a group right beside the Oshawa Creek trail so it makes sense to walk either there or back. That leaves two days to find an alternate path. Thankfully I have two other trails I frequent plus the walking track at our local recreation centre.

The hard part is getting out of my house. It’s so much safer and comfortable at home, especially in my room. I can read, write, scrapbook, and chat with friends. But the more time I spend at home, the stronger the urge is to not leave. And that’s a trap I don’t want to fall into.

I have my main trail mapped out in detail. I start out by the Midtown Mall then go under the John Street bridge, through the park, under the Gibb Street bridge, etc. I know the order of every bridge I’m going under and how many more I have to pass. That still doesn’t stopped the occasional sudden panicked feeling that I’m not home and, even if I left right now, I wouldn’t be home any time soon. I feel like a mouse under the gaze of a hawk, trapped and absolutely petrified. It takes every ounce of strength I have to keep taking one step after another. Thankfully the panic eventually fades, especially with a breathing exercise or counting down my senses (five things I can see etc).

Or like today. I was almost to the end of the trail, almost to my Social Recreation group, when a miniature street sweeper approached, cleaning the concrete path. The driver stopped the sweeper and waited for me to pass before starting again. Meanwhile I struggled with intense panic because that wasn’t supposed to happen. I can pass all the fishermen and women, the dog walkers, the joggers, the bikes, the people in scooters, the people on electric motorbikes… with no problem at all. I see them all regularly. But I’d never seen a sweeper on the trail. It was something new. Something different.

It’s frustrating because I know full well that’s an irrational fear. It makes sense to have a vehicle to clean the path. But that realization didn’t stop my heart from pounding or my chest from tightening, squeezing my lungs and making it hard to breathe. I assured myself, again and again, that I was safe and almost to group. It was only three blocks away. Even so I was still trembling slightly when I walked into the room and poured myself a glass of water. Luckily I don’t think anyone noticed.

It’s calling for rain all tomorrow so I’ll be walking on the track in our recreation centre. I haven’t walked there since December so I’m hoping my anxiety won’t be too overwhelming and that my music will help soothe it down.

The past two years have been a roller coaster of moods, emotions, and irrational fear and I don’t see them disappearing any time soon. Hopefully I’ll get used to this new normal, at least enough to make peace with it. Hopefully I can smooth out those irrational fears.

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Little blue flowers beside the Oshawa Creek

Planning ahead…

This past week has been weird. We had rain that turned to freezing rain, then snow, then freezing rain again, then more rain. Everything was slick with ice on Sunday so we cancelled our weekly visit to my parents’ and then my Tuesday group got cancelled even though the ice had melted by then, leaving only the snow.

slush and snowIt was Wednesday when I realized I didn’t want to go anywhere. Not to the walking track, not to the Cedar Valley trail, not even downstairs to the treadmill. I just wanted to stay home, safe in my room. I didn’t need a medical degree to know this wasn’t good. So I went for my walk, despite the anxiety. The walk was horrible. Half the sidewalks weren’t shoveled and the snow was grainy and treacherous. I’d take a step that seemed firm… until it wasn’t and my foot was sliding down and sideways. Then I finally got to the trail and discovered it was 90% slush and 10% running water. I looked at the mess shown in the picture, turned around, and walked back home. The good news is I still got my 10 thousand steps in.

I got back on track with my group yesterday then had my group again today followed by a walk home on the Oshawa Creek trail… a trail that’s, thankfully, paved and shoveled.

One of the group facilitators commented yesterday on the groups stopping for summer, which made me realize that my whole schedule is going to change completely come the end of June. In one way that’s obvious, it’s just I hadn’t been thinking that far in advance. But those handful of days with no schedule made me realize I really need a schedule, whether it’s external or self imposed.

One thing I know I’ll need to incorporate is walking. I figure if I get up, have breakfast, then go for a walk, that will get the day started on a good footing. I’ll also need to carve out family time, likely Sunday as that’s the day we’ve been meeting. And when Kait starts her maternity leave, I’ll need to carve out time to visit with her and, eventually, the wee one.

I figure if I start planning slowly now, I’ll have a good, solid plan by the time summer rolls around. A plan that incorporates exercise, fresh air, and healthy food. A plan that doesn’t end with me retreating even farther into my room.

World Semicolon Day…

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image by Project Semicolon

As most of you know, I struggle with mental health issues. I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, and agoraphobia (something I’m fighting hard against). I’ve been suicidal several times and luckily enough cognizant of the fact enough to ask for help. I’ve been hospitalized four times.
 
Today I speak out in support of world semicolon day for the millions who are too scared to speak up. Too scared to say something’s wrong. Too scared to reach out because they are positive no one will care. I promise, someone will care. I have a list of numbers and websites here that offer help and support.
 
Today I am grateful I didn’t jump.
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February 75th…

I am so tired of winter, especially since it’s April. I don’t want to see snow or ice, of which we have both. I want to see green sprouts in the grass and flowers beginning to bloom. So far that hasn’t been the case although the long range forecast calls for sunshine and warmth by the end of the week. I’ll believe that when I see it. And, since I’m stuck inside, I’m working on our “spring cleaning”.

Ato do listbout a week ago, Colin decided to turn our storage closet into a computer room, which meant relocating a bunch of stuff to the living room. Some of it’s been moved but there’s still a handful of stuff in need of a home. Cleaning that clutter was one of the chores on my to do list two days ago, along with cleaning off the kitchen table and repairing my Canada Day decoration… which made it’s way out of the storage closet to collapse into four pieces on my kitchen table. The rest of the chores have thankfully been completed, it was just those three remaining.

I know I’m going to be cleaning the living room on my own, simply because Colin currently has homework he’s ignoring. Homework that will suddenly become of major importance as soon as I set foot in the living room. But, whether he helps or not, it has to get done, and I’ll feel so much better without the clutter. Does anyone else feel crummy when the house is messy?

I don’t know why but for some reason I feel like my head’s stuffed full of clouds today. I’m trying to concentrate on writing but my mind tugs in all sorts of directions and my thoughts feel mushy. I’ve got no other way to explain it. At least I don’t need much brain power to clean, although I probably could use it to write. I’ll edit this later to add an after picture of the living room. My before picture is only going into my accountability group on Facebook.

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The clean living room. Colin brought the patio umbrella in because it was windy then decided it made our apartment look more “springlike”. Also, it’s snowing… again.