Suicide Prevention Month…

I stood at the patio door and stared into the distance, my hands leaving sweaty prints on the glass. The space between the door and railing was empty and then there was nothing but air between me and the ground seven stories down. Eight if you included the slope to the basement. Seven or eight stories down to concrete or the dumpster if I aimed well enough. And in that case they wouldn’t have to do anything with me at all, just take me away with the trash. That’s all I was, wasn’t I?

I backed away carefully. Was it far enough of a drop? I figured it was but what if it wasn’t? I didn’t want to end up a quadriplegic, unable to try again.

Was it or wasn’t it?

My mind flipped between the two as I sat down to write a rambling note on Facebook. Within half an hour my sister was on her way to pick me up and take me to the hospital. Within four hours I had a diagnosis and a psychiatrist. Then I went to my parents’ house to stay safe for a week.

medsI’ve been admitted to the hospital around four or five times since then, luckily not in the past year, and take enough pills each day that I’m surprised I don’t rattle. I still struggle daily with anxiety. Some days I can’t make it out of the house. Some days I panic in the grocery store. And I have down weeks where I struggle to keep up with the chores and make semi regular meals. Everything seems too much. English muffins get turned into a meal far too often and, even then, they seem so complicated. I’ll stand in the kitchen, near tears, hoping the muffin will be toasted soon so I can scurry back to my room. And did I turn on the microwave for hot chocolate? Maybe… maybe not… and a five minute chore turns into a half hour.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and today is National Suicide Prevention Day and I want to tell you something. Depression lies. It lies hard and it lies deep, hitting at every sore spot it can. It tells you that you’re worthless, that no one cares, you don’t matter, you’ll never matter, no one will ever love you, you’re ugly, stupid, lazy. Meanwhile it’s the one that’s lazy because it tells those same lies to everyone. It’s not just you. I honestly felt the same way too. I didn’t think my family cared. Meanwhile I’d been pulling away from them and they thought I didn’t care.

Reach out for help. There is help available. Check my resources page above for phone numbers and websites. Go to your local PFLAG meeting for community. And go to your ER if you are at the end of your rope and just can’t manage any longer. It will be a long and boring wait but they’ll have staff there to help you.

Be honest with your friends. You’ll be surprised by how many of them are suffering themselves and are looking for someone to talk to. You’ll be surprised by how much support you can get.

You are valuable. You are important. You are worth it. You matter.

Save a life today. Save yours.

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Where are the stars?

picture 2First came Kate Spade. I knew about her vaguely¬† because she brought out a purse shaped piggy bank titled “Kate saved” and I’d debated on buying it for Kait for her birthday. My Mom pointed out it was a play on words with the designer’s name, which I’d never heard before. I didn’t hear about her again until I found out she’d strangled herself to death with her red scarf.

Then came Anthony Bourdain. I don’t even know anything about him, just that he was 61 years old and had been fighting depression and substance abuse.

And then came the Facebook posts saying that he didn’t die too soon. He’d struggled for years and had lived a lifetime. That he’d had 30 more years than someone who’d died at thirty-one and the poster would have given anything for those thirty extra years.

I’m a hell of a lot closer to 61 than I am 30 and I can tell you right now that it isn’t enough. I want the chance to see my grandchild grow up. I want to see him finish high school, to fall in love. He’d only be 13 if I died then.

And I sit here in the sunshine and wonder where’s the light. It’s supposedly darkest before the dawn but I’m staring into the east and there’s no sun rising there.

They say that in the darkness there’s stars but the depths are inky black and no pinpricks of light are shining back at me.

I told my psychiatrist that those two were rich, with all the amenities that affords. The best therapists. The best counselling. I’m, well, not rich. I worry about falling through the cracks to land seven stories below. I guess technically eight because there’s a slope under my apartment.

My psychiatrist is worried about me.

When is going to the hospital the best choice to make and when is it running away from my problems? I’m already avoiding both balconies. My mind spools like an old film projector, showing reel after reel of me jumping. But, at the same time, I need to get the letters from our office for Revenue Canada. I need to deliver my new prescription to the pharmacy. And my cats would miss me.

And I look to the sky and hope, in vain, to see the stars.

hardest thing

2016… the year that won’t die…

2016I started out thinking that 2016 was going to be my year. My best friend of five years had asked me to start dating him and, by February, we were already hammering out rough plans for a simple, yet simply perfect, wedding… complete with a hot air balloon ride and trip to the Doctor Who museum. I bought plane tickets to see him in October and had a countdown going on my phone for how many days I had left. He was counting down too.

At first the goal was for him to move in with me but then we switched to me moving there. I didn’t realize it at the time but a lot of the reason for my decision was deep depression. I simply didn’t feel like anyone other than Lenny wanted me so what point was there in staying in Canada?

I knew I was struggling. I had Ativan from my family doctor for panic attacks and a low dose of Effexor for depression and I still had to hold myself back with all my strength some days to keep from running, screaming, out the front door of work. I couldn’t do that. I needed to be employed. I needed to stay employable so that I could move. So I transferred stores to work at one a five minute walk from home. That cut out two hours of transit time a day but my anxiety and depression increased. I confessed to Lenny that I was suicidal and he broke up with me two days later. Then I wrote a long and rambling letter on Facebook which was worrying enough that my sister took me to the hospital.

Going to the hospital netted me with more medication and a psychiatrist but things weren’t perfect. There were gaps between the various forms of disability assistance and I had three months with no income (not sequentially). Lenny first backed out on having me stay over then he blocked me the morning after my first hospital stay. I’ve never heard from him again.

It wasn’t until the late fall that things started picking up but I was still suicidal and still struggling. And flipping the calendar to 2017 didn’t solve anything. I was back in the hospital in January and February. Then came income tax time and me, in my infinite wisdom, decided that maybe I wasn’t in the best mental condition to do my taxes, even though I do them every year. So I hired someone.

July rolled around and I got an unexpected windfall of $200 and change. It was nice but there had to be a reason why. And that reason was the person who did my taxes never included my rent so, when it came time to calculate the Trillium benefit, I got the bare minimum. So I worked with the Canadian Revenue Agency, sent in the information, and requested a lump sum payment in June 2018 instead of monthly payments.

Then Colin got audited for, you guessed it, 2016. They wanted proof of rent. We got a basic income tax statement showing out total rent and I wrote a letter on it saying he paid half while I paid the other half. Then his GST cheque arrived and I figured that was good enough. It wasn’t. He got another letter asking for proof that he’s on the lease AND proof he pays half the rent. Nothing’s ever that easy.

Trillium was supposed to be deposited yesterday. I checked at 7:30am when I woke up and nothing. But I’ve had deposits as late as 8am so I wasn’t too worried. At least until 8am arrived and my money didn’t. I had a group to attend so I called the CRA while I was walking to the bus, the whole bus ride, and walking to the group. Two wrong numbers and a number that lead to a message stating “All our operators are dealing with other clients and our queues are full. Please try again later.” Finally I got someone who wasn’t dealing with Trillium but used some of the same software. He discovered they didn’t have my letter so he transferred me to someone else who gave me a bunch of information that I wrote on a sheet of paper towel. I’d love to say that was it but I also had to sign up for their online site and that was another headache with another phone call.

So tomorrow I have to write a letter for our building’s office asking for a letter for both Colin and I and for him to be finally put on the lease. Then I need to hand deliver it first thing Monday morning and hope our letters are ready soon. Maybe then will 2016 finally be done and buried because I’m telling you, it is truly starting to stink!

 

Foggy with a 100% chance of confusion…

I left home this morning with a big bag of cleaning supplies, a broom, a mop, and the sound of Colin yelling, “Fuck! I’m going to be late for school!”

I was heading to Kait’s new apartment to clean it before they moved in. I find that when you move into a high rise, you can pretty much expect a clean place. Anything smaller and you just have to hope. This was a hope situation.

I walked in the front door and immediately had a panic attack, made more annoying by my thoughts of, ‘You’re supposed to be cleaning! You don’t have time for this!’ Luckily panic attacks, like kidney stones, aren’t forever and I eventually started to clean.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this was either a midnight move or one done by the laziest people ever. I’m betting on the latter. The fridge was still full of food, most of which was expired. Their dishtowel was still waiting to dry the cup in their dish rack. And the shampoo and conditioner were still in the bathtub, partially hidden by the shower curtain they’d left behind.

I took out four big bags of garbage and scrubbed everything imaginable and then Kait called. Her internet provider was coming over now, three hours early, and needed an adult there. So I agreed to stay.

Just over a half hour later, it was my turn to panic. Someone still needed to be there for internet guy but I had my emergency psychiatrist appointment to discuss the Mirtazapine along with my appointment with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Kait agreed to come back right then but they were 20 minutes away and the bus to get me to my appointment on time was in 10 minutes. But what could I do? I was still needed there.

And then it fell into chaos. My bus, which would take my right to my appointment didn’t show up. The one that arrived turned east about five blocks too early instead. Then I got to the downtown stop at the same time as my appointment was due to start… with my bus due in five more minutes. It arrived and three strollers had to get organized. Then the driver had to wait for two elderly people, one of which was across the street. I am very pro waiting for seniors but my flabber was ghasted that it all happened then. There’s usually a stroller or a senior.

I got to the hospital and the elevator door closed right in front me. Then there was a line at the receptionist desk. Finally I was able to go sit down and hope I’d get in.

I’d already called everyone so it was known I’d be late. I had my mental health appointment in the waiting room then explained, sheepishly, to my doctor that I’d been having quite severe suicidal ideation at the beginning of the week but they all stopped pretty much yesterday and I’m now back to my normal. My normal being a lot of anxiety and getting overwhelmed easily. But it’s a lot better than it was. He agreed that it was a good reason to make an emergency appointment and I’m keeping my regular appointment this month too.

crummy vegan jokeI lost two Facebook friends yesterday, neither of which interacted with me in any way, which makes their loss negligible. One posted a “joke” about vegans not being wanted at a barbecue and I replied. Instantly the OP responded wanting to know what I had against her. I’d disagreed with her political stance the day before and now didn’t like her joke. If I didn’t like her why was I her friend? Why was I trying to make her friends feel guilty for liking the joke? Some things there’s no coming back from. This ended up being one of them. Then a mutual friend took up the cause, defending her, and I ended up deleting them both.

One thing I find ironic is the “right” tends to claim the “left” is living in an echo chamber and only wants to hear from people who are like them. However, in my experience, the “right” tend to be the ones who get upset the easiest at the simplest of disagreements. They consider themselves strong and unflappable because they can laugh at controversial jokes, completely ignoring that the jokes in no way relate to them. I replied with a similar carnist joke in response to the one above and was immediately called a bully. Funny how that works.

Now Colin’s wandered into the bathroom for another three hour long bath. I swear this kid is going to turn into a prune! And he shared with me a time lapse video he made on his balcony this afternoon.

Don’t blink. Seriously. The video is maybe 4 seconds long. He’s thrilled with his new little camera though.

Withdrawal…

On April 10th, I stood on my scale and said, “Oh hell no!”

I had gained a lot of weight in 2016/17, going from the low 170’s to 225lbs. That fall I lost most of it, ending in the high 180’s. And then winter came. I didn’t want to go outside and all I wanted was carbs. Soon I was back at 202lbs.

busy dayI had 14 pounds to lose, it was definitely doable. Except, instead of losing, I’ve gained two pounds in the past month and a half(ish). That’s with walking at least 10 thousand steps a day and watching what I eat.

So I looked elsewhere, right at the last medication I started taking. Mirtazapine. And discovered it’s secondary use was as a weight gain drug. Trying to diet on this drug was similar to trying to dive while wearing water wings. You can try as hard as you want, you’re only going to bob back to the surface.

I saw my psychiatrist 10 days ago and he cut me down to a half dose then told me to stop taking them a week later. My last dose was on the 24th.

Since then I’ve been feeling worse than I have since 2016. The suicidal thoughts and ideation are back, although thankfully not with intent. I have to drag myself out to go for my walk and feel miserable for most of it. My anxiety has skyrocketed and I’m getting more panic attacks. Then I looked at the withdrawal symptoms and, what do you know, those are all side effects from withdrawal. Apparently the withdrawal is supposed to be slow and gradual, not a week. A gentle tapering of 10% at a time.

peonies.jpgMeanwhile I’m trying, I’m really trying. I went out for a family lunch today and a walk in the local botanical gardens. I’m going out for dinner tonight with our local UU congregation. There’s be line dancing, which I can tolerate, and likely country music, which I can’t. Please send ear plugs and Advil.

I’m still attending all three of my groups, although they come to an end in the next couple of weeks. And I’ll be helping Kait move.

And in the meantime I’m dealing with thoughts of just jumping off the balcony right now! How I feel is going to be forever. It doesn’t matter how many pictures I take or sunsets I see, my life will continue to feel horrible.

I tell myself that’s not true then I grit my teeth, post something positive on Facebook, and head out for a walk.

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.

spoons

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!

Kathleen in blue

Yay! My chores are done!!!

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.