That dark little rain cloud…

That cloud just keeps hovering overhead no matter what’s done to try and stop it. Last month my psychiatrist swapped most of my medications for new meds in an attempt to make an improvement. I’m now on ten medications (18 pills) a day. My parents worry about me. They say I look drugged, that my pupils are small. That I zone out constantly. From my side I feel exhausted. It’s less zoning out and more nodding off.

I could deal with the side effects if the medications were working but they aren’t. I had another panic attack last night as I climbed into bed. It came out of nowhere, knocking the air out of me, making me feel like I couldn’t breathe. My chest hurt. What if something was seriously wrong? What if I was having a heart attack? I knew I couldn’t stay in bed at that point. I downed a 1mg of Ativan and curled up in my swing chair. No screens, just quiet and a chance to work on my breathing. And it slowly helped. But it wasn’t a one off.

Going out on my own makes me feel naked and exposed. I try different coping strategies but nothing beats the relief of getting back in my door. I’m better out with people but I can’t handle too many activities or stores. Two or three is the most for me. Even writing about going outside is making me nervous and I’m sitting safely in my own bedroom with the front door locked. I’m not going anywhere and yet that fear remains.

And the depression. My whole body feels leaden while everything takes more energy… more effort. Even getting up from the table requires thought and effort. My thoughts are heavy and run slowly. I make more mistakes, typing the wrong letters, using the wrong words. It all seems pointless… futile. What difference is my life going to make anyway? I’ve been trying the whole “fake it ’til you make it” idea but so far it’s not working. And then comes the fear of what if nothing works and I just keep feeling like this forever? I don’t know what I’d do if that were the case. And, for total irony, I got this with my dinner tonight…

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I went through a year with a move with no date…

livingroom2Now we’re getting to the deadline. At least I’m assuming we’re getting there. Neither Colin or I have an actual date yet. He’s got someone coming in to help sort and pack next week. I’ve got my own two hands and panic to help me through mine.

One nice thing is I’ve got pictures showing me what my living room and kitchen will look like (I’d love to see the bedroom). And I’ve got a layout that gives me a good idea too. I’m still worried about where everything will go but I’ve worked out most of my furniture and am confident I can fit almost everything in, except maybe my electric stove, which is tiny but my room will be a tight squeeze for most furniture.

kitchen1

The hard hat is not included

I’ve been peering at the kitchen photo, trying to figure out where I’ll put things. The cutlery is easy. As for the rest, I’m thinking it’ll be easier to plan once I’ve moved in and start organizing.

My apartment is going to be great once it’s done. All new appliances… all new everything. Laminate flooring and a lot of kitchen space. The counter’s a bit smaller than what we have here but it has three outlets, which will be a help.

There’s three ways this move is anxiety inducing. The main one is simply not having a move in date. I can’t organize the movers, change my address via Canada Post and the government, or request elevator time with no move in date.

The next is comfort. This here is my home and my room is my sanctuary. I have a lot of new pretty things for my new room but will it feel like my room? Where am I going to go to feel safe? I had an anxiety attack the first time I thought of this and it still makes me uneasy.

The final is socialization. Right now I have friends who live in the building behind mine. I can get there in two minutes. We sing karaoke about once a week and chat on Facebook between times. I also was going to two groups a week, which was great. I’d meet friends on the bus there and there was always something interesting going on. I mentioned groups to one of the support workers whose going to the new building and got told, “Oh groups! Maybe we could throw something together”. That does not make me feel comfortable. Hopefully I can meet people around the building.

Time keeps moving me closer and closer to the date, even if I have no idea when said date will occur. So now I will head down to my storage locker to organize my holiday decorations (I have so many bins) and decide what I need and what can be donated. Hopefully I’ll have an actual date before I post again.

Pas de deux…

These days I’m caught up in a dance I don’t want and don’t like. Both dance partners, anxiety and agoraphobia, hold me tight in their arms, making me feel like I’m being torn in two.

Last night I put on quiet music and turned the volume down until it was just background noise. I got my chamomile, rose, and white tea pillow spray and misted my pillow. The bathroom nightlight was on, which meant my room was dark but not too dark, and I read a chapter of a previously read book while ensconced in my swing chair.

The kittens were snuggled at the foot of my bed and stayed there while I made myself comfortable.  Then I closed my eyes and panic hit. It clenched my heart and sent my thoughts into an unreadable whirlwind. It was horrible and terrifying and I just wanted to die so it would stop. I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t even cry.

I knew what I needed to do. I started with my breathing. This was remarkably similar to taking a toddler’s plastic bucket and scooping the water back to stop the tide. Then I grabbed my bottle of Ativan and took one tablet. The time it took between making that decision and getting the pill was probably only a matter of minutes. It felt like hours. The Ativan makes such a huge difference but it’s addictive so I try to keep from using it as much as possible.

I wonder sometimes if people think I’m faking because I manage to get out and do things but, at the same time, have my meds set for delivery (for example). They don’t realize that some days I can go out to a couple of nearby stores and other days I can’t go out at all. Plus, if I know I have to go out to the drug store every week to pick up my meds, I’m more likely to be anxious about it and unable to go out at all. And just because I can make it through a handful of stores doesn’t mean I’m fine. I’m just as likely to go home and make a beeline for my swing chair, unable to do anything else that night. Cereal for dinner and a 7:30pm bedtime. Even the cereal is a struggle.

I went out to Marshalls today and Superstore. I managed the buses and crowds and even made small talk with the cashiers. And I remembered almost everything I needed (except for the green onions). I’ve also eaten nothing but Kettle Brand Dill Pickle Chips and Bixby & Co Crunchy Peanut Butter and Maine Sea Salt Bites today. A chickpea salad with canned chickpeas and cherry tomatoes for lunch was too much. Dinner’s set to be microwave in a bag curry and rice. I’ve used all my energy today. It’s not just managing all the minutiae, it’s managing it all while controlling anxiety and agoraphobia. Meanwhile depression is still kicking around but anxiety’s been stomping it into the ground. It mostly manifests itself as inertia.

I need to get off the computer.

Fifteen minutes later…

I really need to get off this computer.

I believe this is called executive dysfunction and it shows up in my meal prep and, well, everything. Have you ever needed to use the toilet and had to give yourself a pep talk to go?

I’m simultaneously looking forward to my move and outright terrified. Right now, even on my worst days, I can say, “You’re going to Metro for milk. Can you pick me up a bag of English muffins too?” I’ll be alone when I move. Organizing my groceries around meal planning is great if I knew that I could make curry for dinner on Tuesday. That would be a definite maybe. So I wing it and sometimes even winging it is too hard. So I eat Froot Loops or potato chips and hope that tomorrow will be better.

It’s 4pm this afternoon and I’ve only got 4 thousand steps today. Maybe I’ll go downstairs to the gym after dinner. I’m hoping that extra walking will help keep me from another night like last night. Who knows?

Googles exercise and sleep quality

Apparently John Hopkins University knows and a half hour of exercise can be beneficial. So I’ll be on the treadmill tonight hoping to stave of an anxiety attack like last night. I see my psychiatrist on January 20th and hopefully he’ll have more advice for me too. Until then I’ll be doing whatever I can to keep myself calm and in control of my surroundings.

Coda…

There’s one short week between Christmas and the New Year. It should be a celebration. A goodbye to the old year and a welcome to the new. Instead it’s filled with the minutiae of our lives. When was that dentist appointment? Did I take the tofu out to thaw? It’s less a poignant goodbye and more, oops, someone stepped on the bagpipes.

!BLAT!

When you get right down to it, even New Year’s isn’t very relevant for us. It was chosen because January was named after the Roman God Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward and one looking behind. But you’d be hard pressed to find someone worshipping Janus these days. I have to admit, the whole concept of a totally clean slate and our best future is appealing. We get to say goodbye to what’s hurt us this past year and look forward to better things.

I’m looking at 2020 with a mixture of anticipation and dread. I’m looking forward to moving. I have bought so many cute little things; items that will make me feel happy when I see them. And I’m going to have a new apartment that’s just for me. No one’s ever lived there before, I’ll be the absolute first. I’m also panicking about the move. I’m still waiting for my move in date, sometime this February. And I’m used to having so many things close to me. Three grocery stores, three drug stores, a Giant Tiger, and a Dollarama. I’ll have most of that… if I walk a half hour from my new place. That’s pleasant in the summer and hellish in the winter.

I mentioned some concerns to my psychiatrist and he commented that with my level of severe anxiety, it is common to have agoraphobia. I’m not sure how I’ll manage walking thirty minutes from home to face crowds on my worst days. There’s options like door dash and grocery delivery but I don’t want to rely on them too much to the point of avoiding everything and everyone. That’s not healthy and only makes agoraphobia worse.

This is the year I turn fifty. I don’t feel half a century old, despite having a grandchild. I’m planning on celebrating it at Ste. Anne’s Spa with my Mom and sister. It’s going to be so peaceful.

I do have several goals in mind for 2020. I’m going to sign up for Planet Fitness and I want to get there three nights a week. They have massage chairs which will provide incentive for me. The spa has massage chairs and I fell in love with them. I want to make sure I walk to the grocery store once a week, saving grocery delivery for the absolutely abysmal days, like -40C before the windchill. The easiest one of all, don’t check out the troll site. It’s been over a month since I’ve last been there. It’s hard when I’m depressed to stop myself and a lot easier when I’m feeling good about myself. But they’re not writing about me. They’ve made an almost unrecognizable caricature of myself then act if they know the truth. I spent my childhood being badly bullied, I don’t need to seek out bullies in my adult years. They’re not worth my time. Instead I’m going to focus on making IRL friends. I don’t know exactly how yet but I’ll do it, even if I have to set out snares.

Now to count the days down to when the calendar changes. I wish the best to everyone in the coming decade!

New Year wish2

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

World Semicolon Day…

semicolon

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.
tattoo no flash

A rest day…

So today is February 74th. The wind is howling outside my window and the snow is buried under a layer of ice, with more coming. In short, it’s the perfect day to stay home and rest…

*looks at my bed*

… something my cats are doing amazingly well.

I had my psychiatrist appointment on Thursday and my suspicions of agoraphobia are correct, so I have something new on my plate. I had an aunt (by marriage) on my Dad’s side of the family with agoraphobia and she ended up housebound. I don’t want to get that severe. So I push myself to get out most days, no matter how hard it is. Keeping track of my breathing helps a little. Finding things to see, hear, feel, and taste* helps a lot more. And sometimes I just grit my teeth and keep walking.

Then he mentioned that I do better in the summer, which is something I’ve said before, but then I stopped to think. I’ve been hospitalized in June and September, both of which are summer here. I think that suicidal depression is able to hit at any time but the long, low days are more likely to happen during winter. If that makes sense. Sometimes things that make sense in my head don’t translate as well on paper.

My fresh start is doing well, despite the weather. I was able to get out for two walks last week and, so far, have lost 2lbs. I’ve also made sure I’m eating a lot of vegetables and fruits. And luckily the weather is improving starting tomorrow, with warmer weather and less rain. Hopefully that trend will continue and we can move on to April and May instead of lengthening February.

And now I’m going to curl up in my swing chair and read, ignoring the wailing wind on the other side of the glass. Today’s my day to rest. Tomorrow I’ll work on walking again.

snow and ice storm

Picture taken from my room on February 73rd

* I am NOT actually tasting things on my walk. That one ends up simply being saliva and whatever I ate last.