October musings…

Yesterday was weird… just weird enough to keep me off kilter. First came the cancellation of my Nordic Pole walking class, five minutes before I had to leave. Then I got a call during the walk to my Social Recreation group from my psychiatrist’s secretary. The doctor was going to be on-call the day of my next appointment, could I switch to having an appointment at 4pm that day? Sure, that was fine.

The group went well then I got to the psychiatrist’s office and he asked me if I’d done the blood work for my lithium levels. I hadn’t because my lithium and clonazepam stopped coming last week, the day before I was going in for the blood work. I’d called the drug store and they told me they’d been faxing my prescription to the office and hadn’t got a reply. The psychiatrist’s receptionist said nothing had arrived and to get them to send it again. The doctor was furious. He checked his faxes every single day, several times a day, and nothing had come in for me.

That was when Colin called to say my IUD had arrived but my blister pack of meds hadn’t. I was now completely out of medication with no warning. The psychiatrist immediately called the drug store who, as far as I could tell, didn’t have much to say. He then wrote me a prescription with 30 refills, which he said should last me a while.

I got home and checked the mail. Colin’s disability pay stub arrived but mine hadn’t. Of course my mind went to the worst case scenario. What if I’d been kicked off disability with no warning whatsoever? Never mind that I’d been assured by my case manager that never happens. But what if it did? It was too late to call the office, I just had to wait until morning and see if the money got deposited into my account.

Of  course we had to drop off the prescriptions at the drug store, which is when I was informed that I hadn’t run out of the rest of my pills, they were merely on hold while I was in the hospital. Umm… what? There was a bit of confusion but they finally understood that I hadn’t been in the hospital at all and the hold got removed from my file. Thankfully the pharmacist was willing to make a new blister pack for me although it would take two hours. We wandered around stores for as long as we could and had just got home when I got the call to get my blister pack. Luckily that went smoothly and I was soon back home and ready for bed.

I woke up this morning and my disability hadn’t been cancelled (phew). I chatted with Kait for a while, got Colin up, then Colin and I headed out for a big shopping trip. We were aiming for over $200 in groceries so Colin could get a gift pack of Knorr products. We got $300 of groceries instead, which was super fun for Colin to pull home (not). He was thrilled though because he earned 6,000 PC points ($6) toward free groceries.

Colin walking the wagon home

It might not look like much but there’s a huge bag of kitty litter, a 48 pack of canned cat food, and a big bag of cat food. Plus all our food in various places including in two baskets.

I got the groceries stuffed away then went back out for our bus passes. Thankfully a friend told me they were still accepting October’s disability stubs so I was able to get mine too. Darn mail strike!

Two young men, college students, got on the bus home right after me and sat across from me. They didn’t go far and, as they left, I noticed one of them had lost his bus pass/student card. The driver stopped when I asked and, I asked if he’d wait for me while I gave the young man his pass back. The driver informed me that, no, he wouldn’t wait. He was on a schedule. Which meant I’d have to wait another half hour for the next bus if I got off. So I settled for leaning out the door and yelling at the students while waving the pass. They ran over to get it while the driver grumbled that he guessed he had to wait after all. Yeah, and I guess he’d never had to retrieve something from the bus depot on the other side of town, especially something as necessary as a bus pass. The student was grateful at least and I was glad I noticed it in time for him to get it back.

And now it’s time to snuggle up in bed. Tomorrow’s a new day and a new month and another fresh start.

born to be awesome

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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.

When bullying lingers…

20180515_154637.jpgIt was the day after Mother’s Day and Kait and I were in one of my absolute favourite stores, Icing. They sell just about anything sparkly and have glittered word art, a combo of two of my favourite things. All Kait needed was a wallet with a strap on it but she found two more things and there was a buy three, get three free deal going on that day. By the time we’d circled the small store at least twenty times, Kait was rapidly running out of possibilities and patience. She needed just one more thing and it had to be under $9, which, sadly, left out all the word art. Then I saw it, a sparkly pink butterfly clip, complete with tiny fake pearls. It was $6, which made it free with the deal and thus became my Mother’s Day present to go along with my glittery card.

I put it on right away, before Kait even paid for it, and double checked that it was positioned perfectly before I headed out the door. It was a matter of seconds before anxiety began gnawing at my stomach and clawing at my chest. Suddenly I expected every person we passed to laugh at me, to point out my butterfly clip, to taunt me. I flinched when people drew close because what if they hit or punched me? No one paid a single bit of attention to me but that didn’t stop the fear. It was overwhelming… all encompassing. I tried to reassure myself. I’d got the butterfly from Icing for pete’s sake, it wasn’t like I pulled it out of the toddler section of a department store. No one was going to think I was that weird.

I managed to make it down the hall and even got in a brief run through Dollarama, another favourite store, but I didn’t start feeling better until after we left the mall and were standing in the open by the bus stop. My chest and stomach slowly started to relax although I had to inform my daughter there was no way I could cook dinner that night. My spoons were done and gone. Simply getting home was going to be challenge enough.

Kathleen in 1981It wasn’t until later that I realized the origin of my fear. School. The crowds plowing both ways through the hallway felt like the halls at school and, as soon as my heart took me there, fear followed.

If I’d been bullied the same way as an adult instead of as a kid, it would have been considered abusive or harassment but I’d been a student in the 70’s and 80’s, part of the ere where kids were expected to sort “school yard squabbles” out on their own, so nothing was done.

As far as I could tell I was a perfectly normal kid. I loved to read, especially Trixie Belden books, and adored my pet cat Spotty. I rode my bike, climbed trees, and loved to write. My favourite colour was green and I’d travelled most of the way across Canada twice. My bullies didn’t know any of this. In fact they didn’t know anything about me at all. That didn’t stop them from calling me a freak, a retard, a homo. That didn’t stop them from tripping and pushing me in the hallways and chasing me down on their bikes.

I quickly learned that if I hid in the convenience store, the store owner wouldn’t kick me out and my bullies would get bored and wander away. That if you were hiding behind a car, you had to hide behind a wheel, in case they look under for feet, and move along with them, hoping they wouldn’t take a second peek under the car when you were at the back and they were at the front. I learned to check my assigned seat for spit before I sat down and wipe it up quickly before the rest of the class arrived. I learned that people, no matter how kind they seemed to others, could be absolutely vicious even when they were unprovoked.

It’s been 34 years since elementary school (28 since the end of high school). It’s been decades since I’ve been chased, punched, or spat at and still, feeling a bit different, feeling a bit like I’m standing out, is enough to bring me back to being 11 years old, being attacked for no reason other than I didn’t quite fit in.

Most days I don’t think about it but on the days when fear is triggered, when my heart pounds, and my breath tastes metallic in my mouth, I wonder about my attackers. Do they ever think about how they acted as children? Do they ever feel any guilt or do they brush it off as something everyone did? Do they flip though their grade school yearbook with their kids and think “there’s Kathleen the freak” or do they think “shit we treated her badly”. I’ll never know the answers to those questions. To be honest, I never want to see any of them again.

As for me, I’ll keep rocking my butterfly hair clip and glittery tops and I’ll make sure to keep my trips to the mall on weekday mornings instead of busy afternoons. I know I don’t fit in and most of the days I’m fine with that. On the days I’m not, I’ll try to assure that small, scared part of myself that it’ll be okay.

 

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!!!

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.

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.