Living with anxiety…

A few years ago, before mental illness fully struck, I would not have understood how someone could live every day and every night with anxiety. I would not have understood how simply rocking could be a relief. I would not have understood that feeling in the pit of my stomach. How, when the anxiety grows, that feeling creeps upward, pushing under my ribs and strangling my lungs, leaving me gasping and panicking. But that was then.

I’ve finally got a medication routine that seems to be helping. I no longer look at high places and think of death. I no longer pause before grabbing a knife to chop veggies. But that doesn’t mean I’ve gone back to normal. Normal doesn’t exist anymore.

These days I go to two very different community groups. Both are two hours long. The first group is social recreation. We make crafts, go bowling, watch movies, play board games, and simply talk. The second group, called Wellness, does something new each week as well. We’ve gone Nordic pole walking, done yoga, learned about finances, learned how to knit *cough* I mean other people learned how to knit, and baked cookies.

My social rec group is very small and easy for me to manage. I enjoy the Wellness group too but, when it’s crowded, it is hard for me to cope. I’ve had one panic attack in that group and the staff and other students were very helpful. I worked past it fairly quickly and was able to rejoin the group before it was over.

I also have people from the Canadian Mental Health Association coming in every other week now. They help with paperwork and will be there for moral support if I need to make a phone call but they’re mostly there for social interaction and to fuss over my kitties, who absolutely adore the attention.

And, finally, I’ve got friends who go out for karaoke with me once a month. They found a bar and it’s perfect for me. I think the highest number of customers I’ve seen (minus us) was six people. I don’t know how the bar stays in business, hopefully they have a good lunch crowd. But it’s something to look forward to.

I walk a fine balance between looking forward to things in my future and overwhelming myself with the sheer amount of days. I pick one or two for certain things and hold onto them as an anchor, proof that the future is coming and will be fine. And it’s not even just the far distant future. I’ve overwhelmed myself by planning dinner because it’s four hours away and what am I going to do with myself until then. There’s too much space to hold on to. That’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.

Some days are great. I chat with Kait, wash the dishes, make a meal for lunch, go grocery shopping, and make something simple for dinner. Other days, the best I can manage is scrolling through Facebook and messaging friends. Getting dressed is too hard, preparing meals is even harder, and there’s no way I’m getting out the door, except maybe in case of fire. Most days are in between. I might stay in my cupcake onsie pjs all day but make a kick ass dinner. I might go out grocery shopping but have an english muffin for dinner. As many people know, it’s all about the spoons.

I’m registered for a new group called Lead your Life. It’s only from early April to the beginning of June and I’m already low key concerned because it’s 2 1/2 hours and I find two hour groups a bit long. I know I’ll manage and I know the group will be great but the anxiety is still there.

I sometimes think about going back to work only, once again, to realize that’s out of the question. If I can’t manage attending a group for longer than two hours, there’s no way I could manage eight hour shifts. I would not be able to get away from loud noise or crowds. If I got anxious, the best I could do is take an Ativan tablet, something my previous manager joked about as in “Kathleen’s going to get high again”. There wouldn’t be an option for going home or going to a quiet corner. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to break my work into manageable pieces with plenty of short breaks in between. I’m reasonably sure I’d have another break down if I went back to work, something nobody wants… especially me.

Right now I’m sitting in my warm room, kitties curled up in various locations, and Facebook open and ready for me to chat. I’ve got enough spoons to make a decent spaghetti for dinner tonight. And for now, I’ll stay content and leave the future ahead of me.


Picture from Joy of Mom


The February blues…

It’s early February and outside is buried under snow and slush, thankfully more of the former than the latter. Salt crunches on sidewalks and turns both the sidewalks and roads white. The elevator talk is all about the weather. How cold is it going to be? How many centimetres of snow are we going to get?

I’m doing a lot better this winter than last. Last winter I was hospitalized twice, once in January and once in February, but this winter I’ve stayed home. Maybe it’s the pills, goodness knows they’ve been adjusted enough times. Maybe it’s the support of family, friends, and community groups. Maybe it’s a bit of euphoria that Blackie is alive and now thriving. And maybe it’s because I can escape to my room, which has been decorated in a springtime theme.

Colin’s life is relatively on track. He has a doctor’s appointment at the end of February and sees his new psychiatrist toward the end of March. Hopefully the two of them can work on a new treatment plan for him. His prescription helped with his highs but he was, and is, struggling with depression and anxiety. Despite both, he’s finished his schooling at the John Howard Society and has moved on to a work at home program run through our local college. He goes in for four hours every Friday for new assignments and help with any of the previous work. He came in here to chatter earlier and is back in his room running speed tests on all his computers and comparing the results. The downside of having a kid who builds and fixes computers is a whole whack of computers around the apartment. The upside is free technical support on everything.

Kait’s doing well too. The hardest part of her job, for me, is her hours make it nearly impossible for us to connect. She’s in bed sleeping by the time I get up and gets up shortly after I go to bed. But we do sometimes connect and, when we do, we gab for about an hour about everything from her job to her fur babies.

Soon February will turn into March… giving way to April. Soon the snow will melt and blue bells, trilliums, and snow drops will push their way through damp soil. Until then I’ll be found ensconced in my swinging chair, pondering the next chapter of my novel and waiting for spring.

my room

Reality is just a word…

I woke up this morning feeling discombobulated. Well actually I woke up feeling like I had to pee but as soon as that got sorted out I felt discombobulated. Like the rest of the world took a step to the left and I misread the instructions and took a step to the right. Everything looks the same but there’s something off. Chances are it’s me. Meanwhile life goes on, even if it doesn’t feel quite like my life. As if I’m running after normal… kind of like when I was a kid and tumbled off the wagon at the apple orchard. Running as hard as I can and hoping someone will reach over and help me back up.

My eleven year old cat Blackie has lost a bunch of weight, like half her body weight. I didn’t notice at first because she’s fluffy and has a big round tummy. Plus I usually scratch her neck and chin. But last week I ran my hand across her back and felt backbone. I did more rubbing and found her collar bones and her breast bone. I’d originally called that her keel bone but that’s in birds and I’d have to take another step to the right to get that far from reality.

Last night I sent Colin out to get wet cat food and he came back with Whiskas Duos. My plan was to get a small plate and open the tin in the bathroom. Colin pulled a Oprah instead, snapping off cans and handing them out willy nilly. Here’s wet food for you, you, and especially for you. They all loved it and, most importantly, Blackie immediately started gobbling it down. Then I looked closer and realized she was only eating the broth, not the chicken bits.

This morning, Blackie was sitting by the electric fireplace, just relaxing, so I got her a container and spooned it out on a plate. And today she started eating the chicken pieces. I don’t have a “way to go you’re eating chicken bits” award but if I did, she earned it. Then I made the fatal mistake. Smudge likes to lick peanut butter off my finger while I eat breakfast. She’d been there before I served Blackie but wandered off.

“Smudgie… Smudgie-pants… I’ve got peanut butter for you!” I called.

Smudge ran over, sniffed my finger and walked away. Behind her came Lara, Angel, and Oreo… while I blurted “I didn’t call you”. Soon they were all crowded around Blackie. I went from eating breakfast to turning into a cat bouncer. And all the while, Blackie gobbled away. When she stopped, Angel (our 12 year old) was the only cat left so I let her have a shot at the plate. Ten minutes later, the sounds of retching filled the air. I followed the sound to the bathroom, where Angel was busy vomiting.

“It’s okay baby. Sometimes food is like that,” I assured her as she gagged. It didn’t come back up last night so I’ll give it another chance, maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe she took a step to the right too. Maybe the food’s different here. Whatever it is, she gets one more chance with wet cat food, otherwise she’s staying 100% dry.

I don’t know what time Colin went to sleep last night but I woke him up at noon and just now, at 12:40pm. Hopefully he’ll stay awake now because I want to clean up the living room today and all the mess consists of his computers and two chairs which he insists we need and I insist we don’t need… especially in the middle of the floor.

One weird thing I’ve noticed is I don’t rock when I’m typing. But today I’m rocking all the rest of the time. Maybe typing counts as stimming? Maybe that only works a step to the right?

I’ve got a prescription to give to my pharmacist. My psychiatrist does not like the sheer number of pills I’m taking a day, which would be ten. I just counted. So he’s switching out the clonazepam for another pill that also works as an antidepressant and will continue to drop and modify my prescription with each appointment. He also knows my blog address now. I don’t know if he was just reading it that once or if he’s checking in every once in a while. It was probably just a one time thing but, just in case, hi Dr. K.

With any luck, Colin will be willing to drop off my prescription today. Otherwise I’ll have to do it tomorrow. I’m not going out feeling like this. I have to cross an intersection of two fairly big roads and I don’t feel connected enough to my body to do that. I’ll stick with dishes and standing in the living room saying, “I’ve got half a computer tower here. Where do you want it? No, the centre of the living room is not an option.”

But maybe I’ll cuddle with Blackie-boo first.

Creeping out of hibernation…

The kittens were wild things all morning. I had to lift them out of the storage container cupboard, pull them off the hutch, and coax them out of the fine china. After that Smudge went on a major grooming spree while Lara chased her tail in the bathtub. Then they proceeded to chase each other all around the apartment and over the other cats. My senior cats were decidedly confused.

Colin stayed in his room offering commentary on different videos, interspersed with his braying laughter. I miss the giggle he used to have. Meanwhile I made vegetable soup then retreated to my room to chat with friends on Facebook and to try and calm down. It’s been two weeks since my schedule changed for Christmas break and I’ve come to realize I really need one. A schedule, not Christmas, although I could use another of those too. My anxiety has been revving up and it’s hard to concentrate or get anything done.

If you want an idea what anxiety is like, picture yourself in a car driving down the road. You go around a corner and there’s a transport truck right there in your lane! The crash is imminent and you can’t stop yourself from saying “holy hell, we’re going to die”. Except there’s no car, no road, and no transport truck. There’s just that “holy hell, we’re all going to die” feeling. And it keeps coming as waves washing over you. It’s been like that for me pretty much all day. And, yes, I’ve done my breathing.

It’s been much too cold to go out for any length of time. The temperature has ranged from the -20’s to -30s. We went next door on Thursday to help a friend and, on the way over, I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze. I didn’t even know your eyes could get cold. It felt really weird. The weather is rapidly rising today and it’s supposed to be 2C tomorrow, which is a decent temperature for a winter walk. Emma’s school starts tomorrow too and my groups start up again this week. I even see my psychiatrist and I’m planning on showing him my list of questions.

Up until Christmas break I’d been either walking to or from my groups. Thanks to the weather this week, I should be able to continue with the walks, hopefully indefinitely, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another cold spell. Disappointed but not surprised.

I was too anxious to go outside today but Colin had some things to buy and went out instead. He needed a battery for starters as our smoke detector’s battery failed last night. Why do they only fail at three am? I don’t think I’ve ever, in my whole life, had a detector start beeping at 8pm. Colin needs a box of envelopes too because it looks like he’s getting reimbursed for the money he was scammed out of. Which is amazing.

And now the sun is slowly setting and Colin’s back home, bubbling over about his purchases and how he got a Steve Jobs movie just to see what they got wrong. And it’s time for me to make dinner. Tomorrow’s another day and, hopefully, a warmer and better one.

Enduring winter…

Some days I think of Robin Williams and am sad he died so young. Other days I’m amazed that he lived so long. It’s all in my perspective at the time.

Depression and anxiety are separate illnesses but they feed off each other in a continual loop of fear and hopelessness, making even the smallest task seem insurmountable. I’ve found having a routine helps but that’s not perfect and some days find me rocking in the kitchen, too anxious to start dinner and too uncomfortable to leave.

I spent two weeks in the mental health ward of our hospital last winter. That’s something both my psychiatrist and myself want to avoid in 2018. So I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I’ve got two groups each week and they each do a variety of activities from bowling to making bath bombs to playing games (I love Headbands) plus a social worker from the Canadian Mental Health Association comes on Fridays to check in on me and make sure I’m doing okay. That still leaves the bulk of my days empty, which is good in some ways. I often need time to wind down and relax after an activity. But the time alone doesn’t help the intrusive thoughts or being thrown into an anxiety attack over a load of dishes. I don’t even know why I’d have anxiety over something so small, yet it happens.

One friend of mine and I have decided we need to get together more often. She lives in the building behind us so it’s not exactly a hardship to meet. She’s well aware of my anxiety as she got to witness it full blown the day she and her husband took me to Costco. I’d been there before but on a weekday morning, not a Saturday afternoon. From the crowds you’d think there was a massive blow out sale going on but there was nothing, just lots of people buying until their wallets exploded from the pressure. I have to admit, the jumbo sized container of laundry soap packets was a good deal but it was nothing I’d go back for. So now we stick to karaoke at the quietest bar I’ve ever seen. Like so quiet I’m expecting a “for rent” sign on their door any day now. My friend also goes to another bar but has informed me it’s way too loud and crowded for me to handle.

My other friends have social anxiety and get anxious and cancel at the last minute. Which is generally okay because I’m taking deep breaths and trying to avoid an anxiety attack at the same time. But none of us are scary so I’m going to make more of an effort to connect with them. I’m sure we can manage getting together for tea.

Then there’s just the general suckage of winter. It was -22C this morning when I woke up. That would be a good number without the minus but it’s horrid with it. That’s not walking in the woods weather, it’s staying at home weather. But I can’t sit at home for three months either.

Colin and I have disability passes to our local recreation centre so we can walk on the track, which is boring but doable… especially with an MP3 player. And hopefully we’ll get some -2C weather to go walking outside.

And now I sit, watching as the sky turns dark so early, working up the courage to go make dinner. The window beside me is emanating cold air but otherwise my room is warm and summery, comfy enough that all five cats are napping in here. I study them, sprawled bonelessly across my bed and mat then I look back outside and settle in to wait for spring.

my room

My safe space and sanctuary from winter. I think it’s cozy and the cats certainly agree. There’s a strand of white lights on the wall but they don’t really show up here.

Four years of writing…

WordPress informed me today that I’ve been writing this blog for exactly four years now, that my first post was written on December 22, 2013. Back then we were using pseudonyms. I was Michelle, Colin was Jeremy (the male name I’d picked for Kait), and Kait was Emma(the female name I’d picked for Colin). We showed no pictures with faces and made sure to mention only that we were Canadian and near Toronto. Colin was still in high school, which he’s since graduated from (refusing their additional program called school to work) and Kait was working for No Frills, a Canadian grocery store chain. I was working full time for Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee chain.


Four years later and so much has changed. I’d always struggled with mild to moderate depression but it wasn’t enough to affect my job. Then it burst into full blown depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and extreme anxiety. I take a handful of pills a day and my psychiatrist doesn’t think I’ll ever work again. Which is a blow since I’m in my 40’s still but it wasn’t a surprise. I belong to a couple of groups in meatspace and do a variety of activities such as bowling, yoga, making bath bombs, and extreme couponing. Both groups are near a walking trail so I walk on the trail either before or after group to get my 10,000 steps.

Kait no longer works at No Frills, instead she’s a store clerk for a gas station, working their midnight shift. She’s doing an amazing job there, they say she’s their best night shift worker ever. Plus she loves her home and her two kitties. She’s been with her boyfriend for about as long as the blog and is doing well with him.

Colin is the focus of the blog and he’s the one who’s gone through the most transitions. He started out wondering if he were bisexual then realized he didn’t like-like boys, only girls. Right from the first post he identified with Jazz Jennings, a trans teenager from Florida, except he wasn’t uncomfortable with his body at the time, he just had a “girl’s brain”. Then, a little while later, people started doing those genetic tests. I used to hang out a lot in a forum called Regretsy (sadly it no longer exists) and one of the people did one of the tests and posted the results. I read them aloud to Colin and he got excited right at the beginning when it said the sex was male. Could he take the test too? I had no idea what he was talking about until he added “so I can find out what sex I am”. I explained it would only tell him his birth sex, not how he feels inside. Another time I pointed out we were having a lot more trans readers and Colin’s response was, “That’s not a surprise.” It took me a long time to realize that Colin wasn’t cisgender but he was patient with me. Then came the sorting out. He started out as bigender (feeling both male and female) then pangender (feeling like all genders) then started exploring more towards being female. He drifted into being female and picked out the name Emma (which was the name I’d chosen when I was pregnant with him). He was happy with the name and being referred to with female pronouns. Then he started worrying about fertility. He’s wanted to be a parent since he could talk so that wasn’t a surprise but the lack of fertility preservation was a shock. Freezing sperm only works 50% of the time and is expensive and stopping hormone therapy has an unknown success rate because it seems like only trans people are talking about it. The doctors claim 100% infertility once the hormones take effect. So now Colin’s still female but not sure about transitioning. I use Colin on the blog and both Colin and Emma at home. He’s happy with that. He’s also in school, taking mostly math, and hoping to eventually go to college. He builds and rebuilds computers in his spare time and plays PC video games.

Kait and her boyfriend are coming over for dinner, stockings, and presents tomorrow. I’m going to make Kait’s favourites; pasta with pumpkin sauce and Christmas Crack. I’ve included the link because the dessert is easy and amazingly yummy. They claim it’ll last a week, like you’re not going to eat half a pan standing over the kitchen counter. I don’t have a link to the pumpkin pasta, sadly. It was a recipe from the Today’s Parent forums, another site that no longer exists.

Colin and I are going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and sleeping over that night. Which saves a heck of a lot of driving, rather than going back and forth each day. Kait’s going to be there on Christmas Eve too.

I wonder where we’ll be in four more years. Where ever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fabulous!


Happy Holidays!

Dreaming my life away…

My bed is comfortable and safe. I slip inside it and minutes later I’m ensconced in dreams. They’re vivid, more exciting than my real life, and disappear moments after I wake.

Thanks to depression, I sleep 12 to 15 hours a night, the twelve is if I set an alarm. Thanks to anxiety, I end up curled up on my bed… and the cycle continues. I slept 12 hours last night then, after breakfast, I took a two hour nap. I could easily go back to sleep right now.

What worries me is I’m dreaming my life away and shortening it at the same time. My life might not be exciting but it’s mine and it’s the only one I have. And, to be fair, most people’s lives aren’t excited. We all have dishes and laundry and floors to mop. There is no glamour there.

With that being said, I’m putting on YouTube and going to wash the dishes. I could go back to sleep until Emma gets home from school but I’ve got my life to live.