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.

The Ten Year Challenge…

Lately my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with photos of my friends from 2009 to today, leaving people to see the differences. I added mine but felt so much was missing, namely the history going along with the first picture and the growth leading to the last one. They say that a picture’s worth a thousand words but I think some words can really round out the story.

10 year challenge

In 2009 I’d just finished a job working at a call centre representing Sympatico, a Canadian internet company. I started off in the tech support department and moved to billing after half a year. The job paid good money (compared to minimum wage) and came with benefits. The downsides were leaving a 12 and 14 year old home alone until dinnertime. I couldn’t even call them until 5pm. And the extreme pressure. One pressure was time. Three minute bathroom breaks (even if you were on the far side of the building from the washrooms) and getting written up if you were 30 seconds late from any break. The second was also time but phone time. You had to clear security, fix the problem, and make a sale in 15 minutes for tech and ten for business. That had to include any phone calls to other departments, bill adjustments and, for tech support, getting people to unplug every phone jack, except for the one they were calling from *click*. Yeah, quite a few people disconnected the phone.

That summer I got a job at Tim Hortons, a Canadian doughnut store chain, it was still fast paced but not nearly as fast as the call centre. I quickly made friends and got to know the regulars, some of whom came in two and three times a day, every day. The constant movement helped me drop a lot of the weight I’d put on at the call centre (the weight loss was after this photo). I was extremely lucky that my managers were willing to work around my quirks (later diagnosed as autism).

We also lived several blocks away from my parents and sister in a three bedroom apartment in an apartment complex. It wasn’t the best place to live but it was convenient for transit and shopping.

Fast forward to today. I’m about 40 days away from moving into my tiny home and I got to see pictures of one of the units. It looked gorgeous. A spacious kitchen and laminate flooring. I’d hoped to see more of the living room but the two pictures were backlit by the patio doors so all I could see was a wall and the flooring. I won’t see my own place until I move so it was great to get a view of what it will look like.

I haven’t worked since 2016, the year I became suicidal, and am now on disability. It’s hard in some ways. The friends I made through work have faded away but I’ve made new friends in my groups. I’m lucky enough to live in a community with lots of supports and, even though I’m leaving some of my supports behind, I’ll have new supports where I move to.

In 2009 I was positive I was straight; any thoughts to the contrary were quashed immediately. I’ve spent the last five years learning and understanding my sexual orientation. 2009 me would have been both shocked and scared to find out I’m a panromantic asexual and, for a short time, had a girlfriend (who I’m still friends with).

I now have a 22 year old, a 24 year old, and a one year old grandchild, none of which are moving with me. I’m facing my first move alone (well alone with five cats). Colin was supposed to have a meeting for moving options on Monday but it got cancelled at the last minute. He has another meeting tomorrow. And Kait has her own tiny home and family now. It’s her turn to experience childhood second hand.

I’ve been exploring my new community along with my Mom. I’ve done a shop at the local grocery store to see if they have everything I need (they do). I’ve registered the cats at the local vet and myself at the local dentist, both right across the street from my new place. There’s also a pizzeria and a pub which has karaoke. It looks like a good place to settle down.

So much has changed these past 10 years, more than I could ever have anticipated. I can’t help but wonder what my life will be like in 2029!

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A filtered phone taken from one of the trails where I’m moving

Feeling down…

Inside my stomach feels like a ball of angst… all hard edges and uncomfortable. Otherwise everything else feels flat and bland. I click on a video and am bored with it after two minutes. I didn’t nap today even though I was up for two hours last night. Or more accurately because I was up for two hours last night. I don’t want to have a repeat tonight. But I don’t feel tired, at least I think I don’t. Usually I’m exhausted by now; today I’m just here. And here is a long grey stretch of nothingness.

My psychiatrist was pleased at how my depression was being handled last month but not happy with my anxiety. So he’s been slowly weaning me off Effexor and switching me to Zoloft to deal with both of them. So far it hasn’t. My anxiety feels okay, unless it’s been subsumed by depression. My depression, on the other hand, feels horrible. I’m not at suicidal yet but I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, how much hopeless can I take before I start looking for a way out?

I know depression isn’t a fun conversation topic but it is a very real one. More than 300 million people world wide struggle with it. A significant amount don’t survive. It’s important for people to know they aren’t alone. There are people like them. There is help. As for me, I’ll be calling my psychiatrist’s office tomorrow to try and get an emergency appointment because the 10th seems so far away.

gentle with yourself

A Hormonal Tilt a Whirl…

There are so many things that could be affecting my mood right now. The medication adjustments (albeit minor ones), the season’s change, “normal” hormonal fluctuations, and so on. What I do know is that my anxiety and depression are not playing together well. Or, more realistically, they’re playing together too well. Anxiety’s screaming, “OMG we’re all going to die!!!” and depression replies with, “Great idea. If we get some momentum going, we could jump the railing before cowardice steps in.”

I’m not going to jump. I’ve got too many friends and family who would miss me plus Blackie and Lara would never understand why I didn’t return. I couldn’t do that to them. People talk about cats being aloof, Blackie and Lara are anything but aloof. And they love me dearly.

I hate this feeling. Everything seems scary but I have no idea why and, at the same time, I don’t really care. Part of me is craving sleep while the rest is dreading it. Last night I drempt I was standing beside a river, watching body parts floating by. The only good thing my mind could come up with was at least they weren’t climbing out of the river after me. I don’t remember what else happened but I was up for an hour afterwards.

And I try to make bedtime comfortable. Calm pillow spray with chamomile, rose, and white tea. My big squishy stuffed carrot. Soothing bedtime music. And my heart still pounds.

It’s not much better when I’m awake. I struggle to get anywhere, breaking each trip into pieces and only focusing on one piece at a time. Sometimes that works, other times it doesn’t. Then I just make do without whatever I was going to get. Going with someone helps… except my someone is Colin which means a monologue on how the conservatives are better and how hard done by men are. I’m hoping this is a phase he’ll grow out of but am losing hope on that one.

And today is the 80th day until I move. It feels like it’s so far away but I have to give notice at the end of this month and then I’m into the final crunch. Another huge chunk of anxiety to deal with.

I’m struggling with posting this. Half of me says that no one wants to hear me whine while the other says there are people who need to know they’re not alone. I can deal with people thinking I’m boring. It’s the people who feel alone that matter to me.

For those of you who feel you’re alone and drowning in pain. There are people out there. They might be hard to find but they are there. You can do it! I believe in you!

keep fighting

Losing myself…

We were all lazing around the resort pool on a hot tropical afternoon. I was a bit bored and remembered that someone I know, who was on the trip, used to brag about her “gaydar”. So I went up and asked her to guess me. I wasn’t that interested in the label, I just wanted to see if she actually read my posts.

“Kath,” she replied, “you’re not going to like this but I see you as being lost, lonely, and desperately looking for labels.”

I was simultaneously shocked and angry. Shocked that she could think such a thing and angry that she paid that little attention to my life. I’ve been identifying as an asexual for around four years now and panromantic for almost as long. I never mention it anymore because the label gets too long but I’m still demiromantic too. We have to be friends for me to be interested in a relationship. The last four people have been friends. I’ve only ever mentioned two of them though.

A little while ago someone who’s very close to me told me several things, all having to do with “the old me”.

“These days you put yourself in so many tiny boxes. The old you wouldn’t do that.” and so on. I’m assuming the boxes are sexual orientations.

Most of the conversation washed past with the “the old you” comments stinging like a wasp’s bite. I know I’m not the same as the old me. I have memories, both my own and on Facebook. I know I could do a lot more before my breakdown. I didn’t need daily naps and didn’t go to bed at 8pm. I didn’t struggle with making simple meals. I used to meal prep on Sunday, something I think I posted recently, and had no problem doing so even though it took most of the day.

Being told I’m not the same as the old me makes me feel like the new me is an inferior copy, one that can never succeed.

It’s noon on Monday and I’m still in my pjs. I’ll get dressed soon but will likely pass lunch because there’s nothing I can think of that I want to eat. It’s okay because I’m not hungry anyway.

I try my hardest to be a good and decent person. I hold doors open for people, smile and hold a cheery (albeit brief) conversation in the elevator. I always make a point to smile and say “hi” to the homeless people downtown and give any food I have, which is usually my own lunch. I support people on Facebook, helping talking them down from suicide sometimes, giving relationship advice (mostly how to tell if it’s abusive). I’m not qualified for either but somehow I’ve fumbled through and helped. And all of that feels inadequate because I’m not working 40 hours a week anymore then coming home to cook from scratch. I’ve always tried my hardest, it’s just that my apparently my hardest isn’t good enough anymore. And I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t go back to my old me. She’s gone now and I have no way of bringing her back.

It’s now 1pm. I’m up and dressed and even fielded a phone call from a Facebook friend of mine. I’ve even made my bed. So now’s the time to wash the handful of dishes in the kitchen and take a nap. I’m going downtown this evening to support having a rainbow crosswalk (or two). I don’t want to leave this post on a down note so here’s a song I sang while my friends and I sang karaoke. My apologies for the couple of flat notes in the beginning and I don’t have a clue where that half a line went. But it does get better, hopefully just like me.

 

The moving Colin blues…

I always figured the hardest part of moving is the packing (and unpacking). Now I’ve found a new frustration. Colin.

I love Colin dearly but he’s turning simple apartment hunting into a nightmare. He has several agencies helping him, which is great. The first unit they showed him was supposed to be a room with meals included. It was in a long term care facility and he’d have two other roommates and not even a curtain to give him some privacy. There wasn’t room for any belongings either. We all agreed that was not a good fit.

My last attempt to help him was when I found a gorgeous one bedroom apartment for $675/m. It was a ground floor unit and included access to the backyard including the deck and the jacuzzi. Yeah… a jacuzzi.

Colin turned it down because it was a “basement apartment” then proceeded to explain that every apartment in a house was a basement apartment, no matter what floor it was on, because the landlord could just say he had a family member who needs the unit and he’d be out in two months. Which is theoretically correct but isn’t that common. Colin kept insisting it was and after he yelled for a decent amount of time I told him I was no longer helping.

John Howard Society found him a room yesterday and he immediately took a look. It was close to shopping and, at $600/m, definitely affordable. Colin just turned it down because now he wants to get a full time job and stay here. At first he talked about working construction but someone (other than me) must have talked to him because now he’s talking about Dollarama.

I want him to find a place so badly so that he has somewhere safe to rest his head once I’m in my own place, and so I don’t have to worry about him with no apartment while I’m moving. But I can’t force him to take a place, no matter how much I want to. He’s a person with strong opinions and is determined this is his best course of action.

The John Howard worker is still looking for a place for him. I just hope he takes the next place.

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The apartment I found

Saying goodbye to the old me…

It was Easter dinner last night and I had the menu all planned out. The previously frozen tofu was thawed and marinating in pickle brine. All I needed to do was peel and chop potatoes for fries then make the sauce for the broccoli before cutting the veggie into bite sized pieces. Oh and get the fries and broccoli into the oven to bake and dredge the tofu in a garlic powder and flour mixture and fry the tofu…

You get the picture. I’d hoped to make brownies too but I was struggling even with the thought of prepping the tofu. The veggies were overwhelming. So I ended up slicing up a tomato and an orange instead of prepping veggies. That way I wouldn’t end up curled up in the fetal position on the kitchen floor. Been there… done that… don’t want to do it again.

food prepI miss me. I miss the woman who could happily spend the day prepping meals then go on to read or write for a couple of hours. This picture’s from Facebook where I captioned it:

I spent all day cooking! I made apple sauce (apple, cherry, and nectarine sauce to be precise), chocolate pudding, fudgesicles, pizza dough, two different soups (lentil and broccoli-cauliflower), four loaves of banana bread, chocolate covered cherries, spaghetti sauce, almond cheese, and cashew cheese. Now it’s time for me to have a bubble bath, read a book, and relax before bed 

I struggle so much. I had to listen to two songs already just so I could be relaxed enough to write and I’m contemplating watching a third one. So many things I could handle with ease a couple of years ago, I can’t handle now. I get overwhelmed with shopping and will have to apologize to Colin because I just can’t handle one more store and the bus ride home too.

I used to curl up to read and finish (or almost finish) a novel. Now I’m lucky to get through a chapter. And I’m finding sleep getting harder and harder. My heart pounds… I feel short of breath. You’d think I was in a horror movie instead of my own safe bed. The past two days have found me listening to music in my swing chair in the wee hours of the morning, too anxious to sleep. It helps but it means I’m losing about two hours of sleep a night and I’m already needing an early afternoon nap so I can make it to evening.

I have brain fog. So much brain fog. People tell me things and I forget almost immediately, no matter how hard I try to remember them. I forget what I was saying as I’m speaking. I even forget what I’m thinking. I check my calendar multiple times a day, just in case I’m missing something. Sometimes I am and, luckily, I’ve found it before I was late. I signed up for free massages at Carea and completely and utterly forgot about them. Like I had no idea I’d even signed up, in writing, for one session let alone two. It was a pleasant surprise but still disconcerting. I am so thankful for reminder calls and texts.

The old me was lively and outgoing. She cheered people up and customers used to comment that her smile and friendly wave brightened their day. The old me carried around a notebook and wrote novel excerpts on the bus and quickly typed them out at home. The old me could hold a conversation that wasn’t online.

I’ve been autistic my whole life but the depression and anxiety ripped off my masks and I haven’t been able to find them again. I rock and sway regularly, listen to the same songs over and over (and over). Bounce in my swing chair to settle down. I have meltdowns when things aren’t going the way I thought and the world’s suddenly strange and different. Even though it really isn’t, it’s just my perception.

It’s weird to be mourning myself when I’m still here. But, in a way I’m not, there are so many differences between the old me and the new me, it’s like I’m a whole new person. I guess all I can really do is get to learn who the new me is and try to like her.

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