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

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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.

Two years…

I deserve better blankTwo years ago I cried until I thought I could cry no more and still the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes swelled shut and my head ached. I felt like my entire world had fallen in on me and there was nothing left but ruins. Like there was only one option left and that was to jump off my 7th storey balcony to the unforgiving pavement below. All that stopped me was the concern that it might not be high enough. What would happen if I ended up paralyzed? I wouldn’t be able to try again.

Luckily for me I’m a writer. I write about everything and this was no exception. I got on Facebook and a veritable flood of words was released. I lied and said I wasn’t planning to kill myself. Even so, what I said was worrying enough that my sister Jen called then drove me down to the hospital. My Mom traded off with her when Jen had to pick up her kids. It takes a long time to be seen for mental health issues but they do keep close track of you.

In some ways that day feels like the beginning of a whole different life but it wasn’t. I’d been struggling with my mental health for at least a year. My family doctor started me on Effexor the spring of 2015 and prescribed Ativan for my rare panic attacks. It was getting harder and harder to stay at work. Some days I’d grip the sides of the cash register or my arms in an attempt not to run screaming out the door. I had always been the fun loving person. I cracked jokes, sang along with the radio, hugged people who liked hugging, and joked with the regular customers. My manager joked that Happy was my theme song. All that slowly drained away as my focus turned inward, a silent struggle to keep running my life.

20180418_101120.jpgIt’s been two long years but I’m slowly rebuilding my life. I’m printing out my scrapbooking pages and am finally up to mid 2017. I’m starting to read again and am thinking, once again, about my novel. I’ve joined three groups and enjoy every one of them. I visit my family every week and try to get out once a month for karaoke (yes, I can sing LOL). It’s not the same life I had before. My attention span is negligible. I find two hour classes to be just long enough. Any more would be overwhelming. But I’m surrounded by friends and family. Life is good.

Am I back to normal? No. I’m currently taking twelve pills in order to function and still struggle with anxiety. Am I happy? Yes. And I think that’s the most important answer of them all.

building your life

World Semicolon Day…

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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

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.

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.

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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!