The butterfly…

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I was in the hospital for two weeks back in September and it was such a positive difference. Two doctors checked me over and changed my medication slightly. But that slight change made a huge improvement.

The next thing I did was buy a Fitbit Flex 2. I love it. It’s small, comfortable, and waterproof. Plus it automatically logs all my exercise, including swimming. And I’m determined to get my 10 thousand steps in every day. Which is a bonus because I have to go outside to get those steps. Depression and going outside don’t often play together well.

I talked to someone from the Canadian Mental Health Association about getting a therapist and, voila, she had information in her satchel. Not only that but I only had to wait a week. I talked to the therapist yesterday and think we’ll work well together.

Then today I got to meet my new psychiatrist. I liked my old psychiatrist but he didn’t think he was doing much to help me… that we just didn’t click… so he transferred me to a new doctor. And the new doctor and I clicked. We obviously had serious topics to discuss but I left him laughing which seems like a good start.

I feel like a caterpillar now. I’m changing into I don’t know what. All I know is it will be beautiful.

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Anxiety…

It’s late and you’re alone watching a horror movie. The music starts. Something is going to happen. The protagonist bravely sets forward. Your heart starts pounding, you feel weak and trembling, your stomach churns.

Except there’s no horror movie, no late night, and you’re probably not even alone. Yet the racing heart, weakness, and stomach churning continues.

That’s what anxiety is like for me. It’s hard to breathe, hard to think, and the anxiety sits there like an unwelcome guest. The most minor chore makes me want to curl up like a pill bug and hide. The major chores are beyond me.

Counting breaths doesn’t help. I end up worrying I’m counting too fast or too slow and end up hyperventilating, which is so not the goal. Reassuring myself helps a bit. Sleeping helps a lot but is a huge inconvenience. And Ativan helps, but brings along a worry of addiction.

I wish I had some amazing ending to this, some great way of alleviating anxiety, but I don’t. In fact, I’m rocking while I write this and thinking about curling up for a nap. What triggered this bout of anxiety? I don’t know. Maybe the fact there’s dishes to wash? But probably not. It just seems to show up like an unwelcome house guest and never knows when to leave.

If you’ve got a great way to decrease anxiety, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Weighty matters…

When I first started gaining weight, I treated it like a fluke. Nothing had changed diet or exercise wise and soon the gain would stop and I’d go back to normal. Except it didn’t stop. One day my pants fit like usual then I couldn’t pull them up at all. The gain was rapid and relentless. By the time it stopped I’d gained 47lbs, all in half a year.

Emma took a video of me singing “Stay” at karaoke last night and I didn’t even recognize myself. Even my face has changed dramatically. I hate the way I look now. I miss my old self.

If I followed societies narrative, I’d be doing anything I could to lose weight. Restrictive diets, extreme exercise. Even medicine fueled weight gain must come off eventually. That’s how success happens, right?

I see the videos and before and after pictures of smiling, happy people… finally proud in their new skin. I also know the failure rate and the struggle and this is when I say “fuck it”.

Our society teaches us to shrink ourselves in so many ways. Physically is just one of them and from now on I’m refusing to shrink.

My Facebook flashback today showed a past me who bragged about only eating one crepe at work and I brought my own diet syrup so I could save 20 extra calories. This was a once only experience where our store owners came in and made crepes and pancakes, complete with whipped cream and strawberries… and I refused an extra crepe so I could lose weight. I didn’t by the way.

We only have one life to live and I refuse to live it in an endless cycle of trying to lose weight so society likes me more. And endless cycle of saying no and praising myself for punishing my body.

I will eat healthy food, exercise to keep myself limber, and treat myself when I need some kindness. And I will accept that I am no longer a size medium, average woman.

Maybe someday I’ll be that size medium woman again but I doubt it. I’m on too many psychiatric medications (including Abilify and Lithium, which are known for weight gain). I have a feeling the only way to lose this weight, other than starvation, is stopping the meds… which are keeping me alive. That’s not an option.

My life was not meant to be scenery. I was always more than a pretty face and now I’ll show it.

One year later…

This winter went on too long then, just when I thought I couldn’t stand another grey day, the trees burst forth in blossoms of lime green. I’d forgotten how soft they looked pressed against the sky. How brilliant the green contrasts against the blue. How the weeping willows look like they’re dancing with veils. How new leaves glisten in the sunshine.

This time last year I was convinced my life was over. There was nothing to live for… no one who cared. I was going to jump off my balcony and land in the dumpster seven floors below. My thoughts at the time was it would save my family money for a burial. Somehow I figured the truck would simply take my body away with the trash. Obviously I wasn’t in my right mind.

I wasn’t going to leave a letter, I didn’t think anyone cared enough to read it, but a former friend of mine convinced me to post a note on Facebook saying how I felt. I didn’t see the point and then he dared me to. If there wasn’t a point then it didn’t matter? Why didn’t I try?

So I did try. I posted and my sister almost immediately replied. So did my Mom and countless others. People did care. I did matter. I’d cried until my eyes swelled shut, I was a mess, and people still cared.

If life were a made for TV movie, everything would be perfect now. I’d be back to work, my relationship would have magically healed itself, and music would softly swell over a picturesque ending. But life doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t jump that day. Thankfully. But my soul… my self… shattered and it hasn’t magically fitted itself back together again. I’m still fragile. I take a handful of pills a day to function.

And yet…

Just like the softened new blossoms are distinct and real against a twilight sky, my thoughts coalesce and form into a whole. I might not be perfect but I’m me. And I’m glad to be here.

Finding the shape of my days…

CN: suicidal thoughts

It was Friday, February 10th and my mental health worker had just arrived. I was… in not good shape. I’d gone to cut my pills the night before and found myself mere millimeters away from slashing the hell out of my arm with a ceramic knife. I managed not to but it was close and I wasn’t in a good mindset.

The worker asked how I was doing, I told her the truth and she called 911. Within minutes the police and paramedics were here. The paramedics left just as quickly as I didn’t need medical attention and the police promised to drive me in to emergency. Did you know they don’t have seat belts in the back seat of their cars? Also, being escorted in by a police officer garners a lot of attention.

Everything else was the same as the last two times. ER doctor, crisis nurse, and psychiatrist… all with copious amounts of waiting in between. Then the psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to go home or stay. If I stayed, I’d end up in the ER all weekend because there weren’t any beds. She left me alone to make up my mind and I burst into tears and called myself names. Then she came back in and walked me to the ER. I was upstairs in the psychiatric ward by 10pm.

The first thing I realized was that my intense homesickness last time was nothing of the sort. It was the same severe anxiety I always have. The second thing I realized was that anxiety faded away with Clonazepam.

I quickly found a routine for myself. A nap after breakfast, walking around the halls to get my 10,000 steps on my Fitbit, chatting with the other patients, a second nap after lunch, reading, more chatting, and cards after dinner. Ironically enough the game of choice was Crazy Eights.

Mood wise I’m doing a lot better. I’m on a handful of drugs now. Effexor, Abilify, Clonazepam, and Lithium. The lot act like tiny balloons, lifting up my feelings. Tiny sedating balloons. Right now I’m groggy from the Clonazepam but I’ve been assured that will lessen over the coming month.

I got released on Thursday and find myself struggling to fill the shape of my days. The hospital had a set routine and I’m finding I need something similar at home. A pattern… a routine.

My alarm is set for 8am daily and I’m going to walk at the local walking track every morning (starting tomorrow). Otherwise I haven’t come up with anything. I’m sure it won’t take me too long to fill in my days.

kathleen-at-the-hospital

Me on my hospital bed

A good day…

I woke this morning to three purring cats, all snuggled over and around me, and Jeremy laughing in his room. I’m not sure what he was watching but apparently it was good.

I then got a message from a friend of mine saying the website that doxxed me is gone (for now at least). Ironically, the owner of the site got doxxed and didn’t like it, to put it mildly.

To make it even funnier and more ironic, here’s a line from his goodbye speech:

I have thought hard about the cumulative value of the site and all the opportunities it presents me and us, as a community. We have done amazing things. But, the cumulative damage outweighs all of that. It is enormous.”

The opportunities it presented? Amazing things? This whole site consisted of nothing more than bashing people anonymously. Telling lies about people they have never, and never will, meet interspersed with sharing private information like home addresses and the real names of children. Today karma bit back. Tomorrow? Well they’re worms, I’m sure they’ll pop up through a new hole at some point. But for now they’re gone.

I start intensive group therapy on Monday. It’s going to be similar to attending school, except it’s one for feelings. We have our own time tables and classes in such things as psychotherapy, coping skills, self-esteem, and stress/symptom management. We even have a lunch period where we can go down to the cafeteria to eat. I bought myself a fancy turquoise binder complete with folders and a zipper yesterday. Luckily my work lunch bag is still good.

Jeremy is eager to go back to school. The good news is he has a lovely certificate showing he graduated from his Lifeskills program in high school. The bad news is it’s apparently worth less than the paper it’s printed on. He can’t go to the local alternative high school or to the nearby continuing education school to upgrade, he doesn’t have enough education for either. But we have options we’re looking into. One is a bridge to school program through local high schools and the other is an education program run through a nearby mental health hospital. Hopefully one of the two options will pan out.

As for today, I’m anxious enough to need an Ativan and rocking while I type. Even so, it’s a peaceful day. I’m going to force myself to go to the gym for a walk on the track with my favourite music because my health is worth it.

Here’s my current favourite exercise song. Enjoy 🙂

Ghosting through my day…

I feel… odd. No other way to put it. Off center… off kilter… I feel like a ghost drifting through my own life. This is my room, with all my belongings, but they don’t feel like mine and I don’t particularly feel like me. I’m sure there’s a lovely, long, technical name for this. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.

I’ve got too much energy today to sit but not enough to do anything and not enough focus to read. I almost feel like clawing off my own skin, as if I were a cocoon and there’s a butterfly underneath. But there isn’t and I won’t. My skin itches and crawls nonetheless.

Last week I got a letter from ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) saying I’d been accepted. The next day I got a notice from EI (Employment Insurance) saying I’d reached the end of my 15 weeks of sickness benefits. At the time I figured that was good timing and gave my worker a call.

Just bring the paperwork in so we have it for our files.

Alrighty then. It was a beautiful day so I printed out the papers and we headed off. I brought a 15% off coupon for a nearby organic restaurant too, figuring we could get a snack. The two were near each other and Jeremy asked if we could walk. Sounds great. We had to pass a huge aquatic pet store, a place I’d take Jeremy and Emma when they were little… pretending it was an aquarium. Jeremy wanted to go in.

We left that store with four little frogs, two “on sale” tiny aquariums, and me wondering how such small purchases could add up so quickly. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I’ve wanted a pet frog for years, but the cost was staggering. I almost told the cashier to put it all back but I’d feel guilty for wasting their time and Jeremy was happy. At least the frogs were relatively long lived, with a life expectancy of five years.

The first frog to die was Jeremy’s that very night. Then one of mine. The last of mine died last night and Jeremy’s remaining frog doesn’t look healthy. It’s only a matter of time. It hasn’t even been a week. There is a return policy but you have to bring back the corpses and I’ve flushed them. I couldn’t picture keeping them “on ice” in the freezer beside the Gardein Porkless Bites and the frozen kale. Maybe I’ll get a Siamese fish so I’ve got something to go in the tank. What I really want is to go back in time and tell myself to walk past the store. Just walk on by… don’t go in. But time doesn’t work like that, even when you feel like a ghost.

And the paperwork wasn’t good enough, according to ODSP, so I had to go out on an almost freezing, pouring rain day to get more paperwork from EI and bring it in. The nice man in the office informed me that I could have printed everything out at home and that my worker should have known the paperwork was fine. ODSP says I can get more money from EI. EI says I’ve exhausted my claim. It would be nicer to get fought over if they both weren’t fighting over who’s not going to pay me.

Jeremy and I are going to walk a block to the store to buy pizza fixings. Maybe the fresh air will help reconnect me to my body.