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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2016… the year that won’t die…

2016I started out thinking that 2016 was going to be my year. My best friend of five years had asked me to start dating him and, by February, we were already hammering out rough plans for a simple, yet simply perfect, wedding… complete with a hot air balloon ride and trip to the Doctor Who museum. I bought plane tickets to see him in October and had a countdown going on my phone for how many days I had left. He was counting down too.

At first the goal was for him to move in with me but then we switched to me moving there. I didn’t realize it at the time but a lot of the reason for my decision was deep depression. I simply didn’t feel like anyone other than Lenny wanted me so what point was there in staying in Canada?

I knew I was struggling. I had Ativan from my family doctor for panic attacks and a low dose of Effexor for depression and I still had to hold myself back with all my strength some days to keep from running, screaming, out the front door of work. I couldn’t do that. I needed to be employed. I needed to stay employable so that I could move. So I transferred stores to work at one a five minute walk from home. That cut out two hours of transit time a day but my anxiety and depression increased. I confessed to Lenny that I was suicidal and he broke up with me two days later. Then I wrote a long and rambling letter on Facebook which was worrying enough that my sister took me to the hospital.

Going to the hospital netted me with more medication and a psychiatrist but things weren’t perfect. There were gaps between the various forms of disability assistance and I had three months with no income (not sequentially). Lenny first backed out on having me stay over then he blocked me the morning after my first hospital stay. I’ve never heard from him again.

It wasn’t until the late fall that things started picking up but I was still suicidal and still struggling. And flipping the calendar to 2017 didn’t solve anything. I was back in the hospital in January and February. Then came income tax time and me, in my infinite wisdom, decided that maybe I wasn’t in the best mental condition to do my taxes, even though I do them every year. So I hired someone.

July rolled around and I got an unexpected windfall of $200 and change. It was nice but there had to be a reason why. And that reason was the person who did my taxes never included my rent so, when it came time to calculate the Trillium benefit, I got the bare minimum. So I worked with the Canadian Revenue Agency, sent in the information, and requested a lump sum payment in June 2018 instead of monthly payments.

Then Colin got audited for, you guessed it, 2016. They wanted proof of rent. We got a basic income tax statement showing out total rent and I wrote a letter on it saying he paid half while I paid the other half. Then his GST cheque arrived and I figured that was good enough. It wasn’t. He got another letter asking for proof that he’s on the lease AND proof he pays half the rent. Nothing’s ever that easy.

Trillium was supposed to be deposited yesterday. I checked at 7:30am when I woke up and nothing. But I’ve had deposits as late as 8am so I wasn’t too worried. At least until 8am arrived and my money didn’t. I had a group to attend so I called the CRA while I was walking to the bus, the whole bus ride, and walking to the group. Two wrong numbers and a number that lead to a message stating “All our operators are dealing with other clients and our queues are full. Please try again later.” Finally I got someone who wasn’t dealing with Trillium but used some of the same software. He discovered they didn’t have my letter so he transferred me to someone else who gave me a bunch of information that I wrote on a sheet of paper towel. I’d love to say that was it but I also had to sign up for their online site and that was another headache with another phone call.

So tomorrow I have to write a letter for our building’s office asking for a letter for both Colin and I and for him to be finally put on the lease. Then I need to hand deliver it first thing Monday morning and hope our letters are ready soon. Maybe then will 2016 finally be done and buried because I’m telling you, it is truly starting to stink!

 

Withdrawal…

On April 10th, I stood on my scale and said, “Oh hell no!”

I had gained a lot of weight in 2016/17, going from the low 170’s to 225lbs. That fall I lost most of it, ending in the high 180’s. And then winter came. I didn’t want to go outside and all I wanted was carbs. Soon I was back at 202lbs.

busy dayI had 14 pounds to lose, it was definitely doable. Except, instead of losing, I’ve gained two pounds in the past month and a half(ish). That’s with walking at least 10 thousand steps a day and watching what I eat.

So I looked elsewhere, right at the last medication I started taking. Mirtazapine. And discovered it’s secondary use was as a weight gain drug. Trying to diet on this drug was similar to trying to dive while wearing water wings. You can try as hard as you want, you’re only going to bob back to the surface.

I saw my psychiatrist 10 days ago and he cut me down to a half dose then told me to stop taking them a week later. My last dose was on the 24th.

Since then I’ve been feeling worse than I have since 2016. The suicidal thoughts and ideation are back, although thankfully not with intent. I have to drag myself out to go for my walk and feel miserable for most of it. My anxiety has skyrocketed and I’m getting more panic attacks. Then I looked at the withdrawal symptoms and, what do you know, those are all side effects from withdrawal. Apparently the withdrawal is supposed to be slow and gradual, not a week. A gentle tapering of 10% at a time.

peonies.jpgMeanwhile I’m trying, I’m really trying. I went out for a family lunch today and a walk in the local botanical gardens. I’m going out for dinner tonight with our local UU congregation. There’s be line dancing, which I can tolerate, and likely country music, which I can’t. Please send ear plugs and Advil.

I’m still attending all three of my groups, although they come to an end in the next couple of weeks. And I’ll be helping Kait move.

And in the meantime I’m dealing with thoughts of just jumping off the balcony right now! How I feel is going to be forever. It doesn’t matter how many pictures I take or sunsets I see, my life will continue to feel horrible.

I tell myself that’s not true then I grit my teeth, post something positive on Facebook, and head out for a walk.

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

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.

20180424_113017.jpg

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.