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

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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.

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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.

World Semicolon Day…

semicolon

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

A rest day…

So today is February 74th. The wind is howling outside my window and the snow is buried under a layer of ice, with more coming. In short, it’s the perfect day to stay home and rest…

*looks at my bed*

… something my cats are doing amazingly well.

I had my psychiatrist appointment on Thursday and my suspicions of agoraphobia are correct, so I have something new on my plate. I had an aunt (by marriage) on my Dad’s side of the family with agoraphobia and she ended up housebound. I don’t want to get that severe. So I push myself to get out most days, no matter how hard it is. Keeping track of my breathing helps a little. Finding things to see, hear, feel, and taste* helps a lot more. And sometimes I just grit my teeth and keep walking.

Then he mentioned that I do better in the summer, which is something I’ve said before, but then I stopped to think. I’ve been hospitalized in June and September, both of which are summer here. I think that suicidal depression is able to hit at any time but the long, low days are more likely to happen during winter. If that makes sense. Sometimes things that make sense in my head don’t translate as well on paper.

My fresh start is doing well, despite the weather. I was able to get out for two walks last week and, so far, have lost 2lbs. I’ve also made sure I’m eating a lot of vegetables and fruits. And luckily the weather is improving starting tomorrow, with warmer weather and less rain. Hopefully that trend will continue and we can move on to April and May instead of lengthening February.

And now I’m going to curl up in my swing chair and read, ignoring the wailing wind on the other side of the glass. Today’s my day to rest. Tomorrow I’ll work on walking again.

snow and ice storm

Picture taken from my room on February 73rd

* I am NOT actually tasting things on my walk. That one ends up simply being saliva and whatever I ate last.

When the past hits your heart…

Colin saw the Chiquita banana sticker on my bananas this morning and gave me a lecture on the evils of banana corporations and how they destroyed Guatemala with the help of the US government back in the 1950’s. It wasn’t exactly the conversation I’d expected but he has eclectic tastes and a love of politics so I wasn’t too surprised. That being said, all I’d really planned on doing was making banana bread.

I got the banana bread in the oven, chatted with my sister for a bit, then got ready to wait for Kait to come over for a visit. The wait segued into a browse on Facebook and a trip through memory lane via the “On This Day” feature. One of the first things that popped up was this…

Lenny

It was a few years old (obviously) which means I made friends with him seven years ago today. I don’t know what I expected to feel when this surprise post popped up. Grief? Anger? Disappointment? What I didn’t expect to feel was nothing more than a vague sense of sadness.

It’s been just under two years since he blocked me. At the time I was devastated. We talked all the time, stopping only for sleep and work. I’d message him on my way to work, during both my breaks, then on my way home again… only to start up again after dinner and right through to bedtime. He was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last at night. He was my love and I was ready to pack up my whole life, leave my family and friends, and move halfway across the world to be with him.

I was actively suicidal when he blocked me and I couldn’t grasp the thought that the block might be forever. I hadn’t done anything to him, surely he’d calm down in a few weeks… maybe a month or two. But the days continued, each one without him. It almost physically hurt at first because I was coping with losing him on top of gaining a couple of serious mental illnesses. My entire life had flipped over and the person I talked to the most was gone.

I slowly started rebuilding myself, piece by piece. I began spending more time with family, made amends with my daughter, and coaxed Colin to try new things. I reached out for help and gained three groups to attend each week and a care team that checks in on me every two weeks. I have a friend in the building next to me and go to karaoke with her and her husband about once a month, among other visits. My life has almost completely changed from what it was before.

I don’t know what I’d do if Lenny unblocked me at this point. I wouldn’t be mean or rude by any means. Goodness knows he has his own issues to work through. But it certainly wouldn’t be the same. I can’t imagine devoting almost my whole life and all my attention to one person anymore. It’s a moot point since I can’t imagine Lenny unblocking me now. And, for the first time in several years, I’m okay with that.

Endings and beginnings…

Kathleen and James

James and I before my choir concert. I had a solo and was so nervous

Years ago, when I was 21, I met a young man named James. I was at work at the time, working my way through college as a part time dishwasher. His mother was the bartender and he came in one evening while I worked. Soon we were dating and were engaged a few months later. By the time we’d known each other for a year, we were living together and planning a wedding.

I was pregnant with Kait on our first anniversary and pregnant with Colin on our third. We broke up on our 6th anniversary, had a brief reconciliation, then separated for good in January 2001.

Those bare bones facts don’t share the struggles and the emotional pain I went through in our marriage. They don’t show James keeping all his student loan money in his separate account instead of placing it into his  joint account because it was easier… leaving me stuck in the position of begging for milk money. They don’t show our frequent arguments over college when it was apparent to me he wasn’t working on school work. Arguments where he insisted he was working hard at school and I was simply over reacting. An argument he kept using until his report card was handed out. He assured me he didn’t get the lowest grades in the class, just the second lowest, as if that made things all right. I was pregnant with Kait then and needed him to work hard and actually try.

I struggled for six years, raising two babies (Kait and Colin are 22 months apart) and keeping the house together. Meanwhile James kept sliding downhill. I’d give him a bill to pay (pre internet banking). He’d walk out the door, ostensibly heading over to the bank less than a block away, then he’d come home saying he’d paid the bill. Which meant everything was fine until the next month when, whoops, our phone bill was double and James had spent all of last month’s “extra money” on computer parts. I made sure that I, for the most part, paid the bills but, with two small children, it wasn’t always feasible.

I didn’t want to break up our marriage but it’s something that takes two people in order to work and I was the only one doing the work. By the time we separated for good (we’ve since divorced) he was doing nothing around the house. The kids barely noticed his absence. The closest either of them got to wondering where he went was when Kait asked where the big pillow in the living room went. What big pillow? Oh right, James used to fall asleep on the floor instead of going to bed or sleeping on the couch. Then the kids would use him as a pillow. I reminded her that pillow was her Dad. She said, “Oh okay” and went back to playing.

He did everything in his power to ensure no child support reached us. He wouldn’t say where he lived. He got friends to buy him a phone under their names so he couldn’t be searched for. His jobs were often under the table and, if not, he only stayed for a few months so that FRO (Family Responsibility Office) couldn’t track him down. They were always a job behind him. All of that over $50.

He showed up when he wanted, sometimes twice a month but more often two or three times a year. Every single visit was fraught with drama. He left the kids alone in the Walmart McDonalds while he went outside to talk on his cellphone, leaving them unsure what to do. He ran them across a local highway at rush hour because he didn’t want to walk half a block to the crosswalk. To this day Colin absolutely will not jaywalk. It doesn’t matter if there’s no cars on the road in either direction, he has to find a cross walk or he has an anxiety attack. They were that close to getting hit.

As the kids got older, his behaviour worsened. He’d share things that would be TMI even for adults, like the time his girlfriend overdosed on sleeping medication. Instead of checking up on her or calling an ambulance, he left her in their bedroom and went out to buy two cups of coffee as an alibi. She lived but it was through no help of his. He called Children’s Aid (Child Protective Services) and told them that 13 year old Kait was beating me up (she wasn’t). He spent a year trying to convince her that he wanted her to live with him then dumped her at the end of the year, calling her “that one” and asking me to back him on banning her from his visits. There was a lot more but this post is threatening to be a novel already. It’s hard to compress 25 years.

He gave up pretty easily on Colin, which wasn’t a surprise because he’s favoured Kait since Colin was born. Which means Kait got the brunt of his erratic behaviour. Once he called her late at night to say he’d bought a bike from someone then it got stolen so he didn’t feel he needed to pay them. They were coming to get their money no matter what so if he didn’t call her by morning, chances are he was dead. Then he turned off his phone and went to bed. Kait called me in a panic and I told her to call the police. The police did a wellness check and, sure enough, he was just sleeping. She was a teenager when he pulled this.

James and Brenda

James, after his baptism into the Mormon church, and his Mom. He celebrated his baptism with a cigarette, a joint, and a drink

Colin and I have had him blocked on Facebook and phone since the fiasco in June. Kait did initially but then we found out their paternal grandmother was dying of cancer and unblocked him so updates could be passed more easily. She died in mid January.

The kids and I had a great Christmas but there was one thing we didn’t know and that was Kait’s pregnancy. She got a positive test on Boxing Day and waited until the end of the first trimester before telling anyone in the family. I went to her 12 week ultrasound and got to see the little heart beating and to her 13 week obstetrician’s appointment. Sadly we couldn’t hear the heart beat with the doppler but she was still pretty early.

I don’t know if it was the loss of his Mom or finding out about the new baby but James pretty much lost his mind. He’s been texting Kait a bunch of crap and he went one step further.ultrasound

There’s a troll website called Kiwi Farms (don’t search them, they’re nasty) where people do nothing but find blogs, mostly trans and trans positive ones, and pick the posts apart badly. I posted about them back in December 2016 when they first found my blog. I know they’re still around because they show up in my statistics once or twice a week but otherwise I ignore them. Kait sent me some screen shots from their site recently that left me shaking my head. They are still convinced that I’m forcing Colin to be trans and shoving him into my clothes, like he doesn’t have clothes of his own. He borrowed a shirt from me for Christmas because he spilt something on his good shirt and suddenly they think he’s wearing all my clothes all the time. Not to mention, I’m 5ft3in and Colin’s 6ft3in. My clothes, other than one loose tank top, don’t fit him.

Colin is as stubborn as a mule and as movable as a boulder. I’m not manipulating him, no one is. He’s not saying he’s a man, he’s made it quite clear he’s female. But, thanks to autism’s black and white thinking, he feels that if he’s going to stay the way he is without hormones, he has to use he/him pronouns and go back to Colin. Which is no big deal for us. I remember 99.9% of the time now to call him Colin and he’s gone back to Colin at the doctor’s office. Maybe he’ll change his mind down the road and maybe he won’t but he’s loved either way and he knows that.

Their Dad has found the site and has started posting there, under the name Xofkathleen, as if being my ex is the only way he defines himself. Weird. His posts are pretty much a word salad mixed with almost incomprehensible spelling mistakes.

post3

If I shrink these they become unreadable. Also 19 pages?!? Do these people have lives???

post5

And, yeah, that’s Kait and I talking up in the corner LOL

His texts to Kait are just as badly written and even nastier. Kait’s comments are teal.

Text 5

Text 7

Yes, he’s bragging about blocking her. Also, I’m pretty sure mefs are meds

Text 24

I’m pretty sure he won Father of the Year right here

Text 25

Eww… like Kait or I needed that mental image. I’d like to believe I came via the stork, thank you very much. And spoiler, Kait blocked her Dad, they did not, in fact talk “tomorrow”.

The simple truth is our lives are getting better. I’m doing a lot better on my medication and branching out into new programs. Colin’s happily working towards his high school graduation. Kait and her boyfriend Josh are looking for a new apartment in April, after they’ve saved up some money. Both of them are working full time. Josh is the assistant manager of a furniture store. His store’s doing a seasonal close in November and then he’s eligible for free training in a trade from EI so he might end up with an even better job come 2019. Blackie’s perked up and happily eating her food. 2018 is an amazing year for us and I’m sure it’ll keep getting better.

Kait, Kathleen, and Emma

It can’t be seen but there’s a baby in this picture 🙂