October musings…

Yesterday was weird… just weird enough to keep me off kilter. First came the cancellation of my Nordic Pole walking class, five minutes before I had to leave. Then I got a call during the walk to my Social Recreation group from my psychiatrist’s secretary. The doctor was going to be on-call the day of my next appointment, could I switch to having an appointment at 4pm that day? Sure, that was fine.

The group went well then I got to the psychiatrist’s office and he asked me if I’d done the blood work for my lithium levels. I hadn’t because my lithium and clonazepam stopped coming last week, the day before I was going in for the blood work. I’d called the drug store and they told me they’d been faxing my prescription to the office and hadn’t got a reply. The psychiatrist’s receptionist said nothing had arrived and to get them to send it again. The doctor was furious. He checked his faxes every single day, several times a day, and nothing had come in for me.

That was when Colin called to say my IUD had arrived but my blister pack of meds hadn’t. I was now completely out of medication with no warning. The psychiatrist immediately called the drug store who, as far as I could tell, didn’t have much to say. He then wrote me a prescription with 30 refills, which he said should last me a while.

I got home and checked the mail. Colin’s disability pay stub arrived but mine hadn’t. Of course my mind went to the worst case scenario. What if I’d been kicked off disability with no warning whatsoever? Never mind that I’d been assured by my case manager that never happens. But what if it did? It was too late to call the office, I just had to wait until morning and see if the money got deposited into my account.

Of  course we had to drop off the prescriptions at the drug store, which is when I was informed that I hadn’t run out of the rest of my pills, they were merely on hold while I was in the hospital. Umm… what? There was a bit of confusion but they finally understood that I hadn’t been in the hospital at all and the hold got removed from my file. Thankfully the pharmacist was willing to make a new blister pack for me although it would take two hours. We wandered around stores for as long as we could and had just got home when I got the call to get my blister pack. Luckily that went smoothly and I was soon back home and ready for bed.

I woke up this morning and my disability hadn’t been cancelled (phew). I chatted with Kait for a while, got Colin up, then Colin and I headed out for a big shopping trip. We were aiming for over $200 in groceries so Colin could get a gift pack of Knorr products. We got $300 of groceries instead, which was super fun for Colin to pull home (not). He was thrilled though because he earned 6,000 PC points ($6) toward free groceries.

Colin walking the wagon home

It might not look like much but there’s a huge bag of kitty litter, a 48 pack of canned cat food, and a big bag of cat food. Plus all our food in various places including in two baskets.

I got the groceries stuffed away then went back out for our bus passes. Thankfully a friend told me they were still accepting October’s disability stubs so I was able to get mine too. Darn mail strike!

Two young men, college students, got on the bus home right after me and sat across from me. They didn’t go far and, as they left, I noticed one of them had lost his bus pass/student card. The driver stopped when I asked and, I asked if he’d wait for me while I gave the young man his pass back. The driver informed me that, no, he wouldn’t wait. He was on a schedule. Which meant I’d have to wait another half hour for the next bus if I got off. So I settled for leaning out the door and yelling at the students while waving the pass. They ran over to get it while the driver grumbled that he guessed he had to wait after all. Yeah, and I guess he’d never had to retrieve something from the bus depot on the other side of town, especially something as necessary as a bus pass. The student was grateful at least and I was glad I noticed it in time for him to get it back.

And now it’s time to snuggle up in bed. Tomorrow’s a new day and a new month and another fresh start.

born to be awesome

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Creeping out of hibernation…

The kittens were wild things all morning. I had to lift them out of the storage container cupboard, pull them off the hutch, and coax them out of the fine china. After that Smudge went on a major grooming spree while Lara chased her tail in the bathtub. Then they proceeded to chase each other all around the apartment and over the other cats. My senior cats were decidedly confused.

Colin stayed in his room offering commentary on different videos, interspersed with his braying laughter. I miss the giggle he used to have. Meanwhile I made vegetable soup then retreated to my room to chat with friends on Facebook and to try and calm down. It’s been two weeks since my schedule changed for Christmas break and I’ve come to realize I really need one. A schedule, not Christmas, although I could use another of those too. My anxiety has been revving up and it’s hard to concentrate or get anything done.

If you want an idea what anxiety is like, picture yourself in a car driving down the road. You go around a corner and there’s a transport truck right there in your lane! The crash is imminent and you can’t stop yourself from saying “holy hell, we’re going to die”. Except there’s no car, no road, and no transport truck. There’s just that “holy hell, we’re all going to die” feeling. And it keeps coming as waves washing over you. It’s been like that for me pretty much all day. And, yes, I’ve done my breathing.

It’s been much too cold to go out for any length of time. The temperature has ranged from the -20’s to -30s. We went next door on Thursday to help a friend and, on the way over, I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze. I didn’t even know your eyes could get cold. It felt really weird. The weather is rapidly rising today and it’s supposed to be 2C tomorrow, which is a decent temperature for a winter walk. Emma’s school starts tomorrow too and my groups start up again this week. I even see my psychiatrist and I’m planning on showing him my list of questions.

Up until Christmas break I’d been either walking to or from my groups. Thanks to the weather this week, I should be able to continue with the walks, hopefully indefinitely, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another cold spell. Disappointed but not surprised.

I was too anxious to go outside today but Colin had some things to buy and went out instead. He needed a battery for starters as our smoke detector’s battery failed last night. Why do they only fail at three am? I don’t think I’ve ever, in my whole life, had a detector start beeping at 8pm. Colin needs a box of envelopes too because it looks like he’s getting reimbursed for the money he was scammed out of. Which is amazing.

And now the sun is slowly setting and Colin’s back home, bubbling over about his purchases and how he got a Steve Jobs movie just to see what they got wrong. And it’s time for me to make dinner. Tomorrow’s another day and, hopefully, a warmer and better one.

Things psychiatrists should ask…

I like my psychiatrist. He’s thoughtful and actually listens to what I have to say. That being said, there are a lot of important questions him and other psychiatrists rarely ask.

  1. When was the last time you showered or bathed?
  2. How long does it take you to work up the courage to shower?
  3. Do you eat three healthy meals a day?
  4. Are you emotionally able to prepare a healthy meal?
  5. How often do you leave your apartment each week?
  6. When was the last time you left your apartment, other than for appointments?
  7. How long is the time between washing dishes?
  8. What is your favourite activity? How long has it been since you did this activity?
  9. How much sleep do you get a night?
  10. How often do you wake up during the night? And for how long?
  11. Do you forget things regularly? Have other people commented on it?
  12. When was the last time you cleaned your home?
  13. Are you a hoarder?
  14. Do you remember to take your pills regularly? How do you keep track of when you’ve taken them?

If you have any additional questions for psychiatrists, please leave them in the comments section. I think I had more but I’ve forgotten them.

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.

Insert title here…

Some days parenting is less “I love my kid so much” and more “I cannot strangle my sprog. I’m too weird for prison”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeremy but that love gets buried when I walk in the door after a 9 hour shift to discover zie’s done nothing around the house (again). Especially when Jeremy’s excuse is that zie was too tired followed by a retort that zie doesn’t see me at work so zie doesn’t count it as me doing anything. Seriously, this kid is 18 years old and still thinks I disappear out of zir life and do nothing until I appear again.

The excuses I hear for the lack of help are varied. Basically zie’s much too tired/dizzy/overheating/headachy to wash dishes, pick up zir stuff, or take the recycling downstairs to the blue recycling bins. However Jeremy has more than enough energy to rearrange zir room, shuffle around computers/monitors, and rearrange zir plant stand (including moving the entire 6ft shelving unit). As you can imagine, my patience for zir varying issues has faded appreciably.

To make life that much more complicated, I do think zie is struggling with serious issues on top of zir drama queen attitude (zie rocks a tiara for a reason). Jeremy’s sleeping is chaotic at best. Zie’ll spend several weeks going to bed early and sleeping all night then several more weeks will pass where zie sleeps in brief patches, often staying awake for 24 to 36 hours at a time. Some days zie’s chattering and happy, talking non-stop to anyone and pretty much anything.

“Who are you talking to hon?”
“Oh no one, just my laptop.”
“Okay hon. Umm, please let me know if your laptop starts talking back.”

While others will have zir staying in zir room almost constantly, playing video games and watching videos with headphones on.

Then there’s the days zie gets angry. Jeremy’s whole personality changes to the point where zie reminds me of zir father. Zie’ll barrage me with questions, give me no time to answer, then claim I can’t answer them because I’m a) too stupid and b) obviously lying. Zie’ll bring up purchases I made years ago to prove that I’m incompetent at buying things. After all, I bought a computer in 2013 that doesn’t have nearly enough speed for zir current video games. Plus zie knows zie could have fixed our old computer now. Zie’ll swear, call me names, and…

“Mom, I just want you to know I’m not rational when I’m angry,” Jeremy explained in an abashed voice. “It’s scary because I don’t even remember a bunch of the time I’m angry. There’s gaps in my memory.”

I asked my doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist back in September for both Jeremy and myself then double-checked that one was sent. Last Tuesday I decided to call the psychiatrist’s office myself to see where we were on the waiting list. His receptionist called me back while I was looking at coconut milk in the grocery store.

“I always call people within a month of their referral,” she assured me. “Oh yes, I see you now. I called you back in October and left a message.”

October. I tried to remember when I changed my cellphone. Was it October or November? I stayed with the same carrier but maybe the call happened when the phone were being switched. Could she have called right at that time? Did the voicemail disappear during the transfer?

“I have you down as number 905-240…” she listed off a number while I listened in disbelief.

“That’s not my number,” I replied. I changed my number with the doctor when I got rid of our home phone over a year ago. He’s called my on my cellphone to return test results.

We set up a phone interview date for me for the end of June, which I have to call and confirm because a) I was standing in the grocery store holding a tin can and no pen and b) the next batch of information knocked it right out of my mind. I asked her about Jeremy and it quickly became apparent they had no record of zir being referred even though the referrals were sent at the same time. Our doctor is great. He’s patient, friendly, a good listener, and willing to take time to discuss issues with his patients. He’s also really close to retiring. I have no idea where Jeremy’s referral went. The receptionist is going to check with the psychiatrist to see what they can do and call me back. She’s got the right number now.

As of this week I’m not arguing with Jeremy over chores. Zie knows what needs to get done and zie has the choice of doing them or not. The flip side is zie now has a sheet of financial responsibilities that come from zir disability cheque. Once the bills are paid, zie has exactly $100 to spend on zirself. Zie can buy junk food, computer parts, or save it. Meanwhile I have my money. If zie helps out around the house, I will buy zir treats (soft drinks, video games at Dollarama, yet another RC car from Value Village). If zie does nothing, zie gets the bare minimum. Basic healthy food, clean clothes, medication, and a home to live in.

The one chore zie’s not ready to handle is zir daily medication. I gave Jeremy zir pill organizer last week and zie lost it after one day and still hasn’t found it. Then I told Jeremy twice on Saturday to take zir morning medication only to be informed zie’d forgotten while we were at the drug store. At least that explained zir sudden dizzy spells and headache. The down side to me controlling the medication is zir pill schedule is not at regular times. Some mornings Jeremy gets zir pills at 4:30am and other mornings it’s closer to 9:30am, but it’s better than not taking them at all.

Both yesterday and today Jeremy worked on cleaning up zir balcony (we have two) and zie also went on a long walk through our local conservation area with me. Jeremy brought zir laptop and put a webcam on a stick then took pictures from varying perspectives. Hopefully the warm, spring air and sunshine will provide some energy and optimism to zir… and the lure of Dollarama video games and potting supplies will convince zir to wash the dinner dishes!

Colin on zir laptop3

Jeremy taking a picture of the other side of the tree.

School trepidation…

Gatineau*

The first time I heard that name was with Emma. She’d been dealing with several issues; bullying, anxiety, and an overwhelming conviction that she’d made her Dad disappear and he was never coming back. I asked the school’s social worker for help and was assured that Emma and I talked well so we didn’t need any outside help. This was flattering but not useful. I requested an assessment from the school psychologist and asked for more help. Gatineau was recommended and an assessment was scheduled immediately.

A stern looking older man met us outside their interview room. Emma immediately froze. He stared at her then barked, “She’s obviously depressed.”

“She’s very shy,” I replied as we edged past him into the room. “She’s always been scared of men. Besides, she was laughing and joking around just a minute ago.”

I looked back to see him glaring at me. “I’m the psychiatrist and I know depression when I see it. She’s depressed.”

His tone said he felt that was clearly the end of the discussion. I figured it wasn’t worth starting off with an argument, not when I was there to get Emma help so shut my mouth.

The room was filled with a huge circle of chairs and a fish tank, which looked oddly out of place. We all sat near the door, the fishes swam alone on the other side of a vast expanse of chairs. There was a man who sat across from us with a pad and pen, obviously ready to take notes. He didn’t make Emma any more comfortable although, to be fair, she could hardly get any less comfortable.

Then I thought of something else. “Before we begin, I should let you know I’m having Emma tested for Aspergers.”

The psychiatrist looked over at Emma then shook his head. “She definitely does not have that,” he replied haughtily.

I began to wonder if it was possible to pull a doctorate of psychiatry out of a cereal box. The psychologist had me fill out checklists that started almost from conception and sat with Emma for hours. Meanwhile this doctor had diagnosed her in under two minutes without speaking to either of us or even attaining eye contact with her.

The doctor settled on play therapy for Emma along with a parenting group for me. I wanted Emma to get social skills help and was assured that would come as long as I joined their parenting group. I agreed and we were placed into art and group therapy at the same time. The only caveat was I needed to miss the first three sessions as my parents were away and I needed them to watch Jeremy. I was assured that was fine.

I knew immediately the group was a poor fit. Emma was prone to slamming her bedroom door while yelling, “I hate you! You’re mean!” Meanwhile the rest of the group were dealing with youths who set fire to the living room, robbed stores, and smashed furniture.

The weeks went on. Emma enjoyed her therapy, coming home regularly with crafts, while I listened to the other parents and offered any support I could. One day our group mediator was late and conversation immediately moved to the psychiatrist.

No one in the group liked him. They disliked his attitude and distrusted his diagnoses. I commented that Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers** but hadn’t got any of the social skills help I’d been promised. The mediator stepped into the room to tell me I was wrong, their psychiatrist had ruled out that diagnosis, and my diagnosis couldn’t count because Aspergers was only diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I pointed out that he made that diagnosis in less than two minutes, without speaking to Emma; meanwhile the psychologist spent hours with her. He retaliated, saying their art therapist had also spent hours talking to Emma and agreed with the psychiatrist. I pointed out that their art therapist wasn’t a psychiatrist either, so if I couldn’t go by a psychologist’s thorough assessment, he couldn’t use six hours of art therapy for a diagnosis either. But she was well respected and spent many hours with children… and so was the psychologist. The mediator told me they’d never agreed to any further help for Emma and certainly not with social skills; they didn’t even offer it.

Didn’t even offer it. What the hell was I doing there then? I sat through the rest of the session feeling numb then talked to Emma about her sessions. I’d thought the therapist was letting Emma discuss her feelings about her father and school. Instead she’d been spending therapy listening to why her art therapist felt she didn’t have Aspergers. I pulled us out of Gatineau.

I got a withdrawal letter a month later, claiming I’d missed almost half the group sessions and had been a reluctant participant. I looked at the dates and realized he’d not only counted the initial classes but a full month of sessions after we’d left. I vowed I’d never go back to the agency.

And then came the chance for a new class for Jeremy. A smaller class setting, an LGBTQ friendly school, a program that offered a chance to earn school credits, and it was brand new and barely had any students. Jeremy could get in almost immediately. But the class was run by Gatineau.

Yeah.

I stammered that I’d been there a few years ago and had not been impressed with the service, only to be reassured that they had almost all new staff and no longer had that psychiatrist.

We had our intake assessment. The new psychiatrist was cheerful and engaging, while Jeremy was in amazing spirits and responded quite animatedly. I was told a second appointment would be set up “next week” between us, Gatineau, and someone from Jeremy’s school; probably zir teacher.

There was a message from Gatineau today, wanting to arrange Jeremy’s counselling sessions. I called them back and was told they could only offer an appointment mid-day, which means Jeremy is going to miss a full day of school every week on top of what zie’s already missing due to anxiety. Then I asked about the class.

“Oh, umm, yes. Well, that class is full right now so Jeremy’s been placed on a waiting list. We’ll let you know when he gets to the top.”

“I’ll have to call [school board member] and try to get Jeremy into a different class then. Zie needs to get out of zir current class immediately.”

“Oh! Oh!!!” She sounded shocked and a bit worried. “I’ll have to talk to J and see what she says. I’ll let you know next week where Jeremy is on the list and if we know how long it will take for him to get to the top.”

So yet more waiting. Waiting for Gatineau and waiting for the school board member to call me back.

There’s a meeting on Thursday between the school board and PFLAG to address how the board can improve how they work with LGBTQ families. I figure we’ll have quite a lot to discuss.

* Gatineau is not the real name of the agency
** Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers through the school board. However it is not a diagnosis she agrees with and she’s subsequently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. I’ve also since discovered that Aspergers and anxiety have a lot of similar symptoms.