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!

 

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

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.

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.

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Me on my hospital bed