*Warning: Could be potentially triggering to some*
This Thanksgiving weekend I have so much to be THANKFUL for and I am overwhelmed with such GRATITUDE right now from the outpouring of kindness and love and support that has been shown to me and my ENTIRE family in SO many DIFFERENT ways.
I am slowly learning to embrace the help I so desperately need right now and accept that it’s okay.
Sometimes it takes a village in order to do so.
But that’s okay too.
And by learning how to let go of one’s pride and embrace the kindness and love and support of so many wonderful friends, family and truly an entire village has aroused so many super important conversations over the past few days and it has also afforded me the privilege of making many new and some really special connections as well; it’s truly been such a HUGE BLESSING.
I am THANKFUL and overwhelmed with GRATITUDE.
As many of you probably know by now I have been doing all that I can to survive for weeks now and by Thursday evening I honestly felt like I was about to take my last breath.
The build up of everything I’d been feeling just became too much and I could no longer allow myself to be a burden anymore, to anyone.
I’d hit rock bottom.
After dinner as I began to spiral further I told Rich that I was cancelling the Ketamine treatment. I just wanted to die rather than live with the guilt I felt. I became angry, mostly at myself and then eventually inconsolable. Rich suggested he take me to the hospital. I gave it some thought for a moment but instead I turned around, went into my bathroom, closed the door behind me and sat on the floor in the dark, crying.
Rich came in and tried to console me. I asked him to please leave and let me be. He did as I asked, but not for long. When he returned again he found me still sitting on the floor, still crying, still in the dark but by now there was an open bottle of Tylenol on the counter and a pair of tweezers tightly clutched in my hand. I was desperate to find whatever means I could to end my pain once and for all.
As soon as Rich realized what was happening he grabbed the tweezers from my hand, picked me up off the floor and held me until I was calm enough to lay down and try and get some rest.
Thursday I’d hit rock bottom. Or so I thought. Then Friday morning arrived.
I went to sit outside on the front porch. It was 8 am. Rich followed me outside. It was decision day. My treatment had to be paid for in full by end of day. We spoke about what had transpired the evening before. For the first time in a very long time I understood that I truly couldn’t keep living like this, that WE couldn’t keep living like this and that my kids DEFINITELY didn’t deserve to live like this. We both knew that we had to find whatever means we could in order for me to do this treatment. We both felt so desperate. But suddenly for a brief moment I felt a sense of calm come over me and then Rich blurted out, “I lost my job yesterday and I haven’t been able to find the words to tell you”.
Fuck. Poof. Goodbye calm. Hello tornado.
But Rich wasn’t giving up; not on me, not on us and certainly not on our family. Nothing had changed for him in that moment. In his mind this was not going to be the end. It had to be the start of a new beginning. So he swallowed his pride, left his ego on our front porch and went to work creating a “Go Fund Me Page” to help us pay for the 6 initial treatments and for whatever other expenses we have been told by my Psychiatrist we are likely to incur over the coming months for the maintenance of treatment.
Today happens to be “World Mental Health Day” and it’s theme this year is “Mental Health in an unequal world.” This couldn’t be a more fitting theme given the unfair treatment gap, discrimination and many other barriers that so many people like myself face every day by not being able to have the same advantage or accessibility to affordable mental health care. We all deserve the same fighting chance.
But today, thanks to the kindness and love and support of my village, I have been given a fighting chance.
Today I am THANKFUL and overwhelmed with GRATITUDE.
Before I sat down to write this today I was planning on doing another Vlog. (Note: I actually wrote this and intended to post it yesterday before I found out that Facebook and Instagram had both crashed!). I thought I needed to maybe hear my own voice again today but I’m just too vulnerable right now and so I wrote my words out instead.
My Psychiatrist increased my new medication again late last week with the intent to get it to a therapeutic dose soon. It’s an anti-anxiety medication which I mentioned I would be starting a few weeks ago. As of yet I can’t say that it’s really been helping me. So for now I will just add it to the long list of failures.
Yesterday was a pretty bad day all around for me. My anxiety was very high which then turned to panic, crying, rumination and an increased amount of thoughts of death and dying.
As I also mentioned recently my Psychiatrist had put a plan together for me when we spoke a few weeks ago. It included this new anti-anxiety medication and it also included treatment for Ketamine…AGAIN which has been scheduled to start early next week.
So for those of you who don’t know what Ketamine is I will give you a quick explanation here. For starters, it’s actually a very potent and sometimes deadly street drug known as “Special K”. It is also apparently used as a horse tranquilizer but most commonly it is found in anesthetic.
I’m not gonna bore you or put you through a science class today but people living with Depression are known to have “abnormal brain plasticity”. Continued studies and research have shown that using Ketamine can help to remove the “negative receptors” in our brain and then it like “plants a seed” in your brain which allows for new “neuropathways” and positive neuroactivity to grow and flourish.
Studies have shown that by using Ketamine to treat Depression there has been a 60% success rate so far and unlike anti-depressants it is supposed to work faster and more effectively.
Now let me go back for a second here and explain (for those who may not already know) what I meant before when I said I am scheduled to begin Ketamine treatment…AGAIN.
Several years ago during an inpatient stay at Sunnybrook Hospital I was asked to take part in a Clinical Trial for Ketamine. I had never heard of it before but I was the perfect candidate though because it is used mostly on patients who suffer with Treatment Resistant Depression like I do. I happily and very naively agreed to try it. I figured I had nothing else to do seeing as I was in the hospital anyways.
I filled out a ton of paperwork, spoke in depth and several times with the Psychiatrist in charge of the study. I filled out many questionnaires with his Associates. After I was given approval to begin the study I was scheduled to start the 1st of 6 treatments the very next day.
They told me during the initial consult that the Ketamine would be administered through an IV and that I would have to lay there in the OR attached to an IV drip for 45 minutes and then kept for observation for another 30 minutes following. Before we began the process I asked the Anesthesiologist if I would feel anything. He said you may feel a bit woozy.
Well woozy was an understatement because for the next 45 minutes I lay on the cold table hallucinating, feeling disassociation and seeing psychedelic images flash before my eyes. It felt like a complete out of body experience with flashbacks as far back as my childhood.
I hated every bloody second of it and couldn’t wait for it to be over. The next day I met with the Psychiatrist to discuss how it went and we both agreed it was probably best that I don’t continue with the study. Another epic fail.
Now let’s fast forward to March of 2020. My current Psychiatrist happens to be the Medical Director of 2 Ketamine clinics in the GTA and has studied it’s effectiveness on Treatment Resistant Depression for several years now.
Back in February or March of 2020 (everything is kinda a blur now) we began another discussion surrounding Ketamine and he asked me if I would be willing to try it again as with more scientific research and studies conducted it was now available in a nose spray form. And less invasive.
He told me he would administer the 1st dose in his downtown office at the hospital he works out of to ensure I tolerate it and that the following 5 doses could be picked up at a local compounding pharmacy and be administered under the supervision of my husband in the comfort of my own home.
I agreed to try it AGAIN cause well, I try almost everything at least once when it’s come to my treatment or in this case twice.
We were scheduled to begin the 1st treatment on March 15th 2020 at 6:00 p.m. It never happened. And if you have been following my journey very recently I kinda just let things slide from there once the pandemic hit.
As most of you know though I reconnected with my Psychiatrist a few weeks ago at which time he told me that patients were no longer allowed to administer the nose spray at home. The whole idea had been kiboshed over the past year as research had shown that it was a liability and quite dangerous to do so. But I guess it’s OK because since March of 2020 Ketamine is now available in an even less invasive form, a pill which is dissolvable under the tongue but still can only be administered under the watchful eye of a doctor/nurse.
So I guess as they say, three times a charm as I have agreed to try it…AGAIN. The six sessions are to be completed at a clinic in Toronto (there is also a clinic in Mississauga too). Each session will take between 2 to 3 hours from start to finish to complete and I am not allowed to drive home afterwards. They actually recommend you don’t drive for 24 hours following. The sessions will take place twice a week for two weeks and once a week after that.
Although I’ve agreed to try it again given I feel like I’m running out of both viable options and steam, but I have been told by my doctor that I am very likely to still feel those same hallucinations and disassociative feelings that I don’t like. I’ve done many other treatments and have tried many hallucinogens over the last several years. I don’t like feeling as though I’m tripping out on LSD.
I’ve been consumed with very negative thoughts for several days now (surprise, surprise) since booking my treatment. I’m experiencing extreme anxiety and feelings of overwhelming guilt and lets not forget those feelings of being a burden that weigh me down too. I’m questioning my decision to do this again for many, like OH MY GOSH, too many reasons.
For one, it’s still very new and likely not to be a forever cure from what the current research shows. I will very likely need to continue on some type of maintenance program after the six sessions are done. But like how long term? And does anyone even know what the long term effects of it could be, especially cognitively. As it is, I did ECT (Electroconvulsive Treatment) several years back. Probably the most invasive and scariest treatment I’ve done. The eight treatments I did fucked me up royally. It fried my short term memory, my ability to recall many things and I find myself often forgetting what I was talking about mid…sentence.
But at the same time Psychedelics seem to be the wave of the future for treating mental illnesses and especially for people like myself who are treatment resistant. I’ve even tried “shrooms” in a pill form, but couldn’t tolerate the hallucinations it caused, although my Psychiatrist is also currently working on many new studies and its amazing effects on Treatment Resistant Depression as we speak.
I’ve tried so many different treatments over the past seven years and how I see it, I have failed them all, many of which have cost a shitload of money because they were not covered by either Ohip or insurance, Ketamine now included. I wish I could understand why if there is such a need for these treatments and Ketamine for one has one of the highest success rates among all treatments including anti-depressants then why has it not yet become part of the mainstream health care system so that more people can have access to it? I know, dumb question.
It’s an expensive treatment, especially if it becomes ongoing. It’s an expense we really can’t afford at the moment and just adds to the extraordinary guilt I already live with on a daily basis. The “what if” I’m not part of that 60% success rate, the “what if” yet another attempt fails and we throw away even more money that we don’t have. How can I live with that on my conscience?
The answer is, I can’t.
I’ve carried on and on AND on the last few days with all the other reasons as to why I also shouldn’t do it as well and feel like a burden yet again to my family by having to take me and sit with me for 2 to 3 hours (plus the 30 plus minute drive there and back) while I have my treatments.
These are very real struggles for me which of course my Psychiatrist tried to remind me the other day as I rambled on about all my reservations that I’m having that it’s my Depression talking and that my Anxiety is happily cheering him on. I can’t let them win.
But it’s so fucking hard though and the noises in my head are loud as hell. It’s literally killing me.
They keep telling me I don’t deserve to live a life free of chronic Depression, debilitating Anxiety and daily thoughts of Suicide. They keep telling me I’m just gonna fail at this attempt too. They keep telling me to give it up already and that I’ve already used up my many chances at recovery over and over AGAIN. Like why would this time be any different?
Thanks for listening to me today. I so appreciate the extra set of ears. Somedays the best medicine is just knowing that someone is there listening to my very real and terrifying emotions with only the purest of intent.
Today is the last day of September and today is also the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” which is a month long campaign used to raise awareness on this very stigmatized and still very taboo topic.
Although it may only be a month long campaign it doesn’t mean that it ends today. The conversation needs to continue each and every day.
We MUST continue to keep the conversation going.
We MUST continue to give hope to everyone affected by Suicide.
We MUST continue to educate others.
And we MUST ensure that ALL individuals, families and friends have the same accessibility to the necessary resources available to give us all a better understanding on how to prevent suicide and seek help.
I’m not okay.
I’m still having very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide. It consumes me.
I’m reminded each and every day by friends, loved ones, acquaintances and even strangers what life would be like for those I’d leave behind.
Trust me, I hear you. Your words echo in my head day and night. But sadly for many people suffering with a mental illness or suicidal ideations their pain can still become too much to bare.
One of those many reminders came to me recently by an old friend of mine who reached out to me to chat and I haven’t been able to get our conversation off my mind.
I was so honoured and grateful that she chose to share her overwhelming and very raw emotions with me as she tries to come to terms with the heart-wrenching grief and despair she’s been living with for months now after losing a loved one to suicide.
I could feel her disbelief, her numbness, her shock, her anger, her confusion, her rejection and her guilt all wrapped together as she desperately tries to begin her journey toward healing and acceptance.
The aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide and finding ways to cope with the sadness, the feelings of helplessness and the overwhelming consumption of what ifs or what more could I have done can be very triggering and both mentally and physically exhausting.
Just know that you are not alone.
Surround yourself with people who want to listen when you need to talk or who offer a shoulder to lean on when you just need to sit in silence.
Remember there is no “proper” way to grieve any loss, especially ones which are so sudden and without closure. Let healing happen at your own pace and in your own time.
Seek out others who may be experiencing similar grief. Sharing your story with people who truly understand your pain can often help bring strength to your healing process.
And lastly, find a mental health professional to guide you through your grief and help you adjust to life after suicide.
Yes, today may be the last day of September and the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” but today can not be the end to the conversation surrounding the many complexities of suicide.
Lets all make a promise to band together with more compassion and support to those who wake up each and every day battling very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide, show kindness and empathy to those who are left behind after a suicide occurs and help them in any way you can to honour the memory of their loved one who has lost their battle.
*visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information.
Many of you probably saw the pics I posted last night.
Our whole family out for dinner celebrating Rachel’s 19th birthday; the first time in a very long time.
Everyone smiling, laughing, eating, drinking, taking selfies and being present in the moment.
But the pictures didn’t capture everything. They just caught a glimpse of it.
What they didn’t capture was the very real and very painful reality of my illness. The reality and pain that follows me wherever I go no matter what the occasion is, especially lately.
My illness loves to suck the joy out of any occasion to be honest, even the happiest of ones.
By mid afternoon yesterday I could feel my anxiety becoming more and more intense and my sadness building deeper and deeper.
There was no reason for it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But my illness will tell you otherwise.
By the time we got to the restaurant and settled down at our table I had reached my breaking point. I was so completely overwhelmed with emotion.
Rich could see the build up happening from across the table but it was too late.
Just looking at the menu became incredibly burdensome.
There was nowhere for me to hide.
I did everything in my power to stop it from escalating into a full blown panic attack. I took several deep breaths. I reminded myself that everything was okay, that everyone was okay. I looked around the table and heard the sound of laughter. I noticed the biggest smile on my birthday girl’s face.
But none of that seemed to matter because moments later the panic erupted and before I knew it I was inconsolable. All eyes were suddenly on me.
My kids were left wishing they could somehow crawl under the table. I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world.
There was no reason for any of it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But for some reason my illness felt otherwise.
My Psychiatrist prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication last week as part of my new treatment plan. It’s been several years now since I’ve taken any kind of prescription medication at all to help treat my illness but I agreed to try this in hopes of finding even the slightest bit of relief because asides from my symptoms of depression and suicidal ideations becoming increasingly more and more active and beyond my control over the past month, so too has my anxiety and panic (do you know what it feels like to want to climb out of your skin?).
I began taking them on Saturday morning.
My doctor had told me during our Zoom call a couple of days earlier that I’d need to take one pill every morning and one pill before bed every night and to then increase the doses to two pills in the morning and two pills before bed after a few days. But just to be clear here, it was actually Rich he was giving the information to, not me, as Rich has been under strict instructions from any and all of my doctors to keep all of my medications out of my reach (like that of a toddler) ever since I began to abuse my use of prescription drugs several years ago.
I thought I was okay with all this because this medication was not considered an antidepressant as I have made it super clear to every new Psychiatrist I’ve encountered over the past many years, whether it be in a hospital setting or in a Doctor’s office that I no longer wish to be prescribed any more antidepressant drugs, EVER, after experiencing the excruciating side effects they had caused both my body and mind over a period of several years of trial and error which ultimately led to my diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression.
So I thought I was okay with all this.
But by Sunday morning when I awoke to another pill sitting by my bedside table which Rich had left there for me to take, I suddenly realized that I was not okay with it and by Sunday evening those feelings turned to rage as I went frantically searching throughout the house for his hiding spot in hysteria (he had stepped out of the house for a half an hour and I saw it as my golden opportunity).
To be honest though, I’m not really even sure what I was trying to accomplish had I found my stash of pills (including sleeping pills which I was also prescribed and has actually been helping me to get some sleep) but I became inconsolable and in that very moment all I could think of was finding the pills so that I could finally unburden Rich of me once and for all.
I didn’t find them.
It’s now 1:30 AM Tuesday morning as I write this. I could be fast asleep by now had I already taken my new sleeping pill that is sitting by my bedside table but instead I’m lying here in tears, scared and feeling like I don’t want to continue with our agreed upon plan, none of it.
I’ve been laying here in the dark for hours just staring at the pills which Rich left by my bedside table deciding whether or not to take them. And the demons in my head are dancing around claiming their victory (kinda like the Liberal party in Canada is doing right now as well).
I did eventually shut down the demons bantering just long enough to take them. But I’m not okay with all this, even if I know in my heart it is for my own safety and for the good of my health.
It’s 1 am as I begin to write this. I just spent the better part of the past hour bawling my eyes out while Rich held my hand and Maggie tried to work her magic.
Right before this scene played out I had been lying in bed watching my mindless Sunday night Reality TV shows while texting with some friends.
I’d just had a “picture perfect” weekend which many of you may have seen from the #summerofrich pics I had posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing the things I love; being outdoors, enjoying quality time with family and friends.
But as I lay there in bed watching my mindless reality TV and chatting with several friends, the highlight reel of my own reality started playing out in my head and the overwhelming disconnect I’ve been feeling from the world lately, even during these “picture perfect” moments left my mind spiraling out of control faster than the fan spinning beside my bed.
It felt like a big gust of painful emotions blew right through me.
And then I felt an emptiness inside of me as those “picture perfect” moments quickly got tangled up in the blades of my fan, leaving me in a ball of dust on the floor, convincing myself that maybe happiness doesn’t belong to me. That maybe I don’t deserve to feel joy and that maybe I’m truly not worthy of love or friendship or purpose afterall.
This is what living with Depression and Anxiety can feel like somedays.
If ever you feel like your “picture perfect” moments are getting tangled up in the blades of your fan please remember that there is always help available to slow down the speed when it starts spinning too fast.
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable.
I’ve had to accept this within my own personal journey.
It’s destroyed many close relationships of mine.
But I know that my willingness to share my most vulnerable and intimate thoughts and feelings with all of you has helped bring about awareness to the many others who do want to understand what it’s like to live with Chronic and Treatment Resistant Depression, a debilitating Anxiety Disorder and Suicidal Ideations Every. Single. Day.
And I also know that by sharing my journey so openly and honestly has helped many more people feel less alone or ashamed.
So then why do I suddenly feel like I should stop writing? Stop sharing my most intimate thoughts and emotions? Why at one of the most vulnerable points of my journey do I want to stop sharing my story all together?
Because well, it’s not like I Cancer you know.
These were the words that I heard recently directed towards me during a conversation. Words that may not have necessarily been intended to be said with malice but words that can never be erased nonetheless. Words that dismissed the seriousness of my illness. Words that made me feel as though my need to create healthy boundaries and do what’s best for me are basically selfish because well you know, it’s not like I have Cancer.
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable. I’ve accepted this.
But I can no longer keep apologizing because of my “invisible” illness just because it can’t be detected through a body scan or an xray or a blood test and to be perfectly honest I’m just too damn tired to keep having to “defend” myself because I may not “look” sick.
Depression is NOT a choice. Depression just is, just like Cancer or Diabetes just is. They can’t be rated on a scale of any kind and quite frankly they NEVER EVER should be. They are all just truly horrible illnesses and should be treated as such.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and that my purpose in life to raise awareness, educate and bring comfort to others has been overcome by even more pain and guilt and shame.
I know I should just “let it go” and try and focus on the many lives I do touch and those who appreciate me for who I am and what I have to offer but sadly, having the ability to just “think positive” when living with Depression or Anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles we face.
I’ve been inconsolable for days now and have been left feeling like what’s the point of writing, sharing my journey or living life?
Another school year is about to begin (well here in Ontario that is).
Another school year in the midst of a Pandemic and now kids and parents are once again facing those same fears, stressors, uncertainties and anxieties they did at the start of the last school year (but maybe a bit wiser).
Parents are worried about their children’s health and if they will be safe in class or how long it will be until they receive that email from their school board letting them know that schools are shutting down ONCE AGAIN.
And many, MANY kids are feeling those same worries as well which is making the transition back into the classroom this year even more trying on their mental health and wellness.
Here are some tips that I wanted to share with you on how to try and make this year’s transition a little bit easier.
Get back into a routine, especially with your older kids.
But give them time to adjust.
Change can be very scary.
Help them lay out their clothing, knapsacks ready and lunches made all the night before if possible. The less chaos there is in the morning the better.
Check in with your child(ren) regularly. Daily, if not more. Ask them questions. Listen intently.
Let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that you are there for them.
It’s been a very LONG time since many children have even seen the inside of a classroom or a school yard.
Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared and nervous.
Reassure them that they are not alone.
The unknown of what’s to come can sometimes be the hardest.
None of us truly know for certain what is going to happen this coming school year.
Promise them though that you will get through this together.
Focus on what is in their control right now.
Watch out for any sudden changes in their behaviour.
And lastly, if your child is dealing with any type of mental health issues, communicate this to their teachers or caregivers right away.
Working together from the start will help to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that their feelings are always validated and hopefully it will ease whatever bumps in the road that may lie ahead feel a bit less scary for everyone.
Wishing all the teachers, caregivers, administrators, parents and students a safe and successful year ahead.
Just got home from a long and very invigorating walk with our friends.
As we passed this tree in the forest my girlfriend stopped to point out to me the words which had been spray painted on the tree that read “keep going”. She was certain it was there as a reminder from God telling me that I must “keep going”!
Upon our arrival home from our walk there was a beautifully wrapped gift of self-care on my front porch which was left for me by another incredible girlfriend of mine.
I am overwhelmed and beyond grateful for my amazing tribe. I am truly blessed by all the love and support and kindness I have in my life.
It’s okay to not be okay.
“There is no exercise better for your heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”