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.
Today marks the 7 year anniversary of Robin Williams’ suicide.
I often still find myself recalling the events that were taking place that very same evening for me. Over and over again in my mind I replay the image of me sitting alone in my car, completely distraught and contemplating my own suicide just moments before the tragic news of his death even broke.
I have since written many blogs about the impact his death had on me and on society as a whole. I have used the impact his suicide had on the world as an opportunity to educate others on the stigma surrounding suicide, the mask that many people often wear who suffer with a mental illness as well as the importance of our words and language when it pertains to suicide.
I wanted to reshare one of those blogs here with you today (see below). Feel free to search for other “Robin Williams” tributes right here in the search engine of my blog site as well.
Today is World Health Day. Its campaign has become a day of recognition around the Globe since 1948 and was first created by the World Health Organization (WHO), a name that has become increasingly more and more familiar to all of us since the Pandemic started.
This year’s campaign is focused on building a “fairer, healthier world” for everyone but living in Canada right now it doesn’t feel fair at all.
The vaccine rollout in Ontario (and Canada) has been a complete and utter disaster (imo) and I can’t believe that I am actually about to say this after what we have all witnessed over the past year in the United States but I am beyond envious of all my friends and family living south of the border right now as I witness the success of how their vaccines are being rolled out (and Israel, well they deserve a fricken gold star!).
Earlier this morning both Rich and I were able to book appointments to get vaccinated simply because the Government has now deemed our postal code a “hot spot” along with several others in our region which has afforded us and anyone else in these select few areas who are between the ages of 45 and 59 years old to do so as well.
I’m not gonna lie, once we both received our confirmation emails with our appointment times set in place I became super emotional (surprise, surprise there were actual tears) that this was actually about to happen.
I am beyond grateful to be given this opportunity and I feel that it is my duty to get vaccinated when my time comes in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19; but I’m angry all at the same time.
I’m angry that teachers and admin staff have not been prioritized to receive a vaccination first or the factory workers, grocery store clerks, wait staff in restaurants, construction workers, immune compromised individuals, those in more marginalized communities, the 20 something year olds who have been blamed most for spreading the virus and everyone else who works in an essential service and CANNOT work from home.
I just hope that soon enough all Canadians (and many other parts of the world) can celebrate World Health Day together by actually building a fairer, healthier (and more united) world to live in.
There are lots of unique and some not so unique experiences I’ve encountered over the last (almost) seven years now, many of which I am no longer able to recall. Some of that could be blamed on the memory loss I’ve suffered since having ECT treatments (Electroconvulsive Therapy) several years ago and then there are the many other memories which I so desperately try to block from my mind, yet somehow they continue to rear their ugly head during times like now when I find myself trying to fight the urge to kill myself.
I’m not quite sure if these PTSD invoking memories are serving as a stern warning to me as to what the repercussions may be if I tell someone how I am truly feeling or if it’s an SOS signal telling me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still better than the alternative.
One such memory that will forever be etched in my mind and has come to the forefront lately as I continue to fight off my urges happened one Easter Sunday, just two weeks after my first signs of Depression kicked in and it still haunts me to this day almost seven years later.
I had taken off in my car (again) and was feeling suicidal and very much like a worthless burden. There wasn’t a lot open that day/night as it was a holiday and Rich became panicked when he and my kids could not reach me by phone or text for several hours and knowing that I was feeling suicidal he began reaching out to friends and other family members hoping that someone had heard from me all the while I was aimlessly driving around trying to fight off my urges, unable to face going back home, feeling like everyone was better off without me and purposely ignoring his pleas.
At some point later that evening I checked the frantic voice and text messages from Rich, my kids and others and found the most recent message from Rich was informing me that he had called the police. I became anxious but knew it was nothing more than a scare tactic to get me to come home. But moments later my phone rang again and it was a police officer calling me and so I pulled into a nearby gas station, parked my car at the front entrance of the store and answered my phone.
He identified himself and told me that he was at my home and that my family was very concerned for my safety and wellbeing. As I sat there shaking and crying on the other end of the phone I finally agreed to come home but just as I looked back in my rearview mirror and began to shift into reverse I was suddenly (and literally) trapped by three police cruisers that had just swarmed my car. Fuck, they had pinged my goddamn phone.
A female officer approached my car and I rolled down my window part way while still on the phone with the officer who was seemingly awaiting my arrival at home. She asked me to turn off my car and step out of my vehicle. I explained to her that I was on the phone with the police officer (which in hindsight she already knew) and that I was okay and heading home. Yup it was all a rouse and I was now at her mercy.
I kept repeating to her as tears rolled down my face that I was okay and I just wanted to go home. She was having none of that and by law I now had no other choice but to listen to the 5 (or it could’ve been 20 for all I knew by now) officers surrounding my car as though I was a criminal as they searched the contents of my purse and coat pockets, then took away my purse, my phone and my dignity and transported me to the nearby hospital in the back of a cop car.
I was a bit naive in my thinking, afterall this was all so new to me and I was still not ready to accept what was going on inside my head. I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening to me or why I was feeling this way and now there I was scared as hell and alone in the back of a cop car for the very first time in my life. I felt trapped and wished I really was dead.
The police officer who was at my home drove Rich to pick up my car at the gas station and met me at the hospital. He was the last person I wanted to see at that very moment but I figured he could advocate for me and get me the fuck out of there faster. Boy was I wrong again because the officer who drove me to the hospital was now obligated to put me on a “Form 1” which meant I had lost all my rights and there was nowhere left for me to escape.
Once the officers completed all their paperwork I was handed over to the hospital security guards who then made me change out of my clothes and into a hospital gown. There went my last stitch of dignity on the bathroom floor.
I felt like I was a toddler who was being babysat by a young teenager who was afraid to take their eyes off of me for one second for fear that I may hurt myself, even when I needed to use the bathroom.
It took several more hours until I was finally seen by a crisis counsellor (who was awoken at home to come in to meet with me). It was now about 2 am but I was still determined that I could charm my way out of there since my head felt alot clearer. I was wrong again.
The crisis counsellor spoke with me for about an hour (and afterwards with Rich) where I again just kept repeating myself and letting her hear what she wanted to hear, that I was okay and exhausted and needed to go home to my own bed.
Again, that didn’t work either. She told me that I needed to wait to speak with the Psychiatrist next who would be starting their rounds later that morning. Ok I figured how much worse could it get if I just waited in emerg for a few more hours at this point.
This time however she told me what I wanted to hear and that the Dr. would be around to see me at about 8 am so I lay down on the couch in the room and waited patiently with Rich by my side, even though I still had not forgiven him.
As time passed slowly, I think I must have dozed off for a bit because the next thing I remember is being woken by my team of security guards and a nurse. It was now 5 am and there was a bed suddenly available on the inpatient ward that they demanded I follow them to. I was having none of that except again I had lost all my rights and before I knew it I was being threatened that I follow them quietly upstairs or they would need to take other drastic measures.
So off they carted me kicking and screaming (figuratively), pleading with them to let me stay in emerg for a few more hours until the Psychiatrist would be coming to talk to me. Rich walked with me, the team of security guards and the nurse until the big steel doors which led to the ward. Rich was forbidden beyond those doors. As we parted ways, I whispered sweet nothings in his ear. Ok, I’m lying. I don’t recall exactly what I whispered in his ear but it was hateful and unforgiving and with looks that could kill. I bet he still remembers what I said.
So there I was now all alone and scared again, this time in a cold, depressing room sitting on the edge of a bed. I would not allow myself to get comfortable and what came next, well who could really blame me.
By this point I had lost all track of time because well I didn’t have a clock or my phone to know what time it was. I just kept watching for the sun to rise and anxiously await the arrival of the Psychiatrist at 8am. But I kept getting distracted by a woman who was strolling the hallway outside my room and every time she walked by my room she would stop right smack in the doorway and stare directly at me with a sparkle of evil in her eyes. She reminded me of the young girl Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family.
This continued on for a good hour, or so it seemed and just as the sun was rising I became distracted once again by a nurse who was helping a young man take a shower which happened to be right across the hall from my room. I watched her close the door behind her as she yelled to the young man, “I’ll be right back.” And before I knew it there was a naked man running past my door, down the hall toward the nurse.
My gosh, I had only been on the edge of my bed for maybe two hours but it sure felt closer to a week from all the action going on and don’t forget the sun had still barely risen yet! I finally decided it was best I curl up on the bed, facing the window to wait out what I was promised would be another hour!
It wasn’t! And I should also mention that I couldn’t remember when I had last eaten anything but when breakfast, and then lunch was wheeled into my room I refused to eat. It was Passover afterall so I couldn’t eat what they were serving me, but I’m pretty sure by this point it was more like a protest for me and oh ya, it was also way past 8 am.
That afternoon Rich was allowed onto the ward to see me and we waited together until finally somewhere between 3 and 4 pm the Psychiatrist FINALLY came to see me. We met with her in a nearby conference room and discussed in great length what had transpired over the last couple of weeks and then she agreed with Rich’s blessing to discharge me along with a sheet filled with recomendations and several outpatient resources.
I honestly have no recollection of what followed once I got home (it probably included a hot shower, a home cooked meal and a warm bed) but I do know that it was just the beginning of what was to come for me which has included many, many more voluntary and involuntary visits to emergency rooms, several suicide attempts, security guards stripping me of my dignity, rides in ambulances (which are way more comfortable than police cars) and several weeks and months of inpatient care.
I’m pretty sure that this particularly difficult and overwhelming day lives on in the forefront of my memory as an SOS signal reminding me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still probably a better option than the alternative.
Six years ago today I posted these two pictures on my Facebook page, both with words of gratitude and a special thank you attached to them.
The first post I made was meant as an ode to Rich for his continuous sacrifice and unconditional love and the second post was meant as a special shout out to all my incredible friends and family who had been my pillars of strength over those last several months.
It was on that cold winter’s day, January 19th, 2015 that I returned home from the hospital after spending an exhausting three (plus) months in the Psychiatric Ward at Sunnybrook Hospital; a time in my life that to this day I can honestly say are still some of the darkest days of my journey thus far, along with the many other hospital stays and emergency room visits that came before and have followed after.
But it was also on that day as well, shortly after I posted those messages that I knew I was ready to share my journey with the world (well my Facebook world that is). Up until then I may have shared some cryptic captions or inspirational quotes on my Facebook page but for the most part I had been keeping very much to my inner circle since the start of my journey some nine months earlier.
I knew on that day that I never wanted anyone else to ever feel like they had to suffer in silence again or be too afraid to share their struggles with others because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders that day as messages of hope and healing poured in and I felt so much pride in my heart as one by one more and more people began reaching out to me in private to take that first step toward healing by sharing their own unique, yet very similar struggles of their own with me.
Living with a severe anxiety disorder like I do can literally make anyone do crazy shit. And if there is one thing I know for sure it’s that my anxiety makes me feel out of control and will often paralyze me with fear and worry when it comes to, well, just about everything.
Over the last few years I’ve been taught several helpful tools that I can turn to when I’m feeling anxious and I have found, through some trial and error, many of them to be quite useful at times.
As I’ve also mentioned many, many times before, I rely heavily on CBD oil (Full Spectrum, with NO THC and preferably peppermint flavor!) to give me an almost immediate relief of certain physical symptoms like severe heart palpitations and nausea. But when the physical symptoms go beyond my everyday normal symptoms I’m lucky enough that my dear friend “Dr. Google” is always there to advise me.
“Dr. Google” is my “go to” Doctor when my own Doctor is unavailable for consultation, you know, like in the middle of the night when many of these symptoms seem to unexpectedly show up and you need a medical diagnosis, STAT.
But I should probably also mention here how much I avoid calling my Doctor to begin with because I just can’t bring myself to pick up a phone to call her or I get worried that I’m just bothering her (yup that too is a symptom of my anxiety).
I know that all probably sounds a bit crazy to some of you (I told you that anxiety can make you do crazy shit) and I also know that “Dr. Google” is probably NOT the most reliable resource when it comes to making a proper diagnosis (trust me I know) but I also know that I’m probably not alone.
The internet makes it so easy these days to look up just about anything your heart desires but when you suffer with extreme anxiety and major depression, my advice to you would be to stay as far away from “Dr. Google” as you possibly can because before you know it your anxiety/panic attack at 2 am has somehow just been diagnosed as a rare and incurable disease.
Just like the one I diagnosed myself with last evening after describing to a friend an extremely sharp pain I had been having on and off for the past couple of days in one particular area of my body, a pain I have never experienced before. She tried to reassure me it was probably nothing too serious and that I should call my Doctor in the morning but before she could finish her sentence (we were actually texting) I cut her off because “Dr. Google” was already telling me the complete opposite of what she was saying, and quite frankly, like come on now, who are you actually gonna believe?
Well seeing as it’s now after 2 am as I write this and stare at my “Dr. Google” diagnosis you can probably figure that answer out all on your own! And trust me, “Dr. Google” is just as quick and informative when it comes to helping me self diagnose my kids ailments too!
Who else turns to Dr. Google for their regular check ups?
It was one year ago today when I made my very first ever appearance on a National Television Morning Talk Show. It felt like a dream come true for me, but as soon as it was all over I collapsed from mental exhaustion.
Leading up to that day I had been working my ass off nonstop for several months ensuring that my new children’s book got into as many hands as I possibly could imagine but when the show ended and I arrived home, I felt a sense of defeat and decided that I needed to take a step back from my whirlwind tour.
I had intended it to be a short break, just until the new year which by now was only a few weeks away and just long enough to get my mojo back but what came next noone could have ever predicted because way before the Pandemic hit in mid March my life took several other unforeseen turns.
New Year’s Day 2020 came quickly and as I had promised myself a few weeks earlier I began organizing my calendar for some new and exciting upcoming events on my “book tour” and I also began looking at what other avenues I wanted to explore in the coming months ahead as well. But no sooner was it than 24 hours later when I found myself in bed for the better part of January with a concussion caused by numerous fainting episodes on the early morning hours of January 2nd.
I soon became further defeated and on a downward spiral as I lay in bed feeling dizzy, exhausted and headachy, cancelling events and trying to reschedule others, most of which never ended up taking place at all because, well we all know the answer to that.
Many more unforeseen events and unfortunate mishaps continued to unfold in my life over the course of last winter and before I knew it I had not fulfilled one promise to myself from the previous December day when I decided I needed to take that short break.
But who knew what was waiting for us just around the corner right at the exact moment I was finally ready to get back to where I had left off all those months earlier, who could have possibly known? Noone could because noone truly knows what the future holds.
But there we all were, together, facing so much uncertainty and unknown and nowadays we spend so much of our time fearful of the “not knowing” and as someone who lives her life with a major depressive disorder and severe anxiety I’m not quite sure if the not knowing what the future holds (depression) is worse than always trying to predict it (anxiety).
My illness has caused me to look to my past with many regrets and when I look to my future it feels very purposeless and uncertain. But I know I’m not alone in my feelings of an uncertain future especially after what we and the rest of the world have been living through for the last nine months or longer.
2020 has become the year that nobody could have ever predicted and has crippled so many people with fear and uncertainty of what their future’s hold and has also created a sense of powerlessness in so many more, even those amongst us who may have once enjoyed a lifestyle of risk taking or living unpredictable lives.
This year has sucked big time for all of us. If I hadn’t already before 2020 hit, I have for certain by now lost so much faith in the kind of hopeful future that lies in wait for me and I am pretty certain that I have felt defeated more times than I think is humanly possible this year alone but as the year quickly comes to a close I can’t help but take note of the many valuable life lessons we have (hopefully) all learned as well.
Some of my thoughts:
Our relationships with family and friends must take precedence over all else
We are never to busy to make time for the people and things that matter the most to us and we must stop using it as an excuse
Taking care of our health needs to be a top priority
We CAN actually live without many of the “things” we once thought we “must” have in our lives in order to live a more fulfilling life
Saving money for a “rainy day” is imperative
It’s okay to take time to stop and smell the roses
Our definition of who is an essential worker has changed. Honour and respect them all equally as they continue to tirelessly (and with very little pay for some) take great pride in and care for all of us each and every single day
We are all human beings and we all deserve to be treated as equals
This Pandemic has changed the way for which we live our lives (forever) and it’s also changed the way for which we die as well. In just a few short days this week I’ve witnessed several friends and loved ones having to face losing a loved one or watch their loved one battle sickness and disease from afar.
If witnessing a loved one having to battle an illness or even death wasn’t hard or traumatic enough before Covid-19 now it is just unimaginably cruel and almost punishable as a crime as they are now being forced to do so all alone.
Life…and death are still happening all around us every single day and more often than not it is unrelated to Covid-19 even if we are being led to believe otherwise which makes it that much more difficult to understand how so many people are now being forced to battle life… and death all by themselves.
Our new reality may also be leaving many loved ones feeling an added sense of guilt, powerlessness and helplessness as they can’t physically be with their loved one or hold a proper funeral for them if need be or be by their side to hold their hand, connect with them emotionally, comfort them or even to be comforted.
It’s weeks like this one that really make you see just how cruel life can be sometimes, it’s also a reality check as to just how real this virus is and it’s definitely a gentle reminder for anyone who may need it of what truly matters in life… and death.
I’m sure that many of you reading this have heard about the recent deaths by Suicide of several Frontline Workers in the news. Even before there was such a thing as Covid-19 certain occupations have always been at greater risk for experiencing Mental Health challenges such as PTSD or Suicidal tendencies. Among them are of course some of our bravest and most courageous Paramedics, Police Officers and Firefighters who are exposed to the most traumatic events or circumstances imaginable.
Now we must sadly add to the list of occupations to which PTSD and Suicide rates will likely soar in the months ahead given that the rise has already begun. It may not happen all at once, in fact, many of the Frontline Workers and First Responders could experience an “aftershock” of the Pandemic when life starts to settle down and get back to “normal” (a term I use very loosely these days).
But for many other Healthcare professionals and First Responders they are in the here and now of the Pandemic and even though they may be our Superheroes they are also human beings first, being faced with extreme and unprecedented situations. Many of these brave men and women are carrying with them a very heavy overload through every long and gruelling shift they work and beyond which can also leave them with very little time to be able to release the traumatic events from their minds before moving onto the next one.
Most people who choose an occupation in Healthcare or as a First Responder were probably drawn to their profession because they wanted to help others and protect them from suffering or pain but now with the inordinate amount of death they are facing each day it is taking a further toll on their Mental Health and Wellbeing. For many of these Healthcare professionals and First Responders they are beginning to feel a heavy burden on them when they are unable to save a life, or they may be feeling powerless or defeated due to working with limited resources in many places around the world and many, many more are just simply burnt-out no matter how strong others may perceive them to be.
So our Superheroes need to be taken care of more than ever before. They need to know that it’s just as brave and courageous to take time for themselves whenever they are not working as they would take care of their patients. They need to make sure to practice setting healthy boundaries and to ensure that they stay grounded and mindful each day and of course they may need a helpful reminder that it’s okay to not be okay and that it’s more than okay to ask for help. If you know a Frontline worker or First Responder or are lucky enough to love a Frontline Worker or First Responder go check on them now and for the rest of you leave a heart emoji in the comments to honour our Superheroes.
if you are in crisis and need support go to your nearest hospital or call your local distress center for help.