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.
This past week I’ve felt very on edge, well more than I usually do I guess you could say.
I am feeling more nervous than usual, more tense, more angry and very uneasy.
Today the build up led to a panic attack right in the middle of my morning aqua fit class.
I love my aqua fit classes. I look so forward to it twice a week.
They are such a wonderful and positive distraction for me.
I work my butt off in class and I feel such a great accomplishment afterwards but today, given the week I’ve had, I just couldn’t seem to distract myself.
I tried to quietly slip out of the pool so not to make a scene as the panic erupted (it’s not like I’ve never made a scene before though!).
I felt the tears fill my eyes and I could barely breathe. Figuratively, I felt like I was drowning.
I just needed a moment to myself.
I reassured everyone I was ok (quietly slipping out of the pool didn’t work).
I wiped my tears away with my towel, took a few deep breaths, a big swig of water from my water bottle and then before I slipped back into the pool I double checked my phone to reassure myself one last time that the world wasn’t about to end.
But the truth is that even though I may have recovered initially from my battle with Anorexia and Bulimia in my early 20’s it has never truly left me; it’s just transformed itself in other ways.
I never battled with my weight before the onset of my eating disorder, nor did I have any issues with my self-image.
It probably didn’t truly present itself again until I began having children in my late 20’s and early 30’s and it has especially spiraled out of control since my battle with Depression and Anxiety began seven years ago.
Right from the start of my mental health journey and my diagnosis I was treated with over 20 concoctions of antidepressants for a solid two years straight which eventually led me to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression and also left me with a weight gain of close to 100 pounds.
And although half of that weight gain almost disappeared instantly when my husband and I finally made the decision together, along with the guidance of my Psychiatrist to wean me off all my medications, my weight has continued to be an uphill battle for me throughout my journey and just one of the many road blocks in my recovery. It all too often leads me back to those same destructive behaviours I exhibited as my 18 year old self battling an eating disorder.
I’m struggling alot these days with these tendencies and it seems to have magnified itself by a thousand this past week when I needed to go dress shopping for an upcoming family wedding and I had a panic attack and complete breakdown which left me crying in a sea of dresses on the floor of a department store changeroom.
I know I’m not alone in my negative self-image or body-shaming thoughts and especially lately as we all begin to emerge from our cocoon that has left many of us bearing several extra “Pandemic Pounds”.
It’s no secret by now from all the pictures that I post how much I shy away from the camera. Seeing pictures of myself only sets off a destructive mindset and binge of body-shaming.
It’s a vicious cycle of bullying, negative self-talk, anxiety and suicidal ideations. Self-shaming or the act of body-shaming whether it be towards ourselves or someone else is a real and very dangerous problem which Social Media and the mainstream media have only made 10x worse.
My illness has pretty much destroyed any ounce of self-confidence I once had, it continues to tell me how worthless and helpless I am, it loves to focus on the negative and boy oh boy does it ever hate to hear compliments.
I wish I were able to squash my destructive mindset once and for all and begin to see the same beauty in me that others do; and to believe that I AM ENOUGH from the inside out.
When I was visiting with a friend over the weekend (in a garage from 6 feet apart and freezing our butts off, but well worth the price of our sanity) I was being all like cool and optimistic and like a glass half full kinda gal when I told her that now that March 1st is upon us, it meant just one thing; we’ve almost made it through the winter.
Yup, that’s right, it’s true, I was totally speaking with my glass half full (and from someone who despises winter beyond words) knowing that when March rolls around that we’ve made it through the worst of it and that spring is just around the corner, ready and willing to shine its bright sunlight on the melting snow.
But it never takes me long for my half full glass to evaporate into thin air or in this case freeze over into a block of ice when the real reality sets in that in less than 2 weeks from March 1st it will be exactly one year since the entire world was completely turned upside down.
The month of March has forever changed. It will forever be remembered now not for its promise of warmer days ahead where we spring forward into a new season or see Leprechans dancing in the street or children excitedly awaiting the Easter bunny’s arrival but instead March now feels more like an alien from another planet (which kinda makes perfect sense since March got its name from a Roman God named Mars!).
Ok so what if we turned this back around and what if my glass was still half full? What would March look like then? What if we approached the month ahead by dreaming of those Leprechauns dancing in the street and looked at March through the eyes of those children excitedly awaiting the arrival of the Easter bunny?
What if we welcomed March in with open arms like we’ve always done in the past by leaving the back gate unlatched for him? Let’s welcome March back into our lives as though nothing ever happened so he can get in and get his job done quickly and proficiently for those of us who have been stuck inside our homes (and garages) waiting to go for long walks, basking in the warm sunshine and taking some time to stop and smell some flowers along the way. How does that sound to you?
What do you “normally” look most forward to about March?
I belong to several neighborhood groups on Facebook. Overall I enjoy reading many of their daily posts and community updates as a way to stay informed. These groups are meant to be a safe place for “adults” (a term I use loosely nowadays) to have open dialogues or to give their opinions and suggestions to other group members in a non judgmental way but with tensions running so high these days it seems as though that is almost next to impossible.
You’re probably wondering why I don’t just leave these groups or scroll on past them in my feeds to avoid a possible anxiety attack or fits of anger but I guess it’s because, well to be perfectly honest here, I’m a glutton for punishment.
Today there was a post made in one such group which I knew right away was going to cause a lot of tension and differing of opinions among community members and I also knew that if I scrolled through the comments I was likely to become anxious or better yet enraged. But because I’m a glutton for punishment I began reading every last comment (over 200 to be exact).
And yup, the more comments I read the more anxious and angry I became. We have been living through the Covid-19 Pandemic now for over 10 months and since day one we have all been doing our best to survive, the best way we know how and it has sadly taken an enormous toll on many (emphasis on many) of us both financially and mentally.
So when I came upon one particular conversation and back and forth banter today while reading all the comments on this post I felt both sadness and anger all at once when one individual quickly dismissed another person’s concern for their children’s mental health and wellbeing right now as nothing more than an inconvenience.
He continued on by telling this mom (whom he didn’t seem to even know) that her kid’s mental health couldn’t truly be suffering given that we live in a “pretty comfortable neighborhood” with “big homes” and plenty of room in our backyards to run around in to get some exercise and let off some steam.
I have no words to explain exactly how truly angry and saddened I felt as I read those ignorant and very damaging comments. Whether it’s our kids, our loved ones, our friends or others in our communities we are all suffering and doing the best that we can right now to ensure that we make it through these incredibly trying times and NOONE has the right to assume, to judge or to make someone feel this way, EVER because you never truly know what is going on in someone else’s boat.
On Friday evening after experiencing several heightened episodes of anxiety throughout the day, I found myself right smack in the middle of a full-on panic attack.
I did my best to try and calm myself down using some breathing techniques but trying to distract myself from what was triggering me in that moment I could barely catch my breath long enough to take some CBD oil; something I don’t hesitate to do several times a day when needed as a therapeutic.
As soon as the CBD oil started kicking in and my heartrate began to decrease to a more tolerable level I curled up under my weighted blanket, still fully dressed from the day but I didn’t care because all I wanted to do in that moment was close my eyes and go to sleep.
But whose kidding who? Like is sleep ever an option for me? Even if my panic attack had just taken every last ounce of strength I had left inside and crushed it with my blanket, I was still preparing myself for a sleepless night ahead.
And I knew if I lay in bed much longer I would most definitely end up having another anxiety attack of some sort, so I reached for my other bottle of CBD oil on my nightstand, the one with the THC in it.
I regretted my decision almost immediately even though it took a while for it to kick in. It did not reduce my anxiety or relax me or even help me sleep, instead I spent the rest of the night fighting off my paranoia and hallucinations and by the time morning arrived I was still feeling the effects from the THC and spent the entire day in bed yesterday with a “hangover”.
They say it’s nearly impossible to OD on cannabis but if there is even a slight chance of that happening then I’m pretty sure I managed to do so. Cannabis is supposed to give you a feeling of euphoria but like every other prescribed medication or therapeutic treatment I’ve taken along my journey, including that of Medical Marijuana, “Shrooms”, Ketamine and Edibles I’ve experienced adverse effects from them all.
By morning my Psychosis had pretty much gone away but it left me barely able to finish a sentence or swallow. I had a headache, I felt exhausted, I was beyond nauseous and dizzy and whenever I tried to stand up I felt myself passing out on the floor moments later. But not to worry because I can always count on my family to look after me, and they did just that while between fits of laughter and snapping pictures and recording videos of me to ensure they captured all the highlights.
I have tried and tried for years now to reap the benefits from using THC and other similar treatments but I think that after what happened to me this weekend I have tried for the very last time and I am just grateful that at least my regular doses of CBD oil still helps me in some small way.
A big thank you to Founder @silkenlaumann (four-time Canadian Olympian Rower) and @unsinkablestories for sharing my story with your audience.
Unsinkable is a Not-For-Profit Organization whose mission is to “connect and empower people to achieve better mental, physical and spiritual health”. They “share stories, amplify voices and offer a community of support, resources and programs built with your wellbeing in mind”.
Feel free to follow them and their youth chapter (@unsinkableyouth) on Instagram and Facebook where my story is also featured: https://weareunsinkable.com/finding-my-purpose/
Here is my story below!
FINDING MY PURPOSE
It’s been a pretty bumpy few weeks for me which kind of feels like being on a roller coaster of emotions with many steep slopes and sharp twists and turns and has caused me so much pain and anguish leading to a mixture of scary and intrusive thoughts. The thing is though, I’m used to it by now because you see, I’ve been on this same roller coaster ride for the last six and a half years which equates to 2,372 days, 56,928 hours and approximately 3,415,680 minutes (so it’s no wonder why I feel nauseous all time).
It began on a beautiful Spring day in early April, 2014 when I headed out the door for work that Friday morning. It started out like any other seemingly normal weekday, but by five o’clock that afternoon my entire world came crumbling down and I have been trying to put the pieces of my life back together ever since.
That Friday morning, April 4, 2014, I was doing what I had been doing for several months; heading to a job that I hated. A job that made me doubt my self-worth. A job that made me uncomfortable. A job that made me question my integrity. A job that made me compromise my morals. A job that made me feel unsafe and a job that made me feel like I no longer had any purpose. Ok so it wasn’t so much the job itself that did all that, but in actuality it was a boss who did.
I was so excited when I started working for him earlier that year and I thought I had finally found a job that I could build into a thriving career but instead I fell head first into his trap (stupid, stupid me) and on April 4, 2014 after he asked me to do something that I felt was both morally and ethically wrong I packed up my belongings one last time and high-tailed it out of there. I got into my car shaking and completely terrified and by this point in time, completely broken and defeated. I drove around for hours on end as my entire family and many of my friends frantically drove around the city looking for me because the last thing I did after I left my office that afternoon was text my husband telling him I wanted to kill myself before turning off my phone.
It was on that day that I lost my will to live. It was on that day that I became overwhelmed and hopeless. It was on that day that I felt worthless. It was on that day that I realized I was a failure in every sense of the word and it was on that day that I discovered just how much of a burden I truly was. Something inside of me snapped that day or so it might’ve seemed like at the time, but what I didn’t know then was I had truly been suffering in silence for a very long time and didn’t even know it.
I have since learned so much about myself through the help of my wonderful therapist (who I have been seeing now for almost 3 years on a weekly basis) as I slowly began to delve further into my past with her and I now have a much greater understanding of my pain and suffering.
I’ve come to realize over the past few years through my weekly therapy sessions that many of the regrets I’ve had in my lifetime or the wrong paths I should never have taken or the lack of empathy and guidance I had during my formative years led me to that very moment. Over time these emotions built up inside of me and finally broke me that day back in April, 2014 which very soon after, led to my diagnosis of Major Depression and Severe Anxiety and a roller coaster of a journey toward Mental Wellness ever since.
My journey has been long and burdensome which has included daily thoughts of suicide, several attempts of suicide, numerous hospital stays (one of which was over three months in length). I’ve tried over twenty different concoctions of medication, all of which caused severe physical and mental side effects and a weight gain of 100 pounds, at which time I needed to stop taking traditional medications all together and was further diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Depression.
I completed 8 sessions of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) back in 2015 during a hospital stay which proved to be unsuccessful and has left me with memory loss and other issues as well. Some other attempts at treatment have also included Ketamine through a clinical trial, Neurofeedback, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the list goes on and on.
During my very first hospital admission back in the fall of 2014 I began to journal daily and I fell in love with it. I’d forgotten just how much I loved to write as a child and teenager and eventually through my writing I started to share my story on Social Media which I eventually turned into a Blog called YouAreEnough. Right away I received an overwhelming amount of support by so bravely sharing my journey and it has allowed me to identify my purpose along the way.
I’ve been given a voice (one that I do not take for granted) to help others understand that Mental Illness is not a weakness and has also allowed me the opportunity to become an advocate for change and help reduce the Stigma that still surrounds Mental Illness today.
Continuing to share my journey on a very regular basis has felt triumphant and has shown so many individuals that it’s okay to not be okay, giving them permission to start important conversations themselves about their own struggles with Mental Illness. My story has also allowed many individuals and their loved ones some much needed strength and courage to ask for help and to feel less alone.
Last summer I took my love of writing and my passion for helping others one step further by self-publishing one of my pieces of writing into a children’s book which helps guide parents, caregivers and loved ones how to help children cope with and understand their feelings when someone they love is suffering with Depression. It is titled “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and it’s a labour of love. It’s a story that affects millions of families each and every day, including my own.
My children are now 22, 21 and 18 years old but six and a half years ago when I first became ill they needed more than anything to know that they were not to blame in any way for my illness and that they were safe and loved no matter what. The story was written (in rhyme) through the eyes of a young girl who like millions of other children may need to hear that they too are not to blame for their loved one’s illness and that more than anything, they are safe and loved no matter what, which are the three vows I promise to keep to my own children until the end of time.
Everyday is a learning curve for someone like myself and their loved ones when battling a Mental Illness and finding the right strategies and tools to help get me through the difficult moments in my day and reach mental wellness are imperative. I have had to accept the fact, as difficult as it is to follow through with sometimes, that taking care of myself first and creating healthy boundaries will help to minimize many of the stressors in my daily life.
Self-Care is not selfish, in fact, it’s selfless. I have learned that for me self-care includes writing, journaling, taking bubble baths, going for long walks, finding a safe place when I am feeling unsafe, always keeping open communication with loved ones as to my thoughts and feelings and having a great therapist to talk to on a regular basis who can give me important tools and resources to help with my daily struggles.
These strategies and tools allow me the strength to continue to fight but there are many, many other ways for individuals to make self-care an important part of their daily lives as well and below are just a few more to add to my list above: Regular exercise Proper diet Practicing good hygiene Getting a good night sleep Escaping in a good book Staying away from drugs and alcohol Reaching out to a loved one
Bio: Kim Fluxgold lives in Vaughan, Ontario with her husband, 3 children and her precious dog. She is a Blogger, the Author of the children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and Mental Health Advocate. You can continue to follow her journey at: youareenough712.wordpress.com or on her Instagram (www.intstagram.com/kimfluxgold) and Facebook pages. If you would like more information about her book please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the Pandemic I have followed all the necessary precautions set out by the Government, by Science and by our Health Officials and although it may come as a big surprise to many of you but for the most part the Pandemic itself has not intensified my symptoms of Depression and Anxiety; infact in some ways it’s done just the opposite (I will save that for a later blog).
My steady decline in my Mental Health over the last while has truly had very little to do with the Pandemic itself and much more to do with many other personal factors that were already there long before Covid-19 was ever a thing.
And although I have not allowed all the fear mongering or blatant disrespect, intolerance and judgment towards one another that I see every time I open up my Social Media feeds control my emotions I have grown more and more anxious lately wondering if life will ever feel “normal” again.
As I look back on the last 6 plus months I feel as though the Pandemic has taken us through many different stages, and when I examine those stages closely I can see that they are the same 5 stages a person will often go through when grieving a loss and for months now we have all been grieving the loss of life in some form or another.
The 5 stages of grief which can easily be transferred to life during a Pandemic are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness & Depression and Acceptance.
Way way back at the end of 2019 the world watched and listened to what was unfolding in China and for several months prior to it reaching the rest of the Globe, if we can all be honest here for just one second, how many of us actually watched in “denial” while clinging to a false, “preferable reality” that this virus wasn’t really going to affect our lives.
And even as it crept closer and closer to us, we were still very much in “denial” as to the kind of impact it was going to have on our lives, but boy oh boy, it didn’t take long before our “denial” turned to “anger”.
We quickly (and rightfully so) became very frustrated and began to put blame on anyone and everyone we could. We angrily wondered how the fuck this could have happened to us and who would of let this happen to us all the while as we sat at home in self-isolation.
Then, as more and more information from the Government, Science and Health Officials came to light we entered into the “bargaining” stage of grief and started our negotiations with the experts. “So you’re telling me that if I stay home or stay 6 feet apart from anyone outside of my bubble or I wear a mask when social distancing is problematic or I use hand sanitizer and wash my hands constantly then after 14 days in quarantine our life can go back to normal, right?”
Well we all know now that it’s alot more complex than that and our “bargaining” and negotiation skills have fallen short, which after months of trying to make the best of this very shitty situation our denial, our anger and our bargaining skills have turned into a deep “sadness” or “depression” for many people around the Globe.
Many of us have lost so much during this Pandemic and many of us have reached a point where their sadness or depression makes them feel as though this is a losing battle, that all our efforts are hopeless. It’s also made us question an inevitable future and our own mortality too.
But there is still one final stage of grief and it’s probably the most important one of all. If we are to find the strength to move forward and learn how to navigate life in our new “normal” then we must first learn “acceptance” of it. Collectively we need to figure out ways to proceed both cautiously and safely because “acceptance” will give us the power to control whatever lies ahead.
We all cope with grief in our own way and in our own time. We may not all go through each of the 5 stages, and maybe none of them at all but no matter your process we all need to remember that we are all in this together.
My cousin sent me this personality quiz and asked me to partake in it. I told her that I feel like I have two personalities; one being the person I was before I got sick and the latter being the person whom I have become since. So I decided I should take the test twice. I started off by taking the test as the person I feel I am today and then I went back and took the test again thinking about the person I used to be; the person whom I feel no longer exists.
The results of the first test showed my personality type as that of an Advocate. An Advocate, according to Webster’s dictionary is defined as “a person who pleads anothers cause, or who speaks or writes in support of something” and according to the test itself is also someone who is “quiet and mystical, yet very inspiring” which are all traits that I have aspired to become over the last many years so I’d say the test was pretty accurate thus far.
When I went back and did my second test I answered the questions while having to think back to what I felt best represented my personality 6+ years ago. It revealed that I had the personality type of an “Entertainer”. Some of the traits of an “Entertainer” (according to this test) would be described as someone who is “extroverted, feeling, engaging in life eagerly and very social.”
All of which were true once again and although I miss many parts of my personality that depression and anxiety have stolen from me, on the other hand I also know that it has allowed me to explore a side of me that would never have been possible otherwise.
Yesterday I wrote an article that talked about September being National Self-Care Awareness Month but September is also National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month; a Campaign which focuses on bringing awareness about Mental Health promotion and suicide prevention.
This year’s theme “You Are Not Alone” is such an important message (especially now more than ever) for anyone who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide like I am right now or for those who may have lost a loved one to suicide to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it the most.
It’s also a message letting someone know that if they are struggling with thoughts of suicide that there is always support available to them and that the more open we are to expressing our feelings to others, the less stigma there will be.
As you know, I talk very openly and as honestly as I possibly can about my own very raw and personal struggles with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I focus a great deal on ensuring that anyone who is suffering with a mental illness or who knows someone that is will feel less alone in their suffering.
This past week has been an extremely difficult one for me and my family as I have been struggling more than ever before with the thought of suicide but given the outpouring of supportive messages, phone calls and visits I’ve received since the days following my visit to emerg, I know that I am not alone and that no matter what happens, neither is my family.
I also know from the many personal messages I receive each and every week from individuals who may have resonated with something I wrote or may be seeking support or guidance for themselves or their loved one who is struggling with their mental health that when I speak my truth, it is giving someone else permission to do the same.
And that right there is the exact reason why I began sharing my journey with you all. Not for pity, not for attention and definitely not to be judged but pure and simple to let you know that you are never alone.
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