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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I did an hour long aqua fit class in the morning and then went on a two hour long hike in the scorching heat later that afternoon.
This sounds like the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep, right? Well apparently not for someone like myself whose anxiety and depression really don’t give a flying fuck how exhausted you are.
By dinnertime last night I could barely keep my eyes open but as soon as my head hit the pillow, that dream of getting a good night’s sleep once again turned into a nightmare, an anxiety infused nightmare.
I have found myself tossing and turning more and more lately and I can’t seem to find a comfortable place to lay my head anymore which is probably because my brain and subconscious mind are too damn busy gearing itself up for its long night of torture ahead.
Sleep is meant to give both our bodies and minds time to recuperate from the stresses of the day but for the better part of seven years now sleep has been one of my biggest hurdles toward recovery.
As the night progresses and the house becomes more and more quiet is usually when the noises in my head become the loudest and most heightened.
My brain never shuts off, even when I do fall asleep. I can easily go from any state of sleep to waking suddenly by a trigger or a rush of adrenaline where feelings of impending doom kick in to high gear, leading to a full on panic attack about something that occurred earlier that day or that a loved one may be in danger, or worse.
A year ago today I wrote a blog just 24 hours after the WHO declared the Coronavirus a world wide Pandemic.
I remember those first few days that followed as though it was just yesterday. There may have still been so many unknowns at the time but one thing was for sure, the virus that had seemed so far from our reach was now here and action was abruptly taken.
March Break was just getting underway here in Ontario and the sudden closure of the borders meant for starters that Rachel, who was scheduled to fly to Punta Cana in a couple of days for her once in a lifetime High School Graduation trip was no longer going to happen.
Professional sports and Broadway productions were being shut down; students, teachers and parents were preparing for a “two week” extension of March Break and then one by one businesses, malls and restaurants were told that they too must close immediately.
The sudden changes, the mixed messages and the fear of the unknown quickly began to take its toll on everyone, even those amongst us who had never experienced bouts of anxiety before were starting to feel anxious and scared.
In my blog I shared a list of some simple yet effective ideas for how we could try and cope with this new type of anxiety (you know, the kind of anxiety that follows the declaration of a world wide Pandemic!).
But now, one year in, those simple, effective ideas no longer feel plausible. Covid-19 and the fallout from it has created so many new barriers for many, devastation beyond repair for others and an increased amount of anxiety and other mental health concerns in almost everyone you speak to.
My anxiety had already been beyond crippling for me pre-Pandemic for the better part of six years by the onset of the Pandemic but Covid-19 has really magnified it in so many ways and I know that sadly I am not alone.
But I also can’t believe that someone like myself who lives with chronic mental health issues on a daily basis, where carrying out the simplest of tasks and activities or attending any type of social gathering that could likely cause me to go into complete and utter panic and despair at any given moment (even those which involve close friends and family) finds myself actually craving many of these missed opportunities that so many of us once took for granted.
For an entire year now I’ve been following the public health’s advice and guidelines by washing my hands regularly, wearing my mask, staying home as much as possible, social distancing and avoiding any direct contact with family and friends outside of those who live in my home, so like truly, who can really blame me?
I can at the very least see a light now at the end of this very turbulent and dark tunnel with the vaccine rollout underway (even if it’s been a complete and epic fail here in Canada) but it still doesn’t change the fact that this past year has on a whole been the most difficult and trying year for many of us and after enduring months and months of Covid-fatigue has only added more fuel to the fire for someone like me who already had a very anxious mind beforehand.
At first, once the initial shock wore off (although I still find myself often shaking my head in disbelief) we may have found some joy in staying home, spending quality time with our kids or taking a few weeks off from our hectic lives; I mean sometimes big changes in our lifestyles or behaviours can feel easy in the beginning, right? But this was never something any one of us ever wanted to get used to.
But we have all had to adjust and pivot in so many ways since then and so now, here we are, one year later still watching cautiously from the sidelines with some light at the end of the tunnel as life slowly (very slowly in Canada) begins to push toward some type of “normal” again except that now many of us are starting to face yet another very real anxiety; one that comes with a fear of what normalcy will actually look like, a fear of the future, post vaccination and a fear that we will never be able to get back to the way life was before the Pandemic because abnormal sure feels like the new normal to me.
Do you fear that life will never feel “normal” again?
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 read an article the other day whose title immediately caught my eye. It read:
4 million cries for help: Calls to Kids Help Phone soar amid pandemic.
As I continued on to read the body of the article my heart sank further.
Since the onset of the Pandemic last March, Kids Help Phone has seen an upsurge in calls from young people. Statistics show that calls, texts and their many other online resources have more than doubled since the previous year and they are now receiving over 800 calls, texts etc. every day from all across Canada (with Ontario making up for approximately half of those calls received each day).
Callers have been as young as 5 years old with a good majority of the calls coming in between midnight and 4 am. Many of these call are related to feelings of isolation, loneliness, self/body image, virtual learning, missed milestones and an overall deterioration of their mental health. And of all the calls received by their large team of trained counsellors per day, there is at minimum, 10 calls where police are being dispatched for “active suicide rescues”.
These stats are truly heartbreaking but I am so thankful at the same time that our youth have a safe place like Kids Help Phone to reach out to in order to help them survive a Pandemic. Knowing just how many of our young people have become so withdrawn, angry, frustrated, anxious and sad (and rightfully so) is beyond scary.
I hear from speaking with so many concerned parents in my community (and beyond) how their kids are staying up all night gaming with friends online just to feel some sort of connection and how so many more have completely checked out from their daily routines, especially online learning. The concerns over the emotional and financial impacts that isolation and lockdowns are having on our youth are growing more and more concerning by the day and suicides among our youth are increasing at alarming rates.
As spring quickly approaches, (at least according to Wiarton Willie, the adorable little Groundhog that is, who just yesterday predicted an early spring, yay), I had recently been giving a great deal of thought to starting another Graduation Initiative again this year for the Class of 2021.
I will afterall in just two short months have another Graduate in my home, who as of yesterday received the disappointing news in an email from her University informing her (what we already knew in our hearts) that they will be postponing her Spring Convocation Ceremony until such time when large public gatherings can once again take place safely.
I know how much disappointment, anger and sadness this reality caused my other daughter last spring when both her Prom and Graduation ceremony were cancelled, along with millions of other young people’s around the world but after reading the article and taking note of the imminent crisis our young people are facing due to the Pandemic I felt a great sense of pride knowing that the 10k that I along with the help of 100’s of incredibly generous and kindhearted people in and around my community helped raise and donate to Kids Help Phone last spring, that the money went to a very worthwhile cause.
I now feel as though I have at least 4 million more reasons to take on this initiative once again and who knows, maybe with the help of my amazing community we could double the amount of proceeds we raised last spring.
Services like Kids Help Phone are needed more than ever before and even though it may only be a stepping stone toward other resources or long term services for some, our young people deserve a fighting chance and are going to need all the help they can get long after the Pandemic is over because although many of the imminent issues at hand may one day dissipate, the lingering effects and fallout from the Pandemic are sadly going to affect much of our younger generations for many years to come.
If you or someone you know needs a safe and confidential place to start please call Kids Help Phone at: 1.800.668.6868 or text: 686868
Today is “Blue Monday”. Every year the third Monday in January has been labelled as the most “depressing” day of the year.
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog titled; “Stop Calling It Blue Monday” where I described the many formulas for which “Blue Monday” got its namesake and sure, on paper, today could very well look like it may live up to its name (see blog: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/stop-calling-it-blue-monday) but the campaigns which are associated with “Blue Monday” are commercializing on it (book a tropical getaway now) and therefore further trivializing what is a very serious, debilitating and often life threatening disorder for so many of us, including myself.
This time of year can undoubtedly be difficult enough for so many of us as the bills start piling up from the holidays, new year’s resolutions are being broken, getting outside for fresh air has become more difficult due to the inclement weather in many parts of the world and for many others there is possibly an overall feeling of gloominess stemming from having less hours of daylight in our day.
So when it is suggested to us that we should all feel somewhat depressed on one single day each year feels very belittling and almost condescending, especially this year more than ever.
But I will give “Blue Monday” kudos for giving a voice to Depression. By talking about “Blue Monday”, by watching it being discussed on all the news channels today and by listening to many experts on the radio giving both advice and important resources available to you for tackling Depression head on is helping to further destigmatize it. It is allowing for many individuals who may be feeling very much alone right now to find the courage to ask for help and it’s letting you know that help is available. And most importantly it’s telling someone who may not know it yet but it’s okay to not be okay; yesterday, today and even tomorrow.
Today I feel like I’m toast, burnt toast to be exact.
Some days I can pull myself together long enough to eat the damn piece of toast, some days I need to smother it with a thick layer of strawberry jam in order to cover up my pain and overwhelm, some days I try really hard to scrape away the black charcoal on my toast with a butter knife to show the world my true self and then there are days like today when all I want to do is throw away the piece of burnt toast in the waste bin because if truth be told, it feels too hopeless to even try and salvage it.