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.”
I’m feeling beyond overwhelmed today when I probably should be feeling excitement and joy knowing that in just a few short hours I will have the honour of witnessing my eldest nephew (who was the ring bearer at my wedding 26 years ago) marry his beautiful Bride-To-Be.
As you all know by now the past ten (plus) days have been some of the most trying and challenging days of my journey and my self-worth has sunk to an all time low.
I have next to zero self-compassion left in me and I have no clue whatsoever how to be kind to myself.
But I have learned the art of how to fake it til I make it in social settings.
I have learned the art of smiling through my depression and anxiety in social settings.
And I’m pretty good at engaging in some great conversation too.
Somewhere along my journey I have mastered these skills and learned how to present myself as “normal” in social settings, but I also know by now how much confusion this often presents for others.
In fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me how great I seemed while in a social setting I’d be a very rich lady by now, but for now I just have to take it as an opportunity to open up important conversations (let’s never forget the many faces of Depression that Robin Williams and so many other famous people wore).
The truth is I may present myself in many social settings that way because I never leave home without my mask on, metaphorically speaking; and trust me when I tell you there have been plenty of bathroom stalls I’ve had to hide in while in the midst of a panic attack or worse, been in a fit of hysteria amongst a crowded room.
This is what scares me most about how I am feeling right now. I’ve been so vulnerable lately that even the most joyful moments will have me running to the nearest bathroom stall or worse.
Anyone living with a Social Anxiety Disorder knows how I am feeling today even though everyone experiences it in different ways, but no matter if you feel awkward engaging in conversations, entering a crowded room, making eye contact with strangers, going to a party or giving a speech in public most individuals with a social anxiety disorder have an overwhelming fear of being judged, embarrassed or becoming the center of attention; and many more, like myself will then spend days or even weeks afterwards depleting even more of their mental energy with negative thoughts, ruminating about how we presented ourselves in thus situation.
For now though I am just trying to focus on the moment, take as many deep breaths as needed and practice my grounding exercises (oh and have my CBD oil on hand at all times too). My mask, metaphorically speaking will be ready for whatever social distancing I may need tonight. And I know that no matter what, my family will be by my side just in case I need an extra layer of protection.
My head has been completely cluttered by loud and intrusive noises that won’t fucking leave me alone no matter how much I fight back. I’m in such a fog that I easily lose my train of thought mid sentence (and I even forgot my own address last night). I feel as though I am holding on by a thread right now. I am vulnerable and scared and I’m not sure how much fight I have left in me anymore.
My heart knows how loved and needed I am but I just wish my brain could get on the same page. Words can not express my endless gratitude for the overwhelming amount of support I’ve received since my post the other day.
Every message has been exploding with overwhelming kindness and empathy (the 2 greatest traits any human can have) and it warms my heart knowing how many people care about my well-being, feel inspired by my courage and enlightened by my honesty and truth. I’ve received private messages from people I haven’t spoken to in 30 years who understand what I am feeling and others whom I met just weeks ago.
I am especially grateful to one friend inparticular who literally dropped everything she was doing yesterday to sit with me for over 3 hours after I experienced a breakdown earlier in the day.
Last night though my pain got to be too much to bare and Rich drove me to emerg. I was in such a panicked state that I was certain I was having a heart attack. I have panic attacks often but this one felt different. Once ruling out that it wasn’t in fact a heart attack my hope was that they would give me a script for some Ativan which is used primarily to treat anxiety disorders, trouble sleeping and severe agitation. All of which have been causing my downward spiral.
It is also extremely addictive. I know this first hand because a few years ago I had an extreme addiction to the drug. I’d started hoarding bottles of them from doctors and other inpatient treatment facilities. I had 100’s of them in my possession and nobody knew, not even Rich.
I was no longer taking antidepressants at the time after more than 20 concoctions and lots of horrible and dangerous side effects led me to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression. But Ativan wasn’t giving me those side effects. Instead it was numbing my pain and helping me sleep more. So I took more. I just loved the clouded feeling I was getting from it without all the added and dangerous side effects from the antidepressants.
I finally fessed up and came clean to my Psychiatrist at the time when my kids began voicing their concern to Rich that they were nervous being in a car with me. By now I had been taking 8 to 10 pills at one time every day. I truly don’t know how I was even functioning or still alive.
Now back to last night. Rich took me to the emerg at the brand new hospital nearby our home. It officially opened to the public only 2 months ago. It is affiliated with our other local hospital and I sadly recognized several familiar staff from the amount of visits to their emergency room over the years.
It was very clean. The floors and walls still looked fresh. I wanted so bad to come on here today and give this new hospital a glowing review but aside from the clean floors and fresh coat of paint I can’t really say anything positive from my own personal experience, especially given the amount of emergency rooms I’ve been to before to compare to this one during a crisis (and potential heart attack!). Even when I’ve been stripped of my belongings and my dignity left on the dirty floor or had security guards practically sitting on top of me I’d still put this experience below them all.
I was there for close to 7 hours and I observed a lot. I heard a lot too as they would call patients to the nurse’s station to give them their results before releasing them and I was in a room right across from it all (wouldn’t it be smarter to go talk to the individuals in their rooms, we are still in a Pandemic I thought and really do I need to hear everyone else’s diagnosis?). One of my most concerning observations though was when they called a lady to the desk (who’s mask was not on properly and they kept asking her to fix) to give her a script for an antibiotic and puffer to treat her pneumonia and then proceeded to tell the woman “but I’m pretty sure you probably have Covid”. Did they not test her for it? Did they not tell her maybe she should self isolate? Rich and I looked at one another in complete disbelief. SMH
Anyways back to my night which I returned home from just before 3am. I had an ekg and blood work done to rule out any issues with my heart. The doctor spoke to me about what else was going on at the moment as well including if I had an intended plan of carrying out a suicide. I was visibly shaken and he decided to give me an Ativan to calm me down and then he put in a request for their crisis team to come talk to me further.
We discussed my prior issues with Ativan which is clearly stated in my file as well as any other one of my doctor’s files who had once prescribed it to me. We also discussed how dangerous and addictive it is and that he would give me the one for now but was not comfortable giving me anymore to go home with.
The crisis worker eventually came to talk with me by which time the Ativan had kicked in and I was physically and emotionally exhausted and my mind was shutting down while trying to talk to her. By this time, Rich had left to try and get some sleep for a couple of hours.
The Crisis Worker asked me a whole bunch of questions, all standard to someone who is in crisis. Do you have a plan and what is your plan was her main concern and focus. The one positive of the night was that she had actually taken the time to go through my (lengthy) file before coming to talk to me so it saved me a lot of catching up on my history over the past 7 years.
My hope was still for her to let me have a few Ativans to take home with me so I can try and get some sleep and numb the severe and debilitating anxiety and desperate plans of suicide I’ve been experiencing. And to hopefully lift some of the fog. She spoke with the doctor and came back with a prescription for 5 Ativan for me but then she quickly regretted her decision.
She made me promise I wouldn’t go home and take them all at once or go to another hospital to get more. She also made me promise that I would call and speak with my Psychiatrist today and her last promise she had me make to her was that and I quote “don’t do anything stupid”. I know she meant it very lovingly!
I slept for a solid 3 hours last night within minutes of getting into bed thanks to the Ativan. That is huge for me, like Super Bowl huge. I have not gone to the pharmacy yet today (or gotten out of bed for that matter) to fill the script which I promise I will hand over to Rich who has been the keeper of all my meds for years as I am not sure I can be trusted right now to be perfectly honest. But a promise is a promise.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please seek help immediately.
I started following a group on Facebook called “Ontario Hiking” soon after its conception last spring that has really helped me to find many new and exciting places to explore on our #summerofrich adventures.
It is run by Lauren Yakiwchuk who spends so much of her free time exploring our great Province and blogging about her personal experiences along her trails.
This group offers many fun and interactive experiences, great tips, lots of beautiful photos and so many helpful and honest reviews of places all over Ontario, some of which are very close to home for me and many more that are hundreds of kilometers away.
Throughout the last 4 years since the #summerofrich first launched (can you believe its been four years) I continue to add many new and adventurous places to my already very lengthy wishlist that I would love to explore one day.
It has become quite a long list and it just keeps on growing.
Each week I now refer to this wonderful and very informative group of close to 80,000 like-minded members who share my passion for nature, hiking and mental wellness in order to plan our day trips. **I was really hoping that this summer we could take a 5 day hiking trip to the most northern tip of our beautiful Province for my birthday but unfortunately there have been too many obstacles standing in our way this year.
One of the group’s most fun and interactive experiences I’ve enjoyed following most since the group launched last spring has been reading posts from other members who have participated in the quarterly hiking challenges.
These challenges occur every January, April, July and October. Participants are asked to complete 5 hikes (or walks) during that month. Once you have completed your hikes you can email the 5 locations you hiked during that month to a specific app in order to receive a “digital badge” for “bragging rights” and a chance to win prizes.
I decided near the end of June that instead of just following other members participating in the upcoming July challenge that I would join in on the #julyhikingchallenge for myself.
It’s not like we don’t hike several times a month anyways, especially during the summer and I knew that if I participated in the challenge for myself that it would push me (and Rich) on those days when one of us is just not up for it.
We both have such a feeling of accomplishment after our hikes and not only did we challenge each other in July to push through the 5 hikes, we surpassed the initial targeted goal and completed 7 of them instead. That for sure earned us both many bragging rights.
I just received my “digital badge” this morning via email for accomplishing the #julyhikingchallenge and although I may not have won any of the prizes this time around I feel like a baby bird today when they are first born and have no idea the power that their wings have or how determined they will become in order to learn to fly; and one day maybe even learn to soar.
In fact science predicts that we are probably holding onto thirteen secrets right now that we have never shared with another living soul.
Holding onto secrets can sometimes be both stressful and harmful to one’s own mental health.
People reach out to me all the time in confidence and share many of their deepest and most intimate experiences and struggles with their mental health or that of a loved one.
I don’t share a thing (unless of course they could be in danger of harming themselves or someone else).
It’s not my story to tell.
Instead I just offer up a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and some guidance if needed.
I love that so many people, many of whom I don’t even know personally feel like they can come to me in confidence and share their intimate experiences and struggles. That is the reason why I continue to share my journey with you.
But last week someone came to me with a different type of secret and it has been weighing me down for the better part of a week now.
The secret was shared with me without my consent and I wish more than anything that I could erase it from my mind.
Holding onto this secret and not being able to share it with anyone has taken a real toll on my own mental well-being this week. It should never have been shared with me in the first place.
The individual knew that by sharing this secret with me would be putting me in a very big predicament. But they went ahead and shared it anyways. It was beyond self-serving and selfish.
The secret also came with a stern warning (after they blurted it out) that NOBODY else apparently knows about it and that nobody EVER could, especially of course the person that would be affected most by it if they ever found out.
That somebody just so happens to be someone I respect deeply and is also a dear friend, but so was the person who shared the secret, or so I thought.
This secret has no direct impact on my own life whatsoever but it could potentially make a great impact on my friend’s life if they knew; for the better that is.
I’ve been so upset all week and don’t know what to do. It’s consuming me. It’s burdensome and my energy reserve has been depleted because of it. I’ve obsessed over it for almost a week now.
Many other people would’ve probably forgotten all about it by now but that’s just not how my overly anxious, compassionate and depressed mind works.
I have found the need to emotionally detach myself from both parties because on one hand I’m angry and on the other hand I’m feeling so beyond overwhelmed with guilt knowing what I know.
I’m not concerned about the one friendship who clearly stepped over the boundary of trust and confidence by placing me in this predicament in the first place because that is not true friendship.
But what if I do decide to share this secret with the person I care deeply about, knowing how much they deserve to know and the next thing I know is there’s a hit put out on me!?🙂
Have you ever held onto a secret that completely weighed you down?
Today’s post may have a very similar message to the one I wrote about Simone Biles yesterday but the more we hear these messages from public figures like Biles and Robin Lehner, the goaltender for the Las Vegas Knights speaking up and speaking out about their own personal mental health struggles the more we can begin to normalize it.
We can begin to see it as a sickness and not a weakness.
We can begin to understand that it’s okay to not be okay.
And we can begin to feel like we are not alone.
Robin shared a tweet the other day with his 97k followers where he listed the challenges he faces every day as a mental health warrior.
His statement was both honest and bold.
Suddenly there was a boomerang of retweets, giving his hundreds of thousands of followers permission to use his platform to open up about their own mental health challenges as well, which many, many did.
Many were everyday folks like you and I and others were from very famous or prominent public figures just like him, but either way it was truly inspiring to read so many honest and bold statements given by strangers who share a common bond.
Robin Lehner is a “Knight” in shining armour in my books.
So here goes mine:
Feel free to share your own statement too if you like 🥰.
Hi. My name is Kim Fluxgold and I have chronic depression, severe anxiety and suicidal ideations every day. I have a wonderful therapist who I see each week. Writing has given me purpose in my life by sharing my story and helping others feel less ashamed and alone. For over seven years now I have fought like hell to survive. I am forever grateful and truly blessed to have so much love and support every step of the way.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now coming from the Olympic world.
Simone Biles is probably one of the most recognized and celebrated Olympic athletes in the world today and a true mental health warrior in my eyes.
I one thousand percent support and admire Simone’s decision to step away from the podium for now in order to focus on her mental well-being but her decision to do so has been met with so much ridicule by the naysayers who are sitting on their butts, most likely from the comfort of their couch, hidden behind their smartphone screens, tweeting out and calling her a quitter or worse.
It brings us right back to the same place we keep ending up because had Simone broken her ankle during her Olympic performance we would not be having this conversation and instead we would all be empathizing with her and cheering her on as she rehabilitated and got back to the vault. But taking a step back to focus on her mental health never seems to be a good enough reason to the naysayers.
Mental illness and PTSD can creep up on you ever so slowly and often out of nowhere. She deserves to be recognized for her strength and courage and not criticized and judged.
You don’t get to the level that Simone Biles has without being mentally tough. She is far from a quitter. She is taking care of her mental wellness and that makes her worthy of an Olympic gold medal in my eyes.
And when she returns, and I believe she will, she will show all those naysayers sitting on their butts from the comfort of their couch what it takes to be a real winner.
Many people may not fully realize or ever truly understand the trauma and possible triggers (including performing in the Olympics) that Simone has had to overcome being that she was one of MANY young athletes who suffered YEARS and YEARS of sexual abuse at the hands of their “trusted” Olympic Team Doctor “Larry Nassar” who is now thankfully serving a prison sentence of over 100 years for his crimes.
Mental illness and PTSD are both VERY real and VERY serious. If she is not mentally strong enough to be able to focus on her performance then she could most definitely hurt herself physically and possibly destroy everything.
Self-care is mental wellness and it doesn’t matter if you can’t physically see her injury; it still matters, even more.
Sadly though, we live in a world where people judge others on how much money they have, what kind of career path they choose, how big the house is that they live in, how smart they are and even by the amount of medals they may have sitting on their shelf.
But what if for just one second we all took a “step back” and focused on a world where people didn’t see it that way and instead only cared that you are happy, healthy and kind.
Don’t we all deserve that kind of gold medal treatment?
Seven years ago I could never have pictured my life a certain way.
None of us ever can.
But from very early on in my diagnosis I knew I needed to somehow paint another picture by accepting the tools I’d been given and embrace each one of them, one stroke at a time.
These tools have helped me to understand that it’s okay if sometimes I colour outside the lines or splatter some paint on my shoes.
I may still be a work in process but no matter what we are all a work of art.
Not everyone is ready to start painting a new picture right away.
It may take some time (maybe even years) before someone is truly able to put on a smock, pick up their paint brush and make that first stroke.
Some people need to ease into it at their own pace because they are too afraid to change their picture or ask for help in creating a new one.
The question is, how does a person truly know when they are ready? What makes someone ready?
I’ve seen alot of people who struggle with this. They pick up their pencil thinking they are ready to start sketching their new picture.
But then they place their half chewn and sharpened down to the nub pencil back in the drawer.
They try again.
This time they start sketching an image but their picture gets smudged in the process so they desperately try to erase the smudges but the smudges just become more embedded deeper and darker into the paper the more they attempt to erase them.
And before they know it they have just crumpled up their hundredth piece of paper to toss in the waste basket.
But then one day, maybe even after attempting to throw away that hundredth piece of crumpled up paper into the waste basket they realize that what they need the most is some actual guidance and direction or maybe even an entirely new perspective; one that is outside of their abstract view of what their picture should look like.
It’s okay if you toss away a hundred pieces of crumpled up paper into the waste basket, using that stubby, chewed up pencil before you are able to create a new picture, one with more depth and composition.
Because only you will know in your heart when the time comes that you are truly ready to pick up that paint brush, stand confidently in front of your easel and begin painting your new picture; this time using the most beautiful and vibrant colours.
Rich made a promise to me 26 (plus) years ago that he would take me on a magic carpet ride as we danced to our first song as husband and wife on our wedding day.
Today, on International Self-Care Day we hiked a section of the Oakridges Moraine called Jefferson Climb: Magic Carpet Ride, Upper Ridge Trail.
As we were hiking the trail I began to quietly sing the lyrics to our wedding song “A Whole New World” in my head (I wouldn’t dare sing out loud as we may have become prey to some dangerous wildlife species 🐻).
As soon as we got back to our car (without getting lost this time) I played the song for Rich on my phone (there may have been some tears in the mix).
This song had a great deal of meaning to the both of us when it came time for choosing our wedding song. After all, we started dating while working together in a video store, we both loved Disney movies and Aladdin had quickly become among one of our favourites that we’d watched many times together during our courtship (and we were also first in line to see the live action version when it was released to theaters a couple of years ago; hmmm when I think about it now that may have actually been the last movie we saw in a theater!).
The song has become our anthem and as we hiked the “Magic Carpet Ride” trail today and as I quietly chanted the lyrics to myself and then replayed it for Rich on our car ride home I heard a whole new and even more meaningful version of the song this time.
It may be a bit off key now but it will always be our song.
What was your wedding song?
What did you do to celebrate International Self-Care Day today?