After spending over 8 hours in a car yesterday delivering signs, the last thing Rich really wanted to do today was drive somewhere too far away in order to go for a hike so instead we stayed close to home and took a walk through our own neighborhood.
It’s familiar. Maybe even a bit too familiar (especially after this past year) because most of the time when we go for a walk in the neighborhood we aren’t paying too close attention to the beautiful things surrounding us like we do when we are on a hike, and too be honest you really can end up missing lots.
I think we take many of those beautiful things, the ones right in our own backyard, for granted.
We both needed to refuel today.
And right away our normally very familiar walk felt very unfamiliar today because we actually took our time to notice the beautiful things surrounding us.
And we took the time to point out and share those beautiful things we noticed with each other.
The clear blue sky above us.
The pretty lilacs on the trees and grass too.
The love birds perched on a fence singing to one another.
The fearless dogs chasing a ball in a big open field.
The sound of laughter coming from the children playing in the park.
Friends enjoying a picnic lunch together, catching up with one another and smiling from ear to ear.
I didn’t capture any of these moments with my camera today but instead I just breathed them all in.
It was a beautiful #summerofrich day in the neighborhood!
Next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood try and notice at least five beautiful things surrounding you.
Is it pretty safe to say that if you are a parent you have probably doubted your role as one at one time or another?
You are not alone.
Parenting is hard work, it’s a huge responsibility and quite possibly the most thankless job ever, yet it also comes with the greatest rewards.
As a parent we find ourselves second guessing every decision we make or questioning each and every behaviour of ours which only escalates further doubt.
We worry we will somehow screw up our kid’s lives forever.
We worry that they won’t love us or that they will actually grow to hate us.
This has been a daily battle of mine over the past seven years and I blame my illness.
It makes me believe all the doubt and lies.
Even though I have three amazing kids (more like young adults actually) who are all very busy these days discovering who they are and what they need in order to become their best self.
They are finding their place in the world.
They are chasing their dreams.
In fact I’d say they are all killing it right now despite my feeling like I have failed them in every way possible, despite my feeling like my illness has taken away a big part of their innocence, despite my feeling like I’m the worst parent ever, despite my feeling like I’m a complete burden to them, despite my feeling like I have scarred them for life and despite my feeling like they hold so much hate and resentment toward me.
It’s been a really difficult week for me. I’m beyond overwhelmed right now and in a pretty bad headspace, (see blog .https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/05/24/suicide-can-be-a-silent-killer/) but despite all that it’s moments like the one we had on Sunday evening that remind me that maybe I haven’t failed them after all, maybe I haven’t actually screwed them up completely and maybe, just maybe I’ve even played a role in them becoming those amazing, generous, loving, kind young adults.
Maybe I need to be more aggressive when I try telling my depressed mind to fuck off.
I’ve needed a few days to process the emotions that overcame me on Sunday evening when my kids excitedly presented me with an early birthday present (they wanted to give me enough time to prepare for it).
They handed me an envelope and before I opened it they told me that they wanted to get me something they knew I’d cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world.
As I anxiously opened the envelope I could not imagine what it could be. I unwrapped the piece of paper inside and saw a picture of a cabin on a lake.
Their gift to me was exactly what they said it was as they handed me the envelope to open. They had wanted to get me something they knew I would cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world so as they so eloquently put it, they gave me the gift of time; quality family time that is.
They have rented a cottage for all of us for the weekend of Father’s day, just days before Hannah “hopefully” heads off to camp for the summer and just days before my 50th birthday.
There will be canoeing, campfires, roasted marshmallows, self-care, sunbathing on the dock, laughter and a special #summerofrich “Father’s Day” adventure included in our weekend away but most of all there will be picture perfect memories made that we can all cherish forever.
I love you to the moon and back, forever and a day.
I took this picture of Maggie yesterday afternoon.
All I focused on in that moment was capturing the perfect shot of her cuteness overload which I did, even if my pleas to her to smile pretty for the camera were ignored over and over again.
I couldn’t wait to share the pic with Rich and the kids in our private family group on Snapchat.
But later that evening something other than Maggie’s cuteness overload kept pulling me back to this picture.
I couldn’t put my finger on it right away but then suddenly it hit me.
Suddenly the picture took on a whole new, deeper meaning.
Suddenly I saw past her cuteness overload.
Suddenly I was fixated on a much bigger picture.
Suddenly my mind shifted gears.
For much of my illness over the last seven years I have found myself focused on the past.
I wish I could change a lot of things that happened to me in my past but I can’t, no one can.
At least though I have learned from my past.
So as I took a deeper, more meaningful look at the picture of Maggie as she stared mesmerized out the front window of my car I suddenly felt my presence in her place in that moment and that maybe my desperate unanswered pleas to get her to look at the camera and smile for mommy was by no means an accident.
Maybe she wasn’t actually ignoring my pleas at all but instead along with all that cuteness overload, deep down inside she was there to remind me in that moment just how desperately I too need to stay focused on the road ahead.
My recovery depends on it.
There has to be a reason why the windshield is so big and the rearview mirror is so small? Right?
Afterall it’s not what you leave behind that truly matters, it’s where you’re journey is headed next that does.
I had a panic attack today while driving home from my therapist. I needed to pull over so that I could calm down. I talked my way through it by asking myself a few simple questions that I have learned over the last many years to help me get through them. If you or someone you love suffers with anxiety and panic attacks have a listen.❤🤗
Last night Rich and I watched a movie on Netflix called “Words On Bathroom Walls” which is based on a book.
I cried. A lot.
My intention for the evening was to find a wholesome, mushy, lovey-dovey kinda romantic comedy to watch. It was gonna be a perfect distraction. I mean come on, who doesn’t love a good romantic comedy?? Well I’d probably have to start with Rich!! And now I know it was all just a rouse back when he was courting me!
As I began flipping through our endless options of wholesome, mushy, lovey-dovey kinda romantic comedies to watch I happened upon a movie that really caught my eye; and his too.
It had romance but it had a whole lot of substance too.
It was a movie about a boy named Adam who is diagnosed with Schizophrenia in his senior year of high school which he struggles to keep a secret from his new love interest at his new school.
“Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling”. (MAYO CLINIC)
For much of the movie we live inside Adam’s mind as he desperately tries to fight off his distortions from reality with medical intervention and therapy. We witness both the visual and audible effects of Schizophrenia come to life in the form of a black funnel cloud and deep threatening voices. You could see the distress and fear in his eyes and you could empathize with his pain and sadness.
I battle mental illness every day and even though I can’t tell you what it’s actually like to suffer with Schizophrenia I can tell you that many of his experiences and symptoms really resonated with me. Like alot.
Just like Adam’s character in the movie I too struggle with distortions from reality, I too struggle with extremely disordered thinking and behaviors, I too struggle with being diagnosed as treatment resistant, and I too have struggled for many years with a no win situation while experimenting with one concoction of medication after another which only caused me further mental and physical impairment.
But just like Adam’s character in the movie, I too have also learnt alot from my illness. Just like Adam’s character I too have learned over time that even though I have an illness, I am not my illness, nor should I ever be defined by it. And just like Adam’s character I too have learned over time how important it is to let others into my life and to share my thoughts and experiences with them because in the end I too have learned that by doing so people may really surprise you. And in a really good way.
The movie was genuine, sensitive, compassionate, insightful and real. It shed a very important and bright light on Schizophrenia and mental illness in general which is all too often seen in a very dark and vilified way.
I had a massage this afternoon, the first one in several years.
My kids had bought it for me as a gift last Mother’s Day.
At the time when they purchased it the Spa was closed due to lockdown restrictions and by the time it did finally reopen, to be perfectly honest, I just kept forgetting about it. That was until a few weeks ago when I hurt my back and thought once I’m feeling better I should get a massage!
Massages, like mindfulness or meditation are supposed to be a perfect way to relax and relieve anxiety and stress, but seriously, have you met me before?
My track record with both mindfulness and meditation have never been met with much success for me and usually do the complete opposite of what they are meant for and now I guess I may as well add massage to that list too.
It was the perfect setting for a massage; the lights were dim, there was a subtle aroma in the air, soothing music playing in the background and the massage therapist was both gentle and calming. So what could possibly go wrong?
I have no ‘F’ ing idea to be perfectly honest with you but as soon as the massage began and for the next 50 minutes or so I felt like I was going to suffocate (and not just because of my mask).
My thoughts were racing all over the damn map and my mind was filled with such chaos. There was no real pattern or focus to speak of, just complete disarray. I tried several times to relax my body but my mind was having none of that nonsense.
I needed to find a way to distract myself and so I tried some of my go-to techniques and tools I’ve learned throughout my journey but nothing seemed to be working. I felt myself becoming more and more vulnerable in a “fight or flight” state of mind which only kept escalating when I quickly realized that fleeing the situation was likely not an option.
So I continued to lay there feeling very helpless with tears in my eyes, trying to estimate how much time I still had left all the while shouting at my mind to just shut the ‘F’ up and let my body cherish this beautiful gift I received from my kids!
I try, I really do try and relish in every good moment and experience that life has to offer me. I’m very mindful of these moments and experiences and I appreciate the opportunity when they present themselves or allow me to escape and feel moments of joy.
I was afforded some of these moments over the weekend especially while spending some quality time with my family on Saturday afternoon, enjoying some fresh air, a change of scenery and even a bit of exercise too. It was so welcomed after a very difficult night before.
My plate is completely full right now and so these moments where I’m able to escape from my racing thoughts or overwhelm for even a short while are appreciated so much more because sadly they don’t seem to last very long and often feel so few and far between.
My emotions are likened to being on a roller coaster ride with so many ups and downs, twists and turns and often scary, heart palpitating moments.
I never know when the ride is going to slow down long enough for me to catch my breath or feel that adrenaline rush of joy again.
At least I was afforded the opportunity on Saturday because by the time Sunday rolled around that sinking feeling you get from the plunge of a roller coaster was in full swing again. I found myself plunging the moment I awoke from a very restless night sleep and it caused my thoughts to start racing to a very dark and scary place and a mistake was made in the process that led me toward more pain and sadness which I am unable to shake off still today.
I guess that’s why when those moments of joy do come my way I am so much more appreciative of them. We all need to learn to relish in those moments even if only for a moment in time.
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?
Studies have shown that chewing gum while feeling stressed or anxious can actually lower your cortisol levels, improve negative moods and blood flow in the brain, increase your level of peace and calm and may even enhance your cognitive performance and alertness.
So next time you’re having a stressful day or feeling anxious, try “popping” a piece of gum in your mouth and “chew” on this!