I have spent the better part of the past few days since my visit to emerg trying to process everything while still desperately figuring out whether or not I even have the strength anymore to keep going.
The Psychiatrist who was assigned to my care the other day was a very special and very rare find as far as any encounter I’ve ever had with a Psychiatrist in an emergency room before. He went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced during a visit to emerg and trust me when I say I’ve had my fair share of experiences.
You see, it’s very difficult to advocate for yourself when you don’t believe that you are worthy enough or deserving of.
Knowing how overwhelmed I was feeling and knowing how hard it is for me to even complete the simplest of tasks (scheduling appointments being one of them), Rich took it upon himself to help jump start the process of self-advocacy the very next morning, starting with making a follow up call to my GP’s office on my behalf, hoping that she could somehow escalate an appointment quicker to see my Psychiatrist.
That’s when he learned that the referral he’d requested 3 weeks earlier in order for me to make an appointment with my Psychiatrist because I hadn’t seen him in over a year had never been sent out.
She had been on vacation that week but Rich was assured it would be sent as soon as she was back in the office the following week.
Upon learning the disappointing news that it had never been sent out, Rich was assured again the other day that it would be taken care of right away. He waited a few hours to give my doctor’s office some time to fax it over and then he called the office of my Psychiatrist to make me that appointment. They still hadn’t received the referral and still would not make the appointment without it even though I was already his patient but just hadn’t seen him since last year when the new treatment I was scheduled to begin the week of March 15th 2020 was abruptly cancelled due to ya know, a Pandemic!
Feeling frustrated and desperate and very impatient by now, Rich said screw this bullshit and sent an email directly to my Psychiatrist himself to explain what’s been going on.
Within a few hours of sending him the email my Psychiatrist answered Rich’s pleas and copied his two assistants on the email asking that they schedule me in for an appointment to speak with him after hours the very next day on Zoom.
So late yesterday afternoon, feeling emotionally drained from the past few days and hungry from fasting all day being that it was Yom Kippur I finally reconnected with my Psychiatrist. A true gem and another rare find.
We spoke for the better part of an hour where along with Rich’s input a new plan was put into place immediately including a plan to pick up where we had left off last year and have his assistants schedule a first appointment at one of his other clinics to begin the treatment I was to start in March of 2020.
There have been many changes to the treatment’s protocols and the actual administration of it as well and not just due to Covid but several other factors that have come into consideration since then while conducting many clinical trials. The treatment itself has also evolved as well due to more and more research and scientific discoveries.
I’m still really overwhelmed and mentally exhausted right now to say the least and filled with so many mixed emotions today.
I’m so appreciative and grateful though for all the incredible support I have in my life (especially you Rich 💚), even if I may not feel worthy enough or deserving of it.
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable.
I’ve had to accept this within my own personal journey.
It’s destroyed many close relationships of mine.
But I know that my willingness to share my most vulnerable and intimate thoughts and feelings with all of you has helped bring about awareness to the many others who do want to understand what it’s like to live with Chronic and Treatment Resistant Depression, a debilitating Anxiety Disorder and Suicidal Ideations Every. Single. Day.
And I also know that by sharing my journey so openly and honestly has helped many more people feel less alone or ashamed.
So then why do I suddenly feel like I should stop writing? Stop sharing my most intimate thoughts and emotions? Why at one of the most vulnerable points of my journey do I want to stop sharing my story all together?
Because well, it’s not like I Cancer you know.
These were the words that I heard recently directed towards me during a conversation. Words that may not have necessarily been intended to be said with malice but words that can never be erased nonetheless. Words that dismissed the seriousness of my illness. Words that made me feel as though my need to create healthy boundaries and do what’s best for me are basically selfish because well you know, it’s not like I have Cancer.
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable. I’ve accepted this.
But I can no longer keep apologizing because of my “invisible” illness just because it can’t be detected through a body scan or an xray or a blood test and to be perfectly honest I’m just too damn tired to keep having to “defend” myself because I may not “look” sick.
Depression is NOT a choice. Depression just is, just like Cancer or Diabetes just is. They can’t be rated on a scale of any kind and quite frankly they NEVER EVER should be. They are all just truly horrible illnesses and should be treated as such.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and that my purpose in life to raise awareness, educate and bring comfort to others has been overcome by even more pain and guilt and shame.
I know I should just “let it go” and try and focus on the many lives I do touch and those who appreciate me for who I am and what I have to offer but sadly, having the ability to just “think positive” when living with Depression or Anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles we face.
I’ve been inconsolable for days now and have been left feeling like what’s the point of writing, sharing my journey or living life?
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.
If I’m being honest, it probably crosses my mind at least once per day, but most days I am able to distract it or change the subject.
But then there are the days or even weeks when it decides it wants to fight back.
It gets angry.
It uses scare tactics.
It bullies me.
And oftentimes it has pressured me into doing things I don’t want to do.
For the better part of a week now I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to distract it. I do so for a while and try my darndest to change the subject but that only seems to be making it fight back even harder, and it seems angry.
Which makes me even more vulnerable.
The best way to describe what this feeling is like would be to compare its likeness to that of the antagonist in a horror film chasing after the heroic protagonist through the dark and foggy woods with a bloody butcher’s knife in hand.
You feel an adrenaline rush. You feel scared and alone.
You can barely catch your breathe.
You try running faster as you look back into the dark and fog filled woods. You can hear the rustling of leaves and you know that the antagonist is gaining speed. Then suddenly you lose your footing and collapse from exhaustion. You feel like you can’t run anymore.
*** I am needing to take a short break from social media. I’m at my breaking point. I have such an amazing community of support surrounding me which will never go unnoticed. I love and appreciate you all! xoxo
*if you or someone you know is in crisis please tell someone immediately*
Do you ever feel like you’ve had “one of those days?”
I’m pretty sure you know what I mean right?
We’ve all experienced those days where no matter what, nothing seems to go your way.
Your day may start off seemingly “normal” but then something unexpected or presumably unwarranted happens which leads to a chain of events that quickly spirals into “one of those days”.
I kinda feel like I’ve been living “one of those days” for seven years now though and this week was no exception.
We can’t control everything that happens to us but on many of “those days” I keep trying my best to find a way to survive them.
I posted a pic yesterday on social media which many of you reading this may have seen. It captured the essence of a picture perfect afternoon I’d spent with a couple of friends boating at the lake and smiling through Depression.
What it didn’t show was how I almost didn’t go.
Like one of my friends was literally sitting in my driveway all ready to pick me up to head up north to visit our friend’s lake house for that picture perfect day on the water and I was frozen in panic.
All because of the chain of events which had started early morning the day before and continued into the wee hours the next morning when Maggie suddenly became ill in the middle of the night; just adding insult to injury.
It had been “one of those days” where nothing felt right. I’d just spent the previous 24 hours angry, panicked and crying and it was now trickling into the next day for me.
But I chose to go. I went knowing that if I stayed home I would be giving up even more control of my emotions which is something I absolutely hate feeling more than anything. That feeling leaves my judgment very clouded.
I knew I couldn’t change the events of the day before and that by going I was both acknowledging and accepting that.
I also knew that it would be good for me to go and try to get out of my head, even for just a few hours. I needed to go in order to prove to myself that I can be in control of some of my emotions and that I actually have the power to do so.
What do you try and do to take control of your emotions when you are having “one of those days”?
We took a rest today from any strenuous hiking after our grueling 3 hour hike yesterday where Rich injured his knee, most likely when he went tumbling down the side of a cliff.
His injury from the fall further intensified any pain and tenderness he’s endured in his one knee for like forever; I’m talking long before the #summerofrich ever began.
For years now he’s complained to me about muscle strain in his knee but no matter how much I’ve tried, has refused to speak with his doctor about it or at the very least try wearing a knee brace while hiking or doing any other strenuous activity.
But today he finally relented and took his knee brace for a test drive and a leisurely stroll with Maggie as well.
I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever told you this before, but Rich is the most stubborn person I know!! However, being stubborn isn’t always such a bad thing because stubborn people are often known to embody “strongly-felt” emotions and care more deeply for others; characteristics of Rich’s I wouldn’t change for the world.
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.