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.
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.
I listen wholeheartedly and often to stories from people in regards to our mental health system; and just how broken it truly is.
Maybe you don’t necessarily believe it or maybe you choose not to believe it if you have never experienced it for yourself or a loved one while desperately trying to advocate for them but I’m living proof that too many of the stories I hear are very real and beyond disturbing at times.
I myself have walked out of many psychiatrist’s offices and emergency rooms shaking my head in disbelief and left feeling even more defeated than when I first walked in which is why when someone shares their own personal anecdotes with me I can feel every ounce of their pain, sadness and frustration.
Recently a friend of mine confided in me about one such experience when she took her son to the emergency room after he came to her telling her that he had been having very intrusive thoughts of hurting himself.
Before I go any further I just wanted to first say BRAVO to this young boy for having the courage to confide in someone he trusted about how he was feeling. Many of you reading this may not realize just how much fucking strength that takes, like the kind of strength that only superheros are made of. BRAVO. BRAVO. BRAVO.
Hearing these words from anyone let alone your own child is beyond terrifying and I’m sure she probably felt very much alone at the time but also knew that the safest place for her son to be in that moment was in the trusted arms of a team of knowledgable, compassionate mental health professionals.
But sadly that is not what happened at all. In fact it was quite the opposite and instead as she stood pleading with the Psychiatrist on duty at the hospital that day to help her child he turned to this young boy and his mom and told them that he should go home. He continued by saying how lucky the boy was to be so privileged enough to not have to deal with the stresses of living on the street or in a third world country.
My heart broke in a million pieces as I heard her speak these words, words that I know are spoken all too often by ignorant folks who still believe that depression and/or suicidal ideations are nothing more than a chemical imbalance that can quickly be fixed by taking a pill or going for a long walk but when these words are spoken by a mental health professional and to an impressionable and vulnerable young mind no less, there are truly no words.
I know this is thankfully not the norm but it happens more often than it should because even one time is too many. I myself have had many amazing, incredible and compassionate experiences with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals (and thankfully I still do) to help me through the darkened days throughout my journey but those bad experiences can and will never be erased from my mind.
When seeking the help of a mental health professional try and watch out for signs that indicate that they are competent, invested in your wellbeing and most importantly a good fit for you.
Make sure they are not overconfident, dismissive or arrogant. Make sure that they are not quick to prescribe medication or diagnose you. Make sure they take into consideration your own unique circumstances. Make sure they do not threaten to use their power to treat you with unnecessary treatments that you are uncomfortable with. Make sure they properly inform you about the many side effects of the medications they do prescribe to you and that they also properly wean you off the ones that aren’t working for you (weaning off certain meds can be very dangerous and must be done slowly and cautiously) and make sure that they work together with you and for you and alongside your loved ones which should include regularly monitoring your progress, making a plan by offering up next steps and new or appropriate solutions and may at time also include them turning to colleagues or outside support for guidance so not to miss out on something.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself (or a loved one) and make sure to ask lots (and lots) of questions especially if something doesn’t feel quite right or you don’t understand something. It can be a very long and burdensome journey, trust me, I know, but it’s your journey and no one else’s and having the proper support behind you that you so deserve while on your journey towards healing can make a huge impact.
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
There are lots of unique and some not so unique experiences I’ve encountered over the last (almost) seven years now, many of which I am no longer able to recall. Some of that could be blamed on the memory loss I’ve suffered since having ECT treatments (Electroconvulsive Therapy) several years ago and then there are the many other memories which I so desperately try to block from my mind, yet somehow they continue to rear their ugly head during times like now when I find myself trying to fight the urge to kill myself.
I’m not quite sure if these PTSD invoking memories are serving as a stern warning to me as to what the repercussions may be if I tell someone how I am truly feeling or if it’s an SOS signal telling me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still better than the alternative.
One such memory that will forever be etched in my mind and has come to the forefront lately as I continue to fight off my urges happened one Easter Sunday, just two weeks after my first signs of Depression kicked in and it still haunts me to this day almost seven years later.
I had taken off in my car (again) and was feeling suicidal and very much like a worthless burden. There wasn’t a lot open that day/night as it was a holiday and Rich became panicked when he and my kids could not reach me by phone or text for several hours and knowing that I was feeling suicidal he began reaching out to friends and other family members hoping that someone had heard from me all the while I was aimlessly driving around trying to fight off my urges, unable to face going back home, feeling like everyone was better off without me and purposely ignoring his pleas.
At some point later that evening I checked the frantic voice and text messages from Rich, my kids and others and found the most recent message from Rich was informing me that he had called the police. I became anxious but knew it was nothing more than a scare tactic to get me to come home. But moments later my phone rang again and it was a police officer calling me and so I pulled into a nearby gas station, parked my car at the front entrance of the store and answered my phone.
He identified himself and told me that he was at my home and that my family was very concerned for my safety and wellbeing. As I sat there shaking and crying on the other end of the phone I finally agreed to come home but just as I looked back in my rearview mirror and began to shift into reverse I was suddenly (and literally) trapped by three police cruisers that had just swarmed my car. Fuck, they had pinged my goddamn phone.
A female officer approached my car and I rolled down my window part way while still on the phone with the officer who was seemingly awaiting my arrival at home. She asked me to turn off my car and step out of my vehicle. I explained to her that I was on the phone with the police officer (which in hindsight she already knew) and that I was okay and heading home. Yup it was all a rouse and I was now at her mercy.
I kept repeating to her as tears rolled down my face that I was okay and I just wanted to go home. She was having none of that and by law I now had no other choice but to listen to the 5 (or it could’ve been 20 for all I knew by now) officers surrounding my car as though I was a criminal as they searched the contents of my purse and coat pockets, then took away my purse, my phone and my dignity and transported me to the nearby hospital in the back of a cop car.
I was a bit naive in my thinking, afterall this was all so new to me and I was still not ready to accept what was going on inside my head. I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening to me or why I was feeling this way and now there I was scared as hell and alone in the back of a cop car for the very first time in my life. I felt trapped and wished I really was dead.
The police officer who was at my home drove Rich to pick up my car at the gas station and met me at the hospital. He was the last person I wanted to see at that very moment but I figured he could advocate for me and get me the fuck out of there faster. Boy was I wrong again because the officer who drove me to the hospital was now obligated to put me on a “Form 1” which meant I had lost all my rights and there was nowhere left for me to escape.
Once the officers completed all their paperwork I was handed over to the hospital security guards who then made me change out of my clothes and into a hospital gown. There went my last stitch of dignity on the bathroom floor.
I felt like I was a toddler who was being babysat by a young teenager who was afraid to take their eyes off of me for one second for fear that I may hurt myself, even when I needed to use the bathroom.
It took several more hours until I was finally seen by a crisis counsellor (who was awoken at home to come in to meet with me). It was now about 2 am but I was still determined that I could charm my way out of there since my head felt alot clearer. I was wrong again.
The crisis counsellor spoke with me for about an hour (and afterwards with Rich) where I again just kept repeating myself and letting her hear what she wanted to hear, that I was okay and exhausted and needed to go home to my own bed.
Again, that didn’t work either. She told me that I needed to wait to speak with the Psychiatrist next who would be starting their rounds later that morning. Ok I figured how much worse could it get if I just waited in emerg for a few more hours at this point.
This time however she told me what I wanted to hear and that the Dr. would be around to see me at about 8 am so I lay down on the couch in the room and waited patiently with Rich by my side, even though I still had not forgiven him.
As time passed slowly, I think I must have dozed off for a bit because the next thing I remember is being woken by my team of security guards and a nurse. It was now 5 am and there was a bed suddenly available on the inpatient ward that they demanded I follow them to. I was having none of that except again I had lost all my rights and before I knew it I was being threatened that I follow them quietly upstairs or they would need to take other drastic measures.
So off they carted me kicking and screaming (figuratively), pleading with them to let me stay in emerg for a few more hours until the Psychiatrist would be coming to talk to me. Rich walked with me, the team of security guards and the nurse until the big steel doors which led to the ward. Rich was forbidden beyond those doors. As we parted ways, I whispered sweet nothings in his ear. Ok, I’m lying. I don’t recall exactly what I whispered in his ear but it was hateful and unforgiving and with looks that could kill. I bet he still remembers what I said.
So there I was now all alone and scared again, this time in a cold, depressing room sitting on the edge of a bed. I would not allow myself to get comfortable and what came next, well who could really blame me.
By this point I had lost all track of time because well I didn’t have a clock or my phone to know what time it was. I just kept watching for the sun to rise and anxiously await the arrival of the Psychiatrist at 8am. But I kept getting distracted by a woman who was strolling the hallway outside my room and every time she walked by my room she would stop right smack in the doorway and stare directly at me with a sparkle of evil in her eyes. She reminded me of the young girl Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family.
This continued on for a good hour, or so it seemed and just as the sun was rising I became distracted once again by a nurse who was helping a young man take a shower which happened to be right across the hall from my room. I watched her close the door behind her as she yelled to the young man, “I’ll be right back.” And before I knew it there was a naked man running past my door, down the hall toward the nurse.
My gosh, I had only been on the edge of my bed for maybe two hours but it sure felt closer to a week from all the action going on and don’t forget the sun had still barely risen yet! I finally decided it was best I curl up on the bed, facing the window to wait out what I was promised would be another hour!
It wasn’t! And I should also mention that I couldn’t remember when I had last eaten anything but when breakfast, and then lunch was wheeled into my room I refused to eat. It was Passover afterall so I couldn’t eat what they were serving me, but I’m pretty sure by this point it was more like a protest for me and oh ya, it was also way past 8 am.
That afternoon Rich was allowed onto the ward to see me and we waited together until finally somewhere between 3 and 4 pm the Psychiatrist FINALLY came to see me. We met with her in a nearby conference room and discussed in great length what had transpired over the last couple of weeks and then she agreed with Rich’s blessing to discharge me along with a sheet filled with recomendations and several outpatient resources.
I honestly have no recollection of what followed once I got home (it probably included a hot shower, a home cooked meal and a warm bed) but I do know that it was just the beginning of what was to come for me which has included many, many more voluntary and involuntary visits to emergency rooms, several suicide attempts, security guards stripping me of my dignity, rides in ambulances (which are way more comfortable than police cars) and several weeks and months of inpatient care.
I’m pretty sure that this particularly difficult and overwhelming day lives on in the forefront of my memory as an SOS signal reminding me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still probably a better option than the alternative.
The week we first went into lockdown 5 months ago this week (in case you’ve forgotten!) I had an appointment scheduled with my Psychiatrist to begin a new treatment. The decision for me to even attempt yet another new treatment was not an easy one to make, especially since it’s still quite new and not very accessible to the general public as of now; and not to mention that I had already been part of a clinical study for a more invasive version of the same treatment several years earlier during a hospital admission that I needed to stop immediately.
The first dose was to be administered by my Psychiatrist in his office at the hospital he works out of to ensure that I could tolerate it and from there I would be monitored closely as I continued treatment several times a week from my home. It’s now been five long months since that initial appointment was postponed inevitably as I continue to struggle deeply on a daily basis.
As most of you who follow my journey regularly know by now that my relationship with medication and treatment options (both traditional and MANY non-traditional as well) to help ease my symptoms associated with anxiety and depression have been met with many obstacles, extreme challenges and sometimes severe complications to say the least. So when I discovered CBD oil a few years ago and found immediate relief from it while experiencing high levels of anxiety throughout any given day (even if it’s only temporary), I’ve come to rely on it like you would rely on any loyal and trustworthy friend.
Although it’s been far from a cure and (unfortunately) for me it has yet to give my symptoms of depression any type of real relief I’m still so grateful to know that just like my many loyal, trustworthy friends I have in my life, it’s a safe and reliable way to help me cope with my often severe and very persistent daily bouts of anxiety and panic attacks because I really don’t know how I’d ever get through so many difficult days (and nights) without any of them.
It’s National “Say Something Nice Day” today! Today is a gentle reminder that we always need to use kind words and show kindness and empathy toward one another every day. We’ve all heard the saying “Practice makes perfect” right? So today I dare you to say something nice to someone or about someone and that you continue to practice doing so each and every day moving foward to ensure we help make a better tomorrow.
There is also another saying that we have heard from a very young age which is “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Words can cut deep and once they are said they can’t be taken back so please choose your words carefully because our words matter.
And while you’re at it maybe you could drop off a jar of olives and a hazelnut cake to someone who needs a smile, a kind word or a gentle reminder that they matter because today is also National Olive Day and National Hazelnut Cake Day too!
While Rich and I drove through the city streets yesterday (delivering lawn signs) we passed a street named “Newman Avenue” and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve now been a “Fluxgold” longer than I was a “Newman”.
When we first got married 25 years ago I never hesitated or even gave it a second thought that I would legally change my last name to Fluxgold, I mean it definitely had a lot more flair and originality to it than “Newman” did so why the heck not and by 1995 when I got married, I was seriously pretty tired of being the butt of so many very unoriginal Seinfeld jokes anyways!!! #heynewman
But please don’t get me wrong, I will always be grateful for the amazing memories my maiden name has given me, it will forever be a part of who I used to be and has continued to be a guide as to what I don’t want to be and it’s definitely a reminder of a much simpler time in my life, you know, the time when I rarely had to correct someone who may have misspelled or mispronounced my last name!
Have you ever truly asked yourself before; What’s in a name? If I could just quote Juliet from “Romeo & Juliet” for a moment here (wow that’s a statement I never thought I’d write) when she says “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
This quote from Shakespeare tells us that a name doesn’t truly matter nor does it truly affect what or who you really are and besides all that, haven’t we always been taught from a very young age anyhow that what’s truly most important, what truly matters or what truly counts most in life is what’s on the inside and when you reference my profile page on Facebook I think you can find the answer. (See pic)
I have a really hard time accepting help from others, that is everyone except for maybe Rich. What does that exactly mean though; well it means that if I allow someone to help me or do something nice for me then that would mean that I’m weak and incapable of doing it myself, right? And wouldn’t it also mean that I’m a failure too?
I know that most people only offer their help without any ulterior motives in mind and that for every 1 person whose willingness to help others may have ill intentions in mind I also know that there are ten more people who are wanting to show their support or lend a helping hand because they genuinely want to help and it actually gives them great joy when doing so.
In the Jewish faith this would be considered a “Mitzvah” or in the English translation it is considered to be a “good deed” to help someone with a conscious act or emphasis on kindness and empathy.
Throughout my journey I have had no shortage of kindness and empathy or heartfelt sentiments being offered up to me and my family at any given time but it’s always hard for me to let others help me and most of the time I honestly can’t even explain the reason why.
I know my illness has a lot to do with it as I am constantly telling myself that I’m weak, I’m incapable, I’m a failure, I’m unworthy, I’m undeserving and I’m useless. I feel as though I have no control over my life whatsoever and then to allow others to help me feels like I am giving up complete control all together and making me feel even more vulnerable. Oh and my favourite of course is the guilty feeling I get when someone does something kind for me.
Over the last few weeks and even more so this week I have recieved an abundance of kindness from loved ones, acquaintances and even strangers, offering to help me in whatever capacity they can with my Initiative. Maybe now would be the perfect time for me to embrace the moment and give others the opportunity to feel the same way I feel every time I brighten up a young person’s day!!