My Psychiatrist prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication last week as part of my new treatment plan. It’s been several years now since I’ve taken any kind of prescription medication at all to help treat my illness but I agreed to try this in hopes of finding even the slightest bit of relief because asides from my symptoms of depression and suicidal ideations becoming increasingly more and more active and beyond my control over the past month, so too has my anxiety and panic (do you know what it feels like to want to climb out of your skin?).
I began taking them on Saturday morning.
My doctor had told me during our Zoom call a couple of days earlier that I’d need to take one pill every morning and one pill before bed every night and to then increase the doses to two pills in the morning and two pills before bed after a few days. But just to be clear here, it was actually Rich he was giving the information to, not me, as Rich has been under strict instructions from any and all of my doctors to keep all of my medications out of my reach (like that of a toddler) ever since I began to abuse my use of prescription drugs several years ago.
I thought I was okay with all this because this medication was not considered an antidepressant as I have made it super clear to every new Psychiatrist I’ve encountered over the past many years, whether it be in a hospital setting or in a Doctor’s office that I no longer wish to be prescribed any more antidepressant drugs, EVER, after experiencing the excruciating side effects they had caused both my body and mind over a period of several years of trial and error which ultimately led to my diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression.
So I thought I was okay with all this.
But by Sunday morning when I awoke to another pill sitting by my bedside table which Rich had left there for me to take, I suddenly realized that I was not okay with it and by Sunday evening those feelings turned to rage as I went frantically searching throughout the house for his hiding spot in hysteria (he had stepped out of the house for a half an hour and I saw it as my golden opportunity).
To be honest though, I’m not really even sure what I was trying to accomplish had I found my stash of pills (including sleeping pills which I was also prescribed and has actually been helping me to get some sleep) but I became inconsolable and in that very moment all I could think of was finding the pills so that I could finally unburden Rich of me once and for all.
I didn’t find them.
It’s now 1:30 AM Tuesday morning as I write this. I could be fast asleep by now had I already taken my new sleeping pill that is sitting by my bedside table but instead I’m lying here in tears, scared and feeling like I don’t want to continue with our agreed upon plan, none of it.
I’ve been laying here in the dark for hours just staring at the pills which Rich left by my bedside table deciding whether or not to take them. And the demons in my head are dancing around claiming their victory (kinda like the Liberal party in Canada is doing right now as well).
I did eventually shut down the demons bantering just long enough to take them. But I’m not okay with all this, even if I know in my heart it is for my own safety and for the good of my health.
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?
This afternoon I was given the opportunity and honour to be a guest speaker on a Podcast.
My first one ever.
I felt like a movie star.
I was introduced to the host Marilyn Barefoot about a month or so ago through a mutual friend who thought that I would be a perfect fit for Marilyn’s Podcast called “Breaking Brave” so she connected us via email and we set up a time to “meet” and get to know one another later that week.
Our conversation was so easy.
It was heartfelt and inspiring.
I felt like we’d known each other forever.
Right from our opening dialogue I could feel Marilyn’s energy and compassion shine through.
She is a natural born speaker, motivator and innovator both in her chosen field and on her Podcast.
But once Marilyn was given the green light from her Executive Producer a few days later to schedule me in for an actual recording of her Podcast it wasn’t too long afterwards when my negative self-talk kicked into full gear.
Brave? Me, brave?
How do I foster bravery in my mental health journey?
I gave this a great deal of thought.
I know that being vulnerable and honest about my personal struggles with mental illness is brave.
I know that by educating others and helping them to understand the many depths of mental illness is brave.
I know that being so transparent about my own mental health is helping to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and that is brave.
I know that the more I talk about my illness allows others to feel more comfortable and less ashamed or alone about their own struggles and that is brave.
I know that getting up each and every day and fighting for my life and advocating for the lives of so many others just like me is very brave.
I know that I have inspired many because of my willingness to share my story and that too is brave.
Being brave about your own mental health struggles should be contagious but it also doesn’t have to include writing a blog, publishing a children’s book or baring your heart and soul on Social Media either.
For you, “Breaking Brave” in your own personal mental health journey right now may mean taking that first step to ensure you get the help you need, however it is you feel most comfortable doing so, just so long as you do it! And I would be honoured to help take that first step with you!
A special thank you to Marilyn and her Executive Producer Rebekah for allowing me to share my story with your audience today and for showing me how truly brave I am. I am grateful for this experience and for your kindness and compassion.
My episode will likely be aired in a couple of months (I will keep you posted!). To listen to previously recorded episodes of Marilyn’s Podcast go to: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/breaking-brave-with-marilyn-barefoot/id1555760904 . “Each episode, find out how innovators and trailblazers from every walk of life broke through in their chosen or created fields. A podcast meant to inspire, invigorate, inform and uplift.”~Marilyn Barefoot
The past year has definitely proven how critical it is to help one another out. The theme of this year’s Pink Shirt Day is “lift each other up” which is a perfect reminder to all of us that we need to continue to raise awareness about bullying, encourage a healthy self worth, empathy, compassion and to always choose kindness.
Very early this morning (and after a big winter storm overnight) my youngest daughter had all four of her wisdom teeth removed (could there be any better way to spend your Reading Week/Mid Winter Break from school?).
Her brother and sister both had their wisdom teeth removed a few years back (a week apart) and my husband had his taken out early on in our courtship, but I on the other hand have never had the pleasure of having mine removed, mainly due to the fact that well, they’ve never actually grown in.
Wisdom teeth have been referred to as the “teeth of wisdom” from as far back as the seventeenth century because they most often don’t appear until a person reaches adulthood (somewhere between the age of 17 and 25 years old) “when a person matures into adulthood and is wiser than when other teeth have erupted”.
And wisdom teeth also signify that “the carefree days of childhood have given way to the responsibilities of adulthood.” (From an article written by “Dear Doctor” titled “Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?”).
So what does someone like myself, someone that is, who has the wonderful ability to turn every waking thought or action into a negative one? It’s a pretty easy answer; I tell myself that maybe if my wisdom teeth had grown in then maybe I could’ve been able to make wiser, more sensible or more insightful choices when I began my transition into adulthood.
Yup, you are probably shaking your head right now or even laughing at what sounds pretty darn crazy to most people reading this but to a depressed mind it may not.
I have joked half-heartedly in passing many times over the years as to how unwise I must be for having never developed my “wisdom teeth” but could there be some truth in there, afterall there is always some truth in jest. So maybe it’s not actually that “with age comes wisdom” but maybe it’s that “with wisdom teeth comes wisdom” instead?
**Oh and my apologies for not having any fun pics or videos to share as my husband wasn’t allowed in the recovery room with her! (Damn you once again Covid.)
A memory popped up on my Facebook page early this morning which reminded me that seven years ago today I had a minor surgical procedure done in hospital, but aside from some slight discomfort for a couple of days following, it was really no big deal.
This memory has popped up on my Facebook wall for years now and recalling it has also never been any big deal before, that was until today. Suddenly after all these years I became severely triggered by it and I really wish I could understand why.
It could’ve been because I had a particularly difficult day yesterday and was already in a very negative mindset when the notification came in on my phone shortly after midnight; which is also when the floodgates completely opened up and left me writing this at 4:30 am.
The above procedure I had happened to take place exactly seven weeks prior to “D” day. “D” day of course refers to the day in which my journey first began and reading this seemingly innocent memory this morning took me back, not to the actual day of my surgery but instead I began ruminating about all the events that took place leading up to “D” day.
I found myself ruminating about the new job I had just started literally a week or two before my procedure. I found myself ruminating about how I destroyed my entire world by choosing to leave another job to pursue this one. I found myself ruminating about all the scary conversations and dangerous situations I found myself in over the next six or seven weeks following the procedure, all at the hands of my crooked boss.
I began to beat myself up further for several more hours, replaying every bad memory, image and scenario in my head that literally occurred up until “D” day and literally all night long. And to think that all this was triggered from a memory on Facebook that once felt pretty disconnected from all of the above.
I’m beginning to think that maybe the procedure was a bigger deal after all, maybe I had more than just a minor surgical procedure done, is it possible I was given a lobotomy that day instead? I mean it certainly would all make perfect sense to me now. Yes? No?
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.