Friday, 2 February 2018

Imprints on our mind or heart?

Last week I began working with a new counsellor. This particular counsellor has vast experience working with Women who have experienced significant trauma in their lives. It is still a form of  talk therapy but it seems more structured.  I really like structure. The more rules and regulations the better. I won't even walk in an exit at Wal-Mart.

Last week's homework consisted of using two images (one of a young girl and another of a young woman) and I was to write the things that each had been told that influenced my self image.

I of course spent the first hour avoiding the task by convincing myself it was important to colour in the images in order to relate to them.  When I finally picked up my pen and began writing I was shocked at how fast all those hurtful words came rushing back. It was like I was there, reliving each moment of it. When I had finished the assignment I was a bit dismayed at how my brain had held onto those moments of my life. Like some sadistic author writing the very worst moments of my life into an autobiography.

I wondered since my brain had all these memories what else was hidden in there. I went back to the picture of the little girl and let my mind drift back looking for happy moments it had recorded for me. It was a struggle. That is not to say that my childhood was not filled with many happy moments. Why then was it so hard to pull those memories back?

The only two memories that I could reach for that little girl was a sunny summer day,  my Mom was with me out behind our house. Our cat had kittens and I picked them all up in one armfull and hugged them close to my chest. They were so soft and cuddly and the day so perfect.  Then they peed all down the front of my one piece orange and yellow terrycloth jumper. All I could feel in that memory was the bliss of  the sunshine, the kittens and the safety of my Mother's watchful eye.

My second memory is of my maternal Grandmother. I remember being in her apartment and she had a birthday party for me. It was the first time I learned about sticking balloons to a wall by rubbing them in your hair. I can smell her cold cream, her thick red lipstick,  the faint smell of cigarette smoke. I could feel how special it all was. How special I was to her. That's it.

Then I remembered the passage in the bible that said "and Mary carried all these things in her heart". I was mistakenly searching for my happy memories in my mind, when they were in fact stored in my heart. I hope after all the doctors and therapists are done excorcising all my warped perceptions of the past I will find someone who can teach me how to unlock all those good ones locked away in my heart.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

What I learned from 7 days in the Psychiatric Ward

Wow, never thought I would be saying that. 7 days.....I was there for seven consecutive 24 hour periods. To put it in perspective, when they removed my appendix I was in the hospital for 2 nights, when they removed the  tumour from my stomache by cutting me from hip to hip I was home by 10 am the following day. 7 days I stayed on that ward. Locked behind two sets of locking doors and two security checks.

I was so homesick I thought I would die. They took my phone, my hairbrush and even my eyeshadow compact. I was required to use plastic utensils and hospital provided Styrofoam cups. I had to get used to asking to have a shower or be supervised while I washed my clothes. My room contained a bed and a chair, no decoration or windows to look out, only a large plexiglass window in the door so that the nurses could keep watch over me. 

Do you  know what, I miss that place. The ability to just decide I had enough human contact and just go to my room and close the door. The security in knowing that nothing would interupt the flow of each day. I had no responsibilities, no stressors just time and predictability. 

The people I shared the floor with were a real shock to me initially. Never, except for when I had toddlers in the house have I seen so many bare rear ends running down the halls. They soon became family to me. I spent time each day getting to know them. I listened to their stories, learned about their hopes and plans. They were all so very different, but the common theme through it all was, "I just want to be happy, be loved, be needed". 

The day before my release I was granted a 2 hour pass. I used it to hunt through the various hospital gift shops. I wanted my surrogate family to know that I heard them, that I would carry their stories with me once I left. I purchased several new magazines for the ladies as there were none there from the past decade. I purchased a cup of Tim Hortons coffee for a lady that used to stop and have one every morning on her way to work. For the one young woman I purchased a monkey (insert Bare naked ladies hit If I had A Million Dollars." Just kidding it was a small purple monkey with big eyes.
When I returned and handed out my treasures I felt like I had been given a glimpse of what small gestures could do. Maybe I fall short of my own expectations some ( read allot) of the time, but even if I never do anything right again, in that moment I was able to touch those people and show them I thought they were pretty great.
On my last night I made sure to walk a few extra laps with the elderly lady that had attached herself to me since day 1. I watched an extra episode of The Big Bang theory with my young friend, I spent some extra time doing a bible study  with another lady, helped a man practice his speech for his Dr. To let him apply for a job. Most importantly  I spent time walking with a young man that was convinced he had nothing to offer the world. I gently pointed out all the wonderful qualities I recognized in him after only a week, reassured him that he has so much to offer the world and encouraged him to have the confidence to let others see the real him. Pretty hypocritical huh. Yep, I can see it.

He left the day before me. Before he left he gave me a handmade Christmas card from  a pencil crayon he smuggled from the diningroom and a piece of scrap paper. On it he wrote that he appreciated my friendship and that he hoped I could see how much positivity I bring to the world. Pretty amazing huh! One week in the Psychiatric Ward introduced me to people that will have changed my thinking forever, given me time to contemplate who I am as well as time to just recharge by depleted body. I am so thankful for the time I spent there (not that I ever want to go again).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Suicide is not what I thought

I neglected writing this post for awhile now. I felt weak and ashamed to tell you what happened to me in  December. Isn't that funny, this is a blog about my mental health journey but still the stigma of suicide is too taboo to discuss.
Well, here it is. It needs to be chronicalled if this is to be an accurate account of my experiences. If this topic is a trigger for you, please stop reading now.

It was a Tuesday evening. The children were in various parts of the house occupied with their own activities. Suddenly I saw my eldest son run through the halls and outside into the cold snowy night. When he came in he mentioned that he could smell something against a heater. I got up to investigate and I could also smell something. As I followed the smell it lead me straight to my son's room. It was not the hot smell of something being pushed up against the electric baseboard but rather the acridic smell of something that had been lit on fire with a lighter.  Needless to say a rather heated discussion ensued but my son refused to tell me the truth. My daughter went outside to see what he had been doing and found that he had tried to hide the cardboard he had set on fire in our recycling bin. Praise God that it was a wet snowy day or it surely would have lit the entire bin.

I knew I was too emotionally charged to continue the conversation so I asked my daughter to get my husband. After 2 attempts I finally yelled for my husband to come. He came down the hall and I told him about the fire and he turned to me and said "Well what the @#$% do you want me to do about it". I did not realize that he had been sleeping in our room downstairs after a tiring day at work. He did not realize that I was dangling at the very end of my rope. I grabbed my keys and knew I had to get out of my house right then. My flight response kicked in so hard I think I could have pulled the door off to be freed. My husband told me no, don't go. It's storming, but I was too lost in my own mind to really comprehend what he was saying.
I drove around for awhile and my inner brain had lots to tell me. How my husband must be sick  of the insanity of our house, which is my fault because if he had married someone else he would not have adopted our 3 high needs kids. He could have had his dream life. But I could fix it all, give them all a fresh start. He could remarry a beautiful woman that would be able to manage the children, the home, maybe work to help support the family. All the things I fall short of. If only I were gone.

I never thought I would contemplate taking my own life. I always held the belief that people who killed themselves were selfish, thoughtless crazy people. Not quiet, family loving, middle aged Moms. But yet here I was, on the precipice of my own death having allowed my inner brain to convince me it was the most noble thing I could do for my family. Crazy right.
Many people question how a Christian can have depression and anxiety. I struggle with that myself but regardless I can tell you  that God was there with me that cold December night. He was pulling the strings from keeping from going  over.
My first attempt was to jump off the very high bridge that connects our area to the county where I grew up. It's really really a long way down. With the snow  and the darkness I could not tell if the water beneath was frozen. I wanted to drown not be splattered all over the ice. Then my brain kicked into high gear calculating if I could even hit the water from that height with the strong winds. I was worried that I might somehow survive and burden my family further.
I decided the risk of failure was too high so I got in my car and drove to a lower bridge that crossed the engulfed river. I have always been mesmerized by the sound of the river. The thought of jumping into the icy water and just floating off to silence was incredibly  enticing.  As I sat there planning my final move. I felt the warmth of my dog licking my hand. In my haste to get out of house I had managed to let my two dogs wrangle their way into my car. I realized that there was a very good chance that either they would not be found in time or they would accidentally be let out onto the highway. Obviously I am not a heartless monster so I put my car in gear and took them home. My inner brain was chatting up a storm about how selfish I was for not doing the right thing, that I was weak and incapable of even jumping off a bridge successfully. Nonetheless my  heart overruled my brain and returned me and my pups home safely.

The next day I was emotionally overwhelmed by what had happened. Ashamed and scared of what my brain was capable of and how easy it was to believe when I was so broken. I knew I needed to pull in my safety plan. Before I knew it my kids were transported safely to my Mom's house and I was on my way to the hospital with my best friend.

The takeaway message from all this I think is to recognize there is not a "type" of person that commits suicide but rather that given the right circumstances any of us could end up on a bridge, on a railroad track or at the end of a gun. Think of when the stock market crashed. Men were jumping from windows of skyscrapers in droves, successful, intelligent, previously happy men with families that when put in the right circumstances took their own lives. If we don't challenge the stereotypes we are setting people up to believe that they invulnerable to these intrusive thoughts and unprepared for how to get help.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Helpful Find : Review of Max Lucado's Anxious for Nothing

If you are like me at all then you are more than grateful when someone shares something that has provided them with any type of relief from the agony of depression and anxiety. For that reason I am sharing my thoughts on Max Lucado's latest book Anxious for Nothing : Finding Calm in a Chaotic World.

When you first read the title you are almost insulted by the implication that we are anxious over nothing. Of course we have a reasons why we are anxious. Fortunately it is all in the way you read it. Go ahead, take down that defensive barrier and read it again. Anxious for Nothing. Think of it as a battle cry against your anxiety.....I will become "Anxious for Nothing". Nothing will cause me to tremble in fear of the 1000's of what ifs that go around in my mind every hour of every day of my life. Whooo hooo.... that would be amazing. 

I wish it would be as simple as reading a book and it would all become a bad memory. However like any other tool in our arsenal it is something that takes time but does offer great insight.
The book is really a study of Philippians 4:4-8.

I sat down on a quiet Sunday afternoon 2 weeks ago and read the book straight through, cover to cover in one sitting. It was very uplifting and thought provoking and I enjoyed it immensely. It planted a few seeds that I can expand upon in my journaling and prayer log. Most of all it provided me with a sense of renewal in my faith. It lifted the self inflicted burden I had placed upon myself about being a Christian Woman that feared what the future held. How did I profess to believe in an all powerful creator but yet not trust that he had a plan for my life? I don't know. I think that I was trying to have it all. I wanted to try to control everything in my life and then at the end of my days say here you are Lord this is what I did with the life you gave me. Instead I need to step back and say Lord what is it the you want to do in my life. Trust that he is in control. He has the plan. 

I purchased the study guide and DVD that go with the book and I am really looking forward to spending some time working through it. I wish I had a group to work with on this, but alas that is the plight of the socially akward, anxiety filled, individuals. Right?

I highly recommend this book guys. It is not going to fix everything for you but it may well give you a bit of peace. Who couldn't use a bit of that? Feel free to leave any links to reviews you have of things that are helping you in your journey. My thoughts and prayers are with you always.


Monday, 11 September 2017

Amazing Grace

I am just sitting here trying to figure out how long it has been since I posted here. Months, maybe years?  I can go back and check on the date of my last post, but the fact that I can'talk remember at all has me vexed. This was to be the space where I documented my journey. That sole place where I would tell the world to go to hell and feel free to speak the truth. The truth as I see it I suppose, but my undiluted opinions and my struggles and triumphs. How did I let my voice slip silently away? Why did I allow my last vestige of honest discourse for life to fall into stillness, the quiet enveloping of my worst fears taking the very thoughts from my mind.

.....or why did I.

Part of the answer lies in the duplicity of our societal biases about mental disorders. Everyone likes the idea of a world where people are accepted as a whole, rather than the sum of our flaws. A person with mental health issues is a great thing to have when you are trying to improve your public image to a kinder, gentler less corporate, money hungry entity. At that moment everyone is all "Let's talk". In the harsh reality of the real world no one wants to know. It will be held against you. You will be judged for the very thing that you work hardest to overcome. In time you feel unable to raise your voice to bring awareness to our plight. In time you will have barely enough energy to rise from your bed in the morning.

I mistakenly viewed the long road to recovery as a long winding country road with hills and valleys, shadowy patches and passages where you can feel the warm sun on your face. I realise now it is a treadmill. You are not able to stand still for fear of being thrown but as you continue to run your body begins to tire and you have to recognize that you are going no where. 

I am tired, so very tired of this run. My mind is no longer a friend to me. It teases me in my dreams with visions of people I miss only to tear them away again when I wake. Every bit of strength I have left I try to give to my family. Hoping that somehow it will be enough, knowing full well my mind will use my shortcomings to torture me further. When I have barely the strength to face a new day I hold on knowing that I can still pray. No judgement from society can ever silence my prayers.  "and faith has brought me safe thus far, and faith will lead me home".

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Scent of Lilacs

Hello stranger. I am pulling myself out of the darkness bit by bit. It has been a rough few months to say the least. Our world was turned upside down almost a year ago when someone we loved and trusted violated our family in a most heinous manner. It left us believing that there is no one in the world that is above suspicion, everyone has evil in them waiting for the opportunity to take hold.

An interesting point came out in the course of our ordeal and the ensuing legal battles afterwards: The Elephant in the room is there to protect us. All the "Let's Talk" and "Mental Health Awareness" campaigns mean nothing when you are called to testify. I was advised not to seek accommodation for my anxiety disorder (which was simply being interviewed via closed circuit rather than in front of the entire courtroom) and also cautioned about attending my regular counselling regime as it could be called into the case. The victim in question was due for a psychoeducational analysis to help diagnose a learning disability and that too was put on hold.

How is it that people who have sought medical intervention for their mental health can have it held against them, yet the people that quite obviously have untreated mental issues allowing them to behave in such moral less ways do not have it held against them?

Anyway, it's all over. The judicial system has shown once again that those preying upon the most vulnerable in our society have no fear of recourse as they will have no one to testify against them. That is why 1 in 4 Canadians with disabilities will be sexually abused in their lifetime. They are easy pickings thanks to a judicial system that has no safeguards to protect them.

My only consolation is that God promises that "vengeance is mine". So I will leave it to him to metre out the consequences of all this.

I admit it has all weighed heavily on my mind. It's so hard to let hatred and vengeance go, but I know that they will not serve me well as we continue on, healing as a family, supporting the victim, learning to trust again.

The other day I was outside waiting for my youngest to get off the bus from school. As I stood in front of my house, the sun shone brightly, the birds were singing and the breeze carried the sweet fragrance of the newly blossomed lilacs. It reminded me of a passage from a story I used to read to my children, The Selfish Giant.

"though winter came to the garden, every year the spring returned"

Sometimes it feels like our lives are stuck in perpetual winter, until one day we make it outside and can feel the breeze, enjoy the sunshine and take in the scent of fresh lilac. Then, we are able to realize that it has been merely a season in our life, and that it will have an ending just as it had a beginning. "This too shall pass."

I pray that if you are still feeling the crushing force of winter in your life, that you are able to find your way to the springtime. I am praying for you, today and always.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A note from the lighter side

So, yesterday I had a marathon session at the Early Treatment Centre. It started with Occupational Therapy, then Physio, then working with OT assistant in gym and then I met my RMT. People are usually like, "awesome, I get a massage". Remember my friends that I would rather be at home than some clinic, and an all afternoon marathon of seeing professionals is not in the least my idea of a good time. Anyway, I end up with the massage therapist, who is a perfectly lovely young lady. She says "ok, strip down to your bra and panties and then hop up on the bed and I will be right back".

Really, does the girl not read my file??? I am a known runner. If I get an attack I bolt. No time to stop and think "Gee I am basically naked". So I look at her and said, "Nope that just ain't happening, there is no way you want to chance having a crazy naked woman running through the halls of the clinic." So she looks at me like I am from another planet and says "so what is going to happen?" I removed my hoody and my shoes and said "This is my compromise". Yah, all you clients at the clinic you are welcome! No one needs to have that sight added to their afternoon.

Hope your day is filled with laughter as you commend yourself on the mini steps you take to get back out in the real world.