Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years

Just a simple post on this New Years Eve. I hope everyone who visits this site, and all their family, friends, and other loved ones, has a Happy New Year. I also hope each of you finds peace and joy in the year and years to come.

My list of family and friends includes my pdoc, Dr. X. Thank you so much for your support, kindness and patience. I hope you find peace, health and joy in the year to come. You do so much for so many and are so good at what you do.

I feel blessed to have met you and to have a therapeutic alliance with you. This continues to provide me with the hope I need to keep trying. Thank you for everything you have helped me with. Happy New Years.

15000th Visitor (Topic or Question?)

Sometime in the next couple days my 15000th visitor will have come to visit my site. That is very exciting for me.

As with the 5000th and 10000th visitor I am asking people to ask me any question they want. Or, ask me to write about a topic you want me to write about.

If you are the 15000th visitor (or the closest to that visitor) I will try to answer/write as honestly and openly as I can. I will let you know in a post if you are the 15000th visitor. Please ask your question in the comments section below this post.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Subjectivity and Objectivity of Symptoms

I explained the types of side effects I was having today, with special concern about my mouth movements and memory. O asked Dr X to watch my mouth and give me some feedback. Dr X. asked me if I wanted to do a memory test. I did. I love things like that...curious minds want to KNOW.

The first test he did was a test for attention. It was made up of all 26 letters of the alphabet and corresponding #'s (A1, B2C3 etc.). The letters and numbers were dispersed willy nilly on the page. The task was to start with A, draw a line to 1, then a line to B, then a line to 2, c then 3 and so on until you finished.

Subjectively I felt really self conscious. I felt like I was going agonizingly slow. I was praying he would let me stop, because I felt stupid. I seemed unable to find letters, then I would scour and scour the page again for the corresponding # and I just felt like I couldn't find any of them. I felt very frustrated. However Dr. X said I seemed really engaged and I was within the norm for attention.

He said he also watched my mouth as I did it and my mouth was not moving outside the norm. That should feel good, knowing he saw nothing, but subjectively I still feel like my lips are pursing tighter and tighter throughout the day, and my tongue is moving like mad. I do feel a bit relieved that others aren't seeing the movements.

Then he gave me a list of 10 words to write down and try to remember. After that, to distract me a bit he asked me to say as many words as I could that started with the letter "F". I thought of a reasonable # of words. He said I was within the norm.

Then he asked me to tell him the ten words I was to have remembered. I could think of only two. I think after prompting and hints I got 1 more...but I really could not visualize the words. It was like they were gone. Which is the problem I have been having with memory...word finding difficulties, remembering things I have just thought of or learned and recalling memories.

These "tests" for different cognitive difficulties makes me wonder how much the subjective experience of depression jives with a psychiatrists objective experience of a person who has depression. I remember a few years ago believing that it was impossible to be more depressed than I was, but Dr. X told me there are people whose depression is more severe. He said this in a caring context, but I was still confused.

To me my depression, when bad, is barely survivable. I can see how maybe people who attempt, or commit suicide, must have a depression that has a darker and deeper hold on them, but it still is difficult to imagine feeling more depressed than some of the times I have experienced over the past 7 years.

Perhaps the mind protects the body and your person, by telling us that this is the worst it could ever be. If this is the worst and we make it through alive, then we know we can make it through this depression. It makes me wonder if my subjective experience of my depression is accurate, or if objectively I am not as depressed as I feel. That is a difficult thing to really understand given I sense I am what I feel, and I don't feel good.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Discontinuing Valium - Cold Turkey


**Note: I am NOT condoning anyone go off Valium this way. From what I have read it can be dangerous, even life threatening, to do this if you are on a high dose of any of the benzodiazepines. (Although for the life of me I never could find out Why...If anyone knows I'd like to know too) Please work out a schedule with your pdoc if you want to stop any of your medications.

I am not exactly sure, but I think I am on my 8th or 9th day of no Valium. I tried to go off it by slowly lowering my dose, but as soon as I had any side effects I would take more Valium and eventually I ended up taking more than prescribed, just so I did not have to deal with the stress of stopping it. I don't know if I feel psychologically afraid, or if physiologically I was becoming more tolerant of higher doses. Probably both. I always seem to have this pattern after having been on Valium, or any other Benzodiazepine, for a while.

Valium definitely helps me in a number of ways, but it also makes me tired and (I think) apathetic. Dr. X and I have decided I slowly go off all my medications as he says it is not clear they are helping me. To some degree I agree. I am not sure if they help or not.

I still seem to have mood swings/unstable moods and much of the time I feel extremely depressed and anxious, sometimes I feel moderately depressed and anxious, sometimes I feel only depressed and sometimes only anxious and some of the time I feel hopeful. This is the best I have ever been in 7 years, so it is hard to say my medicine is NOT working. I think at best it is sort of, at times helping. Other times I think it is my changing life and therapy that has lifted me a bit. If it were the medication wouldn't I feel hopeful at least most or much of the time?

Anyways... I discontinued Valium cold turkey about 8 or 9 days ago. It has been both uplifting and brutal, but I simply could not manage to lower the dose slowly.

The uplifting part is that I seem to have an increase in energy and, at least part days I have had more energy. The brutal part has been and continues to be (maybe even worse now than the first few nights) the withdrawal side effects I have been experiencing:

  • Not sleeping. The first 4 days I did not sleep more than a couple hours, in increments of a few minutes here and there, each night. By Christmas Eve my mood was great...probably due to sleep deprivation. However, by 1:30 am that night, having gone to bed at 10:15 and finding myself at 1:30 am increasingly wired, twitching and clenching my teeth and more I broke down and decided I needed to take something to help me sleep. I took 50mgs of Trazadone and at least I slept part of the night. The next day I felt so much better, except for feeling like I was dazed. I have continued to take Trazadone as it is at least partially helping me sleep.


  • Twitching...my muscles are twitching and my hands shaking. The twitching seems to be getting worse and is really annoying. It is almost like the feeling of reflexes when someone taps your knee, except it is all over...in my hands, arms, legs, torso...very annoying.


  • Mouth movements are back with a vengeance. I began taking the Valium to stop these mouth movements that began shortly after I started taking Prozac. I was getting extremely stressed because I was worried it was tardive dyskenesia. The Valium really helped them slow down and mostly go away (at least I wasn't noticing them as much). Now they are back full force...My mouth is making weird semi-controllable movements. If I focus really hard I can stop them, but the second I stop focusing on stopping them they come back...the movements are things like sucking motions, pursing my lips tightly, my tongue is moving in my mouth to the point that it is sore in numerous places from rubbing up against and pushing on my teeth and my jaw is clenched so tightly (especially in the evenings) that I have been getting massive headaches from the tension in my jaw and neck muscles. I have had to take 600mgs of Advil a couple times a night to lessen my headaches.


  • Toes tapping/moving It is like they are beating to a different drummer than me. "Tap, Lift, Tap, Lift, Tap, Lift...quickly, then slowly, then quickly, then ploddingly. They do not seem to want to stop (at least when I am noticing them). I can stop them if I focus on stopping, but a few minutes/seconds later I notice I am doing it again.


  • Anxiety/Bad Energy: Tight chest/back/jaw. Difficulty getting to sleep because I feel like I can't breathe. More energy, but it feels bad, like agitated energy, feel overwhelmed by small things, or things that are even the least bit difficult for me.


  • Irritability: Noises are annoying. It feels like sensory overload if the music at home is too loud, or it isn't the music I want to hear, or the t.v. is too loud, or people are talking to much. It is almost like the auditory equivalent of bright, relentless sunshine in your eyes when you are not wearing a hat or sunglasses.


  • Increased eating: (not sure if this is a side effect, the holiday season, or if it is happening at times my mood is down), but I have gained more than 12 pounds in the last 3-4 weeks...and I can't seem to stop eating bad food.


  • Balance problems: Falling, tipping, slipping. It may be the weather conditions (snow and ice), but I feel completely off balance, even inside.


  • Memory problems: Not sure I can remember the bizarre things I have been doing, but I remember saying "huh" to myself numerous times a day...Let me think...

  • spending a lot of time staring at things I pull out to do and wondering why I have them in my hand or on the counter. (Eg: pull out vodka and juice to make a drink and I keep looking at them both unsure of what they are and unsure of what I am to do with them, or find myself in a room and not knowing why, or putting the juice in the microwave instead of the fridge etc...
  • forgetfulness/carelessness


  • Stuttering/word finding: I have a phrase or sentence in my head. I go to speak and different words come out. Sometimes it takes me 3-4 tries to get the right statement out. I have done this numerous times while speaking with my husband. The words that come out wrong are usually associated in some way (they rhyme or have something to do with the topic...eg./ topic is strawberries and the word "tomatoes" comes out instead ...both are fruits). The other example of this problem is pure stuttering...where I have to try numerous times for the entire word to come out of my mouth correctly. I can't remember exact examples, (despite meaning to each time it happens), but my husband is making fun of me when I do it, because it is happening regularly.


  • Depersonalization/dissociation...I am "disappearing" a lot.
  • Sunday, December 28, 2008

    False Prophet

    I had a dream last night:

    I was with a group of people (old colleagues, friends etc.) and a man came into our group and told us he had control over all of our existences. He chose when we would die and how we would live.

    To prove this to us he took us all into a swimming pool, and from the deck, with nothing attached to him and the water, he proceeded to shock and almost drown each of us.

    We fell into line. We believed he had godlike powers. We believed he held our life in his hands.

    He met with us the next night and told us we were all going to die the next night. He told each of us how we were going to die. As we knew he was all powerful we waited as our fate was sealed by his words.

    My fate was to die by electric shock in the water the following evening. I was terrified and felt like my fate was completely out of my control. I became apathetic, gave up, waited to die.

    While waiting I saw him begin to kill other people. He seemed to be torturing them and heading them towards a slow, agonizing death. I became very afraid, so afraid that I felt frozen by my fear: helpless, powerless and standing still waiting for a cruel death.

    Something about the terrifying way he began killing people eventually awoke a power in me I did not know I had. I began to think the prophet was false, that it was our inaction that was allowing him to have all this power over us.

    I began talking with the others about my beliefs. At first everyone thought it was impossible to change the future. Everyone felt the prophet was in complete control and there was nothing they could do to change their fate.

    I explained to them he only had power over us as long as we continued to believe and act as though he did: if we challenged his hold on us we could make him go away.

    Slowly people stood up and began challenging him. They told him his power was false, that his power was dependant on our giving up, on our believing we had no power over him, no power to change the fate he had determined for us.

    He became furious and made us all go into a small lecture hall, intent on destroying us all. In the hall he began to tear our theory apart, dismissed it, showed us how faulty it was.

    We began challenging both his words and the physical nature of his power. He kept trying to hurt us, but we never gave up. After a while even the people who continued to disbelieve our theory and their power began to fight back against the prophet.

    He killed two people, but as we fought they began to come to life again. He became weaker and weaker with our offensive tactics. The more we disbelieved, vocalized our disbelief and showed him our power the less powerful he became. By sunup we had become so powerful in our offense that he died right in front of us.

    • I think maybe the false prophet is my depression/anxiety. I was thinking a lot about suicide last night. Planning my own exit. Thinking to myself about how to die painlessly, or at the very least, quickly. Finally getting complete relief (that is what the "false prophet", depression, was telling me).
    • The idea of knowing when I die and how seems comforting to me, in the way it might comfort a follower of a prophet who could both foretell and cause my death.
    • As I plan suicide there is always some small part of me that wants to hang on, that believes I can change, that sees some amount of hope in a bleak situation. This is my offensive tactic, believe in hope, believe my future can change, challenge the seemingly obvious fact that I am destined to allow my depression to kill me. Challenge the fact that I have no power. Stay and fight against what seems a foretold ending.
    • When we challenged his words and his physical power over us, it is my subconscious challenging the seemingly physical nature and power of my depression. I was especially having trouble yesterday with Valium withdrawal. It was very physical...shaking, twitching uncontrollably, insomnia, extreme tensing of muscles in my neck and shoulder area, my awful mouth movements: tongue curling, pushing against my bottom row of teeth, feeling like I have sores in my mouth and on my tongue from it moving around in my mouth so much; clenching teeth, pursing lips uncontrollably, all returning with a vengeance. I felt/feel so powerless against all this, yet something inside me keeps helping me to quit the medication. I do have some control. I am not powerless.

    God, please make this false prophet disappear in the coming year. I really, really need the relief.

    Friday, December 26, 2008

    Letting Go

    video

    I think I had one of the best, most relaxing Christmases I have had in years. Part of it was due to all the snow. I could not get out of my driveway so did not attempt to go anywhere, and something about the snow adds some levity to my life.

    I laughed so many times watching my puppy try to run, plow, bounce and leap through the deep snow. He was hilarious. Were it not for his red Christmas coat (I NEVER thought I'd be one to put a coat on my dog....seems so humiliating for the dog?), but if he didn't have the coat he would have become one with the snow: a white dog melting into a white background.

    At least with his red coat on I could see him every few minutes as he raced between the blueberry bushes chasing all the birds. Boing, red, boing, red a few seconds later across the field, boing a flash of red at the far end of the field...15 minutes later I fell to the ground in exasperation, after having whistled and called him to "come" a zillion times...I'm his best friend until he spots a bird, then off through the field he goes; completely unaware of my call.

    As I fell to the ground and was emerged in 2.5 feet of snow, he spotted my red glove. By the time I finished making a snow angel...(that felt so fun...I haven't done that in years) Skookum was at my side trying to save me from being swallowed up by the snow. It's funny how dogs seem to come as soon as you give up trying to find them.

    I remember, a few years ago, Dr. X. explaining to me how trying too hard is a pattern I repeat. I turn up the volume and try harder and harder to get well. With the increased struggle to get well comes the increased anxiety to "perform". I sometimes put so much pressure on myself to get well that it backfires.

    I know that when I first left work I absolutely could not relax. I'd be exhausted and try to take a nap, but my mind would race with all the things I could be doing to help myself, rather than nap and I'd lay awake stressing about not being able to get to sleep. It would get worse, and worse and of course I wouldn't be able to sleep, no matter how tired I was.

    I am going off my medications and decided rather than go off Tegretol as agreed with Dr. X, that it was more important to get off Valium NOW. So I went from 20mgs to 0mgs in 4 days. Yikes, it has been an insomniacs worst nightmare, but I am trying to just let go and if I can't sleep, not get all worked up over it. I am crabby and cranky and anxious, but I feel my mood has gone up (maybe from sleep deprivation).

    Maybe happiness and getting rid of depression is like that. Maybe if I stop trying so hard to find a solution, stop trying so hard to get well and accept my situation, or maybe if I "forget" about the depression, maybe it will disappear? Hmmm.

    Think I will go out and make a snowman...I haven't done that in years either.

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Merry Christmas


    video

    I had the best pdoc appointment on Tuesday. It was a session of sharing and caring, of experiencing and being in the moment. Yesterday's session felt like the essence of what I wish Christmas could be for everyone.

    I am not a "Grinch, but I do not care for what Christmas has become. I am sickened by Christmas's increasingly obnoxious focus on consumerism and how much the gap between the rich and poor, both between people in our well off countries and between our wealthy countries and other entire nations throughout the world. It saddens me to watch so many people struggle when I believe there is enough for everyone if we would open our minds and hearts and learn to share.

    While I was raised Anglican, I would not call myself religious. I do however, believe that most religions, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Aboriginal and First Nations Spirituality and the many and beautifully diverse spiritual beliefs people hold can each be strong building blocks for a great world if people listened to the messages the prophets, the gods, the earth and the writings of each religion are trying to teach us.

    Every single one of these religions attempt to teach us of love and understanding, caring for others and giving, teaching compassion and forgiveness. They help us remember our traditions and our families. They all engage us in something bigger than ourselves, a collective consciousness of sorts.

    My belief is that the essence of most religions, no matter how, on the surface, they look completely disparate, or incompatible, are in their essence teaching humankind the same sorts of values. We are to love and care for one another, Do no harm to anyone and beyond that they tell us we have an objective to make the lives of all the people and beings, whose live's paths we cross throughout our lifetime, better for having met us.

    As a bare minimum this objective exhorts us to harm no one. At its best the objectives of all religions endorse the the platinum rule: "First do no harm and then do unto others as they would have done unto them". This means opening our eyes and arms to others beliefs and values. It means recognizing that what we want is not always what someone else may want or need.

    Deep in my heart, despite my depression and negativity, I am an idealist. I want so badly to believe we can all make this world a better place for ourselves and others.

    The following is a list of people, beings, experiences, places and things that have made my life better for having been blessed with the gift of crossing, or continuing to cross their paths (in no particular order):

    1. My Mom. I am blessed to have experienced her complete and unconditional love. To me, my mom was a goddess personified. She was so loving, kind, caring, passionate, available, hopeful, helpful, trustworthy, honest and compassionate. It is impossible for me to imagine anyone having had a better Mom. I miss her so much.
    2. My sisters, both of them. They are both like my Mom in so many ways. Our love for each other is unbreakable. They are both beautiful examples of what it is to be a good person: to their children, to me and to their friends and even to people they do not know. I love them and their children more than I love anything in this world.
    3. My four nieces: S, J, J an A. From 5 years old to 10 years old, they all are incredible examples of children at their best. They are loving and caring towards me, their families and friends. All of them understand the importance of giving to people they do not even know. They each understand the principles of compassion and sharing. They are adorable little girls who have made my life much, much better than it would be without them.
    4. My appointments with Dr. X. and the man himself. I often feel this blog is a testimony to how much he means to me. He is so kind and thoughtful that he feels like a family members to me. He has enhanced my life in so many ways it is impossible to list them all. I know I have said this before, but it needs to be said again: He has been the one person in my life I can be entirely open with. He is the person in my life that helps me continue to choose to life over death, despite my depression and anxiety. He even takes it further than that. I both choose life and my life becomes more and more enriched through each of my experiences in therapy with him. He is engaging and easy to talk with. I am blessed to have him as a psychiatrist.
    5. My husband...While we have some difficulties in our marriage...(who doesn't?) I love him and he loves me. There is a great deal of caring that goes on in the relationship. He is a caring, loving man. He just has a difficult time expressing it.
    6. My friend H. She has been my friend since I was 19. I love and value her with all my heart. We do not always agree, but that would be boring. I love her more than the differences could ever divide us. She is intelligent, artistic, creative, caring and a great friend. She really makes a difference in my life. I love you H.
    7. My friends V and R. I met both in a Group therapy program years ago and I feel close to them even if I have not seen them for a long period of time. It is easy to meet with them and just begin from where we left off. Beautiful people.
    8. My friend E. She is so thoughtful, kind, artistic, interesting and very thoughtful. We are helping each other in practical ways, like her helping me go grocery shopping, and me phoning to wake her up. Her help and her friendship are and have been priceless.
    9. Each of the people who read my blog, whether you comment or not. The commenters engage me, support me and help me move farther forward with each comment. Both commenter's, and the people who silently read, provide me with a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. I hope my writings reach others. I sense from the repeat visitors that there are others out there who I share experiences with. I hope we are helping each other learn we are not alone.
    10. My puppy...his love and companionship have enhanced my life significantly. He MAKES me get outside a few times a day. My desire to care for and love him provides me with a sense of meaning and purpose. He makes me laugh, even when all I want to do is cry. He is adorable, cuddly, loving and best of all he loves me absolutely unconditionally.
    11. The ocean...It calms me to walk by the ocean. My husband just bought a boat, so soon we can be ON the ocean. I can't wait.
    12. My new car. It is reliable, great on gas and I love driving it. It has taken a lot of stress out of my life knowing I have a reliable and enjoyable means of transportation.
    13. Living on a farm...It is so close to the city, but is also away from the cacophony of the city. It is peaceful to walk through the fields
    14. Learning to paint. Wow. I cannot believe I have an artist inside me. I never in a million years would have thought I could paint, or draw. Both calm me and I feel a sense of purpose and meaning in the activities.
    15. Teaching drawing, printmaking and some of the other classes I teach at the Art clubhouse. I am learning to believe all is not lost to my illness. I have talents and skills that are transferable from my previous job. While I stress out every time I have to teach, each time is a little less difficult. I hope one day I can believe in myself enough, and be well enough, to take what I learn from teaching and make it a job.
    16. The people whose blogs I read: (see my blog's front page for a full list) Off the top of my head: My pdoc's blog...it is so interesting and helpful...I feel a connection is always there because the blog is available 24/7 , Dr. Shock, Jcat, Polar Bear, Lola, Sara, SV, Deepblue, James (AKA HBW), Jazz, Tamara, Hannah, The last Psychiatrist, Postsecret, Dr. Jest... the list goes on...Each of your blogs, ideas and writings enhance my life each time I read them.
    17. My friends at the ART Clubhouse. The people I have met through their are so great. It is a powerful type of therapy to watch people who are having the same level, or more difficulties than me, succeed and be such great teachers, mentors and artists.
    18. My country and the freedom, democracy and protection it provides me. I believe I live in a great country. Not perfect, there are lots of things that could be better, but most of us have a pretty good experience in this country. The one thing I would like to see get better is ease of accessibility to both physical and mental health care, not just the people to help, but the means for an patient to figure out how to get help, to understand what is available for them and a more easily dealt with bureaucracy.

    Merry Christmas to everyone in the world. My Merry Christmas message embraces all people, of all religions and cultures, all beings, all plants, the entire earth and the universe.

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    What Keeps Me "In Line"

    At my last pdoc appointment I (sort of) jokingly told Dr. X that "fear", or fear of punishment ALWAYS works as a motivator for me. It was not a joke. It is true. I always comply when I am afraid: afraid of loss, afraid of judgement, afraid of abandonment, afraid of rejection...all these fears "motivate" me, or as the title says, keep me in line.

    I would guess "to keep a person in line" is probably a reference to a army or police type of structure. A structure that has inspection lines, marching lines or serious punishments for breaches of its people getting out of line.

    The past few days I have been speaking so much of my own will and my own power to stop my medications and to make the changes I need to make, successfully this time. I was going on about how I can get of the Valium. I am strong enough to do that. It isn't so.

    I recognize that my motivation to stop was my perception that Dr. X was disappointed in me. He told me my increasing my Valium dosage was a worrisome pattern. I heard what he was saying loud and clear. I do not want to be a patient who does not comply with the medication regime set out by my pdoc. I want to do what is right. I do not want to be rejected, or to disappoint. Those things compel me to change.

    Dr. X has really tried hard to help me use non-punitive means of motivating myself, but fear always works. Wanting to please also is a strong motivator for me. At least as strong as my fear motivation.

    Last appointment I told Dr. X I may run out of Valium. He gave me a sheepish look, and I saw that. He wrote me a prescription because we had not decided on my going off Valium until I was off Tegretol and I had increased the dose and was unsure I would have enough until tomorrow. I put the prescription in my wallet and decided only to fill it if I had to.

    I managed to stop Valium as of yesterday, but last night and today I was beginning to have withdrawal effects: couldn't sleep, increased intense energy verging on agitation, increased irritability and anxiety, spaciness, and an intense "need" to take something to calm myself.

    All day my brain tried to talk me into filling that prescription. All day some part of me managed to fight back. I want so badly to bring that prescription to Dr. X tomorrow morning and rip it up as a statement to myself that I am stronger than the urges I feel to take benzodiazepines. I am literally terrified of entering a long stretch of time away from Dr. X without a prescription for Valium.

    However, I know, if I fill that prescription my chances of quitting are very low, because as the days free of Valium go on, something ignominious in my head will tell me I need it more and more. My brain will try every excuse to just "take a little". At that point the whole cycle will begin again and I will have to begin to quit all over again.

    I never saw any of this coming. I never knew I had a drinking problem, until the problem became part of my depression. I never thought I ever would have any kind of addiction or tolerence problems to either alcohol, or medications. I feel I was always so cognisant of the pitfalls of these things.

    I can make excuses, like I only really started drinking when my depression and anxiety became unbearable and nothing helped me. Drinking and benzodiazepines helped me survive the loss of my Mom. The excuses are real. For the most part they are true. That doesn't make the problems I am having now stopping both alcohol and Valium any less real.

    I want to get better, but I cannot see anyway out of a depression that has anxiety as a key feature. I need something to lift me, but also something to lower me (to lessen my anxiety). The two seem like opposite goals and benzodiazepines always seem to help me for periods of time. I feel like I will never find a combination of medications that do not conflict with one another: Medications that allow me to have a lift in mood, energy AND remain calm, have a stable mood and have my memory and wordfinding back. Is that too much to ask?

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    "I Am Bold..."

    When I first left work I started exercising everyday for almost two years. You may suspect, by my online name that swimming is a favourite activity of mine. The second I get into the water I become free. I relax. I feel coordinated and at ease in my body.

    The water feels more like home than anything on land. I have been like this since I was a child. I love swiming. For some unknown reason I have not been able to get myself to the pool to swim (except a couple times when my nieces wanted me to take them swimming).

    My inability to get back into swimming is definitely "amotivation" as a symptom at its best (or worst). Everytime I think of swimming it seems like it would take a bigger act of will, a larger use of energy than I can manage to pull together for one activity. The steps to get into the water seem arduous and impossible:
    1. Find a swim schedule
    2. Decide when to go
    3. I have to find my bathing suit, swim googles, flip flops, shampoo, conditioner, brush, towel phine (an anti chlorine hair conditioner for my hair...or it turns green...really!), earplugs, and finally my swimcap
    4. I have to put my swim suit on. (It may not fit...in which case I have to go find and buy another)
    5. Then get dressed.
    6. Then get in the car.
    7. Then drive 1 km and park
    8. Then get out of the car
    9. Then go into the pool entrance
    10. Then Pay
    11. Then find a locker.
    12. Then decide if I am brave enough to allow others to see my frighteningly out of shape body in a swim suit.
    13. Then shower
    14. Then put the phine on my hair
    15. Then twist my hair up and somehow fit it into my swimcap
    16. Then find a place for my towel and flip flops
    17. Then walk out in front of all these skinny little lifeguards and everyone else
    18. Then deal with all the noise and put earplugs in...(noise in the pool drives me crazy)
    19. Then GET into the water...this has always been my hardest task...I always freeze at first
    20. Then choose a lane...which will be hard because I will be faster than the slow lane and slower than the fast lane.
    21. Then I have to dunk under water and get my googles on.
    22. Then I begin swimming.
    23. Then I have to shower, wash and condition my hair
    24. Then get dressed
    25. Then dry my hair
    26. Then go to the car
    27. Then drive home

    If I do manage to get through the first 20 steps and actually begin swimming it is as though I sail through the water. I feel graceful and strong. Powerful, yet very beautiful (as if the two are incongruent in the first place). I feel like a fish, a seal, a killer whale. With each stroke I feel my breathing becoming more rhythmic. I become calm. Meditative. I feel soothed by the sound and sensation of the water passing over my body.

    In 2nd University I had a MDE. I sought help at the counselling Dept. of the University. I had 6 sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The best practice that came out of that counselling, and the thing that I think helped me most was that every morning before my classes started I began to swim a approximately a mile every morning (32 X 50 metre laps).

    I did not just swim, but while swimming I would repeat the following mantra, one statement per stroke and on the fourth stroke I would breathe:

    "I am: (stroke 1) Bold, (stroke 2) Sexy (stroke 3) Powerful, (Stroke 4) Breathe"

    Imagine how many times I said that statement over the six weeks of therapy? Over the 8 months of the school year. Within a few weeks I began to feel strong, sexy and powerful, partly because of the repetition of such positive statments about myself, but also because as I swam I began to have a better body. I felt bolder, sexier and more powerful, because I was becoming more like that mentally and physically.

    So why, if swimming is so powerful for me, do I avoid it? I really do not understand the answer to that question, but today I had an epiphany that I am stronger than all the things I have believed I cannot do.

    I can stop the Valium (I have so far), I can stop drinking...(getting better there too), I can go off all my medications successfully. I can. I am bold and powerful...I need a little work on the sexy...but I CAN get there to. I can.

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    Relief.

    You have to laugh sometimes at the dumb things you do..."you" meaning "me". I am now down to 10 mgs Valium from 20mgs and tonight I'm going to 5mgs. I've also lowered my Tegretol from 1000mgs to 800mgs. So how's it going?

    Last night I went to bed thinking there is no way in hell I'm going to be able to sleep, but if it hadn't been for my puppy wanting under the covers, because it is so damn cold, and then out of the covers because he was suffocating, I would have slept like a baby. I was having tons of dreams. I miss those too. These are welcome back.

    As for the laughing at myself, I am a bit "spacey", and not altogether "there". I have been having some of these difficulties over the past few weeks, but today they went from stupid to bizarre stupid.

    This morning I poured my coffee, opened the fridge, grabbed the vodka and was about to pour it into my coffee. Something seemed amiss about the situation though and before I poured I realized it was milk I wanted. I can't imagine what my brain would have thought had I poured the vodka in and my coffee didn't become creamy coloured.

    Then (after drinking the coffee, which theoretically should have woken me up) I went to have a shower, a long, hot shower because it is so cold some of our pipes froze today and I could not get me or the house warm. So I started the shower and began to slowly undress ...then I jumped into the shower with my slippers on;>{probably not the horribly sexy outcome you were hoping for in the story). How is it possible to do that? After 43 years of showers or baths I forget the slippers?

    Today though, despite wet slippers and a potentially "unsobering" morning I had a pretty good day. Not one of the great days I have had in the past, but I was "on". I felt like doing things and on a whim drove to Granville Island Market, which is usually insanely busy on weekdays, let alone Saturday afternoon.

    It is an amazing public, indoor and outdoor market in Vancouver full of vegetables and specialty meat stores, all kinds of food stores (pasta shops, fish shops, butchers, bulk food store, wine shop bakeries, tons of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, a unique food fair...the list goes on and on), fine art shops, art studios and a fine arts supply store, and the renowned Emily Carr Art University. It is a really, really great place to go, except you can NEVER find parking and it is usually so packed I feel super anxious when I go there.

    Today that changed. There was hardly anyone there (weird given that it is the last Saturday before X-mas and it is supposed to snow tonight)...maybe 1/2 of a normal weekday crowd. Parking was easy to find. The best thing about the experience was that people were drawn to me the whole time I was there. I felt charasmatic.

    The lady at the bakery chatted me up and even gave me a free cinnamon bun (the best on the planet!!). Then at the specialty meat shop the man serving me (he was HOT) kept coming onto me in a very obvious manner..which almost made me blush...well it did make me blush:>)...which only made him more persistently charming, causing me to blush even more at my own attraction to him...yikes.

    Then I walked down to the art supply store and a charming young man, who I always see there said hello and asked me how was as I walked in the door...he's so cute, usually I avoid eye contact...today I felt as charming as him. I came home and had a nap, falling quickly into a deep, deep sleep.

    Good energy has been pouring out of me most of the day and a c'est la vie feeling (or is that a dazed feeling) is encompassing me. This awakening relief from depression is particularily surprising today, given our water pipes froze last night, and it took forever to get them fixed and the house warm. On top of that, right before I went to bed last night, my dog chewed and completely mangled and destroyed my favourite pair of glasses. Glasses which I had, just the day before, paid 180.00 plus tax to get new lenses in...What could I do?

    I never saw the dog eat the glasses; only found the remains crumpled and spread about on the floor afterwards. I walked over to him, knelt down, took his beautiful face in my hands and gently and lovingly whispered in his ear:

    "My cute, sweet, adorable little puppy. Look what you did to my FAVOURITE (although emphasized, this word to was whispered softly and lovingly in his soft white floppy ear) glasses. This is not good. You won't do this again, right?"

    To which he responded by angelically looking towards me, looking into my eyes with his big, brown, doe eyed stare. He then wagged his tail madly and licked my nose" Which can of course mean only one thing..."I love you, won't happen again." Ha! In my dreams.

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    "I Love the Whole World"

    Yesterday, in my pdoc appt we discussed my going off my medication and trying to get a clearer view of what is/is not, or if anything is helping me; my starting from a blank slate. I am not certain my medications are helping me, though I do seem to have "manageable moods" more often than before, but maybe that is therapy, and teaching, and creating art, and developing friendships etc.

    Dr. X said it was not clear to him that the medications were helping me. He also expressed "dismay"that I had increased my Valium, rather than decrease it as discussed. He said it is a worrisome trend. I said "dismay" in brackets, because he never lets it show if he is disappointed. The dismay aspect comes from how I felt he felt about my misstep.

    I am terrified of discontinuing, or lowering my Valium. I always get so stressed out, stop sleeping, become miss crankypants from hell. Rather than express all that fear I make the excuse, "but it seem like Valium IS the only medication that helps me."

    Last night I decided "fuck it" I am going of the Valium fast and I will deal with the sleeplessness, anxiety and irritability. The faster I get off it, the faster I will get over the withdraw effects.

    Dr. X and I decided to have me go off the Mood Stabilizer I am on. I haven't had a joyous day in a long time, and my good moods are so good they outshine the happiest person out there in terms of radiance and pure energy, without the bad consequences of mania/hypomania. I feel like life and all its glory exudes and radiates energy through me.

    I was watching the Discovery Channel last night and they have the best advertisement I have ever seen....this is me when I feel good:

    I want ME back.

    Last night I lowered my Tegretol from 1000 to 800mgs (as per Dr X's instructions)...but I also lowered my Valium from 20mgs to 15 and will lower to 10 tonight. Life is too short and there is too much to experience to be the way I am.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    What? Why? How?

    I usually start my pdoc appts by providing a recap of any symptoms I have been having. It's just always the way I start. I always forget something important. I should write what happens down. This is how it went this morning (as I remember it):

    Me: I've been depressed, well all over the map actually.

    Dr. X: All over the map?

    Me: Yeah, depressed most of the time, but my mood has gone up when things happen, like I reconciled with my best friend, which I am very happy about. I visited another friend, Drawing with her one day, and that was fun. My mood went up. But when I got home I felt ashamed of how poorly I draw. I felt sad that I was as bad as I was.

    Dr. X: This is something concrete we could help you with, your phobia of feeling ashamed, or embarrassed.

    Me: Yeah. (Translation in my head)...nothing in the world will help me learn to trust people are honest with me. Nothing will ever make me stop feeling I am bad at things I do, and that people are always making fun of me, or dismissing me. Even when nothing in their actions suggests this.

    There are so many times I have thought Dr. X was "most certainly ridiculing" my skills/talents. However, if I really think hard I can't see him doing that to anyone else. Why would he think bad things about me? Why would others think bad things about me? Why do I think bad things about me?
    • I'm tired all the time and sleeping between 3:30 and 6, or one day from 2-6. I just get exhausted.
    • I feel like I'm in a daze. It's not my memory as much as it feels like I am losing my brain cells. (I forgot to tell him I poured myself a drink and forgot the vodka...didn't clue in until I had drank half of it...duh!) (I did this again tonight...maybe my subconscious is telling me something)..."leave out the vodka"...Ya think?

      I picked up a knife right after making my coffee and looked at it wondering why I had done that, or I tried to put the martini shaker sieve on top of the vodka bottle. I take something out of the cupboard and have no idea why, I put thinks in the microwave that are supposed to go in the fridge. I momentarily look at the syrup (for my pancakes) and I can't remember what it is for...the list goes on.

      (Aside): I also forgot to tell him I am back to only two drinks a day. I was doing worse than that the past few weeks so that's good.

      This week and last week I forgot to tell him I have been falling....alot.

      At my middle sister's I took my dog out in the middle of the night to pee. I took a misstep on her porch (forgot there was a step there), fell, twisted my ankle, had a huge bruise and road rash on my back and on the palm of my hand. I thought I broke my foot.

      Afterwards, it was freaky, (but kind of funny), because as I feel I fell on the dog's leash, releasing him from his collar and there I am in agony unable to get up and my puppy takes off into my sister's back yard with no identification on him. I finally manage to get up, but at this point I have lost my shoes and am in my sock feet and I am limping all over my sister's soaking wet back yard in the pitch black trying to catch the dog...which, thank god, I did.

      I also fell twice in our driveway the past 3 days. I am destined to be one of those old ladies who falls and breaks her hip in old age. I have always been a klutz.

      Anyways...As the session proceeds....

      Me: Will you tell me how you see me? Tell me how you would explain me to a colleague if you had to pass me on to someone else.

      (Aside): So now Dr. X sits silent and inside my head I am thinking..."he's trying to frame bad news in some acceptable way, or he's trying to edit what he wants to say, rather than tell me the truth...and usually I interrupt and say it's okay to say what ever he thinks,
      ...but this time I slowed myself down and tried to think this silence is just his way. He is thoughtful about things before he speaks. He's just thinking. But deep inside I think he's thinking about how avoid giving me the truth, but I am struggling to believe he is, and always has been honest with me.

      Dr. X: First I would spend much of the time explaining your ongoing symptoms
    • I would like to change the question, so rather than address a colleague, I am addressing you (this brings me a step closer to trusting he is going to be honest)

    Me: Tell me what I am doing wrong. Am I doing something that is making nothing work? Am I resisting for some reason? Does my therapy need to done differently...can't think of the word

    • I think it would be helpful for you to have some kind of benevolent structure in your life.

    (I think he is referring to daily goals, plans and activities, that are both constant and positive for me. Examples, might be teaching at the Art Clubhouse, seeing friends, gaining more of a social network, exercise etc.)

    Inside I feel the pain of losing my job, but recognize the structure there was too full of fear and stressful events for me to continue, but I long for that sense of accomplishment I got from working at something challenging. Deep inside I know I cannot manage the kind of stress that comes with a corporate job...still I long for the ability to work full-time again. So I ask about working.

    Dr. X: You are working!

    Me: (inside my head)...I mean REAL work. What I do is not good enough, I don't work enough, I am a burden on the system...but I don't say it because I know it must really annoy him that I can't move on and accept I am a different person now when it comes to the types of jobs I will be able to manage.

    Dr. X: (Later on in the appt)...Actually I would like to see you go somewhere for a while, to the tropics or something, to somewhere that had a really structured longer term program.

    Me: Like a sanitarium? (I was thinking of this in a positive way, as a place of rest with lots of support and stress relieving routines in place)

    Dr. X: "No, that sounds too pejorative, something more like a retreat, where you felt you fit in with the other people there, where you did things together.

    Me: (Inside)...that sounds more like a nightmare. I HATE group activities. I am a more one-one person or one - two person. Groups scare me.

    (Out loud) I meant "Sanitarium in a positive way, like a place where a person goes to heal. (Inside)...I have thought about and tried to find someplace like that...you know like the places people with TB went at the turn of the century, or the places you read about where therapy is available and it is a beautiful, hospitable place to become well again)

    There's more...but I will write about that later. I went into my session sad and feeling things will never change, but Dr. X soon began helping me feel cared for. While for the past few days and on the way to my pdoc appointment I just wanted to quit therapy and medicine and quit trying altogether. Sitting in the chair, across from Dr. X. for only a few moments changed my mind. He has a way of making me need to keep trying, even when I don't want to. I will.

    Going away somewhere warm and sunny does sound like a good idea...hmmm.

    Boxer Cardiomyopathy...again?

    (P.S. Originally wrote this on the 13th, but had some tests come back yesterday and he seems okay, although these tests couldn't test for the arrhythmia that is boxer cardiomyopathy he otherwise seems really healthy...has some problem with his white blood cell count, but vet said that was a normal indicator in dogs who are prone to allergies (Skookum is highly allergic to bees). Poor little guy was neutered this a.m. and I was worried about anaesthetic and also they had to go in a find his second testicle....yes he was a one testicle boy...no sign of the 2nd one...but the vet said it took them a while and they found it and removed it too.) I am still worried about him having cardiomyopathy, because nothing explains his "spell...but all I can do is hope he will be okay and live a healthy, happy and long life)

    Dec. 13/08: God I am so stressed out. Today I took my puppy to an off leash dog park. We walked on leash for about 20 minutes and then went to the off leash area. There looked to be lots of dogs playing together so I decided to give my baby some freedom and let him play. (It was tough to make that decision).

    He raced around with the other dogs for about two or three minutes. He was having a blast. Then suddenly he just stopped and stood still and was almost in a daze. I called his name a couple times as I walked towards him and other dogs ran past him and he didn't move.


    He looked exactly like my old boxer Bert looked right before he collapsed from a boxer cardiomyopathy attack( a heart arrhythmia that instantaneously kills approx 50% of boxers who have an attack). I kneeled down beside him and began rubbing him, petting him and talking to him. He suddenly came out of the daze and seemed normal again.

    Directly prior to us going to the park, (on the drive there) I noticed he was shivering/shaking every once in a while (like when a person is in shock). He did this a couple weeks ago when he was sick. I am so worried for him I feel sick. The vet is closed until Monday, but I am going to take him then.

    The problem is, if it is cardiomyopathy there is no way for the regular vet to tell. It usually doesn't show up when they listen to the heart. We will need a specialist appointment and have him go have a heart test (ecg?) and if nothing shows there have him where a holter monitor for 24 hrs (a hear monitor that monitors his heart activity for 24 hrs).

    I went on line to see if it might be something else. He didn't eat very much in the morning and I was wondering if he could have had low blood sugar from no food and his sudden burst of energy. Diabetes is also common in dogs. (Vet said it could have been from his not eating very much and all that exercise). I switched to a new food that he likes WAY better, so hope that's it.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Does Grief Ever End?

    On this day, about this exact time, three years ago I was literally watching my Mom die. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sept 1st, 2005. On Dec 15th, 2005 she seemed fine at 8:00am, happy and laughing, but two hours later while my sister was helping her get up, she collapsed and had what I think might have been a stroke, or something similar. From that moment on she could not talk and her breathing became laboured.

    The next few hours are stuck like a horrific, yet perfect tape playing in my head. She wanted to die at home. No doctors were to be called. My sisters and I were to experience her death with no idea about what it would be like. I would never wish this experience on anyone, but it was important to my Mom and my family that we support her wishes.

    We all carried her into the room where the hospital bed had been delivered just the previous night, but people underestimate how hard it is to lift a person when they are semi-conscious. My mom was small, 5'2" and weighed maybe 100 lbs at her death, but three of us could not lift her high enough onto the bed. We were all freaking out, because we wanted to be delicate and treat her with respect love and kindness, but instead we were flaying around and failing at every turn.

    We placed her on the floor and cried and cried, unsure how to proceed. My four little nieces aged 2 - 7 at the time were staring at Grandma, and kept asking what was wrong. We wanted to protect them to and told them to go play in the kitchen. They were all crying, scared of something they did not understand.

    We decided to get her onto her own bed and get her under the covers. She was breathing strangely; slower than normal, but gasping loudly. Every breath sounded like both agony and a determination to survive. Should we call a nurse? What were we supposed to do? Was she dying? Or did she need medical attention?

    Over and over again she had told us she wanted to die at home. I recognized the laboured breathing from the agonizingly slow way my Grandma had died. I was praying it would not be that painful for both my Mom and for all of us.

    Mom could not talk, but after an hour and a half of shallow and frightening breathing we somehow understood she wanted to sit up. All of us lifted her up. I sat behind her, my sister's hugged her from both sides. Mom kept trying to say something. Over and over she tried to make words come out of her mouth, but it was impossible. She was exhausted with the attempts to speak. I told her to lean back into me. I would hold her. She relaxed and leaned into me. She could hear us, but could not communicate.

    My sisters and I told her how much we loved her. We told her we would see her again. We all let her know we would take care of each other. "Mom, it is okay to let go. We know you love us. We know you will always be there for us. We will always care for and love each other. It is okay to go". She took two shallow breaths and passed away.

    It was , and still is, the worst day of my life. I hate this day. I hate that she was taken away from us so young. I hate that evil people live forever and a person as good as my Mom had to die. I hate that the world makes no sense, that if there is a God how could he let this happen? I hate everything about this month. I hate it that my Mom is gone. My Mom WAS Christmas. She epitomized the holiday spirit. Without her this whole month just feels like hell.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Happiness Sits Amongst the Saddest of Times

    Warning: May Trigger...but may also provide some hope even in the bleakest of times.

    As I went to bed last night I recognized it was okay to die, so I lay awake most of the night last night planning how to kill myself. I managed to get through the night and get up and go to my pdoc appointment. The whole way there, and as I sat down in the chair to talk I was feeling intensely guilty about making these plans, but also praying for some relief from both my life, and the thoughts.

    I had one of those appointments where I felt so small, so insignificant, so worthless, until Dr. X started talking to me and caring about me. I have no way of knowing if he really cares, or if what he does is his "job", but he always manages to make me feel connected to at least him. For that I am grateful.

    In my appt, amidst tears and anxiety, Dr. X asked me if there was anything good that happened over the past week. At the time I could only think of a couple things, but this is my exercise this evening, to remember any joy I felt even in the darkness of my thinking. To try to brighten the darkness I feel now with memories of happy moments:

    Here goes:
    1) My youngest sister has the most beautiful smile. She has a dimple when she smiles carried over from my maternal grandfather. I love her smile.

    2) I love listening to her. She speaks with radiance and excitement about all her activities and her children. She draws you into her stories. She has a killer sense of humour

    3) My youngest neice is 5. I completely cracked up when she did this to me...it's her latest gag

    ...imagine a perfect southern drawl coming from a beautiful sparkling (Canadian) 5 year old imitating someone between Scarlet O'hara and Mae West:
    • She flicks back her hair and her head; looks directly into your eyes and says,
    • "My you're a tall drink 'o water. Wanna dance?
    • We proceed to waltz around the house and it begins again...
    • this time with her looking directly into my eyes and pushing my hair off my forehead...
    • "My you're beautiful. Wanna dance?"
    4) Her sister 8 years old coming home with the most incredible report card, saying she is being put ahead into reading groups two years above her grade because she is such a great reader. The teacher commented "If all my students were as interested in learning, as thoughtful towards others and polite to everyone as A is, my job would be easy"

    5) Listening to this niece read and recognizing her love for reading is even bigger than mine was at her age...and mine was huge.

    6) Getting packed up to leave my sister's house and going to get my "pearly white" dog, (who I had, just the night before described to my little sister as "Super white, but you should see him dig holes, he's black, shakes of and he's super white again...it's a miracle).

    Calling him into the house so we can leave for my Dad's in 5 minutes. The the dog is soaking wet and has BLACK mud all over himself. Needless to say I had to give him a bath and was late to my Dad's.

    7) Had I known what an ass my Dad was going to be I would have "accidentally" let the muddy black dog into his house...but I am too responsible...sigh! That thought brings me some levity though. It would have been funny on some level.

    8) Driving down to Victoria with my other two nieces (who had spent the night at there Grann and Poppa's) All three of us signing Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus songs that I downloaded for them on my ipod...We sang, and sang...they are adorable.

    9) My sister and I went shopping and I found 3 beautiful bras...(I have a bit of a bra fetish)...a gorgeous khaki one, a black one that laces up the front and a lacey pink one. As soon as I got home the dog ate my lacey pink one...he too has a bra fetish.

    10) I let my dog pee in my psychopathic/control freak brother in law's "perfect garden/lawn that even the kids can't walk on...just because every time I thought how mad my BIL would be if he knew the dog was peeing on his immaculate, useless lawn I felt like laughing (yes, I have a bit of a "spritelike" mischievousness about me sometimes..hee, hee.. I couldn't stop the dog anyways...he's a puppy and he really needed to pee right then and there.

    11) I love my sister and it was good to see her, even if it is unbearable in her house because of her husband.

    12) The whole time I was away I had my beautiful puppy with me. My love for him grows stronger everyday.

    13) When I got home I went for breakfast with a friend I am getting to know and becoming close to. She really listened to me struggling, but after a while her company made me happier and my involvement in our conversations made me distracted from my own worries. She really helped me calm down.

    14) Despite how desperately sad I was in my appointment today, Dr. X let me know I was cared for by him. At the time I struggled with believing that, but this evening I believe he does truly care for me. That helps.

    15) I took a walk with my dog at the University today. A man came up to me and we started talking about dogs on campus and how there need to be more of them.

    When he left he said, "It was nice talking with you. God bless you". I really felt it was my Mom talking through him...like he knew I needed to hear those words. He began walking away, then stopped and came back. He said, "my name is Kirk, what's yours? I told him and he said, "Have a Merry Christmas Aqua" and then disappeared.

    I started to cry, because I am really struggling with Christmas and why , if there was a God he would take my Mom away from me at such a young age, and why I can't get better. I needed someone to bless me right then and there, and it happened and it felt very intentional, and personal.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Feeling Homeless

    An Anonymous writer commented on my last post:

    "You wrote "I want so badly to die." I'd like to challenge you by making an adjustment to that statement: "I want so badly to be loved and respected." It's what we all want."

    This comment sounded like my pdoc talking...and you are sort of right.

    In 2005 my Mom's Dr told her to have X-mas now because her end was near. Tomorrow is the 3rd anniversary of the last X-mas I had with my Mom. She died 5 days later.



    The only place I ever called "home" was my Mom's house. It wasn't even my childhood home, because we moved all the time, and because when my Dad left us she had to move a couple more times. However, everywhere my Mom lived was "home" to me...it was her that made it so.

    At my Mom's I could totally relax. I never had to ask if I could eat something, or make something, or do something. I always knew I could do what ever I wanted and I'd be loved and cared for and respected no matter what, no matter how I was feeling, no matter how depressed I was, no matter how little I was able to manage. She always loved me and told me so.

    I guess in a way I am lucky. Some people may never have someone like that in their lives. As I was headed to my house and my husband, on the ferry from my sister's tonight I began thinking about love and home.

    My little sister like to see me for short (very short) periods of time, but it becomes clear after a few days that she wants to be alone. My middle sister loves me, but she too wants me to go after a couple days, and her evil husband makes it so difficult to relax that I want to leave the second I get their. At both my sister's houses I feel like a "guest"; the need to ask if I can have something to eat, or make a coffee, or have a nap is made clear by the way they are. I never feel at home. I always feel I am on borrowed time.

    At my Dad's it is even worse. Whereas when I used to stay at my Mom's I always assumed I could eat, drink, play with, watch, or do anything I wanted...it was home so all those were a given. At my Dad's I feel like I am a guest in a stranger's house. To the point that I feel the need to ask for a glass of water, rather than pour myself one.

    I realized today that since my Mom passed away I have no one who loves me. I am desperately alone. I don't mean people who read my blog and care about me, I mean family, husband, or friends I see on a regular basis. I am so alone.

    Even in my own house I feel on edge all the time because I am not a good wife, housekeeper, lover. I am criticized and made to feel bad about my abilities. I don't want sex, because I feel unloved, I cannot take care of my home, in part because I feel distanced from it.

    I am, what I always feared I'd be: homeless, loveless, alone.

    I watched the movie : "Into the Wild" last night, and I felt almost identical to the protagonist, except, even in an existential crisis, he knew where he was going. I feel lost.

    On the ferry today it seemed like death is the easiest solution. I have tried and tried since before and after my Mom died to find my place in life. Maybe for some of us there is no place. Perhaps for some of us being alone is our destiny. I do not think I can live with that.

    God, I miss my Mom so much it is unbearable. I miss her love, her non-judgemental and completely compassionate caring. The only place I feel is remotely similar is in my pdoc's office, but are 50 minutes a week of thoughtfulness and caring enough caring to sustain a person? I don't think so.

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    What Motivates You?

    On my last post, my second drawing lesson, Lola, from "Marine Snow" commented, "I wish I had the motivation to do something like this [the drawing exercises I was explaining], but at the moment am slipping into the staring at the wall type mood." I often get that blank wall, glazed over stare. I seem to spend much of my life in that mode; though I often stare dazed at the big tree outside too. Hugs Lola...I hope it passes quickly.

    I have been doing quick sketches of the messes throughout what I call my house (it is actually a disaster zone). Dr. X. asked me to bring in photos of my messy house a few weeks ago, but I am just too embarrassed by how unbelieveably messy my house has become; and often becomes. I love a clean home, but the task of cleaning even a small portion of it is overwhelming and full of intense feelings of failure and shame. Yesterday I decided instead of photos I might bring in sketches of the distaster.

    I laughed today as I walked by an 18" x 24" sketch of my computer desk and the pile of crap all over it (numerous books, all in different places, a hydro bill witing to be paid, numerous scraps of paper all, I am sure, containing something important...not sure what though, and they have been there forever, a dirty empty cereal bowl and spoon, an open and empty granola bar wrapper, small sketches on scraps of paper, a large comb, a phone, a short piece of lime green ribbon, a pen, numerous business cards I will never look at, cords for my electronic stuff that needs to hook up to the usb port periodically, an empty torn open envelope, a few paper napkins, a folded piece of paper with someone's e-mail on it, a spray bottle of hair straightening spray (I never use...my hair is straight...duh!), a webcam, an empty pill bottle...and the list goes on.

    I began to laugh because the irony was not lost on me that had I spent my energy cleaning up, instead of sketching, the mess, I would have no mess to sketch...hmmm. Why didn't I have the energy, motivation, or willpower to just clean it up instead of closely observing and drawing it? Too strange.

    I guess it meant more to me to use the energy I had to draw, than it did to clean up. How do most people manage to do both their chores and their hobbies?

    Friday, November 28, 2008

    Beginner's Drawing Lesson 2: Paper and Use & Control of Drawing Mediums

    I should have began my last lesson with the emphatic statement:

    "Anyone can learn to draw!" (you too Sara;>)

    It takes practice, and practice, and practice...and patience, and you may not learn the same way as other people, but you can learn. Every class I teach, almost everyone starts by saying "I wish I could draw", or "I can't draw"...you can.

    The other thing I should have mentioned last lesson, under supplies is paper/sketch pads:

    Paper:
    1. First one of the best things to buy is a "drawing board". The ones I have are inexpensive ($10-$15CAD), approximately 21" X 30", and come with two bull clips (to hold the paper) and a gigantic, thick elastic band (to hold all your paper when you travel back and forth). It also has a built in handle. This drawing board gives you a smooth surface to draw on and can protect your paper from becoming tattered. I clip a pad of paper to mine.

    2. The paper I would suggest for a beginner or student is called cartridge paper. I just looked it up at the art supply store I go to and it is $5.10 CAD for a pad of 40 - 18" x 24" sheets. It is white and is a pretty decent paper for all the drawing mediums we have discussed.

    3. Sketch pads: I have three:

    a) one is 9" x 12',

    b) The other is 11" x 14' . I prefer this larger one. Get one with a spiral binding...it's easier to use the whole page to draw on. Also, look for one that contains acid free paper, and has a good surface for pencil, charcoal, graphite and pen. Ask at the art supplies store if you are unsure.

    c) The third one I have is a small hardcover sketchbook that fits in my back pocket. I'm usually a jeans and t-shirt gal and carry no purse because I always loose them. These small sketchbooks can be tucked into you back pocket. That and a pencil can be used like a camera to capture images or interesting things you see throughout your day...people on the bus, the tree outside your flat, the flowers in the garden, the rocks on the beach etc.

    Learning to Use & control Each Drawing Medium:

    This is fun, relaxing, and can empty your mind, relax yourself before beginning drawing and relieve anxiety or any bad thoughts if you are feeling anxious/depressed.

    1. Get a piece of paper and try the following over and over until you feel confident about the feel of each medium and your ability to control the following movements:

    a) Pick up your Willow Charcoal:

    • draw lines across the page...at first pressing hard and slowly changing to as soft as you can press and still create a mark on the page,
    • go backwards across the page hard (dark) to soft(light),
    • make the changes more quickly hard-soft, soft to hard etc.
    • Draw spirals that change from light to dark,
    • Draw thin lines to thick lines
    • Draw wiggly lines to straight lines.
    • Make up your own lines.
    • Do with the compressed charcoal,
    • Conte crayons
    • All the pencils (2b. 4b, 6b).
    • Go slow, fast, hard, soft. light dark, thin lines, thick lines until you feel comfortable using the drawing tools...play, have fun, relax.

    b) "Patterning" Part of drawing is often learning to quickly draw repeating patterns, for example leaves on a tree, or grass in a field or rocks on a beach. I have a fun exercise that I get my students to do, and I also provide them with a blank template for them to create their own patterns. Patterns can be nonsensical and can incorporate some of the usage practices from exercise "a" above.

    Handouts for, and examples of, the above to exercises:

    Specific Patterns Exercise




    Make up Your Own Patterns





    Examples of some fun patterns


    A Collage I made out of "Patterns" done on a small Pad of paper, then on each paper I tore the edges and glued the patterned paper onto a larger heavy paper.

    The exercise really helped me learn to control my pencils

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Beginner's Drawing, Lesson 1: Materials for Drawing

    Last week Dr. X asked me if I could teach him to draw, but only if I didn't feel it took away from what I wanted to accomplish during my session.

    Immediately I felt a sense that something was up? Inside my head I was thinking all week..."why is he switching gears this way? What is the purpose of this request. What is his "ploy".

    Despite my "suspiciousness" I pulled together some information, drawing materials and ideas to follow though on his request. I was extremely anxious because I kept thinking, "what if my teaching him, only goes to show I am a crappy teacher?"

    I was really worried about that: What if Dr. X would not think I was good enough? It mattered to me more what he thought, than what any of my students have thought...and that is: "It matters a lot", because I also really worry about what my students think.

    I left the suspiciousness behind and did it anyways. I taught him a "speed lesson" in 40 minutes. I thought maybe I would share some of it with you in case some people who read are interested in drawing:

    1) First and foremost I discourage erasing in all my classes. Some of the great master drawers, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci often worked through and over top of their mistakes. I believe leaving our mistakes allows us to see them so the next time we can work through that error from a different angle.

    Mistakes are great lessons and we never want to lose those. This is why I usually begin teaching using charcoal as opposed to pencils for drawing. Charcoal is difficult to erase.

    2) Second I always encourage students to sign, date, and write what material/ mediums were used to draw each drawing.
    • It is a really eye opening experience to look at the drawing you did in the beginning and see your improvement.
    • It is also helpful to watch the progress of your ability to use and control each of the materials.
    • Also, by listing the materials/mediums used on different learning projects it will help you latter when deciding which materials you want to use to achieve which effect on a specific piece of art.

    Drawing Materials:

    Willow Charcoal: Literally burnt "charcoaled" pieces of willow. Very messy, but creates a beautiful range of tonal values right up to a beautiful black. It is what many old drawings were drawn with. My favourite drawing material.

    Compressed charcoal: a "man made" version of charcoal; burnt wood or bone mixed and compressed with a gum/glue. The benefits of compressed charcoal are:
    • It is not as messy as willow charcoal (although it is still VERY messy)
    • It comes in different (h) hardnesses, or (b)"blacknesses". A 2b compressed charcoal stick is much harder and less black that a 4b, which is harder still, and less black than a 6b stick
    • I find 4b compressed charcoal to be a good softness/blackness to do most of my compressed charcoal drawings.

    Conte Stick/Crayons: Pigment mixed with a harder binding agent than charcoal

    • It is less messy that the above "charcoals"
    • You can draw more detailed drawings with it because it is harder and doesn't fall apart
    • it comes in white, different sepia tones and black. When people began drawing with conte the paper was not white (no bleach) it was brown or even darker, so white was often used to create "highlights" in drawings, where we would not simply leave the white of the paper exposed

    Pencils (h=hard, B=black):Pencils are wooden stick with a graphite (not lead) middle.

    • I suggest that 2b, 4b and 6b pencils are really what you need in a drawing kit to draw.
    • If you use H or Hb pencils you run the risk of create "indents on the paper because they are so light in colour that in order to "see" the drawing you will be inclined to push harder on the paper. It is possible to erase the graphite, but the indents will remain and can negatively impact a great drawing
    • The can be sharpened to create a pencil point which can be used to create intricate details in drawings.
    • Generally I suggest using a 2b pencil, very lightly to do initial gesture drawings or studies for a drawing. Then use the 2b to lightly create the contour drawing and the lighter shading, then move to a 4b pencil to introduce darker lines and tone, and finally use a 6b to create the blackest tonal values in the drawing
    • Remember it is much easier to make something darker than it is to make it lighter. Start out being stingy with the shading
    • When pencils are used on their edges they can be used for shading

    Graphite Sticks: Sticks of graphite that are similar in shape to compressed charcoal. Basically pencils without the wood around the graphite.

    • Can be sharpened and used to create details
    • Easier to create tone/shading with than pencils
    • Much tidier than charcoal and conte
    • However, you cannot get the black tones with graphite that you can with charcoal and conte

    There are many more mediums you can use, for example pens, or pastels. Right now this will be what we use in the first lessons.

    I taught Dr. X more than this (we did three lessons in 40 minutes...but that was theories and introductions to materials. This week I will introduce the rest of what I introduced to him, to my fellow bloggers (gesture drawing, blind contour drawing and contour drawing). Next week he and I will practice these techniques together.

    I figured out his "ploy" by the end of our session. As I was teaching him I watched him watching my gestures and my positive exuberance. I was conscious of the joyous nature exuding from me while I was showing him what I do.

    I felt the lightest I have felt in a long time in one of my sessions. It was a good session. Thanks for the reminder that I do love doing some things.

    "This Madness Has Got to Stop"

    I left my last session mad at myself for a post I had written the week prior. The post titled "Anxiety" was read by Dr. X, who in turn phoned me to ensure I was okay. I felt like a complete idiot for writing the post; embarrassed that I triggered Dr. X. to worry about me, and stupid that I had not stopped to think about how my posts might affect other people.

    Whatever the case I was really mad at myself for not being more thoughtful and careful about what I say, but also afraid that I might need to censor myself if my pdoc was going to read my blog. I had not thought about the possibility of that dynamic when introducing my blog address to Dr. X. and inviting him to read it. Now there is a therapeutic dynamic to consider that hadn't crossed my mind before.

    I really love that my pdoc periodically reads my blog. The problematic dynamic happens in part because I am not one to reach out between scheduled sessions. I believe keeping this boundary is very important because I respect that Dr. X has other patients, I am one of many, and it is not fair for me to expect more than what we have agreed upon. So sometimes when maybe I should reach out I express myself on my blog instead.

    There is a sense of awkwardness in me now about writing exactly how I am feeling. I can see how for a pdoc it would be awkward territory too. If he reads something, where his patient is clearly thinking suicidal thoughts, it seems the caring and ethical thing to do would be to follow up with the patient and ensure they are okay.

    So...I was mad at myself for expressing anxious suicidal thoughts and feeling like my inconsiderate behaviour led Dr. X to worry for me. In our session last week I tried to express how I felt, but I think it came across that I was mad for him calling me. I wasn't. That call was a very kind thing to do on his part. I was mad at me....for creating a situation, where I didn't really leave him a choice, and I was embarrassed for what I wrote. I was angry at me.

    Today, I angrily and very expressively(read loudly) was telling Dr. X how perturbed I was about about the outcome of something else this week: a call I made to our government's tax office yesterday. I went on and on.

    Here's the ANNOYING scenario:

    Me (calling the tax office):"In August I qualified for a disability tax credit for the years 2003 through 2013. For the years 2003 through 2007 I was told to send a request for an adjustment to each of my tax years. I did in late August. It has been months and I have not heard from your gov't department whether or not my taxes have been adjusted and whether my taxes owed each year were lowered. Can you please let me know what is going on?

    Tax Guy: You sent in a request for the adjustments the beginning of July, but we did not send you a letter saying you qualified for the adjustment until late August.

    Me: That does not make sense, because I brought the letter that said I qualified to my Accountant, asked him to send in the request for an adjustment and then he sent in a request for the adjustment. There is no way I sent in an adjustment request before I received that letter. Why would I if I did not know I qualified.

    Tax Guy: It shows here you sent a request for the adjustments the beginning of July, but we did not send you a letter saying you qualified for the adjustment until late August. (repeating verbatim what he said before.

    so I try from a different angle...

    Me: So you are saying I qualify and that a request for an adjustment sent in a bit earlier than I was sent the letter saying I qualify. However I qualify from 2003-2007 (all years which are in the past) so can you do the requested adjustments for those years because I did, in fact, qualify and a request was sent in?

    Tax Guy: It shows here you sent a request for the adjustments the beginning of July, but we did not send you a letter saying you qualified for the adjustment until late August. (once again repeating verbatim what he said before). We cannot process an adjustment request that was sent in before the letter saying you qualify was sent out.

    Me: I do not understand why? The adjustment request will say exactly the same thing the original one said. It doesn't make any sense that you cannot process the one you receiver PLUS there is no way you received that adjustment request before I received the letter of qualification...because I DID NOT KNOW I QUALIFIED. I had to bring the letter saying I qualified to my Accountant in order for him to put through the adjustment request.

    Tax Guy: Ma'am [that word sets me off] we cannot process the original adjustment request because it was sent before you qualified.

    Me: (About to explode inside and blow a gasket at the "Kafkaesqueness" of this entire conversation). "I will call my Accountant and have him resubmit it. Thank you."

    Then I looked at my original application and it says "If you think you qualify for the tax credit fill out your income tax forms AS THOUGH YOU QUALIFY" Isn't that like applying for an adjustment BEFORE you qualify???? And you thought Kafka's, "The Trial" and "The Castle" were absurd!!!!!

    So I relayed all my anger over this conversation to Dr. X today. I bet the entire waiting room could hear me rant. I was rather boisterous in my anger. After I finished I apologized for "losing it". My anger was excessive, and I was out of line. I get so mad at myself for not being able to control how I feel.

    Dr. X. said, "This madness has got to stop". I thought he meant my madness at him and at the tax office, so I explained again I wasn't mad at him, but at me. "I know, I know, I am an angry person. I hate that about myself".

    I missed his point altogether.I should have known he was referring to my madness at myself , not my anger towards others. Then I felt like laughing..."Yes indeed, This madness DOES have to stop!"

    He told me my anger at the tax office was the energetic, exuberant side of me coming out...maybe not the bubbly/happy version of said energy, but the energy nonetheless. I recognize energy is good, but I do not like how angry I get over small things. I wish I could let things go and instead laugh at the absurdity of some of the bureaucratic rules in this world. Argh!