Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I felt like that all weekend and all day yesterday before I had to teach the teen group I teach yesterday evening. Dread.
I feel like it takes every ounce of energy I have. I feel like I have to sleep for hours every day to garner the energy. Even though, once I got to the teen group last night, it went fine, I feel like it was the only thing, besides sleeping and hanging out with Skookum (a responsibility) I could manage. As I walked out the door of the Art clubhouse all the energy I gave up to teach the group dissolved into exhaustion.
I don't get it. If you watched me teach, or participated in my class, or if you were a member at the studio I would seem like a "staff member". When there I manage to pull myself together somehow. The organization and tidiness, the planning and preparation that I cannot manage at home come to the surface, and I seem energized to everyone around me. I would suggest I am energized while there. However, it comes with a steep price. That is ALL I can do that day. I come home and sleep, or before afternoon classes I sleep. I really am dreading my class today.
Monday, September 29, 2008
- coffee with milk and sugar
- 1/2 cup Cherrios (cereal)
- 1/2 cup blueberries (on cereal)
- 1/2 cup 2% milk (with cereal)
- 3oz. vodka "bluetini"
- Kraft dinner with ketchup for dinner
- handful of chocolate covered almonds
Vegetables/fruit for the day:
- 3oz. blueberry juice
Isn't ketchup made of tomatoes and vodka made of potatoes??? Yah...I know...bad diet!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
"...do you have a post on here about when/how you decided you needed to stop working? How do you get to that point, and more importantly, how do you know when you do? I always am wondering this. "
I do have some information willy-nilly throughout my postings, but nothing in one post. I will try to provide my experiences about trying to leave work in this one post.
First, some background about me. It is important to know who I am, because it plays into the difficulty I had leaving work. I am a worker. My entire life I identified myself as a worker. I AM what I do. Even when I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school, or was a chambermaid when I first left home. I always work exceedingly hard and take pride in what I do. Even when I hate my job/s I always give 160% plus. So leaving work was an incredibly tough decision, and remains a difficult and guilt ridden decision for me. That being the case, it was imperative that I leave work. I would have killed myself if I had not.
Second, I joined the organization I worked for out of university, because I had acquired a huge debt load going to university. I am terrified of ending up homeless, or having absolutely no money. This has much to do with my parents divorce and the subsequent difficulties my Mom had finding a job and affording to live the first few years after my Dad left. I would say I have phobia of being jobless, homeless and penniless. Because of these "phobias, I took a job that had nothing to do with what I was educated in. I cried almost everyday on my way to work for the first few years. I knew I had "made a deal with the devil" to pay my bills.
Third, As I stayed with the company, because of my work ethic and my creativity I began to work my way up the corporate ladder and started to move into corporate teaching. The money became better and better, the challenges more exciting and I found my real love was teaching. The problem was I did not fit into a bureaucratic organization. The structure and bureaucracy were overwhelming and soul sucking.
The problem was, by the time I recognized this I was making so much money that for the first time in my life I felt fairly recognized financially. I am definitely not a material person. It was not material goods I was seeking. It was "financial safety"
Also, I had experienced several depressive episodes, and began having anxiety attacks partly due to, and I would suggest increasingly due to, some of the organizational behaviour I was experiencing within the company. My self esteem was getting worse and worse and the "financial security" I felt I was experiencing was not true.
The problem was in the corporation I worked for there was no such thing as financial, or job, security. I believe, and I still believe, that the organization had a "plot" at it's core. The plot was to make every employee believe they were expendable so each employee would work harder. You may think this sounds like paranoia, but the company would restructure jobs and positions and departments, and lay off people so often, yet pretty much keep everything the same and then hire new people after all the kerfuffle, that it really seemed like they were trying to bully people into working harder.
Bullying terrifies me and I spent almost the whole time I worked there afraid I would lose my job, and for good reason. The organization restructured and cancelled positions I worked in on a regular basis and then made me "apply" for the new...almost identical job. The underlying message was always that I may not be the successful applicant. I stayed though because of my financial phobias, but also because in the last 6 or 7 years the jobs I took were so interesting at least 1/2 of the time.
So... After several MDE's that lasted months, to up to two years, with some stretched of good times in between, in 2001 I became more depressed than I had ever been. For the first time in my life, despite seeing several therapists and my family doctor finally trying to prescribe anti-depressants, I was finally referred to a pdoc, because nothing was helping me. That was in 2001.
I spent once a week going to therapy with him. We tried several medications while I was working. I became more and more despondent. It was increasingly hard to work while trying to find medication/s to help me. I had been having a lot of suicidal ideation the entire time, but by 2002 and early 2003 the ideation was turning into clear plans, and was getting worse and worse and more violent. Dr. X and I discussed my leaving work over and over, but he never pushed, because he knew work, even though it was stressful and much of it was not "me". There was a huge part that helped me thrive.
In early 2002, through to 2003 my job position was restructured, and I was forced to apply for the newly developed positions each time. I managed, despite increasing depression, because in the building I worked in there were approximately 400 people I knew very well, having trained most of them. I had a really tight group of people I worked with, my boss was amazingly supportive, I was allowed to lower my work week to four days which seemed to let some pressure off as I could sleep/wind down for 3 days on the weekend.
In late 2003 I applied for and received a new (read old) job. It was highly stressful and included travelling and working with upper management, executives and the V.P. I was told to move to a building where I knew know one except my boss. Suddenly I was extremely isolated and so stressed out I began planning my suicide. I planned to hang myself in the handicap washroom (because I could lock the door). Everyday I would go to the bookstore near my work and look for books on how to commit suicide. I would surf the net at work trying to find ways to commit suicide. I walked into my coffee shop before work one day and the band Nirvana was playing on the t.v. screen. I was sure Kurt Cobain was telling me to commit suicide. After many weeks of this increasingly suicidal ideation I managed to tell Dr. X what was happening.
In that appointment he said: "what do you need to leave work? What forms need to be filled out? I will fill them out right now and we can fax them." I declined. Work was so busy and I cared so much for my boss. I could see she was overwhelmed and I could not leave her in a lurch.
That week I almost (purposely) stepped out in front of an oncoming bus. The only thing that stopped me was my compassion for how the driver would feel. The thoughts and plans of hanging myself became unbearable and obsessive. On top of that, I suddenly stopped comprehending anything at work. It was as though my work was written in some other language. I also became increasingly afraid to interact with people at work. Literally, so afraid, to the point of that I became increasingly paranoid that everyone was out to hurt me, or make me feel stupid, embarrass me, or that they were ridiculing and talking about me behind my back. I sat there almost all day, crying, distraught and unable to do anything.
Then I had a dream. I wrote about it in the post "Transformational Dreams" People who have followed my blog know that I take some of my dreams very seriously. Some of the most important revelations in my life have come out of dreams. This was one that told me to leave work.
The dog in the dream, the one I first kicked and then later saved from drowning had the exact strawberry blond colour hair as me. I was the dog I was kicking and watching drown. I had to be the person who saved myself. At first I heard the messages in the dream. Then a few weeks later I listened to, and acted on the messages.
The next appointment I had with Dr. X asked me if I thought the whole gigantic corporations was going to collapse if I left? Suddenly, I saw the absurdity in my fear of leaving the organization. There would always be someone to step in and do my job. Dr. X told me I needed to tell my boss exactly the types of thoughts I was having. It would be hard to say, and harder for her to hear, but she needed to understand how sick I was.
Three weeks prior I had made an attempt to tell my boss I needed to leave work due to my illness. She felt I simply had to much work on my shoulders and volunteered to hire a previous, trusted coworker to help me. I thought that might be a viable solution, so we tried it. It did not help. My thoughts of suicide did not dissipate. I was too sick to keep working.
The next three weeks I slept all weekend, every 3 day weekend. The second I got home I went to bed. My body was shutting itself down.
So I wrote in my journal: : "I will tell [my boss] I have to leave work tomorrow" (Monday). I wrote exactly what I was going to say over and over and over. I got to work and thought I was going to throw up. I couldn't do it. I tried to push myself again the next day. Couldn't do it. The next day I was determined. I walked in the door straight up to my boss. I told her I needed to talk with her privately. I sat down and then I told her I was going to commit suicide if I did not leave work. I told her about all my thoughts and that my pdoc was insisting I leave work.
She seemed really mad at me, and I was devastated. She wouldn't talk with me all day. She was one of my favourite co-workers and I had so much respect for her. I was devastated.
The next day at lunch I sat down beside her and apologized for having to leave. I told her I cared so much for her and the work, but I needed to protect myself. I said I was very sad she was mad at me. She began to cry. She said she was not mad, she was afraid she would never see me again. We both cried. I promised her she would see me again. I left two days later thinking I was just taking a few weeks off. However, I remained, and remain, to ill to return to my workplace.
On top of everything else I had so much external which made it an easier transition (albeit still year and a half decision). My pdoc was and has remained, unconditionally supportive. My Mom, when she was alive, and my sister's were very supportive and pushing for me to take care of me. Also, my workplace also has a Long Term Disability program, and I qualified for my country's disability program. Knowing my financial situation was going to remain stable until I was able to work again helped me take the leap and leave to take care of myself.It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make. It was life changing. I have spent many, many hours thinking I did the wrong thing. I know however, that I would not have survived had I stayed a week longer. I was too sick.
That was in early 2003. Five and a half years later I still struggle with wanting to work, but slowly I am learning to believe I am building a life that is better for me. I would never have discovered my love for art, or that I could draw, let alone that I was a good drawing instructor. I would never have learned that I loved to paint. Had I not made the decision to leave work I know I would either be dead, or even more severely depressed than I have been (I cannot imagine what that would look like?).
The pressures and responsibilities of work were incompatible with working towards becoming more emotionally resilient. It took a long time for me to get beyond the loss of my work, I still have moments where I feel guilty about having to leave, but I know now, in my heart, it was the only decision I could have made. The dream I had a couple weeks ago: "The Wolf Returns" reinforced, I am hoping for good, that I made the right decision. The recent dream told me my old life is over. It has ended. It is time to look forward. The black wolf in the dream ended my old life. My new white puppy is the beginning of my new, improved, and desired life.
Until leaving work I have never, ever had the opportunity to learn what I loved to do, to actually decide what it is I want to do. Leaving work woke me up to a difficult and terrifying existential search; an existential journey that has challenged my inner being to the question "Who am I". I am not sure about that answer yet, but I know the answer is important to my well being. My leaving work allowed me the opportunity to move closer towards the discovery of who I am and who I am meant to be. These have been questions I have struggled with since I was a small girl. These are the most important questions in my life and I know the answers will be the biggest catalysts towards wellness I will ever achieve.
Sara, I hope you are able to take care of you better than I was able to take care of me. Your health is more important than any job in the world. Without your health you have nothing. That much I know.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I sat down this a.m and thought about what I eat. It is disgustingly unhealthy, and has been that way for months now, and off and on since I became depressed this time.
I am having trouble eating properly. My fatigue and apathy, coupled with an inability to motivate myself (amotivation); even when I feel okay, but worse when I do not, makes it next to impossible to shop for food, cook, and eat anything but the simplest thing to grab.
I know how to eat well. I used to absolutely love to cook incredibly fanciful, healthy and yummy food. Not anymore. For a while this summer my husband was helping me by offering to cook, but now he just says we can take care of ourselves.
So I thought about what I ate yesterday and it really is worse than I thought:
Yesterday I ate:
- coffee (with milk and sugar)
- pumpkin spice muffin I bought from the coffee place
- a pepperoni stick
- two slices of cheese
- three scrambled eggs
- and...I am ashamed of my drinking, so this is hard to say...a 3 oz. martini
- a handful of chocolate covered almonds
The day before I ate:
- bowl of raisin bran
- milk (for the cereal)
- a handful of blueberries(in the cereal)
- pepperoni stick
- 3 slices of a tomato
- 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
- 3 slices of pork (1.5 inches squared each)...husband made that and the potatoes)
- 3 (very large) handfuls of salt and vinegar potato chips
- 2 handfuls of chocolate covered almonds
- a 3 oz. martini
The day before that...I have no idea what I ate, but it was no better. At the very least I will try hard to remember to take my magic multivitamins.
Yesterday, as I tried to sleep, my puppy would curl up beside me on the bed. The bad thoughts would come. I tried really hard to speak lovingly to my puppy, tell him how much I loved him, pet him, feel how soft and velvety his floppy ears feel, sense the warmness of him laying next to me. I tried every time the thoughts came to fill my mind with thoughts of love, and caring, but the thoughts both wouldn't go away, and then began to challenge me:
Why didn't you get your oldest niece to call 911? The police would have stopped the dog attack?
Why didn't you take a stick and poke the attacking dog/s in the eyes, or ears, or some other vulnerable place? That would have stopped the attack.
Why didn't you run up to the house and grab the axe? Why didn't you hit the attackers with the axe? That would have stopped the attack.
Honestly, even if I had the presence of mind to think of those things during the attack, I do not think I could have maimed or hurt the attackers. I didn't want the dogs hurt, I just wanted the attack to stop. I couldn't have killed, or maimed them, anymore than I could permanently harm a human. When I was hitting them, and throwing rocks at them I was trying to stun them, or distract them so they let go of the puppy.
Yet beyond the initial playback of the attack, over and over in my mind, is the feeling and playback of criticisms in my head that I did not do enough to protect and help the puppy; that as a caregiver I did not live up to my responsibilities to protect my sister's children and her dogs.
Some of it was my fear. The dogs were huge and powerful Husky/Akita/Wolf cross dogs weighing appox. 150 lbs each. Also, the fence where the attack was taking place was short...only 4 feet tall. The dogs were almost as tall. I was scared they would jump the fence and attack me, or grab me if I tried to go into their yard and haul them off the puppy. My first thought should have been to protect the ones in my care. I should have done more.
I think the thoughts keep coming, because in my life I never have been afraid of dogs. I always felt I would be in charge if a dog became vicious. I had been around large police dogs my whole life. There was a sense of complete panic and helplessness during the attack that I cannot get over. It has affected my sense that I have the ability to protect my puppy. I love him so much I feel terror that I might lose him because of a mistake I might make.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I wish I were more controlled, or focused in my sessions. I feel like sometimes I try to address to much and end up addressing nothing in depth. To mix my metaphors, it is like I tell Dr. X about all the all the leaves of a tree, when I should be focused on one branch, get that out of the way and move to the next branch. How do you do that when so many things impact your daily living? Fifty minutes feels like enough time to lay everything out, but not enough time to work through things.
I'm being really negative because I feel that way right now, but Dr. X and I did work on a few things that I hope I can get over.
1) One thing that we talked about, and I think will help me is troubles I have been having with intense "flashbacks", "reenactments" or "reliving" my sister's puppy being attacked last year. I will be holding my puppy, who, by the way, I have become intensely loving towards and bonded too. I hold him, and the whole dog attack scenario comes back to me.
I hear the awful "screaming" puppy sounds and the raging barking of her helpless dog companion. I feel like I'm in the mud with my soaked sock feet. I can smell the musty smell of mossy wood dirt and dog shit everywhere. I am on my knees and they are caked and soaked in that muddy stench.
I am holding the back end of the puppy, praying the huge dogs will let go of her neck and for an instant, stop pulling her through the wires of the fence. I hold her haunches and tug a bit, so if the dogs let go I can pull her quickly back through the fence. I feel terror in me that the dogs are going to rip her head of, right in front of me. I stop pulling, because that is all I see.
I pick up massive boulders, as heavy as I can lift, I've been fighting for almost 10 minutes right now, and the puppy is getting weak. I can see here being dragged farther and farther through the fence, but she is still fighting. I know, if she stop fighting, her muscles will relax and the giant
dogs will rip her through the hole in the fence.
I hear children screaming and turn to see my little nieces running towards the attack. I am intensely scared the large dogs will be triggered by the little children running and jump the 4
foot fence and chase the kids. I am also afraid the kids will be traumatized if they see what is happening to their small puppy. They are half way down the hill screaming at me, asking what is happening. I turn around and scream at them as loudly as I can: "get back in the house, lock the door and do not go near the windows. Do not open the door until I ask you to".
I know the patio doors are easily pushed open if not locked. I am afraid those big dogs will head towards the house and the children. My nieces are scared and crying, they run back to the house. I don't know what else to do. I have to save the dog, and protect the kids.
I lift the boulder above my head and I lob it as hard as I can at the male dog who is clamped down, biting on the scruff of the puppiy's neck and trying to drag her through the fence. The heavy boulder hits his skull, but he doesn't even flinch. The giant dogs are in a frenzy. I can't stop them from trying to kill the puppy. I have been hitting them over and over with boulders and giant sticks; trying to make them stop, much of the time I am down at the fence trying to stop this awful attack
I feel weak. My adrenaline is there, but it seems to be fighting against me now. I can't think anymore. I don't know what to do. I can't think of how else to help the puppy. I give up; collapsing on the ground. Suddenly, the owner of the big dogs comes around he corner and calls off her dogs.
The puppy collapses. Her blood is everywhere. She can't move and I am so exhausted. She weighs about 30-40 lbs. I pick her up and start running up the hill with her, towards the house. I collapse at the bottom of the stairs. She is too heavy for me. I am too tired. Even when she is out of the jaws of the dogs I feel helpless I am going to let her die.
I get a burst of energy and pick her up and bring her into the house. Blood is dripping everywhere. I don't know what to do. My nieces, 4 and 7, who I am babysitting, are screaming in horror. I don't want them to see all the blood. I want them to believe the puppy will be okay. I put the puppy in the mudroom and shut the door, call the vet, tell them I have an emergency, the vet was about to leave for the day, but her and her assistant wait for us to come. What do I do with the kids? How am I going to explain this to my sister?
I call my sister, who is skiing, I tell her what happened. Someone knocks at the door. It is the big dog's owner. She asks if I want her to stay with the kids. My sister says that is okay and that she will meet me in town at the vets.
I pick the puppy up. She is in extreme shock. She is still bleeding. For some reason I don't have the brains to wrap her neck in a towel, or try somehow to stop the bleeding. All I can think is get to the vet, get to the vet, get to the vet.
I only have my sister's brand new car. Oh God now what do I do? There will be blood everywhere. I throw an old blanket in the back seat and pray she will just lay there. The fucking cars on the highway are going so slow and every single light in town is red. The dog is going to die. I am not going to get it to the vet. It will die before I can get there. I am so scared.
I manage to get her to the vet. She is almost dead. I watch as the vet tries to stabilize her and I can't stop weeping and bawling, and shaking.I am so frightened. Within minutes my sister shows up.
I am so ashamed that I let this happen, that I wasn't able to stop the attack, that I didn't notice it happening for at least 2-3 minutes before I intervened. I heard the weird dog sounds in the yard, but I thought it was her and her brother playing, until I looked through the balcony doors and saw the neighbours dogs attacking her.
I hold my new puppy, who is the same breed of dog, but a bit smaller than my sister's puppy was then, and this whole scenario keeps playing and slipping into my mind. I am terrified something will happen to him, something I won't be able to stop, or save him from.
Dr. X. and I discussed this today. He said I may not be able to stop the thoughts, but maybe I can bring more welcome, or nicer thoughts into the times these thoughts start happening. Thoughts like how adorable the puppy is, how much I love him and care for him, etc. I am going to try to do that. It sounds like a reasonable and perhaps an easier way to stop the awful thoughts than trying to force them out of my mind.
2) Take vitamins. No potato chips and cocoa beans are not
vegetables. My food intake is really, really awful right now. Pepperoni and
cheese for dinner. Prepackaged food, kraft dinner, no veggies.
"I take too many pills", I protest.
"You need to take more", is his response. "I will get you some samples".
"but I have all the vitamins at home and don't take them".
"These ones are from me", he says.
I understand, things from him have magical qualities. I accept them and say thank you.
3) I tell Dr. X. I dread leaving the house. I dread going anywhere. Even my friend I saw yesterday, who I really like, until I actually saw her it seemed like so much effort to leave the house and do something. Once I saw her I enjoyed myself.
Dr. X: "Do you dread coming here?"
Me: (in my head thinking I look forward to coming here. In fact, I can't wait for my session most weeks. Often it seems like Thursday will never come soon enough), but I don't express exactly how important my sessions are to me, because that seems sick and twisted. Instead I say " "No, I don't dread coming here. I look forward to my sessions. You are the one person I feel really understands me".
I do feel like it is weird how much I value my sessions. Like there is something pathological in how attached I feel to Dr X. He is so important to me that I cannot even express it in words. On Thursdays I know that for 50 minutes I can be exactly who and how I am at any given moment and still feel respected and cared for. That's what it is. It's very close to the way I felt about being with my Mom when she was alive: accepted, cared for, valued, in spite of my all my problems
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I am so tired, fatigued, apathetic and sleepy. All I want to do is sleep.
Sleep to hide.
Sleep to avoid.
Sleep so life goes by faster.
Sleep is that purgatory like state; neither alive or dead, somewhere in between, waiting
I'm so tired I cannot cook.
I am so tired I cannot even plan to cook...or clean, or stay out of my pajamas, or have the desire to do anything.
I am so tired I cannot even eat anything that is not either prepared for me, or comes out of a bag or a can.
I am tired and fatigued, but ironically I cannot sleep half the time.
I dread going out, even though once I am out I am glad I made the effort...like today.
I spend hours dreading my obligations, yet manage when I get out and do them.
I spent $4000 in the last 3 weeks, so I must have done something, yet I cannot remember what.
How do you spend money you do not have on things you do not need, or even remember purchasing? How is that possible?
I just want to sleep.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This morning I replied to "S" that there is hope. A few ays ago I wrote about my new found discovery that hope exists. For some reason this afternoon that all seems to have dissipated.
I feel exhausted. I have a class to teach I am dreading going to. I have slept for the last two hours. Hoping the day would disappear.
Yesterday my Uncle (on my Dad's side) brought the last of my Grandma and Grandpa's friends still alive out to see me. They were my grandparents closest friends and I have fond memories of them. We had a very short, but good visit. It was good to see them, and nice of my Uncle to bring them to my city to see me.
However, as he left he rejected a hug I tried to give him, while U was saying thank you,to him. To top it off his last words to me were, "Don't work too hard".
He knows I am not working. In fact two weeks ago I sort of "came out" to my aunt and uncle about having panic and anxiety problems...though I never mentioned that was why I didn't work. The day before yesterday I told my cousin I had a mental illness and explained a bit more to her.
We had planned for my Cousins and Aunt and Uncle and my G'mas friends to get together, but only my uncle and G'ma's friends showed up. I think it is because they see me as a loser now. I believe my Uncle's comments were meant to hurt me. He is an intelligent man . There is no way he could not have understood that what he was saying was sarcastic, and that I would feel hurt by that.
So right now I feel like a loser for not working. I feel like he saw me as completely able to work; like he was testing my comments that I have a difficult time in big social gatherings, because I declined to go to my cousin's wedding due to my social anxiety.
Yesterday we were at the casino, but it isn't social gatherings where I don't have to interact with a large number of people I fear. It is gatherings where I hardly know anyone and am expected to be social. I'm usually fine with a small group, or somewhere with lots of people where there is no expectation I interact with anyone.
Anyways, maybe there is hope, but it waxes and wanes with both my mood state and my resiliency around rejection and authority figures. I am crying right now. I really hate this illness. I do not want to go to my class. I feal really stressed out about it. So "S" if my note this morning sounded too optimistic...right now I'm taking it back.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
It is coming up on the 7th "anniversary" of my having my first scheduled visit with Dr. X. "Officially" this MDE has been 7 years of chronic major depression as of August this year. Unofficially I'd say longer than that. Since at least 1999 I have been almost always depressed except for a one or two months. Before that I have had MDE's continuously off and on since I was 16 or 17. Between some I had one or two years of feeling good, but as the years have gone on there has been shorter and shorter times of feeling well/good between episodes.
This episode has been, by far, the worst. Not necessarily in terms of how bad the symptoms were, because in 1988 or 89 I had a 3 or 4 month depressive episode that was similar in terms of symptoms. It has been the sheer length AND severity of symptoms combined that until recently, completely enveloped me and stole me from my life.
As I approached 1 year in the MDE I couldn't believe the tenacity of my symptoms. Two years and I was completely overwhelmed, hopeless and distraught. Three years and I was certain I was going to kill myself, because I would always feel this way. 4, 5 and 6 years the same thing. Everyday felt like the only thing I could do was survive.
I would become so annoyed, and sometimes to the point of feeling enrage by the comment "Depression is a treatable illness". I felt like: Fuck you it is!! That's bullshit! What about the 10-20% of us who do not seem to respond to medications or other treatments.
No matter what I tried, or how hard I tried to get better, I seemed to sink further and further into the hell that was my depressed life. Honestly, I think the harder I struggled AGAINST it, the worse it got. I would repeat over and over to myself, "I am NOT this person. This is NOT me."
It is. It is me. I have a chronic mental illness. I can try all I want, but I cannot make it go away. That would be like wishing away heart disease, or diabetes, or whatever physical illness you can think of.
People often say "You are not your illness". I always found that trite and unhelpful. When you are depressed you are consumed with your illness. It makes you stop going out, stop eating, or eating to0 much. It jams its way between you and your partner. It takes over your thoughts and replaces them with often obsessive, violent and/or intricately detailed thoughts of exactly how you are going to kill yourself and make your hell end. Depression takes you away from your friends. It turns you into a pariah. It insists you never try anything, because you will fail. It tells you things are hopeless and that you will always feel this way.
When severely depressed you ARE your illness. It chains you to an agonizing life I would not wish on my worst enemy.
So, over the last 7 years I have obsessively read self help books, blogs, and any article I could find anywhere about depression; hoping I would find the secret to getting out of this way of living. I survived only because I had a pdoc who never gave up on me, who never once seemed overwhelmed, or discouraged. I am sure he must have been discouraged with my inability to make progress, or my lack of progress, but not once did he ever let me see that. He always provided(and provides me with hope). I so desperately needed hope, and the more I trusted him, the more I began to believe his hope was realistic.
So now I notice my mood is beginning to lift. Honestly, I am in shock that this is happening. I cannot believe I am changing before my eyes.
That's where I find myself becoming the person who always annoyed me. I am becoming the person that believes either that depression is treatable, or that it is self-limiting and eventually each episode ends. I am beginning to really believe (not just hope) that a combo of medications can be found for even the toughest of depressions. Oh my God....I am actually becoming optimistic...That, I absolutely am astounded by.
I am not well yet. In fact I am not certain I will ever return to the "well" I knew before. I am changed by my experiences with depression and anxiety. I am beginning to believe that, though my life will be different from well, it might be a better life. I cannot explain it, but it is as though the depression informed me, albeit in an extremely roundabout, and horrifying way, that my life needed changing. I'm not sure if the change is helping me, or the medicine, or my therapy. It is probably a combination of all of these.
Whatever it is. I hope it sticks around and I have hope that it will.
Friday, September 19, 2008
From my perspective it is better, and more manageable, to begin to set clear boundaries and expectations with a puppy who is 22.5 lbs, than to try to get an 80lb dog to change it's behaviour, or do what you want it to do
When I say "authoritarian"...I don't mean my Dad style, scare the crap out of you so you never make a mistake type treatment. That kept me in line while my Dad was watching, or if there was a possibility I would get caught, but left with difficult to control wild streak the second I left home.
With my puppy I am setting clear boundaries and using praise, not punishment, and a few other techniques that really work. I believe in the idea that dogs are pack animals and still maintain many of the behaviours of pack animals. In keeping with that I believe every pack has a leader, its Alpha dog. The job of the Alpha is to protect the pack and ensure it continues to exist and flourish. That's my job
It is up to me to establish my being the Alpha while little puppy is still a little puppy vs. a big dog . I do not want an 80lb boxer trying to become the head of our pack. My husband really should be second in line...but he is not being as consistent as I think he needs to be
Anyways, I have had the puppy a week and he is smart with a streak of stubbornness in him, but here are some tricks I've learned...and it really works. (I got some of these out of the "Puppies for Dummies" book...you know those yellow and black books that teach you all kinds of things. Some of these books are very good (the drawing one is great) and they are easy to read if you have difficulty reading, or with concentration, because you can just read snippets of sections to get really clear ideas. Other things I learned from my Dad when he trained and worked with police dogs
First thing that is going well. I have established a "potty" place and am teaching him to pee/poo on command. He pretty much has it down. I just repeat, go pee, or go poo...and the important thing...do not look at them, ignore them while you say it...as soon as I stopped looking at him ...he began to go. The idea is that an Alpha would not keep looking back on the pack. They LEAD the pack. This idea is great because it is easy to cleanup after the dog
Second thing I have taught him...and he's REALLY good at it, is to heel. I immediately insisted the puppy either walk behind me or directly to the left of me. if he tries to move ahead I just give him a bit of a quick tug, reposition him and walk a bit faster. Within two days he was walking slack leashed beside or behind me MOST of the time...a few little hierarchy takeover attempts, but a polite correction by me and a hug and "good boy" when he gets back into formation and we are off again
The other thing I learned about this behaviour is that if you walk ahead with confidence, even continuing walking if they sit down, they catch up quickly, because they want to be near you...so just keep walking if they stop and they will follow
The coolest thing is that today, because he was so good at heeling I took out my bike and taught him how to run beside me on my bike through the blueberry field. We did a few slowish, short runs, because young puppies shouldn't be exercised to much, but he was awesome at it. We had great fun.
I am teaching him to sit when a car comes in the driveway, and when someone approaches us. Both for the safety of the dog, but also for the people. There is nothing I hate more than an adult dog who jumps up on you when they greet you. 20lb puppy...sort of cute jumping up to say hello...80lb dog doing the same thing a disaster waiting to happen
All the stuff I am teaching him are like games to him. He's sucking it all up like a sponge and loves the attention he gets when he "gets" a command.
Lastly, one of the first things I read was to introduce your puppy to as many sounds: loud, shrill, sharp, annoying etc, as you can before they are 16 weeks. So I have been doing that in the house with the vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer, mixer, etc.
I learned yesterday that if your puppy is scared of a noise, or scared of something the last thing you are supposed to do is bend down, pet the dog, make eye contact and reassure him. (Which is definitely what you have the urge to do...i.e."Oh poor puppy, its okay" ) This places you (in the dogs eyes) in a subordinate position, where now it's his job to protect you. It can lead to a over protective dog, which can lead to aggressive behaviour.
Instead, you are supposed to pull the dog on the lead closer to you. Place the puppy between your legs, hold them slightly tight between your legs (this reassures them that you will protect them...like an Alpha would), stand tall, remain calm and say good boy/girl in a calm, firm voice, while the noise or thing scaring him goes on.
I was skeptical of this one, but today when I took my bike out it needed to be washed (I haven't ridden it in years years..argh! The noise of the power hose spray freaked the puppy out, so I left the hose on, went over to him and put him between my legs, stood tall, no eye contact, acting like the noise was not significant. He immediately sat down. I returned to hosing of my bike and he sat there super calm, no longer afraid of the noise.
It happened again when I took out the air compressor to pump up my tires. I did the same thing and "voila" he could have cared less about the sound after that.
This whole post does actually have something to do with my mood disorder, or at least some of the symptoms and behaviours I have that feed my depression. One of them is difficulty being an authority figure. I am always afraid I will be rejected, or not cared for, or thought as mean, or uncaring. Afraid I will be unloved. This has greatly affected me in the jobs I have had, because each promotion brought on more 'authority" which to be became synonymous with stress and isolation.
The interesting thing Dr. X. pointed out was that this puppy training is great behavioural therapy for me to practice being the authority figure in a way that is loving and respectful, but also ensures I get what I am requesting and still remain cared for.
He's right. In one week I have taught the puppy a lot, but he has taught me that he loves me even more when he knows what is expected of him.
Oh yeah...note to self: the bike ride and running made for a much calmer dog this evening. Keep this up. We both need the exercise.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
It doesn't matter what the situation is only that I was able to talk really openly about what I was feeling, and how I was trying to manage the hurt. I asked Dr. X to be really open and honest with me about my communication style. I wanted to hear if I'm doing something wrong.
Often I will ask things like that and I will get positive reinforcement and then I just chalk that positive reinforcement up to his being my pdoc, my therapist, my coach, etc.. I often think he is saying nice things just to help build my self-esteem.
It did not feel like that today. I asked him if he was just saying what he said and, (like always when I ask that question), he said he would tell me the truth and be honest. Usually I am suspicious about this being the case. I never felt that today. I felt like he was a friend willing to tell me both my positive traits, but also my faults, or where I could improve. It felt good to trust.
I now believe he will always be honest. Something about the session today made me BELIEVE that, not just hear it. I like that. I want a straight up relationship. I cannot heal if I fear I am being lied to, either explicitly, or by omission. I cannot change my behaviours if I fear I am being placated, rather than honoured with the truth; even if the truth is difficult to hear.
I need to know myself. Sometimes it takes an other's eyes and ears to help me see that self. I need to understanding clearly, who I am, and how my being the way I am impacts others. I want to improve my communication skills so my social anxiety will lessen. I want to move through this life in in a loving and caring manner, but I also need to learn to say no when I have to in order to care for myself.
Anyways, today was a great session. I feel blessed to be able to continue seeing Dr. X. I hope in my life I can find a job where I am both gifted at what I do and enjoy what I do. From my experiences with Dr. X. I believe he is blessed with those two things. I know that finding a meaningful job, one that I am good at and where I feel can make a difference to someone else, would bring me to that state of being too. I am praying for that day to come. That will be the day I am well.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I don't get it. I can think of the object, know what the object is, know exactly how to describe...EXCEPT I cannot remember the word for it. I feel like an idiot. Especially given my vocabulary is usually fairly vibrant and descriptive.
Anyways, I am tired and it is only 2:0pm. I have been tired since I woke up. Note to self: next term teach only one class. Two classes to teach is too much for me, especially with "the cutest puppy from hell" to take care of.
This morning before I left for class I was trying to stop the puppy from eating the cat litter (GROSS!), chasing him as he unravelled xmas ribbon all over the house. As soon as I grabbed the green ribbon he is off again and when I find him he is unravelling the silver ribbon. So I take that away, and find him back at the kitty litter...(BLECK!)
All the while I am trying to get ready to go to do my volunteering and I still have to walk him. So I walk him, come back in the house and begin brushing my teeth. There my puppy is walking proudly out of the bedroom dragging a huge swath of fabric from a box under the shelf.
I take that away from him and then he grabs some felt from a different box. Finally I place him in his crate for an hour so I can leave and my husband will come get him when he's done cutting flowers.
I get home from my class and in the hour he was in his crate he shredded his dog mattress and there is fluffy stuffing EVERYWHERE. He is so cute...but I am getting close to my breaking point. How will I manage another 2-3 years of chasing him around the house trying to stop him from eating everything he comes in contact with. I need to "puppify" my whole house and I can barely keep my house up as it is.
I knew puppies were work, but this? and it has only been a week. Help! I want my Mommy! She always seemed to know how to handle this stuff.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Part of it is the puppy, but I wasn't sleeping even before I knew of or brought the puppy home. Unfortunately, it's not that, "I feel so happy/wired I can't sleep". The kind that happens when my mood shoots up.
No, this sleep is my old, "I have a millions ruminations going through my head and my mind won't shut up, so I can't sleep" insomnia.
Today was my first day teaching a "Teen Group" at the Art Clubhouse. It was during the hours I regularly take a nap 4-6/7. I was so tired, until I began and then my enthusiasm and energy kicked in. Thank god. The class was really good and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I also have a really great helper...which makes such a difference...YAY!
I see so many improvements in my life over the past few months. Actually, I look back, and even before any medication helped me I now recognize that I have been slowly improving over the past few years. The problem is the lability in my mood is such that when I feel good I feel I will always be perfectly well, but when I crash I feel like I am never going to be well.
I am trying really hard to accept I have a mental illness; to say to myself, "My fatigue is a symptom (of the medicine or the illness...who knows), my memory problems, concentration and word finding problems. my sleeplessness and sleepiness...they are all symptoms. Are these better than wanting to die all the time? Yes.
So life is improving, but I am trying to allow myself to accept that life has changed dramatically for me, and needs to change even more for me to become "well" (whatever that means). I am a different person because of the experiences with depression and anxiety I have gone through over the years. My functioning is different than it was. That is hard to accept.
I truly believe my old life is gone. I think my last wolf dream told me that, but my new life is just beginning and hopefully despite the side effects/residual symptoms it will be a life worth living.
I may fall into a depression again, but I think I have some skills now that I didn't have before, and I have a pdoc I trust and know is right for me. I know he will help me even if I get fully well and become sick later on. I also am working hard at integrating myself into a community that matters to me.
So I'm sickly tired, but I am much better off than I was. My being able to say that proves the point. I think my Mom sent me my new puppy as a symbol of the beginning of my new life. The black wolf killed the old me, and the white dog will protect and help the new me grow.
I say my Mom instigated the change, because my puppy came from a breeder named "Casamoonen". Casa means house...I see the name as "house of the moon". My sisters and I all decided when my mom died she became the moon. (which is full tonight by the way). Every night I step outside and see the moon and say hello to my Mom. My new puppy was sent to me by her. I believe that. He is a messenger sent to help me with my transition into my new life.
It is strange how I get sent all these messages in dreams, in life, in everything around me. Does this happen to others? Do you get sent messages that you feel compelled to heed or follow? It happens too often for me to ignore.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Then in high school I lost too many friends to count mostly through them drinking and driving. I had a best friend die from a shotgun wound one night after we had been at a party together. Then, at 17, I was in a really bad car accident. One of my best friends was driving and a drunk driver went through a stop sign at 60MPH (approx 100Km/hr).
My friend ended up in a coma for weeks and had a severe brain injury from the crash. I still hear the sound of a gigantic tin can collapsing and buckling when I think of the crash. Our car bent almost entirely in half from the impact, trapping my friend in the car. I remember the driver of the car that hit us crying over top of me, reeking like alcohol, saying he didn't mean to do it. He was sorry. It was too late for that.
I was in shock, trying o get my friend out of the car, seeing she was barely alive and injured myself, I was frantic. When the police came I just kept saying over and over again, " I want my Dad, get me my Dad". Who is your Dad?, the police officer asked. Staff Sgt. X I replied. He looked sad, scared and shocked at the reply. It is strange how my Dad was the one who hurt me the most, but he was the only one I knew would protect me too.
I do not understand that dynamic. How can someone be both the terrorizer and the protector? The dismissive bully much of the time, but the one I turned too when I was really in trouble?
The ambulance came and I was still hysterical, because my friend was still trapped in the car. I didn't know if she was alive and no one would tell me anything. They strapped me into the ambulance gurney and at that moment I think I heard God say everything would be alright. I was sure it was God, and I calmed down immediately. I still wonder if I halucinated God.
I suppose "alright" is a relative term. My friend survived the crash and came out of her coma, but she was a completely different person. She began having massive mood swings and personality changes from the trauma to her brain. She was never able to graduate high school, or work again. That accident changed me in a way that is difficult to explain.
I think it was the culmination of so much loss over a short period of time; 3 friends dying in a car crash, a best friend shot and killed and then another best friend changed by less than a second of poor driver judgement. I became angrier, wilder, took risks that I would never have done prior to those things happening. Then my Dad left my Mom and I lost it.
That is when rage set in. I was enraged, not by his leaving, but by his untruthfulness and his unwillingness to explain himself to his family. I was enraged that he could just leave us so easily without an explanation. How could he be a family member for so long and then suddenly decide not to be without any acknowledgement as to what the rest of the family felt about it?
That was all a long time ago. I don't know why I still feel so much anger. I have been trying to think all day about why I become so angry now, as an adult. I feel hurt and annoyed by somethings my Dad foes now...but mostly we are seperate people living seperate lives. I will never be close to him. I get that, but something insde me wants so bad to have him say he loves me and cares about me. I feel angry that will never happen.
I realize today that all my anger comes from expectations. I expected more of myself in life, more of my Dad, more out of life. I didn't expect to be stopped in my career tracks by this illness, or end up on disability, or afraid of my own shadow. I always expected I would be strong and powerful. I expected to be good at what I did.
Buddhism talks about letting go of expectations, wants, desires. In letting go of these our anger should melt. I am not a material person. I do not need much, but I still believe if I care for, respect and love others, as a human being I deserve to be cared for and respected and loved in return.
Today I was thinking I need to learn that life is not fair, that bad things happen to you, even if you are a good person and that all those stupid platitudes, like the harder you work the better off you will be, or the more you give, the more you get, were written by people who were probably just as worried as me about ending up nowhere an nobody in life. That is really scary.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Please welcome the newest member of my family into our community:
...drum roll please...
My new puppy is 12 weeks old and he is at my sister's now. She says he is a great puppy; calm, sweet and well behaved (we will see how long that lasts!!). My nieces have been walking him around on a leash, He slept through the night. Wow this might be easier than I thought??? (Probably not!) I pick him up on Tuesday.
Please welcome my adorable puppy into my community of friends.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
On Thursday night, for some reason, I tucked the box filled with Bert's ashes into bed with me. I miss him so much. The next day, on Friday night my sister phoned and said here was a male white boxer puppy for sale by her house. I called and today my sister picked up my new family member; a 12 week old purebred white boxer with black freckles on his pink belly and a few in his ears. I am going up to my sister's on Tuesday/Wednesday to pick him up.
It seems like messages were sent to me on Thursday, I needed an new loving companion. I was meant to have this puppy. My sister says he is adorable, beautiful, very mellow and well mannered already. I can't believe I'm doing this. I knew I wanted a boxer, but I have been trying to find an adult to adopt.
I'm a new Mom!!!! I am so excited. As soon as I get home I will post a picture of him. I hope I have the energy and patience for training such an energetic dog...I'm pretty sure I do.
Friday, September 05, 2008
There. I said it. I AM ANGRY! In fact I am so angry I am afraid of it. Dr. X. likens it to a wolf. He says I know the anger of the wolf. I have even been involved in trying to stop an attack by two dogs who were part wolf.
Problem is, during that attack there was nothing I could do. the vicious attack proceeded no matter how hard I tried to stop them from killing my sister's dog.
You can beat the wolf, scream at it, throw massive rocks at its head, but a raging wolf, a wolf that is purely thinking with its evolutionary brain will never stop attacking once the pack mentality sets in. I literally tried to beat the wolf-dogs with giant sticks...over and over and over. Nothing stops a wolf attack once it has begun.
Before I experienced that I always thought I could protect myself from a dog or large animal attack. I better understand that no matter that I am bigger or even stronger, than the attacking animal, if they are intent on a kill I am helpless. They have the evolutionary advantage. They know what to lunge for, how to corner their prey, and how to cut off any means of escape. That is what wolves do.
In actuality, I love wolves. I don't think I would be afraid of one if I saw it in the woods. I suspect they wold be more afraid of me. It is the wolves in my head I am afraid of. The relentless, angry wolves that I try so hard to hold back. I am afraid I have my Dad's rage in me. The rage comes from a sense of helplessness and loss of control.
When I was young and my Dad would hit me, or belittle me, or dismiss me, if it had been relentless over a short period of time I would become enraged inside. I absolutely could not become enraged at my Dad. He would have hurt me even more. He used to say he'd stop hitting me as soon as I stopped crying.
So I would leave go to my room and bang my head against the wall as hard as I could...over and over and over. I was so angry with myself for not standing up to my Dad, for not calling him on his bullying behaviour, for not being able to stop him. I couldn't rebuke him, so I punished myself for not standing up to him.
I am embarrassed to say I still do that sometimes when I feel raging angry, helpless and without control. The problem is now I have added suicidal thoughts and plans to the punishment regiment.
When I was a kid hitting my head against the wall, finally I would stop crying, because the physical pain overpowered the emotional pain. I think that is what happens now when I begin to obsessively think of suicide when I am enraged. The thoughts are so violent, like banging my head, that they actually calm me down. I don't want to die, I just want the pain to be over.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Warning: Violent suicidal imagery: may trigger (Please read this first)
I saw Dr. X this morning. I really needed someone to talk to. Until a few days ago I was feeling really good. I felt on track, I was feeling confident I could accept the chronicity and cycling of my mood disorder. I was feeling like I was on the right path, and then something happened.
Something happened that at first made me really irritated and annoyed, and then as I thought more about it I became enraged at how I felt I was treated, and am periodically treated by someone I care deeply for.
Anyways, it doesn't matter what the thing that happened was. What happened was how I later reacted to it. My rage grew so big that I began having suicidal thoughts; violent rage-filled suicidal thoughts. I began thinking of stabbing myself in the chest over and over again so the anger would end, of beating my head until it stopped, of hanging myself, of shooting myself in the head to stop the rage.
Dr. X. and I talked about why I was having such violent thoughts.
- First, they were just thoughts. I had no plans to do any of those things. I just couldn't get the thoughts out of my head. So they were obsessive thoughts, thoughts invading my mind.
- Second, they all seemed to be about my finding the fastest way to get rid of my anger. All of the "ways" of committing suicide that invaded my head would result in fairly instant death...and a complete end to the anger.
- Third, I think they were akin to "cutting"...the more the thoughts came the more calm I became. It was like the thoughts themselves were like my cutting myself to get rid of the pain.
Dr. X was pretty straight forward (well sort of) today about how much anger I have inside me. He seemed to be trying to say it in a roundabout way, so I am not 100% sure what he was saying, but I think he was saying anger is a big part of my depression. We have talked a lot about the anger inside me throughout the years, but I don't think he's ever really said that to me before.
Other therapists have told me my depression is anger turned inwards. I agree I do have some of that happening...but that is too simplistic. I think Dr. X's approach is less dogmatic than that. He recognises there are definitely some biological and genetic components to my depression and that the environmental/psychosocial components are more complex than that. Plus, I am not always angry...but I am usually depressed.
I wish Dr. X would say exactly what he is thinking sometimes, instead of "couching" information in mysterious ways. I think he was saying I need to address my anger. I agree I do feel angry about some things. I told him I am angry my Mom died, I am angry my Dad is an ass, I am angry I lost my job to depression, I am angry I have been anxious and depressed for so long. Who wouldn't be?
I don't think I am usually angry though. In fact, I rarely express anger towards other people. (Maybe my husband...poor guy he gets the brunt of it...but not for no reason most of the time). I am not a confrontational person, generally I am diplomatic and I always am respectful to others even if I am mad at them. For example, I have never ever been disrespectful towards my father, no matter how much he irritates me. He is still my father and I respect that.
I think when I feel well I am not angry. Dr. X says I am a bit wild, suggesting maybe I am feel pent up and that is causing me to be angry.
I do often feel like I am held back, or hold myself back, or pent up; kind of like a Mustang used to running free, who suddenly becomes bridled, broken and locked up in a corral. My corral is my anxiety, that stops me from working towards my dreams (actually it stops me from even dreaming about what I could do) and what I really want to do. The other "corral" is my depression that makes me feel less than capable, or helpless, or that change and choice is hopeless in my situation.
I think I am working hard and making huge strides towards changing and working through and with my depression and anxiety. I am trying so hard to change. I am not sure how to address my anger in a constructive way. I don't want to be mad at people, or get angry when it is not reasonable.
Plus, in the initial situation I alluded to ANYONE would have become angry. I managed to stay calm during the incident. It was only afterwards that I became angry that I allowed myself to get caught in a situation like that. That was when I got angry. I got angry because I felt both taken advantage of, disrespected and treated like my caring about someone was a bad thing.
I think I will need to address anger again in my session next week, because other than me somehow getting my anger out of me, I'm not really sure what Dr. X was trying to tell me.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
There are so many aspects of "creating a community" that are helping me and, I think can help others who are having difficulty with their mental illness, gain some hope. I think some of the most important points in the previous post "Creating a Community for Myself: My Path towards Resiliency" are:
1. That my illness has been refractory to all treatments and has been severe (I hope that will help others in similar situations see it is possible to begin the healing process, even if other treatments aren't working). It is not as though I had/have an easy illness to treat or help. I know when I was/am really ill I get really annoyed when people, whose illnesses seemed less aggressive than mine, wrote uplifting pieces about how they "healed" themselves. I never felt they spoke to me. I wanted others to see it is possible to really be struggling with symptoms and, with enough of the right support and structures in place, still manage to help themselves.
2. That I had to try many things and make many attempts before I began to feel comfortable and confident. Creating a community has not been easy and has been fraught with setbacks...but with the support of my psychiatrist, and finally the community I fit into, I have been able to keep trying.
3. That external motivation was one of the most important forces that helped me succeed. I didn't succeed because of will power. I succeeded because I had responsibilities, schedules, expectations and tons and tons of non-judgemental support , from my pdoc, my new found community, the Occupational Therapist who believed in me and took me on as an apprentice.
4. That there is a sense of spiritual connection and personal feelings of being valued that helps one begin the healing process when they find, accept , create and become involved in, the community that is right for them.
I am not saying this discovery has "cured me", or "healed me"...but it is definitely increasing my quality of life and my ability, and desire to live with, and in spite of, my mental illness and its disabling symptoms.