Thursday, July 31, 2008

Death Anxiety

Aqua, "Destination Unknown" (linocut 1/5) 2007

Me: (Among a list of other things) "I have been sleeping a lot. I'm not sure if it's because I am tired or I just can't face doing things. I feel like I just don't want to do anything, or I have too much to get done and it's overwhelming. I can't face all the things I have to do, so all I want to do is sleep."

Dr. X: "Tell me your list of things you want to accomplish."

Me: (Completely misinterpreting "why" he is asking this question, because all I am worried about is losing him) "Why? Is this so if I need to be seen by someone else they will have a list of all the things I need to work on? So, they will know what I need to address in therapy?"

Dr. X: (Looking really perplexed, but trying hard to hide that) "No, you just said you were sleeping a lot to avoid things, or because you were avoiding getting things done. I was wondering what those things were."

Me: "Oh! Getting a job!"

Dr. X.: "You have a job. (referring to my volunteer work)"

Me: "I mean a job where I get paid; where I stop being a drain on the social services system; where I can take care of myself; where I don't rely on anyone else. All I ever heard from my Dad when I was growing up was how awful "those" people were (Hippies, the unemployed, anyone who wasn't working and paying there own way, anyone who needed help from anyone else). I have internalized my Dad. On top of that all I'm hearing from him and my one sister right now is do more and you will feel better, or (from my Dad) Why don't you get a job? A "real" job. Get it together."

Dr. X. "You are working at a real job. The system sets it up so you cannot win one way or the other. Maybe the Art Clubhouse should pay you a higher wage, so it would be seen more as work and more valuable by you and by others, where it could help support you. The big thing here though is your internalization of your Dad's criticism."

Me: (Feeling cared for and supported by Dr. X, but dejected; like I will never be a valuable human being). "I know. I am doing things that are important to me. If I worked for $10/hr doing something I felt was meaningless or purposeless I know I'd be even more depressed. I just never thought I would end up like this. I always thought I would move up the ladder in life (always moving forward, getting better jobs, getting ahead). I never expected to be on disability, to not be working, or to be unwell. I always thought I would do something with my life."

Dr. X: Silent (His specialty: a safe, reflective he is when he waits for me to figure out for myself that I am not thinking clearly)

Me: "I guess it is like the print I made for you last year..."Destination Unknown". (Thinking to myself how making that print for Dr. X may have been eerily full of the bizarre sense of magical foresight I seem to have sometimes. I made it to represent my struggle and how it is taking me in directions I never expected; and often didn't want, to go, but he clearly sits on that same bus with me now...that I never expected).

I was driven to make that print for him. I felt I had to give it to him. I messed it up so many times and did it over and over until it came out right. An intense dream created the metaphor of a bus taking me in an unexpected direction; I added the Raven; a trickster figure. He is devising, overseeing and fully intending whatever outcome occurs.

None of us knows which way our lives are headed. None of us can foresee the outcome. We are all on that bus whose destination is unknown. That scares the hell out of me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fear of Loss

I have written about this two or three times over the past few weeks, but each time I have removed the posts or portions of the posts that refer to my pdoc disclosing he is unwell. Each time I wrote about it, afterwards I felt I was being unfaithful, traitorous, untrustworthy, or unsupportive of him. I felt afraid that my apprehension and fear about him being unwell was both unhelpful to him, and proof that I am selfish in my fear.

I need to write about it though because I am terrified and extremely worried for both of us and it is really affecting me.

I am very concerned for Dr. X. He told me he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He needed to disclose this too me, because MS can be unpredictable and there may be (and lately have been) times when he needs to be away from work. I need to know why. I need to know it is not me when he calls and says he cannot meet for our appointments.

When faced with this kind of information my first reaction is to inform myself about what the information means. MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. It breaks down the myelin that acts as a protective coating for the central nervous system. It causes lesions in the white matter of the brain (an effect of the breakdown in patches of myelin). From what I have read MS can be a very difficult illness to manage.

Some people may have very few symptoms for long periods of time and then become ill for periods of time. Some people have minimal symptoms and some have very difficult symptoms to manage. It seems the disease's symptoms are very individuated to each person.

Symptoms can include (but may not include, or may minimally include): Vision, balance and short term memory problems, bladder an bowel problems, incoordination and muscle stiffness and sometimes paralysis and severe fatigue.

From what I understand there are four subtypes of MS:

Relapsing & Remitting MS; a type of MS where the person has times of relapse into the illness and then the symptoms remit for periods of time,
Benign MS: (unsure), but I think this is where the person with MS has minimal symptoms and years after they have been diagnosed they are still functioning very well
Progressive MS, which includes two sub-types:
Primary - Progressive MS- People with this form of MS have symptoms that continually worsen, with no relapses.
Secondary Progressive MS - This version starts out as a relapse and remitting pattern and eventually becomes unremitting with a continual gradual worsening of the conditions symptoms

That is the "education" aspect of my fear, then comes the sense of intense and deep sadness for my pdoc. He is so young (younger than me). Has a family, is so active and seemed so healthy. He is generally a "blank page" to me. He rarely talks about himself or anything personal. However, from meeting with him and talking with him I know a bit of what he is like.

He is extremely intellectual, well read, and I see an intense desire for him to learn and understand everything he comes across. I worry that MS will affect his ability to enjoy intellectual undertakings, like reading and remembering, in the way my depression and maybe also, the medications I take, have pretty much destroyed my ability to read, remember, follow any book that is more difficult than a newspaper.

Short term memory problems can really be a huge barrier to being able to follow plot lines, or in the case of academic articles, scientific information. Not being able to read has caused an intense sense of loss in me. I hope Dr. X's MS does not affect him in this way. I also know he plays the piano, and is very physically active. I pray he is able to continue these pursuits. I am really worried for him.

Now comes the really selfish part. I am really worried for me too. A huge part of me wishes I could magically become better so I did not need his support. I want so badly to be better for him, so he had one less thing to worry about. I understand how a chronic illness can impact your life. I recognize that at some point he may have to use what energy and good days he has to take care of himself and his family. Even though I completely understand how his need to make himself and his health and well being need to be the most important thing in his life, I am terrified he will leave work. I am so scared I will never see him again. I feel afraid losing him will be a loss in the way losing my Mom was a loss.

I have never met anyone like him. I know that without him I would never have survived these past 6.5 years. I recognize I am stronger now, but I am certain there is no person on earth I could connect with, open up too, and be as honest and open as I am with him.

He gets me, like I know no other pdoc ever would or could. He understands my lifelong search for meaning and purpose. He always gives me the sense that I am a normal human being, with intense, yet not strange or unordinary struggles, without my feeling dismissed or misunderstood. He understands how important my dreams and their symbolism are to me and my life, how much value I place on my struggle to create, expand and relay my search for meaning to others and how important my working towards a purposeful life is to my well being. He gets me.

I am so afraid I will have to start from scratch with someone else; that I simply will not connect to a new person, that I will need to spend this long learning to trust someone else, Most of all I am so scared I will lose my connection to someone who is as important to me as someone in my family. Even if he needs to leave work to take care of himself. I am terrified of the sense of loss I would feel if I could never see him again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kicking and Fighting

I have never been one to accept that I have limitations. I think part of that has been helpful in my struggle with Major Depressive Disorder and it's partner "Anxiety". However, I also understand that fighting against my depression and anxiety; not accepting I have an illness, has hindered my becoming well.

Some of you may think; "what the hell, she talks about it in her profile and in all her posts. How can she possibly suggest she does not "accept" her illness. It is strange.

I can say it: "I have a mental illness. I am depressed and anxious. My life has changed dramatically because of these"

I can comprehend it: "Some people have a combination of psychological, physiological (AKA biological) and genetic factors that may predisposition them towards having a mental illness.

I can see how I may have been affected by all three: "I have numerous people in my family with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, I was a child who was predisposed to worry about everything from a very young age. I had numerous incidents while growing up that very negatively affected my mental well being."

I can see I need help: For years, off and on I have sought help via therapy. For the past 6.5 years I have received weekly therapy and been willing to try every medication on the planet to try to make myself feel better. I know something is not right. I know I have had times in my life where I feel like a completely different person.

The trouble is I kick and fight all the way. I cannot shake the feeling that this is all my fault; that had I lived my life differently, or made better choices I would not be in this predicament; that somehow I am different from all the other people I know who have mental illnesses. I can understand their illness is not their fault. I can see there is an outside force "making" them have their difficulties. I cannot accept the same for me.

I often wonder if the medications and the therapy don't work, because I am not depressed. I am not mentally ill. I am simply stubborn and lost. I hate who I am, and I feel like I made myself this way.

For instance, my fatigue: Every time I talk with my sister about it she says, "I find that the more I do, the more energy I have". She tries to get me to do more to feel less tired, but I cannot bring myself to do more. This feels like a personal flaw; if I really wanted to get better I would swim, and exercise, and clean the house, and make dinner, and have a shower, and do all the things that a healthy person does.

If I really wanted to get better I would take that 6 grams of salmon oil religiously everyday. I would take a multivitamin and B-Complex vitamin everyday like my pdoc suggests. Who cares if it means I have to take 8 more pills on top of the 10 other pills I already take throughout the day. Who cares if I keep forgetting. If I really wanted to get well I would find a way to remember.

If I could accept I had a mental illness; not just say it, or understand what that is, but really accept that some of what goes on in my head and with my body is out of my control I think I might begin to let go and to get better.

If I could stop fighting against the suicidal ideation, the self loathing, the anxiety, the intense fatigue, the amotivation, the absolute terror and fear of being left alone, or being embarrassed, or being rejected; if I could accept these are symptoms I cannot control, I might be able to relax and stop trying so hard to get rid of them. Ironically this might be the path to them leaving me.

I need to find it within myself to ACCEPT I can do what I can and I can try to do things. I can hang on, and survive, but I cannot CONTROL all my symptoms. I need to learn that have an illness where what you can and cannot control is ambiguous. I need to believe that I am trying as hard as I can to get better, and that is all anyone wants me to do.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I am at my sister's. She lives about 250 km from me, in the town my Mom used to live in before she died. I used to come to this town all the time, but since Mom died it is almost impossible for me to come here. It feels empty and I feel alone and sad, even when surrounded by the family I love.

Yesterday I drove to the house my Mom used to live in. I haven't been there since she passed away. I pulled over at the side of the road across from her house and sobbed. I am crying right now. The loss of my Mom and how it has affected me is impossible to relay. I loved her more than anything in the world and three years after her death I am still having a really difficult time accepting I will never see her again.

I have been at my sister's for a few days now. I love my sister and her kids so much, but I feel more alone with them, than I do when I am alone at home. We rarely talk about Mom, and I feel like my presence is a reminder to her of our loss, and her presence is a reminder to me of that loss. I just want to go home, but I have to go to a family wedding today.

I am dreading it, in the same way I dreaded that party two weeks ago. I already feel dissociative and I'm not even there yet. I am exhausted and afraid of all the people I will have to be someone else for. All I want to do is go back to bed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Outing" Myself

I was wondering what other people do in terms of having a mental illness and how much or how little information they reveal about themselves to other people.

In particular "The Silent Voices in My Mind" made a comment on my "Fatigue and Depression" post about how her kids do not understand how, sometimes, it takes too much energy to talk on the phone.

First SV I want you to know you are not alone. I rarely answer the phone for the exact same reason, and calling people who have left messages for me is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I think I almost have a phobia of the phone.

I explained to my nieces this weekend that I have a mental illness. One of my sisters has told her kids, and I have mentioned it in passing to the other two before, but this weekend they all saw that I was taking pills morning, afternoon and night and they outright asked me what I was doing. (gotta love the curious and unafraid to ask anything aspect of kids)

So I sat down and I told them:

Me: "Auntie Aqua takes medicine because she has a mental illness".

Them: "What's that?"

Me: (unsure exactly how to explain it). "It means I have an illness in my brain that makes me feel really sad all the time. The illness makes me really tired and afraid to do or try things most people would not be afraid of. It makes me think sad thoughts."

Them: "WHAT???"

Me: "Well, are you ever sad sometimes? Or are you ever really scared of things?"

Them: "Yes."

Me: "When you feel like that is it because something makes you sad, like when someone hurts your feelings, or when you can't do something you want to do. Or, when you feel scared is it because something scared you?

Them: "Yes"

Me: "What happens when the thing that scared you or made you sad goes away?"

Them: "We are happy, or not scared anymore"

Me: "Well, your Auntie feels sad and scared most of the time, for no reason. I take medicine to help me feel less afraid, to help me sleep and to help me feel happy like you"

Them: "That doesn't make any sense"

Me: "My mental illness, a sickness inside my brain, makes me sad and scared. Something inside my brain makes me feel that way. I don't know why, it just does"

Them: "Ohh"....and then they all run off to play.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

C.T. Scan Results

Re: my Post about going in for a C.A.T. was actually a CT scan (not sure what the difference is but nothing showed up on it. I asked Dr. X. what they would have been looking for. He said tumours, signs of brain damage etc. So I guess my increasing word finding, mixing up words and memory problems are either related to being depressed, or they are side effects of my medicine.

I do feel like I am far more confused and having more memory retrieval and word retrieval and word mix-up problems than ever before. It is so frustrating.

Fatigue and Depression

How can I love my nieces so much, yet feel relief that they have gone home? I am exhausted. I feel physically sick and I am so tired. It is not a sleepy tired, but a feeling like my whole body can hardly move. I'm shuffling my feet an just sitting here staring off into space: wasted.

Fatigue and exhaustion are a huge part of my depressive symptoms. I can be up, really up if I have to be; like with my nieces, but the cost is huge. As soon as the occasion for which I need to be strong, up and projecting a happy me is over I feel almost like I am going to collapse.

I was severely depressed (as part of this MDE) for the two years before I left work. I worked as a facilitator/teacher/program development specialist for a large corporation. My job was high paced, challenging and full of social contact via courses, classes, management training, management of a training team etc.

I would cry all the way to work, stand at the crosswalk thinking intensely about stepping in front of the oncoming bus, visualize myself hanging myself in the handicapped washroom; and then step into my work building and be "on", bright, happy, outgoing, welcoming, caring, kind etc, etc. towards every single person I met.

When I left for the night I could barely open the door to leave the building. I was that exhausted. I would get in my car and speed as fast as I could, praying my car would lose control and I would die. I would get home and hit my head over and over and over. I was so angry with myself for being unable to extricate myself from a job that, while I was that depressed, was literally going to kill me.

I still have the same patterns. I cannot help but make myself into the "happy" person I believe others need me to be when I am around them. The trouble is it takes so much energy to be that person that when I leave the scenario/person to go home I want to throw up I feel so tired.

I think what I do is called a "reactive mood". From what I understand it, and the fatigue, are markers of a subtype of depression called "Atypical Depression", along with other symptoms I have like eating more and gaining weight when depressed (vs. the person who stops eating when depressed) and wanting to sleep much more.

Fatigue was the reason I sought help from my family doctor. It is always the first thing that happens when a depressive episode sets in; and that, and a decrease in eating are the first things to go when the MDE begins to wane.

Despite my medications lifting my mood enough for me to manage a bit better, the side effects of the medicines are keeping me fatigued. I also am still having huge problems with mood lability and the "reactive mood--->fatigue" cycle.

My nieces are so beautiful and soul enhancing, but I made the right decision to not have children. You would not believe how much I love and adore my nieces. However, if I had to take care of children 24/7 I am certain I would die of exhaustion. I also made the decision to not have children because my family has multiple people in it who have bipolar disorder, or major depression, or anxiety/panic problems. I seem to be a mixture of all three and I just could not bear passing these on to another human being.

I am certainly not saying people with mental illnesses should not have children. I marvel at the love and attention many of my friends with these illnesses are able to provide their kids. I am just saying for me, I could not manage that responsibility, no matter how much I loved my kids. I can barely take care of myself much of the time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Lovely Munchkins

I have these 4 beautiful munchkins (AKA neices) staying with me for 5 days so I will be off showing them the city and enjoying their company. We are going to the folk festival and Science World, and swimming, ad to Grouse I probably won't have time to write here until they have gone home...wish me luck! I might need it;>)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Metaphors that have helped me Cope with Suicidal Thoughts

Recently, I have had numerous (different) people Google my blog over the past couple weeks by the search words "I want to die", or "I wish I would die", "I want to die, help me". I have those feelings and thoughts a lot of the time.

I worry for the people who are looking for help so I will share a few bits of wisdom my pdoc has shared with me. This is not a preachy post, or a post telling anyone to do anything other than that which they choose. This post is just me expressing some things that have helped me. Maybe they can help you too.

In my experience, once I get through the obsessive suicidal thoughts, either by talking openly with my pdoc about them, or by wrapping myself in a blanket and hanging on for dear life, the power of the feelings over me usually fades. I cannot say the feelings ever really go away, but I try hard to survive them.

I was just reading something my pdoc wrote about how he likes to use metaphors in his practice to help his patients. He does, and his metaphors stick with me. With his use of metaphors and similes he is really good at making something insurmountable seem possible. I have shared some of these before, but I'd like to share them all together:

1) Think of yourself being on a well built, strong and sturdy ship. The wind and the waves are trying to force the ship off course. They are howling and waves are sweeping over the bow. These external forces are trying to sink the ship, to drown you. During these times it is your job to hold onto the rudder and steer. You can't stop the wind and waves, but you have some control over where the ship goes. (I almost always think of this when my depression is threatening to kill me with suicidal thoughts. It is all I can do sometimes to hang on, but I do)

2) I often feel like I am making no progress, like I am doing the same behaviours over and over and over. Like my cycling mood keeps repeating and repeating itself. Dr. X. used the metaphor of a piece of classical music (or any music really). As the movements progress there is repetition, but each time it repeats there are subtle, sometimes barely recognizable changes, until finally the piece reaches it's crescendo and the repetition becomes a glorious change.

I really like this metaphor. To think of my life as a piece of slowly changing music is a beautiful thing. If I look at my diaries from 2001 I have made enormous changes, but if you asked me on any given day I might say I will never change. My perspective is skewed while I'm in the middle of a depressive episode. I cannot see that the many subtle changes become huge change over time.

3) "Be like a tree". In this simile Dr. X. explained to me that there is nothing within the tree that sucks the life sustaining moisture out of the ground and up into every tip of every branch. He said it is the presence of an external pressure that lifts water to each of the trees branches: Evaporation. Evaporation lifts the water out of the ground and up through the tree.

He tells me this so I recognize that we all need external help to keep going sometimes. Modern psychology seems to tell us we should all be able to stand on our own, that the push to succeed, or to become well ,must come from inside ourselves. I don't think this is true. Neither does Dr. X. We are born into society as social animals. We rely on social networks and others to help us do some of the things we do.

In this simile he is helping me recognize that asking for help is not a bad thing, but an ordinary act of an ordinary person. Maybe it means I need a personal trainer to help me get to the gym, or maybe the regular appointments I keep with Dr. X. are there to help keep me on track. Maybe by scheduling myself to do things at a specific time everyday I am provided with enough of an external structure to both get me going and keep me going.

External structure and external support systems, like a set coffee time with a friend, or volunteering responsibilities, or a daily time set aside to meditate, or go for a walk, might be like the evaporation helping the tree. External structure and a small amount of external pressure might help us regain and sustain activity and maintain our growth.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The I Need a Little More Levity Meme

I have been having a rough I am going to try to make myself laugh and/or think happy or silly thoughts and remember strange or bizarre times that made me go "huh? I'm making up my own Meme (Where does that word come from anyways??? I always thought it was an anthropological term for symbols used in cultures...Note to self: must look up).

Please...If you decide to do the meme let me know so I can peek on your blog.
hopefully I wll find out more about a few of my fellow/fella bloggers AND make them laugh along the way...Here I go:

My Levity Meme:

1) What is the strangest thing someone has ever said to you?
I walked out of a really sad pdoc appointment into the sunshine. A man approached me and with the sun behind him I could not see his features, but he looked like those iconic paintings of jesus, with the glow of light around his head. He looked directly at me and said: "God says everything will be allright" and then he disappeared. I started to cry, it felt intensely spiritual.

2) If your friends had to describe you what would they say?
I have a kind heart, but it is easily broken. I laugh easily, but cry easily too. I want so much to love, but am afraid to trust. I care so deeply, yet feel so alone. I am loyal.

3) Name 5 of the stupidest things you have ever done. (This should be easy for me)

1) Run across the ice at a charity Curling event. While doing so clipped the foot holds, managed to catch my balance, but was going so fast I hurdled towards the lane dividers, tripped and broke both my elbows on the ice
2) At University was invited to become an honours student in Sociology and declined. I was more interested in Philosophy. To this day I wonder if I had chosen Sociology would I have gone on to become an academic, something I always wanted?
3) Try on a pair of leather pants in high school. I was really skinny, but not skinny enough, and when I bent down to pick up my shirt my kneecap had nowhere to go but sideways. I tore all the ligaments in my was agonizing and embarrassing as when I was trying to get an ambulance the store clerk kept yelling that I was not leaving with those pants on (WTF?) I couldn't get my knee back in its socket.
4) When I was a naive 18 I got in a car with a stranger who offered me a ride home from the pub. He was an older man, and seemed trustworthy. He dropped my friend off and then proceeded out of town to the top of the mountain where I lived. In the middle of nowhere he pulled the car over and asked me what I would do if he raped me. I was terrified, but scared the crap out of him when I told him in gruesome details exactly how, if he hurt me, I would ensure he never was able to do that to anyone again.
5) Smoked a joint in high school at noon hour (well maybe more than one), started literally hallucinating in my french class. Went out into the hall and the walls were coming down on me. I slipped and broke my leg really badly when I was freaking out in the bathroom. Note to self: Pot is not good for me...I'm not saying its not okay for others, but I seem to have the opposite reaction than everyone I know)

4) What was the first thing you heard this morning?
This is funny: "Want a lollipop?" (My husband as he rolled over and asked for a ...(well you know). (blush;>)

5) When you were a kid, what was your "ideal" day? Get on my bike early in the morning, take off with my friends for a hike into the forest for a picnic and then go to the swimming pool from 1-4 and swim in the sunshine all day, go home for dinner and then head back to the pool for swim team practice.

6) What was the best concert you ever saw?
"Butthole Surfers", with "Jane's Addiction" as the opening act. I'd never even heard of Jane's Addiction. They were so amazing. The more fun I had, the more I began to drink. The alcohol fueled the wild woman in me (what some pdoc's have told me is manic). I became wild and started making out with the stranger behind me, everything seemed so surreal and perfect. Then I got a beer bottle broken over my head by some rowdy out of control drunk (hey at least I'm into love when I'm drunk)...and I never even noticed I was having such a good time.

7) If you could have decided to be anyone in the world (living or deceased), who would you have choosen to be?
This is hard. I was thinking Ghandi, or the Dali Lama, but more than anything I would want to consistently be ME...but the well me. The me who believes she can do anything. The me who is afraid of nothing, who in fact loves to take risks. The me who loves a challenge and gets excited by new things. The me who loves people and feels loved and cared for by others.

8) Sex? or Chocolate?
How about sex with choclate on top?

9) What is the strangest/most bizarre thing you have ever seen? When I was a kid I had a really wild imagination. I was reading "Amityville Horror" and had just got to the part where the house shuts of all the sounds of all these murders taking place in the house; makes it so no one outside can hear the screams coming from the house.

I went to bed and put the book outside the backdoor (in my mind all horror books had to leave the house at night...don't OCD thing). I closed my eyes to go to sleep and when I opened them I saw Satan on my ceiling: clear as day.

I began to scream and scream to my mom and dad for help (they were in the bedroom above mine), but as loud as I was screaming, no one came to help me for what seemed like forever. I thought my room had shut my screams out like the house in the book I was reading. Suddenly my Dad appeared and was screaming: "What the hell is going on in here?" Satan disappeared and I've never seen him since.

I was obsessed with God/Satan, Heaven/Hell as a kid and wouldn't sleep most nights because I worried so much about what I had done wrong. My family wasn't very religious, so I am not sure why I was so crazy insane about it...anyways I probably imagined the whole thing, but to his day I vividly remember SEEING Satan...not just imagining him.

10) If you were the first to meet a friendly alien what would you tell them about our planet and its inhabitants?
Run for your lives! You don't have a hope in hell of surviving here. We are all about to destroy ourselves. Maybe come back when we are gone.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Outside the Circle

I went to a big party on Thursday. First, I hate big gatherings. Something about them always send me into a dissociative state. Actually I know exactly what it is about them that sends me both metaphorically, and in my mind, literally, out of the room during these occasions: Social Anxiety.

If you met me one on one, in person, your first reaction would be that I am outgoing and social, you may even find me interesting, because I keep up on day to day issues, am well read, educated, talkative, a good conversationalist, caring, kind and interested in your stories. You would believe I had the ability to talk to anyone, because I am usually really good at projecting that persona and, to tell you the truth, I usually can talk to anyone for brief periods of time.

I say usually, because often I approach a social gathering and I feel like I am not really there. It feels like I am sitting on the outside looking in. At these times, even when I am talking to someone I get the impression that the conversation could be carried on without me, and that others are being dismissive, or rejecting me, or that I am brutally uninteresting and my conversation skills have disappeared.

At the party the other day the whole time I felt like an outsider looking in. Some of it may have been the people at the party, but most of it was me. It was a birthday party for one of our friends, who happens to be one of the wealthiest people in this city. His house is a 13000 (yes thousand) square foot heritage home on an acre and a half lot in the exclusive area of the city. Our friends are beautiful people. They are involved in tons of charitable work and do so much for so many organizations here. I really care for them and when I am at there house for a small dinner party I always enjoy their company.

Thursday was different. The guest list was filled with some of the most elite, powerful and wealthiest people in the city. And there I was, no job, no money and a chronic mental illness; feeling like the prospects for my future were slim. It is not the lack of money that made me feel like an outsider, but the lack of a life that felt worthy of being there.

I tried to make conversations with numerous people, and of course the first question out of people's mouths is always, "what do you do"? I decided before the party that I was going to say I taught art classes, which is sort of true. I do volunteer to do that 3 hours a week.

So a party goer would start talking to me, ask me what I did. I would say I teach drawing classes. They would then ask where. I was stupidly unprepared for this question, but impulsively decided to tell the truth. "I teach art at a clubhouse for people with mental illnesses". I may as well have said I have a mental illness. The conversations became stilted and always ended abruptly.

One person asked me where I taught classes and I told them. They said "oh I do work for the Boys and Girls club in that area. I asked him what kind of work he did for the club. He looked at me like I was out of my mind to not know who he was and haughtily said, "I don't WORK there, I am on the board of Directors". He then promptly turned away from me and began talking to someone else. After sitting there staring at their backs while they exclude me from their conversation I finally got up and left the area. I felt like a pariah.

So I spent the rest of the party sitting by myself, having anxiety attacks and just waiting until it felt like I had put in a reasonable amount of "face" time. At 10:00 I excused myself, thanked the hosts and got in my car. I burst out into tears. All I ever want is to feel accepted for who I am.

I can't tell you how many times at that party I just got up and went and sat in the bathroom to get away from the feeling that I was a complete outsider; to feel some relief from an intense, shameful shyness and sensitivity that was making it impossible to interact. The more scared and alone I felt, the more I began having dissociation and feelings of depersonalization.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I am Blessed

All I have to say today is that I have the best psychiatrist on this whole planet He is absolutely unbelieveably consistently supportive. He is so important to me, and it is clear he cares so much for me. I honestly cannot imagine meeting a pdoc I feel more confident in, trust and care for more than Dr. X. Something cosmicly perfect was in the air the day he and I met. We were meant to be patient and doctor. Our session today was heartbreaking, but soul defining.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Life Not Worth Living

I don't know about all the medications I am on. I feel like stopping everything and seeing what I'm like for "real". I do not see the medications consistently helping me. I felt a surge of okay to good mood for the first while on Prozac, but for the last couple months my mood has been all over the map...up, down, really down, down even farther and up again.

I would have to say my mood overall (in the last 3-4 months) is better than it was before the Prozac and Valium and Tegretol and Dexedrine, but is It good? No way. It is not good. It is still mostly very, very bad.

I do not think of suicide almost everday like I did before, but I still have days and sometimes more where I think suicide is the only choice. Where I dream about how to do it, how to make my life finally end.

I still feel hopeless much of the time. I am so tired I am finding it almost impossible most days to get going. By that I mean the basics like having a shower, brushing my hair, getting dressed in anything other than sweatpants, leaving the house, painting, doing the dishes, cooking, cleaning, do my volunteer work(come on's less than 6 hours a week. How hard can that be? Anything beyond laying in bed, or surfing the internet seems like an impossibly difficult chore.

It is 3:54 and all I have I managed to do today is to get out of bed at 9:00, shower without washing my hair and get dressed at noon, play my guitar for 15 minutes and sit at the computer waiting for 4:00pm when I feel it is a reasonable time to have a nap.

I will nap until 6 or 7pm, not be able to cook dinner, but maybe manage to make myself a fruit/yougurt smoothie, watch t.v. for a couple hours and then feel like it's okay to go to bed and then it will all begin again tomorrow.

This is not a life worth living. This is waiting to die; waiting for it all to be over, waiting for an end to this search and struggle for purpose and meaning in a body that cannot find the will, the power, or the energy to create or develop that purpose and meaning.

In retrospect: Please read this

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What if my Depression Is Related to Physical Brain Trauma or Illness?

I am scheduled to undergo a C.A.T. scan of my brain(?) head(?) this Wednesday. I am having some strange problems along with my depression that are worrying me. I am concerned that concussions and head traumas I endured earlier in life may be responsible for both my ongoing, refractory depression and my recent concerns. Here is what I am experiencing:

1) Extreme word retrieval problems. Throughout the day, and almost every time I talk with someone I will go to say something and I cannot find the word or the thing. It is always a simple words I cannot find.

For example, in my session three weeks ago I was describing my learning blues guitar techniques and then how the teacher and I would play together, each listening to the other and making up music that went with the other's playing. There is a word for this. it is simple. As soon as I described it Dr. X. said the word. When I got home it was gone again. After a week of thinking about it it finally came to me a few days ago, and now, for the past 4 days I cannot find the word, even if I try concentrating on the definition for a long period of time. (it is not "accompaniment, or duo, or duet...but something that expresses the making up of the music as you go along...if you think you know the word PLEASE share it with's driving me mad)

2) Confusion/concentration/memory problems.
I feel a sense of being elsewhere (not dissociation) but confused easily by directions, where I am in my car, driving etc. I feel like I cannot stay on task for any length of time, my mind is constantly wandering from thing to thing. I put things down and can't find them a few minutes later. I walk into a room and cannot remember why I am there. I am putting things in strange places. The other day I was looking for the disinfectant wipes I keep on the kitchen counter. I had just used them. I looked everywhere; cupboards, bathroom, other room in the house..then 2 hours later I found them in the fridge of all places.

3) Saying strange things/speaking strangely.
  • My husband asked me why I wasn't watching T.V. I wanted to say "It's a commercial", instead what came out of my mouth was "It's a nude" was disconcerting.
  • Then that same day I tried to say something and I started to speak, but it came out as a stutter. I couldn't get it out. I've never stuttered before in my life.
  • Then last night I went to say "Turn it down" (the T.V.), but what came out was "make it soft."...which is sort of similar, but not what I meant to's like my brain is shuffling my words.

4) I am tripping and falling and bumping into things much more than usual.

I have fallen and hurt myself 3 times in the past two weeks, before that I almost fell through our front window and about a month and a half ago I fell all the way down my sister's staircase. I am tripping all the time.

On Thursday I told Dr. X about all the head injuries I have had. I am pretty sure I told him before, but he said I hadn't. I have had two confirmed concussions (once at 5 or 6) when I fell from a 12 step stair landing headfirst onto the pavement below, and then at 17 when I was in a really bad car accident.

Over and above that I have had to have stitches due to head injuries twice, once at 16 when I dove into the pool and hit my head on the lifeguard chair's diving ramp and the other when I fell headfirst off my bicycle. I hit my head on the side of the pool in a diving accident. I fell at the pool at the top of the water slide and knocked myself out for a few seconds; I incurred a compression fracture in my spine in that fall, I was bucked of a horse into the hole we had dug to build our new house, again landing head and arm first...and the last one I remember was rollerblading for the first time (and of course being an idiot with no feet went straight out from under me and I landed back of head first on the pavement. I ha a massive egg shaped swelling where I landed.

Anyways, I started thinking, what if my depression is caused by an undiagnosed brain injury. Does medication help if it is a brain injury that leads to mood disorders? (I know that can happen because the girl I was in the car accident with had severe mood changes and personality changes following the accident). I also am worried the problems I am having might indicate an illness above and beyond my depression.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

My BRAND NEW car!!!

This may appear to have nothing to do with my depression, but it is closely linked to my becoming more resilient. My new car symbolizes an increased desire to live. That may not make sense to anyone, but here's why I say that.

I have needed a new, or at least newer car, since I began seeing Dr. X. more than 6.5 years ago. The car I had was a 1986 car and always having problems. When my mom passed away Dr. X. and I discussed my getting a new/newer car. I refused as spending that amount of money, when I didn't think I was going to live much longer, did not make any sense to me. I did not want to spend money on a car when I could leave it to my husband instead. I did not want to live, and did not see myself in the future. Dr. X. and discussed this numerous times over the past couple years. He understood how symbolic a gesture it would be for me to buy a car.

On top of my not seeing myself existing in the future, I had intense panic and anxiety about going to the dealership, test driving cars, dealing with salesmen etc. Just thinking about trying to do that felt like an impossible task. These fears revolved around my difficulties dealing with men, anyone I saw as an "authority" figure, my fears of embarrassment and a million other fears. I would try to walk onto the car lot and then I would have to leave because I couldn't breathe, or felt like I was going to pass out with fear.

A month and a bit ago my sister came over and she helped me go look at cars and test drive a couple. It was easier with her there. She understood my fear and we had a plan to deal with the salespeople as a team, so I felt safer, protected, supported. I was inching my way towards getting a new car.

To push me a little closer towards a purchase I was about to lose access to the vehicle I was driving. For the past two years I had been borrowing my husband's truck (and he was driving my old car). Each year cars here are tested for carbon emissions; and this year there was absolutely no way my car was not going to pass aircare without expensive repairs to it's exhaust system. My husband wanted his truck back. We live on a farm and the only way to get off the farm is by car, there is no public transportation out here.

So, about three weeks ago, fueled by my fear I was going to get stuck on the farm forever, and the beauty of a pretty okay day (maybe fueled by a tiny bit more valium to calm be down), in terms of mood and anxiety, I called up the dealership and made arrangements to purchase a new car. It was an act towards deciding I was going to stick around for a while; that the car and the money I spent on it was not going to be wasted because I was going to be here to use that car.

Yesterday I bought and picked up my BRAND NEW car...just 3km on it when I drove it off the lot. I have never owned a new car before. I am very excited and I absolutely love it. Yay me!