*Warning: Could be potentially triggering to some*
This Thanksgiving weekend I have so much to be THANKFUL for and I am overwhelmed with such GRATITUDE right now from the outpouring of kindness and love and support that has been shown to me and my ENTIRE family in SO many DIFFERENT ways.
I am slowly learning to embrace the help I so desperately need right now and accept that it’s okay.
Sometimes it takes a village in order to do so.
But that’s okay too.
And by learning how to let go of one’s pride and embrace the kindness and love and support of so many wonderful friends, family and truly an entire village has aroused so many super important conversations over the past few days and it has also afforded me the privilege of making many new and some really special connections as well; it’s truly been such a HUGE BLESSING.
I am THANKFUL and overwhelmed with GRATITUDE.
As many of you probably know by now I have been doing all that I can to survive for weeks now and by Thursday evening I honestly felt like I was about to take my last breath.
The build up of everything I’d been feeling just became too much and I could no longer allow myself to be a burden anymore, to anyone.
I’d hit rock bottom.
After dinner as I began to spiral further I told Rich that I was cancelling the Ketamine treatment. I just wanted to die rather than live with the guilt I felt. I became angry, mostly at myself and then eventually inconsolable. Rich suggested he take me to the hospital. I gave it some thought for a moment but instead I turned around, went into my bathroom, closed the door behind me and sat on the floor in the dark, crying.
Rich came in and tried to console me. I asked him to please leave and let me be. He did as I asked, but not for long. When he returned again he found me still sitting on the floor, still crying, still in the dark but by now there was an open bottle of Tylenol on the counter and a pair of tweezers tightly clutched in my hand. I was desperate to find whatever means I could to end my pain once and for all.
As soon as Rich realized what was happening he grabbed the tweezers from my hand, picked me up off the floor and held me until I was calm enough to lay down and try and get some rest.
Thursday I’d hit rock bottom. Or so I thought. Then Friday morning arrived.
I went to sit outside on the front porch. It was 8 am. Rich followed me outside. It was decision day. My treatment had to be paid for in full by end of day. We spoke about what had transpired the evening before. For the first time in a very long time I understood that I truly couldn’t keep living like this, that WE couldn’t keep living like this and that my kids DEFINITELY didn’t deserve to live like this. We both knew that we had to find whatever means we could in order for me to do this treatment. We both felt so desperate. But suddenly for a brief moment I felt a sense of calm come over me and then Rich blurted out, “I lost my job yesterday and I haven’t been able to find the words to tell you”.
Fuck. Poof. Goodbye calm. Hello tornado.
But Rich wasn’t giving up; not on me, not on us and certainly not on our family. Nothing had changed for him in that moment. In his mind this was not going to be the end. It had to be the start of a new beginning. So he swallowed his pride, left his ego on our front porch and went to work creating a “Go Fund Me Page” to help us pay for the 6 initial treatments and for whatever other expenses we have been told by my Psychiatrist we are likely to incur over the coming months for the maintenance of treatment.
Today happens to be “World Mental Health Day” and it’s theme this year is “Mental Health in an unequal world.” This couldn’t be a more fitting theme given the unfair treatment gap, discrimination and many other barriers that so many people like myself face every day by not being able to have the same advantage or accessibility to affordable mental health care. We all deserve the same fighting chance.
But today, thanks to the kindness and love and support of my village, I have been given a fighting chance.
Today I am THANKFUL and overwhelmed with GRATITUDE.
Before I sat down to write this today I was planning on doing another Vlog. (Note: I actually wrote this and intended to post it yesterday before I found out that Facebook and Instagram had both crashed!). I thought I needed to maybe hear my own voice again today but I’m just too vulnerable right now and so I wrote my words out instead.
My Psychiatrist increased my new medication again late last week with the intent to get it to a therapeutic dose soon. It’s an anti-anxiety medication which I mentioned I would be starting a few weeks ago. As of yet I can’t say that it’s really been helping me. So for now I will just add it to the long list of failures.
Yesterday was a pretty bad day all around for me. My anxiety was very high which then turned to panic, crying, rumination and an increased amount of thoughts of death and dying.
As I also mentioned recently my Psychiatrist had put a plan together for me when we spoke a few weeks ago. It included this new anti-anxiety medication and it also included treatment for Ketamine…AGAIN which has been scheduled to start early next week.
So for those of you who don’t know what Ketamine is I will give you a quick explanation here. For starters, it’s actually a very potent and sometimes deadly street drug known as “Special K”. It is also apparently used as a horse tranquilizer but most commonly it is found in anesthetic.
I’m not gonna bore you or put you through a science class today but people living with Depression are known to have “abnormal brain plasticity”. Continued studies and research have shown that using Ketamine can help to remove the “negative receptors” in our brain and then it like “plants a seed” in your brain which allows for new “neuropathways” and positive neuroactivity to grow and flourish.
Studies have shown that by using Ketamine to treat Depression there has been a 60% success rate so far and unlike anti-depressants it is supposed to work faster and more effectively.
Now let me go back for a second here and explain (for those who may not already know) what I meant before when I said I am scheduled to begin Ketamine treatment…AGAIN.
Several years ago during an inpatient stay at Sunnybrook Hospital I was asked to take part in a Clinical Trial for Ketamine. I had never heard of it before but I was the perfect candidate though because it is used mostly on patients who suffer with Treatment Resistant Depression like I do. I happily and very naively agreed to try it. I figured I had nothing else to do seeing as I was in the hospital anyways.
I filled out a ton of paperwork, spoke in depth and several times with the Psychiatrist in charge of the study. I filled out many questionnaires with his Associates. After I was given approval to begin the study I was scheduled to start the 1st of 6 treatments the very next day.
They told me during the initial consult that the Ketamine would be administered through an IV and that I would have to lay there in the OR attached to an IV drip for 45 minutes and then kept for observation for another 30 minutes following. Before we began the process I asked the Anesthesiologist if I would feel anything. He said you may feel a bit woozy.
Well woozy was an understatement because for the next 45 minutes I lay on the cold table hallucinating, feeling disassociation and seeing psychedelic images flash before my eyes. It felt like a complete out of body experience with flashbacks as far back as my childhood.
I hated every bloody second of it and couldn’t wait for it to be over. The next day I met with the Psychiatrist to discuss how it went and we both agreed it was probably best that I don’t continue with the study. Another epic fail.
Now let’s fast forward to March of 2020. My current Psychiatrist happens to be the Medical Director of 2 Ketamine clinics in the GTA and has studied it’s effectiveness on Treatment Resistant Depression for several years now.
Back in February or March of 2020 (everything is kinda a blur now) we began another discussion surrounding Ketamine and he asked me if I would be willing to try it again as with more scientific research and studies conducted it was now available in a nose spray form. And less invasive.
He told me he would administer the 1st dose in his downtown office at the hospital he works out of to ensure I tolerate it and that the following 5 doses could be picked up at a local compounding pharmacy and be administered under the supervision of my husband in the comfort of my own home.
I agreed to try it AGAIN cause well, I try almost everything at least once when it’s come to my treatment or in this case twice.
We were scheduled to begin the 1st treatment on March 15th 2020 at 6:00 p.m. It never happened. And if you have been following my journey very recently I kinda just let things slide from there once the pandemic hit.
As most of you know though I reconnected with my Psychiatrist a few weeks ago at which time he told me that patients were no longer allowed to administer the nose spray at home. The whole idea had been kiboshed over the past year as research had shown that it was a liability and quite dangerous to do so. But I guess it’s OK because since March of 2020 Ketamine is now available in an even less invasive form, a pill which is dissolvable under the tongue but still can only be administered under the watchful eye of a doctor/nurse.
So I guess as they say, three times a charm as I have agreed to try it…AGAIN. The six sessions are to be completed at a clinic in Toronto (there is also a clinic in Mississauga too). Each session will take between 2 to 3 hours from start to finish to complete and I am not allowed to drive home afterwards. They actually recommend you don’t drive for 24 hours following. The sessions will take place twice a week for two weeks and once a week after that.
Although I’ve agreed to try it again given I feel like I’m running out of both viable options and steam, but I have been told by my doctor that I am very likely to still feel those same hallucinations and disassociative feelings that I don’t like. I’ve done many other treatments and have tried many hallucinogens over the last several years. I don’t like feeling as though I’m tripping out on LSD.
I’ve been consumed with very negative thoughts for several days now (surprise, surprise) since booking my treatment. I’m experiencing extreme anxiety and feelings of overwhelming guilt and lets not forget those feelings of being a burden that weigh me down too. I’m questioning my decision to do this again for many, like OH MY GOSH, too many reasons.
For one, it’s still very new and likely not to be a forever cure from what the current research shows. I will very likely need to continue on some type of maintenance program after the six sessions are done. But like how long term? And does anyone even know what the long term effects of it could be, especially cognitively. As it is, I did ECT (Electroconvulsive Treatment) several years back. Probably the most invasive and scariest treatment I’ve done. The eight treatments I did fucked me up royally. It fried my short term memory, my ability to recall many things and I find myself often forgetting what I was talking about mid…sentence.
But at the same time Psychedelics seem to be the wave of the future for treating mental illnesses and especially for people like myself who are treatment resistant. I’ve even tried “shrooms” in a pill form, but couldn’t tolerate the hallucinations it caused, although my Psychiatrist is also currently working on many new studies and its amazing effects on Treatment Resistant Depression as we speak.
I’ve tried so many different treatments over the past seven years and how I see it, I have failed them all, many of which have cost a shitload of money because they were not covered by either Ohip or insurance, Ketamine now included. I wish I could understand why if there is such a need for these treatments and Ketamine for one has one of the highest success rates among all treatments including anti-depressants then why has it not yet become part of the mainstream health care system so that more people can have access to it? I know, dumb question.
It’s an expensive treatment, especially if it becomes ongoing. It’s an expense we really can’t afford at the moment and just adds to the extraordinary guilt I already live with on a daily basis. The “what if” I’m not part of that 60% success rate, the “what if” yet another attempt fails and we throw away even more money that we don’t have. How can I live with that on my conscience?
The answer is, I can’t.
I’ve carried on and on AND on the last few days with all the other reasons as to why I also shouldn’t do it as well and feel like a burden yet again to my family by having to take me and sit with me for 2 to 3 hours (plus the 30 plus minute drive there and back) while I have my treatments.
These are very real struggles for me which of course my Psychiatrist tried to remind me the other day as I rambled on about all my reservations that I’m having that it’s my Depression talking and that my Anxiety is happily cheering him on. I can’t let them win.
But it’s so fucking hard though and the noises in my head are loud as hell. It’s literally killing me.
They keep telling me I don’t deserve to live a life free of chronic Depression, debilitating Anxiety and daily thoughts of Suicide. They keep telling me I’m just gonna fail at this attempt too. They keep telling me to give it up already and that I’ve already used up my many chances at recovery over and over AGAIN. Like why would this time be any different?
Thanks for listening to me today. I so appreciate the extra set of ears. Somedays the best medicine is just knowing that someone is there listening to my very real and terrifying emotions with only the purest of intent.
Today is the last day of September and today is also the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” which is a month long campaign used to raise awareness on this very stigmatized and still very taboo topic.
Although it may only be a month long campaign it doesn’t mean that it ends today. The conversation needs to continue each and every day.
We MUST continue to keep the conversation going.
We MUST continue to give hope to everyone affected by Suicide.
We MUST continue to educate others.
And we MUST ensure that ALL individuals, families and friends have the same accessibility to the necessary resources available to give us all a better understanding on how to prevent suicide and seek help.
I’m not okay.
I’m still having very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide. It consumes me.
I’m reminded each and every day by friends, loved ones, acquaintances and even strangers what life would be like for those I’d leave behind.
Trust me, I hear you. Your words echo in my head day and night. But sadly for many people suffering with a mental illness or suicidal ideations their pain can still become too much to bare.
One of those many reminders came to me recently by an old friend of mine who reached out to me to chat and I haven’t been able to get our conversation off my mind.
I was so honoured and grateful that she chose to share her overwhelming and very raw emotions with me as she tries to come to terms with the heart-wrenching grief and despair she’s been living with for months now after losing a loved one to suicide.
I could feel her disbelief, her numbness, her shock, her anger, her confusion, her rejection and her guilt all wrapped together as she desperately tries to begin her journey toward healing and acceptance.
The aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide and finding ways to cope with the sadness, the feelings of helplessness and the overwhelming consumption of what ifs or what more could I have done can be very triggering and both mentally and physically exhausting.
Just know that you are not alone.
Surround yourself with people who want to listen when you need to talk or who offer a shoulder to lean on when you just need to sit in silence.
Remember there is no “proper” way to grieve any loss, especially ones which are so sudden and without closure. Let healing happen at your own pace and in your own time.
Seek out others who may be experiencing similar grief. Sharing your story with people who truly understand your pain can often help bring strength to your healing process.
And lastly, find a mental health professional to guide you through your grief and help you adjust to life after suicide.
Yes, today may be the last day of September and the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” but today can not be the end to the conversation surrounding the many complexities of suicide.
Lets all make a promise to band together with more compassion and support to those who wake up each and every day battling very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide, show kindness and empathy to those who are left behind after a suicide occurs and help them in any way you can to honour the memory of their loved one who has lost their battle.
*visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information.
Many of you probably saw the pics I posted last night.
Our whole family out for dinner celebrating Rachel’s 19th birthday; the first time in a very long time.
Everyone smiling, laughing, eating, drinking, taking selfies and being present in the moment.
But the pictures didn’t capture everything. They just caught a glimpse of it.
What they didn’t capture was the very real and very painful reality of my illness. The reality and pain that follows me wherever I go no matter what the occasion is, especially lately.
My illness loves to suck the joy out of any occasion to be honest, even the happiest of ones.
By mid afternoon yesterday I could feel my anxiety becoming more and more intense and my sadness building deeper and deeper.
There was no reason for it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But my illness will tell you otherwise.
By the time we got to the restaurant and settled down at our table I had reached my breaking point. I was so completely overwhelmed with emotion.
Rich could see the build up happening from across the table but it was too late.
Just looking at the menu became incredibly burdensome.
There was nowhere for me to hide.
I did everything in my power to stop it from escalating into a full blown panic attack. I took several deep breaths. I reminded myself that everything was okay, that everyone was okay. I looked around the table and heard the sound of laughter. I noticed the biggest smile on my birthday girl’s face.
But none of that seemed to matter because moments later the panic erupted and before I knew it I was inconsolable. All eyes were suddenly on me.
My kids were left wishing they could somehow crawl under the table. I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world.
There was no reason for any of it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But for some reason my illness felt otherwise.
I spent this afternoon warding off a wicked headache while doing my best to relish in the final moments of my weekend “time-out”.
But when you live with Depression and Anxiety, often the simplest things or the simplest tasks feel way too overwhelming.
Most of the things I plan for in my week honestly never get done, even the ones which bring me joy.
Whether it be preparing a meal for my family, doing a load of laundry, a coffee break with a friend (I don’t actually drink coffee though) or making a quick trip to the grocery store has me crippled with fear.
I become paralyzed.
Frustrated, angry, anxious, sad.
I tell myself I will try again tomorrow.
I move things around on my calendar almost daily, even if it’s to remind myself to call a friend back who probably left me a message 3 days earlier.
I promise myself I will do it tomorrow for sure.
And then tomorrow comes and everything goes out the window once again and instead I end up reminding myself how worthless I am, how useless I am, how burdensome I am and how much better off everyone would be without me.
Today there are no scenic #summerofrich pictures of waterfalls or the beauty of nature to show off, instead today you are seeing a picture of me doing something else.
Something else that brings me as much joy as going for a hike in nature or taking in the beauty of a waterfall.
Something else that brings with it a sense of calm just like when I’m out exploring nature or taking in the beauty of a waterfall.
But I didn’t do it alone, I couldn’t do it alone as much as I’ve tried to for many weeks now. It’s paralyzing. It’s as though my car is paralyzed too.
Over the last few years reading has become an important part of my self-care regime and call me old-school but I much prefer to go to a bookstore than order a book online.
When I enter a bookstore I feel like the world around me is put on pause. I’m suddenly in a world of imagination and make believe. I can get completely lost in the moment as I slowly stroll up and down each aisle, sifting through the pages of someone else’s story.
I’m in survival mode right now but I promised myself yesterday that I would treat this weekend as a “time-out” so today Rich and I went on a 3 hour #summerofrich “Fall Edition” adventure chasing several waterfalls, hiking up and down very rocky terrain, jumping through huge puddles, wading in creeks, walking along muddy trails and enjoying the beautiful landscape, change of seasons and the quiet and calm that surrounded us (except for maybe when we encountered 2 individuals who were wearing bright orange reflector vests and carrying a rifle).
We completed about 10 kms of the 28,000 km Trans Canada Trail which stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Artic Ocean. Only 27,990 km left to go!
We made it back to our car just as the skies opened up and drove part way from Bracebridge to home in torrential downpour but that didn’t stop us from making a pit stop at Webers to pick up dinner for tonight.
The rain eventually let up and we made it home just in time to shower the mud and sludge off and watch Martina Ortiz Luis (I’m obsessed) belt out our National Anthem to a stadium filled (well half filled) with loyal and very excited Leaf fans who have waited more than 18 months to see the puck drop at home. Go Leafs Go. Go Jays Go.
I am beyond overwhelmed with so much gratitude from all the beautiful and heartfelt messages of love and support I continue to receive on a daily basis from all of you. And the check ins are so incredibly appreciated.
I am especially grateful right now knowing that my platform is reaching so many people from all across the Globe and that by me sharing my personal journey with all of you is giving permission to someone else like myself to have a safe place to turn to when they are looking for support for themselves or may be in dire need of a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear; without judgment and some reassurance that they are never alone.
But at the same time I am also so incredibly sad knowing just how many people, whether it be a stranger or someone I know that are out there suffering in silence.
But I love helping others and helping others really helps me too.
Even when I’m at my lowest.
This week has been excruciatingly painful for me as you probably know by now (if you missed my Vlog yesterday please feel free to check it out).
I can honestly say that I have no more tears left in me.
I am beyond overwhelmed, I feel empty inside and emotionally defeated.
So I have made myself a promise that I am going to do my best to treat this weekend as a “time out” for myself and I guess the “timing” couldn’t be better because for the first time in over 18 very looooong months the kids will all be gone for the weekend.
Taking care of me will be my top priority this weekend which will include our first #summerofrich “Fall Edition” of the season but first up on the agenda tonight is also another “first” in over 18 looooong months; Date night with Rich at my favourite restaurant using the gift card I received for my birthday (which was 3 months ago already) from a couple of my many beautiful friends. I guess I’ve been holding on to it for that perfect moment.