Forgot to post our #summerofrich adventure from yesterday.
I needed an escape from the racing thoughts in my head and a hike seemed like the perfect distraction.
There was plenty of clear blue sky and a warm springtime breeze in the air. We could hear birds chirping from the trees and ducks singing by the pond. Perfection.
But even with plenty of clear blue sky, a warm springtime breeze in the air, the birds chirping from the trees and the ducks singing by the pond, I could not totally escape the trauma that April 4th represents for me (see blog I posted yesterday if you missed it).
I’m easily triggered by the events that took place on that day seven years earlier and this year had been no exception. As midnight approached the night before last I began experiencing symptoms of my PTSD and quickly found myself trying to fight off a panic attack.
But aside from all that and the trails being nothing short of a mudslide for the better part of our nearly 2 hour hike it turned out to be just what I needed (and boy were we glad that we had decided to leave Maggie at home!).
Sorry though to have disappointed you Rich, who had been camera ready the entire time hoping to take a snapshot of me falling flat on my butt as we navigated our way through the very slippery and often dangerous mounds of mud; fyi there were several close calls 😋).
How did you incorporate self-care into your long weekend?
I’ve been in a pretty bad headspace over the last few days and my negative thoughts and uncontrollable emotions seem to have me tumbling further and further down into a very dark rabbit hole, maybe for my own protection. Or maybe it’s something else. I’m not really sure how I fell so deep into this particular rabbit hole but I may have begun spiralling down it around the same time I awoke one morning earlier this week with severe and at times unbearable back and chest pain. I have found myself in tears too many times to count this week and I honestly have no clue why I’m even crying half the time anymore unless of course it’s from the unexplainable pain I’m in. I’ve tried climbing out of the rabbit hole many times before but I think that when I burrow further down inside that I feel a sense of protection and safety from any further harm or pain. Being inside the hole feels almost like a fortress and keeps me warm. Maybe the rabbit hole gives me a false sense of security but its okay because I know that anytime I am able to dig or claw my way out that there is always a colony waiting for me at the top, holding out their hand or ready to reach in and pull me out by my ears. #rabbitholes #safety #headspace #itsalrighttocry #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mindfulness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #checkonyourlovedones #youareenough
It’s no secret that there has been a sharp decline in many people’s mental health (probably millions by now) over the past year due to Covid-19, both in children and adults alike.
Signs of mental illness are manifesting themselves (more than ever before) into symptoms of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, thoughts of suicide and eating disorders just to name a few.
Sadly, many people though are still choosing to suffer in silence today due to the stigma attached to mental illness and in many cases, affordability to seek Professional care.
I am a HUGE advocate for therapy and I know firsthand that taking that initial step may be hard. I also know that finding the right fit for you may take many tiresome hours of trial and error.
Up until six (plus) years ago I had never been to therapy, it was never something that had ever been a part of my vocabulary before but shortly after I became ill in April 2014, my doctor highly recommended I speak to someone immediately and so I obliged.
The process of finding the right therapy though took me three grueling years of trial and error and left me shaking my head some days and feeling even further defeated on many, many more.
But I am here to remind you that it takes great strength, vulnerability and a willingness to find that right fit and build a good rapport (which goes both ways) in order to reap the many benefits of therapy, whatever therapy may look like for you.
People seek out therapy for all kinds of different and difficult reasons and although a therapist may not give you all the answers, a good therapist will always help you find them.
But you also have to be ready to put in the work; you have to be ready to be open and honest with both yourself and a therapist; you have to be ready to commit to setting aside the time and energy needed to invest in therapy and you have to be ready for whatever may come from talking about difficult things.
It’s okay to ask for help and although medication can help to reduce some symptoms of mental health conditions for many, the added benefits of therapy will go alot further in gaining insight into or help you to address some hidden causes of your illness and not just mask them.
Therapy may also be beneficial in helping you to learn how to create healthy boundaries for yourself and others, it can help you to better process some difficult life events, work through unhealthy relationships or habits, ease feelings of guilt, help you to achieve goals, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself and it can also be a place to vent your frustrations about the people in your life who won’t go to therapy themselves.
I see my therapist weekly and it is one of the most important and much needed self-care strategies in my life right now. I know I am safe when I am speaking with my therapist and that I can share anything with her without feeling judged or stigmatized.
If you are ready to take that next step I would be more than happy to help guide you toward the many available options; including the free and online ones.
Below is one such example that I was asked to share with you. It is a new service being offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region and South Simcoe Chapter. It’s a free telephone counseling service which operates weekdays from 8:30 to 4:30; there is no referral needed and no wait lists.
Over the last several weeks there has been a growing concern in our neighborhood due to a coyote who was becoming more and more aggressive with its prey. They had to close the local parks this week because several humans and pets alike had been attacked and Rich began carrying a stick with him while walking Maggie in the evenings and early mornings after he and Rachel and Maggie were chased home right to our front doorstep by that same coyote one evening last week.
The wildlife service officers have been camped out all week on the perimeter of the park near us waiting for the coyote to make its next move. They told us that people have been leaving their food waste by the forest where the coyote roams freely enticing him to keep coming back for more.
They also told us the other day that by law they are only allowed to move the coyote 1 km away from its home and that would only mean he would just keep coming back.
Well tonight we were just informed that they have “humanely euthanized” the coyote as it was the only option for the safety of the community at large. I find myself both saddened and relieved with the news.
We have invaded his space by building a community around his home and I don’t believe he deserved such a cruel ending to his life as moving him to a safer place away from communities where he could be free to roam and hunt safely would have been a much more humane option.
*I just thought I’d preface this Blog by letting you know that it has been a particularly hard one to write.*
I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve needed a break lately because my mental health has been on a downward spiral. Since I began sharing my journey with you I have done so with the utmost honestly that which has always included open conversations about many of the most intimate and raw moments in my life. But there is still so much I don’t share with you or won’t share for that matter and lately it’s just been so difficult to share much at all (good or bad).
Right now I feel as though both my body and mind are tangled together in one gigantic ball of knots which feels like it’s getting harder and harder to undo each day. I do have moments where I manage to unravel some of the knots or at least loosen them up but before I can catch my breath again they just tighten back up, somedays even more than before.
If I can quote myself here for a brief moment from a Blog I wrote last week titled: Give Me A Break where I said “Everyone has varying degrees of stress that they deal with but when battling with daily symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations at the same time can make it particularly difficult to manage.”; and sometimes when this is happening we feel the need to turn to a place of comfort to help us heal and unfortunately that can sometimes include old habits, which is exactly where I found myself at about a week ago.
I hate myself more than ever right now for writing this or for even thinking it out loud, but last week I bought my first pack of cigarettes in almost six months. This week I should be celebrating that I haven’t had a cigarette in six months but instead I am sitting here in shame (and with tears in my eyes) telling you a very different story.
To think that I had made it almost six months without lighting up a cigarette even though I’ve wanted to many, many, MANY times makes me just want to throw up. I feel like an even bigger failure, I mean who wouldn’t, right?
When I made the decision to quit smoking on January 14th while still recovering from a concussion that had occurred on the morning of January 2nd no one could have ever imagined what lay ahead. 2020 has pretty much sucked for most of the world but the Pandemic alone is not what led me to go buy that pack of cigarettes seeing as most of what is going on in my life presently began way before the Pandemic ever did.
Has the Pandemic amplified the urgency of certain issues, 1000 percent it has and smoking had always been there for me in the past to help calm me and although I have reaped the many benefits from the nicotine withdrawal itself, the actual habit of smoking a cigarette has always been on my mind.
Research shows that it can actually take an average smoker 30 attempts before they quit. The good news is that I’m not really enjoying smoking like I did in the past, nor am I smoking nearly what I used to so my plan this time around is to take it slowly and try a different approach, one which allows me to unravel one knot at a time before I even attempt to try and loosen up another one.
It’s been a hundred and thirty something days since I’ve had a cigarette, not a hundred and thirty something days since I’ve desired a cigarette but a hundred and thirty something days since I last smoked one. There are many days (and nights) that go by now where I barely even think about smoking anymore but the days that I do are fucking hell and last night was probably the worst I’ve experienced, even more so than the first few days after I quit back in January. You all remember January; that cold, dark, dreary month of the year that we all wish we could go back in time to right now. Boy what I’d give to go back there now in a heartbeat, with my concussion and all!
Last night I had a panic attack which only exasperated the exhaustion and overwhelm I was already experiencing and I suddenly felt like a junkie who would do just about anything to get their next “fix”. If you have ever suffered with an addiction of any kind before (drug, alcohol, gambling etc) you can relate to how out of control I felt from my “need” to smoke NOW. I begged Rich to get me a pack of cigarettes and I began envisioning myself sitting on my front porch enjoying the beautiful spring air and thinking that having just 1 cigarette wouldn’t be a big deal at all.
It’s nights like this that have me thinking I will never be free of cigarettes. But then again is there really a specific timeline as to how long it should take a smoker of over 30 years to fully stop having the desire to smoke?
Wow, would you look at that, we did it; we just completed a full month (and then some) in quarantine and in case you needed a gentle reminder, today is May 1st and for me May has always been one of my most favorite months of the year.
I mean what’s not to love about May? It’s like a fresh start watching the flowers bloom and seeing the regrowth on the trees or finally hanging up your winter coat and of course it’s also the unofficial kick off to summer (so as you may have guessed this has been written from the perspective of a proud Canadian girl).
May is typically a very busy and joyous month for us with lots to look forward to each year but nowadays the best excuse for a celebration seems more like Cinco De Mayo Day (May 5), Victoria Day (May 18) and National Wine Day (May 25). And as you can see there is a common theme between all three days, one that needs no explanation after being in quarantine for…a whole lot of days.
Hopefully though, between all the Tequila (Cinco De Mayo) and Beer (make it a Corona on Victoria Day) and Wine (National Wine Day) we can find some time to pop open a bottle of champagne and make a toast to us on our upcoming 25th Wedding Anniversary later this month (right in between beer and wine day!). Stay tuned
P.S. I hate wine, beer and tequila!
What is something you are looking forward to during the month of May?
It’s been ONE HUNDRED days since I smoked my last cigarette. By my own calculations (I’ve never been great at math) that’s approximately 1200 cigarettes I haven’t smoked and approximately 725 dollars in savings.
Both are quite significant achievements don’t ya think? Both are definitely noteworthy right? Then why is it still so hard? Why is it that I just want to smoke one more cigarette even though I can see (and feel) all the incredible benefits from not smoking. And if there is to be a #summerofrich this year (an abridged version would do!!) that means that physically there will be no mountain I cannot climb and just hearing one of my daughters tell me that I am now that much less vulnerable to the risks associated with Covid-19 if I were to (G-d forbid) contract it should be reason enough to never want to smoke another cigarette ever again, but mentally of course, mentally, I hear a much different story in my head.
Cigarettes had become a crutch for me over the last 6 years, a way to release stress, manage an anxiety attack, quiet the thoughts in my head (I never hesitated to step outside at 2am for a cigarette to help “quiet the thoughts” when I couldn’t sleep) or calm the panic but what would happen if I were to give into my triggers or mental cravings right now?
Would it take away the overwhelm or change the situation we are living in or make everything better? Or would it simply just give those nasty, vicious voices dancing around in my head another reason to make me feel like a complete failure and a worthless human being?
So my question is; if timing is everything then was my choice to quit smoking ONE HUNDRED days ago one which was made with “infinite possibilities” or some kind of “meaningful coincidence”?
Last night I had a meltdown of epic proportions. I knew that it being my 6 year Anniversary since the onset of my illness yesterday (See blog “The Anniversary Effect”; April 4, 2020) that it wasn’t gonna be an easy day. But I did just what any good doctor would order me to do and got out of bed (eventually), took a 2 hour walk through my neighborhood and then treated myself to a warm bubble bath when we got home.
But like clockwork everything changed without a moment’s notice and almost as soon as I stepped out of the bathtub I found myself crying over “spilt milk” again, even if most of what I was crying over wasn’t really worth getting upset about at all; but you see, the truth is, it really feels like there is plenty of spilt milk to cry over these days.
At any given moment we may find ourselves feeling sad, scared, disappointed, angry, worried, distracted, exhausted, restless, short tempered or impatient (did I cover enough adjectives?). I find that since first becoming ill my patience has become next to nil which can often stir up plenty of other emotions quickly. And now with each passing day I’m pretty sure that most of us are finding ourselves losing their patience too in some way or another or with someone or another. In other words, we are all starting to get on each other’s nerves.
It’s ok if you’re not quite ready to admit to it yet though and since there is no real guidebook for us to follow on how we should feel during a Pandemic, we all get a free pass. So with no Playbook or guidelines to follow on how we should react or be feeling right now let me reassure you that whatever the heck you are feeling is perfectly valid.
Even if you’re living with June Cleaver from “Leave It To Beaver” we are all learning together how to coexist with others on a much different level than we were before and you may be feeling very claustrophobic, frustrated, on edge and downright snappy toward one another as we test each other’s patience and deal with each other’s anxieties and ever changing moods.
It’s hard, it’s super fucking hard right now but “we’re all in this together” and the one thing that is gonna make this nightmare just a tad bit easier is ensuring that we all work together as a team, within our individual homes, and create a Playbook with your home team. (I really do miss sports)
This experience is no doubt gonna change us all and we are all going to have to make some changes in order to get through this Pandemic together and maybe a good place to start is by developing a “Playbook” for your home team and make sure it includes several “strategies” and “plays” that can help reduce some of your household stressors and anxieties.
Ask your teammates what you need from them right now and moving forward to help make this time together more successful and remember that it’s still ok to cry over spilt milk while figuring it out, but by figuring it out together hopefully we will create some stronger, more adhesive family units by the time this is all over.
So what are some things you need in your Playbook?
Today marks six years since my whole world began to crumble and as each Anniversary comes around the pain and sadness from that fateful day, April 4, 2014 still feels like a knife is being slowly twisted deeper into my heart. I can recall the events of that day as though they were yesterday and I shared them all with you in a blog titled “April 4, 2014: It’s Been Five Long Years”, exactly one year ago today.
As each Anniversary approaches I feel that initial sense of pain and sadness all over again and I begin to site the “would’ves”, the “should’ves” and the “could’ves” one by one over and over and over again in order to figure out if somehow there would’ve, should’ve or could’ve been a different outcome, one that didn’t lead me down a path where six years later I would still be living with the daily pain and sadness associated with Anxiety, Depression and Suicidal Ideations.
Anniversaries are supposed to be celebrated, right? Well not all Anniversaries feel like a celebration and whether it’s the Anniversary of a bad break-up, the Anniversary of a traumatic event in your life or the Anniversary of the death of a loved one it can easily trigger pain and sadness. This actually has a name for it; it’s called “The Anniversary Effect” and is defined as “a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.”
This year with the approach of my sixth year Anniversary date it’s brought with it a lot of extra intensity given the current and uncertain state of the world right now. It’s left me feeling even further trapped in my thoughts and crippled by so many emotions with an added bonus of battling headaches almost daily. I’m finding it really difficult to get out of bed, to follow any sort of routine, to be motivated and to not cry at every single fucking thing.
I’m trying to find ways to distract myself and find something to help ease the pain and sadness I’m feeling today (Covid-19 memes seem to do the trick so feel free to pass any along). Maybe today will include trying to reflect back on the past six years at some moments that have brought me happiness or maybe by trying to find some hope in what truly feels hopeless right now or maybe by looking at the “what ifs” of tomorrow and feeling less afraid of them.
But however I choose to spend today, whether or not it’s in bed or whether or not it’s trying to follow a routine or whether or not I feel completely unmotivated or whether or not I cry at every fucking little thing I’ve also been reminded today that each Anniversary I’m still writing about definitely would, definitely should and definitely is an Anniversary to celebrate. Thanks for the reminder; I may need it again tomorrow.