*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.
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 have spent the better part of the past few days since my visit to emerg trying to process everything while still desperately figuring out whether or not I even have the strength anymore to keep going.
The Psychiatrist who was assigned to my care the other day was a very special and very rare find as far as any encounter I’ve ever had with a Psychiatrist in an emergency room before. He went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced during a visit to emerg and trust me when I say I’ve had my fair share of experiences.
You see, it’s very difficult to advocate for yourself when you don’t believe that you are worthy enough or deserving of.
Knowing how overwhelmed I was feeling and knowing how hard it is for me to even complete the simplest of tasks (scheduling appointments being one of them), Rich took it upon himself to help jump start the process of self-advocacy the very next morning, starting with making a follow up call to my GP’s office on my behalf, hoping that she could somehow escalate an appointment quicker to see my Psychiatrist.
That’s when he learned that the referral he’d requested 3 weeks earlier in order for me to make an appointment with my Psychiatrist because I hadn’t seen him in over a year had never been sent out.
She had been on vacation that week but Rich was assured it would be sent as soon as she was back in the office the following week.
Upon learning the disappointing news that it had never been sent out, Rich was assured again the other day that it would be taken care of right away. He waited a few hours to give my doctor’s office some time to fax it over and then he called the office of my Psychiatrist to make me that appointment. They still hadn’t received the referral and still would not make the appointment without it even though I was already his patient but just hadn’t seen him since last year when the new treatment I was scheduled to begin the week of March 15th 2020 was abruptly cancelled due to ya know, a Pandemic!
Feeling frustrated and desperate and very impatient by now, Rich said screw this bullshit and sent an email directly to my Psychiatrist himself to explain what’s been going on.
Within a few hours of sending him the email my Psychiatrist answered Rich’s pleas and copied his two assistants on the email asking that they schedule me in for an appointment to speak with him after hours the very next day on Zoom.
So late yesterday afternoon, feeling emotionally drained from the past few days and hungry from fasting all day being that it was Yom Kippur I finally reconnected with my Psychiatrist. A true gem and another rare find.
We spoke for the better part of an hour where along with Rich’s input a new plan was put into place immediately including a plan to pick up where we had left off last year and have his assistants schedule a first appointment at one of his other clinics to begin the treatment I was to start in March of 2020.
There have been many changes to the treatment’s protocols and the actual administration of it as well and not just due to Covid but several other factors that have come into consideration since then while conducting many clinical trials. The treatment itself has also evolved as well due to more and more research and scientific discoveries.
I’m still really overwhelmed and mentally exhausted right now to say the least and filled with so many mixed emotions today.
I’m so appreciative and grateful though for all the incredible support I have in my life (especially you Rich 💚), even if I may not feel worthy enough or deserving of it.
It’s 1 am as I begin to write this. I just spent the better part of the past hour bawling my eyes out while Rich held my hand and Maggie tried to work her magic.
Right before this scene played out I had been lying in bed watching my mindless Sunday night Reality TV shows while texting with some friends.
I’d just had a “picture perfect” weekend which many of you may have seen from the #summerofrich pics I had posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing the things I love; being outdoors, enjoying quality time with family and friends.
But as I lay there in bed watching my mindless reality TV and chatting with several friends, the highlight reel of my own reality started playing out in my head and the overwhelming disconnect I’ve been feeling from the world lately, even during these “picture perfect” moments left my mind spiraling out of control faster than the fan spinning beside my bed.
It felt like a big gust of painful emotions blew right through me.
And then I felt an emptiness inside of me as those “picture perfect” moments quickly got tangled up in the blades of my fan, leaving me in a ball of dust on the floor, convincing myself that maybe happiness doesn’t belong to me. That maybe I don’t deserve to feel joy and that maybe I’m truly not worthy of love or friendship or purpose afterall.
This is what living with Depression and Anxiety can feel like somedays.
If ever you feel like your “picture perfect” moments are getting tangled up in the blades of your fan please remember that there is always help available to slow down the speed when it starts spinning too fast.
I hear you. I see you. I feel you. I appreciate you.
I am truly blessed knowing how many people I have in my life who genuinely care about my well-being.
I’ve read each and every message (both from my Social Media feeds and those who messaged me privately as well) probably a dozen or more times by now since sharing with you a very heartfelt and vulnerable blog I wrote yesterday.
I cried alot.
I smiled too.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I know I am struggling alot right now and I’m finding it more and more difficult to cope with my very dark and overwhelming thoughts of suicide.
I want you to know that it’s okay to acknowledge that things may not be okay. That you may not be okay.
Just know that YOU are not alone.
Yesterday one of the private messages I received from a friend was a short animated video clip written and narrated by Brene Brown (who I admire so much) after reading my blog because she thought it perfectly summed up what I had written. The clip emphasizes the important differences between empathy and sympathy and how showing empathy towards others “fuels” connections, whereas sympathy does not. Empathy is about feeling “with” people. It’s about reaching out to someone for help and having that person say “hey, here I am”. “You’re not alone”. It’s not about looking for the silver lining (a perfect example from my blog yesterday would be someone saying to you “well at least you don’t have Cancer” when you tell them you are feeling depressed). It’s about being honest and saying I’m glad you told me. It’s not about the response, it’s about the connection.
As difficult as this week has been for me I know in my heart that I need to keep writing and sharing my journey, probably now more than ever.
We all need to do our part to raise more awareness, educate others and help reduce the stigma; and yes we NEED to talk about suicide too.
Asking someone about suicide will help break the silence and can save a life.
Take a moment today to connect with someone who may be struggling right now. Let them know you hear them. You see them. You feel them. You appreciate them.
Start a conversation and then keep it going; today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that too.
I also wanted to let you know that my book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” is now available for purchase at Batner Bookstore at 180 Steeles Ave. W. in Thornhill (or through me as well). They specialize in new and used textbooks, workbooks, study guides, course materials and literature. It’s a perfect addition to any classroom, library or children’s bookshelf especially as we begin another uncertain school year ahead and when so many children and caregivers are facing the worst mental health crisis of our lives.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my journey. The good, the bad and the ugly. I love you all so much. #shabbatshalom
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable.
I’ve had to accept this within my own personal journey.
It’s destroyed many close relationships of mine.
But I know that my willingness to share my most vulnerable and intimate thoughts and feelings with all of you has helped bring about awareness to the many others who do want to understand what it’s like to live with Chronic and Treatment Resistant Depression, a debilitating Anxiety Disorder and Suicidal Ideations Every. Single. Day.
And I also know that by sharing my journey so openly and honestly has helped many more people feel less alone or ashamed.
So then why do I suddenly feel like I should stop writing? Stop sharing my most intimate thoughts and emotions? Why at one of the most vulnerable points of my journey do I want to stop sharing my story all together?
Because well, it’s not like I Cancer you know.
These were the words that I heard recently directed towards me during a conversation. Words that may not have necessarily been intended to be said with malice but words that can never be erased nonetheless. Words that dismissed the seriousness of my illness. Words that made me feel as though my need to create healthy boundaries and do what’s best for me are basically selfish because well you know, it’s not like I have Cancer.
Not everyone around you will understand your journey and maybe not everyone is truly capable. I’ve accepted this.
But I can no longer keep apologizing because of my “invisible” illness just because it can’t be detected through a body scan or an xray or a blood test and to be perfectly honest I’m just too damn tired to keep having to “defend” myself because I may not “look” sick.
Depression is NOT a choice. Depression just is, just like Cancer or Diabetes just is. They can’t be rated on a scale of any kind and quite frankly they NEVER EVER should be. They are all just truly horrible illnesses and should be treated as such.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and that my purpose in life to raise awareness, educate and bring comfort to others has been overcome by even more pain and guilt and shame.
I know I should just “let it go” and try and focus on the many lives I do touch and those who appreciate me for who I am and what I have to offer but sadly, having the ability to just “think positive” when living with Depression or Anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles we face.
I’ve been inconsolable for days now and have been left feeling like what’s the point of writing, sharing my journey or living life?