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.
To be honest I am feeling very triggered right now ever since I came across this revelation earlier this morning because in my mind I don’t see myself as a wife deserving of appreciation, I just see myself as a burden to everyone, especially my spouse.
My memories on Facebook this weekend have been flooded with one of the most incredible nights of my life two years ago when I was invited as the Guest of Honour at a launch party for my new children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?”. I was surrounded by so much love and appreciation.
One of the memories that came up today happens to be the speech that Rich gave that night. I’ve read it probably ten times already this morning as I try to battle with the demons in my head who keep telling me that I’m not worthy of the love and commitment and appreciation others have for me, especially my spouse.
I wanted to reshare those words with you today that were so eloquently spoken from the heart by Rich, to me, his wife in hopes that the demons in my head get the message!
P.S. For all of you reading this who have an imperfectly perfect wife, make sure you remind them today, tomorrow and forever how thankful you are to have them in your life; I may not always believe it but I am certainly one of the lucky ones because Rich never stops trying.
As most of you know I am by no means the writer in our home and my press secretary has been busy working on her own speech all week, so here goes nothing!!
I first met Kim when she was just 18 years young and she began working at the video store I was managing in Thornhill. She caught my eye right away but unfortunately there were MANY challenges standing in our way. Besides the fact that she had a boyfriend at the time and I was busy fending off some lovestruck sociopath, I was now her boss as well, but those didn’t even come close to the biggest challenge we were facing. Ya see, I was close to 9 years older than her (8 years, 7 months and 16 days to be exact). And now that I have 2 daughters of my own who are in and around that same age I can TOTALLY see that challenge from a very different perspective!
But with a combination of male ego, unyielding determination, mixed in with a spoonful of testosterone sometimes you just have to say Screw It and ignore what the haters may think or say and just go for it! By now Kim was just shy of her 20th birthday and had this been in some medievel time she would have likely been considered an old maid already so I saw this as my golden opportunity. But I am still waiting for that dowry!
We recently celebrated 24 years of marriage this past spring and have 3 beautiful kids to show for it, one of whom is busy drinking his way through Europe with some friends as I speak. And like in every marriage or as every parent can attest to there will always be challenging times along the journey which for us surfaced 5 and a half years ago when Kim first took ill.
I have known Kim now for 30 years and have watched her grow and change in so many ways but one thing that has never changed in all the years I have known her is that she has the kindest heart, and she has so much determination and so much will. I know that Kim no longer sees these incredible attributes within herself because of what depression has taken from her but lucky for her there are so many people in her life who love her enough to ensure that she can see what an incredible person she truly is.
I am so proud of you Kim. Jacob, Hannah and Rachel are so damn proud of you too. You may not see what we all see in you but I will keep reminding you of it every single day for the rest of our lives. You may not see that what you do for so many people by writing your blog and opening up to the world about what it truly feels like to battle with major (and treatment resistant) depression and SEVERE anxiety and panic every single day. You may not see how your vulnerability and honesty has helped so many others feel less alone and you may still not be able to call yourself an author and believe it to be true but you are an author, I mean City TV interviewed you for the six o’clock news last night if that isn’t proof enough!
But you know why you are an author…because you had a vision, because you have such a creative soul, because you are so kindhearted and because you have such an unyielding determination and innate will to help others. You have accomplished more than so many others because of all that. You have made your dream come true even through the darkest days of your life. You have found your purpose.
Look around the room tonight Kim and see all the love surrounding you, they aren’t just here for the free food and drinks! They are here to celebrate you!
Jacob Hannah Rachel and we can’t forget Maggie (our dog) and I love you to the moon and back! And now without further ado…let me introduce to you, my beautiful wife and best friend.. children’s author Kim Fluxgold!
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’m feeling beyond overwhelmed today when I probably should be feeling excitement and joy knowing that in just a few short hours I will have the honour of witnessing my eldest nephew (who was the ring bearer at my wedding 26 years ago) marry his beautiful Bride-To-Be.
As you all know by now the past ten (plus) days have been some of the most trying and challenging days of my journey and my self-worth has sunk to an all time low.
I have next to zero self-compassion left in me and I have no clue whatsoever how to be kind to myself.
But I have learned the art of how to fake it til I make it in social settings.
I have learned the art of smiling through my depression and anxiety in social settings.
And I’m pretty good at engaging in some great conversation too.
Somewhere along my journey I have mastered these skills and learned how to present myself as “normal” in social settings, but I also know by now how much confusion this often presents for others.
In fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me how great I seemed while in a social setting I’d be a very rich lady by now, but for now I just have to take it as an opportunity to open up important conversations (let’s never forget the many faces of Depression that Robin Williams and so many other famous people wore).
The truth is I may present myself in many social settings that way because I never leave home without my mask on, metaphorically speaking; and trust me when I tell you there have been plenty of bathroom stalls I’ve had to hide in while in the midst of a panic attack or worse, been in a fit of hysteria amongst a crowded room.
This is what scares me most about how I am feeling right now. I’ve been so vulnerable lately that even the most joyful moments will have me running to the nearest bathroom stall or worse.
Anyone living with a Social Anxiety Disorder knows how I am feeling today even though everyone experiences it in different ways, but no matter if you feel awkward engaging in conversations, entering a crowded room, making eye contact with strangers, going to a party or giving a speech in public most individuals with a social anxiety disorder have an overwhelming fear of being judged, embarrassed or becoming the center of attention; and many more, like myself will then spend days or even weeks afterwards depleting even more of their mental energy with negative thoughts, ruminating about how we presented ourselves in thus situation.
For now though I am just trying to focus on the moment, take as many deep breaths as needed and practice my grounding exercises (oh and have my CBD oil on hand at all times too). My mask, metaphorically speaking will be ready for whatever social distancing I may need tonight. And I know that no matter what, my family will be by my side just in case I need an extra layer of protection.
My head has been completely cluttered by loud and intrusive noises that won’t fucking leave me alone no matter how much I fight back. I’m in such a fog that I easily lose my train of thought mid sentence (and I even forgot my own address last night). I feel as though I am holding on by a thread right now. I am vulnerable and scared and I’m not sure how much fight I have left in me anymore.
My heart knows how loved and needed I am but I just wish my brain could get on the same page. Words can not express my endless gratitude for the overwhelming amount of support I’ve received since my post the other day.
Every message has been exploding with overwhelming kindness and empathy (the 2 greatest traits any human can have) and it warms my heart knowing how many people care about my well-being, feel inspired by my courage and enlightened by my honesty and truth. I’ve received private messages from people I haven’t spoken to in 30 years who understand what I am feeling and others whom I met just weeks ago.
I am especially grateful to one friend inparticular who literally dropped everything she was doing yesterday to sit with me for over 3 hours after I experienced a breakdown earlier in the day.
Last night though my pain got to be too much to bare and Rich drove me to emerg. I was in such a panicked state that I was certain I was having a heart attack. I have panic attacks often but this one felt different. Once ruling out that it wasn’t in fact a heart attack my hope was that they would give me a script for some Ativan which is used primarily to treat anxiety disorders, trouble sleeping and severe agitation. All of which have been causing my downward spiral.
It is also extremely addictive. I know this first hand because a few years ago I had an extreme addiction to the drug. I’d started hoarding bottles of them from doctors and other inpatient treatment facilities. I had 100’s of them in my possession and nobody knew, not even Rich.
I was no longer taking antidepressants at the time after more than 20 concoctions and lots of horrible and dangerous side effects led me to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression. But Ativan wasn’t giving me those side effects. Instead it was numbing my pain and helping me sleep more. So I took more. I just loved the clouded feeling I was getting from it without all the added and dangerous side effects from the antidepressants.
I finally fessed up and came clean to my Psychiatrist at the time when my kids began voicing their concern to Rich that they were nervous being in a car with me. By now I had been taking 8 to 10 pills at one time every day. I truly don’t know how I was even functioning or still alive.
Now back to last night. Rich took me to the emerg at the brand new hospital nearby our home. It officially opened to the public only 2 months ago. It is affiliated with our other local hospital and I sadly recognized several familiar staff from the amount of visits to their emergency room over the years.
It was very clean. The floors and walls still looked fresh. I wanted so bad to come on here today and give this new hospital a glowing review but aside from the clean floors and fresh coat of paint I can’t really say anything positive from my own personal experience, especially given the amount of emergency rooms I’ve been to before to compare to this one during a crisis (and potential heart attack!). Even when I’ve been stripped of my belongings and my dignity left on the dirty floor or had security guards practically sitting on top of me I’d still put this experience below them all.
I was there for close to 7 hours and I observed a lot. I heard a lot too as they would call patients to the nurse’s station to give them their results before releasing them and I was in a room right across from it all (wouldn’t it be smarter to go talk to the individuals in their rooms, we are still in a Pandemic I thought and really do I need to hear everyone else’s diagnosis?). One of my most concerning observations though was when they called a lady to the desk (who’s mask was not on properly and they kept asking her to fix) to give her a script for an antibiotic and puffer to treat her pneumonia and then proceeded to tell the woman “but I’m pretty sure you probably have Covid”. Did they not test her for it? Did they not tell her maybe she should self isolate? Rich and I looked at one another in complete disbelief. SMH
Anyways back to my night which I returned home from just before 3am. I had an ekg and blood work done to rule out any issues with my heart. The doctor spoke to me about what else was going on at the moment as well including if I had an intended plan of carrying out a suicide. I was visibly shaken and he decided to give me an Ativan to calm me down and then he put in a request for their crisis team to come talk to me further.
We discussed my prior issues with Ativan which is clearly stated in my file as well as any other one of my doctor’s files who had once prescribed it to me. We also discussed how dangerous and addictive it is and that he would give me the one for now but was not comfortable giving me anymore to go home with.
The crisis worker eventually came to talk with me by which time the Ativan had kicked in and I was physically and emotionally exhausted and my mind was shutting down while trying to talk to her. By this time, Rich had left to try and get some sleep for a couple of hours.
The Crisis Worker asked me a whole bunch of questions, all standard to someone who is in crisis. Do you have a plan and what is your plan was her main concern and focus. The one positive of the night was that she had actually taken the time to go through my (lengthy) file before coming to talk to me so it saved me a lot of catching up on my history over the past 7 years.
My hope was still for her to let me have a few Ativans to take home with me so I can try and get some sleep and numb the severe and debilitating anxiety and desperate plans of suicide I’ve been experiencing. And to hopefully lift some of the fog. She spoke with the doctor and came back with a prescription for 5 Ativan for me but then she quickly regretted her decision.
She made me promise I wouldn’t go home and take them all at once or go to another hospital to get more. She also made me promise that I would call and speak with my Psychiatrist today and her last promise she had me make to her was that and I quote “don’t do anything stupid”. I know she meant it very lovingly!
I slept for a solid 3 hours last night within minutes of getting into bed thanks to the Ativan. That is huge for me, like Super Bowl huge. I have not gone to the pharmacy yet today (or gotten out of bed for that matter) to fill the script which I promise I will hand over to Rich who has been the keeper of all my meds for years as I am not sure I can be trusted right now to be perfectly honest. But a promise is a promise.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please seek help immediately.
Rich made a promise to me 26 (plus) years ago that he would take me on a magic carpet ride as we danced to our first song as husband and wife on our wedding day.
Today, on International Self-Care Day we hiked a section of the Oakridges Moraine called Jefferson Climb: Magic Carpet Ride, Upper Ridge Trail.
As we were hiking the trail I began to quietly sing the lyrics to our wedding song “A Whole New World” in my head (I wouldn’t dare sing out loud as we may have become prey to some dangerous wildlife species 🐻).
As soon as we got back to our car (without getting lost this time) I played the song for Rich on my phone (there may have been some tears in the mix).
This song had a great deal of meaning to the both of us when it came time for choosing our wedding song. After all, we started dating while working together in a video store, we both loved Disney movies and Aladdin had quickly become among one of our favourites that we’d watched many times together during our courtship (and we were also first in line to see the live action version when it was released to theaters a couple of years ago; hmmm when I think about it now that may have actually been the last movie we saw in a theater!).
The song has become our anthem and as we hiked the “Magic Carpet Ride” trail today and as I quietly chanted the lyrics to myself and then replayed it for Rich on our car ride home I heard a whole new and even more meaningful version of the song this time.
It may be a bit off key now but it will always be our song.
What was your wedding song?
What did you do to celebrate International Self-Care Day today?