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?
Just got home from a long and very invigorating walk with our friends.
As we passed this tree in the forest my girlfriend stopped to point out to me the words which had been spray painted on the tree that read “keep going”. She was certain it was there as a reminder from God telling me that I must “keep going”!
Upon our arrival home from our walk there was a beautifully wrapped gift of self-care on my front porch which was left for me by another incredible girlfriend of mine.
I am overwhelmed and beyond grateful for my amazing tribe. I am truly blessed by all the love and support and kindness I have in my life.
It’s okay to not be okay.
“There is no exercise better for your heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
September can be a very stressful month for many. It often means saying goodbye to the mindset of carefree summer days.
Add in so many uncertainties surrounding the Pandemic into the mix and this September could likely be even more challenging for many more.
If you feel more stress in September, YOU are not alone.
With the kids heading back to school, changes in routine, jam packed schedules, many unknowns, a change of seasons, shortening daylight hours; anxiety and overwhelm are certain to play a big role in many of our lives during the month ahead.
September is also “National Self-Care Awareness Month”.
Self-care knows no boundaries, unfortunately neither do anxiety and overwhelm.
Everyone can benefit from practicing self-care. It’s not SELFISH!
So take advantage of it in the month ahead and make self-care an important part of your daily routine.
Pay attention to how you are feeling.
Communication is key.
Healthy boundaries are imperative.
Practice being kind to yourself and tell your guilt to fuck off.
How do you prepare for Stresstember?
How do you ease back into a routine?
What is one thing you look most forward to in September?
***Leave your emojis in the comments as to how you are feeling about the month ahead.
To chronicle my sleep patterns in a word I’d best describe it as haphazardly.
In short, it lacks any type of direction, it’s random and very disorderly.
I’m up until all hours of the night wandering aimlessly, worrying and anticipating doom.
My body seems to have made the necessary adjustments needed for someone living on minimal amounts of sleep each night but still it continues to urge me to get some rest when I can.
Most days it loses that argument because even a short catnap feels burdensome to me. My mind fights the urge to nap but certainly not for lack of trying that is.
Napping is good for your mental health. Experts will tell you that taking a short afternoon nap can help clear the chaotic thoughts and burnout from your mind, it can improve your cognitive ability and even boost your mental agility.
But still, napping gets a bad rap.
People perceive napping as laziness instead of seeing it for its many health benefits.
I wish I could nap more often. I feel guilty as it is when I can’t get out of bed most mornings. But it’s okay to nap, or even lay in bed a little bit longer if that’s what your body and mind need.
Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing we can do in order to recharge. It’s not a waste of time if your body and mind are begging you to do so.
Do you find having a quick catnap when you can rejuvenating?
Thank you to everyone who continues to reach out to me, check up on me and leave beautiful messages of support this week as I continue to try and get through this very difficult time*
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.
Do you ever feel like you’ve had “one of those days?”
I’m pretty sure you know what I mean right?
We’ve all experienced those days where no matter what, nothing seems to go your way.
Your day may start off seemingly “normal” but then something unexpected or presumably unwarranted happens which leads to a chain of events that quickly spirals into “one of those days”.
I kinda feel like I’ve been living “one of those days” for seven years now though and this week was no exception.
We can’t control everything that happens to us but on many of “those days” I keep trying my best to find a way to survive them.
I posted a pic yesterday on social media which many of you reading this may have seen. It captured the essence of a picture perfect afternoon I’d spent with a couple of friends boating at the lake and smiling through Depression.
What it didn’t show was how I almost didn’t go.
Like one of my friends was literally sitting in my driveway all ready to pick me up to head up north to visit our friend’s lake house for that picture perfect day on the water and I was frozen in panic.
All because of the chain of events which had started early morning the day before and continued into the wee hours the next morning when Maggie suddenly became ill in the middle of the night; just adding insult to injury.
It had been “one of those days” where nothing felt right. I’d just spent the previous 24 hours angry, panicked and crying and it was now trickling into the next day for me.
But I chose to go. I went knowing that if I stayed home I would be giving up even more control of my emotions which is something I absolutely hate feeling more than anything. That feeling leaves my judgment very clouded.
I knew I couldn’t change the events of the day before and that by going I was both acknowledging and accepting that.
I also knew that it would be good for me to go and try to get out of my head, even for just a few hours. I needed to go in order to prove to myself that I can be in control of some of my emotions and that I actually have the power to do so.
What do you try and do to take control of your emotions when you are having “one of those days”?
Two years ago today, August 16th, 2019 was one of the happiest and most fulfilling days of my life when the first ever copies of my brand new, hot off the press children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” arrived on my front porch.
I had just spent the previous year and a half working on it from start to finish which included writing, editing, working with my fabulous illustrator and finding the “perfect” and most patient company to help me self-publish it.
For the next four plus months I worked non stop trying to get my book into as many hands as possible. I attended one event after another, reached out to Mental Health Advocates on Social Media, got it on the shelves of some independent bookstores in Toronto, sold it at large retail chains, made several National Television and Radio appearances, was interviewed by local Newspapers, gave book talks at Preschooler/Mommy & Me programs and I had just begun filling up my calendar for the new year with book talks on Mental Health at Elementary Schools as well.
And I had endless possibilities still up my sleeve.
I met so many incredible people along the way. I also had such incredible support from so many fantastic friends, family, acquaintances and strangers alike.
It felt like my dreams were coming true. I felt like I had purpose and I even felt like royalty somedays, especially when I attended my fabulous book launch party that Fall in my honour, hosted by a friend and her husband.
And then, BOOM💥, 2020 hit and it hit hard. I got a concussion on day two of the new year which put me out of commission for close to a month and then the Pandemic hit us all in March and then in June of 2020 I found out, just by dumb luck that my Publisher had closed his business after 35 years, without any warning to his clients or a simple courtesy email or thank you. Instead he disappeared without a trace and took with him, several thousands of dollars of Grant money which had been gifted to me by a prominent Mental Health Organization along with any additional inventory of mine they had held on to for safe keeping for my personal use and my Amazon account.
To say I felt defeated is an understatement. One obstacle after another left me feeling purposeless again and very broken. It was the final blow. My dreams felt crushed.
I wanted to give up completely. I didn’t see any point in continuing.
How was I ever going to move forward from this especially knowing I now needed to somehow find a way to republish my book. We were in the midst of a global Pandemic and money was extremely tight.
But how could I give up on my dream that I’d worked so hard for and wanted more than anything? How could I let anyone dull my sparkle?
Surrendering to my current situation was difficult to accept. The “what ifs” controlled my every waking moment, making it even more difficult to forgive myself and somehow find the strength to move forward.
I took some time to figure out if I could somehow save my dream even though it felt too crushed to repair.
I leaned on my support system for encouragement and reassurement even more. I didn’t want to give up on my dream even if it felt crushed beyond repair and that my anxiety and depression had taken over my ability to pivot my way through this, especially during a global Pandemic.
I began slowly trying to rebuild my dream by learning how to use technology I’d never even knew existed before in order to keep my book relevant. I knew that with each passing month of the Pandemic there were more and more people in need of my voice and my book.
I kept reminding myself this was not my fault.
I am still actively looking to republish my book when I am ready and able to and this time I plan to take everything I have learned through this process into account when choosing a new publisher to work with. I am wiser now.
I am also so grateful to still have copies of my book in my possession which has allowed me to continue promoting it in the meantime. And of course with the help of technology and social media I’ve found so many new and innovative ways of doing so during a Pandemic through guest spots on Podcasts, Book Talks and Conferences on Zoom, pre-recorded story times, Google meet-ups with Non-Profit Organizations and Facebook/Instagram lives.
These obstacles I’ve endured since January 2020 have taught me many important lessons. My dream has never changed. My vision hasn’t either.
It may feel crushed beyond repair but like so many of us have had to do over the last 17 months, I am learning to pivot. Pivots in life do not equate to failure. Pivoting simply allows new doors to open and new dreams to come true.