This past week I’ve felt very on edge, well more than I usually do I guess you could say.
I am feeling more nervous than usual, more tense, more angry and very uneasy.
Today the build up led to a panic attack right in the middle of my morning aqua fit class.
I love my aqua fit classes. I look so forward to it twice a week.
They are such a wonderful and positive distraction for me.
I work my butt off in class and I feel such a great accomplishment afterwards but today, given the week I’ve had, I just couldn’t seem to distract myself.
I tried to quietly slip out of the pool so not to make a scene as the panic erupted (it’s not like I’ve never made a scene before though!).
I felt the tears fill my eyes and I could barely breathe. Figuratively, I felt like I was drowning.
I just needed a moment to myself.
I reassured everyone I was ok (quietly slipping out of the pool didn’t work).
I wiped my tears away with my towel, took a few deep breaths, a big swig of water from my water bottle and then before I slipped back into the pool I double checked my phone to reassure myself one last time that the world wasn’t about to end.
Yesterday I did an hour long aqua fit class in the morning and then went on a two hour long hike in the scorching heat later that afternoon.
This sounds like the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep, right? Well apparently not for someone like myself whose anxiety and depression really don’t give a flying fuck how exhausted you are.
By dinnertime last night I could barely keep my eyes open but as soon as my head hit the pillow, that dream of getting a good night’s sleep once again turned into a nightmare, an anxiety infused nightmare.
I have found myself tossing and turning more and more lately and I can’t seem to find a comfortable place to lay my head anymore which is probably because my brain and subconscious mind are too damn busy gearing itself up for its long night of torture ahead.
Sleep is meant to give both our bodies and minds time to recuperate from the stresses of the day but for the better part of seven years now sleep has been one of my biggest hurdles toward recovery.
As the night progresses and the house becomes more and more quiet is usually when the noises in my head become the loudest and most heightened.
My brain never shuts off, even when I do fall asleep. I can easily go from any state of sleep to waking suddenly by a trigger or a rush of adrenaline where feelings of impending doom kick in to high gear, leading to a full on panic attack about something that occurred earlier that day or that a loved one may be in danger, or worse.
Earlier this week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open.
In doing so she has opened up some very important and very necessary conversations that need to be had.
Athletes, whether in College or on a professional playing field are put on a pedestal, made to perform to perfection and always expected to be at the top of their game.
That kind of pressure can certainly take its toll on anybody’s mental health and well-being, even that of a professional athlete. They may be our heroes but they are also human.
I give Naomi (who at 23 years old is wise beyond her years) a standing ovation for her courage to step away from the podium and look after her mental health. A decision I’m sure that was not made easily.
Why is it that when an athlete gets hurt on the ice, or on the field or on the court they are given all the time they need to heal but when their injury is invisible to the world they are criticized and made to feel as though they are weak?
Naomi is here to show the world that our mental health matters too.
Her courage to take a stand and step away from the podium for now in order to take care of her mental health and knowing that it could potentially destroy her career in doing so, I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to come through this stronger and better than ever.
She is showing the world that it’s okay to not be okay and that by choosing herself over her career, asking for help when needed and creating healthy boundaries in order to begin the healing process that she is a human being first; a perfectly imperfect one just like the rest of us.
*I’d like to give a special shout out to Nike and Mastercard, along with several other corporate giants who have sponsorship deals with Naomi for not hesitating to show their loyalty and support to her. Their statements to the press praising Naomi for her courage in sharing her struggles with depression and social anxiety boldly acknowledges that our mental health does matter. Thank you for standing with Naomi. I couldn’t agree more.
Today I did my first ever Facebook live presentation within a Facebook group called “Parents Unite” whose main purpose is to bring parents together while raising awareness on mental health concerns in both adults and children.
People tell me all the time how brave it is of me to be able to do so many live television/news interviews, radio gigs or other such presentations but here’s the thing, when I do these interviews, gigs or other such presentations I am (for the most part) being fed questions to answer by the interviewers so I’m not actually having to think about what I want to say or fill air time all on my own.
But when you do a Facebook/ Instagram live it’s just you and your thoughts trying to make sense without seemingly rambling on about whatever message it is you are trying to get across to others. And whether it’s someone choosing to talk about something that is irking them or helping to grow their online business or wanting to talk about something on a more personal level, it’s not easy.
As envious as people may be watching me take center stage on live television or through the lens of a Zoom interview, I am actually the one who has been envious of others who seem to have the natural ability to just press the live button at any given moment and start speaking off the cuff.
I often think to myself as I scroll through my feeds or as I am writing a blog and especially while I am listening to someone speak live that maybe today, instead of writing my words down in a blog to post later on that I will open up my Facebook or Instagram page and speak to a live audience, straight from the heart, right into the camera, allowing others watching an opportunity to interact in the conversation live and giving way for even more raw and intimate experiences to occur. But the fear of doing so and the thought of reaching outside my comfort zone has always stopped me.
But today I reached outside my comfort zone (even after waking up with a sore back out of nowhere and as the day goes on I’m having trouble sitting and catching my breath). I spent about 30 minutes on a Facebook live sharing part of my journey with the Parents Unite community, reading my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and discussing the importance of having open, honest and age appropriate conversations with children as young as preschool age who may be impacted by mental health issues somewhere within their family unit.
Everything I spoke about today has become second nature to me. They are things I am extremely passionate about and well versed in but not having the ability to edit my thoughts was quite a scary feeling.
As I mentioned above I have dreamed for several years now that one day I could stand (or sit) in front of an audience and speak off the cuff and from the heart with authenticity by allowing my vulnerabilities to do the talking.
And even if I will beat myself up for how I spoke today, for what I said or didn’t say, it’s okay because at least I tried. At least I reached outside my comfort zone, I learned a new skill, I took a risk and I achieved a new goal.
Living with chronic depression and severe anxiety as I do it’s so easy to get caught up in both our past and our future, leaving us feeling very worn down, overwhelmed and vulnerable and often unable to live in the moment or be present in our own life.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few days for so many of us who have been trying to come to grips with the cruel reality and accept the loss of a precious life that was taken from us far to soon.
But Jesse, who was wise beyond his short life, left behind so many invaluable gifts for all of us to cherish and learn from, especially the gift of knowing how to embrace every moment by living in the moment and being present in our own life.
He taught us to appreciate life to the fullest and all of its encompassing beauty no matter what. He taught us to focus on the now and to relish life in the moment. He showed us how to be thankful for the small wins, however small they may seem.
He taught us that any random or spontaneous act of kindness can brighten someone’s day and that a smile or a kind word will take you a very long way. He taught us that worrying about our future can take away precious moments of our present day and he also taught us how to express gratitude right here and right now.
These are the kind of invaluable gifts that we all need to hold on tight to. So to honour Jesse’s memory today I’m asking that we all take a moment to be in the moment and to focus on what is right in front of us, surrender to your emotions, feel your surroundings and allow yourself to see something in your presence for the very first time 💙💙💙
A few days before the new year I wrote a blog where I talked about how making resolutions only leads me to further feelings of failure and defeat so instead this year I decided I would try to write down one small simplified goal or daily intention each day in my newly purchased 2021 daily planner instead
Well we may only be 5 days into the new year so far but I’ve decided to give myself bragging rights today because I have kept a promise and followed through on that promise to myself every day since the new year began.
These simplified goals and intentions may seem like no big deal for some or “not good enough” to others or even super silly but for someone like me, these baby steps are a stepping stone toward a path of healing and self-love.
And hey, haven’t we always been taught that it’s the little things in life that matter the most?
On Friday evening after experiencing several heightened episodes of anxiety throughout the day, I found myself right smack in the middle of a full-on panic attack.
I did my best to try and calm myself down using some breathing techniques but trying to distract myself from what was triggering me in that moment I could barely catch my breath long enough to take some CBD oil; something I don’t hesitate to do several times a day when needed as a therapeutic.
As soon as the CBD oil started kicking in and my heartrate began to decrease to a more tolerable level I curled up under my weighted blanket, still fully dressed from the day but I didn’t care because all I wanted to do in that moment was close my eyes and go to sleep.
But whose kidding who? Like is sleep ever an option for me? Even if my panic attack had just taken every last ounce of strength I had left inside and crushed it with my blanket, I was still preparing myself for a sleepless night ahead.
And I knew if I lay in bed much longer I would most definitely end up having another anxiety attack of some sort, so I reached for my other bottle of CBD oil on my nightstand, the one with the THC in it.
I regretted my decision almost immediately even though it took a while for it to kick in. It did not reduce my anxiety or relax me or even help me sleep, instead I spent the rest of the night fighting off my paranoia and hallucinations and by the time morning arrived I was still feeling the effects from the THC and spent the entire day in bed yesterday with a “hangover”.
They say it’s nearly impossible to OD on cannabis but if there is even a slight chance of that happening then I’m pretty sure I managed to do so. Cannabis is supposed to give you a feeling of euphoria but like every other prescribed medication or therapeutic treatment I’ve taken along my journey, including that of Medical Marijuana, “Shrooms”, Ketamine and Edibles I’ve experienced adverse effects from them all.
By morning my Psychosis had pretty much gone away but it left me barely able to finish a sentence or swallow. I had a headache, I felt exhausted, I was beyond nauseous and dizzy and whenever I tried to stand up I felt myself passing out on the floor moments later. But not to worry because I can always count on my family to look after me, and they did just that while between fits of laughter and snapping pictures and recording videos of me to ensure they captured all the highlights.
I have tried and tried for years now to reap the benefits from using THC and other similar treatments but I think that after what happened to me this weekend I have tried for the very last time and I am just grateful that at least my regular doses of CBD oil still helps me in some small way.
Did you have a favourite blankie or stuffed animal growing up? Did you sleep with it every night and take it with you everywhere you went? Did you feel a sense of panic if it was suddenly out of your reach? Was it loved so much that it became “real”?
One of my favourite children’s books growing up was “The Velveteen Rabbit”, a story that I passed down to my own children when they were very young hoping they would fall in love with it as much as I did and one day I hope that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will too.
The story was originally published in 1922 but it never seems to grow old. It’s a story of a young boy who receives many presents one Christmas morning including a beautiful stuffed Velveteen Rabbit. But the boy doesn’t take to the rabbit right away as he had so many new and shiny toys to play with all at once, until one day his nanny grabs the Velveteen Rabbit off the shelf for him to sleep with.
The rabbit had longed for this moment and had only one wish in mind which was to “become”. And “become” he did. The boy grew so attached to the rabbit that eventually “most of his hair had been loved off, his eyes dropped out and his joints became loose and very shabby”. It was at that moment that the Velveteen Rabbit knew he had finally become “real”.
As a young child I had my own “Velveteen Rabbit” only he wasn’t actually a rabbit but instead a fluffy gray haired dog who wore a big red plaid hat atop his head. Throughout my childhood and into my transition into adulthood that stuffed dog gave me a great sense of safety, predictability and comfort; something I know millions of children around the world during this past year have looked for more than ever before.
He “became” so real that his fur was also loved off, his eyes dropped out and his joints became loose and shabby too. He lost his big red plaid hat at some point over the course of my childhood and my grandma replaced it by knitting him a special red and white bow to wear around his wobbly neck to keep him warm.
His name was Sniffer and he saw me through the worst of times in my life and the best of times as well (he even made a surprise appearance at my wedding thanks to my brother!). A stuffed animal like Sniffer who becomes “real” are so much more than any old toy in a child’s toy box because when they “become” they teach a child about compassion, they teach a child how to love and they can teach a child to be gentle towards others. They also open up a world of imagination and pretend play for a child by giving them a name, a voice and a personality.
Sniffer did all that and more for me and nowadays he sits comfortably on a shelf in my closet as he is pretty old and fragile. He is also pretty much the only memory I have left from my childhood (a story for another time and place) so I will never just toss him away.
Just knowing he is there if ever I need him gives me a sense of comfort and ease in an anxious moment. His sentimental value is also both soothing and calming in times of distress. I guess sometimes we all just need a trusting hug or cuddle from an old familiar inanimate object to give us a feeling that we too have “become” because once you “reach that point then no matter what happens to you, you can always be true to yourself” too.
Did you have a special toy or object that brought you comfort? Do you still have it today?
As my kids were growing up they were always super excited in anticipation of the first night of Chanukah and they especially looked forward to spending time with family and friends throughout the “eight crazy nights”, lighting the Menorah, making holiday crafts, eating and baking lots of traditional Chanukah treats, exchanging presents and of course receiving them too.
When they were younger we often gifted them with a small token gift each night of Chanukah after we lit the candles (not to worry, there were plenty of bigger presents to go around too). It may have seemed like they were super silly gifts, but seeing the excitement and joy light up their faces as they tore the wrapping paper from their new Dora the Explorer toothbrush or their funky new Chanukah pencil set is a feeling that will never grow old as a parent.
Tonight as we begin the celebration of Chanukah 2020 we will continue as always to honour the holiday by lighting the Menorah each night while enjoying the same traditional treats like sufganiyah (jelly donuts), homemade cookies and homemade latkes as well that smell up our clothes and home for days and days, but always totally worth it.
But this year the holiday season, whether it be Chanukah, Christmas or any other holiday traditions you celebrate are going to once again in good old 2020 fashion feel a whole lot different from years past.
Many of our traditions, celebrations or even vacations with friends and loved ones won’t be taking place this year and that is going to create a great sense of disappointment and a feeling of loss for many children and adults alike.
Maybe we can all try to create some new traditions or find different ways of celebrating the holidays instead this year as we focus our attention on the general theme of 2020 which is that “less is more”.
Maybe we can take some comfort in a more simplistic holiday season instead this year where we share our favourite memories of holidays past over a zoom call with loved ones or make holiday crafts to hang outside our door to brighten up the neighborhood or donate a toy to a child less fortunate.
However it is you choose to celebrate this year or as “grim” as the holiday season may feel for so many let us all be reminded that it is still the “season of giving” and the “season of miracles”.
And to all of us who will be lighting that first Chanukah candle tonight let it bring a “festival of light”, hope and unity for everyone around the world because that is truly all that matters this holiday season.
You must be logged in to post a comment.