Cannabis, Mental Health

First grandchild, legalized #cannabis and semi-retirement versus #jobloss, #mentalillness and #compassionfatigue. Where to begin.

There was a time, back when my kids were young and we celebrated New Year’s Eve at home with friends and family, when – some minutes before midnight, after reminiscing about the year’s events and what we were truly grateful for, we’d set a fire in a large barrel in the backyard and BURN shit! Old calendars, bras, photos of our X’s… whatever it was that we wanted to physically and emotionally eradicate. Then, at the stroke of midnight, we’d raise our glasses to ring in the new year, then ponder and commit to great things for the future. It was therapeutic – bye-bye old year with its trials and heartache, hello new year, full of promise and wonder.

I can’t remember where the idea to do this came from (my has-a-penchance-for-pyrotechnics Hubby) or why it waned (we moved and no longer lived on a ravine) but, I miss it.

Consider this blog post the reminisce/eradicate/commit ceremony of 2018.

Top 3 things I am grateful for from 2018 (besides Hubby, Kids, Fam and Besties who are always at the very top of the gratitude list) :

Right out of the gate – the birth of my first grandchild. While technically he was born December 28th the prior year, I am grateful for the many wonder-filled hours I’ve spent with him throughout 2018. Truth is, I smile the entire time I’m with him! He’s a delightfully heady elixir to what ails me – mind and body.

Next, I’m very grateful that cannabis was legalized in Canada. While I had been experimenting with cannabis prior to legalization – both as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for my depression and anxiety, and recreationally as an alternative to alcohol – I am delighted that I no longer have to hide it. I can partake openly and continue to benefit from its healing properties.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the abundance of time to myself this year – having started semi-retirement rather unexpectedly. With this time, I was able to help care for my elderly father during an acute illness that lasted several months. I’ve also read almost two dozen books, have taken an interest in indoor gardening, and have started crocheting again.

Top 3 things I’m tossing into the barrel fire (metaphorically speaking) :

Right out of the gate – job loss. After twenty years, my old employer and I parted ways. I call it involuntary semi-retirement, though technically I did have a choice. Let’s just say that tossing it into the fire speaks for itself.

Next, my mental illness definitely spiked this year – specifically, my anxiety. While depression too has been its usual burden, my anxiety took me to new and rather horrible places. Glad to give it the old heave-ho into the fire too.

Lastly, and connected to my father’s illness; navigating his hospital stay, home care, appointments, and dealing with governing bodies on his behalf, left me with a bad case of compassion fatigue. The fire gets this one too.

Pondering the new year :

I commit to being grateful.

That’s it. No lofty goals or resolutions for me. Just a commitment to be grateful.

I’m a firm believer that gratitude will open the door to all sorts of wonderment. And, while next year will undoubtedly have its burdens (fodder for another barrel fire), it will most certainly have many delights.

Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health

The holidays are hard – especially for those with #mentalillness

I come from a long line of people with mental illness. From OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) to schizophrenia to GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) to maybe even PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It stands to reason then, that some of this landed on me and even my kids.

If you’ve read one or two of my blogs, you know I suffer from Anxiety and Depression, both of which make enjoying the holidays very challenging.

I live in Southern Ontario, near Toronto, where this time of year can be very, very bleak – weather-wise. Yes, we’ve made it through the shortest day of the year (Dec 21) and are on the slow journey to spring, but add the holidays to that – with all the (sometimes) harrowing acts of buying and wrapping gifts, the well-intentioned visits, the obligations of faith, and the – let’s face it – unreasonable expectation to have fun and be joyful – and it can be a veritable vortex sucking you down into a pit of woe.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay if you’re overwhelmed… or even underwhelmed for that matter.

The holidays are hard enough for normal people but even harder for those having to deal with #mentalillness. Sometimes, we just want to crawl (or stay) under the covers and not have to fight the (bad) fight. Sometimes, we just want to cry, or scream, or just sit quietly without having to explain why.

To all those suffering, like me, know this. You are not alone. Know that the holidays are finite and soon you’ll be on the other side. If you can, reach out to someone – a friend or family member, a pastor, a coworker, or even someone on social media.

And, from me to you – may your heart and mind be chaos free and may you feel some peace. Joy and merriment too, if you can manage it. But mostly, I wish you peace.

Depression

Surviving Depression – Managing your New Year’s expectations

Oh, the promise of a new year. It can be intoxicating. That thought of putting all the crap from the prior year behind you and beginning anew. You make resolutions, promises to self and those around you. You raise a fist in the air. “This is MY year!” “This year is going to be awesome!” “This year I’m going to be happy!”

By FrameAngel, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
By FrameAngel, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

All good. Definitely things to work towards. But for the depressed person, despite the daily wellness we wish and strive for, the daily wellness that others take for granted, we are at the mercy of our illness. To steal a quote from a movie, we are “at the whim of a madman!”

For some of us, our resolutions sound quite different. “This year, my depression won’t own me.” “This year, I’ll try to be happy… I really will try.” “This year, I’ll try not to hurt myself.”

I implore you to reach out for support. It can be as simple as following a depression support handle on Twitter to reading a depression blog online to joining a support group at your local church or community centre. If you haven’t already, seek medical advice and while lacking motivation is a key and often debilitating symptom of depression – be your own wellness advocate. If one doctor doesn’t work, find another. Insist on the appropriate referrals. Read up on your illness and take charge. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has been on the proverbial ledge deciding whether to die or live, depression can be managed. There is light in your seemingly pitch black tunnel.

Here are a few coping tips for managing your New Year’s expectations:

  1. Do NOT make resolutions! Make small, daily goals that are realistic and attainable for you.
  2. Understand that you are sick, not weak! Seek support. Be your own wellness advocate.
  3. Laughter is cathartic! Watch funny movies, television and funny animal videos on YouTube.
  4. Get some exercise (I am really bad at this one). Exercise is proven to help every kind of ailment.
  5. Know yourself and your triggers. A depressive cycle may be avoided by steering clear of those situations that trigger them.

New Year’s eve can be especially difficult for a lot of people, especially those with depression. Reach out. You are not alone.