Mental Health

Managing Mental Illness – Will I ever truly be well?

Mental illness is a shit-show. To combat it, one must always be on the look out, watching for signs and symptoms of recurrence. When detected, one must pull out the big guns, as it were – the weapons of learned coping skills , methodologies, medications, and support team – with the constant hope that thusly armed, the event will pass with minimal damage left in its wake.

Grateful as I always am when the event does pass, I am often left wondering. Will I ever truly be well? Or, is this how things will be for the rest of my life?

I’ve been asking this last question for over two decades and counting and, as much as I want to believe that the last event was THE last event, so far, it has not been so.

Mental illness is real. It’s not imagined. It’s not something one can simply will away. I know. I tried – twenty years ago before I took my first antidepressant. The shame I felt then… the defeat… when swallowing that first pill. If someone had told me twenty years ago that I’d be sitting here today, on guard, constantly at-the-ready to fight this ongoing fight, I wonder what I would have said – or done?

I’ve had many ups and downs over the years. I hit rock bottom in 2012 when I came close to suicide. That’s how far and deep I’d fallen. It was the hardest fight of my life, getting out of that hole. But I did it – and I’m grateful every day that I’m still alive to tell about it. And, while seven years have passed since that dark day, I’m still fighting – like today’s seemingly for-no-reason symptoms of anxiety sneaking up on my psyche, ready to pounce.

Out comes the weaponry. I’m always on alert, remember?

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I will battle mental illness until the day I die. I will have to be vigilant. Because, the truth is, wellness ebbs and flows – a recovery/remission/recurrence, as it were. I must practice my skills while I am well so that they are well oiled and ready for battle when the next one comes. As I’m sure it will.

If you are reading this and you need support, please reach out. Get help! Don’t wait to hit rock bottom. Do it now. I’ve provided some links below.

CAMH
Crisis Services Canada
US Suicide Prevention Lifeline
healthyplace.com

Depression, Mental Health

#Depression knocks me on my ass!

It still surprises me that after all these years battling depression, it can still knock me on my ass! It’s frustrating and exhausting. But, it shouldn’t be surprising. Not really. Dealing with depression symptoms – something I’ve done for almost 20 years – is like playing the same crappy computer game over and over, and there are bugs in the program that put you in a seemingly endless loop.

In the grand scheme of things, my depression is managed. It never goes away, though. Symptoms come and go on the regular; some times they’re worse than other times – like now. I’ve spent the day doing practically nothing save for plenty of negative self-talk:

“You’re a fake!”

“You’re lazy!”

“Just get UP and DO some-thing… ANY-thing!”

“Stop staring at nothing!”

“You should go for a walk.”

“You should be grateful for your life!”

… and so on.

Worse yet, I hear my negative self-talk, know what it is and have coping skills to deal with it – but I don’t use them. I mean, what IS that? THAT, is a symptom of the depression. When you know all the things that help to alleviate it but you can’t bring yourself to do them!

This isn’t one of those blog post that will have a meaningful conclusion other than to perhaps say – “Hey, it’s okay to have these bad days. If this is all you can manage, then this is all you can manage and it’s okay. You have an illness and sometimes it’s hard to get through the day. Let go of your guilt. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Wait – I guess that was the meaningful conclusion. And if you’re still reading this, know – like I do – that you’re not alone.

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.

Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Mental Health

#Cannabis is legal in Canada P3 – Marrying tried-and-true with the new when managing #mentalillness

In a recent post, I wrote about the adverse side effects I’d had to a pharma-based switch in my medication, prescribed to help with my evolving anxiety – which it did do. To counteract the side effects, my doctor prescribed more pharma meds. I disagreed and went back to my old medication.

My decision to go back to my old meds was a good one as the side effects essentially disappeared. Unfortunately though, the anxiety reappeared, rearing its ugly, pernicious head.

#Cannabis has helped! Indeed, vaping cannabis for breakthrough anxiety (like breakthrough pain but with anxiety) helps (me) a great deal. So, when my trusty vaporizer went on the fritz two weeks ago, away went my ability to self-treat. It was more than a little unsettling.

Immediately, I decided to invest in a backup vaporizer. Cyber-Monday sales helped with this, but the ongoing Canada Post strike meant it would be a few days before I would receive the product. So, I pulled out the proverbial CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) handbook and got busy practicing my coping techniques.

I learned two things. First, using cannabis to manage my breakthrough anxiety works lickety-split! Within minutes of vaping, I’m calm and feeling pleasant. Second, CBT does help (me). It is exhausting, requires a lot of motivation (hard for a chronic depressive like me), and takes time to be effective – depending on the breakthrough anxiety of the moment. Still, it helped me through a few rough patches.

Anxiety and depression are ongoing, (sometimes) lifelong struggles. Use ALL the tools at your disposal; both the tried-and-true (medication, CBT, etc.) and the new (cannabis, etc.). If one of the tools in your toolbox goes on the fritz, reach in and grab another one. As I’ve said in prior posts – when it comes to managing (your) #mentalillness, you gotta do the homework! Know thyself. Participate in your own healing. Nobody else can do it for you.

Anxiety, Depression

Surviving Depression – Help a Friend

I am recovering from depression. What I mean by this is that my chronic depression is well managed and provided I stay on my medication, I will remain in recovery.

Having had three major depressive episodes over the past thirteen year, I’m in a very unique position. I have lived through deep depression, gotten very close to committing suicide… and survived. In having survived, I feel blessed because I am now able to help a dear friend. She too suffers from depression.

This friend of mine is a “work” friend. Though we’ve known each other for over five years, likely suffering side-by-side in shameful silence, it wasn’t until about a year ago where I said the words out loud.

“I suffer from depression.”

It was part of my talk therapy, really. Talking about my depression. Which is hard enough with family and close friends but to admit to a work friend that you have depression can be daunting and scary and in some cases, career limiting.

But, as soon as I said it, I could see a calm, knowing look in her eyes. She has depression too. Finally, it was out there. Finally, we could talk about it.

The thing about being friends with people at work – you know when they’re off “sick” for a few days in a row. In my friend’s case, this has been a repeating pattern every few months or so – a pattern I know only too well having lived it myself. To her credit, my friend called me during the last absence and asked me for advice. She hadn’t done this before.

I openly shared my experiences with her and was happy to do so. It felt good to be able to help someone who is suffering as I have, though I wish the circumstances were different.

Recovering from Depression? Help a Friend.
By hin255, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I have, and likely always will have, chronic depression. It can be really tough, particularly in the long, cold months of winter. But I survive. Day after day, night after night, I survive. As the months and years of my life fly by, I survive. If every 1 depression survivor, reached out and helped another person suffering with depression… and then they helped someone… and then they helped someone… we could build a tremendous web of support and love.

It doesn’t take much. Just reach out…