A Rough Session Today

Song: “Taking Care of Business” by BTO

Mood: 5.5

I slept pretty well last night and only woke up for one nightmare. Today I was in a good mood but couldn’t focus on anything for more than a few minutes. I flitted around the house like a moth, never staying in one place long enough to accomplish anything. I read, fussed at my electronics bench, stood in the kitchen for no reason, tried to do some writing, went outside to the garage, looked at my empty aquarium… if I’d been wearing my fitness watch, it would probably say I’d walked quite a distance today.

My session with Dr P today was quite difficult. We are trying to use EMDR to reprocess how I felt when I first went into the hospital. All that guilt, fear, and shame are quite a lot to thrash out and I left his office feeling drained and out of sorts. I hope that my mind just needs a bit of a break to let things settle and then it’ll be ready to do the EMDR again. I would really like to be able to get past it and not keep thinking about it every day.

In the meantime, though, I would like to say:

  • I’m sorry to J, all of my family, and my friends who I scared or let down when I ended up in the hospital.
  • I’m sorry to my co-workers that I let you down when everything was the pits.
  • J, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you about seeing someone until it was already too late.
  • I’m sorry to my parents and in-laws that we had to change Christmas around so much last year.
  • I’m sorry to everyone who I rubbed the wrong way because of how I’d changed over the last five or so years.
  • I’m sorry to Dr C for crashing so badly when our work on OCD was going so well.
  • I’m sorry to Dr W, the nurses, and all of the hospital staff that I’ve taken up an already scarce bed in the hospital four times now.
  • FA and WG, I’m sorry that you have to drive everywhere when we get together.
  • DA, I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to race motorcycles yet.
  • I’m sorry to everyone that I’m not myself. I swear I didn’t do it on purpose.
  • I’m sorry to everyone for all the things that I’ve missed in this list.

Stay safe.

What Am I Going To DO?

I’ve been away from work for the last sixteen months and this has given me a lot of time to think. Something I keep getting stuck on is that I can’t go back to where I was or I’ll end up back in the hospital.

I always wanted to be an IT guy. I’ve loved computers for my whole life, from the Commodore PETs that we had in elementary school to the C128D that my parents bought for Christmas one year, to the various PCs that I’ve built or purchased over the years. I’ve done every job from an ISP technical support rep to managing datacentres and networks.

And now I can’t handle it. Any of it. Just the thought of having to fix my computer if it breaks makes my stomach churn – I’d most likely take it somewhere to have someone else deal with it. I enjoy writing on them and playing games but I don’t like sitting in front of them any more than I have to.

J has said she doesn’t want me to go back to my old job, or any IM/IT job at all. We’ve had many conversations about this, and I agree with her.

My employer has a back-to-work program and is supposed to be able to accommodate changes in duties, skills, or abilities. That includes a certain amount of training. I’m grateful for that – it will make going back to work a lot easier when I’m ready.

But what am I going to do? What am I going to be? I used to identify myself as “Mark, the computer guy,” but who am I going to be now? Are there really any jobs for an out of shape, mentally ill, 41 year old who has no training in anything but the field he can’t handle going back to?

If my employer had infinite flexibility and I could pick any job I wanted, what would my next career be?

I have no idea.

J and I have talked at length about this, too, and she has a lot of good advice but I just can’t seem to get any traction on the subject. I would love to be a welder, but who’s going to hire a creaky 41 or 42 year old apprentice welder when there are 19 year olds willing to do the same job? I wouldn’t mind working in electronics, but I’ve lost so much of what I used to know that I’d be looking at doing a LOT of catching up. I wouldn’t mind being an electrician, but again – there’s the “old apprentice” problem. I love microbiology but that’s three more years of university and age would be a factor again.

Where do IT people go when they can’t or don’t want to do IT anymore? I have supervisory skills but they’re five years out of date, and it was an IT supervisor position. I have decent communication skills but can’t answer the bloody phone, and I really enjoy writing but so do a billion other people, most of whom are better at it than I am.

I need to figure this out.

Stay safe.

Today’s Been A Good Day

Song: “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John

Mood: 8

I had a good sleep last night. No nightmares that I can remember and I slept quite well. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to do stuff.

I spent today puttering around the house, listening to music, and having a good time. I didn’t accomplish a whole lot but it felt good to be wandering around the house and keeping busy. I did my exercises and when I was doing my mindfulness work, it was a lot easier to relax than usual.

Today was my Dr W appointment, and it went quite well. It feels good to be able to walk in and say, “I’m actually feeling pretty good today.” Since I’m feeling pretty good, we decided against making any medication changes, and I’m fine with that. I’m still taking a lot of medication but I don’t mind since it’s keeping me out of the hospital. Dr W also cautioned me to expect a dip in my mood at some point because everyone on the planet has good and bad days. That reminded me of the graph that Dr C drew for me a long time ago:

008-Daily-1Dr W was also happy to hear about my most recent motorcycling adventure. He said that getting out and doing things is the important thing. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, it’s way better than not doing it at all.

This evening, J and I had supper and then went to give the kitchen a good cleaning. We kept seeing these little tiny beetles and were worried they were coming in from the outside and finding things to eat in the kitchen. We cleaned it from top to bottom and didn’t find any beetle huts… until we checked the bag of bird seed that sat under the island. Without going into it any further, I’m just going to say that we’re pretty sure that’s where they were coming from. Bleurgh. On the upside, it was an easy fix and the kitchen is clean enough to eat off any surface you want.

Tonight, we’re probably going to watch an episode of Dead Like Me. Last night we watched Mr and Mrs Smith – J found it in the bargain bin at Walmart and it was much better than we were expecting. Ridiculous, but entertaining.

I’m hoping for no nightmares again tonight and another good day tomorrow. I have my Dr P appointment tomorrow, too.

Stay safe.

Things Are Going Alright

Song: “Song 2” by Blur

Mood: 7

I remember waking up from two nightmares last night. They didn’t seem as “potent” as usual. With luck, this will be the start of a trend. Otherwise, I slept pretty well.

I did a lot of writing today. It felt good to type out the words, like my brain and fingers were working together.

I tried to contain my worry about work and the health system changes to my worry time but have had limited success. Maybe I need to commit a bit more time to the process.

I cleaned one of my desks today, finally making enough room for the microscope to sit without it being half buried in junk. My next task is to figure out what to do with my three gallon aquarium. I’m tempted to get more shrimp for it but am not completely sure. It takes up a fair amount of room – maybe I’d be better without it. Something to think about.

This Friday, we’re going to dig up a potato plant and have our first garden potatoes for supper. I hope they turn out well – I’ve been very careful to water them over the summer.

J brought home a treat for dessert this evening – cookies and cream ice cream. It was delightful! I took some lactase pills so with luck I won’t be up all night with an upset stomach.

Tomorrow is my Dr W appointment. I have a feeling he’ll be really happy about my motorcycle ride around the city.

Stay safe.

My Motivation

Every single professional who has treated or helped me with my illness has said the same thing: the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep active both physically and mentally. This makes total sense – dwelling on how I feel or wishing I was someone else or just feeling sorry for myself doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would help my recovery along.

Depression steals the joy from hobbies and things I used to like, and washes the colours out from the world around me. Anxiety makes me scared to try anything, even things that I’ve successfully done dozens of times before. It can be very, very difficult to motivate myself to do anything when all I feel like doing is staying in bed or hiding in a corner in the basement.

I try to think of everything in terms of “wins”. A win doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but it can sometimes feel like it takes an extraordinary effort to accomplish it. On bad days, some things I may consider a win are:

  • Sitting up in bed and putting my feet on the floor
  • Getting out of bed
  • Eating breakfast and taking my medication
  • Taking a shower
  • Sitting on the couch instead of going back to bed

On better days, some of the things I could consider to be a win are:

  • Going outside for a walk
  • Doing laundry
  • Cooking or baking something
  • Being engaged in one of my hobbies
  • Writing a blog post
  • Making a phone call
  • Reading a magazine
  • Doing anything that keeps my mind occupied

So what do I do to try and get a few wins every day?

Music can help. Sometimes I find that playing some loud, up-tempo music that I can tap my toes to will help me shrug off some of the depression or anxiety and allow me to sit down and accomplish something. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it helps, and listening to music is a good thing anyway.

Dr C suggested that on days when I am up and about but have trouble motivating myself to do anything in particular, I should pick a hobby or activity and force myself to do it. She said that even if I don’t want to do anything, by forcing myself to do something I may find myself enjoying it after a little bit. On the days when I can summon up the willpower to force myself to, say, play around with my microscope, it usually only takes a few minutes before I’m hooked and can sit there for an hour looking at tiny things. Some days it doesn’t work, but I find that it often does, and spending some time enjoying a hobby can help me feel a little better, too.

Sometimes I will try to be my own coach and say encouraging things to myself as I try to get moving. If I say phrases like “baby steps” and “you’ve done this before, you can do it again” to myself, it can help me remember that I don’t need to take on the whole world all at once – all I need to do is a teeny tiny thing… followed by another teeny tiny thing. If I put enough tiny things together, I may find myself sitting at the table with my breakfast eaten and medication taken, which is a good start to the day.

Some days, no matter how badly I want to or how hard I try, I just can’t get myself to do anything. I need to remember is that this is okay. Recovery is a lot of work and sometimes I can’t help taking a day off. The important thing to remember is that the next day is another opportunity to put a couple of wins under my name.

Stay safe.

Started Out Rough

Song: “We’re Here for a Good Time” by Trooper

Mood: 7

Well, I was supposed to get together with WG to go record shopping this morning but that ended up not happening. It was completely my fault, I had a bit of a rough night and ended up sleeping in. Normally I wake up with plenty of time to get ready, but I really should have set an alarm last night. I hope WG isn’t too upset – I left him a voicemail apologizing for my screw-up, but haven’t heard back. He’s usually really busy, though.

I remember waking up to three nightmares last night. I used to get out of bed for every one and walk around inside the house a bit but I haven’t done that for a while. I think it might be a good idea to start doing that again just to convince myself that everything is okay.

I did a lot of writing and thinking today. It felt good to open the doors to my brain and let some fresh air in. One of the things I’ve been working on is a letter to send to my young nephews. I figure that in the age of smartphones and texting that it might be nice for them to get a good, old-fashioned paper letter.

Work is still on my mind. J and I talk about it a lot, Dr W and I talk about it a lot, and Dr C and I talked about it a lot, but I still can’t get past it. I feel terrible for leaving my co-workers in a tough spot, but at the same time I desperately hope I don’t get called back to the same position I held before. I can’t do it.

I’m also still worried about what’s going to happen with the healthcare changes that are going on around here. I’ve been very fortunate to have met and been cared for by such great people – nurses, doctors, aides, therapists, clerks, everybody – and it frightens me that things may change without much notice. In addition to me being worried about myself in the system, I worry about the staff, too. Will any of them have to find a new job? What happens if suddenly they need to work at a different hospital? I know they’re all grown-ups who can take care of themselves but I can’t help worrying.

Stay safe.

Cross Post: How To Manage Anxiety At Work

This post is courtesy of the good folks at TranQool.com. You can read it at its original location at: https://tranqool.com/blog/post/how-to-manage-anxiety-at-work.


How To Manage Anxiety At Work

Aug 17, 2017   By Allison Toy

Anxiety is often an unpredictable beast. The quick, nervous breathing and the pounding of your heart against your ribcage don’t quite cooperate with daily routines and plans. Handling anxiety at home is one thing, but dealing with it at work is a completely different challenge. At work, we often lack privacy and the flexibility to hide in our closets for ten minutes waiting for our breathing to regulate (am I the only one who’s done that?). But not all hope is lost!

Here are several simple tools for managing anxiety at work.

1) Take short breaks throughout the day.

Every few hours, make sure to get up and move around. A change of environment is not only healthy for your body, but it also allows your mind to rest. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks at work can even improve productivity. Use your breaks to take a few deep breaths, soak up some sunshine, and slow your mental pace in between periods of high productivity.

2) Bring a tangible reminder of peace with you to work.

This can be a photo of a peaceful waterfall scene or a post-it note with your favorite mantra on it permanently stuck on the side of your computer. Whatever brings you peace and calms your heart and mind—find a way to integrate it into your workplace. This tangible reminder of peace can be obvious or subtle, but the key is that every time you notice it in your workplace, you will be comforted and reassured. If you are on your feet all day, without an office or cubicle, write a letter to yourself and stick it in your pocket, or create a note on your phone with calming quotes or prayers.

3) Set 1-2 reachable goals for the day.

This is especially helpful if you become anxious about being productive and getting it all done. Oftentimes, the more anxious we are about “being productive,” the less productive we become. Each morning, choose 1-2 top-priority tasks, and make those your core measurement for productivity for the day. Once those priorities are completed, you can continue with other work without the pressure and anxiety of not finishing your work. Many people find, to their surprise, that they actually complete more work when they are relieved of the pressure to perform, are more creative, and of course are less anxious while at work.

4) Acknowledge your anxiety and process through it when you can.

There is possibly nothing worse than feeling anxiety rising up in your stomach and feeling trapped in a place where you cannot express your emotions. One simple way of defusing anxiety building up inside of you is to write out what you are feeling. Scribble it on a notepad for later or write a quick text or email to a friend. This way, you are not squelching anxiety (which tends to only make it grow bigger and get out of control) but are also not allowing it to dictate your day.

Using these tips and creating a customized plan for self-care at work can be key to finding freedom from overwhelming anxiety at work and developing a healthy routine to make your work week run smoothly.

A Pretty Good Weekend

Song: “Take a Chance On Me” by ABBA

Mood: 7

This weekend went by very quickly. I did some stuff, got some relaxing in, and had some quiet time to think and reflect on things.

On Saturday afternoon, FA picked me up and we went to a lock picking seminar. It was pretty neat – the fellow who was running it brought a lot of locks, tools, and a whole bunch of patience. Everyone there was friendly and interested in sharing information and tips, and it made for a very fun and informative time. I was able to pick some of the locks but most of them were well beyond my skills. I also learned that I need to buy a couple more tools for my pick collection.

After the seminar, FA took me home and then we went inside and had a good chat with J, too. FA and J started talking about some stuff that I think was a little over my head, but it was all a very good time.

Today has been a pretty quiet day. I spoke with WG and my parents on the phone and had good conversations with everyone. WG and I are planning to go to the record store tomorrow, so that should be good.

In light of my 90km motorcycle ride the other day, my dad had an interesting idea. My parents live about 200km away, and he would be willing to meet me half way and drive as a support vehicle while I rode my motorcycle. That sounds like a really neat idea but it’s also kind of scary. I’ve only gone for two rides so far this year and I really need to change out the master link on the chain. It would be fantastic to be able to go to my parents’ place for the first time in a year and a half, but that’s pretty far, and I find it difficult to be away from home. We’re also pushing into September (I have no idea where the summer went) so I don’t have much time left to do a big ride like that.

It’s funny… a couple of years ago I would’ve gone 200km on the bike without batting an eye. I’ve done 4000km solo trips (including a couple of 900km days) so it shouldn’t be a big deal, and I’m much more comfortable on the motorcycle than I am in the car or truck. Still… I don’t know if I can do it, and having a big freak-out 150km from home would not be good.

So I’ve got a lot to think about in addition to the regular stuff. I hope this week goes well!

Stay safe.

Farthest I’ve Gone Yet

Song: “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf

Mood: 6.5->3->6

I slept pretty well last night. Woke up once from a nightmare but it was near when I normally got up anyway, so it wasn’t a big problem. I spent the day thinking, writing, and watching YouTube videos.

This evening I decided to go out for another motorcycle ride. I figured I’d wander around the neighbourhood a bit, maybe spend some time on the highway… but it turned into way more than that.

I got out on the highway and decided I was going to try to ride all the way around the city. I haven’t been able to do that in the truck, but generally speaking I’m more comfortable on the motorcycle than any other vehicle.

The sun was already less than an hour from setting and I was having a great time. The motorcycle ran great, I felt relaxed and comfortable, and due to some luck with traffic light timings, I didn’t spend too much time in heavy traffic.

Then came the construction zones. STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE, the signs said. OR GO IN THE LEFT LANE, WE DON’T CARE. As a result, I made a wrong turn and ended up cutting through a part of the city I’ve never been to before.

So here I was, in what was left of dusk, on a motorcycle at 80km/h, and I had no idea where I was. It was fertile ground for a panic attack, and one hit me right in the chest.

I kept riding, death grip on the handlebars, trying to convince myself that I was still in the city I called home, just a different part of it, to no avail. I decided I was going to make no turns until I saw a road that I recognized.

What ended up happening was that I rode through the entire city and ended up on the highway that I’d originally intended to take. It was good to be heading towards home and even better when I caught the smell of the garbage dump, meaning I was on the right track. I finally got home in the dark after putting about 90km on the bike and five years on my nerves. It was by far the longest distance I’ve gone in any vehicle since I got sick.

Hopefully this means that I’ll be more comfortable driving around and can push my boundaries back. I think a good goal would be to be able to drive myself to my Dr W appointments. That would be great.

Stay safe.

Got Some Sleep

Song: “Hitchin’ a Ride” by Green Day

Mood: 6

The extra zopiclone seems to have helped me get a better sleep last night. I waited until I felt tired and when I went to bed it didn’t take me very long to fall asleep, probably less than twenty minutes. I woke up once from a nightmare but was able to get back to sleep pretty quickly.

Today I spent more time looking through the microscope at the algae that J found in the aquarium a couple of days ago. It’s really quite interesting – like fine little green threads growing together. I also did my exercises and some writing, but the writing was difficult to do today.

My Dr P appointment went quite well. He wasn’t upset that I didn’t finish my homework and we had a little chat to see how I was doing before we went through my first session of EMDR therapy. We’re working on something from a long time ago and the process was quite interesting. Part of EMDR is following the therapist’s hand back and forth with your eyes, and I’ve got to admit, after the first round I was kind of thinking, “this is pretty cheesy”.

After a couple of rounds, though, things started happening. It’s tough to describe, but it’s almost as if the thing we were working on started to feel more distant and unimportant. Less “I’m a bad person” and more “I was a kid and kids do stupid things”.

I don’t know how many rounds we did but by the end of the session I was looking forward to going home and seeing if my opinion of what we worked on would stick or change back to where I was thinking I was a bad person. So far, it seems to be sticking. Who would’ve known that being guided to move your eyes back and forth and talk about what’s going on in your head would be so helpful? I found it all a bit tiring but am looking forward to our next session.

Our garden has produced its first ripening tomatoes. I don’t like raw tomatoes (I like tomato products), but J really likes them. I hope they finish ripening up and are nice and tasty. Our potato plants have become so large that they’re collapsing under their own weight. Hopefully that means that there’ll be a lot of potatoes to pull out of the dirt!

I noticed on the way home today that some of the trees are already starting to lose leaves. It’s not even September! Hopefully this doesn’t mean an early winter…

I’m not sure what I’m going to do tomorrow. I expect I will spend some more time at the microscope and, if the weather is like it was today, I may go for a walk outside.

Stay safe.